Open Thread 137.75

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1,271 Responses to Open Thread 137.75

  1. Dgalaxy43 says:

    History has to be one of my favorite subjects, but in general I don’t know where to look to learn about it in my free time. Human civilization is around 6,500 years old, the human species much older, and I know enough about history to know that in that span of time some amazing, some interesting, and some extremely funny things have happened. So in the interest of knowing more, what are some of your favorite bits of historical info?

    • jgr314 says:

      For a random selection of interesting historical tidbits, check out Futility Closet (they’ve got a podcast, a book, maybe more). The stories they bring up range from entirely trivial to very significant, but I almost always find them very interesting. As far as I can tell, they do not have a significant political slant (other than pro-cats) and they aren’t exploring/advancing any grand theory of history or framework for historical analysis.

      I also loved the Jon Green crash course series (world history, European history, American history, there may be others now…)

      • Dgalaxy43 says:

        Thank you! I looked up Futility Closet and found their blog, and it’s perfect. I’ve always wanted a source for random interesting historical tidbits.

    • Incurian says:

      This guy has some really great history articles on Cracked.
      (Edited to fix link)

      • Dgalaxy43 says:

        He seems to have a steady flow of interesting content. Thank you for sharing, I’ll be sure to look into all of those links in the link you shared.

      • Aftagley says:

        This guy has some really great history articles on Cracked.

        He’s also legitimately one of the nicest and most interesting people you’ll ever meet. I had the pleasure of working with him a few years back and absolutely loved it.

    • Randy M says:

      John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, confederates, then rivals, then friends, dying on the same day–July 4th, 1826.

      • Dgalaxy43 says:

        This is not a coincidence because nothing is ever a coincidence. Jokes aside, that is extremely interesting. You’d think they’d tell you that two original patriots died within 5 hours of each other on July 4th, but this is the first I’ve heard of it.

        • Randy M says:

          It’s not a total coincidence given that each man would have attached great importance to the date and may have been able to hold on to some extent until then; still a great story, especially considering Adams’ dying words “Jefferson still lives.”

      • Nick says:

        Another good one like this is Mark Twain being born soon after Halley’s comet and dying the day after its return.

        • Randy M says:

          Which he predicted, if I’m recalling the story correctly.

          • Nick says:

            Yeah. I don’t recall whether Twain predicted it after already being in poor health, though, which would make it a little less impressive. He died of a heart attack.

    • Jupiter764 says:

      Recently I’ve gotten really into a youtube channel called Extra Credits – History:

      Prehistory – 1699 playlist

      1700 – present playlist

      They have a bunch of cool videos on various historical events and figures. It’s light and entertaining, but they seem to take the effort to try to be as accurate as possible (not that I’m really qualified to judge that). Either way its a fun way to learn about various cool things, some you might not have heard of before. The channel has some other cool non-history stuff too.

      Also this is my first post! Long time lurker and I couldn’t resist answering your question as a fellow history lover. Favorite bit of historical info is probably the comical series of events leading to the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand – the assassin shot at him, missed the archduke, and then decided to go get a sandwich after his failure. The archduke’s car took a wrong turn on the way to the hospital to see the people who had gotten hit, and happened to go right in front of the shop where the original assassin was eating. So the assassin got a second chance and this time he was successful. Very unlucky archduke or very lucky assassin.

      • Dgalaxy43 says:

        That channel sounds extremely interesting, thank you. Congrats on your first post, mine was about a week and a half ago. Recently discovered Scott’s writing but I fell in love quickly. I never knew how hilarious the full story of Archduke Ferdinand’s assassination was, which feels weird to have just typed. Thank you for sharing.

        • Lillian says:

          The sandwich story is made up, far as we can tell by the Brazilian author Jo Suarez for his 2001 novel Twelve Fingers. The factoid somehow made its way to a 2003 documentary called Days that Shook the World and has since then entered popular knowledge. It’s unfortunate Extra History did not catch this.

          In actual fact, Gavrilo Princip was standing along the planned route of the Archduke’s motorcade. The only way in which he got lucky is that the governor of Bosnia told the driver of the Archduke’s car he should have taken a different route, at which point the confused driver slowed down or stopped, right in front of the assassin. So there is irony there, in that the the governor tried to get the driver to change course in order to avoid assassins, and in so doing resulted in the driver giving the assassin a better shot. If the car had simply sped through, Princip may very well have missed, and if the governor had told the driver to change plans earlier, he never would have gotten his shot. It was the combination of good planning on the part of the assassins, and bad planning on the part of the motorcade, that resulted in the death the Archduke and his wife.

          • Jupiter764 says:

            Wow, I feel silly because usually I’m pretty good at catching “that famous story didn’t actually occur” type things. I guess this one was just too cool to look into further.

            At this point I’m wondering if any fun anecdote from history actually happened. It seems every single one I hear about, later I find out it’s a myth! Oh well.

          • Lillian says:

            Not everything you might have heard about Mad Jack Churchill is true, but enough of it is that his story is still pretty wild. He did go into battle with a sword and a longbow, in the middle of god damned Second World War, while playing bagpipes. This crazy bastard got the last recorded longbow combat kill in history, against dudes with machineguns, because damn mad lad of a Scotsman.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Lillian: This is what happens when you’re a stubborn mad lad who’s only played D&D but the Game Master insists on only bringing GURPS WWII books.

            “Churchill later walked back to the town to retrieve his sword, which he had lost in hand-to-hand combat with the German regiment.”

            Even his name sounds like trolling the GM.
            “Everybody create a British soldier. Jack, what’s your PC’s name?”
            “Jack Churchill.”
            “… it doesn’t sound like you’re putting much thought into this.”
            “John Malcolm Thorpe Fleming Churchill.”
            “…”

      • DragonMilk says:

        Seconded, they have “Lies” episodes where they go into inaccuracies though, such as the Archduke story.

        I don’t watch those much since they spoil the fun a lot of the times!

      • roystgnr says:

        I’ve made a few quick searches for history channels on YouTube which are high quality, extensive, and accessible/appropriate for kids, and apparently my Google skills have decayed horribly, because I hadn’t come across Extra Credits before. Thank you so much!

    • I like primary sources. Some interesting and readable ones:

      Casanova’s Memoirs. He was a con man, gambler, author, entrepreneur who traveled through most of Europe, from London to Moscow, met lots of famous and ordinary people, describes it all in a lengthy and readable account, most of which is probably true.

      Boswell’s memoirs. Roughly contemporary with Casanova, not as readable or extensive, and not as interesting and attractive a person, but still a first-hand picture of 18th century England and Scotland, plus a little of the continent.

      The Rehla of Ibn Battuta. Everyone has heard of Marco Polo, the 13th century Italian world traveler. Ibn Battuta was the 14th century North African equivalent. He made the pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina, got bit by the travel bug, spent some time as the chief Malaki Qadi of Delhi, claimed to have made it to China but is suspected to have only reached somewhere in southeast Asia, eventually came home, continued his travels, giving us our only 14th century pictures of East Africa and West Africa. One of his rules, which I try to follow, is never to go back by the same route you came out by.

      Mohammed’s People. This is an account of the early centuries of Islam (and a little before), put together as a pastiche of period sources. It gives you a picture of how Islam and Islamic history looked, perhaps still look, from the inside, to Muslims.

      The History of William Marshall. Born the fourth son of a minor noble during the Stephen and Matilda civil war, William became the top tournament knight in western Europe—I like to say that he probably regarded Richard the Lion-Hearted as a talented amateur. He served five kings, and before he died was regent of England for John’s minor son after John’s death. The history is a biographical poem composed after his death and one of our few sources for a picture of medieval society written from within the knightly class rather than the clerical class.

      One other book I like, of a very different sort, is Alexander the Great and the Logistics of the Macedonian Army. It’s an account of Alexander’s campaigns with the battles left out, focusing on the constraints imposed by the need to keep the army and support personnel from dying of hunger or thirst. The relevant technology didn’t change much until railroads came in in the 19th century, so the author has detailed data to base his calculations on.

      • Dgalaxy43 says:

        Thank you! This is a really great, comprehensive list. I don’t know where to start, they all sound so interesting. The ones that stick out to me right now are The Rehla and the book about Alexander’s battle campaigns. I’ll have to go to the library and look those up. I always wanted some good historical books to read, but was unaware of how to discover them. Thank you again for this amazing list.

      • Lambert says:

        Pepys’ Diary is also one hell of a primary source on 16th century England.

        • honoredb says:

          I enjoy following him on Twitter. Although it’s kind of a hate-follow at this point–the medium makes him seem like a terrible person, and his habit of “enciphering” his worst misdeeds by trying to write them in foreign languages that he doesn’t actually know is like peak Upper-Class Twit.

      • Atlas says:

        Seven Pillars of Wisdom is a pretty good (though long and at times tedious) book, on the subject of primary sources.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      BBC Witness does short podcasts about history.

    • EchoChaos says:

      Indy Neidell’s history specials (Time Ghost) are excellent. My kids love Sabaton History, which focuses on the actual history behind the power metal songs Sabaton writes about history.

    • Lambert says:

      A History of the World in 100 Objects

      It follows the history of Mankind therough 100 objects at the British Museum, from a million year old handaxe to a modern credit card. You can call it a podcast if you want to sound hip, but it was broadcast on Radio 4 in 2010.

      Also from Radio 4, In our Time, in which Melvyn Bragg talks to experts about the history of some concept or other. I’s been going on for 20 years now and covers everything from the planet Venus to Horace to the Nation State.

    • Podcasts have a lot of good introductions to certain time periods. There is a lot of them that tell a relatively simple narrative over a long period that is good for getting a feel for the political history of that place. I recommend:

      History of China
      History of Rome
      History of Byzantium(which is basically a continuation of the above)
      History of Persia
      Revolutions

      And I’ve heard good things about the History of England and History of Japan podcasts. Some other good history podcasts:

      The Fall of Rome
      Hardcore History
      Tides of History

      The great thing about podcasts is that you can listen to them on your commute or just when you are doing chores. You can go through them quicker than you think.

      • matthewravery says:

        Strongly recommend The History of Rome as well as the podcaster’s ongoing follow-up, Revolutions.

        I’ve also heard good things about The History of Byzantium and The History of the English Language.

        I used to listen to The History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps and really enjoyed all the stuff on the Greeks (which I had some familiarity with beforehand, which I think helped). I powered through all the stuff on Islamic World but eventually got lost some time around Hildegard of Bingen. I like the podcaster, though. He has a good style and frequently references giraffes.

      • Dgalaxy43 says:

        I should listen to more podcasts, thank you for the list. I’ll check these out

        • I would start with the History of Rome. Not only is it complete, it’s also the most well known of the pre-modern Western time periods, meaning there are plenty of books about Ancient Rome you can use to follow up with.

  2. ECD says:

    In the spirit of the expunged BLM-Libertarian thread, and of things which I hope everyone is in favor of, ex-Officer Guyger was convicted of murder in the case where she went to the wrong apartment, allegedly believing it was her own and killed the resident.

    • EchoChaos says:

      Given the initial facts, it seemed likely to me that she would get off, but her testimony really did her in.

      Things like “I went in expecting to kill someone” (paraphrased) were seriously bad state of mind even if she had the right apartment.

      I am pleasantly surprised it was murder instead of manslaughter.

    • broblawsky says:

      I have to wonder if Guyger would’ve gotten off if she’d been allowed to apply the Castle Doctrine in her favor.

      • Oscar Sebastian says:

        This article says she was allowed to apply it and that jurors considered it, so apparently not.

        • broblawsky says:

          Ah, I misread the article. Thanks for the correction – I haven’t been following this case.

      • acymetric says:

        As a person who has (once!) tried to enter an apartment that wasn’t mine by mistake (it was within the first week of having moved there, all the buildings were identical 4 unit buildings with the exact same layouts and stylings…I was one building off), I can sympathize with the mistake initially.

        The problem for me, and part of the reason I suspect the castle doctrine was rejected, is that the first reaction to seeing the door slightly open should probably have been to look at the door number. Assuming the building followed any semblance of a typical numbering system she could have immediately noticed that she was at, say, 402 instead of 302, gone “oh, silly me”, gone down a flight of stairs and into her own residence. It additionally suggests that she fired immediately upon entering without taking any time to evaluate the situation or else she would have noticed that all the furniture and decor was wrong.

        Additionally, as the defense apparently noted, in this case castle doctrine would have protected the victim, and it would create an extremely weird situation if the castle doctrine applied to both parties.

        • Matt says:

          I once, having driven across the country to the state where I grew up, came out of a grocery store with my daughter and walked up to my rental car. I hit the key fob, heard the beep, and opened the door. Then this happened.

          That’s not my flashlight

          I don’t have any CDs in the car.

          What the hell?

          It probably took me 10-15 seconds to process that this was a nearly identical car (my rental had beeped nearby, and most people don’t lock their cars in the rural area I was visiting). The owner was coming out of the store right behind us and all I experienced was a mild embarrassment while I apologized and walked over to my rental.

          So I can see something like this happening, except the part where, while processing what’s going on, she instantly pulled a gun and murdered the person she thought was in ‘her’ apartment.

          • acymetric says:

            Ok, I’ve done something like this twice, although the second time I think was even more understandable.

            It was late, and I was taking an Uber home. I had an extra stop on the way to run into the store and grab some things. The car was a gray or dark silver Civic. It was dark, so it wasn’t especially easy to see inside the cars. Leaving the store, I walked up to an idling gray/silver Honda Civic (theoretically my Uber waiting to take me home) and jumped in the back seat…at which point I noticed “hey, the guy in the drivers seat is bald and my driver had very long dreads…” and immediately jumped out, mumbling what I’m sure was a nonsensical apology. My Uber driver was 3 cars over (and dying laughing).

      • Erusian says:

        How would that work? The castle doctrine says you can use force on people on your property if you have reason to believe there’s a danger to life, safety, or property. It wasn’t Guyger’s property. You can’t break into a home and then shoot someone else for coming into it and claim you were ‘defending’ the home you were in illegally. You need to be lawfully occupying the premises, which Guyger was not. She was trespassing.

        (Yes, you can accidentally trespass: the intentional part of the statute just means you have to intentionally enter. It means that if you tied me up and threw me over someone’s fence I wouldn’t be trespassing because at no point did I intend to enter the property. If I entered a place I didn’t know I couldn’t enter without trespassing, I still intentionally walked onto the property and so can be charged.)

        I’m not aware of any case that allows you to defend what you believe to be your property even if you’re wrong. That seems hilariously open to abuse. (“Officer, the castle doctrine said I could shoot her! I know she was a random woman behind the bar but I thought this was my house!”)

        Likewise, stand your ground (a separate but related law) just means you don’t need to retreat. If someone is attacking you, then you can use force in self-defense without needing to try and run away first. So it wouldn’t have covered her either. It would have covered her if she remained by the door and then Botham had come out and attacked her. But that is clearly not what happened.

        • EchoChaos says:

          You need to be lawfully occupying the premises, which Guyger was not. She was trespassing.

          But she said she believed she was lawfully occupying it. Just as if I live in a duplex and don’t realize that the interjoining part is in fact not my property, I can still defend it.

          Note that the jury didn’t believe her.

          I’m not aware of any case that allows you to defend what you believe to be your property even if you’re wrong. That seems hilariously open to abuse. (“Officer, the castle doctrine said I could shoot her! I know she was a random woman behind the bar but I thought this was my house!”)

          No more abusive than anything else. You still have to convince a jury that you genuinely believed that. If you say that you believe a random street behind a bar is your house you aren’t going to convince them of that.

          Just as Stand Your Ground requires you to convince a jury of an actual belief of danger. You can’t just say “Well, I thought that three year old girl was a danger” and skate. Laws aren’t magic.

          • Erusian says:

            But she said she believed she was lawfully occupying it. Just as if I live in a duplex and don’t realize that the interjoining part is in fact not my property, I can still defend it.

            You can only do that because you are occupying that interjoining part legally. If you were not, then no, that wouldn’t work. Likewise, I can defend your house if I’ve been invited in because my occupation of the property is legal despite not believing that I own your house. However, if I believe I’m on my property and I’m actually on your property and we shoot at each other then I have committed a crime and you haven’t.

            Whether she honestly believed she was in her own apartment is immaterial. I believe the defense made this case but it was correctly rejected.

            Just as Stand Your Ground requires you to convince a jury of an actual belief of danger. You can’t just say “Well, I thought that three year old girl was a danger” and skate. Laws aren’t magic.

            Stand your ground doesn’t require you to prove that there is some nebulous sense of danger. It requires you to prove that you were specifically in danger in a way that violence would resolve. A reasonable person has to believe under the circumstances that violence will prevent imminent harm. You can’t say, “I thought that three-year-old girl was threatening.” You have to say something like, “That three-year-old girl charged me and I couldn’t see what was in her hand.” You don’t have to convince them of your sincere belief, you have to convince them that your belief was justified. They can find you sincerely thought something but that you were wrong.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Erusian

            That does not appear to be what the judge in this case ruled. He specifically said that the Castle Doctrine should be considered by the jury.

            The jury does not make determinations of law (should the Castle Doctrine be considered), but determinations of fact (did she in fact act appropriately within that statute).

            Stand your ground doesn’t require you to prove that there is some nebulous sense of danger. It requires you to prove that you were specifically in danger in a way that violence would resolve. A reasonable person has to believe under the circumstances that violence will prevent imminent harm.

            Reasonable person is exactly what I was saying there. A jury decides the “a reasonable person would believe X in this situation” question. Same question here.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Unless there is caselaw that says “castle doctrine does not apply when you are mistaken,” letting the jury decide is the right thing to do.

            1. If there were case law, the prosecution should have cited it.

            2. If the jury had acquitted based on that, we would likely have gotten the court-of-appeals to formally decide if it applies or not.

          • acymetric says:

            I wonder if “have you ever entered the wrong residence by mistake” was one of the questions during jury selection.

        • hls2003 says:

          Just because a doctrine is applicable doesn’t mean its elements are satisfied. That appears to have been the case here. Castle Doctrine, according to the report, was instructed to the jury; the jury found she did not meet the elements of the doctrine and convicted her. So your hypothetical seems to have been answered – you can try the Castle Doctrine on the girl behind the bar, maybe it will get instructed (though if it’s that bad it probably fails on the “no reasonable jury” standard), and then you’ll get convicted for murder because you don’t meet the elements.

          • Erusian says:

            Fair point and a more clear statement of my own. I don’t object to the jurors being asked to consider it and I think their decision was correct. But it was a weird line for the defense to take.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            If I were the defense attorney I would probably try it, too. Not that it would work, but I wouldn’t have a lot to work with to start, so I might as well try.

    • eyeballfrog says:

      This statement strikes me as odd.

      “This is a huge victory not only for the family of Botham Jean, but as his mother Allison Jean told me a few minutes ago, it’s a victory for black people in America,” Merritt, the Jean family attorney, told reporters after the verdict was read. “It’s a signal the tide is going to change here. Police officers are going to be held accountable for their actions, and we believe that’s going to change policing culture all over the world.”

      She didn’t shoot him as a police officer. She shot him as a private citizen. While I do think she should be punished for her actions, I don’t see how it relates to officer misconduct on the job.

      On another note, it’s unclear to me how this would be murder. Manslaughter, obviously, but I don’t see the mens rea here.

      • Aftagley says:

        Eh, she came into the situation expecting violence. Upon seeing her door ajar there are a million things should could have chosen to do. She could have called the police, called out for help, left, whatever.

        Instead she drew her weapon and entered the apartment looking to confront the guy directly.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        I thought manslaughter, too, but the prosector’s cross-exam got her to admit, more or less, that she went in there looking to kill whoever was there.

        Even if it were her own apartment, it could have been the maintenance guy.

      • acymetric says:

        She didn’t shoot him as a police officer. She shot him as a private citizen.

        But she did it in uniform, and the distinction between an on-duty cop and an off-duty cop still in uniform is basically nil both in terms of how they are perceived by other people (how would they know she or any other officer is off-duty) and in terms of the authority they have (police officers can perform police actions like arresting people and the like even when off-duty, as I understand it). It also appears she may have presented her entrance to the apartment as the actions of a police officer as she was entering.

        On another note, it’s unclear to me how this would be murder. Manslaughter, obviously, but I don’t see the mens rea here.

        I think some of her testimony pretty strongly suggested that she opened the door fully planning on shooting, which might be enough (and the sequence of events suggests that this is exactly what happened). I don’t know if negligence or recklessness can be considered for a murder charge but both would certainly also qualify if so.

        • eyeballfrog says:

          Ah, I overlooked the part of her still being in uniform. That does change things. And upon further reflection, this probably does rise to the level of depraved indifference, since, as Edward notes, for all she knows it could be a repairman for the apartment complex.

          Still unsure of the racial angle, as it sounds like she had already made the decision to kill before even knowing who he was.

          • acymetric says:

            Still unsure of the racial angle, as it sounds like she had already made the decision to kill before even knowing who he was.

            I would guess it is just a matter of generally fitting the “black person shot by police officer” thing. I think there is also probably a perception (can’t speak to how true it is, but it isn’t a totally unreasonable one for some groups to hold) that in the past “the system” would have found a way to protect the white shooting officer from serious charges for shooting the black man, and if you operate under that belief then this is certainly a case that bucks that trend.

            As far as whether race was a factor in this instance, it is probably unknowable for anyone other than Guyger (and Guyger might not even really know herself) in the sense that if her first glimpse had been of a white man maybe she waits that extra second before she pulls the trigger (or maybe not, like I said, this one is pretty much unknowable and which way you lean depends heavily on your priors).

          • albatross11 says:

            Most of the time, I’d expect the system to protect the cop from suffering consequences even when she does something awful. I wonder why that didn’t work out here–is it just that her actions were so awful they were beyond defending, or she didn’t stick to the “I was in fear for my life because reasons and I thought I saw him reach for a gun” script? Or is this an actual change.

            Like most contentious police shootings I hear or read about, it doesn’t sound much like the world is made better by this woman being in prison for the next several years, but she absolutely should never have been a police officer.

      • acymetric says:

        It is also worth noting that Texas does not distinguish 1st degree/2nd degree murder. If they did, it would almost certainly have been 2nd degree in her case.

      • Shion Arita says:

        On another note, it’s unclear to me how this would be murder. Manslaughter, obviously, but I don’t see the mens rea here.

        I pretty much agree with this, with one caveat (maybe it shouldn’t even be manslaughter??? but maybe it should be murder???) which is related to what you said above as well:

        She didn’t shoot him as a police officer. She shot him as a private citizen. While I do think she should be punished for her actions, I don’t see how it relates to officer misconduct on the job.

        Somewhat related to what matt says:

        .

        So I can see something like this happening, except the part where, while processing what’s going on, she instantly pulled a gun and murdered the person she thought was in ‘her’ apartment

        One of the ways I like to think about these things is imagining myself in this sutiation and trying to imagine myself making the same decisions, and see if any of those decisions throw a big error. And my train of decision making differs from hers at a different point than Matts:

        She thinks her apartment has been broken into, and she thinks the person who did it is still in there. At this point, she is not directly in any danger. She doesn’t have to go in there. She can turn around and walk away and call the police. She chose to put herself in danger by doing so. I certainly wouldn’t make that decision, even if I were armed. I would very much prefer not getting into a gunfight to the alternative, even if I were to win said gunfight. IDK if that’s enough for mens rea, but maybe it’s something?

        On the other hand, however, the alternative I was suggesting involves leaving and calling the police, that dealing with this kind of problem is someone else’s responsibility and not mine, unless absolutely necessary, or something like that. But she is a police officer herself. This kind of thing is her responsibility. In that case, the decision of going in does kind of make sense.

        I don’t know. Like Nabil below me says, this is actually a hard case, and I have a bit of a hard time wrapping my brain around it and deciding the right thing.

        • CatCube says:

          I think at the very least, her decision was imprudent. One of the first rules of clearing a building from a military perspective is “you can’t clear a building alone.” You can’t watch your own back, and there are a lot of nooks and crannies. You don’t ever want to go looking for an armed person in a building on your own*.

          Generally, if she thought there was an intruder she should have called for backup, and since she was off-duty, probably shouldn’t have participated at all. However, there may have been a pride angle to this, as calling her colleagues to clear her own apartment could have opened her up to teasing from her coworkers. That doesn’t excuse doing something tactically stupid and killing a man because of it, but it could at least explain why she didn’t do the obvious thing.

          There’s also been something of a bias for action in police circles in the past few decades. This explains the asterisk above. It started after Columbine, where the police got raked over the coals for waiting for enough people to “properly” clear the building during the shooting, reinforced by that deputy in Florida who also waited outside during the Stoneman Douglas shooting and lost his job.

          Of course, a mass shooting event is different from most instances where an office would be called on to clear a building, where the shooter will generally suck-start his own weapon as soon as he sees an armed officer. Also, the screaming and shooting often gives you a good idea of where the bad guy (singular) is. If you’re, say, looking for a robber in a house though, that robber is very possibly going to wait in a dark corner and waylay you to try to escape, and there may very well be more than one working as a team to ambush you. If there’s nobody in danger, there’s no reason whatsoever to go in alone, and it’s TV Cop Cowboy nonsense to try.

          At the very least, she’s was either terribly trained or the training didn’t take.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      It’s a very weird case even putting aside the racial angle.

      Homeowners (and renters) should be allowed to shoot trespassers. So if Jean had shot Officer Guyger when she mistakenly burst into his apartment it would be totally uncontroversial for me. Likewise if Officer Guyger had gone to her apartment instead of his and Jean had actually been an intruder, I wouldn’t have any trouble.

      The fact that she was mistaken and went into the wrong apartment is what makes it hard to wrap my brain around. Obviously she had no right to shoot a man for being in his own apartment, so a sentence of some kind is called for. But it doesn’t feel right to call it murder either, because if she had been right about the apartment number there would have been nothing wrong with what she did. It feels like legal and moral bad luck.

      • eyeballfrog says:

        It’s unclear to me that, even if it had been her apartment and he was in there by mistake, she would be justified in shooting him. The castle doctrine makes sense when applied to someone breaking into your residence while you or others are in it. It makes less sense when the person is already inside an otherwise empty residence and you are outside, as there is no immediate threat of harm to your person. Calling in an on-duty police officer would be the more reasonable course of action.

        • Randy M says:

          Imo, the law should view leaving someone to ransack your home as morally supererogatory. Yes, you can get away and alert the police to come and resolve it–your life may not strictly be in danger in the way it would be if you were trapped in your home while it was invaded. But that means an increase in robbery, which means an increase in the homeowners being physically harmed by home invaders.

          It feels like legal and moral bad luck.

          Nah, this goes beyond luck, into recklessness and negligence. There’s no sin in forgetfulness or failing to recognize your surroundings–there is, though, in not being prepared for the possibility when risking someone else’s life.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          Legally you may be right. You’re also not supposed to shoot an intruder as he runs away for similar-sounding reasons.

          From my perspective, once you break into someone else’s house you’ve forfeited any right for the homeowner to “be reasonable” at the risk of their own safety or property. Not breaking into other people’s homes is pretty close to an absolute minimum standard for human behavior and if you can’t manage it society is better off without you.

          • Oscar Sebastian says:

            So why don’t you apply that standard to the person who broke into someone else’s home and shot them? Aren’t we better off without her?

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            Did you read my original comment?

            I explicitly said that Jean had every right to shoot her and that if he had I would have no cognitive dissonance here.

          • albatross11 says:

            And the possibility of someone walking into the wrong house by mistake, or entering for a good reason (repairman hired by the landlord, fireman knocking down the door because your house is on fire, etc.) is one excellent reason to be extra-careful about using a gun to repel a would-be home invader.

            Several years ago, my mom came downstairs one Saturday morning to find a complete stranger passed out on the couch in her living room. He’d gotten very drunk and ended up going to the wrong house in the middle of the night. (When she woke him, he was very apologetic and quickly left to walk to his own house.)

            Now, there are ways that this could have gone down that might have led an armed homeowner to shoot this guy. And in some of those circumstances, the homeowner would have been justified and the whole thing would have been one of those tragedies where nobody’s really the villain even though someone ended up dead. But it’s a much, much better world when most of the time, that kind of misunderstanding or drunken mistake or whatever ends in embarrassment, or even a call to the cops, rather than someone dead.

          • Oscar Sebastian says:

            @Nabid ad Dajjal

            Your original comment is exactly why I asked the question. You said there you felt her a victim of bad luck, but here you say that someone acting the way she did is failing what you consider to be almost the bare minimum of human behavior. Hence my question: Why aren’t you applying the standard to the officer? Now that she’s failed to meet your bare minimum, aren’t we better off putting her in jail where we’re basically without her?

          • Garrett says:

            > aren’t we better off putting her in jail where we’re basically without her

            Both a conviction for murder as well as manslaughter would have had the result of prison time.

        • EchoChaos says:

          It’s unclear to me that, even if it had been her apartment and he was in there by mistake, she would be justified in shooting him.

          There is a difference between “well advised” and “legal” for very good reasons. It’s not a good idea to rush into a house currently being ransacked by an unknown number of bad dudes/dudettes with unknown equipment. It is in almost all states totally legal to do. It’s your house and your right to it is absolute.

          It’s actually a pretty interesting legal question on genuine mistakes of fact, which is what this revolved around, which is why the judge specifically said that the jury could consider that.

          They rejected that based on the facts on the ground (i.e. they thought she should have known it wasn’t her apartment). But legally, it’s probably a gray area. As far as I know, there has never been a case where the jury held that it was only not murder because of Castle Doctrine.

      • acymetric says:

        I think being wrong makes a much better moral defense than a legal one, although it does make certain things feel particularly difficult on the legal side.

      • Oscar Sebastian says:

        legal and moral bad luck

        Except for how all of her coworkers said that the proper thing to do in that situation was call for back-up. Except for how she said she went in intending to kill someone – even though Edward Scizorhands points out that there are valid reasons for someone to have been in her apartment without her knowledge. Except for how residents of that apartment building state that there’s a problem with the doors where they don’t always latch right, so for all she knew she just didn’t close the door properly behind her when she left and no one was in her apartment at all. Except for how she paid no attention to the fact that the furniture was clearly different, which should have been a tip-off.

        And finally, though I expect this assertion will be most controversial: If you come home and find an intruder sitting on your couch eating ice cream, I really do not think that the first thing you should do is shoot them, especially if you live in an apartment building with bad doors, because maybe HE was the one having the brain fart and just settled into the wrong house, illegally but harmlessly and without malicious intent. You already have the intruder at gunpoint, unable to be a threat without getting shot. You could take a moment to ask some questions and at least clarify that the intruder means you harm before shooting them. There are levels of home intrusion, and they require different levels of escalation.

        TL;DR: I’m sorry, but this officer made plenty of bad choices that we should expect an officer not to make, and as such she doesn’t have anyone to blame but herself. The only victim of bad luck is the dead person, not the cop.

        • EchoChaos says:

          And note that the jury agreed with this. They were told that they could consider Castle Doctrine (that is, she was genuinely mistaken and thought it was her apartment and had the right to defend it). They rejected that.

          I think their rejection was correct. Even had it been her apartment with a random guy on the couch, her reaction was entirely illegal murder.

          • acymetric says:

            I’m honestly a tad bit surprised the judge allowed the Castle Doctrine to be introduced, but it probably avoided an appeal and possibly a retrial.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @acymetric

            I think it’s the right call, honestly. Mistakes of fact are entirely valid defenses.

            https://lawshelf.com/courseware/entry/mistake-of-fact

            Her mistake of fact (assuming the jury believes hers was reasonable, which is their call, as it’s a decision of a fact) should allow her mitigation here.

          • acymetric says:

            …Well you didn’t have to try very hard to convince me. I retract my surprise about the judge allowing it, but agree with you that the jury was also right to reject it.

            If you enter a residence with lethal intent, you should be very sure it is actually your residence, and it certainly seems to me that she had ample opportunity to realize her mistake prior to firing her weapon.

          • acymetric says:

            In terms of whether she had castle doctrine, this seems to be the relevant part of the Texas Penal Code.

            I think it would be hard to format this in a readable way even in a top level post, and certainly impossible nested at this level, so I’ll leave it to readers to follow the link (it goes directly to the relevant section, you don’t have to search around for it).

            It probably hinges on how strong “reason to believe” is (mistake of fact, as has been mentioned). I don’t know if there is any real legal standard for determining this or if it just has to be handled case-by-case by the jury.

            It is possible that they could have also leaned on these portions (describing requirements for the actor/shooter to qualify, note that these are all ‘AND’ not ‘OR’ requirements):

            (2) did not provoke the person against whom the force was used; and

            (3) was not otherwise engaged in criminal activity, other than a Class C misdemeanor that is a violation of a law or ordinance regulating traffic at the time the force was used.

            With regards to (2), it could be argued that she provoked the victim by entering his residence in a hostile and aggressive manner (with gun drawn). That part does not seem to allow for “mistaken provocation” (it seems to explicitly omit anything about reasonable belief which is pervasive throughout the rest of the code which leads me to believe its absence here and in section (3) is important).

            With regards to (3), trespassing is a class C misdemeanor which she was certainly guilty of (and as others have noted, that law doesn’t care if it was intentional or not although the way it is enforced and penalized probably does), and that section seems to only offer allowance for class C misdemeanors related to traffic violations. You could also probably find other low-level crimes that she committed in the process of the shooting that would cause her to lose Castle Doctrine defense under this clause if those laws don’t make any allowances for “reasonable belief”.

            I don’t know enough about Texas law to know what all laws those might have been (I think the trespassing is a valid enough though tenuous on its own in this case) but suspect there are at least a couple others.

        • acymetric says:

          I haven’t read up extensively on this case other than the linked article at the top. Were there any forensics provided as to where he was when he was shot? The article mentions that he was sitting on the couch eating ice cream, but one of the quotes from her make it sound like he was charging towards her when she fired. Were either of these takes (or something in between) backed by the forensics? There is somewhat of a huge difference between “shot while sitting on the couch” and “shot when he got within two feet of her” and it isn’t clear which it was (although reading between the lines it sounds closer to the former than the latter, I’m just wondering if it was actually explicitly presented).

          • Oscar Sebastian says:

            I’m afraid I don’t know; every article I’ve seen brought up the sitting on the couch thing. If he did charge her, that does muddy things up somewhat, but anyone who would like to say that means he deserved to get shot is implicitly affirming that they do not think Castle Doctrine is a defense, since he was the resident and she was the intruder, so bear in mind I will treat your arguments accordingly.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Oscar Sebastian

            He ABSOLUTELY had the Castle Doctrine. The question is if she did as well due to her mistake of fact.

            I think that she probably did, but that is a point of law that has not been decided. The judge’s orders to the jury specifically said that they should consider that she did. Even with that, the jury decided she committed murder.

            The judge’s decision may or may not hold up in future cases, but in this case there isn’t going to be an appeal on that, so that decision holds.

          • Nick says:

            If he did charge her, that does muddy things up somewhat, but anyone who would like to say that means he deserved to get shot is implicitly affirming that they do not think Castle Doctrine is a defense, since he was the resident and she was the intruder

            I don’t see how that follows. The reasoning goes: if castle law applies because Jean is the resident and Guyger the intruder, he was within his rights to shoot her. If castle law also applies because Guyger thinks she’s the resident and Jean the intruder, she was within her rights to shoot him. It’s a weird case but a consistent one. Compare it to if you’re in a war and you and an enemy combatant both think the other charged first; you each could claim whichever death resulted was a killing in self defense.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          I agree that she committed a serious crime and needs to be punished. I’m just not sure whether the crime was murder. Something about the idea that you can accidentally murder someone seems off to me, it seems like mistakes of fact are fundamentally not the same thing.

          You already have the intruder at gunpoint, unable to be a threat without getting shot.

          I’m not a self-defense expert but this sounds false.

          Unless these apartments were cavernous the distance between the couch and the door is less than ten paces. At that range all you need is a second of hesitation and the other guy is on top of you. And in terms of physical strength, even an average 14 year old boy could likely physically overpower her much less a fully grown man.

          Shoot first ask questions later is entirely reasonable when the other person actually is an intruder.

          • acymetric says:

            I’m not a self-defense expert but this sounds false.

            This is why I want to know if he was actually moving towards her, if he were standing but stationary, or if he were still seated when she fired.

            I think the law is ill-prepared to deal with mistakes of fact in cases like this. Partially because it feels like a slightly too-easy-to-exploit loophole if we just gave a hard pass on serious charges when “mistakes” were made.

          • Nornagest says:

            Unless these apartments were cavernous the distance between the couch and the door is less than ten paces. At that range all you need is a second of hesitation and the other guy is on top of you.

            If the other guy is standing and alert, yes. If he’s, say, sitting on the couch eating ice cream, you have at least a few more seconds, which is an eternity in situations like this. Even facing away from you would help a lot.

