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Open Thread 129.5

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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981 Responses to Open Thread 129.5

  1. S_J says:

    Spurred by reading about the amphibious landings at Normandy, 75 years ago…

    If you could go back in time, and bring one piece of advice/planning to improve the operation of the landings, what would you bring?

    I think I would emphasize close air support. As many P-47s (or similar) as possible, attacking the German machine-gun emplacements from above.

    • johan_larson says:

      Maybe avoid Omaha beach entirely, since it was the most heavily defended. Stage mock landings if you want to tie down German troops to avoid having them shifted to other sectors

    • cassander says:

      “Don’t put Monty in charge” would be good if you could swing it. He didn’t flub the landings, but he was definitely uninspired in the fighting around Caen, and would go on being a handicap for the rest of the war. Unfortunately for political reasons the initial ground forces commander had to be British, and I’m not sure if Churchill could have chosen anyone else even if he’d wanted to.

      In general, though, outside of Omaha I think the landings went about as well as could have been expected. It was the enlargement, breakout, and liberation of france that could have gone better.

    • Lillian says:

      I think I would emphasize close air support. As many P-47s (or similar) as possible, attacking the German machine-gun emplacements from above.

      That’s a great way to accidentally strafe your own troops. Telling friend from foe from the air is really hard, even in the recent wars with modern IFF systems the flyboys routinely shoot friendlies. Consequently, pretty much all close air support in the WWII is directed at supporting and reserve units rather than the front liners actively engaged in combat. Which is incidentally what the P-47s are already doing. Your idea is not helpful or revelatory in any way, the commanders already understand the value of close air support and have deployed it accordingly.

    • Plumber says:

      I’m going to cheat and include two pieces of information:
      Deliver plans for building intercontinental ballistic missiles and an atomic bomb on Roosevelt’s desk in 1942, Churchill’s  desk in 1940, or Blum’s desk in 1938.

      Announce one month to surrender, imprison and turn over Hitler, Tojo, and Stalin (during the year when he was allied with Hitler), and leave Czechoslovakia, Manchuria, Finland, Poland, et cetera, and when they don’t launch missiles.

      As Oswald Bastable found, whether from warlord Shuo Ho Ti (also known as General O.T. Shaw) in 1973 China, Truman’s U.S.A. in 1945, Kerensky’s Russia in 1940, or a thousand other worlds in a thousand timestreams, Hiroshima is destroyed and a new age begins

      • bean says:

        Deliver plans for building intercontinental ballistic missiles and an atomic bomb on Roosevelt’s desk in 1942, Churchill’s desk in 1940, or Blum’s desk in 1938.

        That’s not particularly useful. Even if we assume that they believe you, you’re not going to see a huge reduction in time to the atomic bomb. Why? Because the biggest bottleneck was never design. It was actually doing the work of building the enrichment plants, Pu reactors, and so on. You’d need not only the plans for the bomb but also the plans for the infrastructure, and even if they had those, it would still take a year or two to build them and then months to actually get to the bomb. And the same is true in spades of the missile.

        • quaelegit says:

          You might be able to move up the Manhattan Project by a year if you can get the MAUD report out to American scientists in 1940 instead of letting Lyman Briggs lock away without sharing it.

          • bean says:

            Actually, that’s a good point. Although I suspect that industrial limitations would mean you’re looking at more like 6 months and not a year sooner.

          • CatCube says:

            “The Berlin Project” is an alternate history that proposes that the bomb could have been ready a year earlier if some of the later-abandoned U-235 separation processes hadn’t been pursued and the effort applied to gaseous diffusion. (IIRC, I think it was liquid diffusion being abandoned and maybe electromagnetic separation, but I’m not confident at this remove).

            If the wasted time postulated by the book is true (and the author is an astrophysicist that claims it is) then preventing that cul-de-sac could be something that you could provide the Manhattan Project early in the war.

          • bean says:

            I’m skeptical of that. The US had enough resources (financial, industrial, and technical manpower) to essentially try all possible approaches in parallel, and did so. To get a bomb a year earlier, you have to assume at least a year’s delay in gaseous diffusion due to work on the Calutrons and liquid diffusion. (Which, I should point out, were used at different stages in the process anyway, because gaseous diffusion wasn’t able to cope with high enrichment.) I don’t think that the work in question (which seems to have mostly been the design of the barriers) suffered overmuch from a shortage of scientists. This stuff just takes time to do.

      • albatross11 says:

        What technical recipes could have been gotten into use quickly? I think plans to build a fission bomb are on the hard end of that spectrum. (And indeed, that’s why every country with an airforce doesn’t also have nukes.) Is there medical knowledge that would have been quickly useful? (ISTR they knew about penicillin but had trouble producing as much as they needed in WW2.). Or simple guidance that would have solved some major problem?

        I mean, the advice to the Japanese and Germans might be easy–your most important ciphers are broken and you need to go to physical codebooks or one-time-pads for anything important until you can radically redesign them. (Though I think for Enigma, designing a variant with a few more rotors active might have made the attacks impractical–I think the bombes were already taking quite awhile per solution. I don’t know anything about Purple, so I don’t know what you’d want to do differently.).

    • Incurian says:

      Don’t stop until Moscow.

      • cassander says:

        Or warsaw, at the least….

        • Lillian says:

          What are you proposing to do about the five million Russians between the Anglo-French forces and Warsaw? Because knowing how it all turned out, i’d say that not doing anything about them and watching the Soviets voluntarily leave some 50 years later proved far and away cheaper in terms of death and suffering than trying to force them out would have.

          • cassander says:

            those 5 million russians were supplied with american trucks, protected by airplanes flying with american gasoline, firing ammunition made substantially with american explosives and copper. we couldn’t get that stuff back, of course, but cutting them off would have had an immediate and substantial effect on the ability of the soviets to make war, even before you bring nuclear weapons into the accounting.

            And a more forceful response in europe almost certainly goes along with more support of Chiang in china, meaning no great leap forward.

          • Atlas says:

            Firstly, why not just support Operation Barbarossa from the beginning, instead of going to the trouble of doing it over a second time?

            Secondly, how’d picking a fight with the Russians work out for the last guy who tried it, back when the Red Army was in much, much worse shape?

            Thirdly, if you think that American forces were considerably superior to Soviet forces circa 1945, to the point that they could be confident in their ability to win a war on offense , are you willing to agree that the idea of a Soviet “threat” of world conquest was always a laughable fiction?

            Fourthly, how excited do you think the American public would be in 1945 to hear that the troops would be starting a new war with the army that defeated the Wehrmacht instead of going home?

          • cassander says:

            @Atlas says:

            Firstly, why not just support Operation Barbarossa from the beginning, instead of going to the trouble of doing it over a second time?

            Because I want both Hitler and Stalin to lose the war.

            Secondly, how’d picking a fight with the Russians work out for the last guy who tried it, back when the Red Army was in much, much worse shape?

            The Germans weren’t supplying the Russians prior to the last invasion. In fact, the reserve was true.

            Thirdly, if you think that American forces were considerably superior to Soviet forces circa 1945, to the point that they could be confident in their ability to win a war on offense , are you willing to agree that the idea of a Soviet “threat” of world conquest was always a laughable fiction?

            There were 2 things very different about 1945 than the rest of the cold war, the US had a 12 million man army and no one else had nukes.

            Fourthly, how excited do you think the American public would be in 1945 to hear that the troops would be starting a new war with the army that defeated the Wehrmacht instead of going home?

            They’d probably not have been very keen, which is in part why Warsaw is a better target than Moscow. Push the soviets out of eastern Europe and they’re a lot less scary when things wind down.

          • Lillian says:

            @cassander: You just made an argument for why America could win a war against the Soviet Union, what you didn’t do is make an argument for why it would be worth it, which is the question that i was actually raising. Just because the Soviets can lose the war doesn’t mean they will just give up and go home, which still means that waiting 45 years for them to do it on their own comes out cheaper.

            As for China, i think it would be better to not fight the Soviets and also give Chiang more support. Then we get to avoid a brutal grinding slaughter across Eastern Europe and the Great Leap Forward. Doesn’t this strike you as better than the hellscape world where the Second World War just keeps going on for the rest of the 1940s?

          • cassander says:

            @Lillian

            My point (which I admit I didn’t make very clear) was that between how dependent on us the soviets were by 1945 and nuclear weapons, I don’t think the war would be particularly costly. My tact would essentially be what Patton advocated, insist that we actually meant what we said at Potsdam, and that the Soviets could either allow genuine freedom in eastern europe, or they could take it up with the US army and nuclear firepower. Allowing stalin the free reign we did in eastern europe undermined the whole point of the war, which was to prevent all of central europe and Russia from being dominated by a murderous dictator and his genocidal ideology. If it came to fighting, I don’t think it would take very long, and it would spare eastern Europe a whole lot of suffering and poverty.

            l grant that convincing Truman or Marshall that they should support Chiang more probably has a more direct benefit and lower cost.

      • Evan Þ says:

        Let me just say: That’s an Unthinkable idea.

    • bean says:

      I think I would emphasize close air support. As many P-47s (or similar) as possible, attacking the German machine-gun emplacements from above.

      Besides Lillian’s response, which is entirely correct, it’s worth pointing out that the machine guns weren’t just sitting in the open. They were in pillboxes which were immune to .50 cal bullets, and probably to rockets. And nobody in WWII could bomb accurately enough to hit pillboxes reliably. The best fire support for the invasion is going to come from ships offshore. And I think communication there, particularly in the early hours of the invasion, could have been improved.

      • S_J says:

        That’s probably better than improved close-air-support.

        I’m surprised that all the worst stories of the landing were all on Omaha beach. And the reason was mostly that sea conditions were terrible, combined with inability to destroy the German machine-gun pill-boxes pre-assault.

        The other four beaches (Juno, Gold, Sword, and Utah) had relatively orderly landings. There were losses, and some objectives were not gained: but the units came ashore at roughly their planned locations, and were able to establish a firm beachhead in relatively good order.

        At Utah, the sea conditions made it hard for the amphibious armored craft to arrive. Wave action made it hard for landing boats to get close enough to the beach for the soldiers to march ashore easily. Waves and currents disorganized the landing craft, so that units didn’t arrive together, or at their expected locations.

        Those factors, plus the resilience of the machine-gun nests, meant that the first wave was wading through neck-deep water, into the face of concentrated fire, with no supporting armo. Any men that made it ashore were either unarmed, or unable to collaborate with their assigned units. Some men formed ‘scratch units’, and had great success. Many men foundered in the waves, died of blood loss on the beach, or huddled at the foot of the cliffs.

        • bean says:

          I’m surprised that all the worst stories of the landing were all on Omaha beach. And the reason was mostly that sea conditions were terrible, combined with inability to destroy the German machine-gun pill-boxes pre-assault.

          The sea conditions at Omaha were not notably different from those at other beaches. The big problem was that there were simply a lot more pillboxes with a lot more and better Germans sitting in them than there were behind any of the other beaches.

          The other four beaches (Juno, Gold, Sword, and Utah) had relatively orderly landings. There were losses, and some objectives were not gained: but the units came ashore at roughly their planned locations, and were able to establish a firm beachhead in relatively good order.

          No, they really didn’t. To take the first example, the entire Utah landing took place a mile south of where it was supposed to. The first waves landed there by accident, but it was then decided it was a better location and follow-on troops were brought there intentionally.

          At Utah, the sea conditions made it hard for the amphibious armored craft to arrive. Wave action made it hard for landing boats to get close enough to the beach for the soldiers to march ashore easily.

          First, I think you mean Omaha, not Utah. Second, if you’re talking about the DD tanks, they worked reasonably well at the other beaches because they were brought in much closer to shore. At Omaha, they were launched well offshore, and sank.

          The other gap I notice is in close-in fire support. It was nothing like the scale used in the Pacific, and the only explanation I have is a shortage of landing craft to be converted to gunboats.

          • S_J says:

            First, I think you mean Omaha, not Utah.

            Gah! That’s what I get for not double-checking which landing was on which beach.

            Thanks for helping fill in the details on the other stuff.

            I think the original reason I proposed better close-air support was that I wondered what happened to Naval/Air assets that ought to have attacked the German machine-gun emplacements. The detail that there was much less close-in support from the Navy than in an equivalent Pacific landing is of much interest.

          • bean says:

            Do note that I’m working from memory, so it’s possible that the LCGs and such were as numerous at Normandy as they were in the Pacific, and I just forgot. The really big difference in terms of fire support was that the Normandy bombardment had to be compressed into an hour or two, not the days or weeks that were common in the Pacific. The reason behind this is simple. If the target is an island, the enemy can’t really do anything with the information that the enemy has shown up and is bombarding in preparation for an invasion. A similar bombardment of Normandy would have alerted the Germans and allowed them to start moving up reinforcements.

    • Matt says:

      I would tell the planners that far more boys than expected (at least I hope they were surprised at how bad this was) in the initial wave were going to sink like stones when they got out of their landing crafts, causing them to drown or abandon weapons/equipment/armor, costing many lives.

      I imagine that flotation devices would have led to more men not pushing forward, so maybe a solution is a flotation device that eventually fails? Probably that’s impractical, but maybe they could have come up with something.

  2. johan_larson says:

    You are invited to explain what you do for a living in terms that would be understandable to a well-educated American or European from the year 1850.

    The information that in your day would fill a large library can in my day be stored in a device that would fit in your pocket. The machine for accessing and displaying that information would fit in your lap. This device could, for example, answer a question like, “What books published in 1955 contain the words ‘centipede” and ‘hemisphere’?” And it could do so in just a few seconds. I am an engineer who designs these devices.

    • cassander says:

      There are so many flying machines that it’s hard to keep track of them all, so the people who make money selling and repairing flying machines pay me to count how many there are in each country. I only count the flying machines that are used to kill people, though, there’s another team that counts the flying machines that are used for productive purposes.

      • CarlosRamirez says:

        What is your actual job title? Didn’t know you could work doing that.

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          I believe “compiles data for Jane’s Almanac” is a pretty close approximation to a job title in this case, and should get you in the direction you want.

          (I’ve met cassander, and I think Jane’s is actually one of his competitors. Sort of.)

        • cassander says:

          Paul is correct, Jane’s is a competitor, more or less, though they focus more on prose than we do, or at least more than my division does. My title is about as generic as you can get, just Head of Military Analysis.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Wasn’t there a Cassander who had that job title in Alexander the Great’s army?

    • Plumber says:

      That prisoners as well as princes now have indoor plumbing may need some explaining; but judging by a 1910 book on plumbing I found my job probably wouldn’t be too hard to explain to someone from 1850, though some aspects may be (such as what all the layers of desk jockey management are for that interfere interface with the work, and why time is wasted used up recording time and actions on computerized logs that are only read just enough to check if it’s done by people who don’t do much else but check up on that, instead of just handing out more wrenches and getting physical work done, but that’s hard to explain now).

    • Deiseach says:

      Clerical work, which seemingly began to take off for women from 1850 onwards, but it might give them a misleading impression of my social class (if I go by this thesis, the original impetus was towards placing young ladies, not girls of the factory or shop class, into such employment).

      And there really was a society named SPEW – the Society for Providing Employment to Women. I have no idea if J.K. Rowling was aware of that or not, but if so, it adds another layer of sly social commentary to Hermione’s efforts 🙂

      It’s funny in a way how little has changed since the mid-19th century: the technology is vastly different (to some extent – word processing is the development of type writing, but shorthand has fallen by the wayside since dictaphones came in) but the basic duties remain the same: correspondence, accounts, filing, record-keeping, dealing with clients/the public, follow the boss’s instructions whether they deign to explain them or not, and able to write “a clear, round hand without flourishes”.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      Work on machines that helps greatly with bookkeeping, and in particular bookkeeping for postal companies. These machines look a lot like notepads in which you can write, and the writing appears on other notepads. So each postal worker can have a small notepad in which he writes which letters and parcels he delivered, and in the post office there are larger registers which automatically collect all this writing.

      The writing doesn’t appear just as written, and there’s a lot of work to decide which piece of writing goes on which page. That’s most of my work, and is why my registers are cleaner and more useful than competition’s.

    • Lillian says:

      This is a boring answer, but for the sake of completion i feel the thread should have it: Since i work at a bar my job existed in the 1850s as did my workplace, so there’s not much to explain. Hell my job likely existed in the ancient city of Ur.

      • bullseye says:

        I’m an accountant, so my profession is older than Ur. But yours may well be older still.

        • deltafosb says:

          I’ve always wondered if the prefix ur- derives from the city of Ur. If yes, that really adds meaning to “older than Ur”.

    • HowardHolmes says:

      I don’t do anything to live. Ever since I reached a certain age, the government sends me a monthly check to live on. They force other people pay taxes to fund this check. Can you believe it!

    • honoredb says:

      Mine:

      In future cities, there is a high density and variety of restaurants that produce food in mass quantities. Rather than travel to a restaurant, diners signal what kind of food they would like to be served, and a device transmits the order to an appropriate restaurant, which then makes the food and sends it by courier to the diner in their own home. I tweak the protocol around these signals to prevent criminals from ordering food for themselves but sending the bill to another.

      My wife’s is harder. Transcribing her answer:

      In my time, telegraph-like devices exist that can translate certain codes directly into a visual display without the need for an operator. Not everybody knows how to compose these codes, so I write codes that create a display that helps people make copies of the code behind the displays they like, change it to suit, and transmit it without professional assistance.

    • Anatoly says:

      I would correct thus:

      information -> knowledge
      “accessing” is unknown to the OED before 1962, and “displaying” had a strong sense of a public display, perhaps “deciphering and showing”.
      “answer a question” -> “help you answer a question […] in just a few seconds”

    • Erusian says:

      While the specifics of what I do would be very different, the general idea would very familiar going back basically forever.

      I am a person who has been well trained and experienced in a variety of mercantile and technical processes. I convince people with money, usually a few people with a lot but sometimes a lot of people with a little, that I will be able to do something extremely profitable if they entrust their money to me. I then take their money and do the best I can to bring the described venture to success: whether it is a new piece of technology, a particular shop or factory, or an expedition of some kind. If it is successful, I share in the profits and I return them their money with interest. They can make many hundreds or even thousands of times their investment. If it is not successful, I lose my time, my own money and current livelihood, and possibly more. And they lose their money, in whole or part. In between doing this, I advise people trying to do the same thing or assist people with my mercantile and technical expertise.

      I doubt they would specifically understand, for example, making apps or building electronics or designing new logistical algorithms to minimize warehouse mandatory outflow. But this isn’t central to what I do: I’ve done it in relatively simple real estate innovations too, for example. And none of it is particularly different from, say, what Arkwright did with his weaving machines. It’s not even that different from what Bronze Age traders did if you substitute my knowledge for navigational knowledge. Hell, Mongols and Turks would even do something similar with trade routes or ventures in settlements near their territories.

    • Enkidum says:

      I try to understand how the way our eyes move changes as we learn new things, and how these eye movements may themselves help us learn, by making the way we look at the world more efficient. I also try to relate this to what we understand about the brain, both as the source of eye movements, and the seat of learning.

      There’s not actually a lot I needed to change there.

    • Faza (TCM) says:

      The smaller part of my work is accountacy, which is fundamentally the same as ever – I record incoming and outgoing transactions in the clients’ books and prepare documents for the tax authorities on their behalf.

      The bigger and more interesting part of my work is designing and implementing ways in which the counting machines used by our office can be used more efficiently. I should probably explain that we use machines to both do all the sums and also to store the individual book-keeping entries. Yes, people still know how to count, and will do so if needed, it’s just that machines are faster and not prone to human error.

      An example of what this design work might involve: these days, a lot of information is exchanged between parties through a system not unlike the telegraph. One of the things I’ve done is create a way for information on transactions to be sent directly from the bank to us and entered into the client’s books without needing a messenger to deliver it or a clerk to copy it by hand – all done by machines. This way, the accountants can focus on the important things: ensuring everything is accounted for and documented and that all relevant laws are applied to the client’s maximum benefit.

    • Matt says:

      The people of the world wish to put small moons into space that enable anyone to speak to another instantaneously, (like a wireless telegraph) or to more precisely map the planet, to track and predict the weather, and various other uses. I help design the flying ships that put those moons into space, and that we may use to !return! to the Moon or beyond one day.

      • Incurian says:

        You are hereby invited and required to produce a series of effort posts on that subject. Thank you for your cooperation.

        • bean says:

          There’s loads of “introduction to rocket science” material floating around. Maybe not stuff on booster design in particular, but really good effort posts tend to be on subjects that aren’t as well-covered in public libraries. Project Rho is a good place to start if you want to know more.

          • Incurian says:

            I’ve read lots of Rho and played lots of KSP, but I’m interested in what the industry is up to.

        • Matt says:

          Thanks for the compliment, but that’s gonna be a ‘no’ from me.

      • b_jonas says:

        You do know that wireless telegraphs didn’t yet exist in 1850, right?

        • acymetric says:

          Telegraphs did, though, and I think it was intended to come off as “like a telegraph, but wireless”. They would know telegraphs, and could theoretically imagine what it would be like for something to behave as a telegraph but without wires.

          • Matt says:

            Yes, that’s what I intended. I did know that telegraphs existed in 1850, but did NOT know that there was ever any technology referred to as ‘wireless telegraphs’.

    • b_jonas says:

      In my time, there are devices called televisions that let policemen see places far from where they are. For this to work, we have to install television eyes somewhere on a street of the city, connect it to the police station through a telegraph wire, and then the officer in the police station can watch that street without leaving his office. This helps the police’s job, because they can notice crime while it’s happening with fewer policemen than you’d need if there was one patrolling every street. However, even if he could see anywhere in the city through television, a policemen can’t pay attention to all streets at the same time. Also television eyes are expensive, so we can’t put them everywhere. My previous job involved figuring out how to use television in the most efficient way to catch some types of crime if there aren’t enough policemen or television eyes available.

      In my current job, I am an engineer who works to design a lighting gas factory. In this factory, chemicals have to be heated to precise temperatures, and moved from one vessel to another at the right time through pipes with valves and pumps. The factory workers have to decide when to heat a vessel or let it cool, or when to open and close a valve, or when to shovel in the raw ingredients. The workers can’t directly look into the vessels: many of them are boilers under pressure, or contain hot chemicals that would burn them. Instead there are thermometers and scales and other instruments that tell the worker what’s happening inside the vessels. My job is to place these instruments in such a way that the workers are the least likely to make mistakes, and that when something goes wrong, they can quickly find out the problem and repair it.

      —–
      Disclosure: some of the above are straight up lies. I’m not an engineer, and the chemical factory doesn’t produce lighting gas, but this seems like the easiest way to explain this to people from 1850. I try to explain the end goal of what value we want to produce, not the procedures I’m doing during it. I don’t want to explain digital computers and programming to someone from 1850.

    • Walter says:

      People spend their lives looking into magic squares that they hold in their hands, which entertain and command them. These squares produce their magic by working with other squares, each directing the next. I operate the spells that allow the squares to know of one another, for the benefit of my bosses, who command the squares and thus mankind.

    • Bamboozle says:

      I manage all aspects of your financial affairs on your behalf so you don’t have to.

      The laws will have changed but i imagine the job has stayed mostly the same haha

  3. rubberduck says:

    I (American, parents are immigrants from Poland) was recently talking to my grandmother, who is ethnically Polish but was born and raised in an area that’s now part of Ukraine. She was telling me about all the nationalities that were present in her hometown when she was a child: the Polish, the Ukrainians, a few Russians, and the Jews. I asked her what nationality the Jews were (Polish? Russian?) and she gave me a confused look. “They were Jews.”

    (My grandmother is not anti-Semitic in the slightest.)

    I read this as the Polish using the term “nationality” (narodowość) differently from how Americans use it. The Polish meaning is closer to the term “ethnicity”, with an added element of having a common culture and history, and for the usual American usage of “nationality”, a Polish person would probably say something like “citizenship”. Poland has spent much of the past 500 years being ruled by outside powers, so the Polish would say that the Polish nation (naród) existed even when a Polish state did not. Conversely, America is a nation of immigrants where living on US territory, obtaining citizenship, and assimilating into American culture is more important than your grandparents’ ethnicity- there is no such thing as an “ethnic American”, unless you count Native Americans (but that’s not how people usually use the term “American”.)

    So my question: How do people in other countries view national/ethnic/cultural identity? What words do they use? I would assume it is closer to the Polish view than the American one but I am interested in how it is for countries that haven’t been invaded as often as Poland was, or that have large numbers of immigrants but the indigenous population is still the majority.

    (I hope this is not considered CW. I am not trying to start a discussion about immigration policy, just the words people use to talk about it.)

    • Machine Interface says:

      That’s essentially the difference between civic nationalism (a nation is a common culture you adhere to) and ethnic nationalism (a nation is genealogical heritage you are born into). Historically, the notion of civic nationalism prevailed and developed in America, Britain, France, Italy and Switzerland, whereas that of ethnic nationalism prevailed and developped in central, eastern Europe and the Balkans.

      There are more complicated examples like Germany (ethnic nationalism prevailed up until WWII, after which civic nationalism became the dominant ideology), Russia (civic nationalism in outlook all throughout the Soviet era and subsequent period, but in practice many policies have tended to favor ethnic Russians) or Turkey (both the Young Turks and Atatürk embraced civic nationalism, but policies of ethnic cleansing were nonetheless implemented against many populations who wanted their own nations rather than assimilate into the Turkish one).

      In France, where I am from, the words “nationalité” (nationality) and “citoyenneté” (citizenship) are pretty much used interchangeably. If you are a French national, you are a French citizen, and reciprocally. When there were discussions about the possibility of creating law that would have removed legal citizenship from Frenchmen who have participated in a jihadist organisation, this was discussed in terms of “déchéance de nationalité” (nationality forfeiture).

      • Nootropic cormorant says:

        I would argue that nation started as an idea of an ethnic group as a political subject, but that the meaning evolved with the rise of multiethnic liberal states.

        I would rather call “civic nationalism” “patriotism”, but I understand this is a lost battle. As for Russia and Turkey (and the United States).

        I’d say there’s a poorly understood connection between patriotism and the dominant ethnic group, that is between civic and ethnic nationalism, that can make a Georgian (and an entire categorically anti-chauvinist state apparatus with him) into a Russian nationalist.

    • ana53294 says:

      Identity has been an issue for Basques since we started to separate our identity from the Spaniards. Do you need to have eight Basque surnames to be Basque?

      In the end, there are several definitions used, with different degrees of being Basque. The most important part is speaking the language (not just knowing, but speaking in daily life); the second is supporting the separate Basque identity; and the third is having the Basque surname. The last one is pretty much non-important.

      But because it’s so hard to learn the language, we have first generation Spanish immigrants who don’t learn the language but do support the separate Basque identity and culture. They tend to favor their children learning, so their kids become fully Basque.

      So far, we haven’t had second generation non-Spanish immigrants for long enough for their children to learn the language and join this separate identity. They mostly don’t want to do it, because they have to know Spanish as well as Basque, and they don’t care about those things. But if and when they do, I am sure that we will have black or chinese Basques, who will be accepted as Basque equally to others.

      In Spain, being Spanish is viewed as about rejecting secondary identities (whether Catalan, Basque, or Moroccan), and accepting the Spanish national identity. As much as Vox is an anti-immigrant party, they have a black MP (from a mixed race Ecuatorial Guinean family).

      In general, this American idea that you can be German-American, Mexican-American, or X-American, is rejected by most of the people who are Spanish patriots. You are either Spanish, and only Spanish, or you aren’t.

    • sarth says:

      Growing up in Brooklyn we used “nationality” to refer to the ethnic legacy of your family. So a very common exchange between two kids would be:
      “what nationality are you?”
      “Mostly Irish but my grandmother is Italian.”

      Or whatever.

    • A1987dM says:

      To a first approximation, here in Italy right-wingers see it the Polish way and left-wingers the American way.

    • Anatoly says:

      I think there are two separate issues at play here. First, as you say, in some languages/cultures the word that seems like a counterpart of “nationality” actually means something like “ethnicity”. But that’s more of a word confusion than a real difference in mentality, or at least so it seems to me. The other issue is particular with Jews: where your grandmother grew up they’re an ethnicity rather than a religion. Having grown up in Ukraine, then part of the Soviet Union, it was a shock for me to discover that in many Western countries being Jewish is considered a religious identity.

    • Etoile says:

      In the USSR “Jew” was a nationality as was “Tarar” or “Ukrainian”, a possible entry in a “nationality” question on official forms (e.g. passport).
      Ask Jews from USSR, many of whom have precious few ties to their religion as compared to American Jews, and see what they say!

    • bullseye says:

      I had a teacher who asked all the students their nationality. One after another, each student said what part of Europe their ancestors came from. Then the teacher told us we were wrong, our nationality is American. (It struck me as odd that the other kids didn’t answer “American”, but since he waited until everyone had spoken to correct us, I thought ancestry must have been what he meant.)

    • Erusian says:

      The Eastern European system is especially frank about ethnicity. To this day, Russians have their ethnicity listed on their identification the same way they list gender. Also, your grandmother wasn’t exactly wrong. Eastern European Jews spoke a common language, had a common cuisine, etc. They simply lacked a country. But then, they weren’t alone in this in the period of Tsarist Russia.

      Anyway, this has to do with ideas of state legitimacy in the Americas vs Europe. European states are mostly ethnic nation-states. They are legitimated by common group identity. American states, in contrast, legitimate themselves by guaranteed political mechanisms and rights. Almost every state in the Americas has the same origin: a rebellion over a lack of specific political rights. Almost every state in Europe has one of two origins as well: a rebellion to establish a state by and for a particular ethnic group (Poland, Ireland, Belgium) or what was left after surviving numerous such rebellions (UK, Russia, Germany).

      This is true even of most failed rebellions. The Confederacy wasn’t rebelling because the Confederates considered themselves a different ethnic group yearning to be free. They wanted to protect the political right to own slaves. Likewise, the ultimately suppressed rebellion in Corsica wasn’t because the Corsicans were being particularly oppressed. But the Corsicans considered themselves to not be Genoese and then not to be French.

      Brazilians and Americans are just ‘the people who live in Brazil/America’. Anglo-Americans and Luso-Brazilians aren’t more or less American/Brazilian, except in the minds of extreme purist racists. This isn’t true of the Germans or the French.

      PS: Poland only ceased to exist for 127 years, less if you count independent Krakow or the Napoleonic Duchy of Poland.

      • Hoopdawg says:

        Actually, there’s a third origin, unification of separate entities, with similar but distinct local identities homogenized and assimilated into one nation. Germany is actually one of those, as are Italy or Switzerland (the latter without the homogenization part). Yugoslavia was an attempt.

        • Erusian says:

          I’d classify that squarely under ‘a rebellion by a particular ethnic group’. Though perhaps rebellion isn’t the right term. See the Pan-German Congress, for example, or the fact that Prussia’s final war of unification involved fighting a bunch of outside powers who had control in Germany (as well as recalcitrant German princelings). And the cassus belli of that war was very much to establish a state for Germans, at least to some degree in propaganda.

        • Machine Interface says:

          France is also in that case, save that the unification was more or less a fait-accompli long before the idea of a French nation came into being. France can be seen as a bunch of distinct ethnicities (including various groups of Romance, Celtic and Germanic speakers + northern Basques and Creoles) which created their nation based on shared history, geography and sovereignty.

          Switzerland is similar really — there was a Swiss country long before the idea of a Swiss nation was formalized, except the Swiss somewhat uniquely make their multilinguism an explicit part of their national identity.

          In fact I’d argue contra Erusian that the claim that “European states are mostly ethnic nation states” is true mostly outside of western Europe; in the latter, Britain, Belgium, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, France, Norway*, Sweden* or Finland* are all multi-ethnic states in their fundations, with various degrees of cultural homogeneisation having taking place in them as the result of the process of nation building (even Switzerland had some — standard French and standard Italian have largely displaced the local Arpitan and Lombard dialects in their respective areas; standard German was less successful, with the German areas of Switzerland still having everyone speak Allemanic in their daily life — although standard German is the language of the media and of written communication; and the only reason Romansh is an official language is to drive the point home that the Swiss are not just astray Frenchs, Germans and Italians, but have in fact distinct and unique national features).

          *: in all those three, Sami people are legally recognized as an indigenous people with their own separate local institutions; Finland also has a recognized Swedish minority with recognized rights.

          • Erusian says:

            If having minorities with protected rights makes a state multi-ethnic, no matter how small, then every state is multi-ethnic. This even includes the genocidal explicitly race-national ones.

            The Sami are a small group that largely did not agitate for (say) Norwegian independence, for example. It’s not entirely clear that Danish rule was a problem to them. At least not more than Swedish rule. Likewise, by that definition, Hungary and Romania (with its ethnic minorities) are also not ethnic nation-states. Nor are the post-Yugoslav states, which are the result of a more-or-less explicit race war.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      She was telling me about all the nationalities that were present in her hometown when she was a child: the Polish, the Ukrainians, a few Russians, and the Jews. I asked her what nationality the Jews were (Polish? Russian?) and she gave me a confused look. “They were Jews.”

      (My grandmother is not anti-Semitic in the slightest.)

      I imagine this is how New Yorkers in the first part of the 20th century saw their neighbors. “There we have the Italian-Americans, and over there the Jewish-Americans.”
      Like if you read about the life of comic artist Jack Kirby, he comes across as identifying as a poor urban American first, Jewish second and Austrian or Deutsch (parental origin) not at all. And in 1916, a New Yorker named Jerome Horwitz nearly died from accidentally shooting himself in the foot while cleaning a rifle in his family’s apartment, a tragedy that would strongly code as American Red Tribe today!

    • Faza (TCM) says:

      I’m Polish, with roots in Ukraine, as well, and I think I can illuminate your grandmother’s statement regarding the Jews. Mind you, in order to avoid a view untainted by (political) nationalism, we’d probably need to go back pre-WWI, so I’m basing this on third-hand sources.

      As I understand it, in Ukraine before the world wars, “Polish” would be code for “Catholic, speaks Polish” and “Ukrainian/Ruthenian” would be code for “Orthodox, speaks Ruthenian”. In this context, Jews are clearly odd-men-out: they have their own language (Yiddish), their own religion, their own customs. The same would have been true of Protestant Germans (to the extent they were present).

      The groups had some things in common (locality, a measure of shared history) and many things that set them apart, which I believe to be the reason why things turned out the way they did with WWII and its aftermath.

      Poland has spent much of the past 500 years being ruled by outside powers

      At the risk of being pointlessly pedantic, I must point out that even with the most extreme reading of “ruled by outside powers” (First Partition, 1772, to the settlement of the pre-WWII borders following the Polish-Soviet war, 1922) it was only 150 years.

    • Randy M says:

      Citizenship and race are on opposite end of the spectrum. Nationality, ethnicity, culture are in the middle, but where exactly and in what relative order differ from speaker to speaker enough that it’s best to ask about whatever detail is relevant.

    • brad says:

      I (American, parents are immigrants from Poland) was recently talking to my grandmother, who is ethnically Polish but was born and raised in an area that’s now part of Ukraine. She was telling me about all the nationalities that were present in her hometown when she was a child: the Polish, the Ukrainians, a few Russians, and the Jews. I asked her what nationality the Jews were (Polish? Russian?) and she gave me a confused look. “They were Jews.”

      From what I have gathered from older relatives based on their discussion with their older relatives the attitude was mutual. None of them would ever have described themselves as Polish, Ukrainian, or Belarusian. They were Jewish. The same was not necessarily true in Germany, where one set of great-grandparents were fairly assimilated before being murdered by their neighbors. In the 1920s they may well have described themselves as Germans.

    • I asked her what nationality the Jews were (Polish? Russian?) and she gave me a confused look. “They were Jews.”

      This reminds me of something that happened to me when I was a grad student traveling in Europe, probably c. 1970.

      I got into a conversation with a group of young men about my age, at a student hostel or something similar. I asked them what countries they were from and they gave me what sounded like implausible answers–I no longer remember the details. They asked me what country I as from and I said America.

      One of them asked to see my passport, so I showed it to him. He or one of the others then said (I’m making up the details) “I’m French and he’s German and he’s Italian, the same way you are American.”

      They were all Jews and presumably took my last name as evidence that I was. They shared roughly your grandmother’s attitude. It seemed strange to me from the American perspective.

  4. A Definite Beta Guy says:

    In the last visible thread, a poster asked what things you have changed your mind on in the last 2 years. That was the non-CW thread, but I figure we might get some interesting threads in the CW thread.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      4 things I have changed my mind on:
      1. Trump has been horrifically damaging to the GOP, and will probably be more damaging than anything else in history besides the Great Depression. Goldwater’s stain didn’t last particularly long. I would have put his damage at “moderate” prior to this cycle, but at this point it might be closer to “irreparable” harm.
      2. On the other hand, all the most fun people I know voted for Trump or Johnson. Particularly if they actually liked Bernie Sanders, too. If you actually liked Hillary Clinton, you are probably either boring or otherwise unlikable.
      3. I stopped reading center-left economists. They strike me as arrogant, pompous, vindictive, and bad faith. All of this turned up to 11 in the Trump Era. There’s nothing I can’t learn from a center-right economist.
      4. Malls aren’t dying. There is a shedding of real estate because the market is over-retailed, but that’s a long cry from an industry dying.

      • People both overstate and understate the damage that Trump is causing. On one hand, he hasn’t directly made that much of an impact through his policies. On the other hand, his demagoguery is potentially extremely dangerous. I could very well see historians matching his presidency to the first time that Americans in general stopped expecting some kind of experience in their president and instead started voting for any idiot with a platform.

        • hash872 says:

          I thought this was a really good explanation of it https://www.themoneyillusion.com/the-short-time-horizon-president/ He has more runway to do destructive things because the US has built up a ton of reputational/soft power/institutional credibility, so we can do some erosion and still not collapse overnight. But stuff like politicizing interest rate decisions are terrible and will ultimately do long-term damage

          • Matt M says:

            politicizing interest rate decisions

            This has been a thing since at least the 1960s. Didn’t LBJ physically threaten the Fed Chairman into changing the rates?

          • cassander says:

            @Matt M

            I can’t say about LBJ, because Caro is almost as bad as GRRM, but it wouldn’t be out of character. And Nixon appointed his lawyer to fed chair to get easy money in the runup to 1972.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Starting around Clinton POTUS started leaving the Fed alone. It was a nice armistice while it lasted.

          • Matt M says:

            Starting around Clinton POTUS started leaving the Fed alone. It was a nice armistice while it lasted.

            Given the Fed’s recent performance, maybe not…

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            I suspect that Obama left the Fed too much alone, and that we could have had a faster recovery if he’d paid it a bit more attention. As things were, the only meaningful political pressure on the Fed was the stuck-in-1980 hawkishness of the Republicans in Congress.

        • cassander says:

          I could very well see historians matching his presidency to the first time that Americans in general stopped expecting some kind of experience in their president and instead started voting for any idiot with a platform.

