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Open Thread 134.5

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1,254 Responses to Open Thread 134.5

  1. Viliam says:

    An interesting thing I learned today from Wikipedia:

    When president Roosevelt decided to detain citizens based on their origin, the Supreme Court said “sure, go ahead“. When president Trump tried doing a similar thing, citing Roosevelt as a precedent, the Supreme Court said “obviously, we were wrong back then; this is illegal“.

    There are different ways people will react to this. Is it “quod licet Iovi, non licet bovi”, or did the arc of the moral universe coincidentally start bending toward justice more strongly after Trump was elected? Anyway, the pragmatic lesson here seems to be…

    If there is a legal decision you would like to see overturned, the best strategy would be to convince Trump to invoke it as a precedent in some of his wild plans, and then observe how suddenly everyone turns against it.

    An example: Convince Trump to make eating kebab illegal and to tweet: “If it is constitutional to ban marijuana, it is just as constitutional to ban kebabs!”

    The next month, the Supreme Court will conclude that preventing people from enjoying as much marijuana as they want has obviously always been against what the Founding Fathers intended.

    Another example: Make it illegal for Muslims to own guns. Watch all Democrats suddenly realize that owning a gun is a basic human right.

    • Eigengrau says:

      The Supreme Court upheld Trump’s travel ban in Trump v. Hawaii, so there goes your entire premise.

      Isn’t the much better explanation that the judiciary is much less racist than it was in the time of Roosevelt, specifically with regards to widespread discrimination? We’ve had a few generations of cultural learning that “Japanese internment was wrong”, so it should be no surprise that the courts aren’t totally cool with that ruling anymore.

      Your Wikipedia link to Korematsu v. United States includes a lengthy section detailing how the courts have been distancing themselves from the ruling since as far back as the 80s, and the ruling has been considered “not precedent” since before Trump took office.

      • Clutzy says:

        5/6 in the majority were nominated by Roosevelt, the 6th was promoted to CJ by Roosevelt. The better explanation is that the court has always been partisan and was acting partisan as it always does.

      • Aapje says:

        @Eigengrau

        Isn’t the much better explanation that the judiciary is much less racist than it was in the time of Roosevelt, specifically with regards to widespread discrimination?

        Or at least a different kind of racism. They are still fine with discriminating against ethnic groups that have more interest in and/or ability to do certain things. Like Asians with regard to college admissions.

    • brad says:

      There are different ways people will react to this. Is it “quod licet Iovi, non licet bovi”, or did the arc of the moral universe coincidentally start bending toward justice more strongly after Trump was elected

      Do you really think that Korematsu was a well respected precedent likely to be cited as still binding by a unanimous supreme court in any case that touched on it up until January 20, 2017? Is that your actual understanding of the world?

  2. rahien.din says:

    Welcome to another episode of It Can’t Be That Simple, Right?!, the game show in which a contestant states their prosaic counter-interpretation of a complex problem, and members of the studio audience try to coax them down into the Dunning-Kruger trough!

    Tonight’s contestant is rahien.din, who has done some cursory reading about Baumol’s cost disease! Let’s take a look…

    So, I was reading more about Baumol’s cost disease, and it strikes me as… kind of simple? Here is the encapsulation on wikipedia :

    Baumol’s cost disease (or the Baumol effect) is the rise of salaries in jobs that have experienced no or low increase of labor productivity, in response to rising salaries in other jobs that have experienced higher labor productivity growth. This pattern seemingly goes against the theory in classical economics in which real wage growth is closely tied to labor productivity changes.

    I am not sure why this is considered so arcane or weird.

    If a certain job sector has increased productivity, then that just means it has an increase in its output without an increase in its costs. That means that people in that sector have more money to spend. When they increase their spending, that increases demand. Prices increase in the presence of increased demand.

    This is the entire idea of classical economics. Price is determined by supply and demand. But supply is not the same thing as effort. Sure, the violinist has not increased her productivity or effort per se, but the invisible hand doesn’t care. If there is more money floating around in the economy, then she can certainly raise the ticket price for her concerts, regardless of how much effort she exerts or how “productive” she is. Everyone seems so worried about “cost disease” but it’s just demand curves in action.

    Or another analogy : when the pilot pushes the throttle forward, the engines increase their motoric productivity, and the flight attendants do not. But it isn’t some mystery why the flight attendants start moving faster relative to the ground. (If they do not, consider assessing the cabin pressure.)

    So ultimately there is some kind of conservation-of-economic-share phenomenon at work. Sure, you can increase your productivity, which will initially increase your share of the economy, but when you spend that extra money the demand curve will end up increasing everyone else’s share and thereby decreasing yours. So the ultimate result of increased productivity is not increased economic share for the same effort per unit produced, it is decreased effort per unit produced at conserved economic share. And that’s an important purpose of innovation.

    The related conjecture is : if we could adequately quantify effort, we would find that Baumol’s cost disease is mostly an artifact of an incomplete economic description.

    We should be more concerned when job sectors do not experience a rise in salary that parallels the rise in more productive sectors – either too little or too much. But we would have to use Baumol’s cost disease in order to detect that. IE, Baumol’s cost disease cost effect should be quantified as the baseline (or control) for salary growth, so that we can tell when job sectors are not rising in salary in the expected way.

    You heard it, folks! Buzz in when you’re ready – it can’t be that simple, right?!

    • Aapje says:

      There are fewer violinists today than when they got less money, and not due to a lack of supply, so supply vs demand can’t directly explain it.

      You need to add at least one extra step where the more productive factory worker drives up the price of houses, food, etc; which then means that the violinist simply needs a higher salary to be able to afford basic necessities.

      Another explanation is that increased incomes create more surplus and that violinists can capture part of that extra surplus, especially if they have alternatives.

      For example: we have a factory worker Bob and violinist Mary. Mary and each Bob earn 100 gold. Mary gets her income from 100 factory workers each giving her 1 gold for her music. Mary and Bob live in the same city, in a house that costs 10 gold.

      Due to increased productivity, all factory workers start earning 1000 gold. They buy bigger and better houses, on more land, that cost 100 gold. Now Mary can no longer afford the house she had in the city. However, if she moves far away to a house that still costs 10 gold, she is too far away from the music hall to be a musician. So for the factory workers to still be able to enjoy the music, they have to pay Mary more than 100 gold (in total), so she can afford a house close enough nearby. The factory workers have to pay part of their extra income to Mary, just so she will be able to make the same music for them.

      If Mary can do factory work, then her choices are not merely restricted by needing the bare necessities (or minimum wage law), but she has options. While she might have been willing to work as a musician for 100 gold if the alternative is a factory job for 100 gold, she might not be willing to be a musician for 100 gold if the alternative is a factory job for 1000 gold. She might be willing to work as a musician for 500 gold, though. So for the factory workers to still be able to enjoy their music, they have to pay Mary 500 gold (in total), rather than just 100 gold.

      The willingness by the the factory workers to spend that extra money on Mary determines how many musicians keep existing. Historically, we’ve seen that some low productivity sectors disappeared, although that was often because high-productivity alternatives were developed (recorded audio is the high productivity variant of musicians and dish washers are the high productivity variant of maids).

  3. Randy M says:

    Random thought, weaving together a few of the threads on this post.

    What do America, modernity, and Christianity have in common, at least compared to other cultures?
    For one, a greater focus on individualism. For another, a more acrimonious and intractable abortion debate (or association with it). The typical explanation for the latter, at least on the right, is that the US Supreme Court imposed the decision leaving a lot of people unhappy with it or at least the process.

    But perhaps another more fundamental reason is that both Pro-life and Pro-choice positions are outcomes of individualism. The only difference is whether the unborn counts as a person who has rights. And perhaps whether “autonomy” trumps “life”, which is again individual rights coming into conflict.

    I wonder if the debate would have the same salience if the locus of concern were instead the family, tribe, religion, or nation. Or at least if it would be framed the same way. Instead, the issue might hinge on if additional people were of the right tribe, or were overall beneficial to the group.

    For all that the mainstream right is portrayed as racist, you have to get very fringey–and secular–before you find anyone thinking abortion is good because it hits minorities more. Instead, the high abortion rate among minorities is used to attempt to argue those groups onto the pro life side.

    Conversely, “abort for the environment” isn’t a mainstream left argument even among itself, even if they generally think populous industrialized nations are a risk in a serious crisis.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      I see plenty of “Don’t have kids for the environment” propaganda. Method of not having kids left up to the reader, though.

      • Randy M says:

        There is some of that, and I wasn’t sure how to reconcile it with my theory. Possibly the left is more collectivist than the right (but global, not local); possibly they keep it vague because choice is paramount.

        • Nornagest says:

          I don’t think I’m comfortable generalizing about collectivism at the level of broad political alliances. There are collectivist and individualist strains of both leftism and rightism: fifteen years ago, the dominant narrative on the Left starred a coalition of scrappy individualists opposing the collectivizing forces of economic globalization, cultural censorship and fundamentalist theology. Not so much anymore, but I don’t think that depends on anything basic to ideology, more on which way the wind’s blowing.

          Or on what we’re arguing about: the left position on gender assumes an individualist framing, for example, but the left position on guns assumes a collectivist one.

      • Matt M says:

        I see plenty of “Don’t have kids for the environment” propaganda. Method of not having kids left up to the reader, though.

        This is probably one of those “Twitter =/ real life” situations. I see a lot of it too, but also, every far-left person my own age who I actually know in real life either already has kids or is proactively planning on doing so.

        • ana53294 says:

          I have met people who say they don’t want to have kids for the environment, and say the only acceptable method of becoming a parent is adoption.

          But I have deep suspicions that they are child-free people who just want to have a seemingly un-selfish reason not to have kids, rather than “kids are gross and noisy, I don’t want any responsibility”.

          • AlesZiegler says:

            Yup, I also know some of those people and this is my impression too. I do not think they are bad people because they don´t want children, but their need to rationalize their own self-interested decisions by higher moral principles is annoying.

      • ana53294 says:

        The proposal usually comes from rich, over-educated people with an environmentalist bent. It is not US-only; there have been many Guardian articles supporting AOC’s comments on the matter. I have met some of environmental anti-natalists myself; they generally support adoption as a way to parent for those who want to, ignoring the actual difficulties of adopting a baby.

        Rich, over-educated women are much better informed than the general population about contraceptives, men of that category are much more likely to use them, so abortion is probably not the main method.

      • GreatColdDistance says:

        I’ve heard a reasonable amount of “abort for the environment” rhetoric, but I live in a fairly weird far-left bubble so it’s probably not representative.

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      I wonder if the debate would have the same salience if the locus of concern were instead the family, tribe, religion, or nation.

      The debate might not, but I’m pretty certain that activity would. Women seek abortions because they don’t want children/pregnancies. The framing of the debate only changes this behavior at the margins. The individualist debate is therefore simply the most honest framing.

      • Randy M says:

        Women seek abortions because they don’t want children/pregnancies.

        I don’t know, this seems somewhat constrained in perspective. You can find many women in the Bible praying for children (okay, at least 2), possibly because they really wanted to raise children or have children take care of them, but also because having children was a large part of a woman’s social status.
        Conversely, women in Communist China were encouraged to abort if having subsequent pregnancies. The morality and use of the practice was not tied up so much in whether a woman wanted to be childless or thought the child deserved life, but in how the child served society.

        You’ll never find a society where someone pays no heed to their own comfort or desires, but think the ability and sanction to put those forefront is quite variable.

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          The morality and use of the practice was not tied up so much in whether a woman wanted to be childless or thought the child deserved life, but in how the child served society.

          No, that’s how policy is framed. Not having actually read it, Jing-Bao Nie’s Behind the Silence: Chinese Voices on Abortion purports to tell a very different story about how people actually feel about it. For example (not from the book):

          On a recent visit to Maxiagou village, in another rural part of Linyi, he interviewed Feng Zhongxia, 36. She recounted that she was seven months pregnant and on the run when she learned that local officials had detained more than a dozen of her relatives and wouldn’t release them unless she returned for an abortion.

          “My aunts, uncles, cousins, my pregnant younger sister, my in-laws, they were all taken to the family planning office,” she said. “Many of them didn’t get food or water, and all of them were severely beaten.” Some of the relatives were allowed to call her, and they pleaded with her to come home.

          Feng called the family planning officials. “They told me they would peel the skin off my relatives and I would only see their corpses if I didn’t come back,” she said. The next day, she turned herself in. A doctor examined her, then stuck a needle into her uterus. About 24 hours later, she delivered the dead fetus. “It was a small life,” she said quietly.

          Afterward, she said, the family planning workers insisted on sterilizing her, too. “I’m a human being. How can they treat me like that?” she asked.

          (Source)

          It’s one person, but the perspective here is… not exactly alien to an American perspective.

          • Randy M says:

            Okay, good source.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            To add onto this, yes, the social pressures and policy framing and whatever else definitely affect behavior and desire for children on the margins. But the fundamental question abortion is, and has always been, “do I want a baby (and everything else that comes with having a baby),” not “should I have a baby?”

          • Randy M says:

            Not quite. The question of abortion is “Do I want this baby, now?”
            And anyway, while that may be the question people contemplating it ask, the number of people who contemplate it will depend on how the people generally see their duty to each other, family, God, etc.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            while that may be the question people contemplating it ask, the number of people who contemplate it will depend on how the people generally see their duty to each other, family, God, etc.

            Sure. Like I said, framing does work on the margin. But I think that the magnitude of the effect is much less than you’re suggesting. The brute facts of pregnancy – specifically, the incursion of virtually all costs of pregnancy by individual women – make it very, very hard to program people away from those sorts of considerations.

          • Randy M says:

            the incursion of virtually all costs of pregnancy by individual women

            I don’t think this is true in many cases. Many costs? Yes. Most costs? Yes, often. All costs? Only in particularly problematic pregnancies. (If you’d said risk rather than cost, you’d be on firmer ground).

            In a dual income home, the income is reduced by the net income of one salary for at least six to twelve months; typically in marriage (especially fruitful ones) income is shared and so the husband’s QoL will diminish as much as the wife’s will from this loss of income. And the husband will probably be performing a number of tasks for the wife’s comfort. Not all husbands will be more attentive to a pregnant wife, but that’s definitely a woman’s responsibility to discern prior to marriage.
            Likewise, the disruption of marital relations will impact the man (if he’s worth husbanding). You might think it is nit-picking compared to constantly having to pee and no longer being able to see your toes while craving pineapple tacos, but don’t sell short the burden of having to work twice as hard and go without sex.

            In a tribe or village, I would expect other allied or related families to pick up the slack of what the woman is unable to do.

            But all that aside, I think abortion is very rarely about pregnancy. Abortion is usually about parenthood, which is a much more communal endeavour in some societies.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            This may be splitting semantic hairs, but I do believe that the woman incurs virtually all costs, even if a man (or tribe) steps in to share the burden. Ultimately, they’re inconveniencing themselves for the woman, while the woman is being inconvenienced by her pregnancy (the fact that pregnancy is, in central examples, a result of her actions doesn’t mean that she now gets to take a break from being pregnant, or that she can pass the buck to somebody else if something happens, like everyone else can).

            But sure, let’s agree that abortion is mostly about the child, not the pregnancy. I think you’re short-selling the costs of motherhood here. It might take a village to raise a child, but humans are also not eusocial creatures by any stretch of the imagination, and going from “not-mother” to “mother” is a really big deal in almost every society I’m aware of.

          • Randy M says:

            do believe that the woman incurs virtually all costs, even if a man (or tribe) steps in to share the burden.

            Sure, nature declares that a woman’s life often changes far more after sex than a man’s. There’s various social technology for dealing with this equitably, which has various other considerations.

            In the modal case, a pregnancy produces costs shared among a man and a woman and to a much lesser extent other kin. In the worst case, a woman will bear all the burdens herself.

            I think you’re short-selling the costs of motherhood here.

            Didn’t intend to; was just trying to respond to you point you raised (pregnancy). Motherhood is of course a huge change.

            Maybe I was being too literal and should have motherhood as a ‘cost of pregnancy’? I didn’t realize that was your intent, but again, the woman can often arrange matters to be insured against these costs.

            But I really don’t think we’re arguing about anything anymore. Just picking nits.

          • Cliff says:

            let’s agree that abortion is mostly about the child, not the pregnancy. I think you’re short-selling the costs of motherhood here

            I don’t understand this. Abortion is all about the pregnancy. If someone doesn’t want to be a mother they can give up the child for adoption. Right?

    • The original Mr. X says:

      I think MacIntyre had it right: without a classical notion of telos, there’s just no rational way to ground moral obligations. Hence we should expect moral debates to prove intractable.

  4. sharper13 says:

    I don’t want to debate the NY Times or anything, just want a basic check if one of my definitional beliefs is because of my bubble growing up, or if there is an alternate bubble out there, or if some prominent people recently are just missing the boat in terms of meaning.

    If someone asked me “What is American Exceptionalism?” I’d answer that America is considered different because it was the first modern country to be deliberately established as respecting individual freedom as a limited government deriving it’s powers from the people. To expand, I might add that I attribute much of the United States’ success over a couple of centuries to keeping true to that somewhat unique origin.

    Until the last year or two, I’d never heard of American Exceptionalism as a philosophy that the United States was automatically more correct, or better than everyone else. And while there was a vague economic component in the sense that economically the U.S. has done better economically under it’s “system” over time than many other places, I might have attributed that to comparative economics, but never to something unique about America that another country couldn’t replicate if the people elsewhere acted similarly.

    And then recently I’ve seen articles which make no sense to me using the definition I literally grew up with. I didn’t read these before, I just did a search and grabbed a couple of results (so I don’t think this is cherry picking something unique), but here’s an example:

    And yet for all the ink spilled by so many excellent journalists — from The Times’s own Neil Irwin to Vox’s Matt Yglesias, Bloomberg’s Noah Smith and many others — America is doubling down on its exceptionalism. The rich got a tax break. Bankers got a break from the pesky rules written in the shadow of the financial crisis to protect the little guy. The poor and near poor were freed from their ability to afford health insurance.

    I’m pretty puzzled by what “its exceptionalism” is supposed to refer to in that quote. It seems pretty twisted.

    Just to try and keep this balanced politically (because that’s not my purpose), here’s Putin attacking Obama:

    I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is “what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.” It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy.

    That’s much closer (it at least makes sense), but it sounds like he’s reading in an implied superiority complex which isn’t present in the Obama quote he’s replying to.

    I almost suspect this is just one of those terms which are defined by someone’s opponent for them, so they use it to mean whatever they want to object to at the time. Is it actually that meaningless?

    Realizing I’m just a single data point, specifically, was anyone else raised/taught/learned somewhere that American Exceptionalism meant something the same or completely different than I was? If so, feel free to add where.

    • loophole says:

      The first quote might just be using it to mean difference between the US and other countries—that is, America is doubling down on the things it does differently. It does seem like a bizarre use of the term.

    • mrdomino says:

      I think its pretty meaningless term now. I personally most often heard of American Exceptionalism in a neo-conservative sense. Under that theory America is not just an unusual nation in it is the old constitutional democracy with limited powers (although Switzerland is an older democratic federation IIRC)-it is a “shining city on a hill” and “the last best hope of man on earth” to quote two Reagan speeches. It isn’t just a normal great power but an empire of liberty with a unique moral mission. Additionally, a uniquely right wing economic systems (aside from Eugene Debs no real socialist\labor movement in the US unlike most of Europe) and high church attendance dating from the Great Awakening helped round out the exceptionalism. These were all good things from the rights perspective and deviations from it are bad.

      I remember National Review and others on the right making a big deal about how Obama didn’t believe in American exceptionalism. He was moving us closer to Europe. See this article, for example. https://www.nationalreview.com/magazine/2010/03/08/exceptional-debate/

      The unabashedly capitalist “American gospel” and high church attendance were also part of the exceptionalism. But the moral sense of mission seems crucial to that article. America has “a unique role and mission in the world: as a model of ordered liberty and self-government and as an exemplar of freedom and a vindicator of it, through persuasion when possible and force of arms when absolutely necessary.”

      Apparently Canada and the UK don’t get to play role under the theory of American exceptionalism. Sorry UK and Canada despite stuff like the magna carta, ending the slave trade and fighting Hitler in 39 national healthcare and low church attendance means you aren’t a city on a hill. Okay. That was unhelpfully snarky but I think its an important point-American exceptionalism lately isn’t deployed to explain why America is different from Czarist Russia but why 21st Century American capitalist democracy is different from 21st Century European capitalist democracy, including other British successor states like Australia or Canada that the US seems very similar to.

    • Clutzy says:

      I’ve always thought that “American Exceptionalism” was a thing invented for its self evidenceness. We were winning easily and obviously, and thus created this phrase. I dont think it existed in 1776 or 1865 as examples of times that dramatically changed our republic.

      As a country, the United States is exceptional in its ability to transform humans into useful humans. Most places fail at this. That is the only exceptional thing I would accord to us.

    • Nornagest says:

      I almost suspect this is just one of those terms which are defined by someone’s opponent for them, so they use it to mean whatever they want to object to at the time. Is it actually that meaningless?

      Yes.

      • quanta413 says:

        Sadly, I think what Nornagest says is true.

        Well mostly. Sometimes, people randomly redefine it to supposedly mean something they think is positive and then criticize others for not doing that. It’s a very versatile bit of rhetoric has no substantive meaning.

    • eigenmoon says:

      For NYT, AE seems to mean roughly “how dare the elected representatives do the opposite of what we’ve told them to do!”.

      For the rest of us, AE is the belief that in the Land of the Reee you somehow have more liberty than in the rest of the world. Examples of exclusively US liberties include:
      – the liberty of being taxed even if you move elsewhere
      – the liberty of your money being taken from your wallet by a policeman (Civil Asset Forfeiture)
      – the liberty of losing your home to whoever wants to open a business on its spot (Eminent Domain)
      etc, etc.

      • Gobbobobble says:

        None of those are exclusively American. We might do it more or worse than other places, but we aren’t the only ones.

        And you forgot such wonderful liberties like
        – the liberty to get arrested for mean tweets
        – the liberty to get SWATted for homeschooling
        – the liberty to pay extra tax for being a member of a church
        – the liberty to redo referenda until you get it right

        • benjdenny says:

          Did a double-take scrolling past this post because I got swatted the other day and we homeschool, then realized it isn’t about me. It was pretty weird for a second, though.

          • acymetric says:

            Does swatting mean something different in the homeschooling context or do you actually mean your house got raided by SWAT?

        • ana53294 says:

          I thought getting swatted for homeschooling was more of a German than an American thing (except for cults who homeschool, in which cases homescholing is not the number one issue). Any specific case?

          • Randy M says:

            I think that’s Gobbo’s point, adding to the tongue-in-cheek list of ‘liberties’ from eigenmoon to point out similar examples that occurred elsewhere.

          • Nick says:

            Right. The “liberty to pay extra tax for being a member of a church” is aimed at Germany, for instance. The last one sounds like it’s aimed at the UK, although I don’t think they actually went through with a second referendum, a bunch of folks were just calling for one?

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Yeah Randy & Nick have the right of it. Maybe I should have been more obvious (or not posted at all, since it was fairly snarky) but the point is a bunch of cherry-picked potshots don’t prove “overall liberty” being any better or worse than other 1st-world countries

            (@Nick the last one was referring to EU referenda, Ireland specifically)

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      There is the American Exceptionalism expressed in the Gettysburg Address:

      Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
      Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
      But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

      And then there’s a more sociological American exceptionalism, that seeks to answer other questions like “why does America have so many guns” or “why does America not have universal healthcare” or “how is it in the past 50 years only Americans have walked on the Moon?”

      • Nornagest says:

        I haven’t read the full text of the Gettysburg Address since like eighth grade, and now I think it’s wasted on eighth graders. Damn, that’s a good speech.

        • John Schilling says:

          Eighth-grade Nornagest will little note nor long remember what we say here…

          • Matt M says:

            The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.

            Fact check: Mostly false. 3.5 Pinocchios.

    • Randy M says:

      never to something unique about America that another country couldn’t replicate if the people elsewhere acted similarly.

      Right, as a young conservative my conception of the term was that the uniqueness (and some, but not all, of the success) of the US derived from particular cultural factors. Free enterprise, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, separation of powers, a largely Christian but unusually tolerant populace, representative government, etc. These factors drove integration and innovation and constrained, or at least slowed, the tyrannical impulse of government. We were not the only ones who could adopt them, but by having a fresh start we could do so more easily than other nations entrenched in artistocratic systems.

      However, there’s another understanding of the term. The right can get it mixed up in manifest destiny and divine providence and see us as having a right to an empire, usually because our ideas are superior. The left will paint that–and the negative results of colonization and expansion–on the term even more broadly that it is even used and suggest a strong racial aspect to the use of the phrase which I’ve never seen personally.

      And then, if America was not economically and militarily successful, it’s questionable if the term would have purchase even if we had kept a largely unique focus on individual freedom, so all the factors that brought that about (see last OT) are at least tangentially relevant in any case.

      • Hoopyfreud says:

        Yeah, this.

      • quanta413 says:

        The left will paint that–and the negative results of colonization and expansion–on the term even more broadly that it is even used and suggest a strong racial aspect to the use of the phrase which I’ve never seen personally.

        The far left will criticize the empire building aspects of it, colonialism, slavery, etc. And it’s a solid critique! I agree all of those things are bad, and we still do too much of most of them. The only one that’s almost totally dead in the U.S. is slavery. There are some rare true cases of slavery that get stamped out when caught, and there are probably a few debatable edge cases that have some similarities with slavery but aren’t nearly as bad.

        The center left on the other hand, will randomly vacillate between the far left critique and embracing the whole empire building thing and advocating intervening in random countries by bombing or invading them. Usually under the guise of saving some oppressed group, which is the same as the typical right-wing interventionist justification just with a little bit of variance in where intervention may be favored at any given moment.

        • Randy M says:

          The far left will criticize the empire building aspects of it, colonialism, slavery, etc. And it’s a solid critique!

          Agreed, and inasmuch as AE is that, it deserves criticism, but I think AE does or at least could extend above that, not justifying imperialism, but justifying the American nation, contra the NY Times series that attempts to re-frame all of US history as a racist enterprise.

    • Atlas says:

      Steve Sailer has remarked that America is exceptional to him, personally, because it’s his country.

      • Matt M says:

        Worth noting that this is approximately the same view expressed as Barack Obama.

        I remember it being a minor “controversy” in the right-wing talk radio sphere when at one time, while President, he was asked whether he believed in American exceptionalism. His answer was something like “Yes, of course, in the same sense that the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism and the Japanese believe in Japanese exceptionalism.”

        In red tribe land, this was not an acceptable answer. Their view of American exceptionalism is that it expresses some sort of objective fact about the nation itself that exists independently from your own personal attachment. That saying “I love it because it’s mine” is roughly equivalent to saying “It’s only good because I’m here, and if I were somewhere else, it would be worse and that other place would be better.”

        • Randy M says:

          I think I’ve come closer to the Sailer/Obama view on the matter (there’s something you can’t say everyday). Not entirely; many aspects of American culture are more conductive to human flourishing generally and should be adopted by others. But many are just more conductive to the flourishing of the Americans living here. That is, if you are raised in a culture, it’s probably going to fit you better and you can rightly be happy and even proud to be a part of it. Americans should be open about what we think works well for us, but cautious about what we try to coerce other societies to adopt.

    • Ash says:

      I think a lot of the debate thread here is leaving out the religious element here – a huge swath of the American population believes that the US is ordained by God to carry out a special mission in the world. This has always been the most visible and potent, if not the most mainstream, part of American exceptionalism, and I would say your conception of it is a bit white-washed as it were – it was never something so banal. Of course like all things its mind-killed by politics now, but if you move past the hot takes you still see this religious trend as a dominant theme.

      • Joseph Greenwood says:

        That the Americas (collectively, not just the United States) are a choice and blessed land before God is written into the scripture of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons).

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      The wimi article is enlightening here. The first paragraph explains everything:

      American exceptionalism is one of three related ideas. The first is that the history of the United States is inherently different from those of other nations. [Your definition]In this view, American exceptionalism stems from its emergence from the American Revolution, thereby becoming what political scientist Seymour Martin Lipset called “the first new nation” and developing a uniquely American ideology, “Americanism”, based on liberty, egalitarianism, individualism, republicanism, democracy and laissez-faire economics. This ideology itself is often referred to as “American exceptionalism.”[NYT’s definition] Second is the idea that the US has a unique mission to transform the world. As Abraham Lincoln stated in the Gettysburg address (1863), Americans have a duty to ensure, “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” Third is the sense that the United States’ history and mission give it a superiority over other nations.[Putin’s definition]

      (Emphasis added)

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      Part of it is also the old truism (which might or might not still be true) about the US being a nation based on creed rather than ethnicity.

    • AnteriorMotive says:

      I believe NYT is using it to mean “The belief that America is better than any other country, and therefore can do no wrong.” It’s not a totally unreasonable characterization of some people’s ideas of AE, but isn’t exactly a steelman.

      My own understanding of American Exceptionalism is this:
      If you read a lot of history, American history just /looks different/. It breaks all the patterns you’re used to.
      And usually in a good way. Traditionally most nations can be modeled as amoral self-interested agents, who annex all their weaker neighbors.
      But America does lots of surprising things like fight its major wars for moral causes rather than national self-interest, divest itself of potential colonies because they don’t want to be subject peoples, and the process of keeping them in line would have gotten too bloody.
      I remember reading that when Putin meddled in the Ukraine, it send his approval through the roof. At first this totally disoriented me, because I’m used to American-style politics, where bullying smaller neighbors gets you in trouble, but of course, that’s very much not the norm. In most of the world, and the rest of history, gratuitously throwing one’s weight around is the kind of politics that gets 100% approval.

      (I don’t need these examples rebutted. I’m aware of the many exceptions to American Exceptionalism. If it’s a real phenomenon, it’s one of magnitude.)

      There’s mundane explanations for most of the phenomenon. There’s been general moral progress throughout history, and in fact, America’s golden age can easily be modelled as an incremental improvement on Britain’s.

      Also, the abrupt founding of the nation creates a dramatic break, which makes America’s unique traits stand out more. (Usually change is either gradual, or abrupt and temporary)

      But, there are also unique circumstances that may have made America legitimately more exceptional than to be expected.
      -Early adoption of Freedom/Capitalism/Democracy
      -Unusually educated (and religious?) founding population.
      -Abundance of free land to settle, working as a safety valve for social pressures.

      • Randy M says:

        If you read a lot of history, American history just /looks different/. It breaks all the patterns you’re used to.

        Another one is “revolution that didn’t immediately devolve into massacre.”

      • Eponymous says:

        Traditionally most nations can be modeled as amoral self-interested agents, who annex all their weaker neighbors.
        But America does lots of surprising things like fight its major wars for moral causes rather than national self-interest, divest itself of potential colonies because they don’t want to be subject peoples, and the process of keeping them in line would have gotten too bloody.

        Maybe I’ve been reading too much Chomsky, but it strikes me that many Great Powers have viewed their actions in strongly moral terms (Chomsky says all). The people on the other end often have a different perspective.

        The wars with Mexico and Spain are clear counterexamples. We were pretty into expansion/imperialism in the 19th century, and got out of it at around the same time everyone else did.

        One can argue all of our wars have been mainly about self interest (as we perceived it) and moral considerations were mostly post-hoc justifications. Was concern for the Korean and Vietnamese people really our main motivation?

        • Matt M says:

          Yeah, strongly disagree with the notion that the US has ever gone to war for altruistic reasons, just to help others.

          That’s part of the sales pitch, but it has never been sufficient without being accompanied by a very strong claim of self-interest. Even our current ridiculous boondoggles are sold mainly as “fight them over there or they’ll come here and do 9/11 again” much more frequently than they are sold as “we need to make Afghanistan safe for girls to go to school and gays to get married”

          • AnteriorMotive says:

            @Matt M

            Are you including the Civil War in that assessment?

          • Matt M says:

            Yes, far and away, not even close.

            Lincoln fought the civil war because he wanted the tax revenue from the south. He said so in his inaugural. He didn’t give a single iota about freeing the slaves.

            And the official narrative is that the south fired the first shot anyway, so it was just a proper response to a war started by someone else

          • quanta413 says:

            I’m not Matt M, but I think the same assessment applies to the Civil War. The South seceded because it disliked the Republican stance on slavery, but I really, really doubt Lincoln would have banned slavery absent the war. And the war initially was to maintain control of the U.S.

            Lincoln didn’t ban slavery (and even then only in territory the North didn’t yet control) until two years into the Civil War.

            If the South had immediately rolled over, slavery probably would have lasted quite a bit longer. Maybe even as long or longer than it did in Brazil.

          • Eponymous says:

            @Matt M

            Lincoln fought the civil war because he wanted the tax revenue from the south. He said so in his inaugural. He didn’t give a single iota about freeing the slaves.

            My understanding is that Lincoln was personally opposed to slavery, though it’s true that he was a free soiler rather than a radical abolitionist. This was his public position, and probably his private one on the eve of the war.

            The notion that saving the union was motivated by a desire for tax revenue is just bizarre. Does any historian argue for this position?

          • Matt M says:

            I don’t need to consult any historians. He said it himself in his first inaugural. Made it clear he didn’t care about slavery, but would go to war over any refusal to pay tariff duties.

          • Another Throw says:

            Ah, the past. When men were men, women were women, and speeches were such a wonderful guide to actual policy positions.

          • dick says:

            Matt M taking the position that Lincoln didn’t care about freeing the slaves. I’m sure this will lead to a really enlightening discussion, and all the participants will be very glad they engaged.

          • acymetric says:

            “We’re not firing you for [objectionable/illegal reason], we’re firing you for [legal cause for termination that we would never actually fire someone for].”

            Lincoln was neither the first nor last to put a spin on the reason the nation needed to go to war.

          • Eponymous says:

            @Matt M

            The context of the first inaugural is that three (I think) states have seceded, and seized federal buildings (post offices, courts, armories, etc). Many others are considering secession (others had held conventions and either voted *not* to secede or had decided not to vote). He is trying to take a conciliatory position, hoping that cooler heads will prevail.

            Yes, he sort of lays down a “red line” for when he will use force against the rebels:

            In doing this there needs to be no bloodshed or violence, and there shall be none unless it be forced upon the national authority. The power confided to me will be used to hold, occupy, and possess the property and places belonging to the Government and to collect the duties and imposts; but beyond what may be necessary for these objects, there will be no invasion, no using of force against or among the people anywhere.

            Now observe that at that very moment federal facilities were occupied (though he ultimately does not act on that until Sumter). And I’m pretty sure the South Carolina wasn’t paying their “imposts and duties” at that moment.

            Keep in mind he’s framing everything in terms of his oath and the traditional powers of president as set forth in the Constitution.

            I’m not a historian, but I think they’ve read this speech, and other stuff by Lincoln too, and nobody holds your position.

          • Matt M says:

            Direct quotes from the Wikipedia summary:

            Lincoln stated emphatically that he had “…no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.”

            He asserted that as he had just taken an oath “to preserve, protect, and defend the United States Constitution”, this oath enjoined him to see that the laws of the Union were faithfully executed in all states—including those that had seceded.

            Lincoln promised that there would be no use of force against the South, unless it proved necessary for him to fulfill his obligation to “hold, occupy, and possess the property and places” belonging to the federal government, and to collect legal duties and imposts. However, if the South chose to actively take up arms against the Government, their insurrection would meet a firm and forceful response.

          • quanta413 says:

            Matt M taking the position that Lincoln didn’t care about freeing the slaves. I’m sure this will lead to a really enlightening discussion, and all the participants will be very glad they engaged.

            Many northern politicians (including Lincoln) obviously were against slavery, but the idea that the war was fought to maintain territory and income (I dunno why he’s leaving out territory when that’s obviously crucial) is more accurate than the idea that the North invaded the South in order to end slavery and that the war was fought for altruistic reasons. Which is the question he was responding too.

            The South may have seceded because they didn’t want slavery to die off (all signs were that if they were tied to the North, it would in a generation or two)- Southern politicians said as much themselves, but the North didn’t invade in order to free slaves. That was more a benefit of winning.

            The South seceded for explicitly evil reasons, but the North’s retaking the South was decided by other considerations. It’s not like Republicans were about to ban slavery in 1860. They were more about containment and gradually strangling the institution until the slaveholding class decided to kick off a war. And if the South had ended slavery and attempted to sue for peace in the last year or two, I’m pretty confident the North would have finished the job and still retaken control.

            Even post-war, the Radical Republicans didn’t last long enough against the moderates and Democrats to keep African-Americans enfranchised. Which considering black voters were almost the only way Republicans had of getting any votes in the South shows how little whites thought of blacks.

          • acymetric says:

            @quanta413

            I don’t think that take is particularly incorrect, but it is a much less strong statement than the one that sparked this discussion:

            Lincoln fought the civil war because he wanted the tax revenue from the south. He said so in his inaugural. He didn’t give a single iota about freeing the slaves.

            (Emphasis on the part that people are taking issue with).