        • Garrett says:

          Sort-of related question:

          In the US, the standard legal advice is “don’t talk to the police”. And if invited into your home, anything they see can be used to create a criminal case against you. Even if unreasonable (see: constructive possession of … anything).

          So what do you do if you are worried there is an intruder inside your house, but you don’t want the police to enter your house?

          • EchoChaos says:

            So what do you do if you are worried there is an intruder inside your house, but you don’t want the police to enter your house?

            This particular vulnerability is often exploited by robbers who go after their drug dealing competition, etc.

          • Randy M says:

            Accept the lesser of two evils. If you defend yourself and any shots are fired, police will be showing up. If you call the police, they will be showing up. So if you think your life is in danger, prepare your justification for the suspicious chemicals now.

          • Wency says:

            In practice, there isn’t much the police can do to stop a burglary. And unless the burglar is someone you know personally or you catch a license plate, he probably won’t be caught after the fact. The main practical effect of calling the police is to provide a report for you to file an insurance claim.

            I think not calling the police to do this, if you have applicable insurance, is pretty foolish and paranoid. My dealings with police in these situations have always been highly professional, and they have been sympathetic. But to each his own. If you don’t have insurance, then calling them is generally just a waste of an hour or two.

            If you’re not prepared to deal with the burglar yourself, don’t want to call police, but do want to interrupt his burglarizing, making yourself known is probably enough. The large majority of the time, he’ll flee — burglars are generally non-confrontational.

      • Nick says:

        That is a dilemma. I’m no opponent of castle law or anything, but like @eyeballfrog I would resolve it by rejecting the unlimited right to shoot trespassers.

      • Lillian says:

        The fact that she was mistaken and went into the wrong apartment is what makes it hard to wrap my brain around. Obviously she had no right to shoot a man for being in his own apartment, so a sentence of some kind is called for. But it doesn’t feel right to call it murder either, because if she had been right about the apartment number there would have been nothing wrong with what she did. It feels like legal and moral bad luck.

        I support the right of people to use lethal force to defend themselves and their homes. The caveat to this however is that when you make the decision to kill someone, and drawing your weapon to shoot someone is in fact making that decision, you forfeit the right to be mistaken. A man is dead, gone forever from this world and all worlds, he doesn’t get an afterlife, he doesn’t get a next life, he gets nothing. The person who intentionally killed him doesn’t get to say, “Oops, my bad.” She is a murderer, and she ought to be punished accordingly. Now the murder is clearly in the second rather than the first degree, but in Texas law that consideration is entered only during the sentencing phase not during conviction. As i recall sentences for second degree murder are 2-20 years, and i would be satisfied justice has been served if Guyger is sentenced in the lower half of that range. Hell give her eight years, let her out in five if she behaves.

        • EchoChaos says:

          The caveat to this however is that when you make the decision to kill someone, and drawing your weapon to shoot someone is in fact making that decision, you forfeit the right to be mistaken.

          This is not in fact the law. There are defensible mistakes of fact that can justify you.

          The jury agreed that this was not such a case.

          • Lillian says:

            Sorry, i wasn’t speaking about the law in the first part of my comment, but rather my moral intuitions. Since i did pivot about talking about the law in the second part, i can see how that might be confusing.

            That said as matter of law, it is pretty clear from the start that it was murder and not manslaughter according to the relevant Texas statues. This falls under “sudden passion arising from adequate cause” but that doesn’t make it manslaughter, it just makes it second degree murder. Manslaughter applies if one “recklessly causes the death of an individual”, but the death wasn’t from reckless but rather intentional behaviour.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @lillian

            Gotcha. Thanks for the clarification.

            I think such an absolutist position is probably too harsh, given that most defensive shootings occur in very short succession after dramatic and traumatic events, but clearly this one falls well outside the veil of what I or most would consider moral.

          • Lillian says:

            It sounds less absolutist when you consider the fact that i generally believe in shorter prison sentences and taking into account extenuating circumstances. As i mentioned further up the minimum sentence for second degree murder in Texas is two years IIRC, i don’t actually think that’s too low, i’m sure there are cases where that’s totally fair.

            Incidentally, Guyer was just sentenced to 10 years, which is close to my recommendation of 8 years. In all, i am satisfied the justice was carried out in this case.

      • ana53294 says:

        Going into an apartment intending to kill somebody, without even checking whether it’s actually your apartment (which would make it not murder), seems to make it not just bad luck.

      • AlphaGamma says:

        I think the definition of murder in Texas is quite broad- and @acymetric says Texas law doesn’t distinguish between degrees of murder. This explains the very low minimum sentence- and note that she has now been sentenced to a term towards the lower end of the range.

        Perhaps in another jurisdiction this would have been second-degree murder or manslaughter- I think that is a correct definition for killing somebody because you were recklessly indifferent as to which apartment they were in.

    • Enkidum says:

      At the risk of diverting a thread about a serious and horrific case into something silly…

      Last year I was staying at a dorm-style hotel for university guests in Nashville, which had separate keys to enter the building and the room itself. Long story short, I got extraordinarily drunk and went to the wrong building, but my building key let me in, and then my room key let me into the room of the same number in the wrong building.

      Fortunately it was empty, or this very likely would have ended up with me in jail. I ended up writing a longer piece about it, and another about other problems I’d had while trying to get into the same hotel while very drunk on a different visit.

      • cassander says:

        I knew a guy in college who got drunk his first week or so, went to sleep and woke up to pee a couple hours later. He went to the bathroom, then when he was done, made the turn he usually made in his house, walked the wrong way down the hall, and got in bed with one of the girls on the hall. She got woken up in the process, was unable to wake him, and ended up sleeping on the couch in the common room.

      • Aftagley says:

        I ordered a mattress online a few months ago and on the day it was supposed to be delivered, I got an irate call from the deliveryman asking where I was. He told me that I needed to be at my apartment to sign for the mattress in 15 minutes or he’d walk away.

        Given that I was in my apartment at the time, I was confused. He assured me, however, that he was in my apartment and didn’t see me. My apartment is 3 rooms so I found this answer kind of hard to believe.

        I had him verify the address and it turns out he was in an apartment building one street down – the door man had let him into the building, taken him to the my apartment number and then opened that poor bastard’s apartment to let the delivery guys in.

        • Randy M says:

          Just be glad he wanted to see you there before leaving it.

        • b_jonas says:

          This has never happened to me with room doors. But at least twice, I opened the wrong bag locker by accident because the locks are of such bad quality. One case was in a library, the other is in a shop in a mall where there are no shared lockers so the shop has its own. It is of course easier to make a mistake in such cases, because unlike an apartment or room, the locker doesn’t belong to me and I use different ones at each visit.

      • Lambert says:

        People are shit at physical security.
        All that locks do is keep honest people honest. And all lockpicking does is change an obvious entry into a surreptitious one.

      • SamChevre says:

        Something similar happened to me.

        I worked my last shift as a waiter for the week at about 11 PM, and headed home to see my family – about a 12-hour drive. By 2 AM, I was getting sleepy, so I pulled into a rest area to sleep in my truck. (This was a drive I made every few months–this was what I planned to do.) I slept for an hour or so, got up, went in to use the bathroom, came out, walked to my truck, opened the door, and there was someone asleep on the seat. He jumped up ready to fight, and I backed away carefully–at which point I realized that my (completely identical) truck was 2 parking spaces away.

        • Enkidum says:

          I went to pick up my kids at daycare once, on an incredibly rainy afternoon when I was also rather tired (but not drunk, I promise). I got back into my car, and noticed that the seats were a lot nicer than they had been when I got out of it, at which point I of course realized that this was not my car. Not even the same make or model, but it was black, parked right in front of mine where I usually parked when I went to pick them up, and as I said it was very rainy and I was very tired.

          Fortunately there was no one in it.

          • Randy M says:

            I went to pick up my kids at daycare once

            “… and wow, that kid looked just like mine” was how I worried the story was going to end.

          • Enkidum says:

            Could be the story hasn’t ended yet!

          • Nick says:

            Maybe I’m just from a low-trust community, but I am absolutely baffled by all these stories in which everyone leaves their cars and homes unlocked all the time. Where do you all live, Mayberry?

          • acymetric says:

            Homes? Hard to say, mine is certainly locked when I’m away, and usually but not always locked when I’m home (particularly when sleeping). That said, I’m sure on occasion I forget when I’m in a rush or something disrupts my usual door-locking routine.

            As far as cars…I don’t usually have anything valuable in my car. The most likely thing to be stolen is probably the tires, but they can steal that whether I lock it or not. If the concern is actual theft of the car itself, that is 100% not something I ever have been or will be concerned about. I don’t think I would be concerned about it going forward if it actually happened to me. I’ll lock it if I actually have something inside (which is rare) or if I’m in an area where I think people might just screw with/vandalize my car if they can get inside.

          • Enkidum says:

            The car thing was Vancouver, but it would have been unlocked for like 3 minutes max, right next to an elementary school in a very residential area.

            As for the unlocked thing, one of the absolutely true 100% not exaggerated parts of Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine (yes, I know) is when he walks around residential neighbourhoods in Toronto and just opens doors. I’m in my Toronto house right now and my door is unlocked, usually I lock it when I go to bed but I sometimes don’t even do that.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Maybe I’m just from a low-trust community, but I am absolutely baffled by all these stories in which everyone leaves their cars and homes unlocked all the time. Where do you all live, Mayberry?

            Shermer, IL. There’s occasional crime, but I think my wife leaves her keys in the door accidentally probably 6 or 7 times a year and probably leaves a window open 3 or 4 times a year. The door is almost never locked when I am at home.

          • JayT says:

            I live in the Bay Area and always left my door unlocked when I was home, or if I was only leaving for a short time, such as walking the dog. The house I live in now has a front door that automatically locks, which was annoying at first because I locked myself out of the house a few times. My back door is open whenever I’m home though, so that my dog can go in and out as she pleases.

            Ultimately, door locks are a minor deterrent to thieves, and I figure the best security is through obscurity.

    • mtl1882 says:

      There is no good way to resolve these things—typically the law deals with them by giving a hard pass one way or the other, but that becomes increasingly untenable when people see how it plays out enough times, and people stop giving even minor negligence a pass when it leads to major consequences. The legal definitions will always be harsh one way or the other, and if they try to split the difference, it will still be hard to draw a line that doesn’t seem wrong in some way. Look up some of the mens rea cases that are used to study the whole idea—life has a lot of screwed up aspects that can’t be reconciled. We know there are instances where people truly go on autopilot and the issue is basically inevitable—we’ve all had moments where we just zoned out. If it had happened at a bad time… Good parents who leave their kids in hot cars are some of the clearest examples—there’s a lot of resistance to not prosecuting that, but there’s also a lot of recognition that it could happen to anyone (and a lot of denial of that, but the point is that people can disagree whether there is any true fault at all, such that it isn’t compromisable).

      Related to this: aren’t cops trained to shoot to kill?

      In cases like this, a lot of people comment about how she said she went in with intent to kill etc. I don’t understand why people are expressing surprise here (I understand why people recoil at the idea, of course). If you accept she thought there was a home intruder, and you accept her right to shoot that intruder, it makes sense that she would shoot to kill. But before doing that, she should have gotten her bearings–that is where the failure happened. It is going to be seen as a type of recklessness–the issue isn’t the deliberate decision she made, but way in which she made it. A cop who has actually had to prepare to kill someone in a dangerous situation would have a better argument for going into that mode, having learned to shut down the instinct to at least hesitate before running towards danger, whereas the average person has little reason to default to it. But I’m pretty sure the decision to use violence against a perceived intruder is treated as generally absolute once made–not a matter of degree.

      It seems in this sense you could argue that police might kind of be at a disadvantage, because they can’t just go into off-duty mode on something like that. But it cuts both ways. A cop could also be expected to know how idiotic people are, and how many precautions people are expected to take in high pressure situations–they have to enter strange buildings all the time and encounter strange people based on what might be bad information, and that means they better make sure they’re paying attention. They probably regularly get calls about a drunk guy in someone else’s apartment, or a supposed burglar who is actually the homeowner breaking into his own house because he lost the key. Humans are flawed and mistakes still happen–you can’t train them out of people. But my understanding is that cops are held to a fairly high standard of self-awareness (I know she was off-duty), but they aren’t expected to shoot non-lethally once they decide to use deadly force. Both of these things seem right to me. If we require a reason for lethal aim, it would be an unending debate, because any shot can be lethal, and it is nearly always possible to argue you could have shot somewhere else and made a “better” decision. Did this actually play into the case? I understand that emotionally, it may have affected the jury. But was it an issue legally?

      Now, I totally get that many people would make every effort to avoid a fatal result, or at least believe they would. I understand that there is a lot of opposition to the idea that you *should* execute someone who has entered your property like that, with no questions asked. I generally agree with this, because while I understand the principle of absolute defense, I also understand that people are flat out mistaken on a regular basis, and that if you are going to kill someone, you should be pretty sure of what is going on. Sometimes, you don’t have any time to figure these things out, but sometimes you do. A bunch of people in this thread shared stories of getting in the wrong car or walking into the wrong house–intoxication often plays a role in the latter, but if the apartment set up is confusing, it happens. Recently, I got into the passenger’s seat of a car next to my mom’s that looked similar and was running–this was in broad daylight. Plus, you have people who misidentify their own relatives as intruders. Or, in this case, the defendant was mistaken about whether she was at home! Both an incredible mistake and a simple one. Taking human idiocy into account–including your own–to at least a tiny extent is a reasonable expectation. Plenty of people do see it as a matter of degree, and judge how much force should have been used based on the individual circumstances. But we should be honest that the legal system allows harshness here, when the threat is acknowledged.

      Related to this, the law veers again into one of the hard passes with shooting someone in the back. There can be a lot of leeway as to who constitutes a “threat” in a way that justifies a lethal shooting–it is all about perception, and it can turn out that the situation was much more harmless than it seemed to the shooter. But even if the person is very much a clear threat who attracts no mercy, once he or she starts running away, it suddenly becomes a big deal to shoot and eliminate that threat. It seems bizarre in one sense, but it makes total sense to draw the line there legally, I think. All lines will be sharp and awkward if they are to have the slightest consistency, because they are usually about the purpose the law intends to serve (protection from immediate threat) not overall cost-benefit analysis and moral worthiness of individuals. What makes this awkward is that it was an intentional shooting based on mistaken factual interpretations, so it doesn’t fit into the legal categories as an accident. Such situations will always feel uncomfortable.

      • acymetric says:

        In cases like this, a lot of people comment about how she said she went in with intent to kill etc. I don’t understand why people are expressing surprise here

        People aren’t surprised that she shot to kill instead of maim. They are surprised that she appears (by her own admission, as well as by the apparent sequence of events) to have decided prior to opening the door that she was going to open the door and kill whoever was inside. Does that clarify it at all? There is a difference between “I’m going to open the door prepared to kill whoever is inside” and “I’m going to open the door and kill whoever is inside”.

        • mtl1882 says:

          Thank you for responding–it does clarify it. I guess I was just not seeing it as a huge difference *if you are opening the door on a home intruder* (in your mind) because of the wide leeway you have there to neutralize a threat on your property. But I guess I’m thinking, “oh, she lived alone, and didn’t give a housekeeper a key” or anything, such that it would be a non-crazy assumption that danger was definitely present. In reality, that is a totally crazy assumption—I mean, police could be there or a landlord if there were a problem of some kind, though this is less obvious when you live in an apartment because there will be no cars outside to alert you or windows with lights on. And it is likely someone did have a key, but I don’t know much about her personal life. That decision only makes even a little sense if you are in a state of paranoia, like you have a stalker. Otherwise, then yes, the behavior was reckless enough that conviction seems obvious.

          I guess the issue is that she is claiming she had absolutely no information about who she was killing–this is really odd, and I presume some think this is an attempt to dodge the issue of racial profiling. It already terrible if she saw him and jumped to deadly conclusions–claiming that instead she would have shot whoever she saw is no improvement. It suggests that she either was in a criminally reckless paranoid mindset or is trying to cover up the fact that she did see him.

  3. broblawsky says:

    Articles about how much Wall Street hates Warren will only help her, frankly.

    • hls2003 says:

      Agreed. I always understood those to be either planted or supported by Warren’s supporters. She’s still fighting the Dem field; having the right enemies can only help her with Dem primary voters.

      • broblawsky says:

        Jim Cramer’s one of the big promoters of this meme, and he probably isn’t a Warren supporter. He’s definitely a moron, though.

      • Thomas Jorgensen says:

        No planting required, Wall Street is just that tone deaf as regards their own supreme unpopularity.

  4. hls2003 says:

    You couldn’t give me odds on Biden right now. The only thing keeping him afloat, based on the polls I’ve seen, is fairly high (but likely soft) support amongst African-American voters who still loosely associate him with Obama. African-American voters in the Democratic primary have historically seemed pretty conservative (in some ways) and perhaps later breaking – for example, Hillary had high (but soft) support over Obama in 2008 based presumably on nostalgia for Bill Clinton (“first black President”) right up until Obama was seen as viable, and then the African-American vote catapulted almost entirely to Obama in a fast cascade.

    ETA: Clarifying line re Clinton.

  5. jermo sapiens says:

    Moving over from the last open thread to continue the Biden/Ukraine question.

    There seems to be a major disagreement over whether Hunter Biden benefited from Biden’s pressure to fire Shokin.

    This NY Times article from May 2019 seems to suggest he did, before the implications included impeachment proceedings.

    Specifically:

    Among those who had a stake in the outcome 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.

    Considering that the NY Times is anti-Trump and pro-impeachment-at-any-cost, their previous reporting on this issue, when the full implications were still unknown, about facts which support the pro-Trump narrative, should be given a tremendous amount of weight.

    • Aftagley says:

      And from later on down that same article you posted:

      No evidence has surfaced that the former vice president intentionally tried to help his son by pressing for the prosecutor general’s dismissal. Some of his former associates, moreover, said Mr. Biden never did anything to deter other Obama administration officials who were pushing for the United States to support criminal investigations by Ukrainian and British authorities — and potentially to start its own investigation — into Burisma and its owner, Mykola Zlochevsky, for possible money laundering and abuse of office.

      • jermo sapiens says:

        Yes, but I’m addressing the question of whether Hunter Biden was objectively helped by the firing, not whether Biden intended to help his son.

        • Aftagley says:

          Here’s a Radio Free Europe quoting Ukrainian Anti-Corruption Activists:

          For one thing, Ukrainian prosecutors and anti-corruption advocates who were pushing for an investigation into the dealings of Burisma and its owner, Mykola Zlochevskiy, said the probe had been dormant long before Biden leveled his demand.

          “There was no pressure from anyone from the United States” to close the case against Zlochevskiy, Vitaliy Kasko, who was a deputy prosecutor-general under Shokin and is now first deputy prosecutor-general, told Bloomberg News in May. “It was shelved by Ukrainian prosecutors in 2014 and through 2015,” he added.

          Kaleniuk and AntAC published a detailed timeline of events surrounding the Burisma case, an outline of evidence suggesting that three consecutive chief prosecutors of Ukraine — first Shokin’s predecessor, then Shokin, and then his successor — worked to bury it.

          “Ironically, Joe Biden asked Shokin to leave because the prosecutor failed [to pursue] the Burisma investigation, not because Shokin was tough and active with this case,” Kaleniuk said.

          (Source)

          Edited because the last version had missing words:

          In the end, there was likely no effect either way for Hunter. If Shokin wasn’t fired, Burisma wouldn’t have been investigated and even after Shokin was fired, Burisma still wasn’t seriously investigated.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            In the end, there was likely no effect either way for Hunter.

            The NY Times of May 2019 disagrees with you, but I suspect the NY Times of October 2019 is in full agreement. Please forgive me if I dont put much weight into the opinions of Ukrainian anti-corruption activists. I know nothing about them.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            I would also like to add that assuming everything you say is correct, specifically, Biden acted perfectly innocently, and Hunter/Burisma was not really under threat of investigation at the time, Hunter Biden still benefited from his dad getting Shokin fired.

            The reason is simple, and serves as a lesson why having VP’s sons sell their influence to foreign companies is a bad idea, and why having VPs telling other countries which prosecutors to fire is a bad idea.

            Imagine you’re Shokin’s successor. Are you going to bring a case against a company whose board has a member whose dad can get you fired? Probably not, and indeed, Shokin’s successor dropped all charges against Burisma 10 months after being named. Maybe that’s because Burisma is totally in compliance with the spirit and letter of the law, like all Ukrainian gas companies. I dont know.

            But I certainly dont blame Trump for finding the whole thing stinks and wanting to know more.

          • broblawsky says:

            I would also like to add that assuming everything you say is correct, specifically, Biden acted perfectly innocently, and Hunter/Burisma was not really under threat of investigation at the time, Hunter Biden still benefited from his dad getting Shokin fired.

            The reason is simple, and serves as a lesson why having VP’s sons sell their influence to foreign companies is a bad idea, and why having VPs telling other countries which prosecutors to fire is a bad idea.

            I think we can both agree on the first part. On the second part, the inarguable fact is that Shokin was deeply corrupt and doing serious damage to Ukraine’s ability to grow economically and deal with foreign investors. It’s not unreasonable for the leader of one country to make a plea for change in the government of another; when the two countries are allies with shared national interests, as in the case of the US and Ukraine (re: Russia), it’s very reasonable. Ultimately, the decision to remove Shokin came from the Ukrainian parliament, not any individual Ukrainian government official.

            Imagine you’re Shokin’s successor. Are you going to bring a case against a company whose board has a member whose dad can get you fired? Probably not, and indeed, Shokin’s successor dropped all charges against Burisma 10 months after being named. Maybe that’s because Burisma is totally in compliance with the spirit and letter of the law, like all Ukrainian gas companies. I dont know.

            But I certainly dont blame Trump for finding the whole thing stinks and wanting to know more.

            Even if Trump’s interest in finding out what happened to Shokin is genuine, it doesn’t change the following facts:

            1) The Trump administration withheld Congressionally-mandated aid to Ukraine before/while Trump was making this request;
            2) The Ukrainian government was made to understand by the White House that cooperation with Giuliani was necessary for the resumption of aid;
            3) That in forcing the Ukrainian government to cooperate with AG Barr and his personal fixer Giuliani Trump was receiving valuable information about a political rival;
            4) Subsequent to this demand being made, the records were (possibly illegally) hidden from all but the highest-ranking national security personnel.

            At the very least, Trump exploited his powers of office to commit extortion against one of our allies to get something of value to help him in his reelection campaign. There’s no way out of that, regardless of what anyone named Biden might have done in the past.

          • Chalid says:

            I certainly dont blame Trump for finding the whole thing stinks and wanting to know more.

            so how do you feel about Democrats demanding some transparency into the Trump businesses, and those of the Trump children?

          • Gobbobobble says:

            At the very least, Trump exploited his powers of office to commit extortion against one of our allies to get something of value to help him in his reelection campaign.

            Small point of order: I don’t think this is actually the case. If they were our allies we’d have boots on the ground fighting little green men alongside them. Friends, sure. Maybe desired allies but I don’t think anyone wants to stick their neck that far into Russia’s backyard.

            (Is this relevant? Would it actually be worse if Trump put the squeeze on e.g. Portugal? To both: maybe a little, but not substantially 🙂 )

          • EchoChaos says:

            1) The Trump administration withheld Congressionally-mandated aid to Ukraine before/while Trump was making this request;

            This implies that blocking the aid was illegal, but I have seen no such accusation. Is that your assertion?

            2) The Ukrainian government was made to understand by the White House that cooperation with Giuliani was necessary for the resumption of aid;

            I am aware of no evidence for this other than the transcript, which does not support it to my reading. Calling this a fact is stretching the term dramatically.

            3) That in forcing the Ukrainian government to cooperate with AG Barr and his personal fixer Giuliani Trump was receiving valuable information about a political rival;

            This is true, but only insofar as knowing that a rival broke the law is valuable. If this is a bad thing, then the Mueller investigation being championed by Democrats is bad.

            4) Subsequent to this demand being made, the records were (possibly illegally) hidden from all but the highest-ranking national security personnel.

            My understanding is this was relatively standard with Trump transcripts because he had already been hurt by politically motivated leaks of phone calls.

          • mitv150 says:

            1) The Trump administration withheld Congressionally-mandated aid to Ukraine before/while Trump was making this request;
            2) The Ukrainian government was made to understand by the White House that cooperation with Giuliani was necessary for the resumption of aid;

            The NYTimes and Buzzfeed have both reported that the Ukrainians were unaware that the funding was on hold until a month after the July 25th phone call.

            It seems that this fact sharply undercuts the inference at point 2.

          • blipnickels says:

            @Chalid

            According to Wikipedia, all the Trump children except Baron are currently under investigation by DA’s in New York and the District of Columbia, heavily liberal areas.

            Donald Trump Jr is under investigation for two cases of potential fiscal crimes: potential fund raising/donation misconduct related to the inauguration and potential hush payments to Michael Cohen.


            Ivanka Trump
            is also under investigation for misconduct with inauguration funds.

            Eric Trump is also under investigation for misconduct with inauguration funds and for potential misuse of charity funds.

            The norm, which deserves to be upheld, is that family members who stay out of the public eye should be left alone; that’s probably why Tiffany Trump isn’t under investigation and why things around Ivanka have quieted down. Donald Trump Jr is firmly in the public eye, so he deserves hardball. Hunter Biden looks like he fell into the public eye; he’s definitely less deserving than Trump Jr is for hardball but more than Eric unless Eric is doing something crazy I don’t know about.

          • Chalid says:

            @blipnickels

            None of those are for things analogous to the Hunter Biden issue. Trump has a vast array of opportunities to help his own and his children’s businesses and is allowing essentially no oversight or transparency. Bluntly, there is a ton of opportunity for corruption there, on a much grander scale than a mere $50k/month, and the politicians who claim to be most concerned about the hint of a possibility that something untoward might have happened with Biden are, of course, the same ones that resist oversight of the Trump businesses.

            Surely a concern with the possible impropriety of the really fairly narrow intersection of Biden’s political activities with his son’s business interests should be paired with a far greater concern for the activities of the Trump family?

          • blipnickels says:

            @Chalid

            Honestly, it all sounds like “personal relatives of powerful people using social status and connections to engage in unseemly behavior for personal enrichment”. Which is hardly unique to the Bidens or the Trumps and a legitimate concern in solving it would start with much bigger metaphorical criminals.

            But on the key point, of politically targeted investigations of personal family members, that’s a broken norm at this point and not an effective threat against conservatives or Trump. No one is confused why the NY DA is investigating Eric Trump when Wall Street is, you know, right there.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            so how do you feel about Democrats demanding some transparency into the Trump businesses, and those of the Trump children?

            Totally legitimate, and I wish Ivanka and Jared Kushner were kept as far away from government as possible.

    • John Schilling says:

      Moving over from the last open thread to continue the Biden/Ukraine question.

      If we’re doing that here now, a clarification:

      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.

      Per the relevant State Department classification guide, transcripts of conversations with foreign heads of state are normally classified CONFIDENTIAL, the least restrictive category. It may be appropriate to classify specific conversations/transcripts at a higher level, but the way that was done here was extremely sloppy at the very least. The classifying authority is supposed to go through the source document paragraph-by-paragraph, separately determining and marking the appropriate classification level for each, and then set the headers, footers, and cover sheets to the highest included classification level. See, for example, the linked classification guide, marked “CONFIDENTIAL” but with most of the paragraphs having a “(U)” in front of them and some paragraphs redacted. Those would be the ones with the “(C)” markings. Or go browse through wikileaks to see this extended up through (S) and (TS).

      Even if every single paragraph is appropriately classified SECRET, you can’t just put the SECRET header and footer on the page, you still need the (S) in front of each paragraph.

      If the reason you didn’t do that is, A: the Boss wants to cut down on the number of potential whistleblowers with access to the stuff that could embarrass or incriminate him and, B: putting an (S) in front of just those paragraphs would make it too obvious what you are doing and why, then you’ve just gone and done yourself a federal crime. One normally difficult to prove, but if you’ve got whistleblowing eyewitnesses and intemperate conspirators, not impossible. Certainly cause for investigation.

      • broblawsky says:

        That’s a very good analysis. Thank you.

      • Dan L says:

        Have you ever seen a SCG that allows for the classifier to remain anonymous? I suppose I wouldn’t be shocked if certain agencies worked that way (or more realistically, redacted the identity on declassification) but every one I’ve personally seen does the opposite and there are obvious good reasons why.

        • John Schilling says:

          There has to be an identified classification authority, but I’m not sure it has to be a named human person rather than an office. Still, you’re right that the degree of obfuscation is another suspicious point here.

          If it’s just someone being lazy, which is far from unheard of in the security-classification business, then they’re being lazy in the way that makes them look like a crook or a spy, so enjoy the well-earned investigation and the explaining to your boss why he got dragged into your investigation.

      • J Mann says:

        One fact I’m curious to learn is whether the White House staff classified a few calls or started classifying broad groups of calls. The first would support an inference that the staff found those particular calls potentially embarrassing or criminal, the second would be somewhat less alarming.

        If the reason you didn’t do that is, A: the Boss wants to cut down on the number of potential whistleblowers with access to the stuff that could embarrass or incriminate him and, B: putting an (S) in front of just those paragraphs would make it too obvious what you are doing and why, then you’ve just gone and done yourself a federal crime.

        JohnShilling – what’s the crime?

        The government story about this – that the administration was frustrated by the leak of earlier calls with Mexico and Australia strikes me as at least plausible. Plenty of people have gotten frustrated with leak culture, and I have a hard time seeing the person who leaked those two transcripts to the Post as a “whistleblower” – the main purpose seems to be that some staffer had access to them and wanted to embarass Trump.

        • EchoChaos says:

          JohnShilling – what’s the crime?

          It is a crime to overclassify data, especially to avoid personal or political embarrassment. It is basically never prosecuted, but it is a crime.

          • J Mann says:

            Thanks – do you have the statute or a reference?

          • John Schilling says:

            Among others(*), 28 CFR § 17.22 (d): “Information shall not be classified in order to conceal inefficiency, violations of law, or administrative error; to prevent embarrassment to a person, organization, or agency; to restrain competition; or to prevent or delay release of information that does not require protection in the interest of national security.” Lumped in with all the other mishandling-classified-information stuff, so technically a felony good for mumble-something years in prison.

            As EC says, almost never prosecuted because almost everyone who does it is smart enough to do it in a reasonable-doubty way, but it can at least end careers if it’s sufficiently blatant. And this case looks almost like someone said “It’s unpossible to be actually prosecuted for a § 17.22 (d) violation!” and someone else said “Hold my beer”.

            * There are I believe several different statutes for different classifying authorities, but they all say pretty much the same thing.

          • J Mann says:

            Thanks.

            The best case I can imagine for Trump is:

            1) Somebody leaked the Mexico and Australia transcripts, presumably with the intent of embarrassing the President (and certainly with the effect).

            2) That also had the (presumably unintended) effect of harming the national interest, because it’s difficult for foreign leaders to speak frankly if they don’t have an expectation of privacy.

            3) The Trump admin restricted access to the letters in order to prevent both (1) and (2) in the future.

    • blipnickels says:

      There’s three good reasons to investigate Hunter Biden and believe Joe Biden may have, perhaps inadvertently, helped his son and his son’s client.

      First, it just looks really bad. Hunter Biden was on the board without a really good reason to be there, his father used US government power to get the prosecutor fired, and the succeeding prosecutor dropped all charges a year later.

      Second, the (at the time) General Prosecutor of the Ukraine publicly said that Joe Biden had done so. This is specifically referenced in page 5 of the whistle blower’s complaint. I think this is the article the whistle blower is referring to but I can’t be sure.

      Third, the Ukraine situation is really confusing. For example, there’s claims among Ukranian anti-corruption activists that Shokin was universally regarded as corrupt and soft on Burisma, but one of Shokin’s first acts was to raid a leading anti-corruption group, claiming they had misappropriated aid funds. Or that a month before Biden’s threat, a sniper tried to assassinate Shokin. I’m not saying that Biden tried to have Shokin killed (clearly it was the Pleiades), but it’s just really weird. Ukraine looks like a corrupt oligarchy with a lot of brutal internal conflicts that outsiders don’t really understand. A lot of investigation would be required just to put the events in a reasonable context.

      Regardless of whether Joe Biden actually did anything inappropriate or whether Trump conducted himself appropriately, some kind of investigation seems warranted.

      • Aftagley says:

        without a really good reason to be there,

        Except, he did have a good reason to be there. The reason was, Burisma wanted someone with a high profile in Washington to advance their interests. Hunter Biden was a lobbyist with a famous last name and could give them the profile they wanted. It isn’t particularly great feature of our democracy that we function this way, but.. thems the breaks. See also: every retired congressman/senator now working as a lobbyist ever.

        Second, the (at the time) General Prosecutor of the Ukraine publicly said that Joe Biden had done so.

        So, this is (to me) really interesting. I’m going to make a top-level effort post about it above. Suffice to say, this is correct, but not accurate, if that makes sense.

        Third, the Ukraine situation is really confusing. For example, there’s claims among Ukranian anti-corruption activists that Shokin was universally regarded as corrupt and soft on Burisma, but one of Shokin’s first acts was to raid a leading anti-corruption group, claiming they had misappropriated aid funds.

        Eh, the easiest rule of thumb when considering Ukraine is that everyone’s corrupt and whenever anyone says they’re going after corruption, they are probably telling the truth… but with the unspoken rule that the only reason that the enforcement can be bribed away.

        To more directly answer your question, the allegations I’ve seen against Shokin were that he would start a bunch of cases in a high profile way, then let them sit for a while while he solicited bribes to shelve the case. This explains why it looks like he was going after corruption but at the same time why corruption didn’t go away.

        Regardless of whether Joe Biden actually did anything inappropriate or whether Trump conducted himself appropriately, some kind of investigation seems warranted.

        Sure, maybe. But why was the ambassador to the Ukraine with a known history of anticorruption fired and why was, of everyone on earth, Trump’s personal lawyer, one Rudy Giuliani the guy doing so?

        Come on man, use occams razor. Which is more likely: Trump randomly got really, really interested in a specific country’s internal good governance practices and was so worried he used a high-profile non-government connected ally to investigate this? Or that he was shopping for election dirt?

  6. baconbits9 says:

    Did Sanders have a chance before this? Seemed like if he wasn’t the obvious front runner from the get go he wouldn’t be relevant. He is no longer the left wing or the anti establishment candidate, and he doesn’t have the ‘he just needs exposure’ situation either.

    • salvorhardin says:

      Agreed that he had no chance, but he could nonetheless have gotten a large enough percentage of diehard leftists to split the left wing vote with Warren and thus make it easier for a moderate to get the nomination. If Warren is the only diehard leftist alternative out there, that split gets less likely.

    • doubleunplussed says:

      Betting markets had him around ~8% chance of winning the nomination before today, and a few weeks ago it was as high as 15%. Today he’s down to 5%.

  7. Thomas Jorgensen says:

    It is free advertising. Wallstreet being above the law is Not Popular.

  8. baconbits9 says:

    Related to some of the discussion in the previous thread:

    Zillow says that 5 year ARMs now have a (ever so slighly) higher APR than 30 year locked in mortgages do, and that 3 year ARMs have been above the 30 year bond for almost 6 months with some pretty wide spreads, and 7 year ARMs are below the 30 year but above the 15 year mortgages. One interpretation of this is that the market is expecting mortgage rates to be significantly lower in 3 years and not climb back to the current level for 5+ years, but should make it there by year 7.

    That is a hell of a forecast.

    • Elementaldex says:

      We have been trending that way for quite some time now. Betting on past trends continuing is a solid baseline. I hope its not true though, I just locked in a 3.5% mortgage and would love to sit on it while making more on the money that I invest.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I’d interpret it as the market having basically no idea. I’m not sure how anyone could predict anything past the election with Elizabeth (Wealth Tax) Warren in play.

  9. Plumber says:

    As a further example of my ‘swing voters do indeed exist’ contention here’s an essay by Kevin Doyle: With Democratic and Republican flaws, party registration comes down to a coin toss
    which I’ll quote some of:

    “The great Protestant thinker Reinhold Niebuhr taught that we can be pure or responsible but not both. One must choose. And so I, a seamless garment pro-lifer, will not again sit out a presidential primary as an unsullied independent while each party’s base voters potentially sow ruin for harvest in the fall. Before the close of this article, I will pause and flip a coin to determine whether I will register as a Democrat or a Republican.

    For a long time, I was an ardent Democrat. During my early adulthood, this affiliation kept with my views on racial and distributive justice, gender equality and military restraint. Meanwhile, I counted on my fellow Democrats to come round eventually on abortion. After all, in principle, the party stood with society’s vulnerable. A lack of prenatal viability, it seemed to me, provided reason to protect, not permission to discard. I held out hope that this moral logic would ultimately prevail to the unborn child’s benefit. Then I watched the Democratic Party harden into the Pro-Choice Party.