          Obama was a senator for about 15 minutes before he started running for a president on a platform of hope and change. Historians might say that of Trump, but it won’t be accurate.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            But Trump is an idiot, and Obama is not.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            It’s not Trump’s intelligence that is the issue, regardless of how smart you do or don’t think he is.

            Obama was heavily involved in politics from 1992 onward. He was a State Senator from 1997 onward. His legal career was a civil rights career and he taught the law for many years.

            The difference between his experience and Trump’s is night and day. It’s complete bullshit to label him as inexperienced in the way Trump was/is.

          • cassander says:

            @healbearcub

            Please, he was a state senator who never authored any significant legislation, or did anything else of any significance, and before that was a law professor and associate, also of no significance. Nothing in that resume would be considered meaningful experience for the presidency for anyone else. He never dealt with national issues, never was a significant player in the institutions he was a part of, and never managed anything larger than his senate office. To call that night and day with trump’s similar lack of experience (though trump, at least, had run his companies) is laughable.

          • Nootropic cormorant says:

            It’s not about significance, it’s about spending enough time in politics to develop a strong responsibility towards the political establishment and its owners.
            The president is best to leave everything to the experts and avoid doing anything rash and irresponsible that might endanger the growth of wealth.

          • and before that was a law professor and associate

            According to Wikipedia, Obama was a fellow, a lecturer, and a senior lecturer at Chicago. Apparently never a professor.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            According to Wikipedia, Obama was a fellow … at Chicago

            At least they didn’t make him a gal. 😛

          • John Schilling says:

            Obama was a senator for about 15 minutes before he started running for a president on a platform of hope and change.

            Four years as even a junior senator of no great accomplishment, will teach a man more about how to be an effective politician than will forty years as a real-estate developer and/or professional celebrity.

            And being the Annointed One of the DNC(*) means showing up in the Oval Office with a team of veterans with relevant expertise in all the areas the Executive Branch will need to deal with – and since POTUS is expected to deal with almost everything by delegation, that’s arguably even more important than personal skill and expertise.

            Before Trump, we could argue about exactly where on the scale of “minimally qualified US presidents” Barack Obama fell. But he did OK, and he didn’t seriously damage the Democratic brand among anyone who was ever going to consider voting for a Democrat. Trump showing up in office with no relevant expertise, no competent support team, no willingness to go to the RNC and ask for a competent team, and no apparent understanding that he was going to need some combination of personal expertise in politics and a competent (as opposed to merely loyal) support team, has done great damage to the Republican brand among people who once were willing to vote for Republicans.

            * with some uncertainty over whether he was being annointed for 2008 or 2016, but the DNC pivoted nicely when the primary returns came in.

          • albatross11 says:

            John Schilling:

            I think that’s a really important point. Obama came in without a lot of experience running things (and I think that showed in his first term), but he also had the backing of the mainstream of the party, and so he could get experienced advisors who were broadly on his team. Trump came in with a lot of experience being the boss, but he had alienated the mainstream of his party, so he had a limited selection of advisors to choose from, and many of the ones he could get were not really on board with his ideas or plans. Worse, he’s a pretty awful boss, and his throwing Chris Christie to the wolves to satisfy a family grudge set the expectations for loyalty from the boss appropriately low. That probably kept a fair number of experienced Republicans off his team right there, and his later treatment of advisors and cabinet secretaries has re-enforced that.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @albatross11:
            Remember that one of the selection criteria for being in the Trump administration was not having said negative things about Trump beforehand. Even when people were willing to work for Trump, frequently he wasn’t willing to work with them.

        • Deiseach says:

          I could very well see historians matching his presidency to the first time that Americans in general stopped expecting some kind of experience in their president and instead started voting for any idiot with a platform.

          Well, how very reassuring to know that no former president in the entire history of the American presidency has ever been tainted by a breath of scandal before they were elected.

          Ma, ma, where’s my pa?

          “It seems to me that a leading question ought to be: do the American people want a common libertine for their president?” So wrote a preacher from Buffalo, New York, to the editor of the Chicago Tribune on the eve of the 1884 presidential election.

          …For on July 21, 1884, the Buffalo Evening Telegraph broke a story many in upstate New York had long known to be true — that 10 years earlier, a woman named Maria Halpin had given birth in that city to a son with the surname Cleveland and then been taken to a mental asylum while the child was adopted by another family.

          An edifying tale of alleged sexual assault if not rape, illegitimate birth, and the mother shoved into an asylum to make sure any allegations she might make would be discredited. And yet the plain people of the United States voted this guy (just about) into office in 1884. And the Wikipedia page appears to be written by a fan who has sedulously scrubbed any hint of this infamous affair, which was bruited about sufficiently at the time to have the popular chant and counter-chant quoted above:

          (Republicans): Ma, ma, where’s my pa?
          (Democrats in triumph after the election): Gone to the White House, ha ha ha!

          • I never said politics was good and holy before Trump. I’m saying that we expected to have some kind of experience on their resume but now we’re willing to hire the guy who flatters us without even doing an interview.

          • Deiseach says:

            I’m saying that we expected to have some kind of experience on their resume

            Ulysses S. Grant. To my view, a decent man who was a failure in civilian life, was fortunate (in a blackly humorous way) that the Civil War came along at the right time for him to shine with his undoubted military talent, was elected on his reputation as a general, and was unfortunate in being involved in scandals about supporters/hangers-on using his family to get close to him to enrich themselves, and was not what you would consider experienced in matters of national finance:

            In April 1869, railroad tycoons Jay Gould and Jim Fisk, conspired to corner the gold market in New York, the nation’s financial capital. Gould and Fisk controlled the Erie Railroad, and a high price of gold would allow foreign agriculture buyers to purchase exported crops, shipped east over the Erie’s routes. …To stop the sale of Treasury gold and raise the price, Gould and Fisk built a relationship with Grant’s brother-in-law, Abel Corbin, and gained access to Grant. Assistant Treasurer Daniel Butterfield, who had been appointed by Grant under influence from Corbin, was bribed by Gould $10,000. …In mid-June, Gould personally lobbied Grant that a high price of gold would spur the economy and increase agriculture sales.

            …By September, Grant, who was naive in matters of finance, was convinced that a low gold price would help farmers, and the sale of gold for September was not increased. …The following day, September 24, known as Black Friday, Grant ordered Boutwell to sell, whereupon Boutwell wired Butterfield in New York, to sell $4,000,000 in gold. The bull market at Gould’s Gold Room collapsed, the price of gold plummeted from 160 to ​133 1⁄3, a bear market panic ensued, Gould and Fisk fled for their own safety, while severe economic damages lasted months. By January 1870, the economy resumed its post-war recovery. An 1870 Congressional investigation chaired by James A. Garfield cleared Grant of profiteering, but excoriated Gould and Fisk for their manipulation of the gold market and Corbin for exploiting his personal connection to Grant.

            …Economic turmoil renewed during Grant’s second term. In September 1873, Jay Cooke & Company, a New York brokerage house, collapsed after it failed to sell all of the bonds issued by Cooke’s Northern Pacific Railway. The collapse rippled through Wall Street, and other banks and brokerages that owned railroad stocks and bonds were also ruined. ….Grant, who knew little about finance, traveled to New York to consult leading businessmen and bankers for advice on how to resolve the crisis, which became known as the Panic of 1873. Grant believed that, as with the collapse of the Gold Ring in 1869, the panic was merely an economic fluctuation that affected bankers and brokers. He instructed the Treasury to buy $10 million in government bonds, injecting cash into the system. The purchases curbed the panic on Wall Street, but an industrial depression, later called the Long Depression, nonetheless swept the nation.

            And there’s an entire section devoted to Grant administration scandals:

            Ulysses S. Grant and his administration, including his cabinet, suffered many scandals, leading to continuous reshuffling of officials. Grant, ever trusting of associates, was himself influenced by both forces. The standards in many of his appointments were low, and charges of corruption were widespread. Starting with the Black Friday (1869) gold speculation ring, corruption would be discovered in seven federal departments, including the Navy, Justice, War, Treasury, Interior, State, and the Post Office. Reform movements initiated in both the Democratic Party and the Liberal Republicans, a faction that split from Republican Party to oppose political patronage and corruption in the Grant administration. Nepotism was prevalent, with over 40 family members benefiting from government appointments and employment. The prevalent corruption was eventually called “Grantism.”

            …Historian C. Vann Woodward stated that Grant had neither the training nor temperament to fully comprehend the complexities of rapid economic growth, industrialization, and western expansionism. Grant himself had been educated and trained at West Point in such subjects as conduct, French, mathematics, artillery, cavalry tactics, and infantry. He had come from a humble background where men of superior intelligence and ability were threats rather than assets. Instead of responding with trust and warmth to men of talent, education, and culture, he turned to his military friends from the Civil War and to politicians as new as himself.

            Hmmm – a guy not a professional politician elected on his personal popularity, hiring and firing of cabinet officials based on “I know and like this guy/this guy has betrayed me”, shuffles and reshuffles, accusations of close family members profiteering, cronyism and dodgy deals, a Congressional investigation and a creation of a word based on the president’s surname to denote the corruption and general badness? Sounding familiar?

          • I’m not sure what you think I’m saying but you’re still missing the point. When running for President, Grant had his military accomplishments. The military is an important part of politics. So yeah, he was ignorant of finances but at least there was one political thing he could point to in his favor. No one doubted his military acumen. You can point to a bunch of bad presidents and criticize each one point by point without invalidating what I’m saying.

          • quanta413 says:

            I don’t see how being a skilled general is a better political qualification than being a real-estate developer. Unless we’re talking ancient Rome.

            One’s skill at either strikes me as fairly irrelevant to what skills one would hypothetically want in a President. Unless the idea is just “leadership” in which case I don’t see a particularly strong argument for one over the other.

            President’s influence military strategy, but as far as I can tell, typically in an actively negative manner although there are exceptions. If the President just sits there and listens to his generals about peacetime footing or in a defensive war and doesn’t invade other countries unnecessarily, he’s not doing too bad militarily!

            I think Deiseach has the better of this. Although I like Grant a hell of a lot more than Trump comparing all their accomplishments against each other.

          • Tarhalindur says:

            Ulysses S. Grant.

            Now, now, now – “most famous general of a victorious American war” was, is, and remains de facto inherent qualification for POTUS in and of itself. It’s arguably the most traditional qualification at that, considering that the original example was none other than George Washington, and both Andrew Jackson and Zachary Taylor had also taken the same path to the Presidency before Grant. (Jackson made his name via the Battle of New Orleans and a war with the Seminoles that resulted in the annexation of Florida; Taylor was drafted by the Whigs after General Scott declined to run.) See also Eisenhower after WW2 and Teddy Roosevelt after the Spanish-American War (via a somewhat circuitous route – the Republican bosses of the day saw him as a threat as the popular populist Governor of New York, so they tried to bury him as VP – which promptly backfired when McKinley was assassinated).

            (My understanding is that it was widely understood that the general of the Army of the Potomac would become President after the defeat of the Confederacy even during the war, which is one of the many reasons George McClellan was, you know, George McClellan.)

          • kaakitwitaasota says:

            I think there’s a distinct difference in that the President, prior to FDR, had relatively little domestic power except in emergencies–the 20th-century executive-regulatory state did not yet exist, at least not to the degree seen after the Depression and the war. Trump is a much more dangerous man than Grant or Harding, if only because he has far more power.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            I don’t see how being a skilled general is a better political qualification than being a real-estate developer. Unless we’re talking ancient Rome.

            “I build great walls.” — Hadrian

            I’d group general officers and real-estate developers together as “somewhat qualified” because they’re both executive positions which involve a limited but non-zero amount of politics.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            For the job of “chief executive,” the relevant experience should be “executive experience.” The only ways I know of to get executive experience are: government executive position (say, governor of a state), experience as a military officer, and experience as a business executive. Trump was the first time Americans decided to try a business executive instead of a military or political executive.

            I don’t know what his platform would be, but I think Jeff Bezos would be very well qualified to be President of the United States. He has lots of experience managing and growing complex organizations, managing people, hiring and firing, buying and selling. This all looks very relevant to the job of “president.”

          • Deiseach says:

            The military is an important part of politics. So yeah, he was ignorant of finances but at least there was one political thing he could point to in his favor.

            WHICH HAS BEEN CRITICISED AS EXACTLY THE REASON HE RAN A LOUSY ADMINISTRATION – HE RAN IT LIKE A MILITARY CAMPAIGN NOT A CIVILIAN GOVERNMENT.

            I swear, if I make it into Purgatory, it will be on account of the virtue I have acquired practicing charity in defending Donald effin’ Trump of all people. I don’t even like the guy! I don’t think he’s a great president!

            But I do think he’s mediocre, and not the Second Coming of Hitler crossed with the Anti-Christ as some of the hyperventilation I see online would have it. The US has had mediocre presidents before; I quoted Cleveland as an example of a previous “grab ’em by the pussy” scandal and Grant as an example of “yeah but he’s never been in any kind of elected office before” and how Grant’s administrations are strikingly like Trump’s in some ways; if there is going to be the coinage of “Trumpism” to describe the effect he had on the nation, then “Grantism” got there first.

            And yet the USA survived the dull, the venal, the criminal and the stupid. I think it’ll survive Trump. And God knows, populism in politics didn’t start ten minutes ago. Is Trump a demagogue? He may be, but I don’t think he’s on a Huey Long level, let alone Hitler.

            You’re three-quarters of the way through his (first?) administration, and the country is not a radioactive post-nuclear apocalyptic dystopia, there have not been jackbooted stormtroopers in the streets dragging off women’n’minorities, there aren’t any state-run gay torture camps, and the economy seems to be doing as okay as can reasonably be expected (there may be a downturn or recession coming, but that seems to be more because of “we’re about due for one” rather than “Trump totally tanked and crashed the economy”).

            As to reactions by the left: Ronald Reagan was the worst president imaginable and a Nazi to boot (remember Bitburg?), and had an otherwise renowned folksinger in my country produce something of toe-curling embarrassment for his visit to Ireland (if you can sit through this without the need for a shot of hard liquor afterwards, you have better stamina than me) – do I need to say I didn’t much like Reagan either?; Chimpy McHitler was a definite Nazi and was going to declare martial law and engage in a coup rather than hand over power at the end of his second term; Mitt Romney was probably a Nazi and definitely a theocratic sexist who would usher in The Handmaid’s Tale, what with his “binders full of women” – need I go on? “No, it’s really true this time, the Republicans are going to do the worst thing ever!” is not particularly convincing to me this time round either.

          • Matt M says:

            Now, now, now – “most famous general of a victorious American war” was, is, and remains de facto inherent qualification for POTUS in and of itself.

            Theory: Prior to the rise of television, “most famous general of a victorious American war” roughly correlated with “most famous person, period.”

            My understanding is that most of these people weren’t particularly political, and certainly not notably partisan. With the possible exception of Jackson, it seems like many of them were “drafted” by political parties whose strategy was basically “Everyone loves this famous guy! If we run him, we will win, and our opponents will lose!”

            Trump wasn’t quite as popular, and the GOP certainly didn’t seek him out… but we’re probably trending in that direction. Personally, I’d be a lot more worried about the DNC adopting a strategy of “Let’s approach Beyoncé and convince her to run for President on our ticket” than I am about… Joe Biden.

          • @Deiseach

            It’s getting exhausting defending myself from things I never said. I started this conversation by criticizing Democrats for thinking Trump was the second coming of Hitler so I don’t know what to tell you.

            @Matt

            Personally, I’d be a lot more worried about the DNC adopting a strategy of “Let’s approach Beyoncé and convince her to run for President on our ticket” than I am about… Joe Biden.

            That’s exactly what I’m worried about. How long until we elect a YouTube star?

          • @Paul

            I know you’re being snarky but Hadrian was one of the most qualified emperors of the entire Roman Empire. He’s the poster boy for political experience prior to becoming ruler.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Why is electing a Youtube star a bad thing? Compared to the downsides of continuing to rely on the gatekeeping media and political parties?

          • Matt M says:

            Why is electing a Youtube star a bad thing?

            Because said star would be more popular than the average elite politician, but would ultimately be controlled by the same elite politicians.

            My concern isn’t that Beyoncé would have worse opinions than Nancy Pelosi… it’s that she’d be far more likely to win, and then, once inside, would do exactly what Nancy Pelosi told her to do.

          • Since overriding the Elite is our all-encompassing goal, why not just elect some random flat earther? Sure, they don’t actually know anything and they’ll spend all our resources on trying to prove their inane conspiracy theories, but at least we know they’ll do a 180 on every recommendation from the Elite.

          • albatross11 says:

            If you elect some random YouTube star who has a deep understanding of politics, history, and economics, that might work out okay. But if you elect some random YouTube star whose talents are mainly directed at knowing how to become a YouTube star, you’ll probably get someone in office who doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing and doesn’t even begin to understand what’s going on or what problems need to be solved.

            It would be like if the Democrats ran Oprah in the next election. Oprah is clearly a very intelligent and capable woman–she climbed to the top of a very competitive field and made herself a billionaire doing it. But there’s no reason to think she’d know much about being president, and I would expect her to screw up in ways reminiscent of both Trump and Obama through her lack of relevant knowledge and experience.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Sure, when I said “youtube star” I meant “political youtube star” and not “makeup tutorial youtube star.” That is, someone who spent a long time developing a reputation for engaging in the political sphere and having ideas that people like enough to follow. At least you would have a very good idea of what their political ideas are.

            I’m not sure experience matters that much compared to “has ideas the public likes.” How badly did Al Franken suffer from his lack of government experience before becoming a Senator? Ahnold? Minnesota sure seemed to like Jesse Ventura. Some state really needs to elect María Conchita Alonso so every main cast member of The Running Man will have served as a state governor.

            ETA: Basically I don’t think holding governmental office is nearly as hard as the media and politicians want you to think it is.

        • At least Obama was a senator before he became President. Trump obviously didn’t(and still doesn’t) know anything and it’s embarrassing when his supporters pretend like he does.

          • cassander says:

            Obama was a senator for about 2 years before he officially started running for president, and was unofficially running from pretty much the moment of his 2004 convention speech. Are you really going to claim he learned a meaningful amount about government as a dilettante senator?

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            I mostly consider the election of Obama a national embarrassment for the same reason, but Trump is really a whole ‘nother ball of wax compared to Obama. Obama was at least reasonably intelligent, had a decent ability to learn, understood the importance of the office.

            Trump is just an idiot who has some lucky insights in some narrow industries.

          • Chalid says:

            lucky insights in some narrow industries

            one industry really (media), we don’t know enough about his businesses to assess his skill in real estate.

          • quanta413 says:

            Obama was not an idiot and blessedly somewhat dovish. Not that you couldn’t have a skilled hawk make a good President, I’m just not very happy about those odds. Easier to not screw up if you’re on the dovish side.

          • albatross11 says:

            I had the impression that W was too willing to override the deep state/institutional expertise on his preferred policies, and it often turned out badly. Obama was probably a little too reluctant to override them, and I imagine that was due to recognizing his own lack of deep knowledge/expertise. Trump is pretty much at war with a big chunk of the deep state, and actively ignores a lot of their advice. And sometimes that’s the right thing, but between the state department and the intelligence community, there really is a lot of expertise and knowledge and institutional memory that is unwise to ignore.

            I think what we ideally want is someone capable of harnessing that institutional expertise and then making good decisions using its input without becoming its slave. But that probably requires a lot of independent expertise and experience with those institutions–something guys like Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, and George Bush Sr brought to the table. If you don’t have that, your failure modes are probably to either follow them too much (Obama) or too little (Trump).

          • Matt M says:

            Trump is pretty much at war with a big chunk of the deep state, and actively ignores a lot of their advice.

            Really? I think this is all hype. Trump makes a big show about supposedly being at war with the deep state, but what has he actually done that they wouldn’t approve of?

            He hasn’t ended any of our foreign wars.
            He hasn’t rolled back any domestic spying.
            He hasn’t ended the drug war at the federal level.
            He hasn’t built the wall, or done anything else to meaningfully reduce illegal immigration.

            Like, I guess I could believe that a majority of people who work for the CIA don’t like tariffs or tax cuts, but those probably aren’t close to their top priorities…

          • cassander says:

            @albatross11 says:

            I had the impression that W was too willing to override the deep state/institutional expertise on his preferred policies, and it often turned out badly.

            He did that when he invaded iraq, and then he did it again when he decided to go with the surge. So some good and some bad.

            Obama was probably a little too reluctant to override them, and I imagine that was due to recognizing his own lack of deep knowledge/expertise.

            Obama didn’t override them, he’d split the difference with them, which usually ended up working out worse than doing what either he or they wanted.

      • hash872 says:

        Re: 1. As someone broadly (though not exclusively) on the left myself, I do agree (and I felt this way since mid-2015, so no big changes here). However, there are a ton of unexpected/second order effects to how his demagoguery is making US society worse, and one of them (I’m sad to say) is pushing the left into crazier and crazier directions. The hidden genius to his trolling schtick is that it enrages the opposition and makes them worse people overall in reaction to him- it’s a net negative that drags almost all of society down with it. I would strongly prefer that the Dems be the Reasonable Moderate Party as a brand, not just for ideological reasons but because I think that’s the most effective way to win elections.

        (I will say, I am heartened by Biden’s strong lead in the polls to date. While I’m not a fan of his various positions in the 80s/90s/aughts, I do strongly prefer moderate center-leftism, and I hope that his candidacy presages a moderate counter-reaction to Trumpism. Like, that’s indicative of much of the electorate as being moderate & reasonable at heart).

        3. Why take macro-economists of any stripe particularly seriously? It’s obviously a field of study in its relative infancy- like, I dunno, medicine in the mid 19th century- there’s clearly something ‘there’ but its supposed core precepts are overturned every decade or so. Macroeconomics- which I once called ‘astrology for dudes’ on this website- is mostly non-empirical model-building where you just build in your assumptions into the model and get the results you wanted on the other end. Ask an economist to explain why inflation is so low despite QE and money-printing and they’ll have a just-so story to explain it- if you asked them in say 2006 to predict what would have happened they’d have a completely different one. Imagine a hard science where many of the key ‘laws’ are disproven every 20 years or so. I find it entertaining to read but don’t take any of it particularly seriously

        • Deiseach says:

          one of them (I’m sad to say) is pushing the left into crazier and crazier directions.

          So you’re going for the Master Manipulator angle? I suppose that does explain how Warren, who seemingly is considered intelligent and capable if not downright wonkish, made such an unforced error in response to the Pocahontas thing.

          But I have to imagine the potential for craziness was there all along, and indeed if you recollect the “Chimpy McHitler” stylings of a previous era, it’s not like Trump was the first Republican to have the other side go a bit over the top about him.

          • MrApophenia says:

            Bush started a war for no reason that has destabilized an entire region and killed hundreds of thousands of people, created a network of torture camps around the world where (largely innocent, according to the Army’s own estimates) civilian prisoners were held without charges and tortured for years, sometimes to death.

            The left’s rhetoric about George W. Bush was accurate, and probably a bit understated.

            It does kind of put Trump in perspective, though. Trump isn’t even playing in the same league as W. in the Bad President game. He’s just loudly dumb; Bush was a horror show.

            (Of course, Trump still has some time to put points on the board. But he’s need to do something pretty spectacularly bad to catch up.)

        • albatross11 says:

          I agree Trump is very good at stoking divisions, but I can’t decide whether he’s making the world more angrilly divisive, or whether the world is becoming more angrily divisive because of technological and social changes, and he’s just riding the wave.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Embrace the power of and.

            Seriously, I keep wondering whether there’s something increasing divisiveness that we haven’t thought of, possibly a physical cause.

            Meanwhile, here’s a social/physical cause. People send too much time on social media so they don’t get enough sleep. So they’re more easily angered….

      • BBA says:

        I disagree on #1 (at least, it’s no worse than the “damage” Obama did to the Democrats) but it is pretty clear that Trump is an anomaly and will have almost no lasting impact on the party or the country once he’s out of office. Come January 21, 202[15], the GOP will revert to its Romney/Bush norm faster than you can say “compassionate uniter.”

        Re #2, I’ve been a bit surprised at how resilient the Clinton machine has been. I thought after #MeToo the party would throw rapey old Bill and his enabler Hillary under the bus for good. Instead they’re as popular as ever and the one candidate to go strongly anti-Clinton (Gillibrand) is polling under the margin of error.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Trump is surprising. “Trumpism” isn’t surprising and we have been trending this way for a long time. The Republican Party has been decrying and demagoguing the pointy headed elite for quite a while. Academics, intellectuals, policy experts, etc. have been generally regarded by the right as something like sophomoric (in the “all knowing fools” senses) for quite a while.

          You seem to think the “fever will break”. I am doubtful. W. Bush was effective as muscular swagger, the guy you’d “want to get a beer with”. The fact that he seems to have little interest in or command of details or nuance was largely a strength in terms of his popularity. The “I have compassion for our Hispanic neighbors” Bush was largely ignored. The “attack evil with our fighter jets and cruise missiles” Bush was celebrated.

          Everyone said that after W., The Republicans needed to stop being “the stupid party” and that the Republican electorate was sick of that. Instead the voters basically doubled down on it and then doubled down again.

          • BBA says:

            I don’t think the fever will break, or that there will be any change in the electorate. I just think there aren’t enough committed Trumpists in the upper ranks of the GOP to keep his brand of populism going once he’s gone. (There aren’t even enough to fill the Cabinet.) We might get a few years of cringe, as Marco Rubio tries and fails to form a similar personality cult around himself, but eventually the party will return to what comes naturally to it.

            This will necessarily make the GOP less representative of its electorate, but then every political party on Earth has issues with this.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I think you are discounting what brand of Republicanism has been growing.

            The Republicans gerrymandered themselves into so many safe seats that the only change most of these guys fear (at most every level) is from their right. The Tea Party/Freedom type of caucus is generally growing. There is a reason that Cantor was very surprisingly primaried, Boehner retired while speaker, and then was followed immediately by Ryan retiring while Speaker. It’s not because the power of the reactionary rump is easily controllable.

            It’s very important to note that this trend will exacerbate as Republicans lose seats. The seats that are lost will almost exclusively be to the “left” side of the Republican caucus. The more moderate the district, the more moderate the Rep, the greater the danger the Republican politician loses in the general election.

          • BBA says:

            Can you imagine Marco Rubio leading a “LOCK HER UP” chant at a rally without looking ridiculous? Because I sure as hell can’t.

            And it’s the rally chants and similar empty theatrics that are the essence of Trumpism. Take that away, and you’ve got a generic Republican. Honestly I’m not sure what we’re disagreeing about here.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            And it’s the rally chants and similar empty theatrics that are the essence of Trumpism. Take that away, and you’ve got a generic Republican.

            Generic Republicans didn’t keep Wall Street guessing about tariffs on their Twitter feed… did they even have Twitter?

          • quanta413 says:

            What’s amazing is some people claim that theatrical shit moves markets. I’m not sure what combination of “actually it doesn’t, the movements were random” or “markets prices are actually a little dumb in the day-to-day sense” I buy.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Before these tariffs, the other tariffs Trump pronounced went into effect.

            As to other, what’s different about Trump vs. a standard Republican… let me give an example. “Standard” Republicans make noise about the debt ceiling in kabuki theater intended to illustrate priorities. The new brand of Republican believes that a hard encounter with the debt ceiling would be a good thing.

            The new Republican is like the uncle who doesn’t merely talk about how the handgun they have makes them safe, but brings it to the dinner table and points it at people they are arguing with.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @BBA

            They were certainly theatrics, but the Mother Jones article fails to consider the Trump supporter’s claim “Trump has effectively put even more pressure on the Mexican govt to adhere to their side of the agreement”.

            I personally don’t think he’s really done that. But if building contractors writ large are anything like building contractors writ small, he may well believe it was necessary to do that.

            More likely, I think, is reminding his base that he got those concessions before.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            The Republicans gerrymandered themselves into so many safe seats

            The way it ordinarily works is that you gerrymander the other guys into a few safe seats in order to maximize the number of contestable seats which your guys will probably win.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Everyone said that after W., The Republicans needed to stop being “the stupid party” and that the Republican electorate was sick of that. Instead the voters basically doubled down on it and then doubled down again.

            Are you talking about McCain and Romney? I don’t think anyone thought they were particularly stupid. Like all Republicans, evil and racist and Literally Hitler, but not stupid. But they didn’t win.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Paul Zrimsek:
            Sure that’s a fair point.

            The amount of precision being applied by current efforts potentially could let them cut much too close to the margin. On the flip side, that same precision means their error rate is lower.

            Regardless, when we we saw seat protection strategies unwound in California, and the lines were drawn in a relatively neutral way, the Democratic seat share actually went up. There is a difference between trying to maximize your possible number of wins and maximizing your guaranteed number of wins (and thus guaranteeing a majority).

            So, while I think what you are saying is true at some theoretical level, in practice I do not believe that is how we are seeing it work out. The number of uncontested seats has been broadly rising, AFAIK.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Conrad Honcho:

            Are you talking about McCain and Romney?

            No. As I mention further down thread, I’m talking about the movement of the entire Republican caucus from 2009 forward. That’s why I mentioned things like Cantor being successfully primaried, and Boehner and Ryan both retiring while speaker.

            Perhaps nowhere is this more ironically illustrated than in the movement of Bobby Jindall, the coiner of the phrase.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Ah. Well in that case, doubling down on stupid worked where being smart did not.

        • Matt M says:

          Come January 21, 202[15], the GOP will revert to its Romney/Bush norm faster than you can say “compassionate uniter.”

          Fully agree with this.

          I think it’s possible the Trump damage could be longer term, but unlikely. For that to happen, it would require the Democrats to help support that sort of logic. Which they are unlikely to do, because it would require them to treat the next milquetoast neocon nominee as “Someone who is clearly and obviously superior to Trump and is an intelligent and decent man whom we respectfully disagree with on many important issues.”

          They… won’t be doing that. The GOP could nominate John Kasich next, and you can bet the New York Times and other similar such outlets will be full of nothing but thinkpieces explaining why ACTUALLY, Kasich is even worse than Trump!

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I don’t know. I’m kind of torn on what I think will happen after Trump (in 2024, assuming Trump wins 2020). If Trump is successful at his attempts to build the wall, throttle down illegal immigration, get fair trade agreements, and maybe do something grand like completely pull out of Afghanistan in his second term, media mewling about the poor innocent Afghans crushed under the resurgent Taliban be damned, that may be enough of a release valve to calm down the revolting peasants and we get Mike Pence gracefully losing to President Kamala Harris.

            If the job is unfinished, I could see the rise of a kinder, gentler demagogue who agrees with the tenets of Trumpism without being Trump. Say, President Tucker Carlson.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            You’re too optimistic. There’s the possibility of a backlash against Trumpism which leads to either Boring Old GOP guy or Candidate Carlson losing to President AOC. I hope that wall is easy to cross North to South. Hablas español?

          • Matt M says:

            AOC vs Ben Shapiro

            Not the election we need, but the election we deserve…

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Well, first off AOC won’t be old enough to run until 2028. But I wouldn’t be shocked if she’s primaried out by allies of Nancy Pelosi next year. Old age and treachery will always beat youth and exuberance.

            Trump’s demagoguery is a completely different animal than progressive demagoguery because Trump came out and said things people believe and support even if they’re unpopular or unspeakable on TV. Like “ban muslims.” “Stop illegals.” “Beat China.” Depending on how you phrase these things you can get 40-60% of people agreeing with them.

            Progressives could successfully demagogue if they stuck to, say, healthcare, which Republicans do not really have any good answers for. But the Green New Deal, reparations, open borders abolish ICE/”no person is illegal,” abortion up until (and maybe after) birth. These are things that poll in the teens and 20s but are inside the overton window on TV.

            Trump demagogues on stuff that’s popular with the rubes and unspeakable among the elite. AOC’s schtick is catnip on TV but reeks to the rubes. But it’s ultimately the rubes doing the voting.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Matt M:
            “Every country has the government it deserves.” — Joseph de Maistre

            My hunch is that the coexistence of speech codes and Reality TV is why we deserve President Trump.

          • The Nybbler says:

            AOC turns 35 on October 13, 2024, which makes her old enough to run in 2024. By that time, the largest generation by far will be the Millennials (as more of the older generations will die off and X never mattered), and that’s going to mean all her stuff polls much better. So she gets the vast majority of the non-white population, plus the degreed/indoctrinated white liberals. It’s still populist demagoguery, just with different “rubes”.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Ah, thanks for the correction.

            I don’t know, though. Things have been changing so fast I have no idea what the country will look like in 2024. I certainly wouldn’t have said 2019 would look anything like this in 2014.

            I’m also not sure the non-white population is that monolithic. An awful lot of blacks recoiled when AOC started talking about reparations for hispanics/latinos, and blacks are not 100% on board with the pro-immigration stuff. Trump did better with Hispanics than any Republican in a long time.

            Then again, “but this time the blacks will vote Republican for sure!” is a commonly made statement with a poor track record.

          • Deiseach says:

            So she gets the vast majority of the non-white population, plus the degreed/indoctrinated white liberals.

            Maybe so, maybe no. I definitely give you the white liberals, but I am not so sure about the non-white population. If you look at the breakdown of where she won votes in her shock defeat of joe Crowley, it’s interesting: she was a manufactured (as opposed to “spontaneous grassroots choice of the people”) candidate – see the kingmaker behind her, and while her interviews about “I worked out of a paper bag behind the bar on my campaign” are cute and all part of building up the image of the Grassroots Candidate, they’re not quite the whole unvarnished story* – and the areas she had the greater share of the vote seem to have been the ‘gentrifying’ parts, if I believe the news stories.

            I think she may manage to hold onto her seat and have a career in Congress; after all, various groups have sunk a lot of resources into her and she’s got a marketable brand as “Socialist but not too socialist” (at least from a European viewpoint). But I do think “possible presidential candidate” is (a) much too soon to be talking about it and (b) by the time she’s old enough, I suspect she’ll have shot her bolt: taking on the Big Beasts of the party like Pelosi is risky. If she’s not able to translate being the media darling into votes on the ground outside of her particular seat (and if Crowley or one of the Establishment Democrats decide to try taking it back in the next election, she may not even be a two-term Congresswoman) then she’s vulnerable to the good old behind the scenes horse-trading and deal-making and influence-peddling to slap the impudent challenger down and remind her of her place in the greater scheme.

            *Re: the Justice Democrats group which specifically targeted Crowley’s seat on her behalf:

            Activist strategies mobilized by Justice Democrats contributed greatly to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s primary win, according to The Intercept: From day one, these volunteers started knocking doors and reaching into their own networks to expand this volunteer army, allowing us to go into election day with over a thousand volunteers willing to mobilize voters. We buttressed door-knocking with a heavy digital, phone calling, and texting strategy that targeted progressive voters in five different languages. Through this, we built a multiracial, progressive coalition of voters who had been hearing our message for a year and were excited to turn out to vote on June 26

            Or this excerpt from a Mother Jones article:

            Start with Brand New Congress. Ocasio-Cortez is the first candidate backed by the organization to unseat an incumbent, which, after all, is the group’s stated aim. The organization, which has backed 26 House and Senate candidates in 2018, was an important incubator during the early phase of her campaign. She attended trainings with the group in Kentucky and then again in Tennessee, and she was in constant contact with other candidates via Slack or email, sharing talking points about issues like Black Lives Matter or pension reform and exchanging best practices for door-knocking. The campaign, in the end, was her own, but it was a collaborative effort getting off the ground. She likely wouldn’t have run in the first place if she hadn’t been recruited, and her ubiquitous purple-and-white campaign T-shirts were spinoffs of a standard Brand New Congress design. Primary challengers almost never work, in part because there’s rarely a natural constituency behind them. But Ocasio-Cortez never had that problem; she started off with a base and resources marshaled by the party’s anti-establishment wing.

          • Incurian says:

            it’s ultimately the rubes doing the voting

            Really good point.

          • Plumber says:

            @Conrad Honcho, 
            @Le Maistre Chat,
            @The Nybbler,
            and
            @Deiseach:

            As usual I’ll post a reminder that in recent polls about half of Democratic Party voters don’t have any opinions about Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, and I may go to my grave saying that, but it will be to my grave along with the “Biden wing” of Democrats who are dying off, and let’s face it Democrats are just more divided by age than are Republicans. 

            There’s also class/educational and racial divides, but they also correlate with age, and a lot of that has to do (as @Conrad Honcho alludes to) the special place that African-Americans hold in the Democratic Party coalition. 

            The “lifestyle” factors that for most ethnic group in the U.S.A. correlate with voting for Republicans (being church going, married with children, older) in African-Americans instead correlate with voting for Democrats, and no ethnic group in the U.S.A. is as currently loyal to one political party as African Americans have been to the Democratic Party since 1964.

            The historical reasons for their loyalty aren’t hard to suss out, as late as 1932 African Americans were still more loyal to the Republican Party than to Democrats, but in 1936 they started voting mostly for Roosevelt (as whites mostly already did in ’32), even though it really wasn’t until ’41 (Executive Order 8802 prohibiting racial discrimination in hiring in federal war industries) that they really had anything that could be considered “spoils” for their votes, but the big swing happened in 1948 when a majority of American blacks first called themselves “Democrats” after President Truman had issued an order desegregating the U.S. military, and Lyndon Johnson further earned their loyalty with the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts.  

            African Americans make up about 22% of Democratic Party voters, and polling suggests that about 25 percent of Hillary Clinton voters leaned right on cultural issues, and it doesn’t take a genius to realize the overlap, and today more likely to support Biden and less likely to call themselves “liberal” than other Democrats due (in part) to older blacks (unlike older whites) staying Democrats, and older voters just tending to call themselves “liberal” or “progressive”.

            Since the rise of Trump I’m less inclined to guess how the Republican Party coalition will shake out (what were once called “Reagan Democrats” are showing that they do still have some of the wishlist of a Democratic Party of 50 to 80 years ago, as well as new wishes, and that makes things harder to predict for me than the old “country club Episcopalian G.O.P.”), but I’m more familiar with the Democrats, so I’ll hazard some guesses:

            Non-whites are mostly Democrats, but just like non-Hispanic older white men learn Republican, so do older Hispanic men (but not to the same extent) and how long their family has been in thr U.S.A. is a fact, so I expect that less grandchildren of immigrants will vote Democratic than their grandparents (when the vote), especially as they move to the suburbs. 