            Slavery wasn’t the primary reason for the North going to war is defensible and probably even correct. It certainly wouldn’t have been played up publicly as the primary reason because that would not have been a popular reason to invade the South. @Matt M’s claim about Lincoln is somewhat stronger and probably requires more support than what has been offered (I doubt the additional support for the claim exists).

          • Matt M says:

            You don’t think this is evidence for my claim?

            I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.

            I mean, sure, it’s possible that he’s lying about that as… some sort of clever trick to make people think he’s neutral on slavery when really he’s absolutely against it… but this gets us into “you’re still crying wolf” levels of conspiracy mongering.

            He himself said that he:

            1. Didn’t believe he had the legal authority to end slavery
            2. Even if he did have that right, was not inclined to use it

          • Lillian says:

            The fact that Lincoln didn’t feel like he should use the office of the Presidency to forcibly impose abolition on the South doesn’t mean that he didn’t care about ending slavery, it means that there were other things he valued more, like the norms of republican government and coexisting with his fellow Americans. You thesis is essentially that a President doesn’t care at all about a thing unless he does everything in his power to get that thing, which is not at all how people work. The available evidence and the consensus of historians is that Lincoln was an abolitionist, though a fairly moderate one was content with slowly strangling the institution of slavery rather than getting rid of it immediately.

        • AnteriorMotive says:

          These are some of the exceptions I’m aware of, but am inclined not to consider as dealbreakers. Like I said, it’s more about quantity than quality.

          Part of our disagreement might come from the fact that I’m grading on a curve. Power corrupts, and as soon as a country is able to act with impunity, I fully expect them to start abusing their power.

          Every group applies a dollop motivated reasoning when it comes to justifying why weaker groups with possessions of value have it coming to them. America seems to stand out for its (relative) restraint. IIRC, the war with Mexico was a decisive victory, but all the US demanded afterwards was the disputed region, plus some scarcely-populated extras to the west. Technically they were probably in the wrong supporting Texas in the first place, but by the standards of the time, all this isn’t painting too damning a picture.

          My impression is that colonialism was distinctly less popular in America than the rest of the world. Above I was alluding to the Philippines, which was won in the Spanish-American war, but was already being transitioned to autonomy before WWII, because painting the map one’s own colors just wasn’t holding the same appeal in America as it was in Europe. cf. The Monroe Doctrine, which is self-interested in its own way, but clearly distinct from the Empire-building in fashion at the time.

          Vietnam was fought based on a mistaken, but not unreasonable, belief that it was the best way to fight communism. Fighting communism happened to coincide with national self-interest, but even that’s a nice place to find oneself, morally.

          All that said, you make a good point that some of this might be a consequence of vantage-point. Since I’m living in an American era, their values and justifications are much more persuasive than those of past polities.

        • bean says:

          The wars with Mexico and Spain are clear counterexamples. We were pretty into expansion/imperialism in the 19th century, and got out of it at around the same time everyone else did.

          Disagree. American policy looks very little like British/French/German in that era. You have two data points which more or less bracket the era of imperialism. During that time, the European powers were doing imperialism pretty much constantly. We did it 1.5 times, because the Spanish-American war is really confusing from an imperialist perspective. Yes, we took the Philippines and Puerto Rico, but we didn’t take Cuba, probably the richest prize of the whole thing. Business opposed the war, which was most strongly supported by those outraged over Spain’s conduct in Cuba.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            During that time, the European powers were doing imperialism pretty much constantly. We did it 1.5 times

            Erm…

      • The original Mr. X says:

        Traditionally most nations can be modeled as amoral self-interested agents, who annex all their weaker neighbors.
        But America does lots of surprising things like fight its major wars for moral causes rather than national self-interest, divest itself of potential colonies because they don’t want to be subject peoples, and the process of keeping them in line would have gotten too bloody.

        Yeah, try asking some American Indians what they think of that argument. If there are any left in your area to ask, that is.

    • John Schilling says:

      The United States of America is objectively, absolutely exceptional in such things as creating vast quantities of wealth, technological innovation, saving the world from the forces of darkness, exploring strange new worlds, exporting popular culture, and creating broad networked communications systems that allow us to debate what “American Exceptionalism” is. Also, for about a century or two(*), the United States of America adopted and promoted a moral code of e.g. democracy and human rights that most of the Western and/or Industrial world would belatedly take as its own. Almost everyone who uses the term is going to roughly agree with this definition of the content of American Exceptionalism.

      There is not so clear a consensus on why America has become as undeniably exceptional as it is, with answers ranging from “only because they’re big powerful bullies” to “Deus Vult!”. But I think there’s a central core based on things like early adoption of democratic government with strong respect for individual liberty, a market economy at every scale from family farms to ginormous industrial conglomerates, meritocracy instead of aristocracy, welcoming and assimilating multicultural immigrants into an initially Western European population, having poylochromatic Tribes working together, an open frontier for the dreamers schemers misfits and malcontents, oceanic borders for convenient trade and defense, and being just plain big.

      As a prescription for the future, “American Exceptionalism” is going to depend heavily on whether one thinks the past causes for exceptionalism will remain in force or e.g. have been destroyed beyond repair by the Evil Other Tribe. If you expect American Exceptionalism to continue, then you are probably going to want the world’s economy and defense-against-the-forces-of-darkness infrastructure to be designed around a central core of Team America, and maybe moral leadership as well. If not, you’re going to want to start implementing the necessary patches. If you think American Exceptionalism is faltering but not doomed, then as an American you’re probably going to want to place a high priority on fixing that. Probably by running the Evil Other Tribe out of power wherever it is to be found because they’re the ones what wrecked that “poylochromatic Tribes working together” part.

      If you’re a foreigner who thinks that American Exceptionalism is faltering but not doomed, then maybe you want to give it a hard push instead.

      * Largely dependent on whether one will allow “…except for slavery”, or insist that this disqualifies everything about that century.

      • Eponymous says:

        I’ll mostly grant your definition of American Exceptionalism, with the caveat that to a great degree this is Western Exceptionalism, with the US as the largest and most powerful (especially this century) representative of “the West”.

        I’ll also grant that the US is exceptional to a degree apart from the rest of the West. My best guess is that this derives from the specific time and circumstances of its founding — deriving from arguably the “best part” of the West (Enlightenment England), with tons of open land and limited legacy institutions to overcome, but a very nice set of legal traditions from England to build on. Plus the generic optimism that comes from high levels of success since our founding, mostly due to our great size, natural resources, and isolation from threats. Plus *maybe* genetic and cultural selection due to being a nation of immigrants.

        I do fear that we’ve somewhat “lost our mojo” recently (maybe ever since Vietnam, with small exceptions for Reagan and the late 90s tech boom), and I interpret part of Trump’s “MAGA” appeal as deriving from this sense. It’s too bad he’s such a terrible vehicle for addressing it! (I see him mostly as a symptom of our decline, not an antidote.)

    • DinoNerd says:

      In my bubble, “American exceptionalism” refers back to quotes from well before its independence, with motifs like “a City on a Hill”. I’m too lazy to look up the actual quotes this morning, but the context is religious. America is the New Jerusalem. It is the nation favoured by God – succeeding to the role of Israel in the Old Testament. The authors of these quotes are Puritans and later members of their derivative sects. But the ideas continue to be expressed and expanded to the present, becoming secular as well as religious. And the Mormons have their own version, different in detail but similar in theme.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      Part of American exceptionalism comes from it being founded on a set of ideals to an extent not seen in other nations, which were mostly founded on the singular ideal of “we were the people who’ve lived here all this time”. The Colonists had lived in the Colonies, too, of course, but not as long (as we’re often reminded), and there was an unusual amount of arguing about what an ideal government ought to be, and there also seems to have been an unusually high number of Philosophy of Law wonks living in the Colonies at that time.

      The result is manifest to this day, in the oldest formal constitution in force, under which major parties have handed power over to each other routinely, without major popular rioting, for more of the nation’s history.

      Accidents of geography and history turning the US into the leading superpower tend to coalesce the notion as well.

      I don’t know of anyone who says the US is the best, and can back it up with numbers – other than military strength and economic bloc size – but I do believe a lot of people consider the US to have the highest overall potential. The US looks like a jack of all trades. It doesn’t currently have the best sedans or the largest collection of seeds or the tallest building, and it doesn’t always have the fastest supercomputer, but if it really wanted to, it could produce any of those. Often because of aforesaid military and economic power. The US isn’t as old a democratic federation as Switzerland, but Switzerland can’t project its democracy as far. The US has fewer individuals than China, but more individualists. The US has less economic freedom than Singapore, and yet it takes more immigrants than any other nation, and makes them more prosperous.

      The US is more adaptable. It isn’t as united on many issues as many other nations, but instead provides a framework for resolving conflicts faster, mapping out the points of consensus, and acting on them. Bismarck once observed a “special providence for drunkards, fools, and United States of America”. Walter Russell Mead attributes this to the US employing multiple approaches to any problem, hot-swapping them as needed. The US wasn’t just John Winthrop’s city on a hill; it was also Lincoln’s defense of “of, by, and for the people”, Edison’s inspiration and perspiration, and Will Roger’s unorganized politics.

  5. johan_larson says:

    The president of the United States has disappeared. He was in the White House last night and went to bed in the evening as usual. But some time during the night he just plain vanished. Staff could not find him this morning, and a search of the grounds and a quick audit of the security systems showed nothing out of the ordinary.

    Now what happens?

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      Some of us may prefer the version in which the president of the United States suddenly and inexplicably breaks into seven pieces.

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      The Secret Service is not to keep him safe from us; it’s to keep us safe from him. Trump rips and tears his way through the DC swamp, lobbyists and EPA officials alike falling to his rage. At dawn, the city wakes, forever changed, to his corpulent orange body filling Lincoln’s seat on the lawn. At noon, the SWAT team takes a shot. At sunset, the bomb falls.

      The true nature of the curse of the US presidency is revealed to the public by Alex Jones. Everyone drops out of the US presidential race except Kamala Harris, who then launches a brutal and vicious campaign in partnership with the WWE against Ted Cruz, who announces his candidacy immediately. Luckily, it’s possible to keep the public safe in the interim by surrounding Pence’s bedchamber with young women in order to keep him contained. Racing against time, the Congress passes an amendment in October 2020 to appoint a random person sentenced to life imprisonment as president, so that they can keep him locked up without violating any human rights. The next president of the United States is the Son of Sam, which makes everyone upset. Angela Merkel is elected to the newly-created office of Chancellor and immediately imposes austerity.

      Thanks Obama.

    • AG says:

      Has Pence indicated a willingness to continue the trade war if he took over?

    • Another Throw says:

      I would be unimaginably disappointed if he didn’t confusedly wander into a Dallas bus station six months later with his shirt on backwards on no recollection of what transpired.

    • Matt M says:

      Put out a call for any bad enough dudes to mount a rescue mission.

    • Garrett says:

      Officially/Best-practice, the 25th Amendment gets invoked and the VP at least becomes Acting President until something more formal or permanent is decided.

    • Civilis says:

      Over the next 24 hours after the disappearance of the President is noted, DC goes into a complete shutdown. Other Secret Service officers outside the Presidential Protection Division are brought in to investigate the Agents, Uniformed Division personnel, and others in the White House that night. When that proves insufficient, agents from the FBI are brought in to investigate everyone else. Every piece of camera footage that covers anything that could contain a clue is brought in in an expanding circle around the White House, and every person and the owner of every car in that footage is questioned. Roads are blocked off, and the DC Metro shut down. There are a couple of incidents where SWAT style raids on vague evidence of people potentially involved turn ugly due to mistakes.

      Pence is taken from the US Naval Observatory to a secure location, where he is sworn in as acting President. A short time later, citing conspiracy theories, he is brought back to the Capital, and security around the Naval Observatory is beefed up considerably, including FBI Hostage Rescue and US military Special Forces units. National tensions escalate, and both sides blame each other. Conspiracy theories multiply. Civil war erupts.

      Millennia later, evidence finally comes to light revealing that aliens teleported the president to Uranus as a prank, the United States of Earth respond by having the USE Space Force send the USES Grand Inquisitor Cocaine Mitch to glass the offending alien homeworld to show them what we think of their sense of humor. The USEMC claims the resulting slag pile, and per tradition immediately starts drilling for oil.

  6. BBA says:

    Edmond Hoyle is in the Poker Hall of Fame, even though he never played a game of poker in his life. He was the leading expert on card games in 18th-century Britain, while poker was a 19th-century American invention. By then “Hoyle” had become a generic name for books on card games much like “Webster’s Dictionary” or “Roget’s Thesaurus” but it’s still a trifle odd to talk about playing “poker according to Hoyle.” A later writer called the notion as ridiculous as citing “Fulton on Diesel Engines.”

    Who else gets cited anachronistically like this?

    • Well... says:

      Hoyle is also the name of a brand of playing cards. Relation, I presume?

    • SteveReilly says:

      Newton?

      Newton believed in God, and thought that God was necessary for the planets to stay in their course. As far as I know, the idea of a clockwork universe where God maybe started the whole thing off but has no role in its unfolding is a post-Newton idea. But when people talk about a clockwork universe, they often invoke Newton.

      • BBA says:

        I was thinking more along the lines of crediting Newton with something Faraday discovered (I hope nobody does this), but that would count.

        • It’s not exactly the same thing and gets into ideological controversy, but I have repeatedly seen claims that Adam Smith supported things he didn’t support, most commonly public schooling, progressive taxation, and anti-trust policy.

          I cover some of that in an old blog post.

  7. Le Maistre Chat says:
    • RalMirrorAd says:

      It’s frustrating to read if you imagine the author or would-be readers sincerely ask themselves why the police don’t intervene against Antifa.

    • Snopes has fact-checked the Babylon Bee multiple times(Yes, they “fact-check” satirical sites) and now they are just rolling with it.

      Snopes Rates Babylon Bee World’s Most Accurate News Source

      Snopes Introduces New ‘Factually Inaccurate But Morally Right’ Fact Check Result

      Ocasio-Cortez Appears On ‘The Price Is Right,’ Guesses Everything Is Free

      [EDITOR’S NOTE: We have been notified by Snopes.com that this story is not true. After reviewing the evidence, we would like to retract it. Ocasio-Cortez did not actually appear on The Price Is Right and guess that everything is free. In fact, it appears that this entire story was completely made up. Everything else on our site is still true, however. We apologize for any confusion.]

      Snopes Strikes Deal With Netflix To Provide On-Screen Fact Checks Of Fictional Shows, Movies

      Under Mounting Pressure From Snopes, Babylon Bee Writers Forced To Admit They Are Not Real Journalists

      • dick says:

        Snopes fact-checks satire sites because gullible readers think they’re real, not because Snopes thinks they’re real. The amount of hatred that gets flung at Snopes is unreal.

        • The Nybbler says:

          No, Snopes has always fact-checked urban legends that got their start from people believing satirical articles. Directly fact-checking the site is something Snopes doesn’t do for The Onion, for instance. And they suggested that what the Bee was doing wasn’t really satire. They’ve since changed that article to a rating of “Labeled Satire” and reworded it somewhat less harshly

          • Matt M says:

            Of course, they still heavily imply that while the Bee claims to be satire, we can’t really be sure that they aren’t deliberately trying to mislead people with *banned term*!

          • dick says:

            Which part of that (either version) was wrong?

      • Matt M says:

        The blood feud that’s been raging between Snopes and the Bee is one of the most ridiculous/entertaining things on the Internet…

        • AG says:

          But has Snopes fact-checked any of the Bee’s articles about Snopes?

          (And then the Bee can post a story about how Snopes is fact-checking Bee articles about Snopes, which the Be is now writing about in clearly the most accurate way, so Snopes will have to fact check that…)

      • Jaskologist says:

        It’s actually more serious than that. The Bee is considering legal action against Snopes, who has tried to get them demonetized a couple of times. The site owner talks a bit about it in the WSJ.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Fact Check: The Babylon Bee claims there is no organized, armed force in Portland that can fight back against Antifa. Also that the head of the Portland police is named Outlaw.

      Result: Mostly true. While the Portland Police technically consist of an organized and armed force that has the capability to fight against Antifa, they do not have the political will to do so. And yes, her name is “Outlaw”.

      • dick says:

        Is antifa going to be this year’s war on Christmas?

        • Doctor Mist says:

          Yes, Virginia, there is an Antifa. It exists as certainly as violence and anonymity exist.

          • dick says:

            The war on Christmas was exaggerated to fit a narrative, not invented out of whole cloth. What I meant is, is the right-wing media playing them up to be a threat of some kind? That satire piece makes it sound like they’re supposed to be scary, and I think LMC said something kind of in that vein once. I’m a left-winger in Portland, OR who attends the odd protest, I might have more first-hand experience than anyone here, and the idea of them being scary seems a little far-fetched… but then, so did the war on Christmas, so here we are I guess.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @dick

            Given that Democrats are having a war on Nazis, the entire populace of whom can comfortably fit it a small movie theater, I am not sure that “having a war on an imaginary enemy” is the stone a person in a glass house wants to throw.

            Given that antifa just did a mass shooting in Dayton, especially not now.

          • dick says:

            I hate that your side tries to tar all of my side with the actions of the worst members! Not enough to refrain from doing it back, tho.

            I will take that as a yes.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @dick

            Ah, you understand me perfectly then. You are just acting as if this is something that only right-wingers do, rather than something that is always done by everyone.

          • quanta413 says:

            I’m a left-winger in Portland, OR who attends the odd protest, I might have more first-hand experience than anyone here, and the idea of them being scary seems a little far-fetched…

            In shocking news, person not afraid of their own sides goons! More at 11.

          • dick says:

            You are just acting as if this is something that only right-wingers do, rather than something that is always done by everyone.

            Just because the right wing does it, doesn’t mean you have to. Just because the left wing does it, doesn’t mean you can throw it back in my face. I’m not “the left”, and you’re not “the right”. We’re two people talking, on a forum that’s ostensibly devoted to not doing the dumbest things the media do. Even if (or maybe especially if) both sides do it.

          • dick says:

            In shocking news, person not afraid of their own sides goons! More at 11.

            I criticized a simplistic meme, therefore I must believe the opposite of it? This is a really disappointing response. I don’t think of you as that sort of commenter.

            I mean, I guess I am afraid of antifa, and I’m also not. When they’re in front of me, like if I’m out somewhere and a group of people with masks on shows up and tries to stir shit up and provoke a violent response, yes, I’m afraid of that. I don’t want to get gassed. But as a movement, no, they’re not scary at all. They’re vastly outnumbered and uncoordinated and don’t accomplish anything except getting people to dislike them. Is this not how right-wingers feel about nazis?

            When I asked if the right-wing media was playing up antifa as a threat, I was actually asking. I mean, it’s not a foregone conclusion. They could’ve portrayed them as, say, pathetic and impotent. They throw milkshakes at people for chrissakes.

          • Nick says:

            I mean, I guess I am afraid of antifa, and I’m also not. When they’re in front of me, like if I’m out somewhere and a group of people with masks on shows up and tries to stir shit up and provoke a violent response, yes, I’m afraid of that. I don’t want to get gassed. But as a movement, no, they’re not scary at all.

            Uh, if you didn’t want to be interpreted that way, then why did you say you weren’t afraid when you go to protests with them? How is it “disappointing” to read what you said that way? Alternately, if the protests you were speaking of never had antifa, why are you talking like you have any direct experience with them?

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            They’re vastly outnumbered and uncoordinated and don’t accomplish anything except getting people to dislike them. Is this not how right-wingers feel about nazis?

            Yep. If we could come out of this otherwise pointless squabble with a general agreement that right-wingers are correct to feel that way about Nazis, that would be an accomplishment of sorts.

          • Clutzy says:

            The reason antifa gets any real coverage at all is because, in certain places, they act in a legal grey area where one could plausibly argue they are acting under the color of law. Berkley, Portland, and some other places have managed the situation very poorly. Obviously its not 1950s cop-Klan levels, but in my lifetime it is completely aberrant behavior.

          • dick says:

            How is it “disappointing” to read what you said that way?

            The reduction of a nuanced topic in to two sides who each have their own thugs.

            Uh, if you didn’t want to be interpreted that way, then why did you say you weren’t afraid when you go to protests with them?

            We’re discussing right-wing media articles portraying antifa as a threat. I assume they are not doing that in the sense of “a threat to the other, more peaceful people at the rally.”

            Portland, and some other places have managed the situation very poorly.

            Perhaps, but the protesters in recent Portland scuffles (on both sides) are doing their best to be as annoying and provocative as possible without getting arrested. Don’t pretend that’s a straightforward problem for the police to handle.

          • quanta413 says:

            I criticized a simplistic meme, therefore I must believe the opposite of it? This is a really disappointing response. I don’t think of you as that sort of commenter.

            I admit it was dickish, and I should have phrased my point more politely.

            I mean, I guess I am afraid of antifa, and I’m also not. When they’re in front of me, like if I’m out somewhere and a group of people with masks on shows up and tries to stir shit up and provoke a violent response, yes, I’m afraid of that. I don’t want to get gassed. But as a movement, no, they’re not scary at all. They’re vastly outnumbered and uncoordinated and don’t accomplish anything except getting people to dislike them. Is this not how right-wingers feel about nazis?

            But apparently you get my point. I’ve actually said on SSC before I feel this way about both Neo-Nazis and Violent Communists. But I didn’t say it by saying, “I went to hang out with them while signalling I was vaguely adjacent, I don’t see why anyone is worried”. I said something more like “I’m very worried if I end up in a dark alley next to them, but they are pretty easy to avoid and pretty marginal so I’m not worried day-to-day.”

            When I asked if the right-wing media was playing up antifa as a threat, I was actually asking. I mean, it’s not a foregone conclusion. They could’ve portrayed them as, say, pathetic and impotent. They throw milkshakes at people for chrissakes.

            Them or someone pretty damn adjacent beat the crap out of Andy Ngo for trying to film them at a protest, and at Berkeley a few years ago some poor guy who just happened to be nearby got pepper sprayed and then hit for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. It was around the time Milo was originally going to speak, and a protester just hit this guy because “he looked like a Nazi”. Because he was wearing a suit. Also he was a Syrian Muslim. But accuracy of targeting is not really the point of the sort of person who engages in this.

            The difference between left-wing street thugs and right-wing street thugs is I expect the government to (and it largely does) crack down like hell on Neo-Nazis and those adjacent when they try to get violent. Almost no one likes them. But a lot of authority figures in more left-leaning towns are less inclined to crack down. More charitably, in general they are less willing to crack down; less charitably, they are less willing to crack down on people who attack their political enemies. And there is a disturbing amount of excuse making about it that makes me less than confident that antifa is truly as marginal as neo-nazis are.

            It’s not like there’s no historical precedent for violent activists being excused or clucked at and then laundered into positions of authority in the U.S.

            EDIT:

            I assume they are not doing that in the sense of “a threat to the other, more peaceful people at the rally.”

            See examples above. They are, and it’s well documented. I’ll give you links if you like, but it shouldn’t be hard to find from my description.

            Perhaps, but the protesters in recent Portland scuffles (on both sides) are doing their best to be as annoying and provocative as possible without getting arrested. Don’t pretend that’s a straightforward problem for the police to handle.

            It’s hard to handle if you want the government to behave in a way comporting with libertarian principles. But the U.S. government at any level almost never behaves that way anywhere, so I don’t believe it’s out of a sudden change of heart when it happens to occur rather than out of convenience.

          • quanta413 says:

            Missed my edit window, but this phrasing could be improved to be somewhat less inflammatory although less punchy.

            “I went to hang out with them while signalling I was vaguely adjacent, I don’t see why anyone is worried”

            To be something more like “I went to hang out across the street from them while signaling I was closer to them than to their enemies…”

          • dick says:

            I think you’re bending over backwards to read this stuff in the most argumentative way possible. I don’t think it’s worth hashing out further; if you re-read what I’ve already said, imagining it was coming from someone you know and respect, I feel like my meaning would come through. Or maybe the problem is me. At any rate, I asked if the right-wing media is playing up antifa as scary, and I got my answer.

          • quanta413 says:

            if you re-read what I’ve already said, imagining it was coming from someone you know and respect, I feel like my meaning would come through. Or maybe the problem is me.

            It wouldn’t have changed anything if someone I know and respected said it. My filter is more removed around people I know so it might have been worse. You should see some of my rare arguments with family*. It’s usually not my most graceful and charitable state. Or usually theirs either. That’s why I mostly argue with anonymous strangers here. It’s a bad habit, but a lot of the temptation to be particularly bad is reduced in the proper forum.

            As you noted, I usually don’t respond in a particularly crude way. But it would be inaccurate to say I’m particularly temperate either. Rather, I try to ignore poor posts for an argument but occasionally I slip and respond in kind.

            At any rate, I asked if the right-wing media is playing up antifa as scary, and I got my answer.

            My sources are the NYT and Quillette. I’ve seen some articles in the Washington Post too. The NYT and WP are certainly not right-wing. The NYT framing was more along the lines of “you shouldn’t commit violence even if your heart is vaguely in the right place” than “be afraid of Antifa”, but since I don’t share those beliefs obviously I don’t take that spin from the events. And since I lived on campuses for a decade, the lesson to me was more obviously “I hope these idiots don’t spread because I’d hate to be punched while crossing campus”.

            Quillette is mostly left-wing heretics so their take is somewhat more aggressive about it.

            Like yeah, I have no doubt the right wing media doesn’t like Antifa but I don’t read them, and you wouldn’t have to have read them to find out any of what I said. Mainstream news organizations covered it.

            *Actually you shouldn’t

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            When you start a sub-subthread by asking “Is antifa going to be this year’s war on Christmas?”, you’re not exactly creating an environment where interpretive charity is likely to flourish.

          • dick says:

            When you start a sub-subthread by asking “Is antifa going to be this year’s war on Christmas?”, you’re not exactly creating an environment where interpretive charity is likely to flourish.

            Why not?

            In theory, every right-winger here knows that the right-wing media (like all media) sometimes does silly things for clicks and tries to gin up controversies where they aren’t. I would’ve thought the War on Christmas would be a pretty uncontroversial example of that. Am I wrong? Anyone here think that everything Fox said about the War on Christmas was defensible? My assumption is that no one does.

            But in practice, when I mention it, it’s not taken as a reference to a time when the right-wing media exaggerated a threat, it’s taken as an attack on the right-wing media for doing that. EchoChaos said that explicitly – “You are just acting as if this is something that only right-wingers do, rather than something that is always done by everyone.” I didn’t say that, but it seems like I don’t have to.

            I take your comment to mean that, if I had only been more verbose and less flippant, if I had typed all of this out with some disclaimers and qualifications, it would’ve been read more charitably. My experience here suggests otherwise – trying to force charity through careful wording is a mug’s game. Take the thread about Pizzagate a couple of OTs ago. Conrad compared Pizzagate to the Mueller stuff, and I wanted to argue that that was unfair, in the sense that, even if you thought the Mueller stuff was all smoke and no fire, for Pizzagate there isn’t even smoke. So I wanted to refer to the fact that the Mueller findings were not nothing, but I wanted to phrase it as weakly as possible, to avoid making a claim about that scandal that would derail in to relitigating it. I rephrased it several times before posting, trying to make sure what I said about it was so unobjectionable that no one would dispute it. What I went with was, “his underlings considered it.” No one could argue that, right? I thought. Underlings refers to hundreds or thousands of people, and doesn’t imply Trump directing them, or even being aware of them. Considering a crime isn’t even illegal.

            In the end, none of my careful phrasing mattered; Conrad reacted exactly as if I had just said “Trump colluded with Russia.” Worse, this kind of over-careful phrasing can be counter-productive: when you try to think several moves ahead and account for all contingencies, you can end up obscuring your meaning. I’m probably guilty of that, even in this comment.

            This seems to happen over and over, forever. I don’t know what the solution is. It may be “find another forum.” I am trying to just avoid discussions that I think will devolve, with some success. I didn’t engage in this OT when Matt M accused #metoo of not really being about combating sexual harassment, for example. But, believe it or not, when I asked if antifa was going to be this year’s war on Christmas, it was really genuinely just a question I was curious about the answer to. And like I said, I got it.

          • John Schilling says:

            In theory, every right-winger here knows that the right-wing media (like all media) sometimes does silly things for clicks and tries to gin up controversies where they aren’t. I would’ve thought the War on Christmas would be a pretty uncontroversial example of that.

            And I think you’d be right. But antifa as a serious threat is not uncontroversial. When you assert an equivalence between, on the one hand a subject of legitimate controversy that you are allegedly trying to engage in civil and charitable debate about and, on the other hand, something uncontroversially ridiculous, something is going to give. That something is going to be civility and charity, because that’s what you weren’t offering when you said in essence “your beliefs are equal to this ridiculous belief”.

          • dick says:

            When I say charity, that’s not a euphemism for civility or niceness. I sounded derisive towards the idea of antifa being a threat worthy of national news reporting because I am. Not the most civil thing I’ve ever said maybe, but not exactly provocative, for this place. Doctor Mist responded as if I had said that antifa doesn’t exist, but I didn’t bitch about that either – it’s not what I meant, as I clarified, but it’s not out of left field either. It was the suggestion that I was accusing the right-wing media of being uniquely bad (from EC) and that I’m okay with thugs as long as they’re on my side (from quanta413) that I bitched about.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            dick-

            “As you clarified”. Um, yeah, I’m sure it was all just a big misunderstanding.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            The thing is, dick, that once you got around to making your actual point, it was a reasonable enough one that you wouldn’t have needed to force charity through careful wording– had you not already, though flippant and insulting* wording, antagonized them into withholding the level of charity they’d ordinarily bring.

            I like making the snarky throwaway joke at least as much as the next guy, but once you go that route you should follow through and actually throw it away. If instead you change your mind and decide you’re going to make the Big Serious Point after all, now you really are stuck with the disclaimers and the paragraphs of throat-clearing and the rest of it. (There’s also an element of “know your audience” to all this: compared to other clever-dicks-playing-with-ideas fora I’ve been on, this one’s a bit on the starchy side.)

            *What John Schilling said, basically. People who got upset about a War on Christmas were being silly; people who get upset about Antifa are merely worrying too much.

          • (About Antifa)

            But as a movement, no, they’re not scary at all. They’re vastly outnumbered and uncoordinated and don’t accomplish anything except getting people to dislike them.

            I’m not sure if they do accomplish anything more, but they could. To the extent that many people on the left see what they are doing as “carrying things a bit too far, but …” and people on the right see violence in response to theirs in similar terms, they normalize the idea that violence against your political opponents is not an unambiguously bad thing.

            Combine that with the fact that, in many jurisdictions, the people who are supposed to have the job of preventing violence are sympathetic to one side or the other of the culture war/political conflict, and you have the potential for a pretty serious breakdown of civil order, a situation where a fair number of people correctly believe that they can get away with beating up their opponents as long as they do it in the right place–somewhere the police are on their side.

            I took the point of the Bee piece to be that the Portland police could and should prevent such violence and didn’t.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Antifa got an event in NJ canceled by threatening to burn down the venue it was to be held in. They may not be a particular threat to one’s safety if you’re not actually holding a public right-wing event, but they’re certainly a threat to one’s ability to speak. The sponsor is apparently going to be holding it in Philly instead, but since they now can’t announce the venue ahead of time, I imagine they’ll have trouble attracting an audience.

          • albatross11 says:

            I agree with David’s point–the danger of antifa is normalizing political violence–something that’s more likely because most people in the media are (very broadly) on the side of the antifas, and because both left and right media have an incentive to inflate their numbers and importance for their own reasons.

            If the left has thugs visibly busting heads and kicking asses of people on the right, with some measure of tolerance from the police in some very liberal cities, that erodes the norm against political violence. When various opinion leaders make excuses for them, it erodes the norm still further. Eventually, the right will similarly have thugs doing that stuff in conservative cities–there’s certainly no *law* against the gay pride rally in this town, it’s just that if one shows up, a bunch of thugs stage a riot and beat up the participants.

            One reason this is extra-bad is because the police and military are much more likely to be on the side of the right-wing thugs than the left-wing thugs. It’s not hard to see ways this could go really badly for everyone.

          • dick says:

            The thing is, dick, that once you got around to making your actual point, it was a reasonable enough one that you wouldn’t have needed to force charity through careful wording– had you not already, though flippant and insulting* wording, antagonized them into withholding the level of charity they’d ordinarily bring.

            *What John Schilling said, basically. People who got upset about a War on Christmas were being silly; people who get upset about Antifa are merely worrying too much.

            Sure, that’s one interpretation of what I said – that people think antifa are scary are just as dumb as people who thought the War on Christmas was. Another interpretation would be that the media is exaggerating the danger of antifa, like they did with the war on Christmas. What do you call it when there are two ways to interpret something, and you pick the most insulting one?

            I agree with David’s point–the danger of antifa is normalizing political violence…

            That could happen. One sign would be if the mainstream left was responding positively. It seems obvious to me that they’re not. I don’t know anyone on the left who approves of antifa, the word is essentially synonymous with extremism. Anyone on the right who disagrees with this, please ask yourself whether you’re in a position to know what the left really thinks.

            If the left has thugs visibly busting heads and kicking asses of people on the right, with some measure of tolerance from the police in some very liberal cities, that erodes the norm against political violence.

            This is exactly what I’m saying is a gross exaggeration. Antifa and their opposites (Proud Boys and their ilk) have butted heads like half a dozen times in Portland, and AFAIK the head-busting and ass-kicking has so far been limited to one dude.

            As for the police taking antifa’s side, I understand why someone far away relying on media reports might think that, I just don’t think it’s true. And lest that be misconstrued, I am not saying “antifa are the real victims here”. I’m saying, this is a messy muddled he-said-she-said, and if it looks one-sided you ought to ask if you’re only hearing one side. And the reason you’re only hearing one side is that the other (for example) is not being pushed by the mainstream media, despite said media allegedly being in the bag for the left. Which brings us back full-circle to why I’m not worried about antifa normalizing violence – because the left doesn’t really approve of them.

          • Aapje says:

            @dick

            Between approval and rejection there is a middle ground: tolerance.

            We know that antifa violence was being organized from within Google, due to the screenshots in the Damore lawsuit. Google didn’t seem to have fired these people for that. I have fairly high confidence that if Proud Boys would be organizing things within Google, they would be fired.

            Google is one of the handful of tech companies who together have immense control over our digital lives. Like Facebook, who banned Proud Boys last year, but didn’t ban antifa.

            When those in power are seen as very biased and as oppressing their outgroup, it breaks down faith in ‘the system,’ public debate, democracy, etc.

            In the 70’s there was a period where large parts of the left, including even quite smart people who later rose to some prominence, decided that justice was not possible within the system. This resulted in over 2,500 domestic bombings in just 18 months.

            My worry is that increasingly, the moderates on the right will have no good response to violent people on the right who argue that things are so rigged that being peaceful is not an option.

            And the reason you’re only hearing one side is that the other (for example) is not being pushed by the mainstream media, despite said media allegedly being in the bag for the left.

            Your claim that the information from your link is kept out of the mainstream media is false, as the NYT covered it.

            However, as the NYT briefly notes, the police sergeant from your link behaves pretty much the same with the left wing activists he also communicates with, although the left wing activists seem more paranoid than the right wingers, which may or may not indicate that the former aim to break the law.

            My understanding is that it’s completely normal for the police to be chummy with moderate protest leaders, to for example:
            – clarify what the police will tolerate
            – give information about the reasons for arrests to prevent people believing and acting on false rumors
            – keep counter protesters away from protesters, by coordinating where protesters move
            – trying to get the moderates to exclude extremists

            The police typically seem to employ (not necessarily sincere) prosocial behavior to get more cooperation, which can be interpreted as manipulation or cooperation, depending on your bias.

            Of course, with free speech being a constitutional right, having the police act in ways that allow the expression of free speech seems perfectly acceptable and arguably even their duty, if that ‘cooperation’ is content-neutral and focused on reducing crime.

            That the cooperation with right-wing protesters results in an investigation, but not the same cooperation with left-wing protesters simply seems validate the criticism that this content-neutrality does not exist in Portland right now, at the level of the mayor.

          • dick says:

            I started this thread by asking if the media was pushing antifa as a threat. You, from thousands of miles away and relying only on media reports, have concluded that the police coordinate with both sides, but only their coordination with the left constitutes a threat. That seems like an answer.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Waging the war on noticing must be difficult when you’re trying to get people to not notice what’s on all the major news sites. Almost as hard as trying to get people to not notice blockbuster films and the marketing campaigns associated with them.

  8. j1000000 says:

    Extremely random but I’m sorry I had nowhere else to put this: my brother gave me a PlayStation Classic last Christmas and I finally decided to take Final Fantasy 7 for a spin. A few hours in and I got to the exact screen where I had stalled out as a kid — I knew it right away, I recognized it. It wasn’t a boss or anything, it was just a pre-rendered screen where I couldn’t figure out how to progress to the next screen. And then, surprisingly to me, I still couldn’t figure it out. I spent about 15 minutes trying to figure out how to get through it before using a strategy guide.