    In 1995, I had to re-register to vote as I returned to my native New York from five years of representing death row inmates and capital defendants in Alabama. Not registering with a party made some sense because I was to head a controversial state law office created to represent capital-crime defendants. But I also recalled 1992, when Robert P. Casey, then the pro-life Democratic governor of Pennsylvania (and father of the current U.S. Senator Bob Casey Jr.), was denied a chance to address the Democratic National Convention. That tipped the scale. I shed my Democratic identity.

    For years, I had few regrets, even though, under New York’s system, I had to watch primaries from the sidelines. Then came the 2016 presidential election[…]

    […]Shame on me, the primary season bystander.

    Looking ahead, whether my coin lands heads for Republican or tails for Democrat, I will not become a party zealot. I will recognize good ideas regardless of red or blue origins.

    I will still think that Hillary Clinton showed foresight when she advocated a moonshot approach to Alzheimer’s research; compassion demands it, but so do health care cost projections as lifespans lengthen. I will still think that Rick Santorum correctly argued that our tax code should encourage larger families; America’s aging population both needs and threatens our entitlement programs. I will still think that Bernie Sanders was not simply indulging his faux socialism when condemning private prisons; no person is a commodity to be warehoused for profit. And I will still think that Carly Fiorina put children first by advocating for parental choice through vouchers and charter schools where public schools are failing.

    I will still take greatest satisfaction in good hearts and good minds rising above party lines: War hero John McCain stood for decency when he denounced as “dishonest and dishonorable” the cynical “swift boat” attempt to discredit John Kerry’s record of valor under fire. Both Mr. McCain and Mr. Kerry stood for decency when they condemned waterboarding. Democrat Madeleine Albright and Republican Robert Gates offer an alternative to a balkanized United States by promoting the expectation of universal national service, whether military or civilian, by every young person.

    I will not become a party zealot. I will recognize good ideas regardless of red or blue origins.

    Whether as a newly minted Republican or a Democratic retread, I will put thorny questions to my party mates. To my fellow Republicans:

    Is The Wall Street Journal right when it claims that the only military the United States cannot afford is “one that is too small”? Aren’t a crumbling infrastructure and ever-less-healthy youth, among other things, national security concerns and funding priorities?
    Just how will we persuade as the pro-life party when we do not even aim for universal health care? And given the availability of abortifacients and interstate travel, just how much will state prohibitions reduce the number of abortions?
    To my fellow Democrats:

    Let’s take pride in marriage equality, but does a pluralistic society need to punish the conscientious objector who refuses to bake a wedding cake for two lads or two lasses getting married? Why mimic the intolerance of those who would even today criminalize homosexual acts?
    More important, are we really champions of the weak when we perpetuate the moral fiction of a magical birth canal? Does the brief passage from in utero to ex utero really bestow personhood?
    O.K. I have a quarter in hand. One flip, not two out of three. No do-overs. Heads, I revert to the Democratic Party; tails, I register Republican. Here goes[…]

    So the guy is clearly interested in politics but feels alienated by much of the platforms of our two major parties, and since whether among the Republican leaning or the Democratic leaning full Party platform supporters are a minority of voters, and if we include non-voters they’re an even smaller minority, I strongly suspect that he’s far from alone.

    Given our constitutional arrangement the U.S.A. just doesn’t have viable third-parties for long, and in the ’80’s and earlier there was just plain more ideological diversity within both parties (you’d find some elected Democrats that were to the ‘Right’ of some elected Republicans, and some elected Republicans to the ‘Left’ of some elected Democrats to a far greater extent than today) with both parties seeming to me to becoming more ideologically ‘pure’ with ‘DINO’s’ and ‘RINO’s’ being primaries away. While it could be my ‘outgroup appears a monolith bias’ (or whatever the right term is, but I think you get what I mean) to me Republicans seem to have less ‘heretic’ supporters than Democrats (but they’re a smaller Party so I’d expect that) as the majority of registered Republicans polled say they want their Party to be more “conservative” while most Democrats say they want their Party to be more “moderate”, despite that Democrats, both candidates and voters are moving ‘Left’

    …aw Hell, I’m not really sure if I even have an overall point, to me all that indicates that the proportion of the eligible electorate that are non-voters should be going up not down, but the 2018 mid term elections had way higher than usual turnout, maybe you have some ideas?

    • Erusian says:

      As a further example of my ‘swing voters do indeed exist’ contention

      Do people not believe swing voters exist? This comes as a surprise to me because I’ve been one and most of my friends have been swing voters most of my life. This is what happens when the road of your life winds through parts of Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania… I’ve often thought that if I persuaded a fairly small number of people I could have conceivably flipped several presidential elections. I’d say I’ve personally known dozens of people each election who could have gone either way (though not always the same people).

      I do have to say I had a distinctly unpleasant experience of politics. To name one incident (with the names changed), I once saw an initiative to reach out to rural voters start talking about them in meeting one and then in meeting 2 decide the money was best spent reaching rural voters by… funding more inner-city activists who would work in inner cities. Despite the committee being named the Rural Outreach Group, they all insisted this had always been their intention and that naming it the Rural Outreach Group had been a mistake. They understood how I could be confused by the name since I was inexperienced and all. The meeting ended with them changing the name. Pure Orwell: we have always been at war with East Asia.

      Anyway, I’m not sure I have a point but I have a sentiment I can express at least. In theory people like me, and the people I talk to and influence (even on a relatively large scale!) should be some of the most courted voters. The swing votes in the swing states. Yet I (and everyone I know who is like me) feels very poorly served by both parties. I feel there must be something to do but I’m not sure what it is.

      • brad says:

        Anyway, I’m not sure I have a point but I have a sentiment I can express at least. In theory people like me, and the people I talk to and influence (even on a relatively large scale!) should be some of the most courted voters. The swing votes in the swing states. Yet I (and everyone I know who is like me) feels very poorly served by both parties. I feel there must be something to do but I’m not sure what it is.

        A party needs to swing the swing voters without alienating everyone else. The fact that you feel poorly served by both parties is what makes you a swing voter. If there was some easy way to bring you and a bunch of people like you into one or the other coalitions without tipping the apple cart it would been done already. That’s why pork, patronage and the like are so attractive–they come for “free” in terms of pissing anyone else off (at least up to a threshold).

        • Erusian says:

          This does explain why so many people are completely uninterested in my priorities. They really want to know how they can convince me I’m totally wrong and need to start agreeing with them. What’s I found strange is they spend a lot of money doing this and don’t seem to ever stumble across, “Make policy that suits their priorities.” But perhaps you’ve found the reason.

          My mental model has always been that you sacrifice the middle for the extreme in the primary. Then, having won the primary, you move to the center because the extreme people are not going to switch camps and are most easily driven by fear of the other party. The centrists are not and so you need to appeal to them which is why we see relatively little in the primaries and then get almost all of the visits/money in the generals.

    • cassander says:

      (you’d find some elected Democrats that were to the ‘Right’ of some elected Republicans, and some elected Republicans to the ‘Left’ of some elected Democrats to a far greater extent than today)

      This is true, but you also didn’t have democrats that were anywhere near as far left as the current democrats. Overall, I think you had lower diversity (in the sense of range of opinions in the overton window) for the political system as a whole, even though the parties were less sorted out.

    • Atlas says:

      So the guy is clearly interested in politics but feels alienated by much of the platforms of our two major parties, and since whether among the Republican leaning or the Democratic leaning full Party platform supporters are a minority of voters, and if we include non-voters they’re an even smaller minority, I strongly suspect that he’s far from alone.

      I think equivocal perspectives like Doyle’s—e.g. NeverTrump conservatives—are actually highly over-represented in mainstream/prestige media outlets relative to their actual share of the voting population. Consider for instance the New York Times opinion columnist stable: the “conservatives” are Douthat, Brooks, Stephens and (to a comically tenuous extent) Weiss. I find Douthat and (to a considerably lesser extent) Brooks to be worth reading, but they frequently either soft-pedal their own conservative beliefs or express centrist/liberal beliefs that I don’t think (though I might be wrong and should double-check actual data) many rank-and-file Republicans hold. (The same is true for Stephens, who I don’t find to be worth reading at all.) I think that someone like Ann Coulter or Tucker Carlson would express considerably more modal conservative beliefs than Douthat, Stephens or Brooks does. The problem is less pronounced on the left side of the aisle, but even there I think the “BernieBro/Dirtbag Left” position of e.g. Chapo/Taibbi/Tracey isn’t well represented, an oversight given the 2016 primary.

      I wouldn’t deny that there are voters who aren’t satisfied with aspects of their party’s platform, that there are apathetic non-voters or that there is someone, somewhere who regularly votes and sometimes votes for Republicans and sometimes votes for Democrats.

      What I am very skeptical of, however, is the claim that a large group of American voters stretching across both major political parties have highly similar views, regularly vote for candidates from both parties, and are sick of “politics” and “partisanship” generally rather than the fact that their side isn’t doing a good enough job of crushing its partisan political enemies. I don’t think it’s useful to conflate “people who don’t care about politics,” “people who are angry at the Democratic party leadership for not being liberal enough” and “people who are angry at the Republican party leadership for not being conservative enough,” into a “people who are just sick and tired of all this darn partisanship and polarization” category.

      • Garrett says:

        FWIW, I’m not certain there are any actual conservatives involved in major media outlets these days. My read is that Coulter and Carlson are people who have learned that they can make a lot of money saying what people want to hear. I also think that this is a driving factor behind Fox News as a network.

        • jermo sapiens says:

          So, you’re assuming, based on your “read”, that your political opponents are just liars lying for money, or low-IQ dupes who listen to the liars? That’s a fascinating and novel take. Thanks for your important contribution.

          • Garrett says:

            I disagree with your assessment on several accounts.

            First, I don’t really consider them political opponents. Ideologically, in unable to stay a libertarian and if forced to choose, I’d probably be on “their side”, but whatever.

            Secondly, I’m referring to the specific media outlets and “personalities” involved. I’d *much* rather see people of William F. Buckley Jr.’s capacity arguing than the selection available on television right now.

            Third, I don’t think that any of the people involved are “low-IQ dupes”. Indeed, I suspect that Trump was elected in-part as a thumb in the eye of the people who kept talking a good game but were failing to deliver. I don’t have to agree with people in order to respect them!

            Fourth, telling people what they want to hear is not the same as telling a lie, though I will grant you my phrasing was unclear. Nobody doubts that the Wall Street Journal giving people business news (which is why people bought it) means that they are lying. It does mean that there is a focus on a particular type of news and editorial content, which is what the buyers want. That these personalities or outlets provide content from a certain viewpoint doesn’t make them lying. To the extent that they claim to hold a certain viewpoint and don’t actually hold that viewpoint I do consider them to be lying. To the extent that they would rather cash in rather than advance the cause they claim to support, I consider that crass. Much like a punk band “selling out”. Do you consider such a band to truly be “punk” anymore, even if they still play the same music?

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      The direction of politics the last decade has been towards partisanship and ideological purity, and the next decade doesn’t look to be very different. Trump was a theoretical chance for a break, but he was never playing 12-dimensional chess and cannot expand the Overton window.

      It’s not that swing voters don’t exist, it’s that swing voters are a much smaller portion of the electorate than you might think. Self-described moderate and self-described independent voters still tend to be pretty aligned along partisan dimensions and don’t really cross-vote all that much. You also have moderates that aren’t really moderate along all dimensions: banning abortion, like the author wants, is never going to be a Democratic consensus position, and it’s not going to be tolerated in the party leader.

      You have lots of moderate voters like that, who are really more a collection of various extreme positions that cancel each other on a line graph, but don’t really allow you to fit in a political party.

      If there was an easy way to get the swing voters, the parties would have already gotten the swing voters.

      And as a voter, you have to compromise, and decide what’s most important to you. If you really think abortion is murder but you like the rest of the Democratic platform, you have to make a choice if you think universal health care and anti-racism is worth supporting baby killers. Sorry, but them’s the breaks. If you want your views to have more clout, then you need to convince more people and more judges to follow your views.

  10. johan_larson says:

    Let’s talk a bit about sideboards in Magic. Sideboards are for dealing with exotic threats, things outside of normal combat. If the opponent is fielding something really unusual, you pull cards in from the sideboard in games two and three of a match.

    My thinking is that for a combat-geared deck, the exotic threats you need to be able to destroy are artifacts, enchantments, lands, unusually powerful creatures (possibly with special abilities,) and fliers.

    To this end the sideboard of my elementals deck includes these cards:
    4 Return to Nature (artifacts, enchantments)
    4 Tectonic Rift (lands)
    4 Reduce to Ashes (unusually powerful creatures)

    The remaining three cards are basic lands, whatever I’m worried about having too little of (currently 3 forests.) I’m not including any cancel spells, because I’m not in blue (this is an RG deck.) I’m also not including anything special to deal with fliers. The plan for fliers is to ignore them if they are puny, destroy them with the 2-damage ability of Chandra, Novice Pyromancer if they are medium sized, or sideboard in Reduce to Ashes if they are big.

    Thoughts?

    • Randy M says:

      Whether there are any lands worth spending a card to destroy is very meta dependent, especially since wizards doesn’t print very efficient land destruction. I don’t think that by and large the castles are worth running a tectonic rift for, though possibly the black one will turn out to be. Maybe mobilized district? It was probably worth it to run something for Search for Azcanta, though that set came with field of ruin to accomplish the task.

      Also, sideboarding in a basic land because you didn’t find enough of the color seems like falling prey to bias and not taking a long enough view of statistics. You really just want sideboard cards to help you with specific matches. If running an extra basic helps versus a specific deck, I’d be surprised.

      What about running card draw for some grindier matches? Something like the new red instant draw 2?
      And maybe if you ran that new red adventure knight who kills artifacts you could cut 1 or two return to nature?

    • mendax says:

      In general, I think you’ve got it. What stands out to me is including basic lands in your sideboard, and considering lands as something to target.

      The most important aspect of a sideboard is that you can add cards to your deck after you know what your opponent is playing. Your land base should be set up irrespective of what your opponent is playing. If you are worried about having too little of something, you should have that set up already in your mainboard.

      Now, I haven’t played in quite a while, but do lands really qualify as a particular threat worth side-boarding against? I honestly don’t know.

      Finally, one use of the sideboard that you didn’t touch on in your post is sideboarding against specific decks/strategies (as opposed to general categories). If you know your meta (and sideboards are usually most relevant in competitions) you should know which match ups are unfavorable and can include cards in your sideboard specifically against them. However, in practice, this might not look different from what you’re already doing.

    • Aftagley says:

      Sideboards are for dealing with exotic threats, things outside of normal combat.

      This is only kind of the case. A better way to view sideboards is: this is how my deck will respond to the meta. A sideboard, way more than your base deck, is going to change based on which decks other people are playing.

      Crucially, however, your sideboard should only bring in answers to questions that your deck needs to answer. If you’re playing RG elementals, your game plan is likely go wide with as many elementals as possible, right? With this kind of deck, do you need to answer an unusually powerful creature? 4x Reduce to ashes means that you’ll have 4 very expensive cards in your deck that do nothing to meaningfully advance your game plan. Instead, what about something like Savage Smash or Collision/colossus? They are way cheaper than Reduce to Ashes, acomplish similar goals and are more oriented towards your overall plan?

      It’s probably also not worth running Tectonic Rift, frankly. The only deck that currently abuses land mechanics are ones based around Field of the Dead. But, that deck is hyper-focused on drawing and playing as many lands as possible; you might get my first field of the dead, but I’ll have my second and third on the field before you can draw and play your second and third copies of the rift.

      • johan_larson says:

        If you’re playing RG elementals, your game plan is likely go wide with as many elementals as possible, right?

        No, actually the plan is to ramp. I’ll use Embercats and Leafkin Druids to boost mana production, bring on big fighters (Thicket Crashers, Lavakin Brawlers, Fire Elementals, and Vorstclaws) using the extra mana, and then sprint to the finish using the activated ability of Living Twister. There are some planeswalkers too that I won’t get into.

        I’ll be trying this iteration of the deck for the first time on Saturday.

        • eyeballfrog says:

          I think you need a bit better of a top end than vanilla creatures without haste if you’re on the ramp plan. I’d suggest either getting some of the elemental knights or switching to the go wide plan.

        • Randy M says:

          Do you have rythym of the Wilds? Could be useful for winning out of nowhere. Might be hard to find a time to cast it.

    • Perico says:

      (Disclaimer: this may be a bit more advanced than what Johan is aiming for, but I bring it up because of the cool game theory implications)

      One of the most fascinating aspects of having sideboards in the game is the option of a fundamental change in strategy. Consider a grindy control deck full of counterspells, wraths of god, and reactive stuff, with just a handful of victory conditions (let’s say a single Teferi, Hero of Dominaria). One of the advantages of playing this archetype against your average deck is that the opponent will often end up with useless removal – any Terror or similar card they draw will have no valid targets. So, going into game 2, the control deck’s opponent will want to minimize this effect, and remove all their terrors for more generally useful stuff, like additional creatures. They are using the sideboard to adapt, not to what their opponent has in their deck, but to what they are missing. This is pretty cool already, but it gets better. Suppose the control player is expecting this, and gets from their sideboard a bunch of expensive, powerful creatures that can provide a great advantage if unanswered but are otherwise weak to removal. Now the control player’s opponent has been put at a disadvantage twice: first for having too much removal, then for having too little!

      Now, imagine that the match goes to the third game. What should each player do? There is no clear optimal strategy for either player, so the solution will have to involve guessing, bluffing, randomizing, or a bit of each.

    • johan_larson says:

      OK, suppose I adjust, and go with these 15 cards instead:
      3 Return to Nature (artifacts, enchantments)
      3 Plummet (fliers)
      3 Infuriate (combat trick)
      3 Reduce to Ashes (powerful removal)
      3 Destructive Digger (card draw)

      Is this better? It’s covering a lot of possible cases, though none in great depth.

    • eyeballfrog says:

      I played RG aggro in previous standards, so here’s an overly long post about it.

      To make a good sideboard, you need to consider what’s a threat to your game plan and how to deal with them. For example, as an aggro deck, there are things you don’t need to deal with simply because you can kill the opponent before they matter. A lot of artifacts and enchantments fall into this category, as do nearly all lands. Further, playing a pure answer card like Return to Nature works against your strategy of piling on threats, so you’d better be sure that it’s worth it. Consider instead Cindervines, which deals damage to your opponent while also giving you an out to a problem artifact or enchantment. Or cards like Thrashing Brontodon, Embereth Shieldbreaker, or Opportunistic Dragon, which come with a body in addition to the removal.

      As for big creatures, Reduce to Ashes is far too inefficient. A 4-damage burn spell like Lava Coil or Slaying Fire would be much better, or Collision // Colossus if there’s a particular big flier that’s a problem. You should be prepared to burn a large creature twice if needed to get damage through. An alternative is to sideboard in Act of Treason, which can clear out a blocker and smack them in the face with it. Or maybe Smelt-Ward Ignus since it’s an elemental.

      You also haven’t considered the control matchup. After sideboarding, they usually bring in more creature removal, hoping to simply kill all your stuff and win the long game. You’ll want to bring in cards that attack the game from a different angle and help you go longer. These are cards like Experimental Frenzy or Chandra, Awakened Inferno. Shifting Ceratops is another good anti-control card, as it has protection from blue and can have haste to immediately get in for 5 after a sweeper.

      One other category of sideboard cards is graveyard hate. I don’t know if there’s currently a standard deck that’s heavily graveyard-based, but if there is, cards like Loaming Shaman and Grafdigger’s Cage can put a stop to that. Exiling burn like Lava Coil and Scorching Dragonfire can also help here.

      You might have noticed that packing all these considerations into 15 cards is essentially impossible, so you’ll have to prioritize some things over others. It’s mostly a matter of feeling out what people are actually playing, and what actually needs to be dealt with vs what can be ignored because it’s too slow. And the only way to do this is to play a bunch of games against people and adjust your sideboard accordingly.

  11. fr8train_ssc says:

    Two weeks ago johan_larson posted a thread hypothesizing the evil-mirror universe equivalent of effective Altruism. One of the comments mentioned breeding mosquitoes resistant to current eradication efforts.

    But it seems our current efforts to eradicate mosquitoes has backfired to create mosquitos. So what sort of fail modes happened here, and how do we become more cautious about these types of efforts?

    • Gobbobobble says:

      Did anyone expect this not to happen? This is what evolution does all the time

      • fr8train_ssc says:

        Hence my curiosity.

        Universal opinion is “Malaria and Zika are responsible for a huge amount of death and suffering in the world, despite a low cost effort to mitigate. We should focus effort on preventing those deaths.”

        From that statement, we somehow got “we should eradicate mosquitos” which would eliminate the major vector but should be less preferable to eradicating actual malaria or a highly effective vaccine.

        Then, out of all the possible mosquito population reduction strategies (natural predators, improving pesticides to be less harmful to other animals etc) we chose to edit the genome of the mosquito. Again, when given the option to edit the genome, we decided to try and eradicate the mosquito as opposed to say, modifying the immune system or creating an enzyme to eliminate malaria that tries to use that mosquito as a host.

        Going back to the Less Wrong thread I linked, their debate on the topic seems to focus on whether gene drives would work faster or slower than other methods, and not necessarily on whether it would backfire enough to not become viable anymore

        So I bring up failure modes etc. because I feel like there’s a “sequence” or the like on “take a step back and review if your proposition is accomplishing your goal” but maybe it’s not emphasized enough or maybe needs to be prioritized.

        • uau says:

          I think you’re overestimating how realistic your proposed alternatives are. Maybe “do nothing, just let people die” was a more realistic option, but if you do try to do something at this time, testing this way of killing mosquitoes was probably a better idea than anything else you listed.

          but should be less preferable to eradicating actual malaria

          Eradicating how? How would you make it disappear? Seems way less realistic than killing mosquitoes.

          or a highly effective vaccine

          Even being sick with real malaria doesn’t give you good immunity against it. Not good for vaccine chances if it would need to somehow prepare the immune system much better than going through an actual infection.

          Then, out of all the possible mosquito population reduction strategies (natural predators, improving pesticides to be less harmful to other animals etc)

          Do you have some natural predator that has managed to eliminate mosquitoes from some place? Just how massive a dumping of pesticides are you imagining?

          modifying the immune system or creating an enzyme to eliminate malaria that tries to use that mosquito as a host

          I think these would be a lot harder feats of genetic engineering.

          • fr8train_ssc says:

            I think you’re overestimating how realistic your proposed alternatives are. Maybe “do nothing, just let people die” was a more realistic option, but if you do try to do something at this time, testing this way of killing mosquitoes was probably a better idea than anything else you listed.

            Eradicating how? How would you make it disappear? Seems way less realistic than killing mosquitoes.

            Understanding a problem better if no option seems like a good option should be the first step. In this case, additional research. Studying the viruses that infect protozoans seems like a good place to start.

            In the meantime, treated bednets continue to be highly effective.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Eliminating mosquitos is a positive even if they didn’t carry disease. The buggers BITE.

          Again, when given the option to edit the genome, we decided to try and eradicate the mosquito as opposed to say, modifying the immune system or creating an enzyme to eliminate malaria that tries to use that mosquito as a host.

          I’m fairly sure that technique — making the mosquitos inhospitable hosts to the disease — has also been tried.

    • rahien.din says:

      Seems like it depends on how often the mosquitoes mate and how fecund they are. If they mate often enough, and they have enough offspring, then they could recover from a genetic assault pretty easily even if the chance of successful breeding is very low.

      It’s a similar situation to bacteria developing antibiotic resistance.

      Edit: basically ninja’ed.

    • Nornagest says:

      Life, uh, finds a way.

      • mdet says:

        Is “Scientists find mosquitos which carry incredibly dangerous organisms inside them. The scientists genetically modify the killer animals* to be infertile, but their attempts backfire when the mutant animals manage to reproduce anyway” the most Jurassic Park news story of all time?

        *equivocating a little to make the analogy work

    • AG says:

      Damn, people are panicking about the great bug die-off, and we can’t even make that work for us by eliminating the worst bug?

      • fr8train_ssc says:

        From the article:

        While that editorial response is still pending, the study now appears to be under criticism from the majority of its own authors. Six of the study’s 10 authors have requested its retraction, according to Brazilian science magazine Revista Questão de Ciência.

        One co-author, Margareth Capurro a molecular biologist at University of São Paulo, told the magazine that the final version of the study did not match the data that she and her collaborators submitted to their co-authors. She also said that the published text was different from the version of the manuscript that all the authors had agreed upon.

        In an emailed statement to Science magazine, a lawyer representing Capurro said that she is “trying to solve this issue directly and amicably with the other authors.” But she added that she “does not support the inflammatory, dramatic, and speculative statements contained in the manuscript.”

        The leading author of the study is population geneticist Jeffrey Powell of Yale University. He told Science that he stands by the data and the text, which he says clearly states that the significance of the hybrids is not clear.

        This only raises a lot more questions, especially since six out of ten is almost a “Shiri’s Scissors” for researchers.

        Either way, this alleviates some, but not all of my concern for releasing mosquitos with transgenes into the wild.

  12. A Definite Beta Guy says:

    I highly doubt any anti-big business sentiment is going to change. Big Business is a popular whipping boy, and Warren’s strategy of running to the Left to win party activists is would not be served by moderating her stances.

    Maybe heading into the general, but even then, I highly doubt cozying up to Big Business is high on her list. Maybe if she gets really desperate for cash, or down-ticket candidates get desperate for cash. Though even down-stream candidates started whining, I think EWarren would go full steam ahead on the Progressive Woke train.

    • salvorhardin says:

      The question about her moving to the center in the general boils down, I think, to questions about college-educated white suburbanites:

      (a) will they be notably and vocally less enthusiastic about Warren when they realize how bad she would ultimately be for their pocketbooks?

      (b) will Warren try and go to the center to retain some of their votes, rather than doubling down on a “turn out the base” strategy?

      A “yes” answer to either question would indicate a greater weight placed on reason vs emotion by the relevant actor (voters and candidate respectively). This makes me think that the right way to bet is “no” on both.

      Either way, I greatly doubt that cash will be a factor– there’s enough sloshing around that nobody on any side is going to get desperate. The downticket whining will come, if it comes, from moderate Dem congressional candidates in swing districts who will *not* be worried that they will raise insufficient money but *will* worry that they will lose anyway because their opponents will be able to tag them as socialist fellow-travelers for supporting Warren.

      • Thomas Jorgensen says:

        Eh. Going after wall-street bearing fire and sword would probably be *good* for college-educated white suburbanites. In case you have failed to notice wall-street being a vampire squid above all law is not, in fact, a positive for the economy.

        • Elementaldex says:

          I’m actually not at all sure what you mean. Do you mean that having banks take a cut of most transactions in return for facilitating the ease, speed, and trustworthiness of those transactions is a net negative to economic growth and/or distribution?

        • Thomas Jorgensen says:

          I mean that financialization is killing the firms that actually produce things and services in the US by loading them down with unsustainable debt levels and out-right criminality is going entirely unpunished as long as you buy a banking licence first, up to and including financial services to narco-terrorists.
          That is not just a Trump thing. “Wall street is above the law” has been a bi-partisan stance for a long time, but credibly saying you are not going to adhere to that idiotic doctrine (And wall-street turning on you means there is no fiscal downside to keeping this election promise) is not going to be unpopular

          It is also something the President can actually do. By, for example, appointing people to SEC that are not wholly captured.

        • Elementaldex says:

          I’m unsure about crimes going unpunished but I thoroughly disagree that banks offering businesses loans is bad for the economy. In fact I think that is very good for the economy, it allows companies to expand quickly in response to demand or opportunities which they might not have had the resources for, it also allows them to deal with cyclical or erratic income which would otherwise cause them to go out of business and stop providing the valuable services they provide. Unsustainable debt can usually only be reached by a business which is about to close anyway because banks do not want to loan more than can be sustained because they want to make money off their loans.

        • baconbits9 says:

          I mean that financialization is killing the firms that actually produce things and services in the US by loading them down with unsustainable debt levels and out-right criminality is going entirely unpunished as long as you buy a banking licence first, up to and including financial services to narco-terrorists.

          Directly backwards, financialization keeps firms alive longer than otherwise, it drags on the economy by perpetually decreasing the costs of capital maintenance, liquidity etc and allowing firms to hang on indefinitely, but that is just a straightforward outgrowth of central bank policy.

        • salvorhardin says:

          This is why I said “moving to the center in general” rather than “becoming less anti Wall Street”. If Warren were actually “just” going to hold financial execs responsible for violating existing laws, give the CFPB teeth again, and change regulations that incent overfinancialization, that would be just fine for the general economy and white suburbanites in particular. It’s the other, much further-left and more broadly anti-business stuff (wealth taxes, codetermination requirements, antitrust actions based on novel-at-best theories of harm, etc) that would do the damage. Unfortunately she’s now staked enough of her brand on that stuff that it’ll be hard to abandon.

        • “financialization is killing the firms that actually produce things and services in the US by loading them down with unsustainable debt levels”

          The financial sector is killing them by providing them with what they want(capital) at a low price? if that’s true it’s not the financial sector that must be blamed.

          “out-right criminality is going entirely unpunished as long as you buy a banking licence first, up to and including financial services to narco-terrorists.”

          Example here?

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          The mistake being made here is assuming other people will come to the same conclusion given the same facts.

          I hear this frequently when I visit subforums for fringe candidates. Someone says “group X does not like our candidate” and invariably there will be people who say “but group X will do the best with our candidate!” [1]

          The hidden reasoning being that our candidate is so awesome it will make everything awesome and all groups will do awesome.

          Even if that reasoning chain were true, which is doubtful, other people have no reason to believe it.

          [1] And the usual bullshit follows, of “why is group X like that?” or “why does group X believe lies?”

      • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

        What additional taxes is Warren proposing for college-educated white suburbanites?

        • JayT says:

          Medicare for all comes to mind.

        • salvorhardin says:

          Not all pocketbook effects of policy are direct effects of tax changes. In fact, probably most are not.

        • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

          I don’t believe she’s made any specific claims about how that will be paid for. It does seem likely that a payroll tax will be part of the answer when it is finally given, but I assume that she will claim that overall a typical middle-class suburbanite will pay the same or less.

          So I can’t imagine there being a large contingent of college-educated suburbanites who would’ve voted for another the Democratic candidate but switch to Trump/third party/not voting based on Warren’s policy in this area.

          @salvorhardin
          So what are you talking about then?

        • salvorhardin says:

          @thisheavenlyconjugation

          For one, the reduction in business formation and growth caused by the constant imposition of arbitrary and punitive rules on any businesses that get too successful, and the confiscation of wealth from anyone who dares to create too much of it. Those nice white-collar jobs that pay for the affluent suburban lifestyle have to come from somewhere.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          Warren is unlikely to actually succeed at passing any kind of wealth tax.

          But it still makes me very scared to vote for her. Sometimes politicians live up to their promises, and it’s a gamble if you think things will be okay because they never will.

        • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

          @salvorhardin
          The same thing applies there. I’m sure you believe Warren will impose ” arbitrary and punitive rules” and a wealth tax that will destroy nice white-collar jobs, but that’s not relevant. The question is whether there are large numbers of suburbanites who are similarly convinced, and would’ve otherwise voted for the Democrat but faced with Warren will now choose Trump, a third party or not voting. Given that the wealth tax is incredibly popular — supported by half of Republicans! — I find that very implausible.

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        Either way, I greatly doubt that cash will be a factor– there’s enough sloshing around that nobody on any side is going to get desperate. The downticket whining will come, if it comes, from moderate Dem congressional candidates in swing districts who will *not* be worried that they will raise insufficient money but *will* worry that they will lose anyway because their opponents will be able to tag them as socialist fellow-travelers for supporting Warren.

        Not really sure I agree with that. Candidates spend a huge amount of their time fundraising, which is a pretty good indication that they consider it important.

        It also might become super-important against a candidate who supports, say, mandatory board appointments from worker’s councils, who also wants to seize the means of production every privately owned health care institution in the nation in order to force down rates to pay for her health plan.

        Like the Democrats are going to be in panic mode if their fundraising falls by half and even half of that goes over to the GOP.

        • cassander says:

          considering the massive fundraising advantage the democrats have built up over the last few cycles, I’m certain they wouldn’t be happy about losing that much cash, but it still wouldn’t put them behind

    • albatross11 says:

      Left and Woke are different axes. ISTM that Warren and Sanders both represent a lot more of Left than Woke.

      • acymetric says:

        Warren has some pretty woke elements to her platform (that seem new to this particular election, although I could be mistaken on that point). Both lean heavier on being Left than Woke though (and in fact lack of Wokeness was one of the popular knocks against Sanders from Hillary supporters during and after the last election).

        Strongly agree that anti-Wall Street is a Left position, not a Woke position.

    • brad says:

      Maybe heading into the general, but even then, I highly doubt cozying up to Big Business is high on her list. Maybe if she gets really desperate for cash, or down-ticket candidates get desperate for cash. Though even down-stream candidates started whining, I think EWarren would go full steam ahead on the Progressive Woke train.

      I thought “Woke” was a (derogatory) term for the social left?

  13. mitv150 says:

    Legally, speaking, what is an “impeachment inquiry” as declared by Ms. Pelosi?

    Subpoenas have been issued, and some noise has been made that opposition to those will be treated as obstruction.

    But how is a subpoena issued under an “impeachment inquiry” that has not been voted on any different than a regular subpoena?

    Is there actually a formal legal inquiry of some sort going on that is different than normal, or is this just the House using its normal investigative powers in the service of impeachment?

    • Oscar Sebastian says:

      From my understanding, a big thing here is that executive privilege is no longer a reason not to answer questions under testimony — since the behaviors of the Executive are under question, it is no longer possible to just claim that something is Executive business and that the Legislative branch needs to butt out.

      • hls2003 says:

        I think this is answering a different question; the OP, as I read it, is asking whether the House needs to actually hold a vote on the impeachment inquiry (as in prior cases) or whether the Speaker can declare that condition (“impeachment inquiry”) to exist without a vote. And I don’t know the answer to that. Prior practice suggests a vote, but I don’t know if it’s legally required.

        • mitv150 says:

          Exactly.

          Under normal circumstances, the House can subpoena people and request documents, but this must be done so as part of the legislative process. So the Executive can claim privilege and argue that there is no legitimate legislative reason for the request.

          A loss of executive privilege in a formal impeachment setting makes sense.

          As far as I can tell, the current “impeachment inquiry” has not been legally formalized.

        • brad says:

          There’s a certain logic to that argument, but I don’t think there’s any case law to that effect. The whole area of executive privilege vs congressional subpoenas is way under litigated. So it’s totally unclear what would be needed to trigger an impeachment exception since it isn’t even clear that there is such an exception to begin with.

  14. Plumber says:

    @Gossage Vardebedian >

    “…So, how do people think the Warren-big business relationship will evolve? It seems to me that she is the clear early front-runner, and right now, really the only person with a non-epsilon chance of winning the nomination other than Biden”

    Back in April I thought that Harris would be the nominee as a candidate who’d be able to appeal to (mostly older and less white) moderate Democrats as well as the (mostly younger and whiter) progressive Democrats, but she hasn’t gained any traction as hardly any believe she has many firm convictions past ambition (my wife can’t stand her, I on the other hand like that she was born in the same city as me, partially grew up in the same neighborhood as me, was bussed in the same school district in years I was bussed, had the same employer and worked in the same building as I do now, a fellow plumber I’ve worked with replaced her water heater said she was ‘nice’, and she is easy on the eyes, but I still don’t know what she believes), Sanders and Warren have both become more socially liberal in their campaigning lately compared to just a few years ago, but hardly anyone doubts their economic populism is genuine.
    My own reservations of Sanders are that he calls himself a “socialist”, which seems popular with young Democrats and few others, with Warren the whole “Pocahontas” thing looks like a vulnerability, plus in Massachusetts she just didn’t seem to appeal to working-class voters enough, with Biden and Sanders doing a bit better, but most of the writers of The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Vox.com seem to love Warren and hate Biden

    Biden, poor Biden, the young scribbling class has it in for him, most can tell he’s mentally and chronological old, older Democrats like him, but it’s the young who are energetic campaign volunteers, and while Biden does best in nation wide polls, when you combine Sanders and Warren supporters together their supporters outnumber Biden’s. 

    I still think that Biden would have a better chance in the general election than Warren (he’s a bit less pro open borders), and “Medicare for all” polls well as an option, but not as a wholescale replacement.

    Right now more Democratic Party voters say a winning candidate is more important than one that is more closely aligned with their views (“half a loaf is better than none”), which so far has helped Biden, but Warren has momentum and is enough primary voters second choice that the nomination looks to be hers.

    • albatross11 says:

      If Warren wins, I wonder who she’ll pick as a running mate. Neither Biden nor Sanders seem like great options–she’d do well with (IMO) someone younger and more vigorous but still reasonably prepared to step into the presidency.

      • hls2003 says:

        No way Biden would accept VP again, IMO. Sanders does nothing for her; they’re running in the same lane. Buttigieg seems like he’s kinda running for the VP slot; that’s my top guess. He’d help with her age thing and by being a male (but also a sexual minority) to balance the ticket, and Indiana is “heartland” enough that you’re not getting two coastal liberals. Kamala Harris or Cory Booker or Julian Castro could help her issues with minority voters. Of that group, I’d expect Harris first, Castro second. Booker really seems like he inspires nobody. Only other thing I can think as a long shot would be a southerner. Maybe somebody like Roy Cooper of North Carolina; a Joe Manchin type is probably too conservative to have a coherent ticket, rather than balancing. Lower on the list I’d put a foreign policy type like former general Wesley Clark.

      • JPNunez says:

        I hope it’s someone better than Tim Kaine.

      • broblawsky says:

        My money’s on either Beto O’Rourke or Joaquin Castro. Someone young, male, white-ish, and Texan, basically.

  15. DragonMilk says:

    So why exactly is it wrong to limit voting rights to citizens who are part of a household that pays a minimum threshold of taxes (income & property) per year?

    Seems that such a measure would extend the solvency of democracies if only taxpaying households had a say in what is done with those taxes.

    • Oscar Sebastian says:

      “Mass disenfranchisement of the people most affected by economic downturns during said events is not a good way to have a stable country,” is my guess for the answer.

      • albatross11 says:

        I think of voting as a bad decisionmaking technique but a good way of allowing the public a vote on how things are going far short of riots, popular uprisings, revolutions, assassinations, terrorist campaigns, and civil wars. You can still get extreme outliers going for the riot/assassination/terrorism strategy, but if there’s a substantial group of voters that worked up about some issue, they’ll probably do a lot better fighting it out via politics instead of via guns and bombs. That’s a much better outcome for society.

        This also ensures that elected officials have some kind of incentive to keep the majority of the people reasonably happy with how things are going. And that works even though most voters are basically casting an “Am I happy with the direction of things?” vote rather than a carefully-considered vote that weighs dozens of different policy proposals against one another to arrive at the best possible vote.

    • Aftagley says:

      A bunch of things. Leaving aside the moral pitfalls of such a policy, there’s no way of keeping it fair; this new class of people would now have the incentive to restrict more people from joining them. They would conceivably promote policies that prevented more people from joining their ranks.

      • sentientbeings says:

        this new class of people would now have the incentive to restrict more people from joining them. They would conceivably promote policies that prevented more people from joining their ranks.

        Why? What is the source of the incentive?

        (I can think of one reason but I’m assuming you mean something else; I don’t want to state it yet because I don’t want to contaminate potential responses)

        • Elementaldex says:

          I assumed he meant because it would dilute their, and their heirs’, power.

          • sentientbeings says:

            I think that requires, or at least implies, certain additional conditions be present that aren’t necessary in detail-light description offered by DragonMilk. I’m hoping someone holding this view expands on it to see if that’s the case.

        • Aftagley says:

          Why? What is the source of the incentive?

          Elementaldex is correct. Power in our society is concentrated around voting. If you limit power to a certain class of people, that group will then have the incentive to hold on to that power. If the number of people who qualify to vote increases, their power will decrease. Thus, I find it likely that the voting public would support policies that restricted people from breaking over whatever arbitrary in vs. out line grants you the right to vote.

          For a real-world example of this exact phenomena playing out, look at the right’s response to immigration.

          I mean, think about immigration. A bunch of people on this board will tell you that they don’t want a bunch of

          • sentientbeings says:

            If you limit power to a certain class of people

            There’s an extra assumption being smuggled in here that I think is addressed in others’ comments, but must be made explicit before making this criticism.

            That is, that the threshold is an involuntary bar for at least some people.

            It certainly could be, but doesn’t have to be, in the general description DragonMilk provided. There’s also historical evidence and theory in various fields (economics and public choice, psychology,…) showing that it can go either way.

          • Aftagley says:

            That is, that the threshold is an involuntary bar for at least some people.

            It certainly could be, but doesn’t have to be, in the general description DragonMilk provided.

            It would though.

            Yes, it wouldn’t technically have to. Everyone could relinquish whatever aid they currently get from the state or go out and work another job in order to get net positive on their taxes, but not everyone or even a majority would.

          • sentientbeings says:

            Say the threshold is one dollar. That is not, in any practical sense, a bar high enough to be insurmountable. It means that anyone could join in should he wish. The people paying the dollar wouldn’t have the incentive mentioned any more than they do in a system with the vote guaranteed to everyone.

            That changes if the threshold is a billion dollars, obviously. There is a lot of room in between, and different ways to set up the threshold, and different ways to manage the meta-rules that determine the threshold.

            It would though.

            I think that you haven’t thought it through if you’re making that prediction with certainty, given that there have been societies without full suffrage that move to expand it, including societies with similar arrangements to the proposed one.

      • eyeballfrog says:

        This is less of a problem if the threshold is fixed at $0 taxes paid. If they want to restrict the franchise, they also aren’t going to have much money to work with.

        On the other hand, “fixed” is never as fixed as one wants it to be in politics, so this still has an obvious failure mode.

    • Plumber says:

      @DragonMilk,
      Solvency isn’t everything, and it’s very easy for me to imagine those above whatever is the tax paying threshold to use their monopoly of political power to vote that only they and their descendents have the licenses, credentials, et cetera to get to that threshold.

      Besides the point of democracy is as an alternative to violence for achieving change, disenfranchise too many and you increase the likelihood of violence.

      • DragonMilk says:

        Even if the threshold is the amount of taxes owed by someone working a full time minimum wage job? (I do realize that under the current tax structures, this often equals 0)

        • Plumber says:

          @DragonMilk,
          As it happens, while lower income folks due tend to support redistribution more than higher income folks (with one big exception, city dwellers who earn between $80,000 and $200,000 tend to support redistribution more than both folks who earn less as well as folks who earn more per year), lower income folks just plain vote less, though if the goal is too increase turnout rumors of ethnic disenfranchisement increase turnout among those who suspect that they’re being discouraged from voting, so maybe proposed income minimums would do the same and increase turnout.

      • cassander says:

        Solvency isn’t everything

        It’s not, but it’s the other things don’t matter much if you’re not solvent.

        , and it’s very easy for me to imagine those above whatever is the tax paying threshold to use their monopoly of political power to vote that only they and their descendents have the licenses, credentials, et cetera to get to that threshold.

        Why would they be any likelier than the current set of voters to do that?

        • Plumber says:

          @cassander >

          “…Why would they be any likelier than the current set of voters to do that?”

          I presume that voters without those credentials/licences/property would vote against limiting access to those, but as it happens the poor just vote less, so maybe there really wouldn’t be any changes.

          As a counter example access to many city jobs used to be more limited to those with family already working in the city, those who went to the same parochial schools as most city employees, and those who flat out payed s bribe to hiring managers until special set asides were made for affirmative action to hire those from low income neighborhoods (and yes you could potentially be high income but have your legal address be in a low income neighborhood and get a job that way, but in practice the set aside jobs are too entry level for anyone to bother doing that if they already have money).

      • Garrett says:

        The flip-side is that to keep the number of people small, either they would have to all pay a much higher rate of tax to be able to afford it (making things much lower-cost for the poor and middle-classes), or what the government does would have to be substantially curtailed, getting in the way of far fewer people. And in the case of less government, entities at other levels (city/county/state/federal) could kick in and do the same thing, if so desired by the local population.

    • souleater says:

      If you’re asking if its unethical, it is according to Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Right

      As far as politically, Oscar makes a good point. People affect change one of three ways. The Ballot Box; The Soap Box; and the Ammo Box. Disenfranchisement could have some unexpected side effects.

      As far as economical, It might make sense to say that starving people can be shortsighted, and that charting the course of a nation requires long term planning. But that was also the argument of monarchists.

      ETA:
      My point with the monarchy comment, is that if it makes sense to limit voting to people who make $20k and up.. what’s to stop people next year from limiting it to $30k and up? I would be concerned that once we sacrifice our schelling fence of “everyone votes” there is nothing that preserves my right to vote.

      • DragonMilk says:

        And what if it’s a simple by household Taxes Paid – Benefits Received > 0 threshold?

        • Aftagley says:

          How do you calculate Benefits Received? What’s the monetary benefit the average household receives from the military? From having a national weather service? From having a department of the interior?

          • DragonMilk says:

            Purely money transfers for benefits (social security, medicare, unemployment benefits, welfare, etc.)

            The others are why there are voters at all!

          • Vitor says:

            Are you saying that people with disabilities shouldn’t be able to vote? Even high earning, productive members of society who just happen to have a chronic disease that costs a bunch of money to manage?

            As a person in such a situation, I am appalled (literally, not in a “try to win arguments by escalating” way) at the idea that somebody would try to take away my vote over such life circumstances.

            Health insurance is (at its core) risk pooling of random uncontrollable adversities, the whole point is to not punish those who get hit, but rather to lighten their burden.

            ETA: Just to clarify, I don’t approve of disenfranchising low income / low education people (my comment might have been read this way). I just wanted to provide an example that the suggested policy misses its intended target and causes lots of collateral damage.

        • hash872 says:

          Part of the left wing argument (that I’m pretty sympathetic to) is that more well-off folks also receive a range of benefits from living in a developed country that are a bit harder to quantify on a spreadsheet. Seems a bit arbitrary to subtract say food stamps in your system, but not a government-funded higher educational system that gave someone one of the best educations in the world, etc.

          Anyways, you’d be disenfranchising the elderly & literally anyone who’s retired with a strict ‘benefits received’ system, which I’d imagine would be quite unpopular

          • DragonMilk says:

            Property taxes are included too, but you make a good point.

            I then amend it to cumulative taxes less benefits since voting age, without inflation adjustments!

        • souleater says:

          That beats my slippery slope argument. But your metric still creates a funny paradigm where the republicans in the US government starts lowering taxes and increasing benefits in purple states. To “quasi-gerrymander” a better election result.

          Additionally, Senior Citizens don’t really pay into the system, so it will make your voting population Bluer overnight at the same time.

          • DragonMilk says:

            To the latter point, it would be cumulative taxes paid less benefits received over voting age lifetime.

            On the former, if that’s the effect, so be it. The purpose is to limit the vote to those whose monetary contributions exceed monetary receipts so that they can decide on where the non-monetary benefits are directed.

          • moonfirestorm says:

            But your metric still creates a funny paradigm where the republicans in the US government starts lowering taxes and increasing benefits in purple states. To “quasi-gerrymander” a better election result.

            The last time we discussed this system, the solution was just pay half of your gains from the gerrymandering back to the government (they do accept donations) to stay a net taxpayer and still vote with a little more money in your pocket than if they didn’t try this. If potential voters would rather have the other half of the money than their vote, then isn’t everyone happy here?

            If you’re counting non-monetary benefits it’s possible you could provide enough of those to force someone below the threshold without a way to change that. Maybe make all non-monetary benefits opt-out?

        • AG says:

          Wow, that’s actually really tempting. No one who works for the government or who receives most of their revenue via government contracts is allowed to vote? Disenfranchising all military personnel, and vast swathes of the technology industries that the military funds? Bold move.
          Hey, so you, working at this big aerospace company, are assigned to work on the new military jet. Also you can’t vote this year.
          Hey, so you, university student, you can’t vote this year because you’re taking NSF grants. Also government-subsidized student loans.
          Hey, so you, construction company hired to repair streets and bridges, y’all are not allowed to vote.

          • cassander says:

            (A) that’s more or less the ideal, yes, but (B) none of them are prohibited from voting. All they need to do if they want to vote is give back enough of the money to make even, which, at most, is half of the money they got.

          • acymetric says:

            Ok, you got me. How does someone who made all of their money from government sources/employment/contracts “make even” by giving back half of what they got?

          • cassander says:

            @acymetric

            Ok, you got me. How does someone who made all of their money from government sources/employment/contracts “make even” by giving back half of what they got?

            The government pays you 100 grand, and for the sake of argument, assume you pay no taxes. the IRS takes donations, so donate $50,001, and you are now tax positive by one dollar and can vote.

          • acymetric says:

            Why is half of what you make going to make you tax positive?

            $100,00 received. $50,001 paid. That still leaves you at -$49,999. Why did you decide that “half of the money you made” is enough to be “tax positive”?

          • Lambert says:

            Working for the government isn’t benefits recieved.
            Government workers are ‘paying’ 40 hours a week of labour.

          • John Schilling says:

            Working for the government isn’t benefits received.

            So all of the “programs” that offer “benefits” will instead be transmuted into “jobs” that pay people for “labor” that doesn’t really do anything or inconvenience them very much. And the people who don’t like this will lobby to add annoying make-work to those pointless quasi-jobs.

            Knowing this is where we will end up, I’m not seeing the benefit.

      • woah77 says:

        I personally find the argument of monarchists to be compelling, but also understand that rarely are monarchists especially good at long term planning either. The best and worst parts of democracy revolve around everyone having a vote, and I can’t see any reason to limit democracy along any arbitrary line without quickly ruining that line. I can imagine no stable system around which something arbitrary can determine enfranchisement. This doesn’t mean democracy is stable (at least not inherently) but it does mean that if you’re going to allow people to vote, you should let them all vote.

    • cassander says:

      It’s a lot more administratively difficult than it sounds.

      • DragonMilk says:

        More of a principle question, but practically, if governments keep records of taxes paid in prior year and benefits disbursed, what’s to stop them from running an inequality ensuring the former exceeds the latter to determine the pool of eligible voters?

        • cassander says:

          the record of taxes is easy, the record of benefits is more difficult to keep track of. Sure, you can track SS and medicare well enough, but how do you account for spending on the roads or cops? And how about salaries, do federal salaries count? What about the salary of a contractor? what about the salary of the janitor contractor who is employed by company A cleaning a building employed by company B, renting the office space to a government agency?

          • DragonMilk says:

            I’m limiting it to just the trackable monetary transfers so to speak. So long as your household taxes paid exceeded the household transfers of funds/medical benefits, you’re qualified if a citizen.

          • cassander says:

            You can always pick a line, sure, but others might disagree with you. For my money, I think the moral case against people who work for the government being allowed to vote for it is considerably stronger than the case against pensioners not being allowed to vote. And since the government is generally better at cash transfers than service provision, I think disincentivizing transfers is a bad plan in the long run. Under such a system, for example, people sending their kids to public schools could vote, but not people getting vouchers for their kids.

          • DragonMilk says:

            @cassander, households need to pay property taxes for schools, so voucher households should be a wash on that metric. Then so long as income taxes exceed other monetary transfers, then you’re a voter.

            As has pointed out, retirees stand to be disenfranchised, so perhaps it’ll be a cumulative since-voting-age total of taxes paid less monetary benefits.

        • eric23 says:

          So retired people wouldn’t get to vote (except for a few whose pensions/investments massively outweigh their Social Security income)? Good luck getting that passed.

    • teneditica says:

      It would break a schelling point and would lead to a world full of fights about who should be allowed to vote.

      So why exactly is it wrong to limit voting rights to citizens who have a humanities degree?

      Seems that such a measure would improve democracies if only educated people had a say.

      • DragonMilk says:

        Easier implementation of [taxes paid – monetary benefits received] > 0 than to go down the slippery slope of who is deemed educated.

        • teneditica says:

          And why should we restrict ourselves to monetary benefits? And how do we define those? Are food stamps monetary benefits?

          We judge whether someone is educated or not to do a specific job all the time by whether he has a degree or not.

    • broblawsky says:

      a) What would stop the voter class from changing the law to prevent anyone not currently franchised from ever being enfranchised? Then they could do whatever they wanted to the non-voter class without consequence, created an entrenched aristocracy. If this seems unlikely to you, look at how poll taxes and literacy tests worked in the post-Reconstruction/pre-Civil Rights Act Southern US.

      b) What would stop the non-voter class from launching a revolution to change the existing system? You’d have to get these people to agree that they didn’t deserve a say in how they’re being governed. Otherwise, you’d have to use violent oppression to prevent them from changing the system by force, at which point you’re basically in a permanent state of low-grade civil war.

      • DragonMilk says:

        a) Universal suffrage is a 20th century thing. Prior democracies didn’t necessarily limit the voting pool more restrictively each election. I would start by constitutionally amending it so that qualified voters are those citizens who, in the prior two years, were part of a household that paid more in taxes than received in monetary benefits.

        b) Because autocracies still exist today, and less than democratic democratic systems have existed since antiquity.

        • broblawsky says:

          a) What’s to stop the voter class from amending the constitution back the way they want it?

          b) Those autocracies (and illiberal democracies) have generally been plagued with constant interclass violence. Look at the Coal Wars, or the Tulsa Race Riot in the US alone.

          • DragonMilk says:

            a) because constitutional amendments require 3/4 of states
            b) Your examples don’t really illustrate revolution. And those who are receiving more in monetary benefits than they pay in taxes would be uniting to bite the hand that feeds them

          • broblawsky says:

            a) If 100% of the voters in 100% of the states are of the aristocracy, that doesn’t matter; it just requires a higher level of political coordination. If the benefits are great enough, they’ll do it.

            b) They’re examples of political strife in illiberal states.

    • Guy in TN says:

      Seems that such a measure would extend the solvency of democracies if only taxpaying households had a say in what is done with those taxes.

      I don’t understand the argument here. Sure, people who pay low taxes would be more incentivized to vote for policies that spend more, but people who pay high taxes would be incentivized to vote for policies that collect less, which could equally result in government insolvency.

      So the same logic leads us to say that maybe we should prevent people who pay over a certain amount of taxes from voting.

      • EchoChaos says:

        So the same logic leads us to say that maybe we should prevent people who pay over a certain amount of taxes from voting.

        I am fine with this too.

        My metric for who should vote is “do their votes result in outcomes I approve of” and since the ultra-rich are also very liberal, this is a good law and I like it.

      • WarOnReasons says:

        Historically, governments elected by taxpayers were much more concerned to keep expenses within budget and avoid debt than alternative forms of government (such as monarchy or democracy).

        • Guy in TN says:

          Whats an example of a government that had an electoral system where only net-positive taxpayers could vote?

          • cassander says:

            most republican systems throughout history have had pretty stiff qualifications for voting, which amounts to much the same thing.

          • albatross11 says:

            Didn’t most or all states in the early US have property requirements to vote?

          • John Schilling says:

            Didn’t most or all states in the early US have property requirements to vote?

            All or the original thirteen colonies had property requirements for voting, and these were carried over into the new United States of America. But almost all of them were abolished early in the 19th century, particularly during the era of Jacksonian populist democracy.

          • Guy in TN says:

            A system where only property owners can vote is quite different from Dragonmilk’s system where only net-positive taxpayers can vote.

          • Garrett says:

            > A system where only property owners can vote is quite different from Dragonmilk’s system where only net-positive taxpayers can vote.

            Not so much once you take into account the 16th Amendment introduction of Federal income tax.

          • Guy in TN says:

            How does adding a tax on non-property (income) bring the system closer to one where “property owners” and “tax payers” can be treated as the same category???

          • Guy in TN says:

            Ya’ll are also just breezing past the “net-positive” aspect, which cannot be assessed by simply looking at whether someone pays taxes or not.

    • Urstoff says:

      Because tax incidence means everyone pays taxes one way or another.

    • AlesZiegler says:

      I am not sure why you excluded consumption taxes, is it a deliberate ommission? Regardless:

      Parsimonious answer 1: it is not clear whether your concept of “solvency” is a desirable goal.

      Parsimonious answer 2: Economic incidence of taxation could be very different from who is their legally designated taxpayer. For an example, corporate income taxes are nominally paid by subjects that do not have voting rights, but their economic incidence very much falls on voters.

      • DragonMilk says:

        Exclusion of consumption taxes was deliberate.

        1. Call me a pessimist, but the path of modern democracies seem to moving toward expanded benefits on a dollar basis if nothing else due to a larger retired population and shrinking tax base given reproduction rates of citizens, which necessitates tax increases. Additional entitlements will further drag the system down
        2. Yes, but need to keep the measure straight-forward and simple to implement.

        • AlesZiegler says:

          Ok,thanks.

          Ad 1: Yes, that it is a real problem whose root cause is that people do not want to have enough children and also do not want to let enough immigrants into their countries. I think that reforms of family policies and immigration policies are as a solution to this preferable to disenfranchisement of poor people.

          Ad 2: But because of that your system would create perverse incentives for voters. They could create tax structure where economic incidence of possibly very high taxes would fall heavily on nonvoters.

          • DragonMilk says:

            Could you elaborate on 2? What would be an example where the disenfranchised actually have an incredibly high tax burden?

            By the way, I’d move from sales to value-added-taxes to get around the obvious example

          • AlesZiegler says:

            @DragonMilk

            Well, when you mention value-added taxes, for example 90 % of government revenue could came from VAT (in my country, as I just checked, VAT constitutes slightly more than 20 % of government revenue), which is a consumption tax and thus paying it wouldn´t make anyone eligible for voting.

          • DragonMilk says:

            Correct, one would have to pay income and property taxes in excess of monetary benefits to qualify.

            Value added taxes alone constituting 90% of revenue means the government would have to be very small, unless I’m mistaken.

          • AlesZiegler says:

            @DragonMilk

            Value added taxes alone constituting 90% of revenue means the government would have to be very small, unless I’m mistaken.

            Tax revenue is limited by the Laffer curve, but no, if direct taxes would be drastically reduced and VAT would be ramped up, I don´t see why the government would have to be particularly small. Once you have the infrastructure for a VAT extraction in place, it is a tax that is not easy to evade. Voters don´t like to pay VAT, which is a limiting factor for VAT rates, but your proposal would remove this constraint.

            Also, aren´t you concerned with an injustice of nonvoters in effect paying for most of the government, even if that government would be small?

          • AlesZiegler says:

            @DragonMilk

            Addendum, I ignored the part about voters being those taxpayers who paid more than they received in benefits. That is, I think, considerably different proposal than your original idea of minimal threshold of taxes paid, and a lot less workable.

            If you ignore monetary value of public services like roads and courts (which is, as others pointed out, somewhat silly), the vast majority of workers receive less government benefits than they pay in taxes. So, your proposal would disenfranchise mainly long term unemployed, stay at home parents, severely disabled and retirees. If then you declare that lifetime contributions count, retirees are back among the electorate until they lived so long in retirement that their pension checks climb above their past taxpaying.

            In effect you proposed a system for a disenfranchisement of precisely the most vulnerable members of society. That could spiral into some really dark scenarios.

          • DragonMilk says:

            To clarify, it’s by household, not individual, and the benefits refer to only government benefits.

            So the exclusion applies to individuals and families who have received more monetary benefits directly from the government than they have paid in income and property taxes.

        • Plumber says:

          “…the path of modern democracies seem to moving toward expanded benefits on a dollar basis if nothing else due to a larger retired population and shrinking tax base given reproduction rates of citizens, which necessitates tax increases…”

          Really?

          It looks to me that more immigration is incouraged instead to support pensioners, both top marginal Federal income tax and State property tax rates still look less than what they were in the ’70’s to me.

          I’m just not seeing a trend for increased taxes.

          Increased debt on the other hand…

    • Ohforfs says:

      So why exactly is it wrong to limit voting rights to citizens who are part of a household that pays a minimum threshold of taxes (income & property) per year?

      Because it’s wrong to strip people of liberty, including political liberty.

      This is wrong because many people like liberty, which has many utils/virtuous/is a right.

      Less seriously, (or…?) this question reminds me of the hilarious “have you tried killing the poor” comedy vide clip. Forgot the authors.

    • ECD says:

      Many reasons have already been said. Selective service, or the draft, depending on your location would be another one.

    • eyeballfrog says:

      The only acceptable threshold would be $0 paid. No taxation without representation.

    • RalMirrorAd says:

      Just to preface I personally sympathize with the idea behind these kinds of rules [it’s funny though that we have a thread like this next to the one about compulsory voting]

      My argument would be that non-fiscal regulations have the power to shift the distribution of income.

      In general voters ought to have some skin in the game, the problem is that there is no easy or consistent way to measure skin in the game.

    • FrankistGeorgist says:

      Behold my grand compromise that I feel this board will really love.

      A Christian Theocratic Democracy where only the poor can vote.

      I think it’ll work great. I’ll be a dutiful and impartial Ayatollah making sure the state never strays from the One True Faith, Adoptionism.

    • uau says:

      I’m with the people who consider the biggest practical problem to be the lack of a clear Schelling point. I don’t believe there is any way to define this that would be as clear as “everyone over the age of 18”. You’d at least introduce a new thing to argue over, somewhat similar to gerrymandering.

      I consider the way democratic principles are often presented as morally true or virtuous (“one man, one vote” and so on) to be false. Some people’s lives are worth more than others, and some deserve more influence in how society is run. However, trying to get agreement on exactly how much more influence someone deserves is a hard problem, especially if deciding how to determine that is one of the things voters can influence. In that situation, democracy with equal voting rights is a practical solution. My view is that “one man, one vote” should be considered similar to “kill them all, let god sort them out” – a practical way to behave in a situation where trying to find a perfect morally correct solution is impractical.

      You should generally be careful when you make the definition of the voting base itself subject to votes and discussion.

      • salvorhardin says:

        +1

        To expand on this, the hard problem here is to create a system that

        (a) meaningfully shifts the distribution of voting power towards voters more likely to use their votes in the public interest

        (b) doesn’t fall victim to the kinds of corrupt state capture observed in prior franchise limitation systems.

        (a) is a great and worthy motivation, since as (IIRC) Sumner put it no one has a right to rule, and therefore no one has a right to vote. The hard thing about (a) is that, even in the very unlikely event that you can get a consensus on what the public interest is, it is terribly difficult to determine even with the best of intentions and faith who will actually be most likely to act in that interest. The hard thing about (b) is that people will certainly not act with the best of intentions and faith when faced with a chance at constitutionalizing their political advantage.

        If you’re going to try and make a financial qualification work, a straight property ownership criterion is probably more straightforward than a tax-and-benefits calculation and gives you most of the same effect. In particular, we have plenty of historical evidence of how such systems work (and fail) that might facilitate avoidance of some mistakes and failure modes.

        Other more innovative alternatives include Brennan’s proposal for demographically-reweighted epistocracy and Hanson’s futarchy. These have two tremendous advantages over financial qualifications. First, they do not require any constitutionalized consensus on what the public interest is or what sorts of people are most likely to vote to further it. Second, they use mechanical criteria to determine who has the most relevant factual information and give them more voting power to act on that information, while retaining equality of voice on the question of what the public interest is. Brennan uses a test of political knowledge, Hanson uses willingness to bet on outcomes. Neither is costless to evaluate or impossible to game, but both are arguably better on these scores than financial qualifications.

        • Mark V Anderson says:

          meaningfully shifts the distribution of voting power towards voters more likely to use their votes in the public interest

          Yeah I’m not sure this is a good thing. I think I’d rather be ruled by people who rule in their self interest than those that pretend they are ruling in mine. Even if they believe it themselves.

    • rahien.din says:

      Disenfranchising the end user does not lead to efficiency or efficacy.

    • Eric Rall says:

      Tax incidence. Economically, the immediate taxpayer isn’t necessarily the one who bears the burden of the taxes. For example, sales taxes are assessed on retail sellers, who owe and directly pay the taxes, but in most cases they’re passing on a large portion of the sales taxes to their customers. Similarly, an employer-side payroll tax and an employee-side payroll tax are economically identical (since market-clearing wages adjust to the tax), but they payer is different.

      Your proposed rule could be gamed by modifying the tax code to shift the direct tax burden to the people those in power want to be able to vote while disenfranchising the rest. For example, abolishing the income tax and replacing it with an employer-side payroll tax and a VAT would disenfranchise a large portion of the population in favor of the shareholders of the businesses which are now the primary direct taxpayers (or the businesses themselves, depending on the details of the rules).

    • Net consumers have an incentive to keep the system solvent in order to preserve their benefits.

      Okay that’s theory, what about practice? It makes intuitive sense that smart and wealthier people would make better political decisions. But if you look at the world as it exists, it’s unclear to me that smart people are really wiser. In one’s personal life, you have an incentive to find optimal behaviors because you will suffer the consequence of non-optimal behaviors. The person who buys a home he can’t afford or goes to college to get a degree that won’t get him a job suffers. But at the policy level, supporting homeownership or college subsidies does not harm you in any way if those policies aren’t effective, as your marginal impact on politics is ~0. So people support what feels good to support and what makes you look good to others. I would say that smart people are marginally more likely to come to correct conclusions, but are also more certain the conclusions they come to are correct and will do more damage if they have incorrect ideas.

    • phi says:

      Why not instead limit voting rights to citizens who have a degree in economics? That would also extend solvency, probably more so than the restriction to tax paying households. (Most people with economics degrees probably pay net taxes, but most people who pay taxes on net do not have much expertise in economics.)

      The problem here is that you are identifying a desirable outcome of the democratic process — keeping spending in check — and then proposing a modification of the democratic process to make that outcome more likely. The problem with most such proposals is that if the outcome is really so obviously desirable, then people will vote in favor of it anyway, making the proposed modification redundant. On the other hand, if a large number of people vote against it, then that puts you more or less in the same position as a left winger who thinks that all conservatives should be banned from voting.

    • episcience says:

      Apart from all the good points everyone else has mentioned, the government is not just a method for making spending decisions. It is also the lawmaker — I don’t see any principled reason why only net-taxpayers should be able to vote on traffic laws, or criminal law, or zoning laws, or divorce law. These aren’t about allocating taxpayer funds but are about establishing the rules of a society, which taxpayers and non-taxpayers alike have equal moral claim to.

  16. hash872 says:

    How would the Vietnam War be prosecuted differently if it were, somehow, being conducted today? Let’s pretend that there was no original Vietnam War, but for whatever reason we’re going through it now. I’m mostly curious about advances in military technology (so this is basically directed @ Bean). Inspired by me watching the Ken Burns documentary on it now.

    Would advances in satellite imaging & drone flights take away a lot of the Vietcong/North Vietnamese advantage in guerilla warfare? The Burns documentary has a lot of Vietcong Slink Around The Jungle, Ambush, Then Disappear. Do we have vastly superior imaging systems than in the late 60s? Moderately superior? I’d imagine that imaging through the jungle is probably the absolute hardest terrain to see into- on the other hand, thermal imaging from drones seems like it should work fairly well at finding massed guerillas?

    I really know nothing about SIGINT, but it seems to me that detecting electronics on a massed group could be another angle for drones.

    Any other big advances in the last 50 years that would change how the war played out?

    • Incurian says:

      Nice try, ISI.

    • woah77 says:

      I can’t point to anything you have truly missed, except that I know that image processing technologies of today are vastly better than those of 1960s. I would argue that image processing virtually didn’t exit as it does today back then and that satellite imaging would be able to identify with far greater accuracy who and how many enemies were in a place today than sixty years ago. Not to mention our increased experience with dealing with non-uniformed insurgent armies.

    • cassander says:

      By “today” do you mean “with modern technology” or “today, 3 decades after the end of the cold war”? Because the two answers are very different, a huge amount of the bad decision making that went into the way vietnam was waged was driven by cold war calculations.

      • hash872 says:

        With modern technology. Am on a military tech kick at the moment

        • cassander says:

          Do the Vietnamese also have modern technology? Because the vietnamese in vietnam had one of the most elaborate AA systems in the world during the actual vietnam war.

          • Atlas says:

            Sort of orthogonal to the OP’s question, but isn’t the most advanced AA system in the world having lots of your own fighter aircraft? My quite possibly mistaken impression is that, while the North Vietnamese had pretty good ground defenses thanks to Soviet and Chinese assistance, they didn’t have a ton of their own fighters.

          • cassander says:

            @Atlas

            Fair point, I should have been more specific. I was speaking of their AAA and SAM network, which the soviet doctrine relied on to a far greater extent than the US did for killing enemy aircraft. And those systems had the luxury of attacking a US air force that hadn’t yet gone through Vietnam and hadn’t developed the techniques, technologies, and culture needed to attack those sorts of systems successfully.

    • Lambert says:

      It’s more about smart bombs and imaging than UAVs. Drones have only got so much press because the taliban and ISIS have no air force nor much AA capability between them.
      In ‘nam, they had to drop tonnes and tonnes of bombs near the correct target.
      Now you can do more damage dropping a single smart bomb exactly where you want it.

      I doubt the logistical side of the NVA was terribly stealthy. No good slinking around in the jungle when you food supplies have been blown up by fighter-bombers a week before they were even supposed to reach you.

    • Nornagest says:

      It’d be a completely different fight. Drones are the least of it; the US Army in Vietnam was a poorly trained and questionably equipped conscript force that was more or less the red-headed stepchild of NATO. That does have repercussions in terms of equipment (you can teach a soldier to use more stuff if he’s a volunteer on a six-year stint than a conscript on two, and he’ll probably be more motivated to learn), but it’s more significant in terms of tactics and communication: the modern Army has much finer-grained knowledge of what it’s doing, where, and what’s known about enemy dispositions, and just as importantly it’s far more practiced at using that information.

      Technologically, of course, we’re way ahead. To take imaging systems, what we’ve got now is superior to what we had in the Sixties and early 70s — for example, the first military night vision systems came out in late WWII, but they were exceptionally primitive — but more importantly they’re far, far more ubiquitous. Squads and even individual soldiers in the modern Army have access to systems and reconnaissance data that would have shown up at the battalion level in Vietnam, if that.

      On the other hand, many of the doctrinal issues in the US military that had us struggling against asymmetric opposition are still there, as we’ve seen in Iraq. Overall I’d say that modern equivalents of the NVA would be far more obviously overmatched than they were in the Sixties and Seventies, but that the guerrilla campaign would still be an unpopular slog.

      • Aftagley says:

        This is where I end up also – NVA probably wouldn’t have ever progressed to the massed troops wearing uniform stage and would have remained as an entirely guerilla force until the US just left. Possibly the leaving part would have taken way more time to get to.

    • Atlas says:

      How’s all that satellite imaging and drone reconnaissance working out for us in Afghanistan against the Taliban, who have far less technical support from foreign states than the NVA/NLF did?

      • albatross11 says:

        There’s a Darwinian process going on there, right? If we *use* whatever advanced surveillance techniques we have to find out whom to blow up, and the insurgency lasts long enough, then all surviving insurgents will have learned not to bring their cellphones to meetings, not to hide in ways that are obvious to satellites, etc.

        • Atlas says:

          Indeed.

          Sebastian Junger had a very interesting observation in his book War along the lines of (I may be mangling the details) “the US tried using sophisticated thermal imaging to find Taliban fighters, but they found a way to negate it using blankets.” Which I mention not for the sake of the specific technical issue, but rather for the general insight that insurgents can often find low-tech ways to hide more easily than counter-insurgents can find high-tech ways to seek. (Insurgents only need to hide somewhere, counter-insurgents have to seek everywhere.)

        • Garrett says:

          That has other side-effects as well. Not using cell phones and being covered in blankets all the time might make you effectively immune to the US military. But it also renders the person substantially less effective as a combatant. Good quality communications, as provided by cell phones, are a force-multiplier. Not being able to get up and walk/run around as needed also significantly hampers the ability to take action.

      • sfoil says:

        If the capability of the forces trying to overthrow South Vietnam’s government in 1970 had been reduced the the level of the Taliban in 2019 I think the war would have been considered won.

        • Atlas says:

          Judging by the occasional articles on the subject I read in the mainstream media—which certainly might be inaccurate or biased in various ways—the situation in Afghanistan doesn’t seem particularly salutary from the standpoint of “substantially reducing the Taliban’s threat to the Kabul government.” E.g. this August 2019 article from the NYT claims:

          As the United States appears to be nearing a deal with the Taliban on pulling its troops from Afghanistan, the country’s security forces are in their worst state in years — almost completely on the defensive in much of the country, according to local military commanders and civilian officials.

          Afghan commanders vowed last year to take the offensive, rather than go on fighting a static “checkpoint war.” But in most major battlegrounds, the bulk of the regular Afghan forces are still holed up in fortified bases and outposts. Most offensive operations have been left to small numbers of Afghan and American Special Operations soldiers, backed by both countries’ air forces.

          The woeful state of the regular Afghan forces has been widely seen as giving the Taliban a valuable edge in its negotiations with the United States, which have gone on for eight rounds in Doha, Qatar, and are believed to be near a conclusion. An announcement could come as early as Tuesday but also may be delayed, perhaps for weeks.

          An analysis of more than 2,300 combat deaths of government forces, compiled in daily casualty reports by The New York Times from January through July, found that more than 87 percent occurred during Taliban attacks on bases, checkpoints or command centers. These numbers indicate that the Taliban can attack many such bases almost at will.

          Also, I think it’s worth noting that, in my judgement at least, the main factor in the improved situation in South Vietnam circa 1970 was the switch driven by Le Duan from guerrilla attrition tactics to the General Offensive/General Uprising strategy of conventional assault on population centers in 1968, which was easily crushed by superior US firepower. Analogously, I’m sure that the situation in Afghanistan would have improved (at least temporarily) if the Taliban attempted to directly engage NATO forces in open combat for control of territory, but I think that this is a different issue than the one OP is trying to address.

          • sfoil says:

            The Afghan military is worse in every conceivable way than the ARVN. And to be more specific about the comparison I’m making, if the “Vietnam War” meant NLF guerrilla activity in the Mekong Delta with zero prospect of foreign reinforcement, much less intervention, the war would have been over.

    • John Schilling says:

      We have no idea what happens when a modern strike package of stealthy cruise missiles and F-35s supported by AWACS and satellites, goes up against a modern integrated air defense network with S-400s and phased-array radars, satellites, etc. Almost certainly one side is going to be surprised by how badly that is going to go for them. And everything else about this hypothetical war, is going to follow from that. Winner gets to fill the sky with their drones.

      Anybody certain it is the other side that is going to get the big ugly surprise, gets a better than even chance of being on the side that gets the big ugly surprise. That’s the penalty for overconfidence.

      • Lambert says:

        What countermeasures to Wild Weasel do they have nowadays?
        Can the USAF put enough ARMs in the air that the enemy can never feel safe when they activate a SAM radar?

        • Eric Rall says:

          The ones I’m aware of are:

          1) Passive engagement modes. Based on experience with American Wild Weasels in Vietnam, the Soviets upgraded their SAM systems to be able to engage without turning on their radars. If the target is emitting signals (either its own navigational or targeting radar or a jamming signal), then the SAM can track and target that.

          2) Longer ranges. An S-400 can engage targets up to 400 km out, while American air-launched ARMs have a range of only about 150 km.

          If I were designing a modern SAM system, I’d also include things like expendable decoy radars (a cheap antenna to send out a signal when an ARM is incoming while the actual radar shuts down), highly directional radars (so the ARM can only home in on it if it’s approaching from the exact direction it’s pointed), distributed redundant targeting radars (so it’d take several hits to degrade the radar’s capability), and designing one of the types of interceptor missiles in my system as a countermissile to shoot down the enemy’s longer-ranged ARM or other SSM/ASM missiles. I don’t know enough about the R-400 to know if they’re doing these things, too.

        • John Schilling says:

          What Eric says. Also, low-probability-of-intercept radar with obfuscated waveforms. Also also, active electronically-scanned arrays let you point a null at the incoming ARM while still tracking a target. Active terminal guidance for SAMs means you only have to track, not illuminate, which gives much less signal for the enemy to backtrack. Above all else, being smart about when and where you turn on the radars and be ready to turn them off and move.

          If you don’t have the fanciest technology, understand the problem and improvise with what you do have. Zoltán Dani and his crew smoked a 1990s model stealth fighter and a 1990s model wild weasel with 1960s-vintage SAMs no better than North Vietnam had used a generation earlier. Now think what that guy could do with tech fifty years more advanced, and how confident are you that the “wild weasels” are going to come out on top?

      • Dan L says:

        Recent buzz is that Israel has been operating F-35s over parts of Syria nominally controlled by S-400s without incident. Not sure how much credence I put in that (and it certainly isn’t a full system v. system test) but it’s suggestive as an edge case.

    • sfoil says:

      I’ve thought about this but never really tried to come up with a coherent answer. This is mostly me kicking around a few ideas.

      Cassander’s question about whether this is fought “with modern tech” or “with modern tech during the Cold War” is a big one, since one of the strategic problems in Vietnam was an unwillingness/inability to reallocate too many resources away from the deterrence/potential war with the USSR.

      The US military in Vietnam was very different than its “modern” (Gulf War and afterward, I would say) incarnation. Peak troop commitment in Vietnam was, IIRC, about 550,000. The current US military cannot deploy that many personnel, they simply don’t have them available. Combat forces, from infantry up to aircraft, were fundamentally both much more numerous and more expendable — aircraft losses were in the low thousands, something inconceivable today. They were also much less lethal than their modern counterparts.

      Lower US troop availability would push more fights onto the ARVN, with uncertain results — they might rise to the task, or they might disintegrate and enter a death spiral (I believe that ARVN incompetence is overstated but haven’t studied the problem in great detail).

      Improved sensors and munitions would increase the casualty exchange ratio between US and opposing forces, possibly to the extent of making the guerrillas tactically ineffective, but it would not ultimately affect their ability to occupy territory.

      The bombing of North Vietnam would be far more devastating. One of the major concerns about bombing the North was the possibility of accidentally bombing Chinese territory; with modern navigation and munitions I think this concern virtually disappears. Even if North Vietnam’s air defenses are top-of-the-line now, as they were then, I think that the gap between an air attacker and the defender is even greater now than they were in the 1960s-70s when the SAM was almost a novel threat. The upshot of this is that actual NVA forces would be much less of a factor in the South.

      The counterpoint is that it would all be extremely expensive. The failure mode looks a lot like Afghanistan, where the enemy is a rural insurgency quite nearly impotent tactically against American forces but able to maintain the minimal presence needed to back claims to territory. The VC basically work for free while the American presence costs a ton of money, so eventually the former win out when the latter find something else they’d rather fund.

      I think the modern US military could tamp down enemy tactical capability inside South Vietnam to something that looks a lot like the Iraqi insurgency. South Vietnam and its military seem to have been considerably more functional than their Iraqi and Afghan modern counterparts. South Vietnam has a much better chance of holding on, I think.

      • Atlas says:

        (I believe that ARVN incompetence is overstated but haven’t studied the problem in great detail)

        I haven’t looked into the issue in great detail myself, but I think it’s at least very interesting and probably informative that there’s a lot more debate/uncertainty about the competence of ARVN than there is about the competence of the VC and NVA. (And also for that matter the US organized/allied Montagnard paramilitary groups.)

        • sfoil says:

          There may not be a lot of debate, but there’s plenty of information about the competence of the NVA/NLF: sometimes they won and sometimes they lost, and they badly botched several major offensives. In other words, about the same as the ARVN.

    • bean says:

      Any other big advances in the last 50 years that would change how the war played out?

      Removing Robert McNamara from the Pentagon. That does more than all the technology in the world put together.

      More seriously, Vietnam was kind of a weird hybrid on a lot of levels. The air campaign was an attempt to implement a modern-style air campaign using WWII technology. Precision-guided munitions let you actually shut down a country from the air. Do that, and North Vietnam can’t keep supporting the troops in the south. At that point, it’s just a matter of keeping South Vietnam alive until the Viet Cong all die off and the northerners head back home.

      But it’s mostly going to be shaped by the people running the war. That was what made Vietnam such a disaster.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        But bean, every counter-insurgency we’ve fought since Vietnam has been such a disaster without foreign conventional support.

        • cassander says:

          vietnam got 60,000 american soldiers killed. There hasn’t been an enemy since that’s inflicted casualties within an order of magnitude of that.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Fair. We’re looking at two different metrics: “how many of our troops can the enemy kill?” and “how many KIA can we tolerate before forfeiting?”

            I know it’s uncouth to talk about war like a game, but it feels like we’re in a board game where if the enemy plays the “guerilla” card, the United States loses even if the players drag it out for 18 years.
            That we’ve learned enough to keep losses in Afghanistan down to 1,856 KIA in 18 years is commendable but different from not losing.

          • Nornagest says:

            I’m not sure how well the KIA figures generalize. Since at least the first Gulf War, pretty much all the military adventures we’ve embarked on have essentially been punitive expeditions, billed as redressing specific, narrow offenses: invading Kuwait, harboring terrorists, running an alleged WMD program, being Muammar Gadaffi. The American public doesn’t tolerate interventions that’re horribly botched (Iran, Somalia), but as long as one looks reasonably well-run we’re willing to accept casualties to serve those goals. Iraq was, initially, a popular war; public opinion only really started turning when the original justification for it evaporated and it looked like our soldiers were getting shot in ambushes and blown up by IEDs for, essentially, nothing.

            On the object level, the goal in Vietnam wasn’t too different from what it was in the Libyan intervention: stepping into someone else’s civil war with an aim towards ensuring the victory of the pro-American and allegedly more liberal-democratic faction. But the justification for it was much more open-ended: rather than redressing a grievance, Vietnam’s boosters primarily saw it as halting the spread of global communism. If we had a policy goal that compelling and yet that vague today, I can see it lasting through… maybe not 58,000 dead and 300,000 wounded as in Vietnam, but certainly a lot more blood and treasure than Iraq and Afghanistan have cost us. “War on terror” might have qualified, if Bush hadn’t overplayed his hand. Stopping ISIL certainly would, but they turned out to be something of a pushover.

          • cassander says:

            @Le Maistre Chat & Nornagest

            Relative to the US, or at least the US military as deployed in vietnam, Vietnam was far more powerful than any adversary we’ve faced since, with far more ability to damage US forces. Only in Iraq (the first time) has the US fought an enemy with even the theoretical ability to go toe to toe with a US force larger than a reinforced company and destroy it. Even if you adjust for the size of the US forces deployed, we still come out ahead, and while part of it is that the US has gotten better since vietnam, a bigger part of it is that we’re a super power and there isn’t a rival superpower backing any of our enemies. Vietnam did not have the ability to produce tens of thousands of AAA guns or SA-6 SAMs, they got them from the russians. And if the modern russians had been able to give the taliban equivalent numbers of S-400s (and we refrained from attacking the S-400 sites systematically for fear of angering the russians) that air campaign would have gone much less well for us.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @cassander:

            Only in Iraq (the first time) has the US fought an enemy with even the theoretical ability to go toe to toe with a US force larger than a reinforced company and destroy it. … Vietnam did not have the ability to produce tens of thousands of AAA guns or SA-6 SAMs, they got them from the russians. And if the modern russians had been able to give the taliban equivalent numbers of S-400s (and we refrained from attacking the S-400 sites systematically for fear of angering the russians) that air campaign would have gone much less well for us.

            Certainly. We can do things against Muslim guerillas that we couldn’t or wouldn’t do in Vietnam due to the tools local Communists were receiving from the USSR. Our two biggest strategic rivals, Russia and China, aren’t interested in giving expensive material support to the cause of Islamic theocracy when they’re secular republics of totally different culture. So air campaigns, for one, involve trivial risk.
            We still manage to lose every counter-insurgency through some combination of bad doctrine and lack of political will (Nornagest went into the latter a bit).

      • cassander says:

        The air campaign was an attempt to implement a modern-style air campaign using WWII technology on the cheap, with frequent pauses, without systematically attacking the AA system, and without hitting the most important targets.

        FTFY

  17. Machine Interface says:

    Is the leftward stroke of Cthulhu an optical illusion?

    Let’s first posit that when two ideologies are in conflict, short of the violent, systemic and physical extermination of one sides’s supporters by the other side’s, generally we don’t see either of the ideologies triumphing completely. Rather, the resulting society ends up looking like a (more or less ballanced) compromise between the values of the two ideologies.

    Eg: no county in the western world and friends is a pure capitalistic, laissez-faire economy. Even America indulges in significant amounts of corporatism, wealthfare programs and labor regulations (I remember a libertarian joke that most of the agenda detailed in the Communist Party Manifesto has effectively been accomplished by modern western democracies).

    So we can posit the following evolution:

    Generation 1)
    Society is in state A.
    Conservatives want to keep it in state A.
    Progressives want to change it to state B.

    Generation 2)
    Society is now in state AB, a compromise of state A and B
    Conservatives want to keep it in state AB.
    Progressives want to change it to state C.

    Generation 3)
    Society is now in state ABC, a compromise of state AB and C
    Conservatives want to keep it in state ABC.
    Progressives want to change it to state D.

    etc.

    Let’s simplify the above notation for brievity:
    1) A > A vs B
    2) AB > AB vs C
    3) ABC > ABC vs D

    Now, here’s where different viewpoints might lead to completely different analysis of this cycle.

    Consider a conservative looking back at history, and judging elements within the state of society by where they first originated. If they put elements of progressive origin between brackets, what they see is:

    1) A > A vs [B]
    2) A[B] > A[B] vs [C]
    3) A[BC] > A[BC] vs [D]
    4) A[BCD] > A[BCD] vs [E]
    5) A[BCDE] > A[BCDE] vs [F]

    What the conservative sees is progressive elements taking more and more room in the state in which society is, and conservative supporters finding themselves unwittingly defending more and more progressive elements.

    However this contains a rather strong implicit: that progressives always want the same thing, so that an element being progressive in origin is enough to make this element always desirable to progressives forever. Which is course not how progressism work.

    What does a progressist actually see when they look at the diagram. Let’s posite that the progressist point of view is that an element is not-progressist if it has been part of society for more than two generations. Then what the progressist sees, putting non-progressist elements in brakets, looks more like this:

    1) A > A vs B
    2) AB > AB vs C
    3) [A]BC > [A]BC vs D
    4) [AB]CD > [AB]CD vs E
    5) [ABC]DE > [ABC]DE vs F
    6) [ABCD]EF > [ABCD]EF vs G

    And now, suddenly, it seems that Cthulhu swims right, as progressives seem to have to compromise with an evergrowing set of outdated values.

    And the tempting conclusion is that both point of views are illusionary. Any element of society can be portrayed as progressist or conservative depending on whether you consider it from the point of view of its origin (which necessarily has a progressive impetus, since things are being changes) or of its perpetuation (which necessarily has a conservative impetus, since things are being preserved). So in other word there’s no such thing as inherently progressive or inherently conservative ideas, and Cthulhu is really travelling without moving.

    • Ttar says:

      This implies human societies start as blank slates with no values, norms, customs, etc. Such that you’re continually adding things. But in reality all societies and humans come with biases and norms and customs that cover basically everything (although you may have to use analogies and metaphors when asking existing values to address new technologies).

      However it IS possible that progressives move us from norm A to norm B in some slot (let’s say, from feudal mercantilism to laissez-faire capitalism) but then a few centuries later once everyone agrees that laissez-faire capitalism is the conservative viewpoint, progressives start advocating a system that essentially returns us to zero-sum feudal economics. In that sense, the very notion of there being such directions as right and left in which Cthulhu could swim breaks down.

      But I don’t know that we see this much, in practice. And I think then your real attack on the idea that leftward swimming is an illusion is actually just an attack on the very concept that the right/left divide is actually a useful concept, not specifically an attack on the notion that Cthulhu is swimming in a given direction.

      It’s kind of like arguing against heliocentrism by pointing out that really, neither the sun nor the earth revolves around the other because they actually trace a spiral around the center of the milky way.

      • But I don’t know that we see this much, in practice.

        Arguably, it has happened with regard to sex. The sexual revolution was supported by people on the left, opposed by people on the right. The counter-revolution, imposing restrictions such as affirmative consent, putting any male college student who slept with a female college student at risk of expulsion if she decided to claim he had misbehaved in the incident, was supported by people on the left, opposed by people on the right.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Cthulhu is moving, your second scenario is just subtracting out some degree of leftward movement (anything progressing slower than one change per two generations).

    • EchoChaos says:

      The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of Conservatives is to prevent mistakes from being corrected. Even when the revolutionist might himself repent of his revolution, the traditionalist is already defending it as part of his tradition. Thus we have two great types — the advanced person who rushes us into ruin, and the retrospective person who admires the ruins. He admires them especially by moonlight, not to say moonshine. Each new blunder of the progressive or prig becomes instantly a legend of immemorial antiquity for the snob. This is called the balance, or mutual check, in our Constitution.

      – G.K. Chesterton

  18. Gobbobobble says:

    While we’re kicking hornets’ nests re: voting, how about a thread from the other direction? Why should we not have compulsory voting? Surely the system would be more representative if everyone actually participated. You can always write-in if you don’t like the options on offer.

    (Sorry libertarians but I’m not interested in the “government shouldn’t make me do anything” angle, right now. We live in a world where we’re already required to pay taxes – so to make things more interesting, is there an argument against compulsory voting that doesn’t also exclude compulsory taxation?)

    • albatross11 says:

      The argument I’ve seen in favor of compulsory voting is that it makes it difficult for anyone to systematically intimidate people into not voting. I don’t know whether that’s worth the cost in personal freedom/not having to waste your time/paperwork hassles for when you really couldn’t vote.

    • Randy M says:

      Surely the system would be more representative if everyone actually participated.

      Is this an end in and of itself? Why?
      I would rather live in a well run state than one I had a say in; I just don’t think that without checks and balances, such as a popular vote, we will live in a well run state. Hence appreciating the existence of voting, while not being terribly concerned if turnout is low.

      • Statismagician says:

        Churchill appears on balance to have had the right idea about ‘Republicanism democracy being the worst form of government, except for all the others.’ It’s at least generally poor-to-mediocre, rather than anywhere between sublime and monstrous, with only a heartbeat separating the two.

    • eyeballfrog says:

      Compulsory voting requires enforcement. It’s unclear how feasible this is, and even less clear it would be a good use of resources.

      • Lambert says:

        They already enforce “number of times voted ≤ 1”.
        Why not change that to an ‘=’.

        • albatross11 says:

          Several countries already do this, including Australia and Brazil.

        • eyeballfrog says:

          That can be enforced at the polling places by kicking people out, while compulsory voting is enforced by tracking people down. Much more work.

          • Three Year Lurker says:

            Withhold an extra $XXX in taxes, hand it over when the person votes.
            People will show up and vote. (to remove that law)

    • Lambert says:

      Oz has mandatory voting laws.
      By law, you have to go into the voting booth.

      I think the other variable in play is the convenience of voting.
      Making sure postal votes are available, polling stations are open late etc. is an important way to keep people enfranchised. Especially considering how the already-disadvantaged tend to have less slack in their lives (long hours, childcare etc) to fit in voting around.

      • WashedOut says:

        Casting a vote is not mandatory in Australia – just crossing your name off the electoral roll.

        You can walk in, get crossed off the roll, get handed your ballot paper, throw it on the ground and walk straight out if you want. Most people of this inclination are polite enough to just deposit a blank ballot in the box though.

        The Australian system seems to me to be a good happy-medium between “state-enforced involvement in the system” and “exercise your rights as you wish”, and usually involves a pretty good BBQ and beers in the carpark outside each voting centre on election day.

        • Lambert says:

          I think the idea is that not wanting the inconvenience of voting is the main reason that people don’t vote. And that the inconvenience of actually writing some numbers next to some names (STV, right?) and putting it in a box is negligible compared to actually going to the polling station.

          They tend to get around 90% of people casting valid votes, IIRC.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            I believe 90% show up at the polls and of them 95% cast a valid vote. But how many cast Donkey votes?

            I believe that WashedOut’s comment is a criminal offense. I’m unclear on our comments.

    • Milo Minderbinder says:

      There are certain benefits from taxation that are subject to free rider problems were taxes not compulsory (national defense, at the very least). Voting doesn’t have the same free rider problem. In America, given the dominance of the major parties, not voting is one way of expressing satisfaction or dissatisfaction with the status quo/presented slate of candidates.

      Political engagement is a function of a number of factors that policymakers care about (interest in particular issues, knowledge of the candidates, etc.) that compulsory voting might mask. Compelled engagement, in and of itself, doesn’t necessarily do anything than make elections noisier. Conversely, comparing engagement after elections gives policymakers valuable data on how they need to improve outreach/messaging. If the ultimate point of voting is is to produce better policy, than non-votes are a valuable signal.

      If voting (elections) is (are), as I believe, a way to maintain the legitimacy of the governments among peoples acculturated to democracy, then allowing non-votes is again even more important, as a warning sign if nothing else.

      There doesn’t seem to be anything important in and of itself about faithfully summing the opinions of everyone on a certain day. The felt legitimacy of the government and the efficacy of policy both seem more important.

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        There are certain benefits from taxation that are subject to free rider problems were taxes not compulsory (national defense, at the very least). Voting doesn’t have the same free rider problem

        Signal boosting because it answers the question. The nation as it stands cannot survive without taxation. It can certainly survive without mandatory voting.

      • noyann says:

        > allowing non-votes is again even more important, as a warning sign if nothing else.

        A very important sign. An option “[ ] None of the above” would be sufficient (and would make realistic outcome interpretations* one step easier), while forcing folks to think at least one moment about their say (however small) in the matter.

        *No more “We are representing the majority!”, if majority=55% of the 6% who actually voted.

        Enforced voting would require very easy access, as said elsecomment, or else it would invite all kinds of sabotage.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Sure, but compulsory voting also increases felt legitimacy.

    • sentientbeings says:

      Probable decrease in average quality of information backing a vote is a pretty straightforward reason.

      Seems unfair to exclude the “libertarian” reasons, though. It’s like saying “aside from the libertarian reasons against the draft…” It’s reasonable in that it’s worthwhile from the standpoint of identifying different points of analysis, but it also excludes something that for many people is dispositive of the question. Excluding it probably leads to the error made here:

      Surely the system would be more representative if everyone actually participated.

      In which you conflate various forms of lack of participation; e.g. apathetic lack of participation versus conscientious lack of participation, the latter of which can itself take various forms, at least some of which might be considered participatory in themselves but which would be removed from the available set of choices under a compulsory vote. The system is less representative practically by definition, because it imposes further constraints on the set of choices.

      • Gobbobobble says:

        Seems unfair to exclude the “libertarian” reasons, though.

        I’m not excluding its validity, it’s just a boring answer.

        • sentientbeings says:

          Fair, and I agree, but I’ve encountered plenty of folks who deny it (not just the sense of disagreement, but rejecting it as a reasonably held belief), which leads me to resist its exclusion. Plus, the whole premise of people have the vote is centered on choice and agency and consent, so it seems almost inextricably tied-in.

    • drethelin says:

      Voters are stupid enough without adding an extra level of people who didn’t care enough to vote before.

      • sharper13 says:

        Yeah, this and @sentientbeings comment are the reason I would object. Compulsory voting shifts the median voter in the direction of someone who previously didn’t care enough about politics to take the time to vote, let alone use their time to research and form an informed decision on who or what to vote for/against.

        If someone isn’t going to take the time to be an informed voter, it’s better if they are not a voter. Theoretically, they can show up and submit a blank ballot, but in reality, “as long as they have to be there anyway”, they’ll probably decide to “make their voice count” by marking someone. That’s what most people do who haven’t ever heard of the candidates for assistant dog catcher, anyway.

        On a semi-related note, sample ballots are great for the U.S., BTW, as they make it much easier to see what you’re actually going to be voting on in order to research and record your intentions ahead of time to bring into the ballot box with you. Efforts like that, which make it easier for voters to be more informed, are a better way to go.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        +1 both drethelin and sharper.

      • If I was forced to vote in every election, I would deliberately make my vote as stupid as possible out of spite.

      • Auric Ulvin says:

        I think the effect is almost the opposite. Compulsory voting weakens the fanatic stranglehold on politics.

        In Australia, the system is dominated by centrists. Our politicians don’t have to go to dozens of rallies, they don’t have to inflame the masses or provide a good reason to go out and vote for them in particular. Highly polarizing candidates like Trump or Warren couldn’t possibly win here, a small crowd of high-octane supporters won’t get you anywhere. Politicians don’t have to create a ‘movement’, not that recent PMs have had more than a year or two to rule before they get kicked out.

        Imagine if you had to go out of your way MORE to vote in the US. Say you had to pay $50 or do 10 minutes of vigorous exercise or perform some kind of minor ritual sacrifice. Would this improve the quality of politics? No, it’d result in the fanatics getting more political power. They’d struggle through the push-ups for God-Emperor Trump, they’d do what it took to bring socialism to America.

        Surely then, it should be as easy as possible to vote, to the point of being compulsory. If everyone votes, then fanatics get less power. Politicians are forced to cater to the majority, not the vocal, spirited minority.

        • noyann says:

          +1
          You could observe this in the less polarized countries in Europe in the last decade. The inflamed did go to great lengths and had a high voter turnout.

          In the other direction you find the German Christian Democrats that developed a strategy, ‘asymmetric demobilization’,* to lower competitors’ voting rates.

          Non-voting has several reasons, indolence is only one of them. There’s disappointed resignation (“the elites do what they want anyway”) This group is inclined to vote for populists, but is a potential that can erupt in unorganized rage on the streets later.

          Those content with the status and only minor itches (“Basically that state works, mostly, no need to get agitated or take action”) won’t show up if nothing big is at stake, succumbing to minor barriers like ugly weather, fine weather and doing something more interesting, illness, being on holidays. Their expressed consent with the status quo is a visible indicator for the government’s legitimacy (and may embolden hesitating democratic actors for decisive action when needed).

          Enforced voting must come with extremely low barriers (opening times, place nearby, vote by letter), or it will trigger sabotage as already expressed here.
          It also must have an option to express “I don’t agree with any of the above” to allow some low-level venting and get disagreement into high visibility.

          I think enforced voting does also have the effect of a small educative push toward political awareness, and developing agency.

    • Steven J says:

      You do realize that a couple dozen countries have some form of compulsory voting, and that there is enforcement in some of them?
      Examples include Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, Singapore, Uruguay, and parts of Switzerland.
      So its possible to empirically answer questions about the feasibility and effects of such a policy.
      People have generally found that compulsory voting increases both turnout (by a lot) and support for leftist policies (by a little).
      Whether that is desirable is another question.
      A couple of papers that may be of interest:
      Bechtel, Hangartner, and Schmid (2016), “Does Compulsory Voting Increase Support for Leftist Policy?” AJPS.
      Fowler (2013), “Electoral and Policy Consequences of Voter Turnout: Evidence from Compulsory Voting in Australia,” QJPS.

    • Ttar says:

      What about people who don’t care about politics? Do they just pick a candidate at random? Does the candidate with the nicest sounding name get a few extra % every election? Arguably higher information voters are likelier to vote today, are we well served by low-information, disaffected voters being forced to participate?

      • Oscar Sebastian says:

        We’ll just have to take away the secret ballot and execute anyone who demonstrates a pattern of voting at random to encourage everyone to be a high-information, terrified voter instead.

      • viVI_IViv says:

        What about people who don’t care about politics? Do they just pick a candidate at random?

        They can always cast a blank or null ballot.

        • thevoiceofthevoid says:

          Yes, but once they’ve spent an hour in line waiting to get into the voting booth, they won’t.

          • viVI_IViv says:

            Long lines are an orthogonal organizational problem. If voting became compulsory, there would be probably political pressure to increase the number of polling stations.

          • Aftagley says:

            Does this happen? Every time I’ve voted it’s been a completely painless process.

          • Nick says:

            I’ve only voted the once, but I was the only person ‘waiting’ at the time. It was in the morning before work.

          • thevoiceofthevoid says:

            Sounds like the the length of the lines at polling stations varies significantly.

            But regardless, once you put in whatever effort’s required to actually get into the voting booth (even just driving/walking to the polling station if the lines are short) you’ll feel invested enough to put something down on the ballot.

          • acymetric says:

            I’ve always voted in reasonably populated areas, but in the suburbs not “in the city”. I have never waited in a line at all, but there are always reports just a few miles away (in the city/downtown or at least closer to it) where lines are hours long during the same election. Sometimes this is due to some kind of equipment failure, others the problem is just “too many people”.

            Is this the result of bad government, or something more nefarious (voter suppression)? My guess is a good dollop of each.

          • thevoiceofthevoid says:

            @acymetric

            Null hypothesis: Whoever’s in charge of setting up polling centers has little personal incentive to make them run more smoothly. The people with the power to open additional stations in overcrowded areas likely would not personally be rewarded for doing so. Therefore there’s no reason to expect improvement as long as the minimum requirements are fulfilled.

      • bullseye says:

        I read about a study in California that showed some people just pick the first candidate, even though Californians aren’t required to vote.

        California prints some ballots with one candidate listed first, and other ballots with the other candidate listed first, and chooses at random which locations get which ballot; so then someone analyzed the results and found that being listed first was an advantage.

    • Ttar says:

      Practical reason: the first party to add “eliminate mandatory voting” as a platform plank would win the next election.

      • noyann says:

        Make it difficult to remove, say, a constitutional amendment that voting has to be free, secret, equal, compulsory, with explicit option for disagreeing with everone/everyparty on offer.

        • Ttar says:

          Ok — I admit that you have/can eliminate a lot of the challenges and downsides to the proposal. Obviously some places do it and thus it can be done. But what have you gained? Media talking heads will blandly report that the candidate who changed his name to “no one on this list” continues to capture the same ~10% of the vote he always does, along with his running mate John Lizardman, and the redistributionist and racial populist parties each pick up a few extra % from their respective lumpenproletariat bases who today just skip the elections. Seems… Meh.

    • Eric Rall says:

      For voting to have more than token symbolic value requires voters to perform at least a perfunctory level of due diligence to research the choices on the ballot and pick one. A ballot cast by a voter who is unable or unwilling to do their due diligence is noise, at best.

      If an eligible voter doesn’t care to cast a ballot unless they’re forced to, then I read that self-selecting as unable or unwilling to cast an informed vote. Force them to vote anyway, and you’ll wind up adding noise to the process.

      This argument doesn’t apply to compulsory taxation because a dollar from an uninformed, indifferent, or unwilling taxpayer spends just as well as a dollar from an informed, engaged, and willing taxpayer.

      • b_jonas says:

        No it’s not. Not in European countries where 5 to 10 percent of the parliament is made up by extremist parties that nobody in their right mind would vote for. Even just picking a random party other than the extreme right wing one makes your vote count a little, and it requires very little of my time to find out which party that one is.

        • EchoChaos says:

          Not in European countries where 5 to 10 percent of the parliament is made up by extremist parties that nobody in their right mind would vote for.

          This is some of the most hilariously blatant other-ing I have ever seen on this board.

          Are you asserting that 5 to 10 percent of European countries are made up of people not in their right mind?

          • AlphaGamma says:

            Consider the lizardman constant. With a low enough PR threshold, you get some really weird fringe parties – whether that’s theocrats or tankies – in parliament. It’s the converse of this feature on how to win an election– a non-zero number of people will actually vote for Black Hat Guy. And if you have multiple differently weird Black Hat Guys expressing different fringe positions, taken together they might well reach 5-10 percent.

          • b_jonas says:

            Yes, sort of. It’s slightly less than that many, but the people who are strange in that particular way are more likely to vote, and of course it varies among countries.

        • Eric Rall says:

          Even just picking a random party other than the extreme right wing one makes your vote count a little, and it requires very little of my time to find out which party that one is.

          How confident are you that nonvoters, if forced to vote, would be less likely to vote for “extremist parties that nobody in their right mind would vote for” than people who care enough about politics to vote voluntarily?

          They might be more likely to choose an extreme right-wing party than a voluntary voter. If they know or care very little about politics, they might vote for an extreme party because the mainstream parties are all a bunch of self-serving crooks, or they might vote for an extreme party because they like the party name or like the look of the candidate but don’t know how insane the platform is, or they might just (like an estimated 1-2% of voters in Australia) vote blindly for the first option listed on the ballot regardless of who it is.

          • b_jonas says:

            I am not confident at all in that, and I’m not arguing for mandatory voting. I can’t guess how mandatory voting would change the results of general elections, and I don’t think it’s a policy that I would like in any case.

            What I tried to say is this. I’m generally rather badly informed about politics, and don’t want to spend much time to get more information. So on most general elections, like on the 2018 one, I was rather unsure on which party would be the best to support. Even then, I think it’s worth for me to vote on any general election.

        • A lot of nonvoters, myself included, are extremely childish and vindictive. We’re not socially responsible people. If society forced me to vote that would be about the point where I turn against that society and become aggressively uninterested in its survival. I’d be very likely to vote for extremist parties, and alternate between voting far-left, far-right, and islamist.

          In fact, this is the only real strategy to push back against compulsory voting, because most people who want compulsory voting aren’t neutrals who like democracy, but are generally left-liberals who have done the calculation that forcing people to vote adds more people who are interested in left-liberal policy.

        • noyann says:

          How many of them have a rule that only allows parties (or party coalitions) of ≥X% (combined) into parliament?
          Then the crazies don’t get a say, but the thematic distribution of their parties/candidates and the votes they get can serve as an early warning system.

    • benwave says:

      Actually in the USA, I’d expect the biggest influence such a law would have would be to prevent stuff like roll purges, particular ID requirements, preregistration, and even just like restrictions on number of polling stations, length of time polls stay open etc… which disenfranchises people from happening. I think this would have a bigger effect on outcomes than having a lot of extra people casting votes, summing to approximately status quo. I’d expect people currently prevented from voting probably have a much higher lean than people who don’t vote through lack of caring.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        Actually in the USA, I’d expect the biggest influence such a law would have would be to prevent stuff like roll purges,

        So then we’d have not 100% of the people voting, but 110% or 120%, as all the folks who died since the last election or moved away would still be on there. I don’t think that is a good result.

        • benwave says:

          Well, I’m sure that adequate organisation could be arranged to ensure the reliability of the polls. Nobody in that country is really mandated or empowered to ensure people can/do vote at the moment, and if it were made compulsory I think that would change. I see no reason it couldn’t be done without increasing electoral fraud.

    • John Schilling says:

      Be extra careful trying this in any sort of a proportional-representation system. That leads to five percent of your legislators being lizardmen, which usually doesn’t end well.

    • Snickering Citadel says:

      Seems to me the advantage of mandatory voting is to combat voter suppression. The disadvantage is that uninformed people would just vote for someone random, or the first choice. A way to remove much of this disadvantage is a system where everybody has to go to the voting place. Then if you vote for nobody you can do so immediately, but if you want to vote for a candidate you have to wait 5 minutes. Uninformed voters would mostly not bother to wait.

      Anyway people in democracies should be better educated about politics. The way things are now people mostly get educated to get jobs, not to be an informed voter. There is not much advantage to an individual to get educated about politics because one person’s vote counts for so little. But it is a huge advantage to society if every voter is informed.

      So the government should pay people to get educated. At least about politics, economics, environmentalism and stuff like that. Maybe not about plumbing or how to drive a car or whatever.

      • Seems to me the advantage of mandatory voting is to combat voter suppression.

        This is why it’s a left/liberal aligned policy, and people on the right/conservatives tend to oppose it. Not necessarily because they love “voter suppression”, because they wouldn’t frame things like voter ID laws that way to begin with.

      • thevoiceofthevoid says:

        Accidental double post, please ignore

      • thevoiceofthevoid says:

        Unfortunately, for topics like “politics, economics, environmentalism and stuff like that” on which the range of opinions is incredibly broad and the truth is unclear at best, there’s an incredibly blurry line between teaching and indoctrination. Especially if the current government is paying for it.

        And I’m doubtful whether being drilled on how exactly congressional seats are allocated or other politically neutral civics topics actually makes someone a more-informed voter.

  19. proyas says:

    What is the minimum amount of genetic relatedness a person must have to you to bear an observable physical or personality similarity to you that is greater than mere coincidence?

    For me, it seems to stop at first cousins, or anyone who shares 1/8 of my genes. That’s the lowest degree of relatedness where I can still detect similarities in appearance, intellect, and personality. However, some of them are nothing like me at all, so 1/8 is even pushing it a little.

    My first cousins, once removed share 1/16 of my genes, and none of them are similar to me in any way. If I hadn’t met one of them before, we could end up coincidentally living next to or working with each other for years, and I’d never suspect we were related.

    • viVI_IViv says:

      What is the minimum amount of genetic relatedness a person must have to you to bear an observable physical or personality similarity to you that is greater than mere coincidence?

      It depends on how homogeneous the reference population is. E.g. you can usually tell apart people of different races just by their looks.

      • Randy M says:

        Well put. I was trying to find a way to say that the base rate of similarity can vary a lot, and some resemblance may be due to unknown relation or just convergent evolution of facial features or whatever.

      • ana53294 says:

        In Spain, at least, unless a person is of from a mixed origin, I can reliably guess where in Spain a person is from. Basques, Catalans have a specific type of face (especially Basques; it’s probably all the inbreeding).

        It’s also possible to tell for some people where they’re from. Greeks, even modern ones, have the Greek nose, for example.

        I am unable to do the same for non-white people, but I can also do it roughly. For example, the difference between Han Chinese and Japanese people is quite easy to tell. Ethiopians are clearly distinct from Bantu people.

        In Europe, at least, everybody’s getting mixed up, so the differences will soon stop being obvious. But people who are trained for that can probably pretty reliably guess the origins of a person.

        • souleater says:

          Most people are able to pick out ethnicities with startling accuracy naturally. I bet someone with access to training material could get remarkably good at it. I bet it would be a neat parlor trick

    • Ohforfs says:

      >My first cousins, once removed share 1/16 of my genes, and none of them are similar to me in any way. If I hadn’t met one of them before, we could end up coincidentally living next to or working with each other for years, and I’d never suspect we were related.

      I once heard that when it comes to races of cattle, 15/16 is considered pure breed. Seems a good benchmark for humans too 😉

      • metacelsus says:

        15/16 is considered pure breed. Seems a good benchmark for humans too 😉

        Please tell me this isn’t a reference to those old “blood fraction” laws. I still have a little faith in this comment section, and wouldn’t want to lose all of it.

        • Ohforfs says:

          It certainly isn’t as i have no idea what you are talking about. Probably something about race in the US?

          I’m Polish, though americanized enough to guess what you might have thought.

          Basically, it was my tongue-in-cheek thought when hearing people debate about who is who some 20 years ago (and probably about ethnicity in European context and not race in US, who is a true Pole and who isn’t), and sarcastic/critical at that.

          In any case, now i have to google the laws you mentioned…

          Edit/Wow, it was indeed the case! Apparently there was an elaborate system in place before one-drop rule. Notice, btw, how it never seems to work the other way – that if you had any non-black ancestors, you didn’t get into other category. Latin American (mulattos, mestizos, zambas) categories seemed always more rational to me for a racist system. On the other hand, reading more about that one-drop wiki article, it seems it was the case in US too, before 1930’s…

          • woah77 says:

            It’s related to Native American status. And while @metacelsus calls them “old” they aren’t, afaik, off the books today.

    • LewisT says:

      Anecdotally, I have been asked on multiple occasions by random strangers if I’m related to several different second cousins of mine. I’ve also known a few sets of third and even fourth cousins who look strikingly similar.

      It’s common folk knowledge in my part of the world that certain families have “stronger genes” than others, in that some families seem to do a remarkably good job passing on physical traits and facial features to the next generation.

      People also say the same about personality, but I’m a little more skeptical there. That seems like an area where it’s easy to be fooled by confirmation bias.

  20. BBA says:

    I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. Not only are the events described as so all-consuming and traumatizing little more than a historical footnote, but in context they’re basically irrelevant to the major historical narrative of the period. The political class of the Gilded Age is easily dismissed as just a bunch of crooks, we only remember the sharp intra-party divides of the Republicans because “mugwump” is a fun word to say, and the big stories (the nascent labor and Grange movements, the massive waves of immigration from Eastern and Southern Europe, the imposition of Jim Crow following the failure of Reconstruction) have little to do with the drama in Washington that so obsessed the media of the 1880s. I wonder what stories we’re missing.

    This is my last post here for a while. I’ll return when things have calmed down, and I have calmed down.

    • brad says:

      So long, at least for now. Be kind to yourself.

    • Atlas says:

      In addition to best general wishes, I’ll add that writing comments/arguing with people on the internet dot com about abstract issues isn’t really a great use of almost anyone’s time, impartially considered. You’d—we’d— probably get more mileage out of spending time tidying up around the house, improving general skills, doing a social activity with people in meatspace, etc. than out of passionately composing the perfect riposte at 11:17 PM to that dumb idiot on the message board who doesn’t understand Hume’s contributions to ethics/the state of modern macroeconomics/the crisis in the Middle East etc.

      Even if your comments on the internet are valuable and well-reasoned—as in fact yours specifically often are—you can’t really show them off to impress employers/pretty girls/your parents/good friends and various people whose opinions dictate, for better or for worse, much of our lives.

    • albatross11 says:

      BBA:

      Best wishes. Your voice is a worthwhile addition here, even when (often) I disagree.

  21. Atlas says:

    What do folks think about the latest development in the Harvard admissions legal saga?

    Some miscellaneous thoughts:

    My personal belief is that most institutions should have wide leeway in choosing who they want to associate with—and yes, that includes discriminating against people they don’t want to associate with, for whatever sound or unsound reasons they might have for doing so. (I’ll grant exceptions in cases of e.g. extreme medical need.) If someone unreasonably doesn’t want to associate with me, I probably don’t want to associate with them, and I can’t imagine that the government ordering them to associate with me is going to make them think more favorably of me. I’m not sure what precise legal doctrine I would translate these intuitions into, but they seem like a reasonable starting point to me.

    That said, under the current zeitgeist (and I suspect to some extent legal doctrines), which alleges that the government has a duty to ensure that certain institutions don’t discriminate on the basis of various characteristics, including race, it seems to me that this decision is erroneous. Of course, that’s assuming that people are being consistent and principled when they talk about being opposed to race-based discrimination; I suspect that Steve Sailer’s favorite Lenin quotation—“Who is overtaking whom?”—is a much better guide to the issue in practice. Discriminating in favor of Good groups is ok, and discriminating against Bad (or Not Good) groups is ok.

    The rationale(s) for Diversity seem(s) to be Protean. It’s for advancing underprivileged minority groups…except a lot of the beneficiaries of affirmative action at e.g. Harvard are highly, highly non-representative members of those groups…uh, it’s because Diversity actually benefits everyone in the classroom! I’m actually not wholly opposed to this latter argument, except that it seems like an argument for viewpoint diversity, rather than race/gender/etc. diversity; the latter only seems to be useful, on the basis of this argument, insofar as it’s a proxy for the former, so why not just select on the basis of the former? (Although I am still quite skeptical of “ideological affirmative action:” for instance, how’s Scott’s affirmative action for lefties in the comments section here working out?)

    I’m very skeptical of the wisdom of Harvard’s policy of discrimination against high-IQ Asian applicants, on its own merits, even though I don’t think that such discrimination should be illegal. (Although one might need to separate out the questions “how wise is this discrimination considered independently?” and “how wise is this discrimination given the legal, political and social challenges that Harvard might face if it didn’t practice it?”) However, Steve Sailer has made some characteristically clever, contrarian suggestions about why Harvard discriminating in favor of jocks/legacies/various other Haven Monahan types might actually be rational for it as an institution.

    Generally, I think that education, especially higher education, is overrated. “Good” schools are actually collections of good students. I think you can learn a lot more about someone by studying their (biological) family history than you can by learning what university they were accepted to. If you’re a hard-working, high-IQ individual who could conceivably get into Harvard but narrowly lost out and had to go to a good State U instead…does it really matter all that much in the grand scheme of things? You’re probably going to prove that you’re a meritorious, competent person in whatever endeavors you undertake anyway. Conversely, if you could only get into Harvard thanks to a massive leg-up in the admissions process, are you really going to be dramatically more successful (or happier) as a dull student at Harvard than you’d be as a bright student at State?

    Though I generally oppose affirmative action, which is now commonly practiced on the basis of race and gender, I don’t agree with the oft-repeated line that what we need is class rather than race based affirmative action. I think it is the fundamental premise of affirmative action, rather than the particular groups that it is applied to, that is unwise.

    Also, this decision is a great demonstration of why I really, really don’t want to enter the legal profession in any capacity, if I can help it. Law is merely a handmaiden to politics; you can have the best legal arguments in the world on your side, but if the politics are against you, you’re stuck in a Sisyphean labor. Every important “legal” issue is 90% politics and 10% law, as a lawyer of Snowden’s wisely observed about that case in Citizenfour.

    • amty says:

      My personal belief is that most institutions should have wide leeway in choosing who they want to associate with—and yes, that includes discriminating against people they don’t want to associate with, for whatever sound or unsound reasons they might have for doing so.

      I’m 100% not opposed to this but my counterargument would be that institutionalized racism is bad and that given a wide leeway there is a significant risk of institutionalized racism. In a hypothetical world where systemic racism is not such a big risk, perhaps institutions should be allowed to discriminate on race. However, we should at least make them honest about it, and let the masses decide whether that institution should still hold elite status. What Harvard does is discriminate against Asians under the aegis of diversity and wokeness, and I appreciate that the lawsuit has shone a light on their practices.

      I actually think affirmative action as a form of reparations to descendants of slaves can be justified depending on the details, and is the strongest argument for it.

      • Atlas says:

        I actually think affirmative action as a form of reparations to descendants of slaves can be justified depending on the details, and is the strongest argument for it.

        Agreed. (Will perhaps elaborate later.)

      • dndnrsn says:

        AA to descendants of American slaves as a form of reparations would have the effect of helping the best-off members of that group the most and the worst-off members of that group the least. Attempting to use university admissions to fix social problems will have that result; being able to get into any university is a proxy for, at a minimum, graduating high school, and the people who have it the worst in most any demographic group tend to flunk out of high school. Plus, it feeds into this whole idea that university is an engine of social advancement, which is very chicken-and-egg.

        The best, fairest reparations possible, out of all the different ways to do it, would be straight-up hard cash. Everything else will have weird effects like university admissions does, create more bureaucracy that will never go away, or both.

        • amty says:

          I agree with your first paragraph, because that is pretty much what has happened.

          I disagree with the second part, but we may have different definitions of reparations. I think effective reparations should permanently move the needle on socioeconomic metrics for African-Africans like poverty rate, average income/wealth, etc (obviously cash moves the needle on wealth). You propose a one-time transaction that requires both sides to “get over it” immediately after (or else the debate will never go away as you said), but as long as those metrics have large disparities people aren’t going to get over it.

          • EchoChaos says:

            I think effective reparations should permanently move the needle on socioeconomic metrics for African-Africans like poverty rate, average income/wealth, etc (obviously cash moves the needle on wealth).

            This assumes that such a movement is possible. That may not be a valid assumption. The black-white income gap is not noticeably different than it was in the 1950s when segregation was legal.

            https://qz.com/1368251/black-income-is-half-that-of-white-households-just-like-it-was-in-the-1950s/

          • albatross11 says:

            amty:

            So why do you believe that a cash payment would close those gaps? The children of wealthy blacks still do worse on standardized tests than the children of poor whites, so it’s hard to see how cash reparations would close the test score or school achievement gap.

          • Ttar says:

            It’s not clear that AA or any University-based policy does or could move the needle long term any more than a cash transfer, but AA has the disadvantage of empowering a (mostly white) bureaucracy to make paternalistic decisions regarding how/when/to whom to distribute the benefits of the system, while also profiting from the system’s apparently-eternal existence. The problem is (as others have noted) a deep confusion regarding the goal of AA. If it’s to correct some unnatural imbalance, then the fact that the needle hasn’t moved on that imbalance for (by most measures) nearly half a century, means it’s an ineffective policy and should be abandoned in favor of something that hasn’t been tried and actually has the potential to speed a return to equilibrium of the unnatural imbalance. If it’s to correct some natural imbalance (an equally-reasonable policy goal) then we must understand that 1) it will need to be a permanent program, and 2) we should set it up to operate with as little corruption/waste/inefficiency as possible. Social Security is a good example of a system designed to address a situation of the second case. The poor we will always have among us, and the human deficiency of time discounting as well, so it makes sens as a system that roughly sets a floor on poverty caused by the natural imbalance that some people turn out very predisposed to high time discounting (due to both environmental and genetic factors) and others turn out much less so.

            AA doesn’t seem well suited to addressing either situation, though.

          • quanta413 says:

            I agree with your first paragraph, because that is pretty much what has happened.

            I’m not sure that’s really the primary effect any more at the most elite institutions. ~15 years ago now, IIRC Henry Louis Gates Jr. and another black professor were noting that most of the black students at Harvard were the children of immigrants on at least one side of their family.

            The descendants of African Americans who were alive during Jim Crow or slavery probably benefited back in the 70’s, but have been getting less since then.

            @EchoChaos

            This assumes that such a movement is possible. That may not be a valid assumption. The black-white income gap is not noticeably different than it was in the 1950s when segregation was legal.

            Sorry, I’m too lazy to find a source right now, but IIRC, some school testing gaps closed by about 1/3 of the gap in the 60s-80s. So some gaps have narrowed before.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @amty

            I disagree with the second part, but we may have different definitions of reparations. I think effective reparations should permanently move the needle on socioeconomic metrics for African-Africans like poverty rate, average income/wealth, etc (obviously cash moves the needle on wealth).

            Cash also moves the needle on poverty rate. Any significant cash transfer would have to; there’s various ways it could be broken down, but you can’t give people money without them having more money, being less poor, etc. If the problem is the income gap, well, money is income. If the problem is the wealth gap, well, money is wealth. If you give someone a chunk of money and they don’t become less poor and more wealthy, something extremely bizarre is happening.

            Various plans have been proposed implemented over the years to fix the black-white income gap, wealth gap, etc, based on the sorts of systems that people who propose and implement social policy (on both sides of the aisle) like. Have they worked? Some have worked in individual spheres, but none appear to have solved the overall income and wealth gap. Why not just try to fix the problem of some people having less money than others by giving them more money and seeing what happens?

            You propose a one-time transaction that requires both sides to “get over it” immediately after (or else the debate will never go away as you said), but as long as those metrics have large disparities people aren’t going to get over it.

            That’s not what I said. I said that if bureaucracy was created, it would never go away. The more overhead in doing anything, the more bureaucracy (administration if you’re being nice) you create, and it’s very hard to roll back, whether it has been successful or not.

            Reparations do not mean that everyone has to instantly forget about it and get over it; I didn’t say that either. Reparations are a practical measure: the metrics you mention, which are the result of lack of money, surely can be fixed by giving the people who lack money the money they lack, better than by filtering that money through a bunch of administration or altering the demographics of the quarter of the population that goes to university (let alone the fraction of that quarter that goes to really good schools).

            EDIT: I’m trying to fiddle around with numbers through Googling, and it looks like the black-white wealth gap by household (caveat: numbers scare me and I may have screwed this up badly) would be closed by a one-time cash payment of a bit under a trillion dollars, while the income gap by household comes to about a quarter trillion per year. The Iraq war cost the US a little over a trillion dollars, so clearly something the US could afford; that’s four years of closing the income gap, so, one presidential administration. Probably a better use of the money than going to war with Iran, no? And would this money really be better spent on some scheme or other to close the gap, rather than just handing out cash or something close to cash (every eligible family gets x dollars worth of index funds or something like that)?

          • quanta413 says:

            I’m trying to fiddle around with numbers through Googling, and it looks like the black-white wealth gap by household (caveat: numbers scare me and I may have screwed this up badly) would be closed by a one-time cash payment of a bit under a trillion dollars

            Judging by this graph in Wikipedia, total U.S. household net worth is about 100 trillion.

            If the gap is only 1 trillion, that’s a lot smaller than I would have expected in a relative sense. That’d imply a relative wealth gap per household of only about 10%. But articles I’ve seen (although I dunno how careful they were) imply a gap of more like a factor of 2 or even a factor of 10 between white and black households.

            But that could be because of using differing definitions of wealth/net worth. Or because of a big difference between the mean and median.

          • dndnrsn says:

            The number I came up with is $105k difference between the average household wealth for white and black Americans. From there I looked at the number of black Americans, the number of whom who are descended from American slaves (as opposed to being the descendants of people who came to the US voluntarily – some Googling suggests it’s about 80something percent), and figured that I could get the number of households by dividing by 4. It’s entirely possible my method for getting to the number was bogus – but if we say households are 3 on average (to account for households without kids: average number of kids per black woman in the US is something like 1.8 or 1.9) that makes it under a trillion more.

            It’s entirely likely I screwed up the math or am approaching this wrong. But if the average black household is about a hundred G’s poorer than the average white household, the gap would be eliminated by giving every black household about a hundred g’s, right?

          • quanta413 says:

            It’s entirely likely I screwed up the math or am approaching this wrong. But if the average black household is about a hundred G’s poorer than the average white household, the gap would be eliminated by giving every black household about a hundred g’s, right?

            Looking things up a little more, I think your calculation is right, but nothing is wrong with mine except the mean wealth gap may be much larger than the median wealth gap.

            Average household wealth far exceeds median household wealth. Both from the sources, I’ve looked at it, and my eyeballing that graph the average is larger by almost by a factor of 10! Median household wealth across the whole population is ~60-100 thousand depending on the year and such. Mean household wealth is ~600 thousand or more.

            The median gap may be much smaller than the average wealth gap. But then that brings up the question if it even makes sense to focus on the median wealth gap between races, when the difference between the median household and the average household is ~500,000 dollars and the difference between races is ~100,000 dollars. On the other hand, as a fold change, the racial gap is probably a little larger.

            Lifespan will also screw with these statistics since people tend to accumulate wealth with age. I don’t think black and white Americans have quite the same age distribution although I doubt it affects the median much. Variance in household size will also affect household wealth. IIRC, whites are more likely to be married at most ages. My instinct is probably that there are a lot of other problems with using wealth as the measure, and there’s probably a better measure to use. Individual income is probably less screwy, and I believe if you cut off the top 10% of incomes or so, equalizing that is probably more representative of what it would cost to largely close economic gaps.

          • amty says:

            @dndnrsn

            What is the point of reparations? To me there are two potential purposes, 1. to improve the socioeconomic conditions of Black people, 2. act as an apology so people can move on (assuming the apology is widely accepted).

            My argument against a cash transfer (with nothing else) is that I don’t think it will solve either. It sounds like we already both agree 2 is unlikely to happen. As for 1, yes I did mention example metrics that were related to cash, but academic achievement, workplace achievement, health/life outcomes (e.g. mortality rate of 20-30 year old males) are metrics that are not simply wealth. My gut feeling is that giving away 100k to each black household is not going to change these things, even income (68k white households, ~40k black). Maybe 500k, although that’s more than the federal budget. By the way, I am quoting 100k since you mentioned it, according to this median net worth is ~100k higher.

            As for your comment about bureaucracy, I’m not against bureaucracy if it solves a problem. I’m against the current state of AA because I feel its not justified and endless.

          • amty says:

            @albatross11

            I agree with you, I don’t think a cash transfer (unless it is like 500k+ per person) is going to close the achievement gap.

          • amty says:

            @EchoChaos

            First of all, to assume we can’t enact programs to effect socioeconomic conditions, academic achievement, is an extreme presumption. One example is free long acting reversible contraception for women.

            Second, that household study could be significantly underestimating the progress in closing wealth gaps because black households are more likely to be single-parent than whites, relatively, compared to 1950. The paper calls this a “feature” and not a shortcoming.

          • amty says:

            @dndnrsn

            I posted a reply but it didn’t appear (maybe because it had a link?). Gonna hope it shows up later..

        • Plumber says:

          @dndnrsn >

          “AA to descendants of American slaves as a form of reparations would have the effect of helping the best-off members of that group the most and the worst-off members of that group the least…”

          University AA is too litle, too late to help most.
          I think it helps to think you of what Affirmative Action has been effective in advancing the welfare of many (and not just a few) in the past:
          For events, the Second World War,  Roosevelt ordering no discrimumation in munitions factories and shipyards, Truman ordering the desegregation of the Army in 1948, years of full employment in the ’40’s and ’50’s.
          For academic achievement (test scores) school integration actually worked, the black-white academic gap was at its least in the late ’80’s which was when U.S. schools were most integrated  (though as I remember it my High School in the ’80’s was integrated, but the classes very much weren’t (the “Intermediate” track was overwhelmingly black, and the “Advanced” track was majority white), that said extra years of schooling for African-Americans doesn’t seem to correlate much with additional income in the 20th century for each decade, but maybe there’s a delayed effect).
          The institutions that I judge to have most effectively implemented affirmative-action are: The U.S. Army, Kaiser Shipyards and Steelworks, the ILWU (Pacific coast longshoreman’s union), and the UAW (autoworkers union), the last two explicitly tried to integrate (to keep blacks from being strikebreakers among other reasons), the Army needed soldiers, but Henry J. Kaiser mostly needed working hands, and the biggest incoms were achieved in the 14 years before Johnson’s “Great Society”, so full employment is the best AA.

          In looking at the parallels between some white communities that lost blue collar jobs in more recent decades (especially ‘coal country’) and the subsequent social ills (drug addiction, unwed births, et cetera), the similarities with northern inner city black neighborhoods in the ’70’s and ’80’s is striking (even former libertarian “they should just pull themselves up by their bootstraps” Fox News Right-winger Tucker Carlson now acknowledges those parallels).

          A good example of a current effective affirmative action program is the City and County of San Francisco reserving some entry level jobs for those who reside in relatively low income neighborhoods where most of the public housing projects are (you don’t actually have to be black to be hired that way, but when the programs started those neighborhoods were mostly black), one of my best co-workers got in via that program in the early ’90’s, he now “gives back” to his community by being a “neighborhood Dad” to many fatherless kids who are friends of his kids (taking them on camping trips with his family, et cetera), and via his church, his brother on the other hand didn’t get into the program and didn’t get a city job ( there’s only so many spots), and has been in and out of jail for decades instead. 

          Anyway from my point of view shovels and paychecks are more effective affirmative-action than more hours of schooling. 

          Where extra schooling seems to help is with girls, they more often grow up to be nurses and teachers (yes boys can become those as well, but they mostly don’t for whatever reason, we can try to put square pegs into round holes, or we can do what works for boys as well as girls), and again the parallels between poor black neighborhoods and ‘coal country’ in this regard are striking.

          So yeah, I support targeted affirmative action, and that doesn’t just mean extra support for someone who’s black but who’s Dad is a professor at Stanford, and who’s Mom in also a successful professional class immigrant (sorry Kamala, I know you went to Howard not Harvard, but I’m using you as an example of someone who’d probably do well with or without affirmative-action), so yes I mostly mean boys in “under-privileged” neighborhoods who’d be more likely go to jail and are not academically inclined, and this goes for poor whites like J.D. Vance (who’s affirmative-action program was the U.S. Marines) as well, multi-generation poverty isn’t just a non-white problem (frankly I suspect that this is too often a white “blue-tribe” blindspot that blacks and “red-tribe” whites have less of, and it’s a similar white “blue-tribe” blind spot for a lack of AA success as much as conservative opposition), and if that means tripling the number of steamer trucks cleaning the feces off the sidewalks so be it.

          I’d like to bring back factories as well, but these days that’s pretty skilled work involving lots of arithmetic and you just don’t need as many bodies manning the machines. 

          Back around 2010 I checked out a welding class taught by a Mr. Floyd at Kennedy High School in Richmond, California (at one time a majority black city who’s ancestors mostly came for the shipyard work during WW2 which is now mostly Latino) which has the Chevron oil refineries there which needs welders, the class was about 3/4’s boys, 1/4 girls (which is a higher percentage than I’ve seen of women in the field) the equipment was pretty ramshackle then, but they did what they could with what they had, and then Chevron donated equipment, things looked bright, until Mr. Floyd died of cancer (besides welding fumes he was a smoker), and the class sat empty ’cause no one was available to teach the skill who had the skill, the credentials to teach in the public school, and who would work for a beginning teachers pay, let’s face it public schools are child care that mostly teaches how to be a public school teacher when it doesn’t just warehouse kids.

          The kind of paid on-the-job training that craft union apprenticeships do works well, but has a few strikes against it: child labor law declares most of the work too dangerous for those under 18, and all of the work as too dangerous for those under 16, a high school diploma is required, and it’s hard to get in if you’re not a son (or the one out of a hundred daughters who tries), a nephew or a classmate of existing union members kids who mostly go to parochial schools not public.
          I’d be curious about how well they integrate those of Turkish descent, but the German educational and industrial policy system seems like it works well for creating good jobs for the non-college bound.

          And that really is the key, great progress has been made in getting lower class girls on track to median wage job since the mid 20th century, but without the full employment and plentiful unionized jobs of then it’s harder now for the boys to get there (and also for young women with children, which makes it much harder for them to get credentialed), and jumping from lower to middle-class has been getting rarer in recent decades.

          Another hassle is that the military is more picky now, as I small child I lived in a majority black neighborhood that was mostly homeowners, the husbands were typically Korean war veterans, few went to college, now “UMC” money is needed to buy housing there, and the few black owned houses left usually have an elderly owner, or were an only child.

          In many ways things are better for African-Americans now, there’s more black millionaires and billionaires, one was First Lady (!), they get murdered less than in the ’70’s through the early ’90’s, and they’re just plain living longer, but in other ways things are relatively worse, more are in jail, the academic gap has increased since the late ’80’s, the income gap has increased since the ’90’s, and their wealth was decimated after 2008, and in some ways it’s just harder without the kind of black middle-class neighborhoods of the early ’70’s, they’re still middle-class blacks, but they don’t have separate neighborhoods which in some ways makes it harder for lower class blacks to move up by getting hired at the neighborhood auto-repair shop that’s owned by someone who goes to the same church, etc.

          So, the usual “Blue-Tribe” AA solution of a leg up to get into the “UMC” for a few academically gifted is nice for a few, but for the many more median wage and above jobs for the non-college bound, more access, traing, and social capital to get those jobs, and there is a bright spot that research has found; if an under five poor child’s family is moved to a lower crime and more employment neighborhood it really does increase the odds of them being middle-class adults, unfortunately for their parents and older siblings the odds are still grim income wise (but at least their in a better neighborhood), the problem with this solution is doing it on a mass scale is difficult as too many of the poor moved to the same place at once just moves the ghetto, and it’s expensive because housing in good neighborhoods is expensive.

          If you’re a poor child in Atlanta, Georgia odds are you’ll be a poor adult, if you’re a poor child in Salt Lake City, Utah the odds are better that you won’t be a poor adult than in most of the U.S.A. “But Plumber, Georgia is more black and Utah is more white and Albion’s Seed culture, and genetics, blah-di-blah-di-blah” (says my imaginary straw opponents), to which I respond “Seattle, Washington! In your face imaginary fool, there’s cause for optimism there, haw!” (admittedly it’s just plain easier to defeat arguments made by opponents that I make up).

          Yep, poor and black children if moved to the right neighborhoods in Seattle, WA. when young enough (and this isn’t adoption, they’re still with their Mom) have better odds, of higher incomes as adults, staying out of jail, not being murdered, all sorts of good things (whether there’s enough space in those neighborhoods is another question, but it’s a big country, and most of it isn’t barrio, ghetto, or holler so I think the potential is there), but improvement kinda was done before, organically when out of the rural south millions of African-Americans came north with the demand for hands in the factories and shipyards for the war, and then building cars and other goods for the post war boom, and they did have thriving neighborhoods for a time, yeah things got worse later (the ’80’s and earlier ’90’s being especially bad), and a problem is that the more successful have moved out to the suburbs (and since the ’70’s back to the south), so those left are those left, but hopeless?

          Hard doesn’t mean impossible, so not simple, and not cheap, and maybe not to the scale needed (but some good is still good), but effective afirmative-action can (and I think should) be done, so hop to it future President Biden/Cruz/Harris/Pence/Warren/whomever, bring the jobs, re-start shop classes, move the young kids to better places, there’s your “reparations”!

          • dndnrsn says:

            Pretty much. Better jobs for the 2/3-3/4 who don’t go to university should be the priority, across the board. I personally have got more degrees than sense; my general feeling is that, with the exception of engineering programs and the like, a focus on bachelor’s degrees for economic advancement is not the best use of the money and tends to have a negative impact on universities to boot. It’s also pretty regressive to use tax money to benefit a chunk of the population that already tends to be better off than the norm; I remember being really puzzled that the student’s union where I went kept having these protests where they demanded fees be dropped, as though this was a brave stance to take – they were demanding the provincial government spend more of everyone’s money on something for them!

            The sense I get – secondhand – of the German schooling system is that it works pretty well, but it’s rough on kids when they start streaming. I also think there might be as much of a cultural difference as a difference in the system: there seems to be a sort of “pride in a job well done” there that doesn’t exist as much in North America. Based on my personal experience, public transit runs more smoothly, public spaces are much cleaner, the public works repairs I saw seemed meticulous and quick. I think there’s still a sense of pride in high-quality manufacturing in Germany that doesn’t exist as much as it used to in North America.

            A good beginning might be trying to push the idea that, actually, your kid going to college and getting a degree in something that involves putting metal together isn’t shameful. Now that I think about it, perhaps something aimed at making trades type graduates more “cultivated” would reduce the classism? Find a way to impart “how to fit into an educated milieu”, maybe beef up the gen ed stuff so it’s more respectable, while still teaching a trade – maybe that would help? That way not only will their kid earn a solid wage, anxious upper-middle-class parents can be sure that he won’t be out of place at dinner parties. Do a three-or0four-year degree that’s the equivalent of a trade school education plus a minor or two from a humanities degree. Maybe I’m on to something here…

    • viVI_IViv says:

      My personal belief is that most institutions should have wide leeway in choosing who they want to associate with—and yes, that includes discriminating against people they don’t want to associate with, for whatever sound or unsound reasons they might have for doing so.

      This might make sense for private clubs, but keep in mind that Harvard receives government funding from taxpayer money, which should reasonably come with equal opportunity strings attached.

      Private companies that qualify as “public utilities”, which operate expensive infrastructure that provides basic services to a large number of people and therefore operate in natural monopoly/oligopoly regime, are also subject to anti-discrimination regulation, and with good reason. I think that in fact the “public utility” statute should be extended to many large Internet companies that provide communication and banking services.

      • but keep in mind that Harvard receives government funding from taxpayer money

        Government funding as in gifts to subsidize schooling, or government funding as in government paying people at Harvard to do research the government wants done? The former strikes me as inappropriate, the latter not.

      • albatross11 says:

        I’m fine with freedom of association for everyone, or antidiscrimination law for everyone. I’m not so fine with freedom of association for the important people and organizations and antidiscrimination law for the little people.

        If Harvard can discriminate in order to choose the racial/ethnic/religous/gender/sexual orientation mix of their student body, I can live with that, but then the University of Alabama gets to do the same. Anything else is just setting up one set of rules for the nobility and another for the proles.

        And I’m definitely not okay with rules that say discrimination against my kids (and other kids who look like them) is okay, but discrimination against other peoples’ kids isn’t. Hell will freeze over before you get my support for that.

    • dndnrsn says:

      The Harvard admissions thing looks to me like two sides being fairly disingenuous. On the one side, you’ve got right-wingers who want done away with AA and preferential admissions and trying to “balance” the student body and all that jazz, advancing this under the claim that they’re defending Asians. They wouldn’t give a hoot about Asians if white kids were getting passed over in favour of Asian kids – but right now it does look like it’s the other way around.

      On the other, you’ve got an elite university that wants to keep out (mostly East) Asian students regarded as boring grinders, to be able to stack the deck in favour of (mostly white) legacies, and to admit enough black kids to try and head off awkward questions about the role of an elite institution like that in a society that supposedly wants equality, the role of slave trade money in founding the place, etc. They justify this on various different grounds that don’t always make sense (and there’s often an ugly assumption that people of similar colour are fungible – at good schools the black student body is often heavily composed of kids from well-off African, often Nigerian, families; this doesn’t really dovetail with the idea that something is being done for the descendants of American slaves through Harvard admissions – already an odd idea, since if you can get into Harvard, you’re probably not in that bad a situation; the people in a bad situation are the ones flunking out of high school).

      The means of keeping the number of Asians down are pretty ugly and are very similar to past tricks to keep the number of Jews down; Harvard’s preferred way of tweaking numbers is subjective assessments of personality. People they want more of have more “effervescence” and so on, those they want fewer of, or to hold the numbers static, have less. Having a rich family with a history of going to Harvard, it would appear, improves one’s personality. Generally, the big winners from Harvard’s thumb on the scales are black kids, Hispanic kids, and rich/legacy kids; losers are Asian kids and white kids who aren’t from rich and/or legacy families. Harvard, and other elite schools, can’t defend with what’s maybe the truest thing to say, that they don’t want grinds or people perceived as grinds around more than a certain number, because the leaders of tomorrow aren’t going to be grinds, and the leaders of tomorrow are scared off by grinds. As are the people who could donate enough money to have buildings named after them.

      I find myself wondering if Harvard features a thumb on the scale in favour of men; from what I recall, the Harvard incoming class tends to be 50-50 male-female, while the split is around 33-66 for undergraduates as a whole. AA for men isn’t the only possible explanation, but I suspect it benefits a university with a big legacy thing going on to have an even split: maximizes the number of alumni babies, who bring in money.

      • johan_larson says:

        +1 to that.

        Generally speaking, this whole affair has left Harvard and its sisters looking a bit worse in my eyes. If they want to claim to admit on merit, they have a really bizarre notion of merit. I think a more reasonable assessment of their actions is that they admit partly on merit, but there are also other considerations, such as boosting donations (by using the sports teams and legacy admissions) and serving social justice (through affirmative action.)

        They are also weirdly hard on Asian-Americans, for reasons I don’t really understand. Why prefer a white american to an Asian one, all else being equal? Could they be worried about becoming too Asian? It’s strange.

        There’s something very Old World about the whole thing, with unstated criteria, subjective judgments, special preferences, and insiders-only privileges. It’s entirely too nineteenth century, when the rest of us are here in the early years of the twenty-first.

        • Aftagley says:

          If they want to claim to admit on merit, they have a really bizarre notion of merit.

          Are there any good definitions of merit?

          I mean, I graduated highschool with around a 4.2 GPA. My school was competitive and I was 6th in the class; my girlfriend was valedictorian and graduated with just over a 4.4 GPA.

          That being said, I took more and slightly harder classes than she did. I was also captain of a couple sports teams. I got a better SAT score than she did, she got a better ACT score than I did.

          Looking at the two of us, who has more merit? This is an honest question – we both applied to some of the same schools. And that’s just comparing across the same system! What it some other school hard caps their GPA at a 4.0… does that mean that I’m automatically better than them just because my school doesn’t?

          • quanta413 says:

            If I had the enormous resources of Harvard, it wouldn’t be hard to figure out a measure of merit that took into account minor discrepancies you mention.

            It’s a regression problem, and not a cutting edge one where no research has been done on this type of issue. I doubt figuring out a good measure would cost Harvard more than a few million. That could pay for a whole team of top statisticians and such for a few years.

            Hell, they’ve probably already figured it out, but it would be too awkward to admit that the merit they’re optimizing for is largely what John Schilling said, which means engaging in a significant amount of making sure the elite stay on top even when it’s a bit to the detriment of everyone else.

          • The factors mentioned here all seem like they fit the definition of “merit.” It’s hard to say what makes a better definition of merit. But it’s easy to say what doesn’t sound like merit in any non-Orwellian sense of the word.

        • John Schilling says:

          They are also weirdly hard on Asian-Americans, for reasons I don’t really understand. Why prefer a white american to an Asian one, all else being equal?

          The white American is statistically more likely to wind up being a congressman, federal judge, fortune-500 CEO, etc, and Harvard likes to think of itself as educating, developing, and promoting incestuous hobnobbing among the Future Leaders of America(tm).

          For that matter, a black American is more likely to wind up as a congressman, federal judge, CEO, etc, and particularly so for the subset of black Americans who are plausibly Harvard candidates. Asian-Americans have a high average level of achievement, but seem to get that way by narrowly and effectively targeting upper-middle-class levels of achievement and are statistically underrepresented at the top. The principle exception being in STEM, where UMC Asians can easily slide into Tech-CEO status, but that school is a few blocks down the street.

          This is pretty unique to Harvard and maybe Yale; everywhere else, “most of our graduates have to settle for being upper middle class professionals” counts as a win and Asian-Americans are or ought to be solid candidates.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            This is some fascinating sociology.

          • johan_larson says:

            @Le Maistre Chat, I think this is what’s sometimes called the Bamboo Ceiling. Asian-Americans are underrepresented in the highest positions, at least relative to their accomplishments in high school and college.

            No one really seems to know why it’s happening. My theory is that stereotypically high-pressure parenting techniques are really good at getting Asian kids to do well in high school and college, but once the kids are out of the house, and mom and dad aren’t around any more, that advantage drops away, and the kids (now young adults) revert to levels of accomplishment more in line with their inherent talents. Or perhaps Asian parenting builds great study skills, but crappy networking skills.

            Or maybe America is just a racist, racist place. That’s another theory. It’s hard to know.

          • LesHapablap says:

            Also for some reason, male Asian-Americans don’t do as well in the dating pool. I suspect that somehow the reasons are linked: some sort of racism that leaves them as lower status, or a cultural background (parenting) that ingrains behaviors that code as low-status in American culture.

            Certainly status in high school in the USA is earned in very different ways than in China, where academic achievement gets you laid from what I gather.

          • johan_larson says:

            On the specific issue of dating, the reason Asian-Americans struggle may be physical. Some of the signs of manhood are just stronger in white men than in Asians. Grown men are larger than women, and white men are biggest of all. Grown men have manes, in the form of beards and chest hair; white men can grow big bushy beards while Asians grow just a wisp or two. If women are viscerally attuned to markers of masculinity like these, it would explain part of why Asian-American men struggle in dating.

          • albatross11 says:

            Asian men do worse than white men in the dating pool, but Asian women do better. It’s not obvious how you’d explain that via anti-Asian racism.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @albatross11

            That’s pretty easy. It could be the view that Asians are more “feminine” than whites. So Asian women win (men like very feminine women) while Asian men lose (women don’t like feminine men).

            Of course, that’s a hard view to square with actually meeting any Asian men, who tend towards pretty macho pursuits (e.g. Asian lifting dude is a byword in any gym), but it’s a plausible prejudice to have if you’re uninformed.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            From what I’ve seen trying to wingman for Asian friends / roommates johan_larson is only half right.

            Asian men and women both have a markedly more feminine appearance than men and women of other ethnicities, which helps Asian women and hurts Asian men when it comes to dating. But beyond that, Asian men tend to be very hesitating when it comes to dating and that allows men of other ethnicities to eat their lunch.

            I often saw these guys slooowly build up the courage to approach an obviously interested woman for months, only for another guy to swoop in and start dating her before they made a move. You can’t expect an attractive woman to still be single next week, never mind next year, so if you want her you need to man the fuck up and go for it ASAP.

            Maybe that behavior is driven by lower testosterone levels but at least to some extent it seems to be cultural. If every man is timid, there might be less urgency but add in even a handful of bold men and they’ll quickly deplete the dating pool.

          • Randy M says:

            @Nabil ad Dajjal
            I’m not sure all that wingman implies; could that observation be confounded by the fact that you were watching people who specifically requested help?

          • quanta413 says:

            I think some chunk of the difference is cultural.

            If you compare Chinese Chinese to Chinese Americans, the latter group has a lot more jacked bros than the former.

            I bet height differences do sometimes bite though for dating or being CEO (maybe an exception if you start your own company; a lot of tech founders are on the shorter side). American CEO’s are usually tall, and it’s probably a dominance signal thing from our monkey instincts.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @quanta413

            Is this true? China DOMINATES men’s weightlifting internationally, by massive margins.

            I see jacked masculinity as common in both white and Asian cultures. Perhaps Asians tend to be more polite and whites more in your face, but in terms of “macho dude-bro” I don’t see a strong difference, honestly.

          • Jaskologist says:

            China should dominate most international competitions, thanks to being able to grab the outliers from their 20% of the human population. It matters a lot less where the mean is when your population is big enough.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Jaskologist

            Counterpoint: India.

            It really does matter what your population cares about.

          • johan_larson says:

            And what your government cares about. And how effective it is, generally.

            China seems to care an awful lot about its international prestige. They’ve been dumping a lot of money into their top-level sports programs.

            I’m not really sure what India cares about. I’m guessing between Pakistan, internal tensions between regions of India, and economic development to help their masses and masses of poor people, they have their hands full.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @johan_larson

            But it isn’t just China.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Olympic_medalists_in_weightlifting

            Lots of Thais, Koreans, Taiwanese, etc.

            Asians just like lifting.

          • AG says:

            So it’s immigration selection effects, then. The Asians who like to lift get recruited at home, so they don’t need to move overseas. Which means that the people who do emigrate have other specialties/priorities, which passes down to their children.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            I love that we’re having a conversation about culture and lifting on SSC. Please go on.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @AG

            The initial assertion by @quanta413 was that Chinese Americans were MORE jacked than Chinese back home. You are saying the opposite. Obviously both can’t be true.

            My experience is that in America Asian men are really into lifting, and they clearly are in China too. I am asserting that Asian men just like lifting, which matches my experience and the medals table.

            I think the stereotype that Asians are more feminine is based on appearance (Asians aren’t as hairy as whites) and culture (Asians are less in your face aggressive), not actual masculine pursuits, where Asians are as or more masculine than whites.

            Actually meeting Asian men destroys the stereotype pretty quickly.

            @Le Maistre Chat

            I aim to please.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @EchoChaos:

            Counterpoint: India.

            It really does matter what your population cares about.

            >80% of Indians care about not killing animals, and while there are even vegan lifters in the West, vegetarianism must suppress getting jacked, at least at the margin.
            But then, >14.2% of Indians are Musalmen.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @EchoChaos,

            You’re badly gerrymandering masculinity here. If we don’t define masculinity by appearance or behavior, only by Olympic medals in lifting, then that definition of masculinity is worthless.

            Asian men are more feminine looking than European or African men. Even among athletes, the same trend applies if you compare apples-to-applea instead of trying to compare Asian athletes to European or African non-athletes. It’s not just body hair either, the facial bone structure and distribution of body fat is also quite feminine.

            That doesn’t mean that Asian men are bad, it’s just a recognition of the obvious reality of the situation.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Nabil ad Dajjal

            I’m saying that Asian men are as masculine as white men in interest and personality and used weightlifting as my specific datum for a general point. I could have used computers, fatherhood or any other marker of masculinity, because in almost all of them they match us whites.

            I conceded that the reason they are thought of as feminine is appearance and culture, but that once you actually know them and their hobbies, they are just as masculine.

            This is prejudice, and the specific prejudice that I think is at play here.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            East Asians may have a more neotenous/gracile appearance, but it’s not obvious that would be sufficient evidence of either low-T or less masculine interests.
            I had an anthropology professor at U of Oregon who tested Yanomamo men’s T and found that the average was far lower than American college men despite their violent macho culture. He explained this as T suppressing the immune system, and Yanomamo live in a high-pathogen environment with less access to modern medicine.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            Fair enough, I’ll agree to disagree on this one.

            We’re operating on fundamentally different definitions here so now that we agree on the facts there’s not a lot further to take this discussion.

          • quanta413 says:

            Is this true? China DOMINATES men’s weightlifting internationally, by massive margins.

            I see jacked masculinity as common in both white and Asian cultures. Perhaps Asians tend to be more polite and whites more in your face, but in terms of “macho dude-bro” I don’t see a strong difference, honestly.

            I don’t have a survey, but this is my impression comparing what I saw of men in Taiwan or Chinese foreign students in the U.S. to Chinese Americans I’ve seen or known. I’m not thinking of high level competitors.

            My sample is highly biased and may not be representative of the larger population. Also on campus, this wasn’t just people I knew, but also my rough impression from seeing people in the street. Foreign Chinese on average had a different fashion sense, manner, etc. than Chinese Americans. It’s possible the ones who do lift a lot are more likely to dress like American bros, and thus my impression is wholly wrong.

          • ana53294 says:

            @EchoChaos

            China seems to especially dominate the lightweight and below category for weightlifting. In the others, it’s more even.

        • dndnrsn says:

          John Schilling provides a lot of the context, in terms of what schools want out of their alumni. Being really good at working hard marks one as a grind; it alone will not get you to the very top, and working too hard might hurt you, because the time you spend in your room working late is time you’re not spending getting to know people who will be Very Important one day.

          Plus, keeping them out of the schools where people network to get the top jobs means they can’t compete with you to claim those top jobs. There’s clearly a certain extent to which well-off white people are threatened by Asians, especially East Asians.

      • quanta413 says:

        On the one side, you’ve got right-wingers who want done away with AA and preferential admissions and trying to “balance” the student body and all that jazz, advancing this under the claim that they’re defending Asians. They wouldn’t give a hoot about Asians if white kids were getting passed over in favour of Asian kids – but right now it does look like it’s the other way around.

        This is unfair and inaccurate. There is an alliance between certain right-wingers, and some Asian litigants and interest groups in this case (and some similar ones). The case is not being driven by white people manipulating East Asians for the benefit of white people as you imply.

        If SFFA had won or goes on to win in a higher court, the effect would be most favorable for Asian applicants (if Harvard didn’t just laugh and ignore the ruling by making some cosmetic changes to the process and then reaching the same racial composition again) and probably near neutral for white applicants.

        And Edward Blum is a neoconservative Jew. Would it be surprising if his motives were less impure than you imply (that he wouldn’t care if the racial discrimination was purely in favor of white people)? Especially given the obvious parallels to the case of Jews at Harvard about 100 years ago that you yourself mention.

        • dndnrsn says:

          I will cop to a certain degree of unfair and inaccurate, because I was trying to keep it short, but my understanding is that the money in the case is coming from people who have gone after AA on other grounds before – meaning that giving a hoot about Asians is clearly secondary. I’m not sure why you think I think Blum’s motives are impure or why you think I’m implying he wouldn’t care about discrimination in favour of white people only.

          • quanta413 says:

            I will cop to a certain degree of unfair and inaccurate, because I was trying to keep it short, but my understanding is that the money in the case is coming from people who have gone after AA on other grounds before – meaning that giving a hoot about Asians is clearly secondary.

            Yeah, but Edward Blum (among many others) claims to dislike affirmative action because it leads to unfair outcomes like this. It’s only secondary in the sense that he’s attacking the policy he believes to be the cause of the problem. It’s not like he woke up one day and decided he disliked affirmative action because… I don’t know.

            It’s pretty standard for legal groups to have to trawl around for test cases and then cover all the costs. The ACLU does the same thing among many others. You make it sound sinister when it’s one of the primary ways any significant legal challenge can afford be made. Very few people (or groups of people) can afford the legal resources necessary to challenge a large corporation, the government, or Harvard.

            I’m not sure why you think I think Blum’s motives are impure or why you think I’m implying he wouldn’t care about discrimination in favour of white people only.

            From this, although now that I read it I’m no longer sure what you meant.

            They wouldn’t give a hoot about Asians if white kids were getting passed over in favour of Asian kids – but right now it does look like it’s the other way around.

            It occurs to me now that I may have misread this because it’s sort of incoherent with what else you said because it implies that Blum only cares about Asians when Asians are being passed over in favor of whites but not when whites are passed over in favor of Asians? But in fact that’s what you would expect if someone cared about Asians as a group rather than about discrimination itself. They wouldn’t worry about this case if Asians were doing as well as expected obviously. Where as you claim Blum isn’t primarily motivated by helping Asians.

            The only other reading I’ve figured out reading it again, which I think less likely and even weirder with what else you said and even less charitable to Blum, is that Blum cares because White and Asian kids are getting passed over in favor of other minorities like African-Americans and Latinos (whereas somehow, he’d be ok with Asians getting an advantage over whites???). Like, why would that be the sticking point, unless Blum was secretly John Derbyshire?

            You didn’t say Blum specifically, but I assumed you mean him given that he’s largely responsible for fronting the costs of all of this so there isn’t really any other possibility.

          • dndnrsn says:

            What I meant is that the people backing the Asians going after Harvard are motivated by going after AA rather than helping Asians; Asians are the focus insofar as they’re the victim of something that is, broadly considered, AA.

            I don’t think any of it is sinister. Personally, I think racial preferences and quotas are bad; if one wants racial equality there are better ways to go about getting it, and “alter demographics of top universities” is probably the worst way to go about getting it.

            By “they” I meant less Blum and the people funding it, and more… I’ve seen some people attacking Harvard who put on that they care all of a sudden about the Asian kids. Blum is, from what I’ve seen, fairly open about why he’s doing what he’s doing. My moral compass probably assigns too much significance to hypocrisy and inconsistency; what Harvard does bugs me because it’s dishonest – it doesn’t help the people it’s supposed to help as much as it helps other people who are better off than the median Asian Harvard applicant. Similarly, it bugs me to see people who suddenly care about the poor Asian kids who can’t get into Harvard with an infinite GPA – it doesn’t bug me to see someone say “this is just the tool that was available”.

            (Based on what I know of his personal life, John Derbyshire probably has an interest in how Asians do)

          • quanta413 says:

            What I meant is that the people backing the Asians going after Harvard are motivated by going after AA rather than helping Asians; Asians are the focus insofar as they’re the victim of something that is, broadly considered, AA.

            What you’re saying is technically accurate, but I believe is telling a story backwards in a way that makes motivations sound worse than they are. Helping people just because of their skin color without reference to why is not typically looked upon as a particularly good motivation anymore (except by a small but sometimes significant subset). Helping people being hurt by others bad behavior or policy is a more broadly acceptable reason.

            The way you describe people against affirmative action is like how some people say that a BLM activist protesting police abuses doesn’t really care about black people just about police violence. And thus they are using black people to help their forward their separate cause of being against the police. I’ve seen this narrative, and it’s way more wrong than right. Although you can find a rare whacko for whom it may be true.

            It’s a backwards narrative. BLM activists are against many police policies or legal outcomes because they’re for black people not getting strangled to death for selling loose cigarettes. The harm precedes the dislike of the policy. But then activists often have to go around finding hopefully representative cases to push back against law, policy, or behavior. If you don’t mention why an activist is seeking out representative cases, you can make it sound like their dislike of the policy is prior to their caring about the people it hurts.

            Similarly, Blum is against affirmative action because he believes it hurts people. Sure, he doesn’t think it hurts just Asian people, but that’s not a strike against him or his beliefs.

            what Harvard does bugs me because it’s dishonest

            I agree, and I think what Harvard is doing is much less defensible which is why I’m bothered that Blum is being treated as having behavior comparable in hypocrisy to Harvard. Because the defenses I see of Harvard’s behavior largely don’t match Harvard’s behavior, whereas Blum’s behavior roughly matches his purported beliefs.

            Is affirmative action reparations? Well not really, because Harvard draws most of its black students from immigrants or their children at this point. Is it to help those whose social background disadvantages them among the elites? No, because they reserve a huge fraction of slots for legacies and then actively work to cap the number of Asian admits they have (because on paper they’re just poor Chinese immigrant grinds, and Harvard doesn’t want them).

            So what does Harvard have left? Their only defense is diversity because… something. Which I can’t help but suspect wouldn’t be as popular a defense of affirmative action if the Supreme Court hadn’t made some baby-splitting decisions with regards to affirmative action (especially Grutter v. Bollinger).

          • dndnrsn says:

            It’s not that I think their motivations are worse than they are; it’s that I think some people are all of a sudden pretending to have different motivations than they do – again, this isn’t really aimed at Blum, so much as the people cheering him on (just as for every person actually involved with Harvard’s defence, there’s however many people backing Harvard up). I would agree the pro-Harvard position is worse, because holistic admissions frequently entail benefiting the well-off at the expense of the less-well-off, justifying it on the grounds of supposed (but usually not actual) benefit to the least-well-off.

          • albatross11 says:

            Why do you think people have opposed AA in the past, before the Harvard case?

            There’s been opposition to AA for many decades, and at least the arguments offered against it are overwhelmingly based on the idea that it’s wrong to make admissions decisions on skin color and that they should instead be made on merit. (Where “merit” might have many plausible definitions, but none of them would turn on your skin color.). As best I can tell, most of the people making those arguments are sincere. Do you have some reason other than mood affiliation to claim otherwise?

          • dndnrsn says:

            A general sense that people who actually value fairness as a terminal goal are pretty rare, which I will admit is not strong evidence.

      • “They wouldn’t give a hoot about Asians if white kids were getting passed over in favour of Asian kids”

        Did you mean to say something else here?

      • “from what I recall, the Harvard incoming class tends to be 50-50 male-female, while the split is around 33-66 for undergraduates as a whole.”

        Men are overrepresented among those with very high test scores, so I doubt it.

        • dndnrsn says:

          That’s another possible explanation. I’m not sure how exactly to figure out which explanation is the most correct.

          • albatross11 says:

            Are there test score numbers for male vs female students admitted to Harvard? That would be an easy way to check.

          • quanta413 says:

            The question I want to know the answer to is if they have to pull in more underqualified men to fill in various sports teams or more underqualified women. Same thing for legacies.

            It could really go either way. Maybe it’s equal. It may even be answerable from some of the released materials, but it’s not an important enough question that I’m going to scrape documents to figure it out.

    • aristides says:

      Legally, I think Harvard has the right to it, though public universities shouldn’t do the same things. What affects this has on my views, I now give less prestige to graduates of Ivy Leagues overall. I give even more prestige to Asians that graduated from Ivy Leagues, and I now give equal prestige to a white legacy or athletics student as I give to a top state university graduate.

      • It should be stripped of its status as a tax-exempt charity just as the segregation academies where and for the same reason. Trump has the power to instruct the IRS to do so, in a world where he was competent he’d do it.

      • albatross11 says:

        ISTM that the whole point here is that being able to give away some spots at Harvard for political, financial, or other influence depends on it not being visible from the outside. Probably this weakens the signaling benefit blacks get–if you meet a white guy who graduated from Harvard, you don’t assume he only got in because his dad played football there, but if you meet a black guy who graduated from Harvard, you might suspect he only got in because of affirmative action.

    • RalMirrorAd says:

      IIRC those who apply to selective schools and are admitted but choose not to attend, economically, do as well as those who are admitted and who attend.

      So it’s doubtful attendance at an elite university is ‘helpful’ for anyone except in terms of garnering prestige, and maybe social networking. Both of these things are zero sum.

      As a method of equalizing economic outcomes, AA, especially at elite institutions where the graduating class is a miniscule portion of the population, is not very effectively. *unless* you can have AA apply throughout the economy. Federal employment does this somewhat but realistically it needs to be done a
      If we assume standardize test scores are a valid predictor of ability to perform a broad variety of skilled work, it’s easy to see how overt wealth redistribution is probably more efficient than a potempkin economy, but it’s also a lot more humiliating in certain respects.

      To an outsider the whole thing seems theatrical because it’s grounded in a pair of assumptions that are believed by almost everyone except the forum-goers: Blankslateism and the notion that postsecondary ed is a cause rather than an affect.

    • Peffern says:

      If someone unreasonably doesn’t want to associate with me, I probably don’t want to associate with them

      .

      I am someone who is going to graduate from college in the spring. From my experience, the end of high school college application process was the most vile, brutal, disgusting, and painful experience I had ever dealt with until that point in my life (surpassed later only by the death of a close family member). And yeah, that reflects a level of privilege.

      However, your quote is almost word-for-word how I ended up coping with the stress of college applications and being rejected. And I think that’s related. If you, as I did as a child/young(er) adult, see the undergraduate application process as effectively handing out keys to success,money,power,etc. then it a) makes sense to treat the application process as as cutthroat and Machiavellian as you can stomach, and b) makes sense to demand the government regulate it in a way that’s favorable to you.

      The solution to both is to not hold this worldview. Understanding that a college that doesn’t want you wouldn’t be good for you both helps with the feelings of the process and sidesteps the issue of how it ought to be distributed.

      Note that I am assuming that this worldview is false, which is why ceasing to believe it can be treated as a viable course of action.

  22. bullseye says:

    A question about Star Wars:

    In the original film, R2-D2 plugs himself into the Death Star, enabling him to find Princess Leia and turn off the trash compactors. Audiences today interpret this as R2-D2 hacking the Death Star’s systems, but did the 1976 audience interpret it that way? Did the general public know hacking was a thing? It’s conceivable that the system is designed to be operated by an astromech droid with the assumption that an unauthorized droid would not have physical access.

    • acymetric says:

      I’m not sure the term “hacking” would have come to mind (I don’t know when that term was coined) but it was certainly presented as unauthorized access gained by manipulating a computer in unintended ways, which I think is the generic equivalent.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Hacking of that sort really came into general public consciousness with Wargames (1983) or maybe Tron (1982). I doubt most people really considered whether R2D2 was violating access rights or not; computer security was probably not on Lucas’s radar. IIRC, the only problem R2-D2 had is it took time to sift through the information.

      • acymetric says:

        I’m not sure which way this leans in terms of whether it was perceived as hacking (or a similar concept in verbiage appropriate for 1976) or not, but some of the information in the Death Star was “restricted” and R2 was unable to access it.

    • johan_larson says:

      I’m old enough that I first saw the original trilogy in theatres when they were rereleased in the 80s, and I never interpreted what R2-D2 was doing as hacking. It was just doing routine data access, or perhaps complicated data access in a large and unfamiliar system. The notion that such a system would have had security that needed bypassing never occurred to me.

      • meh says:

        agreed. the trash compactor probably wasn’t a restricted access system, so Artoo plugging in would be equivalent to plugging in a usb keyboard and issuing commands.

        • acymetric says:

          Well, he also accessed station schematics, and prisoner location data. Although the fact that additional information about the cell block was “restricted” after they had been caught rescuing Lea probably suggests that the stuff before that was unrestricted (although it is possible the schematics were restricted but R2 had more time to dig).

      • acymetric says:

        It was just doing routine data access, or perhaps complicated data access in a large and unfamiliar system.

        This is interpreted as hacking all the time now (not necessarily by people with any extensive computer/networking/security knowledge, but most people don’t have that and hardly anybody would have in 1976). Depends on how you’re defining hacking, but the term has been used pretty liberally for a long time.

        I think for a lot of people “hacking” essentially equates to “unauthorized access” and it doesn’t necessarily matter whether anyone bothered to prevent or limit that unauthorized access.

  23. nkurz says:

    There was a discussion in the last Open Thread about the whether it was appropriate for religious doubters to publicly pretend to have beliefs that they do not in fact hold. It’s a scattered thread, but this might be a good starting point: https://slatestarcodex.com/2019/09/29/open-thread-137-5/#comment-805149.

    The question reminded me of a beautiful passage in Kathleen Norris’s book “Amazing Grace”, where she suggests that ‘pretending to belief’ is an essential part of ‘coming to believe’:

    “I recently read an article that depicted a heated exchange between a seminary student and a Orthodox theologian at Yale Divinity School. The theologian had given a talk on the history of the development of the Christian creeds. The student’s original question was centered on belief: ‘What can one do,’ he asked, ‘when one finds it impossible to affirm certain tenets of the creed.’ The priest responded, ‘Well, you can just say it. It’s not that hard to master. With a little effort, most can learn it by heart.'”

    https://books.google.com/books?id=FpWcgtunxTgC&pg=PA64#v=onepage&q&f=false (bottom of page 64)

    I don’t suppose anyone here might be able to point to the original article that she’s referring to?

    Searching to try to find this passage, I was surprised when my “not quite remembered” search terms did manage to bring up a friend’s decade old blog post about Norris’s passage that I hadn’t seen before. I think she does a good job of capturing the sentiment, applying it to both poetry and Judaism.

    https://velveteenrabbi.blogs.com/blog/2007/05/on_ambiguity_an.html

    • Atlas says:

      Thanks for linking to the discussion, I missed it and am very curious to read it because I’ve been contemplating nominally converting (I am an atheist/agnostic and was raised in a secular household) to some form of Christianity for purely worldly (perhaps cynical) reasons, despite finding it very hard to genuinely believe in its core theological/philosophical teachings. (I may mention this again in the future.)

      • blipnickels says:

        I have a similar interest but am also concerned that “pretending” to have found God would prevent any actual spiritual awakening.

        • Randy M says:

          Interesting, but it sounds like in general you are open to it though personally skeptical. I don’t think any church would ask for much more from a participant. If you admit you are willing to listen, there’s nothing much more you need to fake.

        • aristides says:

          My advice to people that think there might be a God, and knows there are worldly benefits of being a Christian is to attend church, but don’t get baptized, and don’t take part of communion if it’s a denomination that requires baptism. If your attending church regularly, you are well within your rights to call yourself Christian, when there are so many baptized Christians that are not attending church at all. If after listening to religious arguments, and hopefully being exposed to the Holy Spirit you begin to believe in the Churches teachings, go through the baptism. I was baptized at 18 at the peak of my Christian beliefs, and it’s an impressive spiritual awakening if you go in a believer. If you don’t believe though, baptism has no point

          I’m currently in the process of converting to Russian Orthodox for purely secular reasons of marrying a follower, but I can’t quite affirm all the tenants yet. Since I haven’t been baptized within the church, I can’t take part of communion, but I still feel welcomed by the church, and I learn more about Christianity every time I attend.

        • Nick says:

          Everyone’s been extolling the virtues of going to church as an unbeliever, so I feel it should be mentioned there’s a way that going to services you’re not interested in can inoculate you to the thing, you can end up with a kind of “yeah, I’ve heard all this before” attitude. One explanation I’ve heard for this is that social rituals amplify what you’re feeling, so if what you’re feeling is disinterest and otherness, corporate worship will make you feel more intense disinterest and otherness. Whether that’s what you feel in the first place is up to you, though.

      • Nick says:

        Don’t get baptized if you don’t believe it. As for beliefs, ask questions here.

      • SamChevre says:

        ‘m an observant Christian who thinks that some strong-form understandings of Christian doctrine do not seem to align well enough with the observable world to be likely to be true.

        But in my opinion, that’s irrelevant; anything having to do with mind and consciousness is terribly understood, even before getting into questions about the supernatural. The maps we have have a handful of random things on them, in roughly the right places–but they are so far from complete that they could almost all be true at the same time.

        So I’d say go for it (it’s the right time of year to start attending a Catholic RCIA class, which is designed for “I’m curious about this” and very low-pressure). You can be honest–I think there’s something here but find it hard to really believe. And do the things: you can pray a Rosary while thinking the whole story was made up, and for me that 15 minutes a day of structured meditation makes a definite difference.

        And I’d also look at the ways Christians have historically understood their faith–it is far less literal than most modern, vaguely Protestant understandings are. I’d especially recommend the introduction of Maimonides Guide for the Perplexed (yes, it’s Jewish, not Christian–but it’s squarely targeted at the “this makes no sense” issue, and it’s referring to the same underlying literature.) I’d also recommend Chesterton’s “Aquinas” as showing the care that went into thinking of faith as compatible with reason, and the sermons from the Office of Readings (there’s one each day–usually labeled “second reading”) as showing the historic approach to understanding Christian teaching.

        (I’m also tickled to see the Velveteen Rabbi reference–I’ve read her blog for nearly 20 years.)

      • Plumber says:

        @Atlas >

        “…I’ve been contemplating nominally converting (I am an atheist/agnostic and was raised in a secular household) to some form of Christianity for purely worldly (perhaps cynical) reasons, despite finding it very hard to genuinely believe in its core theological/philosophical teachings…”

        Oh, maybe try being a Unitarian Universalist then.

        Late ’70’s and early ’80’s my Mom and step-dad brought me to a UU “Fellowship Hall” a few times (I think it was a compromise between his Jewish and her Lutheran traditions) I remember nothing about the services, mostly I remember Sunday potlucks. The beliefs lean towards “Yes that’s true, and so is that, and so is that…”, and “It’s nice to be nice”, and they seem to be trying for the community/social aspects of religion without leaning on creed.

        Judging by your past posts it will probably be too “SJ” for you, but think of the plusses! 

        …well mostly just one plus: college graduate girls want college graduate guys who can talk “woke”, and most guys aren’t and don’t so if you can the odds are in your favor! 

        After childbirth and a decade or so of marriage your wife will likely become a bit more conservative and you can gradually stop nodding so much, but play it by ear. Otherwise meet a lady with immigrant parents, or a trad girl, but for a trad girl your very likely going to need to move in-land and impress her parents – so a long time project.

        Anyway, your probably on the right track, as well as short commutes, financial stability, health, and marriage, more than once a month church attendance correlates with being happier – parenthood doesn’t minute to minute though (it’s more an end-of-the-day happiness), but grandparents are happier on average than the childless.

        If you never “catch faith” (and some of us just don’t) console yourself with that atheists (while being less happy on average than frequent church-goers), are more happy on average than believers who are infrequent (less than once a month) church goers, the key is maintaining face-to-face social connections and a sense of purpose.

        Most folks need a “tribe” to be happy, and not in an “us vs. them” sense, it’s the “us” part that’s the key: creed, nation, province, family, craft, party, profession – whatever you can find, solitary confinement is a punishment which leads to madness. 

    • thevoiceofthevoid says:

      I agree, pretending to believe in a religion, or even just regularly going through the motions of the ceremonies and surrounding yourself with believers, is an effective way to come to believe in a religion. (Or at least, believe in your belief in it.)

      However, it’s a terrible method for actually determining whether a religion is true, and whether you ought to believe in it. Reciting creeds is a tool of establishing conformity, not one of seeking truth. If your goal is to believe in Christianity (or whatever religion), by all means go to church and sing the hymns until the words begin to ring true to you. But if your goal is to believe in what’s True, then carefully consider religion’s claims and evaluate how well they match up with the world around you and your models of how it works.

    • EchoChaos says:

      To add to this. One of the specific things we are told to pray for is to be led out of temptation.

      Having lots of non-believers doing immoral things (and especially saying that immoral things aren’t immoral) is very tempting, even if the outcomes of those immoral things are net bad for you, in this life or the next.

      Even a non-believer committed to not lying himself who shows up to a church, never questions doctrine and if asked politely says he doesn’t actually believe is much better for the temptation of the faithful.

  24. I recently came across this poll from Pew:

    About three-quarters of the public (76%) says it is a somewhat or very good thing for parents to steer girls toward boy-oriented toys and activities, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in August and September. A smaller share, but still a majority (64%), says parents should encourage boys to play with toys and participate in activities usually associated with girls.

    https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/12/19/most-americans-see-value-in-steering-children-toward-toys-activities-associated-with-opposite-gender/

    This is unbelievable. As in, I don’t believe it. The stuff about encouraging girls to participate in boyish activities I can believe, but not that 64% of the country wants to encourage boys to participate in girlish activities.* Growing up in a Montana white nationalist compound suburban liberal neighborhood in the 2000s, I’m pretty sure the adults in my life would have kicked a Barbie doll out of my hands. I can accept that between that time and now the “Great Awokening” might have changed their behavior, but according to the poll 54% of members of the Silent generation and 47% of Republicans also agree. But looking at the wording of the question it doesn’t seem loaded or otherwise manipulative.

    *If you come across a complaint about gender-bending from tradcons, about 95% of the time it will be a complaint about males appropriating female behavior rather than the other way around.

    • Ohforfs says:

      Maybe they meant cooking. Or singing.

      I went to the link looking for questions, but was distracted by one data point:

      Boys/Girls – “How they express their feelings” – Respondents say 13% similar, 87% Different.

      That’s surprising. I mean, personally i see fundamental similarities. Much bigger than in basically all the others categories (physical abilities, interests, etc) show in that table.

      EDIT/ Oh yes, what i suspected: first, they lumped somewhat good and good into “good”, second, they asked about girls first and then about boys.

      That creates an effect when people who value generic gender equality (basically huge majority) would have to face cognitive dissonance while answering these questions differently.

      Note that even given this, men are actually split evenly on this (and you couldn’t be neutral on that question)

      Also, the question itself is fairly mild “typically associated with girls”. Easy to come up with things like drawing, cooking, singing, etc, that are not completely strange for boys even in the eyes of conservative parent.

      EDIT2/ Also, i hate reporting. For example:

      “Americans differ over what should be emphasized in raising boys vs. girls”

      No. Actually it’s the opposite, the data shows that there is not much of a difference there…

      EDIT3/ Jesus, it’s laaaazy survey. But i get it, it’s standart bunch of questions. Doesn’t change the fact i think it could be improved upon, that set.

      EDIT4/ I am mostly surprised how they answered the question about how much society values intelligence – 8% in men, 22% in women. That’s counterintuitive, especially given that rest of the answers is standart gender expectations.

      • aristides says:

        This was definitely a survey design problem. The way the question is worded there is no neutral answer, it’s either good or bad. Basic human psychology would lend someone who was neutral on this issue to choose somewhat good vs somewhat bad. I won’t care one way or another what toys my kid plays with, but will probably only buy matching gendered toys for them until they are old enough to express their opinion. Even with that viewpoint, I would have to choose somewhat good over somewhat bad. I might have left the question blank, but they didn’t even count blank answers as a response. A vet uninformative survey.

        • matthewravery says:

          There’s some theory when it comes to survey design that says you shouldn’t include neutral options specifically because people will choose the neutral option instead of expressing an opinion because it’s easier to just choose the middle option.

          I don’t think this is very good theory, and at best it should apply only selectively, but it’s a thing that’s out there in the world.

          • Ohforfs says:

            Yes… i’m not a fan of it either, but sometimes you won’t get much out of a survey. Not here, imo, and I think in this case it was certainly a mistake to combine the 4 categories into two, at least.

          • There’s some theory when it comes to survey design that says you shouldn’t include neutral options specifically because people will choose the neutral option instead of expressing an opinion because it’s easier to just choose the middle option.

            But that might well reflect their actual opinion. They may find it easier because the question doesn’t include all resolutions of the binary. It should be up to the survey designers to not present those answering with a false dichotomy.

    • albatross11 says:

      We encouraged our younger son’s interest in cooking (gave him a toy kitchen, for example), and our daughter’s interest in whacking her brothers with foam rubber swords[1]. Our daughter seems to have moved on from the toy swords, but our son has turned into an excellent cook.

      IMO, it’s important for kids to learn that just because some interest is coded as a male or female activity, what actually matters is whether or not you like it. (Though there are some interests where it’s going to be very socially awkward to get involved–for example, knitting is like 99.9% female everywhere I’ve ever seen, and I have to guess that being the one man in the knitting circle would be a little awkward.)

      [1] There was a time when all the neighborhood kids would have huge battles with these swords, and she was the little girl in the cute pink princess dress whacking someone upside the head with a foam rubber sword.

      • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

        I have to guess that being the one man in the knitting circle would be a little awkward

        I expect it would be fine (I’m male and knit but have never gone to any meetups). Certainly I think it would be less awkward than e.g. being the only woman at a programming meetup because there would be no Discourse hanging over your head and your chances of being awkwardly hit on by other participants are lower.

      • Fitzroy says:

        IMO, it’s important for kids to learn that just because some interest is coded as a male or female activity, what actually matters is whether or not you like it.

        Yup, absolutely this. I have a photograph of my (then) 6 year-old daughter in a blue Elsa princess dress with a foam rubber sword and home-made cardboard shield. She also had Spiderman and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles costumes, because they were what she wanted, and a positively encyclopaedic knowledge of dinosaurs*.

        I’ve always maintained to my kids that there’s no such thing as girls’ toys and boys’ toys. There’s just toys.

        *I’m increasingly convinced that dinosaurs is not, in fact, a boy-coded thing. It seems to be something that is just downloaded into the brains of children automatically at about age 4.

      • Aftagley says:

        –for example, knitting is like 99.9% female everywhere I’ve ever seen, and I have to guess that being the one man in the knitting circle would be a little awkward.

        Hard disagree, stitch and bitches are awesome.

      • b_jonas says:

        Did your daughter move away from toy swords to real swords?

        No, in my limited experience, knitting is not mostly for females anymore. It may have traditionally counted as a female activity half a century ago, but among young people who knit, many are males.

        • Then it will be more common to just alter your appearance to look younger and more fit.

          The question isn’t whether a woman who feels masculine should be permitted to dress and act in a way that makes her look more male, it’s whether other people should be obliged, socially or legally, to act as if they believe she is male.

          Similarly, in your case, if an eighty-year old man, in a future where we can reverse most of the biological effects of aging (one I devoutly hope I will live to experience), looks as if he is twenty-two and chooses to hang around a college dating college girls and telling them that he is their age, should be a (social or legal) offense to tell people his real age?

        • Did your daughter move away from toy swords to real swords?

          There are a fair number of female fighters in the SCA, although not nearly as many as male fighters.

      • matthewravery says:

        Cooking is, IMO, increasingly less coded. I’m much more interested in cooking than my wife, and other “food creation” activities like brewing and grilling are popular among male friends, though perhaps those are more male-coded than knowing how to make a casserole.

        • Machine Interface says:

          Cooking was only ever feminine-coded for the lower and middle class anyway. The upper you go, the more the cooks have been men throughout history.

          • Ohforfs says:

            When i brought up cooking as an example my intention was to show a train of thought of a respondent: okay, i say that girls should be doing traditionally boys stuff, i mean, i think girls, for example, my daughter are no worse, and she deserves to have good work and so on.

            Oh, another question. Boys. Hmmm… eeeeeh… uuuh.. should they do traditionally girly things…? What does that… (i just said girls should be able to do that, huh uh… but my little boy… dressed in pink…) umm, well, cooking is traditionally female thing and i think it would be good for my little boy to take care of himself too! Of course i am for that too!

    • Machine Interface says:

      Growing up in a suburban liberal neighborhood in the 2000s, I’m pretty sure the adults in my life would have kicked a Barbie doll out of my hands.

      Really? I grew up in suburban France in the late 80s/early 90s to I guess “liberal” parents if you transpose the category. My parents never said anything when I would occasionally play with my sister’s toys, dolls or otherwise. They didn’t encourage it, but they certainly made no effort to stop it either. Everyone tacitely accepted that this was another set of toys and that playing with anything they consider a toy is what children do.

      • JayT says:

        I grew up in an extremely conservative Christian household, in the Midwest, in the 80s, and my parents never had any issue with me playing with my sister’s My Little Ponies. Firefly was my favorite. Her pink body with teal hair was quite eye catching.

    • Urstoff says:

      I’m pretty sure the adults in my life would have kicked a Barbie doll out of my hands.

      That just seems unnecessarily mean on behalf of the adults.

    • Theory: gender roles are less useful now, since human labor in the first world has become more service sector oriented, and we’re far and away from needing heavy specialization with males going down the mines, and women always looking after the bairns. The transition from an industrial to a post-industrial West is in living memory, so of course this creates friction during the cultural transition, but as gender roles become less useful, they become more difficult to enforce and seem more arbitrary. This leads inexorably to greater experimentation and fluidity. If you relax environmental pressures, other pressures take over.

  25. hash872 says:

    Seeing as SSC is a pretty scientific & medically literate crowd- anything new in the testosterone replacement therapy field, aka TRT? Specifically for us older guys who are looking for quality of life enhancements, but don’t have an actual disorder- just normal aging.

    I understand the basics that can be summarized in a Wikipedia page- I’d heard that more recently the FDA was cracking down some on TRT & ‘anti-aging’ clinics & such- is it still possible to find a doctor who’d give out a TRT scrip in spite of not having an actual diagnosis? Any news on the health front- potential dangers of heart attack, higher blood pressure, stroke or increased cancer risk with years or decades of constant, low-grade TRT usage? (I understand there’s no longitudinal studies out there, but just any hints one way or another). I’m talking about taking 100 to a max of 200 mg of test weekly via injection- not jacking my levels up beyond 800 or anything crazy like that.

    I’m not ‘old’ old yet, so I was hoping that the field would be a little more studied by the time I hit 40 so that I could evaluate safety & such…. Doesn’t seem like the FDA is going to be particularly cooperative. (I wonder if China will get into test supplementation, seeing as they have a…. laxer view on human safety & medical testing. And I’ve heard outside the US many countries find Americans’ moralizing about PEDs to be baffling- it’s just another drug to them)

    • hash872 says:

      I have to say- I do one big weightlifting session a week, and the obviously enhanced testosterone that I have the next day is pretty great. Enhanced confidence, clearer & sharper mind, better mood- it lasts for much of the day, and I get this effect consistently, week in and week out. Not sure if I’d get the same ‘bump’ from an external source, but I’d definitely like to. Yes I am already maximizing the other stuff, get enough sleep, good diet, etc.

      • Radu Floricica says:

        If you’re looking for TRT for bodybuilding, the 5 word summary is “works, but not worth it”. Side effects depend on dosage, of course, but the clincher is that once you start TRT, there are good chances you’re going to need it to maintain normal levels from now on. That’s something you don’t find in the wikipedia page, as far as I remember.

        Enhanced confidence, clearer & sharper mind, better mood- it lasts for much of the day, and I get this effect consistently, week in and week out.

        Well then, keep doing it 🙂 I doubt it’s the testosterone btw – many things happen when you go to the gym, and it’d be a small miracle for everything to be due to a single number.

        I know it’s boring, and uncool, and not very interesting, but 80% of psychical and mental enhancements are reached (only) by good sleep, good food, regular exercise. Unless you’re in a population where 1. this is perfectly covered and 2. the last 20% really matter (i.e. performance athlete), it’s not really worth optimizing.

    • roystgnr says:

      I was going to point out that hormonal treatment of prostate cancer works by artificially suppressing testosterone, so I’d naturally expect artificially introducing testosterone to be a sort of anti-treatment for prostate cancer…

      But then I went to Google to check and the first hit is about an N=230,000 study reportedly claiming

      Men who receive testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) had an increased rate of favorable-risk prostate cancer compared to those who did not use the therapy, and a decreased rate of aggressive prostate cancer. The favorable risk disease may represent a detection bias in these patients, according to the researchers.

      So I guess the answer is “it’s complicated” and not so negative?

      I’d still worry depending on your family/genetic cancer risk. For most people prostate cancer now has a 96% 15-year survival rate if you catch it before it metastasizes, but my father only survived a year and a half even with no detectable initial metastasis plus top-notch treatment; our BRCA2 mutation seems to turn slow-growing cancer into aggressive cancer at the drop of a hat.

    • Dino says:

      I was a volunteer subject in a research study at MGH on testosterone supplementation in older men. Double-blind, but I could tell pretty soon that I was on a high dose – confirmed at the end of the study. The main effect I noticed was being obsessed about sex all the time, like when I was a teenager – not a plus. (Kind of sobering to be reminded that one’s mental state is so sensitive to a chemical in the bloodstream.) But no benefit in actual sexual function. Also no change to mental acuity or physical strength. Another minus – my PSA levels shot way up. They sent me to a urologist who advised me to wait and see if they went back down after the study, which they did. (Also learned from him that bicycle riding can cause elevated PSA levels.) There may have been a benefit in bone density. Overall – would not recommend.

  26. Adrian says:

    Warning: About as CW-y as it gets.

    I’ve been thinking about this lately, and didn’t come up with an answer, nor did searching on the Internet. On a meta-level, what’s the difference between A) a person with an unambiguous biological sex, who identifies as transgender, and B) a person with an unambiguous birth date, who identifies as 20 years older than they actually are?

    In both cases there is an undeniable physical reality which contradicts that person’s wishes and demands for how they should be treated by other people and by the system. For example, a 45-year old person might identify as a 65-year old, entitling them to social security, their pension, or the equivalent for your country. Similarly, a 35-year old might identify as a 15-year old, entitling their parents for child benefits from the state (where applicable).

    Should such demands be respected and met by other people and by the state? If yes, what and where are the limits? If not, why should we respect and meet the demands of a biological man to be addressed with “she” and to be allowed to participate in women’s sport competitions?

    I’m sure that I’m not the first one to come up with this question, and I’m sure that transgender persons and their supporters have an answer, which I’m genuinely curious to hear.

    • broblawsky says:

      What makes gender (social roles and perception) an unavoidable physical reality? Gender is different from sex (biology). You seem to be conflating the two.

      • Adrian says:

        What makes gender (social roles and perception) an unavoidable physical reality? Gender is different from sex (biology). You seem to be conflating the two.

        What makes subjective age (social roles and perception) an unavoidable physical reality? Or, in other words, why do you differentiate between gender and sex, but not between subjective age (how someone perceives, e.g., their own mental maturity) and physical age (number of seconds since their birth)?

        If you grant people the right to determine their own gender, why don’t you grant people the right to determine their own subjective age? I.e., if someone identifying as transgender is allowed to change “f” to “m” in their passport, why should someone identifying as 20 years younger not be allowed to change “1984-11-03” to “2004-11-03”?

        • broblawsky says:

          There’s a difference between the legal implications of gender (an area where being male/female explicitly gives one no advantage) and the legal implications of age (an area where being older does give advantages, e.g. social security, pension, etc.). We generally allow people to express their identity in whatever way they want, so long as it doesn’t give them some kind of exploitable advantage over their peers.

          To address the obvious followup: I’m not interested in discussing transgender athletes, and will ignore any followups about them, because I actually haven’t read anything about the issue, and I believe it’s a distraction from the core question of whether we should treat transgender people with basic kindness and compassion by treating them as we, ourselves, would wish to be treated. Which, IMHO, we should.

          • EchoChaos says:

            There’s a difference between the legal implications of gender (an area where being male/female explicitly gives one no advantage) and the legal implications of age (an area where being older does give advantages, e.g. social security, pension, etc.). We generally allow people to express their identity in whatever way they want, so long as it doesn’t give them some kind of exploitable advantage over their peers.

            Do transwomen have to register for the draft?

          • Aftagley says:

            Yes. From the selective Service:

            TRANSGENDER PEOPLE

            Individuals who are born female and changed their gender to male are not required to register. U.S. citizens or immigrants who are born male and changed their gender to female are still required to register.

          • uau says:

            the core question of whether we should treat transgender people with basic kindness

            That’s quite a dishonest way to phrase the question.

            If “you should treat people as if they really were whatever kind of person they want to be treated as” actually was such an obvious rule, it’d apply in a lot more cases. Some example cases to consider:

            A man who considers it extremely important to his identity that he’s muscular and attractive to women. Do women have a responsibility to go along with this (at least to the degree you expect people to go along with treating transgender people as their desired gender)?

            Or Wayne Simmons (a guy who faked being an ex-CIA operative, but seems to have gone further with this than could be explained by using it as a means to gain money or anything else). Should people feel obligated to socially treat him as ex-CIA?

          • AlexOfUrals says:

            There’s a difference between the legal implications of gender (an area where being male/female explicitly gives one no advantage)

            Except for the places where they have gender quotas of course. Or, as mentioned above, draft. Or designated female parking spots. Or gender specific safe spaces. Or the right of being searched by an agent of your own gender. Admittedly these are smaller than the legal implications of age but the difference is quantitative not qualitative and it seems one would have a hard time trying to define a border after which it’s not ok to let people change their legal status in order to express themselves.

          • Aftagley says:

            A man who considers it extremely important to his identity that he’s muscular and attractive to women. Do women have a responsibility to go along with this (at least to the degree you expect people to go along with treating transgender people as their desired gender)?

            You don’t specify here, but I’m going to assume your are implying this man is, in fact, not muscular and/or attractive to women. I can’t imagine someone who would construct an identity around something, and then not make any effort to de-conflict their self-image with what they see in the mirror. In real life, this person would likely go to the gym a bunch, work out, get a hair cut and some nice clothes and end up being the person he identifies as. More accurately, if he’s had this identity for a while, he’s probably already muscular and attractive. I’m not sure I get what you’re trying to say here.

            Or Wayne Simmons (a guy who faked being an ex-CIA operative, but seems to have gone further with this than could be explained by using it as a means to gain money or anything else). Should people feel obligated to socially treat him as ex-CIA?

            I don’t know enough about this to comment. From a surface level read of 3 new stories about him, he looks like a conman who got caught up in the con. I’m also pretty sure there’s a difference about holding something you’ve done as part of your identity vs. something you are, but I’m not sure I can properly articulate it.

          • Aftagley says:

            as mentioned above, draft

            I might be wrong here, but isn’t the current leftist position to abolish the selective service’s sex standard? Draft everyone or no one.

            Or designated female parking spots.

            Is this a thing? I’ve never seen one or heard about one until right now.

            Or the right of being searched by an agent of your own gender.

            Wait, where’s the problem here? Trans people can pick the gender of their searcher that they feel most comfortable with, just like everyone else. What’s the concern?

          • Buttle says:

            Wait, where’s the problem here? Trans people can pick the gender of their searcher that they feel most comfortable with, just like everyone else. What’s the concern?

            Since when? I am searched fairly often (for refusing to enter the Cheney machines), and, presenting as a man, have never been asked if I might prefer being searched by a woman.

          • Aftagley says:

            Sorry, that was really poorly worded on my part. I meant to say, TSA will select the gender of the person screening someone based on the gender that person presents.

          • broblawsky says:

            That’s quite a dishonest way to phrase the question.

            If “you should treat people as if they really were whatever kind of person they want to be treated as” actually was such an obvious rule, it’d apply in a lot more cases. Some example cases to consider:

            A man who considers it extremely important to his identity that he’s muscular and attractive to women. Do women have a responsibility to go along with this (at least to the degree you expect people to go along with treating transgender people as their desired gender)?

            Or Wayne Simmons (a guy who faked being an ex-CIA operative, but seems to have gone further with this than could be explained by using it as a means to gain money or anything else). Should people feel obligated to socially treat him as ex-CIA?

            These are extremely poor comparisons with trans people. Both of your stated examples are people trying to gain advantages over their peers, but trans people aren’t trying to gain any kind of comparative advantage. They’re just trying to live dignified lives with the bodies and brains they were given. There’s a certain amount of respect and kindness we owe each other as human beings, and I don’t see how treating trans people with the basic dignity we ourselves would like to be treated is overdrawing on that account.

          • MorningGaul says:

            I don’t think most “anti-trans” (lacking a better way to describe them) are opposed to treating people with “respect and kindness”, but condition it to not feel like they’re being lied to.

            Let’s use a parabole. Let’s say that I proclaim to myself that I have 20/20 eyesight (I don’t, i have shitty eyes). Nobody would care, until I start telling people that I have perfect eyesight. Then they would quickly realize i’m wrong, and, (assuming they’re charitable people) tell me so, or simply ignore the claims that contradict the basic reality they observe. No reason for any part to get mad.

            But if I start requiring people around to recognize how great my eyesight is, are they really lacking “respect and kindness” for refusing, or am I the one who starts to be borderline insulting to them?

            Benefiting or not from it is beside the point. It makes it interested, but also somewhat rational, instead of appearing completely, well, insane. And most people wouldnt kick an insane people for fun, but also wouldnt start supporting everything they say and do by principle.

          • uau says:

            More accurately, if he’s had this identity for a while, he’s probably already muscular and attractive. I’m not sure I get what you’re trying to say here.

            And surely any trans person can 100% perfectly appear as their desired gender? If they don’t, it can’t be too important to them?

            I think the question should have been obvious, but whatever. Broblawsky presented it as obvious basic courtesy to go along with however people want themselves to be perceived. If you accept that premise, and there is a man for whom being a muscular man that is sexually attractive to women is central to his self-identity, should women not be obligated to go along with that view? Regardless of whether they perceive him that way, and at least to the same degree you should feel obligated to respect the desires of a trans person as opposed to how you otherwise happen to perceive them.

            I’m also pretty sure there’s a difference about holding something you’ve done as part of your identity vs. something you are, but I’m not sure I can properly articulate it.

            Maybe you could come up with some plausible rule that would exclude this case. However, there is no general “it is obviously required by very basic human decency to treat people as the kind of person they want to be treated as” rule as broblawsky tried to argue. Those who argue that there is some “basic” rule that “obviously” implies how you must treat trans people are wrong.

          • uau says:

            These are extremely poor comparisons with trans people. Both of your stated examples are people trying to gain advantages over their peers, but trans people aren’t trying to gain any kind of comparative advantage.

            There is no such obvious difference. In neither case does the self-identity have to come from a mechanism that would be about “comparative advantage” more than trans identity.

      • MorningGaul says:

        I think you’re touching on a root of the disagreement: What makes gender different from sex? Why would that one human characteristic somehow gets to be separated between it’s social role/perception and it’s biological implications, while there is no claim that a small person could be perceived as a tall one, or that a teenager could have the “social role” of an elderly person.

        • Adrian says:

          I think you’re touching on a root of the disagreement: What makes gender different from sex? Why would that one human characteristic somehow gets to be separated between it’s social role/perception and it’s biological implications, while there is no claim that a small person could be perceived as a tall one, or that a teenager could have the “social role” of an elderly person.

          That is exactly my question, but in a more eloquent, concise form.
          People are getting hung up on the age thing – which was just supposed to be an example – instead of debating on the meta-level. That is my fault, I should have been clearer about that point.

          • drunkfish says:

            You’re asking people to debate the meta level “why should we respect denying an undeniable physical reality”, but I don’t think it’s fair to demand that if you haven’t established an undeniable physical reality (which is a huge claim). Transgender people aren’t asking you to deny physical reality, they’re asking you to set aside a feature of physical reality when it comes to treating them, because they don’t think that feature of physical reality accurately reflects them as a person. You can debate whether that’s a fair request on that part, but “denying the undeniable” is not the right place to start the relevant discussion.

            Have you read Scott’s The Categories? The key here is that transgender people are asking specific artificial categories (that until now have been based on a specific part of physical reality) to be redefined, not to deny the physical reality itself.

      • Faza (TCM) says:

        One could certainly make the argument that “gender”, as distinct from biological sex, is a convenient fiction for political purposes and need not be a useful term at all.

        Going further down that road, we could posit that the only meaningful distinctions between “male” and “female” are such that are grounded in biology – yes, this includes differences in model social roles.

        (Evil Robot Language used to indicate where I’m talking biology and only biology.)

        To get straight to the elephant: motherhood is a uniquely female role for biological reasons and the biological issues associated therewith (pregnancy, nursing) are restricted to biological females.

        A fair amount of existing and past social role distinctions have their grounding in the reproductive roles of both sexes. Man as breadwinner/woman as homemaker works better than the opposite scenario, because pregnancy is – not to put too fine a point on it – a job in and of itself. Granted, there’s no actual requirement for women to be pregnant all the time, but even being pregnant some of the time will put them at a disadvantage compared to men who are pregnant none of the time. A couple wishing to maximise their material well-being (for the benefit of their children, if nothing else) will act rationally to focus on maximising the father’s career potential, because that won’t be inevitably hobbled every time a new kid rolls along.

        For similar reasons, it makes more sense to send your men to war than women. Leaving aside the fact that they’re – on average – bigger, stronger and more aggresive, you can afford to lose a lot more of them before your long-term population perspectives become grim. The “reproductive capacity” of your women (how many children they are able to give birth to over a period) is the bottleneck to maintaining your population at a given level. You will therefore want to keep them sheltered from anything that may reduce their number (and thus, reproductive capacity).

        We could look for other examples, but I don’t think that’s a valuable use of our time. The bottom line is that where there are meaningful and useful differences between the social roles of men and women, these are grounded in the biology of the sexes. Where there exists no meaningful biological distinction, we have had a long-term trend – driven by feminists – to eliminate social distinctions. There’s nothing in biology that obviously makes women less capable of making political decisions than men, so there’s no reason to disenfranchise women and therefore women can vote. Ditto for women’s education, women in the workplace, etc.

        With all of the above in mind, it’s not immediately obvious that “gender” as something distinct from biological sex is contributing anything meaningful. If we assume a fundamental equality between men and women as baseline, and make exceptions only when actual biological differences come into play, then what is the point of “gender” (as distinct from sex) exactly? Back in my day “gender” and “sex” were essentially synonyms and the main reason to use “gender” was that “sex” also meant something else…

        • albatross11 says:

          So, as far as I know, just about every human society we’ve seen has some level of distinct gender roles. In muscle-powered societies, these tend to be more stark; in machine/computer powered societies, less so. But I don’t know of any society that doesn’t have an important social concept of gender, one that matters in everyday life.

          This suggests that we’re dealing with a pretty fundamental part of the human mind and human cultures, here. Allowing some flexibility (people who see themselves in gender terms as the opposite of their biological sex, people who want to be considered intermediate and addressed as “they”, men who prefer ice skating and Jane Austen to football and Zane Grey, etc.) still makes a lot of sense on personal freedom and basic kindness grounds. But that concept seems likely to emerge as an important one in any human society.

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            No disagreement about the existence of gender roles.

            The issue is whether these map to anything useful beyond “differences between the sexes” – which are rooted in biology.

            In other words, if we take biology out of the equation, is the concept of gender roles meaningful at all?

          • Enkidum says:

            The issue is whether these map to anything useful beyond “differences between the sexes” – which are rooted in biology.

            In other words, if we take biology out of the equation, is the concept of gender roles meaningful at all?

            Those two statements don’t appear to be equivalent.

            Sex (biology) differences appear to make a more-or-less even split of humans into two groups (intersex and other complications aside).

            What roles and requirements apply to those two groups are dependent on the fact that those groups exist at all. So in that sense, gender differences are rooted in biology – they are attached to biologically-meaningful groups.

            But that doesn’t mean that the specific gender roles, expectations, and requirements have anything beyond that to do with the underlying biology at all.

            (This doesn’t mean that I think that in every case, biology is irrelevant to gender roles. Just that there’s a very wide space in which it might not be.)

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            No, I get that. What I’m asking is: why would we even want to keep two groups distinct if there exists no objective distinction?

            The issue of gender, divorced from biology, is that it requires the maintenance of a social division even if the objective factors that caused it to manifest have since disappeared.

            As I point out upthread, the trend has been to remove distinctions between the sexes unless we have a good reason to keep them. Suggesting that women should “look like women”, “act like women” or “dress like women” is going to get you a lot of pushback – or more likely a push out that will make James Damore look like Employee of the Year.

          • Enkidum says:

            The issue of gender, divorced from biology, is that it requires the maintenance of a social division even if the objective factors that caused it to manifest have since disappeared.

            Huh? Have the biological differences that cause us to make the categories “men” and “women” disappeared? I’m sincerely confused about what you’re trying to argue.

            There are, most of us agree, two mostly-distinct biological categories male and female. This is what I assume you mean by “objective”. So you’d want to keep the two groups distinct (in the sense that you recognize there are two groups) for that reason, surely?

            The fact that male and female are legitimate non-cultural categories seems mostly orthogonal to questions about gender roles (other than that, as we both agree, if male/female did not exist, neither would gender roles).

            I think you’re right that the trend has largely been to erase differences where possible. But unless you think that this process has gone as far as it can go, it seems there’s an important role for the difference between gender and sex.

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            Have the biological differences that cause us to make the categories “men” and “women” disappeared?

            The only reason we’re discussing “gender” here is because of the proposition that the distinction be applied where the biological differences are absent, such as men v. MtF, or exist where they shouldn’t – as with women v. MtF.

          • Enkidum says:

            Two responses:

            1) There are many uses of gender vs sex which are not specifically dealing with trans issues (the vast majority of such uses, in fact). So if the gender/sex distinction is irrelevant to trans issues, that says nothing at all about the overall usage of the terms “gender” and “sex”.

            2) It’s not at all clear that there are no relevant biological differences between trans and cis-gendered individuals. What little of the science I know suggests that there are (some).

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            Ad 1) Where such uses exist, the sex/gender distinction is meaningless because they are synonyms. We can perfectly well say that woman means “biologically female” and man means “biologically male” and nothing changes. That was the default state.

            Ad 2) It isn’t sufficient to demonstrate there exist biological differences between a man and transwoman (I hope I’m getting the terminology right). We would have to demonstrate that the differences are greater than those between a transwoman and a woman. I seriously doubt this to be the case, because the readily apparent differences (absent medical intervention) are pretty big.

            This doesn’t mean we can’t have a language that recognizes the differences (in all relevant aspects), just that the concept of “gender” as presently being proposed isn’t fit for that purpose.

          • Enkidum says:

            Ad 1) Where such uses exist, the sex/gender distinction is meaningless because they are synonyms. We can perfectly well say that woman means “biologically female” and man means “biologically male” and nothing changes. That was the default state.

            But… you’ve agreed several times now that there are (or at least have been) important differences applied to the sexes that are not biologically-grounded. Ergo… we want a way to talk about the aspects of being male/female that are biologically-grounded, and those that are not. I am utterly unable to see the point you’re trying to make here, as you seem to be agreeing that the distinction exists, and that it is (or has been) important, but for some reason saying that making that explicit in language is bad.

            Ad 2) We would have to demonstrate that the differences are greater than those between a transwoman and a woman.

            Why?

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            We would have to demonstrate that the differences are greater than those between a transwoman and a woman.

            Why?

            If we want a categorization to be useful, we want the members we assign to a category to be, on the one hand, alike in some way and, on the other hand, unlike members we assign to another category. If this doesn’t hold, the categorization isn’t useful.

            We’re in agreement that pre-existing distinctions between men and women are based on the fact that men and women are prima facie different (for biological reasons). Therefore, when faced with an individual human and needing to assign them to the category of “man” or “woman”, we must compare them to the archetypical “man” or “woman” and put them in the category where they are:
            a. less unlike the other members of that category,
            b. less alike the members of the opposite category.

            If we don’t do it like this, our categorization becomes useless, because membership in a category tells us nothing about the properties of the member.

            A definition of “woman” as “someone who can get pregnant” may not capture every single woman in existence (but that can be fixed through tweaking the definition), but it tells us something useful about women as a category. The same holds for a definition of “man” as “someone who can get others pregnant”. Depending on social cirumstances we may introduce further categorizations such as “eunuch” – “someone who can no longer get others pregnant, due to surgical intervention”, etc.

            “Transwoman” and “transman” may be useful categorizations, provided the definitions are narrow enough to tell us something useful about any particular member of such a category. Folding these into the categories of “woman” and “man” doesn’t make those categories more useful – quite the opposite – because we can no longer rely on the categorization to predict certain properties of its members that we could previously.

            Ergo… we want a way to talk about the aspects of being male/female that are biologically-grounded, and those that are not.

            Do we? Primary and secondary sexual characteristics aren’t sufficient?

            We already have a way to talk about aspects of being a man/woman that are and aren’t biologically grounded. We’re doing it right now.

            Consider this: when talking about “sex” (the biological differences) we’re pretty sure what we’re talking about. What is the ambit of “gender”, exactly, other than “everything that isn’t sex”? (Again, biological differences, not the act.)

          • Enkidum says:

            What is the ambit of “gender”, exactly, other than “everything that isn’t sex”?

            To add to your definition in a way I think you’d agree, gender means something like “everything that is expected of individuals perceived to be of a given sex that is not directly caused by the (biological) fact that they are this sex”.

            (Actually I think it’s substantially messier than that, but that seems a good enough parsing for the sake of this argument, and one that I think you at least agree with.)

            So…. that’s a lot of words for a concept that we both seem to agree is important. When we have concepts like that, it often makes sense to have a single word to refer to them. Like, say, “gender”. Still not sure why you think that’s a problem.

          • Enkidum says:

            Incidentally at this point I don’t think we’re in huge disagreement about the trans-specific aspects of this conversation, or at least our disagreements have more to do with the meta-level of what “categorization” or “definition” in and of itself means, and I don’t think that’s an argument I wish to get into.

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            [G]ender means something like “everything that is expected of individuals perceived to be of a given sex that is not directly caused by the (biological) fact that they are this sex”.

            That’s what I got from the beginning, but my question is “why is this a useful term to have”?

            It’s not useful for talking about “things expected of you as a woman”, because that includes both the biologically-based and not.

            It’s not useful for talking about “things unreasonably expected of you as a woman”, because even motherhood isn’t in the “reasonably expected” category (which is essentially an empty set). We don’t tell women to have kids any more than we tell them to get back in the kitchen.

            Where would the biological/not-biological distinction be important enough to need a separate term for it?

          • Enkidum says:

            I mean, I guess if your point really is that there is nothing expected of you because of your sex, then yes, it’s not a very useful term. But I think you’d agree that in the Bad Old Days which came to an end when gender equality was achieved, there were things expected of you because of your sex, some of which were (a) not biologically-grounded, and (b) not fair. In which case, at least historically, the distinction is/was important.

            And of course, as you’re well aware, there are an awful lot of people who would disagree that there are no more expectations placed on people because of their sex in today’s world. So for them at least, the distinction remains useful.

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            For what? The correct response to an unreasonable expectation is “Screw you! I’m not gonna do that!” not “This is a ‘gender’ expectation, and therefore an artificial social construct, therefore go fuck yourself. However, if it were based on a legitimate aspect of my biology, that is: ‘sex-based’, I would be more than happy to.”

            The concept of “gender” doesn’t help in any way.

          • uau says:

            So for them at least, the distinction remains useful.

            We don’t have separate words for most such situations. For example, in many cultures being the eldest son of a family has placed very heavy social expectations on you. Should we have clearly separate language to describe the social role of “eldest son” as opposed to the physical fact of being the oldest male descendant of a particular couple?

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            Should we have clearly separate language to describe the social role of “eldest son” as opposed to the physical fact of being the oldest male descendant of a particular couple?

            Possibly we need a term to specifically differentiate the social role from the brute fact.

            However, we probably don’t, because what the eldest son (and his parents) care about are the actual obligations. “Because you’re the eldest son” is reason enough (in that culture, naturally).

          • DinoNerd says:

            @Enkidum

            Huh? Have the biological differences that cause us to make the categories “men” and “women” disappeared? I’m sincerely confused about what you’re trying to argue.

            They never existed in the first place, in the sense in which you are implying. There’s precious little that can be said about all men and no women, or vice versa, even if you restrict this to men and women who are in no way intersex, let alone transgendered.

            What you have is statistical correlations that have hardened into categories. In reality, while the average man is stronger than the average woman, there’s some woman stronger than most men, and some man weaker than most women. Some non-intersex women never could get pregnant; some non-intersex men never could sire a child. Some men lactate; some women do not.

            Not many, in any specific case. But the farther you go from biology, the more exceptions you find. For every “women can’t do math”, I can find some man whining about how math is too hard and shouldn’t be a normal college requirement. Women that don’t care about fashion are so common we have special words for them; also words for men who do, mostly suggesting they are sexually abnormal.

            I’m in favour of letting all people do what they are good at, rather than saying “has penis; must be solider” or “has uterus; must be houskeeper” or whatever is currently part of the local definition.

            If this results in more women being housekeepers – because they want to or men being soldiers, ditto, that’s fine with me.

            But there never was a world where all women were better suited to be houskeepers, and all men better suited to be soldiers. Not even with people trained from childhood only in the skills etc. appropriate to their particular category.

          • Enkidum says:

            They never existed in the first place, in the sense in which you are implying. There’s precious little that can be said about all men and no women, or vice versa, even if you restrict this to men and women who are in no way intersex, let alone transgendered.

            Very few categories outside of formal logic courses or purely man-made distinctions are of that sort. Doesn’t mean categorizations aren’t useful.

        • Baeraad says:

          For similar reasons, it makes more sense to send your men to war than women. Leaving aside the fact that they’re – on average – bigger, stronger and more aggresive, you can afford to lose a lot more of them before your long-term population perspectives become grim. The “reproductive capacity” of your women (how many children they are able to give birth to over a period) is the bottleneck to maintaining your population at a given level. You will therefore want to keep them sheltered from anything that may reduce their number (and thus, reproductive capacity).

          You know, I keep hearing this brought up as a reason for why keeping women from fighting is rational, but how often has this actually been true? Certainly not since the industrial revolution. And even before that… well, sometimes it seems that there has been a people shortage, yes, but just as often (or more often?) it seems like the main problem has been getting enough food for too many hungry mouths out of too little farmland. Sending surplus daughters off to war seems like it would have been the rational thing to do during those times, especially if the purpose of the war was to conquer more farmland. And yet, no one ever seems to have done that.

          I think the “maximise the number of fertile wombs” thing is a deep instinct that springs from the fact that during most of our evolution, living as small bands of hunter-gatherers, that really was the way to ensure tribal survival. Once societies grow to a certain size and complexity, it becomes less of a self-evident priority, but that doesn’t stop it from feeling intuitively obvious that as long as we keep popping out the maximal amount of babies, all will somehow be well.

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            [H]ow often has this actually been true? Certainly not since the industrial revolution.

            In the spirit of “a picture being worth a thousand words”, I give you the population pyramid for Russia, 1950 (can’t easily find earlier ones). The effects of the two World Wars and all the intervening turmoil are clearly visible (note especially the 10-14 – pre-WWII; 5-9 – right smack in the middle; and 0-4 – post-WWII cohorts).

            ETA:
            For an even starker perspective, advance the graph forward an see the post-war baby boom first hand – all in spite of the fact that you’ve just lost around 35% of potential fathers.

            ETA II:
            “Too many mouths to feed” is not an issue if you’ve just seen a major population decrease. “Not enough hands to do the work” is, especially if your country has just been ruined by several years of war.

          • Ohforfs says:

            Is your point that the post war baby boom is due to having more women? Because that doesn’t follow…

            What you say supports the opposite conclusion, lack of men (not enough hands to work, men being taken away to conduct war, or, tbh, general insecurity in wartime)

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            My point is that losing men doesn’t diminish your ability to rebuild your population after the war (or other disturbance). Losing women will.

          • silver_swift says:

            Were polygamous relationships a thing in post WW2 Russia? If not, I don’t quite follow how the population distribution between men and women would have a large impact on population growth.

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            You don’t need polygamous relationships for people to have sex with one another. There’s a reason for the Sixth (Seventh) Commandment.

          • ana53294 says:

            Lots of single mothers, presumably (some of them widows). Also, kids abandoned in orphanages.

        • Enkidum says:

          If we assume a fundamental equality between men and women as baseline, and make exceptions only when actual biological differences come into play, then what is the point of “gender” (as distinct from sex) exactly?

          Because we want a word that applies to the different roles and expectations that apply to the sexes, regardless of whether they are biological or not?

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            Do we? No, seriously, why?

            If the distinction applies to sexes, sex is sufficient proxy, regardless of whether the differences are biological or not.

            Women are expected to X and men are expected to Y works just as well when you understand “women” and “men” as being expressions of sex.

          • Enkidum says:

            So… we say things like “women/females get pregnant”.

            Then we say things like “women/females stay at home and cook dinner for their hard-working husbands”.

            The distinction between sex and gender is precisely to highlight that we say/imply/require/desire a lot of things about women/females or men/males, but that some of these are grounded in biology and some of them are not.

            Obviously, the people who find the distinction most useful in practice are those who think that a non-trivial component of these distinctions are not particularly biologically-grounded.

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            The distinction between sex and gender is precisely to highlight that we say/imply/require/desire a lot of things about women/females or men/males, but that some of these are grounded in biology and some of them are not.

            I don’t find this convincing, if only because we don’t even require the stuff that’s grounded in biology anymore and it would be ill-looked-upon to do so.

            “Women should be having children,” isn’t a message that you can really articulate assertively these days.

            Both “women get pregnant” and “women are home-makers” can be used as either positive or normative statements. Articulated positively, the former is clearly true, while the latter likely false to some degree.

            Articulated normatively, I wouldn’t be surprised to see both being considered equally objectionable (don’t order women around).

          • Enkidum says:

            Then would you agree that the sex/gender distinction was useful up until the historical point at which all non-biologically-grounded expectations placed on individual members of either sex were eliminated from society?

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            No, because we didn’t get a sex/gender distinction (as you understand it) until that process was pretty much done with.

            Per wiki:

            The concept of gender, in the modern sense, is a recent invention in human history. The ancient world had no basis of understanding gender as it has been understood in the humanities and social sciences for the past few decades. The term gender had been associated with grammar for most of history and only started to move towards it being a malleable cultural construct in the 1950s and 1960s.

          • quanta413 says:

            I agree with your claim that terms “sex” and “gender” may be useful separate terms on their own, but I don’t think they actually have these meanings when applied to transgender people. When someone says they are transgender, it isn’t usually used to describe their social role or social expectations applied to them except in one very specific way. All the other implications of “gender” are dropped.

            Imagine I (a biological male) cook more than my wife, cry more often, like stuffed animals more, stay home and take care of the children, and just generally fulfill the female gender expectations while my wife fulfills the male expectations except my wife and I both dress as expected of our biological sex and use pronouns matching our biological sex (only some of these are true, but you get the hypothetical). I’ve never met a person who would say “your gender is female because you fulfill female social roles and expectations” as long as I don’t look or dress in a way that is typically associated with women.

            On the other hand, imagine I grew my hair back out, wore a dress and make-up, and called myself “Shirley” but otherwise fulfilled all the male social roles and expectations (mowing the lawn, working an 8-7 job and ignoring the children, powerlifting, watching football while drinking beer – much less of this is true of me than my other hypothetical) while my wife fulfilled all the female social roles and expectations. As far as I can tell, where I live (if I want to) this will get people to use the feminine pronouns when referring to me, even though all of my social roles and behaviors are typically considered male except my name and appearance.

            Similarly, if a gay couple with kids splits tasks such that one person takes up standard feminine roles and the other the masculine roles, no one generally says that one gay man is of the male gender and the other is of the female gender.

            As far as I can tell, being transgender does not refer to fulfilling any roles or expectations of gender except ones about preferred pronoun and appearance.

            Which makes the idea that the “gender” is supposed to refer to different roles and expectations kind of moot in the context of OP.

        • Ohforfs says:

          The “reproductive capacity” of your women (how many children they are able to give birth to over a period) is the bottleneck to maintaining your population at a given level.

          This is a very common misconception. Granted, this capacaity is one bottleneck in very specific situations like most of XVIIIc North America when it comes to population growth. Or modern industrialized world.

          But most of the time, at least since the agriculture, the bottleneck wasn’t amount of wombs, it was amount of food. Production of which depended on land and labor, and the second was mostly affected by number of men.

          (it wasn’t that counterintuitive to people back then. when starvation loomed it wasn’t men who were first to have their food intake reduced, it was children and women. And often animals were last, at least these that were required next year to till the fields)

          EDIT/ Oh, and the only time i finally decide to voice this though, someone else did that first. (Bearead upthread…)

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            If I’m talking about war, talking about not-war isn’t a good counterargument.

          • Ohforfs says:

            Yes, upthread you were clear about it. I don’t know what to say except that it practice it doesn’t seem to work that way. (it might have something to do with the fact that as late as XVIIIc there was a lot of sanitized infanticide in orphanages, which indicates it was not wombs but other resources that kept population from growing gaster)

            I mean, i am not saying that losing 98% of 1920 age group females wouldn’t be a bigger dent in Russia’s age pyramid as it was for males, but in practice losing males, especially large numbers of them dents population growth as well. Nowadays it’s not as serious as it was before XIXc, i would say.

            On a last note, i don’t know why you think war situation is special. I don’t see a how it is of any consequence compared to, say, famine or natural disaster.

        • uau says:

          There’s nothing in biology that obviously makes women less capable of making political decisions than men, so there’s no reason to disenfranchise women and therefore women can vote.

          Something of an aside to the main topic of this thread, but I think limiting voting to males can be more directly linked to biological differences than this. It’s not only the ability to make political decisions.

          If candidates don’t agree to decide the issue of who will be the boss by a vote (and then respect the result), an alternative can be a civil war. