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Open Thread 137.5

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

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1,142 Responses to Open Thread 137.5

  1. Randy M says:

    (posting note–this is the kind of post I usually try to avoid making–personal, no real prompt for advice or discussion. Let me know if I should have followed my instinct. But just be glad I didn’t go with my other topic idea, “What form will loot boxes take in the inevitable in VR porn?”)

    A couple of loosely related anecdotes that try to touch on past SSC OT themes.

    I’ve got a couple texts in my phone right now that I haven’t replied to, from the DM for that D&D game I mentioned in the previous thread, because he’s asking for feedback and It’s making me waver in my commitment to honesty. I left the session with a sour impression, so much so I actually called up another friend and talked about my feelings, an action that combined three or four of my least favorite activities all rolled up in one. I have to credit the DM in question for putting in a ton of effort and enthusiasm, but the game featured very little player agency, an NPC patron that obscenely trash talked my character, grading us on our performance after each encounter, and a thirty minute argument over how grappling works–which came about because one of the players was using a custom class that heavily featured grappling (which I think the DM built). I don’t actually like conflict, a few recent snippy remarks here notwithstanding, but also don’t want to reply with a dishonest answer. Hence being unsure of how exactly to respond.

    I’ve got another e-mail correspondence where I faced a similar decision. I’m editing someone’s amateur novel, for payment in kind. Nice fellow, making constructive criticism for me that I’d like to continue to receive, so there is some incentive to shade my responses charitably. Additionally, I’ve made some remarks on reddit about how writers shouldn’t be judged based on the actions of a character. But here I ran into a couple back to back chapters that were extremely difficult to read due to content, the explicitness of which added no discernable value to the work. (You can glance at my avatar and deduce what I’m least likely to enjoy reading in detail, and get it two guesses). I fear I sound like a sensitivity reader or some kind of scold, but trust me that I wasn’t looking for offense. Anyways, I made some grammatical suggestions but also didn’t avoid saying that I thought the portions in question had little redeeming value, narratively or otherwise.

    I’m thinking about what the similarities and differences are between the two. Inevitable face to face interaction, maybe. Group setting where others did not seem to share my concerns. Or simply not wanting autocorrect to butcher my nuanced text (I’ll have to reply in email).

    • woah77 says:

      “What form will loot boxes take in the inevitable in VR porn?”

      IDK, I kinda want to see what the SSC community things about that one.

      On the actual topic of your post, I feel like honesty is the best policy, hedging with things like “I might not be your intended audience but…” (for the book) and “It’s possible others felt like this was really great but I found…” (for the game). Pointing out what you don’t like with the stipulation that maybe you aren’t the intended audience is honest and, in my experience, unlikely to result in conflict. You’re basically saying that you’re giving your two cents and they can make of it what they like.

      • Aftagley says:

        Wait, inevitable?

        VR porn already exists. It has for a while. I remember reading about it as far back as, god.. 2017 maybe?

        • Randy M says:

          Wow, I was under the impression VR was much more expensive, but it looks like low end is cheaper than a switch. Is it photo realistic, or still pretty uncanny valley?

          • woah77 says:

            It’s very weeb. Not photo realistic, but more like 3d hentai. (This is what I have seen, that is, and not necessarily accurate of the entire industry)

          • Aftagley says:

            Are you talking about VR?

            I got a free SamsungGearVR a few years back (which is about as cheap a headset as exists) and it was very good. Resolution display was up to whatever your phone can handle (so, HD) and other than a tiny bit of screen door effect it looked like a normal video.

            I don’t know what you mean by uncanny valley – it’s the same content that you’d see otherwhise, just now in VR. If you think youtube or a movie or a video game looks photo realistic, you will think that VR looks realistic.

            If you’re talking about VR porn, no clue. That seemed like a hole you could fall down into and never come back out of, so I abstained. The impression I got from reading was that it was fairly lifelike.

          • Randy M says:

            Are you talking about VR?

            Uh, not knowledgeably, I guess.
            My assumption was that 3D game style graphics would look noticeably off if you could move your point of view freely around the environment, in a way that would be off-putting for porn, and require additional technology to improve. But ultimately I suppose this isn’t any different from a first person game with motion controls?

          • Aftagley says:

            Oh, you’re talking about VR video games. OK.

            Well, point one – VR isn’t just for video games. They’ve also made VR movies, VR books, and VR *cough* adult entertainment. Pretty much everything other than video games is happening at a photo-realistic level (or at least HD level).

            As for VR video games, the limits here are the same facing other video games. AFAIK, there’s no massive downgrade in potential resolution in VR vs. a screen.

            most don’t go photo-realistic, however, because of the whole “realistic movement makes people throw up” thing. That’s the main limiting factor as far as am aware.

          • Randy M says:

            What makes a movie VR? If you can’t move around and examine the environment from different perspectives, isn’t it just 3-D with better glasses?

          • Dissonant Cognizance says:

            Most people I’ve talked to who are into VR (myself included) don’t consider something to be “real VR” unless it has both rotational and spacial tracking of the headset, and ideally tracked hand motion controls. This gets Gear VR dismissed as a dumb gimmick, but still accepts the bottom-end Windows Mixed Reality sets you can get for ~$200 as “real VR”.

            As far as VR porn, a lot of people try what is in effect 360 video, see the extremely limited resolution and fixed viewpoint, and dismiss all of VR by extension. That’s about all Gear VR can do, but there are full 3D-rendered games along those lines with motion controls. The state of the art for add-ons right now isn’t loot boxes per se, but peripherals. HTC makes these tracker pucks that work with the Vive/Index/SteamVR tracking system, where you can fix them to an object and have it tracked perfectly in VR. A lot of people buy three of these and attach them to their feet and hips, allowing full-body tracking for better immersion in VRChat. It’s usually referred to as $300 VRChat DLC because there’s not much else that uses it. While there are plenty of entirely wholesome uses for this tech in VRChat like dancing, rock climbing, sleeping (yes, people sleep in a multiplayer VR chatroom), and general immersion, the game does of course have a subset of its community run off to private worlds and engage in futuristic full-body-tracked VR sex, usually as custom-modeled anime girl avatars.

          • Randy M says:

            Interesting, thanks for the breakdown. Cool name, too.

      • AG says:

        Well, current loot boxes tend towards character outfits, accessories, and such. So VR Porn loot boxes would be about unlocking specific licensed characters, instead of the generic GAN-generated character of no preexisting identity. Or it might spruce up the background in various ways.

        The rest depends on what kind of VR Porn we’re talking about, here. Loot boxes is a mechanic used most often by online multiplayer games. For more, er, solo adventures, DLC or pay-to-win mechanisms are more common. More direct shopping, less lottery.

        • Randy M says:

          For more, er, solo adventures, DLC or pay-to-win mechanisms are more common.

          Not sure it will stay this way. The new Mario Kart mobile game seems to only unlock new characters via a loot box mechanics–for five dollars or so you can have a 1% chance of playing Mario Kart with Mario!
          Similarly, while Xenoblade Chronicles 2 doesn’t have microtransactions, it does have randomly awarded weapons/pets in a very similar style to the loot box.

          It’s common because it plays on a common psychological weakness.

    • Nick says:

      (Trying to pin down a commonality, but this came out very advicey.)

      I’ve done constructive criticism of my friends’ writing for years (sorry again, I am horrible, I swear on everything holy I will get around to it 🙁 ), and there is absolutely a place for criticism of sensitive scenes that doesn’t amount to misplaced commas or run-on sentences. You can question whether the scene had to occur at that time in the story, or whether the graphic nature might be better telegraphed to the reader, or whether the value the writer believes it adds to the story might be better communicated. Ultimately, your friend isn’t bound to follow your advice, and input doesn’t hurt where it’s given in good faith. A bad faith approval of a gratuitous sex scene would be worse than good faith criticism, you know? I’m low conflict, too, believe me, and I don’t want to tell you What You Must Do when it’s something that’s hard for me, too, but you really are on strong footing here, and personally I’ve had good success with this.

      One point of commonality I see is that a more real-time, collaborative critique (which we do via Google Docs or Discord) helps. Like I raised what the scene is supposed to be adding and whether that could be communicated. You can just ask the writer what that is, and then you’ll be in a better position (from his perspective and from yours!) to say whether it could be made better or is best excised. As a conflict averse person it also helps me to say my piece and see my friend decide for himself right there whether I’m right; then I know he’s not hanging on my every word or will be torn to pieces if I don’t like it or something. And the thing is that I think it’s easier to come to this sort of collaborative critique for a role-playing game than for writing, because you can start from a basis of “what experience are you trying to create for us, and are you succeeding, and is that the experience we’re looking for”? Writers can be snooty about pleasing readers; DMs cannot. 🙂

      • Randy M says:

        That’s all helpful to hear.

        whether the graphic nature might be better telegraphed to the reader

        Funny, because reading chapter two I said “Well, that went dark, but I do like that you pick up in the aftermath and leave the details to the imagination.” Then I had to retract that after the flashback a few chapters later :/
        I am trying to be value neutral about it too–amusingly, some of my criticism could be coded left, though it’s really for realism reasons, ie, “This supposedly competent female character sure needs rescuing a lot”.

        sorry again

        No one would care if they didn’t respect your opinion. If you are like me, a sense of unfulfilled obligation manifests as a desire to avoid that situation. Please, don’t consider yourself obligated at all, though of course an invitation remains.

      • FLWAB says:

        I have to agree with Nick: when a friend really wants constructive criticism then honesty is both expected and crucial to doing the job right. Naturally you want to be kind and constructive, but if something bugs you it will probably bug others and it should be brought up. At minimum he needs to know that he is making a choice with those chapters: the choice to be shocking and visceral and to probably put off many readers. Without your honest feedback, he may not realize how those chapters might read to someone who didn’t write them.

        I love editing and critiquing my friends writing. I have one friend in particular who always sends his stuff my way. The fact is, I think this friend is a bad writer. His work is not great. But he’s my friend and I love editing so I do it anyway. And what I do is, I don’t tell him outright “This story stinks. You’re not great at writing. You should probably not expect success in this field” even though that is usually the honest truth. Instead I give honest feedback on specific, actionable items. “This chapter seemed meandering and pointless. It didn’t advance the plot much. You could probably cut it entirely with some minor changes.” Or, “This is supposed to be a ghost story, but ghost stories as a genre typically build up to reveals slowly, and keep things vary vague and ambigous as much as possible because that is scary. In this passage you had the ghost just appear to the main character and explain that they are a ghost, and how exactly they died, and what their unfinished business is. That is interesting, but it’s not scary. You’ll need to rewrite this whole section or change genres.” That sort of thing. Be honest, be straightforward, and make concrete criticisms with actionable suggestions to fix the problem.

        Of course this assumes that the writer actually wants constructive criticism. If they just want an ego boost, don’t bother.

    • Atlas says:

      A general comment from the outside view: dishonesty (not just outright lying but also omission and elision) is often helpful in the short-run for avoiding conflict, which is stressful. However, the longer that dishonesty drags on, the more stress, confusion and frustration it tends to create.

      • Randy M says:

        Thanks for pointing that out. Insufficient long term focus is another flaw of mine. Probably my biggest failure as a teacher was not laying down firm, consistent discipline from day one.

    • GearRatio says:

      1. Give him the feedback. Be nice; being nice doesn’t mean you lie, it just means you aren’t taking out your lack of enjoyment on him. Find the things you liked, phrase them really well, lead with those.

      2. Don’t minimize what you didn’t like to a sub-honest level, but present it charitably. “It made me uncomfortable, and I don’t think it added enough to the story at balance that it was worth it, for me, for it to be there” is a lot better than “This component was garbage and it made me judge you unfavorable in a personal/social sense”.

      3. Bear in mind that there’s a big difference between lack of skill and lack of character. I used to write comedy scripts for a then-large-but-now-nearly-defunct comedy site. One of the people there said something along the lines of “I understand you were going for a type of humor here, but you do that a lot; it’s funny sparingly, but I think you are overusing it because it’s easy for you. Use it less and you will get better at it”.

      If he had said “You are trying to shock and make people uncomfortable because you are a bad person, and I can tell from these jokes”, I would have stopped listening to him. It’s not that I would have been too sensitive to hear it, just that he would have been wrong. I wasn’t a bad guy, I was(am) just a bad writer.

  2. rubberduck says:

    Can anyone recommend me a work of fiction about a doomsday cult? Bonus points if the doomsday actually takes place.

    I’d prefer a genre that isn’t schlocky horror, and for the cult/its leadership not to be cartoonishly evil, but if schlocky horror is all you have then I’ll take it.

  3. Enkidum says:

    What games are people playing recently? I can’t stop Battletech, there’s always the temptation to do just one or two more missions. No idea how close it is to the source, which I never played, but it I’d imagine quite a bit, given the makers (Harebrained Schemes) also did a very well-received trilogy of adaptations of Shadowrun.

    • Randy M says:

      Looking forward to playing Dragon Quest XI with my daughters watching on the Switch. Getting back into Eternal as it has a new set coming out. Still having fun with Dead Cells now and then, and finally getting into Civ 6.

    • DeWitt says:

      I’ve been paying a bunch of SS13 and I love it dearly despite its many flaws

    • silver_swift says:

      The Long War for XCOM 2 recently got updated for the War of the Chosen expansion, so I’ve been playing that pretty much non-stop since it came out.

      • Enkidum says:

        Oh no, there goes my life again…

        I haven’t played either WOTC, nor the Long War mod for XCOM II. But I’ve heard WOTC is excellent, and Long War is as good as it was for XCOM I (which is to say, I never stood a goddam chance but apparently I love attrition and masochism).

        • silver_swift says:

          Oh no, there goes my life again…

          Yup, I know that feeling 🙂

          I haven’t played either WOTC, nor the Long War mod for XCOM II. But I’ve heard WOTC is excellent, and Long War is as good as it was for XCOM I

          Long War 2 isn’t quite as punishing as the original, but it is much more polished and I strongly recommend it.

          WotC is indeed excellent, but for me it always fell just short of being worth giving up LW2 for it.

    • Perico says:

      Slay the Spire! I got it for my switch this summer, and I just can’t let it go. Card games fit really well into the roguelike genre… I had previously had good experiences with the Dungeon Run modes in Hearthstone, but this is even better, as well as more convenient – can play in places without a network connection (i.e. the tube), and battery life is way longer than HS on my tablet.

      Other than that, I’m really enjoying Magic Arena, and every month or so I go through the ritual of reinstalling Civilization V to play the amazing Vox Populi mod for a few days, then uninstall again so I can go back to sleep.

      • EchoChaos says:

        Man, I love Slay the Spire. I am really hyped for the new character (I played a bit of the beta, then went back). I still haven’t beaten ascension 10, but I’ve gotten to the final boss with the Ironclad once.

        • Enkidum says:

          Ascension is the third stage? In which case maybe I have beaten the game.

          I expected once I beat that boss with all three characters, I’d unlock something else (there’s cutscenes after beating it that certainly suggest you will), but thus far nothing has happened. I guess they’re planning to slowly release content, play-testing the hell out of it, which is fine by me.

          • EchoChaos says:

            Every time you beat the game you unlock another ascension, which is higher level challenges. They go to twenty.

            To get past Act 3 you need to have beaten the game with all three characters and do something that becomes obvious at that point.

          • Enkidum says:

            Ah right… it occurs to me that I haven’t done any of the challenges yet – I just played the “base” game. Hmmmmm… well, who cares about my career, right?

      • Vitor says:

        +1 to slay the spire. A similar game that I played a ton recently is dicey dungeons. It’s brilliant in it’s own way, and gives a different spin on the subgenre of “abstract”, “board-gamey” roguelikes or whatever you want to call them.

        But those games are just distractions from Prismata, which is a deep and engaging competitive strategy game (turn-based), that just keeps me coming back for more.

        • Enkidum says:

          Is Prismata PvP, or are you mostly playing bots? Never heard of it, which is unusual for me.

          • Vitor says:

            It’s primarily PvP. On top of that it has a single-player campaign with about 30 missions, which is much more puzzle-like (you get thrown into situations where you need to use the corner cases of the mechanics to win, etc) but also fun in its own way.

            It’s a really small indie game, but it has an active and dedicated community behind it. We just had a big tournament with a $1750 prize pool contributed by a bunch of people. Fun times.

      • Enkidum says:

        StS was one of the main games in a Humble Monthly Bundle this summer, and I played until I beat the final boss with all three characters. Well, given my experience with Binding of Isaac and other roguelites, it probably isn’t actually the final boss, but the boss of the third stage.

        Still have some unlocks with the first two characters, which I might as well go back to – I found The Remnant the coolest to play with, but very hard to play well with, so by the time I had a super over-powered deck I had long-previously unlocked everything for him.

        It’s a super well-designed game, scratches a lot of the same itches that BoI does for me (which I’m close to 1000 hours in), despite having very different gameplay. I’m considering trying to get into Spelunky again, which is another example of a very different game with a lot of the same roguelite-y mechanics.

        • Wency says:

          I finally picked up BoI and so far have been deeply disappointed. For some reason, maybe 2-3 hours in, I just haven’t had any fun with it. It might be that I don’t like the enemy design, or it might be that all of the power ups I get seem to be lame and uninteresting.

          The first game I played in this genre was Nuclear Throne, which I thought was OK, but Enter the Gungeon has been the best, vastly more fun than BoI for me so far. But I’ll give BoI some more time.

          I enjoy StS and might have 30 hours in, but I don’t know that it has the unlimited replay of some games. I’m at Ascension Level 3 with all 3 classes and I stopped finding the challenge all that fun around that point. I mainly do the Daily Challenge now.

          • Enkidum says:

            Of course YMMV, but my experiences with BoI are something like this:

            It’s a game which took me probably 20 hours to get reasonably good at. Once you’re regularly beating Mom’s Heart / It Lives, then it’s a very different game. (These days, I’d say if I played through any random build, I’d probably get at least that far 1/3 of the time or more.) Plus you will have unlocked dozens of new powerups and learned how many of them interact.

            One basic point which took me a very long time to realize: one of the fundamental aspects of many of the systems is gambling. But not like a roulette wheel, where skill makes no difference.

            You’re constantly having to compare the expected payoffs of one possible action to another. Whether to open a store or a treasure room if you only have one key. Whether to spend money on a bum or a slot machine instead of a store. Whether to sacrifice life for powerups in a Devil room. Etc.

            All of which is on top of the basic twin-stick shooting game. If you find that intolerable… it’s not going to change much (although I promise there are plenty of powerups you will unlock that will drastically improve it). If you can handle it, and begin to figure out how the higher-level systems interact, you’re playing a very different game, with some real depth. But it can take a frustratingly long time to get there.

      • Randy M says:

        Definitely on my wish list too.

    • SamChevre says:

      Online bridge (probably doesn’t count). Bridgebase recently released BridgeMaster so I’ve been playing through that.

      • Enkidum says:

        Oh it counts. My dad plays seriously (games for points every week, a regional tournament a couple of times a year, reads magazines on it etc), and there was a time when I was trying, just could never find a way to fit it into my life in the same way that I did other games.

        I did play online for a while with some Mac program about a decade ago, an interesting mix of pensioners who didn’t understand what a computer was and hyper-nerds.

        Is BridgeMaster the standard program these days?

        • SamChevre says:

          BridgeBase ( dot-com) seems to be the standard site for online bridge, but I only play against the computer (not in live games). BridgeMaster is a set of illustrative games to demonstrate strategy and tactics, which I’ve found very helpful in developing my skills.

          I’d check it out–you don’t even need a log-in to play if you are playing against the computer.

    • JPNunez says:

      Still working my way through the Blue Lions campaign in Fire Emblem Three Houses. Started with Golden Deer, and I’ve liked Blue Lions a lot more.

      • Aftagley says:

        Is that game worth pushing through all the BS? I stopped after around 6 hours; it felt like for every minute I was playing a tactics game, I spent a minute running up to everyone I know and asking them if they’d dropped a pocketwatch or something.

        It didn’t help that I picked Golden Deer first and then (at least with what I’ve seen thus far) the overall plot of the game barely involves their region.

        • JPNunez says:

          Yes.

          The bullshit on the monastery is annoying sometimes, but you can become really efficient at it and finish it in a couple of minutes. Just abuse the R1-button for the map, then teleport to the area of whoever you want to meet, skip their conversations, then give them flowers (or follow the Serene Forest guide on whatever they like for more efficiency). Don’t look for them, use the map (there’s a button that allows you to select the face on the list and it will show you where they are on the map, when you open the R1 button map)

          There are a bunch of lame sidequests like finding the owner of some item, to which I say: use the guide. Same with the tea parties. This will let you get to battles faster, or concentrate on supports and reading the story.

          Put most of your money on the harvest for tons of plants (you normally get a stat boosting item from that each week) and for cheap flowers to give people. You only need 7 people to be maxed out in happiness each week for each class, so make sure to use the dining hall events to take lunch with two people at a time (which also raises their support).

          IMHO Golden Deer is the lamest; Dimitri is a much more interesting guy, and I still need to do Edelgarde.

          • mdet says:

            I recently finished Hollow Knight, except for The Radiance, Nightmare Grimm, and the Path of Pain, all of which I gave up on beating. Three Houses was next on my list, but like Aftagley I was concerned about the ratio of tactics to side quests. So thanks for the tips!

    • MorningGaul says:

      Anticipating the imminent release of Disco Elysium, i’m going back to unfinished interesting RPGs of the last few years, and currently try to finish my game of Tides of Numenera left in the middle of the last part.

      The game design is great, and so are the setting and art direction, but god dammit it’s verbose to a fault, and not that well written.

      I really wish RPGs would use the “expend points to succeed at actions” model more, rather than skill checks, which are unintersting (as in, say, New Vegas) or skill roll which are god damn random (as in, say Pathfinder).

      • Enkidum says:

        There’s a real trend these days towards writing-driven games, and it’s clearly something that means a lot to a lot of people, but I usually bounce off them hard. Nothing wrong with a good narrative, but I don’t need to read two novels when I want to carve up some motherfuckers.

        • MorningGaul says:

          The problem with T: ToN isnt that it’s narrative-heavy (Planescape Torment was narrative heavy, for instance, and was great for it), but that a lot of the narration either isn’t that useful (dialogues made of “tell me about x”, “tell me about y”, “tell me about z”), immensely too verbose (walls and walls of text that serves little purpose), or simply not greatly written.

          Still, it’s an interesting game, and a fantastic PoC.

          • Enkidum says:

            Yeah it seems to be a requirement these days for a lot of games to have “tell me about X” that don’t really do anything, gameplay-wise. I like novels, but there’s a reason why very few Choose Your Own Adventures won literary prizes.

            I have never actually played Planescape Torment (actually I did about two hours of it at a friend’s house when it first came out), but I think I bought the remaster so might as well check it out.

          • Randy M says:

            Writing video games is like being a DM. You have to keep in mind that no matter how good the writing is, people aren’t there for you novel.

            Heck, these days people reading your novel aren’t there for your novel, in terms of exposition dumps of inessential background info.

            But in games, not only do you have to work in the background information subtly as it becomes relevant, it’s important keep in mind that the story is about the PC and ‘role-playing’ is about making choices with consequences, not just taking the time to sit through pages of text.

      • dndnrsn says:

        @MorningGaul

        Do you mean pen and paper, or computer RPGs? If you want a pen and paper RPG like that, check out anything using the GUMSHOE system (eg, Trail of Cthulhu) – for the investigative stuff, it uses point-spend instead of rolling, and the rolling bits feature point spend so if you really want to you can ensure success at times. More storytelling-ish games tend to feature point-spend systems, also.

        I personally prefer rolling (because I don’t like the dynamic of having to budget for unknown events) but I can see why some people prefer spend systems.

    • Atlas says:

      I’ve been playing Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire, which I’ve really been enjoying. I’ve gotten about 1/2-2/3rds or so through the first game on a couple of attempts before losing interest, but I found the second game’s premise intriguing.

      I have to say, I personally don’t really care for Pillars‘ version of CRPG mechanics: there are too many abilities and too many statistics for me to keep up with. But I really love Obsidian’s approach to lore/world-building/story/characterization etc., which keeps me hooked.

      It also shows the remarkable value of buying AAA games from 1-2 years ago, instead of ones that are hot off the presses. I got Pillars 2 for like $30, including a half-dozen DLCs, and so far I haven’t experienced any bugs/glitches. Whereas I think it was like $50-$60 for vanilla on launch, and I heard some people say that it initially had some annoying performance issues.

      • Enkidum says:

        I got stuck about 3/4 of the way through the first one – there’s a dragon I just can’t beat, and would need to go grind a bunch to be able to.

        Much like you, I found the mechanics kind of overwhelming, but for some stupid reason I refuse to play on Easy, which would solve most of those problems. But yeah, the story and world-building are well above normal CRPG levels (which is to say, not awful).

        Also agreed about buying older games – I pretty much exclusively buy through Humble Bundle or when there’s a massive discount – can’t remember the last time I spent more than 10 bucks on a game, and usually it’s less than 5. And I have a lot of very, very good games.

        Wait I lied, I think I bought Prey + DLC for like 12 bucks.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Being A Fool, I got a ton of games on Steam right before my schedule busied up. I’ve got those three Shadowrun games – but when will I play them?

      • Enkidum says:

        I got all three in various bundles, played through the first two but still haven’t gotten to the third. Pretty damn good, but for some reason not hitting the perfect sweet spot to make me want to start up the third yet.

    • Three Year Lurker says:

      Factorio.

      With the Industrial Revolution mod, it’s like the game is thrice as big as before.
      Great if you like designing production lines. Took me 55 hours to launch my first rocket in the mod.

      Edit: Spent a while trying to get into Dead Cells several months ago, but I couldn’t get past the self stun lock mechanics. It pissed me off to decide to attack twice, then be unable to react to anything for the next 3-4 seconds.
      So I never got more than one boss cell.
      Also the long grind to make items more likely to be high quality put me off. I’d rather play something that rewards improving skill rather than simply playing a ridiculous amount.

    • EchoChaos says:

      Large chunks of time go to EU4 or Imperator: Rome.

      Small chunks go to FF: Brave Exvius and Slay the Spire.

      Yes, FFBE is a gacha game, but it’s pretty decent one for free to play players, plus Final Fantasy characters.

      • JPNunez says:

        Let he who don’t play gacha throw the first stone.

        I put some money and time on Dragalia Lost.

      • silver_swift says:

        Is Imperator: Rome any good? I played a bunch of CK2 (a long time ago), but I was never able to get into any of the other games in that series/genre/family.

        • EchoChaos says:

          Imperator: Rome is far more like EU4 than it is like CK2. It’s more about your country than your family.

          That said, it is very good after the 1.2 patch. It was playable but weak in 1.0, better in 1.1 and it’s a great game in 1.2.

          If you don’t like the genre, you won’t like it, but as a game to start with it’s probably Paradox’s second best.

          And it depends on what you like. EU4 is very much a map painting simulator and minor politics. CK2 is about dynastic succession and HOI4 is purely about battle.

          Imperator falls between EU4 and CK2, closer to EU4. It’s mostly about conquest, building up your country and less about your ruling family.

        • DragonMilk says:

          Stellaris is the easiest of the genre, or arguably City Skylines

          • EchoChaos says:

            I totally forgot Stellaris, which I have but have barely played.

          • silver_swift says:

            I have played a ton of Stellaris, but I think I subconsciously classified as a 4X game, rather than whatever genre CK, EU, HoI etc are. On reflection that doesn’t make any sense though, so I will amend my previous statement to “I was never able to get into any of the other games apart from Stellaris”.

            Cities Skylines definitely feels like a different genre to me though, what makes you say it’s the same genre as the others?

          • DragonMilk says:

            Very loose definition of genre – core mechanic being the pausible/fast-forwardable simulation upon which you can alter parameters to alter the sandbox simulation, with an emphasis on micromanagement and expansion.

      • DragonMilk says:

        I really really like EU4, but I really really get lazy and don’t want to think that much after work, so I play too much stellaris instead, which is totally braindead by comparison

    • Aftagley says:

      I just finished Outer Wilds, and it’s joined Undertale on my list of games everyone should play. It doesn’t matter what you think your tastes are in games, I guarantee that they include this game.

      Outer Wilds was amazing, from start to finish. It’s like a cross between Kerbal Space Program, Majora’s Mask and Myst. The writing is fantastic. The music is diegetic and deeply tied into the story/overall experience. I honestly loved every second of it.

    • loaferaido says:

      Ori and the Blind Forest just came out on Switch, and it’s been a trip. Graphics are beautiful, compelling storyline, and the combat/movement system is too much fun. Haven’t found anything that can scratch that itch like Hollow Knight except this

      • Enkidum says:

        Apparently also significantly easier than Hollow Knight? I suck too much at the latter, am stuck on a boss about 3/4 of the way through.

        I own Ori, will likely fire it up one of these days.

        • Nornagest says:

          Dunno about that. I beat Hollow Knight with only minimal trouble, but got frustrated by a platforming section maybe a third of the way through Ori and never picked it back up.

          I’m better at Dark Souls-style timing- and positioning-based combat then I am at platforming, though, so maybe that’s the difference.

    • DragonMilk says:

      Starcraft 2…arcade mode. Squadron TD is my favorite tower defense game, and just got into their autobattler “Star Chess” yesterday.

      Apparently SC2 is completely free now too, as they transitioned into the “freemium” model

      Edit: Board Game Arena I wish more people played, as it allows for play of popular games through browser. It’s actually legit as they get licenses from the companies.

      • Enkidum says:

        I got into Starcraft II back in the day, went all the way up to near the top of *checks notes* Silver tier. Well, I never claimed to be good at anything.

        Never tried the arcade that much, but apparently a lot of brilliant stuff there.

        • DragonMilk says:

          Yeah, i actually quit the game seven years ago. Had the urge to play tower defense so I launched it up this past year for Squadron TD. Was pleasantly surprised to find other arcade games there.

          “Arcade” used to be called Use Map Settings in Broodwar and I’d sill be only playing Broodwar to this day if there were still a playerbase.

        • baconbits9 says:

          Diamond baby! Can’t play again till my kids are grown and moved out though, the language they would hear.

          • DragonMilk says:

            Try arcade!

            1. Squadron TD…source of my online exchange of, “do you even know how this game works?” with the gem of a reply from rando victimized player of “do you even know how feelings work?” Gave me a chuckle
            2. StarChess – got into it yesterday, and quite the auto-battler still in beta mode
            3. Plenty of desert strike and other defense or RPG games

            All should be casual enough not to elicit expletives

    • FLWAB says:

      Oxygen Not Included recently went out of early access and dropped the release version, so I’ve picked it up again. I don’t have a lot of time to game these days, but ONI has just the right balance: difficult enough to be challenging, but easy enough that the learning curve is manageable. Every problem has a solution, but implementing that solution usually creates new interesting problems to solve. Plus the art style is fun.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      I’ve developed a rather lengthy backlog, due mainly to a combination of Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey (which just now came up with its “final” update, and in which I’m still determined to grind all that legendary orichalcum gear), and real life. The good news is that I finally finished the Atlantis DLC, and got 100% of the achievements. But now I’m working through the Discovery Tour while I grind out daily ori quests, since I’ll be damned if I leave the game without learning some more actual history.

      I got Supraland about a month ago, on sale. No regrets. Got every achievement except two on my first playthrough, due to a glitch. That meant a second playthrough, which went by like butter. I’d mentioned this game in a previous OT, and I still love it, and intend to be a patron for the sequel, as soon as its author can figure out how to set it up.

      I’ve also got Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Abzu waiting for when I get more time. But for now, I got digital Scythe on sale. I got the board game when it first came out, and bottlenecked on people willing to spend the hour it takes to learn to play, plus the two hours for an actual game. So now I can play it against AI until I get better at it – a goal for when I’m at PAX Unplugged this December.

  4. meh says:

    Why do maps that use geographic area to prove a point not have Alaska drawn to scale?

    • Watchman says:

      They probably don’t have other things drawn to scale either, it being impossible to accurately represent any appreciable fraction of the surface of a sphere on a flat surface. The standard (Mercator and variant) projections being a northern-hemisphere innovation tend to solve this by making the north larger and the south smaller, so people think Greenland is the world’s largest island (it can look bigger than the continent of Australia) and Alaska looks bigger and emptied than it really is.

      Russia is the largest country in the world though.

      • Kuiperdolin says:

        Mercator does not make the North larger and the South smaller, it makes regions farther from the equator larger and regions closer smaller in each hemisphere.

        • Evan Þ says:

          And if you leave out Antarctica (as most Mercator maps do), there’s a whole lot more land in the far north than in the far south. Cape Town is at 33 South; 33 North is the southern border of Arkansas.

      • zqed says:

        For the record, Greenland is the world’s largest island.

      • bullseye says:

        A typical map of the U.S. has Alaska and Hawaii in their own little maps next to the main one, with Alaska pictured smaller compared to the main map than it would appear on any reasonable projection. I’m pretty sure I know what map OP is thinking of, and it has this feature.

  5. baconbits9 says:

    For the second time in my life today I recommended that my family buy physical gold.

    • Aftagley says:

      care to elaborate on why?

      • baconbits9 says:

        Broadly the worldwide bond bubble/prices, the kicker that precipitated recommending it to them today was the hiccup in Japan. My best guess is that the next crisis will spill out of Japan (~30% chance) having a debt/banking/solvency crisis, and getting in early is much better than getting in late.

    • broblawsky says:

      When was the first time?

    • Eric Rall says:

      I still don’t see a good place for gold as an investment.

      For a long position on the health of the overall economy (i.e. to profit from scenarios where the economy continues to grow over the long term, despite periodic recessions and bear markets), the standard recommendation is a broad-based stock market index fund.

      For a hedge against the aforementioned recessions and bear markets, the standard recommendation is bond funds, especially (at least in the US) treasury bonds. I share your skepticism of the standard recommendation here. Specifically, I suspect treasury bond yields to be artificially low, driven in part by a bubble (people attaching too much significance for the “risk-free bond” label commonly applied to treasuries, reading it too literally) and in part by institutional investors being induced to overpay for treasuries by quirks of US banking/finance regulations. I’ve been arguing to instead fill this role in your portfolio with investment-grade corporate bond funds, which have a yield premium over treasuries that’s much larger than their historical default rates even over spans of time that include major financial crises.

      For a hedge against a financial apocalypse, gold is likely to retain more value than stocks or bonds, but it’s still going to lose a lot of value relative to the things you’ll likely to want/need to trade it for. I’ve typically flippantly suggested “a balanced portfolio of canned goods and ammunition” for these scenarios, but more seriously, in times and places where financial structures have suffered widespread collapse, the most common pseudocurrencies I’ve heard of have been tobacco (especially cigarettes) and liquor (especially whiskey and cognac). Like gold, they’re compact, durable, and portable. But unlike gold, they have direct utility in a major crisis that doesn’t rely on their exchange value. Gold’s direct uses are as jewelry or as an industrial metal (heavy, malleable, nonreactive, and a good conductor of electricity and heat) become much less relevant in a financial apocalypse.

      Gold can be quite profitable as a speculative bet on escalating fears of a major financial crisis among people who don’t share my conclusions above. Basically, by buying gold, you’re betting that other people are going to stampede into gold after you. That’s happened several times in the past, and could well happen in the near future. Or current gold prices may already turn out to be a bubble.

      If you’re betting on escalating fears, then I’d recommend against physical gold as opposed to futures contracts or exchange-traded gold. Physical gold is easier to hold onto and spend in the aforementioned financial apocalypse, but in anything short of that it suffers from having enormous transaction costs (the bid/ask spread on retail physical gold is terrible) and a significant risk of loss or theft.

      • A1987dM says:

        tobacco (especially cigarettes) … Like gold, they’re … durable

        How durable? How good is an unopened carton of cigarettes going to stay in, say, ten years?

        • Eric Rall says:

          As a nonsmoker, I can’t say from personal experience. A quick web search turned up a bunch of forum discussions that seem to converge on the answer that unopened packs have a shelf life of 1-2 years. By the end of that period, they’re likely to develop a stale flavor and will burn faster because they’ve dried out, but they remain smokable (and effective nicotine-delivery systems) for considerably long. I found one anecdote of an old carton of cigarettes still being smokable after at least 10 years.

      • baconbits9 says:

        Corporate bonds are a major part of the issue, corporate debt to gdp has increased a large amount since the last crisis, and half of that debt is bbb. Some (a good chunk) will be downgraded if we have any kind of recession, and a major event dry up liquidity very quickly.

        The financial apocalypse stuff is 3,4 or 5 steps down the road at least, and you can buy a years worth of dry food and some ammo for under a grand. The problem with more than that is it will only take you through the actual apocalypse and not the other 95-99.x% of all scenarios with lots of uncertainty but not the actual apocalypse.

        Physical gold is better than paper in all circumstances with high inflation and lots of uncertainty. Even having to wait a day or two for transfers to go through eats any bid spread ask on physical.

        That gold has fewer industrial uses is a feature, not a bug, as a recession eats into demand for a lot of commodities, and higher prices eat further acting to dampen commodity price increases.

        • Eric Rall says:

          Corporate bonds are a major part of the issue, corporate debt to gdp has increased a large amount since the last crisis, and half of that debt is bbb. Some (a good chunk) will be downgraded if we have any kind of recession, and a major event dry up liquidity very quickly.

          Here’s the actual performance of Vanguard’s long-term investment-grade corporate bond index fund, back to its inception in 1973: (link). Its worst year was 1999, when it returned a loss of 6.23%. It yielded a positive return during the 2008-2009 financial crisis and the 1997 Asian financial crisis. And eyeballing the chart, it doesn’t look like there’s any period where you would have lost money holding the fund for two full consecutive calendar years.

          Of course, that’s only a 45 year sample size. That fund (which I chose because it’s Vanguard’s oldest fund which is specific to investment-grade corporate bonds) didn’t exist during, say, the Great Depression or the Panic of 1837. But it at least seems to indicate that it’d take a considerably worse financial crisis than we’ve seen in the past 45 years to break the investment-grade corporate bond market.

          The problem with more than that is it will only take you through the actual apocalypse and not the other 95-99.x% of all scenarios with lots of uncertainty but not the actual apocalypse.

          My contention is that it would take pretty much an actual apocalypse for a stock/bond mix to stop being a good investment strategy. Even for the Weimar hyperinflation of 1921-1923, the hard-money price of the German stock market more than recovered within a year of the hyperinflation period ending. What sort of scenarios are you thinking of?

          Physical gold is better than paper in all circumstances with high inflation and lots of uncertainty. Even having to wait a day or two for transfers to go through eats any bid spread ask on physical.

          From what I gather from a quick web search, the retail spread on physical gold seems to range from a few percent for bullion coins and bars, up to 20% for bulk gold (old jewelry, etc). For a two-business-day transfer to cost you more than a 1% dealer spread, inflation would have to be at least 367%. Which isn’t historically unheard of, admittedly, but it does sound again like you’re expecting something at least an order of magnitude worse than the 2008-2009 financial crisis.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Nominal losses yes, but we have a nearly 40 year bull market in bonds and that fund returned something like -30% in real terms from ’78-’80.

            Or I could show you a graph of US house prices in 2006, or 30 years of the Nikkie in 1989.

            From what I gather from a quick web search, the retail spread on physical gold seems to range from a few percent for bullion coins and bars, up to 20% for bulk gold (old jewelry, etc). For a two-business-day transfer to cost you more than a 1% dealer spread, inflation would have to be at least 367%. Which isn’t historically unheard of, admittedly, but it does sound again like you’re expecting something at least an order of magnitude worse than the 2008-2009 financial crisis.

            Yes, but there are all kinds of intermediate positions where markets seize up for days or weeks, or have limited redemptions (plausibly driven by the government) and those are going to be the ones where liquidity is going to be most highly prized.

            PS I am also talking modest portions of portfolios, not dumping all bonds and going 100% gold and ammo.

          • Eric Rall says:

            Nominal losses yes, but we have a nearly 40 year bull market in bonds and that fund returned something like -30% in real terms from ’78-’80.

            Granted. I was using nominal data because that’s what I could find, but you’re correct that that obscures significant risk when inflation shoots up but you’re locked into long-term bonds with nominal yields based on a lower interest rate environment. I would have preferred to use intermediate-term or short-term bond fund, since those are what I’m using for my own bond positions, but those funds only go back to ~2010 in their present forms.

            It’s also worth noting that during that same time period (Jan 1978 – Dec 1980), the S&P 500 had a 24.3% total real return (7.76% annualized). If you had a 60/40 portfolio of an S&P index fund and that long-term corporate bond fund, and you’d reinvested your dividends, you would have come out slightly ahead.

            Yes, but there are all kinds of intermediate positions where markets seize up for days or weeks, or have limited redemptions (plausibly driven by the government) and those are going to be the ones where liquidity is going to be most highly prized.

            During those positions, I’d be worried about the liquidity of markets for everything, not just stocks and bonds. If you can’t cash in your bond funds because nobody has enough free cash, and you can’t cash in your gold ETF for the same reason, then that problem is likely to also affect (although not necessarily to the same extent) your ability to cash in your physical gold.

            PS I am also talking modest portions of portfolios, not dumping all bonds and going 100% gold and ammo.

            I gathered that from your replies in other branches of the thread, and that mitigates my criticisms to a degree. I still regard gold-as-an-investment as greater-fool-theory speculation, but I can’t deny that that sort of thing does sometimes pay off (it would have paid off big-time in your Jan 1978-Dec 1980 window, with a 150% total real return on your gold position), and if you’re going to be buying tickets that lottery, then a $5k-$10k position as part of a much larger investment portfolio isn’t a terribly unreasonable number of tickets to buy.

          • baconbits9 says:

            It’s also worth noting that during that same time period (Jan 1978 – Dec 1980), the S&P 500 had a 24.3% total real return (7.76% annualized). If you had a 60/40 portfolio of an S&P index fund and that long-term corporate bond fund, and you’d reinvested your dividends, you would have come out slightly ahead.

            If you were 60/40 in 2007/2008 you would have a tiny bond return, and lost 40% in your stock values, and neither of these are the worst outcome in the last century.

          • baconbits9 says:

            I still regard gold-as-an-investment as greater-fool-theory speculation

            I’ve mulled this reply over a bit, lets see how it goes. All money works on the ‘greater or equal fool’ theory, and all fiat money should be expected to die at some point. If the US dollar dies (or threatens to die) there is no other currency to run to, and there will be masses of fear, and fear makes people conservative not speculative. Bit coin, I would say, would be a ‘greater fool’ theory of speculation as it relies on people (mostly) flocking for return. Gold is the ‘greater fear’ theory, that when fear increases demand for security increases, and there is nothing else that functions the way gold does.

        • Thomas Jorgensen says:

          Sigh. If you want to secure your wealth against financial collapse, then buy stocks in well run firms that produce things which will not go out of fashion or go unbought in a crisis.. Like toilets, food and steel pipes. The more excruciatingly boring, the better. Not their debts, just straight up the most boring value invested portfolio you can possibly put together. The factories will still be there when the dust settles and will pay you their dividends in neo-dollars or whatever.

          • baconbits9 says:

            The factories will still be there when the dust settles and will pay you their dividends in neo-dollars or whatever.

            What you fail to understand is the most important period is not after the dust settles, but while the dust is still swirling. Getting through the storm is far, far more important and valuable than owning some quality stocks after the storm.

            The rest of your post is also misleading, the fact that factories will still exist won’t mean anything if you don’t have a claim to them. Recommending buying equity because the physical structures will still be there is myopic.

          • John Schilling says:

            The factories will still be there when the dust settles and will pay you their dividends in neo-dollars or whatever.

            In any disruption severe enough to result in “neo-dollars”, the factories will almost certainly undergo temporary shutdowns due to disruption of their just-in-time supply chains. Their owners will go bankrupt because “disruption of JiT supply chain” doesn’t excuse them from making loan payments, etc. Someone else, someone with the rare skillset and resources needed to bring a factory back into operation in the midst of an economic apocalypse, will claim the factory for maybe five cents on the dollar. He, will collect the neo-dollar dividends. You, won’t.

            Having a safety-deposit box full of physical gold, may facilitate your being the someone who buys (part of) the factory for five cents on the dollar, on account of you actually having the five cents when no one else does. Or maybe the factory just gets nationalized, in which case the factory workers are likely to be “nationalized” as well. In which case, the smuggler who can take you someplace saner may prefer gold coins to either old dollars or stock certificates.

    • broblawsky says:

      I agree that the bond bubble is likely to burst fairly soon, but I don’t see a 2008-style financial collapse happening. Just a regular recession. Do you really think it’s going to be as bad as 2008?

      • baconbits9 says:

        My opinion is that there is a large amount of uncertainty, and by my best guess everyone in my family will be fine if they put 10 grand into gold and the recession turns into something like the 2000 one. If they don’t put 10 grand in and there is an issue worse than 2007 there is a high likelihood that some of them will struggle.

        • broblawsky says:

          That seems reasonable. Are you confident that gold prices will rise in the event of the bond bubble bursting? Not every recession involves a spike in the real (inflation-adjusted) price of gold.

    • Lambert says:

      I’d reccommend buying physical gold.
      Casting is fun.

    • j1000000 says:

      When Glenn Beck, for instance, said “buy gold,” did he mean physical gold? How does one do that?

      If a person has $10k in gold, where would they store it and not be worried about it getting stolen? Even safety deposit boxes don’t seem safe enough, but I’ve never owned a possession that valuable (that wasn’t a car)

      • Radu Floricica says:

        There’s another problem with buying gold. If you get it from a reputable source, it loses A LOT of value the instant you put it in your pocket – because you’re not a reputable source.

        So either you get it from a grey market (probably the right solution) of you buy and hold with the same institutions – I have a few grams bought for fun that are held at the same bank that sold it to me, and that’ll buy back at any time at market price (or very close to).

        • baconbits9 says:

          There’s another problem with buying gold. If you get it from a reputable source, it loses A LOT of value the instant you put it in your pocket – because you’re not a reputable source.

          This isn’t true at all, minted coins retain nearly all their value, losing only a fraction to the bid/ask spread from coin dealers.

      • souleater says:

        I can tell you that Glenn Beck in particular, does mean physical gold.

        You can buy gold at a local gold dealer or maybe a rare coin dealer. There is a dozen of them in my area, but you can also buy online and have it insured.

        Safe Deposit boxes seem very secure to me. I imagine if a bank robber got into the vault, they would be more interested in the cash then breaking into the 100s of small safe deposit boxes containing mostly birth certificates and home deeds

      • baconbits9 says:

        If a person has $10k in gold, where would they store it and not be worried about it getting stolen?

        I find this question bemusing. I had a bicycle stolen from a park as a teenager, a CD case from a fraternity house in college and a jacket disappeared from a party. Even the people I know who have had their homes broken into only lost immediately obvious things (TVs, computers, bicycles etc). 10k in gold is ~6 ounces right now, and that is pretty easy to hide, or secure in a home safe, while on the other hand between my wife and I we have replaced our credit cards several times through unauthorized use. The idea that physical gold is more susceptible to theft than electronic ownership puzzles me, but my experiences could be far from the norm.

        • Nornagest says:

          There’s electronic ownership and there’s electronic ownership. Your credit card info’s probably the most vulnerable thing you use on a regular basis — you pretty much hand it out like candy, most online merchants hang onto it, and it only takes one site doing a bad job of securing that data for it to end up being part of a mass compromise.

          Whereas, if you’re doing it right, the only person who knows the login info to the broker where you keep your gold ETF should be you. Not even them — they ought to be keeping it hashed and salted, and a major financial institution is a lot more likely to get this sort of thing right than some random Internet merchant. For best results, set up 2FA too.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Whereas, if you’re doing it right, the only person who knows the login info to the broker where you keep your gold ETF should be you. Not even them — they ought to be keeping it hashed and salted, and a major financial institution is a lot more likely to get this sort of thing right than some random Internet merchant. For best results, set up 2FA too.

            Right, the things that get stolen are thefts of convenience most of the time, you should be able to secure physical gold fairly easily making theft roughly as unlikely as e gold.

  6. It seems there are more than a few people here who have watched The Good Place. Anyone interested in doing episode discussions for this season?

    • Oscar Sebastian says:

      I’d be down. Normally I chill in the AV Club, but their latest review rant makes me doubt their articles are going to be half so fun this year, so I need a new crew to laugh at Eleanor with.

      Nyfb bu zl tbq V ybir gung Fvzbar guvaxf fur’f va n pbzn. Gur wbxrf zhfg jevgr gurzfryirf!

    • honoredb says:

      Me too!

      I think there’s like an 80% chance that in the last scene of this episode, Zvpunry jnf xvqanccrq naq ercynprq ol n qrzba va gur Zvpunry fhvg.

    • Andrew Hunter says:

      Probably worth talking about, though I don’t know if I’ll finish the season; it’s getting way too fucking woke.

      (I particularly like that evil Brent has the temerity to ask Janet for a BLT, god what an asshole, it’s not like anyone else in the cast asks the friendly genie for things constantly.)

      • gbdub says:

        Sigh, my long comment got eaten. Basically I disagree with both “getting” and “way too fucking”.

        The show has always been a little woke, but also a little subversive of wokeness. It has done so in a way that I find clever and setting appropriate rather than grating.

        Brent is annoying but he’s an old trope, even in this show (Trevor you are the forking worst). Hopefully they go somewhere interesting with him, but “on the surface, super annoying” is how basically all of the human characters have been at first glance. (As for the sandwich thing, you know he didn’t just politely ask for a BLT – the joke works because this is left as implied

        And not all men in the show are Brents. He is, after all, specially selected by Hell to be as annoying as possible without being truly Evil. My theory is that he’s there to aggravate Janet, who seems to be generally losing it.

        To me the wokest thing is Michael’s theory of connectedness – but I suspect that like all character theories on the show it will be proven to be at best half true.

    • Kuiperdolin says:

      Watched about half of season 1. Felt too much like a poor man’s The Prisoner, and the final twist (when I checked it on wikipedia) was really obvious.

  7. DragonMilk says:

    “Men are men. Women are women.”

    About two thirds say “a desire to to provide moral instruction” is a reason for home-schooling, but apparently the second chart states only 5% list it as the top reason.

    I suspect the latter is under-reported due to not wanting to seem sanctimonious when asked. Anecdotally, home schoolers I know had religious/moral instruction as #1, though with the caveat of it also being obvious that academically they’d be superior. Does anyone have differing experiences with reasons for home-schooling?

    • EchoChaos says:

      I was homeschooled through High School (16 years old) when I went to community college and then to university.

      I am homeschooling all of my children. It’s multivariant, and picking a top of the reasons is hard, but moral instruction is one of the highest.

    • baconbits9 says:

      We are technically homeschooling this year as my son would be in 1st grade, though instruction is currently light. Concern for environment would be #1 for us, but but it is the structure of schools, not the safety. The local public school kindergarten has 15 mins of recess a day for kids, while my kids have unstructured play for most of the day, minus some chores, sitting in a car, sitting for meals. The literature and parental experiences are unambiguous that unstructured play through about age 8 is the best approach (once food, shelter, affection and general safety are accounted for). After about age 9 or so my kids should be at least a grade level ahead of the pack so it is unlikely that there will be a good reason to put them back in before high school, and they won’t be attending a high school whose schedule limits their ability to sleep so it is unlikely that they will be going then.

      • aristides says:

        I agree without Baconbits9, and will add the other reason that I want my child trilingual by the age of 10 so they’ve can speak with all their grandparents. I doubt a school will do that well.

    • jgr314 says:

      Is this whole thing a win for languages without gendered pronouns? Not French, of course ….

      Does anyone have differing experiences with reasons for home-schooling?

      We were entirely motivated by concerns about education quality. We eventually decided that we could work better by supplementing an ok public school rather than try to cover everything ourselves.

      From the discussions in the homeschooling groups in which I was active, the top chart seems reasonable. The bottom chart suffers from (a) difficulty of selecting a single reason when many are at play (as EchoChaos indicates) and (b) the choices don’t seem very distinct (“a concern about environment of other schools” seems like it has a lot of overlap with “desire to provide moral instruction.”)

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      I know some religious people, and I can list 4 or 5 kids that got pulled from school because the school environment sucked for them.

    • Aftagley says:

      My parents were very willing to let me take on activities as a child that meant I ended up missing incredible amounts of school. I was a child actor, I was a page in my state government and participated in a bunch of other non-traditional experiences. Between first and eight grade, I spent between 3-4 years not attending class. I’d pretty much just swing by my school once a week to pick up the material and then teach myself at night.

      The other children doing this sort of thing were almost all home schooled, which gave me significant exposure to the system, despite never being “officially” homschooled. Overall, my experiences have left me skeptical homeschooling primarily due to the variance inherent in the system. I knew kids who were “homeschooled” that couldn’t read as late as 6th grade. I also knew some that were doing calculus at that same age. I think that the kids who did best in homeschool would have done fine in regular school, although perhaps they wouldn’t have been as advanced. I’m almost certain that the kids who were effectively not getting an education would have been much better served by attending a real school.

      • AG says:

        Is this lifestyle even possible with today’s education system? Lots of schools seem so terrified by getting penalized that they crack down on attendance extremely hard now, way more than previous generations. They try to obstruct testing out of classes to justify absences, either.

        (Obviously, there are still lots of child actors, so maybe certain LA and NYC schools are more lax about it, but I’d never even heard of this government page thing before.)

        • Aftagley says:

          Well, I was doing this only 15-20 years ago, and I don’t remember it being a problem. I was also not in LA or NYC or any other part of the country that was especially known for that particular lifestyle.

          As far as I remember, I just had to keep a record that proved I engaged in at least 2 hours of school work a day and I had to set up a meeting with my teachers once a week to go over anything I wasn’t clear about. They didn’t hold me up or anything, so I guessed it worked out?

          Being a page was awesome; especially for a kid interested in government. Direct exposure to see the sausage get made at a relatively local level.

    • DinoNerd says:

      My sister homeschooled because her children were on the autistic spectrum, and the local schools basically could not provide an environment where she believed that they would be successful.

      She wasn’t concerned with moral instruction or even providing a better quality academic education. I think her attitude was more like that of someone who lived somewhere far from any school, and thus taught her children herself.

    • blipnickels says:

      Yes. Most of the homeschoolers I met had semi-severe learning disabilities and were pulled out of school to prevent behavioral problems.

      The trend I saw was generally elementary school kids who’d get frustrated with schoolwork, things like getting correct answers on homework but being marked wrong because the “2” or the “S” was backwards. The kid thinks this is dumb, no one really has a good way to help him, and the kid starts to have behavioral problems: cuts class, fights with the teacher, etc. The parents decide to pull out the kid before he just hates school, usually between the 1st-3rd grade, homeschools him through middle school, and then sends him back for high school once he’s better adjusted.

      Basically, there’s this thing where if you don’t make adjustments for a kid with learning disabilities in elementary school, it doesn’t matter whether you make adjustments in middle school, he still hates school and everything in it. Homeschooling was a way to avoid this.

  8. j1000000 says:

    Didn’t see anyone mention this yet, so I’ll mention it. Turns out red meat is fine for your health: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/30/health/red-meat-heart-cancer.html

    I try not to spend time on Twitter or Reddit but I assume the major threads of response will be either “who cares if you eat red meat you’re still murdering people via global warming” and “we already knew this and nutritionists are filthy liars and the FDA was bribed to make the food pyramid.” So if anyone has anything more interesting to say than I’d love to hear it!

    • Ttar says:

      If you read the article and analysis closely you’ll find that red meat is exactly as bad as the evidence previously showed: mildly. You should avoid it, like you should avoid extra salt, alcohol, sugar, processed foods, direct sunlight without sunscreen, secondhand smoke, vapor from cleaning chemicals, exposure to radon gas, etc. etc. But like most of those things, just a little has an imperceptible effect, and even a lot might not do anything if you’re genetically blessed and healthy otherwise. This story is not a story. It’s just a reminder that most nutritional evidence is really weak and even when it exists, effect sizes are often small.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        You should avoid it, like you should avoid extra salt, alcohol, sugar, processed foods, direct sunlight without sunscreen, secondhand smoke, vapor from cleaning chemicals, exposure to radon gas, etc. etc. But like most of those things, just a little has an imperceptible effect, and even a lot might not do anything if you’re genetically blessed and healthy otherwise.

        So what’s the status of red wine? Is 1 glass for a woman and 2 for a man each day still good for your cardiovascular health without liver damage cancelling out the benefit?

        • RalMirrorAd says:

          IIRC the health benefits were confounded with SES.

          • Nornagest says:

            SES seems less likely as a confounder than health status — there are lots of unhealthy people that don’t drink because it interacts badly with medication or otherwise makes their condition worse, and that’s harder to control for than SES. But this is one of those things that goes back and forth pretty often, and alcohol’s an easy target for researchers with Puritan motives, so I’m still skeptical.

            In any case I doubt a glass or two of wine will have any significant health consequences.

          • A1987dM says:

            There are countries where you can easily find reasonably good wine for pretty cheap — is the association any weaker in those countries?

          • noyann says:

            > In any case I doubt a glass or two of wine will have any significant health consequences.

            Unless you are a fetus. Mommy has one glass of Burgundy with dinner, and feels slightly relaxed, but your extremely sensitive germinating nervous system is in a drunken stupor. (cf.)

      • j1000000 says:

        I read the article but only skimmed the source analysis. But in that analysis their conclusion is “The panel suggests that adults continue current unprocessed red meat consumption,” which doesn’t line up with your recommendation of “you should avoid it.” Unless you’re saying their conclusions don’t follow from their own analysis.

      • Purplehermann says:

        @Ttar alcohol, sugar, secondhand smoke and processed meat are very different from unprocessed red meat. Alcohol and sugar in large quantities have very obvious negative health effects, while the latter two have significant effects on health risks.

        The whole story here is that none of this is true for eed meat

    • Secretly French says:

      I’ve seen so many of these assertions that I’m getting closer and closer to concluding that if I want good evidence of a given proposition (be it about nutrition or otherwise), I can’t rely on having read it in the media. In England, this is a classic avenue of attack on the Daily Mail: complaining that they post articles like “broccoli causes cancer”, and then the next year post “broccoli cures cancer”…

      • Watchman says:

        There is more than one sort of broccoli…

        To be fair the issue here is less the Mail and more the press releases they are regurgitating, often talking up very insignificant results.

        • Murphy says:

          Even the press releases get twisted to meaninglessness.

          Actual research: someone shows chemical XYZ at some huge dose has a statistically significant effect on the growth of cancer cells in a dish in a lab vs non-cancer cells.

          Press release: “Researchers at our great institution find promising chemical for further anti-cancer research!!”

          Daily mail: “CHOCOLATE AND CHEESE CURES CANCER SO EAT UP THAT CHOCOLATE CHEESECAKE TO STAY HEALTHY AND CANCER FREE!!!!”

          [chain of logic: chemical XYZ or something with a similar name is something sometimes found in barely detectable trace amounts in chocolate and cheese]

          Original researcher: “WTF?”

    • Purplehermann says:

      The studies I’ve seen that show meat as a health concern all studied processed meat either alone or with red meat, never did see a credible unprocessed red meat only study showing reason to be concerned with consumption.

      Seems to me like there’s been a moral (tribal?) crusade against eating meat, with studies that lump processed and unprocessed meat together used as ‘proof’ that meat is evil. I don’t know why experts bought into this though, so maybe I’m missing something

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I’ve heard a claim that Seventh Day Adventists (vegetarians) have been involved in nutrition research for a century, and they’ve contributed to the common American idea that eating meat is unhealthy and unethical.

    • Murphy says:

      nutritionists are filthy liars

      This is the regularly scheduled reminder that “nutritionist” is to Dietician as “toothiologist” is to Dentist.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YMvMb90hem8

  9. I’ve been seeing repeated references to the HRC’s reporting that 18 transgender Americans have been murdered this year. I’m clearly intended to think that’s a lot, but in order to have an informed opinion, I needed to solve the Mystery of the Missing Denominator, since none of the articles I read seemed to think it was important. There are approximately 1.4 million transgender Americans. Extrapolating to a rate of 24 transgender Americans murdered per year, I calculate a rate of 1.7 homicides per 100,000 transgender Americans. The homicide rate as a whole is 5.3. Transgender Americans as a whole are safer than Canadians, though not quite as safe as Belgians.

    But! 16 out of the 18 murdered trans Americans were black trans women. I tried my best to do a subgroup analysis as follows:

    Assumption: The proportion of black women in the trans community is the same as that of America as a whole, ~6.5%. This gives us ~91,000 black trans women in America.

    Projecting that ~21 black trans women will be murdered this year, I get a homicide rate of 23.4 per 100,000 black trans women. This is indeed an alarmingly high number; almost as high as Mexico’s homicide rate. However, it doesn’t by itself establish that being transgender is the determining factor. I would need to compare it to the homicide rate for all black women.

    Assumption: The race and gender of homicide victims in the US are uncorrelated. 52% of homicide victims are black and 23% are women, which gives me ~2,000 black women murdered per year.

    Black women (overwhelmingly cisgender) have a homicide rate of 9.75 per 100,000, near that of Panama. A black woman identifying as transgender nearly doubles her chances of being murdered.

    I therefore conclude that the implication that transgender Americans are highly likely to be murdered is wrong. However, black trans women have a very high homicide rate that cannot be explained by the higher homicide rates among African-Americans. Blindly citing the HRC’s numbers may lead trans Americans to the probably false conclusion that their lives are in danger, when the real threat is overwhelmingly concentrated among black trans women.

    Sources:
    https://www.hrc.org/resources/violence-against-the-transgender-community-in-2019
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_intentional_homicide_rate#Table
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demography_of_the_United_States#Race
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crime_in_the_United_States
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transgender#United_States_2
    https://crime-data-explorer.fr.cloud.gov/explorer/national/united-states/shr

    • EchoChaos says:

      Thanks for this analysis. My assumption, given that blacks are more likely to be gay/lesbian than whites is that transgenders are also more often black, which would make their murder rate more tightly correlated to the black murder rate overall.

      Also, given that there may be correlations with the abandoned gender (I don’t know the proper term and welcome correction, this isn’t meant to be offensive), the comparison to the black male murder rate would also be good to know. I get that ~6000 black men are murdered a year, which is a murder rate of ~29.25, which means a black man lowers his chances of being murdered by transitioning.

      • Jeremiah says:

        My assumption, given that blacks are more likely to be gay/lesbian than whites is that transgenders are also more often black, which would make their murder rate more tightly correlated to the black murder rate overall.

        I don’t think I have heard this before. Source?

        • EchoChaos says:

          Sure.

          https://www.huffpost.com/entry/black-gays-lgbt-community_n_1989859

          According to the report, released by Gallup earlier this week, 4.6 percent of African Americans responded “yes” when asked if they identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, along with four percent of Hispanics, 4.3 percent of Asians and 3.2 percent of Caucasians.

          I doubt that has changed substantially.

          Plenty of others if you Google for it.

          Edit:It’s unclear if Caucasians are inclusive of Hispanics or exclusive. If Hispanics are included there, then white non-Hispanics are even less likely to be LGBT.

          • Watchman says:

            That confounds a few stereotypical assumptions I had then. Always a good thing.

            But is there a reason for this that anyone has proposed, or has it been taken as one of those things?

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Watchman

            Yeah, the fact that whites are the vast majority in America makes all our subgroups appear much bigger/more important even when they’re a smaller percentage of that bigger whole.

            But is there a reason for this that anyone has proposed, or has it been taken as one of those things?

            Not that I know of. It would be interesting to research.

          • Secretly French says:

            @Watchman
            You might be interested to know that there is a standard alt-right explanation: deviant sexuality is brought about by childhood sexual abuse, which is particularly high in african americans, and particularly low in european americans, and so this number reflects that reality. You are free to believe or disbelieve either or both of the two assumptions they make in coming to this conclusion (although, I don’t think I am free to do so in fact, as it might constitute a hate-crime in my jurisdiction – in any case, I am a neutral reporter). I am not aware of any other attempted explanation.

          • JayT says:

            Blacks and Asians tend to be in more urban areas (which tend to be more accepting of homosexuals) than whites or hispanics, so perhaps that would explain the discrepancy? I’d be curious to see the rates by region.

          • Watchman says:

            Echo Chaos,

            My probably unjustified assumption was based on the view that black culture in the US as expressed through religion or through hip-hop culture was generally pretty homophobic, and thus likely to suppress identification as LGBTQ+.

            Secretly French,

            You might want to check terminology there. I’m sexually deviant but heterosexual and it’s quite possible to be homosexual and vanilla. I’m therefore naturally concerned by any discussion which associates who you find sexually attractive with deviance rather than just different. I also suspect that this particular alt-right theory has no scientific basis, if only because I doubt childhood sexual assault rates are as high as the proportion of the population that is not heterosexual. Quite why childhood sexual abuse should lead to non-hetrosexual preferences also seems unclear.

            Jay,

            That I can buy as a hypothesis. I doubt its easily available but I wonder what the rate is for urban dwellers generally (it may be black populations are less likely to produce LBGT+ population than the urban average, which might mean my earlier prejudices were not as wrong as I thought!

      • broblawsky says:

        According to a broader survey of studies, this isn’t true. It’s worth bearing in mind that younger Americans are both more likely to be non-white and more likely to identify as LGBT; that can confound the data somewhat. When you correct for it, LGBT identity is more normally distributed.

        • EchoChaos says:

          Interesting. Thanks for this data.

          I view it as confirming my statement, with the Gallup and NHIS studies as the upper and lower bound, which would mean the lower bound is equal percentages and the upper bound is almost twice as common in African Americans as whites.

          Younger generations being more willing to identify as LGBT is interesting, but supports me even more strongly:

          Across all of the surveys, LGB/T individuals aged 18-44 had higher proportions of racial and ethnic minorities when compared to the full adult LGB/T population.

          This is consistent with more anti-LGBT attitudes in the older generation keeping more in the closet, as African Americans and Hispanics were slower to accept than whites.

          • broblawsky says:

            I view it as confirming my statement, with the Gallup and NHIS studies as the upper and lower bound, which would mean the lower bound is equal percentages and the upper bound is almost twice as common in African Americans as whites.

            The authors don’t seem to consider the difference statistically significant, so I’m going to go with their conclusion. They had access to better statistical methods and the raw data after all.

            This is consistent with more anti-LGBT attitudes in the older generation keeping more in the closet, as African Americans and Hispanics were slower to accept than whites.

            Maybe? Anti-LGBT prejudice is a difficult-to-disentangle confounder.

      • Ttar says:

        I agree that the more logical way to address it is “impact on chance of homicide due to transitioning.” It’s interesting to note that transitioning brings the race-controlled homicide rate to somewhere between the original gender and the new gender, which passes the sanity check with flying colors.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          In the famous case of Teena Brandon/Brandon Teena, he transitioned from girl to rural con man. This moved the base rate of getting murdered, making a big confounder in the narrative that he was minding his own business until bigots hate-killed him.

      • bullseye says:

        the abandoned gender (I don’t know the proper term and welcome correction, this isn’t meant to be offensive)

        “Assigned gender”.

    • John Schilling says:

      However, black trans women have a very high homicide rate that cannot be explained by the higher homicide rates among African-Americans.

      Last time I looked at this, I wasn’t tracking by race but it looked like almost all of the murdered trans women were working as prostitutes at the time of their murder. And I can easily imagine reasons why black trans female sex workers would have a higher murder rate than black cis female sex workers, but we’d need the base rate of murder for black female sex workers generally to figure that out. I’m pretty sure it’s higher than for black women generally.

      • Watchman says:

        So there’s probably an argument that to save trans people’s lives we should legalise prostitution?

        • salvorhardin says:

          Well, indeed. Anecdotally it does seem to be the case that trans people have an unusually high rate of resort to sex work as a means of survival (often due to social and family ostracism that closes off other options), so making sex work safer generally would disproportionately make trans people safer specifically– and legalization on the New Zealand model appears, AFAICT, to be the best option toward that end.

    • Hypoborean says:

      The black trans female murder rate is probably even worse than it looks, since the black cis female murder rate is only 5 per 100,000 (according to a recent NYT story).

      I tried to find the actual BoJ figure but didn’t want to wade through an endless sea of .csv files. It’s here if someone else wants to make the effort:
      https://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=pbdetail&iid=6686

      • cassander says:

        I would think that the cismale murder rate would be more relevant than the cisfemale.

          • cassander says:

            because testosterone is a hell of a drug.

          • aristides says:

            From the individuals point of view. Let’s say you are a closeted black transwoman and are considering transitioning, burn are worried you might get murdered. It is statistically relevant that transitioning lowers your chance at being murdered. Society might still wonder why trans women have a higher chance of being murdered, and try to prevent that. My guess is it has more to do with not adequately passing than transphobia, though those are heavily linked.

          • Enkidum says:

            Is there any interpretation of “murdering people for not adequately passing” that does not fit entirely into the Venn circle for “transphobia”?

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Enkidum: Since “-phobia” is a psychiatric diagnosis, I’m very wary of defining “Hey I noticed you’re male, so I’m as likely to kill you as I am a man” as “transphobia.”
            The left isn’t taking benevolent sexism into account in the TG issue.

          • Nornagest says:

            Is there any interpretation of “murdering people for not adequately passing” that does not fit entirely into the Venn circle for “transphobia”?

            If the murder rate differs between cis men and cis women, and the murder rate for transwomen falls somewhere between the two, it doesn’t follow that the transwomen making up the difference are being murdered for not adequately passing. It could simply be that some of whatever mechanisms get cis men killed more often continue to function for some subset of transwomen, whether those mechanisms are biological or, if they pass imperfectly, social.

          • J Mann says:

            I think you would have to answer why men are murdered at a higher rate than women. If it’s the case that for murder rates: cis men > trans women > cis women, then what’s our theory:

            1) The difference is due to prejudice. Murderers are biased primarily against men, and to a lesser extent against trans women, and kill them as a result.

            2) The difference is due to conduct. Men, and to a lesser extent trans women, engage in conduct that makes them more likely to be murdered. (For example, getting in confrontations with other drivers, or engaging in drug deals.)

            3) Men are murdered more frequently than both women and trans women due to conduct, but trans women are murdered more frequently than women as a result of prejudice.

            (3) is not impossible, but it’s not the conclusion I might leap to without more evidence.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            Since “-phobia” is a psychiatric diagnosis

            Not it’s not. Or rather, words mean what we want them to mean; in some contexts “-phobia” is a diagnosis but in this context it means “is prejudiced against”.

    • DavidS says:

      Am I missing something or does your assumption about numbers of black trans women assume trans women and trans men are equally common?

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        It looks like he assumed that, yeah. Probably needs revision.

      • aristides says:

        Does anyone know what’s the percentage of trans people that are men’s verses women? Most google sources say it’s impossible to estimate because so many do not want to come out of the closet, and assume it must’ve be a 50/50 split with no evidence. The best source I found was a quora question where someone admitted there were more uncloseted MTF than FTM, but they didn’t list percentages and also assumed the actual percentage use 50/50.

      • That assumption was baked in, yes. Gender ratios among transgender Americans seem like an inherently hard thing to measure and I’m not sure whether I should trust any particular source, so I used the minimax error ratio of 50:50.

    • albatross11 says:

      My impression is that a lot of the transwomen who are killed are street-level prostitutes. That’s a really dangerous job, and probably skews the statistics when we’re trying to understand how dangerous it is to be, say, a transwoman who’s a librarian or computer programmer or something.

    • eyeballfrog says:

      It appears that the black male murder rate is 37 per 100,000, which is terrible, but strangely suggests that by transitioning to a woman, a black man becomes less likely to be murdered.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Doesn’t seem strange to me. If the trans-person can pass for the target gender, they could expect to be treated as well as the target gender is in their demographic.
        (Based on lived experience, mainly from Portland, I suspect MtF passing is fairly rare and FtM very easy until taking your clothes off. Either that, or if the odds of passing are the same MtF is 2+ orders of magnitude bigger).

    • chrisminor0008 says:

      Don’t you need to do some sort of Bonferroni correction for multiple comparisons?

      • blipnickels says:

        It doesn’t sound like he did multiple comparisons. He just checked one very specific subgroup because he was interested in it.

        Typically you’d ask for a Bonferroni correction if you checked, like, every combination of race and gender.

  10. johan_larson says:

    I got a box of old Magic cards for cheap, and I’ve been idly building decks from them, treating the cards as a sealed pool, 90 at a time.

    There’s one I can’t make up my mind about: Scour from Existence. I’m thinking it’s overpriced for a removal card, and while the extra flexibility of being able to remove things other than creatures is nice, and limited games do tend to run long, in the end seven mana isn’t worth it. If you’re hurting that badly for removal, it’s time to break into red or black, the colors where such spells tend to be found.

    Another odd one is Pierce the Sky. This one looks like a better deal to me. At seven damage it will remove virtually any flying creature, two mana is cheap, and I would expect to face a couple of flying creatures in a typical game.

    • Randy M says:

      If you play best 2 out of 3, Pierce the sky and cards like it are what you want for your side board. Unless you are building all the decks for the group and know that the green deck will want it in almost every game, or else only usually play 1 game matches.

      Scour from Existence is expensive, since it is colorless, instant, and hits anything. If it were cheap it would be ubiquitous. But since it is so expensive, you probably don’t play it. Possible exceptions are commander, where you have more life and usually play ramp, or decks that have some cost reduction on instants or colorless cards.

    • eyeballfrog says:

      It depends on the format. In sealed I’d probably play something like Scour because it can remove almost any bomb the opponent might have, and sealed is usually slow enough to get to 7 mana. In draft usually not unless I have a good control/ramp deck or the format is particularly slow (such as M14). I think I maindecked Scour once or twice in BFZ format, but I had good Eldrazi support for it.

      • Shion Arita says:

        I agree that it is very format dependent. I would definitely run it in sealed and probably run it in draft (though I’ll admit I’m not the best MTG deck builder and haven’t played for a while).

        As a similar expeience, at the prerelease of the Theros set, I included a couple of copies of Boulderfall in my deck, and one of my games was going really long and nearing the time limit, and I won by just smacking them with Boulderfall. The small crowd around us (due to our game being the longes) all laughed and my opponent seemed kind of annoyed about it, since I had won with such a ‘bad’ card that I ‘shouldn’t’ have put in my deck.

        But I think my decision to run it was right. Sure 5 damage for 8 mana is pretty trash, and the ‘divided as you choose’ effect isn’t that useful, but sometimes you really just need to punch through with 5 damage. And in a sealed format, the decks don’t really have the capability of winning as fast as in constructed or even draft, so it’s pretty reasonable to have 8 mana.

        Similarly, I think that scour is pretty good in that context.

        • silver_swift says:

          There is a bit of a dangerous availability(?) bias going on with cards like that. The times that they cause you to win games because they let you push through the last 5 points of damage stand out way more than the games you lost because it was a dead card in your hand when any random two drop creature would have won you the game.

          Not saying your decision to run it was incorrect, that depends strongly on your pool as well as the rest of the set (I’m not that familiar with Theros). Just trying to explain why your opponent might have classified it as a card you shouldn’t have put in your deck.

        • Aftagley says:

          Also – the difference between “kill a threat” (Scour and boulderfall) and “kill a threat OR do 5 damage” (boulderfall) is massive. The flexibility on burn cards to act as either removal OR a wincondition is not to be underestimated.

          It’s the reason why lightning bolt is one of the greatest magic cards ever while no one remembers ulcerate or vendetta.

    • Tarpitz says:

      People saying the decision of whether to play Scour from Existence is format-dependent (and indeed deck-dependent) are technically right, but in practice that card is wildly unplayable in almost all decks and formats. Assume it’s bad unless you have a very specific reason to think it’s good.

      Pierce the Sky, as Randy says, is a classic sideboard card, no more, no less.

  11. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    https://www.ozy.com/acumen/a-whopping-1-in-3-death-certificates-list-wrong-cause-of-death/89516

    The cause of death is apt to be casually assigned, partly because the person assigning it doesn’t know, and partly because the forms don’t necessarily permit accurate information, and partly because the cause of death can complex or not obvious.

    From what I’ve read, autopsies aren’t done very often– no one has the responsibility of paying for them.

    Not having an accurate cause of death matters because cause of death affects estimates of the frequencies of various problems.

    • Watchman says:

      Isn’t the main reason cause of death is otherwise often inaccurate that it isn’t clear though. An old person with advanced alzheimers and a lung condition dies from complications of pneumonia. Which of these is actually the cause of death? Another old person (most dead people are old, and most dead young people have a pretty clear cause of death) dies because they can’t treat his cancer due to internal bleeding: which one is responsible? Both of those are cases from my family, and what really killed them was old age itself.

      In the UK if there’s an estate over a certain value an autopsy is required, which might say something about the UK’s propensity to bump off rich great aunts or be a legacy of reading too much Agatha Christie. Not sure this would have clarified either of these two cases though.

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        most dead young people have a pretty clear cause of death

        SIDS is the catch-all for really young people.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        If there are multiple plausible causes of death, they should all be listed.

      • AlphaGamma says:

        In the UK if there’s an estate over a certain value an autopsy is required

        Do you have a source for this? My grandmother died in England and left a reasonably significant estate (mostly because of the value of her house) and as far as I know there was no autopsy.

        AFAICT the doctor certifying death must report it to the coroner (who decides if an autopsy is necessary) in a range of circumstances, none of which have anything to do with the value of the estate. Mostly they’re to do with the circumstances surrounding the death:

        Coronial PMs [autopsies] are warranted when no doctor attended the deceased during his/her last illness, when the deceased was not seen by a doctor in the last two weeks before death, when the cause of death appears to be unknown, when death occurred during an operation of before recovery from the effects of an anaesthetic, when death occurred at work or was due to industrial disease or poisoning, when death was sudden or unexpected, when death was unnatural, due to violence, neglect or in suspicious circumstances and finally when it occurred in prison, police custody or other state detention

        There is a requirement for a second doctor to certify the cause of death if the body will be cremated, and I think the rules around that were tightened following Harold Shipman.

    • metacelsus says:

      TIL ozy.com is not written by the Ozy I thought of when I saw the link (Scott’s ex; writes the blog thingofthings).

      Anyway, an interesting article, and I expect one which will be important for various EA-related things.

    • Kuiperdolin says:

      “My lord,
      I regret I have to inform you that your son met his death last Friday morning whilst taking part as a principal in an important public ceremony. Unhappily the platform on which he was standing gave way.”

    • John Schilling says:

      Not having an accurate cause of death matters because cause of death affects estimates of the frequencies of various problems.

      In way more than one-third of cases, at least in developed nations, the “problem” is that human bodies wear out and stop working when they get old. This happens with frequency 100.00%, unless something else happens first. And I am skeptical of the value of accurately categorizing which sub-bin of “got old and died” some octogenarian corpse properly fits into. Nice to know, yes. Worth the bother of autopsying every dead old person, probably not. Our doctors and health care professionals have more important things to do with their time, and by all evidence we don’t have enough of them even for that.

      If there’s a substantial rate of misreporting the cause of death for generally healthy people who had only one thing wrong with them and whose healthy lives could have been substantially prolonged had we properly understood that one wrong thing striking down otherwise-healthy people, yes, that would be a problem. It’s annoying that the article in question gives me zero information on that. Just a sub-statistic of what the frequency of misreported deaths is in say the over-65 an under-65 populations would be a step up, and I would think easy enough to measure.

      • Incurian says:

        And I am skeptical of the value of accurately categorizing which sub-bin of “got old and died” some octogenarian corpse properly fits into.

        It may help prioritize anti-aging research, I guess.

        • John Schilling says:

          Most likely the opposite. Every death characterized as e.g. “pneumonia”, is a death not characterized as due to old age and thus a reason for research money to go to e.g. anti-pneumonia research rather than anti-aging research.

          Nor does research into (list of things that kill old people) constitute anti-aging research in any useful sense; that way leads only to Struldbruggs.

          • Murphy says:

            Currently there’s very little “anti-aging” research in the same way there’s very little zero point energy generator research.

            There’s lots of money put into finding treatments for diseases that afflict the elderly. Partly out of pragmatism, if people can stay fairly spry and mentally healthy until they finally keel over one day that’s a big win vs slow painful degradation combined with huge care costs.

    • Garrett says:

      As a part of volunteering as an EMT, I’ve had occasion to respond to out-of-hospital deaths (I have no idea how deaths inside of hospitals or other care facilities work). Once we’ve decided that the person is dead and that resuscitation measures are unwarranted or futile we have two things we need to secure to be “done”:

      1) A medical doctor willing to sign the death certificate.
      2) Approval from the coroner.

      Dealing with (2) first, the coroner in our area is effectively a legal investigative officer. If they suspect any form of foul play, they have the legal authority to order an autopsy. The autopsy is performed by a doctor, a medical examiner, which is a medical specialty. The coroner also has the ability to sign the death certificate, but usually prefers a medical doctor to do so. The main cases when it’s required are when the coroner has to make the determination between eg. suicide vs. homicide. The medical examiner can only determine if a gunshot was fatal or whatever. The coroner is much less likely to order an autopsy or investigation if the deceased’s doctor is willing to sign off on the death certificate and the police on-scene don’t suspect any foul play.

      Which takes us to (1). Getting a doctor to sign the death certificate. In an “ideal” case, the deceased will have been an established patient of a doctor, and having a known terminal condition. (Also, ideally, the doctor will respond in a timely fashion to a page from their call service instead of having us wait 3 hours with a dead body because they left their phone on silent while at a weekend conference). In these cases, the doctor will usually agree to sign the death certificate which will get handled … somehow. We merely note the name of the doctor in our chart and magic happens somehow in the background.

      Much of life is messier than ideal. For example, I went to 1 DOA where a 90+ year old female was discovered deceased in the morning by a home health nurse who was sent to coordinate post-operative care. This allowed me to copy data from the nurse’s chart to mine for the paperwork. The patient had so many terminal medical conditions I ran out of space to list them all on my own standard paperwork. It was bad enough that I didn’t understand how she was still alive, let alone having any doctor perform significant surgery on her. In this case, the doctor was willing to sign the death certificate. And there wasn’t going to be an autopsy performed. But I doubt that whatever was written on the death certificate was completely accurate. It could have been a surgical complication. It could have been one of over a dozen life-threatening illnesses. It might have been something else.

      Once you get old enough it just doesn’t make sense for an autopsy to be performed on every dead body. There isn’t enough time in the day.

  12. BBA says:

    I was writing a long multi-paragraph post about why everyone here is wrong about [REDACTED] but realized it didn’t matter, you’re all going to tell me I’m the one who’s wrong, so what’s the point?

    Instead, I’m trying to cut back on my commenting here because I don’t think it’s healthy for me to get so invested in these threads. It’s not working so far.

    Anyway, the next time you see an exploding murderer I hope you think of me.

    • gbdub says:

      FWIW I really appreciate well articulated opinions I disagree with, so take your mental health time if you need it but don’t do so because you think you aren’t valued here.

      • viVI_IViv says:

        I also appreciate well articulated opinions I disagree with, but the last posts on the subject by the OP involved gloating over [REDACTED] becoming homeless, saying that [REDACTED] deserves to be dead or in jail within five years, and other so on.

        I’d really appreciate if he restrains himself from posting this kind of content in the future.

        • souleater says:

          @viVI_IViv

          Your comment deeply frustrates me. I understand it is our cultural norm to reply to such a comment with “Less of this, please” but I don’t know if it will be clear why I find it frustrating, and I sometimes find those replies snarky. and that’s not the tone I’m trying to take here.

          Please try to understand that the diverse group of voices and ideas here is valuable to me. The fact that BBA felt the need to silence themself because

          you’re all going to tell me I’m the one who’s wrong, so what’s the point?

          indicates a failure/breakdown in the SSC commenting community. Minority voices should not have to censor themselves here. I am already disappointed that we’ve driven off a valuable member of our community.

          BBA specifically redacted the details of the discussion to avoid getting sucked back in and I’m confident you didn’t intend this, but you unintentionally gave enough detail that you reintroduced the topic OP was trying to avoid. I also suspect OP wouldn’t characterize their remarks as “gloating”

          OP didn’t comment on [REDACTED] because they didn’t want to be personally attacked, and then you unintentionally made what someone less charitable might consider a personal attack.

          It’s unfortunate that a top level post about the OP commenting less due to vitriol is met with a comment asking the OP to comment less.

          • Jaskologist says:

            He said he decided not to post because people would disagree with him. Having people say you’re wrong is not indicative of a failure in the commenting community.

          • silver_swift says:

            The “Less of this, please” norm is for when you want to voice disapprovement without starting an unproductive discussion. Your comment was very well worded and adds to a discussion that is worth having, so I think it’s good you wrote it.

            I also agree with this sentiment entirely (for whatever that is worth).

          • Enkidum says:

            He said he decided not to post because people would disagree with him. Having people say you’re wrong is not indicative of a failure in the commenting community.

            It is when you’ve explicitly said that you are not trying to discuss the topic about which you may have been wrong and find doing so leads to mental anguish.

            FWIW (apologies to BBA if s/he is even reading this far): I also think a lot of the previous posts being discussed were, in some sense, “wrong”. But I think it’s extremely uncharitable to reference that when someone is not currently discussing the issues about which they may or may not have been wrong. I’ve posted quite a bit here that I’m less than happy about, and would find it offensive in the extreme if someone followed me around reminding me of it in response to me saying I don’t want to talk about it.

          • souleater says:

            It is when you’ve explicitly said that you are not trying to discuss the topic about which you may have been wrong and find doing so leads to mental anguish.

            I actually think Jaskologist was referencing the original comment chain downthread. I think Jask was (correct) in pointing out that if a person doesn’t wan’t to comment because they don’t want people do disagree with them, that is not the fault of the community. I phrased my thought a little bit clumsily and their point is well made and well taken.

            I am steelmanning BBAs frustrations here and I should have made that more clear than it was. I think that what BBA meant was that they made a comment and receive a barrage of replies telling them they’re wrong. It can be very overwhelming.

            Perhaps it would be worthwhile to consider a refinement the commenting guidelines to adjust the necessary section to mean “Not dogpiling/overwhelming someone in a debate.”

            If Alice says something Bob disagrees with, and Carol and Dave are already disagreeing with them. It’s not really necessary for Bob to reiterate the same argument in a new voice.

            It seems like the scenario is more likely to shut down discussion, then encourage it.

          • viVI_IViv says:

            I am steelmanning BBAs frustrations here and I should have made that clearer. I think that what BBA meant was that they make a comment
            and receive a barrage of replies telling them they’re wrong.
            At a certain point, there are so many people dogpiling them that it is less a pleasant debate, and more defending yourself from an angry mob.

            Fair point, but he would probably not get as many negative responses as he did if he phrased his opinions more charitably.

        • BBA says:

          That’s not what I meant at all! I was just saying that–aw crap, back to level 1 for me, dood.

          • Randy M says:

            I do not think you will be successful in avoiding posting if you still read.
            I’m not saying you should or shouldn’t, mind. But maybe don’t click on “Open Thread” for a few days if you feel you need a sanity break. Get some rest and fresh air.

          • BBA says:

            I’m easing myself away. And also trying to link the character in my avatar as many times as possible so you don’t just think of me as “the penguin guy.” It’s a very specific penguin, dood.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @BBA

            Prinny forever!

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          Flouncing generally sucks. https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Flounce

          But then we get into the counter-flouncing, like here. That sucks, too. Often worse.

    • aristides says:

      I can’t count the number time I have written a lengthy comment, only to delete it before posting. If it just makes me angry, and will only make others angry without changing their mind, it’s not worth posting. I think you are making the right choice.

    • Chalid says:

      I like your posts. But your mental health comes first.

      A while ago I decided that I would stop doing anything that stressed me out unless I had a good reason for it, and “someone is wrong on the internet” is not a good reason. It was definitely the right call for me.

    • Enkidum says:

      You seem like a pretty good person. You also seem super stressed out in a way that isn’t helping you or any of the causes you care about. I hope investing less here is helpful for de-stressing you. Best of luck.

    • souleater says:

      Good on you for looking to your own mental health, it’s not always an easy thing to notice, or to take seriously.

      That being said, I really appreciate your opinions and perspectives, and I think your voice helps make me a wiser, more introspective person. Good luck, Get Healthy, take all the time you need, but just know I’ll be looking forward to your return.

    • jgr314 says:

      I wonder if it would be better to offer an adversarial collaboration, rather than participate in comment threads? As someone who spends too much time reading these OTs, it seems that there is a huge amount of wasted effort relative to the amount of insight shared or clarity that emerges.

      Are most commenters trying to convince other people or trying to “win” the argument? My impression is the former. The common “my guy X, but your guy Y” is especially frustrating because it doesn’t advance the ball, just makes us non-aligned folks wish a plague on both your houses.

      FWIW, I would single out @RandyM and @Plumber as examples of two who do contribute positively. Both appear interested in learning (information, the view of the other side) and mostly add facts/data to the conversation.

      Also, I wouldn’t bother to make this comment in many other places (Reason, Marginal Revolution, The Hill, National Review, etc). There is no hope for those sites. There’s still great potential here…

      • EchoChaos says:

        FWIW, I would single out @RandyM and @Plumber as examples of two who do contribute positively.

        Strongly seconded. We all need to be more like these two.

      • BBA says:

        I’m not a fan of adversarial collaboration. It’s supposed to be I say 2+2=3, you say it’s 5, and through collaboration we produce a balanced essay that leads the reader to the conclusion that it’s 4. In practice I’d say it’s 17 and you’d say it’s the body of a guitar, and even if we’re able to find enough common ground to write an essay, the result is unlikely to be coherent.

        • jgr314 says:

          I agree that I’ve often been unclear on the form of the answer for many of the proposed SSC adversarial collaborations.

          I don’t really have better ideas for how to make the debates here productive.

        • Aapje says:

          @BBA

          The process is supposed to result in something that both people stand behind, not an average that neither people agree with.

    • broblawsky says:

      Sorry, pal. I appreciate your input here, and I hope to see you again when you’re feeling more balanced.

    • meh says:

      I’m not going to tell you that you are wrong about redacted, but i will tell you how you are wrong about something loosely related to redacted that you werent arguing against in the first place. it will be tough to respond to me because while there is some quasi sealioning and selective stupidity in my response, nothing will seem to be overtly in bad faith or fallacious.

  13. dndnrsn says:

    Hello, and welcome to the twenty-fourth installment of my Biblical scholarship effortpost series. Last time we considered how the gospels of Mark, Matthew, and Luke are related, and looked at Matthew more specifically. I also briefly addressed the figure of “Theophilus”, to whom Luke and Acts are dedicated. This time, we’re going to look at the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts. The traditional account of authorship and modern scholarship both hold the two to have been written by the same author – in effect, they are two parts of one story. The gospel is, like the others, primarily a story of the life of Jesus, while Acts is the story of the (very) early Church. This link is undisputed enough that it will be taken here as a given. The Gospel of Luke is the story of how Jesus, associated strongly with the Temple and presented as a martyred prophet calling back to the Hebrew Bible, was rejected by mainstream Judaism, but according to God’s plan was accepted by the gentiles. Acts, meanwhile, is the story of how the message was taken out to the world, most notably by the apostle Paul – whom we will examine in some detail later.

    The usual caveat: this is about secular scholarship far more than about theology. I studied this back in university, but I’m not a real-deal expert. I’m trying to provide a 100/200 level coverage – but ask if you want something expanded on and I’ll try. When I say “Luke” I mean the book, not the historical figure; I will sometimes refer to the two books together as Luke-Acts.

    Luke begins with an introduction addressed to “Theophilus” and a description of how the document was produced from multiple sources. It then details the miraculous conception of John the Baptist, the miraculous conception of Jesus, and the birth of John. The narrative of the birth of Jesus is different from that in Matthew: a census, requiring people to return to their ancestral villages, causes the birth of Jesus to take place in Bethlehem. Angels announce him as the messiah to shepherds. An infancy and childhood narrative follows, with Jesus recognized again as the messiah; he also teaches with authority despite being a child. The rest of the gospel follows the pattern we’ve already seen, ending with post-resurrection appearances and with Jesus’ followers going to Jerusalem.

    Acts, meanwhile, begins with an introduction similar to the Gospel of Luke, and then begins where the first book left off. Jesus’ followers regroup, replacing Judas in the process. On the festival of Pentecost, they are given the ability to speak in foreign languages; the church grows enormously. Several chapters follow the activities in Jerusalem, until a persecution begins and much of the community is dispersed. The next important development begins when a persecutor of the church, Saul, has a religious experience and converts. Meanwhile, the mission expands – directed by God – to gentiles. The second half of the narrative is concerned largely with Saul – also known as Paul – and his missionary activities. He travels all over the place, and the narrative ends with him imprisoned in Rome.

    Both the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts stress the importance of the Temple. It appears in the pre-birth and childhood narrative: the birth of John is announced there, and the infant Jesus is recognized as the messiah in the Temple. As a boy, he teaches in the Temple. When you compare the order of the diabolical temptations in Mark and Luke, they have been reordered to make the Temple more important – while Mark’s ends with the whole world, Luke’s account ends with the Temple. The Temple figures in the post-resurrection narrative, and the beginning of the narrative in Acts features it too. The Temple – central to the Judaism of the Hebrew Bible and of the time of writing – is extremely important to Luke’s narrative.

    Jesus is presented as a prophet in Luke. His birth has many parallels to the birth of Samuel in the first book of the same name – there’s a miraculous conception and a similar song of praise. In his sermon in Luke 4 he presents himself as a prophet (and, speaking of earlier prophets, his healing miracles bear similarities – consider the story of the widow of Nain in chapter 7, reminiscent of the story of Elijah and the widow of Zerephath in 1 Kings). His death, further, fits into a tradition of prophets who are opposed and even martyred by their own people. Jesus himself states this in chapter 13. The passion account in Luke seems to have features aimed at this presentation. Luke’s passion narrative doesn’t feature the uncertainty on Jesus’ part which one sees in Mark. He is also far less silent during his passion.

    A major message of Luke, continuing with Acts, is the movement out to the gentiles of the salvation offered first to Jews. This is established in various ways. Considering the genealogy, notice the difference from Matthew – while Matthew’s genealogy traces to Abraham, Luke’s goes back to Adam – the first human – and then God. The sermon in chapter 4 makes reference to prophets to the gentiles who proclaimed judgment against Israel, namely, Elijah and Elisha. Further, in the last postresurrection appearance, Jesus explicitly states that all nations will receive the message.

    Moreover, this is all according to the divine plan. This is openly stated, for example in that postresurrection appearance. One major element here is the delay of the apocalyptic event – in Mark and Matthew, Jesus predicts that it will be coming soon, but this is not the case in Luke; there’s no prediction that it is something which will occur in the lifetimes of his audience. The mission to the gentiles will take longer than that, for starters – God’s plan will not be fulfilled for some time.

    Acts, meanwhile, is heavily about continuity between Jesus, the apostles, and the subsequent development of the church. There are strong parallels between the Gospel of Luke and Acts, just as there are parallels between the Gospel of Luke and the Hebrew Bible. Most importantly, the theme of God’s guidance continues – the spread of the faith in Acts is part of God’s plan, too. Consider, for example, how Peter cites Joel to explain the events of Pentecost.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Reading Acts, you’ll notice that heavy use is made of direct speeches to convey the themes and message of the book. The norm in histories of the time appears to be that authors would write speeches themselves, perhaps based on briefer accounts of what a person had said, or simply coming up with what they think the person might have said in such a situation. Scholars debate whether sermons and the like from the time would have survived in any form – we’ll talk more about sources for Acts briefly.

      In Acts, these speeches are also a major form of evangelism, especially early on. We have relatively little information about how early Christianity spread – we’ll talk more about this when we get to the Pauline letters – but it seems that small-scale proselytization by word-of-mouth and individual contact was how Christianity primarily spread in the Roman empire, and conversion was slow but steady, snowballing later on. The rate of growth was likely higher early on than over the next few centuries, but probably not to the degree of big, dramatic public conversions as related in Acts. Acts, however, is theology, not sociology, and it would be unfair to hold it to such a standard.

      Let’s now consider sources for Luke. It’s the longest of the four gospels. About a third of it is from Mark, a fifth from Q, and the rest unique to Luke. A considerable number of the most memorable stories from the gospel are unique to Luke. Scholars debate whether Luke’s “special source” was one source or multiple, written or oral or some combination, invention by the author or entirely from other sources and pieced together. Analyzing this is made difficult by the author’s skill as a rewriter – of the gospel authors, the author of Luke seems to have had the best Greek, and doesn’t just stitch Mark and Q material together with some other stuff; additionally, there’s an ability to adjust style as necessary. Some scholars propose that the infancy gospel is a late addition – but this is very speculative.

      Scholars differ over the sources for Acts. It is our only source of its kind for the early Church – we can’t check it against anything else. Some think that there were no traditions about the early church, and the author of Acts just invented the stories it contains. Others speculate as to possible sources in Acts – maybe separate sources for the Jerusalem apostles for the Antioch-based “Hellenists”, and for the Pauline stuff. There is also, as we’ll see, the possibility that the author was an eyewitness – most likely to some of Paul’s activities – or had access to eyewitness accounts (we’ll consider this shortly). The job of identifying hypothetical sources is, again, made more difficult by the author’s skill as a rewriter.

      Regardless, it would take extreme skepticism to consider Acts’ presentation of the early Church to be fiction. Comparing the account of the early Church in Acts to what we know about another apocalypticist community, the one that created the Dead Sea Scrolls, the account in Acts seems plausible. The presentation of Peter and John as the most important figures in the very early Church, and Peter especially as a major authority, seems to be borne out by Paul’s letters, specifically Galatians and I Corinthians. It is likely that the author has simplified, romanticized, and cleaned up the early church – but this sort of thing was hardly out of the ordinary for a historian of the time (one might be a bit cheeky and remove “of the time”.)

      Considering the author, by the second half of the second century Luke-Acts had been ascribed to Luke, a physician and companion of Paul. Based on Colossians, he was likely a gentile. However, do note that there are disputes over the letters, as we’ll see shortly. There’s another tradition that says Luke was an Antiochene Syrian who died in Boeotia, in Greece.

      Leaving this aside, what can we guess about the author based on the texts alone? As noted earlier, the author of Luke-Acts has quite good Greek. Some scholars think that the author displays knowledge of Greek rhetoric, with the introduction being in the style one would see in a history of the time, and there’s a suggestion that the presentation of Jesus, especially the passion, is meant to appeal to the virtues a Hellenistic gentile audience would recognize. Luke-Acts also seem to indicate knowledge of Judaism, and the author knows the Septuagint. There are, however, errors regarding Judaism that someone who was raised a Jew would be unlikely to make. This has led some scholars to think that the author was a convert to Judaism or a “God-fearer” (speaking generally, a gentile who had some involvement with Jewish worship but did not convert) who was later evangelized into Christianity. Mistakes in Palestinian geography and history, plus a removal of Aramaic and local references, suggest a locale away from Palestine. Meanwhile, the presentation of the synagogue – as always having been foreign, rather than having become foreign – suggests a gentile community; the place of honour Paul has been given suggests a church connected in some way or another to Paul.

      The internal argument for the author of Acts being a companion of Paul’s, or someone who used a companion’s travelogue or reminiscences as sources, is based on sections that use the first person plural. Further, the use of various official titles and the like in places Paul is supposed to have visited is remarkably accurate, based on inscriptions and so forth, and the account of Paul’s travel seems to correlate reasonably well with what can be reconstructed from the letters. The major arguments against this are that there are discrepancies between the version of events in Paul’s letters and in Acts, and discrepancies in theology, and the author of Acts seems ignorant of Paul’s letters. Various attempts have been made to “square the circle”, of course – for example, the discrepancies in events are greater before the use of the first-person plural appears. There’s more scholarly support for the idea that an account by a companion of Paul’s was a source than for a stricter traditional account, though there are scholars who support the latter.

      If a companion, why Luke the physician? Based on references in the Pauline letters, if the assumption is made that this companion was a gentile, there are three possibilities – of whom Luke is the most likely. The major problem here is that of the three letters in which Luke is mentioned, only one is overwhelmingly accepted by scholars as actually having been written by Paul. However, no better candidate has been presented – that’s not a high bar, of course.

      A side note: I haven’t really delved into the textual history – of the variances between different manuscripts and so on – because it’s fairly arcane. Suffice it to say that scholars think there are different “families”, so to speak, of manuscripts, and there are differences – sometimes significant – between them. One family, the “Western”, features a shorter version of Luke – but a longer version of Acts, about ten percent longer. Most scholars think the extra material is secondary – however, this is controversial, and there’s not a great deal of evidence in the document itself, nor in the writings of the Church Fathers. Some scholars have developed theories of different editions, varying in details such as who wrote them, the purpose, and whether either is the original edition.

      So, there’s Luke and Acts. Together, the two show how events interpreted as the fulfilment of the Hebrew Bible are communicated beyond the Hebrew world, to the gentiles. Further, this is all according to God’s plan. The use of sources in Luke beyond Mark and Q is a point of scholarly argument, due in part to the author’s skill in rewriting source material; there’s even more debate over Acts, since there’s not much to compare it to. The author’s identity is a major question, with a wide range of scholarly positions ranging from support of the traditional church account, to rejection of even a weaker form of it. Scholarly opinion also differs over issues involving the manuscript traditions of Acts.

      (Sorry there was such a gap between the last one and this one – business both in the lives of the proofreaders and myself. Hopefully less of a gap before the next one, which will cover John and maybe also the noncanonical Gospel of Thomas and a little bit about the “historical Jesus”. If I’ve made any mistakes here, please let me know, ideally within the next 55 minutes so I have time to edit.)

      • S_J says:

        Thanks for continuing the series. It’s interesting to study the background of the Christian scripture.

        About the identity of the author: I’ve seen claims that the polished, educated Greek included more specific medical terminology than most of the rest of the New Testament.

        This is almost all in the miracle/healing stories, and it’s a thin pool of data… But it might support the traditional attribution to a man conversant in the medical knowledge of the time.

        At minimum, it’s another example of the author polishing up stories that are told elsewhere in the synoptic Gospels.

        The ending of the narration before Paul’s final trial in Rome is a surprise. The story was building towards arrival in Rome, and then stops without resolution. This observation has led to the theory that the two documents may have been produced to help Paul defend himself at the trial. Or, at minimum, explain the new religious movement Paul was part of.

        • dndnrsn says:

          I think this came up when I posted about Theophilus. Anyone here know enough about Roman court procedures and the like to comment on this?

        • Aron Wall says:

          Somewhat more broadly, the abrupt end of the narration rather suggests that Acts was written before Paul’s death (because otherwise it seems suprising that the author, who showed special interest in the martyrdoms of Stephen and the Apostle James, would have not included it). This is admittedly an argument from silence, but one which is at least as convincing as many other arguments that are widely accepted by biblical critics.

          Note however, that if we import standard assumptions about the dependence of NT documents, this would imply that not only Acts, but also Luke, Mark, and Q were all written before Paul’s martyrdom in the early 60s AD.

          (This early date of Luke is also supported by an apparent quotation in 1 Timothy 5:18, for those who accept Pauline authorship of the pastoral epistles.)

          I have also heard it suggested that to fit the chronology of Paul’s letters, we actually have to assume that Paul was released after 2 years were up (the maximum period of time he could have been held without a trail) and then was actually re-arrested at a later time and martyred, but I haven’t looked into this issue in detail.

          I’ve also read that Luke’s style tends to significantly vary depending on the region in which the events occur, e.g. more Aramaic phrases appear in Palestine, more Greek idioms in Greek speaking areas, etc. suggesting a basis in eyewitness testimony.

          Also, something which I’ve never heard adequately mentioned by other people is that the author of Acts is funny; he likes to include humorous incidents and turns of phrase. For example, the 7 sons of Sceva incident… He tends to be a lot more serious in the Gospel but there he is working with different sources and the material is in a more solemn register. But the expansion of the Church against all the inadequate efforts of society to stifle it is presented in a much more comic register.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Yeah, regardless of who put it all together, one would expect a more final ending there. It could be an attempt to end on an uplifting note. I don’t know what there could be from this except arguments from silence, though. I’m also reminded of the point that the actual manuscript history of the New Testament is probably waaaaay more complicated than the most complicated scholarly theory.

            I wonder if I still have my notes from the course on Paul I took way back when, because I do know that it dealt in some detail with trying to match up chronologies. There’s an old laptop or two that one of these days I should go through.

    • Aron Wall says:

      Some rather important omissions here are Jesus’ Ascension (narrated in both Luke and Acts, but not explicitly narrated in any other Gospel unless you include the longer ending of Mark), and the role of the Holy Spirit.

      In addition to playing a somewhat more important role in Luke than Matthew/Mark, in Acts being filled with the Holy Spirit is presented as the key distinguishing benefit of belief in Jesus, e.g. the fact that Cornelius and his family are filled with the Spirit even before being baptized indicates God’s acceptance of Gentiles into the Church.

      • dndnrsn says:

        Thanks for pointing these out. I kind of rushed the summary of Luke, and ended up spending most of my research looking at the sources and provenance of the books.

  14. johan_larson says:

    I am considering organizing a weekly watch-along of a TV series here in the OTs. The idea would be to watch one episode a week, and discuss it here, probably in each Sunday OT. If we were to do this, it would make sense to find something everyone has access to. I think our best bet is probably Netflix, and preferably something that Netflix has rights to everywhere, particularly its own series.

    What series would be good choices?

    Marco Polo seems interesting and has 20 episodes available.
    Babylon Berlin looks like something I’d be happy with and has 16 episodes.
    Homeland could be good, and is very long-running, at 84 episodes.
    Or we could go with a classic and watch Star Trek’s three seasons (again.)

    Anything else?

    • cassander says:

      I nominate Crazy Ex Girlfriend because there aren’t enough musicals.

      • Baeraad says:

        Second. Also because it’s one of the most clever and hilarious shows I’ve seen in recent years.

      • Andrew Hunter says:

        Crazy Ex Girlfriend is not a musical. With the exception of about three songs.

        A musical is a play (or movie, or TV show…) where characters are so overwhelmed with emotion that they have no way to get it out but bursting into song. Crazy Ex Girlfriend is a dramedy which stops every so often for a funny musical number. Don’t get me wrong, I love it, but it’s not a musical, because the overwhelming majority of songs are just pointless. Which doesn’t mean bad, it just means…they serve no purpose past “we wanted to have a song here.”

        What are the two best songs from the show? The most memorable? For me, that’d be “West Covina” and “What’ll it Be”, and I think that many people would agree with that. Those are two songs that actually are from a musical by my definition, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence. (There are other defensible choices, but most of them are also songs from a musical.)

        • AG says:

          I have never heard of this definition of musical before, and feel like there are many counter-examples, like Chicago, where most of the music numbers are hallucinations/don’t actually happen irl. This is an approach a lot of musicals have taken, since, where most numbers are not diegetic, but simply expressions of internal monologue, or exaggerations of what actually happened.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            It also seems to exclude sung-through musicals.

          • Lambert says:

            >where most numbers are not diegetic

            Obligatory SNL sketch

            Where does one draw the line between a sung-thorough musical and opera?

          • AG says:

            At this point, I believe that opera requires a specific singing technique.
            For example, Baz Luhrmann once funded a Broadway run of La Boheme, but casted non-opera singers to perform it, so they were singing in a musical-trained way, rather than an opera-trained way. If you watch its Tony Awards showcase, you can hear the difference.

        • cassander says:

          I’d rate “I’m a Good Person”, “Nobody’s Singing my Song”, “You Stupid Bitch” as better than those two.

    • Well... says:

      The Wire, though as I’m typing this I know I won’t (or shouldn’t) have time to participate.

      • dndnrsn says:

        It’s definitely the best television I’ve ever seen, and possibly the best work of fiction in any medium I’ve experienced.

        • Enkidum says:

          It’s one of the great works of American literature. Up there with Dreiser, Hemingway, Faulkner, etc.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I finally got around to watching it, after seeing it recommended in various places and having it recommended to me, thinking I would find it overrated. Instead, if anything, I found it underrated. Extremely well plotted (I only really noticed one or two plot holes), well written, and well acted.

        • Well... says:

          It is the only thing I can think of that totally lives up to the hype. It pains me there are people out there who don’t want to watch it because they’ve heard so many good things about it. (I know one such person and can definitely empathize.)

          I don’t know if I’d say it’s the best I’ve experienced in any medium, but it is very possibly the best thing I’ve seen on a screen.

      • Enkidum says:

        +1. I think I’m up to four full times having seen it now, and it only gets better.

        I also won’t/shouldn’t participate.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Fargo is very good; the first season is probably the best.

      Babylon Berlin is probably love it or hate it. On the one hand, it’s got good performances, the sets and so on are great, and the sense of place is extremely good (people living in poor conditions in 1920s Berlin look a lot grimier than people in Westeros, is what I’m saying). On the other, it tries to tie everything together in a way that’s a bit much, and it really gets unbelievable in the last 3 episodes.

    • Enkidum says:

      Marco Polo and Homeland are similar in that they have some truly astounding acting, and some utterly awful writing. Homeland is much worse in this department, veering way into so-stupid-it’s-unforgivable territory (to me, at least) by the middle of the second season, but both Claire Danes and Mandy Patinkin are so astounding at playing their roles they almost make you forget how dumb the story is. Marco Polo is a really interesting production, definitely flawed but it has the benefit of being a somewhat-accurate portrayal of a period that most of us don’t know much about, and Benedict Wong is mesmerizing as Kublai Khan.

      Personally I’d vote for Polo between those two, I suspect Homeland would veer pretty quickly into off-topic CW stuff pretty quickly.

    • John Schilling says:

      If you’re up for first-rate classic SF that we haven’t all seen a dozen times over, Amazon Prime had “Babylon 5” available last time I checked.

      They’ve also got “The Expanse” for contemporary SF that’s in the same league.

      I’ve got no recommendations for Netflix, alas.

      • EchoChaos says:

        we haven’t all seen a dozen times over

        Speak for yourself, heathen. 🙂

      • Andrew Hunter says:

        @John – do you recommend watching the Expanse, reading it, or both?

        I finally got around to reading the first novel and I liked it; not an all time favorite, but a good space opera thriller. Would you recommend I prioritize reading it more or watching the show?

        • noyann says:

          not @John, but chiming in.
          Can’t recommend reading, characters feel too plastic-y, like build from a writer’s construction kit, too shallow in personality and psychology. Books seem to have been written with a video series contract in mind, too little literary quality, eg. in language, but descriptions of visually overwhelming looks. Story arc was great and inventive, but had too many scenes with a cliché feeling to them, and a sort of staple conflicts. Gave up after book 4 (IIRC, was a long time ago). [edit: “Book 4” means that at least the beginning was good enough to continue reading.]
          The series may not have these, for my (pampered and spoiled) feeling, deficiencies, and the visuals could be great.

          • Enkidum says:

            Didn’t read it, but the series is very well filmed with some good actors, but veers very quickly into Star Wars style space fantasy rather than the hard sci fi it’s clearly interested in. It feels like the third season was very rushed, much like the last season of GoT, and the stakes were hard to understand/appreciate.

        • John Schilling says:

          The TV adaptation is really quite well done and adds better characterizations and better visuals than the ones I was imagining as I read; I’ve stopped reading the books to give the series a chance to catch up and overtake. I may change my mind when the series has to cover material I don’t already know from the books, so I’m interested in what people seeing it cold think. But my advice, for now and FWIW, would be to go with the TV version.

    • Atlas says:

      You/we could also consider covering movies. (Also non-fiction TV series like Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation, although I’m not sure off-hand what streaming services it’s available on.)

      • Radu Floricica says:

        Movies are a smaller time investment, as it’s also more likely to convince people to risk 2 hours on a “may not enjoy” than a series. Also more likely to discover hidden gems.

        I (re)nominate I Am Mother here, to break the ice.

    • gbdub says:

      The Good Place is excellent, and on its last season now.

      I’d also second John’s recommendation of The Expanse. I’ve watched recently enough that I’d definitely participate.

    • Nornagest says:

      Marco Polo is the only one of those I’ve watched, and I found it underwhelming. Cool setting, decent acting, plot goes nowhere, awful awful script.

      • Nick says:

        Why is writing so often the problem with movies and television? I can’t tell you the last time a show’s biggest weakness was its acting or direction, though I’ve certainly encountered wooden acting or bad directing in single episodes.

        • Enkidum says:

          I think it’s just empirical proof that either acting is easier than writing, or that there is little or no financial incentive for good-as-opposed-to-mediocre writing. Most likely both.

          Consider how much money The Wire made compared to one of the CSI clones, or Community compared to The Big Bang Theory. Quality scripts really are a niche product.

          There’s so many shows like, say, Homeland or The Good Wife with truly revelatory performances/directing in service of a plot so dumb it actually lowers my IQ to even think about it. I don’t want to be such an appalling snob about these things, but the damn world makes me.

          • JPNunez says:

            The thing with the Big Bang Theory I assume is that Chuck Lorre is able to just put out several shows consistently, so the channels are ok with mediocrity as long as there is an episode that week. Meanwhile Community had Harmon leave midways, then the show had less episodes per season, etc. In two and a half men, Charlie Sheen, the main character, quit from one season to the other, and the show managed to continue.

            TV just loves having a fuckton of episodes to show. Syndication is important, and the longer and more consistent your show is, the better. Harmon does not seem interested by that and goes from project to project as he can, while Chuck Lorre is just a machine of producing mediocre comedy.

          • Aapje says:

            @JPNunez

            Big Bang was extremely popular, so it was not simply a matter of Lorre churning out a lot of mediocre content at a low cost with a moderate audience.

            Big Bang ended with 23 million viewers, while Community ended with 2-3 million.

        • JPNunez says:

          Well, for starters, writing is _hard_.

          Even accomplished authors will publish dreg more often than not. Imagine having to come up with weekly good stories? After a while you will run out of stamina, or good ideas or good execution. It’s why those shows normally employ teams, but even that only kicks the problem away a little.

          Second, how much do you know about filming techniques? I know very little, so it’s very possible I’ve been turned off by some show’s director’s technique, but never knew it. Same with acting. Acting has to be really bad for me to notice. And acting is so competitive that most professionals can do at least a mediocre performance.

          • Nick says:

            I’ve assisted with low-budget film projects for years (don’t Google me, guys 🙁 ); still, I’m sure I’m not as cognizant of bad acting or directing as the connoisseurs. I guess I don’t see why writing isn’t just as competitive as acting.

            Running out of ideas is certainly something that can happen to even good writers. Watching review shows like SF Debris a time crunch for a new script, or for necessary rewrites, was behind a number of bad episodes.

          • JPNunez says:

            Ah, ok. Well, you know more than the average guy about directing and still don’t seem to have problem with most shows’ direction so maybe it’s not that noticeable.

            Dunno about writing vs acting. Possible factors: acting has a bunch of secondary issues outside of the actual on screen performance. Appearance is the obvious one, a good voice too. Off screen popularity too. Sometimes a non actor will go into acting to middling success.

            On the other hand, writing can be covered up with a bunch of stuff (actors’ performance or improvisation, music, special effects, directing), so recognizing the good writing is hard. This allows writers to coast by producing the occassional great script.

          • Randy M says:

            I’ve assisted with low-budget film projects for years (don’t Google me, guys 🙁

            I looked up “Catholic steampunk ferret films” and couldn’t find anything, so you’re safe from me.

          • Nick says:

            @Randy M
            I had no idea I was associated in your mind with ferrets!

          • Randy M says:

            Your avatar is probably a puppy, but its a bit hard to be certain and ferrets are funnier. Possibly the funniest small furred mammal.

            Starring you or not, I am disappointed there’s apparently no Catholic steampunk ferret films to peruse.
            But that means it remains an untapped market.

        • EchoChaos says:

          My guess is that writing is a lot harder than acting or direction.

          Edit: Double ninja’d

          • Randy M says:

            But also invisible and so has less prestige. So directors or producers probably feel free to over rule writers.
            Also, it’s probably harder to judge what a film will be like from a script than to judge a book based on the writing.

          • Tarpitz says:

            In film, writers are comparatively low status – the director is king. In TV it’s the opposite: the writers are in charge, and the directors are replaceable hired guns. Superstar actors have a ton of clout in both, albeit usually in slightly more nebulous ways.

        • bean says:

          Probably because there’s more personal variation in taste for writing than for acting, and less respect for it because it seems easy on the surface. So various stakeholders are likely to meddle with the story and inject their biases.

        • GearRatio says:

          A big chunk of this is that Hollywood and Hollywood-imitating environments optimize for “Commitment, willingness to work for low pay, and the kind of person who can bug their boss for opportunities in a way that doesn’t make him/her hate them” in terms of who the let write. On average somebody who wrote their first episode of something in Hollywood got their script looked at by working for near-nothing wages for two years, not by demonstrating script-writing skill.

          You can’t really optimize for “best writers” with a “Lives in LA, can survive on peanuts living in a house with four other guys for two years to ‘prove themselves’, will do unrelated menial labor” at the same time. Even if it was just the “lives in LA” part, you’ve cut out a massive amount of potential talent for no reason or benefit.

        • mdet says:

          One factor that might make writing more difficult than acting is originality. An actor can likely give the same performance season after season, or movie after movie, and still be entertaining. Writers will have pressure on them to come up with new ideas and new directions for the story.

          Unsure on how far a director can get rehashing the same visual style over and over, but it’s probably still further than a writer.

          • noyann says:

            And an actor can usually do a couple of takes, and be shot with cheap cameras from several angles at once, while a writer has only so many minutes (at best) to pick the best word or phrase. Even with writing teams of specialists.

            Also, often the best ideas simply need time to gestate (subconscious processing in idling on other doings, or sleeping helps a lot). While a work grows, its internal ‘resonance’ and interwoven-ness becomes more fine-tuned and denser too, in great pieces this can take years. Contemporary industrial production of series doesn’t have much room for the dreamy deadline ignorer.

          • Enkidum says:

            That’s true. I think until relatively recently, most people who knew what they were talking about thought that the standard British drama was much better written than its American counterpart, and a huge part of that is that these would only have 6-10 episodes a season. So you could have a single writer or show runner working on it as a cohesive vision, in a way that just isn’t possible with 15-20 episodes. And this avoids the repetition problem, because the season/show just ends. (Also a huge advantage of the British system was that shows often did just end after a few seasons.)

          • noyann says:

            @Enkidum
            Yes, the short BBC series are great!

            More generally speaking, having an NPR that is not short sighted on known market segment shares is a real asset.

            HBO took up some of their role and attracted the more original writers from Hollywood. And it shows.

            Now Netflix announced they will no longer produce series beyond season 2, because that’s the point where few new subscribers will be attracted, but the actors and producers will want to have better conditions if it was good enough to warrant a 3rd season. Netflix is trying to corner and then squeeze the market [edit: by collecting as many subscribers as possible who will eventually be sick of juggling a number or subscriptions, not to mention the multiple fees to pay]. The products will then degrade into something like the rubber that passes for cheese in some places, and viewers will be too dull to demand better.

          • AG says:

            @noyann

            Wait, your first and second comment halves aren’t matching. Netflix cutting episode and season counts is moving closer to the BBC short series model, isn’t it? How is it that the product quality would move in the other direction, when now show creators know that they have to schedule an endpoint at 2 seasons long?

            There’s also the contradiction that Stranger Things S4 just got confirmed.

            (Personally, I do agree with your second half. The move towards single seasons and lower episode counts has done no favors to anime, while Kdramas keep playing out the same romcom over and over again, instead of exploring what comes after. Sturgeon’s Law expands and contracts to affect any format.)

          • noyann says:

            > How is it that the product quality would move in the other direction, when now show creators know that they have to schedule an endpoint at 2 seasons long?

            Different time points. There’s potential for a downward spiral. Netflix can afford to lower quality the more, the better its soft lock-in works. Ultimately they have two-sided market dominance and can squeeze both authors and audience and both can or won’t go elsewhere.

            Writers/producers/actors will find fewer employers/buyers/licensees to turn to with their long-developed works that are better.*
            Subscribers won’t bother to leave for greener pastures, once they have made their minds up, and esp. when tactical marketing and special offers and ‘free’ stuff are lobbed at them.
            Competitors, because then being much smaller, will need to ask for higher fees to fund quality which in turn works against leaving NF.

            That sounds more bleak than I expect. New markets may come up (who would have foreseen Six feet under, The Sopranos, or people actually paying to watch In Treatment?) Cheap technology enables newcomers (like the The Blair Witch Project) and lowers cost for competitors. And then there’s the unknown unknowns…

            *But only in more subtle ways (who says that 90% of everything is crap is implying that they are in the tip of an educational/sophistication/competence/knowledge/aesthetic sense/… pyramid. The broader things are understood — and savored — the more basic and fundamental they are; ‘mass’ culture, although a quantitative word, is qualitatively determined.

          • AG says:

            Doesn’t track with what’s actually happening. So long as more and more new subscription services keep getting created, Netflix, by definition, cannot corner the market. They have to keep competing on content. Their current slate of upcoming new content reflects that.

        • Protagoras says:

          I think empirically (looking at what becomes popular and successful) people care more about whether they’re being sufficiently pandered to than they care about good writing, and pandering and good writing are at least to some degree in conflict. So those making TV and movies aim for maximum pandering to the largest possible audience, with making the script as good as possible a secondary objective which often suffers. In the particular case of Marco Polo, I thought the Mongols were at least somewhat interesting and felt like the story suffered whenever it concentrated on Marco Polo himself, but the creators thought (probably rightly) that an American audience would prefer more focus on the European characters.

          • I think empirically (looking at what becomes popular and successful) people care more about whether they’re being sufficiently pandered to than they care about good writing, and pandering and good writing are at least to some degree in conflict.

            At a considerable tangent, I wonder if this is part of the explanation of why WoW classic is, at least in the opinion of some people, much more fun than the current version of WoW. Blizzard kept making changes designed to give players what players want. But the game was fun, in part, because achieving things was hard—and people wanted easier.

    • johan_larson says:

      OK, let’s do this.

      Here is the current line-up, a mix of movies and full seasons of TV shows. Most of these are available on Netflix, but some are on Amazon Prime.

      BumbleBee
      I Am Mother
      Bad Genius
      The Expanse, season 1
      Train to Busan
      The Death of Stalin
      The Angel
      The Good Place, season 1
      Vertigo
      Mission Control
      Eighth Grade
      Narcos, season 1

      We’ll start with BumbleBee this Sunday, October 6. This is a Transformers movie. I’d normally stay away from that franchise, but this one got excellent reviews, and a 92% on Rotten Tomatoes.

      On the run in the year 1987, Bumblebee finds refuge in a junkyard in a small Californian beach town. Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld), on the cusp of turning 18 and trying to find her place in the world, discovers Bumblebee, battle-scarred and broken. When Charlie revives him, she quickly learns this is no ordinary, yellow VW bug.

      Bumblebee proves it’s possible to bring fun and a sense of wonder back to a bloated blockbuster franchise — and sets up its own slate of sequels in the bargain.

    • souleater says:

      Firefly has only 1 season and a movie, so it might be good for a trial run and I think its on amazon prime

      If it goes well, we can have a movie watch event in a chatroom.

    • b_jonas says:

      I’d like to mention a few things about online movie nights in general. We’ve had a few movie nights over on Sci Fi & Fantasy Stack Exchange (“https://scifi.stackexchange.com/”). These were done partly synchroniously in realtime chat, that is, such that everyone starts the movie at the same time and comments on it in a chatroom live while watching without pausing the movie. I find such sync watching odd, because I don’t have enough eyes and brains to pay attention to a movie and chat at the same time. That said, some people could actually follow the movie that way. This didn’t stop other people like me to participate in a non-realtime way. The way I do this is to play the movie, but pause it every time I notice anything interesting, make a note of it, then post my notes, then read what everyone else said about the movie and respond to that.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        The way I do this is to play the movie, but pause it every time I notice anything interesting, make a note of it, then post my notes, then read what everyone else said about the movie and respond to that.

        I forget if I said this before, but I wish there were community forums for old TV shows that were somehow time-gated such that “people can participate in this conversation if they have seen through episode 7, but not further.” (Assuming no deliberate trolls.)

    • Elementaldex says:

      N=1 I did not like Marco Polo. But I also won’t be participating in this so discount my opinion.

    • Thomas Jorgensen says:

      Voting for Babylon. Berlin, not five, on the grounds that it looks good, and is the series which would likely be a rewatch for the fewest people here.

      Dark also works.

    • AG says:

      Counter-offer: SSC shouldn’t be watching Prestige things, they should be watching journeyman products to get a better sense of what the masses like and why. Making lofty pronouncements about the state of the industry from the ivory tower of Good Taste isn’t a good look.

      To that end, the choices of shows should be popular examples of a crime procedural, teen drama, budget genre, anime/cartoon, and a sitcom.

      • cassander says:

        So…Castle?

        • Nick says:

          Please no. How about Columbo?

          • AG says:

            I loosely followed a blog and watched its author sequentially fall into obsession with:
            Person of Interest (crime procedural, stealth budget genre)
            Criminal Minds (the crime procedural-est of crime procedurals, probably second only to L&O)
            Generation Kill (prestige TV)
            How to Get Away With Murder (spicy pretty-people drama, not really a lawyer show)

            And before I started following them, they were into Red Vs. Blue, which then covers Millenial-Gen Z web content stuff.

            Castle’s not a bad choice, covering both crime procedural and romcom-ish, plus a strong genre pedigree.

            As for Columbo, it might indeed be interesting to see the range of SSC opinions on older shows, see how audience age affects their reception of what was considered good stuff in the past. I loved heist show Leverage, and creators of Leverage kept talking about how much they were inspired by the likes of The Rockford Files or Lovejoy, but I couldn’t even finish the Rockford pilot, because the pacing was so much slower.

      • We could do discussions on NCIS, but how much can you really say about it?

        • AG says:

          It’s about dissecting the basic building blocks, figuring out how someone can churn out over 100 episodes of this formula. How did they decide which elements to be a part of their show’s core personality (vs. another crime procedural)? Which elements that seem to contribute to mediocrity can they not avoid? Which elements allow the masses to continue to watch this show in sufficient numbers to support its continued existence? What implications does this have on how the preferences of the masses differ from the preferences of most SSC commenters, and do those implications extend to other fields?

          What sort of decisions are the broadcast company heads making to pick which series up, vs. the decisions that production company heads are making, when creating a new show? How would you pick a new crime procedural that will produce as much of a ROI as NCIS?

          Or go more on the production level: what are the techniques in any particular scene that save the production time/money? What is the most effective cinematography technique that they employ in this episode? What’s the least effective? Which scene was likely the most difficult to produce?

          It’s not like every episode of a show has to be watched. Probably the pilot, the finale of the most recent season, an “archetypical” mid-season episode, and the episode considered by fans to be the worst.

          And for NCIS, specifically, you could also get into discussions of how it compares to its spinoffs, and why some shows can become such franchises with multiple spinoffs, while others fail. A “pretty-person drama” example of a show with several successful spinoffs would be the Vampire Diaries, which has avenues of discussion on how to make addicting/bingeable style shows, along with how to write/execute budget genre.

          • Honestly, that doesn’t sound very interesting. I understand wanting to get a handle on what the masses think of issues compared to the elites, but just because the masses enjoy something doesn’t mean it represents something deeper. I once watched a video about the most popular songs of the year going back to something like the 40’s. Those songs weren’t in any sense more “meaningful” than the songs that we use to represent these eras. And most of them were actually pretty terrible.

          • mdet says:

            I really enjoy both Patrick Willems’ and Lindsay Ellis’ youtube series where they do deep dives into Michael Bay’s filmography (the Transformers specifically for Ellis), not because his movies are good, but because they mostly aren’t and yet he remains one of the biggest directors of the past 30 years, and one with a very distinctive style. I don’t know how much SSC specifically will get out of “watch lowbrow / mediocre stuff to better understand what goes into it” analysis, but it can be done well.

          • AG says:

            @Wrong Species
            I’m not proposing that we have to discern just why Blurred Lines beat out Get Lucky on the charts, it would be more like figuring out what makes Get Lucky compelling instead of only listening to Beethoven.

            We don’t have to seek out the lowest of the low-brow, worst example of popular schlock. My point was more that in focusing so much on Prestige media, we miss out on understanding fundamental storytelling, and through that, a major influence on why the major populace believes what they do and acts as they do.

            johan_larson’s inclusion of Bumblebee is a good case of what I want, as a low-brow film that has nonetheless been acknowledged as a solid blockbuster.

            But when people in this thread apparently don’t even have a sense of why the writing so often sucks, then it seems like they definitely need to dissect more lower-brow stuff to even begin to comprehend how Prestige stuff avoids those pitfalls, and how Prestige stuff often can’t maintain that level of quality in the long run, instead of the frequent assumptions that have been made here that “X tangible detail is why Y movie is bad.

          • Enkidum says:

            johan_larson’s inclusion of Bumblebee is a good case of this, as a low-brow film that has nonetheless been acknowledged as a solid blockbuster.

            Agreed, plus it has the enormous advantage of being a single film, not a 10-20 hour series.

            (A props of nothing, I will happily defend the first Transformers film as generally pretty good, aside from some questionable ethnic humour and terrible, terrible action scenes.

    • noyann says:

      So much political interest here and nobody mentions Yes, Minister (and sequel Lrf, Cevzr Zvavfgre)? From as early as Thatcher to this day highly praised by the politicos. And normaloes alike.

      The Bridge, the Danish original of course.

      • Nick says:

        I’ve been wanting to watch Yes, Minister for ages, but where? It’s not on any of the streaming services I own!

        • noyann says:

          Once… long before you time… there used to be things that were made of a powerful magic. People were afraid to speak their full name, so… whenever they needed to talk of the scrambled means of lifetime-eating curses… they resorted to a hushed ‘Deeveedee’.*
          srsly

          *which didn’t stop descrambling and ripping them like crazy for sheer spite toward evil.

          I feel old.

      • Eric Rall says:

        The context of the rest of the conversation seems to be fictional TV shows. Yes, Minister is a documentary.

        Epistemological status: moderate exaggeration. Most episodes of Yes, Minister are farcical dramatizations of actual events. Richard Crossman’s Diaries of a Cabinet Minister is the primary source, especially for the early serieses, supplemented with the writers’ private interviews with Marcia Williams (Private Secretary to Prime Minister Harold Wilson), Bernard Donoughue (a political advisor to Wilson and to his successor, James Callaghan), and several senior civil servants affiliated with the Royal Institute of Public Administration think tank.

        • noyann says:

          > Yes, Minister is a documentary.

          Also in the sense that great literature (comedy as well as drama, can’t see one trumping the other here) can tell deeper truths than mere facts. The spirit of it, so to speak.

  15. DragonMilk says:

    I went to the Home Depot for the first time to get supplies for a DIY aquarium stand.

    How on earth do they make money on a $1.65 cinder block that’s 25lb? Material cost sure, but shipping is actually expensive! I’m fascinated by how low of a price they can offer, particularly since the online version advertises a low-low shipping cost of $35 for the same $1.65 block…

    • Incurian says:

      They’re probably not shipping them one at a time through UPS.

      ETA: Aquarium pics?

      • DragonMilk says:

        Funny story with that…I had a clear aquarium tank until my wife said she wanted sand to make it more natural. Naturally, I just checked safety and that play sand was ok to use.

        It’s a murky mess right now due to my not rinsing out the sand before use.

    • The Nybbler says:

      The economics of truckload shipping are far different than the economics of parcel shipping.

      • CatCube says:

        To piggyback off of this: a commenter here a while back said that he was able to get a loaded shipping container from China for $800. I can’t find the comment now, but it wasn’t clear if that was at the port, or FOB at his plant. Either way is pretty cheap.

        • JayT says:

          Are you sure it wasn’t a loaded shipping container _to_ China? I know that is extremely cheap, because half the containers going that direction are empty anyways.

          • Elementaldex says:

            I was at one point n charge of shipping things around the world and about 2 years ago I think we were looking at ~$500/pallet to china while shipping what amounts to paper (i.e. pretty heady). This was by ship.

    • baconbits9 says:

      Probably piggybacking. They are shipping high(er) margin goods daily to keep shelves stocked, but those items aren’t going to fill up exactly N trucks everyday, so they can fill the rest of the truck with low, or zero, margin products that make the store a one stop destination for your project, (probably) meaning you went to them for several other pieces for your fish tank at the same time.

    • Erusian says:

      B2B vs B2C shipping. A palette of cinder blocks can be shipped relatively cheaply on the back of a truck carrying other supplies. As a large business dealing with heavy objects, they constantly have such trucks running around. On the other hand, what’s delivered to your door is almost all done in very light trucks.

    • Well... says:

      I hadn’t followed our previous exchange about this past the point where you said you weren’t going to do any DIY stuff because you already had the cooking thing to sort out. Sorry to ask you to summarize in case you’ve already typed this, just curious what changed and what you decided to try and do for this aquarium stand.

      • DragonMilk says:

        Ah, so while you recommended the usage of tools, I found a video online that demonstrated that you can literally just stack 2 by 4s and cinderblocks and you have yourself a stand.

        So I have two cinderblocks (8x6x16) on each side, and bought three 2x4s (by 3′) from the Home depot for a <$12 setup. No saw, screws, or hammers necessary. I deemed stacking to be sufficiently non-experimental and something I could get away with. And so now the aquarium sits atop what is apparently a pretty standard setup among aquarium wholesalers (though with more blocks and longer 2x4s).

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Yeah, that’s kind of odd. I guess it depends on where the blocks are manufactured. Like others have said, if you have empty trucks, you might as well throw on some cinder blocks, especially since cinder blocks can help drive traffic for other things.

      I might have more to add after my mandatory shipping economics calss, but your average truck apparently costs at least $1.70 per mile to operate. Maybe $2.50 for the markup? That gets you to $2500 for a 1,000 mile haul, which is around 40,000 pounds, which puts you at….
      6 cents per pound, or a bit under $1.90 per 30 pounds.

      • JayT says:

        I don’t know much about this kind of thing, but I don’t think there are too many cinder blocks travelling 1,000 miles. Most reasonably sized cities, where most blocks are used, are well within that far of a cement mill, so I’d guess most are being made close to where they are used.

      • The Nybbler says:

        A flatbed (which is how I’ve seen cinder blocks being hauled) can hold much more than 40,000 pounds; probably near the 80,000 pound max gross weight. And as JayT says they aren’t likely going 1000 miles.

        • DragonMilk says:

          But what about the labor of moving the cinder blocks around (loading/unloading/placing), or is that all fairly automated?

          • John Schilling says:

            Well, minimum wage is I think nowhere more than $15.00/hr, and one can canonically load 32,000 lbs in a working day, so assuming they only need to be loaded and unloaded once, I get just over twenty-six cents per cinderblock. Double that for overhead, and assume the nearest cement mill is 200 miles away, and you’re only at seventy-four cents per cinderblock stacked on a pallet at your local Home Depot.

            OK, I’m seeing a recent industry figure of $113 per cubic yard for bulk concrete, or $1.01 per cinderblock. Assuming the cement mill can deliver blocks or bags of concrete with equal efficiency (and profit, overhead, etc), we’re now at $1.75 per cinderblock at Home Depot, compared to the OP’s cited price of $1.65. So either Home Depot was selling at a slight loss that day, or we’re a few percent off in our cost estimating. I’m going to call that good enough.

          • DragonMilk says:

            @ John

            Well I suppose all this is good enough. They may make a slight loss by selling more or less at cost in order to entice people to buy higher ticket items. A lot of retailers like Walmart do the same, particularly for e-commerce (there, the shipping *actually* eats away at the margins, so that’s what inspired my first thought of shipping being too expensive).

            I’m going to go with these places offering building materials more or less at cost, which I appreciate immensely.

            Thanks all for the primer on freight shipping, as I didn’t realize just how much it undercuts UPS/Fedex/Post office rates. I thought maybe it would be a quarter of the price.

          • CatCube says:

            Of note, that $113 is probably delivered to site from a ready-mix truck, so it includes shipping in it already. (Or, at least, that’s in the realm of what our cost estimators typically use for concrete alone delivered to a jobsite. For formed concrete walls and floors, we estimate about $700/CY to include the labor and material for forming and finishing.)

            Edit to add: A cement mill will provide the cement, either in bulk trucks that are typically unloaded with compressed air or in bags; this is then delivered to a ready-mix plant (or store) for mixing into concrete. “Bags” isn’t going to be what the facility we’re discussing will be producing.

            The relevant comparison might be discharging concrete into forms to produce a footing or something, though note that mixes for Concrete Masonry Units (CMU) are typically very different than what you’d get out of a ready-mix truck. They’re usually very low-slump with smaller aggregate, and lower strength than you’d probably specify for cast-in-place concrete. The CMU machine that I saw (about 15 years ago now) had its own mixing facility that fed directly into the molds, separate from the plant that put mixes into trucks for delivery to customers.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I don’t know about the plant, but I’m pretty sure the cinderblocks at the store are moved around a pallet at a time with forklifts. One site claims 108 blocks per pallet. Not really much cost-add there.

  16. Eigengrau says:

    On major political scandals in the USA versus in Canada:

    In the past year, us Canadians learned that the office of our Prime Minister had improperly attempted to influence our Attorney General to give a lighter sentence to a particular company for political reasons. The company in question, SNC-Lavalin, employs a lot of people in key districts and holds large government contracts. The improper influence comprised of bringing up the case in private multiple times with the Attorney General by saying things like “it’s the opinion of the Prime Minister’s office that SNC-Lavalin should receive the deferred prosecution” and “we’d like to account for the political considerations of this matter”. The Attorney General was not persuaded and the prosecution moved forward as planned. The actions of the Liberals weren’t criminal in nature, but interfering with the impartiality of the Attorney General was considered an official breach of ethics, subject to a monetary penalty.

    The SNC-Lavalin Affair, as it was dubbed, was a major scandal which dominated the news for months. An ethics inquiry was launched. There were hearings. The Principal Secretary (top advisor) stepped down. Trudeau’s poll numbers took a significant hit. The opposition demanded his resignation.

    I believe the reaction to this scandal was entirely appropriate. We should hold our leaders to high standards, and even the slightest malfeasance warrants major scrutiny. Putting pressure on the Attorney General regarding their legal decisions, even implicitly, easily clears the bar for what constitutes a major political scandal.

    Contrast the Trump administration.

    If applying political pressure on the Attorney General constitutes a major political scandal, then Trump blew past that bar by several miles when he spent months berating Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Twitter for his recusal in the Russia investigation, among other matters. To be clear: those Twitter rants alone ought to have been a major scandal on at least the scale of the SNC-Lavalin Affair. Ethics inquiry. Hearings. Resignations. Approval rating declines. But in the real world, these public political attacks barely made a blip.

    Thankfully, there was a special counsel already tasked with investigating related matters. Because of the Mueller report, we now know that there was much more than Twitter rants. In private, Trump very directly, very harshly put pressure on Sessions, to 1) “unrecuse” himself, 2) make a public statement denouncing the investigation despite his recusal, 3) direct Mueller to, in effect, stop the investigation by limiting it to only “future election meddling”. Sessions even attempted to resign over this, but Trump would not accept the resignation, preferring to hold on to the resignation letter and fire him at a later date. This blows past “ethics breach” and lands squarely in “criminal obstruction of justice” territory.

    And yet, half the country, including many SSC commentators, believe the Mueller investigation amounted to a “nothingburger”. This. Is. Insane. To me. The unfolding Ukraine scandal — already appearing to be one of the biggest in the history of the country — is receiving the same shrugs and dismissals. I genuinely feel like I’m losing my mind.

    How has America let its standards drop so low? How did otherwise rational people so quickly accept this absurd normalization of terrible behaviour and the dramatic shifting of goalposts that came with it?

    • The Nybbler says:

      The office of the Attorney General is not an independent agency in the United States; it is entirely proper for the President to influence and direct it.

      • Eigengrau says:

        @The Nybbler

        The Attorney General is not an independent agency in Canada, either. They are a member of the leader’s cabinet/administration, just like in the US.

        In fact, in Canada, the AG is even less independent, as they are also a Member of Parliament representing constituents. So political considerations/influence were normal and expected, generally speaking. The scandal was that the time for political considerations — in Wilson-Raybould’s capacity as a Member of Parliament — had passed. She had already made her decision in her capacity as AG, but the office of the Prime Minister was still trying to discuss the political considerations.

        • jermo sapiens says:

          In Canada the AG is also the Minister of Justice, but there is supposed to be a separation between the partisan position of Minister of Justice and the AG. When acting as AG, no political considerations *should* occur.

          In that sense, Trudeau’s pressure on the AG was highly unethical.

    • EchoChaos says:

      How has America let its standards drop so low? How did otherwise rational people so quickly accept this absurd normalization of terrible behaviour and the dramatic shifting of goalposts that came with it?

      Well, Trudeau is still Prime Minister, so you haven’t actually penalized him.

      Despite the breathless media coverage, Trump and Trudeau have faced basically the exact same penalty, which is poll numbers taking a beating.

      The unfolding Ukraine scandal — already appearing to be one of the biggest in the history of the country — is receiving the same shrugs and dismissals.

      Teapot Dome is probably the biggest in the history of the country. Asking a foreign leader for a political favor using aid as leverage (the worst he’s been accused of) is very bad. It isn’t even top 10 in political scandals.

      • Aftagley says:

        Teapot Dome is probably the biggest in the history of the country. Asking a foreign leader for a political favor using aid as leverage (the worst he’s been accused of) is very bad. It isn’t even top 10 in political scandals.

        I don’t have a top 10 list of scandals (I’d love to read yours though) but if I did I definitely wouldn’t put Teapot Dome above Watergate. Sure it was a scandal, but it looks like the public reacts far more negatively to people trying to mess with elections than they do with politicians taking bribes (although, I agree, Teapot Dome was ridiculous).

        • EchoChaos says:

          I’d love to read yours though

          Of course!

          1. Teapot Dome. Nothing else comes close in terms of damage. It’s the first time a Cabinet member went to jail, and the other one was a process crime.
          2. Whiskey Ring. Probably the largest government corruption in American history. A just election would’ve resulted in the Republicans being thrown out. They didn’t allow one.
          3. Watergate. The big modern one. Not much to add.
          4. Iran-Contra. Another Cabinet member implicated, but pardoned before trial.
          5. Koreagate. Taking bribes from a foreign nation in order to change national policy (successfully!)
          6. Keating Five. More direct bribes.
          7. Crédit Mobilier MORE direct bribes.
          8. Chappaquiddick Either not as bad or far far worse, depending on your view of Kennedy’s culpability. Regardless, it destroyed his aspirations for higher office.
          9. Rubbergate. Mere exploitation of banking rules.
          10. IRS controversy I put this on the bottom because we’ve got a fairly liberal board, but it could certainly be higher depending on your view. The conservative organizations’ suit against the government was settled with the government admitting guilt and paying compensation.

          Every single one of these is a bigger deal than a request to a foreign government to work with your personal lawyer.

          • Aftagley says:

            This was cool, thank you!

            I’ll admit, before reading this I was only aware of 6 of these. Nothing really to add other than thanks again for putting this together.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Aftagley

            No problem. I’m glad someone appreciated it!

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Oh, I remember Rubbergate and being incredibly frustrated that it was a scandal.

          • John Schilling says:

            1. Teapot Dome. Nothing else comes close in terms of damage. It’s the first time a Cabinet member went to jail, and the other one was a process crime.

            Yeah, everything up to assault and kidnapping to cover up a burglary, but it was only a third-rate burglary so those are just “process crimes”.

            And I’m not sure how you get to “nothing else comes close in terms of damage”. The damage of the Teapot Dome scandal was essentially confined to the Harding administration, and does not seem to have outlived him except as history. It brought down a cabinet secretary; Watergate brought down a cabinet secretary and a president, and had an enduring effect on public trust in government. I’m with Aftagley on this; moving money from the public coffers to your cronies’ pockets is a “scandal”, but we need a bigger word for the qualitatively different thing that is a politician using the power of their office to meddle in their own reelection.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @John Schilling

            I am not aware of any Cabinet member from the Nixon administration who went to jail for anything but a process crime.

            The underlying burglary was bad, but they couldn’t make anything stick on an actual Cabinet member. #1 and #2 they did.

            Virtually everything a politician does is using the power of their office to meddle in their re-election. So “ordinary politics” is the word for that.

            All of these were actual crimes committed by major politicians. As far as I know, there is still no allegation of an actual crime by Trump.

          • John Schilling says:

            Virtually everything a politician does is using the power of their office to meddle in their re-election. So “ordinary politics” is the word for that.

            So, because politicians arrange for government services that benefit their constituents, we have to also accept their e.g. using national intelligence and law-enforcement agencies to discredit their political opposition and ensure their own tribe’s perpetual dominance of the government?

            Not buying it. If I had a time machine, I’d send word of this back to 1787 and see that sort of thing included in Article III Section 3.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @John Schilling

            My understanding of this is that it is regularly and openly done to ask foreign governments to help you investigate your political opponents. Hillary did it, Democratic and Republican Senators have done it, Obama did it, probably Bush did it.

            Trump’s only issue here seems to be that he didn’t follow the normal procedures for doing this and involved his personal lawyer in the specific case of Ukraine. Both are gauche and probably wouldn’t be done by a better man. Neither are, as far as I know, crimes.

            I am unaware of Trump doing anything with the national security apparatus that meets what you’re talking about. In fact, my understanding is that the issue is that he didn’t use the national security apparatus by making a formal investigative request through the AG.

            If opening investigations into real or potential political opponents is to be verboten, that is a good world to live in. I would actually be happy with that. But Trump isn’t the norm-breaker here.

          • mitv150 says:

            If opening investigations into real or potential political opponents is to be verboten, that is a good world to live in. I would actually be happy with that. But Trump isn’t the norm-breaker here.

            Strong disagreement here. If opening investigations into political opponents is verboten, all one has to do is run for office to be inoculated.

            To put things another way – if a person has potentially committed a crime, running against a sitting president should in no way prevent that sitting president from investigating the potential crime.

          • John Schilling says:

            Strong disagreement here. If opening investigations into political opponents is verboten, all one has to do is run for office to be inoculated.

            The standard in question, is that running for office “innoculates” one from investigations specifically ordered and/or overseen by POTUS in his official capacity. It does not and ought not “innoculate” one from investigations by the media, by the opposing campaign staff, by special counsel, or by federal prosecutors up to and including the Attorney General(*).

            Also, whether or not they are running for office, any US citizen ought to be “innoculated” against having a POTUS with a grudge e.g. order their office burglarized, or offer a shipment of missiles to whatever dubious foreign regime is willing to take care of their problem for them.

            It doesn’t help that both the DNC and the RNC were so eager to go to Russia to dig up dirt on Trump, but they did that as private citizens and (probably, barely) in accordance with the law, hence with only a law-abiding private citizen’s ability to sway foreign powers. Still sleazy, but not indictably so. Trump is welcome to do the same, as a private citizen. Not as a head of state discussing missile sales.

            * Unless the AG is moonlighting as the President’s personal attack dog, which would normally be very different to prove.

          • mitv150 says:

            federal prosecutors up to and including the Attorney General

            But these are members of the executive branch. They are always and at all times acting on behalf of the president. They are not empowered to do anything that the president himself is not empowered to do or to order them to do.

            It doesn’t make any sense, from a Constitutional perspective, to say that the president’s attorney general is empowered to conduct an investigation that the president is not empowered to order him to conduct or to be personally involved in. If the investigation itself is proper, than it is proper for the president to be personally involved.

            This does not, of course, allow the president to order the investigation of anyone at all to further his own agenda, because it requires that the underlying investigation be proper.

            investigations by the media, by the opposing campaign staff, by special counsel

            I’m pretty sure that outsourcing criminal investigations to the media or campaign staff is not an appropriate solution.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @mitv150, @John Schilling

            +1 to what mitv150 said.

            The AG in our system works for the President. If we’ve descended to the point where the President has no control at all over what the Executive Branch does, that’s a scandal in and of itself (we probably have).

            You seem to be saying that if Trump appointed a Special Counsel to look into Biden and nominated Rudy Giuliani to that post this be okay. Again, the problem seems to be mainly “Trump did it wrong”.

          • Controls Freak says:

            It doesn’t help that both the DNC and the RNC were so eager to go to Russia to dig up dirt on Trump, but they did that as private citizens and (probably, barely) in accordance with the law, hence with only a law-abiding private citizen’s ability to sway foreign powers. Still sleazy, but not indictably so.

            Uh… not if we accept the definitions that folks have been pushing for “thing of value”. This is a really tricky area. People have been pushing such definitions in order to try to say, “You don’t need a quid pro quo. Just campaign finance laws.” But if we do that, we kill tons of things.

            The standard in question, is that running for office “innoculates” one from investigations specifically ordered and/or overseen by POTUS in his official capacity. It does not and ought not “innoculate” one from investigations by the media, by the opposing campaign staff, by special counsel, or by federal prosecutors up to and including the Attorney General(*).

            This is actually sort of tricky, too. Particularly because it runs up against old unitary theories of the Executive branch. So, for example, you give the asterisk:

            * Unless the AG is moonlighting as the President’s personal attack dog, which would normally be very different to prove.

            …but, uh, what if the AG is moonlighting as someone else’s personal attack dog? Or the folks under him are? That’s an abhorrent situation, too. In recent times, we have a variety of folks on each side who think that those folks lower on the hierarchy are hopelessly biased against their side. The traditional unitary Executive answer to this is, “Those non-elected folks don’t get to run around with impunity. Instead, they actually report to the President.” Their answer to, “What if the President directs them to do evil things,” is, “Impeach the President.” They’re more scared of there being no mechanism of public accountability.

            Where we end up is a conflict between our intuition for the unitary Executive, ensuring that unelected bureaucrats don’t run free of the control of their political, electorally-accountable bosses… with our intuition for ensuring that, uh, maybe I guess we want to insulate unelected bureaucrats from the control of their political, electorally-accountable bosses, because that boss might do horrible things with that sort of control. It’s a genuine, hard conflict, that has been governed by norms for the past fifty years, but those norms were never really enshrined in the Constitution or the statutes, because it would generate problems for longstanding Constitutional theory.

            So, we’re stuck here, kinda grasping for what exact combination is sufficient to impeach the president. There probably wasn’t an explicit law that was broken; it’s a much mushier political thing. Each component on its own seems sorta explainable as an exercise of the President’s normal powers… but put together, a lot of folks want to draw some lines at various combinations.

            To give one last set of examples for the contrary impulse, there are a lot of folks who don’t see the value in, “Once you’re vaguely ‘declared’ in an election, you’re immune from investigation that is directed by the President.” Suppose Trump came into office and immediately said, “A big part of my foreign policy is making deals with Mexico. I think Fast and Furious was a serious faux pas toward Mexico, and I think a cooperative investigation would help amend relations.” Or on the other side, how many folks were just here beating up Obama for “looking forward and not backward” on the CIA’s RDI program? These are both prosecutorial decisions that have genuine reason to rise up to the level of the President, which may involve cooperation with foreign governments, and which have plenty of potential to kill the political aspirations of a whole bunch of would-be future political challengers. Do you really want to say, “Well, as soon as someone informs the President that investigating/prosecuting on RDI could really harm a particular likely challenger,” that he’s prevented from deciding, “I don’t want to look forward; I want to go back and make amends”?

          • jermo sapiens says:

            So, we’re stuck here, kinda grasping for what exact combination is sufficient to impeach the president.

            Impeachment is a political process and this question is a political question. You can impeach Trump for having small hands. The safeguard against this kind of nonsense is also political. Impeach Trump for having small hands and you will lose any reasonable voter’s support.

            The Democrats need to show that this latest story is worthy of impeachment. But the problem is that many Democrats have been clamoring for impeachment from day 1 of Trump’s presidency. This eagerness to impeach severely reduces the impact of impeachment (at least in people’s minds), and will make it much harder to convince reasonable voters that impeachment was reasonable. Add to that that Biden threatened to withhold $1 billion in aid to Ukraine to help his son, and that Democrats have been using their political power to attack their political opponents, and only the far left base of the Democrats voters will support impeachment.

          • Aftagley says:

            Impeach Trump for having small hands and you will lose any reasonable voter’s support.

            Well, we’re going off of an n of one here. Yes, the Clinton impeachment process backfired for the impeaching party, but are we sure it’s correct to extrapolate that out?

            …Add to that that Biden threatened to withhold $1 billion in aid to Ukraine to help his son…

            Chiming in again here to once again remind you that this is almost certainly not true.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Just because the President has the power in the Constitution to do something does not mean doing it is not impeachable.

            Say a President started pardoning people purely along racial lines or party lines. This is not prohibited by the Constitution. So what controls are there on the President misusing his legitimate impeachment power? The answer is impeachment.

          • John Schilling says:

            The AG in our system works for the President. If we’ve descended to the point where the President has no control at all over what the Executive Branch does,

            You really can’t see any difference between the President not actively directing the AG to prosecute his political opponents, and the President having “no control at all over what the Executive Branch does”?

            If so, I assume you would be pleased to learn that, say, Barack Obama had specifically directed the IRS to aggressively investigate conservative political groups. After all, the IRS is an executive-branch agency, and it would be intolerable for the President to “have no control at all over what the Executive Branch does”

          • Controls Freak says:

            If so, I assume you would be pleased to learn that, say, Barack Obama had specifically directed the IRS to aggressively investigate conservative political groups. After all, the IRS is an executive-branch agency, and it would be intolerable for the President to “have no control at all over what the Executive Branch does”

            This is actually demonstrating the major tension between the unitary Executive theory and insulated investigative powers. It’s only to the extent that we violate unitary Executive theory and prop up insulated investigative powers that we can allow Obama to have reasonable deniability in the IRS matter. “I didn’t do anything there; it was the bureaucrats!” Which works well, so long as the bureaucrats are on your side. One respectable matter concerning the bureaucrats in the RDI/surveillance issues was that they had enough experience with potentially being thrown under the bus on convert action that they made sure the political folks had crossed their i’s and dotted their t’s in approving the legally-borderline programs.

            Of course, I think you’re highlighting another tension – the current Executive branch is just so big that it’s utterly impossible for the President to be aware of everything it is doing. This provides cracks in the unitary Executive theory that seem to be there by brute fact, not because we created them by trying to insulate certain investigative functions. I don’t think it’s possible to rid ourselves of this brute fact, so the question is how we proceed after discovering specific instances. The IRS investigations are discovered? The chain of reporting up to Obama is immediately put on the clock to either take responsibility for the actions or take specific actions to correct any wrongdoing. None of this, “We can’t do anything; the IRS is independent” stuff. Conversely, if it’s discovered right off the bat that Obama approved of it, then his actions stand/fall on the merits of that approval… not on an argument concerning whether the proper norms were to distance himself. This still doesn’t quite handle the, “Will no one rid me of these meddling 501(c)(-) organizations?” concern, but it at least lets us hear that statement and immediately turn to, “What have you actually instructed the IRS to do? What are you going to instruct them to do now that we all know about your desire to no longer have meddling 501(c)(-) organizations?

            To be honest, I see shades of the unitary Executive theory in the specific combination of items you’re trying to hold, too. You don’t seem to think it’s wrong for the President to direct investigations in general (which is the extent that some extreme insular-ists take it). You just think that directing a particular sort of investigation into a political rival (with some hazy exacerbating factor concerning involvement of a foreign government and possible quid pro quo/strong-arming) is simply wrong on the merits. That’s about where the unitary theories would end up. No business needed about whether investigations should be independent otherwise. The bonus is that if some segment of government is stacked with Trump loyalists who go off on all sorts of tangents, thinking that Trump wants them to get rid of meddling this and meddling that, Trump can’t hide behind, “I can’t do anything about it! They’re independent!” either.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Controls Freak

            +1

            @John Schilling

            That is exactly what I am saying, yes. I agree with Controls Freak that the Founders envisioned a Unitary Executive and thus everything the Executive did was “the President” in a philosophy sense. I blame Obama for the IRS targeting, I blame Harding for Teapot Dome and I blame Grant for the Whiskey Ring.

          • John Schilling says:

            This is actually demonstrating the major tension between the unitary Executive theory and insulated investigative powers. It’s only to the extent that we violate unitary Executive theory and prop up insulated investigative powers that we can allow Obama to have reasonable deniability in the IRS matter. “I didn’t do anything there; it was the bureaucrats!”

            Yes, absolutely. As you note, the current setup allows the President, or as you later note the bureaucracy independent of the President, to get away with some truly reprehensible and even illegal stuff, so long as they are careful to say the right words when they’re speaking on the record. And usually they are smart and careful, and we’re left with accepting the moral but not legally provable certainty that there’s serious corruption going on. If you’ve got a plan to fix that, great.

            In the meantime, if there’s a POTUS stupid enough to go on the record with the sort of stuff someone like Obama would easily get away with (and to piss off the entire bureaucrat class whose cooperation he would then need to keep it under wraps), the right answer is not “we had to put up with the smart corrupt politicians getting away with this sort of thing, so let’s give the stupid corrupt one a pass as well”.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            And once any impeachment procedure begins, Trump, more so than most people, is likely to lash out and do more things that increase the calls for impeachment, like some Saturday Night Massacre:

            https://twitter.com/ShimonPro/status/1179158728031035392

          • Controls Freak says:

            If you’ve got a plan to fix that, great.

            I don’t think any plan fixes sufficiently-well-hidden corruption. One plan lets that corruption continue (or go somewhat unpunished) under the fiction that the President can’t do anything about it; the other plan doesn’t.

            In the meantime, if there’s a POTUS stupid enough to go on the record with the sort of stuff someone like Obama would easily get away with (and to piss off the entire bureaucrat class whose cooperation he would then need to keep it under wraps), the right answer is not “we had to put up with the smart corrupt politicians getting away with this sort of thing, so let’s give the stupid corrupt one a pass as well”.

            Agreed. Let his Executive decisions stand/fall on their merit, not based on whether he broke a norm on independent investigators that may or may not really be a justifiable thing.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @John Schilling

            Except for two problems with that.

            The first is that inevitably the result will be partisan “Why do the Democrats get away with this because they know the right words!?!” Regardless of whether it’s fair or not. I stand by my assertion that all 10 scandals above are more severe than Trump’s, most not resulting in the top level actually being removed. Watergate is the exception in this respect.

            The second is that the inherent bias of the bureaucrats means that Republicans will be far more hamstrung by this than Democrats. Making an asymmetric weapon is a bad idea in politics. Blaming the executive for everything under the executive is symmetrical and allows reasonable punishment by the voters.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            Chiming in again here to once again remind you that this is almost certainly not true.

            I dont know what was Biden’s mind at the time, but the fact remains that Biden withheld $1 billion in aid to force the Ukrainian government to take an action which objectively helped Biden’s son, and his son was only hired because of his connection to Biden. These are absolutely 100% confirmed facts.

          • John Schilling says:

            The first is that inevitably the result will be partisan “Why do the Democrats get away with this because they know the right words!?!”

            Because this is politics, and in politics the words are what matter. This is, trust me, way better than the alternative.

            And, you know, Ronald Reagan got away with Iran-Contra and the like, because he knew the words. Bush the Elder knew the words, Bush the Younger mumbled a bit but knew most of the words. And for that matter, Ted Cruz knew the words and Mike Pence probably knows the words. The words aren’t that hard to learn. Even a Republican can do it. Well, some Republicans.

            You should pick one of them to be your champion next time. Because politics doesn’t grade on a curve, and we’re not giving your guy’s “F” performance a “C-” pass just because he couldn’t be bothered to learn the words. Pick a political champion who doesn’t know the words, just because he knows how to tell you what you want to hear, and you might as well pick an inept braggart as your champion in a gunfight and whine, “why does the other side get to win just because they know how to shoot straight?”

          • Aftagley says:

            I dont know what was Biden’s mind at the time, but the fact remains that Biden withheld $1 billion in aid to force the Ukrainian government to take an action which objectively helped Biden’s son, and his son was only hired because of his connection to Biden. These are absolutely 100% confirmed facts.

            If I’m reading your point correctly, you are claiming there are three confirmed facts here. I’m reordering them, but I don’t think I’m changing your point:

            1. Hunter Biden was hired only because of his connection to Joe Biden.
            2. Joe Biden was the person who announced that the position of the US government was that we would not continue funding their government unless they fired a prosecutor.
            3. That Joe Biden made the previous decision unilaterally (or with the tacit approval of the Obama administration) AND that this decision was made directly to benefit his son.

            I agree: points number 1 and 2 are true. Point number 3 however, isn’t:

            1. Firing this prosecutor was a goal also wanted by the EU, various NGOs and the rest of the Obama foreign policy team. This wasn’t a decision made solely by Biden.

            2. The prosecutor was fired because he WASN’T looking into corruption within the Ukraine. The prosecutor after him was hired to be a better watchdog.

            3. Hunter Biden’s position, while again clearly an attempt to improve the company’s position in Washington wasn’t illegal. There’s no indication that and amount of investigation would have ever come close to Hunter.

            4. If there was, getting rid of the prosecutor who wasn’t going after corruption would have potentially made life worse for Hunter Biden, not better.

            Please stop claiming this final point is true. You can say that it’s your opinion, or your belief or whatever, but saying it’s 100% confirmed is a falsehood.

          • hls2003 says:

            to force the Ukrainian government to take an action which objectively helped Biden’s son, and his son was only hired because of his connection to Biden. These are absolutely 100% confirmed facts.

            I’m reordering them, but I don’t think I’m changing your point:

            3. That Joe Biden made the previous decision unilaterally (or with the tacit approval of the Obama administration) AND that this decision was made directly to benefit his son.

            You are changing the point. You have done so pretty blatantly in the highlighted section. Your points 2 & 4 regarding the Ukrainian prosecutor are the closest to actually engaging the point, though they have nothing but ipse dixit to back them up and are not very compelling. (Imagine if Trump had fired Mueller, then argued that he was not “objectively benefiting” because Mueller was a doddering incompetent who would be replaced by someone more vigorous and capable). The other points do not engage the “objective benefit” point at all.

          • Aftagley says:

            In what way am I changing the point?

            You highlighted me saying “this decision was made directly to benefit his son.” The claim is that Biden pushed to have the prosecutor fired (made a decision) to prevent that prosecutor from investigating Burisma (in order to benefit his son). If you disagree with point 3, how would you rephrase it?

            Your points 2 & 4 regarding the Ukrainian prosecutor are the closest to actually engaging the point,

            If the claim is “this decision was made by Joe Biden” then pointing out that this move had widespread international consensus around it (my point 1) debunks the claim. If the claim is “what hunter was doing was so wrong that Joe had to cover it up” then pointing out that what hunter was doing was entirely legal (point 3) refutes that claim.

            though they have nothing but ipse dixit to back them up and are not very compelling.

            Will you accept evidence? I guarantee I can find any number of contemporaneous and present sources backing up my points. I didn’t in this case because spending 15 minutes to source these claims and then having someone shoot back “well of course the liberal media would say that” didn’t seem like a valuable use of my time. If you would like me to do this, however, I will.

            Imagine if Trump had fired Mueller, then argued that he was not “objectively benefiting” because Mueller was a doddering incompetent who would be replaced by someone more vigorous and capable).

            Now imagine if everyone at the time, democrats included were saying “fire and replace Mueller, he’s doddering and incompetent!”

            The other points do not engage the “objective benefit” point at all.

            Because I’m also asserting this wasn’t a decision Biden made unilaterally.

          • hls2003 says:

            Jermo’s formulation was “objectively helped”, while your re-framing was “decision was made directly to benefit.” Those are not at all equivalent. The first formulation (“objectively helped”) eliminates from discussion the motivation for the decision. Your formulation (“decision made directly to benefit”) makes motivation for the decision central.

            Imagine Donald Trump puts out a tax policy that cuts taxes on wealth over $1 billion. He is joined in his announcement by 100 prominent economists who all agree that this will boost growth and make America’s economy better. Trump also has wealth over $1 billion. Has he been “objectively helped” by the policy? You can’t answer that question by saying “he didn’t do it to benefit himself, lots of people thought it was a good idea.” Your only non-fallacious way to challenge the “objectively helped” is to question whether he actually has a net worth of $1 billion, or whether he will actually get the tax break – not to claim that he had unselfish motives or that others agreed with him.

          • Aftagley says:

            I think you’re quibbling on words here and disagree with your assessment of what jermo sapiens meant. I guess he can chime back in and back up your interpretation, but on it’s face it doesn’t make sense and clearly wouldn’t fly in politics.

            Your example isn’t great because there’s a clear benefit established in this case: Trump lowers taxes and therefore pays less in taxes. In the situation being referenced here, the benefit hasn’t been established.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Please stop claiming this final point is true. You can say that it’s your opinion, or your belief or whatever, but saying it’s 100% confirmed is a falsehood.

            Seconding that this is going too far. It’s the clearly intended interpretation of the facts but was not actually directly claimed as a “100% confirmed fact”

            The whole situation is messy but what is hard to argue with is that it did benefit Hunter, which gives the appearance of impropriety.

            To what degree he benefited and whether this was a goal of Biden’s or merely a tertiary effect of the incestuous nobility highly interconnected global elite is why it fits wonderfully into both teams’ narratives 🙁 (does that make it a scissor statement?)

          • jermo sapiens says:

            1. Firing this prosecutor was a goal also wanted by the EU, various NGOs and the rest of the Obama foreign policy team. This wasn’t a decision made solely by Biden.

            I’m willing to accept this as correct for the sake of argument. Do you know how this consensus was reached? Presumably, like any other decision in Washington DC: by carefully weighing the evidence, pro and con, sober deliberation, and then deciding what’s best for the American people, regardless of any impact on the person making the decision, correct?

            The fact is, none of this matters, whether the decision was “agreed upon” by others or not. Ultimately, Biden used the weight of his office to influence other countries to behave in ways which objectively benefited his son. To say this is ok, and turn around and say that when Trump does it, to influence other countries to behave in ways which objectively benefit his political career is a crime, is a non-starter.

            You say you agree with facts 1. and 2., but not 3. Same here. I have no idea whether Biden made the decision laterally, whether the EU agreed, whether the EU agreed after being pressured to agree, whether the prosecutor was bad/good, what factors Biden considered in making the decision, I dont know, I dont care. Biden made no effort to avoid the appearance of corruption. This is sufficient to start an investigation.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            I think you’re quibbling on words here and disagree with your assessment of what jermo sapiens meant. I guess he can chime back in and back up your interpretation, but on it’s face it doesn’t make sense and clearly wouldn’t fly in politics.

            hls2003’s interpretation of what I said is exactly what I meant it to be. “objectively” is used in the sense of “regardless of intent”, which I believe is the correct way to use that term.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            Seconding that this is going too far. It’s the clearly intended interpretation of the facts but was not actually directly claimed as a “100% confirmed fact”

            The whole situation is messy but what is hard to argue with is that it did benefit Hunter, which gives the appearance of impropriety.

            What part is going too far?

            or are you saying that maybe Hunter did not benefit, but it’s “hard to argue with”?

            I explicitly excluded the question of what Joe Biden meant to do, only what his actions objectively caused.

          • Aftagley says:

            hls2003’s interpretation of what I said is exactly what I meant it to be. “objectively” is used in the sense of “regardless of intent”, which I believe is the correct way to use that term.

            My mistake, I took your use of the word to mean that “It is an objective fact that the Ukrainian government’s action helped Biden’s son.” I’ll contend that I found your original meaning unclear, but I’m sorry for misinterpreting you and I’m sorry I doubted you, hls2003.

            Anyway though, what’s your claim? Are you saying, “It doesn’t matter what his intention was, if it benefited his son, that’s evidence of wrongdoing?”

          • Controls Freak says:

            Now imagine if everyone at the time, democrats included were saying “fire and replace Mueller, he’s doddering and incompetent!”

            One always needs to be careful with statements like “everyone”, because when you follow it by “democrats included”, you’re implying some things. Suppose Trump fired Mueller with his characteristic, “…a lot of people are saying…” and pointed to some Republicans and Russians. They don’t point to any of the folks who are saying otherwise.

            That seems to be what the situation is right now. Ukrainian politics are complicated and mired in a mess of geopolitical interests to boot. It’s pretty easy for one side to point to some other folks on their side and say, “See! A lot of folks are saying,” while the other side points to some other folks on their side to say, “See! A lot of folks are saying otherwise!” Neither side reports the alternative and simply interprets it as, “Everyone was saying…”

      • Eigengrau says:

        @EchoChaos
        Trump’s poll numbers haven’t budged! Aside from the big government shutdown at the beginning of this year, his approval rating has been almost exactly the same since May 2018. Meanwhile, Trudeau’s Liberals dropped ~5-10 points in election polls following SNC-Lavalin and the outcome of the upcoming election is now much less clear.

        So Trudeau might lose his majority, if not the election entirely, because of this scandal. He also lost one of his top advisers.

        Trump’s behaviour was 100x worse but we’ve yet to see any consequences for it.

        Again, focusing only on the public berating of Sessions by Trump, you cannot honestly say that Trump and Trudeau were held to the same standard.

        • jermo sapiens says:

          Trump’s behaviour was 100x worse but we’ve yet to see any consequences for it.

          That is your subjective view of things. I disagree completely.

          Trudeau is a progressive who peddles around his 2-bit morality over normal people’s heads while he’s partying in blackface. The media loves Trudeau and they play cover for him 24/7. Oh and Trudeau offered Canadian media a $600 million “bailout fund” (i.e., bribe). When his faux moralistic veneer is shown to be all hypocrisy, people react.

          Trump is an anti-progressive who says what he thinks and who doesnt pretend to be holier than thou. The media detests him to the point of lunacy, and they attack him 24/7. He calls the media “enemy of the people”, a label many agree with. When the media plays up the latest “scandal”, people shrug.

          What else would you expect?

          • Eigengrau says:

            Me, I don’t judge people relative to their reputations in the media. But you are touching on a good point. Trump is so consistently outrageous that the bar for him has been placed incredibly low; people are too fatigued to be riled up by nothing other than the most egregious malfeasances. Trudeau, meanwhile, being a more standard politician who knows PR, is likeable, and mostly keeps his nose clean (unless there’s some shoe polish nearby), has much further to fall in the public view.

            Though you are exaggerating the media’s treatment of either person. The media is not a monolith. There is no shortage of right-wing media in either country which tear into Trudeau and prop up Trump, and wishy-washy centrist media which do little to hold either accountable. Fox is the #1 news channel. Pro-Trump Sinclair Broadcast Group reaches 40% of American households. In Canada, most major newspapers are owned by the conservative Post Media. It is not hard to find news sources which run contrary to your bubble.

            Trump very famously pretends to be holier-than-thou (“I’m the greatest president/least racist/least sexist/most achieving/grown men who’ve never cried in their lives come up to me and weep like babies telling me about all the good I’ve done, etc.”)

            Also, if industry subsidies count as bribes then I’ve got really bad news for you.

          • cassander says:

            @Eigengrau

            Trudeau, meanwhile, being a more standard politician who knows PR, is likeable, and mostly keeps his nose clean

            So if videos emerged of trump in blackface, do you think that would go better or worse for him than it did for Trudeau or Northram?

            Though you are exaggerating the media’s treatment of either person. The media is not a monolith. There is no shortage of right-wing media in either country which tear into Trudeau and prop up Trump, and wishy-washy centrist media which do little to hold either accountable.

            this is nonsense. the media, as a whole, is one of the most left wing institutions in the country. Fox is a tiny red island in a sea of blue. That it’s a little bigger than the other islands doesn’t change that it’s vastly outnumbered.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            I don’t judge people relative to their reputations in the media.

            That’s reasonable, but that wasnt the point. The point is that people will react to the news of a scandal (which will come from the media) based on how they perceive the media to be biased or not towards the person at issue. When media says Trudeau is involved in a scandal, and they know the media loves Trudeau, it’s a bigger deal than when media says Trump is involved in a scandal, because media hates Trump.

            Trump very famously pretends to be holier-than-thou.

            Trump pretends to be the greatest X, for most values of X, but not for X=holy. Trudeau is constantly scolding others for their racism, sexism, pollution, … basically every progressive shibboleth. So much so that when he corrected a person asking a question at a townhall meeting who used the word “mankind” to say “peoplekind”, everybody thought he was serious and not joking.

            Also, if industry subsidies count as bribes then I’ve got really bad news for you.

            I’m against pretty much all kind of industry subsidies, but when one party offers $600 million to the media and the other does not, how are we supposed to expect fair coverage of these parties. Not that we would have had fair coverage anyways, but this just confirms it.

      • BBA says:

        In my book, the biggest scandal in the history of the country was Iran-Contra. Or, rather, that everyone got pardoned for it, the nation as a whole shrugged, and to this day nobody thinks it was that big a deal.

    • cassander says:

      I genuinely feel like I’m losing my mind.

      You are, a bit. Just like how millions of people felt like they were losing their minds in 2010/2012/2014 about the obama administration’s ability to weather scandals like his IRS getting caught discriminating against conservative groups, spending money that wasn’t appropriated by congress, trying to legalize millions of immigrants by executive fiat, or, worst of all, tan suit gate.

      The key to regaining your sanity is to remember that other people don’t see the world the same way you do and that they feel exactly the same way about trump you do about the previous administration, and with about as much justification.

      • Eigengrau says:

        @cassander

        IRS Scandal: Three top IRS officials resigned. It was a legit scandal.
        Spending money not appropriated by congress: not sure what this was, but you could say Trump has done the same with regards to his wall funding, also without facing consequences
        Testing limits of executive order powers: Obama and Trump did this plenty and were both appropriately challenged by the courts. No huge scandal.

        Anyways, I was not comparing Trump to Obama. I was comparing Trump to Trudeau. Although there is also an obvious shift in standards under Trump.

        • cassander says:

          >IRS Scandal: Three top IRS officials resigned.

          two resigned, the acting head who wasn’t in charge when the scandal happened, and one other guy. the Louis Lerner got 6 months of paid administrative leave, retired on her own the accord, and then pled the 5th rather than testify.

          >Spending money not appropriated by congress: not sure what this was, but you could say Trump has done the same with regards to his wall funding, also without facing consequences

          that would be this. It’s one thing to spend re-programmable money. it’s entirely another for funding to run out and then the executive to keep spending anyway.

          But you’re missing the point. it’s not to argue who’s scandals are worse, it’s to point your your non-reaction to scandals that other people thought were huge deals. And if you think the trump supporters disagree with you that there’s been a shift in standards for trump, let me re-assure you that they are in complete agreement on that front, at least if you don’t look at the sign…

          • Eigengrau says:

            But you’re missing the point. it’s not to argue who’s scandals are worse, it’s to point your your non-reaction to scandals that other people thought were huge deals. And if you think the trump supporters disagree with you that there’s been a shift in standards for trump, let me re-assure you that they are in complete agreement on that front, at least if you don’t look at the sign…

            That kind of is my main point — that an enormous scandal in Canada is a non-scandal in the US. Why, how? Can it really be just the media?

            Secondarily, my point is that this discrepancy in standards has grown even larger under Trump.

            Your argument that Republicans were equally mortified by Obama is not convincing. The implication is that since politicians always inspire outrage from the opposition, anyone saying that some politician is especially outrageous must be blinded by partisanship.

            But what if a politician really is, objectively, super outrageous? How would you tell? I’d love to do a breakdown of the scandals of each modern president. This page makes for an interesting starting point:
            List of Federal Political Scandals in the United States

            Looking at the executive branch scandals it seems Trump, Bush Jr., and Reagan were especially corrupt administrations, while Carter, Bush Sr., and Obama were less corrupt.

          • John Schilling says:

            That kind of is my main point — that an enormous scandal in Canada is a non-scandal in the US. Why, how?

            Canada has scandals? How is that even possible? Scandals require politics, and Canada can’t have politics because Canada isn’t a real country anyway.

            More seriously, the political scandals in one country aren’t automatically newsworthy in every country. And it isn’t geographic proximity that might make them newsworthy, but relevance. Canadian politics haven’t been relevant to Americans since maybe 1995. No matter who serves as PM or what color they used to die their face, Canada is going to keep on making sure the northern border of the US isn’t occupied by anyone dangerous or unsightly, keep selling us lumber and maple syrup, and keep exuding a politely annoying sort of moral condescension. And we trust that Canada is not going to sink into scandal or corruption so severe that we are going to have to intervene and/or worry about a flood of Canadian refugees. So, notwithstanding your being our neighbor, we care about your scandals about as much as you care about e.g. Bolivia’s.

          • That kind of is my main point — that an enormous scandal in Canada is a non-scandal in the US.

            For a counterexample, Trudeau having been in blackface was a scandal in Canada, a U.S. governor having been in blackface was a scandal in the U.S.

          • Eigengrau says:

            @John Schilling
            I wasn’t asking why SNC-Lavalin Affair was not a scandal in the US. I’m asking how is it that Trump’s pressuring of Jeff Sessions was barely a scandal at all (until it became known as an explicit obstruction of justice months later). Part of the answer is that people seem to have a limited amount of outrage, and Trump hit peak outrage sometime before the 2016 election, so we’re all just tired of paying attention. But I also want to get into what is it that has made the US so much more corrupt in general. Canada is enormously influenced by its largest economic and cultural trading partner and the thought of my country’s politics becoming more like our southern neighbours horrifies me, so I’d like to stop it from happening in advance if possible.

            @DavidFriedman
            Yes, it is interesting that old photos of blackface remains scandalous for both countries. Trudeau’s blackface scandal was even talked about in US media!

          • Tenacious D says:

            Canada has scandals? How is that even possible? Scandals require politics, and Canada can’t have politics because Canada isn’t a real country anyway.

            This would be a good topic for an adversarial collaboration: is Canada a real country? (In the sense in which it’s sometimes argued that e.g. Belgium isn’t).

          • johan_larson says:

            is Canada a real country?

            I’d love to know what definition is being used that doesn’t make the answer an obvious yes.

          • Tenacious D says:

            Here’s an article that rhetorically takes the no side: https://www.macleans.ca/opinion/canada-is-not-a-country/

          • Chalid says:

            And here is the case for not believing in Canada at all.

          • bullseye says:

            I work in Cleveland, overlooking Lake Erie. My coworkers claim they can see Canada on a clear day, but they’re imagining things. There’s no Canada there.

          • Lambert says:

            If flying across canada costs 3x flying to peru, why not just fly to the other bit of canada via peru?

          • Randy M says:

            The perfect option for the truly budget minded traveler with no time constraints.

          • John Schilling says:

            I’d love to know what definition is being used that doesn’t make the answer an obvious yes.

            Canada is obviously a “real country” to at least the extent that e.g. Egypt 1922-1956 was a real country. It isn’t obviously more real than that. Somewhat greater political autonomy, somewhat weaker cultural identity. We won’t quite call it a Protectorate of the American Empire, but that may just be America giving this “politeness” thing a try.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            We won’t quite call it a Protectorate of the American Empire, but that may just be America giving this “politeness” thing a try.

            As a Canadian, I appreciate your politeness but we are obviously a client state of the US, and I am grateful for the protection the USA gave Canada over the last 75 years.

            From Moldbug:

            I define sovereignty as an independently secured, or in other words primary, property right.

            This seems correct to me. Canada’s right to its territory is de facto guaranteed by the US, not by Canada.

        • birdboy2000 says:

          The United States is not Canada and has never had “Peace, order, and good government” as a national slogan. The political cultures and behavior expected of their politicians are dramatically different and I daresay Canada’s way more of an outlier (if perhaps in a good way) by international standards than the US. The city I live near had a mayor re-elected from prison in 1945, my home state had 3 successive speakers of the house (who served from 1991-2009) go to jail, I assume they haven’t caught the current one yet. Tolerance for corruption in the US is dramatically higher.

          Regarding the Mueller investigation in particular, it pattern-matches strongly to red scare nonsense and comes on the heels of a federal election with over 6 billion dollars in spending. I don’t really care about obstruction of justice here, which Trump appears to be guilty of, because there’s no justice in this system in the first place. (Although I oppose Trump for other reasons.)

          • Eigengrau says:

            @birdboy2000
            That’s another one that really bugs me — that because there’s a scandal which involves Russia, it must be like the Red Scare. What similarity is there beyond that? Are people across the country getting arrested or blacklisted for being associated with Russia? Or is it just a handful of people in Trump’s immediate orbit? Are there entire towns/jurisdictions proposing laws to banish or criminalize anyone with communist sympathies? Have any governors suggested the death penalty for being a member of the Communist Party, or any other party? Not even close. The Russia scandal is wholly different in both quality and scale to McCarthyism. I recommend anyone who believes otherwise to read up on The Red Scare, then to read the Mueller Report.

          • birdboy2000 says:

            By “red scare nonsense” I don’t mean every abuse of the McCarthy period, but the repeated allegations that every politician who thinks a more restrained US foreign policy is a good idea (from Gabbard and Stein to Trump) is in the pay of the Kremlin, and the allegations of treason and such for wanting one. Birchers said similar things about many of the actual Cold War presidents.

          • Tenacious D says:

            @birdboy2000:
            I think I agree that tolerance for corruption is lower in Canada but I’m not sure if its actual incidence is lower. In addition to the SNC Lavalin situation, we also had the Admiral Norman case and a big report about money laundering in BC casinos this year alone. Stuff flies under the radar more, I think.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      As a practical matter, you can’t actually dial the Trump hate any higher than it already is. The same people asking me to be outraged about this were literally, not figuratively, accusing him of running concentration camps earlier this year and saying that he was on the brink of starting a global thermonuclear war last year. In fact, Trump has been accused of anything and everything: working with the mob, stiffing contractors, paying for sex with pornstars, drawing on weather maps, eating steak well done with ketchup, etc.

      This has been the tenor of our political discourse since 2016. A non-stop drumbeat of ludicrous accusations, one after another, until it’s impossible to keep straight what he’s supposed to be impeached for this minute.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        I know at least two people that have newly called for Trump’s impeachment, that did not before.

        I accept that all the screaming makes it hard, from the outside, to realize what events can push people over the threshold.

        • John Schilling says:

          I know at least two people that have newly called for Trump’s impeachment, that did not before.

          Because they believe the thing he is accused of now is worse than what he was accused of before, or because the evidence of wrongdoing is stronger now than it was before?

          My guess is the latter; the recent quasi-transcript with its version of “nice country you’ve got there…”, can’t be written off as part of a Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy and is pushing things past the threshold of plausible deniability for quite a few people at the margin. But you know these particular people better than I.

      • CatCube says:

        Let’s be fair here: he’s guilty of everything on your list past “working with the mob.” (He might be guilty of that, because construction industry in New York, but no instances come to mind, but the rest I knew of. The “concentration camps” and “thermonuclear war” ones I agree are silly.) I was furious about Bill Clinton doing a lot less back in the ’90s.

        • The Nybbler says:

          We don’t know that he’s guilty of paying for sex with pornstars (although to be honest I have no idea why else Stormy Daniels would sleep with him). Only for paying for the silence of pornstars.

          • Protagoras says:

            We also know that with competition from amateurs, widespread piracy, and audiences generally being more interested in fresh faces than stars anyway, the porn industry doesn’t pay its performers much and it is as a result common for the performers to supplement their paid sex on camera income with some paid sex off camera income. That should further raise the probability we assign to Stormy having been paid.

        • Eigengrau says:

          He literally talked about his close mob ties in an interview in the 2000s.
          Aside from his own admission, there’s plenty of circumstantial evidence which makes his involvement with the mob pretty plausible.

          I do not think the nuclear war concerns were so overblown. He really was escalating conflict and threatening to use nukes with another nuclear power. Even if it was a negotiating tactic, people’s anxieties at the time were justified.

          The “concentration camp” fiasco is an example of using a word that’s accurate denotatively but not connotatively.

          The reason there has been a non-stop drumbeat of ludicrous accusations is because there have been non-stop ludicrous behaviours that need to be called out. Remember that his university was shut down for being a fraudulent scam? Or his charity that was shut down for being a fraudulent scam? At what point do you have to admit that the guy is a scam artist? Does he literally have to shoot someone on 5th avenue before we can all agree he really sucks? His own famous remark indicates even that might not be enough. I *promise* it’s more exhausting for the people doing the screaming than the people listening to the screaming.

          • cassander says:

            I do not think the nuclear war concerns were so overblown. He really was escalating conflict and threatening to use nukes with another nuclear power. Even if it was a negotiating tactic, people’s anxieties at the time were justified.

            He was doing nothing that previous administrations had not done. The fears were not justified at all.

            The “concentration camp” fiasco is an example of using a word that’s accurate denotatively but not connotatively.

            oh, please. You aren’t naive enough to think that (A) the people shouting about concentration camps were picking the word based on its technical accuracy rather than the connotation, or (B) that they just didn’t notice that the same camps had been used by the previous administration.

            The reason there has been a non-stop drumbeat of ludicrous accusations is because there have been non-stop ludicrous behaviours that need to be called out.

            As I said earlier, this is precisely what birthers told themselves about the obama administration, and 9/11 truthers told themselves about the bush administration, and vince foster murder conspiracists said about the Clinton administration, and so on, all the way back to Thomas Jefferson convincing himself that the Quasi War was ginned up Alexander Hamilton so he had an excuse to raise the army that he’d use to make himself king.

            Have some perspective.

          • DeWitt says:

            oh, please. You aren’t naive enough to think that (A) the people shouting about concentration camps were picking the word based on its technical accuracy rather than the connotation

            ‘Our opponents are picking out this terrible behavior for mercenary reasons’ is a really, really terrible defence for anything.

          • cassander says:

            @dewit

            ‘Our opponents are picking out this terrible behavior for mercenary reasons’ is a really, really terrible defence for anything.

            It wasn’t considered a terrible behavior until trump was in the white house.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            I *promise* it’s more exhausting for the people doing the screaming than the people listening to the screaming.

            I highly doubt this and am interested in how you empirically test this.

            Also, Trump absolutely sucks, but you appear to want something a bit more than that. What exactly are you looking for here? Because me agreeing that Trump sucks and Trump is a disaster and I hate Trump is far different from me:
            A. Voting for a Democrat (which I will only do if the GOP nominates Hitler or Stalin)
            B. Supporting a Trump conviction (which will cause a GOP civil war and is really only going to be something I would support under rather drastic conditions)

            Now, you may say these are drastic times, to which an average American might say, unemployment is under 4% and no Americans are getting killed in foreign wars. So, yes, these are indeed strange times, strange that America is in such a great position.

          • “He literally talked about his close mob ties in an interview in the 2000s.”

            Link?

          • Eigengrau says:

            @Alexander Turok
            New Yorker profile on Mark Burnett’s role in Trump’s career

            “I don’t want to have cameras all over my office, dealing with contractors, politicians, mobsters, and everyone else I have to deal with in my business. You know, mobsters don’t like, as they’re talking to me, having cameras all over the room. It would play well on television, but it doesn’t play well with them.”

        • WayUpstate says:

          @ A Definite Beta Guy

          http://icasualties.org/App/AfghanFatalities

          Yup, Americans still dying in 2019 in foreign wars

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            So, 3 guys in the month of September? Not exactly comparable to mid and late 2000s America, where the body counts and constant IEDs were trumpeted in the press on an almost daily basis.

      • Aftagley says:

        As a practical matter, you can’t actually dial the Trump hate any higher than it already is.

        The equally accurate flip side of this is “At this point, if you haven’t given up on Trump, you’ve just agreed to ride or die with him.” Trump said it the best, he could shoot someone on 5th avenue and not substantially lose any support among the coalition that still backs him.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          Half right, but not for the reason you’re suggesting.

          Trump is a terrible human being. I have no doubt that he’s done a lot of horrible things in his life and I see no evidence that he’s undergone some spiritual awakening prior to becoming president. He’s also the only candidate, Republican or Democratic, who promised to halt illegal immigration, on-shore American manufacturing, crack down on criminals, keep us out of pointless foreign wars, and drain the swamp.

          If your argument is “Trump is awful!” that’s not incorrect but it’s also completely irrelevant because as awful as he is he’s literally the only choice for a paleoconservative / national conservative voter. Give me President Pat Buchanan and I’ll drop Trump like a hot potato, but I’m not about to replace him with someone who’s dedicated to exactly the opposite of his platform like Jeb or Hillary.

          (For an Evangelical, strike the middle part and replace with something something Supreme Court.)

          If you want people to get off of the Trump Train, you need to either offer them a real alternative or show them that Trump isn’t seriously attempting to fulfill his campaign promises. That would have been easier a year ago with 0 miles of Wall built, but hey back then you guys mostly still thought that he would have been impeached by now and there would be no need for another election.

          • beleester says:

            Unless you’re a paperclip maximizer with regards to border security and trade with China, at some point you should decide that the juice isn’t worth the squeeze.

            (And don’t get me started on “draining the swamp.” If you care about politicians abusing their office for personal gain, maybe you should be slightly worried about an accusation that Trump asked the Ukrainians to do opposition research for him?)

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            Without improved border security and a hell of a lot of deportations, American democracy is essentially meaningless. All the norms and institutions in the world aren’t going to help when one party can import a half billion new voters on the promise of being paid from the pockets of the current inhabitants. Check out the democratic rhetoric about the minority majority sometime: the language is prettier, but it’s the idea of changing the ethnic composition of the US in order to push through redistributive policies.

            Trade with China is a can we can probably afford to kick down the road a little while longer before it bites us in the ass but it’s better to take action now. Sooner or later we’re going to be at war with China and when we do we had better hope that all of our factories aren’t located in the cities we’ll be bombing. Not to mention that swaths of the country already look like they were hit by a bombing campaign due to the destruction of our manufacturing base.

            And honestly this is exactly what I had wanted Trump to do for a while. Investigating Hunter Biden’s $300K a year job at a company under investigation, until Joe Biden pushed them to can the prosecutor? That’s not going as far as I would like, but it’s at least exposing the corrupt goings-on that the media and federal law enforcement are happy to ignore.

          • LadyJane says:

            If your argument is “Trump is awful!” that’s not incorrect but it’s also completely irrelevant because as awful as he is he’s literally the only choice for a paleoconservative / national conservative voter. Give me President Pat Buchanan and I’ll drop Trump like a hot potato, but I’m not about to replace him with someone who’s dedicated to exactly the opposite of his platform like Jeb or Hillary.

            If the masses actually wanted paleo-conservatism, then Buchanan would’ve been able to get more than 23% of the Republican vote in the 1992 primary. The fact that paleocons have to settle for Trump – who isn’t even a paleo-conservative himself, and was elected mostly because he’s skilled at playing a crowd and because people hated the other candidate more – shows that paleo-conservatism simply isn’t a winning ideology in modern America.

            Of course, you could always try to copy the strategy that libertarians pioneered with their “Free State Project.” But if it didn’t work for them, it probably won’t work for a group that’s even more of a political minority.

          • Evan Þ says:

            @LadyJane, it worked pretty well in New Hampshire, where they’re a major force in state politics. Unfortunately, paleocons are more focused on national-level issues.

          • WarOnReasons says:

            Give me President Pat Buchanan and I’ll drop Trump like a hot potato

            Do you happen to agree with Buchanan that “Capitol Hill is Israeli occupied territory” or that Treblinka “was not a death camp but a transit camp used as a ‘pass-through point’ for prisoners”?

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @WarOnReasons,

            Yes to the former, no to the latter.

            The Holocaust definitely happened, and if the exact numbers on the official death tolls are off by a half million in either direction that doesn’t make it any less of an atrocity. It stands alongside the other horrors of the twentieth century, like the Holodomor in Ukraine and the Killing Fields of Cambodia.

            That doesn’t excuse or diminish how shameful it is that American foreign policy, and often even domestic policy, is directed by AIPAC and Israeli nationals or dual citizens. Calling Buchanan and anyone who notices the obvious fact that American politicians are often serving the agenda of a foreign country at the expense of our own interests an antisemite doesn’t make it any less true.

      • beleester says:

        Dismissing all the claims just because they’re getting blown up to ludicrous levels is itself an error, because the non-ludicrous versions of these claims are still pretty fucking bad.

        Sure, “concentration camps” is too loaded a word for people to use calmly. But the… whatevers… at the border are massively overcrowded, under-resourced, and inflicting a great deal of unnecessary suffering on the children who are being held there, and most of that can be attributed to the Trump administration’s policies. The government tried to argue in court that soap wasn’t necessary to provide sanitary conditions, to give you an idea of the level of care they’re providing.

        Drawing on weather maps with a sharpie was, on its own, just the usual stupidity. But NOAA telling its staff to not contradict the President’s sharpie drawing is an actual problem – apparently his administration takes his stupidity seriously.

        You can’t ignore outrage simply because people are outraged – there’s often something outrageous at the core, or at least pretty bad.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          Yeah see I had forgotten about the sharpie thing, thanks for reminding me. This is another great example of the dial being turned all the way up: you lead with children who don’t have access to soap and transitioned seamlessly to Trump drawing on a weather map. If the volume of denunciation is the same for both, the message is that neither one matters at all.

          For what it’s worth I would prefer that nobody was in the detention centers. Ideally we would send them all back to one of the numerous safe countries they passed through to get to the US, but failing that Congress could approve of money to pay for more and better facilities to house them as well as additional administrative judges to process their claims faster. Both of which Trump has proposed, and had those proposals blocked by the courts or rejected by the congressional Democrats.

          • The Nybbler says:

            For what it’s worth I would prefer that nobody was in the detention centers. Ideally we would send them all back to one of the numerous safe countries they passed through to get to the US

            “Remain in Mexico” was greenlighted by the Supreme Court and apparently is being implemented.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            Wow that’s really good news. Thanks for the heads up, I hadn’t heard about it.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          The government tried to argue in court that soap wasn’t necessary to provide sanitary conditions, to give you an idea of the level of care they’re providing.

          The government argued that in response to a court finding about conditions under the Obama administration.

          Like, I can find that with 2 seconds of Googling. I believe nothing you say. For all I know there are a billion more holes in this media narrative.

          Here’s five minutes more:

          Though Plaintiffs have submitted a plethora of detainee declarations in support of their motion, the Court notes that the overwhelming majority of them come from detainees who stayed at CBP stations located within the Rio Grande Valley Sector (“RGV Sector”). One or two declarations from detainees located within other sectors that span over one hundred miles and have multiple CBP stations is not enough to satisfy the preponderance of the evidence standard regarding the conditions at those facilities.

          As such, the Court limits its discussion of conditions and the scope of any resultant monitoring to those CBP facilities located within the RGV Sector, rather than the CBP facilities at the other sectors.3 While the Court certainly did not limit the scope of its August 21, 2015 Order in this way, there is insufficient evidence to suggest that any other CBP stations in locales outside of the RGV Sector have failed to comply with the Court’s earlier order that they should “comply with the Agreement and Defendants’ own acknowledged standards and procedures.” 212 F. Supp. 3d at 915

          Not really interested in spending more time trying to validate a narrative constructed by Progressives and their useful idiots in the journalism field. I do not like Trump, but only Nixon can go to China, and only Republican criticism of Trump is worth listening to.

        • J Mann says:

          The government tried to argue in court that soap wasn’t necessary to provide sanitary conditions, to give you an idea of the level of care they’re providing.

          IMHO, this article is worth reading for context. The whole thing is worthwhile, but here’s a sample:

          In last week’s hearing, Fabian appeared to be arguing that toiletries and related items or services might not be required to meet a condition of “safe and sanitary” in all circumstances, such as if a detainee were only staying in a facility for a matter of hours. But any nuance seemed to be lost on the exasperated judges seen in the video as well as viewers on social media.

          • Evan Þ says:

            Thank you for the context! That’s at least a somewhat decent argument considering that there aren’t toilets on, e.g., a lot of commuter buses where people can spend an hour or two stuck in traffic. I don’t agree with the argument, but given that context, I can at least see how someone can argue it in good conscience.

          • Nick says:

            @Evan Þ
            Hey, while I have you! I ended up reading six Peter Wimsey novels: Whose Body, Clouds of Witness, Strong Poison, Murder Must Advertise, The Nine Tailors, and Gaudy Night. If you think there’s any others I ought to read, let me know.

          • Evan Þ says:

            That’s great! How’d you like them?

            You’ve already read most of my favorites, but if you’re interested, Have His Carcase and Busman’s Honeymoon are also really good. I’d also recommend the short story “Talboys” if you come across it, though most of Sayers’ short stories are inferior to her novels.

            (And in non-detective works by Sayers, I especially recommend Man Born To Be King and Mind of the Maker.)

          • Nick says:

            They’re pretty good. I do like the variety of detective methods used in each book. My only disappointment in that regard is that earlier highlights like Bunter or Parker are practically shoved out of the later books. Like I think Bunter appeared once in all of Gaudy Night. Gaudy Night was also rather long, two to three times the length of the earlier ones, and it could have been a tighter novel.

            One thing I appreciate very much is that Sayers writes them like puzzles. Like Peter will summarize the state of the evidence to Parker toward the end. I’ve solved parts of them handily thanks to this, like the murderer and the reason for the murder in Strong Poison.

          • Evan Þ says:

            Yes, the variety of methods and the neat summaries are great! I agree that it would’ve been nice to see some of the less-major characters more often, like Parker or Lady Mary or Miss Climpson – Sayers does well with the time she gives them, but they suffer from a lack of time.

            But if you’re missing Bunter in particular, you’ll really like Busman’s Honeymoon where he’s a very major character.

      • albatross11 says:

        To be fair, that ketchup thing *is* pretty heinous.

      • Chalid says:

        As a practical matter, you can’t actually dial the Trump hate any higher than it already is

        This is wrong and implies you’re paying too much attention to the far far left and not enough to the center/center-left (a really common failure here). Sure, the far left has been berserk over Trump and can’t hate him any more. However, objectively, polling shows that support for impeachment has gone up considerably over the past couple weeks. Clearly this implies lots of people dislike Trump more intensely than they did before the Ukraine scandal.

        • albatross11 says:

          Yeah. Personally, I can’t become any less likely to vote for Trump except by the Democrats resurrecting Stalin and making him their candidate, but I can still be convinced that impeachment or protests make sense. But a lot of the media has the outrage dialed up to 11 on Trump already, so you can’t use their outrage level to decide whether anything has actually gotten worse.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          It’s possible that I’m in a far left bubble, but my coworkers and friends have been openly fantasizing about assassinating Trump and his family since about a week after the 2016 election. The first week they were too panicked about the MAGA death squads prowling the streets of Manhattan. Neither of those statements are jokes or exaggerations BTW.

          Both in my personal life and online it seems like what has changed is a tactical assessment that impeachment is more likely, not that the desire to impeach has actually gotten stronger.

          • Chalid says:

            We all live in our own bubbles, of course. But we’re both in the same city and both those statements would be quite outlandish in my (still generally quite Democratic) social groups.

            FWLIW I’d speculate that you’re getting the intersection of liberal city with liberal academia with liberal young people, while my social sphere is older and rather less academic (lots of ex-academics but mostly with plenty of time in the corporate world).

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            My facebook feed is mostly left, and there are a lot of people who hate Trump.

            However, it’s considered obnoxious to wish for him to be dead. Enthusiasm for assassinating him is not an imaginable topic.

            And assassinating his family as part of the fantasy? I’m actually somewhat shocked.

            However, I don’t know whether I’d call your bubble far left– that would depend on what policies they support.

    • quanta413 says:

      Let me explain my algorithm for deciding if I care enough to vote for/against a presidential candidate so you can understand why at least one (somewhat politically unusual) American doesn’t care much about this.

      1. The candidate or their party invaded or bombed yet another country with no strategic value or reasonable casus belli within the last decade or so–> Don’t vote for them.

      That’s pretty much it; I’ve never had to think of a step 2. I’ve also never voted for a major party candidate at the Presidential level. In votes for who will be the candidate, state, or local elections, I may think somewhat harder.

      My expectations for Trump were so low (I thought there was an elevated low but real risk of yet another war and perhaps a more dangerous one than usual enough that I registered as a Republican in the primaries in 2016 to vote for a different candidate) that he has accidentally surpassed the bar. In my view, Trump could openly auction an uninhabited island in the Pacific to Russian oligarchs to enrich his family and he’d still not be the worst President since WWII. Probably not second or third worst either.

      This isn’t due to his personal decisions or policy or anything like that. It’s contingent on the hatred of his opponents and the thinly veiled contempt of his allies. He’s so hated and wastes so much time on twitter that for once, the establishment and media may not cheer for yet another pointless war (well, not really, I think the most complementary writing I’ve seen him get from usually critical mainstream sites were when he threatened more military action against Syria but I’ve got more hope than normal).

    • broblawsky says:

      Fox News, basically. As long as people get their news from a source that will defend Trump from any conceivable attack, they’ll continue to support him. The only reason this scandal has moved the needle at all is because it’s so egregious even Fox can’t effectively defend him.

      • jermo sapiens says:

        Please tell me what is so egregious that the Democrats are not demonstrably also guilty of.

        • broblawsky says:

          Conspiring with a foreign state (or possibly more than one) to get dirt on a political rival, and withholding Congressionally-mandated aid to get leverage to make it happen.

          • The Nybbler says:

            You mean like this?

            Whatever Trump did, his opponents did as well.

          • broblawsky says:

            This is a deeply misleading comparison. Just to make sure you understand why it’s misleading, I’ll go over my claim point-by-point and explain why your example is different, and why your off-hand comparison is at best in grave error, and at worst actively deceptive.

            Conspiring with a foreign state

            Senator Menendez wrote an open, public letter to the General Prosecutor of Ukraine. President Trump made a phone call to the President of the Ukraine, then concealed this phone call, possibly breaking the law again in doing so.
            Moreover, Senator Menendez did not attempt to influence the Ukrainian government to cooperate with any kind of Congressional investigation, e.g. any investigation Senator Menendez had any influence over. In fact, he was attempting to convince Ukraine to cooperate with a special prosecutor under the authority of the Trump administration. President Trump, by contrast, attempted to convince the Ukrainian government to cooperate with his secret, possibly illegal team of pseudo-diplomats/political fixers.

            to get dirt on a political rival

            Senator Menendez is not running in a race against President Trump. They’re political enemies, yes, but they aren’t rivals the way Trump and Biden are. That may not seem like a critical difference to you, but it’s a vital component of the quid-pro-quo corruption-related laws Trump likely violated.

            and withholding Congressionally-mandated aid to get leverage to make it happen.

            Senator Menendez did not make any kind of threat in his attempt to persuade the Ukrainian government to assist the special prosecutor’s office. Rather, he attempted to appeal to their belief in the rule of law and their pride in their country. President Trump actually did withhold military aid to one of our most critical allies against Russia, specifically in order to force them to cooperate with his illegal and deeply unethical attempt to undermine his political opponents.
            Given all of the blatant errors in your comparison of these two situations, I’m going to be charitable and assume that you don’t understand the differences between these two cases. I would suggest that, for the good of this community, you make an effort to educate yourself on the differences between the two, particularly in aspects of the ways that international criminal investigations are typically handled. It seems like this is a major stumbling block for you in understanding the way that Trump’s crimes are fundamentally different from other, fundamentally incomparable incidents in the past.

          • blipnickels says:

            @ Broblawsky

            I agree the letter is not equivalent but I wouldn’t call it deeply misleading or blatant errors.

            On the letter, is there any proof that the concealment of the phone call was illegal or inappropriate? I ask because it seems:
            #1 President’s don’t usually publicize their private phone calls with foreign heads of state, especially not if they disparage another head of state (Angela Merkel) in them.
            #2 If this is a cover-up, the Trump administration has released both the summary of the call and the report remarkably quickly.

            I agree, Guiliani should not have been involved and that’s one of the major issues. I’m not sure how Barr’s investigation would be illegitimate though.

            Could you explain why political enemies are ok but rivals aren’t? Especially since future and past presidents will be clever enough to use intermediaries.

            Senator Menendez did not make any kind of threat in his attempt to persuade the Ukrainian government

            How is Trump saying:

            I’d like to ask you for a favor

            more threatening than Mendez saying:

            This reported refusal to cooperate with the Mueller probe also sends a worrying signal-to the Ukranian people as well as the international community-about your government’s commitment more broadly to support justice and the rule of law.

            I’m pretty sure “question your commitment to the rule of law” is how client-states get threatened.

            Now if there’s clear evidence that Trump’s hold on the aid was tied to this, that’s also bad. To the best of my knowledge, however, that has yet to be established.

            It’s early in the impeachment and to the best of my knowledge no one has seen the documentation behind either the hold on the aid or the classification of the material, which would clarify matters greatly.

            But if Trump didn’t withhold aid to threaten the Ukranians and he didn’t improperly classify it (both of which are open questions the impeachment should resolve), and he didn’t have Guiliani involved (which was stupid), how is what Trump did different from what Mendez did? They called on the Ukrainians to help them with a “legitimate” investigation into a political rival and indicated it would be to Ukraine’s political benefit as a US client state. They’re still not equivalent, Guiliani should not have been involved and the letter is better because it was public from the start, but if the other impeachment allegations aren’t verified by the impeachment inquiry, that’s a relatively minor difference.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            This is a deeply misleading comparison. Just to make sure you understand why it’s misleading, I’ll go over my claim point-by-point and explain why your example is different, and why your off-hand comparison is at best in grave error, and at worst actively deceptive.

            I dont mean to engage in an argument over every point, but I do mean to say that those differences are purely trivial and cosmetic from my point of view. I understand that I am biased towards Trump, and maybe I am missing an important element because of that bias, but I urge you to recognize that you have a strong bias against Trump, and that possibly, what you view as super important distinctions making Menendez’s letter to the Ukraine OK but Trump’s phone call an impeachable offense, are in fact post-hoc rationalizations designed to exonerate Democrats and impeach Trump.

          • broblawsky says:

            I dont mean to engage in an argument over every point, but I do mean to say that those differences are purely trivial and cosmetic from my point of view. I understand that I am biased towards Trump, and maybe I am missing an important element because of that bias, but I urge you to recognize that you have a strong bias against Trump, and that possibly, what you view as super important distinctions making Menendez’s letter to the Ukraine OK but Trump’s phone call an impeachable offense, are in fact post-hoc rationalizations designed to exonerate Democrats and impeach Trump.

            I’m well aware that I have a strong bias against Trump, but it doesn’t change the fact that all of my points regarding the differences between Menendez’s public letter and Trump’s secret, extortionary, communications are valid differences. Menendez’s letter was ethical and legal. Trump’s communications were unethical and illegal. The only similarity is that they’re both communicating to Ukrainian government officials about criminal investigations of US citizens. If you can explain why the differences between the two are trivial, please do so. Otherwise, I can only stand by my analysis of the situation.

            To your broader point: I have, in the past, credited Trump despite my loathing of him. I consider the change he’s created in public perception of Chinese trade, his reluctance to engage in military action, and his tax cut for small businesses to all be positive things. What I’m asking you to do is the same: please, look past your pro-Trump bias and consider the points I’ve made. Trump’s attempt to extort the Ukrainian government is an unprecedented act of presidential criminality, one worthy of impeachment and conviction.

          • broblawsky says:

            On the letter, is there any proof that the concealment of the phone call was illegal or inappropriate? I ask because it seems:
            #1 President’s don’t usually publicize their private phone calls with foreign heads of state, especially not if they disparage another head of state (Angela Merkel) in them.
            #2 If this is a cover-up, the Trump administration has released both the summary of the call and the report remarkably quickly.

            All records of the call were removed from the computer system in which such transcripts are typically stored, and were transferred to a separate computer system reserved for what the whistleblower report described as “codeword-level intelligence information”.

            And yes, Trump’s decision to release all of this information has been a huge tactical error. He’s essentially confessed already.

            I agree, Guiliani should not have been involved and that’s one of the major issues. I’m not sure how Barr’s investigation would be illegitimate though.

            The President isn’t allowed to order the Attorney General to investigate people, and he essentially has ordered Barr to investigate Biden. The prosecutorial aspects of the attorney general are separate from the advisory aspects; I’ll refer you to this article by Alan Dershowitz.

            Could you explain why political enemies are ok but rivals aren’t? Especially since future and past presidents will be clever enough to use intermediaries.

            From a legal perspective: information on a political rival is considered payment-in-kind. This isn’t just about electoral interference; it’s extortion for payment in services. The electoral interference question is pretty bad, but extortion and bribery are pretty clear-cut as well.

            How is Trump saying:

            I’d like to ask you for a favor

            more threatening than Mendez saying:

            This reported refusal to cooperate with the Mueller probe also sends a worrying signal-to the Ukranian people as well as the international community-about your government’s commitment more broadly to support justice and the rule of law.

            I’m pretty sure “question your commitment to the rule of law” is how client-states get threatened.

            Now if there’s clear evidence that Trump’s hold on the aid was tied to this, that’s also bad. To the best of my knowledge, however, that has yet to be established.

            Trump had, just days before the call, cut off Congressionally-mandated aid to Ukraine, and White House officials (according to the whistleblower report) made it clear to the Ukrainian government that resumption of aid was contingent on Ukraine cooperating with Barr and Giuliani’s investigation. That’s what makes it extortion. Questioning the Ukrainian government’s commitment to rule of law isn’t a threat, it’s an appeal to common decency.

            It’s early in the impeachment and to the best of my knowledge no one has seen the documentation behind either the hold on the aid or the classification of the material, which would clarify matters greatly.

            Agreed. That’s why an investigation is necessary. However, I think that Trump has already essentially confessed to trying to extort the Ukrainian government. The question now is, what other crimes have he and his subordinates committed? I hope this has clarified the difference between Menendez’s fully legal and ethical actions and Trump’s illegal and unethical actions for you.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            What I’m asking you to do is the same: please, look past your pro-Trump bias and consider the points I’ve made.

            Yes, absolutely. That’s what I’m here to do.

            Senator Menendez wrote an open, public letter to the General Prosecutor of Ukraine. President Trump made a phone call to the President of the Ukraine, then concealed this phone call, possibly breaking the law again in doing so.

            In my understanding, it seems pretty standard for a President to talk to another President by phone. It also seems pretty standard that these discussions be at least somewhat private. Do we have the transcripts of every phone call Obama made to other heads of state? I would expect those to be classified. Maybe I’m wrong. I certainly dont see this as a big deal, I see it as something that would be almost an everyday occurrence for POTUS: talk to a foreign leader on the phone, do not publish transcript of the conversation.

            Moreover, Senator Menendez did not attempt to influence the Ukrainian government to cooperate with any kind of Congressional investigation, e.g. any investigation Senator Menendez had any influence over. In fact, he was attempting to convince Ukraine to cooperate with a special prosecutor under the authority of the Trump administration.

            Mueller may have been under the authority of Trump in a formal sense, but not in any real sense. In a very real sense, Mueller was working for Menendez (and all Democrats), and against Trump.

            Senator Menendez is not running in a race against President Trump. They’re political enemies, yes, but they aren’t rivals the way Trump and Biden are. That may not seem like a critical difference to you, but it’s a vital component of the quid-pro-quo corruption-related laws Trump likely violated.

            Menendez benefits directly from Trump being hurt politically. I dont know which corruption-related laws you are talking about, but maybe you are technically correct here. In any case, assuming you are correct about this, it seems odd that Biden can get away from apparent corruption charges because he’s running for President. Democrats have been trying to get Trump on something since day 1 of his presidency, but apparently what’s good for the goose is not good for the gander. Based on the information you’ve provided so far, I remain extremely skeptical.

            Senator Menendez did not make any kind of threat in his attempt to persuade the Ukrainian government to assist the special prosecutor’s office. Rather, he attempted to appeal to their belief in the rule of law and their pride in their country. President Trump actually did withhold military aid to one of our most critical allies against Russia, specifically in order to force them to cooperate with his illegal and deeply unethical attempt to undermine his political opponents.

            I dont believe I can answer this point any better than @blipnickels did above. The transcript of the call didnt show any direct threats, and for me to believe there was an implied threat, from people who want to impeach Trump as if their life depended on it since January 20th, 2017, would take some very strong evidence. Menendez’s open letter contains very clear not-so implied threats.

            ___

            Edit: Your last comment provides a better explanation of all these issues. But, applying this same standard to Biden, Biden is guilty of the same. He used the same mechanism of withholding aid to achieve a result which objectively benefits his son. So, for Biden the claimed intent was removing a bad prosecutor (why is it the USA’s business if some prosecutor in the Ukraine is bad?), and the shady outcome was helping out his son. For Trump, the claimed intent was investigating a potential crime against the USA, and the shady outcome was tarring his political opponent.

            Maybe this is the wrong level of analysis, but it seems that this favors Trump over Biden. Investigating a crime seems more legitimate than deciding who gets to be a prosecutor in Ukraine, and tarring political opponents seems more legitimate than protecting Biden’s son cushy sinecure.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            That’s what makes it extortion

            There is a nit here I need to pick because it’s important.

            POTUS is allowed to drive a hard bargain. In fact, he campaigned that he would do it.

            The problem is not that, when in a position of power over Ukraine, that he extracted useful things from Ukraine. No matter how bad Ukraine needed it. That is the best time for the US to bargain, and it is not “extortion” for one sovereign to play hard with another.

            The problem is that what the President was asking for was not for the benefit of the US, but to damage his political rival.

          • Aftagley says:

            But, applying this same standard to Biden, Biden is guilty of the same. He used the same mechanism of withholding aid to achieve a result which objectively benefits his son.

            I’m making a real effort to correct this point every time I see it. There is no evidence that this decision objectively benefited Hunter Biden. It almost certainly had no effect on Hunter.

          • There is no evidence that this decision objectively benefited Hunter Biden. It almost certainly had no effect on Hunter.

            This is a point on which both sides are making assertions, and I do not believe either has described the evidence on which the assertions are based. The facts, as I understand them, are:

            Ukrainian prosecutor A was replaced by Ukrainian prosecutor B due in part to U.S. pressure.

            Hunter Biden was being paid by a Ukrainian firm.

            The obvious questions are:

            Was prosecutor A investigating the firm Biden was employed by? Did prosecutor B then investigate it?

            If the answers are “yes” and “no,” then Biden’s defenders are wrong on this point. If they are “no” and “yes,” the are correct. Is there any evidence what the answers actually are?

          • broblawsky says:

            This is the last post I will make on this open thread on this topic. If anyone wants to continue this conversation, I would prefer to do so on OT137.75.

            But, applying this same standard to Biden, Biden is guilty of the same. He used the same mechanism of withholding aid to achieve a result which objectively benefits his son. So, for Biden the claimed intent was removing a bad prosecutor (why is it the USA’s business if some prosecutor in the Ukraine is bad?), and the shady outcome was helping out his son. For Trump, the claimed intent was investigating a potential crime against the USA, and the shady outcome was tarring his political opponent.

            Biden wasn’t the only person who wanted Viktor Shokin, Ukraine’s prosector general gone. Shokin was deeply corrupt and scandal-ridden; there was broad, bipartisan support for his removal in the US, the EU, and within Ukraine itself. He wasn’t dismissed by the President, he was actually fired by an overwhelming majority vote in the Ukrainian parliament. For a brief, contemporary overview of Shokin’s corrupt incompetence and the positive response to his removal at the time, see this article. By contrast, Trump’s demands lacked any kind of bipartisan or international consensus and were made under an extraordinary level of secrecy.

            this is the wrong level of analysis, but it seems that this favors Trump over Biden. Investigating a crime seems more legitimate than deciding who gets to be a prosecutor in Ukraine, and tarring political opponents seems more legitimate than protecting Biden’s son cushy sinecure.

            Shokin wasn’t removed to protect Hunter Biden. He was removed because he was deeply, deeply corrupt. Moreover, the criminal aspect of Trump’s behavior isn’t just that he asked the Ukrainian government to provide dirt on a political enemy; it’s the fact that he extorted them into doing so, and that he did so secretly, using Congressionally provided funds as leverage.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            The problem is that what the President was asking for was not for the benefit of the US, but to damage his political rival.

            If VP Biden was involved in corrupt affairs, it is absolutely 100% for the benefit of the US to have him investigated.

            Did you apply the same standard to the Mueller investigation? Because that whole useless witch hunt was designed solely for the purpose of damaging the political opponent of Democrats. If the underlying rationale for starting the investigation was honestly held, it wouldnt matter that a political opponent of the Democrats was harmed by it. But in that case there was nothing to justify the investigation. It was crooked turtles all the way down.

            Here we have pretty solid evidence of Biden interfering in a foreign country, in ways which objectively helped his son (just did a bit of googling to confirm some things, and one thing everyone seems to agree on is that a Hunter is a loser whose only asset is his dad’s connection).

          • jermo sapiens says:

            Maybe our pro-impeachment friends will consider the NYTimes of May 2019 a credible source.

            Among those who had a stake in the [firing of the prosecutor] was Hunter Biden, Mr. Biden’s younger son, who at the time was on the board of an energy company owned by a Ukrainian oligarch who had been in the sights of the fired prosecutor general.

            [Emphasis added.]

          • jermo sapiens says:

            If anyone wants to continue this conversation, I would prefer to do so on OT137.75.

            I’m posting there now.

          • Aftagley says:

            Was prosecutor A investigating the firm Biden was employed by?

            On paper, maybe, but in reality – no. The case was against Burisma (the firm) but mostly it was against its, one Mykola Zlochevskiy. By the time Biden made his threat, in 2015, Ukrainian anticorruption advocates say the case had been closed since 2014. (Source)

            Did prosecutor B then investigate it?

            Again the answer is kind of, but no. The person who replaced Shokin, a guy named Yuriy Lutsenko initially seemed like he’d go tough on corruption in general and Zlochevskiy in particular, but he ended up closing this investigation within 10 months. Allegations are the Zlochevskiy was eventually able to bribe his way back into the government’s good graces.

            So, in short, the answers are “not really” and “not really”

            Where does that leave us?

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Joe Biden didn’t decide to fire the prosecutor. He was the hatchet-man sent out to do the job.

            And, yes, he probably should have thought about the appearances, but I sort of get the idea Joe was trying as hard as possible to let Hunter break Joe’s life, because Hunter is a real fuck up. https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/07/08/will-hunter-biden-jeopardize-his-fathers-campaign “Cocaine” appears 8 times, “affair” 4 times.

            I read that three months ago, and it is probably due for a re-read, given new information. “Ukraine” appears 17 times.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Nobody seems to have mentioned the big political scandal right now, which is that in high school, and then as a high school teacher, Justin Trudeau appeared a few times in brownface, and once in blackface. That was a scandal – but his poll numbers seem to have recovered, and while it dominated the news for a few days, it seems to have gone back to normal. The Liberals are probably going to win, and very likely another majority; they’re polling slightly worse than the Conservatives but their votes are better distributed to win seats. (If they win a minority, I think Trudeau resigns.)

      Canada is just… lower key than the states. Our politics are less polarized (probably because we have three major parties – the Conservatives and NDP can’t move too far in their respective direction without losing votes to the mostly-centrist Liberals, while the Liberals can’t move too far to either side without losing votes to one of the other parties), and stuff that in the US would disappear in a minute can dominate news cycles.

      • albatross11 says:

        dndnsrn:

        Do most voters care about this issue, or is it just the talking heads who think it’s important?

        • Enkidum says:

          Yeah, I think there is a lot of genuine anguish about this on the left, including a sizeable contingent of people who would, all things being equal, vote Liberal. I doubt it will lose them any meaningful votes in ridings where the party is in meaningful competition with the Conservatives, but they might lose a seat or two to the NDP because of it, and in ridings like mine (very safely Conservative) more people like me will vote NDP*, but this will not change anything other than making ourselves feel more virtuous or something.

          *The blackface thing wouldn’t be the final straw for me or anything, I just think that of the three major parties the NDP is the one that makes me want to stab myself in the face the least. Still pretty awful, though.

        • dndnrsn says:

          @albatross11

          Hard to say. The first this popped up was September 18. Looking at the CBC’s poll tracker, it doesn’t really seem to have affected polling much. We won’t know until after the election.

      • Aftagley says:

        Nobody seems to have mentioned the big political scandal right now, which is that in high school, and then as a high school teacher, Justin Trudeau appeared a few times in brownface, and once in blackface. That was a scandal – but his poll numbers seem to have recovered, and while it dominated the news for a few days, it seems to have gone back to normal.

        I mean, I having seen any recent polling on Ralph Northam (gov. of Va. that was in blackface back in high school/college and afaict the anger about that faded pretty quick. I think blackface might not be a career ender.)

        • albatross11 says:

          It seems like a bunch of people in traditional and social media think it should be, but most voters don’t actually care very much*.

          * Note: I find it hard to take this kind of scandal seriously, so maybe I’m reading my own views into other people.

          • Aftagley says:

            Well, I wouldn’t say that voters don’t actually care much, but I just think your average person doesn’t see “was in blackface a few decades ago” as directly translating to “is a racist piece of trash.”

            I mean, Northam devoted a non-insignificant portion of his professional career directly helping lower-income, minority children and has since advanced policy objectives that assisted minorities. I think the public was able to weight the weight of what he’s accomplished vs. one photo and made the correct decision.

            *Note – I like the guy, so maybe I’m biased.

          • albatross11 says:

            Yeah, I’m specifically thinking of “a photo of you in blackface from 20 years ago showed up” kinds of scandals. If a current-day politician goes out in blackface tomorrow, I expect it will play less well with the voters. But decades-old embarrassing pictures are a supremely dumb way to decide whom to trust with important jobs.

          • Protagoras says:

            As one of the liberals around here, though not a PoC (which may invalidate my position on this, though it also seems to me a flaw sometimes shown by my side is people being more offended on behalf of victim groups than the supposed victim groups are themselves), I don’t see that using make-up to try to look like another race would be inherently a big deal absent further context. In many cases, of course, there is further context which is very problematic, and these days, in the context of a near universal message that it is somehow the Worst Thing Ever, anyone doing it is probably deliberately trolling and deserves what they get for being a horrible troll. But absent further context, I am not on board with automatically condemning someone now for having done this decades ago, in a time when it wasn’t constantly being explained to everyone how awful this is and anyway the person was young and foolish.

    • “In private, Trump very directly, very harshly put pressure on Sessions, to 1) “unrecuse” himself, 2) make a public statement denouncing the investigation despite his recusal,”

      There. Is. Nothing. Wrong. With. This. The President is under no obligation to agree with the decisions of one of his employees to recuse himself. If he thinks one is improper, it’s his right to speak out.

      “direct Mueller to, in effect, stop the investigation by limiting it to only “future election meddling”.”

      There would be a problem here if the investigation was launched with actual evidence of a crime. There was not. And a laundry list of accusations without evidence is not a form of evidence. It is perfectly just and proper for the President to shut down politically motivated witch-hunts.

      “The unfolding Ukraine scandal — already appearing to be one of the biggest in the history of the country — is receiving the same shrugs and dismissals.”

      I think it’s corrupt but, in theory, justified as a measure of fighting back against the Deep State. In practice, Trump is an incompetent idiot who shouldn’t even bother playing said game. And I would advise anyone involved with the administration along with the Ukrainians to immediately cut ties with Trump and condemn him, as he won’t have your back.

      • albatross11 says:

        Alexander Turok:

        I don’t think that’s right. If someone recuses himself from overseeing an investigation for ethical reasons, I don’t see how having the boss pressure him to un-recuse himself is at all reasonable. Instead, it looks like the boss pressuring him to ignore his ethical concerns.

        In the near future, I suspect that an entry qualification for being a serious Republican politician will be having somehow managed to engage productively with Trump without getting wrecked or slimed by the interaction. Nikki Haley is probably the model here. Even if Trump goes down to impeachment and removal from office and ends up in jail, she will still have a decent reputation, plus she will have served in Trump’s administration and parted on reasonably amicable terms. Sessions’ being fired by Trump, more-or-less for recusing himself from the investigation and then refusing to involve himself in it, raises my opinion of Sessions.

    • BBA says:

      The Trump scandals are a nothingburger because they’re all about the 2016 election. Yes, even Ukraine – Trump asked about Hillary’s email server before moving on to the Biden issue. The Democrats are simply refusing to admit they lost and keep trying to find some higher authority who can step in and give the presidency back and make the world right again. But there’s nobody who can do that.

      For his part, Trump can’t stand that anyone thinks he’s less than the greatest president ever and is using all the powers he thinks he has to convince the haters and losers once and for all that he won fair and square and Russia had nothing to do with it. But there’s nothing that can do that.

      The 2016 election will never end. We’ve been in the Bad Place all along.

    • blipnickels says:

      How has America let its standards drop so low? How did otherwise rational people so quickly accept this absurd normalization of terrible behaviour and the dramatic shifting of goalposts that came with it?

      Because once norms are broken, it’s really hard to reestablish them, especially in a highly partisan environment. You’re pointing to Trump violating norms that are long broken at this point.

      It’s not a norm violation to have the FBI, CIA, and NSA investigate your rival presidential candidate. Both Hillary (in Benghazi/Server-whatever) and Trump were under FBI investigation during the election, both of which were launched by the rival party.

      It’s not a norm violation to selectively prosecute criminals for their political associations. More people were prosecuted for financial crimes associated with the Mueller investigation than for the 2008 financial crash; it is phenomenally unlikely the Manafort et al would ever have been prosecuted if not for their association with Trump.

      It is not a norm violation for individual states to individually prosecute presidents or their associates. That was violated with Manafort and has been threatened with the president.

      The prohibition against a political party using law enforcement to investigate/punish the rival party is an important norm but it’s also a dead one. Between Hillary and Trump, it’s been 7-8 years since either the president or the heir-presumptive hasn’t been under investigation. This is the new normal. I mean this a factual claim about the world, FBI et al investigations of presidential candidates has been standard for awhile now and once Trump leaves office, future presidents will be more circumspect but the basic facts won’t change.

      As for how it changed, you saw it the same as I did. Whoever launched the accusation benefited and even after the core accusation was proven false, no one was punished. It will continue until either independents punish the accusers (if they haven’t by now, why would they start) or until the people with power get scared enough to compromise with the opposite party (which isn’t going to happen).

      • cassander says:

        I believe that Manafort was actually under FBI investigation before the trump campaign started, but he’s definitely an exception, and he certainly would have been less aggressively investigated had it not been for his association.

      • JPNunez says:

        Is Warren under investigation? Is Sanders? I guess Biden is.

        There are good chances sitting politicians will be under one investigation or another (see, Hillary Clinton); Trump on the other hand, hired a guy for his campaign who was already being investigated by the FBI, so I don’t think I can fault the system for the fact that the Trump campaign was under investigation, if it was being run by a guy who was already being investigated by the FBI.

    • DinoNerd says:

      This. At least part of my unhappiness with the country I live in comes by comparing it with the country I come from. The more I understand what’s normal to Americans, the more I wonder why I’m still here, and especially why I’m thinking of retiring here. (Being still here now can perhaps be explained by career opportunities.)

    • herbert herberson says:

      It’s just fatigue, the fact that one side doesn’t trust the media, and the fact that most people had firmly set opinions right out of the gate.

      You can make yourself go crazy listening to the excuses or trying to evaluate whether the mistrust and/or firmly set opinions are justified, but at the end of the day the basic situation is pretty straightforward.

  17. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Hogwarts Castle built from one million Lego bricks.
    For comparison, the official set is only 6,020 bricks and Lego charges you $399.99

    • b_jonas says:

      Nice! Did they build that from the huge flood of lego pieces that the Action Movie Kid has created with a runaway Gemino Curse in the scene starting at “https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LH1RpVjqhj0&t=67” in the latest video?

  18. reallyeli says:

    From a very high level, what was revolutionary about the invention of electricity? Is there a concise way of stating what it allowed us to do that we could not do before?

    • Ttar says:

      Assuming you mean the invention of electrical generation/conversion/transmission technologies: Convert distant, scale-economical mechanical and chemical energy into proximate energy. Basically, generate huge amounts of power in a centralized facility and pipe it into my home, so I don’t have to spend five hours a day doing manual chores by candlelight.

      It also enabled the electrical motor which is a way better way to run your refrigerator than an ICE, although technically you can run a fridge on either.

      • reallyeli says:

        Makes sense. But, from a high level, what was the difference over chemical ways of storing energy?

        Is it just that power lines turned out to be a much more efficient means of getting energy to someone’s home than storing it in chemical forms? (e.g. candles, humans eating food and then turning cranks).

        • JayT says:

          It is more efficient, but also much safer than something like candles, and much cleaner for the end user. A large portion of pollution in third world countries is from burning things for heat or food preparation, but electricity helps take that pollution out of the home.

        • Lambert says:

          You can make big heat engines far more efficient than small ones.

        • Incurian says:

          humans eating food and then turning cranks

          All other considerations aside, people tend not to enjoy crank-turning.

        • CatCube says:

          One big advantage is apparent even if you consider electricity production on site of the factory or mill itself: electricity is far easier to move around and simpler to work with than mechanical means of moving energy. Once electric motors got small and cheap enough to use one for every machine, the old way of driving equipment got tossed over the side.

          The way that this used to be done before widespread electric motors is through line shafting. That’s where you had a waterwheel or a steam engine in a central location, and you simply had a series of shafts and pulleys running to the farthest points of the mill where it drove machinery. As you can imagine, maintaining all of this rotating equipment was difficult and expensive, and it was generally pretty dangerous–you had a lot of open spinning shafts running everywhere, though some of that is because they just didn’t give a shit about open spinning shafts at the time this was common.

          The ability of electricity to be carried by cables, rather than physically rotating equipment, meant that you could divorce the location of energy production from its use. You can’t as a practical matter run equipment carrying mechanical energy very far, so you used to have to have some way of producing the energy on site, whether a water wheel or a steam engine. Neither is terribly efficient on small scales.

          ETA: Concerning chemically moving energy: you can do this today, and it happens very often. In an area where connection to the power grid is not available or is unreliable, you can move energy to your site with a generator driven by an internal combustion engine. This is very, very, expensive compared to purchasing electricity, but is common where either the need is short enough that it doesn’t pay to try to get a more permanent installation (some construction sites), or making the grid more reliable is beyond your capabilities (e.g., U.S. military bases in Afghanistan or Iraq).

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Yes! The end of line shafting is the right answer, way more important than efficiency. You can tell that it’s more important because it happened decades earlier.

            But I think you’ve missed the main downside of line shafting, which is that all the machinery in the plant is synchronized. The flexibility of turning on different motors separately is incredibly valuable, but something we take for granted today.

          • Lambert says:

            Isn’t the trick to connect the line shaft to the machine with a leather belt?
            So you can remove it, put it on backwards, adjust the speed if you have multiple wheels and/or lose your hand in a terrible industrial acccident?

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Turning lines on and off separately seems like it should be easy, but my understanding is that they didn’t do it much. Adjusting speed is more difficult and comes linked with adjusting power.

            I should note that we’re talking about coal powered plants. The gasoline engine pretty much came after electricity and it miniaturizes pretty well. So it makes a lot of sense even today to have 10 small gasoline motors to power separate yard tools. (Depending on your circumstances. For most people today, I recommend batteries.)

    • AG says:

      Allows for the transference of energy across long distances and relatively high speeds, such that power generation could be concentrated to a much greater extent than before.

      And then electronic applications, where electricity is unique as a form of energy to allow for things to be done in increasingly efficient sizes. Computation, obviously, but also applications transferring light or sound.

      • reallyeli says:

        Can you say more about “increasingly efficient sizes”? That’s quite interesting. I imagine you mean that we can achieve very precise manipulations of matter (i.e. computation) that would be impossible with other forms of energy.

        • AG says:

          Yes, basically. You can make a calculator powered by kinetic energy, through things moving, but that contraption won’t be able to shrink down nearly as much as a silicon chip. Even thermal means would be technically based on electron movements, and thermal mechanisms would be more and more prone to external disruption as they shrink.

          There have been strides in taking more advantage of light energy, but we still default to storing it as electricity when not in use.

          • KieferO says:

            Not only can you make a kinetic calculator, it was briefly a commercial product! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curta They are a little smaller than a can of soda. They natively supported addition and subtraction, and with a little skill multiplication and division algorithms could be quickly automated. Interestingly, the key innovation behind it was 9s complement arithmetic, and not merely precision manufacturing.

          • AG says:

            This is very, very cool.

    • Randy M says:

      I’ll give it a shot.
      Electricity allows us to do work on command without the expenditure of human effort on different scales than steam power.

      edit: Should have refreshed.

    • S_J says:

      Before electrical power generation was dreamed of (by either Tesla or Edison), an American artist named Samuel F.B. Morse dreamed of using lower-power electrical signals to send messages long distances.

      I think I will refrain from writing down the rest of my comment, put it in an envelope, apply some sort of payment-stamp and a destination-address, and try to send it to you via physical delivery via a courier riding a horse. (Without electricity, it’s technically possible for the courier to use a combustion-powered engine to speed the trip of a piece of paper carrying a written message from my location to your location. But I’ll set that aside for now–because I’m discussing communication in the context in which Morse lived. )

      Morse–yes, he’s the guy that Morse code is named after–the impulse for his pursuit of electricity-based communication was a pair of messages delivered by courier, two days apart. Morse was away from home on business. The first message said that his wife had become sick in some way. The second message said that his wife had died.

      In 1825, both messages had taken several days to travel to him. Morse dreamed of ways to transmit messages more rapidly.

      Do you think it a strange thing to be able to communicate, instantaneously, with other people over distances of thousands of miles? It is a common thing, but the underlying technology is an amazing advance. It’s almost a singularity-level change in the world of communication. The change wasn’t instant: use of things like messengers on horseback, packages sent by mail, and instances of long delays in communication by mail continued for many years after the 1830s. But the ability to send a message to/from a pair major cities in the United States on the same day was a huge advance in communication speed–once the wires were present to carry the message.

      Using wires (and later, wireless communication to stations plugged into the network of wires) to transmit electrical signals over long distances. and turn those signals into messages for humans, is something that is much harder without the ‘electrical signals’ bit.

      A related, non-electrical-signal idea had already existed with semaphore networks, but this network had two major drawbacks that the telegraph did not have. The first drawback was that the semaphore network needed a line-of-sight between all stations. The second was that the semaphore network needed a human at the station to receive and re-transmit the message.

      The telegraph network did not rely on line-of-sight. Though the original design did not write messages out on paper, it was easily modifiable to write messages out on paper–thus removing the need for a human to be always present on the receiving end to hear the message click out.

    • Lambert says:

      It’s quite convenient that electronics and electrical power both use the same mechanism.
      That your switching/control/computation technology is the same as your power technology.
      Much simpler than electromechanical or mechanically-actuated pneumatics or something.
      (of course, fluidics *is* a thing)

      Also a wire that can transmit 1kw of electricity is smaller than a tube that can transmit 1kw of hydraulics or pneumatics, or a driveshaft/chain/cable that can transmit 1kw of mechanical power.

      Also fluids are bastards that will leak everywhere.

    • b_jonas says:

      As I understand, the first important use of electricity was to offer proper lighting indoors in a town without all the drawbacks of gas lamps like risk of fire and soot condensing everywhere.

    • broblawsky says:

      S_J has already touched on the importance of telegraphy as one of the early applications of electrical engineering, but I’d like to add that telegraphy allowed for the continent-wide synchronization of time and time zones, at least in the US. Before telegraphy, time could vary from town to town by 15 minutes or more, even for towns within easy riding distance. Without telegraphy, it probably would’ve been impossible to coordinate freight and passenger railroads efficiently.

      Other pre-Edison/Tesla/Westinghouse electrical engineering applications:
      a) Electroplating, in particular copper-plating of printing-press plates. This dramatically reduced the cost of printing in the 19th century.
      b) Electromagnets and the electric motor, also used for running printing presses.
      c) Various electrotherapy methods. None of these really worked, probably, but people tried electrifying every available part of the human body before they figured that out.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      Lower entropy.

      You can easily convert electricity to heat – harder the reverse. Same with all kinds of kinetic energy – you can use electricity to push, pull, rotate, vibrate, launch, mix etc. Vast majority can’t be easily turned into electricity.

      A kwh of heat is the same as a kwh of electricity, but the former has a much higher entropy. Heat can be heat, and that’s pretty much it. Costs you a hefty percent to turn it into something else.

  19. Dgalaxy43 says:

    In the last open thread I asked people for tabletop RPG characters they were proud of creating. I would like to continue that discussion with something tangentially related that is very interesting to me: World building.

    An amazing hobby that I have barely gotten into, but which interests me to no end. Vague idea I currently have is a post-post-apocalyptic Ecumenopolis, in which the denizens have completely forgotten their past as a super-advanced civilization and have reverted to tribalism, viewing the collapsed rusty megastructures as natural landscape. The ecosystem is sustained (barely) by ancient technology and nobody knows this.

    Have you ever created a fictional world or had an idea for a fictional world that you thought was interesting? Understandable if you want to keep it vague for fear of plagiarism.

    • AG says:

      How about them Kemono Friends?

    • Aftagley says:

      Have you ever created a fictional world or had an idea for a fictional world that you thought was interesting? Understandable if you want to keep it vague for fear of plagiarism.

      I have, but the more I DM, the less I’ve found this kind of world-building to be a beneficial use of my time. Immaculately-developed worlds rarely survive first contact with the PCs.

      An amazing hobby that I have barely gotten into, but which interests me to no end. Vague idea I currently have is a post-post-apocalyptic Ecumenopolis, in which the denizens have completely forgotten their past as a super-advanced civilization and have reverted to tribalism, viewing the collapsed rusty megastructures as natural landscape.

      Sounds cool! I don’t know if you’ve got any exposure to Numenera but that game explored a similar space and might have some ideas worth considering.

      • Dgalaxy43 says:

        You’re sadly very right about PCs and immaculately developed worlds. Ahhhhh, Numenera! Thank you so much. Somebody told me about Numenera a while back and everything I read about it was amazing. Then my brain for some reason decided to completely erase the name of it from my mind, causing me to be unable to rediscover it. Excited to go back to reading about it, it’s genuinely one of the most interesting fictional worlds I know of.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      When I’m not using published materials I tend to run campaigns in worlds inspired by Robert E Howard. Not the most original but very fun.

      The key features are as follows:
      1. A geography, climate and ecology akin to Earth circa ~20,000 BC. Mammoth steppe over most of Eurasia and Beringia south of the ice caps, a massively expanded Sahara desert, etc.
      2. Civilizations based on proto-languages or language families, existing at a societal and technological level roughly equivialent to the fifteenth to sixteenth centuries. I like my Gothic full plate and Landsknechts.
      3. Low magic, with what magic exists tied to Hermetic proto-sciences / “natural magic” (alchemy, astrology, theurgy) or caused by eldritch beings from outside of our reality intruding into the world.

      I prefer to have humans only, but if the system or players demand demi-humans I’ll incorporate them. Personally I think human cultures are more interesting: I’d much rather see a player roll up a Mamluk / Janissary slave-knight from the Afro-Asiatic civilization than Generic Fantasy Dwarf #57980.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        1. A geography, climate and ecology akin to Earth circa ~20,000 BC. So manm

        Looking forward to the complete version of this post, unless you got killed by a winged ape mid-word.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          Honestly I feel like I’m being attacked by the electronic version of winged apes.

          This was maybe the fourth time I tried to type this up. My page kept refreshing randomly or otherwise erasing what I had written.

      • Nornagest says:

        Generic fantasy dwarves at least have the advantage that everyone knows something about their culture, shallow and stereotypical though it is: affinity for stone and metalworking, comfortable underground, need alcohol to get through the working day, about 80% odds of a Scottish accent, likely to win a beard-growing contest with Karl Marx.

        Unless your players are really invested in your setting, though, they’re not going to bother learning enough about even one of your original fantasy cultures to spin up a believable character that’s from it. You’re lucky if they read past the blurb. Which is a shame, since I like tabletop roleplaying and adore detailed worldbuilding, but it is what it is.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          I agree, but I’m not sure that it applies here since I base my civilizations very heavily on real world cultures.

          Players might not be intimately familiar with Chinese culture during the southern Ming dynasty but they get the gist when the Treasure Fleet shows up. Likewise, they don’t really need a whole lot of setting info or deep historical knowledge when the pseudo-Arab / Berber caravan of ice-age camels rolls up because they can get the gist.

          This breaks down wiith obscure language groups like the Basque or Finns / Hungarians, but generally I don’t have them in the foreground anyway. A few raindeer-herding shamans aren’t going to destroy anyone’s immersion.

        • Dgalaxy43 says:

          Character stereotypes like that always make me want to create an inversion of them, though mostly they don’t materialize into full characters. Example: dwarf who cannot grow a beard who is extremely claustrophobic, is a clutz when it comes to smithing, and is a straight edge who doesn’t drink or do drugs. Definitely has no trace of a scottish accent. Is openly mocked by his fellow dwarves.

          • Nornagest says:

            Sure, you can do that too. But you can do that because people are aware of the archetype it’s riffing on. If you’ve got a dwarf in a standard fantasy setting who spends all his time growing flowers, or an elf that likes to spend his Fridays throwing axes and swilling Dwarf-mead at the Dwarf-pub, that says all sorts of things about how those characters relate to their society that you wouldn’t be able to infer if the archetypes didn’t exist. It’s free character depth.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          @Nornagest:

          Which is a shame, since I like tabletop roleplaying and adore detailed worldbuilding, but it is what it is.

          I feel like I’m doing under-detailed worldbuilding, even with reality and ancient people’s beliefs doing most of it for me.

          • souleater says:

            Oh, hey, Don’t worry about that!
            My world is 90% ancient cultures

            My world map is an ancient map of the Korean peninsula, but flipped vertically. The history is Metropolitan “cultural England/ N Korea” has taken over “Culturally Scotland/Geographically South Korea” and the Orcish kingdom (Culturally Mongolian/ Geographically Northern China) sent a team of special forces to trigger a War of the Roses in order to curb English/NorthKorean aggression.

            Also, English are racist against the elves and dwarves, and have forbidden magic (Based of southern segregation/gun control)

            As an aside, I’m using the CometKing as one of my NPCs

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Also, English are racist against the elves and dwarves, and have forbidden magic (Based of southern segregation/gun control)

            That was one of Poul Anderson’s fantasies, A Midsummer’s Tempest.
            (English Puritans, to be specific. Anglo-Catholics and Papists help the elves/Fae.)

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          likely to win a beard-growing contest with Karl Marx.

          Man, what a slow-paced sport. It’s enough to make me watch cricket!

          • Watchman says:

            The point of cricket is to distract people whilst the beards grow! Look at pictures of W. G. Grace, one of the great early cricketers (characters and possibly warlocks) if you want to see the link. Remember one timeless test (international match) lasted ten days and ended in a draw because the English had to leave to catch their boat home. Even baseball can’t match that level of dedication to distracting people from work.

          • Nick says:

            You folks are too harsh. I was reading Dorothy Sayers’ Murder Must Advertise this weekend and that ended with a very exciting cricket match!

          • Watchman says:

            Hey, I’m a cricket fan! Mind you, I also like cycling and prefer to watch NFL live, so clearly I don’t want excessive continuous action in my sports viewing.

          • Nick says:

            I’ve been known to watch live (classical) chess commentary. Of course, the excitement is as much in lines explored by the commentators as in the actual moves.

      • Dgalaxy43 says:

        This sounds like a very fun setting. I especially like your treatment of magic, keeping it to proto-sciences and eldritch beings. For some reason I always liked that, low magic based on now defunct human occult studies. I think you have a great point about keeping these mostly human, as well. Much easier to create a real feeling human than Fantasy Man #12. Well, Fantasy Man #12 is technically easier, but real feeling human is more fulfilling.

    • Randy M says:

      I don’t know if you are new to the blog; if so, you may wish to check the early archives for Scott’s posts on his con-worlding hobby.

      Have you ever created a fictional world or had an idea for a fictional world that you thought was interesting? Understandable if you want to keep it vague for fear of plagiarism.

      Nah, don’t worry about plagiarism. Ideas are cheap, execution is everything.
      World-building I’ve been involved in: Writing backstory for a dark fantasy Civ mod. The creator brought in a pile of old D&D lore (and fantastic organizational skills and dedication, etc.) and I helped make it coherent and flesh out a number of the characters. Lots of fun and well received, and I’m still tickled that my first post to Scott’s (ultimately even better received) blog was a “are you who I think you are?” message.

      I’ve built a few worlds for D&D campaigns. One that I thought was pretty well planned out was going to involve multiple time lines and time travel to prevent varying apocalypses–I must not have sold it well, because I didn’t get players to come back to a second session (to be fair to me, they’ve flaked on more occasions than that).

      Another more successful one was just a repainted ST DS9 setting–a halfling desert city for Bajor, Dragonborn for Cardasians, a flying castle near an otherworldly portal to the doppleganger controlled lands. Goblin bartender. Heck, hardly counts as world building. I learned my lesson about front loading the effort before you have reliable players.

      Now I’m going to stick some characters on a distant moon and see what happens over a few hundred years, generation by generation. The destination is tidally locked to a gas giant, with a sentient species that communicates chemically. The humans are the fractious descendants of carefully selected crew members somewhat mistreated by an AI with a messiah complex.

      • Dgalaxy43 says:

        Will try to reply to each thing:
        I know a bit about Scott’s worldbuilding. I read Raikoth and I was extremely interested in it.

        “Ideas are cheap, execution is everything” made me feel better about sharing my idea online, so thanks for that. Also that dark fantasy Civ mod sounds awesome.

        Sucks that the players flaked out on you, that time travel setting sounds like it has the potential to be amazing.

        The ST one is what you said it was, a ST DS9 inspired setting. But for what it was, it sounded very thought out. Sometimes simple ideas or things inspired by other things can blossom into really interesting things.

        Whaaat. That last setting is insane. That’s amazing. Communicating chemically is something I don’t think I’ve seen elsewhere, and I like it a lot. AI with messiah complex is always fun. This specific idea sorta reminds me of the game Kenshi, but there’s a lot in your idea that Kenshi doesn’t have. This idea is just amazing. Thanks for sharing.

        • Randy M says:

          I don’t think I used this explicitly in either game, but I have to share this piece of narration/tongue-in-cheek world building that I am overly fond of:

          “No one can quite agree if dopplegangers are feared and hated because they are deceptive and treacherous, or if they deceive and betray in retaliation for the mistrust in which they are held. Perhaps that’s a question best left for theologians.
          Except that most theologians hate dopplegangers.
          This prejudice is largely due to how outrageously difficult the course of religious history is for aspiring theologians pass, owing to the great schism several hundred years ago in the church of Pelor when it was revealed that the Patriarch, anti-Patriarch, anti-anti-Patriarch, and the anti-Patriarch’s mother were all dopplegangers infiltrating the clergy, leading to the creation of the reformed church of Dark Pelor, which among backwater villages is still celebrated to this day by numerous, and of course contradictory, rituals. ”

          Whaaat. That last setting is insane.

          Well, let me humbly repeat myself: execution is everything. Remains to be seen if I’ve the skill to do it justice. I will periodically remind you to go see for yourself in a manner both shameful and shameless . (In case it wasn’t clear, that’s the concept for my novel, not a game.)

          • Dgalaxy43 says:

            that’s a really fun bit of narration. And you’re definitely right about execution. I should have figured it was a novel due to the part about many generations passing, thanks for clearing that up. That said, a D&D game focused on making characters and then timeskipping to their descendants is an interesting idea (but once again execution, and that sounds especially hard to execute)

          • mendax says:

            @Dgalaxy43

            That said, a D&D game focused on making characters and then timeskipping to their descendants is an interesting idea (but once again execution, and that sounds especially hard to execute)

            I think that’s how the Pendragon RPG is meant to work.

          • Elementaldex says:

            Which Civ game was it for?

          • cassander says:

            @Dgalaxy43

            There was a strategy game that used that as the schtick. You were trying to defeat the great evil over a period of 300 years, so you raise heros, equip them, then basically breed them, and their kids would inherit their traits, and you’d come and go at quasi random intervals. I think it was called massive chalice.

          • lvlln says:

            @cassander

            I know that the Record of Agarest War was an SRPG with something like that, where you’d play through the stories of 5 different heroes, each hero the son of the previous hero, with the mother being chosen among multiple female characters during the father’s heroic quest, with the son hero inheriting characteristics from both parents.

            I’ve never played a Fire Emblem game, but I think at least one of those games has some sort of mating system between characters like that too?

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @lvlln: 3 of ’em. Genealogy of the Holy War, Awakening, and Fates.

          • Randy M says:

            @ cassander
            Massive Chalice is good, and fits your description.

            @Elementaldex
            IV.

          • souleater says:

            This looks unbelievably cool randy, There goes my weekend.

    • FLWAB says:

      I only made two worlds that were unique enough to be worth mentioning.

      The first was just a sub-setting in an otherwise generic D&D 3.5 fantasy world. In my story hundreds of years before a necromancer created a magic artifact that gave him an unlimited Negative Energy (the stuff that makes undead go) and he used it to make a generic evil empire full of undead, yadda yadda. He was eventually defeated and the artifact locked away, and my players were trying to destroy it before another necromancer got his hands on it. The only way to destroy it was to find the artifacts counterpart: an artifact that released Positive Energy whenever the other artifact released Negative Energy. The necromancer made them both, but he needed to hide the Positive artifact away because if they ever came into contact they would both be destroyed.

      So where was the artifact hiding? It was in a secret underground kingdom, cut off from access to the surface world. The necromancer basically forced a few thousand serfs to live underground, with no source of food. The only thing that would keep them alive would be the Positive Energy that constantly flowed from the artifact. So they created this hidden society that was full of cool pyramids and strange technology that all worked off of Positive Energy. Everyone kept a crystal shard on a necklace that they could recharge with Positive Energy to stay alive, and as long as the energy kept flowing they would basically live forever. They built a quasi-utopia down there, but then the necromancer was defeated and since he stopped using the Negative artifact that meant the flow of Positive energy stopped. At which point the society quickly descended into a Mad Max environment where everyone is trying to steal as many crystals that still contain stores of Positive Energy because otherwise they will starve to death. By the time my PCs got down there to find the artifact there were almost no people left, and they had all gone mad. There were a half dozen ancient people who had managed to survive, and they mostly lived in old ruins, constantly scheming and building weapons and traps due to their justified paranoia that the others would come to steal the crystals they had left. Of particular note was a madman who kept stalking the PCs who had embedded crystals all throughout his body. The PCs killed him in their first fight but since they didn’t know how the crystals worked they just went through his pockets and left the corpse behind…which came back to life after a few hours and continued stalking them. Overall, it was a fun setting to play in for a change of pace. The PCs went in blind, and slowly pieced together what had happened here and learned to work with or avoid the madmen that were left behind.

      The other setting is just a template I use for D&D games now. I use the out of the box setting with the same D&D gods and planes and races and stuff like that, but I impose my own cosmological framework on it. In my version all the gods and planes were created by the creator god O, and O commanded the gods and goddesses to improve and fill the planes with their own works. In the beginning there was only Good, Lawful Good, and Chaotic Good entities. After the gods had filled the planes with their creations, there was a vague war in heaven and Evil corrupted the universe. Many of the gods turned to Evil, and the Evil planes started to appear as the war continued. This framework lets me explain why some species are Usually Evil: they’re species whose god or goddess turned evil, which corrupted their nature. So the orcs were not always Evil, but when Gruumsh turned Evil he took them down with him. It also explains the disparity in lifespans: The Elf and Dwarf gods stayed Good, and so the races they created live long lives, but the Goblin and Orc gods turned Evil, and their races got stunted lifespans as a result. The god who created the humans turned Neutral and abandoned them to become a god of death, so humans have a meh lifespan and follow whatever god or goddess they feel like.

      Its a simple thing, but I like how it changes the tone of D&D cosmologically from “perfectly valid forces in balance” to more of a Fall of Man style “Good universe corrupted” which I prefer.

      • Randy M says:

        The only thing that would keep them alive would be the Positive Energy that constantly flowed from the artifact.

        Brings to mind the energizer from Chrono-trigger’s future.
        “Your HP/MP are restored!
        But you are still hungry…”

    • I’ve written and published two novels, each in a different world, but neither world was radically different from ours. The first was physically our world, but combined social institutions from a variety of real world medieval and classical societies. The second had a different underlying scientific structure than ours, which included magic, but was otherwise not that different.

    • aristides says:

      My favorite world I built was a rather standard D&D setting with a small twist. It was a heavily populated farming region where suddenly trees started growing everywhere over night. Even if you cut them down, they grew back the next day. They destroyed all the crops, wrecked the infrastructure, and forced mass migration. It ended up being an ecological disaster in reverse.

      One player went to the forest to search for a religious artifact, a pot that continuously flowed water from the river Styx, that was stolen, that he rightfully believed caused this to happen. The other one was a native forest gnome that had 500 years of amnesia and remembers the forest a lot smaller.

      They discover that a cult has been kidnapping people and sacrificing them to red trees scattered throughout the forest. The party never questioned why the forest that appeared 3 months ago is full of wildlife, nor did they question the influx of elves with amnesia. The new elves quickly adapt, and build a functioning society within the forest and befriending the party.

      They eventually make it to the center tree where they discover that the water from the river Styx doesn’t create life, it revives it. All the trees, all the elves, and even the gnome party member was revived by the water’s power, in conjunction with the sacrifices. One of the cult leaders was an old friend of the gnome who started this just to revive her, out of guilt of accidentally causing her death. Another one was an ancient elf that left the land long ago, and came back, only to discover her entire civilization was wiped out. Another was actually a terrorist sent from a rival empire, trying to destabilize their food supply. The party had to choose between returning the sacred artifact and trying to rebuild the agrarian society, or leaving the artifact there and staying in the new forest that was now thriving with life. In the end, they chose to stay in the forest.

    • beleester says:

      An amazing hobby that I have barely gotten into, but which interests me to no end. Vague idea I currently have is a post-post-apocalyptic Ecumenopolis, in which the denizens have completely forgotten their past as a super-advanced civilization and have reverted to tribalism, viewing the collapsed rusty megastructures as natural landscape. The ecosystem is sustained (barely) by ancient technology and nobody knows this.

      The manga/anime Blame! is basically this. It’s set in what was originally a Dyson-Sphere-sized city, but the machines that built it have run amok and no longer respond to human commands, so the remaining people are forced to scavenge for food and supplies while avoiding the crazed security systems.

    • Unsaintly says:

      I’m currently creating a fantasy world for a game of Godbound that I am fond of. It is based on a Microscope (collaborative worldbuilding system) session, which is always good for inspiration. It’s like writing a setting based on a dozen writing prompts from six people, good fun. The starting concept was “A world full of flying islands”. But as I write about the world, I am being very careful to present it as a useful resource for players rather than a story I am creating. Everything I add, I try to ask myself “How will this come up in game, and will it be fun/interesting?”. So while there’s bits about how the people of each nation dress and act, there isn’t a thousand-year history.

      I’m still working on it, but here’s the link to the setting doc for anyone interested: Thokaheim
      Since it’s based on a Microscope setting, it does feel a bit scattershot at times. I tried to include all the elements people came up with.

  20. Nick says:

    ETA: This comment orphaned because Randy thought better of asking. 🙁
    quanta is referring to the five relationships; per Wiki:

    The Five Bonds are: ruler to ruled, father to son, husband to wife, elder brother to younger brother, friend to friend. Specific duties were prescribed to each of the participants in these sets of relationships. Such duties are also extended to the dead, where the living stand as sons to their deceased family. The only relationship where respect for elders isn’t stressed was the friend to friend relationship, where mutual equal respect is emphasised instead. All these duties take the practical form of prescribed rituals, for instance wedding and death rituals.[37]

    The idea of unequal but reciprocal relationships is not unique to Confucianism, though. It appears in Aristotle, too. He writes that the best friendship is an equal one, but some relationships cannot be equal, like father and son or husband and wife. So instead of strict equality a kind of balance or proportionality must be struck:

    In all friendships which involve the superiority of one of the partners, the affection, too, must be proportionate: the better and more useful partner should receive more affection than he gives, and similarly for the superior partner in each case. For when the affection is proportionate to the merit of each partner, there is in some sense equality between them. And equality, as we have seen, seems to be a part of friendship.[27]

    There’s a discussion of this in Beatrice Freccia’s paper on Aristotle’s account of the relationship between household and state. I don’t know of any good corresponding discussions of Confucius, much less comparative work, though. 🙁

    • DavidS says:

      In terms of respect for elders being stressed does this system assume husbands will be older than wives? Or make them count as older? I’d be aurprise by a traditional system that made the status relationship in marriage depend on who’s older.

    • quanta413 says:

      Thanks for linking. I wish I had seen the original question, since it sounds like a good question to me.

      I also considered suggesting some Greek or Roman philosophy, but I’m even less clear on those than I am on Confucianism (which is saying quite a bit since I know only the barest amount about Confucianism). I like reading from Meditations at night sometimes, but that’s about the extent of my knowledge of Ancient Western moral philosophy.

      Like I admitted in the original post, my epistemic status was not very serious. At some point, I may read more Chinese ethical philosophy since it appeals to me at a surface glance, but it’s not a high priority. I’ll probably learn more history first.

    • Randy M says:

      ETA: This comment orphaned because Randy thought better of asking. 🙁

      it was totally a ploy to get your response a top level post it deserves and not me thinking I’d just made a mostly redundant and obvious question. /s edit: Quanta, all I asked was “go on.”

      the better and more useful partner should receive more affection than he gives

      This seems pretty opposite our current view, which seems to encourage unconditional love and affection of children and devotion in return in proportional to how well those duties are performed. For instance we’re having a parenting class at church and it is stressed in one meeting that your children need affection, physical and emotional, and you need to give it without regard for how readily the child will return it. This seems fair, because apart from any notion of duty (or as a condition upon it’s enforcement?) children are much less emotionally mature and verbally mature and may have trouble understanding that their parents even have needs.
      Basically the baseline is higher.

      I don’t know of any good corresponding discussions of Confucius, much less comparative work, though. 🙁

      I did a little research into Confucius earlier in the year, not enough to give any real insight, but hopefully enough to fake it. Anyway, I cam away with a pretty positive impression.

      edit:

      All these duties take the practical form of prescribed rituals, for instance wedding and death rituals

      Wait, this implies that the duties do not also take the form of ethical guidelines, for example caring for elderly parents. Is that just poor wording?

  21. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Thesis: we need Christianity to protect us from leftism.
    Obviously Premise 1 in any formal claim to this effect is that leftism is false, but arguing that would deserve its own top-level post. Accepting P1, my P2 is that it’s not completely false, so the secular contrarian reaction against it is not True and useful (“reversed stupidity is not intelligence”). We need something older than leftism and more tested, not something newer, negative and untested.
    What, though, is the definition of the term “leftism”? This isn’t easy, because what I’m trying to define is the worldview of a tribe, not a fixed ideology with a catechism (such as Marxism, which is adjacent but not the same thing). It’s the worldview of the Oppression Olympics, where you can be removed from a university or fired from your job for saying something offensive about women/black people/homosexuality but not men/white people/heterosexuality. The recognized parts of the stack are race (black>other POC>white), LGBT (transgender>lesbian*>bisexual>straight), religion (Islam>other minority religions>Christianity), gender and disability, with class in there somewhere. Postmodernism/deconstruction/Critical Theory is tied up in it.
    Once the term is defined, Objection 1 would be that other world religions object to leftism. True, but I’m speaking as a Westerner in the West, where leftism was invented. Islam is false and harmful, and even if Hinduism or Buddhism were true, there’s no major movement to convert us.** So I claim that only Christianity can protect us.

    *confirmed by the use of “TERF” as a boo word.
    **I could be more intellectually exhaustive by going through other world religions: e.g. Jews don’t try to convert Gentiles…

    • Jiro says:

      How about we compromise: Islam is false and harmful, and Christianity is also false and harmful.

      It’s hard to see the problems caused by rampant Christianity because Christianity has lost so much power that it isn’t able to do much of anything. And if it can’t do anything, then it also can’t do anything bad. I could give examples of Christianity doing bad things relatively recently, but you could just no-true-Scotsman them. “Those creationists weren’t real Christians. Neither were those censors. And what gave you the idea that people objecting to Dungeons and Dragons were Christians just because they associated it with the Devil? And Orson Scott card wanted gay sex to be punishable by law but he’s a Mormon, that isn’t really a Christian.”

      This also ignores the possibility of social justice just coopting Christianity (see: Liberation Theology.)

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        How about we compromise: Islam is false and harmful, and Christianity is also false and harmful.

        It’s hard to see the problems caused by rampant Christianity because Christianity has lost so much power that it isn’t able to do much of anything. And if it can’t do anything, then it also can’t do anything bad.

        Leftism in Europe supports unlimited Muslim immigration. If you believe Old Christianity (Catholic and Protestant) inspired believers to kill and die at the same rate as 21st century Muslims, inspired by an equally bad end goal, wouldn’t you still want to defirbrilate the dying Christianity that can’t do anything good or bad just enough to do the good deed of stopping it? Even accepting your argument, there’s a deep middle ground between Episcopalians and 16th-17th century Christians.

        I could give examples of Christianity doing bad things relatively recently, but you could just no-true-Scotsman them. “Those creationists weren’t real Christians. Neither were those censors. And what gave you the idea that people objecting to Dungeons and Dragons were Christians just because they associated it with the Devil? And Orson Scott card wanted gay sex to be punishable by law but he’s a Mormon, that isn’t really a Christian.”

        Don’t assume.
        (Mormonism is certainly a weird case from a theological perspective, but I grant you the rest.)

        This also ignores the possibility of social justice just coopting Christianity (see: Liberation Theology.)

        Yes, co-option of the Church by heresies inspired by Cool atheist ideologies like Marxism is a possibility. If that becomes a done deal, my thesis collapses.

        • AlesZiegler says:

          Aproximately zero mainstream political parties in Western Europe, leftwing or otherwise, support unlimited Muslim immigration. You might find some Open Borders anarchist if you are really looking for them, but if they represent “leftism”, then European leftism is marginal and powerless movement.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            According to a 2017 Pew study, Sweden will be 30.6% Muslim in 2050 if asylum seeking isn’t dramatically reduced, and 20.5% if it is reduced to near-zero from the Islamic world but other types of immigration aren’t stopped/reformed in a restrictive way.
            That’s not official support for open borders, but which Parties on the left are against Sweden becoming 30.6% Muslim?

            Compare the United States, where the most progressive Democrats say they’re against open borders but truthfully saying someone is an illegal alien is now a crime carrying a $250,000 punishment in New York.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I was going to object that the NYC rule was only clarifying that the city’s existing non-discrimination laws apply to country of national origin.

            . . . But LMC is quoting from the horse’s mouth, and if they aren’t enacting speech codes on every citizen, they sure are trying to make us think they are.

          • Don_Flamingo says:

            In Germany it was a hell of a fight for the more conservative elements to get an upper bound for admissible refugees codified into law. The libertarian party and the green ones want to get rid off it. Is not wanting to limit refugee numbers, not the same as wanting unlimited refugees? Aren’t almost all the refugees Muslim?
            I think that’s just different ways of saying the same thing. That major German political parties want unlimited Muslim immigration is a bit of a polemic way of expressing it, since it’s about the desire to save and protect people from danger and not loving Muslims qua their Muslimness, but it’s hardly wrong either.

            I’m not sure anyone actually wants immigration and integration of those refugees much. The long-term questions this seems tacitly ignored. But I’m a bit out of touch, since this stupid mess has made me ignore political news for years now. I recently read about the refugees being referred to as migrants in a newspaper, but I think that’s more of a Lefty-press thing.

            edit:
            I think you’re misinterpreting “unlimited” in an obviously implausible way. Of course noone in Sweden wants to have all the Muslims. Even if they did, not like all the Muslims would even want to go to Sweden, when so very many are perfectly content in Indonesia. It’s about refugees and whether to limit or not limit the inflow.
            The latter would be wanting unlimited “migration” or asylum-granting anyway. The latter is very much a position.

          • AlesZiegler says:

            I am not familiar with Swedish politics but by art of googling I discovered that in 2015, Swedish government led by Social democrats introduced some controversial immigration restrictions, that were meant to be temporary, but were recently partially extended.

            But more importantly, by open borders and unlimited immigration is usually meant that there are no, um, limits on immigration. Projection that after 30 years there will be 30 % of Muslims, compared to 8 % now, does not prove that Muslim immigration to Sweden is unlimited in a normal sense of the word “unlimited”, which would mean that every Muslim in the world could fly to Sweden and settle there.

          • Aftagley says:

            Compare the United States, where the most progressive Democrats say they’re against open borders but truthfully saying someone is an illegal alien is now a crime carrying a $250,000 punishment in New York.

            Prior going into this topic: this will almost certainly end up being bullshit.

            Having research the topic: yep, it’s mostly bullshit.

            Your claim (and what’s bouncing around the media) makes it seem like just saying someone’s an illegal immigrant will get you slapped with a quarter of a million dollar fine. In reality, this new regulation applies to three very specific scenarios – housing, employment and public accommodations. Our society has already recognized that these scenarios are special and therefore has a long list of stuff that your employer (or landlord, or hotel owner or whatever) can’t say to you that an average member of the public can.

            If you want, LMC, you can still fly to New York and call people an illegal aliens. I’d recommend you don’t because, why? but it’s totally allowed. Just don’t hire them before you do so.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Note that the official tweet has two examples

            New York City has made it illegal to threaten to call ICE based on a discriminatory motive”

            Threatening to call the cops on someone in order to get them to do something they’re not legally required to do, or not do something they are legally allowed to do, is already illegal (regardless of any discriminatory motive). That’s “coercion in the third degree”, NYPL 135.60.

            or to tell someone “go back to your country.”

            That, of course, is a central First Amendment violation and whoever wrote it should go back to their totalitarian country.

          • beleester says:

            That’s not official support for open borders, but which Parties on the left are against Sweden becoming 30.6% Muslim?

            My religion is currently about 1.5% of my country’s population. But please, keep telling me how disastrous it will be if only 70% of the country shares your religion.

            Okay, that’s mean, so let me put that more politely: If you trust in the protections your country has for minority religions, then you shouldn’t have anything to worry about, whether you’re 90%, 70%, or 1.5% of the population. If you don’t trust in those institutions, why would you advocate for less protection for minority religions?

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Okay, that’s mean, so let me put that more politely: If you trust in the protections your country has for minority religions, then you shouldn’t have anything to worry about, whether you’re 90%, 70%, or 1.5% of the population. If you don’t trust in those institutions, why would you advocate for less protection for minority religions?

            Because I don’t believe in “minority religions” as an ontological category. I believe in religions on a case-by-case basis. From my lived experience, it looks like Hindus have internalized Western norms like finishing your education before marriage and monogamy. However, data indicates that Muslims tend to believe in Islamic law.

          • From my lived experience, it looks like Hindus have internalized Western norms like finishing your education before marriage and monogamy. However, data indicates that Muslims tend to believe in Islamic law.

            Islamic law permits monogamy, and as best I can tell most Muslim marriages are monogamous, although not all.

            Muslim law is very pro-education. The tax that all Muslims are obligated to pay is dedicated to a group of different purposes, of which supporting students is one.

            It’s an interesting system. A Muslim has the option of giving his tax to the ruler’s agents to be spent for those purposes or of spending it himself, directly or through a middleman, on them. I believe the schools of law differ as to whether you have to divide the expenditure evenly among the purposes or can decide which to allocate it to.

            The pattern in Iran, as best I can tell, is that the individual Muslim picks one of the high level religious authorities, accepts his views on issues of law (broadly defined to include morality), and pays the zakat to his agents to be distributed by them. A sort of competitive welfare system.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @DavidFriedman: well yes, most Muslims practice monogamy. The issue is how it changes a civilization to allow X % of men to practice polygyny rather than mandating monogamy.
            I don’t know how zakat-for-education cashes out, especially in terms of girls’s education. A man of any age can marry and have sex with a 9-year-old.

          • Enkidum says:

            The issue is how it changes a civilization to allow X % of men to practice polygyny rather than mandating monogamy.
            I don’t know how zakat-for-education cashes out, especially in terms of girls’s education. A man of any age can marry and have sex with a 9-year-old.

            Neither of those things are true across the Muslim world as a whole. It’s almost as if Islam and its effects on the world are complex and varied, interacting with the pre-existing cultures and political systems in which it finds itself, and isn’t well-summarized by youtubers.

          • albatross11 says:

            From a quick Google search:

            In Turkey and Egypt, the legal age of consent for sex is 18.

            In Indonesia, it’s 15.

            In Kuwait, extramarital sex is illegal but the minimum age for marriage is 16

            In Pakistan, same but it’s 15.

            Those are four Muslim countries, none of which allows a nine year old to marry.

          • albatross11 says:

            Also:

            In Western countries, we haven’t mandated monogamy for many years now. If you claim to be married to two women at once, you will get into some legal trouble. If, on the other hand, you maintain one woman who is your formal wife and support her and her kids, and another woman who is your mistress, and support her and her kids, you aren’t breaking any law. That’s true even if your wife knows about your mistress, and even if you all live together in the same house. (In practice, you’d probably do the same thing gay couples used to do and refer to woman number 2 as a roommate or boarder or a relative staying with you in casual conversation.)

            Similarly, if you marry a young woman when you’re young, and divorce her and marry another young woman when you’re older, you’re well within the law. That’s true even when you have kids with each, and when your first wife never remarries (likely if you divorce when she’s in her 50s).

            Those both seem to have the same impact on availability of mates as formal support for polygamy.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            @LMC
            Have you ever actually talked to a Muslim?

          • In Western countries, we haven’t mandated monogamy for many years now.

            In the sense relevant to LMC’s argument, I am not sure we ever did. His concern, as I understand it,