    I honestly find that kind of weird and amazing, that I have the same blind spot 22 years later for this screen which AFAIK no one else ever complains about.

    • Randy M says:

      Was it like a giant wall or something? Graphically the game could be pretty busy, with somewhat obscure interactive elements at a few points in the story.
      Anyway, now that the hardest part of the game is behind you, enjoy the classic.

      • j1000000 says:

        “Obscure interactive elements” is definitely a fair way to describe the game, though not sure this screen merited this much trouble.

        It’s at 4:45 of this video — I didn’t realize the bar is what you have to cross to get to the other side of the screen: https://youtu.be/PPKAAfHxC3E

        (And LOL to “hardest part of the game”)

        • theredsheep says:

          It’s not exactly a difficult game.

        • rahien.din says:

          Oh that fricking bar. Easily the worst single task of that game. Took me FOREVER the first time and I can remember panicking trying to figure it out, running into that stupid animated house enemy over and over. Just looking at that video makes me remember the song that plays in that scene.

          • theredsheep says:

            Oh, that part? I don’t watch videos b/c I’m stuck on satellite internet. I vaguely remember that, but mostly b/c I once spent ages on that screen racking up kills to try and get Meteorain early. Not worth it.

            As far as obscure video game checkpoints go, the worst I’ve encountered is in Phantasy Star IV, where you’re told “the Psycho Wand is the key to beating Zio!” Who’s otherwise invincible. Now, the Psycho Wand is an equipable weapon for Rune, physically the weakest character in your party at that time. The game developers made it so hitting Zio with the Wand physically does, in fact, cause him normal damage. About forty points, IIRC, and Zio has roughly 3000. I spent ages trying to kill that SOB by having my wizard whack him with a stick while the rest of the party struggled to keep everyone alive for turns and turns and turns. Even when I hyper-leveled, I never got close.

            Fortunately, the internet was a thing when the game came out, so I looked it up and discovered I was supposed to use the PW as an item, thereby knocking down the magic barrier and causing him to take damage normally. Nothing in the game suggested I was supposed to do that. Alas.

  9. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Racial differences in theosophy.
    Teal deer: black people (SSA, Australoids and some South Indians) are most closely related to giants who lived with dinosaurs. Cro-Magnons, Native Americans, “Turanians”, Semites and East Asians evolved in Atlantis. Indo-European speakers are divided into five sub-races, and soon a sixth sub-race of Aryans will start being born in California (followed much later by a seventh, because evolution works in tidy mathematical cycles).

  10. Randy M says:

    Following up on a recommendation in OT102.25, which was approximately forever ago in internet years, I’ve checked out Roma from the library and started it with my daughter. It looks quite promising.

    • Urstoff says:

      I feel like it’s one of those movies you have to force yourself to watch all in one sitting or you’ll never finish it.

    • Alejandro says:

      Glad you are enjoying it! Coincidentally I am now reading the sequel, Empire, which is working less well for me than Roma did. I think the smaller timespan (just Augustus to Hadrian) is a part of that.

      If you enjoy Saylor, I would definitely also recommend his mystery novels starring Gordianus the Finder, who is employed to look into mysteries and to dig up dirt by Cicero, Pompey, Caesar and other bigwigs of the late Republic. Start from Roman Blood and continue in order of publication.

  11. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    When You Order Coffee with an Irish Name Can you handle this? My name has seven silent letters.

    • The Nybbler says:

      So “Deiseach” is perhaps pronounced “Dawn”? After watching that video she could probably convince me it’s pronounced “Ekky-ekky-ekky-ekky-z’Bang, zoom-Boing, z’nourrrwringnmmm”.

    • AG says:

      Why is it that most romanization systems suck so much ass? Is it because of selection effects, where the people who usually end up making the early attempts have weird opinions on english alphabet pronunciations as well? It feels like there are always much superior and obvious substitutions that have been utterly bypassed in favor of silent letters and unconventional+non-intuitive pronunciations.

      • FrankistGeorgist says:

        Irish orthography is an example of when preserving etymology is favored over phonetics. It’s lots of fun for historical linguists.

        Much of English’s weird spellings are remnants of older forms of words. Also just because a sound-letter pairing seems unintuitive now doesn’t mean it might have been when it was penned.

        But this is no excuse for fucking Wade-Giles.

        • Machine Interface says:

          Irish orthography is actually relatively well behaved. The trick is it has to write 40+ distinct phonemes with just 18 letters and 1 diacritic.

      • Eric Rall says:

        Is it because of selection effects, where the people who usually end up making the early attempts have weird opinions on english alphabet pronunciations as well?

        It’s worse than that in the case of Irish orthography in the Latin alphabet, as it dates back to the 8th century and may actually slightly predate attempts to write down English in the Latin alphabet. And the English in question at the time looked like this:

        Hwæt. We Gardena in geardagum,
        þeodcyninga, þrym gefrunon,
        hu ða æþelingas ellen fremedon.

      • Lillian says:

        It’s funny to me that romanizations of Chinese made by Westerners in the 19th and early 20th century were so atrociously bad that eventually the Chinese themselves were like, “Screw this, we are going to tell you how to write our language with your writing system.” The resulting Hanyu Pinyin is pretty good. The one thing you have to keep in mind though is that it’s a romanization not an anglicization, the Chinese specifically built it in such a way that no speaker of any given Latin alphabet language would have an advantage over others. So you have to actually learn the sounds that each letter stand for, but it’s actually pretty easy as most of them are pretty close to the English version, with a couple exceptions. Once you do though it’s pretty easy to read and pronounce Chinese words without completely butchering them.

        • AG says:

          Honestly, I think “custom alphabet” might be superior than the usual romanization. Bopomofo or kana do away with the common ambiguities of how vowels and consonants behave in context. Meanwhile, even I default to the bad english-assumption incorrect pronunciation when I see “Yang Xiao Long.”

      • Anthony says:

        The standard Greek romanization was developed by Germans for Ancient Greek. Once you know that, it makes a *lot* more sense.

    • Deiseach says:

      That is a funny video 🙂

      And this is with the modernised, simplified spelling – before the revisions of orthography of the 40s-70s, the traditional/classical spellings were such things as “Seaghan” for what is now spelled “Seán” and “Toirdealbhach” for what is, um, still spelled like that but pronounced “Turlough”.

      Matters are not helped by there being three main dialects of the language and that pronounciations vary – so “Siobhán” can be pronounced “Shoon” (and sometimes spelled “Siún”) in one area or “Shiv-awn” in another. Or in a third manner, from the Connacht dialect, as spoken here.

      • Nick says:

        I have to ask—how do you pronounce your username? I’ve long guessed “day-shock” or “die-shock” based on the apparently UK-accepted pronunciation of Taoiseach, but that differs from the Irish pronunciation of the name anyway, it seems….

  12. J Mann says:

    Here’s an interesting story about some of the failure modes of shunning as a punishment for sexual misconduct.

    Mark Halperin was fired and shunned after sexual misconduct allegations from a LOT of people, but just came out with a book featuring interviews with many prominent democrats. When Halperin’s victims complained, the dems basically said his shunning was so complete that they forgot that he was accused of anything.

    • Aftagley says:

      Bad reporting in that article is bad.

      Of all the people who have come out and made statementsexplaining why they participated in that book, no one explicitly says they forgot what he did. Under the most generous readings of their statements, maybe one or two of them (Ben LaBolt and maybe Kathleen Sebelius) could be kind of said to have forgotten about it. Everyone else seems was aware of what he did, but didn’t think that much of responding to an email.

      • J Mann says:

        Thanks – on review, three of the seventy-five people interviewed for the book said they were unaware or insufficiently aware of the allegations, several others said other stuff, and nobody said they forgot. 🙂

        • Aftagley says:

          several others said other stuff

          Focusing in on these guys, I thought some of these responses were WAY more idiotic than if they actually had shunned this guy so hard they forgot about him. At least 3, maybe as many as 5 (depending on how you parse their responses) people who’ve been interviewed pretty much had the response of “Yeah, I know Mark Halperin is terrible, but speaking to him gave me an opportunity to demonstrate how much I hate Trump, and that’s WAY more important than continuing to shun this monster.”

          • quanta413 says:

            “Yeah, I know Mark Halperin is terrible, but speaking to him gave me an opportunity to demonstrate how much I hate Trump, and that’s WAY more important than continuing to shun this monster.”

            This explanation makes much more sense. It’s also pretty typical

            Q: “Why isn’t X shunned for Y actions?”
            A: “Because X’s other Z actions benefit us more than maintaining the shunning for Y actions.”

            Fill in with whoever X for whatever reason for shunning Y and whatever reason to stop shunning Z for whatever group you do or don’t like.

    • BBA says:

      Halperin is such a waste of oxygen that I was actually gleeful to see him #MeToo’d, as it meant we’d be rid of him and his worthless “insights” for good. Or so I thought. If Democrats are welcoming him back into the discourse with open arms, then it’s obvious that #MeToo is over and nobody has learned a damn thing.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Men learned not to be alone with women, but I don’t think that was the intended outcome.

        • EchoChaos says:

          As a manager, I’ve always been a firm follower of the Pence Rule (the Graham Rule first). This proves how much smarter I was retroactively.

          • BBA says:

            Isn’t there a difference in motivation between the Graham-Pence rule and this? Graham was talking about avoiding even the opportunity to sin; as a reaction to #MeToo, it seems more about avoiding false accusations of misconduct than the potential misconduct itself. Unless I’m reading one or the other wrong.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @BBA

            The motivation has always been both. Accusations of sexual impropriety had brought down many preachers before Graham. It is possible 100% of them were true, but not necessary.

      • Matt M says:

        If you thought #MeToo was ever meant to be anything more than a weapon to be wielded against the enemy, you need to update your model.

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          And here I thought that the 5 million+ people posting about it were actually making a statement of some sort about abuse.

          • Nick says:

            Yeah—to take the minimal proof that Matt is wrong here, the original Shitty Media Men list was shared among women in progressive media spaces, so the folks they were naming were mostly if not all fellow progressives.

        • BBA says:

          I’m just mad that it’s not being wielded against the enemy this time. Or maybe, that some people wouldn’t recognize their enemy even if he grabbed them by the…whatever.

  13. Lillian says:

    So there is something that confuses me. When i am shopping and i see someone handing out free food samples, i always take one, unless the product is something i already know i don’t like. There have been times places like Costco have as many as six sample stations and you bet your ass that i’m sampling every single one, regardless of whether or not i have any intention of buying the product. Free tasty snacks is always a win in my book.

    Now i also work handing out free samples, and the majority of people just walk on by or say, “No thanks” when i offer them some. The first time i did that kind of job, i thought engagement from 1/3rd of people was weirdly low, and guessed maybe the product was unappealing, but it turns out no that’s actually on the high end. Do people not like free food? It’s free food! Do they think they’re doing me a favour? Because it really doesn’t feel like they’re doing me a favour. Standing there waiting for people to show interest is mind-numbingly boring and i am starved for any kind of human interaction. Now i do get to take any extra sample product home, so i do benefit a little from people refusing, but i’d happily take home less stuff if it made it easier to get through each shift, and people interacting with me does make it easier.

    • Two McMillion says:

      I think most people believe that if they take the food, they’ll feel obligated to buy some, and rather than saying, “My feeling is stupid and it can go jump in a lake”, they refuse the sample instead.

    • Matt M says:

      I almost always decline free samples. I’d say my logic is something to the effect of “I don’t enjoy grocery shopping, I am here on a mission, and you are distracting me from the timely completion of this bothersome task.”

      Basically, you delaying my shopping experience is a cost that is not worth the benefit of a small bite-sized sample of food I may very well not want to eat anyway.

    • Nick says:

      Two McMillion is right about why people refuse it, I think. I don’t get it personally; I’m happy to try free samples. I am actually open-minded, after all, and I could be persuaded to buy the product if it were really good.

      I’m reminded of a related phenomenon, free trials for paid products. How many people think something like, “I shouldn’t take this 30 day free trial, because I’m definitely not renewing it at the end”?

      • AG says:

        I’ve seen it done for media subscription services. News and TV and stuff.

      • Matt M says:

        “I shouldn’t take this 30 day free trial, because I’m definitely not renewing it at the end”?

        I think most people’s logic is the exact opposite. More like “I shouldn’t bother with the free trial because I’ll probably forget to cancel it at the end!” (assuming the free trial auto-renews, which all of them do these days)

        • quanta413 says:

          This for subscription stuff. I’ll never remember to cancel, and I’m too lazy to use one of the clever ways you can make it auto-cancel either.

        • Randy M says:

          Yup. I did get the YouTube subscription to watch Cobra Kai; I think I canceled the same day.

          Also, once you put in your credit card info once, you are more likely to charge it again on a whim, despite how trivial typing a few numbers is. This is the reason for games with microtransactions to have one or two intro options that are basically loss leaders.

      • acymetric says:

        I think the more common reason is “I shouldn’t take this 30 day free trial, because I’m definitely not renewing going to forget to cancel it at the end”

        Or, secondarily

        “I shouldn’t take this 30 day free trial, because I’m definitely not renewing it at the end” they are going to make it a nightmare to cancel and I’ll end up getting billed despite my best efforts”

        Trials make a lot more sense to decline unless it is something you definitely will get some good use out of for the reasons above.

        • Nick says:

          Yeah, that’s definitely more on the minds of some. A friend of mine did a r/changemyview on that practice, arguing it was morally wrong for companies to have default auto-renewal on free trials. The reflexive contrarians of cmv of course lambasted him for ever signing up for a free trial of a product he didn’t already intend to buy, how dare he.

          I find the consumer side of the question more interesting, namely, whether I trust myself to remember that I signed up for the thing 30 days down the road. I actually got burned this year by my National Review subscription—I subscribed for a two month deal or something, and then it auto-renewed like ten days before the deal was over, for a $60 one year subscription. Like hell I’m ever subscribing to NR again after that little trick.

          • Randy M says:

            But a magazine subscription needs a certain amount of lead time to send you the next issue.
            Granted, if the auto-renewal was not made obvious when signing up it’s practice.

          • Nick says:

            It was a digital subscription, and when I say two months I mean two months from the time I signed up for it. I could dig up the discord chat of me complaining about it for the exact details, but I don’t want you folks to see that sort of language from me. 🙂

            ETA: Okay, sparing you the choice language: it was a 12 week subscription that they renewed (for a year) 5 weeks in.

          • Randy M says:

            It was a digital subscription

            Oh right, of course. Did I just out myself as over 30?

          • Matt M says:

            I won’t name names here, but I was once doing a consulting project for a large telco/cable company who was looking to find ways to improve their customer satisfaction scores.

            “End auto-renewal of promotional offers was a common suggestion.” Then they’d bring out the slide that showed that they made about $200M a year in profit from people forgetting to cancel their “free” HBO subscriptions. Ended the conversation pretty quick.

          • Two McMillion says:

            I appreciated the way Netflix handled this: three days before my free trial auto-renewed, I got an email saying, “Hey, your subscription is gonna autorenew in three days”.

            Seems like this would be easy enough for other companies to implement.

          • Aapje says:

            Easy, but very expensive.

        • tocny says:

          A reason Ive used to avoid using free trials is “what if I need to use this in the future?” It held me off from getting a free trial to Amazon Prime until very recently (which I obviously forgot to unsubscribe from!).

          • Matt M says:

            Fun fact: Amazon’s customer service is nice enough that if this happens, and you contact them and say “Hey, I meant to unsubscribe, I just forgot” they’ll refund your money so long as you hadn’t actually used prime shipping since your free trial expired.

          • Protagoras says:

            @Matt M, Clever! (though what does one expect from Amazon). Probably only a tiny handful of people will do this, so you get almost all of the benefits of autosubscribing people while keeping up your customer service reputation.

      • Deiseach says:

        How many people think something like, “I shouldn’t take this 30 day free trial, because I’m definitely not renewing it at the end”?

        I don’t take those up because too many companies are “if you don’t cancel at the end of your free trial, we will charge you for the full subscription” and I am liable to not remember “okay, today is day 29, better make sure I go onto the website to cancel or else I’m on the hook” and then it’s a hassle to try and get the subscription cancelled.

        If I really need it, I’ll buy it. On the other hand, if it’s a genuine free trial (no “give us your credit card details to download, we swear we won’t charge you until the 30 days are up”) then yeah I’ll try it. But like I said, most products now are on a ‘buy before you try’ basis.

      • Anthony says:

        I’m more with Matt M, though a large part of it is that I’m often not in the mood for whatever samples are being offered. I’m also a picky eater, so “already know I won’t like” is a pretty large category.

        Also, when the sample is pretty good, there’s often a line or crowd for the sample.

    • AG says:

      Sometimes I’m genuinely not hungry (thanks to caffeine) to the point of not wanting free samples.

      There may also be a cultural/status thing around free food, where going for it is associated with being an unsophisticated kid (and so you grow out of the impulse) or less classy to get free food when you don’t need to.

    • acymetric says:

      I won’t take samples if it is definitely something I don’t like. I guess maybe I would also pass them up if I was already super-full or if I was really in a hurry, but I’m not all that sure about either of those. Outside of that, if you’re offering free samples you bet I’m taking one and the idea that people pass them up is crazy to me.

      Specific to Costco, when I was younger and would go with my mom hitting up all the sample stations around the store was like half the point of going!

      Edit: I did think of one other thing that might make me decline. If it is something really dry (like, I don’t know, pretzels) and I’m not going to have anything to wash it down with I might pass that up as well. But only might, and generally if I’m in a place with free samples I’ll probably have the opportunity to buy some kind of beverage at some point along the line.

    • quanta413 says:

      I used to always eat free samples, but now I only do sometimes. I have problems with overeating and I’m prone to gain weight if I don’t pay attention so now I try not to reflexively eat any food on offer. So I’ll take free samples if I’m hungry or if it looks very appealing, but I try to override my instinct of “must… eat… free… food”.

    • Randy M says:

      Now i do get to take any extra sample product home, so i do benefit a little from people refusing, but i’d happily take home less stuff if it made it easier to get through each shift, and people interacting with me does make it easier.

      This is definitely useful information as a consumer who doesn’t want to abuse the system.

      Dennis Prager has mentioned a ‘shopkeeper law’ in the Talmud (or some obscure commentary on it, don’t quite remember), where you are forbidden from taking up the store owner’s time if you have no chance of buying from them–like if you are going to buy from Amazon, but want the unaffiliated brick and mortar store to give you a demonstration first. (I don’t believe the Amazon reference is in the original Talmud.) I wouldn’t state it so strongly, but I think it’s useful consideration.
      By analogy, if I know I won’t buy your product, I’m a little hesitant to take the sample. I know in most cases the person handing it out doesn’t care, but I don’t want to waste product that the store has set aside to advertise with. If it’s destined to be tossed out or given away in any case, that’s not really a consideration. Striking up a conversation with the lady passing out the dumplings is probably fair recompense for her time.

      But honestly, in most cases since I am open to persuasion if the product is amazing, so I’ll go ahead and take one, and if I’m shopping at Costco that usually means four or five since the kids are tagging along. The most common reason for not taking a sample is if there is any wait whatsoever for it. Since I often see a line, I’m surprised you have trouble giving away your goods; maybe it’s a regional thing?

      • Lillian says:

        The way product sampling works, at least with my employer, is i actually buy the product that is to be sampled. Normally they mail an envelope to the store with a company card that i can use, but if the envelope is missing i can charge it on my own card and get reimbursed. So by the time the product hits the sample cart it’s already bought and paid for.

        It’s possible it’s a regional thing, but it could also be a consumer demographic thing. The jobs i work are not actually at Costco, so the customer demographics are probably different. What’s more Costco has free samples on a regular basis, whereas at the stores i work for it’s more irregular. Perhaps Costco costumers are more comfortable taking samples because it’s a normal part of the Costco experience, whereas they are more uncomfortable at their grocery store chain because it’s not a normal part of the store experience.

        • Gray Ice says:

          @Lillian

          Another thing to consider: outside of Costco, it seams that most grocery stores schedule product samples during days of the week and times of the day which are more busy.

          Usually if I shop on off hours on a week day, the store is quiet and I would not mind pausing to get a sample, but none are on offer.

          On the other hand, if I need to pick up something on the weekend when the store is busy, there is a person giving out samples, but I am already frustrated by the number of people, and just want to buy the stuff I specifically set out to get, so I can GTFO as soon as possible.

    • Urstoff says:

      I would guess 40% of it is “I don’t want to stop what I’m doing and interact with this person”.

    • ana53294 says:

      I don’t know how sample stations work in US supermarkets, but in Sweden, most samples were not manned. But most samples were cheeses – so you just took a piece of that fancy cheese to see if it’s actually good. It also removed the psychological pressure of buying, and the high trust levels meant people just took one bit (or two, if it was actually delicious). But then, Swedish supermarkets also have free bananas for kids, and many supermarkets have a free water dispenser (so you can taste pretzels to your heart’s delight). They also occasionally gave samples of some exotic fruit they wanted to introduce.

      So the only reason not to taste a sample was because you weren’t interested. In manned stations, it may be because you’re trying to avoid the guilt-tripping/sales pitch.

      In Spain, I haven’t seen many samples, although in supermarkets, they tend to be manned; in every farmer’s market, they will almost always give free samples of honey, cheese, and ham.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        I saw free fruit for kids stations in Portland grocery stores. I don’t think I’ve seen one since 2015, though.

        • baconbits9 says:

          My local grocery store has them, but they have no trash can next to it so basically every trip I come home with either banana or tangerine peel in my pockets.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Tell your kid(s) to dispose of their own darn banana peels. Then watch people slip on them.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Maybe I should take some string and scissors so they can trail them behind while the walk and lay traps for people who are about to pass us.

    • AlexOfUrals says:

      For sufficiently introverted (and not hungry) people, one morsel of free food might genuinely not be worth the inconvenience of interacting with another person.

    • Aftagley says:

      I hate free samples. I never take them, never want to interact with them in any way.

      Basically, you’re not giving stuff away for my benefit. If whatever company/manager or whatever has decided to use it’s resources to procure something to give for free and employ you to hand it out, it’s only doing so because it thinks that this will result in them making more money. I hate those kind of traps and refuse to participate.

      That being said, I’m also the kind of weirdo who refuses to interact with salespeople in stores, reflexively mutes or skips through advertising and shuns popular brands. My sensitivity for this particular facet of modern life might by dialed up a smidge too high.

      • Specific to Costco, when I was younger and would go with my mom hitting up all the sample stations around the store was like half the point of going!

        True for us as well.

        And one reason why I don’t think I am cheating Costco by taking a sample of something I have no intention of buying, which is usually the case, is that I assume part of the reason for the free samples is to make shopping there more attractive — and I am buying other things.

        • J Mann says:

          It’s like a time share presentation or an investment company dinner. They know that you’re probably not going to buy, but they are willing to give you a snack for the opportunity to get you to try.

          I’ve probably bought 3-5 things as a result of 10 years of eating samples, but I get the trade – they get my attention for 30 seconds, and I get a little paper cup full of Cheetos.

      • Aapje says:

        @Aftagley

        It’s only a trap if you are prone to impulsive buys that you regret afterwards. It’s far less of a trap than offers that automatically lock you into something, unless you opt out later.

    • danridge says:

      i am starved for any kind of human interaction

      That’s why. When I’m in the grocery store, I can tell when someone is interested in me, and I instinctively want to avoid them. If you really didn’t care, like you’re sitting down almost out of sight behind a table and I could have the sample in my hand before you even noticed I was there, I would MAYBE take one. But being desired is WAY too high a price to pay for free food.

      Btw, my grocery store has cheese samples that are left unattended, and I take one of each every time. Basically, I think your job is worth it to your employer, because if ANYONE has enough interest in your product to want to talk to someone about it, it’s worth it to have you there for them to talk to. But few people want this, which causes the job to be dehumanizing to you.

      • Nick says:

        …Umm, what? How is “being desired” a “price” to be paid? Have you considered that maybe it’s a good thing to brighten a lonely person’s day?

        • danridge says:

          I’ve seen other people here who, while they phrased it differently, seemed to me to engage in the same behavior for similar reasons. In such a setting, humanity is discomfiting. It’s like a voice in the back of your head telling you to wake up.

          • Gray Ice says:

            So, hypothetically, if you were walking and came upon a turtle which had been flipped over on it’s shell and could not right its self….would you help it?

          • Aapje says:

            @Gray Ice

            Is the salesperson more like a flipped turtle than like a Jehovah’s Witness?

            The cost to me of making someone else happy can be higher than the happiness they gain. Or my happiness may be lower than theirs at the start, so helping them may improve overall happiness, but at the expense of greater inequality.

          • danridge says:

            @Gray Ice
            At the grocery store? If you’re simply so curious about me personally that you want me to enumerate my response to any possible scenario, I’m afraid I’m going to have to go back to sleep now.

    • Alejandro says:

      If I am shopping shortly after breakfast or afternoon coffee (meals on which I eat sweets), I will refuse samples of savoury foods. If I am shopping shortly before lunch or dinner, I will refuse samples of sweet foods (cookies/desserts). These “rules”, plus being a moderately picky eater, account for refusing more than half of the samples I am offered.

    • Deiseach says:

      Because if you take the food, the demonstrator’s little face lights up and they watch hopefully to see if you’re going to take the product off the shelf (conveniently the stall is located beside the shelf their product is on) and yeah I might like and approve of your expensive organic oil but no way can I afford to buy it, and then I have to feel like I’ve stomped on your hopes and dreams when I don’t grab a box or jar or bottle of whatever.

      Now, the people who just chomp and run are perfectly right that there isn’t any obligation, that there is no reason to feel like you are cheating by taking the free sample. But the way most of us have been raised to be polite, it feels vaguely wrong, like grabbing the biggest slice of cake or something.

      And sometimes I’m just not interested in the product, so even if it looks (and is) good quality, I’m not going to consume even a free sample of something that doesn’t appeal to my tastebuds.

      • Because if you take the food, the demonstrator’s little face lights up and they watch hopefully to see if you’re going to take the product off the shelf

        Not something I have ever observed in a couple of decades of shopping at Costco.

        • acymetric says:

          Yeah, very rarely do the people giving samples have any more stake in whether you end up buying a product than the cashier or the guy stocking shelves. They aren’t getting paid on commission and they don’t have stock in Tyson’s or whatever.

          Now if you’re at a farmers market type deal where the person giving the samples is also the owner/sole employee offering you a sample of their local honey hoping you’ll buy a jar I can kind of see it. But even then, they know not everyone who takes a sample is going to buy…that’s baked into the marketing strategy.

          • Ventrue Capital says:

            @acymetric

            Yeah, very rarely do the people giving samples have any more stake in whether you end up buying a product than the cashier or the guy stocking shelves. They aren’t getting paid on commission and they don’t have stock in Tyson’s or whatever.

            That would make a big difference to my attitude toward taking samples which is currently the same as that of @Deiseach for exactly the same reason(s).

            What evidence do you have for your statement? My life would be more comfortable if I believed it were true.

          • Lillian says:

            Speaking as someone who works giving out samples, while i am going to give you the sales pitch it’s because it’s my job to do so, and also because interacting with people relieves the boredom. However i don’t have any particular stake on whether or not you buy the product, it doesn’t affect my pay or prospects for future jobs in any way, and i’m not even expected to try to pressure you into making a purchase. The job is to hand out the samples, recite the selling points, and tell you where to find it and at what price in case you’re interested. That’s it. Also the way this whole thing is set-up is that i’m a contractor, working for a contractor, working for a company’s marketing department. So there’s a lot steps administratively and legally separating me from the actual store selling the product.

          • Anthony says:

            Ventrue Capital – an acquaintance of mine works for the company that supplies demonstrators to Costco. He’s paid hourly. They screw around with his scheduling, but that’s normal for low-wage jobs these days – they don’t get feedback about sales effectiveness from Costco.

          • Ventrue Capital says:

            @Lillian and @Anthony:

            Thanx, you made my life significantly more pleasant, and I hope @Deiseach‘s as well!

    • Garrett says:

      My family refers to these as “grazing stations”.

    • I go one step further. Not only do I like taking free food samples, but I take every flyer that someone is handing out, even the crazy ones. It’s free reading material and at the very least, it’s good for a laugh.

      • Matt M says:

        When someone hands me a flyer, it’s like they’re saying “Here, you throw this away!” – Mitch Hedberg

      • Randy M says:

        I take every flyer that someone is handing out

        I love the ambiguities of English.

        “Sir, I need some of those for other people!”
        “Too late, sucker, you said ‘free’! They’re all mine now. Take that, Junior High Bake sale committee.”

        • Anthony says:

          There is actually a law (at least in California) regarding free newspapers, where it’s illegal to take more than one at a time. This prevents punishes newspaper wars where rival papers would take all the free papers of their competitor and trash them.

      • Nick says:

        It’s free reading material

        Dude, that’s what libraries are for.

        • Aftagley says:

          Well then librarians should step their game up! When was the last time you saw one of them handing out nonfiction on the corner?

        • I don’t know about you but I can’t read a book if I’m on the bus or if I’m waiting for someone or situations like that. It’s like a magazine but much shorter.

          • Nick says:

            I have a hard time reading books on the bus too. I generally read something on my phone instead. Usually news or something like SSC rather than pamphlets, though.

          • It’s not common for me to get pamphlets but when I do, they’re usually more interesting than the news or whatever.

          • Aapje says:

            @Wrong Species

            I don’t know about you but I can’t read a book if I’m on the bus or if I’m waiting for someone or situations like that.

            Isn’t that why they invented smartphones?

            It’s not common for me to get pamphlets but when I do, they’re usually more interesting than the news or whatever.

            The ones they hand out here are typically for political parties, restaurants/bars/events or religions like Jehovah Witnesses. None of these provide more than a minute of interesting reading, followed by a burden to get rid of that unwanted pamphlet and a feeling of displeasure at the waste and pollution of pamphleting, that one is encouraging by participating.

        • Buttle says:

          I just checked, and my local library has nothing by Jack Chick.

      • Ventrue Capital says:

        UN-altered REPRODUCTION and DISSEMINATION of this IMPORTANT Information is ENCOURAGED, ESPECIALLY to COMPUTER BULLETIN BOARDS.

    • crh says:

      I enjoy free samples if they’re unattended but I tend to avoid them if there’s a person handing them out. Partly because I don’t want to be pressured to buy something, and partly because I just don’t enjoy social interactions with strangers very much.

    • b4mgh says:

      For me there are three main reasons for refusing a free sample: first, I avoid eating if I am not hungry as a matter of discipline. Second, I prefer to brush my teeth after every meal, and that might not be possible soon after taking the sample. Lastly, I might simply not like/want what is being offered.

    • Cliff says:

      Maybe they are not interested in eating or buying the product you are offering.

      Maybe it’s “free and tasty” but is it healthy? And is it really tasty? And does it require them to interact with a stranger who is hideous and awkward (haha)?

    • FLWAB says:

      I used to feel bad about taking samples, because I am a cheapskate and have absolutely no intention to buy the product. But then I listed to a podcast where they talked about Costco free samples (the history of it and stuff, it was a light piece) and at the end they said that Costco keeps doing it because it works: the products they offer samples on see significant increases in sales. Somehow knowing that Costco isn’t losing money on samples got rid of my guilt. Now I take every sample I see.

      I mean, I took every sample I saw before that. But now I don’t feel ashamed about it.

    • Protagoras says:

      Maybe it’s because I went to grad school, but I’ll only turn down free food if it is seriously unappealing. And I feel no guilt about not buying any of the thing I tried a sample of.

    • rtypeinhell says:

      I’d guess the typical reason (certainly mine) is that I’m there to buy groceries, not to eat. I don’t make a conscious decision each time I pass a kiosk that I’m going to walk by without taking a sample; I just filter them out.

      Think about it this way: everyone likes saving money, right? So how come they don’t stop and read every single discount price posted on the store shelves? They’re walking straight by free money! And it’s not like they have to buy the item, but they should at least read the price, right? Imagine how long grocery shopping would take for someone who did that. Likewise consider that you are not the first person they have ever encountered offering free food.

      Of course, if I’m at the store to buy cheese, certainly I’ll read the sale prices for cheese. And if someone is offering cheese samples I’ll probably take one. Aside from that, you’re just taking advantage of the fact that the grocery store is large and I can’t teleport to the sections I need.

  14. jgr314 says:

    I was looking at macro models to forecast the 2020 US presidential election. The two models I could find (Ray Fair, TrendMacro) didn’t seem correctly structured (trying to forecast the wrong things).

    Anyone have time to build a better one?

    My inclination is to model the state-level change in popular vote share to make state-level forecasts, then impose an Electoral College layer on top of that.

    Unfortunately, I don’t have time (am already over committed), but I could provide some guidance on data and feedback on results/methods.

    • honoredb says:

      From reading critiques of these models, it seems like almost everyone makes the fatal simplifying assumption that uncertainty isn’t correlated between states, which leads to extremely overconfident predictions. If your model gives Trump a 40% chance of winning Pennsylvania and a 40% chance of winning Ohio, his chance of winning both is much closer to 40% than to 16%. So if you don’t want to try to dig into inter-state correlations other than the ones that fall out of your macro model naturally, probably a better simplification is to assume correlation coefficients of 1 everywhere.

  15. Jaskologist says:

    Congratulations! Motte and Bailey has ascended to meme form!

    • EchoChaos says:

      That’s well done and punchy. I look forward to it being bastardized and misused.

    • Nick says:

      Meanwhile, Vox leaps to the defense of the project. My favorite paragraph:

      The series has largely earned praise from academics, journalists, and politicians alike. It has also been harshly criticized by some conservatives for talking about the enslavement of African people through “a racial lens” — meaning through the point of view of black Americans.

      • Matt M says:

        The series has largely earned praise from academics, journalists, and politicians alike.

        youdontsay.gif

        Really? Academics, journalists, AND politicians? Why, they never agree on matters of racial politics at all! Whole lotta diverse opinions among that set!

      • God, I hate Vox so much. Of course they frame conservative criticism as hating black people. They don’t bother to mention the economic historians who criticize the idea of slavery being foundational to capitalism as nonsense.

      • Deiseach says:

        Oh, that’s some nice weasel-wording. “Largely earned praise” means they want to ignore the academics yelling blue murder about the sloppy research and misuse of other people’s data, and by linking criticism to those damn dirty hippies conservatives, they’re asking their readers “You’re a nice kind normal human being, right? You’re not one of those disgusting conservatives who only yearn for the good old days of owning other people?”

        Keep right on keeping on, Vox.

      • Aftagley says:

        I haven’t read the original NYT piece (paywall restriction) and have only formed a mental image of it via hot takes from both sides. Is it worth checking out?

        • quanta413 says:

          My Hot Take: If you’ve got a bit of money to spare and don’t already have the books I’m about to recommend, resist the urge to read the NYT series. Unless it’s better than any journalism that has ever occurred, you’d be better off buying an actual long form popular history on African Americans since the NYT isn’t going to do a better job of covering the past than a history book. For example, Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s “Life Upon These Shores” or “The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross” are both well done.

        • Jack Lecter says:

          Seconding @Aftagley’s request for a summary/overciew. I don’t have a NYT account (and I’m not about to send them any money*), but I’d like to know if the series is any good. Fiskings also welcome, naturally.

          *Obligatory disclaimer: Most other media sources are terrible, too.

        • metacelsus says:

          You can bypass the paywall quite easily (I use Firefox + NoScript + uBlock Origin)

        • Plumber says:

          @Aftagley,

          A few days ago I read one of the NYT “project 1619” pieces:

          America Wasn’t a Democracy, Until Black Americans Made It One

          By Nikole Hannah-Jones

          AUG. 14, 2019

          My dad always flew an American flag in our front yard. The blue paint on our two-story house was perennially chipping; the fence, or the rail by the stairs, or the front door, existed in a perpetual state of disrepair, but that flag always flew pristine. Our corner lot, which had been redlined by the federal government, was along the river that divided the black side from the white side of our Iowa town. At the edge of our lawn, high on an aluminum pole, soared the flag, which my dad would replace as soon as it showed the slightest tatter.

          My dad was born into a family of sharecroppers on a white plantation in Greenwood, Miss., where black people bent over cotton from can’t-see-in-the-morning to can’t-see-at-night, just as their enslaved ancestors had done not long before. The Mississippi of my dad’s youth was an apartheid state that subjugated its near-majority black population through breathtaking acts of violence…”

          and it detailed a lot of history that I’ve read before, but to me the most intriguing part of it was the author working out why her parents and grandparents had been both (relatively) oppressed yet patriotic, and how African-Americans are uniquely rooted on this continent and cut off from ties to any other “old country”, the bitterness in the piece was obvious, as was the pride.

          I’m not sure if I’d recommend reading it though, as I have a hard time imagining a reader having re-actions other than boredom (“I’ve heard this stuff before”), defensiveness, or tears – depending on one’s leanings.

      • Nick says:

        Hey guys, this article got silently changed, too! The paragraph now reads:

        The series has largely earned praise from academics, journalists, and politicians alike. It has also been harshly criticized by some conservatives who have accused the writers of stoking racial division, pushing their leftist ideologies, and rewriting history through “a racial lens” — meaning through the point of view of black Americans.

    • Sniffnoy says:

      Note: This template actually originates with Noah Smith back in February.

    • Randy M says:

      English masculine names often shift feminine over time. I suspect Guy is less vulnerable to this trend.

      • Matt M says:

        Would it be woke or un-woke to re-write a gender flipped version of Boy Named Sue?

        • Nick says:

          Wouldn’t work. She wouldn’t have to get mean, because the other girls would stand down for her #bravery.

          • Matt M says:

            Instead of a fist-fight, when she finds her mother, the mother gives her a lecture on the fluidity of gender identity, at which point she sits down, and everyone in the pub claps.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Claps, wipes tears from their eyes and then calls their transgender child and tells them how much they support and love them for who they are. Said transgender child then becomes a scientist and cures hate.

          • Deiseach says:

            Instead of a fist-fight, when she finds her mother, the mother gives her a lecture on the fluidity of gender identity

            “I called you George after my favourite character in the Famous Five” 🙂

        • benjdenny says:

          Shel wrote a very, very unwoke sequel to boy named sue that deals with gender issues to some degree, but not in a way anyone would/should be proud of.

        • Deiseach says:

          Probably wouldn’t work. What’s a gender-flipped version of “girl’s name for a boy”? Sam and Robin have already gone to being largely, if not solely, female; same for Alex and Charlie. Pat is unisex and you have all kinds of surnames used as first names for both sexes that mean you don’t know if a “Harper” is a boy or a girl. Terri/Terry, Leslie/Lesley, Danni/Danny and Evelyn/Evelyn the same way with male and female versions that differ only in spelling or pronunciation. Shirley used to be a boy’s name until the popularity of Charlotte Bronte’s novel with a heroine called by that name (her parents were expecting the birth of a son not a daughter and had the name already picked out) changed the balance. Billie is now used for girls as well, it could be short for Wilhemina but it’s just as likely to be Billie from the start, and that led to the Dr Who companion called Bill (even though she’s a girl): “The character’s name was in fact inspired when Moffat overheard David Tennant, who portrayed the Tenth Doctor, offhandedly call out to Billie Piper by the name Bill on the set of “The Day of the Doctor” in 2013.” See also Fred out of “Angel” (could have originally been Frederica but who knows?)

          You could have a girl-with-a-boy’s-name but it would need to be a very masculine one and even then it could be abbreviated to something unisex. The only way I’ve seen it going “girl’s name adapted as boy’s name” is Dana Andrews, where Dana is an Irish female name, and I don’t know where his family got the idea for the name (his full name seems to have been Carver Dana Andrews) – though if I go by Wikipedia, one version of it is from Hebrew and they could have got it out of the Bible. Besides, Americans pronounce it “Dane-ah” not “Dah-na”, and seem to think of it as “Dan with an ‘a’ on the end”, thus a man’s name.

          • Matt M says:

            You could have a girl-with-a-boy’s-name but it would need to be a very masculine one

            Did you even read the OP? The title is obviously “Girl Named Guy”

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            Joshua?

            E: also, Richard, John, Diego, David, Anthony/Anton/Antonio, Howard…

          • The only Dana I have known is male.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I’ve known women called Mike and Phil, but those are definitely men’s names normally (Philomena aside, nobody’s named that). For the gospels, there’s female Matties and Markies, but not Lukies as far as I know. But not so many Lukes at all. I think Johnnie is still male too.

  16. Deiseach says:

    Oh no! My culture has been appropriated! 😀

  17. benjdenny says:

    I recently posted a question about the actual practical value of “don’t burn bridges with companies” for lower-income people, I.E. something like “If a person is nasty when they leave a job or is unpleasant with a HR person or something, is there any practical downside or is that just a truism we say?”

    I’ve noticed with posts of this kind, there’s typically a significant percentage of people who post something equivalent to “we aren’t going to give you permission to shit on some poor underpaid HR person’s neck, you sinful wretch”, even if the phrasing of the question makes clear it’s not something you do or the question is meant in the abstract. There was much less of that here than in other forums I’ve asked similar “is bad behavior X discouraged for practical reasons or just virtue/habit reasons”, probably because the general audience here is more used to abstract questions, but there were still some pointed/hinting replies here and there.

    Is there a name for this “I know you are really just asking for permission to be a bad person, because I can sense you are terrible” type of reaction? Jumping to conclusions seems too broad, and assuming the worst doesn’t seem to fit quite right either.

    Side note: I’m not saying this reaction is all bad or even usually wrong, I’m just curious if it has a name.

    • Deiseach says:

      Thing is, when you phrase the question “is there any downside to ripping the face off the person telling you that you didn’t get the job?”, it does sound like “can I shit on some poor minion’s neck?” rather than whatever abstract point you were trying to make.

      This is because most of us recognise that the person telling us “Sorry, you’re weren’t successful” is in the majority of cases not the decision maker. Yelling at them does nothing; for your abstract point, it may not mean any negative consequences for yourself (hence “burning bridges is a myth”) but in practicality, the lack of negative consequences is because you did not take out your frustrations on the people with power to do something about it.

      Now, if you go yell at the Vice President in charge of this national division about it, then there may be consequences. But few to none do that. So while you think you are only asking “is it really true ‘burning your bridges’ is a bad idea”, what you are in reality asking is “can I be abusive to someone who wasn’t responsible for not hiring me” and as you see, the verdict is “no, don’t be an asshole”.

      • benjdenny says:

        Right, this exact thing you are doing. Is there a name for it?

        Less sarcastically:

        I don’t scream at HR people. But the part where you go “There’s no way he’s asking this abstractly; he’s a bad person, he’s looking for excuses, I’m better than him and must correct him” immediately assumes I am.

        In real life, especially if you are poor, the “don’t burn bridges” advice is often issued in every hiring situation without thought. So it comes up in situations where a hirer is being legitimately abusive, and where there isn’t an HR person (say, when the owner of a small company hires for the company himself/herself).

        The idiom also comes up when someone is being fired for questionable reasons, or being fired from a workplace with legitimate problems by people so entrenched in the culture of the workplace and so immune from social consequences within it that they’ve long since been able to ignore any wrongs they do, and immune from their consequences.

        So it’s possible for curiousity about the practical underpinnings of this to come up if, say, a person is listening to advice be given to a friend to give his 2 week notice no matter when leaving a workplace that consistently lied to him about promotion potential to eke extra hours/work out of him when it puts his new job and initial footing at his new job at risk so that he doesn’t “burn bridges”. Especially if this advice is given as an absolute, as if God himself had laid down the law on the matter.

        It’s also possible to be given a piece of advice that is verbally structured in a way that implies a practical motivation, as “don’t burn bridges” is, and while following the rule for virtue/moral reasons still question the practical underpinnings.

        So I’m in a situation where I’ve burned bridges I think twice max over 20 years of labor; once, without yelling at any time, I forced a hirer to call me and apologize over a horrifying hiring process(I posted on this in the last thread) and once where a company had a non-compete they made employees sign, didn’t issue promised copies of during employment and wouldn’t detail the restrictions of after so some 200-some employees weren’t sure what kind of related companies they could work for afterwards and I forced the issue.

        Neither of these were “can I be abusive to somebody for not hiring me, just to be an asshole, just ’cause I’m a bad person” but this is the only place you and others will go with it. And in both cases “don’t burn bridges” advice was issued to me as an absolute truth, as “let the employer keep the details of your non-compete from you and be unable to work in that field ever again; you wouldn’t want to burn bridges, after all”.

        So again: Is there a name for it when you ask a question in the abstract, state it’s in the abstract, and people go “I know what this is; he’s asking permission to be the worst person possible; without evidence, I must now treat him as the worst person possible and correct him”?

        • EchoChaos says:

          I think it’s just a natural human instinct. We tend to assume that when someone is asking if something is okay it is because they want to do it themselves and are restrained in some way.

          • benjdenny says:

            To be fair I never asked if it was OK in a virtue sense in the initial post. The phrasing of the advice is practical (you don’t burn bridges because you might want to walk over them later) and I was asking if it’s really practical advice for poor and poor-ish people with generic job skills.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @benjdenny

            I completely understand. It’s just a human reaction to believe that people really are asking because a social convention is preventing them from doing what they want rather than asking a practical question.

            The answer to the practical question, as far as I can tell, is “no, it won’t really affect you unless you’re in a small industry where names are well known”.

          • benjdenny says:

            Granted. For the record, I hate this reaction; I think it’s at least slightly related to why Scott has to have anonymity to an extent, and ask people not to reprint his stuff real widely. “He’s talking about race or politics in a certain way; that must mean he’s asking permission to be a racist or the worst kind of political” is a bad and common take, in my view.

            I think I agree with the your take on the practical side. The result of the last thread and this is my view changing into something like:

            1. Late callbacks are a thing if an employee doesn’t work out, but for the most part lower-SES workers don’t have a huge practical motivation to not burn bridges.

            2. Many people (not all) who give the advice are working from a prior that 1 isn’t true, and from a mental model that “burning bridges” is always equal to “unjustified yelling in retaliation for a normal, reasonably justified application rejection”

            3. Many people who give the advice de facto believe that future job prospects are the only variable here, I.E. there’s no consideration of the value of confronting a bad player either in terms of the mental well-being of the confronter or in creating an environment with some level of consequences for the confronted.

            That’s not refined, but I think that’s my priors on that moving forward.

          • Matt M says:

            I think “don’t burn bridges” is essentially just a super practical form of advice meant to convey something like “The odds of this benefitting you are much smaller than the odds of it harming you.”

            Let’s say there are three potential outcomes of burning a bridge. Positive (your complaint is well received and motivates the company/person to change for the better), neutral (you feel a little better at the time, but long term, nothing changes and no one retaliates against you in any way), and negative (word of your bridge-burning gets around and other employers black-ball you).

            The probability of the neutral (nothing happens) case is almost irrelevant here. The point is that the odds of this working against you are much higher than the odds of it accomplishing anything legitimately or meaningfully good (assuming that “I feel better for a minute because I got to yell at someone” does not count as meaningful)

          • benjdenny says:

            @Matt M:

            Yeah, my initial question wasn’t about what the phrase meant; it was whether the premise of “There’s probable downsides to burning bridges that are significant that outweigh the upsides” was as true as usually represented.

            My stance is that it perhaps isn’t, and that “I feel better for a second because I got to yell” is an oversimplification that puts 100% of the potential wrongs done on the employee/potential employee, especially considering that “don’t burn bridges” is applied to everything except leaving with a smile like nothing bad ever happened. The same rationale, if applied to protesting, would say “never protest; classy people just work within the system and you wouldn’t want to piss somebody off just so you could have fun holding some posterboard.”.

          • baconbits9 says:

            is an oversimplification that puts 100% of the potential wrongs done on the employee/potential employee,

            No it doesn’t, the only thing it does is put 100% of your behavior on you and your decisions. General advice like ‘don’t burn your bridges’ can’t be highly specified to ‘don’t burn your bridges, but this is the exact line at which an employer has gone to far and doing something is no longer burning a bridge but standing up for yourself’, and you are using that lack of nuance that is inherent in generic advice to try to make people who disagree with you look unsophisticated.

        • souleater says:

          Don’t shoot the messenger?

          • benjdenny says:

            I think there’s an element of this in the situation where it’s just an HR person and you can’t/won’t find out how to contact a higher-up.

            I’m a little conflicted about this, because one of the purposes the company has for the HR person is so they can insulate themselves from any consequences; it’s only the HR person who would face any wrath, after all. So functionally there are situations where the restriction a blanket “don’t say anything to the HR person, they aren’t the decision maker” means you can’t criticize at all, in any way, and the company will never face any words it doesn’t like.

            That being said if it really isn’t something the HR person had decision power over, I totally get that yelling at a low-paid functionary isn’t classy and you shouldn’t do it.

            In the broader sense, I think there’s a lot of options that aren’t “scream at the poor HR person”, and “don’t burn bridges” is in my experience often applied broadly to “don’t do anything but meekly take everything in every situation, in case you might need a job there later or reputation”. So I don’t think don’t shoot the messenger applies as broadly as I’d like.

          • souleater says:

            For the record, I think I initially misunderstood what you were saying, and you edit helped me understand where you’re coming from.

            I think you’re right, there is a lot of distance between “scream at the poor HR person”, and “don’t burn bridges”

            This is a bit of a digression, but this conversation makes me think of the financial help guru/radio host Dave Ramsey. When I was 18 or 19, I knew nothing about finances. I found him very knowledgeable and helpful. 10 years later, I find a lot of his advice to be overly simplistic, or in some cases just plain bad.
            His recommendations aren’t perfect but for someone who hadn’t developed an intuition yet, they were a lot better than guesswork. Once I developed my financial intuition, I was better served to leave him behind.

            I think “Don’t burn bridges” is a decent heuristic for a lot of people. There are times when you can break that rule… but I think that the average person is well served by following it.

          • benjdenny says:

            I don’t think that’s a digression, I think it’s super relevant, honestly. That’s probably going to change how I think about this quite a bit.

          • Jiro says:

            If you yell at the HR person, wouldn’t that make the job of the HR person marginally worse, therefore making it marginally harder for the company to hire HR people, therefore costing the company marginal money?

        • Deiseach says:

          No, I am not assuming you are a bad person, I am saying you phrased your initial query very poorly. You started off asking about burning bridges but as an example of doing that quoted yelling at the person on the other end of the phone.

          You tell me: does “if I yell at the person on the other end of the phone, am I the asshole?” fit into the category of “questions which assume the answer ‘yes'”?

          • benjdenny says:

            No, unless you assume the other person on the phone is always right and the person yelling into the phone always wrong, or unless you are categorically against yelling.

            My experience has not been that potential employees are universally the bad guys and potential employers universally non-abusive. It also hasn’t been that consequence and criticism free environments always foster good behavior.

          • Aftagley says:

            or unless you are categorically against yelling.

            Yes. I am categorically against yelling. Definitely so in a professional environment, probably so in a personal one as well?

            Yelling is a terrible way of convincing anyone of anything. You’re never going to get your way just because you get louder. When you yell, you’re just doing so to try and make yourself feel better and the other person feel worse. Screw that.

          • Deiseach says:

            benjdenny, you’re saying “No I am not asking for permission to be abusive, why does everyone think this is what I am asking” and then you go on to talk about how yelling into the phone is not always a bad thing and the only people who object are those categorically against yelling.

            Can you see how people might get the impression that yeah, you want permission to be a dick?

          • benjdenny says:

            I mean, if you make like 90 un-argued assumptions in the argument like you do and then hope somebody won’t catch them, sure. Let’s cover what we have to just, like, ignore:

            1. My initial question was phrased entirely as a “is there a practical backing for this?” query. In that scenario, using “screaming on the phone” doesn’t function as a “is it OK to scream and moral?” thing; it functions as an example of something that completely burns a bridge. It’s not the only thing that burns a bridge, but it’s one that clearly does.

            2. You are setting up all yelling as abusive; again, this assumes the other person being yelled at is some combination of A. Not a party with any power or authority in the situation and B. Innocent. Again, your premises are all built on “The potential employee/employee is always wrong here; the Employer is a flawless human. The only scenario I will contemplate is one where the employee is completely unreasonable in his anger and lashing out at an innocent, powerless HR person”.

            3. Getting an impression that someone might want to be a dick is also proof they are a dick, and it’s super cool to then go “you are a dick who wants permission to be a dick! I’m sure of this because I thought it might be so!”

            Put another way, your argument dies if any of the following are true:

            1. It’s possible to ask if something has a practical, utilitarian benefit without planning on doing that thing. Since we are in a rationalist blog’s comment section where this happens a lot, you’d think you’d consider this to be a possibility, but nope. Everyone who talks about the intelligence gap is also a racist; everyone who talks about the practicalities of communism is planning to overthrow the proletariat and wants permission.

            2. It’s possible for an employer/potential employer to do something to deserve being yelled at

            3. It’s possible for a person to use a colorful example of something like “burning bridges” while not implicitly denying all other examples exist

            You’re premise seems to be I’m a crazy rogue agent who, in his mid-30’s, has decided he wants to have temper problems but for unexplained reasons just can’t until he gets permission from commentors on a rationalist blog.

            Again, just to be clear: You’re premise is that anybody who asks about the utilitarian value of an action is planning on doing that action, and that this is clear and undeniable. I think just that, alone, is enough for me to adopt the norm of not taking you very seriously.

        • baconbits9 says:

          What’s it called when you start off a conversation with a broad term but you really want to get into non central, possibly not even related, examples which you are holding in your back pocket for ‘winning’ the argument? Is this another form of the Motte and Bailey?

          • benjdenny says:

            If you think responding with counter-examples when somebody goes “This is entirely screaming at HR people for fun, like a baby” is unfair play, I don’t know that I can productively convince you otherwise.

          • baconbits9 says:

            If you think responding with counter-examples when somebody goes “This is entirely screaming at HR people for fun, like a baby” is unfair play, I don’t know that I can productively convince you otherwise.

            I do not see this as an accurate representation of what happened. As I see it you posted asking a question about burning bridges and it soon became apparent that there were several different definitions for what that could mean. A couple of people said you shouldn’t do X, which fairly clearly showed that multiple readers had an impression that the phrase ‘burning bridges’ meant something different to different people, with at least several people taking it in a very similar way but in a way that was very different. You then pivoted to examples where the employer was mistreating the applicant and there was some moderate discussion and some talking past each other and then it was over.

            Until now when you posted this and basically accused people who pretty clearly had a different starting definition of the phrase you used of being intellectually dishonest because clearly your definition must be correct.

          • benjdenny says:

            Here’s what I was replying to:

            So while you think you are only asking “is it really true ‘burning your bridges’ is a bad idea”, what you are in reality asking is “can I be abusive to someone who wasn’t responsible for not hiring me” and as you see, the verdict is “no, don’t be an asshole”.

            That’s not “we are talking past each other and have different definitions”. That’s “You are asking for permission to yell at people, because you want to be an asshole; don’t be an asshole, asshole”.

            So yes, when somebody comes in and accuses me of a motive I don’t have and claims that’s the only motive really possible, I’m going to bring up counter-examples. And yes, I’m accusing you of intellectual dishonesty for ignoring that “we have differing opinions of the definition here” and “There’s only one motivation for asking this, and it’s bad, and you are lying about your motives so you can do a bad thing” aren’t equal statements.

          • baconbits9 says:

            This is what you posted in the beginning of this thread

            I’ve noticed with posts of this kind, there’s typically a significant percentage of people who post something equivalent to “we aren’t going to give you permission to shit on some poor underpaid HR person’s neck, you sinful wretch”

            Show me where a “significant percentage of people” responded with something remotely like this originally. Consider that if you are going to start a discussion with hyperbole and name calling then that is likely where the thread is going to go.

          • benjdenny says:

            There was much less of that here than in other forums I’ve asked similar “is bad behavior X discouraged for practical reasons or just virtue/habit reasons”, probably because the general audience here is more used to abstract questions, but there were still some pointed/hinting replies here and there.

            This is directly after the part you quoted; It both says I had little of this problem in this particular discussion, and that I have this discussion or others like it in other forums. You leaving out a part that says “this wasn’t a big problem here” and then immediately saying “prove that this is a big problem here like you said” is dishonest.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Alternative view: The decision makers put layers of sympathetic people between them and the people they affect exactly in order to protect themselves from the anger of those affected. Going along with that is giving the decision makers exactly what they want; authority without responsibility. Better, instead, if it doesn’t harm you and you can’t reach the actual decisionmakers, to rip the middle layers a new one — this may get back to the decisionmakers and make their life a bit harder, or it may make it harder for them to hire such protection in the future.

        • benjdenny says:

          This is where a lot of my conflict is. I don’t yell at HR people for this reason, but I’m also very unsatisfied with “You should do whatever they best like because they have human shields” as a solution.

        • Matt M says:

          I once shouted at a gate agent over flight delays and before I began, I literally gave a disclaimer somewhat similar to this: “I understand that these delays are not your fault, but, the airline has placed you here for the purpose of interacting with customers, and that makes you the vector through which my anger must be expressed, so I am going to let you know quite clearly how angry I am, in the hopes that you will the communicate to your superiors up the chain of command how frustrating this experience is for customers.”

        • Garrett says:

          I have some strong sympathy for this. “If you don’t want to be yelled at, don’t work for a shitty company”.

          Unfortunately, there are lots of ways to engage in retribution with the people who don’t have authority in the situation. There are very few ways to engage with those who have the authority. As you noted, the folks in charge like it this way.

          I’m not certain how to change this in any meaningful way which doesn’t involve prison time.

      • DinoNerd says:

        I’ve burnt a few bridges in my time. I sometimes respond to “sourcers” (internal recruiters) with specific reasons why I don’t want to work for their current employer, rather than either simply deleting their message or sending a polite “thank you for your interest but I’m happy where I am right now”. On one memorable occassion I expressed my opinion of a planned policy change to my boss’ boss’ boss at the top of my lungs, in an all-hands meeting. (Didn’t get fired for it though.) I expect to give an accurate critique (though abbreviated) of my current employer when I retire from my current job, but that’s in part because I’ll no longer require references, and in part because I think they might actually want to improve.

        Mostly though, I “leave for a better opportunity”, or similar, and the worst I’ll say is something like “I want to try a smaller/larger company for a while” – when I mean that size-related dysfunctions at my about-to-be-ex-employer have been driving me crazy, leading to a highly focussed job hunt. It’s safer.

        I didn’t answer the original question, because I’m not in the relevant demographic. But now I’m posting to add my bit of detail to forms which “burning bridges” may take, without involving yelling at some random working stiff, not in a position to change policy.

    • Doctor Mist says:

      This is why “Asking for a friend” was invented.

    • crh says:

      Imputing motives.

      • benjdenny says:

        Good lord, this went so sideways with Deiseach deciding I’m 24-7 hitting HR people with a bat to resolve my inner demons I forgot what the thread was originally about.

        That’s pretty much exactly the phrase I’m looking for and I’m embarrassed I forgot it existed. Thank you.

      • Anthony says:

        After reading all the meta-discussion, the phrase that came to me was “assuming bad faith”.

  18. blipnickels says:

    Can anyone explain to me what Baudrillard was talking about with the Tasadays in Simulacra and Simulation?

    So I was trying to read Simulacra and Simulation and I got lost somewhere around the time he started talking about the Tasadays. The Tasadays, as near as I can discover, were a isolated tribe which was discovered in the 1970’s and then anthropologists decided not to investigate them. Baudrillard thinks this actually killed the Tasadays or made them simulacra/fake or something and I just got lost. Can someone explain this section?

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      Can anyone explain to me what Baudrillard was talking about

      Probably not.

      With snarkposting done, I haven’t actually made it all the way though any of his books, but looking at what seem to be the relevant chapter, I think he’s saying that ethnology is the image he’s been talking about. But it’s weird, because I think this makes much sense if he’s actually talking about ethnography and not ethnology. Anyway, I think he’s saying that ethnology is the process of creating an image. For his stages:

      it is the reflection of a profound reality – the ethnologist profiles the Tasaday

      it masks and denatures a profound reality – the ethnologist observes the Tasaday changing in response to exposure to the outside world, and pretends that the ethnology he’s composed is representative of the “virgin” Tasaday anyway

      it masks the absence of a profound reality – the ethnologist returns the Tasaday to the forest, imagining that by doing so he’s preserving the existing Tasaday culture, despite the dissolution he’s already personally overseen.

      it has no relation to any reality whatsoever – the ethnologist establishes rules to protect the Tasaday from further contamination, as though they will change the reality. “Antiethnology” is established: the science of never learning more about the Tasaday

      it is its own pure simulacrum – antiethnology ascends to prominence, becoming the object of the field of ethnology. The interest the Tasaday hold for ethnologists is no longer their actual character, but their “protection,” an institution totally divorced from the Tasaday or the study of them. The science of ethnology, therefore, ceases to be defined by the study of primitive cultures; instead, it becomes the mechanism of control of the culture in which it exists.

      I think he’s also arguing that this actually does also kill the Tasaday, but I’m not sure that actually happens, and I’m tempted to say that Baudrillard is actually creating a simulacrum of ethnology in the text. Fucken gotem.

      • blipnickels says:

        That was reasonably helpful, thank you. I get the feeling I don’t understand what ethnography or ethnology is in any meaningful sense, much less how Baudrillard is using them.

    • Deiseach says:

      Crikey, this is taking me back to when I was a child and the Tasaday were a piece in my English textbook. So far as I can remember through the mists of time, the Tasadays were supposed – upon first encounters – to be this perfect Noble Savage trope made flesh, an undiscovered tribe living in real Stone Age conditions in the modern world. Naturally, all the anthropologists lost their minds over this and there was debate about “are we contaminating them by interacting with them?”

      Later on, I think it came out that the story wasn’t quite as simple – the Tasadays weren’t a lost Stone Age tribe who had never been in contact with white people or the modern world before. There was some suggestion this was a fake or a hoax, but the narrative of the time-capsule tribe was quickly dumped. That could be what Baudrillard is on about – the reality of the Tasadays, whether genuine tribe or not, was over-written by all the ideas and narratives of the ‘discoverers’, back to Rousseau’s Noble Savage, and our idea of the Tasaday (as pristine uncontaminated Stone Age tribe) became the accepted reality rather than whatever the true situation was.

      Wikipedia has the gist of it:

      The Tasaday are an indigenous people of the Philippine island of Mindanao. They are considered to belong to the Lumad group, along with the other indigenous groups on the island. They attracted widespread media attention in 1971, when a journalist of the Manila Associated Press bureau chief reported their discovery, amid apparent “Stone Age” technology and in complete isolation from the rest of Philippine society. They again attracted attention in the 1980s when some accused the Tasaday living in the jungle and speaking in their dialect as being part of an elaborate hoax, and doubt was raised about their isolation and even about being a separate ethnic group. Further research has tended to support their being a tribe that was isolated until 1971 and that lived as nomadic hunter-gatherers. The Tasaday language is distinct from that of neighbouring tribes, and linguists believe it probably split from the adjacent Manobo languages 200 years ago.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      How did you decide to read Baudrillard?

      I recently gave up on him and I’m thinking of reading Guy Debord instead, but I haven’t yet.

      PS, here is the passage

      • blipnickels says:

        I wanted to try some postmodernists and his name kept coming up. Probably watched too much Cuck_Philosophy on Youtube.

        I read the Consumer Society. It’s slow and dense but good, although I’m a sucker for any anti-consumerist message. It’s definitely more readable than Simulations.

  19. Well... says:

    Are there any South African TV shows that are good on the level of “The Wire”? Anything close? (They don’t have to be crime dramas.)

    • Randy M says:

      With the caveat that I know I’m not answering the question on two axis, District 9 was set in and partially produced in South Africa. I liked it.

  20. Tenacious D says:

    I’m watching The Fellowship of the Ring for the first time in several years and remembering how good it is. Along with some of the other movie discussion below, that’s prompted my question: How would you edit the Hobbit movies to make them not suck?

    Here’s my approach: First of all, considering how much shorter the source material is than LOTR, there’s no way it should be a trilogy. My plan cuts it into two movies. The second high level point is reexamining characters that were added to the movie without being in the book (although perhaps are still Tolkien canon). Tauriel (female elf with red hair) will get cut entirely–the romance sub-plot with one of the dwarves is a distraction; Radagast will get much less screen time but probably still appear in a few places; Azog the defiler will be kept on as one of the villains with some modifications as discussed below.

    First movie: It’s a Dangerous Business, Going out your Front Door

    This movie will be their journey from the Shire to being the prisoners of the wood elves. The party stumbles into various perils in an episodic manner, and gets rescued by Gandalf’s intervention, Bilbo’s growing courage and skill, or luck/fate. Although the dwarves will still be somewhat bumbling (as they are in the book), the comic relief should be toned down–no one should forget that the dwarven exiles can be dangerous. One crucial aspect of my edit would be that none of the three big bads (Smaug, Azog, the Necromancer/Sauron) appear in the first movie. They’ll be mentioned in hushed tones to build suspense. Here’s an outline:

    – Skip the prologue with elderly Bilbo writing his book
    – Start with the party at Bilbo’s
    – Keep the episode with the trolls
    – Radagast can show up and mention the Necromancer, but it should just be a mention; skip showing his discoveries in the forest and especially skip him driving his sledge
    – Rather than getting chased into Rivendell by orcs, the dwarves will just dispatch a warg scout or two then arrive there less frantically
    – Keep the discussions in Rivendell
    – The party will end up in the Misty Mountains more-or-less as shown
    – Keep Bilbo’s encounter with Gollum, and his desparate escape from the caves
    – The Great Goblin will still mention Azog’s bounty on Thorin
    – The dwarves will still be shown making a fighting retreat, but it will be shortened (and any slapstick ways of dispatching orcs are definitely getting cut)
    – The party gets ambushed by orcs (but without Azog being present) and rescued from trees just in time by the Eagles
    – Keep the scene with Beorn
    – Mirkwood and the giant spiders will remain more-or-less as shown
    – The first movie ends with the dwarves being captured by the wood elves

    • Tenacious D says:

      Second movie: The Lonely Mountain

      This movie will be less episodic than the first one and will involve a few key arcs rushing together to a climax (and also making it clear that this is a prequel to LOTR). These arcs are the way in which everyone covets the treasure in the Lonely Mountain, the relationship between Bilbo and Thorin, and a growing awareness that evil is stirring in a way that hasn’t been seen for most of the third age. Although this movie will cover most of what was in The Desolation of Smaug and The Battle of the Five Armies there is enough that can be cut (especially the action scenes that were on rails) to keep it to a reasonable length. Here’s an outline:

      – It will start with the dwarves languishing in the wood elves’ prison
      – Flashbacks while in prison will set up the context: the dwarves being driven from the Lonely Mountain by Smaug and their battle with Azog before the gates of Moria (both these scenes were originally in An Unexpected Journey, iirc)
      – Show Azog meeting with the Necromancer
      – Thranduil, the wood elf king, negotiates with Thorin, giving the first glimpse of how coveted the dragon’s treasure is
      – Meanwhile, Gandalf is investigating the Nazgul tombs
      – Bilbo helps the dwarves escape in barrels. There is no running battle down the stream.
      – They meet Bard and get smuggled into Laketown.
      – The politics of Laketown also show how coveted the dragon’s treasure is.
      – Meanwhile, Gandalf explores Dol Guldur and encounters the Necromancer/Sauron
      – The dwarves travel to the Lonely Mountain and discover the hidden entrance more-or-less as shown (except that they don’t leave part of their party in Laketown)
      – Bilbo’s discussion with Smaug definitely stays in
      – There is no orc raiding party on Laketown, but Azog’s army starts marching for the Lonely Mountain
      – The attempt to kill Smaug with molten gold definitely gets cut
      – Smaug attempts to destroy Laketown but is shot down by Bard
      – With Laketown a smouldering ruin, Bard leads the people to Dale
      – The plotline with Thorin, Bilbo, and the Arkenstone stays as-is
      – Gandalf gets rescued by Galadriel, Elrond, and Saruman, but this gets less screentime than in The Battle of the Five Armies
      – The intrigue in front of the Lonely Mountain with elves and men laying seige to claim a share of the treasure stays in
      – The actual battle of the five armies can be shortened (especially by taking out the sandworms, because we aren’t on Arrakis).
      – The duel between Thorin and Azog stays in
      – Legolas going off in search of Strider can stay in
      – The epilogue with Bilbo back in the Shire and Gandalf talking to him about the ring stays in, as it sets up LOTR nicely.

      • Deiseach says:

        The best thing is to make it as a single movie. Jackson was trying to tie it into LOTR and I can see why, because of Bilbo’s ring, but really the simplest thing is best: There and Back Again, Bilbo sets out on an adventure that he doesn’t particularly want and it turns out to be a lot more important in the long run than anyone could have guessed.

        Leave Azog out of it completely, this just brings a distracting element into it. Reduce the part of the Necromancer, yes you need to explain why Gandalf is always disappearing just when they need him most, but you can do this in short scenes of the White Council meeting to discuss what is going on in Mirkwood. I like Radagast but I agree about the rabbit sledge being silly. You can start off with the light-hearted opening and then gradually let things get darker as they go on. Keep Mirkwood and Thranduil but don’t introduce Legolas or Tauriel or any romance sub-plots and don’t do Scarface Thranduil.

        Smaug is good as is, agreed about leaving out the molten gold nonsense. Battle of the Five Armies doesn’t need to be extended epic and I disagree about Thorin duelling with Azog, I didn’t think this added anything to the original story of the King and his nephews dying in battle as tends to happen when battles are fought. The Moria side-story was a distraction because it only worked if you were familiar enough with the books to realise the importance of Moria and all the rest of it, but for someone who only knew the LOTR movies it was too much information crammed in with a lot of other information to be absorbed. Leave Moria out (I’m sorry to say).

        It doesn’t need to be complicated more than it is, if you stick to one movie. Trying to make a trilogy did stretch it out too far and that’s where all the padding came in. If you do it right, you can still break everyone’s hearts in the end with Thorin’s death. And then finish up with the comedy of the Sackville-Bagginses trying to grab Bag End and Bilbo’s unexpected return from the ‘dead’ to send us all home with lifted mood.

        • Radu Floricica says:

          The book itself kindof feels like two parts, “there and back again”. The long travel up to the Lonely Mountain and what happened there. Much agree with the rest.

    • Evan Þ says:

      In general, the Hobbit films were trying to be something the original book isn’t. The book was a light-hearted children’s tale that develops into a character drama at the end. It isn’t an epic adventure – otherwise, the dwarves would all be distinct characters, Bilbo would slay Smaug himself, and the defeat of the Necromancer would be a central plot element instead of being mentioned in passing. If you try to gussy things up to make the story an epic adventure (like Jackson did), the central plot will be “stretched thin like butter over too much bread” and then collapse under too much load.

      So, I advocate a reimagining of the whole film marketing to a different audience. We won’t have epic CGI action scenes. There will be exactly two armies of orcs – one chasing the dwarves up the fir trees, and another at the Battle of Five Armies (which will be drastically shortened). Let Bilbo have his moment facing the orcs down with newly-named Sting (that’s a great character moment), but don’t linger on it since what really saves them is not Bilbo but the eagles.

      Also, don’t linger on it since the film won’t be ending there. I entirely agree The Hobbit shouldn’t be a trilogy. If you can fit it into one movie, excellent.

      Or if you want two movies, Movie One (“An Unexpected Journey”) should be the character quest I described. Perhaps it ends with the arrival at Laketown where Bilbo has matured into an adventurer and been acknowledged as such after rescued the dwarves; perhaps it continues further through the Dwarves unlocking the door Bilbo found into the mountain. Movie Two (“The Lonely Mountain”) can be the epic adventure; it doubles back to the White Council in Rivendell and continues through the attack on Dul Guldor while Smaug is slain. It climaxes of course with the Battle of Five Armies and the simultaneous attack on Dul Guldor – which in this version could be more epic.

      If you want a third movie, make it about young Aragorn, perhaps following the fan film The Hunt for Gollum. Alternatively, make a standalone Scouring of the Shire, which I really want to see.

      Oh, I agree to cut Tauriel, but instead make some of the dwarves female. It’s very possible in canon, I like it, and audiences will like it.

    • Andrew Hunter says:

      A) the best moment of the real movies was That’s What Bilbo Baggins Hates.

      B) Both the Hobbit and stealable/unused parts of LotR have quite a lot of songs or singable poetry. (“Water Hot” is a favorite of mine.)

      C) everything is better as a musical.

      The solution is trivial.

      • johan_larson says:

        We already have a good film adaptation of The Hobbit: the Rankin/Bass animated version. If you’re desperate to do a remake, a live-action shot-for-shot remake of that would be a reasonable choice.

      • Tenacious D says:

        Have you heard this medley?

        • Andrew Hunter says:

          I have; I quite like it. (Some of Hollens’ stuff is…I don’t even know why I dislike it, but it bothers me on some level, while still being attractive music.) But this one is just great fun.

    • AG says:

      Here’s a couple of good videos detailing how The Hobbit films were basically screwed over by industry politics. It points out how there are some parts of the first film that were in the spirit of the book, when it emphasized the camaraderie between all of the Dwarves, as the meat of the story is about how Bilbo eventually comes into his own among them. So the focus of the edit should be on that, and re-frame all of the pretty people as outsiders, rather than as potential co-protagonists. If there is to be a Tauriel-Kili romance, it should only be in service to highlighting Kili’s relationship to the other dwarves, and not really about the romance in and of itself (much less any elf politics nonsense).

    • Plumber says:

      With the very big caveat of my having only watched part of the first live-action Hobbit movies before walking out of the theater, I’d say:

      1) Screen the 1977 cartoon instead.

      2) Have a few extended slow motion scenes of Evangeline Lilly as “Tauriel”, maybe with some smooth slow jam R&B as background music.

      I think that should suffice.

      • Lambert says:

        > 1) Screen the 1977 cartoon instead.

        If I owned an independant cinema, I’d totally be showing all the original disney films that they’re gratuitously remaking right now.

    • broblawsky says:

      Comics generally get weirder when they metastasize out of their normal settings into other universes. That’s how you get stuff like Doctor Who crossing over with Marvel, or Superman/He-Man comics.

      Also, the whole Roxxon story is pretty weird. It’s fascinating how this one oil company gets turned into Marvel’s all-purpose corporate boogeyman, for everything from pseudo-Fox News to fracking.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Comics generally get weirder when they metastasize out of their normal settings into other universes. That’s how you get stuff like Doctor Who crossing over with Marvel, or Superman/He-Man comics.

        True.
        Oh, by the way, He-Man segues us into the issue of the Conan copyrights.
        See, a few years after the Conan paperbacks (L. Sprauge de Camp & Lin Carter posthumously collaborating with Robert E. Howard), the copyrights and trademark were held by… somebody, and Roy Thomas at Marvel Comics paid to license them (this is how Thoth-Amon and his Cobra Crown got mixed up with the Submariner’s Atlantis and Roxxon Oil). This was 1970. De Camp & Carter wound down their involvement with Conan around 1977 with Conan of Aquilonia, a collection of short stories set chronologically between Howard’s The Hour of the Dragon and their own sequel about King Conan sailing from Aquilonia to the New World. That same year, a company called Conan Properties International came into existence claiming to hold all the Robert E. Howard copyrights and trademarks. In 1984, they sued toy corporation Mattel for creating He-Man while holding a license for Conan movie figures.
        Despite not being able to prove a lawful transfer of intellectual property from whoever held it prior to 1977, CPI is still around trying to license Conan and engaging in lawfare as recently as 2018.

  21. Urstoff says:

    Are there any other general science publications that are pitched at the same level as American Scientist? Scientific American seemed to have that level of sophistication in the 1950’s and 60’s, but took a nosedive somewhere in the 80’s and has only partially recovered.

    • metacelsus says:

      Science (the journal) is good, if you’re comfortable reading research articles.

      • Urstoff says:

        Right, looking for something pitched below Science/Nature but above SciAm/Discover. American Scientist is at that level, just looking for something additional. The Science/Nature features/news sections are a bit like that, I guess.

    • crh says:

      Nautilus?

    • Dino says:

      I like Science News. Used to subscribe to Scientific American, but agree with your opinion.

  22. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Re: woke Hollywood, I think it would be illuminating to ask why they’d never make an adaptation of Orlando innamorato/furioso.

    The strongest man (Orlando) is played for laughs, which is a successful formula these days (see Hulk, Thor).
    The most important magician is the Emperor of China’s daughter Angelica.
    Orlando feels entitled to her love, which the narrative repudiates by pairing her with a common Saracen soldier, Medoro (discovering this is why Orlando goes furioso, stripping naked, throwing a hapless peasant’s donkey a couple of miles, and accidentally aiding Charlemagne’s cause by killing many people after swimming the Strait of Gibraltar rather than before).
    The strongest warrior after Orlando is the woman Marfisa, who was shipwrecked as a baby, nursed by a lioness, captured by slavers, sold to a Sultan of India in a Persian slave market, and reacted to his attempted rape by killing him, taking over his kingdom, and using it as a power base to conquer six other Indian kingdoms from. She Never Wears Dresses, a principle that’s vindicated when she relents for her friends and is forced to fight a Saracen king who tries to claim this pretty lady.
    It flirts with LGBT themes when Marfisa tries to live up to the knightly gender role by taking a lady to serve (she’s not really L, as shown by the fact she takes an ugly old woman and male knights laugh at her misunderstanding of knighthood, telling her knights only fight for what they find attractive) and when Cupid makes the Princess of Spain fall in love with the Christian lady knight Bradamante (her fraternal twin brother later learns about this and takes her place with the princess).
    Needless to say, it has a diverse cast spanning the Old World.

    So what’s the problem? The narrative expects us to sympathize with the Christian paladins. Supernatural entities from the Bible show up and Islam is depicted as false and bad (insofar as you can call it Islam when the Spanish and Middle Eastern characters worship Mahomet, Apollyon and Termagant).
    Also, there’s the problem that if a studio did make this and it was a hit, it’s in the public domain so anyone could make sequels, toys, etc. That freedom is anathema to entertainment corporations. The need to create new things to keep up with changing attitudes to what’s offensive is good for this handful of corporations (and bad for people, who’d benefit from a shared body of traditional high culture).

    • Urstoff says:

      Asking why Hollywood would never make an adaptation of a culturally obscure renaissance poem doesn’t seem particularly illuminating to anything except our own preconceptions.

      • Culturally obscure? Those two are the most famous works of Renaissance fantasy fiction.

        And the basis for two of the Fletcher Pratt/Sprague de Camp novels.

        • Urstoff says:

          Yes, I’m willing to call them culturally obscure in the context of 2019 US culture.

          • James says:

            I must be in the top percentile for old literature geekiness (in the broader population) and I had never heard of it until LMC started mentioning it on here.

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          Calling something, “the basis for two of the Fletcher Pratt/Sprague de Camp novels” doesn’t exactly work against the idea that it’s culturally obscure.

        • Ventrue Capital says:

          Also (in a sidways way) for Ariosto by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro,

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Dude, this was part of the Western canon until late Victorian times or perhaps when CS Lewis was born*. Bulfinch’s Mythology (mid-Victorian) treated it as the third leg of Western poetry/romance/whatever after Greek mythology and King Arthur. It was one of the canonical works of fiction Gustave Dore illustrated.
        It’s still assigned reading in Italian secondary schools.

        *Lewis wrote ” “Our oblivion of these poets [e.g. Boiardo and Ariosto] is much to be regretted, because it robs us of a whole species of pleasures and narrows our very conception of literature.” So we can place the oblivion somewhere between Bulfinch and 1900.

        • Urstoff says:

          Okay, but it’s still culturally obscure in 2019 United States culture.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            OK, so my complaint collapses to “2019 United States culture is degenerate compared to 1860s United States culture.”

          • Urstoff says:

            Fair enough! Although our death metal is far superior.

          • broblawsky says:

            OK, so my complaint collapses to “2019 United States culture is degenerate compared to 1860s United States culture.”

            Serious question here: I’d be willing to bet that more fiction has been created (and successfully preserved) in the last 50 years than in the entirety of human history previous. How is it “degenerate” that people prefer more modern fiction when older fiction makes up a tiny fraction of the options available to them?

          • Nick says:

            That the last 50 years have failed to cull the 90% of everything that is crap is an argument against it, not for it.

          • broblawsky says:

            That the last 50 years have failed to cull the 90% of everything that is crap is an argument against it, not for it.

            I’ll give you that one. But “crap” is a subjective judgment. Vertigo is arguably the greatest thriller movie of all time, but it bombed when it originally came out. If it had been released in an analogous medium ~200 years ago, we’d probably have never heard of it today.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @broblawsky:

            Serious question here: I’d be willing to bet that more fiction has been created (and successfully preserved) in the last 50 years than in the entirety of human history previous. How is it “degenerate” that people prefer more modern fiction when older fiction makes up a tiny fraction of the options available to them?

            You may be right, but that also means 49.9% of fiction available to people is more than 50 years old. If people are picking all their fiction from the recent half, they’re not developing a well-rounded mental life.
            I think it’s an interesting question when fiction passes through the Sturgeon Filter (the fish-trap of culture?). Are 90% of films people watch from the 1980s trash compared to the few we watch from Hitchcock’s era?
            It’s also an interesting question how many works of the past X years you (the general you) think are equal to the Western or world literature canon before that cutoff.

          • baconbits9 says:

            You may be right, but that also means 49.9% of fiction available to people is more than 50 years old. If people are picking all their fiction from the recent half, they’re not developing a well-rounded mental life

            And you have to read it in the original language as well right? Otherwise you are just a Philistine.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @baconbits9: Nope. Look at the conservative attitude toward literature in Johnson’s Britain: poets were expected to produce translations of artistic merit as well as original poems, because lack of universal access to many great books was strongly felt.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @LMC

            I think your complaint actually collapses to, “2019 United States culture is insufficiently reverent towards 1860s United States culture.”

            (INB4 “isn’t that what I said?”)

          • Nick says:

            @broblawsky

            I’ll give you that one. But “crap” is a subjective judgment. Vertigo is arguably the greatest thriller movie of all time, but it bombed when it originally came out. If it had been released in an analogous medium ~200 years ago, we’d probably have never heard of it today.

            That’s not a big deal, really. You’re actually admitting, with your last point, that truly good works are being consigned to the dustbin of history. Yet somehow we survive! So I think we’d get by just fine without Vertigo.

          • broblawsky says:

            That’s not a big deal, really. You’re actually admitting, with your last point, that truly good works are being consigned to the dustbin of history. Yet somehow we survive! So I think we’d get by just fine without Vertigo.

            Art might not be necessary for human survival, but that doesn’t mean its loss isn’t a tragedy.

          • Enkidum says:

            That the last 50 years have failed to cull the 90% of everything that is crap is an argument against it, not for it.

            Time has a habit of doing that (though also plenty of worthwhile stuff falls by the wayside).

            There was plenty of crap being produced 100 or 200 years ago. We just don’t read it today.

          • Nick says:

            @broblawsky

            Art might not be necessary for human survival, but that doesn’t mean its loss isn’t a tragedy.

            So go mourn the 95% of stuff you’ll never have the opportunity to read. Seriously. Your Vertigo argument is blatant status quo bias.

            @Enkidum
            I don’t see what you’re getting at here. I agree that time does that, that’s my point; it filters out most of the crap, so reading the stuff that survives means reading better stuff, on the whole. I also agree that plenty of crap was published back then. It’s broblawsky who believes that something has changed, namely, that we preserve what we create better today than ever before. But it follows therefore that we’re preserving all the crap that in past generations would have been consigned to the dustbin. That’s a bad thing, not a good thing.

          • Machine Interface says:

            We only preserve the crap to make fun of it. There’s a whole brand of youtubers making a living out of digging out the weirdest, most obscure crap and then tearing it down in the public place for everyone’s saddistic pleasure.

        • AG says:

          These poems falling into American cultural obscurity happened long before any inkling of wokeness was ever dreamed of. And that cultural obscurity is what actually matters.

          You’d be hard pressed to see Hollywood adapt Ivanhoe or The Ballad of Sir Roland ever again. They’ve been burned by the last Beowulf adaptation, so the thing now for period dramas of that age is original characters. Vikings, The Outlaw King, etc.

          Besides which, what makes you think any adaptation that does happen won’t be woke’d up? Doesn’t the whole Wheel of Time business show that source material content is no obstacle?

          • acymetric says:

            And Beowulf had more cultural relevance because it was reasonably common required reading for high school English courses within the last couple decades (don’t know if it still is).

          • AG says:

            I’ve never been assigned Beowulf. I’ve seen him show up in a couple of old computer games (Lords of Magic), and he was also in a nonfiction picture book using Star Wars as a springboard for introducing kids to old mythology.

          • Nick says:

            I saw the movie in English class, even though we weren’t assigned it. I also read portions of it later but haven’t read it through.

          • Nornagest says:

            I was assigned Beowulf in the mid-Nineties, in middle school. In translation, of course, and it was a pretty loose translation too.

          • beleester says:

            Class of 2010, and I had Beowulf in high school.

          • bullseye says:

            I read Beowulf in high school in the late 90s. Just small parts of it, I think; I recently bought a copy and it’s much longer than I remember.

            I think the cultural relevance of Beowulf is greatly exaggerated. Part of the book was lost in a fire a few centuries ago, which means that there was likely only one copy at the time. This was a *very* obscure work that became well-known simply because it is (by English standards) very old.

          • acymetric says:

            I just meant cultural relevance in the sense that more people are at least aware it exists, and have possibly read it. In contrast to some of the examples given further upthread which hardly anyone has read or heard of. Not that it was a timeless tale that still rings true today.

            Agreed that this is mostly because it is very old, which is the main reason why it is not uncommon for it to be assigned reading.

        • Hypoborean says:

          Sample size of one, but I had not heard of this before. I’m an electrical engineering student but I read about history as a hobby; classic literature not taught in high school or mentioned in pop culture is a clear blind spot for me.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            The only ways I heard of Orlando Furioso were that it was reprinted in the Ballentine Adult Fantasy series and it’s part of de Camp’s Incompleat Enchanter series. I could be wrong about the latter– wikipedia says it’s got the Faerie Queen, but the de Camp stories were about getting into the wrong classic story.

            Oh, and wikipedia reminded me about Sturgeon’s “To Here and the Easel”.

            Anyway, we’re talking about things that I saw in the 60s and 70s, and that most sf fans (let alone the rest of the public) haven’t heard of.

            This being said, there’s a chance– not a major chance– that someone will decide Orlando Furioso offers a good starting point for a movie or a mini-series.

          • I could be wrong about the latter– wikipedia says it’s got the Faerie Queen

            First the Faerie Queen and then the Orlando Furioso.

          • Plumber says:

            The reason I read the deal Camp & Pratt “Harold Shea” stories that riffed on the Carolingian romances that @Le Maistre Chat mentions is because they were listed as part of “Appendix N: INSPIRATIONAL AND EDUCATIONAL READING” in the 1979 Dungeon Masters Guide, which (as mentioned upthread) re-tellings of are in Bulfinch’s Age of Chivalry which is really common.

            Frankly I’m way more familiar with those works than the anime, video games, and Marvel movies usually discussed (and I’ve really been feeling adrift and culturalry isolated among other ghosts haunting me lately).

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Don’t worry Plumber; I’ll hang out and talk about that stuff with you!
            So, Fafhrd & the Grey Mouser. I have the first six short story collections in two volumes and enjoyed them. I’ve been warned away from the seventh, The Knight and Knave of Swords, on the grounds that Leiber got hit by the brain eater near the end of his life and ended the series with some meandering Excuse Plots to show off the Mouser’s kinky sex life.

          • Plumber says:

            Thanks @Le Maistre Chat,
            The Knight and Knave of Swords has some good bits, but you were well warned, there’s bits of what I think are now called “squicky” in it, and now is where I mention that I met a very frail Fritz Leiber at a bookstore in the early 1990’s, I’ve been feeling very sad and clinically nostalgic these past few weeks, and to justify my life to myself I’ve thought of the famous and infamous I’ve met, plus those I’ve known well who’ve met the famous and infamous, making me two or three “degrees of separation” between both Ronald Reagan and Joseph Stalin, the full list is unlikely to be believed but not bad for someone who never attended a University and who’s Dad was in jail the day he was born.

    • honoredb says:

      it’s in the public domain so anyone could make sequels, toys, etc

      This doesn’t seem to be something studios object to in practice: see e.g. all of Disney. If it’s a hit, it’s a hit with your distinct aesthetics, which means merch people can’t legally copy.

      I also don’t buy

      the narrative expects us to sympathize with the Christian paladins. Supernatural entities from the Bible show up and Islam is depicted as false and bad

      as an actual blocker. This is also true of, for example, Arthurian legend, and that gets remade constantly. Typically I think adaptations just deemphasize the Christianity and remove the Islam (the latter being pretty easy since as you say the original source material was mostly just making it up anyway), or use a D&D-style “no monotheisms, just monolatries that give you magic powers” interpretation. You can also patch it more interestingly by giving the Islamic elements the Without Faith, Without Law, Without Joy treatment (they’ve been turned into twisted caricatures by baleful Christian magic) or copying the way Neil Gaiman’s Beowulf treats the source material’s depiction of Christianity (the story as we know it was told by pagans who don’t really get it and also are lying to cover up their sins, here’s the real story).

    • Machine Interface says:

      The Matter of France is just not a set of myth anyone in the public cares about, and thus anyone is willing to adapt in modern media form. This was true even before woke Hollywood. This was true even when a bajillion films were being made about the Matter of Britain.

      Even in France, all our modern retellings are taken from the Matter of Britain (I mean this is fine — we wrote half of it anyway). You’ll find plenty of stories and tv skits and books about king Arthur and Merlin and Excalibur and the quest for the Grail. But Charlemagne and Roland and Durandal and the Carolingian empire are strictly historical facts you learn about as such in school and then promptly forget.

      • AG says:

        This reminds me of how, apparently, India processed their national trauma over the 2006 train bombings by making a bunch of films about Indian expats processing their trauma over 9/11.

        And more people probably know about the likes of Durandall and Cúchulainn from anime than anything else at this point.

        There’s something to be said for how nations sometimes project their mythological veneration onto other cultures.

        • Nick says:

          And more people probably know about the likes of Durandall and Cúchulainn from anime than anything else at this point.

          Heh, good point. I only learned about Cúchulainn and Bluebeard from hearing folks talking about that series.

        • Randy M says:

          I read my roommates Beowulf in college because I recognized the name from Final Fantasy Tactics.

          • Matt M says:

            Play enough FF and you can identify the names of various gods from all sorts of ancient legends and polytheistic religions!

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Just don’t expect the real Gilgamesh to be anything like FF’s version.

          • Protagoras says:

            The Shin Megami Tensei games are also good for this; I especially like the Persona series. Well, 3, 4, and 5; I wasn’t into Playstation yet in the days of Persona and Persona 2.

  23. souleater says:

    [META: Sorry to call anyone out and make a top level post out of context, But this conversation seems fruitful/interesting enough to me that it’s worth a new thread]

    @watchman

    I counter that a foetus is not a living human but only potentially might be, and that to do harm to a living person to the benefit of a potential person is clearly wrong. To allow the state to do this seems insane.

    I think this is the root of our disagreement, I would make the claim a (I’ll taboo the word baby) “developing human” is alive in every way the word could be used. I don’t understand how a late stage “developing human” couldn’t be described as alive.

    It isn’t self aware:
    Neither is a pine tree, self awareness isn’t a prerequisite for life.

    It is dependent on its host:
    So is a parasite. Parasites are considered alive.

    It is alive, but in the same way the mother’s appendix or liver is:
    It is a genetically unique, and separate organism.

    It’s not able to reproduce:
    So is a tadpole. Sexually maturity is not a prerequisite for life.

    I mean… If you wanted to say a “developing human” should be treated with the same rights as a parasite, cockroach, pine tree, or tadpole, I think that is arguable, but to say its “not alive” just seems facially wrong.

    • Hypoborean says:

      So, you have successfully identified the root location of the disagreement, but you are embedded enough in the pro-life rhetorical position that you’re missing the pro-choice equivalent.

      You are correct that the quote said the word “living”, but they are not claiming that the “developing person” isn’t alive. They are claiming that the developing person isn’t a PERSON yet. See -> “to do harm to a living PERSON to the benefit of a potential PERSON is clearly wrong”

      Pro-Choice people, like pro-life people, agree that human persons are special and important and deserve rights that animals (not persons or humans) and corporations (not humans) and do not receive. BUT. Strong pro-life people say that an egg becomes a human person the moment it is fertilized by a sperm cell, whereas strong pro-choice people say that a “developing person” becomes a human person the moment they are born (which, by the way, has some theological justification in the Torah, IIRC).

      Thus, the pro-choice position is saying that “developing persons” are not people, and it is crazy to engage in harm TO A PERSON (the pregnant woman bearing them). They are consistently applying the principle that the rights of people trump the rights of non-people.

      Am I correct in thinking that you are a “strong pro-life” person who thinks that fertilized eggs are people?

      • Randy M says:

        Trouble there is watchman (probably mistakenly) used the ambiguous word “human” rather than “person”.

        Human can refer to the species homo sapien, which an individual belongs to regardless of the development stage.
        It can also refer to those factors of homo sapiens that set them apart, which various individuals may not yet or no longer possess.
        Whether that abrogates all that individual’s rights is the crux of the moral debate.

        • Hypoborean says:

          Yes, the original comment was ambiguous. I was trying to steelman it, should have clarified.

      • John Schilling says:

        You are correct that the quote said the word “living”, but they are not claiming that the “developing person” isn’t alive. They are claiming that the developing person isn’t a PERSON yet.

        Except that original poster explicitly contrasted “living person” with “potential person”, implying that a fetus and its mother are both persons and the difference is that the mother is living and the fetus is something other than living.

        That’s a very poor choice of wording if the intent was to argue that a fetus is a living not-person, and while I would bet that it is just poor wording, it’s hard to fault souleater for addressing what was actually said.

        • Hypoborean says:

          I wasn’t trying to fault souleater, I was rather trying to clarify the ambiguity in watchman’s statement and then explain the pro-choice position behind it since I thought that was what souleater was asking about. I should have been more clear that I did think the original comment was an ambiguous representation of a common position.

      • souleater says:

        Strong pro-life people say that an egg becomes a human person the moment it is fertilized by a sperm cell, whereas strong pro-choice people say that a “developing person” becomes a human person the moment they are born

        Am I correct in thinking that you are a “strong pro-life” person who thinks that fertilized eggs are people?

        Overall, No. I don’t think that correctly characterizes me. But Pro-Lifers say I’m Pro-Choice, and Pro-Choicers say I’m Pro-Life so YMMV.

        I think that Americans are ill served by the Pro-Life/Pro-Choice dichotomy. I think that fertilization and birth are both poor metrics to decide who deserves the rights of personhood. Generally speaking I think the death or abortion of any living creature is a shame, and would rather we had fewer if at all possible.

        I think a fair compromise would be
        Government Funded implantable/IUD birth control. free. unconditional.
        If not using birth control, abortion is legal in the first trimester
        If using birth control, abortion is legal in the two trimesters
        reasonable exceptions apply.

        It’s not perfect, and I’m slaughtering some of my sacred cows here.. but I figure its a compromise most people can live with.

        • Hypoborean says:

          “Overall, No. I don’t think that correctly characterizes me. But Pro-Lifers say I’m Pro-Choice, and Pro-Choicers say I’m Pro-Life so YMMV.”
          What are your views on this, OOC? (Ignore political constraints)

          Most Americans do in fact fall somewhere in the middle, since there’s a group of 40-60% that support 1st trimester abortions but oppose 3rd trimester abortions, depending on the poll. The positions I labeled “hard pro-choice” and “hard pro-life” are both <20% of the overall population, but that's where all the rhetoric and heat goes.

          "I think a fair compromise would be
          Government Funded implantable/IUD birth control. free. unconditional.
          If not using birth control, abortion is legal in the first trimester
          If using birth control, abortion is legal in the two trimesters
          reasonable exceptions apply."

          Overall I'd be on board with something like this if an offer was on the table, but there are two flies in the ointment. First, how would you handle the inevitable restrictions and wait times imposed on abortion by red-leaning states? Their modus operandi is to delay, increase the expense of, and reduce the availability of abortion, even at the expense of causing a 1st trimester abortion to become a 2nd or 3rd trimester abortion.

          A potential way around this would be to add "and abortion is a medical service which must be provided by any hospital that accepts federal funding of any kind, including tax-exempt healthcare plans", would you be comfortable adding that to your proposed compromise? And for women who needed to save up the money to afford the procedure, would they get an extension until they had the money under "reasonable exceptions apply"?

          The second is, the first trimester is *very* short / subtle. It's easy to miss. Does "attempts to get an abortion the literal second they realize they were pregnant, which wasn't until week 14" count as "reasonable exception"?

        • Garrett says:

          > I think that Americans are ill served by the Pro-Life/Pro-Choice dichotomy.

          Of course they are! Because Moloch!

          It’s a lot easier to be successful in a political movement if you are able to paint your opponents as opposed to life or opposed to choice.

          • Hypoborean says:

            I don’t think it’s actually as simple as “Because Moloch”?

            The two extreme positions are actually the two most simple and internally-consistent ones, and the big mass in the middle that is ill served by the Pro-Life/Pro-Choice dichotomy have preferences that would be very hard to actually put into law clearly and unambiguously. It’s a problem where if you think about it a lot you start being pulled towards one pole or the other, I think, unless there’s a giant camp of very thoughtful people in the middle who never get around to publishing think-pieces online about it.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Hypoborean

            That reminds me of the phenomenon where people who get serious about their beliefs become more extreme, not more moderate.

            That it translates to political beliefs just as well as any others.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Abortion is a special case, because the democratic process was usurped.

            There is no incentive for any extreme to compromise, because it won’t help them get what they want, nor is there feedback from voters to tell them that the public support isn’t there to get what they want. Politicians can stake out whatever position they want without fear of having to deliver.

          • and the big mass in the middle that is ill served by the Pro-Life/Pro-Choice dichotomy have preferences that would be very hard to actually put into law clearly and unambiguously.

            I believe most European countries have legal rules in the middle, with no restriction on first term abortion, significant restrictions on third term.

          • Hypoborean says:

            @EchoChaos

            There’s definitely a trend for more informed voters to be more ideologically “extreme” but in aggregate that’s more because they are better sorted to their side’s overall basket of positions (people in the middle often loosely hold a mix of “hard left” and “hard right” positions.

            I think abortion is an unusually polarizing case.

      • souleater says:

        You are correct that the quote said the word “living”, but they are not claiming that the “developing person” isn’t alive. They are claiming that the developing person isn’t a PERSON yet.

        I think there was ambiguity in his statement.

        If you think a debate on “Is an 8.5 month old “developing human” a person or not” is a stronger position for you, I would be willing to engage with you on that instead. What is the intrinsic difference between an 8.5 month old “developing human” and a baby?

        • Gobbobobble says:

          Do preemies count as People right away or do they have to wait until they’re 9mo from conception?

          • Unsaintly says:

            As soon as they are physically separated from the mother, they count as a Person.

          • Hypoborean says:

            A premature baby is a person because it has been born. Birth is the dividing line, because it’s a natural and unambiguous Schelling fence.

          • Lambert says:

            I get it has some value as a schelling fence, but does the baby really care if it’s in or out of the uterus when its terminated?

            I think there’s some logic in the UK’s legislature, which puts the dividing line around 22 weeks, which is the earliest we are able to keep premature babies alive.

          • baconbits9 says:

            A premature baby is a person because it has been born. Birth is the dividing line, because it’s a natural and unambiguous Schelling fence.

            It is not natural nor unambiguous unless you are going to bite the bullet and say that cesarean sections don’t count as birth or agree to ban all abortions for development that put the fetus past the bare minimum of being able to survive out of the womb with medical assistance.

          • Hypoborean says:

            @Lambert
            If the baby isn’t a person, whether or not it cares isn’t relevant. We kill livings things that aren’t people all the time.

            @BaconBits9
            Neither of those things logically follow? It’s very easy to define birth as “the moment a fetus is entirely outside the mother’s body and still alive”* or something similar, which means Cesareans still count as births and you can still kill fetuses up to week thirty-whatever.

            *And I believe that is the definition that is used in English at the moment, since people who were born by Cesarean were (a) *BORN* by cesarean and (b) still have birthdays.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Neither of those things logically follow? It’s very easy to define birth as “the moment a fetus is entirely outside the mother’s body and still alive”* or something similar, which means Cesareans still count as births and you can still kill fetuses up to week thirty-whatever.

            *And I believe that is the definition that is used in English at the moment, since people who were born by Cesarean were (a) *BORN* by cesarean and (b) still have birthdays.

            A women is full term pregnant, you slip her a poison that stops the infants heart but does little harm to the woman. Is this simply assault? Do you expect the general public to treat it as such, or to treat it strictly like killing a pet?

          • John Schilling says:

            It is not natural nor unambiguous unless you are going to bite the bullet and say that cesarean sections don’t count as birth

            How do you mean? The proposed Schelling point is, “If it’s Homo Sapiens and it has a beating heart and it is outside of it’s mothers’ body, it is a Living Person with the right to keep on living. Otherwise it isn’t”. A Caesarian Section is a medical procedure performed on the mother’s body which, at its conclusion, results in a second Living Person. It thus has exactly the same moral significance as a vaginal delivery.

            or agree to ban all abortions for development that put the fetus past the bare minimum of being able to survive out of the womb

            A late-term abortion is a medical procedure performed on the mother’s body that does not at any stage involve a second member of H. Sapiens with a beating heart outside the mother’s body, so there are by this standard no moral issues beyond “Is this thing you are doing to the mother’s body, something the mother consents to your doing”?

            I think you are missing the point and insisting on trying to frame the debate as, “is a member of H. Sapiens at a particular developmental stage a living person?”, when the traditional Schelling point of “birth” is meant to sidestep that entire question. It’s a living person if it is outside the mother’s body, not a living person if it is inside the mother’s body, even if it is at exactly the same developmental stage in both cases and independent of how long its heart is expected to continue beating once outside the womb.

            This is at best a mediocre criterion if the goal is to avoid killing “people” at a too-advanced stage of fetal development. But it’s a very good Schelling point if the goal is to draw an unambiguously clear line between fetuses that can be destroyed at maternal whim and people that can’t be deliberately killed. And since the whole point of this debate is that we want to put people in prison for murder when they kill innocent babies, and for that we need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt all the elements of the crime including “was the alleged victim a living person?”, the appeal of this formulation should be obvious.

          • Hypoborean says:

            @baconbits9
            “A women is full term pregnant, you slip her a poison that stops the infants heart but does little harm to the woman. Is this simply assault? Do you expect the general public to treat it as such, or to treat it strictly like killing a pet?”

            Sorry, what’s the context for your appeal to “the general public”? I thought we were talking about differing moral frameworks and their internal consistency, not appealing to the confusing, mixed, and hard to interpret views of “popular opinion”.

            In a framework where personhood is granted legally at birth and not before, then yes, that would only be assault. This is still consistent.

            In terms of popular opinion, people tend want to treat deaths of late-term fetuses caused by a third person without the pregnant woman’s consent as something like murder, but also tend to want to allow late-term abortions at the very least in cases of rape, incest, and fetal abnormality (depending on the opinion poll), which isn’t consistent with either pole of the debate.

            Similarly, the large bulk of the American public is strongly opposed to 3rd trimester abortions done at-will (ie, excluding the conditions above) by something like 80-20, but also strongly in favor of 1st trimester abortions (by something like 75-25, IIRC), with 2nd trimester tilting towards also not allowed, depending on the poll (varies from 60-40 to 40-60 depending on the wording of the question).

            All this explains why “pro-choice” and “pro-life” polls purport to get such drastically different results, because if you confine things to high level principle questions it’s easy to word a survey to shift that middle mass towards your side.

            If you wanted to try to steelman the position of the general public’s majority position on everything, I think it would be something like “Personhood is conditional on maternal desire for the pregnancy to continue, up until sometime in the 2nd trimester, at which time personhood is only conditional on the pregnancy not (a) having major developmental abnormalities which would likely result in harm to the mother or result in a high chance of a stillbirth, (b) being the result of rape, and (c) not being the result of incest.” I think that’s a mess, which is why I argue in favor of the less popular but much easier to adjudicate “birth” position, just as you are arguing for the less popular but easier to adjudicate “conception” position.

          • eyeballfrog says:

            but also tend to want to allow late-term abortions at the very least in cases of rape, incest, and fetal abnormality (depending on the opinion poll), which isn’t consistent with either pole of the debate.

            I’d like some sources on the rape/incest one. Fetal abnormality makes a certain degree of sense as they may not be detectable until late term. But the rape/incest case would have had ample opportunity by the third trimester to get an abortion, and is much less defensible.

          • Hypoborean says:

            @eyeballfrog check out:
            https://news.gallup.com/poll/1576/abortion.aspx
            https://www.marieclaire.com/politics/a27478439/alabama-abortion-ban-2019-reactions/
            https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2019/05/24/rape-and-incest-account-few-abortions-so-why-all-attention/1211175001/

            There’s a lot of energy behind defending a woman’s right to an abortion in cases of rape and incest, even among groups that oppose abortions in other circumstances. It’s a bit hard to slice out the category of “late term abortions” for this case, since that combination usually doesn’t get banned in isolation, but I’m extrapolating that the extreme aversion to bans on abortions in these circumstances would extend to there.

          • eyeballfrog says:

            Support for the rape/incest exception at 3rd trimester is noticeably less than health of mother, but still quite divided. Not really sure what that second link shows–the last thing I care about is the opinions of hand-picked twitter feminists.

          • Hypoborean says:

            @eyeballfrog

            52% in 2018 support THIRD trimester abortion when caused by rape or incest, lower than 75% for “mother’s life is endangered”, but higher than any other option including “child born with life-threatening illness”

            So, it’s ambiguous but I was at least in the ballpark of right.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Sorry, what’s the context for your appeal to “the general public”? I thought we were talking about differing moral frameworks and their internal consistency, not appealing to the confusing, mixed, and hard to interpret views of “popular opinion”.

            You used the term ‘Schelling fence’ and stated outright that birth is a natural and unambiguous cutoff. A Schelling point is something that would be agreed upon by a broad group without coordination, your statements directly imply that birth is broadly viewed as the start of person-hood. The example highlights that birth is only useful in that it is definition-ally easy* and that it skirts the actual moral problem and chooses a technical solution instead which will obviously not satisfy a significant portion of people and will require other technical solutions to paper over the lack of moral solution.

            *its not really

          • A Schelling point is something that would be agreed upon by a broad group without coordination

            Something that would be recognized as unique by a broad group, hence would lead to agreement in situations where coordinating on a common answer is more important than what answer is coordinated on.

        • Hypoborean says:

          There was ambiguity in his statement. Sorry I didn’t make that clear in my initial comment, I thought it was obvious.

          “If you think a debate on “Is an 8.5 month old “developing human” a person or not” is a stronger position for you, I would be willing to engage with you on that instead. What is the intrinsic difference between an 8.5 month old “developing human” and a baby?”

          The intrinsic difference is that society needs to extend personhood at some point, and birth is a much more defensible Schelling fence than “fetal viability.” The only other Schelling fence available is “conception” and that has a BUNCH of problems (including the fact that if all conceived babies are people the non-abortion miscarriage rate means we lose millions of babies a year to “natural” reproduction and we need to move to artificial wombs ASAP).

          • Nornagest says:

            Quickening — loosely, the point at which the movement of a developing fetus can be felt by the mother, usually sometime in the second trimester — is a historically significant Schelling point. There are even some references to it in current law, though not many.

          • Hypoborean says:

            @Nornagest

            Quickening is highly variable pregnancy to pregnancy and very easy to hide/fake though, I believe? I don’t think its fence could stand up to the modern extreme abortion related scrutiny in the US?

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ Hyperborean:

            The only other Schelling fence available is “conception” and that has a BUNCH of problems (including the fact that if all conceived babies are people the non-abortion miscarriage rate means we lose millions of babies a year to “natural” reproduction and we need to move to artificial wombs ASAP).

            I don’t see why that’s a problem. Large numbers of people die every year, for all sorts of reasons. “If foetuses are person, then we lose millions of babies a year to ‘natural’ reproduction” (why the scare quotes, BTW?) is no more an argument than “If adults are persons, then we lose millions of people a year to ‘natural’ causes.”

            @ Nornagest:

            Quickening — loosely, the point at which the movement of a developing fetus can be felt by the mother, usually sometime in the second trimester — is a historically significant Schelling point.

            Quickening was significant because absent modern medical technology it’s the earliest point in pregnancy at which you can perceive the infant. Hence it was generally supposed that the period before quickening consisted of the blood and semen in the womb getting ready, until they coagulated to form a baby and, hey presto, quickening. It may have been a reasonable theory given the information available at the time, but personally I don’t think we should be basing our laws on discredited scientific theories.

          • Hypoborean says:

            @The original Mr. X:
            “I don’t see why that’s a problem. Large numbers of people die every year, for all sorts of reasons. “If foetuses are person, then we lose millions of babies a year to ‘natural’ reproduction” (why the scare quotes, BTW?) is no more an argument than “If adults are persons, then we lose millions of people a year to ‘natural’ causes.””

            I was hoping someone pro-life would ask me about this, because I think this is a very large hole in the “personhood begins at conception” camp that I haven’t seen discussed anywhere.

            The rate of miscarriage for a natural pregnancy is somewhere between 25% and 50% (possibly higher; I’m not sure if these figures include fertilized eggs that fail to implant). If one honestly believes that the loss of a 4 week embryo is morally equivalent to the death of a one year one baby, then this has horrifying implications. This means that the revolution in reducing childhood mortality is only half-done.

            It used to be, back before we had good hygiene and modern medicine, that more than half of all babies wouldn’t survive to see their 5th year. Successfully getting that under 1.5% (https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/dvs/MortFinal2007_Worktable23r.pdf) is one of the triumphs of modern civilization, and the thing that has saved the most QALYs of any human technology (even more than the Green Revolution in agriculture). Before these technologies existed, infants dying to disease was thought of as ‘natural’: tragic, but unpreventable and in God’s hands, ultimately.

            If we are losing 33% of “babies” before they are born, that means that this number of deaths (~2,000,000 / year in the US, since the live-birth rate is 4,000,000) dwarfs the number of deaths between age 0 and age 55 from ALL CAUSES (~385,000 per year, if my math is correct; https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/dvs/MortFinal2007_Worktable23r.pdf)

            This means the problem is 5x the number of deaths from all causes below the age of 55, and significantly more than that in terms of QALYs lost.

            The scale of the problem dwarfs any other facing our civilization, and could hypothetically be remedied with technologies close to our grasp: artificial wombs wouldn’t have the same chaotic variation in conditions that a biological womb natural does, and the embryo-creation process could also be carefully controlled to ensure that “babies” are not “naturally” killed by missing chromosomes before they are born, as so often happens now. Unlike deaths above the age of 55, which are subject to the forces of aging that are currently still outside our power to avert, a more controlled embryo-creation process using technologies that are small steps from one we already have access to could save 2 MILLION lives a year in the US alone.

            So, to answer why I used scarequotes around ‘natural’: if you believe that life begins at conception, natural childbirth is too ‘naturally’ deadly to be morally permissible.

            If this seems outlandish to you, here’s a smaller scale primer for your moral intuition:
            If a mother decides to give birth at home instead of in a hospital after being told she is at risk of a difficult delivery, and the baby dies in childbirth because of her decision when he would have lived if his mother had been at the hospital, is his mother guilty of negligent homicide?

            If yes, that same logic applies to “natural” childbirth for the millions of babies lost to miscarriage every year.

            If no, how does that square with the baby being a person?

          • Randy M says:

            If a mother decides to give birth at home instead of in a hospital after being told she is at risk of a difficult delivery, and the baby dies in childbirth because of her decision when he would have lived if his mother had been at the hospital, is his mother guilty of negligent homicide?

            If yes, that same logic applies to “natural” childbirth for the millions of babies lost to miscarriage every year.

            If no, how does that square with the baby being a person?

            There is some level of risk that is acceptable in life. Some people are hit by cars and die. Do we blame all parents who put their children in cars? No, but we do blame those who don’t take reasonable precautions, like using modern car seats. And we definitely blame those who increase the risk for their own benefit, like drunk drivers.

            Reasonable here basically has no objective meaning, of course.

            Someone who has a natural childbirth despite foreknowledge of significantly increased risk of infant death is treating the baby as a non-person without their own interests. This is perhaps blameworthy, depending on the specifics, but there’s a large grey area which doesn’t extend all the way to the risk = 1.0 of abortion.

            Someone who has a natural childbirth while getting medical advice, getting optimal nutrition, knowing what to do in an emergency, and getting qualified assistance is not. (Just throwing this out there because there preemptively)

            People also die in hospitals from accidents or infection. Someone may make an incorrect risk assessment–or merely one that differs from the experts–without being said to disregard the personhood of their child.

            That’s all a nitpicky fighting of the hypothetical as someone who teaches (well, assists in teaching) natural childbirth with our kid’s ultrasound pictures displayed on the shelf. As to the question at the heart of your post,

            If one honestly believes that the loss of a 4 week embryo is morally equivalent to the death of a one year one baby

            I would say that the death of the embryo is less morally negative than the death of a baby, but more regrettable than the continuance of a normal pregnancy against the wishes of a woman who invited it there. And also that I am far from convinced our technology is close to the point of replicating the process of human reproduction without embryo destruction or abnormalities in fetal development, and I anticipate a round of thalimide like failure from the first few iterations of artificial wombs, so while natural death of viable (big caveat–some may be naturally aborted due to severe abnormality, right?) embryos is regrettable, I doubt we are close to doing something about it other than encouraging the general health of the reproductive population.

          • baconbits9 says:

            @ Hypoborean

            I am not positive I have interpreted you post properly, but here goes.

            There is no ‘moral problem’ with death, everyone dies and its not a moral failing, but the nature of our universe. There is a moral problem with murder which is different, citing lots of people (or ‘people) dying is not an argument against calling them people.

            You could also flip those same numbers as a justification for the pro-life stance. The harder it is for conception to turn into an adult human the more protected the zygote/embryo/fetus should be, not less.

          • baconbits9 says:

            If a mother decides to give birth at home instead of in a hospital after being told she is at risk of a difficult delivery, and the baby dies in childbirth because of her decision when he would have lived if his mother had been at the hospital, is his mother guilty of negligent homicide?

            The odds of even high risk births resulting in infant death are low

            These risk factors were particularly pronounced among nulliparous women at more than 41 weeks gestation, who had the highest neonatal death rates after home births attended by midwives compared to hospital births attended by midwives (24.24 versus 5.09 neonatal deaths per 10,000 deliveries)

            Accepting a high risk pregnancy at home vs in the hospital pushes the likelihood of a live birth from 99.95% down to 99.76%, if this is negligence then functionally all parental behavior is negligence. Driving not the absolute safest car on the road? Having a swimming pool? Having tall book shelves?

          • Hypoborean says:

            @Randy-M and @baconbits9

            Perhaps I should have put explicit numbers on this to make the analogy clear. Currently, there’s a ~33% chance of a ‘natural’ pregnancy killing the baby, and there are (rare) cases of births with this level of risk.

            So, the clearer analogy is, if a mother was in premature labour and had a roughly 1 in 3 chance of her baby dying without rapid access to a hospital NICU (not unreasonable for certain stages of premature birth — baconbits9 your numbers are ONLY for full-term births), and she was aware of this and chose to have a homebirth because it was more natural, and the baby died, would she be guilty of negligent homicide under a pro-life perspective?

            That’s the current-world equivalent to someone then choosing to have a ‘natural’ pregnancy in a world with <1% loss artificial wombs. 33% is huge. It's not "using the wrong brand of car seat" high, it's "going drag racing with your child unsecured in the back of your pick up truck" high.

            @Randy M
            "I would say that the death of the embryo is less morally negative than the death of a baby, but more regrettable than the continuance of a normal pregnancy against the wishes of a woman who invited it there"

            Why? What moral standing does the embryo have if it isn't a person? Forcing a woman to surrender her bodily autonomy against her will is an extraordinary request that is hard to justify if the baby isn’t a person. If it is a person, how is its death less sad than that of a baby?

            "(big caveat–some may be naturally aborted due to severe abnormality, right?)"
            Some of those babies would die in a miscarriage inevitably without human medical intervention, yes. This isn't a problem for a pro-choice perspective, but for a "life begins at conception" perspective, these babies dying is no less sad than a baby "naturally" dying of the measles without hospital care.

            "And also that I am far from convinced our technology is close to the point of replicating the process of human reproduction without embryo destruction or abnormalities in fetal development"

            If we're dealing with the death of 2 MILLION babies a year just in the US, that calls for radical investment, and I think we're closer than you think, especially with modern CRISPR technologies. In Science-Techno-Gilead where they actually care about this, I'm sure there would be a lively debate over whether the research must produce with minimal risk to test-embryos even if that causes additional millions of non-test embryos to die as the pace of technological advancement is slowed, but our tech is pretty clearly 1-2 Moonraces worth of effort away, so the moral imperative to try if you believe life begins at conception is fairly clear.

            @baconbits9

            "There is no ‘moral problem’ with death, everyone dies and its not a moral failing, but the nature of our universe. There is a moral problem with murder which is different, citing lots of people (or ‘people) dying is not an argument against calling them people."

            I'm doing my utmost not to strawman you here, but does that mean you think there is no moral imperative to attempt to provide medicines to regions stricken by plague?

            I'm not disputing that, under a pro-life lens abortion is a greater abomination, since mass-murder is generally worse than mass-death through "natural" means, but that doesn't mean that the second isn't a tragedy, nor that refusing to prevent the second isn't horrific.

            I'm not saying that this is an argument for them not being people. I'm asking you, if you believe they are people (which if I understand you correctly you do), why their deaths do not matter to you?

            "You could also flip those same numbers as a justification for the pro-life stance. The harder it is for conception to turn into an adult human the more protected the zygote/embryo/fetus should be, not less."

            That's very much not symmetrical. Do you not see it? If the fetus is not a person, additional difficulties in the conception process are a concern if and only if they rise to the level of resulting in difficulties in producing people when potential parents desire to do so, and even then it's a minor problem, not a mass death. For most people, this logistical difficulty is not a barrier in having the number of children they desire (differences between actual and desired numbers of children are due overwhelming to economic factors, and in any case are small in aggregate).

            Pro-choice people have in fact been responding rationally in this lens, creating IVF technology to help the rare couples who are struggling to have children do so. Note that this is clearly a pro-choice technology, because IVF creates dozens of embryos to minimize expense and then generally destroys the excess.

          • Randy M says:

            Currently, there’s a ~33% chance of a ‘natural’ pregnancy killing the baby

            This is hypothetical an analogy, got it. In either case, I think I gave my response to that. Mother is being negligent, gray area, blah, blah.

            That’s the current-world equivalent to someone then choosing to have a ‘natural’ pregnancy in a world with <1% loss artificial wombs

            Given that IVF already creates dozens more embryos than necessary, I don’t see this world coming to exist soon.

            Why? What moral standing does the embryo have if it isn’t a person? If it is a person, how is its death less sad than that of a baby?

            Has every death ever struck you with the same number of sads? Morality in the real world is a bit more complex. We have different amounts of duty at different times depending on capabilities, consequences, relatedness, many factors. If pregnant with a healthy embryo, doing nothing special until birth will usually lead to a healthy baby. Whereas to save the otherwise doomed embryos, you are demanding we reorder society, upset the natural method of reproduction and all the risk that implies, with resources that could be directed elsewhere.

            these babies dying is no less sad than a baby “naturally” dying of the measles without hospital care.

            If a baby is never going to survive outside the womb on it’s own because of some gross mutation, it makes little sense to devote heroic efforts to keep it alive until then. Some number of spontaneous abortions fall into this category. I’m removing them from your hypothetical.

            In Science-Techno-Gilead where they actually care about this, I’m sure there would be a lively debate over whether the research must produce with minimal risk to test-embryos even if that causes additional millions of non-test embryos to die as the pace of technological advancement is slowed, but our tech is pretty clearly 1-2 Moonraces worth of effort away

            I have no idea what the first clause of this sentence is trying to communicate. I dispute the latter, and feel you did not address my point at all.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Why aren’t Effective Altruists focused on curing all cancer instead of installing mosquito nets?

            Tractable problems first. Survival rate for a baby born at 25 weeks is 50%, and that’s not for lack of trying. We’re steadily improving on that, but it’s not an easy problem. We don’t have the technology for artificial wombs, and we are not close.

            On the other hand, we do currently have the technology to shut down the Kermit Gosnells of the world, and the good news is we can use it even while we continue medical research.

            But I think you already knew why people are focused on practical solutions to problems, rather than solutions out of science fiction.

          • baconbits9 says:

            So, the clearer analogy is, if a mother was in premature labour and had a roughly 1 in 3 chance of her baby dying without rapid access to a hospital NICU (not unreasonable for certain stages of premature birth — baconbits9 your numbers are ONLY for full-term births),

            If you are allowed to present detail after detail then yes you are at some point going to hit ‘probably negligent homicide’*, but yes in general if you are pro-life and claim that a fetus is a person then the mother’s behavior and damage/potential damage to the baby is up for discussion.

            *I’m not actually pro-life or pro-choice as I have never figured out a stance that I can hold and defend well enough, though I have moved more toward the pro-life side in the last few years.

          • Hypoborean says:

            @Randy M
            “In either case, I think I gave my response to that. Mother is being negligent, gray area, blah, blah.”
            A 33% unnecessary chance of death is still a gray area?

            “Given that IVF already creates dozens more embryos than necessary, I don’t see this world coming to exist soon.”

            IVF is a technology from the 1970s. The pathway towards zero-embryo-death-artificial wombs runs through getting better at injecting genetic material (prechecked for viability with CRISPR) into an egg cell (created from a skin sample induced to move back into a stem-cell state). The parts of this are all available in labs now and just need to be combined and scaled up, hence 1-2 Moonraces.

            “Has every death ever struck you with the same number of sads? Morality in the real world is a bit more complex. We have different amounts of duty at different times depending on capabilities, consequences, relatedness, many factors. If pregnant with a healthy embryo, doing nothing special until birth will usually lead to a healthy baby. Whereas to save the otherwise doomed embryos, you are demanding we reorder society, upset the natural method of reproduction and all the risk that implies, with resources that could be directed elsewhere.”

            ‘Otherwise doomed embryos’ is the same fatalistic attitude that could, and did apply to ‘otherwise doomed children’ in the high disease era. Also, “all the risk that that implies”? You’d only roll out the tech once it worked. You evidently don’t count babies with viability mutations as people, but hte “life beings at conception” Schelling fence does. Overall, this is pretty deep into a tangent here, but my point is that the Schelling fence of “personhood begins at conception” has radical implications that “personhood begins at birth” does not.

            “I have no idea what the first clause of this sentence is trying to communicate.”

            Gilead is the society from the Handmaid’s Tale, a Christian society ruthlessly oriented around maximizing reproduction to the extreme detriment of women’s rights. So Science-Techno-Gilead is a “life begins at conception” society that follows that through to its logic on the impermissibility of natural birth.

            “I dispute the latter, and feel you did not address my point at all.”

            See above for my points on the viability of the latter. And what WAS your point, then?

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            How accurate are your projections about scientific achievements when you are literally describing them in terms of Space Races?

          • Hypoborean says:

            @Jaskologist

            In case it wasn’t obvious, I agree that, from a pro-life lens, abortion is a greater evil than ‘natural’ miscarriage. I even said that above your comment:
            “I’m not disputing that, under a pro-life lens abortion is a greater abomination, since mass-murder is generally worse than mass-death through “natural” means, but that doesn’t mean that the second isn’t a tragedy, nor that refusing to prevent the second isn’t horrific.”

            Where we are in this discussion was me attempting to point out a grave logical consequence in the unlimited position of “personhood begins at conception” which is often overlooked.

            “On the other hand, we do currently have the technology to shut down the Kermit Gosnells of the world, and the good news is we can use it even while we continue medical research.”

            At a macro level, there’s a significant difference between “having the technology” and “being able to pass a bill and then enforce it.” The pro-life movement has been trying to overturn Roe for nearly 5 decades now. If I’m right, these technologies are actually likely to be achievable before overturning Roe is politically viable, even if the very slight trend towards the pro-life position continues (and since we’re talking about 5 decades here, it’s a bit of a “squint and you’ll miss it kind of trend” … https://xkcd.com/1725/). It would be a classic case of “pulling a rope sideways” where you could actually make progress that wouldn’t be cancelled out.

            Also, questionable marker on you using a criminal over current law as a metonym for all abortionists.

            “But I think you already knew why people are focused on practical solutions to problems, rather than solutions out of science fiction.”

            Where to start on this.
            (1) Genuinely no, I think a lot of pro-life people are either unaware of or don’t think through the implications of this, or at the very least are complacent about technology’s ability to fix it.
            (2) I wasn’t actually saying I thought pro-life people should focus on this instead of advocating against abortion anywhere, I was pointing this out a secondary logical consequence of their position that is underdiscussed
            (3) Implication of bad faith much? Thought we weren’t supposed to do that here.
            (4) Thinking you can overturn Roe v. Wade has thus far been the opposite of practical
            (5) Even if Roe v. Wade is overturned that’s less than half the work, since a lot of states would keep it legal, see famous pro-life writer David French on making this point eloquently: https://www.nationalreview.com/2019/07/in-a-post-roe-world-pro-lifers-would-still-have-a-lot-of-work-left-to-do/
            (6) And in fact it would probably prevent even fewer abortions than that, since you can now buy abortion bills online easily https://plancpills.org/need-pills, and that’s BEFORE the pro-choice movement puts serious effort into ramping up a subsidized anonymous online site.
            (7) As a result of all of these factors, not only is this underdiscussed it is probably something that the pro-life movement actually should put (at least marginal) effort into. Going from 100/0 to 98/2 has a pretty positive Expected Babies Saved value.

          • Hypoborean says:

            @A Definite Beta Guy
            Clarify and rephrase please? I’m unclear on the question.

          • Randy M says:

            “In either case, I think I gave my response to that. Mother is being negligent, gray area, blah, blah.”
            A 33% unnecessary chance of death is still a gray area?

            Can be. Depends on the circumstances. Like, what are the risks of hospitals in the area, how reliable are the statistics, and if we are talking laws, do we want to draw the line there? But mostly I was referring to the prior paragraphs with those terms where I laid out my principles.

            but my point is that the Schelling fence of “personhood begins at conception” has radical implications that “personhood begins at birth” does not.

            But it does have the advantage that the latter is clearly wrong.
            I mean, it’s an enforceable legal standard, but biologically, mentally, there’s no bright line distinction between due date -1 and due date +1 in the child’s perceptions or capabilities.

            You evidently don’t count babies with viability mutations as people

            I don’t think they have the same moral claims on us as other people, but do have some.

            I’ve made the point here before that positive and negative obligations (what you must do and what you must not do) are different. If there is a baby in you, you are obligated not to harm it; you are not obligated to save it in all circumstances.

            Gilead is the society from the Handmaid’s Tale, a Christian society ruthlessly oriented around maximizing reproduction to the extreme detriment of women’s rights

            Yeah, I think I’m better off not engaging in hypotheticals that lead with this.

            See above for my points on the viability of the latter. And what WAS your point, then?

            That saving these people is not worth fundamentally re-ordering human reproduction at the most basic level, even if it is worth punishing people who take positive steps to harm them [that is, their unborn child] or display unusual negligence.

            I think this is a grave display of hubris likely to cause significantly more harm than it is aiming to mitigate in any case outside of a thought experiment. Part of that harm is that I think human pregnancy in the typical–or maybe just ideal–case is a beautiful thing and it would be a shame to lose it. And also that I expect there to be myriad unanticipated factors leading to terrible complications. Maybe a fetus needs to feel the mother’s heartbeat in order to properly develop a circadian rhythm, and the first round is born with crippling insomnia. Biology is stupidly unpredictable like that. Another objection is, contra your Gilead fantasy of Christians trying to tightly control reproduction, this would in fact be taking reproduction out of people’s control and placing it firmly within the medical establishment/government’s control, and that’s a dangerous situation for anyone who fear tyranny. And who knows what the hospitals/bureaucrats are doing to your embryo for it’s own good while it’s growing in the artificial womb. For some reason all your children come out zealously supporting the ruling party. Who’d have guessed it? The enforcement of your extra-uterine birth regime is going to cause a lot of misery, especially among the poor. Or we can just sterilize everyone, right? That won’t backfire and risk the survival of the species. Do we need more reasons?

          • Hypoborean says:

            @Randy M
            “But it does have the advantage that the latter is clearly wrong. I mean, it’s an enforceable legal standard, but biologically, mentally, there’s no bright line distinction between due date -1 and due date +1 in the child’s perceptions or capabilities. ”

            The latter isn’t clearly wrong. If you think it is, I invite you to advance an argument that’s persuasive in my worldview.

            Your talk about brightlines is true at birth and the day before and the day before and the day before etc all the way back to conception, and if we’re talking about “perceptions or capabilities” there isn’t a brightline there either. Hell, it evens runs in the opposite direction! If you are trying to use “human-like-ness” to defend the right to exist, then you could easily unperson severely mentally handicapped people, and children under the age of 6 months (when object permanence kicks in) or 18 months (when children become self-aware enough to pass the mirror test), or…

            Whereas, if instead of getting lost in biology, you use the standard of “personhood is conferred by society, and it is in our interest to make that conferral absolute and unconditional at the clearest possible point to defend vulnerable people”, birth is a strong Schelling point that has the major advantage of also not horribly inflicting state power on the bodies of women.

            “I’ve made the point here before that positive and negative obligations (what you must do and what you must not do) are different. If there is a baby in you, you are obligated not to harm it; you are not obligated to save it in all circumstances.”

            This sort of distinction is no-where near as clear as it seems on paper. Withholding the application of medicine that would cure a disease — not doing harm or doing harm? Taking a birth control bill that doesn’t kill the fetus but causes it to detach from the uterine wall, resulting in you no longer HELPING it with the blood and nutrient supply it needed to grow — not doing harm or doing harm?

            “That saving these people is not worth fundamentally re-ordering human reproduction at the most basic level, even if it is worth punishing people who take positive steps to harm them [that is, their unborn child] or display unusual negligence.”

            But if the technology existed, and you were choosing not to use it, and fetuses are people, choosing not to use it is unusual / extreme negligence. Technology can move moral benchmarks.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            If you are trying to use “human-like-ness” to defend the right to exist, then you could easily unperson severely mentally handicapped people, and children under the age of 6 months (when object permanence kicks in) or 18 months (when children become self-aware enough to pass the mirror test), or…

            It continues to baffle me that the Team which aggressively protests any semblance of unpersoning/dehumanizing the atypical(& minorities & women) is also the Team aggressively championing literally unpersoning/dehumanizing fetuses.

            Like, flip the script and I wouldn’t question it. But the battle lines as-is don’t show much of the vaunted “internal consistency”

          • Randy M says:

            Your talk about brightlines is true at birth and the day before and the day before and the day before etc all the way back to conception, and if we’re talking about “perceptions or capabilities” there isn’t a brightline there either. Hell, it evens runs in the opposite direction!

            Hence why logic and compassion compel me to take the position, despite the obligation to take part in such edifying debates as this. 😉

            Whereas, if instead of getting lost in biology, you use the standard of “personhood is conferred by society, and it is in our interest to make that conferral absolute and unconditional at the clearest possible point to defend vulnerable people”, birth is a strong Schelling point that has the major advantage of also not horribly inflicting state power on the bodies of women.

            By “getting lost in biology”, you mean “being grounded in objective reality.” It doesn’t really matter to me if what I find to be true is not regarded as universal consensus, since, first, I still what to hold to what is true, and second, I can’t effect universal consensus much if at all.
            If you are just making it up anyway, what’s the point?

            The whole “state power over the bodies of women” point is weak given that the state will kidnap or kill you for any number of other violations of consensus. Is being forced to carry an embryo to term worse than going to prison or execution because you smothered your cranky elderly grandmother after she became financially dependent on you? I’d rather be temporarily pregnant (or the equivalent discomfort) than have my life reduced to a cell for ten to twenty years. Yet we the state the power to inflict that punishment on bodies who kill unlovable elderly relatives. Why? Because we recognize their humanity and want to ground our laws on the objective facts of the matter.

            This sort of distinction is no-where near as clear as it seems on paper.

            I didn’t say it was clear; it’s a spectrum, like almost everything in life is. But it nonetheless is a spectrum with moral relevance.

            Technology can move moral benchmarks.

            Indeed. No doubt if my side wins the public debate, I will one day be regarded as a moral monster for not wanting to overturn natural reproduction for the sterile and safe mechanized version in luxury gay space communism or whatever it is kids are on about these days. Now I know what a progressive feels like.

            But I think by the time we get there, or perhaps instead of getting there, we could instead direct our resources to determining the cause of these losses and improve the natural method without increasing the fragility of human survival.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Randy

            There’s a difference between objective and meaningful.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            IVF is a technology from the 1970s. The pathway towards zero-embryo-death-artificial wombs runs through getting better at injecting genetic material (prechecked for viability with CRISPR) into an egg cell (created from a skin sample induced to move back into a stem-cell state). The parts of this are all available in labs now and just need to be combined and scaled up, hence 1-2 Moonraces.

            How many “Moonraces” are we from a Cure for Cancer, Cold Fusion, AI, etc?

          • Randy M says:

            There’s a difference between objective and meaningful.

            I mean, sure, but you don’t think it is particularly meaningful that one consensus human person is basically indistinguishable from a similar consensus non-(human person) except for the matter of location?
            That seems a fragile edifice to build your consensus on if you find it important to protect vulnerable person like things.

            (Feel free to tap out if you need. I appreciate the challenge to my thinking you presented and that’s why I’ve posted so much.)

          • Hypoborean says:

            @Randy M
            “Hence why logic and compassion compel me to take the position”
            …the position that you selectively quoted to miss that it’s also compatible with infanticide?

            “By “getting lost in biology”, you mean “being grounded in objective reality.” It doesn’t really matter to me if what I find to be true is not regarded as universal consensus, since, first, I still what to hold to what is true, and second, I can’t effect universal consensus much if at all.
            If you are just making it up anyway, what’s the point? ”

            The objective reality doesn’t give you any clear line anywhere from 5 years before intercourse to well after birth. You still need to draw an arbitrary line somewhere, and you’ve not actually tried to explain why yours is better than mine, and you’ve conceded that mine at least has legal and enforcement advantages. And speaking of made up lines:

            “I didn’t say it was clear; it’s a spectrum, like almost everything in life is. But it nonetheless is a spectrum with moral relevance.”

            That’s another spectrum where you have to place a “made up line”, and handwaving about “moral significance” doesn’t change the arbitrariness of the line.

            “The whole “state power over the bodies of women” point is weak given that the state will kidnap or kill you for any number of other violations of consensus….we inflict that punishment on people who kill unlovable elderly relatives. Why? Because we recognize their humanity and want to ground our laws on the objective facts of the matter.”

            And the humanity is precisely the point we are debating here. You seem to be asserting that humanity is conferred by having a single copy of the genome in sort-of-working order, even if you are a clump of cells the size of the head of a pin that hasn’t formed its first nerve ending yet.* I’m asserting that only humans are people on the planet, that people get special rights over all other classes of life, and that humans become people at birth.

            Pounding the table about “objectivity” won’t make “person” synonymous with “human embryo”, even if it sounds like it does in your head.

            *Since there’s no “brightline” between this state and a baby, as you say.

            @Hoopyfreud
            Yes, well said.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            That seems a fragile edifice to build your consensus on if you find it important to protect vulnerable person like things.

            Sure it is. But it doesn’t seem any less stable of an edifice than the ones that say that a slavery contract can’t be legitimate, or that whales are worth less than people, or that parents can gaslight their children but can’t cut their fingers off, or that 16 year olds can (or can’t) have sex, or…

            Tying back to an objective fact misses the point. It’s a value judgment. There’s a gap between is and ought that can’t be cleanly resolved by declaring that some strictly defined things are good, much less by declaring that the definition is more important than the goodness.

          • Hypoborean says:

            @A Definite Beta Guy
            So, for reference, the Moonrace was under 9 years (1961-1969), and required peak spending of about 2% of US GDP

            Cure For Cancer: Defined as afterwards humans nearly never die of cancer, probably impossible.
            Cold Fusion: almost definitely impossible.
            AI: Assuming you mean “make an artificial general intelligence at least as smart as humans”…>4 Moonraces? We’re missing a LOT of theoretical tools needed to explain how the human brain is so much better at learning from small numbers of examples.

            Compared to other ridiculous scientific endeavors, we have been recently acquiring a LOT of the technologies to make artificial wombs possible (CRISPR and induced stem cells chief among them)*

            *And CRISPR will be a useful cancer-fighting tool but by contrast there’s just…so many kinds of cancer. It’s an unbounded problem in a way that artificial wombs are not.

          • Hypoborean says:

            @Randy M
            “I mean, sure, but you don’t think it is particularly meaningful that one consensus human person is basically indistinguishable from a similar consensus non-(human person) except for the matter of location?
            That seems a fragile edifice to build your consensus on if you find it important to protect vulnerable person like things.”

            Hoopyfreud already had a good response to this, but I’ll add:
            We also hang other, less critical but still important, concepts on physical location -> this is the basis of citizenship and nation states. They are equally arbitrary but, like my preferred standard, still defensible and valuable.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ Hypoborean:

            Gilead is the society from the Handmaid’s Tale, a Christian society ruthlessly oriented around maximizing reproduction to the extreme detriment of women’s rights. So Science-Techno-Gilead is a “life begins at conception” society that follows that through to its logic on the impermissibility of natural birth.

            Well, there’s your problem — you’ve got a false view of human motivation, whereby people (ought to) focus on problems with monomaniacal intensity to the exclusion of all other things. In reality, people are quite capable of recognising the need to balance competing goods. You might as well ask “If you think murder is so bad, why don’t you advocate transforming the country into a massively invasive police state where each citizen is under 24/7 surveillance? That would reduce the murder rate!”

            Whereas, if instead of getting lost in biology, you use the standard of “personhood is conferred by society, and it is in our interest to make that conferral absolute and unconditional at the clearest possible point to defend vulnerable people”, birth is a strong Schelling point that has the major advantage of also not horribly inflicting state power on the bodies of women.

            Is it really in our interest to do that? Lots of societies in history have thought it better to withhold personhood from various categories of people, with predictable results.

          • Hypoborean says:

            “Well, there’s your problem — you’ve got a false view of human motivation, whereby people (ought to) focus on problems with monomaniacal intensity to the exclusion of all other things.”

            You are very intensely strawmanning me here. I know the conversation’s getting quite long, but in two separate places I’ve said:
            “I’m not disputing that, under a pro-life lens abortion is a greater abomination, since mass-murder is generally worse than mass-death through “natural” means, but that doesn’t mean that the second isn’t a tragedy, nor that refusing to prevent the second isn’t horrific.”
            and
            “(1) Genuinely no, I think a lot of pro-life people are either unaware of or don’t think through the implications of this, or at the very least are complacent about technology’s ability to fix it.
            (2) I wasn’t actually saying I thought pro-life people should focus on this instead of advocating against abortion anywhere, I was pointing this out a secondary logical consequence of their position that is underdiscussed”

            As far as competing goods go, within reasonable confines people try to reduce the murder rate, and the suicide rate, and the drug overdose death rate, all of which are very small in comparison to the death rate from miscarriage. So, the fact that the pro-life movement is no-where on trying to reduce the miscarriage rate either means that they haven’t thought through the consequences of their extreme position, or their “personhood begins at conception” position isn’t as water-tight as it appears at first glance.

            Since the broader dialogue of the discussion is going back and forth on the internal consistency of the “personhood begins at conception” camp and the “personhood begins at birth” camp, this hypothetical is highly *logically* relevant, despite being *practically* remote.

            “Is it really in our interest to do that? Lots of societies in history have thought it better to withhold personhood from various categories of people, with predictable results.”

            Do you have an example case of an abortion regime being a slippery slope to genocide of people who’ve already been born? The reason why I keep saying Schelling point is because setting the line at birth is naturally VERY sticky. Whereas, we already have a case of a country that banned abortion resulting in a mass-death of women: Romania (https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/05/16/what-actually-happens-when-a-country-bans-abortion-romania-alabama/).

          • Hypoborean says:

            @Gobbobobble

            “It continues to baffle me that the Team which aggressively protests any semblance of unpersoning/dehumanizing the atypical(& minorities & women) is also the Team aggressively championing literally unpersoning/dehumanizing fetuses.

            Like, flip the script and I wouldn’t question it. But the battle lines as-is don’t show much of the vaunted “internal consistency””

            Two things.

            (1) Political coalitions often aren’t internally consistent, which is a messy concept that’s almost without meaning as your scope gets large enough because reality is complicated. When I’ve been talking about internal consistency in this discussion, it’s been relating to the actual positions *on this issue*. That being said
            (2) You can make an overarching explanation quite a bit more easily than you seem to be implying. Personhood is a powerful concept that the modern world devotes a lot of time to establishing, defending, and attaching rights to. The stronger the concept of personhood, the stronger the protections for the vulnerable groups included under its umbrella. Having a chaotic, messy, impossible to enforce boundary for when personhood starts weakens the protections of personhood for everyone else.

            Plus, the anti-abortion movement was historically founded and is still presently interwoven with a movement which asserts the slightly sub-people status of women in many fields besides this one, so defending women’s rights carries over to this fight quite smoothly.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            You are very intensely strawmanning me here.

            Oh yes, my mistake — you’ve merely been suggesting that any pro-lifer who doesn’t support completely overhauling society to force women to use an untested technological means of gestation is being hypocritical.

            As far as competing goods go, within reasonable confines people try to reduce the murder rate, and the suicide rate, and the drug overdose death rate, all of which are very small in comparison to the death rate from miscarriage. So, the fact that the pro-life movement is no-where on trying to reduce the miscarriage rate either means that they haven’t thought through the consequences of their extreme position, or their “personhood begins at conception” position isn’t as water-tight as it appears at first glance.

            Or else it means that people only have a limited supply of time, energy, and money, and many consequently make the eminently sensible decision to focus on one or two things, instead of trying to get involved in every single cause that might have some relation to their chosen one. Are people who take action to try and reduce the murder rate (by lobbying for better laws, better police enforcement, etc.) being inconsistent if they don’t also spend time at the local hospital trying to discover a cure for cancer?

            Do you have an example case of an abortion regime being a slippery slope to genocide of people who’ve already been born?

            I think the usual process is more that people convince themselves that “personhood is conferred by society”, work out that that what society confers society can also take away, and then apply that logic to whomever it would be more convenient to kill, both born and unborn.

            I keep saying Schelling point is because setting the line at birth is naturally VERY sticky.

            Peter Singer and the British Medical Journal would both disagree with you.

            Whereas, we already have a case of a country that banned abortion resulting in a mass-death of women: Romania (https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/05/16/what-actually-happens-when-a-country-bans-abortion-romania-alabama/).

            We also have cases of countries which banned abortion and didn’t see mass-deaths as a consequence:

            Ireland’s average MMR from 1985-2015 was 9
            That’s worse than some countries with relatively liberal abortion regimes, such as Canada and Belgium (8), Sweden (6)
            It’s the same as that of Denmark (9), another European country with a relatively liberal abortion regime
            It’s also better than some countries with relatively liberal abortion regimes, such as the UK and Netherlands (11), and France (12)
            Malta, the only other European country with an abortion regime roughly as restrictive as Ireland’s, had an average MMR of 13, the same as Singapore, which has a relatively quite liberal abortion regime.

            Plus, the anti-abortion movement was historically founded and is still presently interwoven with a movement which asserts the slightly sub-people status of women in many fields besides this one, so defending women’s rights carries over to this fight quite smoothly.

            Except when it comes to the right not to be killed just for being a girl. That’s proven somewhat harder to reconcile.

            Also, “not being able to murder your own offspring” =/= “sub-human”.

          • Nick says:

            @Hypoborean

            The scale of the problem dwarfs any other facing our civilization, and could hypothetically be remedied with technologies close to our grasp: artificial wombs wouldn’t have the same chaotic variation in conditions that a biological womb natural does

            1. Do you have any evidence that artificial wombs would lead to better outcomes for embryos and not worse? “Hypothetically” is not very reassuring.
            2. Supposing you do, does cost per QALY beat cost per QALY of reducing miscarriages in natural reproduction?

            , and the embryo-creation process could also be carefully controlled to ensure that “babies” are not “naturally” killed by missing chromosomes before they are born, as so often happens now.

            1. Then your embryo-creation process would simply ensure these embryos never exist, not that they come to term. You’re suggesting reducing the miscarriage rate through eugenics.
            2. What percentage of miscarriages fall under this category? Sure, deaths are as sad as any other natural death, but if they can’t actually be prevented, then they don’t belong in your “33%” estimate.

          • Ghillie Dhu says:

            @Hypoborean,

            As a favor to those of us in the peanut gallery, please use the blockquote tags for excerpts of others’ posts to which you are responding.

            Like this

            “Not like this”

    • Eponymous says:

      Here are a few possibly useful thought experiments:

      (1) Is it morally wrong to unplug someone from life support who is in a coma and is fully brain dead? I’m assuming most pro-choice people would say no. But now suppose we specify that, with high probability, medical advances in the next year or two will allow this person to be revived and return to normal functioning.

      (2) A relevant question in (1) might be whether the person’s memories are destroyed. Suppose we specify that they are. Does this change your opinion of (1)?

      (3) Does your answer change if the person had previously specified that they would like to be kept on life support in such circumstances and revived?

      (4) What if they did not state their wishes, but you know that they *would have* stated that they would prefer to remain on life support and be revived if they had been given the opportunity.

      (5) Would you elect to be kept on life support in such circumstances? Do you think most people would?

      (6) What if the person in question is a baby who was born in such a coma?

      (Full disclosure: I’m philosophically unsure about abortion, but lean towards its being morally wrong, and towards possibly existing future humans having moral status, to the extent that I’m not sure there isn’t a moral obligation to have lots of kids.)

      • Unsaintly says:

        Context: Strongly pro-choice
        1) No
        1a) I would say that it is still not morally wrong, although it will depend a lot on the cost of treatment. If a family has to beggar themselves to save a life, it is immoral to force them to do so
        2) If a person’s memories are destroyed by the process in 1a, there is now absolutely no moral requirement to keep the brain dead person alive. The brain dead person and the hypothetical future person are different people, to whom the family of the deceased has no obligation to create.
        3) IFF the brain dead person specified they would want to be revived under the memory-loss situation, it becomes moral to use the resources the deceased set aside for the process in order to maintain the body for the future person to inhabit. Nobody else in this situation has an obligation to expend resources to uphold this beyond what they’d expend on a normal funeral
        4) If you can convince the executor of their estate that they would want their resources dedicated to preserving their body for this future person, then sure go for it. Same caveats as 3 regarding other people’s obligations to help
        5) No, the cost to keep my body functional for the next person to inhabit it isn’t worth the likely cost
        6) The baby has no memories yet, and isn’t a person yet so there’s no moral obligation to it at all unless the parents want to keep it around

        • Eponymous says:

          1a) I would say that it is still not morally wrong, although it will depend a lot on the cost of treatment. If a family has to beggar themselves to save a life, it is immoral to force them to do so

          Interesting. So destroying someone’s unique memories is not the equivalent of murder, even if these memories will otherwise shortly be instantiated in an individual (indeed, in the person’s original body)?

          Or did your caveat about cost imply that you view this as analogous to a (potentially very expensive) medical treatment, which you don’t think people are obligated to provide?

          For the others: would it be fair to characterize your view as being that the situation is roughly equivalent to respecting the wishes of the deceased with respect to the disposition of his/her other property? Here considering their body as such a piece of property.

      • Hypoborean says:

        Also strongly pro-choice. Answers:
        1a) Not morally wrong.
        1b) I’ll steelman this hypothetical to something slightly more realistic of “there’s an experimental treatment that might revive them that has been having positive results that you have to wait to access”…having trouble evaluating this situation since bringing a person back from brain-death is sort of literal magic. The point is, my current working definition of personhood runs from “when you are born to when you are braindead.” If a technology was able to reverse some categories braindeath already, then personhood would be “when you are born to when you are permanently braindead”. This liminal state is hard to evaluate, and would depend a lot on the circumstances.
        2) If their memories are destroyed then there is zero obligation. You’d be bringing back a different person in a familiar body and you have no obligation to do that.
        3) If the memories are being destroyed, then if that person set resources aside for that to happen, then you should carry out their will faithfully, but there’s no moral obligation to make it happen with society’s resources. If the memories are not being destroyed, then it’s more of an ahead-of-the-curve “personhood extends until permanently braindead” change in definition and they should be brought back.
        4) If memories preserved, bring them back, if not, don’t.
        5) Depends on the quality of life after being brought back. If my memories are destroyed, don’t bother. If my memories are preserved and it’s a good life extension technology, yes.
        6) This falls into the clearer category of “unusual medical treatments able to save a certain baby” and should be done, since there’s no difference between a baby with no memories and a baby with no memories.

        With all of these, there’s a cost concern. People in general are not obligated to drive themselves into penury to extend the life of a loved one, and if it’s socialized medicine costs of these vs. other life preserving technologies should be considered. In an ideal enlightened technocracy you’d be cashing all government spending into QALYs gained (including things like infrastructure and art, if you get a method for working out +QALYs from the net enjoyment of not living in brutalist concrete) and then making decisions that way, but that’s probably not possible. But the point is, there comes a point where being able to invest, say, $100,000,000 in infrastructure is worth more than one life (numbers subject to change by GDP per capita).

        Basically my high level takeaway is that there is no obligation to instance new people, and I worry that you’re Pascal’s Mugging yourself into a nasty corner by thinking that there is. Human life has value, and all other things being equal more humans are better than fewer humans because human life has value and creates value through technology and art, but also the context in which we are confident human life has value is a thriving culture with the resources to have a robust defense of the rights of personhood, so steady managed population growth as technology and personal resources permit is highly preferable to unlimited breeding to do one-generation util-maximization that likely causes a lot of problems in generation two and possibly thus reduces expected integrated-to-infinity utility.

        TL;DR Do have more kids than replacement, but like 4, not 40.

        • Cliff says:

          You’d be bringing back a different person in a familiar body

          Now that this has been repeated, I will note that I think it is a bizarre conclusion. Obviously it will be the same person with amnesia??

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            Actually, I’d take the opposite position and argue that people do, in fact, “die” whenever they fall asleep.

          • Randy M says:

            On one end of the spectrum, “Never fall asleep.” On the other end, “Uploading to software as an em is immortality.”

          • Unsaintly says:

            First of all, Amnesia is not total memory loss in real life. There may be a loss of certain memories or abilities, or the degradation in ability to form new memories, but it’s not a completely blank slate. Comparing total memory loss to amnesia is not very useful.

            That being said, if amnesia were total memory loss I would be comfortable saying that it is morally a different person. (I specify morally here because I recognize that there is use in having a legal definition of “same person” distinct from the moral definition)

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Actually, I’d take the opposite position and argue that people do, in fact, “die” whenever they fall asleep.

            Does hangry me die when I finally eat something and settle down? It’s a different mental state!

          • Hypoborean says:

            There’s a huge difference between amnesia and complete and total memory loss. Since this was a drastic procedure that resulted in total brain death for 1-2 years, I was assuming that “memory loss” meant “you have been wiped back to a blank slate”

            The new person will have some correlation with the old person because some elements of personality are genetic, but I was assuming you’d be starting with a baby-mind-in-an-adult-body* if you removed absolutely all memories.

            *Modulo whatever of the differences between a baby’s mind and an adult mind are a function of an adult brain being larger.

          • Lillian says:

            Actually, I’d take the opposite position and argue that people do, in fact, “die” whenever they fall asleep.

            Funny story, i kind of believe this and as a consequence suffer from insomnia because i am literally scared of sleeping. Mostly cope with it the same way i cope with the mind-numbing paralyzing horror at knowing that one day i will stop existing forever. That is to say, i try not to think about it.

          • Cliff says:

            The new person will have some correlation with the old person because some elements of personality are genetic, but I was assuming you’d be starting with a baby-mind-in-an-adult-body* if you removed absolutely all memories.

            Hmm, I think even if I had no memories I would still be able to walk and talk, etc.?

            “some correlation” is underselling it, I think. VERY HIGH correlation would be more accurate, since we are going even beyond perfect genetic identity here and leaving all physical aspects the same, relatives the same, etc.

          • Hypoborean says:

            The closest example of a “total memory wipe” we have is extremely advanced Alzheimer’s patients, but even then they still have fragmentary memories.

            According to this (https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/canadian-journal-of-neurological-sciences/article/dissolution-of-language-in-alzheimers-disease/E74ABB988398B95ACB220CAE7AB6739D), the degree of linguistic collapse tracks the progression of the disease, suggesting that memories ARE tied closely to language. The last stage is “Global Aphasia:severe expressive and receptive language impairment; may be able to communicate using facial expression, intonation, and gestures.” (https://www.asha.org/uploadedFiles/ASHA/Practice_Portal/Clinical_Topics/Aphasia/Common-Classifications-of-Aphasia.pdf)

            In the limit of ALL memories lost, then, I think the Alzheimer’s control case gives us strong evidence that all language would be lost.

            ““some correlation” is underselling it, I think. VERY HIGH correlation would be more accurate, since we are going even beyond perfect genetic identity here and leaving all physical aspects the same, relatives the same, etc.”

            Um. What? You’d be trying to train a baby-mind in an adult body (which is different from the baby-body it originally trained in). What are the odds that that very difficult process would produce anything like the same individual? Inability to control a baby-in-adult-form properly could have all sorts of behavioral problems, to the extent that it would be much preferable to just add a new baby to the family if you wanted a “replacement person”

          • Cliff says:

            Hmm, that doesn’t seem right to me. You seem to be under the impression that all Alzheimer’s does is erase memories, but that’s not even close to the reality. The fact that Alzheimer’s patients lose the ability to speak in no way indicates to me that the ability to speak is tied to memories per se.

            I don’t claim to be an expert, maybe someone who is can chime in? Aren’t memories tied to a specific part of the brain that has nothing to do with the motor cortex for example? I have pretty much zero memories of learning to ride a bike but I have no difficulty riding a bike and won’t as long as my bodily integrity continues. And that goes for many other things.

            You’d be trying to train a baby-mind in an adult body

            Again, there are so many differences between an adult mind and a baby’s mind other than memories. Is that controversial?

            Anyway, we may be getting a bit off track. I interpreted the original post to mean the person lost all specific memories of their life, not that they were mind-wiped and turned into a baby. Is the reason people were saying it is okay to kill them because they thought it was mind-wiping and, if the person just had amnesia their answers would be different?

          • Cliff says:

            What are the odds that that very difficult process would produce anything like the same individual

            By the way, I don’t see any reason to expect it would be a “difficult process”, or that the person would not be even more similar to the original person than an identical twin. Given the abilities an adult has that a baby doesn’t (e.g. muscle tone) I assume it would be even faster, although again we’re wildly off into speculative fiction that’s irrelevant.

          • Eponymous says:

            Being a thought experiment, one can alter the details a bit, and indeed this is useful to explore your moral intuitions and understand what precisely is driving your conclusions.

            In the mainline hypothetical I intended that one would lose all their unique and particular memories — basically what makes that person “them” rather than, say, their identical twin. Whether this extends to things like knowing how to talk or basic facts about the world (general knowledge) doesn’t seem morally relevant to me, but you can play around with it.

        • Eponymous says:

          my current working definition of personhood runs from “when you are born to when you are braindead.”

          Out of curiosity, why use a different criterion for starting the clock than for ending it? Why not brain-life to brain-death? Or birth to, well, whatever the equivalent of ‘unbirth’ is?

          Actually, I’m not sure what you mean by “birth”, or why you invest moral significance in it, which is why I can’t generate an end-of-life analogy. If you literally just mean being outside of one’s mother, than there’s no real equivalent; I would have to understand why you invest moral significance in that moment. If you mean some notion of viability, then you have to specify what level of medical intervention you think is reasonable, and then apply a similar standard to the end of life.

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            Why not brain-life to brain-death? Or birth to, well, whatever the equivalent of ‘unbirth’ is?

            Possibly, because there’s no such thing as unbirth? Nor any convenient equivalent.

            Birth as starting point has a couple of practical advantages:

            1. it’s an unambiguous point beyond which things are evidently and irrevocably different than before (you can’t go from being born to being unborn again),

            2. the nature of this difference, namely: the mother is no longer necessary for the child’s continued existence.

            Point 2 is key here, because after the child is born you can obey your personal moral imperatives towards the child without implicating the mother in any way.

            Let’s suppose that you think there is a moral obligation to ensure the child lives. The mother, on the other hand, does not. There exists a difference in moral judgement and it is not evident – despite what you might believe – which of the parties is correct.

            Luckily, we don’t have to choose! If you feel a moral obligation towards ensuring the child lives, grows, etc. – you can take the child and accept the moral responsibility that comes with it. The mother need not bear any burdens that come with doing what you think is right (those are on you, just as doing what she thinks is right is on her). You can go your separate ways, you with child, she without and each proceed according to your moral intuitions.

            This is not possible at any point prior to birth as the burden of fulfilling your perceived moral obligations will fall on the mother, who may well not share your moral intuitions. The only way this can be justified is if we assume that you are a “master”, that is: qualified to decide for other people against their wishes, and that’s not a justification I’m willing to endorse (all men created equal, and all that).

            Or to put it more bluntly: who died and made you king?

            (No offence intended, but I really must emphasize what a big thing it is to say to another: you must do this, will ye or nay.)

            With death we have no such neat, unambiguous cut-off point, so I expect the best we can do is “make sure they’re really dead”. Turns out “really dead” is also a bit tricky, so we need to settle on some form of “very unlikely to get up and return to past life”.

          • Nick says:

            Faza yesterday:

            Parental responsibility towards the child is greater than perhaps any other (any I can think of anyway), because without the (biological) parent, the child wouldn’t have come into existence.

            Faza today:

            If you feel a moral obligation towards ensuring the child lives, grows, etc. – you can take the child and accept the moral responsibility that comes with it. The mother need not bear any burdens that come with doing what you think is right (those are on you, just as doing what she thinks is right is on her).

            ಠ_ಠ

          • Eponymous says:

            @Faza:

            Re: (1) — I agree birth is a clear Schelling point, but I don’t think it makes a lot of moral sense unless you think it isn’t really very morally wrong to kill a newborn (but we don’t because birth is a useful Schelling point). If you *do* think it’s actually morally wrong to kill a newborn, but okay to kill a full-term fetus (say 5 minutes before birth), then I really don’t understand your morality that invests such moral significance in whether the baby is physically inside or outside its mother’s womb.

            If I were to try to think of an analogous end of life “Schelling point”, I would probably pick physical death. From birth to death — poetic.

            Re: (2) Note that my comment specifically referenced viability. Also note that this is not the same as “birth” — fetuses are viable for most of the third trimester, and even earlier with substantial medical intervention — and viability is a moving target given medical advances.

            As to the rest of your comment — it applies equally well to the morality of a mother killing her newborn. Do you accept its implications in that case? This is not much of a stretch — infanticide was widely practiced throughout history!

          • John Schilling says:

            If you *do* think it’s actually morally wrong to kill a newborn, but okay to kill a full-term fetus (say 5 minutes before birth),

            What if he doesn’t think that every morally wrong thing has to also be illegal?

            What if he thinks it’s morally wrong to kill a newborn, morally wrong to kill a fetus, and that we shouldn’t impose the latter judgement by force of law because abortion-five-minutes-before-birth is a thing that is very rarely going to actually happen but the law against it would have very frequent and very harmful/dangerous second-order consequences?

            Really, the whole concept of “It is morally wrong therefore it has to be illegal” is probably the biggest source of harmful and dangerous legal consequences.

          • Eponymous says:

            @JS

            Of course you are correct. I’ve intentionally tried to keep my questions strictly focused on questions of morality and moral status, because I’m interested in isolating one piece to focus on. But obviously there are many considerations here, which others have brought up.

            For comparison, considered the famous violinist thought experiment, which explicitly grants the question of moral status to focus on questions of the nature of obligations to give up control of one’s body to preserve the life of another.

            Personally, while I lean towards abortion being morally wrong, I’m less certain that we should outlaw very early abortions.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ Faza:

            (you can’t go from being born to being unborn again),

            Well, actually…

        • Eponymous says:

          6) This falls into the clearer category of “unusual medical treatments able to save a certain baby” and should be done, since there’s no difference between a baby with no memories and a baby with no memories.

          I’ll admit I wasn’t expecting this answer. So you’re saying there’s a moral obligation to do treatment X to save a person at the cost of their memories if they currently have no memories, but not if they have a lifetime worth of memories?

          Okay, but what if they have *some* memories? What if the child was born, lived for time interval X forming memories, and then fell into the brain dead coma. How long would X have to be before there’s no longer a moral obligation to revive them? 5 minutes? 5 hours? 5 years?

      • chrisminor0008 says:

        Easy — there’s no such thing as a universal morality. It exists only in minds as a result of evolutionary pressure to cooperate in tribes.

        • Eponymous says:

          Wherever you think your morality comes from, does it have an opinion on these questions?

          • chrisminor0008 says:

            What I’m saying is that there’s no such thing as morality existing independently of a human psyche. The same way that there’s no such thing as hunger existing independently.

            The closest I can come to answering your question is what I would do in those scenarios:

            (1) Yes.
            (2) No.
            (3) No; not relevant b/c I would keep them on life support anyways.
            (4) No; not relevant b/c I would keep them on life support anyways.
            (5) Yes. Yes.
            (6) I would keep them on life support.

            For the record, I don’t think I fall neatly into either the pro-choice or pro-life camps, but I’m maybe more towards the pro-choice side? I don’t believe fetuses are ensouled. I’d be fine with abortions up to the point where the fetus is capable of suffering or having an experience, and that’s a question for neuroscience and my answer for what society should accept would change with scientific developments. Right now, that point is between 8 and 25 weeks, depending on whom you ask.

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          Even if you’re a boring Darwinian intuitionist, it’s more fun if you indulge the thought experiment off the bat.

    • Nornagest says:

      It is alive, but in the same way the mother’s appendix or liver is:

      It is a genetically unique, and separate organism.

      You don’t get “separate” automatically from “genetically unique”. Genetic chimerism — a condition that leaves a phenotypically normal individual with a patchwork pattern of genotypes — is pretty common.

      • souleater says:

        My background isn’t in biology, and I didn’t consider genetic chimerism. I was wrong to imply genetically unique automatically means separate organism.

        That being said, I maintain it is a separate organism in the same sense a tapeworm would be a separate organism from it’s host. I’m not sure under what definition you could argue otherwise.

        • Hypoborean says:

          In the very early phases of development, the closest biological equivalent to a fetus is a tumor, which is also genetically distinct from the host (but by a much narrower margin) and growing rapidly. Both are “clumps of cells”

          • eyeballfrog says:

            Those stages of development are called an “embryo”. A fetus has fully differentiated tissues, and has almost nothing in common with a tumor.

          • Hypoborean says:

            @eyeballfrog

            Oh, thank you! I hadn’t checked the terminology in depth recently and so had been coasting on the implicit definitions used in the parts of this debate that bubble up in the media.

            I didn’t realize that fetus specifically meant post 8 weeks of development. In that case the word I meant to use (and which still correctly applies to my argument) is embryo.

    • S_J says:

      I’ll quote a selection of the points of argument.

      All three of the facts I quote below are true about the human foetus. Most are also true about human babies under the age of 6 months.

      Depending on the definition of “dependent”, the statement about dependency may be true up to the point of weaning. It may be true up to the point at which the child can turn the raw materials of food into their own meal. It may be true up to the point at which the child is capable of providing raw materials for their own meal without the intervention of parents.

      The last item is true of all humans up to the point of puberty. Again, this may, or may not, be later than the point of losing dependence on the parents.

      It isn’t self aware:

      It is dependent on its host:

      It’s not able to reproduce:

      The largest difference between fetus and newborn is that everyone within earshot can hear the newborn cry. Aside from that, the newborn likely has the same lack of self-awareness, complete dependency on parents, and inablity to reproduce.

      Which of these is supposed to be a killer argument for either the pro-life side or the pro-abortion side?

      Human life develops along a continuum, and crosses the borderline of self-awareness several months after birth. This isn’t a hard-and-fast development point: I get the impression that self-awareness is on a bell curve, and the median is around 6 months.

      Another part of the continuum of human development is the ability to move of its own accord, even if self-awareness is not detectable. Human development crosses theat borderline (including breathing-like motions of the chest, thumb-sucking, and other baby-like behaviors) sometime in the second trimester.

      Human life crosses the line of detectable neural activity and detectable cardiac rhythm midway through the first trimester of pregnancy.

      Each of these stages of development might be a point at which the human life rises to the social status of ‘person’, not to be dismembered or dissolved in caustic chemicals at the whim of another.

      Pro-choice arguments tend to assign person-ness at the point when a newborn infant can make its voice heard.

      Pro-life arguments tend to shift towards the early parts of the development. But the fuzziness of timing of the stages of human development leads them to push towards the earliest point that can be distinguished–either fertilization of the ovum or implantation of the developing blastocyst/embryo.

      • baconbits9 says:

        The largest difference between fetus and newborn is that everyone within earshot can hear the newborn cry.

        The largest difference between a fetus and a newborn is that a fetus is dependant on its host specifically while a newborn is dependent on somebody caring for it, but not necessarily one specific person.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          That always seemed like a weird argument to me. If somebody’s dependent on you, specifically, for their survival, that should give you a greater obligation to care for them, not a lesser one.

          Plus, it’s all very well saying that a new-born infant can in principle be cared for by somebody else, but what if for some reason nobody else can or wants to care for it (say, because you’re the last two survivors of a plane crash on a desert island, and there literally aren’t any other people around who can look after it)? Would it be moral to kill it in such circumstances, or would the mere theoretical possibility of giving the baby to someone else render such an action immoral, even if as a matter of practicality you know you won’t be able to find anyone?

          • EchoChaos says:

            This is exactly my question with leaving a child naked and without food by the side of the road. It’s theoretically possible some kind soul will pick them up. In a healthy society, even likely.

            That doesn’t make a parent who does that any less monstrous.

          • eric23 says:

            That always seemed like a weird argument to me. If somebody’s dependent on you, specifically, for their survival, that should give you a greater obligation to care for them, not a lesser one.

            Agreed.

            There is a more meaningful difference though: the mother must somewhat endanger herself to care for and birth the fetus, while parents of a born child need not endanger themselves to care for the child.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            There is a more meaningful difference though: the mother must somewhat endanger herself to care for and birth the fetus, while parents of a born child need not endanger themselves to care for the child.

            Even if it’s too dangerous for the mother to carry to term, the infant can still be removed with a C-section or induced labour, without the need for killing it.

          • John Schilling says:

            If somebody’s dependent on you, specifically, for their survival, that should give you a greater obligation to care for them, not a lesser one.

            The stronger argument, IMO, is that if you willingly acted to cause someone else’s dependency, you have a unique obligation to care for them that is not shared by random passersby. Prison wardens have an absolute and unconditional requirement to feed the prisoners in their care. Pilots, once airborne with passengers, have an absolute and unconditional requirement to safely land the plane (or e.g. delegate the task to a qualified copilot).

            Absent rape, pregnant women get to be that way by willingly doing a thing that they know sometimes leads to pregnancy. Having done so, if they find their pregnancy has advanced to the “baby is now a person” stage (wherever that is), they have an absolute and unconditional requirement to see that baby properly cared for. And prior to birth, that can’t be delegated.

            Which is another practical advantage to setting the “baby is now a person” stage at birth, at least for legal purposes. But if you find that sufficiently developed prenatal fetuses are “people”, then you wind up with pregnant women obligated to carry their fetuses to term.

          • eric23 says:

            C-section and induced labour also have some risks.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @eric23

            As does abortion. I am not up to date on the relevant literature to be sure what the risks are relatively, but risk is a fact of life.

    • metacelsus says:

      I’ll just drop this here: https://www.stafforini.com/docs/Singer%20-%20Practical%20ethics.pdf

      See Chapter 6 in particular (but I would recommend reading the whole thing, it’s an excellent book).

      One particularly relevant quote:

      It is of course true that the potential rationality, self-consciousness and so on of a fetal Homo sapiens surpasses that of a cow or pig; but it does not follow that the fetus has a stronger claim to life.

      A Singer is someone who tries to be good.

  24. baconbits9 says:

    James Mackintosh writes,

    with lower yields, bond prices move more for the same change in the yield, a concept known in the industry as duration. Bonds are riskier than they used to be.

    and Arnold Kling adds

    The government of Austria has issued hundred-year bonds, which now yield 1.1 percent. If the interest rate were to fall to 0.55 percent, investors would double their money. If the rate were to rise to 2.2 percent, investors would lose half their money.

    Wouldn’t this logically mean that any positively priced bond would be worth infinitely more than a zero percent bond, ie any bond is worth infinitely more than cash?

    • jgr314 says:

      The Kling #s are wrong. Using his yields (0.55%, 1.1%, 2.2%) these are the prices of the Austria Sep 2117 bonds:
      0.55% 217.26
      1.1% 159.82
      2.2% 95.99
      (these bonds have a 2.1% coupon, so at 2.1% yield, there price would be 100)
      If the yield was 0, then the bonds would be 305.97, which is slightly less than double the current value.

    • eric23 says:

      Wouldn’t this logically mean that any positively priced bond would be worth infinitely more than a zero percent bond, ie any bond is worth infinitely more than cash?

      Only if you live forever?

  25. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Linidsay Ellis on the lack of new classic Disney villains. Villains can’t just be evil, they have to have a backstory.

    • AG says:

      Depends on how much real estate you want them to have in the story, and the format of the story. Sauron in the LotR films could be just a nebulous figure of evil (and most of the audience probably got him and Saruman mixed up), because he wasn’t really the point.

      The Disney villain, however, is obligated to get a fabulous song to themselves, and probably also banter with their minions. So it’s more about what inspires the songwriter to put out a bangin’ villain song or the writers to come up with distinct banter dialogue, and a backstory can help with that. Then they just fall afoul of not killing their darlings, and keeping the backstory in the script, instead of just subtly alluding to it.

      Have there been backstory-less villain songs recently on Broadway? Hadestown, maybe? Neither La La Land or Greatest Showman had villains.

      • acymetric says:

        (and most of the audience probably got him and Saruman mixed up)

        Yes, and it was deeply confusing until I finally got it properly sorted out in my head who was who.

      • FrankistGeorgist says:

        I mean, we get Hades backstory in Hadestown. Falling in love with Persephone, being abandoned by her, becoming Plutus the Wealthy One. So of his (I think) 3 songs:

        Why We Build the Wall
        Hey Little Songbird
        His Kiss, the Riot

        None of the 3 are about his backstory. The first is the best song ever and is about how he propagandizes the dead to think they’re keeping out the enemy when he’s the one letting everybody into Hadestown in the first place. Probably the best candidate for a “villain song.” The second is a seduction song, pretty villainous. The third is him contending with Orpheus potentially causing a riot among the dead. He’s actually kinda sympathetic in that one

        The villain in Hadestown isn’t really Hades. It’s the fates. And their songs are about mocking the characters. Also the audience for being comfortable rich people judging fictional characters.

  26. Urstoff says:

    Is there a website or blog or something that keeps a list of failed replications in psychology?

  27. proyas says:

    It’s said that the biggest obstacle to banning assault weapons is the difficulty of defining in words what an “assault weapon” is. However, I think I might have solved it.

    “An ‘assault weapon’ is any firearm with the following characteristics:

    1) Is semi-automatic [meaning each pull of the trigger fires one round, and the user doesn’t have to perform any mechanical operation after shooting one round to enable the second round to be fired], and;

    2) Accepts a detachable magazine, OR has a fixed or internal magazine that can hold more than eight rounds, OR has a belt-feed system, and;

    3) Is meant to be fired with the operator’s hands touching two different points on the weapon.”

    Criterion #3 distinguishes “assault weapons” from “handguns,” which are meant to be fired with one hand clasped over the other around the weapon’s grip, and which can also be effectively fired one-handed.

    Noted that I haven’t listed any cosmetic features included in many assault weapon laws, like bayonet lugs and folding buttstocks.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      There’s a bigger problem with your definition, which is why any of those features are meaningful.

      Typically, it’s understood that if you’re drawing a category boundary between things that there’s some significance to that boundary. If I have a semiautomatic rifle with a seven round magazine, how is that different in any meaningful way from an “assault weapon” under your definition? It seems no less arbitrary than looking at bayonet lugs.

      Why is the category of firearms that you’re actually trying to single out different from any other category of firearms such that they should be regulated differently?

      • eric23 says:

        You have to draw the line somewhere. 8 vs 7 rounds is a reasonable boundary, just like 18 vs 17 is a reasonable voting age.

        The relevance of semi-automatic operation should be obvious.

        Not being a gun expert I’m not sure exactly why two-hand operation matters, but I would guess it allows one to effectively aim at a target more quickly, which is relevant if one wants to quickly shoot many unarmed targets in a public area.

        In short I think this definition seems to make a lot of sense.

        • EchoChaos says:

          The relevance of semi-automatic operation should be obvious.

          And what relevance is that and why is it better than lever action or revolver?

        • Aapje says:

          The third-most lethal mass shooting in the US was with hand guns.

          The shooter swapped magazines 17 times, without anyone stopping him during those reloads.

          • JPNunez says:

            I think some of those cases will stop as people become more used to mass shootings and react faster. There was a shooter a month (?) ago that was stopped in like a minute.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          You have to draw the line somewhere.

          Why do you have to “draw [a] line” on magazine size? Why not just let people decide for themselves how large of a magazine they want to buy?

          The relevance of semi-automatic operation should be obvious.

          It isn’t to me. Can you explain?

          Not being a gun expert I’m not sure exactly why two-hand operation matters, but I would guess it allows one to effectively aim at a target more quickly, which is relevant if one wants to quickly shoot many unarmed targets in a public area.

          As a fellow non-expert, this really doesn’t fill me with confidence that you’re describing a meaningful category of firearms as opposed to just scary-looking guns.

          • CatCube says:

            When we come to these kinds of debates, I like to quote Popehat, because I really can’t put it better myself:

            It’s hard to grasp the reaction of someone who understands gun terminology to someone who doesn’t. So imagine we’re going through one of our periodic moral panics over dogs and I’m trying to persuade you that there should be restrictions on, say, Rottweilers.

            Me: I don’t want to take away dog owners’ rights. But we need to do something about Rottweilers.
            You: So what do you propose?
            Me: I just think that there should be some sort of training or restrictions on owning an attack dog.
            You: Wait. What’s an “attack dog?”
            Me: You know what I mean. Like military dogs.
            You: Huh? Rottweilers aren’t military dogs. In fact “military dogs” isn’t a thing. You mean like German Shepherds?
            Me: Don’t be ridiculous. Nobody’s trying to take away your German Shepherds. But civilians shouldn’t own fighting dogs.
            You: I have no idea what dogs you’re talking about now.
            Me: You’re being both picky and obtuse. You know I mean hounds.
            You: What the fuck.
            Me: OK, maybe not actually ::air quotes:: hounds ::air quotes::. Maybe I have the terminology wrong. I’m not obsessed with vicious dogs like you. But we can identify kinds of dogs that civilians just don’t need to own.
            You: Can we?

            Because I’m just talking out of my ass, the impression I convey is that I want to ban some arbitrary, uninformed category of dogs that I can’t articulate. Are you comfortable that my rule is going to be drawn in a principled, informed, narrow way?

          • Matt M says:

            Because I’m just talking out of my ass, the impression I convey is that I want to ban some arbitrary, uninformed category of dogs that I can’t articulate. Are you comfortable that my rule is going to be drawn in a principled, informed, narrow way?

            It’s actually even worse than this, because in the places where “assault weapon bans” have actually happened, they almost always are written entirely around cosmetic features that fail to make meaningful differences in the operation of the actual weapons.

            So we aren’t just speculating that such bans might be implemented stupidly, we are pointing to history that they already have been.

          • eric23 says:

            I don’t think there is anything wrong with taking cosmetic features into account. Mass shootings seem to often come from incel-types who are insecure about their value and masculinity, and if making “scary-looking” guns unavailable might decrease the feeling of satisfaction and power they get from shooting, and thus deter a few shootings, so much the better. Honestly I would support a ban on all guns that are not colored bright pink.

          • Aapje says:

            @eric23

            Your assessment seems entirely based on a stereotype, which seems invented by the media. I’m not aware of any study that found that incel-types are extremely prone to mass shootings.

            Most mass shootings are gang-related anyway. Gang members tend to be very masculine. Do you think that they would stop carrying guns if you made them pink?

          • Gobbobobble says:

            I’m surprised “incel” hasn’t been added to the autofilter

          • Matt M says:

            If you passed a law that all guns had to be pink, it would do very little to discourage gun ownership, but may do a lot to change people’s perception about the color pink.

            There’s basically nothing you can do to make guns seem uncool to a huge fraction of young men. Whatever you associate with guns will see its coolness rise due to the association.

    • Aftagley says:

      Your definition would include the Remington 870 DM and any of the other box magazine shotguns. I’m not sure how terribly widespread these are yet, but they’re definitely out there and growing in popularity.

      I can see the argument for regulating high-capacity shotguns, but saying they’re the same as an AR-15 is questionable.

    • John Schilling says:

      It’s said that the biggest obstacle to banning assault weapons is the difficulty of defining in words what an “assault weapon” is.

      That’s not in fact the biggest obstacle to banning “assault weapons”. The biggest obstacle to banning assault weapons is that a whole lot of Americans really, really don’t want you to do that and will devote great political effort to make you fail at doing that and care about basically nothing else while that issue is on the table. On the other hand, you might be able to apply the word “majority” to people who want to ban “assault weapons”, it’s the sort of majority that disappears as soon as Donald Trump tweets about something else or the news shows a picture of a telegenic orphan in a cage or whatever.

      You might as well say that the biggest problem with paying reparations to African-Americans (or for that matter re-enslaving them) is the difficulty in defining “African-American” in a polyracial world whose birth records aren’t reliable that far back, and go off on a tangent involving genetic testing to determine who is or is not properly “African”. And no matter how effective you are at developing a test for reliably distinguishing 50+% antebellum African origin or whatever, you’ll change the political debate not one whit.

    • The Nybbler says:

      You’ve just renamed “semi-automatic rifle”, minus a few exceptions like the M1 Garand, and modulo all the tricks people would pull to get around it (e.g. a rifle intended to be fired one-handed. Extra grip sold separately). The problem isn’t that the category of “assault weapon” is hard to define; the problem is it isn’t really useful except in divide-and-conquer gun ban tactics.

      • eric23 says:

        In that case, perhaps all semi-automatic rifles should be banned? Does anyone actually need a semi-automatic rifle for any socially accepted purpose, or can pistols and non-automatic rifles satisfy those needs?

        • EchoChaos says:

          In that case, perhaps all semi-automatic rifles should be banned?

          No.

          Does anyone actually need a semi-automatic rifle for any socially accepted purpose, or can pistols and non-automatic rifles satisfy those needs?

          Semi-automatic and automatic are very different.

        • Matt M says:

          Does anyone actually need a semi-automatic rifle for any socially accepted purpose

          Defending one’s self and one’s family against government tyranny is considered a socially acceptable purpose by ~50% of the US population.

          • johan_larson says:

            Defending one’s self and one’s family against government tyranny is considered a socially acceptable purpose by ~50% of the US population.

            I would be interested to know what sort of scenario you have in mind here. Are you and your rifle, or even your entire armed family planning on fighting off a police raid? That sounds hard, unless you are living in a fortified building. And even if you managed to win an initial encounter, the government can double down and keep doubling down a lot longer and harder than you can.

            Don’t get me wrong, I can think of scenarios where credible armament can make the difference in dealing with small-time criminals or hooligans. But against the government? For an individual or a small group? That sounds like a taller order.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @johan_larson

            The reason that the recent Bundy standoff went so relatively well is that well-armed groups in compounds like the Branch Davidians successfully did damage to the government in direct conflict, which means that the government has modified its method to not directly confront anymore.

            Note that winning was not necessary for this to occur. The Davidians lost rather horribly, but it meant that future groups able to credibly put small arms fire against the government aren’t attacked anymore.

          • Randy M says:

            The reason that the recent Bundy standoff went so relatively well is that well-armed groups in compounds like the Branch Davidians successfully did damage to the government in direct conflict

            Wasn’t the damage mostly PR damage by forcing the government to escalate to deadly force which some observers later felt was unjustified? The deaths of a few agents seems relatively inconsequential in and of itself, though that would change if this became a regular occurrence. But consider also the militarization of police due in part to them fearing for their lives from armed populace.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Randy M

            PR damage is damage.

            Militarization is more due to the drug war. It occurred far too late to blame on how heavily armed Americans are.

          • Randy M says:

            PR damage is damage.

            Provided the victim is sufficiently sympathetic to the public.

            Militarization is more due to the drug war. It occurred far too late to blame on how heavily armed Americans are.

            Okay, but the point was, there are other ways for the government to adapt to armed resistance than increased deference. And the kind of armed resistance necessary to turn back tyranny will get that escalated response.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Randy M

            Provided the victim is sufficiently sympathetic to the public.

            That’s what Reno thought. Koresh was a cult leader who was probably sexually abusing young girls. He is just about the least sympathetic possible person possible and yet the government got a PR loss.

            If you take a PR loss to “cultist pedophile”, you don’t use that tactic again ever.

          • Machine Interface says:

            It’s a very special worldview where “forcing the government to change its tactics to more effectively deal with radical antisocial groups” counts as victory, let alone a victory for the proponents of gun rights.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Machine Interface

            I am sympathetic to neither Koresh nor the Bundys.

            However, government declaring those opposed to them as “radical antisocial groups” and eradicating them is a time-honored method of tyranny. If Americans being armed prevents that even for those we all agree are awful, that is a major win for us.

          • Matt M says:

            Are you and your rifle, or even your entire armed family planning on fighting off a police raid?

            Did any individual infantryman storming Normandy expect to defeat the entire German army?

            No. They expected to make an individual contribution that would assist in the overall effort, quite probably at the cost of their own life.

            That’s how resisting a tyrannical government works. Whether it’s a foreign one or your own doesn’t really change the math all that much.

          • Matt M says:

            I am sympathetic to neither Koresh nor the Bundys.

            Koresh is the definitive example of why some people do, in fact, need stockpiles of military grade weapons.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            johan_larson-

            I would be interested to know what sort of scenario you have in mind here.

            Speaking only for myself, who supports the second amendment but does not own a gun, I don’t think most people seriously imagine that an individual is going to hold off government tyranny single-handedly, at least not for very long. But if, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for the populace to rise up against government tyranny, it will be really helpful if the populace has weapons and knows how to use them. Moreover, that danger to potential tyrants might well make it unnecessary ever to do so.

            With regard to tyranny, owning a gun is like voting. It works (only) if enough people do it, and take it seriously.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Speaking only for myself, who supports the second amendment but does not own a gun, I don’t think most people seriously imagine that an individual is going to hold off government tyranny single-handedly, at least not for very long. But if, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for the populace to rise up against government tyranny, it will be really helpful if the populace has weapons and knows how to use them. Moreover, that danger to potential tyrants might well make it unnecessary ever to do so.

            With regard to tyranny, owning a gun is like voting. It works (only) if enough people do it, and take it seriously.

            All of this PLUS the fact that ceding the right to the government to categorically ban something creates the framework that expedites the rise of authoritarianism.

          • John Schilling says:

            It’s a very special worldview where “forcing the government to change its tactics to more effectively deal with radical antisocial groups” counts as victory…

            If “radical antisocial groups” means people who want to go off into the middle of nowhere and mind their own business(*), and the government’s previous tactics were “Respect Mah Authoritah or DIE!”, then yes, forcing the government to change its tactics is a win for anyone who values anything resembling liberty.

            let alone a victory for the proponents of gun rights.

            Forcing the government to reconsider its position of killing those insufficiently respectful of its authority, would seem to be a central example of the kind of victory gun-rights proponents have been seeking since 1775.

            * In the case of Koresh et al, there’s at least a semi-plausible case that Koresh had gone off into the wilderness to mind the intimate business of unwilling children, but the Texas authorities specifically charged with that had investigated the issue and concluded it was unfounded, ditto the one about Koresh killing rival cult leaders. They used the radical law enforcement technique of knocking on the front door and saying “we really need to talk about this”, with good results. The Federal authorities who kicked down the door and threw in grenades only retroactively invoked allegations of child abuse as an excuse for their actions.

          • Matt M says:

            All of this PLUS the fact that ceding the right to the government to categorically ban something creates the framework that expedites the rise of authoritarianism.

            This. I worry a lot about the implications of the second amendment being abridged/ignored, just as legal precedent. Even putting aside all of the “the second amendment is what guarantees our freedoms in the sense that so long as we’re armed, the government will be afraid of us and won’t abridge the other ones” talk… the second amendment is about as explicitly defined of a protection as exists. It’s right there in the bill of rights. SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED.

            Any legal ruling that allows something like “except if we really think not infringing it would be scary” that can be applied to the second amendment can just as easily be applied to any other amendment or right you think you have.

            If they can take away that one, they can take away all the other ones too. If you think the bill of rights deserves to be taken seriously, this is a big deal. If you think it’s just a polite suggestion that we can easily ignore so long as the President assures us that it’s really important we ignore it, then fine…

          • Aftagley says:

            I mean, if we’re quoting the bill of rights, I’d like to highlight the WELL REGULATED part.

            On it’s face the 2nd amendment is ambiguous and your chosen interpretation of it has only been case law for around a decade.

          • Matt M says:

            Well regulated is not describing the right to arms, but rather the militia, which is composed of all able bodied adult males. The militia is only mentioned as a background justifying why the right to bear arms is mentioned.

            Also “regulated” does not necessarily mean “restricted by the government.”

            MY interpretation of the second amendment is that each and every gun law is an unconstitutional infringement. All of them. That was, in fact, the favored interpretation, up until the southern states decided that they needed to somehow restrict blacks from being able to defend themselves with weapons, and gun control in the US was born.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Aftagley: it’s hard for the populace to form a militia, well-regulated or otherwise, if you ban guns appropriate for soldiers.

            @Matt M:

            That was, in fact, the favored interpretation, up until the southern states decided that they needed to somehow restrict blacks from being able to defend themselves with weapons, and gun control in the US was born.

            Cite? By how long does this predate the “make it illegal to own a machine gun without a license, then refuse to print license stickers” law?

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Aftagley

            The militia is well regulated. The right to bear arms is not.

            Edit: Ninja-ed a lot.

          • Aftagley says:

            Sure, maybe now those two clauses are treated as unrelated to each other, but I disagree with that interpretation. Furthermore, if you look at US V. Miller it’s clear that at some point the dominant thought was that the second amendment gave citizens the right to bear arms only in the context of their ability to participate in such a militia. Quote from the opinion of the supreme court:

            In the absence of any evidence tending to show that possession or use of a “shotgun having a barrel of less than eighteen inches in length” at this time has some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia, we cannot say that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to keep and bear such an instrument.

            It’s clear that for a long time the consensus was that owning guns that did not make sense in the context of having a regular militia was not allowed. Thus, implicitly, at some point the federal government believed it had the capacity to regulate what guns could be sold.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Aftagley

            I sincerely doubt that is the way that the left wants to go in that interpretation as the current infantry light weapon is the M-4, which is a select fire short barreled rifle.

            Given that, it would be illegal to ban the ownership of such items. This is SUBSTANTIALLY less regulation than we have now.

          • Matt M says:

            Look, none of this is the point.

            The point is that if they can come up with bizarre semantics games to ignore the bill of rights on the 2nd amendment, they could just as easily do so with the 1st amendment. And they could even more easily do it with implied rights (such as the right to privacy, which is the justification for protecting abortion).

            That is a valid reason to care about protecting the 2nd amendment, even if you don’t give a single crap about guns yourself, and even if you think the private ownership of guns is actively bad/harmful.

          • Aftagley says:

            Only if your framework is “the militia has to have access to the same exact weapons as the regular army.” I’d argue that since the drafters of the constitution were vehemently opposed to the idea of a standing army, it’s not useful to speculate how they’d want their militia’s armed in relation to anything else. The ability to well regulate our militia gives the people’s representatives in government the explicit authority to regulate.

            I don’t see why it would be too far out of line for the federal government to pass a list of weapons that are allowable for the militia and restrict the sale of weapons that aren’t on that list.

            Hell, while we’re at it, we could chose to exercise are power to regulate the militia in terms of assessing potential applicants’ (read, prospective gun owners’) mental stability, criminal history, etc.

            edit: @MattM
            That’s only the case if I agree with your interpretation of the 2nd amendment. If I don’t, then the slippery slope doesn’t exist.

          • Matt M says:

            That’s only the case if I agree with your interpretation of the 2nd amendment. If I don’t, then the slippery slope doesn’t exist.

            No, this is still the wrong way of looking at it.

            Your logic is only correct if you believe the second amendment is completely unique among all other amendments/rights in being overly vague and not explicitly protected. You have to believe that it is the only amendment where clever judges have enough wiggle room to “interpret” it in a wide variety of ever-changing ways.

            And I’d suggest to you that we already have ample evidence to disprove this. See also: We can regulate speech if it’s “fire in a crowded theater” (but actually it’s literature speaking out against the military draft). It’s worth opposing that sort of abridgement of the first amendment even if you are totally in favor of the draft!

          • Nornagest says:

            That was, in fact, the favored interpretation, up until the southern states decided that they needed to somehow restrict blacks from being able to defend themselves with weapons, and gun control in the US was born.

            I’m more on the pro-2A side here, but this isn’t a good history of the amendment. Federal firearms laws date to the mid-1800s — when there was an attempt to ban repeating handguns cheaper than the powerful and costly Army and Navy revolvers — and local regulation was common quite early. The NFA was passed in the early 20th century, and IIRC was billed as disarming Al Capone types. Laws targeting Bowie and other fighting knives, too, were very common in the first half of the country’s existence. Firearms laws post-1960 do have a lot to do with race relations, but that’s only part of the story.

            Amusingly, though, those early laws generally sought to pass 2A scrutiny by banning weapons that weren’t thought to have military uses.

          • CatCube says:

            The point is that if they can come up with bizarre semantics games to ignore the bill of rights on the 2nd amendment, they could just as easily do so with the 1st amendment. And they could even more easily do it with implied rights (such as the right to privacy, which is the justification for protecting abortion).

            They, of course, did at one point decide that they could abridge the 1st Amendment using this exact logic–anti-war leafleting was equivalent to “shouting fire in a crowded theater” and could be banned on those grounds, text of the amendment be damned.

          • Aftagley says:

            Your logic is only correct if you believe the second amendment is completely unique among all other amendments/rights in being overly vague and not explicitly protected

            Right, because the rest of the Bill of Rights is completely clear and unambiguous. That’s why they explicitly defined what counted as excessive bail in the 8th Amendment and set out explicit timelines for prosecution in the 6th.

          • John Schilling says:

            Federal firearms laws date to the mid-1800s — when there was an attempt to ban repeating handguns cheaper than the powerful and costly Army and Navy revolvers

            Do you have a cite for that as a Federal law, or serious proposal? There were definitely State laws to that effect – in the reconstruction-era South, when the previously nigh-universal sentiment that every free man had the right to be armed and that this right was indeed protected by the 2nd Amendment suddenly sprouted an “…except for the darkies, nobody ever meant for them to be armed, and if we can’t enslave them we’d better make sure they don’t have guns” clause.

            Well, in some parts at least. And maybe some Southern senator tried to introduce that bill at the Federal level so that Yankee factory owners couldn’t sell handguns that colored folk could afford, but if that’s all you’ve got, then I am unimpressed by your precedent.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Contra the stereotype Hollywood created when it was rather more Red tribe, local gun laws could be strict in the post-Civil War American West. (Which is rather less relevant than the South for the racial motivation being proposed.) Unfortunately I’m not familiar with the legal theory behind this: the 2nd and 14th Amendments existed but we’re talking about local laws in a time when some of these places were in states and some in territories.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            And I’d suggest to you that we already have ample evidence to disprove this. See also: We can regulate speech if it’s “fire in a crowded theater” (but actually it’s literature speaking out against the military draft). It’s worth opposing that sort of abridgement of the first amendment even if you are totally in favor of the draft!

            There is literally an entire group of people that think free speech has been “weaponized.” I really don’t understand how people cannot connect the dots that many of the same people that want to ban “assault weapons” also want to ban “Assault speech.”

            And that since “Assault Weapons” has expanded to include ALL SEMI-AUTOMATIC RIFLES in some nations ALREADY, that “Assault Speech” is going to expand in the same way.

          • John Schilling says:

            Furthermore, if you look at US V. Miller it’s clear that at some point the dominant thought was that the second amendment gave citizens the right to bear arms only in the context of their ability to participate in such a militia.

            What do you mean by “such a militia”?

            Because if you’re thinking “National Guard”, that’s not it. The
            militia is, by current statute(*) and common law, basically the entire collective body of the population capable of bearing arms in the national defense – including defense against local tyranny. The Federal Government can regulate this body collectively, it can prescribe training standards, it can call some or all of its members to arms in time of war, and some of this is discussed elsewhere in the Constitution.

            But it by definition cannot dissolve the militia (short of genocide), and by law it cannot disarm it. If the government chooses to call up or allow only a fraction of the body of the population capable of bearing arms for service in the National Guard, then the whole body nonetheless remains the Militia. And their right to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed, period. That’s the law. Arguing “We are only prohibited from banning weapons if the subject of the ban is part of the Militia, and since we have banned them from having arms they cannot bear arms in defense of the nation and so they are not part of the Militia and it is thus OK for us to ban them from having arms”, gets you nowhere.

            Per Miller, you can ban or restrict people from owning arms that are not at all suitable for the collective defense of the nation. Per Heller, individual self-defense gets added to that list. So if your reason for banning a gun is that e.g. mass harvesting of waterfowl is ecologically unsustainable and therefore we can’t have punt guns outside of licensed collections, OK, fine. But if your reason for banning a gun is that it is a Deadly Weapon of Battle and War, then you’re squarely in Miller/Heller protected territory, even if the person who insists they have a right to own it isn’t wearing a uniform.

            * The present statute excludes women, unless they have enlisted in the National Guard, so I suppose you might be able to sneak in an “assault weapon” ban narrowly applied to female civilians. I double-dog dare you to try it.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            But it by definition cannot dissolve the militia (short of genocide),

            Well, um, that’d certainly be one way for the government to elect a new people.

          • Machine Interface says:

            My point was that cults with guns have had the effect of already priming the US government to find better methods to deal with groups they want to neutralize. In effect, what I am saying, if ever there is an armed insurrection, the insurrectionists have already lost the element of surprise because the government has already developped tactics to deal with insurrectionists.

            Basically armed radicals have made all future armed resistance less effective by vaccinating federal forces.

          • John Schilling says:

            Basically armed radicals have made all future armed resistance less effective by vaccinating federal forces.

            QED, people should never resist tyranny or oppression by any means, because doing so would teach tyrants to counter the means of resistance.

            Or is the plan that all outgroups should refrain from resisting oppression, so that the first time your ingroup feels oppressed you can resist with the full element of surprise. In which case, oh hell no we’re not doing that.

          • Machine Interface says:

            Where does this “should” come from? I believe I make no secret of my deep moral anti-realism. Yet so often I see people deriving “should” statements from my observations. This is weird.

            As for the point at hand, I simply observe that no other government on Earth is better prepared to quash rebellion than the US one — armed cults of lunatics have trained it so. This is not an argument for giving out your guns. This is just pointing out that “I need my guns to resist” is nonsensical, because come a revolution, the government already knows how to deal with armed, uncooperative groups — and that’s of course ignoring that come a revolution against a tyranical government, a lot of these armed groups will be recruited to fight for the tyranical government. The US hasn’t made itself safe against Bolsheviks, it has homebrewed them and armed them.

          • John Schilling says:

            Where does this “should” come from? I believe I make no secret of my deep moral anti-realism. Yet so often I see people deriving “should” statements from my observations. This is weird.

            This is putting you solidly in You sound like an Evil Robot territory, though given the user name that may be deliberate. And I don’t feel like explaining why, but do understand that your phrasing most consistent with non-robot humans making normative “should” statements, and if that’s no your intent you should maybe phrase things differently in the future.

          • Machine Interface says:

            I mean, that’s fair? I have much lower empathy than average, I don’t believe in free will and have a total lack of terminal values or prescriptive views. I know “you sound like an evil robot” is the normal, default emotional reaction when talking to me about anything politics or philosophy-adjacent.

            I just assumed regular contributors here were already familiar with those quirks of mine.

        • The Nybbler says:

          “Need” isn’t an appropriate criterion.

        • John Schilling says:

          Does anyone actually need a semi-automatic rifle for any socially accepted purpose

          As Nybbler says, “need” has got nothing to do with it.

          To amplify: We’re having a parallel discussion on the ethics of abortion, a practice which may or may not result in the deliberate murder of hundreds of thousands of innocent children every year, and our best bioethicists can’t come to even an order-of-magnitude estimate of the true death toll. Maybe it’s zero. We’d better hope zero.

          But the entire issue, and consequent risk, can be completely eliminated if women stop having PiV except when they are ready to have babies.

          So, does anyone actually need recreational sex, for any “socially accepted purpose”? Need it badly enough to risk maybe killing innocent babies over it? And what if red-tribe and blue-tribe societies disagree with which purposes are considered “acceptable”?

          Or maybe you’d free society in which people can do the things they want to do, without having to prove that they need to do them.

        • Garrett says:

          > Does anyone actually need a semi-automatic rifle for any socially accepted purpose

          Does anyone actually need a Koran for any socially accepted purpose?
          Does anyone actually need a pet lizard for any socially accepted purpose?
          Does anyone actually need a car with more than 80 HP for any socially accepted purpose?
          Does anyone actually need liquor for any socially accepted purpose?

          Is there any other aspect of life you would be willing to subject to the whims of “need” and “socially accepted purpose”? I claim that one of the key elements of a liberal society is to tolerate other people doing and having things they don’t need and which aren’t socially accepted.

          • JPNunez says:

            Does anyone actually need a Koran for any socially accepted purpose?
            Does anyone actually need a pet lizard for any socially accepted purpose?
            Does anyone actually need a car with more than 80 HP for any socially accepted purpose?
            Does anyone actually need liquor for any socially accepted purpose?

            Yes x 4

            You don’t need a murder weapon unless you are part of the army and deployed.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            @JPNunez

            Wait so only combat medics can perform abortions?

          • You don’t need a murder weapon unless you are part of the army and deployed.

            “Murder weapon” meaning a weapon capable of killing someone? That covers all firearms and a lot knives and hammers.

            If you mean “weapon whose only use is to kill someone,” that doesn’t describe semi-automatic rifles, most of which are used for hunting animals and similar purposes.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Yeah, I don’t think most game hunting is done with older mechanisms like bolt-action. You don’t hunt deer with assault rifles or submachine guns, but you certainly do with vaguely defined “assault weapons.”

          • JPNunez says:

            Are you telling me people did not hunt before gunpowder?

            So all those tales about the hunter gatherers are actually about just the gatherers?

            Humans used to hunt fucking mammoths.

            “Murder weapon” meaning a weapon capable of killing someone? That covers all firearms and a lot knives and hammers.

            The only purpose of an assault rifle is murder.

            Unless you accept the death-of-the-author theory of manufacturing guns.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @JPNunez

            Assault rifles are already heavily restricted in the United States. I point to the Popehat diatribe above. I don’t think you know what you’re talking about.

            If you mean “semi-automatic rifles”, then there are lots of socially accepted purposes that they are used for that do not include murder.

          • Lambert says:

            Homicide, perhaps, but murder?
            You think the manufacturers would be pissed if a killing was found to be only manslaughter?

            (and yeah, death of the manufacturer. I take it as a point of pride that a good proportion of the objects within an arm’s reach of me have either been misused or were designed for maximum general-purpose hackability in the first place.)

          • Nornagest says:

            Yeah, I don’t think most game hunting is done with older mechanisms like bolt-action. You don’t hunt deer with assault rifles or submachine guns, but you certainly do with vaguely defined “assault weapons.”

            Bolt action actually is pretty common for deer hunting, as is lever action — the classic deer rifle is something like a Remington 700 or a Winchester 94, depending on the terrain you’re hunting in. Semi-automatic isn’t uncommon for hunting more generally, but you usually see it for boar, predators, or small game (the latter often in rimfire), where quick follow-up shots are important.

          • John Schilling says:

            You don’t need a murder weapon unless you are part of the army and deployed

            You don’t need a murder weapon even if you are part of the army and deployed. The US Army at least isn’t in the murder business, and is generally quite intolerant of murderers in its ranks.

            Also, you don’t need to be taken seriously here if you use clearly inappropriate perjorative terminology in an attempt to short-circuit rational debate via emotional manipulation. And you won’t be, so please go away.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            The only purpose of an assault rifle is murder.

            What about all those people that have assault weapons that don’t murder people? I assume you mean assault “weapons” and not assault rifles.

            Clearly they are meeting some need that does not involve murdering people.

          • acymetric says:

            Bolt action actually is pretty common for deer hunting, as is lever action. Semi-automatic isn’t uncommon for hunting more generally, but you usually see it for boar, predators, or (often in rimfire) small game, where quick follow-up shots are important.

            Anecdotal, but this is my experience having grown up spending my weekends at a hunt club during deer season and with several friends/family members who still hunt. Most of them own semi-automatics, but they almost always use bolt-action for deer hunting. Couldn’t say why, exactly, other than maybe a feeling of authenticity?

          • CatCube says:

            @JPNunez

            The only purpose of an assault rifle is murder.

            As pointed out, “assault rifles” are already heavily regulated, and are very, very rarely used in crime.

            Assuming you mean “assault weapons” (though as also pointed out elsewhere in the thread, that term is actually pretty meaningless in firearms terms), then there are certainly other uses besides murder. Hunting, as pointed out. And saying that you can hunt by other means is stupid–we can sharply reduce road deaths by banning cars, and pointing out that people got around long before the invention of cars doesn’t make this proposal less dumb.

            Shooting competitions are another, and note that the linked Wikipedia page is about only a small subset of shooting sports.

          • Lambert says:

            IIRC, the simplicity of bolt-action mechanisms lets you make them higher-quality, to tighter tolerances and with less backlash/play for the same price.

            So if you know you only want to fire once every few seconds, bolt action gives you better accuracy and reliability.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Lambert:

            IIRC, the simplicity of bolt-action mechanisms lets you make them higher-quality, to tighter tolerances and with less backlash/play for the same price.

            You and Nornagest are correct about deer hunting and the tighter tolerances on older, non-semi-auto mechanisms.
            Mea culpa for using the adjective “deer.”

          • John Schilling says:

            As pointed out, “assault rifles” are already heavily regulated, and are very, very rarely used in crime.

            Also, the primary purpose of actual assault rifles is to scare the crap out of people you’re in too much of a hurry to kill and don’t actually need to kill.

            This doesn’t work if the people you need to scare figure out that the thing you’re scaring them with can’t kill them, but the military can get away with a pretty high noise:death ratio and noise is easier to make in a pinch.

            So, that is a point of similarity between assault rifles and “assault weapons”: Ability to scare the crap out of (some) people with relatively few actual deaths.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @JPNunez

            I assume there must be competitions where people who like assault rifles use them in aiming competitions?

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

            It’s as valid a sport as any other.

          • Matt M says:

            Sorry I have to point out the true purpose of guns. Don’t like the intellectual dishonesty of pretending assault rifles are not made for murder. You can go back to your lies and euphemisms.

            Assault rifles are made for killing.

            Not all killing is murder.

            You are the one who is lying, intentionally, to try and advance your political goals. Knock it off.

          • Nick says:

            Sorry I have to point out the true purpose of guns. Don’t like the intellectual dishonesty of pretending assault rifles are not made for murder. You can go back to your lies and euphemisms.

            Less of this.

          • JPNunez says:

            If multigun or whatever event has to go away, not gonna shed a tear tbqh.

            Assault rifles are made for killing.

            Not all killing is murder.

            Not all killing is murder, but if you are not a deployed soldier, there’s very little killing that is not murder to be done with an assault or semi auto rifle.

            I doubt hunting _needs_ a semi auto. Shotguns served people well for a long time for this.

            Maybe peeps should stop comparing owning rifles to owning a pet lizard.

          • Randy M says:

            Don’t like the intellectual dishonesty of pretending assault rifles are not made for murder.

            Guns are indeed made for murder killing, because without them some people can kill easily and others only with great difficulty if at all.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @JPNunez

            What? A blue tribe person doesn’t care if a red tribe activity has to be lost in order to achieve their political objectives? This is truly unexpected.

            In all seriousness, I strongly hope that the blue tribe uses your confrontational and uncompromising attitude on this issue, because your position is a political loser even in MA.

          • JPNunez says:

            @Echochaos true, true, I hope at some point the general opinion will change in favor of just getting rid of private gun ownership altogether.

          • John Schilling says:

            @JPNunez: “The only purpose of an assault rifle is murder”

            @JPNunez, next post: “Whether they are actually used to kill is irrelevant”

            Keep dancing.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Don’t like the intellectual dishonesty of pretending assault rifles are not made for murder. You can go back to your lies and euphemisms.

            “Murder”, here, is a dysphemism. The term “assault rifles” is military, and it refers to rifles intended for use by the infantry in war. So yes to killing people, no to “murder” (though it can be used for that, as guns have no way of discerning the user’s purpose). Furthermore, you earlier made the stronger claim “The only purpose of an assault rifle is murder.” Even without arguing over types of homicide, this is false. Assault rifles can be used for anything any other rifle can be used for, including putting holes in inanimate objects (e.g. target shooting) or in animals (hunting). This goes for both real military select-fire assault rifles, and their semi-automatic cousins such as the civilian AR-15.

            However, the argument over the type of homicide is in fact the more important one, because the Second Amendment isn’t about hunting or target shooting. It’s about arms which are useful against humans. An argument that a gun is good for killing people makes the argument for its protection under that amendment better, not worse.

          • Don’t like the intellectual dishonesty of pretending assault rifles are not made for murder.

            Earlier in the same comment, you referred to the AR-15. The AR-15 is not an assault rifle since, unlike the military version of the design (M-16), it does not have a fully automatic or burst fire mode.

            If you want anyone to take your arguments seriously, you need to be clear whether you are talking about assault rifles, such as the M-16, or “assault weapons,” a much fuzzier category that often is applied to the AR=15. Assault rifles are designed to kill people. The AR-15 is mostly used for other purposes, hunting or target shooting, and is no more suited to killing people than lots of other semi-automatic rifles.

            If you deliberately confuse the two categories, anyone paying attention will conclude that you are being deliberately dishonest.

          • Another Throw says:

            If you are being even more pedantic, there was significant resistance (though the degree may be exaggerated) to the adoption of the M-16 as a military weapon because it wasn’t powerful enough. Since at least the world wars, and almost certainly much earlier, military rifles were almost universally much more powerful than the M-16 is.

            To a first approximation, the entire design premise of the M-16 was that you don’t need to actually kill everyone if you scare the shit out of them enough so that they stop trying to kill you. But making a lot of noise to scare the shit out of people requires firing a lot of ammunition, and more powerful ammunition is heavy.

            There is a fairly common military urban legend that goes something like: “If you kill the enemy, you remove one enemy from the fight. If you wound one, you take three: the soldier you wounded, and two more to carry the litter.”

            The round that the M-16 fires is actually illegal to hunt with in some/several states because it is prone to wounding the animal rather than killing it and is thus inhumane. (Or at least someone managed to convince the legislatures of that, although one has some suspicion that the real motive is to ban the most popular hunting rifles for hunting as a back door to a gun ban regardless of whether it may be true.)

            It seems like every decade or so the US military looks into adopting a more powerful rifle, when they usually decide it isn’t worth the expense of buying a few million new rifles and drop it early in the process.

            It a fallacy to assume that if the military does something it must necessarily be the most devilishly effective murder machine conceivable by the minds of man. It turns out military tactics have a lot of other variables they are trying to optimize.

          • John Schilling says:

            The round that the M-16 fires is actually illegal to hunt with in some/several states

            Pedantic nit: To hunt deer or other roughly human-sized game. It is I believe legal everywhere for e.g. coyotes, hence the AR-15 filling the general rural-utility-rifle role fairly nicely.

          • Another Throw says:

            We’re being pedantic so I’ll cop to it.

            Though I don’t hunt and I am only passingly familiar with the details. But deer hunting is by far the most popular game, and IIRC my state has banned both shotguns (because, mumble mumble, most hunting accidents involve, like… no shit, it is by a huge margin the most popular choice) as well as the .223, which is by far the second most popular choice. Now nobody hunts and I have herds of ranging towards 100 running in front of me on the freeway. My auto insurance company is not amused.

            Hence the suspicion that it is really just a back door gun ban.

          • nkurz says:

            @Another Throw
            > IIRC my state has banned both shotguns … as well as the .223

            Doubling down on your pedantic point, I’m doubtful that your state has banned the use of shotguns for hunting deer, and even more doubtful that they would have done so for reasons of safety. In general, the more densely populated East Coast states that are most worried about safety (Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Delaware) allow *only* shotguns for hunting deer. Are you possibly confusing the fact that hunting deer with “buckshot” (a dozen or so round balls) may now illegal in your state, while slugs (a single large bullet) fired from a shotgun are still legal, or maybe actually required?

    • EchoChaos says:

      That isn’t the biggest problem. The biggest problem is that you pick up guns that nobody (except the ban all guns crowd) wants banned like the Mini-14 in the definition.

      “Assault Weapon” as defined in the original ban was intending to get guns that looked military because that could be supported while banning all semi-autos wasn’t.

      The other problem is that legally distinguishing between “meant to be fired with two hands” is actually pretty hard. Go ahead and look up pistol brace weapons sometime.

      • The biggest problem is that you pick up guns that nobody (except the ban all guns crowd) wants banned like the Mini-14 in the definition.

        I assume that people who want to ban “assault weapons” and understand the problem with defining them are people who would like to ban (at least) all semi-automatic rifles firing cartridges suitable for military use, and are using “assault weapons” for rhetorical purposes. Why would anyone deliberately want to ban semi-automatic weapons with features that make them look military but not equally effective ones without such features?

        The mini-14 is a semi-automatic firing a .223 cartridge, so I expect lots of people would want to ban it.

        • EchoChaos says:

          Why would anyone deliberately want to ban semi-automatic weapons with features that make them look military but not equally effective ones without such features?

          Because Americans are stereotypically okay with Granddad’s ranch rifle but not with “military arms”, so people trying to ban guns have had to figure out how to separate them.

          This is the actual Assault Weapons Ban law that was passed in 1994, so any idiocy about this stance must be taken up with legislators.

          • Lambert says:

            Maybe the trick is to get a semi-auto, then filigree it, gild it and inlay it with mother of pearl till it looks’s like some prince-elector’s wheellock.

            That’ll keep it off the scary guns list.

          • John Schilling says:

            OK, so it turns out wheellock repeaters are a thing. And I’m pretty sure that with modern technology I can design one that will outperform an entry-level AR-15 across the board…

          • Lambert says:

            I’m no expert, but I think you could get around a lot of NFA rules by using separate magazines for the projectiles and the powder.

            I’d imagine precision milling would let you make pan-covers that kept the priming powder in and everything else out a lot better than could be done in the past.

            On second thought, forget igniters. Forget powder.

            UDMH/RFNA hypergolic rifle, anyone?

          • Garrett says:

            I’m no expert, but I think you could get around a lot of NFA rules by using separate magazines for the projectiles and the powder.

            Now I want to know about the NFA implications of a chain-gun flintlock, firing musketballs at 600 RPM. And where I can buy one.

          • John Schilling says:

            I’d imagine precision milling would let you make pan-covers that kept the priming powder in and everything else out a lot better than could be done in the past.

            Gas-phase priming to keep the lock time down to sub-millisecond levels. Calcium carbide / water reaction to fill the primer chamber assembly and touchhole with acetylene; a modest reservoir should suffice for a few hundred rounds, and the ingredients are safe in isolation. Probably stick with smokeless powder for the propellant; liquid-propellant gun development has proven tricky.

            But always taking care to fit everything into a fine walnut stock with brass hardware, to get the aesthetics right. Next time someone tries the lame old “Second Amendment was meant for flintlocks!” bit, I want to be prepared.

        • bean says:

          The mini-14 is a semi-automatic firing a .223 cartridge, so I expect lots of people would want to ban it.

          I think you vastly overestimate how much your typical anti-gun person/activist understands about guns. As EchoChaos points out, the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban is more accurately described as the “scary-looking guns ban”. These are people who can’t understand the difference between automatic and semi-automatic, and who do indeed focus on guns that look military.

          That said, I don’t think a military cartridge ban makes any sense either. Is .30-06 a military cartridge? Well, it was developed by the military, but it’s seen extensive civilian use and isn’t used by the military very much these days? .308? It’s basically 7.62 NATO, which is still in use, but it’s also essentially a 30-06 with a shorter case. .223/5.56? Well, more military, but also with a half-century of civilian use, and it’s not like it’s completely unique in the field of ~.22 rifle rounds. Of course, this logic is probably also missed by the gun banners.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          As Bean and Echo have noted, most people right now do not consider the stereotypical Mini-14 to be a “military” rifle because it looks like a ranch rifle. The MA Scary-Gun Ban specifically excludes the Mini-14.

          HOWEVER:

          The Mini-14 can indeed be used in mass shootings, like in Norway, and as all slopes are slippery, the Mini-14 will eventually be targeted for bans, like in Norway. Or as identified in this thread. No one knows exactly how far this slope goes, because most nations are still sliding down it, but most of my liberal friends do not see a purpose for any guns, period, and would not even be comfortable with revolvers. They will tolerate skeet shooting.

          • The comment I responded to had:

            “nobody (except the ban all guns crowd)”

            Responses to my comment hinged on the point that lots of people who are in favor of restrictions on firearms ownership don’t understand enough about firearms to distinguish between appearance and function. That is probably true, and fits my point about the rhetorical use of the terminology.

            But I expect there are a significant number of people who want to ban at least all semi-automatic rifles using cartridges suitable for military use, and are using the campaign against “assault weapons” as a rhetorical device for that purpose. They are not necessarily in favor of banning all guns. If so, the comment I responded to was not correct.

            It is unwise to assume that all your opponents are ignorant fools, even if some of them are.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @DavidFriedman

            Given that the vast majority of gun crimes are committed with semi-automatic pistols, not rifles, and that in this thread there are calls for banning all guns, I will suggest that the number of people who want to ban all semi-automatic rifles but no other classes of guns is small.

            I believe that “assault weapons bans” are an attempt to move incrementally towards that goal by people who genuinely want to ban all guns by exploiting the fact that most people are fine with Granddad’s ranch rifle but not okay with automatic weapons and are bad with definitions.

            Banning the Mini-14 lays this bare, so even Massachusetts didn’t try to ban it.

            I do not think my opponents who are writing the laws are ignorant fools. I think they’re smart, politically engaged partisans who have a long-term goal of banning all guns.

          • John Schilling says:

            It is unwise to assume that all your opponents are ignorant fools, even if some of them are.

            Our actual opponents are not all fools, yes, we know this. And our actual opponents have made it quite clear, explicitly so in a few places here, that they would prefer to ban either all guns, or all guns save a narrow spectrum of pure-sporting rifles and shotguns that are not under dispute.

            But, this being a democracy or at least democratic republic, they can’t actually do that (or much of anything else) unless they can get a mostly-apathetic majority to offer at least half-hearted support. And the potential members of majority are fools, er, rationally ignorant of the finer details of firearms technology. In order to get them on board, at least in the early stages of the project, our actual enemies have to be seen as proposing to ban Just the Evil Guns that Only Evil Murderers Use. That decision by that potential majority of voters, is mostly going to be made at the level of looking at pictures and pattern-matching (as EchoChaos says) granddad’s ranch rifle vs what they see in Hollywood shoot-em-ups.

            Not being entirely foolish, our actual enemies frequently and from their perspective wisely do things like propose laws that would ban AR-15s but not Mini-14s, and not being entirely foolish ourselves we expect them to continue doing so.

          • Matt M says:

            Given that the vast majority of gun crimes are committed with semi-automatic pistols, not rifles, and that in this thread there are calls for banning all guns, I will suggest that the number of people who want to ban all semi-automatic rifles but no other classes of guns is small.

            Disagree.

            The vast majority of the public doesn’t know the actual statistics. They believe what the media tells them (or strongly implies to the best of their ability while avoiding any dangerous fact-checking that might damage their credibility).

            They believe that AR-15s and other such weapons are uniquely dangerous and that banning them will save hundreds or thousands of lives. Therefore, they want them banned. And since the media hasn’t told them that handguns are even more dangerous, they don’t want them banned (yet). In fact, the media has presented banning “assault weapons” as a “common sense compromise” that is a win-win because it saves thousands of lives and also is consistent with the second amendment and still allows you to own guns for socially approved uses such as hunting, target shooting, and even home defense! So “I want to ban assault rifles but not handguns” is seen as a reasonable and moderate position that the average non-partisan person is supposed to hold!

          • LesHapablap says:

            This conversation makes my head spin a bit because I remember growing up in the 90s and handgun bans were the main focus of gun control. And why wouldn’t they be? They are easy to conceal and they are involved in a lot of crime. Rifles are much harder to use to hold up a liquor store, right?

            Am I imagining that right? Did the focus used to be way more on banning handguns?

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Am I imagining that right? Did the focus used to be way more on banning handguns?

            You’re not imagining that. And it wasn’t just the 1990s. The Brady Campaign used to be known as Handgun Control, Inc., back around the early 1980s, in the wake of the assassination of John Lennon and the attempt on Ronald Reagan.

          • nkurz says:

            @EchoChaos
            > I will suggest that the number of people who want to ban all semi-automatic rifles but no other classes of guns is small.

            Possibly small, but definitely nonzero. Here for example is a gun-knowledgable person making the case for focusing regulation on semiautomatic rifles: https://www.zdziarski.com/blog/?p=6094

            His suggestion is that semiautomatic long guns should be legally treated the same as fully automatic “machine guns” currently are. While that’s not quite a ban, it’s comes pretty close, and he clearly believes that his position would have significant support among gun owners. Personally, I agree that if your goal is to reduce gun violence, concentrating on pistols makes much more sense, but I wouldn’t assume without proof that an overwhelming majority hold this belief.

          • John Schilling says:

            I remember growing up in the 90s and handgun bans were the main focus of gun control. And why wouldn’t they be? They are easy to conceal and they are involved in a lot of crime.

            But they are not involved in a lot of news stories about crime. What people don’t know, can’t hurt or outrage them in ways that make them want to join a political crusade.

            Once upon a time, there were lots of newspaper stories about urban muggers, rapists, junkies, gangs, reavers roving packs of superpredator youths. That was what brought in the clicks (well, pre-click advertising revenues), and it wasn’t yet Problematic on racial grounds. So, yes, the response in some quarters was to propose banning the handguns most associated with those sorts of criminals.

            When was the last time you saw a story about ordinary street crime on, say, CNN? Now, audiences are sufficiently jaded that only a mass murder will bleed enough to lead. Or a white cop shooting an innocent black man, which adds a different dimension to the issue. But even without that, the tiny handful of homicides that people talk about are the class where “assault weapons” are at least a highly visible minority of the weapons being used.

            And you can’t propose banning more than one sort of firearm at a time without moderate voters starting to suspect you’re planning to ban all firearms.

    • Clutzy says:

      You haven’t solved it. And, indeed like John Schilling said its actually the easiest thing to solve.

      Your definition of “assault rifle” really should be defined as, “convenient rifle.” Semi-auto is a minimum standard for a modern gun that isn’t specialized for extreme accuracy. Eight shots is not some huge amount.

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        Careful. proyas didn’t say “assault rifle”, but “assault weapon”.

        “Assault rifle” is an actual well-defined term, denoting a firearm with multiple fire modes (single shot, semi-auto, and full auto), a shoulder stock, a detachable magazine, and effective range over 300m.

        “Assault weapon” is an empirically ambiguous term denoting whatever some legislator wishes to ban.

    • Urstoff says:

      Why try to exclude handguns when they are involved in most gun violence in the US?

      • Matt M says:

        Because the average person doesn’t know/believe that.

      • John Schilling says:

        Because, again, a whole lot of Americans really, really don’t want you to do that. But if you think you’ve got a transient majority that might be able to push through some sort of ban, you may want the marginal advantage of peeling off a few of your opponents whose “I really really don’t want you to do that” is focused primarily on one sort of weapon while you propose to ban another. If it works, you can try to ban the other sort of weapon next time. It’s probably not going to work very well, but if you’re into that sort of thing, salami-slicing will