            Counterbalancing this is “credentialism” and the perception that a college diploma is a prerequisite towards supporting a family, as more swamp the Universities the wage premium for having a diploma will lessen, and the educated who perceive themselves to be poor (’cause crowded cities are expensive) more will become Democrats, and they’ll be “social liberals” as well as clamoring for college loan forgiveness, while at the same time non-collegiate class Americans will continue to priced out and move in-land, the whites will either cease to vote, or vote Republican, the blacks won’t vote Republican (“cause history), but drawn by ties kept by family reunions and church homecomings, they will increasingly move to the South (as little by little they have since the beginning of the 21st century), and eventually an old Confederacy State will “flip blue” (I’m guessing Georgia or Texas first), but with attitudes usually really not that different than working class whites, I expect “Black Belt” Democrats to have policies more like the current remaining Appalachian Democrats in West Virginia than like San Francisco Democrats. 

            Now I’ll get fanciful: Partisanship increases with education, as does “social liberalism”, and while education correlates with wealth, the poorer educated, and the educated who live in more expensive and crowded areas lean Democratic Party, while wealthier folks in cheaper less dense areas lean both Republican and more libertarian, so I expect no end to the collegiate class “civil war”. with neither Conservatives nor Liberals being a majority in this Repubic, as judging by this source the 2016 electorate may be divided into four broad groups:

            “Liberal”: (44.6 percent): liberal on both economic and identity issues

            “Populist” (28.9 percent): liberal on economic issues, conservative on identity issues

            “Conservative” (22.7 percent): conservative on both economic and identity issues

            “Libertarian” (3.8 percent): conservative on economics, liberal on identity issues

            Add them all up and the nation as a whole (slightly) favors Republicans on “cultural”/”identity”/”social” issues and (slightly) favors Democrats on “economic” issues. 

            Now what if the South, were the bitterness battles of our Unions history become instead a locus of a less fiercely partisan future? 

            Working class blacks and working class whites differ on which issues are most important to them, but aren’t that far apart on which policies they support, the biggest difference is regarding Affirmative Action, but when it’s proposed as economic class based instead of racial categories both seem to like the idea.

            What if both sides just gave each other what they most wanted? 

            Here’s what I imagine: The national popular will rules, starting in say Georgia which becomes 50% Democrats and 50% Republican, and both parties decide to only implement policies that have majority support of both and say allows vouchers to go to religious schools (thus social conservative), but restores Aid For Families with Dependent Children (thus economic U.S.A.meaning “liberal”, maybe even this time with exemptions that don’t cut benefits when a husband is in the picture), or a W.P.A.? I could go on.

            They politely compromise (“Well I don’t agree, but that’s not as important to me as this, I’ll give you that in return for that thing that isn’t that important to you”), meanwhile the collegiate class goes “Wow they’re not fighting anymore, and why are we yelling at each other on Twitter anywhere, what kind of conversation can one have with limited characters?”, everyone gets a chicken in the pot, and a puppy, and peace reigns

            I’m quite sure that there’s plenty of reasons why not, but are they good reasons?

            So really why not just go majority rules straight down the line, and if there’s massive regional disagreements have self-government/laboratories of democracy?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I’m quite sure that there’s plenty of reasons why not, but are they good reasons?

            The establishment wings of both parties agree on the big stuff (free trade, foreign wars, lobbyist dollars) and then they mostly play fight on social issues. It’s easier to keep the masses divided on those things.

            You and I could probably sit down, have a beer, and hammer this whole thing out in an afternoon. But there’s no money in that.

      • Drew says:

        I’m surprised you think he’s doing irreparable harm. He seems like a significant net win.

        The GOP seemed fucked going in to 2016. Absent Trump, they’d have nominated Jeb! or someone like him, and then lost to Hillary. That gives her ~3 SCOTUS appointments in the first term, and a lock on the Judicial branch for the next generation.

        With a divided congress, her next move would be to wait for a humanitarian crisis, and then start a war. At that point, the Democrats are lead by a Wartime (Female!) President, and the Republicans have a senate majority leader with all the charisma of a box turtle.

        The non-Trump Republicans haven’t articulated anything like a positive vision, so I’d expect them to continue bleeding youth support. And the Dems would be able to win by waiting 8 years and letting demographic changes kick in.

        In contrast, Trump has some sort of vision that makes people show up in rallies, and has some sort of youth following, no matter how obnoxious they might be.

        Post re-election, he’ll leave politics, and the Republicans can basically disavow him as a complete outsider who was never really part of the Republican party. Trump’s successor can run on bringing respectability back to the Republicans. And the successor can enjoy an expanded overton window, and a base of internet-savvy people.

        Sure, the republicans might not be doing great, but in 2015 the articles were all, “demographic shifts doom the Republican party” and now that’s no longer true.

    • ManyCookies says:

      I stuck pretty closely to the First Amendment on free speech issues, “it’s not a free speech issue if it’s not the government or a monopoly”. But I’ve since acknowledged there’s a stronger ideal of free speech that’s not captured there, and that e.g Facebook are more monopolistic than I thought. I’m not even close to an absolutist, but I at least take Marketplace of Ideas arguments somewhat seriously and am uncomfortable with Facebook/Google’s position (despite mostly agreeing with their actions at the object-level).

      (Thanks for reposting! Posting in the non-CW thread was an obvious goof.)

      • Viliam says:

        Well, there is a difference between the idea of free speech, and the law that protects it.

        Ideas can be vague, and can contradict other ideas. Law tries to be specific, and to give unambiguous answer about whether something is legal or not.

        A sufficiently large platform which removes some kinds of opinions (even worse, without admitting this to its users, so unless your group is targeted you may falsely believe the platform is neutral) obviously goes against the idea of free speech. And, if it does not belong to the government, it technically does not break the law that mentions the government.

        It is not obvious how exactly the law should be specified to protect the idea better. There are many people acting in bad faith who would love to pretend that their messages are genuine opinions worthy of protection, if that would bring them any advantage. Spammers or propaganda troll farms want to post as much as possible, preferably everywhere. Stalkers want to harass their target, i.e. their actual information is “I am still here, still watching you”, repeated ad nauseam. Then again, it is difficult to set up rules against these actors without getting something like “each idea can be expressed only once, by one person” or similar, which again would be used in bad faith to suppress unwelcome ideas.

        • Matt M says:

          In a functioning Democracy, laws should be reflective of ideals.

          It’s worth observing that in countries that don’t have the same combination of explicitly guaranteed constitutional protections of the freedom of speech AND where the constitution is quite difficult to modify, requiring near-consensus the likes of which are rarely seen on any issue these days, the laws have all been changed to make certain speech illegal.

          The simple fact is that the ideal of free speech has already been lost. The law will inevitably follow…

    • Plumber says:

      Tariffs are what the AFL-CIO and “Rust Belt” Democrats begged for for decades, and I have to admit surprise that President Trump sometimes seems close to ordering them, I really thought that he’d be a playbook Republican and never do anything against the will of Mitch McConnell

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      I found out that some high proportion of Catholics are sensitive to anti-Catholic prejudice.

      I don’t know whether this counts as changing my mind since it’s something I didn’t used to have an opinion about.

      • Dack says:

        It is odd that Catholics seem like one of the last outgroups that it is socially acceptable to rip on.

        • Deiseach says:

          It is odd that Catholics seem like one of the last outgroups that it is socially acceptable to rip on.

          Formally (whatever about in the practice of the laity), we’re anti-divorce, anti-contraception, anti-abortion, anti-sex before and outside of marriage, anti-gay sex and gay marriage. You see why it’s okay to lambaste Catholicism as the worst kind of backwardness? Add in the clerical sex abuse scandals, then it’s light the blue touchpaper and retire.

          • Matt M says:

            So that’s why you elected a Pope who spends most of his time loudly reassuring the world that he, too, is very concerned about climate change, refugees, and social justice!

          • Deiseach says:

            Matt M, we’re just keeping up with this 😀

            Chesterton, from “The Paradoxes of Christianity”, The Thing:

            I only concluded that if Christianity was wrong, it was very wrong indeed. Such hostile horrors might be combined in one thing, but that thing must be very strange and solitary. There are men who are misers, and also spendthrifts; but they are rare. There are men sensual and also ascetic; but they are rare. But if this mass of mad contradictions really existed, quakerish and bloodthirsty, too gorgeous and too thread-bare, austere, yet pandering preposterously to the lust of the eye, the enemy of women and their foolish refuge, a solemn pessimist and a silly optimist, if this evil existed, then there was in this evil something quite supreme and unique.

        • quanta413 says:

          I feel like it makes perfect sense. Outside of the bible belt, it’s acceptable to rip on Evangelicals and Catholics among others. Basically any kind of Christian besides “woke Episcopalian”, “Unitarian Universalist”, or “Deist”. Actually I take that back, “Unitarian Universalism” is hilarious even if it’s the most likely thing I’d ever convert to away from atheist.

          Although the Catholics and Protestants long standing split disliking each other obviously doesn’t help either of their positions.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Merlin and Ransom:

            “Is it, then, his great men–the counts and legates and bishops–who do the evil and he does not know of it?”

            “It is–though they are not exactly the sort of great men you have in mind.”

            “And are we not big enough to meet them in plain battle?”

            “We are four men, some women, and a bear.”

            “I saw the time when Logres was only myself and one man and two boys, and one of those was a churl. Yet we conquered.”

            “It could not be done now. They have an engine called the Press whereby the people are deceived. We should die without even being heard of.”

            “But what of the true clerks? Is there no help in them? It cannot be that all your priests and bishops are corrupted.”

            “The Faith itself is torn in pieces since your day and speaks with a divided voice…”

            — C.S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength

            (Merlin goes on to propose that the Emperor could come and fix things by force, Deus Vult. Learning that there’s no Emperor causes him to collapse in a chair. 😛 )

          • Unitarian Universalists are just cowardly atheists. Their whole church is just pointless.

          • Dan L says:

            That is an unusually hateful comment.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Dan L:
            On the one hand, I agree. On the other hand, I have a hard time seeing UUs getting upset by it. I think the standard reaction would be bemusement and an invitation to come to a service.

          • Dan L says:

            @ HBC:

            That was half my reaction, sure. But I don’t know if it caught me in a mood or if some of the topics of the past few OTs primed, but the other reaction was to remember Knoxville.

          • Insinuating that I’m going to shoot up a church is much worse than the mean things I said.

          • Dan L says:

            @ Wrong Species:

            I think I made my opinion clear in my first post, thanks. My aside to HBC was strictly about why the wider memeplex might be unusually unsympathetic, beyond the obvious.

            But maybe we’ve found how you can be the real victim after all, and surely that’s the real point.

    • Etoile says:

      I am reconsidering my position in free trade and free markets, and the evilness of zoning laws. I haven’t landed on the side of full protectionism but am less hostile to all these than I used to be.

    • brad says:

      I’ve moved significantly along the axis from mistake to conflict in my views of American politics. I now believe that a significant fraction of the electorate doesn’t just have a slightly different view of the good, or ideas about how to get there, but in addition is motivated to a non-trivial extent by spite towards me and mine.

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        Actually, I forgot to mention this, but I’ve updated in the same direction.

      • SamChevre says:

        That’s probably the biggest change to my view too.

        Modeling the starting point as “their goal is to destroy competing cultures and institutions” explains an awful lot about socio-legal changes over the last 60 years.

        • brad says:

          I think that’s saying something different. I could have a goal to destroy the church (or universities) because I think it is an enemy of human flourishing. And I could be mistaken in that view.

          I take the essence of spite to be motivated by harm to some other person. If I subjectively believe I’m helping rather than hurting it doesn’t count.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            There are numerous institutions I’d like to see dismantled to help people flourish. Trying to hurt some people as a goal is really alien.

          • brad says:

            It’s not so terribly surprising that it exists. We knew all along that there were people like Al Qaeda that were willing to sacrifice comfort or even their lives to do us harm. But for two decades of political life I didn’t think such motivations were a meaningful factor in domestic politics. In the last two years I’ve changed my mind.

          • quanta413 says:

            I think it’s a misreading to view killing those they hate as the end-goal of Al Qaeda. Osama bin-Laden and many others seemed to really, sincerely hate the institutions of the West. That they had no real chance of success via terrorism doesn’t mean their goal was just “kill random people”.

            I take the essence of spite to be motivated by harm to some other person. If I subjectively believe I’m helping rather than hurting it doesn’t count.

            A pointless distinction most of the time. You usually can’t tell who harms others because it “accomplishes the greater good”, who harms others for revenge, and who really just enjoys harming others.

            And people harming others are all highly incentivized to lie and answer that they are only joyful because of the great progress that’s being made.

          • brad says:

            Which makes it that much more surprising and convincing when someone tells you he is motivated by spite.

    • Matt M says:

      The entire profession of journalism is irredeemably evil, wicked, and destructive to civil society.

      Pre-Trump, I probably would have said “A lot of journalists have an unconscious bias that slants their reporting in ways they might not even realize.”

      Today I believe that 90% of journalist organizations are practically indistinguishable from DNC-ran SuperPACs, and the other 10% are practically indistinguishable from GOP-ran SuperPACs. There are no respectable “neutral” organizations. The amount of respectable independent journalists that exist in the world can probably be counted on one hand (and those still fall into the “prone to unconscious bias” trap).

      • Gossage Vardebedian says:

        This. For most journalists – I would argue for the vast majority of journalists – it is absolutely ridiculous to stipulate that they are neither liars, nor stupid. People who are honestly trying to get it right and maybe have some unconscious bias, but are really really trying to be fair in spite of that . . . do not demonstrate the behaviors, or produce the output, on offer.

      • albatross11 says:

        I think there is a nasty social dynamic in politics, journalism, and Twitter that tends to re-enforce this. “Whose side are you on?” is a lot more important question for most people than “Are you careful to get the facts right?” or “Are you honest?” And that shows.

        This makes it especially important to notice people who seem to be trying to get the facts straight and report honestly regardless of whose team it benefits.

      • Matt M says:

        And speaking of my hatred of journalists….

        I am curious as to whether our own David Friedman would like to offer any thoughts on the New York Times strongly implying that watching decades old videos of his father on PBS are a gateway to alt-right extremism…

      • Dan L says:

        The entire profession of journalism is irredeemably evil, wicked, and destructive to civil society.

        As a profession, journalism is the formalization of activities people are apparently willing to do for free. I highly doubt it’s worse than what the amateurs are getting up to, and I don’t see a clean path to making it universally better.

        Today I believe that 90% of journalist organizations are practically indistinguishable from DNC-ran SuperPACs, and the other 10% are practically indistinguishable from GOP-ran SuperPACs. There are no respectable “neutral” organizations.

        My daily read is Reuters, with the Economist being a good secondary when I can get a copy. More subject-focused regulars include Fivethirtyeight, Ars Technica, and SpaceFlight Insider. I’m curious to hear which US party they’re each acting as SuperPACs for – I know I have my own criticisms of each, but they wouldn’t be nearly as punchy.

        • Clutzy says:

          You read 3 that are clearly Dem superPacs and 2 I don’t know anything about.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            How the heck is anyone supposed to even respond to things like this?

            Reality has that well known liberal bias, I guess.

          • Dan L says:

            It would be difficult for that response to be less substantive.

          • Aapje says:

            Ars Technica definitely went SJ.

            The writer of that article just left to make room for a more diverse writer, though.

          • Dan L says:

            Object-level discussion! Huzzah!

            Yep, quite a few writers on Ars have bias problems when CW topics come up. (Seriously, Sam?) They’re best used for drier tech analysis, and I’ll even defend their public policy stance as internally consistent enough that it’s cut the Democrats in prior cycles. They also have Eric Berger, who’s a solid font of aerospace news.

            Comments are trash, though.

        • albatross11 says:

          My main mainstream news sources are NPR, the WSJ, and sometimes TVE (Spanish broadcaster whose news shows are available online). All have an agenda (though none of them are PACs), though TVE’s agenda isn’t about American politics. I feel like NPR’s subscription funding and WSJ’s paywall makes them a bit more resistant to the social media clickbait stuff that’s corrupting a lot of top-tier news sources. I’ll sometimes also look at other sides, especially 538 (which does very good coverage) and technical stuff.

          For commentary/opinion journalism and detailed coverage of science or any serious ideas, I mostly consume that online via blogs and podcasts, or by reading books–mainstream journalistic outlets are usually really bad at that stuff.

        • Gobbobobble says:

          Reuters and The Economist are what came to my mind, as well. But they’re kind of special cases in that they aren’t based in the US, so have a level of detachment from US politics that is easy to read as “neutrality”. See also: Al Jazeera.

          Maybe they pull off neutrality for their respective domestic politics, too, I wouldn’t know. Color me skeptical. But anyway it’s a small modification to the block you quoted to narrow it down to “US-based journalist organizations”

          The other 3 are wonk/industry publications which are technically journalism in that they’re professionally produced but are not really a central example of Journalism. (And as you acknowledge elsewhere, they have issues when covering things outside their Wonkery Domain)

          • Dan L says:

            But they’re kind of special cases in that they aren’t based in the US

            But anyway it’s a small modification to the block you quoted to narrow it down to “US-based journalist organizations”

            they’re professionally produced but are not really a central example of Journalism

            A pattern emerges. Forgive me for skipping over a few steps in the proof, but it’s fairly straightforward to proceed from “The central example of Journalism is not what the median journalist is doing, but what the layman first thinks of when they hear ‘Journalism'” to “the ‘Journalism’ being critiqued is explicitly that which is optimized for heat instead of light”.

            I’m increasingly getting the feeling that it’s a bad idea to reverse critical theory.

            But hey, that’s just the axe I’m fond of grinding. The more pertinent point would be that I definitely favor WSJ over the BBC, so long as you stay away from the editorials. Economic > foreign coverage, in at least a few cases. Again and again, the trick is to look for publications who actually base their business model on being right.

          • The more pertinent point would be that I definitely favor WSJ over the BBC, so long as you stay away from the editorials.

            I find that amusing, given that I long ago concluded that the editorial part of the WSJ was pretty good, while others parts tended to have the same ideological blindness as other news sources.

            My standard (old) example being an article on the failure of the adoption market which never mentioned that this was a market where the price was set by law at zero.

      • Walter says:

        I think you are going a little far there. Like, I think it is a job whose time has passed, but ‘irredeemably evil’ is some strong medicine.

        I’ll agree with you that journalists are biased, and might as well be part of campaigns, but I think it is important to remember it is the driver’s seat that they occupy. Back in the day Barack Obama was the leader of the Democratic Party, but John Stewart was the leader of the left.

        • Matt M says:

          Eh, fair enough, to an extent.

          I don’t necessarily think Super-PACs are evil. Arguing for desired political changes is a necessary and valuable social activity. I myself do it constantly!

          What I think is evil is to mislead the general public as to what you are doing. To print “news” articles that claim to objectively represent the facts of a situation, but to knowingly omit or twist information in order to suit the political narrative you want to advance.

          I may disagree with, say, MoveOn, or Moms Demand Action, or whatever. But I don’t hate them. I just disagree with them. But I hate CNN. They are dishonest liars. They are manipulating the inherent social trust in “journalism” (which was presumably earned by past journalists actually attempting to do a fair and creditable job) to advance their political goals. It is fraud, deployed on a wide and massive scale.

    • S_J says:

      One thing that may be a mind-change. It may also be a new way of looking at politics (both domestic and international), and what is often termed Culture War in the United States.

      The rise of populist/nationalist movements in the United States, Great Britain, Brazil, (and likely other nations of the world), is actually a new kind of class struggle. It’s not a struggle of racism-vs-tolerance, or a struggle of nationalism-vs-globalism.

      It is a class struggle, between the dominant class that arose after the end of a global war in the mid-20th Century, and the broad middle class.

      • Luke the CIA Stooge says:

        This.

        The interesting thing is that its emerged as a right wing class struggle.
        James Burnham is the real roseta stone. Both Moldb…err…Voldemort and rightwing Anarchist darling Micheal Malice cite his book the Machiavellians, and the theory of circulation of the elites as the most important thing to understand about new right thought.

        Basically the idea is there can never be an egalitarian movement, there always remains a state ( of some sort) and the categories of rulers and ruled, and what left wing movements do is is try to foster their own activist elite (the product of universities) over the natural elites (the rich, the skilled, The generals, the competent, ect.)

        The populist class warfare is brilliant because it activates all rightwing bases. The classical conservatives get to struggle against despoilers who want to overthrow, older wiser men of competence and long service. Libertarians get to struggle against Bureaucrats and rent seekers, and the activist state who pretend they can outdesign the market but are really just plundering it. And the the tough guy rubes get to make those pansies who think they’re better than them, and are probably robbing them (and most certainly are according libertarian theory to the extent pansy is corolated with state funded/protected) suffer and lose.

        I really don’t think trumpism will reverse as a movement because the mutual class struggle angle is activated now. Whether it be frog twitter, Shouting lock her up, Youtube intellectuals asking all the verboten questions, or having actually swung an election, these people will never go away.

        They know they can win.
        And all the people they thought were frauds, faux intellectuals pretending to be competent. The new right ellected a president that will call them losers to their face.

        You don’t say the emperor has no cloths, depose him, elect a new emperor bespoked in the most garish gold, then peacefully go back to the old emperor 4-8 years later.

        This is the long fight.

        (P.S. I wish for all the addedums Scott would engage with Burnham and the Machiavellians. You can’t understand this stuff without reading what prompted neo…..the new right

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      This might be somewhat more than two years, but I’ve become used to the idea that a lot of people hate each other for demographic reasons (like men hating women and women hating men) instead of being shocked at it.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        What data brought you to that conclusion?
        I knew man-hating was common in Second Wave feminist writing, even unto lesbian separatism, but I thought that was on the decline since ’70s academia (“toxic masculinity” isn’t as bad as it gets, fellas!)
        Seeing Anonymous misogyny caused me to recently update in the direction of “Holy crap, this actually exists in Western modernity!” I had previously thought men (gay men potentially excepted, but in our culture that’s prevented by the feminist part of their political coalition) like women even if they don’t see us as equals.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          Sorry no details that I remember, but it was mostly reading a bunch of stuff on line.

    • Drew says:

      I care a lot less about people’s self-professed ideology.

      Bush killed a half million people, spent a trillion dollars on a pointless war, and ordered people tortured. The MSM/Blue-Check sphere used to acknowledge that Bush was a war criminal whose name should be forever blackened.

      Then Trump showed up and was boorish and rude. Suddenly Bush is a redeemed elder statesman. After all, Bush was willing to criticize Trump.

      The whiplash/scope-insensitivity of all of this basically broke stuff for me. Either I have to believe that the MSM were using “War Criminal” as a tactical insult and never really cared, or I have to accept that I’m surrounded by a bunch of alien monsters who actually think boorishness is a bigger sin than a half-million dead.

      • Matt M says:

        Then Trump showed up and was boorish and rude. Suddenly Bush is a redeemed elder statesman. After all, Bush was willing to criticize Trump.

        Trump, too, will be redeemed when popular mainstream opinion is that “Sure, Trump was rude, but at least his policies weren’t as bad as *insert future neocon president here*!”

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          You’ve described the future career of Michael Cohen. “This President Is Worse Than Trump, And Believe Me, I Would Know.”

      • albatross11 says:

        W made bad decisions which had substantial buy-in from media and political elites. (Though I think he overrode the institutional expertise of the Defense and State departments.). Many people said bad things about him, but I think he generally had the respect of the elites in media and politics. He was wrong, but he was still one of them.

        Trump isn’t one of them. He’s done less damage than Bush (mainly because he’s not nearly as good at getting stuff done–W had far better connections, advisors, and knowledge of how to work the levers of power), but he’s crass and doesn’t say the right things or act the right way or pay homage to the right values.

        I’d put him in the same category as Sarah Palin. Both genuinely ignorant of a lot of things I’d like a president to know, and also a target for many attacks based on not wearing the right tribe’s jersey (where the tribe isn’t “red” or “blue,” but rather “ruling class.”) For Palin, her non-elite education and accent and lifestyle were huge red flags for a lot of political journalists and commentators. For Trump, his crass image and tendency to contradict various elite talking points (which are routinely ignored in practice but never questioned in public) is offensive and upsetting.

        Look at the amount of outrage Trump got for wanting to ban Muslim immigration[1] compared to the amount of outrage Clinton and Obama got for wrecking Libya in a way that also convinced everyone we’re hostile to that they’d better get nukes ASAP. Or compare with the elite praise Trump got for ordering some bombing in Syria. It appears to be much more acceptable to kill Muslims and destroy their countries than it is to refuse them visas. It’s hard to imagine this making sense in moral terms, but it makes a lot of sense in terms of what sacred values must not be violated in politicians’ rhetoric.

        [1] This would have been a terrible policy, IMO.

  5. Andrew Hunter says:

    How does the ACLU count to ten? One, three, four, five, six, seven, eight.

    How does a poker player count to five? Deuce, trey, four, five.

    How does a computer scientist count to 10? 1, 10.

    How does a programmer count to ten? 0,1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,a,b,c,d,e,f.

    How does a Broadway chorus count to ten? “One – singular sensation, every little step she takes…”

    Anyone got others?

    • sty_silver says:

      How does GPT-2 count to ten? 1,2,3,4,5,6] – Default: 2

      Default: 5 – Min: 2 Default: 7 – Min: 2

      –help –default-font

      display options for specified font

      The default is the one that you have specified in the options.

    • WashedOut says:

      How does a seismologist count to ten? 1, 10, 100, 1000, 10000 etc

  6. deltafosb says:

    Are there any examples of stable rock-paper-scissors scenarios in biology (e.g. three species competing in the same environment or three different kind of alleles of a single gene)? On one side, the relation `X has better fitness than Y’ seems like a total ordering (and the best element always exists in this case – if there is a finite number of organisms, that is), but there must be something more complex happening here, since some very large systems composed of thousands of different species (a.k.a. ecosystems) are relatively stable (or my intuition is off, which is totally possible). One could rephrase my question as “what is the minimal number of competing alleles/species/whatever competing nontrivially in a zero-sum game such that the populations are stable”. Now that I think of it, ecosystems may be stable because they are not zero-sum games.

    • Viliam says:

      I don’t remember the source or more details, but I believe I have read somewhere an example of three reproductive strategies for males of the same species, which were like this, in order of decreasing fighting power:

      a) The big boss. Governs a large territory with many females.

      b) A monogamous nice guy. Has a small territory with one female partner, and he guards her jealously.

      c) A loser with nothing to lose. He avoids territory disputes and other males in general — if I remember it correctly, he even looks kinda like a female from distance, so it is easy to not notice him — and he tries to get lucky with any female when her usual partner is not watching.

      Advantages and disadvantages in mutual conflict:

      a > b: The big boss has in general more partners than the nice guy; and if he desires so, he can even beat up the nice guy and have sex with his partner.

      b > c: The nice guy watches his partner 24/7; if he notices a loser trying something, he will scare him off.

      c > a: The harem of the big boss is in reality infested by losers having sex with local females whenever the big boss is not looking in their direction. Which is most of the time, if the territory is large enough.

      This leads to a balance where the strategies are in certain proportion in population. (Also explains why the females are okay to have sex with all of them; it is not like some strategy is intrinsically better, and it is probably safer to diversify one’s offspring.)

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I’m pretty sure that it’s lizards, and that the c strategy lizards look a lot like females.

        Some lizards I didn’t expect the color coding.

        • quanta413 says:

          I think there’s also some fish that I’ve heard this is true for, but I can’t remember what they are.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        That’s the side-blotched lizard of the (North) American West.
        Ultra-dominant, high-T is the orange lizard. Monogamous provider is blue lizard. Male trying to pass as female to get laid is yellow lizard.
        And as Nancy Lebovitz posted, it looks like common European lizard dudes do that too. Neat! 😮

      • deltafosb says:

        Hmmm, apparently a≥b∧b≥c∧c≥a means exactly that a=b=c. I haven’t thought while posting that the ordering relation may just equalize everything (EDIT: equalize on whole population level – if I understand correctly, “a>b” in your reply means “a>b if c does not exist”, which does not imply “a>b in this particular population where c is present”).

        Also, even the case of two phenotypes is interesting. While I understand that it’s not efficient to produce offspring with sex ratio different from (usually) 1:1, I can’t see what mechanism may protect the species from being wiped out by “all your children are male” mutation – it is maladaptive, yet spreads in whole population. Perhaps it’s a dynamical system for which average fitness analysis is just an approximation (and this process actually happened in some now-extinct species)? Most likely I’m missing something simple though.

        • quanta413 says:

          Orderings like in rock-paper-scissors like that are usually called “frequency-dependent” fitness. It’s a fairly important phenomena.

          I recommend Maynard-Smith’s book on evolutionary game theory.

          I can’t see what mechanism may protect the species from being wiped out by “all your children are male” mutation – it is maladaptive, yet spreads in whole population. Perhaps it’s a dynamical system for which average fitness analysis is just an approximation (and this process actually happened in some now-extinct species)? Most likely I’m missing something simple though.

          A mutation where all your children are male is not an advantageous mutation if there are many more males than females. You’ll have more offspring if you produce more females. Although putting the biasing factor on the Y-chromosome makes it pretty tough for a population to escape the trap, since the Y-chromosome’s spread only occurs in the male half. But those cages only had ~50 females. So getting the population to crash from stochastic effects is pretty easy. It’d be a lot tougher to cause extinction in a natural population many orders of magnitude larger.

          A mutation on another chromosome that counteracted the mutation of the Y-chromosome may be able to spread. I’d need to use pen and paper to double check my intuition so don’t take my word as gospel on that. I don’t see how a counter mutation on the Y-chromosome itself could spread.

    • Drew says:

      You can have a stable, predator/prey equilibrium with just 2 species. Khan Academy has a video that shows some practical examples.

      • deltafosb says:

        My question was more about situation like “if there is no third option, fitness(A)>fitness(B)” (in particular fitness(A)≠fitness(B)) happening in all three pairs in a circular order. Rock-paper-scissors has exactly this property: if the choices are restricted to rock and paper, paper objectively beats rock; if evolution of strategies is happening, paper-using strategy quickly takes over. Addition of scissors completely changes the optimal choice.

        • Drew says:

          One could rephrase my question as “what is the minimal number of competing alleles/species/whatever competing nontrivially in a zero-sum game such that the populations are stable”.

          The answer is 2.

          Foxes and Hares are competing in a zero-sum game. You can solve the differential equations and find points where the populations are stable. If you want to talk about same / similar species exhibiting different behaviors, then the answer is also 2. The species would need to play a hawk-dove game.

          The reason this works is that the fitness of a fox is variable. It depends on both the number of foxes and the number of hares. In an environment with many hares and few foxes, the foxes will have a lot of surviving children (and be more fit than hares). The fitness drops sharply as prey becomes scarce.

          If the question is “What’s the smallest number that is 3?” then the answer becomes 3.

          Just as in the Foxes/Hares example, the fitness of scissors isn’t static. It depends on the number of rocks, and the number of papers. Lots of paper means that the scissors can reproduce. Lots of rock means that the scissors get hunted.

          If you’re using “Fitness” in the Pokemon sense of “will win when we drop them into a dog fighting ring” then I don’t think there are cycles like that. Taking a step up the tropic chain generally reduces energy by an order-of-magnitude.

          So, you need 1000 kg of plants to support 100 kg of sheep to support 10kg of lion. This would make it really, really weird to have a cycle where circles of predators eat each other.

          The best I can think of are cleaner fish. Cleaner Fish eat parasites. Parasites eat big fish. Big fish (can, but generally don’t) eat cleaner fish.

  7. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    This may be a mere first whack at the question, but it looks to me as though some posters here don’t think homosexuality is part of normal human variation– there’s something wrong with it.

    If you think that’s a fair or somewhat fair description of what you think, how do you think homosexuals should be treated socially and/or legally?

    • SamChevre says:

      I think something related, which I wonder if it’s what you are identifying.

      I think homosexuality IS part of normal human variation, but there’s something wrong with it. There are lots of bits of normal human variation that have something wrong with them–an incomplete list includes trisomy-13, violent hot-temperedness, profound autism, and sickle cell anemia.

      Homosexuality (as desire) generally makes the world worse when acted on (I’m not going to argue this–consider it stipulated), so the goal of social/legal policy should be to reduce the harmful part (acting on it) while maximizing the good things available generally, including to people with those desires. Within that, acting on it less harmfully should be encouraged relative to acting on it more harmfully.

      I have no idea what set of policies that implies; I’m a consistent liberal on the topic, and think each employer, school, town, and so on should make polciy as it thinks best. Since as stipulated homosexuality acted on makes things worse, I expect the equilibrium will discourage homosexual activity but not eliminate it.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Basically this. But when we get to

        how do you think homosexuals should be treated socially and/or legally?

        I would say in the exact same way we treat any other sexual subgroup: what you do in the privacy of your own bedroom is your business, but kindly keep it out of my living room. The problem with the current homosexual zeitgeist is what was being done in the privacy of bedrooms is now being paraded in the streets, forced into Christian bakeries, piped into my living room and my kids’ schools. Everybody else who likes what they like in the privacy of their own bedrooms seems to have no problem understanding this. The BDSM people or the furries or the diaper fetishists or whatever. The gays not so much.

        • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

          If gay people are breaking into your house and having sex in your living room, that’s pretty bad but also quite unusual.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I meant on the TV screen. Every sitcom these days has at least one gay character in the main cast of 10 people, or about 5 times over-representation in society. The BDSMers, diaper fetishists and furries do not demand or get similar representation. We are currently in the midst of gay Pride month and every corporate account on twitter is now rainbow themed. When is enough enough?

          • JPNunez says:

            Enough will be when violence against LGBT groups disappears and they have the same rights as everyone else.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            What violence and what rights are they missing?

          • JPNunez says:

            Hate crimes against LGBT have rised, and a problem is that police -unsurprisingly- are biased against them so there’s underreporting if anything.

            https://www.nbcnews.com/feature/nbc-out/anti-lgbtq-hate-crimes-rose-3-percent-17-fbi-finds-n936166

            AFAIK marriage rights are still not equal in all states, with some of them fighting to not give them the same rights as heterosexual couples.

          • Randy M says:

            1249 is (assuming an accurate number and that the incidents are significant–no examples given) 1249 too many, of course, but in a nation our size is about 1 in 10,000 odds per year of suffering such an event.
            Or if we consider how many people are likely to be perpetrators, assuming no repeat offenders, the number is 1 in 289,000. (correct me if my math is wrong).

            How many days of pride per year do you expect it will take, given diminishing marginal returns, to get that down to zero?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            So I went into the FBI hate crimes data and here’s what we’ve got for violent sexual orientation bias crimes against people (as opposed to property, there’s a few more of those) in 2017:

            Murder and nonnegligent manslaughter: 2
            Rape: 8
            Aggravated assault: 237
            Simple assault: 383
            Intimidation: 327
            Human Trafficking, Commercial Sex Acts: 0
            Other: 5

            That’s a total of 962 violent crimes in a year in a nation of ~330 million people. Sure, there could be more unreported crimes. Also we don’t know the details of these crimes, and there’s lies, damn lies and statistics. How many assaults are because somebody wanted to beat up a gay, and how many are “two guys got into a fight at a bar over a spilled drink and one called the other who happened to be gay a ‘fag’?” Similarly with “Intimidation.”

            How many more months of parades do you think it’s going to take to get that number down to something you find tolerable?

            Also, marriage rights are not spotty, they’re nationwide as decreed by the Nine Robed Kings. And there is absolutely no shortage of cake bakers who would love to bake a gay wedding cake.

            Everybody loves clapping for Stalin (OF COURSE!) but at some point their arms get exhausted and they just can’t do it anymore.

            ETA: Also it looks like 21 of those crimes were anti-heterosexual and some are perhaps anti-trans, but that’s different issue than gays.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Conrad Honcho:
            Presumably you have no issue with Ward and June Cleaver being depicted on the screen.

            You surely see why this is an issue for your position.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Why would I have a problem with Ward and June on TV? That’s what I want for my kids to be like when they grow up. I mean, not exactly but that whole general “nice traditional family doing nice traditional family things” thing.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Why would I have a problem with Ward and June on TV?

            Go back and read what I wrote. Of course I know that you don’t mind having Ward and June on TV.

            But you presumably do have a problem with one of the couples, and only one of the couples, in Modern Family.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Yes, because I don’t want the things they do in the privacy of their own bedroom brought into my living room. I don’t want the sitcom about the BDSMers or the furries or the diaper fetishists either.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Conrad

            There’s a difference between “about” and “including.”

            I don’t want the things they do in the privacy of their own bedroom brought into my living room

            I haven’t watched Modern Family, but I’m pretty sure a TV-PG show isn’t pornographic. So what’s the level of explicitness at which you’re comfortable seeing possibly-homosexual people, and is it lower than you’d be likely to witness by people-watching for a day in a New York City Starbucks in the financial district?

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            Modern Family is apparently a much more exciting show than I ever suspected it of being.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            So what’s the level of explicitness at which you’re comfortable seeing possibly-homosexual people, and is it lower than you’d be likely to witness by people-watching for a day in a New York City Starbucks in the financial district?

            To be honest I have no idea any more.

            [Filed under: Things I’ll Regret Writing; Humor]

            Support for LGBT acceptance is dropping. I used to be very accepting and supporting of LGBT issues (or at least what I thought they were) but the never ending march of Progress and the culture war has taken its toll. It went something like:

            “What two consenting adults do in the privacy of their own bedroom is nobody else’s business!”

            Me: “Agreed! Everybody should mind their own business!”

            “Anti-sodomy laws should be repealed or struck down.”

            Me: “100% onboard! There is no state interest in that and it’s nobody’s business.”

            “Love is love. Gay marriage is a right.”

            Me: “Eh, I wouldn’t say ‘right’, but I think law should be descriptive of the way people live or want to live, and since my gay friends want to live that way, the law should reflect that and issue them marriage licenses. I will vote for gay marriage.”

            “Hey Conrad, you’re a world-renowned Master Photographer, would you shoot our gay wedding?”

            Me: “Absolutely friends! Your money’s as green as anybody else’s.” (Yes, I have done this, and the album I made from the wedding is in the PPA’s Loan Collection)

            “Transgendered people should be treated with dignity and respect and called what name they want to be called.”

            Me: “Sure, the transwoman I know is great people and indistinguishable from a woman, so yeah.”

            “There’s gays in your TV shows.”

            Me: “Oh, sure, that’s nice, representation is a thing and Queer Eye was pretty good.”

            “No, all of them. All the shows.”

            Me: “Oh.”

            “Including your kids’ shows.”

            Me: “Eeeeeeh.”

            “Pride parades.”

            Me: “Sure, I guess.”

            “Pride Week.”

            Me: “Uh, right sure.”

            “Pride Month.”

            Me: “Come on already.”

            “A girl with a penis just beat all the other girls at the high school wrestling match! Isn’t that great?!”

            Me: “What. No, that’s more like a dude beating up on a lady. That’s not nice.”

            “A guy on YouTube used a gay slur in a joke so we’re going to ruin his ability to make a living or speak about anything ever.”

            Me: “That seems excessive and not very sporting.”

            “This one cake baker wouldn’t bake a gay wedding cake so we’re going to get the state to punish and ‘re-educate’ him.”

            Me: “Wait a minute now, I chose to shoot gay weddings, but you can’t make somebody do something they find morally wrong.”

            “This 9-year-old ‘boy’ is playing with a doll, he’s really a girl so pump her full of hormones and off goes the penis.”

            Me: “No, no, that’s child abuse. Please don’t do that.”

            “Check out this new TV show where we dress little boys up like sexually provocative women and make them dance in front of men!”

            Me: “…”

            “Do you think nine is too old to start teaching school kids about anal sex?”

            Me: “…”

            “Hey check out this new research that says children understand consent!”

            Me: “Come children, we must flee this city. An ill wind blows, and carries with it the scent of brimstone. Whatever you do, whatever you hear, do not look back.”

            I’m just kind of done with the whole thing and I can’t be the only one.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Conrad

            If you’ll permit my saying so, you seem to get a lot more worked up about this sort of thing than the attitude you profess would seem to warrant. I can understand that “take a break from it” isn’t the most actionable advice given the media climate (as you perceive it), but can I suggest severely limiting your exposure to Twitter, Fox, MSNBC, and CNN? Read local papers and The Economist or Reuters or something. If you’re done with this stuff, let yourself be actually done rather than trapped in eternal frustration. The shit that annoys you may still annoy you, but I think it’ll help your blood pressure. I know it’s helped me quite a lot.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Well I don’t have cable, and I ditched my twitter account years ago. But like, right now I’m watching the Xbox E3 briefing on YouTube (paused it to type this) and the Xbox channel logo is a rainbow flag. I just wanna play vidja games. Why do I need to be educated about the gays during a video game show? Is there anywhere to go on earth and be free of the culture wars?

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Conrad

            While I’m in agreement that a month of rainbow flags is kinda excessive, from what I remember none of the conferences so far have been preachy at all, and I think that (aside from Bethesda’s cringy “Elder Scrolls Online literally saved my life” video slideshow) nobody’s even really been pushing their own virtue. Just games (most bad, but at least there’s Cyberpunk, Doom, Deathloop, Baldur’s Gate III, and Ori to look forward to), with a rainbow flag in the background for one of the keynotes. Like, I can understand how it would grate if you perceive this Grand Narrative, but I honestly think you give more of a shit about it than most people on the opposite side. I dunno, man.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Hoopyfreud:
            For some, the outrage is the entertainment. It’s like booze for the alcoholic.

            ETA:
            @Conrad Honcho:
            Sorry if that feels disrespectful to you. But I think you are going out of your way to be mad that gay people exist. As I said, the married men in Modern Family aren’t functionally different than any heterosexual married couple in a TV show.

            You don’t object to vanilla heterosexual couples coming “out of the bedroom”. You are being completely hypocritical and you can’t even recognize it.

          • quanta413 says:

            Support for LGBT acceptance is dropping.

            Maybe I missed the error bars on the those polls, but the flier looks like tea-reading the noise in polls to me.

            It’s not useless data, because things could have changed. But looking at that data I lean towards “nothing has changed in 4 years”. Now you could take 20 years of polls and infer a slope better and maybe instead say “things are not changing slower or faster than X”.

          • deltafosb says:

            Me: “Oh, sure, that’s nice, representation is a thing and Queer Eye was pretty good.”

            FWIW, my boyfriend was absolutely cringed by Queer Eye and told me that’s it not the type of representation he’s comfortable with (I haven’t watched it though).
            That’s why I think that much of the homo/heterosexual cultural variance is, well, purely cultural. Where I live the homosexual memeplex is much more tame than what I see in the US. Most gay people I know just want to live in stable relationships, including those who use Grindr/whatever (not the best strategy if that’s your aim). IMO the kind of culture you have in the US is the direct result of being rejected by the mainstream for a long time. If you see everywhere that you’re despised and not worthy of being part of the society, do you have any choice but to reject the opponents’ standards and build a counterculture based on this? This cultural seed is now a plant – it’s not easy to grow another one beside it.

            [It’s entirely possible that I’m biased in two ways though: what I see in media is probably not representative for the whole US; my friends are not exactly the representative sample as well]

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @HBC

            But I think you are going out of your way to be mad that gay people exist.

            I don’t see how you can see the things I’ve said and written and think that’s an accurate description of my attitude. I’m mad that I cannot watch a video game expo and I cannot go eat lunch at the taco place down the street without them reminding me that gays exist with their rainbow flags. What do tacos and video games have to do with gay stuff? It’s not the gays. It’s that they will not stop telling me (and my kids) about it. It’s like vegans, crossfitters and people who don’t watch ‘Game of Thrones’ combined into one giant shrieking megaphone of “Hey. Hey everybody. Hey everybody wanna know what I do?! Wanna know?! I’ll tell ya! I’m gonna tell ya!”

            Anyway I’ll bow out of this before I say something that gets me banned. Gays, I love you, you’re fine people, just please, kindly turn it down just one notch.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Conrad Honcho, this is a little late, but I hope it’s mild enough to be within the range of fairness.

            I keep getting reminded of a bit from James Branch Cabell, possibly in The Silver Stallion.

            A human man wants to marry a goddess, and the other deities don’t like it because it’s making matters more public than they should be.

          • Bamboozle says:

            @Conrad

            Sorry if this is prying but can I ask what you would do if one of your kids told you they were gay?

            You mention your kids a lot but it’s not like them seeing gay stuff is going to turn them gay. They’re already gay or they aren’t right?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            They’re already gay or they aren’t right?

            Science has not yet determined the cause of homosexuality, so you can’t say that yet.

          • albatross11 says:

            I don’t think we know what causes someone to become gay. However, we have an existence proof of lots of gay men and lesbian women (and a smattering of trans people) who were raised in cultures that had few or no positive social messages about homosexuality and were quite overtly intolerant of gays. It may be that lots of positive/accepting images of gays increases homosexuality–we’re running that experiment now, I guess. But it’s absolutely clear that we still get some level of homosexuality even with none of that.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            Things that remind one that gay people exist:
            Gay people existing
            Rainbow flags

            Things that remind one that straight people exist:
            The other 99% of culture

            But being triggered by a reminder that a group exists is weird anyway. No-one demands a safe space away from e.g. French flags. If you think the group is intrinsically immoral (Nazis, Soviets etc.) it makes sense, but if you’re saying that’s not the case then I don’t understand.

          • Jaskologist says:

            No-one demands a safe space away from e.g. French flags.

            But they do from, say, monuments of the Ten Commandments.

          • Matt M says:

            Things that remind one that straight people exist:
            The other 99% of culture

            How does, say, the average corporate logo, during the 11 months of the year when it isn’t transformed into rainbow colors, actively remind you that straight people exist?

            Like, it’s clear that a rainbow “X in a circle” (to use the Xbox logo as a random example) is a direct, obvious, specific, reference to homosexuality.

            In other months, the Xbox logo is normally a green X located in a silver circle. Which components of that serve, to you, as a direct, specific, reference to heterosexuality?

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            @Jaskologist
            I don’t think they do. Does anyone object to privately-funded churches sticking up signs with them on?

            @Matt M
            If you want to be pedantic, pretend I said:

            Things that remind one that gay people exist:
            Rainbow flags
            Gay people in films and TV shows

            Things that remind one that straight people exist:
            The other 99% of people in films and TV shows, and indeed the world in general

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            A group that’s 2-4% of the population does not need 1/12th of the year dedicated to advertising their sexual preferences. Or to get so offended I don’t want them advertising it to my children when they’re watching cartoons or playing video games. The absolute insistence that my preference to not view their propaganda is some kind of an affront is disturbingly authoritarian.

          • Randy M says:

            Or to get so offended I don’t want them advertising it to my children when they’re watching cartoons or playing video games.

            Has there been any controversy about a brand not joining in on the pride stuff?

            In other words, is it gays that want their colors ever present, or corporations that want their virtue brought up on any occasion?

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            @Conrad Honcho
            So a proportionate Pride 1-2 weeks would be acceptable? And an underproportionate Pride 1-7 days would be unacceptable? That’s an odd hill.

            Or to get so offended I don’t want them advertising it to my children when they’re watching cartoons or playing video games.

            Almost all media contains a constant stream of “propaganda” that advertises straight sexual preferences in the same way. Unless you also object to that you are either being inconsistent or failing to mention some factor that makes gay and straight sexual preferences different in some relevant way.

          • Plumber says:

            @Randy M,
            I don’t guess that it’s anymore complicated than “Yes, we want what’s likely to be some Dual-Income-No-Kids spending money as well”.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            or failing to mention some factor that makes gay and straight sexual preferences different in some relevant way.

            That would be that one of them produces children, and the other does not and has a much greater risk of disease (in males anyway), drug and alcohol abuse, depression and suicide.

            Ultimately, though, as a parent I get to decide how to brainwash my kids and you get to decide how to brainwash your kids, right? If I were exposing your kids to say, pro-Catholic propaganda, it would not be wrong of you to say “thanks but no thanks?” It would be really weird if I kept insisting, “no, you MUST tell your kids how great and wonderful the One True Church is,” right? If I were to do that, you might even start thinking I had some kind of ulterior motive!

            So, for me and my family, we’re just going to choose to opt out of the gay propaganda. That’s not a problem is it?

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            If you want to be pedantic, pretend I said:
            […] Things that remind one that straight people exist:
            The other 99% of people in films and TV shows, and indeed the world in general

            This doesn’t really help. I took Matt M’s mention of corporate logos as one example of a wider trend.
            The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn doesn’t remind me that Huck is straight; I’m instead wondering about his relationship to Jim.
            When listening to Ode to Joy, I’m not constantly marvelling at how straight Beethoven is.
            When I watch The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, I think a little about the love triangle of Tom, Ranse, and Hallie, but I’m more often thinking about what they’re going to do about Liberty, and what their ethics are. (And how each scene is shot, etc.)

            In general, “99% of the world” is a large exaggeration, because I’m not spending literally 99% contemplating straightness. The 99% are artists, adventurers, crooks, builders, supervillains, fops, prisoners, etc. and I’m thinking of anything but what guy or gal they’re wooing or what traditional family they’re trying to raise. Whereas with the people that are gay, that’s all I’m apparently supposed to know.

            To some extent, it’s not the author’s fault. I call it the Minority Effect: the majority character gets to have multiple traits, but for the minority character, “minority” is their most important adjective. This is acceptable if that’s literally what the story is about (e.g. “Love, Simon”, “Jungle Fever”), but it’s off-putting and arguably counter-productive when it’s done for other reasons (diversity, edginess) and then is artificially inflated until it overshadows what the story was supposed to be about.

            Minority status can become a character’s most important trait, but how it gets there should matter. In the stories I find more compelling, they don’t make a big deal out of it. Better still, it’s a deal to the same extent everyone else’s straightness is. (One could even get away with lampshading that for a while.) I think symbols like rainbow flags are seen as good to the extent that they remind us there are fine people out there, and bad to the extent that they come off as flat demands for attention or lazy signals of solidarity.

          • albatross11 says:

            So, is there a good set of products/tools/whatever to make it easy to let a parent avoid gay images (or violent images, or whatever) in their kids’ media intake? My sense is that the internet has made this a lot harder–there’s so much good out there, and so much crap out there, and it’s hard to filter it meaningfully,

          • Randy M says:

            So, is there a good set of products/tools/whatever to make it easy to let a parent avoid gay images (or violent images, or whatever) in their kids’ media intake?

            Yes, a hammer.

            (It’s for the TV, not the kids!)

          • AG says:

            Then isn’t the consequential solution to actually normalize homosexuality even further? The people least likely to wave the rainbow flag are those who are fully integrated into their social class. If more minority characters are allowed to exist, then they don’t need to rely on their minority status to be their defining trait, and that aspect of them is allowed to fade into the background. For that matter, the integration has already progressed such that there’s a good amount of media about the gays having children by a variety of means. In addition, greater integration lowers the risk of disease, drug and alcohol abuse, depression and suicide.

            It’s another case of All Debates are Bravery Debates.

            But speaking of Bravery Debates, where are the equivalent complaints against Oktoberfest, and excessive portrayals of smoking and drinking in media? You can’t find a show where the characters don’t drink as a regular and expected social activity. When is enough enough?

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Then isn’t the consequential solution to actually normalize homosexuality even further? The people least likely to wave the rainbow flag are those who are fully integrated into their social class.

            I think that’s ideal, yes. But it carries an innate perverse feature: normalized minorities stop looking like minorities. This is a corollary of the Minority Effect (and selection bias). Normalize enough minorities, and the few that are left are the ones that are toward the more shocking end of the spectrum. It also suggests that people like Conrad Honcho are probably already surrounded by gays who aren’t flaunting it. You, in turn, might be surrounded by people who don’t drink socially, and you’d have no reason to notice by default. (Folks who work national intelligence have a similar rant about this – laymen think intelligence is dominated by failure because when it succeeds, it looks like business as usual.)

            The downside to this is that we’ll always notice the bad examples. The upside is that people get naturally better at depictions by imitating what works, and the bad examples start to look older and unfashionable, like Jim Crow-style examples of racial discrimination.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            In addition, greater integration lowers the risk of disease, drug and alcohol abuse, depression and suicide.

            Is that the case? Googling around for statistics, I can find modern sources that homosexuals are about 2x more likely to abuse drugs & alcohol, smoke, have depression, etc. I can find abstracts of papers from 20 years ago that report “higher” rates of abuse/problems among LGB, but I can’t find anything reporting an overall trend or change. You would think given the massive change in society’s attitude towards homosexuals in the past 20 years, from “frequent condemnation” to “literally throwing parades for” there would be a large reduction in abuse if it were the lack of integration responsible for the difference.

            What if it’s the hedonism and promiscuity that are frequently part of the gay lifestyle itself that causes the problems? If that’s the case, wouldn’t positive reinforcement of this lifestyle make these problems worse?

            But speaking of Bravery Debates, where are the equivalent complaints against Oktoberfest, and excessive portrayals of smoking and drinking in media? You can’t find a show where the characters don’t drink as a regular and expected social activity. When is enough enough?

            I wouldn’t take my kids to oktoberfest either. And there’s pretty much blanket bans on smoking and drinking in cartoons. I bought Katana Zero on sale for the Switch and my son and I were both playing it. I had no idea there was so much swearing and drug and alcohol abuse in the game. I mean, it was advertised in a Nintendo Direct a few months ago. Anyway as soon as I saw that I deleted it from my son’s Switch. I’m still playing it on mine, though, because it’s a pretty cool game.

          • Randy M says:

            What if it’s the hedonism and promiscuity that are frequently part of the gay lifestyle itself that causes then problems?

            I think the argument is that the hedonism and promiscuity will go away if we have enough boring gay couples jogging down suburban streets in grey sweat pants on prime time TV shows that are interspersed with ads for plain cola in rainbow cans.

            This seems wildly optimistic, but it looks like that’s what we’re going with. Luckily, we’ll be able to discuss the results of that experiment dispassionately and re-evaluate the strategy if it fails.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            That would be that one of them produces children, and the other does not and has a much greater risk of disease (in males anyway), drug and alcohol abuse, depression and suicide.

            Ultimately, though, as a parent I get to decide how to brainwash my kids and you get to decide how to brainwash your kids, right? If I were exposing your kids to say, pro-Catholic propaganda, it would not be wrong of you to say “thanks but no thanks?” It would be really weird if I kept insisting, “no, you MUST tell your kids how great and wonderful the One True Church is,” right? If I were to do that, you might even start thinking I had some kind of ulterior motive!

            So, for me and my family, we’re just going to choose to opt out of the gay propaganda. That’s not a problem is it?

            Obviously not, you’re free to consume or not consume whatever media you want. But the explanation you give here for choosing to do so differs from your previous statements about the gays being “piped into your living room”. If all you want is to exercise your right to consume your choice of media then there’s no reason for you to complain about the existence of media that you don’t like; the whole point is that you’re not consuming the stuff you don’t like. And it’s either confusing or disingenuous to say that you just want the gay to be private, when the reason for that is you think the gay is harmful.

          • Dan L says:

            @ Conrad:

            I can find abstracts of papers from 20 years ago that report “higher” rates of abuse/problems among LGB, but I can’t find anything reporting an overall trend or change.

            Adequately measuring comorbidity is one of the hardest parts of abnormal psych; you’re not going to find much in the way of good results before a decade or so ago that incorporate sexual orientation on anything that isn’t explicitly focused on sexuality.

            @ Randy:

            Luckily, we’ll be able to discuss the results of that experiment dispassionately and re-evaluate the strategy if it fails.

            In a previous thread, I specifically pointed out that in one of the key metrics being discussed the MSM v. heterosexual male delta was shown to have dramatically narrowed between the ’90s and the ’00s – by a little more than half, in fact. I don’t believe I got a straight answer as to what the target should be, but that sounds like something is working.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Conrad Honcho:

            “Ultimately, though, as a parent I get to decide how to brainwash my kids and you get to decide how to brainwash your kids, right?”

            It depends on what you mean. If you want some behavior to not be seen as normal, you might be imposing a high cost on people for whom it’s a preference.

            I don’t remember where you stand on same sex couples being seen in public, or ordinary displays of affection between them.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @thisheavenlyconjugation

            And it’s either confusing or disingenuous to say that you just want the gay to be private, when the reason for that is you think the gay is harmful.

            What’s disingenuous about it? I agree that “what two consenting adults want to do in the privacy of their own bedroom is nobody else’s business.” So when I’m trying to eat tacos and they want to wave their flags in front of me just in case I forgot about the stuff they do in the privacy of their own bedrooms, I object. It’s not my business, and I am not interested. I just want my tacos. And when my kid and I are trying to watch a show about new video games and they’re waving their flags at us to let my kid know about what they do in the privacy of their own bedrooms, I object. Not only is it not our business, but my kid is not an adult, and incapable of consent.

            This is especially troubling when you consider that, despite being only 2-4% of the population, over 30% of those imprisoned for underage sex predation were males preying on males. And in the Catholic Church sex abuse report, 81% of the abuse was in the form of pederasty. The insistence on exposing children to gay propaganda starts looking like grooming.

            That’s harm to others, but the numbers for disease, depression, substance abuse, suicide, etc give one a strong indication that it is also “harmful to self.” Still not my business, though. There are lots of things that people do that are harmful to themselves, but I’m not a finger-wagging moralizer, so it’s none of my business until you try to get me or my kids involved. People like sniffing glue. Probably not that great an idea. Don’t want to do it. Not my business, though, I’m not going to start telling glue sniffers what they should and shouldn’t do. But now if you won’t stop trying to tell my kid how great, grand, wonderful, beautiful and totally normal glue sniffing is, we have a problem.

            @Randy M

            Has there been any controversy about a brand not joining in on the pride stuff?

            In other words, is it gays that want their colors ever present, or corporations that want their virtue brought up on any occasion?

            I don’t think the LGBT community on twitter would hesitate for a second to raise an outrage mob if they didn’t like it. Attack Microsoft for “appropriating LGBT voices” or something. They don’t do that, so, silence is consent?

            That said, I overreacted about E3. I watched the rest of the presentations and there was no more of this stuff. But the Microsoft/Xbox talk was the first one I watched and they were doing the Pride thing so I thought that’s what we were getting this year. Microsoft was the only one doing it, though (that I saw).

            @Nancy

            It depends on what you mean. If you want some behavior to not be seen as normal, you might be imposing a high cost on people for whom it’s a preference.

            I would rather the behavior not be promoted to my kids. I don’t need to constantly remind them that some people like to dress up in diapers for sexual gratification just in case it turns out that’s what they’re in to when they’re adults, and by not making sure they know from an early age that that’s good and normal and natural I’m “imposing a high cost” on them. I have no interest in demonizing these behaviors, I object to promoting them.

            I don’t remember where you stand on same sex couples being seen in public, or ordinary displays of affection between them.

            I don’t care. I have gay friends, I’ve photographed gay weddings. I just don’t like the gay propaganda in the media and some of the LGBT politics. It’s not the people, it’s the Culture War. I agreed that what two consenting adults do the privacy of their own bedroom was none of my business, and I object to constant attempts to make it my business. It wasn’t my business when society didn’t like it, and it still isn’t my business now that society can’t get enough of it.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            @Conrad Honcho
            “keep it in the bedroom” has the obvious surface meaning of “don’t make me watch gay porn”. A flag containing an arrangement of six specific colours is not gay porn. So if you say “keep it in the bedroom” without specifying that you think said flags are essentially the same as gay porn in this context because they both represent the gay (which is bad), you’re being confusing (if you think the essential equivalence is obvious) or disingenuous (if you’re deliberately equivocating).

          • albatross11 says:

            Nancy:

            That’s true, but it seems like the consequence of allowing people to have different and contradictory beliefs. In any medium-sized town, there are gay couples living together and people who think homosexuality is immoral, people dedicating their whole lives to their religion and people who think churches are gigantic con games and religion is self-delusion, etc. Any of those beliefs that are passed on to their kids are beliefs that will make life harder for someone.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Well, the flags represent gay sex. They’re not pictures of gay sex, but they’re definitely a big “hey, hey pay attention to the kind of sex we like!” symbol. Nobody else does that. The poly people aren’t waving their polyness in my face.

          • Dan L says:

            Well, the flags represent gay sex. They’re not pictures of gay sex, but they’re definitely a big “hey, hey pay attention to the kind of sex we like!” symbol. Nobody else does that.

            This seems like a genuine crux of disagreement. While symbolism is vague enough that trying to establish the one true meaning is probably a pointless definitional argument, I think it’s important to note that this interpretation clashes with the historical origins of the rainbow pride flag, its vexillological connotations, and (as you point out) its usage.

    • Dack says:

      Equal rights, equal opportunity.

    • Nootropic cormorant says:

      I think it’s a lifestyle/subculture rather than a hard-coded attribute.

      I’m not sure what sort of treatment this implies, obviously they need to be protected from discrimination and violence, but how do we protect furries, drug users, political activists, nudists or juggalos (not saying these are equal in moral, electivity, harm or, god forbid, repression)?

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Why can’t a chunk of the range of human variation be pathological?

      how do you think homosexuals should be treated socially and/or legally?

      Under sharia male homosexuality is commonly, depending on the school of jurisprudence, a capital crime, while women are considered physically incapable of committing zina (illicit sex, which would be any penetration outside marriage or concubinage). I find that unjust, but lesser criminal penalties for homosexual acts that spread STDs seems like no big deal to me. I personally can’t bring myself to support any criminal penalties, nor social sanction beyond treating the Leftist boo-light “heteronormative” as an applause-light instead.
      It’s just either useless or harmful (for specific acts that act as disease vector) to society, you know? So I don’t think about it much except when I hear of people being stoned to death in sharia countries for what we’re supposed to celebrate in the West, or Christian petit bourgeois are being sued out of business for refusing to celebrate it.

      • broblawsky says:

        lesser criminal penalties for homosexual acts that spread STDs seems like no big deal to me

        What is your definition of “homosexual acts that spread STDs”? Do you think that there should be equivalent criminal penalties for similar heterosexual acts that spread STDs?

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          You mean like heterosexual anal sex? Yeah, sure.
          Trying to impose equality between homosexual acts and making babies is where things go off the rails.

          • broblawsky says:

            Based on what ethical criteria? What about heterosexual acts where one partner is sterile? Should that be criminalized as well?

          • albatross11 says:

            It seems like this all turns on your definition of “pathological.”

            In terms of evolutionary fitness, homosexuality is pathological, since it seems almost guaranteed to decrease fitness. But that’s not a moral judgment, just a description. (Taking a vow of celebacy is at least as pathological.)

            In terms of personal well-being, it’s an empirical question, but there sure do seem to be a lot of gay people living perfectly fine lives and apparently doing okay, so it’s not a slam dunk that being gay in a tolerant society is particularly bad for the individual. Maybe it’s more like being someone who just doesn’t like loud music, or someone who doesn’t enjoy sports–you’ll miss out on some stuff, but there’s plenty of good life available to you.

            In terms of societal well-being, again, that’s an empirical question, but it sure does seem like on our pretty tolerant society, there are a lot of gays doing productive and valuable things. There are a fair number of openly gay scientists, engineers, doctors, businessmen, etc. Their being gay doesn’t seem obviously socially destructive to me. I mean, it’s an empirical question, and I could be wrong, but I don’t see a lot of evidence for the claim that being gay is socially destructive.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @broblawsky: The criteria of virtue ethics. Producing the next generation in enduring relationships is the most virtuous way for humans to have sex (also known as life-history modeling and previously K-selection in biology: we’re adapted for lots of paternal investment).
            And what happens when people from an alien culture disagree with what we think the content of virtue ethics is (e.g. Muslim immigrants)? They either renounce their culture, aren’t allowed in, or we have to fight it out.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            Producing the next generation in enduring relationships is the most virtuous way for humans to have sex (also known as life-history modeling and previously K-selection in biology: we’re adapted for lots of paternal investment).

            If the parenthetical is supposed to be an explanation for the first part of this claim, I’d like to register the belief that this is the worst possible resolution to the is-ought problem.

          • broblawsky says:

            The criteria of virtue ethics. Producing the next generation in enduring relationships is the most virtuous way for humans to have sex (also known as life-history modeling and previously K-selection in biology: we’re adapted for lots of paternal investment).

            And what happens when people from an alien culture disagree with what we think the content of virtue ethics is (e.g. Muslim immigrants)? They either renounce their culture, aren’t allowed in, or we have to fight it out.

            Do you think that homosexuals represent an “alien culture”?

            Also, I don’t think I got from your response whether you thought that sexual activity between sterile heterosexuals should be criminalized. If you believe that sex for the purpose of reproduction is the sole form of virtuous sex – as I understand from your response – then it logically follows that sex without the possibility of reproduction is non-virtuous and should be criminalized, but I don’t want to make unfounded assumptions about your beliefs.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Hoopyfreud:

            If the parenthetical is supposed to be an explanation for the first part of this claim, I’d like to register the belief that this is the worst possible resolution to the is-ought problem.

            Sorry about that. I’ll try to tackle the is-ought problem better.

            @broblawsky:

            Do you think that homosexuals represent an “alien culture”?

            No. Westerners who identify as homosexual are thoroughly Western. Even Foucault thought their emergence as an essence or identity was modern, not timeless.

            Also, I don’t think I got from your response whether you thought that sexual activity between sterile heterosexuals should be criminalized. If you believe that sex for the purpose of reproduction is the sole form of virtuous sex – as I understand from your response – then it logically follows that sex without the possibility of reproduction is non-virtuous and should be criminalized, but I don’t want to make unfounded assumptions about your beliefs.

            It shouldn’t. Were all past cultures that punished homosexual acts but not sex with infertile people illogical?

          • broblawsky says:

            No. Westerners who identify as homosexual are thoroughly Western. Even Foucault thought their emergence as an essence or identity was modern, not timeless.

            Then what “alien culture” were you talking about? I can’t see any other context in which your previous comment wasn’t something of a non-sequitur.

            It shouldn’t. Were all past cultures that punished homosexual acts but not sex with infertile people illogical?

            We aren’t talking about past cultures, we’re talking about the present. What ethical criteria distinguishes non-reproductive heterosexual acts from homosexual acts?

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Excluding homosexuals from normal life is hard on families. Sometimes homosexuals are thrown out of their families.

            When homosexuality was kept out of public knowledge, people would sometimes not realize they were homosexual and/or they would hope they would become heterosexual, and they’d marry heterosexuals, leading to unhappy marriages. Sometimes the heterosexual partner would realize something was wrong, but not know what.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Nancy Lebovitz: Society shouldn’t be unkind to people with homosexuality, but calling them “homosexuals” begs the question of whether this is an eternal essence.
            Is there really a small percentage of the population that’s been with our species since we first spread out of Africa that can’t be happy unless they have sex with and only with the same sex? Because if not, we are free to believe in the possibility of a future with less homosexuality, or the same amount of it without LGBT IdPol, and more human flourishing.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I define sexual orientation as being what a person finds satisfying, and I think there’s pretty good evidence that there are people who find homosexual sex satisfying, and heterosexual sex either not satisfying or much less satisfying.

    • quanta413 says:

      I’m not sure why something being wrong with something means it’s not normal human variation. I have lots of attributes within the normal human range that I would regard as wrong. Not advantageous, morally not upstanding, whatever. Gluttony, lust, violent thoughts, etc. etc.

      I don’t see any moral problem with homosexuality in the world as it is. I’m not a 0 on the Kinsey scale.

      But I can imagine extreme hypothetical worlds that would change my mind. Like if somehow 80% of people in the world were strictly homosexual (Kinsey scale 6), but otherwise the world was similar. I’d prefer human society to keep existing and not have a huge population crash, so that world does not appeal to me. So in hypothetical world, some homosexual people are going to need to bite the bullet and at least exchange fluids. This is assuming that enough homosexual people will form family units that mimic heterosexual ones in order to raise children as well. I know that’s not a rare desire among homosexuals, but I don’t know how frequent it is now or how frequent it would be in the complete absence of any form of discrimination.

      That makes strict homosexuality about even as a moral behavior with a healthy, normal, fertile person choosing not to have kids.

      So I think I kind of get where some conservatives are coming from about some of this. I just don’t think homosexuality is going to increase in frequency much so I don’t think it matters, and the problem in the world now where there is a problem (like Germany) is that heterosexual people are deciding not to reproduce.

      • albatross11 says:

        It would be interesting to see what kind of society would arise from a mostly-gay world. Sperm donation and adoption still work fine for having and raising kids, and indeed, I think it’s not uncommon now for lesbian couples to use donor sperm to have children.

        • Matt M says:

          Adoption still depends on heterosexual reproduction though.

          Do homosexuals have the same desire to reproduce as heterosexuals?

          My impression is that gay couples are far less likely to actively seek out opportunities to procure and raise children than heterosexual couples are.

          (also probably worth considering that even though birth control and abortion are both widely available today, there are still probably a whole lot of children arriving, let’s say “unplanned”, via heterosexual intercourse. homosexuals will never be able to “accidentally” have a baby, but figure “oh well, guess we’ll keep it anyway.”)

          • Randy M says:

            Do homosexuals have the same desire to reproduce as heterosexuals?

            I think even many heterosexuals don’t have a strong desire to reproduce in the abstract, but, as you point out, they end up with children and care for them–in both senses of the term.

            After all, consider the hacks that biology goes through to get children. We have a sex drive, and sex itself feels pleasurable. If a strong desire for children was sufficient, these wouldn’t be such strong forces in their own right.

            “Every child a wanted child” is a good slogan but overlooks that feelings are fickle; a planned child may end up resented just as much as an unplanned one (“this isn’t what I expected”) and an accident may end up loved just as much as a longed for product of intention.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Yeah, but it’s also a lot more expensive for them if they do decide to do that. Perhaps slightly less so for lesbian couples, but gay men have to find a woman to carry a baby for them and that ain’t a small favor or cheap.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Conrad Honcho: Yeah, the phenomenon of exclusively homosexual men is so weird. In Classical Athens, if a man liked homosexual acts better than intercourse with a woman, he’d denigrate women as inferior but still keep a wife barefoot and pregnant in the house (which was possible because you needed her father’s consent in such a patriarchal society, not hers).

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            The whole thing where exposing unwanted children is apparently “wrong” nowadays is pretty wack too. And don’t get me started on modern attitudes towards sacrificing oxen to Zeus Polieus!

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Who are people sacrificing oxen to these days? I see a lot of beef in the grocery store and it doesn’t say. Some specialty grocers have labels saying it’s certified to the God of Israel, but the rest is totally unclear!

          • Randy M says:

            You can really only find details about meat sanctified by Israelis or Muslims.
            Yet another way our society is anti-poly.

        • quanta413 says:

          Adoption is a great thing and better than “unparented” or “no children” by an absolutely incredible amount so I don’t want to diss it. But I think it’s probably still better for parents and kids to be related most of the time. Some rare parents are so bad, they probably shouldn’t be parenting anyone but that issue isn’t solved by adoption in a world where almost everyone adopts either.

          What’s virtuous as a fix to difficulties with the world may not be great as the standard system.

          You could go with quad-parental families as the standard or something. One gay couple and one lesbian couple form some sort of marriage of marriages bond exclusively devoted to raising their 4+ children.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          It might take people having somewhat more desire for children than they have now, but it seems workable, especially considering that some homosexuals in the real world can at least tolerate heterosexual sex.

    • Two McMillion says:

      For me, that would be, “Any way that means I don’t have to see it or think about it”.

    • Randy M says:

      This may be a mere first whack at the question, but it looks to me as though some posters here don’t think homosexuality is part of normal human variation– there’s something wrong with it.

      I agree with the others who point out that normal human variation can include morally wrong things, and further that Christendom has long considered human nature to be deeply flawed.
      While that argues for treating any particular vice with a measure of grace, it also sees taking pride in vices as deeply confused.
      Where the law should step in is a practical matter that likely contains high amounts of regional variation.

  8. ana53294 says:

    Sweden Riksbank wants to create e-money if society goes cash-free, apparently to avoid total control of payments by banks and private institutions (although I don’t see many details of how that would help). How could you eliminate cash and somehow eliminate the problems caused by a cash free society by creating e-money?

    In Sweden, it is legal for vendors to reject payments in cash, and they seem to be moving towards a cash-free society.

    I know my own government would be happy with that, but I am sure the euro will keep cash because of the Germans. They love cash (Swiss Germans are the same). In Spain, cash payments above 1000 euros are illegal, and they seem to want to squish cash more and more.

    There are many issues with removing cash; social exclusion is one of them. I have five* bank accounts, and five debit cards, and could not make a payment in one shop abroad once (I had to go to a bank and exchange my euros for their currency). It is very, very easy for a tyrannical government to block access to a bank account (which is why the US will probably never eliminate cash; thanks to preppers and paranoid people). There is also the risk of a hostile cyber attack destroying or severely disrupting the system. And it’s not like there aren’t illicit electronic payments; my bank account has received illicit charges more frequently than I was pick-pocketed or robbed. Foreign payments also fail when you’re abroad.

    *My family once had to beg for shop credit for two months in different shops in my hometown because my parents were blocked out of their bank account because of a fraud. It was quite humiliating to not have money even though we had money. Since then, my parents have around 20 bank accounts, and sometimes struggle to keep them straight.

    • WashedOut says:

      A quick control-F your link for “cryptocurrency” and “blockchain” returned no results, which is curious seeing as these are the kinds of problems fintech aims to solve, but unsurprising considering banks’ aversion to crypto. If the aim is to create a currency that is inherently censorship-proof and tyranny-resistant, it seems like a total farce to have it created by a bank or other centralized financial institution.

      • ana53294 says:

        Well, the objective is not removing censorship; the objective is to prevent banks from excluding socially vulnerable people from the economy.

        But I don’t think any of that is possible without cash.

        And no, they don’t seem to mention crypto when explaining how their e-krona will work. But they do mention some kind of register.

    • The Nybbler says:

      (which is why the US will probably never eliminate cash; thanks to preppers and paranoid people)

      Preppers, paranoid people… and ordinary conservatives who have noticed things like Mastercard and Visa deciding who is moral enough to accept credit cards, or banks refusing gun-related business. It’s not paranoia if they really are out to get you.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I don’t know whether The Handmaid’s Tale is also having an influence– it includes the risks of a highly-centralized economy.

        See also people who are worried about the number of the beast from Revelations. Who knew that a clever bit of satire of Roman bureaucracy could have so much effect?

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          Who knew that a clever bit of satire of Roman bureaucracy could have so much effect?

          Well it’s not dated satire if the pschye of the thing satirized never changes!

      • BBA says:

        Don’t sell yourself short. As conservatives go, you’re hardly ordinary.

        • The Nybbler says:

          I’m not a conservative, as my remarks about the draft in the last OT should demonstrate. Libertarians have been paranoid about this stuff long before conservatives started noticing it. But nobody cares what libertarians think; there aren’t enough of us.

      • ana53294 says:

        There are also the marihuana dispensaries in states where it’s legal. I’ve heard even the IRS gets paid in a huge cash shipment, even though they usually prefer electronic payments.

  9. What’s your favorite example of military stupidity, be it tactical or strategic? I’ll start with a classic: The French assumed that it was impossible to move tanks through the Ardennes Forest and therefore didn’t bother extending the Maginot Line to cover it. Whoops.

    • cassander says:

      the french didn’t assume it was impossible to attack through the Ardennes, and while they thought it would be more difficult than it was, that’s not why they didn’t build the Maginot line there. They didn’t build the line there because they were trying to get Belgium to ally with them, and assurances of “don’t worry Belgium we’ll totally protect you” ring a bit hollow when you spent a huge amount of money on fortifications on the wrong side of Belgium.

      • 10240 says:

        Why didn’t they help build fortifications on the right side then? Or did they?
        (Edit: Lillian has commented on it.)

    • Lillian says:

      The question of whether or not it was possible to move armoured units through the Ardennes did not really enter into the decision to not extend the Maginot Line, it was entirely political. You see, if the French extended the Line all the way to Dunkirk they would be tracing a defensive position that had Belgium on the wrong side of it, which was tantamount to openly stating that they were going to leave Belgium to the wolves, which in turn risked that the Belgians would ally with Germany in response.

      The straightforward solution to that would be to extend it to Antwerp instead, except that doing that would face a lot of thorny questions about who is paying for and manning all these fortifications. Moreover allowing such an extension would commit the Belgians to an alliance with France, which they were not prepared to do at the time the Maginot Line was built. Similar considerations were in play for Luxembourgh. The net result is the French decided to put static defences on the Franco-German border and use mobile forces to defend Belgium and Luxembourgh.

      That said the French did wrongly think the Ardennes was impractical terrain through which to conduct a large scale offensive. This was indeed a costly military blunder because it meant they did not position sufficient forces to counter such at an attack. Instead all their mobile forces were concentrated further north. You can see in this map that the French First and Seventh Armies, the Belgian Army, and the British Expeditionary Force, are all defending the frontage between the Ardennes and the Sea. While the similarly wide frontage covering the approach from the Ardennes is defend only by the French Ninth Army. This deployment allows the three armies of the German Army Group A to narrowly focus against the French Ninth Army, which of course proved unequal to the task of holding against such a force.

      • if the French extended the Line all the way to Dunkirk they would be tracing a defensive position that had Belgium on the wrong side of it, which was tantamount to openly stating that they were going to leave Belgium to the wolves, which in turn risked that the Belgians would ally with Germany in response.

        Why does that matter? It’s not like Belgium was a great power. It seems like defending their border is much more important than whatever Belgium thinks.

        • cassander says:

          the Belgians had a lot of fortifications and a not insubstantial army.

          More importantly, France also had a problem of strategic geography. A huge amount of French industry was located very close to the German border, which meant that in the event of a war, france would have lacked strategic depth. Surrendering ground would have put their industry at risk of capture (as did happen in ww1) and even if the armies could hold the line industry still would have been vulnerable to air attack. this made it far more attractive to fight over the border of Belgium than it did over the border of France.

        • Lillian says:

          In the French campaign the Allies had 144 divisions to defend against Germany’s 141 divisions, meaning that the balance between the two sides was roughly even. However 22 of the Allied divisions were Belgian, which means that if the Belgians had switched sides, it would have been 122 Allied divisions against 163 German ones, which is not so even. Belgium might not have been a great power, but you don’t need to be a great power yourself significantly alter the balance of strength between them. That’s why France cared about what Belgium thought.

          • But surely the French would have known that Belgium would fall after a few weeks anyways, so how much use could those units even be? WW1 was obviously a completely different thing but their strategy would have looked similar to how they won WW1, keeping the fighting going long enough for the British to starve the Germans out. Creating a weak link in their defense just seems so much worse than losing Belgium, who wasn’t even their ally anyways.

          • cassander says:

            @Wrong Species

            They didn’t expect belgium to fall after a few weeks. Their plan was to use the mechanized/motorized part of their army to rush into belgium to fight the germans there, preventing the fall and keeping them from having to fight on the soil of france.

        • Deiseach says:

          Why does that matter? It’s not like Belgium was a great power. It seems like defending their border is much more important than whatever Belgium thinks.

          Because Belgium has been the cockpit of war in Europe for centuries, and if you indicate that you’re going to hang Belgium out to dry, they’re not unnaturally going to try and cosy up with the other big potential invading army coming to march all over them, then you’ve got the enemy army right on your doorstep instead of handily separated from your border by a small country being marched over.

        • bean says:

          Why does that matter? It’s not like Belgium was a great power. It seems like defending their border is much more important than whatever Belgium thinks.

          1. Look at the length of the Franco-Belgian border and the Belgian-German border. Even including Luxembourg, the latter is much shorter than the former. This is a good thing, particularly if you assume Dutch neutrality will hold. (It did in WWI because it was far too useful as a way of smuggling stuff past the British blockade.)
          2. Belgium faces the only portion of the British coast that is easy to invade. This tends to make the British paranoid about who controls it. Explicitly excluding it from your perimeter is not going to make the Brits happy.
          3. It’s always better to have a war on someone else’s territory than on your own.

        • AlesZiegler says:

          It is not the case that that Franco-Belgian border was literary undefended. It was given low priority for French prewar fortification building projects compared to Franco-German and Franco-Italian borders, because Belgium, unlike Germany and Italy, was not expected to go to war with France and in case of war with Germany should be a useful ally or at least a massive buffer.

          Consequently, when war started, Franco-Belgian border was less fortified than Franco-Belgian border. Side note: same thing happened with Czechoslovak fortifications on Austrian border in 1938 (low priority, ups).

          However Allies put their best unit on Franco-Belgian border, which in theory should be more than ample compensation for its weak fortifications. Except in Ardennes. Border goes through Ardennes in southern Belgium. French units in Ardennes were allegedly some of the worst prepared from a whole borders facing army, since enemy was not expected to go through wooded hills of Ardennnes followed by Meuse river and in this area actually not so weak French fortifications. Germans attacked there with their best units.

          Part of the problem was that when Germans attacked Belgium, French and British troops assembled on Franco-Belgian border did not stayed in their positions, by this time probably well prepared for German attack (they had several months of war to improve them) but rushed into Belgium to establish new positions there, which was exactly what Germans needed.

    • bean says:

      The German High Seas Fleet. Not only did it not do anything useful, in the runup to the war, it actively pushed Britain into opposing Germany.

      As for the Ardennes, France was saddled with a truly terrible command structure during 1940. It was taking a couple of days for information from troops to reach the high command, and in at least one case, the information got to them through the British ambassador. If they’d had a reasonably responsive command structure, they’d have done OK.

      • Protagoras says:

        Yeah, my understanding is that the Ardennes push left the Germans overextended and highly vulnerable to a counter-attack. Gamelin took a long time to order the counter-attack, got fired, Weygand took over and cancelled Gamelin’s orders, and dithered and delayed before getting around to ordering the same thing. By the time any serious effort was made to launch the counter-attack, the Germans had reinforced their positions and the opportunity had passed.

      • proyas says:

        That’s an excellent example of a strategic blunder. Germany deciding to build up a fleet left them with the “worst of both worlds”: a fleet that was big enough to threaten the British into becoming their enemies, but not big enough to defeat the British navy after hostilities started.

        The German fleet was, in retrospect, a massive diversion of resources and men that would have been much more valuable in WWI had it been invested in Germany’s land forces.

    • johan_larson says:

      The Russians purged a heck of a lot of their military officers after the revolution. While they had a solid reason for doing so — forestalling the possibility of a counter-revolution — they paid a very high price for it in the early days of WWII. A more selective purging, focusing on the more aristocratic senior officers, might have been a better idea, particularly since the communists had already installed a network of political commissars to keep the soldiers in line.

    • Erusian says:

      My favorite example is a small one: it took the American military a few years to realize they were importing enough asphalt-pavement concrete to Vietnam to pave over the entire country of Vietnam annually. Turns out the Vietnamese local officials were overreporting their needs and reselling it for a profit.

      • LesHapablap says:

        That’s 75 billion metric tons of asphalt per year. It would take the entire world fleet of container ships and smaller ships at 13 years to move that amount of stuff between the US and Vietnam.

        • Erusian says:

          By my calculations, it’s 5-10 billion at most. I don’t confess to be familiar with the worldwide merchant fleet during the Vietnam period, or even its total capacity today. What are the numbers?

          At any rate, if someone does have the numbers, either on shipping or concrete, and wants to prove the anecdote wrong, I’m happy to take the correction. It comes from an old Vietnam War history textbook with a section on corruption.

        • LesHapablap says:

          For my calcs:
          Area of Vietnam: 331,000 km^2 or 331,000,000,000 m^2
          Depth of asphalt: .1m
          gives us a volume of 33 billion cubic metres
          Asphalt weighs 2.3 tons per cubic metre, for 76 billion tons

          Most bulk carrier ships carry around 50,000 tons, which means you’d be unloading 3 ships per minute, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year of asphalt

          The number I found for today’s container and cargo ship capacity was 346 million tons. I can’t find it again and I think bulk carrier ships would be more appropriate. I found some historical data which shows 200 million DWT in 1970 for all non-tanker ships.

      • bean says:

        I find that hard to believe, on the grounds that asphalt has a limited number of uses, and there’s no way they could possibly absorb enough to pave the whole country every year. I could believe that there was enough being sent to pave every official road in the country or something like that, with the surplus being diverted to unofficial roads, roofing, and so on. But that’s a very different number.

    • Auric Ulvin says:

      My understanding of the Ardennes was that German air power was the key ingredient. The French thought, fairly reasonably, that even if the panzers could break through the Ardennes, they could not bring with them the heavy artillery needed to break across the Meuse defensive line and create a beachhead on the other side of the river.

      Instead of artillery, Guderian got the Luftwaffe to destroy the defenses, letting his tanks and infantry reach the bridges unscathed (because the Luftwaffe also shot down all the crappy Allied light bombers).

      The French were sort-of right in assuming that the Germans couldn’t break through the Ardennes, indeed it was an astonishingly risky movement, sending the best parts of the Wehrmacht hundreds of kilometers into the Allied rear.

    • John Schilling says:

      What’s your favorite example of military stupidity, be it tactical or strategic?

      You mean, aside from starting land wars in Asia? Really, there’s a good long list of wars started by people who had no reasonable expectation of victory, and it’s hard to pick just one.

      But if you’re looking for something more specific, I’ll go with the RAF’s strategic bombing campaign against Germany. The parallel USAAF campaign at least tried to target industrial capabilities relevant to the German war effort, and had some significant effects along those lines. The RAF version was “that’s too hard and too dangerous, let’s just kill however many civilians it takes to make all the survivors just give up”, and found that there was no such number. Or at least none within their reach. Most martial stupidities just result in martial failure; this one resulted in martial failure plus pointless megamurder.

      • bean says:

        That’s a good one. I’m firmly of the opinion that Arthur Harris should have been in the dock at Nuremberg, not only for the bombing but also for reckless indifference to the lives of his men. I recall that the escape door on the Lancaster was slightly narrower than on the other bombers, which contributed to much higher crew losses. Wasn’t fixed until the war was almost over because he couldn’t be bothered.

        • Enkidum says:

          Is it that he couldn’t be bothered, or simply that it didn’t occur to them that this was the problem? I’d heard the second version, but only anecdotally.

          • bean says:

            My understanding is that Harris in particular couldn’t be bothered. The Operations Research people noticed the low crew survival rates in 1943 and quickly figured out what the problem was, but the change wasn’t made until 1945. There would have been some structural alterations, but nothing huge, and Bomber Command wasn’t willing to see even a small slowdown in production.

            (They weren’t alone in this. The US War Production Board killed the P-38K because it would have necessitated a 2 to 3 week delay in production, despite a huge gain in performance.)

          • Enkidum says:

            Ah ok, thanks for the information.

    • proyas says:

      Joseph Stalin’s poor grasp of warfare led to millions of needless deaths, mostly of his own citizens. Even before the fighting in the East started, Stalin had massively screwed up by positioning too much of his military in forward positions, such as occupied Poland, where they could be surprised and surrounded by any German attack. Some of the mass surrenders of Red Army divisions in 1941 were Stalin’s fault as well because he overrode his generals’ advice and sent his troops into hopeless battles or made them fight for indefensible areas.

      In 1942, the Red Army also suffered major losses because Stalin kept ordering his generals to attack the Germans all up and down the front line before the troops were actually ready (e.g. – enough men, tanks, fuel, and artillery to complete the battle’s objectives). Stalin’s recklessness rubbed off on many of his generals as well once he put them in competition with each other to complete various military objectives first or by an arbitrary deadline, regardless of the Red Army’s readiness for it.

      A long book can (and probably has been) written about Stalin’s costly errors before and during WWII.

    • Tarpitz says:

      This seems like a good place to plug the excellent alternate history timeline A Blunted Sickle, which posits a French decision to adopt a slightly different defensive plan early in 1940, coupled with a few lucky breaks, leading to a very different war. It argues pretty persuasively that the real life Germans got incredibly lucky.

      As for blunders I personally enjoy… maybe Halsey haring off after the toothless IJN carriers at Leyte in a valliant if ultimately doomed attempt to get the 7th fleet and 6th army wiped out at anchor?

    • DragonMilk says:

      humiliating the Mongol trade envoys…

    • proyas says:

      The Battle of Fredericksburg is one of the dumbest and most tragic U.S. Civil War battles, IMO. The Union’s campaign plan was actually OK, but it was foiled because of a paperwork mix-up in Washington, DC that left the army without the pontoon bridges that they knew they needed to cross a river and attack Fredericksburg. The Union force lost the crucial element of surprise as a result, as a huge mass of their troops was clearly visible on riverbank waiting for eight days, giving the Confederates ample time to move thousands of men into Fredericksburg and to dig defenses.

      The smart thing to do at that point would have been for the Union to accept its sunk costs and cancel the campaign, but they decided to go ahead with the attack anyway, building the bridges under heavy fire, crossing under fire, and then doing an uncreative frontal assault against the prepared Confederate positions. Even the execution of the frontal attack was flawed, so the Battle of Fredericksburg exemplified strategic and tactical failure on the part of the Union.

      The Union lost the battle, the casualties were lopsided, and Abraham Lincoln fired the Union general in charge a month later. It is also a key example of Robert E. Lee winning a battle thanks to his opponent’s mistakes rather than his own brilliance.

      • cassander says:

        The many screw ups in Mcclellan’s peninsula campaign are less obvious, but might add up to more overall fuckup. It was the single best chance to end the war relatively quickly (it had been on for less than a year at that point), and Mac squandered it.

        And frankly, Antietam also stands out. Yes, the north managed to eke out a victory, but it was so badly managed that something like half the union army didn’t even fight despite an overwhelming intelligence and large manpower advantage.

        • Protagoras says:

          I sometimes feel like people are too hard on Mac. The civil war is full of second tier generals not going where they were ordered to go, or doing what they were ordered to do, or getting there late, and generally failing to keep their superiors updated on any such problems and also failing to pass on other crucial information. Combinations of such factors produced many of the famous Union disasters. Mac’s caution at least meant none of the disasters happened on his watch; the great victories he could have won by being more aggressive would only have actually been great victories if he had both been more aggressive and some subordinate general’s incompetence hadn’t ended up completely disrupting the plan, which, again, happened over and over again to his more aggressive successors.

          • cassander says:

            Mac would have been great at Halleck’s job, but he routinely failed in the field largely because of his own neuroticism, vanity, and ambition while blaming everyone else. And I’d disagree that no disasters happened, his failure to press his advantages was a disaster.

    • abystander says:

      The attempted military coup to stop the Emperor from surrendering after 2 atomic bombs had been dropped on Japan. Fortunately it was stupid enough that the rest of the military didn’t go along.

  10. Vermillion says:

    I’d like to talk about the utility of genetic sequencing for individuals, but first a joke: A person is concerned about their health so they go to a doctor who runs some tests. The doctor returns looking very grave and says, “I have bad news. The tests show that you are going to die in just 10.”

    The patient is confused and asks, “10? 10 what? months? weeks?!?”

    “9.”

    *rimshot*

    Next generation sequencing, if you don’t know, is what came after Sanger sequencing which is the technique that was used in the original Human Genome project. Instead of sequencing (essentially) a single region of the genome at a time you can do massively parallel sequencing of many small fragments of DNA (or RNA) and then use fancy algorithms and giant server clusters to stitch it all together. This has some downsides, it’s difficult to get data for very repetitive of the genome, but there’s long read sequences tech that can overcome that. And anyway the cost to sequence a genome has dropped a lot: https://www.genome.gov/about-genomics/fact-sheets/DNA-Sequencing-Costs-Data.

    So, being able to read the sequence of the whole genome (or even just the coding regions) seems to me very powerful for looking at populations, and for predicting treatment responses for certain drugs, most notably in cancer. This is because a small number of diseases, most notably cancer, can be traced to specific mutations (deletions, duplications, fusions) in certain genes that turn out to be very good targets for things like immunotherapy. And that’s excellent, truly, there’s never been a better time to get cancer.

    But somehow it doesn’t feel like enough. Like Gwern , I wonder why there hasn’t been a bigger payoff from the Human Genome Project? Why aren’t there efficacious treatments for every disease, not just certain cancers? And I have some ideas.

    1) Deep sequencing is not deep enough: knowing the DNA sequence is good but maybe it’s more important to know about the expression, by doing NGS on RNA or looking at protein expression with mass spectrometry. Related, I’m not super familiar with this but mass-spec feels like a very old school technology, difficult to do and expensive, and maybe that’s holding proteomics back.

    2) If we look at getting more information from an individual we should probably look at multiple tissues and time points, DNA is DNA but expression is going to be radically different in the muscles, or the organs, or the brain. Would we need a sample from someone every day? Every hour? How many time points are necessary to find useful patterns?

    3) Speaking of finding useful patterns it seems like we’d need machine learning to actually get anything useful out of what’s otherwise so many bits of nucleic acid. But a human is not a game of Go, how would you actually train it? Maybe start at the extremes like sampling in a hospice and from Olympic athletes. This is something I know basically nothing about, but there seems to be a lot of interest in AI assisted drug development from pharma companies recently.

    If anyone else has ideas I’d love to hear them.

    • Deiseach says:

      Like Gwern , I wonder why there hasn’t been a bigger payoff from the Human Genome Project? Why aren’t there efficacious treatments for every disease, not just certain cancers?

      Because biology and biochemistry is freakin’ complicated. All the hard science guys turning their noses up at “pressed flower collecting” have no idea that it’s not a simple (or even complex) system that can be broken down into repeatable and generalisable steps. What happens in vitro can be completely different in vivo, which is why expensive and long-time-taking clinical trials and not simply rushing a new drug to market straight out of the test-tube.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      I mean we’re working on it, it’s just a really tall order. Personalized medicine is very hard and as such very expensive: for example, my institution routinely makes PDX models of cancer (injecting cancer cells from a patient subcutaneously into an immunodeficient mouse) to test how particular patients might respond to drug treatment but we’re one of only a handful of places in the world who do. This sort of thing is going to be routine in a decade but that represents the output of entire careers of work by hundreds of incredibly talented scientists and physicians.

      1. RNA-seq and mass spec are very standard techniques, and there are a lot of other high-throughput ways of getting information on gene and protein expression. If you want to look at histone modifications or transcription factor binding there’s ChIP-seq; if you want to look at the 3-D structure of the chromatin there’s Hi-C and a hundred other chromatin conformation capture assays; if you want to look at chromatin accessibility or nucleosome positioning there’s ATAC-seq, DNAse-seq, etc.; if you want to look at DNA methylation, there’s bisulfite sequencing and other methods; if you want to look at ribosomes and other proteins bound to RNA there’s RIP-seq. Recently, nanopore sequencing has been adapted for protein sequencing although it’s still very error-prone.

      2. Generally speaking there’s no reason to sequence a patient’s RNA. If you’re doing RNA-seq in a medical setting it’s almost certainly on tumor samples, because you can check for misexpression of oncogenes, try to find oncogenic fusion proteins, and/or identify the cancer subtype by transcriptional profiling. Maybe that will change down the line but right now that’s where we are.

      3. We use a lot of sophisticated computational tools to work with bioinformatic data but just throwing genomes into a black box hasn’t proved to be very fruitful. That’s basically what a GWAS is and while they can be helpful they’re not considered particularly strong evidence.

    • AG says:

      Well, recently a study on the gene that the Chinese dude CRISPR’d out of those babies shows that the people who have the altered gene are at higher risk for other things.

      The interaction effects are just too unknown, and likely so complex that changing them for pareto improvements might be impossible.

  11. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Buddhists use a year numbering system in which Year 0 is the physical death of Gautama Buddha, some time between March 11 545 BC and May 13 544 BC.
    However, Western historians say they’re wrong: in the early 20th century they propagated a date of c. 483 BC for his death (parinirvana), and since the 1980s have started propagating a time as late as c. 400 BC. Why?
    Well, it turns out that Indian history is anchored to Western history by the Edicts of Ashoka. The king who had these far-flung inscriptions (from Kandahar to Bengal and the Deccan) made claims to have converted to dhamma, meaning in context Buddhism, after winning an unjust war in Year 8 of his reign. Major Rock Edict XIII says:

    “… but this by Beloved of the Gods, viz, the conquest by morality. And this (conquest) has been won repeatedly by Beloved of the Gods both [here] and among all (his) borderers, even as far as at six hundred yojanas [more than 3,600 miles] where the Yona [Ionian, synecdoche for “Greeks” used by Eastern foreigners] king named Antiyoga (is ruling), and beyond this Antiyoga, (where) four kings (are ruling), named Tulamaya, named Antekina, named Maka, named Alikyashudala…”

    Since Indo-Aryan languages used -a as a masculine noun suffix, “Antiyoga” would render the “Yona” name Antiogos or close to that. This one name makes the earliest possible date of Ashoka’s Year 8 281 BC, and identifying some of the other four names pushes it later:

    Ptolemy: any time from 305-30 BC
    Antigonus II: from 277 BC
    Magas of Cyrene: from 276 BC
    Alexander (II of Epirus?): from 272 BC

    Since chronicles of Indian history say Ashoka came to the throne 218 years after the parinirvana, there’s a minimum 545-498 = 47 year discrepancy between the Buddhist and Classical-Christian Eras.

    • S_J says:

      That sounds like it is roughly equivalent to Dionysus Exiguus was wrong about the year of the birth of Jesus.

      It’s interesting to note, and is one of several places where historians can say “your original reckoning wasn’t quite right.”

  12. Atlas says:

    Speculative conjecture:

    Is it just me, or is reading comprehension (and/or writing ability) not actually a very useful skill to have in the current labor market?

    You know, growing up I heard a lot about how important being well-read, knowing how to write clearly, etc. were in Today’s Job Market. But I look at data on lifetime earnings by major , and I can’t help but notice that quantitative majors like engineering, computer science and physics are at the top while majors like English language and literature, history and sociology are at the middle or bottom. (I’m an economics and political science double major.) I think about fields where reading and writing are important skills, and they all seem to…kind of suck and be oversupplied these days?

    Thankfully, law school enrollment has fallen a bit (by ~30%) since Professor Paul Campos published his book Don’t Go to Law School, but it looks suspiciously to me like the decline has plateaued and is starting to reverse. According to the BLS:

    Despite the projected growth in new jobs for lawyers, competition for jobs should continue to be strong because more students are graduating from law school each year than there are jobs available. According to the American Bar Association’s National Lawyer Population Survey, a compilation of data collected by state bar associations or licensing agencies, there were over 1.3 million resident and active attorneys as of December 2016. Some law school graduates who have been unable to find permanent positions turn to temporary staffing firms that place attorneys in short-term jobs. These firms allow companies to hire lawyers as needed and permit beginning lawyers to develop practical experience. Many other law school graduates and licensed lawyers end up finding work in other occupations or industries due to the difficulty in finding jobs with traditional legal employers.

    The academic job market is, by all accounts, a nightmare. The headline “journalists laid off” seems to be reprinted by the fewer and fewer remaining journalists quite a bit recently. Anecdotally, people I know with training/skills in the humanities seem to often either struggle to find stable, well-paying employment or have to learn how to do something actually useful technical like computer programming, while people with technical interests/skills get good offers and make pretty good money right out of college.

    Therefore, I kind of think that there is a consistent oversupply of people who want to do a job where they read/write for a living relative to the demand for reading/writing. Which worries me, because reading/writing is my area of comparative advantage. (If you’ve been unimpressed with my writing here previously, fair enough, but, trust me, I suck even more at everything else.) So…thoughts?

    • SamChevre says:

      Quibble: the math-heavy majors don’t have as much writing as the humanities, but they require a good bit of writing. In my observation, most math-y professionals are as good at ‘Strunk and White style’ writing as lawyers are.

      • Atlas says:

        Sure, sounds plausible enough to me, but I think it’s consistent with my general thesis.

    • dodrian says:

      Writing still gives a comparative advantage, but you need to pair it with other skills.

      I was hired as part of a new team in a technology role, and was initially concerned that my experience was lackluster compared to my teammates. A few months later I’m being floated for a promotion, and while I was correct that some of my new colleagues have better technical chops, my ability to read and research, and to write good reports while plodding along with the actual work has made me more valuable to the company.

      So yes, it does look like you might struggle to find a career where you just write, if you can pair good reading/writing/comprehension with something you’re mediocre at you can probably do well for yourself.

      • Matt M says:

        This.

        I think the issue here is being confused. The argument that should be made is something like “Within any given field, holding all else equal, those who are well read and good at communicating clearly in writing will hold an advantage over their peers.” That is clearly true. But it does not imply that specific fields that rely on being well read and good at writing will hold an advantage over other more scientific of mathematical fields.

        The advantage to being able to write well is that it is darn near universally preferable. There are very few professions in which being a better writer won’t help you succeed.

        Being “well read” is more usefully thought of as a social skill. The well read person will be thought of by others as being intelligent, which is quite useful and helpful, even if having read Moby Dick doesn’t actually make you a better engineer.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      It seems to me I’ve seen an offensive recently by the “English Majors guild” trying to tell us that getting a major in writing-heavy humanities is greatly appreciated by employers and so it is a great idea to major in that area. The theory is that learning to write and think, supposedly taught in these majors, is what employers really want, and the other skills can be taught on the job. I think these arguments are equivalent to whistling when walking by the cemetery.

      In reality it’s the other way around. Learning technical job related skills, especially the quantitative type, is what employers really want. Learning to write can be done on the job. I had a somewhat quantitative major (Accounting) but I also had to take a number of writing courses. But I didn’t really learn to write well until I needed to do so professionally, on the job. Before that, I didn’t really understand the difference between good and bad writing. It was trying to write up coherent procedures and e-mails for co-workers that taught me what I needed to know.

      Actually, it is simpler than that. I think Bryan Caplan is probably right, that 80% of the value of a college degree is signaling. Everyone knows that quantitative degrees almost always take more intelligence and studying than liberal arts degrees, so everything else equal, one should prefer a graduate with a quantitative degree. Also, it is quite common for humanities majors to be absolutely hopeless with numbers, whereas most numbers type people can reach at least a decent level of writing. Most business jobs require both numbers and writing skills.

      You can discount everything I say because I have never been highly involved in recruiting, although I’ve hired a few folks over the years in Accounting. But this is certainly my impression.

      • Clutzy says:

        I think Bryan Caplan is probably right, that 80% of the value of a college degree is signaling. Everyone knows that quantitative degrees almost always take more intelligence and studying than liberal arts degrees,

        I suspect its this, plus the bad structure universities have which requires math/engineering majors to take humanities classes with humanities majors, but let the humanities people take “Statistics for non-majors” or something similar as their only math course. So degrees are asymmetric. An engineering graduate is necessarily a polymath at least to some extent.

        • Garrett says:

          FWIW, my engineering degree had a “statistics for engineers” course, and I was never quite sure how to interpret that qualifier.

          • The Nybbler says:

            It wasn’t statistics, but the “physics for engineers” course I was exposed to in college taught the same concepts as regular physics, but the problems never included round numbers. (I was taking the regular course and one of my roommates was taking the “for engineers” course).

          • Clutzy says:

            We had that. The savvy engineers didn’t take it, because the average math skill was higher so you’d have to be better to get an A.

          • quaelegit says:

            We had three physics tracks: regular, “for pre-meds”, and “honors”. Physics majors mostly took honors, although some took the regular track (which otherwise was mostly engineers, chemists, and maybe math majors?)

            We also did have some “writing for engineers”-type-classes. Probably only got you out of one or two required humanities courses (of 6 total). BUT engineering students were also more likely to come in with lots of AP/IB/community college credit that let them pass out of more breadth classes. If you optimized for avoiding humanities majors, you could probably get it down to one or two breadth classes that you could choose to take pass/no-pass.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I believe there’s no substitute for actually needing to communicate. Writing for a teacher who’s trying to simulate an audience just isn’t the same.

        • LesHapablap says:

          From my limited experience, teachers are grading ideas first and grammar second. Clear communication isn’t graded at all (or taught). In some ways clarity is discouraged, since most assignments have a minimum length.

          The exception for me was an honors technical writing course in university which emphasized clear, concise writing. It taught me all sorts of things and was much more valuable than any of the literature-based English classes I took.

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        Learning to write can be done on the job

        Learning to write has to be done on the job. I’ve never had a single school assignment even remotely similar to professional writing. Professional writing is mostly emails and SOPs, not 5 paragraph essays and not one-page memos.

        • Matt M says:

          Indeed. Most academic writing instruction is quite poor and quite ill-suited to teaching people something like “How to effectively communicate in the modern workplace.”

          That said, it presumably doesn’t *have* to be this way…

      • Matt M says:

        It seems to me I’ve seen an offensive recently by the “English Majors guild” trying to tell us that getting a major in writing-heavy humanities is greatly appreciated by employers and so it is a great idea to major in that area.

        The employers themselves and their push to be seen as “valuing diversity” are at least partially to blame for this, IMO.

        I once worked in the top-tier strategy consulting environment. It was true that every year, we’d hire a few humanities majors or political science majors or former artists or whatever. And we’d make a really big deal about it too. Those people would always be the ones with smiling faces on the brochure talking about how cool it was that even people without business degrees can get jobs at such places!

        … That said, the other 95% of our incoming classes were business majors and MBAs.

        So, like, it’s not untrue that a Humanities major can get hired by McKinsey or whatever. But it’s also overwhelmingly true that if you want to get hired by McKinsey, you’re about a million times better off going into business rather than humanities…

        • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

          But it’s also overwhelmingly true that if you want to get hired by McKinsey, you’re about a million times better off going into business rather than humanities…

          That doesn’t necessarily follow; presumably the vast majority of applicants (especially if you control for interest) are also business majors.

    • Ouroborobot says:

      I work in tech, and reading comprehension is important, but not in a way that employers directly screen for it IME. Writing less so, which is probably why so much of the documentation I’ve had to sift through is damn near incomprehensible. Most of my coworkers can’t seem to write to save their lives, and I’m middling on a good day. I’m a data engineer. Perhaps contrary to stereotype, my “verbal” test scores always outpaced my math scores. I got a perfect verbal GRE score, but only a little above average on math and dead average on writing. Logical reasoning and strong natural curiosity are the primary traits I look for when interviewing juniors, but I do make a point to ask them if they’ve ever written for a lay audience or produced documentation. I guess it’s not really what you were driving at and I can’t really speak to the value of a degree in English or anything, but even in tech it’s important to be able to write well and it’s probably undervalued. I’ve personally seen plenty of business value destroyed by misunderstood or incompetently expressed concepts.

      • Matt M says:

        I work in tech, and reading comprehension is important, but not in a way that employers directly screen for it IME.

        Right. It seems to me that in most non-Academic jobs, being good at reading/writing is not screened directly. Which means, having those skills won’t necessarily help you get the job.

        However, there’s a second question as to whether possessing those skills really will help you do well in the job or not. If so, then they not only will help you keep the job/promote, but given that they were unscreened, having them will likely set you apart even further from your competition (many of whom won’t have them, if we assume random variation in unscreened skills).

        In other words, if you believe employers can/do perfectly screen for all of the most useful skills in the interview process, there’s no need to develop other skills. But if they aren’t so good at this, it might be very helpful indeed…

      • Garrett says:

        One of my best experiences at a previous job was working with several technical writers to write “man” pages for our product. Despite my best efforts to shift the work to people who knew writing, it worked out best where I’d do the complete initial draft, get it reviewed by someone in engineering to make sure I hadn’t messed up the technical aspects, and then work with the technical writer to ensure that the phrasing became useful without losing accuracy. This involved writing both clearly and concisely and greatly improved my writing in that scope.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        I work in tech, and reading comprehension is important, but not in a way that employers directly screen for it IME.

        Well there is one place where writing is screened — the resume. I have read a number of resumes, and many of them are really bad. I have certainly been less inclined to hire people with bad resumes. Of course some people may have their resumes professionally created, so there may be some false positives of good writing. But based on the resumes I’ve read, most don’t so this.

        • Ouroborobot says:

          I think that’s true to a certain extent, although resume writing is a bit of a special case. It certainly tests your ability to research standard structures, identify which skills and accomplishments are actually relevant to the job, express them in a coherent manner, and do all of this with attention to detail. You’d think this wouldn’t be too difficult, but apparently it is. What they don’t do a good job testing for is the ability to express complex ideas in longer form. Paragraph structure, sequencing of thoughts, and so on. A lot of people suck at this, and I think I’m one of them. Part of it is simply lack of any kind of real experience or training, and part of it is my inability to step outside my existing knowledge and think in terms of how someone else thinks and digests information.

    • CatCube says:

      I can’t speak to, say, programming, but in my own field (civil/structural engineering), the ability to write is critical; it’s just as important as your technical ability. If I my boss gave me a new Engineer-In-Training to work on my critical project and he or she couldn’t read or write, I’d give the EIT back as worthless to me. The first thing I’d give them is the 300-page Design Documentation Report covering the decisions we’ve already made on the project, to include all of the various features I might ask them to design, as well as the loads and load cases they’ll be required to support.

      I can hold their hand while they learn the arithmetic bitchwork required to actually crank out a design (or, more properly, how to make the software we use do the bitchwork for them), but if I have to help them read….

      I spend as much time documenting decisions and inspections as I do actually performing the work. If I can’t explain what I saw or what I designed in a way that non-structural-engineers can understand, I may as well not have done the work at all. Communication is absolutely critical for this job, and if you can’t communicate what you’ve done you are useless.

    • LesHapablap says:

      The importance of writing well is not going to show up in earnings figures for humanities degrees because those degrees are useless in every other respect (are they even useful for learning to write well?). You might as well claim that because fashion degrees don’t make much money, dressing yourself properly isn’t valued in the workplace.

      • AlesZiegler says:

        +1

      • AG says:

        There sure is a lot of High Art Literature out there that has horrible prose, and the great texts of Philosophy are often even worse, so yeah, success in the humanities seems to coincide with defecting from good writing.

    • Deiseach says:

      A decent level of reading and writing is one of those things that are assumed to be part of your skillset, the same way it’s assumed you’ll turn up to work dressed and not in your birthday suit, or won’t eat a raw carcass you hauled in, dripping and bloody, at the shared lunch table.

      I think it is a useful skill because I see so much poor ability, but it’s presumed that “you got through school, you’re a native English speaker, you can read above ‘C-A-T spells cat’ level”.

      And for all the techies going “Well, I don’t need no fancy readin’ and ritin’ skills in my high-skills, high-powered, high-paid job”, this is why low-level clerical people like me get your productions and have to turn them into intelligible English for the bosses to read in the monthly/quarterly reports 🙂

    • helloo says:

      Ability to google and convince others seem to be more vital than before in basically all fields.
      Those seem to rely a good deal on reading comprehension and writing ability,

      Perhaps not in the learned essay/thesis format of higher education, but even then, the importance of presentation, notes and commenting, and such was often stated if not graded.

    • John Schilling says:

      Is it just me, or is reading comprehension (and/or writing ability) not actually a very useful skill to have in the current labor market?

      As I mentioned an OT ago, we demand a writing sample and a one-hour live presentation from all applicants here. There’s very little value in Knowing Lots of Stuff if you can’t communicate it effectively to other people, and for communicating lots of stuff there is no real substitute for text.

      That doesn’t mean that English majors are going to be the kings of the economic world, because there’s also very little value in being able to communicate effectively if you don’t know anything worth communicating. But in all the fields that aren’t explicitly [Language] or Communications, and especially the STEM fields, writing is highly undervalued.

      • Dan L says:

        A writing sample from one’s professional career, or something novel for the application? Knowing the field, it wouldn’t surprise me if you frequently run into candidates unable to share anything since school.

        • John Schilling says:

          Something professional or academic, and most every candidate has something they can share.

    • DragonMilk says:

      Completely disagree – especially when it comes to business deals or legal agreements, it’s vital you quickly read and understand what’s being proposed, and respond in a crafty way with lack of a better term

    • Matt says:

      That’s a tough one. I went to grad school with a bunch of students who spoke English as a second language. I was the only American-born student in my professor’s stable of graduate students. In fact, I got on as a co-author for a couple of extra publications where my primary task was to act as a buffer between a student with very poor English skills and our professor. Progress reports went from Mr. Bad English to me for review before heading to the professor, and so did publication drafts.

      Where I am now, pretty much everyone must be a US citizen, though some few have come to it later in life than others and have not-so-great English skills. That said, I don’t really notice much bad writing in our work product or our inter-office communications. We’re writing for precision, simplicity, and clarity. The kind of writeups where exceptional writing might be helpful happen elsewhere in our program, I guess. Where the upper management is doing PR, I suppose.

    • Etoile says:

      Well, if the sufferers are mostly the bottom 10% of lawyers and journalists who aren’t actually that good at the reading and writing, or at the most important aspect – critical thinking (which is not equivalent to reading/writing), then it’s not the skill but the oversaturation of the field with subpar candidates.
      I don’t know how much this is the case though.

  13. Anaxagoras says:

    I’ve lately started growing some crystals. So far, I’ve made bismuth and copper, and both have gone quite well. This seems to be the lowest hanging fruit, and I’d appreciate people’s thoughts on the next steps.

    The leading contender for a next step is opal (yes, this isn’t technically a crystal). I found a reasonable-seeming technique here (https://ourpastimes.com/grow-opals-5453934.html) that uses pretty much just household supplies — does this actually seem like it might work? I know growing opals is possible from reading a couple patents on it (such as here: http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=HITOFF&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsearch-bool.html&r=13&f=G&l=50&co1=AND&d=PTXT&s1=opal.TI.&OS=TTL/opal&RS=TTL/opal), but I don’t know if this simpler method would actually work. I could get the TEOS substance, and hopefully I won’t poison myself or anything. Another article (here: http://www.attawaygems.com/NMFG/Program_speaker__scott_willson_Opal.html) seems to suggest this isn’t as easy as it looks.

    An interesting early source I found on opal-making was a creationist website. Creationists are always looking to prove that billions of years are not necessary to make the world as we see it. One Australian creationist geologist, Len Cram, tried to debunk the notion that opals require a long time to form by making them himself. According to the creationist websites, he succeeded. And I actually think they’re telling the truth here. Certainly, I’ve not seen any dispute of his claims (though possibly due to obscurity?) and there is a bunch of synthetic opal being made and sold that I gather is chemically identical to the real stuff. Another source that did not prove useful was these weirdly creepy YouTube videos of a guy with a very sinister laugh and voice evaluating a bunch of opals.

    I’m also considering trying rubies. These seems simple enough: take aluminum oxide (which can be bought cheap online), mix in some titanium oxide (also cheap enough), and then heat it really, really hot. I’d probably need a hydrogen-oxygen blowtorch, which seems potentially dangerous. I’d love to set up something using the Verneuil Process (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Verneuil_process), but that again seems hard and dangerous.

    Lastly, I could maybe do aluminum crystals. I can do a replacement reaction that switches the dissolved copper salt solution I’m using for a dissolved aluminum salt. I think I could maybe do the exact same process I use for growing copper crystals, just substituting aluminum for the copper. I don’t know if this would work, or if aluminum crystals are really worth it anyhow.

    Anyone know about this? Anyone else grown crystals?

    • Erusian says:

      Can I just register my interest? I don’t have any experience but I’d love to take this up as a hobby. I have experience in making jewelry so I’d love to grow some of my own gems.

    • I’m also considering trying rubies. These seems simple enough: take aluminum oxide (which can be bought cheap online), mix in some titanium oxide (also cheap enough), and then heat it really, really hot.

      The usual form of synthetic corundum is a boule, not a crystal, so my guess is that growing crystals of ruby takes more than just heat.

      • Protagoras says:

        A boule seems to be a shape of crystal, not an alternative to a crystal.

        • The ones I have seen are a smooth curve. Crystals are normally polyhedra.

          Boule n. A pear-shaped synthetic sapphire, ruby, or other alumina-based gem, produced by fusing and tinting alumina.

          • Another Throw says:

            Take it as you may, but Wikipedia says a boule is a single crystal in that it lacks internal grain boundaries.

          • Lambert says:

            When crystals naturally grow in a polyhedron, it’s because they’re immersed in a substance where more crystal will condense out.
            (Water rich in sillicate ions around quarz, humid air around snowflakes, molten bismuth around solid bismuth.)
            it’s energetically favourable for it to condense in a way that forms polyhedra. (don’t ask me why, go find a chemist or something)
            The critical thing is that the crystal does not fill up all the space or medium available for it to grow.

            A boule, on the other hand, is made by dropping molten stuff on a seed crystal. All of the molten medium crystalises, and the shape of the boule is the result of the shape the molten alumina or whatever forms.

            You can probably see the distinction most easily with bismuth. (you can buy ingots for cheap online and melt it on a stove)
            If you let a fraction of the bismuth solidify, and then remove the solid from the liquid, you get fascinating shapes. If you let the whole thing cool, it’s still crystalline inside, but the whole solid is just the shape of whatever ladle you made it in.

          • Mea Culpa.

            Having been corrected by several people here and my geologist/mineralogist wife, I concede that a boule is a crystal in a technical sense. I interpreted “growing crystals” as meaning producing crystal shaped crystals–what happens if you start with a super saturated sugar solution, say, and leave it.

    • broblawsky says:

      I’m a materials scientist, and I’ve done a lot of materials synthesis in the past.

      The synthetic opal production process in the patent will probably work if done correctly. However, avoid using any precursor that has a methyl or methyoxy group; stick with TEOS, it’s pretty safe. I have difficulty believing that the ion exchange process described in the ourpasttimes.com link will work well, but it doesn’t sound particularly difficult or expensive. However, I would recommend extreme caution if you try to burn aluminum powder. The temperatures produced can melt steel.

      With regards to growing rubies: most likely, the technique you describe will yield an opaque, possibly vaguely ruby-colored mass without any meaningful translucency. Producing optically transparent gemstones requires an extremely low density of defects in their crystal structure, which is difficult to achieve with just a blowtorch. Creating an optically transparent boule (or one adequate for semiconductor processing, in the case of a silicon boule) requires extremely even heating, not just high temperatures; differences in solidification rates will produce crystal defects that will prevent transparency. If you’re at all concerned about your ability to safely handle a blowtorch, I would advise that you not try this.

      Aluminum growth won’t work with the process you describe, simply because there are no aluminum salts that can be safely dissolved and reprecipitated from an aqueous solution. Aluminum dissolution and reprecipitation requires nonaqueous solvents.

      Sorry to be such a bummer.

      • Anaxagoras says:

        I have no intention of burning aluminum; that seems dangerous even to my inexperienced eye. I’m pretty sure that’s just to get aluminum oxide, which I can buy online for pretty cheap.

        Regarding the aluminum: what have I produced? I started with a solution of copper sulfate dissolved in water, added some aluminum foil, then a pinch of salt, and waited for the reaction to pretty much complete. The copper came out of the solution to replace the aluminum in the foil, which seems to have vanished. I assume it’s now dissolved in the solution. Am I wrong about this? Or will it not reprecipitate properly? What would happen?

        Do you know of any other non water-soluble crystals that might be within reach of an amateur?

        • mustacheion says:

          I believe in that reaction you produced soluble aluminum hydroxide, not aluminum oxide. I imagine you can make a hydroxide crystal just fine, though I do not know much about the properties of aluminum hydroxide, it certainly isn’t going to be as cool as actual sapphire.

          Also, sapphire melts at an extremely hot temperature, well above that of steel. It is extremely difficult to handle, because so few materials remain solid at those temperatures. In theory an oxyhydrogen torch flame can reach a high enough temperature to melt it, but I suspect you would have a lot of trouble getting your heating setup efficient enough to actually heat the alumina enough to melt it. Especially without also destroying your crucible.

        • broblawsky says:

          You need to fuse the aluminum oxide nanoparticles produced by bringing together to produce an opal. Aluminum oxide powder probably won’t work.

          You could try making a Diana’s Tree. Any of the old alchemical demonstrations should be well within the grasp of a modern amateur.

  14. cassander says:

    So who else wasn’t impressed with season 5 of Black Mirror? I’m pretty sure they were the 3 worst episodes in the show’s history.

    • ariel says:

      I really liked the trans porno episode, or the trans porno scenes anyway. I got halfway through the uber kidnapping episode before giving up. It has like ten minutes of content, and the episode is an hour long?!? Haven’t peeked at episode three yet.

    • sty_silver says:

      I thought all three of them were mid-tear for Black Mirror standards – perhaps slightly below mid-tier. Which is to say, pretty great.

      • cassander says:

        I don’t understand this. The second was about the evils of texting while driving! And 2 of the three had happy endings. There was none of the tragic falls of the best earlier episodes.

        • sty_silver says:

          I was talking about quality specifically, they can be different but roughly equally good.

          I think there’s a “doesn’t take themselves seriously” category for BM episodes which so far consisted of just USS Callister. With the Ashley Too episode, that category now consists of two episodes. They both have an exceedingly unlikely plot, they both have pretty silly science fiction, and they both have a very satisfying over-the-top happy ending. They’re clearly much more similar to each other than they are to anything else. So it’s not the biggest departure to make another episode in that style.

          I think the meditaiton stuff in the texting episode was very tasteful, and it’s sort of made relevant by the fact that Jack Dorsey (CEO of twitter) also goes on silent retreats. The critique on social media isn’t just nuanced, I think it’s actually accurate. That makes it pretty special. So, yeah, I appreciate that one for the commentary angle that I think is very unusually spot on. It’s important that it takes place in 2018 rather than the near future. But I have a pretty easy time seeing how that one can feel underwhelming.

          Well, and the first one probably needs the least amount of justifying. So yeah, the set of things I like has changed, but my appreciation has stayed roughly constant.

    • Opposite end of the spectrum here – thought it was the best season so far. I reckon it’s a lot about what one is even hoping to see in the episodes.

      For example (not to imply this is what you’re looking for, but I’ve seen people lament the absence of this in the latest season, so it comes to mind), I’m not looking for any of the episodes to teach me a moral lesson or ask cool sci-fi ethics questions (I get much better material from fiction, e.g. Greg Egan).

      On the other hand, I legit found Smithereens the best ep’ so far, because to my viewing, it just seemed the most plausible on several levels (although admittedly not all), and I took a lot of enjoyment out of that. Was very surprised to see a lot of hate for this one; one of those rare times I can’t relate at all, but I guess YMMV.

      (That said, I did love the episodes White Bear and Metalhead from previous seasons, independent of their plausibility.)

  15. ariel says:

    Who should actually do a PhD? I have a lot of friends in PhD programs, and almost none of them seem to like it, and my friends who’ve completed their PhD’s aren’t even using them (e.g. getting a math PhD and then working in journalism). I can see the value in starting a PhD so as to get paid to do a masters (and then dropping out), or as a way to gain an American visa. But are there any jobs that actually require a PhD, or that benefit from having done a PhD instead of having gotten 5+ years of industry experience? Probably there are some super gatekeep’y professions like in medicine (oh, I guess becoming a professor is like this… although even that holy grail seems pretty crummy compared to the kind of job someone that smart could get). And I guess “PhD from Harvard” sounds impressive enough that the signaling value can still be worth it? The final reason I can think of is if the top, top labs are all in academia (e.g. basic bio research?) Overall this comes out to maybe 5% of the people actually doing PhD’s…

    • johan_larson says:

      You should get a PhD if the job you want requires you to have one, either formally or de facto. Period.

      The jobs that require you to have one are professorships and some industrial research positions. I think some employers looking for quanty financial analysts and machine learning people also look for PhDs, but I expect there are others in this forum who can comment on that more knowledgeably.

      Pursuing a PhD for any other reason is typically a bad deal. You can make much more money in industry than working as a research assistant, and five to seven years of work experience is typically more valuable than a PhD. Working conditions are better, too.

      • Chalid says:

        It’s much easier to get hired as a finance quant with a PhD, but it’s not impossible for an undergrad to break in. If you want to be a quant and can get a decent job out of undergrad that’s definitely what you should do. (Problem is there are a lot of bad jobs, especially for undergrads, and that can put you onto a bad career path generally.)

      • Working conditions are better, too.

        I got a PhD that I didn’t end up using, which fits the arguments being made here. But so far as working conditions, they were much more attractive than I think a standard 9-5 job would have been. Classes aside I set my own schedule, and I was learning interesting things.

        Similarly for being a professor, which is probably the most common job a PhD is supposed to qualify someone for. Perhaps things have gotten much worse more recently. But I found it, on the whole, an enjoyable career. I got to teach interesting things, try to solve interesting puzzles, write books and articles. There are probably other things I could have done that would have paid more, but I’m not sure they would have been more enjoyable. I like to say that being a professor is better than working for a living—except when you are grading exams.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      Nobody should. It’s a huge mistake.

      Everyone told us that it will be a mistake so we don’t have an excuse for not having listened. But goddamn, everyone who’s smart and motivated enough to get into a top STEM PhD program has so many better options that it’s not even funny. It’s like flypaper for geeks.

      Maybe I’ll change my mind in a few years when I can force co-workers at my non-academic job to call me “Doctor [REDACTED]” but right now I just want to die. That’s not dark millennial humor, I’m 99% serious.

      • Lillian says:

        One of my friends has a Ph.D. in Biology, he is gainfully employed selling car insurance, nobody at work calls him Doctor.

      • quanta413 says:

        Nobody told me 🙁 Maybe one or two people I didn’t know well said something and I forgot. That’s about it. My father didn’t warn me even though his father had warned him (and my grandfather didn’t think to warn me either, although it would have been hard for him to know in time; I only see him a couple times a year).

        But I made sure to tell any undergrads I worked with, mentored, or taught “Seriously. Just Don’t. Unless maaaaybe if your goal is to teach at a liberal arts college. You’ll be required to have the Ph.D. although it will have little relevance to teaching.” Although I don’t encourage that choice either even if it’s not as tough as landing a tenure-track professorship at an R1.

        I mean, it’s not the worst choice in the world, but it’s a pretty poor one for most people who make it. I enjoyed large parts of my research, but it just took too damn long, the payoff is too low, and well… many other complaints.

      • Walter says:

        I hope you feel better. Remember that drastic lifestyle changes are way safer than death.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          Thanks. I’m going to be ok, I have a good support network and lots of psychiatric medicine.

          It’s just been a very rude awakening. This is what I had always wanted to do since I was a little kid, and I still love science including the topic of my thesis. I can get through the rest of my PhD, and at this point it looks better to finish than to leave with a master’s degree, but I can’t and won’t continue any further in academia past this.

          • Walter says:

            Good luck. I urge you to quit and do other stuff if the alternative is ever killing yourself.

      • Kestrellius says:

        “The Adventures of Doctor [REDACTED], [DATA EXPUNGED] Extraordinaire”

        Has a nice ring to it.

      • nameless1 says:

        Better get out of it than die. I know a physics guy dropping out of PhD. He did nothing for half a year and then got a decently paid teaching job at a boarding school in the UK. Because he always wanted to teach, not research. If he wanted to research, that would have been okay, too. He told me not finishing PhD is still a plus on one’s resume at looking for a job as opposed to not even trying. It shows that you are ambitious and capable, you just changed your mind which is a normal human thing.

    • Enkidum says:

      I’m an academic from a family of academics who more or less believes in higher education as having intrinsic value, and I guess my answer is “about 80% less people than currently get one”.

      Universities shouldn’t be job training, and they’re shit at it anyways. Most 25-year-olds in the western world have never spent more than a summer out of school since they were 4, and this is a terrible way to grow up.

      Universities should be research institutes, and teaching people who are interested about knowledge for its own sake. But I’d say the majority of people aren’t interested in knowledge for its own sake, and a non-trivial portion of the rest aren’t really smart enough to get much out of the process. I think the most popular major is Business, which is a bad joke. You want to learn business? Go do some.

      So yeah, speaking as someone on the inside, it’s not worth coming in here unless this is what you want, and for most of you it isn’t.

      • quanta413 says:

        But I’d say the majority of people aren’t interested in knowledge for its own sake, and a non-trivial portion of the rest aren’t really smart enough to get much out of the process.

        Even if you do fulfill those prerequisites of loving research and being smart, it’s probably still a no. You have to want to do those things really badly. Like to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars lost. And then you have to deal with the possibility of being fucked over for academic politics reasons (thank god, not something that I was ever at risk of) and the fact that most professors are not very good at managing people. Graduate students are typically pretty smart and conscientious, so professors can do this without everything going straight to hell, but I figure that a professor who is skilled at management would do a lot better than average. Too many projects zombie shuffle from grad student to grad student that aren’t worth doing, too many experiments are done that could have been anticipated to have been a waste of time (or could have been made not a waste by a more coherent plan and some tweaking), and process tends to be nonexistent so basic shit often gets done poorly.

        If you’re lucky, a big lab will have a lab manager and more techs which helps, but a lot of labs don’t have that.

        • Enkidum says:

          Eh, I think you’re overstating the loss. Most people I know coming out of their phd get a pretty decent job – is it as good as what they would have got otherwise – perhaps not, but it’s not that far off. You usually get some kind of training that will benefit you. That being said, I’d still advise against it unless you want to do pure research. Which isn’t an option at most companies.

          • quanta413 says:

            I mean you lose hundreds of thousands because the typical grad stipend is ~20k but if you’re smart enough to get a Ph.D. you probably could have gotten a job at ~60k (or potentially more) out of college. 40k/year times 6 years is 240k. Subtract taxes but add back in compounding on the stock market and you’re probably back in about the same range of loss.

            Ph.D. salaries are higher than just out of college, but I don’t think it’s causal. I think 6 years of industry experience for the same person would be better.

            My comp-sci friends left college and landed six figure jobs immediately (they were more skilled than average, their hourly rates before graduating already corresponded to six figures). My other friends who were suckers like me and majored in math or physics then moved on to Ph.D.’s delayed our lives for years.

      • Shion Arita says:

        Recently got my PhD. I agree with everything you’ve said here.

      • Randy M says:

        Don’t forget the “interested and not smart enough” quadrant.

        • Enkidum says:

          Yeah, in many ways they’re the most depressing. Because we love doing this stuff, and we want to believe that anyone who also loves it must be equally good at it, despite the vast quantities of evidence to the contrary.

    • StableTrace says:

      Just to get the opposite point of view down, I am currently pretty far into a PhD in math and I would say it is worth it as long as you like the subject even if you don’t get any practical benefit—just as a form of consumption. You get to spend your days thinking about whatever interests you the most with minimal deadlines and other responsibilities. You are constantly interacting with many smart, accomplished peers that are guaranteed to have a a lot of shared interests. You have privileged access to famous professors. You even get a bunch of free travel through conferences.

      This is something that I would be willing to pay for, but the best part is that you get paid instead. While it is far from the money you could make otherwise, it is a surprisingly high amount and definitely enough to live comfortably by a young person’s standards (at a some schools, two grad student stipends can approach the median US household income)

      • Enkidum says:

        Yes, this is the correct positive view.

      • Nicholas Weininger says:

        This is a big part of why I finished my PhD in math, despite eventually getting very frustrated with my thinking not actually translating into successful proofs of important new results and with the constraints of the academic job market. But “like the subject” is too weak a condition here. If it is a thing you think of as your potential Calling in Life and that you are self-motivated to play around with on your own in your spare time, it is a thing you could likely successfully do a PhD in. Otherwise probably not.

        On the other hand, pure math fit that description for me before I got my PhD in it and no longer does, in large part because of the frustrations I encountered in grad school. That’s a shame, and it’s why I’m not even considering doing a graduate degree in my current avocation-slash-calling, music composition. I never want to ruin anything I love that much again.

        On the other*2 hand, my PhD proved to be a great source of networking for my current wonderful job, even though it was not even remotely a job requirement. On the other*3 hand, had I jumped ship midway through my PhD to go work at said wonderful job, I’d have gotten lower strike price options and made quite a bit more money. On the other*4 hand, I’m doing well enough anyway not to regret the choice.

        So, all in all, the advice I would give to someone in a situation like mine is: by all means try it if your intrinsic motivation is super strong, but understand the many ways it can be rocky and avoid the sunk cost fallacy when considering whether to finish.

    • imoimo says:

      I’ll be a more positive voice here. Currently finishing a physics PhD, and I’ve felt good about my decision all the way through, despite gripes with my particular program. I expect to get a job doing physics that requires a PhD, which despite that there’s not a ton of them (especially in industry), is from what I’ve seen generally possible for a motivated person finishing a PhD at a decent (top 50?) college. Even if I hadn’t stayed in physics after the PhD, I’ve really enjoyed the intellectual growth during my program and can’t imagine post-bachelor me not doing it. It’s going to be a breath of fresh air re-joining the workforce, but this time I’ll be at a much more exciting level, with more options than “software developer.”

      Of course I know people regretting their PhD or people who dropped out cause it was a bad fit. And for lots of jobs experience will be a faster route to the same place. To do a PhD I’d recommend you have at least 2/3 of the following:

      1. A passion for the subject
      2. A plan for after the degree (that requires it)
      3. A conscientious personality

      For instance I came in with the passion and personality, but almost zero plan. Things are working out for me (I’m gonna use my PhD well) but even if I ended up a software developer after (as some people do) it would’ve felt worth it. (Concurring with @StableTrace here)

      Instead you could have passion and a plan (“I’m gonna be a nuclear engineer”) and this should hopefully eke you through a program despite lacking the personality for a PhD. Then you have a cozy, fun, unique job for the rest of your life, which is probably worth it.

      Finally you could have the plan and personality but lack passion. It’s just a thing to do for you, [insert field] jobs seem high-paying and acceptable. In many fields this person is better off going straight to industry in consulting or engineering (assuming you’re STEM), but they’ll probably do fine in a PhD and use it well afterwards.

      I think failure modes usually come from having no plan and insufficient passion or personality to make up for it. You’ll be your own best judge here.

      Best of luck!

    • Anatid says:

      Perspective based on experience in physics:

      If you want to be a professor at a university, you need a PhD. But some things to note before pursuing a PhD for this reason:
      – tenure track jobs at decent universities are extremely competitive. There’s probably a greater than 10-to-1 ratio between new PhDs per year and new tenure track openings. So you need to be in the top few percent of new PhDs.
      – Even if everything goes well, getting a tenured position involves something like 12-15 years of very hard work (5 years of school, 2-5 years of postdocs, 5 years as an assistant professor). My impression was that the people who succeed work most weekends, because either they really like it or they’re really driven people.
      – Plenty of people get 10 years into this (school + postdocs), but never get a tenure-track job or other permanent academic research position.
      – If you go this route you don’t get to decide where you live. Because everything is very competitive, you apply to every job opening in the country (or in the world) in your field and accept whatever you get.

      In the sciences, PhD students don’t pay tuition and in fact get paid a modest stipend. So if you expect to enjoy grad school and just want to learn more stuff, you can get a PhD “for free” in the sciences. This is what I did and I liked it (I agree with the stuff StableTrace wrote above). Of course there is the big opportunity cost of whatever you could have been earning in a real job.

      (And once you have had a real job, that opportunity cost will be a lot more salient. If you get a real job, and then later get the idea that you might like to go back to school just to learn stuff, it may be more painful to do so than if you had done it right out of college, because the money and experience you are giving up will be more obvious).

      I work in quantitative finance. In this field there are a few companies that really want you to have a PhD, but plenty of jobs that don’t require one. If a PhD is not strictly required, it will still make your resume more attractive, but only somewhat, and only if it is in the rough cluster of physics/math/stats/CS (“quantitative disciplines”). I think basically (a) a PhD signals intelligence (b) people hope that a PhD has taught you to do independent research.

      At least in my field, if you can get a good job out of college, then 5 years of experience is worth much more in terms of earning power than a PhD is.

      I think it might be a good idea for someone considering going to grad school to also seriously apply for regular jobs. Then weigh the most attractive job offer against the most attractive grad school acceptance.

      This is not something I did. But with perfect hindsight, if I had been offered my current job instead of grad school, the correct decision would have been to take the job. I enjoyed grad school, but my job is even better, and pays a lot more than what grad students make.

      • quanta413 says:

        – Even if everything goes well, getting a tenured position involves something like 12-15 years of very hard work (5 years of school, 2-5 years of postdocs, 5 years as an assistant professor). My impression was that the people who succeed work most weekends, because either they really like it or they’re really driven people.

        I feel like this really needs to be emphasized. Also 5 years of school is on the short side at the department where I am. 6 is more typical and 7 is pretty common.

        You have to be either 4 or 5 sigma out in ability and/or a goddamn machine (and still 3 sigma out at least in physics) to become a professor at an R1. Like if you aren’t already typically doing 60 hour workweeks- efficient 60 hour work weeks, not 40 hours working and 20 at work but browsing reddit- you are not machine enough.

        3 sigma in physics is not good enough on its own as far as I can tell. I’m about 3 sigma from the mean in intelligence but have only average or a little better than average work ethic, and I’m torched with a month or so to go before I finish my Ph.D. No way in hell would I make it through to becoming a professor.

        And even if you are a genius working 60 hour weeks, none of that is guarantee. You could still not make it. And the moving has been hell on the personal and family lives of many young academics whom I’ve known something about.

        • Nicholas Weininger says:

          All of this is exactly true in mathematics as well and very important to consider. It can leave you with the curious feeling of being like a career minor league baseball player: better at the thing than 99.9% of people will ever be, yet still inadequate in the circles in which you aspire to run.

    • Elephant says:

      There are several good comments already. I am less cynical than some of those who have responded so far, though I do think that there are too many Ph.D. students and too many Ph.D. degrees awarded, in every field. Background: I’m a STEM professor at a research university.

      Some terrible but unfortunately very common reasons to go to grad school are: -1- delaying making real choices about what to do with one’s life; -2- a fondness for courses and the warm feeling that comes from completing homework assignments. (Seriously, many students seemed stunned that graduate school is not about this, and are incredulous and unhappy that courses are unimportant.) -3- Poorly researched plans to become a professor.

      There are two really good reasons to do a Ph.D. -1- You want to spend a few years, regardless of future benefit, discovering or inventing something fundamentally new. That, after all, is what a Ph.D. means — you demonstrate the ability to do research, and hopefully contribute something to the grand total of human knowledge. Personally, I find this very motivating, and I’m surprised it hasn’t come up in comments so far. I’ve been surprised at the low fraction of graduate students who seem motivated by this, however, that is, who really, passionately, care about making robust new insights. (Of course, most scientific output is banal, and much of it is wrong, but that’s a separate issue.) -2- There’s some specific career path you’re very focused on for which a Ph.D. is necessary (and sufficient). Note that this is rare — there are few career paths like this. Simply viewing a Ph.D. as some vague career-enhancing thing to do is pointless, and won’t help one’s happiness or one’s career (relative to not getting a Ph.D. and getting 5-7 years of work experience).

      • quanta413 says:

        Personally, I find this very motivating, and I’m surprised it hasn’t come up in comments so far. I’ve been surprised at the low fraction of graduate students who seem motivated by this, however, that is, who really, passionately, care about making robust new insights.

        I think it didn’t come up because every professor brings that up to bright young undergrads… and neglects to bring up all the other stuff. I know I was at least trying to balance out what I view as the horribly biased push bright undergrads get towards getting a Ph.D.

        For what it’s worth, finishing writing up all the work I did in the hope someone will benefit from it is probably the only thing getting me to finish, so I agree it is an important motivation. I don’t think I could manage to finish at this point if I just got the piece of paper even though I’m literally 98% done. And I really mean literally. I finished my defense and am on revisions to my last thesis chapter, but due to some awkward timing, I’m publishing my first author papers after the defense. Which is definitely suboptimal. One of them if I had more focus could’ve been completed a year ago probably, whereas the other was just a tough row to hoe.

        But I’ve also known grad students who didn’t seem interested in research much at all. Which I also found very weird.

        (Of course, most scientific output is banal, and much of it is wrong, but that’s a separate issue.)

        Part of the problem with generating insights as a motivation is that as a student, even if you read key papers and have some idea about the field, you’re just not in the strongest position to figure out if what you’ll be working on with a professor on is either banal or wrong until you’re a year or two deep into working on it.

        Although personally, I don’t mind the banal much. Sometimes, I wish I could find an answer to a not very original question more easily in the literature.

      • Enkidum says:

        Yeah, this. I’m in a late post-doc now, and very much the drive of doing the research is what keeps me here.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      I couldn’t stand it. I’m ABD in Electrical Engineering. Did all the course work, passed the qualifying exams, but when it came time to do that dissertation…nope, out. I don’t regret it.

    • John Schilling says:

      The sweet spot in engineering is probably the MS; if you start with just a BS then you get your start in industry doing a different kind of engineering and the experience that comes with that doesn’t open all the doors and BS+3yrs != MS.

      The Ph.D. opens a few doors that the MS doesn’t (most obviously all the “professor of engineering” jobs, but also some research work), and it’s good for a 10-15% salary increase in the rest, so if you can get one debt-free and without giving a decade of your life to a professor who just wants cheap labor and prestige, and if you actually like being a grad student, go for it(*).

      Actually, I think that last sentence is a pretty good overall guideline. If someone else values your pursuit of a Ph.D. enough to pay for it, and if the professor you are going to be studying with has a track record for getting their students out the door in no more than six years, then that’s a good indication that your getting a Ph.D. may be a good idea.

      * Unless you’re an intern working for my department, in which case knock it off and come work for us full time already.

    • SystematizedLoser says:

      I recently finished a PhD in machine learning at an R1 institution. I have severely mixed feelings about the experience. On one hand, my degree allowed me to get a non-academic research scientist position while allowing me to forge a variety of friendships I suspect I will maintain for years or decades. It also gave me a glimpse into what the frontier of research looks like. On the other hand, I was forced to sacrifice a relationship I was deeply invested in and funneled me into looking for jobs in areas far from my family. My actual degree, up to and including the dissertation process, was surprisingly painless. I knew going in that I wasn’t looking for anything academic, so I never tried to kill myself with long work weeks.

  16. dodrian says:

    Have you ever had a paranormal encounter? Ghosts, the supernatural, cryptozoology, or something else that you can’t rationally explain?

    • chrisminor0008 says:

      No.

    • Enkidum says:

      No, and every story I’ve ever heard of them strikes me as incredibly suspect, and if I did have such an experience I’d tend to doubt myself.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      Yes :)) (sorry to break the chain of nos).

      Venice, a decade a go, me and my friends see a gondolier that seems to have … well.. breasts. (broad daylight, nobody drunk). He/she’s some distance away and there’s no dry path there, so we quickly go around to try and confirm. Finally go around the next corner and where the gondola should have gone and… it’s a dead end. Literal dead end – the channel ends in a big wall. We’re left just scratching our heads, and with another piece of evidence added to “Venice is magic”. Yeah, I love that place.

      This being said, Occam obviously suggests we simply miscalculated something, rather than a gondola with wings existing. Gondolier with.. ahem female gondolier on the other hand seems to be in the realm of the possible – wikipedia later confirmed there was exactly one practicing at the time.

    • Paperclip Minimizer says:

      No.

    • Two McMillion says:

      Yes, but every time I talk about it in a place like this, I always get accused of hallucinating/lying and it’s very annoying.

    • Deiseach says:

      Sort of? More a weird experience than anything else, which probably has a rational explanation (of the “you only imagined it” variety). Too trivial really to describe.

    • Jiro says:

      Does “can’t rationally explain” mean “has no proven rational explanation” or “has no possible rational explanation”?

    • CarlosRamirez says:

      We all have, since no one can rationally explain qualia.

      • Joseph Greenwood says:

        +1

      • Protagoras says:

        The fact that you don’t accept, or perhaps understand, the explanations does not cause them to cease to exist.

        • Adrian says:

          So there is an explanation of qualia that you accept? Link, please?

          • Protagoras says:

            It is probably not the best discussion to be found, but for egoistic reasons I am fond of this discussion. It does at least cite some of the more important discussions by others if it is insufficient on its own.

          • CarlosRamirez says:

            @Protagoras

            I’m not sure why brains and their functioning keep getting brought up by the materialist side. There is no such thing as a “brain” or “neuron”: these are just abstractions we use to reason about certain agglomerations of sub-atomic particles, which are the thing that really exists.

            It is ultimately physics that needs to produce an account of phenomenal states, if materialism is to survive.

          • Protagoras says:

            Do you also think physicists need to explain earthquakes in terms of subatomic particles in order for materialism to survive, or do you accept in that case that it’s enough for geologists to explain them in terms of tectonic plates and magma and rocks and such (which are, of course, made of subatomic particles)?

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Protagoras

            I have to admit that I just can’t follow the argument the paper is making. If I’m reading it right, its argument for functionalism is that phenomenal differences can only arise from functional differences, on the basis that examples of dissimilar phenomenal experience are predicated on functional difference, and that two people with similar functional structures subjected to the same stimulus will perceive things identically, phenomenally speaking. But I think that a fleshed-out theory of functionalism is needed to make this argument work. I don’t think a functions-as-Platonic-structures approach makes sense here, because we’re talking about individual minds, and if those are assumed to be Platonic there’s not much interesting to say about qualia anyway. The argument seems inappropriate for discussing reductive materialist functionalism, since there’s no reason to expect functions (defined as brain configurations) to be anything but idiosyncratic, and then “are identical brains in identical configurations are phenomenologically identical?” is all you’re left with, and that’s a stupid argument that’s been at an impasse for generations that we can’t conclude anything about anyway. A description of functions that relates to phenomenal perception seems to involve begging the question, unless you have a cleverer way to do it than I’ve thought of in the last few minutes. And a description of functions that relate to gross cause and effect has glaring weaknesses.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            I don’t think a functions-as-Platonic-structures approach makes sense here, because we’re talking about individual minds, and if those are assumed to be Platonic there’s not much interesting to say about qualia anyway. The argument seems inappropriate for discussing reductive materialist functionalism, since there’s no reason to expect functions (defined as brain configurations) to be anything but idiosyncratic, and then “are identical brains in identical configurations are phenomenologically identical?” is all you’re left with,

            This. If individual minds are Platonic, neat, but then why should I be a reductive materialist atheist? But if each mind is just an epiphenomenon of a unique brain, we know nothing about qualia except that hypothetical identical brains in identical configurations are phenomenologically identical, and nothing about the empirical world where no two brains are identical (as far as I know). Maybe my brain configuration is the very first in this reductively material universe of interacting atoms to have the phenomena of qualia and every other configuration has produced a p-zombie.

          • Kestrellius says:

            @Le Maistre Chat

            Maybe my brain configuration is the very first in this reductively material universe of interacting atoms to have the phenomena of qualia and every other configuration has produced a p-zombie.

            I can verify that this is not the case.

          • quanta413 says:

            these are just abstractions we use to reason about certain agglomerations of sub-atomic particles, which are the thing that really exists.

            Sub-atomic particles are just abstractions we use to reason about the local configuration of certain underlying fields. Particles and fields we do not observe directly but rather use to model the results of experiments.

            There’s no philosophically easy distinction between the category “electrons” and “neurons” as far as the reality of either goes. There’s a physical distinction in scale (mass, number of consituent subatomic particles, number of properties that need to be specified to make theoretical predictions, etc.), but I’m not convinced that means there should be a philosophical distinction.

            It is ultimately physics that needs to produce an account of phenomenal states, if materialism is to survive.

            That’s ridiculous. Physics can’t even directly produce an account of chemistry even if we’re pretty far along that project in some directions and think that’s it’s probably possible. But I haven’t heard any philosophers embrace a non-material theory of chemistry in order to deal with this problem.

          • Protagoras says:

            @Hoopyfreud, I don’t really follow your objection. I will say that it is not the purpose of the argument to prove to a skeptic that functionalism is the only way things could be (you can’t prove anything to a skeptic). It is to show that functionalism has resources to talk about issues that critics have claimed it cannot talk about, and that the fact that functionalism does have stories to tell, while rival theories basically offer magic, seems to give the advantage to functionalism.

    • Nick says:

      Nope. A few friends have described some. The one I find hardest to discount is from a med student friend. He ran into a classmate of his in a rather bizarre encounter one morning, odd especially because that student hadn’t been to class in some time. It turned out that student had just died; the announcement was made later that day. I have no way to explain it besides 1) hallucination, or 2) ghosts.

      • Adrian says:

        What about 3) a false memory? The memory of the encounter doesn’t have to be entirely fabricated – an incorrect date would be sufficient to explain the inconsistency.

        • Nick says:

          He told it to me at a meal (I think lunch), just after the announcement had gone out and both of us found out. So there’s no way it’s his false memory. I’ll grant it’s possible the false memory is mine.

    • johan_larson says:

      Personally? No. The closest call I’ve had is a friend who told me a colleague of his, an Air Force pilot, told him he had seen a literal UFO, something in the sky that didn’t appear to be a natural phenomenon or a mundane aircraft.

    • Walter says:

      No, but even if I had, I wouldn’t trust myself.

      I have vivid memories, some of the only ones of my childhood, of inventing a monster that sat on top of the garage in order to get out of doing some chores there. I remember my childish cunning, as I anticipated and came up with reasons that no one else would have seen it, check carefully to see what rooms all of the adults were in, etc.

      I also remember the monster itself, just like I made it up, sitting sphinx-like atop the garage. That memory feels exactly as real as the others, entirely indistinguishable from my other memories from around that time. If I didn’t remember setting the forgery up I’d believe it had really happened.

      So I’ve lived my life knowing that I have the capacity to remember stuff that never happened. When I read about the reliability of eyewitness testimony it wasn’t any kind of surprise to me. I know that we are pattern seekers in a world of noise. We are besieged at all times by phantoms.

      (There is, of course, an alternate explanation for this turn of events…)

    • DragonMilk says:

      Yes, but no comment as even among friends it’s dismissed as false memory or even vitamin deficiency

    • sty_silver says:

      No.

    • Deiseach says:

      Oh, I forgot this when I made my first comment which was about a different experience, but to this day I’m fairly convinced I encountered a pooka when I was seven/eight.

      Not the ‘giant invisible rabbit’ type in the Jimmy Stewart movie, the traditional type in its goat form. All things considered, I got off lightly from the encounter (just some mild traditional Panic), but at least it wasn’t the more usual horse-type which are a lot more dangerous.

    • nameless1 says:

      I always felt like I should be able to do something like magic, that is manipulate invisible energies in the air by wiggling my fingers or suchlike, or suck energy into my palms or push energy out of it. Because when I wiggle my fingers it feels like actually being able to feel stuff in the air as if it is was slightly fluid. But I think this is just something being a little fucked up with my kinetic feedback system. It just sends up some false positive signals.

      And I know there is something a little fucked up with the part of the brain that controls my fingers, my handwriting is terrible but the worst part is being unable to sign my name in a consistent way. It is embarrassing that the bank makes me practice every time until I get it something close to the original signature.

      • acymetric says:

        Your bank actually checks your signature against something for a match, and rejects it if it isn’t close enough? I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a bank actually compare signatures for any kind of transaction before.

  17. imoimo says:

    I think I just inadvertently learned that the latest post’s topic is still auto-banned…

  18. Ninety-Three says:

    I’d like to take issue with something in the comments-disabled “Addendum To “Enormous Nutshell”: Competing Selectors”. Scott criticizes ReoNeaction for “left” and “right” being terrible terms for what it describes, but I think he’s using “culture” about as terribly.

    Suppose dictatorship A passes a $15 minimum wage and dictatorship B has a $5 minimum wage, and suppose the economists are right about high minimum wage being bad. The economy of B does better than A, A tries to figure out why, correctly hits on the minimum wage thing, copies B, and the world gets more prosperous, yay cultural evolution. You’re describing law. “How can we design a system to find the best laws and economic policies?” is an interesting question, but that’s a million miles away from what most people will think you mean by “cultural evolution”.

    • Viliam says:

      Even primitive tribes have laws, set by their leaders. In the previous article, when the leaders decided that “women should take better care of the pigs, and feed them more food. To find extra time for this, women should spend less time gossiping”, it probably didn’t make everyone happy. But they presumably had the power to enforce the behavior.

      Cultural evolution is the evolution of (written and unwritten) laws.

  19. helloo says:

    You are an AI of a space-faring vessel that has been sent to terraform and turbo-start the biosphere of a remote planet.

    However, due to an accident/mixup/some other contrived reason, when you arrive, you are only able to produce a single organism species. That is, you can’t make and spread both bacteria and moss. No tricky giant bag of self-sufficient organelles. Yes, that includes the typical human model with its gut bacteria. Mitochondria and chlorophyll like organelles are fine.

    The environment of the planet can be whatever that is desired but cannot already contain existing lifeforms. You have some terraforming abilities but these are limited and it will have to be your organisms that maintain the steady-state of their ecosystem.

    The end state does NOT have to be suitable for humans though you’re welcome to try and make it so.
    What kind of organism will you choose and what kind of abilities will it have?

    • The Nybbler says:

      I make the environment of the planet similar to Earth prior to the Great Oxygenation Event, except that I seed small areas of the oceans with radioactive compounds to encourage mutation. My organism is a blue-green algae. Stick with what worked, right?

      • helloo says:

        Didn’t they almost kill themselves with the Great Oxygenation Event?

      • Lambert says:

        Using a eukaryote might speed things along.
        Maybe an algae. Something capable of sexual reproduction, to get them to evolve faster.
        Mitochondria and chloroplasts were important innovations that took gigayears to evolve. (Great Filter candidate?)
        Giving them a load of useful genes that don’t get expressed might also help guide evolution. So they don’t have to evolve lignin from scratch, just accidentally start making it. Melanin also sounds useful.

        Heterotrophy had better evolve before long, or else all the nutrients and carbon get locked up in giant deposits of dead stuff, unable to decay.

        Hopefully, a Cambrian Explosion would happen within a few hundreds of millions of years.

    • deltafosb says:

      Kinda related: how fast would a message inserted into DNA of an organism be removed from the genome?

      • Tenacious D says:

        Not an answer to your question, but have you ever read this short story?

        • quaelegit says:

          Interesting story, thanks for sharing!

          “The facts, dear Clifford, are not in our stars, but on our shelves.”

          Well this was worth sharing on SSC for this pun alone 😛

          I’ll also suggest checking out The Albion Message — this is my sister’s favorite scifi short story.

        • deltafosb says:

          I’ve just read it and it nicely captures the late 20th-early 21st century IT memeplex (do you remember UserFriendly?). I even felt a subtle scent of “installing linux for the first time as a child” qualia, which I haven’t experienced in years – thank you!

        • Tenacious D says:

          Glad you liked it.
          I do not remember UserFriendly.
          I just read The Albian Message, too. Thanks for sharing!

  20. CarlosRamirez says:

    Have any utilitarian thinkers, or anyone in the rationalist community, tried to engage with Crime and Punishment? It seems like it should be concerning to either of them that one of the greatest works of world literature is a tear down of utilitarianism, and even rationalism (the 19th century definition) and atheism.

    • Two McMillion says:

      I would love to read this if it’s happened!

    • Procrastinating Prepper says:

      It’s been a looong time since I read that book and I was never much for literary discussion anyway, so take this with a grain of salt…

      But wasn’t it established that the protagonist only thought he was a unique and historically important person? And that due to his introverted nature, he never really voiced this belief to anybody or got any kind of reality check? It’s not much of a teardown of utilitarianism if the character’s whole causal model of “do one evil thing” -> “increase the utility of myself and everyone I know” was flawed in a way that was obvious to the reader from the very beginning.

      If there’s some rationalist themes to be taken from that book I think they’d be, in order:
      – You can’t rationalize yourself out of feeling guilt or other strong emotions
      – Self-assessment is hard
      – Predicting your own life course is hard, and subject to Planning Fallacy

    • Viliam says:

      I am not going to read several kilograms of books, so instead I just post my prediction that the “tear down of atheism” will be a variation on the classical “without fear of hell, people would just be randomly murdering left and right, because beneath the thin layer of religion, everyone is secretly a psychopath incapable of being nice even towards their kids and friends”.

      Utilitarianism… well, reading the Wikipedia summary, Raskolnikov kills a woman to take her money, and then forgets to actually take the money (because he is distracted by killing an unexpected witness). And afterwards he behaves completely suspiciously, so he gets caught, duh. I wonder what utility function is maximized by this. Of course you can make a belief seem stupid by writing a character who proclaims the belief, but acts stupid.

      (How about an alternative story, where Raskolnikov kills two women, then uses the money to cure cancer of hundred kids, finally gets caught and executed, but proudly proclaims that saving hundred lives at the cost of three is still a good deal. Write it from the perspective of a mother of one of those children; who learns about the background and wonders whether she would sincerely prefer a world where her child dies along many other children. — I am not approving the alt-Raskolnikov here; just saying that this story would address a less strawman version of utilitarianism.)

    • WashedOut says:

      “Tried to engage with” is a pretty low bar for what is legitimately one of the best works of literature ever written, but yes I am in one or both of those communities.

      Roughly speaking, Raskolnikov is a man who believes that the power of his own intellect and capacity for critical thought are enough, on their own, for him to be fully self-actualized. To him, the concepts of God and religious metaphysics are a pure hindrance to reaching his potential, and are the stuff of fools and suckers.
      The double-murder is used as the starting-point for a thought-experiment Raskolnikov is running on himself regarding the true origin of moral constraints on human behaviour, and by his own standards he fails the experiment. The rest of the book describes the gradual, painful process of sacrifice and repentance, assisted by his deeply-religious love interest.

      If the book is a “tear-down” of atheism etc., it can be seen clearly in the contrast between poor Sonia’s epistemic humility and admirable resolve in the face of crushing destitution, vs. Raskolnikov’s smug fedora-tipping atheism and intellectual hubris, total self-centered arrogance and the disconnect between his reasoning faculties and his psychological health. Dostoevsky (through Rask.) demonstrates how easy it is to formulate very powerful arguments against God and religion – but that doing so leaves you with all the important work of self-development still ahead of you.

      Utilitarianism… well, reading the Wikipedia summary, Raskolnikov kills a woman to take her money, and then forgets to actually take the money (because he is distracted by killing an unexpected witness). And afterwards he behaves completely suspiciously, so he gets caught, duh. I wonder what utility function is maximized by this. Of course you can make a belief seem stupid by writing a character who proclaims the belief, but acts stupid.

      This is so far off the mark, even for something gleaned from 5 mins on wikipedia. Ironically, you’ve done to C&P what you appear to condemn Dostoevsky for doing to utilitarianism. Read the book, or a proper summary thereof.

      • Jiro says:

        “Tried to engage with” is a pretty low bar for what is legitimately one of the best works of literature ever written

        It’s a safe bet that the people who decided that it was one of the best works of literature ever written wouldn’t have cared if it depicted a biased version of utilitarianism. Classic works of literature don’t have to depict ideas fairly; they just have to depict ideas that are liked by those people with the influence to make them classics.

        CS Lewis is a classic literature writer too, but we all can probably name at least one outright bad argument made by him in his fiction.

    • Protagoras says:

      Pretty much all of Dostoevsky’s characters make terrible choices. As an atheist, I actually like his atheist characters; they’re much more interesting and plausible than, say, Tolstoy’s non-religious characters. But they’re Dostoevsky characters, so they also make terrible choices. I’m OK with that, but like others in this thread I hardly see any of them as providing evidence against atheism, or utilitarianism, or rationalism, or anything else.

    • Randy M says:

      Argument from fiction is only ever as convincing as you find every relevant detail plausible.

    • Jaskologist says:

      I’ll throw my lot in with the others who say that they would just be arguing with fictional evidence, which hardly needs to be confronted.

      To me, the more challenging part is the fact that C&P includes a side character who sure seems an awful lot like modern leftist polyamorous tumblrists. And that would be historical evidence that such types already had a go at things some 150 years ago, and how did that work out for Russia?

  21. albatross11 says:

    Note: This is a CW topic for a CW-allowed thread, but one that’s meta enough that hopefully it can give us a reasonable light/heat ratio in a discussion.

    There’s a somewhat widespread notion in the world that’s a little like ideological cooties. It says if you talked to some bad person X, then anyone who talks to you is somehow associated with bad person X. This is specifically applied to journalists and interviewers/podcasters. Recently there was this online kerfluffle where some guy at Vox[0] convinced Peter Buttlieg not to go on Dave Rubin’s show, because Rubin had previously interviewed various unserious or bad[1] people. A common refrain in no-platforming battles is that it would be wrong for some respected journalistic outlet to “give a platform” to some bad or unserious person, but there’s also the notion that when some journalist takes such people seriously and honestly talks to them, they’re tainted–like Bari Weiss.

    I’ve been trying to untangle this. I think there are some people whose whole value is as good interviewers. Dave Rubin isn’t a deep thinker, but he’s a really good interviewer, and I’ve enjoyed a lot of his interviews. But the point of being a good interviewer isn’t mainly in challenging the interviewee, or arguing with them, or filtering out the bad ideas and making sure only the good ones get a platform–it’s letting the interviewee’s ideas and personality and beliefs show through. Rubin seems to do that pretty well, and he’s said he self-consciously models himself on Larry King–another guy who would interview anyone and let the interviewee get his own ideas out. It seems like there’s a lot of value in having an honest interview with someone, even if their ideas are bad ones. It’s a kind of news reporting, and being honest is a lot more important than filtering things out to make sure the listeners get the right ideas or beliefs.

    There’s also a spectrum of interview / discussion / debate. Sam Harris tends toward the debate side–this often means that his interviews are meatier than Rubin’s, but also has the failure mode that sometimes they turn into an argument in which you don’t really get to hear what the interviewee believes. Tyler Cowan tends more toward the interview/discussion side, as does Russ Roberts. At the other extreme is the attack/ambush interview–what Cathy Newman was trying to do with Jordan Peterson, or what 60 Minutes used to specialize in.

    The other side of this is that when you take a clown seriously, I have to decide whether that means I should take him more seriously, or take you less seriously. Do a serious in-depth show on astrology, and I’m likely to be less interested in other possibly out-there topics you want to cover that I know less about. One reason why Sam Harris doing his interview with Charles Murray had so much impact is that Harris is absolutely a serious thinker, and a lot of the attacks on race/IQ discussions come down to trying to dismiss IQ tests as modern-day phrenology or talking about racist pseudoscience. Harris is all about mocking pseudoscience, so when he took race and IQ seriously and discussed it in depth, it sent a “take this seriously” message that I suspect was pretty uncomfortable for a lot of people who think that topic should simply never be allowed to come up in public.

    To the extent we want to be able to learn about the world, we need people who will go talk to noteworthy people and give them an honest opportunity to express their ideas and beliefs and personality. I think the belief that by talking to someone bad or unserious, you become tainted, is pretty deeply wrongheaded. Dave Rubin or Joe Rogan talking to you doesn’t mean you should be taken seriously, but if you’ve got something interesting to say, both guys are likely to let you say it. I think it’s kind-of poisonous for journalism to have this notion floating around–it means that no journalist will dare actually try to understand the ideas or beliefs or anyone on the wrong side, and so will never report them. And Buttlieg deciding not to talk to Rubin lowered my opinion of him a bit. (I don’t know much about Buttlieg, so my opinion couldn’t change much.).

    [0] Honestly, this looked a lot like trying to spike a competitor. But then, my opinion of Vox is fairly low.

    [1] Alex Jones, Stephen Molynioux, and Candace Owens are the ones I remember. Of them, Molynioux is IMO a serious thinker who’s also at least somewhere close to being a white nationalist, whereas Jones is a clown and Owens is mostly a partisan provocateur. But I’m not a fan of any of these folks, so I’ve only seen a little of their work and may be misjudging them.

    • Jiro says:

      This is a case of mistake theory versus conflict theory with you leaning too much towards mistake theory. Or being too charitable. Or as I mentioned in another thread, a case of not being willing enough to notice evil.

      Yes, there’s value in having an honest interview with someone. Yes, doing so helps you learn about the world. But the people promulgating this idea don’t *want* to help you learn about the world; they want a weapon to use against their enemies. They spread this notion because spreading this notion gives them that weapon. If you don’t recognize this, you won’t understand what’s going on.

      • albatross11 says:

        I am sure some people pushing the “intellectual cooties” idea are sincere in thinking that talking to Stephen Molynioux taints you morally, and I’m sure others are just saying what they think will help them win today’s political struggle.

        So should we accept this idea? To decide that, we need to know more than the motives of the folks pushing the idea–we need to know if the idea is right, and what the consequences of adopting their proposed behaviors would be.

        • Matt M says:

          If you think that someone’s ideas are so objectionable that only a morally deficient person would even speak to them, I think you’ve already conceded that you aren’t particularly interested in “knowing whether the idea is right.”

          By the point that you’re engaging in guilt-by-association tactics (or even thoughts), you have already closed your mind to the prospect of being wrong.

          The type of person who gets mad that anyone even talks to Charles Murray at all is never going to be convinced that Charles Murray is right. No matter what great points they make, what evidence they produce, or what awesome interviewer speaks to them.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          I mean, I don’t think it’s right? Here on SSC every political stripe has talked to every other political stripe including political stripes highly highly likely to have Full Blown Cooties and it doesn’t seem like anybody’s come down with festering cootie infections?

          • Matt M says:

            I dunno… hasn’t Scott previously posted about how the fact that he hosts a site where people of every political stripe are allowed to talk to each other has resulted in numerous threats against his career, his physical person, and the repeated insistence that he’s actually a secret Nazi?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Sure, but that’s just cootiephobia. I haven’t seen much of any shift in Scott’s political views, so, no, cooties do not seem particularly contagious.

          • Viliam says:

            I haven’t seen much of any shift in Scott’s political views

            There are two basic ways to shift the Overton window. Either people shift their opinions in some direction; or everyone’s opinion remains the same, but people in some direction get more spotlight and people in the opposite direction get silenced.

            In a parallel reality, where Scott decided to surround himself only with woke purethinkers, his opinions may be the same as in our reality, but he probably writes less… at least, about political topics. (The whole “things I will regret writing” category would have zero reward and all punishment.)

          • JPNunez says:

            Well, it is different for Scott than for each individual poster here, since he is the head of the forum.

            What’s more, the reputational damage each of us can get from our peers from saying “yeah I post at SSC.com regularly”, and someone pointing out “hey, but isn’t that a den of [opposite tribe]” is way lower than the damage than someone would take from going to Alex Jones’ show, so our exposure for cooties is much much lower.

        • ricemilk4298 says:

          I am sure some people pushing the “intellectual cooties” idea are sincere in thinking that talking to Stephen Molynioux taints you morally, and I’m sure others are just saying what they think will help them win today’s political struggle.

          They don’t just say it because they think it will help them win, they believe it because they think it will help them win.

      • nameless1 says:

        There is also the idea that in politics personal relationships matter more than ideas. That politics is a game of coalitions. Which on the electoral level apparently is. So some people, rightly or wrongly, might treat other things as a game of coalitions.

        You know, there is this typical Aspie, autistic spectrum attitude of being tone-deaf to anything but the literal meaning of ideas, tone-deaf to context, personal relationships etc. What if there is an opposite of it?

        That is, what if there is such a thing an an “extremely neurotypical” attitude where people dismiss ideas and their literal meanings, and take everything as personal relationships, as coalitions, as team-building and as competition between teams? Thus dismissing all ideas as just coalition-building messages without considering their content?

        • AG says:

          That’s the whole mistake/conflict theory thing.

          • Viliam says:

            So, that would mean…

            mistake theory = aspergers
            conflict theory = everyone else

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Viliam: That’s existentially scary.

          • AG says:

            No, as nameless1 put it, conflict theory is an “extremely neurotypical” attitude. Most people are spanning the spectrum of attitudes.
            The irony being that to be “extremely neurotypical” is actually a form of neurodivergence, but confirmation bias making them think that they are the height of normality.

            But not that many people actually play the Game of Thrones, even if they get lots of splash damage from it.

        • BBA says:

          I think what you call the “extremely neurotypical” attitude is a more accurate model of politics than anything that assumes ideas and policies matter. Mitch McConnell is the most powerful person in America, and he couldn’t get to where he is today by believing in ideas.

          As an aspie-adjacent person who’s interested in policy, I find this infinitely depressing.

        • Winter Shaker says:

          What if there is an opposite of it?

          I think you’re going to enjoy the nerd – wamb spectrum with normies in the middle 🙂

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      [0] Honestly, this looked a lot like trying to spike a competitor. But then, my opinion of Vox is fairly low.

      Yes, I think that’s exactly what was going on. Which is unfortunate because I would have very much liked to have watched Dave Rubin interview Mayor Pete.

    • DragonMilk says:

      Try convincing the Chinese government not to make who you associate with a factor in your social credit score!

      There and I suspect here, the secondary motive may to give the anathema idea or cause as little visibility as possible by villifying any thought crime of it

    • mrdomino says:

      The other side of this is that when you take a clown seriously, I have to decide whether that means I should take him more seriously, or take you less seriously. Do a serious in-depth show on astrology, and I’m likely to be less interested in other possibly out-there topics you want to cover that I know less about.

      I wonder if you don’t often end up doing both-that if a Serious Person goes on clown show both the clown gains status and the Serious Person loses status. Or even if a high status clown is interviewed by a low status clown the lower status clown still gains. I think its the raising of the status of the clown that bothers people and the lowering of their own status is what makes would be interview subjects shy.

      To wade into the CW: The current President of the United States has been interviewed by Alex Jones on Infowars, by Howard Stern and Hannity. I think that…is less than ideal. I am not sure the solution is to have him go on several “dirtbag left” interviews (Chapo?) or TMZ.

      Having the President (or serious presidential contender on) is a huge coup, no matter who it is. Even if you think Limbaugh and Hannity are both “clowns” I think its safe to say that Hannity is more “serious” high status clown than Rush Limbaugh, since one of them often interviews the POTUS and the other doesn’t. Then when Hannity (who, like Rubin is not a journalist) uses his platform to push Seth Rich conspiracy theories I think its fair to wag your finger at him and the President and wonder why Trump didn’t sit for an interview with the WSJ instead. I think Howard Stern would cop to being a clown, an entertainer, but he also has a ton of interactions with Trump so at a certain point when he says he thinks Trump ran as a pr stunt or wants to be loved I have to take him seriously, perhaps more seriously than a mainstream reporter who doesn’t have that history of interaction.

      At a certain point with enough of this it gets hard to objectively tell who is a clown and a serious person. I imagine if I sneered at Alex Jones an Alex Jones fan we are now at a point where they can point out that the President of the United States and a founding member of the “Intellectual Dark Web” both have talked to him. Can my favorite boring centrist Serious Person claim the same?

      • Clutzy says:

        If Hannity is included in the “Clown” segment there is little left in the non-clown category.

        He is an Op-Ed guy, one with an obvious POV that he does not try to hide with an air of neutrality. That makes him one of the more honest Op-Ed guys on the market, because we have people on the Right (George Will, Tom Nichols) who pretend they are mere truth seekers, and on the Left (Krugman, Brooks, CNN primetime). The MSNBC and FOX people are the least tainted IMO, because they actually assign roles to people . They have new shows, that are usually boring with people like Brett Baier, Chris Wallace, and Nicole Wallace who bring on other people to vet them. Then they have obviously opinion pieces like Hannity and Tucker and Maddow and Hayes. Sometimes they kinda blend things with people like Chris Matthews and Chuck Todd and Cavuto, but that I think can’t be avoided, and I don’t think we should. Those guys show their colors often, and people know them even if the show has a news-y feel.

        I’d rather have Hillary go on Hannity and Trump go on Maddow than either appear on any CNN show currently airing. I think that is what would make things actually interesting.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        wonder why Trump didn’t sit for an interview with the WSJ instead.

        He sits down with the “serious” journalists too, but nine out of ten times it’s all gotcha ambush stuff. “You’ve been accused of being a racist. On a scale of ‘very racist’ to ‘hyper mega racist,’ how racist racist racist? Say you’re a racist.” They’re not looking to discuss ideas, they’re looking for soundbites they can cut up to “prove” their predetermined conclusion. Seriously, Alex Jones asked better questions of Donald Trump than Barbara Walters.

        • Dan L says:

          “You’ve been accused of being a racist. On a scale of ‘very racist’ to ‘hyper mega racist,’ how racist racist racist? Say you’re a racist.” They’re not looking to discuss ideas, they’re looking for soundbites they can cut up to “prove” their predetermined conclusion.

          Do you have a citation for that quote, or is this a distressing case of irony?

          More broadly, it’s a toxic dynamic to lead with an outlandish claim then retreat to an extreme-but-unremarkable defense to “support” it. Motte and Bailey, at best.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            You got me Dan. I was hoping to snow everyone into believing that “You’ve been accused of being a racist. On a scale of ‘very racist’ to ‘hyper mega racist,’ how racist racist racist? Say you’re a racist.” was a real question by a real journalist. Everyone on this website was convinced that was a literal quote, and not an exaggeration to call attention to the gist of the mainstream media interview process and goals. And I would have gotten away with it, too, if you alone hadn’t seen through my clever ruse.

          • Dan L says:

            Less rhetorical bullshit then, please.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            It’s not “rhetorical bullshit.” It’s an illustration. An interviewer will just keep asking about criticism rather than the candidate’s ideas. Like Morning Joe constantly asking Trump to “disavow” racists during the campaign. This is not an honest attempt to talk to Trump about his ideas. It’s an attempt to further associate Trump with “racists” and put him on the defensive, and then later other media outlets can write stories about how Trump didn’t disavow the racists in the exact way they wanted, raising troubling implications.

            Is that better for you, Dan? Are you satisfied with that tone, or is there some other way I need to say that to suit your sensibilities?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Like Morning Joe constantly asking Trump to “disavow” racists during the campaign.

            Because it’s super easy to do, everyone knows how to do it, and Trump consciously and conspicuously made a big deal about not doing it. This is not complicated.

          • Dan L says:

            @ Conrad:

            It’s better in that you’re pointing to what plausibly might be an event that actually happened, though I’d still prefer a cite.

            But this version of the argument gets the rote rebuttal that disingenuous demands to disavow are not at all a new thing, even if you add in a predatory media conspiracy. That’s an old argument I’m not interested in pursuing.

            I’m not just being argumentative here for the sake of it – it’s really important that the version of your claim based in reality is uninteresting by virtue of an obvious counter (whatever the quality may be), whereas to get something one-sided you reached for lies and hyperbole. That’s bad.

      • albatross11 says:

        My sense is that most TV talking heads are less serious thinkers than Dave Rubin, but I’ve mostly opted out of TV news for the last several years, so maybe they’ve gotten more informed/smarter/more serious since then. Journalists, authors, and public intellectuals routinely go on a bunch of talk shows to push their candidacy, book, or ideas. Most of those talk shows have a mix of serious and clownish guests, and it’s not clear that the talking heads know which is which.

    • brad says:

      I guess I have a somewhat mixed view here.

      On the one hand, I don’t share the prevailing sentiment that there’s anything so great and ennobling about interviewing people that, from whatever your own point of view is, are evil and/or nuts. As we’ve discussed before, I think an aesthetic taste for novelty is larely the tail wagging the dog.

      On the other hand, I’m here and I’ve engaged at least a little bit with some characters that are IMO fairly loathsome. So it would pretty difficult for me to come out in favor of the idea that any engagement with bad people.

      On the gripping hand, I don’t have a public platform. It does seem that there are two scenarios where this could matter a lot: 1) if you interview almost all respectable people and then one holocaust denier you are implying a certain amount of credibility for the holocaust denier and maybe that in itself is pretty despicable and I don’t want to come on your show, 2) if you interview holocaust deniers, flat earth supporters, anti-vaxxers, then do I really want to be interviewee number 4 on that list?

      • albatross11 says:

        brad:

        Yeah, I can see that. My sense is that your scenario #1 was why so many people were upset with Sam Harris interviewing Charles Murray–for Harris to take Murray seriously was a strong signal, because he’s a serious thinker who doesn’t go in for interviewing clowns for the entertainment value. I think this was reasonable, because I think Murray’s ideas are worth listening to and that the whole “IQ is racist pseudoscience” line is nonsense tossed out to avoid having to deal with inconvenient facts.

        And I’d say that #2 is an issue for someone like Dave Rubin or Joe Rogan, who will interview a wide range of people, looking for an interesting and entertaining discussion regardless of whether it should at all be taken seriously. For Rubin (I don’t generally listen to Rogan, but have listened to a fair number of Rubin’s podcasts), the issue isn’t that he’s normally interviewing clowns, it’s that he *sometimes* interviews clowns or provocateurs, while usually trying to have a serious show. I mean, if you look at his shows, most of them are trying to address real stuff. Rubin’s not Sam Harris or Eric Weinstein or Jordan Peterson, but he seems to spend a lot of his shows honestly trying to engage with real ideas. That puts him far ahead of the standard cable news talking head, as far as I can tell. And I think the idea that Rubin is so tainted by talking to Jones/Owens/Molynioux among his hundreds of shows that no respectable politician should talk to him is nuts.

    • Walter says:

      Thesis: I tend to agree. Like, anyone who is arguing against ‘giving someone a platform’ is debating from the past, where we didn’t have the internet. Nowadays everyone has a platform, and it is bigger and more public than anything that ever existed before.

      Vox: Also agree. They are activists for the Democratic party first, news people second. If it had a chance to get a candidate with a (D) next to their name elected they would lie to their readers in a heartbeat.

      Rubin: Given that I agree with the thesis above, I’m generally going to be tolerant on him interviewing the Alex Joneses of the world. He remains as credible as any other talking head to me.

      • Matt M says:

        Thesis: I tend to agree. Like, anyone who is arguing against ‘giving someone a platform’ is debating from the past, where we didn’t have the internet. Nowadays everyone has a platform

        Don’t worry, Google, Facebook, and Twitter are all hard at work to ensure this won’t be the case for long.

        Earlier we were discussing “CW issues that you’ve recently changed your mind on.” Well, here’s another for me. I used to believe the Internet represented the vast decentralization of information and would be transformative in enabling free speech around the world.

        I now think that was a mere blip in the historical record, and that within the next 10 years or so, the Internet will be as heavily restricted as broadcast TV was in the 1960s.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          I disagree with this. I think the internet views censorship as a fault and routes around it. People will build and expand competing platforms, and no it won’t all be witches as youtube and the like become increasingly totalitarian. At some point PewDiePie will get tired of this shit and go make PewTube, 100 million people will follow him and he’ll be the one profiting off everybody else’s content for a change.

          • Matt M says:

            At some point PewDiePie will get tired of this shit and go make PewTube

            How can he, when no banks will process his transactions? When no hosts will sell him a domain? When no social media networks will allow him to buy or sell ads? When no smartphone manufacturers will allow his app on their app stores?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I don’t think that’ll happen when his platform has 100M people.

          • theredsheep says:

            There is a very real limit to how much you can repress with that kind of soft power. Anybody willing to do business with PDP when others will not will have a massive influx of customers, and obeying scorched-earth demands from zealots is ultimately a losing deal because you can’t count on the zealots to stay committed long-term–they purge internally at least as often as they attack others–and businesses don’t like banking on unpredictability.

          • The Nybbler says:

            There is a very real limit to how much you can repress with that kind of soft power.

            At the bottom of it, it’s not soft power, it’s hard power. The payment oligarchy won’t deal with you, and you can’t make a new payment system without them because of government barriers to entry.

          • theredsheep says:

            Well, first off, Visa and Mastercard are competitors, and it doesn’t make sense for them to stay in lockstep here. Second, if they try to sit on this a large body of followers can find ways to retaliate. Third, if they do try to retaliate, they’re considerably scarier as enemies than the vocal minority on Twitter the banker crowd are aiming to appease. PDP’s got to have a large group of dedicated fans with skills at jacking up networks, for example. Credit card companies do not need to be dealing with enraged online terrorists.

          • Matt M says:

            Anybody willing to do business with PDP when others will not will have a massive influx of customers, and obeying scorched-earth demands from zealots is ultimately a losing deal because you can’t count on the zealots to stay committed

            Uh huh. That’s why Facebook and Twitter have both collapsed, and Gab is now the most popular social network, right?

            Well, first off, Visa and Mastercard are competitors, and it doesn’t make sense for them to stay in lockstep here.

            And yet, all of the people who are blocked by one are almost always blocked by the other. Facebook and Twitter are ostensibly competitors as well. Google and Apple too. And yet, not only do they always ban the same people/apps as each other, they frequently announce such bans on the same day.

          • Walter says:

            I feel like y’all are maybe underestimating the power and hostility of progressiveness a bit.

            Like, remember that The Establishment isn’t actually a conspiracy or whatever, it is just people with convictions doing their best to usher in fully automated luxury gay space communism. They aren’t going to stick to one plan with the PDPs of the world. They hit from every angle simultaneously.

            R. Kelly is a black dude who isn’t a conservative, meaning he is roughly a billion times more resistant to their weapons than PDP. How long till dude is in jail? Dude’s girlfriends got interviewed and said it was all fine, and the other team didn’t blink, they were like “he is Killgrave, anyone who says he isn’t a monster is just under his control. Them saying he isn’t abusing them is evidence that he is.’

            How well do you think PDP beats that?
            Rando1@earthlink.net: “PDP showed a picture of a piano, which has 88 keys, he is dog whistling his white supremacist minions.”
            The Atlantic : “Social media allegations swirl around accused white nationalist PDP”
            Vox: “PDP released another video without addressing the controversy which surrounds him, this attempt at presenting an appearance of normality is obviously a primitive form of gaslighting, as though he can make reality disappear by sticking his head in the sand.”
            NYTimes: “PDP, a social media professional generally known for his Nazi views and sexist behavior, continues to be an obvious example of the need for a progressive oversight of supposedly neutral platforms such as youtube, twitter, etc.”

            Ozy, on their side, is presently dunking on Blanchard. Which, for sure, but the interesting part is that they are doing it for the fact that dude once capitulated to the social justice movement. This is some straight up Antaran stuff. Surrender is a further offense.

            Oldbug’s description of Joe McCarthy vs. Hollywood feels relevant here. PDP’s support is a hundred million broad and an inch deep. He isn’t a competitor to social justice, he’s its prey.

          • theredsheep says:

            The situation is still developing. Trump has been president for all of two and a half years, and all this stuff was pitiful background noise before that. PewDiePie has not tried to emigrate, and the biggest revolt you’ve seen is, what, Jordan Peterson and a couple of others declining to use Patreon or some such? The Last Jedi bombing at the box office? At present, it’s low-cost to whack a couple of moles. This will not remain the case indefinitely.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            It makes sense for Visa and MasterCard to compete. But it also makes sense for them to collude to keep out even more competitors.

            And it’s pretty easy for the the government can decide You Suck and dictate that financial institutions don’t cooperate with you, Or Else. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Choke_Point

            On the positive side, there is a patreon competitor that’s been set up whose primary audience is people who are too edgy for patreon. It’s been operating for a few months and no one has crashed them yet. So there is hope.

          • Matt M says:

            On the positive side, there is a patreon competitor that’s been set up whose primary audience is people who are too edgy for patreon. It’s been operating for a few months and no one has crashed them yet. So there is hope.

            And before this one, there were 10 other previous ones that people did crash. So there’s no particular reason to have hope (although hope is sometimes inherently irrational, so have it if you want, I guess…)

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I know Hatreon got killed in the cradle, but what are the others you are thinking of? (SubscribeStar and Podia and Minds and Steady and Collide all still exist, too, but never really were meant to be the online equivalent of Banned Book Week.)

    • BBA says:

      The thing is this: some ideas really aren’t worth debating. (To avoid pressing anyone’s berserk buttons, I’ll just say Stalinism is one. We can agree on that, right?) For decades, we’ve had “sanitary curtain” and “no platform” policies, formal and informal, to keep those ideas out of the public sphere – and now thanks to the internet they’ve all failed. What we’re seeing is attempts at enforcing the old, failed order, which can’t work anymore. I’d guess we’re due to turn towards more direct, heavyhanded policing of speech, except they’ve had that in Europe forever and now it’s failed there too.

      Humanity may just have to go through another period of totalitarianism because the lessons of the last one have faded as it recedes from living memory. Same as it ever was.

      • albatross11 says:

        BBA:

        Big media companies used to have a lot of power to do gatekeeping on what ideas and facts would be presented to the public. Youtube, Twitter, podcasts, blogs, and the internet have all undermined a lot of that power. It’s pretty unsurprising to me that those big media companies are unhappy about this massive loss of power and influence, and also that lots of people are scrambling to find ways to capture some of that power themselves.

        The problem isn’t that Stalinists are allowed to speak, it’s that the wrong people with the wrong ideas (from the perspective of various past and would-be gatekeepers) are getting too much of an audience. There’s nothing especially far-right in what Dave Rubin or Jordan Peterson says, and they’re not remotely Stalinists or Nazis or any of that. But they’re very popular, and they’re saying stuff that a lot of gatekeepers don’t think should be said. That’s why there’s a push to shut them up.

        My claim is that if you side with the gatekeepers here, you’re probably making the world a worse place. Maybe that’s not true if you’re supporting no-platforming actual Nazis/Stalinists, but it seems almost certainly true if you’re supporting no-platforming moderately conservative or anti-SJW liberal IDW types. If idea gatekeeping is a power someone has, it seems very unlikely that the people holding that power will be anyone you’d want to trust with it. Probably it ends up being some unaccountable bit of bureaucracy inside a few huge companies deciding what ideas may have widespread discussion. There is zero reason to think they’ll do that job well, and a lot of reason to think they’ll make a terrible hash of it.

  22. DragonMilk says:

    So some Christian organizations have more or less cited Trump as a reason to name change “evangelical” due to guilt by association.

    What does “evangelical”, “fundamentalist”, “orthodox”, “conservative”, and “liberal” suggest to you in the context of a Christian self-description? To me:

    evangelical – actively proclaim salvation by faith alone, or traditional protestant
    fundamentalist – taking bible literally, but often selectively and to meet the goals of the charismatic leader leading the heresy
    orthodox – little case o meaning they accept Bible as word of God and inerrant, with human reason subordinate to it
    conservative – wishy-washy way of identifying with socially conservative mores due to citing various things with the bible, but in recognizing own shortcomings doesn’t want to be called out for being hypocritical; truth over grace in the dichotomy
    liberal – jesus as a moral teacher, everyone’s loved, let’s all get along breed of bible’s a good guidebook but I’m self-reliant sort of heresy; grace over truth in the dichotomy

    • Randy M says:

      Maybe I’m overly literal (heh) but I see evangelical as meaning focused on conversion. Could overlap with other categories, but tends to cluster with ones also believing strongly that much of Bible is true.

      Fundamentalist means holding the essentials as unchanging. Connotations here probably mean more than denotations; I’m not sure if the word has been applied non-pejoratively in some time.

      Orthodox means holding to accepted doctrine, which isn’t really meaningful outside of enduring churches. I guess you can be a protestant orthodox if you hold that the Catholics have strayed from the original teachings.

      Conservative doesn’t really have a specific meaning to me in terms of Christian belief of behavior. It could mean changing doctrine slower than liberals, or that one also holds to republican/red tribe values.

      Liberal means basically unbound by tradition or text; at best, take their values & doctrines based on reason; at worst, copy the broader culture or whims. If someone self-described as a liberal Christian, I would think they probably held a belief in God and a historical Christ, but I’m not certain what else they believe in up to and including the resurrection.

      • acymetric says:

        I’ll agree that Evangelical is more specific than just protestant. I would not consider all protestants to be Evangelicals.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Evangelical: prioritizes sharing the Gospel with others so they don’t go to Hell. While Catholic/Orthodox evangelists long predate them, this is has Protestant associations. Heaven and Hell are seen as binary and accepting Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior will get a person you know to Heaven: little concept of the sin of Presumption, mortal sin, or divinization.

      fundamentalist – taking bible literally, but often selectively and to meet the goals of the charismatic leader leading the heresy

      Ha, well played!

      Orthodox: uncompromising priests who have beards and can get married. The Patriarchy. Russians and persecuted minorities. Christian life as a process of divinization, not binary escape from Hell.

      Conservative: Socially conservative. Protestants who refuse to make their theology more like Leftism and Catholics who don’t like Pope Francis.

      liberal – jesus as a moral teacher, everyone’s loved, let’s all get along breed of bible’s a good guidebook but I’m self-reliant sort of heresy

      Ha, also perfect!

    • Jaskologist says:

      Does Trump even self-identify as an evangelical?

      As a self-description, I see them as meaning the following:

      evangelical: Generic American non-Mainline Protestant. Baptists, independents, Pentecostals would all qualify. Lutherans, Methodists, Catholics, Orthodox would not. Probably believes Jesus literally died and came back to life, but it could just be a cultural descriptor for them.

      fundamentalist: Same as above, but likes to tweak liberals.

      orthodox: Serious enough about their faith to use this label; knows and affirms the Nicene Creed. Believes Jesus literally died and came back to life, believes all that stuff about keeping it in your pants, too. Could also be Evangelical, Catholic and big-O Orthodox.

      conservative: Evangelical who votes for Republicans.

      liberal: One foot out the door. When Christian doctrine conflicts with Liberal doctrine, they will side with the latter.

    • JustToSay says:

      Well I don’t think anyone using the terms as a “self-description” is going to include suggestions that it’s heretical 🙂

      That aside, here’s what I think someone is intending to tell me about themselves if they use one of these terms. Note that that’s not exactly the same as what I might actually be thinking or what I take the terms to mean when someone outside the church uses them.

      evangelical – sort of mainline Protestantism 2.0, perhaps part of a large church that calls itself non-denominational, into Beth Moore and K-Love and worship teams, believes in the sinners prayer model of conversion, does sermon-based church services and small groups and lots of age-segregated ministry, believes strongly in personal Bible study and prayer, spends a lot of time worrying about grace vs legalism, heavy focus on evangelism, into purity, tries to be “in the culture but not of the culture”

      fundamentalist – prioritizes taking the Bible literally, resistant to cultural or doctrinal or stylistic change, likely to be YEC, feel strongly about baptism (not of babies and probably by immersion), worries a lot about how active the Holy Spirit still is or isn’t, really likes the book of Acts, very into having their kids memorize scripture, worries a lot about making God happy and will do a lot of inconvenient things to do so, most likely to confront another Christian for perceived doctrinal or sin issues

      orthodox – If we don’t mean Orthodox orthodox, I’m fuzziest here, because I don’t hear it much offline. I guess reading books by the early church fathers, having explicit thoughts on doctrinal issues that they can back up with a lot of study and reason, thinking divorce and contraception are wrong for internally consistent and connected reasons, taking the details regarding the orthodoxy and orthopraxy of their specific tradition seriously, feeling more kinship with the orthodox of other Christian traditions than with uninformed or lackadaisical members of their own tradition

      conservative – not a term I hear people use to describe their own type of Christianity, but rather their cultural or political views

      liberal – prioritizes being inclusive and welcoming to all, really concerned others would consider them unloving or intolerant, focused on social justice and helping the poor, kindness as the highest virtue, very concerned with their image in broader culture, into meaning and identity, lots of “our community embraces you with a celebration of God’s love,” the Bible has some very nice principles for living your best life, and Jesus was a good teacher prone to smashing through cultural expectations

      • DragonMilk says:

        Oh, I phrased it clumsily. The “self-description” are the singular words in quote. Question is what you associate these single words as, which you’ve done.

    • John Schilling says:

      I suspect that the traditional, etymologically correct definition of “evangelical” may be in the process of evolving towards a common usage of “wants to force everyone to live by their religion’s rules” , in which case I would understand that protestant churches that just want to try and persuade people might feel a need for a name change. I am skeptical that Trump is responsible for this linguistic evolution, but he may have catalyzed a recognition of it in people who until now were ignoring it or hoping it would go away.

      • Thomas Jorgensen says:

        This. In some cases escalating to “Defined by misogyny, greed and homophobia above the gospels”.
        The prosperity gospel looks.. Well, Satanic, from the outside, to be frank.

    • Erusian says:

      Evangelical: Part of a Protestant religious tradition (but not a specific set of theological tenets or churches) that focuses on conversion, even of the already Christian (born again), activism towards various causes, the crucifiction, relatively strong biblicalism, and living in a particular faith-based way.

      Fundamentalist: One of the churches that sided with the Fundamentalists during the early 20th century Fundamentalist-Modernist debates or their descendants.

      Orthodox: Loosely, a church that, at some point, split from the Catholic Church that is not Protestant. More strictly, anyone who attends a Church that is in communion with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. The two groups largely overlap.

      Conservative: Aligned with the political right culturally/religiously/politically.

      Liberal: Aligned with the political left culturally/religiously/politically.

    • Tenacious D says:

      A salient point about the evangelical label is that in practice it is quite ecumenical. There isn’t any one denomination that has the numbers to make the label more exclusive, so a lot of inter-denominational organizations are generically evangelical rather than specifically e.g. Baptist. The statement of belief from an organization like Intervarsity is much shorter than the 39 Articles, to give an example of the flexibility.

      Fundamentalist beliefs may not differ much from some of the other labels (evangelical, conservative, maybe small-o orthodox in some cases) but the label carries a connotation of a more isolationist posture–both with respect to the secular world (abstaining from voting would not be unheard of) and even to denominations with similar theology.

      Conservative as a self-description often comes into play as a modifier for other labels that encompass a wide spectrum of theological/political views. For example, “conservative Anglican/Episcopalian” would clarify the default assumptions someone would have about the unmodified denominational label. If I had to guess, “progressive” sees more use than “liberal” as the counterpart to this usage.

    • DinoNerd says:

      evangelical – missionary; but also generic non-liberal protestant. Higher than normal odds of “speaking in tongues” and similar (but see “pentecostal”)

      fundamentalist – want everyone doing everything exactly the way they believe their religion commands; if Christian, Biblical literalism, like as not based on taking literally some inaccurate transition into archaic English.

      orthodox – if Christian, Eastern/Russian/Greek orthodox – split from (Roman) catholicism (or vice versa) long before Luther was a gleam in his great great great grandaddy’s eye. If unspecified, then the most non-modern strain of Judaism

      conservative – wants their religion to be based on a (typically imagined) past version of it; likely more interested in politics than religion. (Quite different if Jewish.)

      liberal – everything from “accepts some 19th century Bibilical literary criticism (e.g. the P, J, E strands in the Pentateuch)” to some kind of agnostic humanist nonetheless holding religious services. More likely than most of the others to believe in a religious duty to provide charitable services, minster to the disadvantaged, or take political positions to those ends. May be Catholic, Jewish, Protestant, etc.

      Oops – I went beyond Christian and self-description here. But several of these adjectives don’t strike me as limited to Christian groups.

    • Phigment says:

      evangelical – Believe in evangelizing, i.e. trying to convert non-Christians. Christians who are trying to help you.
      fundamentalist – Believe in relatively traditional and straightforward theology
      orthodox – Like Catholics, but Greek and no Pope.
      conservative – Socially/politically conservative
      liberal – Socially/politically liberal

      Any Christian group that spends a lot of energy sending out missionaries and proselytizing is evangelical. Baptists, Methodists, Church of Christ, etc. commonly have evangelically-focused congregations. Roman Catholic Church also has some evangelical branches on its tree, although it has a lot of other branches, too.

      There’s a lot of overlap between fundamentalists and conservatives, and between evangelicals and conservatives, and between fundamentalists and evangelicals, but it’s not perfect overlap. Calvinists are fundamentalist but not evangelical, for instance.

      Generally, within Christianity, the split is between Christians who think the Church should be taking care of Christians as highest priority, and converting non-Christians at lower priority, and Christians who think the Church should be converting non-Christians as highest priority, and everything else as a lower priority. The second camp is evangelical. The first camp has no specific name; they’re just everybody else.

  23. Atlas says:

    Any XCOM 2 tips?

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      Templars with Reaper will singlehandedly win you the game, and can pretty easily replace your Ranger if you’re lucky enough to get one.

      Reapers are very good on maps with things that blow up.

      I recommend saving guaranteed damage (Gremlins, grenades, and heavy weapons) for last, unless you need to blow up terrain.

      Ammo is a good use of an item slot. Meme beacons are better.

      Repeaters may ruin the fun for you. Or not. your choice.

      Always bring one Sniper.

      Grenadiers and Skirmishers really get hurt by their low aim on harder difficulties. They still have their uses, but I’d only take one.

      Stasis might be the best thing in the game.

      The Archon King is the spawn of Satan.

      Order of priority for slaying is Chryssalids > Rulers = Chosen > !SPOILERS! > Mechtoids > Archons > Gatekeepers > Stunlancers > Else > Sectoids. In the early game, that means stunlancers are the single most important thing to kill asap.

      Use this: https://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=1494089482. I also recommend A Better Advent, even starting from vanilla.

    • eyeballfrog says:

      Use the character creator to make a character pool of all your friends. That way whenever your units inevitably dies to some bullshit it’ll hurt that much more, making for a much stronger emotional experience.

    • metacelsus says:

      I beat the main campaign a few weeks ago. Successful missions generally require killing all the aliens in a pod before they have a chance to shoot back. Damage is way more important than armor for your soldiers. Grenades are your friends (especially acid grenades, which are good vs. armored enemies). Always bring a Specialist for hacking things.

      Stunlancers are really annoying, kill them with extreme prejudice.

    • Walter says:

      If you are ever shooting at an enemy in cover, something is weird. Preferentially use ‘always works’ items like bombs and such.

      Move rapidly, throw grenades constantly. You should end your missions out of grenades, out of the zappies, out of any other single use items you bring.

      When you find a new pod they will split up just enough where you can’t grenade 2. The rocket can often hit all 3, which will also destroy their cover.

      It is rarely useful to cling to cover. Your ‘cover’ is that all the enemies die on your turn.

      The first person goes the furthest. Never take the chance of encountering a pod when you’ve already used half your dudes. The only character who should have a chance of setting off a pod is the first one to activate.

  24. PedroS says:

    Regarding the uncommentable post of this week, I wonder how the model of cultural evolution posited deals with the ostracization (in some groups) of people who adopt cultural markers of other, more succesful groups, whether that is inner-city gang kids who bully the hard-working kids who are “acting white” or people who accuse “alternative” musicians of “selling out” when they craft a tune which propels them to some kind of widespread name recognition. I think these instances put the lie to the contention that cultural evolution is somehow guaranteed (albeit slowly) to provide better overall solutions than rational discourse. AFAICT cultural evolution as described in the anthropologist’s book might as well be a random walk in the solution space and the positive results are a simple matter of exhaustive selection by nature akin to cherry-picking the few positive cultural adoptions from the mass of catastrophic adoption of anti-adaptive behaviors which we cannnot see due to the extiction of those groups.

    • Viliam says:

      So, if I understand it correctly, the problem is that less successful groups sometimes make their less-than-optimal behavior a part of their identity, which makes it a costly signal of loyalty to the group, which makes the group keep the behavior. Which goes against the hypothesis that more successful behavior gets copied.

      Perhaps this is a specific problem of current society, where different cultures live along each other, using the same welfare system. In less enlightened situation I suppose there are two likely outcomes:

      a) you keep your stupid behavior, you get outcompeted. Maybe some other group kills you, or maybe you just keep slowly losing your territory until there is nothing left. Having less power has consequences.

      b) it turns out that somehow you outcompete the other groups, e.g. because despite all bad things, you manage to reproduce faster and have enough children survive and become warriors. I guess that actually makes your strategy better from the evolutionary point of view, even if it worse by other criteria. Evolution doesn’t care about your suffering, as long as you survive.

      But I suspect that in reality a frequent outcome would be some “b2” scenario, where you refuse to copy some parts, but copy other parts (perhaps those less politically relevant), and with some luck that creates the strategy that is superior from evolutionary perspective.

      Also, c), your behavior may actually be superior for some limited ecological niche. So you survive there, but cannot expand beyond… unless your descendants decide to change their habits (maybe not all of them, but a subgroup that splits off the main group).

      • Matt M says:

        the problem is that less successful groups sometimes make their less-than-optimal behavior a part of their identity, which makes it a costly signal of loyalty to the group, which makes the group keep the behavior

        IMO, the “less than optimal behavior” has to be proven itself.

        Take, for example, a street gang whose initiation requires new members to murder an innocent civilian.

        At first glance, this seems like less than optimal behavior. Murdering a random person offers no tangible benefit to the gang, but many potential costs. It might attract police attention. The murdered may end up belonging to a rival gang, or to a powerful family, etc.

        But as we know, there actually is logic to this system. The basic logic is that requiring new members to murder is an effective method of screening out undercover police (who presumably wouldn’t murder an innocent). The gang may have engaged in a rational calculus that the risk of recruiting an undercover cop into the gang is much higher than the risks inherent with the occasional random murder.

        • John Schilling says:

          Take, for example, a street gang whose initiation requires new members to murder an innocent civilian.

          You understand that this doesn’t happen except in fiction and urban legends, right?

          But as we know, there actually is logic to this system.

          You’ve got the sign right but are way off on the scale. The benefits to the gang are almost entirely captured at a level far below “murder of an innocent civilian”, whereas the costs increase enormously at that point.

          • acymetric says:

            It doesn’t happen frequently, and there are a lot of bogus urban legends circling around on Facebook/Twitter/whatever, but it is a thing that happens.

          • John Schilling says:

            It doesn’t happen frequently, and there are a lot of bogus urban legends circling around on Facebook/Twitter/whatever, but it is a thing that happens.

            Citation needed. I’ve seen killing rival gang members semi-credibly alleged, but never innocent civilians.

          • ana53294 says:

            It could be plausible when the person who enters the gang is suspicious (so they require a guy who could be a cop to kill somebody as proof that he’s not a cop, or something like that).

            But a gang so evil where every member of the gang has killed a person would be eliminated by any functional government. Just being a member of such a gang is proof of criminality.

  25. PedroS says:

    Tiananmen Square was 30 years ago. I find myself strangely conflicted: I obviously condemn the bloodshed but I wonder: what is the morally correct way to deal with a month-long disruption of a major city centre by a few thousand people? Wasn’t the CCP response similar to that of the US Gov viz. the Bonus Army protests in 1932?

    In short: what is the morally and philosophically consistent way for a government to deal with localized protests which cause disturbances in major thoroughfares, chokepoints, and symbolic seats of power? Unless I go full ancap, I confess I feel myself compelled to grant the authorities the right to maintain (at least) as much public order as needed for common citizens to go about their daily lives without being disrupted by protestors (who should nonetheless be allowed to demonstrate freely for as long as they want provided they do not interfere with thir co-citizens). But when protestors refuse to move from the occupied chokepoints, what can I (if I were the government) do to preserve the rights of protestors, citizenry-at-large, and ordeely function of state institutions?

    • cassander says:

      I will straight up say the Chinese government did the right thing. We know from hindsight that 30 years since have been the best in pretty much all of Chinese history, with hundreds of millions of people being lifted out of poverty. Now, would it be nice if the Chinese government wasn’t an authoritarian state, but that’s a pretty good record, and when I look at the people in Tienanmen, I don’t see a movement that’s likely to lead to a nice liberal democracy, I see a bunch of kids who were itching for their turn to be red guards. I think it is vanishingly unlikely that a revolutionary change of government in 1989 would have led to a better 30 years for china, and that while the CCP did what they did for selfish reasons, their decision has been vindicated by the subsequent 30 years.

      • Uribe says:

        I’d want to wait another 30 years before determining whether the last 30 years was a good path for China to have taken. The catch-up growth didn’t require an authoritarian government. Now, with Xi doubling down on the authoritarianism and allowing less freedom in the economy, it’s looking like the CCP may have learned the wrong lesson from its recent history.

        About 1970 the Soviet Union could have looked back on itself and thought it had had a good run, but there still lay plenty of trouble ahead.

        when I look at the people in Tienanmen, I don’t see a movement that’s likely to lead to a nice liberal democracy, I see a bunch of kids who were itching for their turn to be red guards.

        What made these protesters look so different from the ones in Wenceslas Square the same year?

        • cassander says:

          I’d want to wait another 30 years before determining whether the last 30 years was a good path for China to have taken. The catch-up growth didn’t require an authoritarian government.

          China didn’t just have catchup growth, it had more, faster, than any country in history. Its performance was exceptional and that’s only partly due to how far behind it was. Plenty of countries failed to do any. Now, I don’t think that an authoritarian government was necessary for this at all, but I do think a stable one was.

          Now maybe it will all go to crap in the next 30 years, but if it does, I’ll be more inclined to blame the people making decisions today than the ones who made them 30 years ago. We can’t escape history, of course, but that doesn’t mean that it’s all determining.

          Now, with Xi doubling down on the authoritarianism and allowing less freedom in the economy, it’s looking like the CCP may have learned the wrong lesson from its recent history.

          I definitely agree, but that Xi isn’t right to do it again doesn’t mean Deng wasn’t right in 1989

          What made these protesters look so different from the ones in Wenceslas Square the same year?

          They were a lot younger, on average, they grew up in a world shaped by the red guards and couldn’t help but be influenced by it, and there were a lot of anti-liberal anti-capitalist elements.

          • Matt M says:

            I met a few Indian nationals in business school whose opinion was something like “The greatest mistake India has made over the last several decades was not being more like China!”

            My confused response of, “Wait… what?” was met with a lot of “Look at all the progress they’ve made! Look at their GDP statistics! Now look at ours! That could have been us!”

            I didn’t really have a good answer to that…

    • Uribe says:

      what is the morally and philosophically consistent way for a government to deal with localized protests which cause disturbances in major thoroughfares, chokepoints, and symbolic seats of power?

      I don’t believe this question has a correct answer, because in some cases it is better for the government to capitulate rather than the protesters.

      • Clutzy says:

        Really? I find most protestors to be lacking in a coherent worldview at best, and vainglorious authoritarians most of the rest of the time. There is like a 3-5% subset of protestors that are coherent and not simply searching to replace the existing transgressions with those of their own design.

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          birmingham_water_cannon_photo.jpg

        • AG says:

          Yeah, but if the SOPA/PIPA protest shows, they only need to publicly capitulate once, make some minor token concessions, and then quietly slip in their preferred policies through later, and the protest will be effectively neutered.

    • Jiro says:

      I would say “the moral way for a legitimate government to deal with an insurrection is to suppress it. However, the government of China is not a legitimate government, so they have no moral right to do this.” An unelected dictatorship doesn’t get to appeal to community norms; if it respected community norms it would either be elected, or out of office.

      At most, I would allow the unelected dictatorship to morally do things we can be pretty certain would be done even by a democracy, such as preventing ordinary murder and theft or building roads.

  26. theredsheep says:

    So, uh, I suspect I take my hatred of the Disney movie Frozen way too seriously. Most people just find the songs infuriating, and I don’t disagree, but I have a complex theory (which you will probably skip over) of why it’s a morally bad movie. It will contain spoilers for this years-old kids’ movie.

    There’s a famous GK Chesterton quote I’m not going to dig up in the original, but which is often cited via Neil Gaiman’s paraphrase: “the beauty of fairy tales is that they teach us dragons can be slain.” All children have certain insecurities about the world, and fairy tales reassert that there is a final order at work in the world which will defeat chaos and darkness. But Frozen brings up three really big, scary dragons–dragons which many children have to face–and utterly fails to take them seriously. I feel it would have been better to leave the damn dragons out than to trivialize them.

    First dragon, childhood trauma. Elsa is a metaphor for something–homosexuality or disability, take your pick–whose well-meaning parents teach her that the answer to her problems is to pretend she’s not a horrible freak. She goes totally berserk and nearly wipes out a kingdom, then … uh … literally slaps her forehead, says, “of course! Love!” and gains perfect control of the powers that have been overwhelming her for the entire film. Wut.

    Second dragon, family estrangement. Elsa has ruined Anna’s life for what appears to be no reason. She’s bitter about this to roughly the same extent that you would expect for a much milder toxic dynamic, e.g. one of them being cast as “the pretty one” and the other as “the brainy one.” In the end, they have a firm bond despite Elsa becoming a neurotic shut-in and forcing Anna to live like a recluse for her entire adolescence.

    I can more or less forgive those two on the grounds of It’s A Kids’ Movie. It would be artistically better if they gave the problems more depth, and I don’t think older kids couldn’t take it, but it would be too intense for the five-year-olds they actually aimed at. But dragon three–abusive relationships–they didn’t just softpedal, they gave it basically the worst possible resolution. Men are physically tougher than women, and Hans in particular can dismember giant ice monsters in two seconds. Anna deals with his cruelty by first punching him in the face–it’s cool, she’s a princess so there are loads of guards to keep him from escalating–then immediately moving on to another relationship with a different dude she’s known for only slightly longer than she’d known Hans. The only way it could be worse role modeling is if she decided to get revenge by sleeping with all seven of his brothers, which is out of the question in a kids’ movie.

    Okay, that’s my beef with Frozen. The aggravating jingles mask its inability to handle its own themes with the respect they deserve. Thoughts?

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      There are lots of reasons to hate Frozen. My favorite is what Olaf surviving in summer represents: there are no trade-offs in the world, because women are just that magical!
      Disney should be ashamed of itself for replacing a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale in the collective consciousness with this trash. Andersen is a really interesting author, whose tales are darker and scarier to children than folk tales, which end with the hero whole and the oppressor dead or bloodied.

      • theredsheep says:

        You could read that a bunch of ways, setting aside whatever the creators meant by it–which is a genuinely open question, since it had like five writers and quite a messy creative process IIRC. I think Olaf’s supposed to represent the uncorrupted and healthy core of their relationship or some such.

        I briefly toyed with mapping out a darker extended version of Frozen in my head, where she actually marries Hans and discovers slowly that he’s a monster, the minister of jokecountry is a real complex character with an actual role in the plot, and everybody has to work towards redemption. Didn’t bother to flesh it out, though.

    • Deiseach says:

      The trolls. They’re presented as cute forest and/or ice monsters who are quirky but harmless, but (a) troll magic is what got the royal family into this mess in the first place (b) they seem to have kidnapped Kristoff as a child and kept him away from his parents, and nobody seems to find this alarming? That there are magic-wielding child-nappers running around the kingdom?

      • quaelegit says:

        They’re also really fucking annoying. I only started to hate most of the Frozen songs after my roommate played them on repeat for the last two weeks of the semester (thank Anna), but the trolls song I hated immediately.

        Olaf is also terrible, and worse b/c of his larger presence in the movie and merchandising, but the trolls managed to pack more annoyance into a smaller screentime.

        Since I feel the need to say something positive too, I’ll mention that I did like seeing a Disney film about sisters. Lilo and Stitch did it much better though, so I’ll just re-watch that 😛

        Edit: I also like Elsa as a character and her taste in costumes, architecture. Cold does bother me, but I like to see it on screen 😛

      • Matt M says:

        Kristoff’s status as a child is pretty unclear. In the opening sequence, he’s essentially left entirely to his own devices as a very small child to engage in a significantly dangerous occupation mainly practiced exclusively by adult men.

        I took this to imply that he was an orphan with no family to speak of. Either that, or the ice farmers practice a rather extreme version of free-range parenting…

        • theredsheep says:

          In Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Farmer Boy, Alonzo Wilder helps his father and the other men with ice harvesting at around age ten. And nearly gets whipped bloody for doing something dangerous (he’s let off the hook because it’s his birthday IIRC). So, not that unrealistic, maybe?

        • Deiseach says:

          Kristoff’s status as a child is pretty unclear.

          That’s true, it’s hard to know if he’s tagging along after his father or is an orphan hanging around the grown men to learn how to be an ice harvester.

          But the sinister part, which gets played off as heart-warming, is that he plainly does belong in the human town; he simply can’t resist following after the royal family to see what happens when they go to plead for the trolls to help them, and a female troll notices him and Sven and says she’s going to keep them.

          Well, she does keep them. There’s nothing there to say it’s voluntary on Kristoff’s part or that he didn’t want to go back to the human town, and when we meet grown-up Kristoff he’s plainly got some problems (using a fake voice to imitate his reindeer so he can have conversations with himself – that seems rather indicative that he’s so starved for companionship amongst the trolls, who seem to be neglectful and slap-dash, that he literally has to invent his own).

          The trolls are child-nappers and not very careful about the ‘pets’ they ‘adopt’, but we’re supposed to find them quirkly and charming? And this is a kids’ movie? (“Yes, little Timmy and Sally, if you wander off from the grown-ups into the woods, the monsters will take you away forever!” is probably the traditional fairytale moral message, but it sure gets dressed up in a lot of glitter in this movie).

    • Andrew Hunter says:

      Another Frozen problem: Everyone goes nuts over Let It Go without realizing it’s a fucking villain song whose suggestions are explicitly repudiated by the film’s thesis.

      Best part of Frozen: the trolls have causality-violating powers to rewrite history. Seriously, it’s the only thing that makes sense. The parents were terrified of dealing with the trolls, and only would do so when nothing else could save their daughter. Anna was healed, and somehow in a way like she never had been injured (or even knew about it.) Later, they tell us “Get the fiance out of the way, and the whole thing can be fixed!” and suddenly Hans, who had shown no evidence of being deceitful whatsoever, is revealed to not love her and never did.

      That is, now he hadn’t. Originally he had loved her! The trolls rewrote history, because, like the wormhole Prophets in DS9, they don’t live in linear time, and don’t understand why everyone else cares about that causality thing. The simplest way to allow Anna and Kristof to marry was to change Hans’ past and make him no longer a suitable lover. Why would anyone object?

      In conclusion, Frozen is the second best Disney movie of the modern era [1], because nothing else has fantastic time manipulation. Still doesn’t match the overall consistent themes and tight plotting of Tangled (also the wonderful voice acting of Zach Levi!).

      Not originally my idea, but I will endorse it to the death.

      [1] Somewhere 2000ish. Not getting into ranking the 90s movies right now.

      • Jaskologist says:

        Ok, this is also a good fan theory.

      • quaelegit says:

        Cool theory! I’m sticking this one with Darth Jar Jar as “definitely not what the creators intended, but so fun that I’d prefer to live in a universe where they did”

        (Also now I’m wondering what would happen if the trolls-in-this-theory met the heptapods from Arrival)

        Also re: villain song, I’ve seen discussion in various places about why Disney doesn’t make good (as in, enjoyable with grandiose songs) villains anymore. Maybe they can, but they took an great potential villain but turned her into a protagonist.

        Agreed that Tangled is a much better (and Really Good) movie. But if we’re going since “2000-ish”, I’ve got to put Lilo and Stich, The Emperor’s New Groove, Big Hero 6, Wreck-it-Ralph, The Princess and the Frog, and possibly Moana ahead of Frozen. (I’m not counting anything from Pixar even post-merger.) Time-manipulation is cool but doesn’t outweigh the things I liked in these movies.

        • Matt M says:

          Also re: villain song, I’ve seen discussion in various places about why Disney doesn’t make good (as in, enjoyable with grandiose songs) villains anymore. Maybe they can, but they took an great potential villain but turned her into a protagonist.

          Disney held out longer than most, but in general, modern society seems to have rejected “clear heroes fight clear villians” as an outdated and quaint relic of the past. These days, for a narrative to be considered properly complex, everyone must possess various “shades of grey.”

          This probably affects Disney villians more than heroes, since heroes typically can sing about whatever, while villain songs are almost always nothing more than a boast of “I am evil and enjoy doing evil things for evil reasons!” There’s really not much of a place for that anymore in the modern narrative…

          • Jaskologist says:

            The best Disney villain songs aren’t “I’m just evil for evil’s sake.” Let’s review:

            The Little Mermaid, “Poor Unfortunate Souls”: Far from singing about her evil, Ursula is claiming to have mended her ways, and now be all about helping the less fortunate. She’s lying, but this is her sales pitch to Ariel. She’s even clever enough to admit to having been bad in the past.

            Lion King, “Be Prepared”: The plan to kill the rightful king is evil sure, but the motivations are perfectly normal: ambition on Scar’s part, and hunger on the Hyena’s part. The song manages to boil complex political negotiations (Scar needs the hyena’s help for his coup, and promises them looser immigration policy in exchange) down into about 3 minutes of one of the best villain songs.

            Beauty and the Beast, “Gaston”: This song isn’t about being evil at all, at least not in a direct way. It’s superficially everybody telling Gaston how great he is. None of the qualities they list are bad, or even untrue. The problem is simply that Gaston is being puffed up with pride, which we all know as the root of all sin. Gaston isn’t evil for evil’s sake, and has many heroic qualities, but his pride is his downfall.

          • cassander says:

            @Jacksologist

            Gaston’s not the villain, he’s the hero of a tragic tale about an aristocratic monster that abducts women to sate his lusts, and gaston’s noble, if doomed, efforts to lay it.

          • Jaskologist says:

            @cassander

            Gaston, the choice of the people, represents rule by democracy; Beast represents rule by a dictator, a point that is driven home by depicting his subjects as literal household objects owned by him. The reactionaries at Disney are no fools; they know that neither system is perfect, so they strive to show that both have flaws, but only one is able to counter those flaws.

            As Gaston’s system is entirely based off popularity, there are no breaks that can be applied to his pride, which just gets puffed up further. Their populism (for what is Democracy but institutionalized populism?) inevitably ends in a pitchfork-wielding mob and runaway pride ending in a Fall that mirrors that of the first sin.

            Beast, though he nominally owns his subject, is enmeshed in an aristocratic system in which he also has duties towards them, and so they are able to act as a check on him and guide him towards a more civilized approach. He too has flaws to overcomes, but with the help of those around him, he is able to. In the end, we learn that if we find the aristocratic system monstrous, it is only because dark magic has been applied to make it appear so; in truth the Prince is more handsome, kind, and gentle than his competition.

          • AG says:

            Huh, so the classic Disney villain song is actually an innovation of the Disney Renaissance, then. You don’t have them for Snow White/Sleeping Beauty/Cinderella. Although, Jafar only gets the Prince Ali reprise, not his own song, either.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            Disney cunningly laid the groundwork for a defense by making Song of the South, which teaches us that Black American culture is so superior to its White counterpart as to justify even what would otherwise be the crime of appropriation. Naturally they’ve kept it under wraps all these years rather than muddy the reactionary message of their other movies, but now that we’re exposing those for what they are I suppose they’ll have to re-release it.

          • LHN says:

            Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame may be a mediocre outing whose ultimate message is that while it’s totally what’s inside your heart that counts, honest, of course that pretty girl you like will fall in love with the handsome boy instead because that’s the proper course of things. (And there’s no point in even looking for a serious connection to Victor Hugo’s story or themes.)

            But its villain song, “Hellfire”, is an amazing portrayal of spiritual pride and frustrated lust curdling into self-righteous malice for a G-rated film.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?reload=9&v=U3NoDEu7kpg

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @LHN: “It’s not my fault if, in God’s plan, He made the Devil SO MUCH STRONGER THAN A MAN!

          • Deiseach says:

            Gaston’s not the villain, he’s the hero of a tragic tale about an aristocratic monster that abducts women to sate his lusts, and gaston’s noble, if doomed, efforts to lay it.

            Belle is the real villain. She has an inflated sense of her own superiority to the rest of the villagers, and goes around singing a mean song about them. Gaston is an ordinary guy who fits well into his environment and has devoted time and effort to being the best that he can be, and the admiration of the village is his rightful due.

            Belle thinks she is so much better than him, and that she deserves power and status. So she latches on to a cursed aristocrat and manipulates him while he is under the influence of malign powers, stoking his paranoia about the villagers (who understandably think he’s a monster because, well, he is a monster) and presenting herself as the only person who understands and will help him. Thus, when the curse is broken, she has established psychological dependence by the Prince on her and she uses him as a catspaw to take her revenge on all the ‘little people’ who she considers held her back and never gave her the fawning respect and flattery about her intelligence and superiority that she considers her right 🙂

          • Winter Shaker says:

            I have nothing to contribute to the Beauty and the Beast discourse apart from this, in case anyone enjoys it.

          • Immortal Lurker says:

            @Jaskologist

            While the Beast does represent Aristocracy and Gaston the People, the story is more nuanced than that, and more bittersweet. You see, you have left the principal character: Maurice. Also, the rose, and the castle itself.

            Maurice represents science. Belle represents progress and the things it brings, such as literacy and women’s rights.

            The castle is power, and the rose is divine right of kings/the mandate of heaven/the socially recognized right to have power.

            Initially, the people are mistrustful and suspicious of Belle. See for example Hypatia of Alexandria. Gaston knows that Belle is important, but keeps thinking that she is going to further his values as they currently exist. That is why all his attempts to marry her fail.

            So anyway Maurice (science) tries to go about doing its thing, but he gets too near to the castle (power). The Beast (Aristocracy), is having none of this, and takes science for himself, turning it to his own ends.

            Belle comes along, because of course progress follows science.

            The Beast recognizes that the rose (the mandate of heaven) will completely wither soon unless he embraces progress. He doesn’t understand it at first, but he eventually starts to learn.

            The people see the aristocracy getting all the benefits of progress without sharing, and rise up, attempting to seize the castle/power. They fail miserably, and their leadership dies without ever understanding what they were trying to achieve.

            Progress then mostly changes the appearance of power without getting rid of it, or changing who has it. The people are happier though, even if they still don’t really understand progress.

          • Dan L says:

            I’m sorry, I’m sure there were more comments later in the chain but I just got stuck at cassander’s:

            a tragic tale about an aristocratic monster that abducts women to sate his lusts, and gaston’s noble, if doomed, efforts to lay it.

            ಠ_ಠ

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            No one does that like Gaston either.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            When all you have is Gaston, everything is an egg.

          • Lillian says:

            I’m sorry, I’m sure there were more comments later in the chain but I just got stuck at cassander’s:

            a tragic tale about an aristocratic monster that abducts women to sate his lusts, and gaston’s noble, if doomed, efforts to lay it.

            ಠ_ಠ

            You’d be surprised at how common a mistake that is.

      • Deiseach says:

        Later, they tell us “Get the fiance out of the way, and the whole thing can be fixed!” and suddenly Hans, who had shown no evidence of being deceitful whatsoever, is revealed to not love her and never did.

        Yeah, that was another part I thought portrayed the trolls in a sinister light (unless it was the writers/Disney corporation being low-key sarcastic about fans and how entitled they can get) – Elsa Anna and Kristoff are not any kind of romantic potential as yet, they’ve barely met, and Elsa Anna has already got a boyfriend on the go, but that makes no difference to the trolls – they get the idea that a wedding would be fun and that Elsa Anna and Kristoff would be a cute couple, so it doesn’t matter what the two humans think or want, the trolls are going to treat them like dolls and make them do what the trolls want.

        Honestly, the trolls being time-manipulating on top of magic-using makes sense!

        And don’t get me started on Hans – the twist about the obvious-seeming Bad Guy being a decoy and the Nice Guy being the real baddie was clever, but they ruined it by making Hans simply a stereotypical villain. Hans had potential for a Tragic Backstory and Redemption Arc just like Anna Elsa’s backstory and arc, and he would have been a much deeper character if allowed to be conflicted and grey-area morally (he’s the youngest of eight brothers, probably has been sent as representative to the kingdom with the exact instructions to make a matrimonial alliance with the queen if at all possible, and him falling genuinely for Elsa Anna in rebellion to the duties imposed on him goes right along with Disney movies “follow your heart” plots, but no – they needed a Bad Guy so Kristoff could be the Good Guy, and then they chickened out or messed up on the Happy Ending so we didn’t get the expected wedding after all).

        Heck, if they wanted Anna/Kristoff, why not have Elsa/Hans as a double wedding? Hans can understand Elsa’s conflict over her duties and her desires, being controlled (in no matter how well-meaning a fashion) by one’s family and the damaging attempts to break free of that, while Anna and Kristoff can be the innocent friendly rough-and-tumble couple. Redemption and happy endings all round!

      • Deiseach says:

        Another Frozen problem: Everyone goes nuts over Let It Go without realizing it’s a fucking villain song whose suggestions are explicitly repudiated by the film’s thesis.

        I agree that Let It Go is a deliberate copy of Defying Gravity. I hate Wicked with a passion and think Defying Gravity is a stupid song (if you defy gravity, you get squished – try jumping off your roof boldly defying gravity, gravity ain’t gonna be impressed by your chutzpah).

        But these kind of “villain songs if sung by anyone but the rebellious heroine” songs do seem to be coded as Girl Power and Strong Independent Woman and it drives me nuts. Yeah, let’s all stick it to The Man! Question Authority! Heck’s sake, people, the 60s were fifty years ago, you lot are the Authority now!

    • Jaskologist says:

      As Andrew points out, “Let it go” is a villain’s song (this is undeniable; “no right, no wrong, no rules for me” is an actual line in it). It is also universally recognized as a feminist song. Once you put 2 and 2 together, it becomes clear that Frozen is in fact a very clever subversion of feminism.

      Think about it. What are the consequences of Elsa embracing feminism? A curse falls upon her entire kingdom. The movie is telling us that civilization literally cannot function without both men and women fulfilling their roles, which include duties to other people. The Ice Queen is completely oblivious to all of this, believing that being alone makes her “free.”

      What else happens once Elsa gives up on “being the good girl?” Well, she starts to create life (a clear metaphor for single motherhood). But because she isn’t being responsible anymore, she does so unthinkingly and poorly. As a result, one of her children is a suicidal idiot, the other is a homicidal moron.

      They wrap it up a bit hastily, probably because they couldn’t believe they were actually getting Disney to produce such a reactionary film, but the moral in the end is that Elsa was completely wrong, and you need to embrace true, sacrificial love in order to be really free, or both your immediate family and your civilization are doomed.

      The only way they could have been less subtle is by naming it “Frigid” instead.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        I chortled heartily.

      • Randy M says:

        The question is if any of that matters when little girls are just singing “let it go” to themselves over and over again for the next several months, without connecting it to the consequences or ensuing trouble.
        (Maybe I’m jaded because of the hearing “Let it go” over and over again for several months 😉 )

        • Matt M says:

          The question is if any of that matters when little girls are just singing “let it go” to themselves over and over again for the next several months, without connecting it to the consequences or ensuing trouble.

          I’ve been struggling with this question a lot lately.

          On the one hand, the more I delve deeply into the types of messages portrayed by modern media, the more sick and disturbing I find most of them. Surely it *must* be doing damage to society, even if only operating on something of a subconscious level for most people.

          On the other hand, it really does seem like a whole lot of people get through life thinking that “Every Breath You Take” really is a song describing a healthy romantic relationship, and that “Born in the USA” really is a celebration of American exceptionalism and patriotism, to take two particularly famous (and fairly obvious) examples…

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            I think this is exactly why Disney made the right call to turn Elsa into a heroine. “Let it Go” is clearly a villain song, but clearly whoever sings that song is going to be adored by the nation.

            It’s a stupid Disney movie, and clearly, reading into the movie, Hans should have won. Anna and Elsa are terrible rulers, and Hans’ coup d’état was the best option to get some decent governance in place.

          • March says:

            I think kids are just oblivious. That’s why the ‘Suck Fairy’ is a thing – when you go back to a beloved piece of media as an adult an find out that it is horrible AND that it must have been horrible all along (because it’s not likely someone’s gone back in time and replaced all instances of it by this cruel mockery of a childhood fave).

            I used to LOOOOOVE the Thundercats when I was 8-10 years old or so. Went back when I was 25 and it was complete drivel. Not even ‘less cool’ but inane and incomprehensible. And my favorite cowboys & indians stories fared even worse. Sure, they’d now be called problematic anyway. But I remembered them as deeply human and meaningful, but upon reread they were superficial racist claptrap.

            That said, theredsheep’s first point strikes me as weird. The instigating incident wasn’t Elsa’s powers running wild, it was younger child’s exuberance being a little too much for slightly older child who, scrambling to keep up, slipped and accidentally hurt younger child. Any trauma therapist worth his or her salt would’ve been able to reframe that for her as ‘honey, it’s not your POWERS you should be afraid of, and you’re not evil for having them. Sometimes when kids play, accidents happen. Next time you wanna play, wake up a grown-up to come with you, OK? In the meantime, can you show me that pretty snow flower again?’

            For lack of a therapist, ‘LOVE’ might do the same.

          • theredsheep says:

            It doesn’t much matter what instigated what; Let It Go is “Fuuuuuhuuuuck you Mom and Daaaaaad, my powers violate thermodynamics and it’s coooooool after aaaaaaalll.” She resents her parents’ discipline and refuses to obey it anymore, because she figures they were asking the impossible. Even when she finds out she’s going to kill everyone, she whimpers that she doesn’t know how to control it. The damage is done, it would seem.

            But then she … what? What happens? She spontaneously reverses the trauma caused by her constant, costly struggle and ultimate inability to meet her dead parents’ utterly unrealistic expectations? IRL that kind of thing only gets partially fixed by years of therapy. There’d be scars, false starts, and mistakes along the way. Not “derp, I got it now” and everything’s clear. If you’re going to venture into the dark regions of the human soul like that, you really should show them at least a little bit like they really are.

          • Randy M says:

            Whaddaya want, Worm, the animated series?

            (The answer to that is yes, btw)

          • Jaskologist says:

            The sequel will be all about the famine that resulted from the 1-2 punch of all their crops dying in the fields at the same time that all commerce is cut off with their largest trading partner.

          • Matt M says:

            at the same time that all commerce is cut off with their largest trading partner.

          • bean says:

            at the same time that all commerce is cut off with their largest trading partner.

            That confuses me. The correct response to “you tried to kill our sovereign” in that age is not a trade embargo, it’s war.

          • March says:

            Heh, people vary.

            So many things in my life have gotten better by just, ahem, letting them go.

          • Randy M says:

            That’s true that one can get psychologically entangled or caught up in unhelpful rules. But if everyone lets go of all concept of right or wrong, as in

            “It’s time to see what I can do
            To test the limits and break through
            No right, no wrong, no rules for me
            I’m free”

            That’s a very anti-civilization message. And it doesn’t work even within the context of the story–it’s admirable that Elsa tries to isolate her dangerous powers from the community if she can’t control them, but by reveling in them she plunges the kingdom into winter.
            It’s basically the same arc as Peter Parker, where they learn that ‘with great power comes great responsibility’, the difference being his sin was indifference whereas hers was as a more active menace, and her most memorable lines are from the early, menacing scenes.

          • AG says:

            Look, people love singing the villain songs in general, because they’re just damn fun songs. Pretty much no one sings those aspirational “I want” songs by the milquetoast protagonists in those movies. Little Mermaid, BATB, Aladdin, Hercules are the main examples, but are you side-eyeing anyone who sings “Just Can’t Wait to be King” or “Hakuna Matata,” either?

          • LHN says:

            Pretty much no one sings those aspirational “I want” songs by the milquetoast protagonists in those movies.

            I don’t know– a lot of Disney’s “I want” songs have legs. “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes” is probably in Disney’s top ten emblematic songs that they’ll play at the drop of a hat. “Belle” is well-remembered (and frequently parodied given its theme of “Hi, neighbors! I’m better than all of you since I *read* while you’re all doing boring productive work!”). “Part of Your World” is Ashman and Mencken firing on all cylinders. I like it rather better than “Poor Unfortunate Souls” myself.

            (I also quite like “How Far I’ll Go”, “Reflection”, and “For the First Time in Forever”, but I’ll grant they’re probably not timeless classics to the same extent.)

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Pretty sure all those movies get side-eyed, if not always entirely seriously. Ariel is a little brat, Belle and Beast are not healthy, Hercules is barely remembered (though I love it).
            Lion King, I don’t know. I think most people recognize that the Simba was a bit immature, and the movie really calls it.

            However, Frozen was framed as “a very important” movie for its empowering themes, and “very important for little girls,” and Let It Go was explicitly singled out as being a Very Important Song.

            And then it got played non-stop, and it was everywhere, becoming an omnipresent cultural phenomenon rivaled only by agriculture, language, and tool-making, making it very, very, VERY annoying.

          • Randy M says:

            A Whole New World from Aladdin is possibly one of the best Disney songs ever.

            Generally the villains are enjoying themselves more in the films until the climax, which translates to a more fun song to sing. Compare Ursula’s with Ariel’s, Gaston’s with Belle’s (although as protagonist’s go, Belle has it pretty good at the start of that film).
            Simba’s “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King!” is an exception, and the song is fun to sing, not less so than Scar’s.

            Hmm, that reminds me, Hakuna Matatta is pretty much the same as Let it Go, isn’t it? Albeit freeing the hero from a different set of expectations–doing something versus not doing something.

            @A Definite Beta Guy You would have “loved” the Frozen party my wife and her friends threw when the girls were into that. They got two of those in person character performers to come, I don’t think it was a birthday or any other special occasion. Anyway, I wasn’t there but the picture is hilarious, about 30 little Elsas aged 2-6, along with my red-head dressed as Anna.

          • albatross11 says:

            When I saw Frozen, I saw the whole thing as an allegory about mental illness, perhaps bound tightly to some kind of tremendous talent. Think of a really amazing writer who also sometimes suffers from crushing depression.

          • LHN says:

            Hmm, that reminds me, Hakuna Matatta is pretty much the same as Let it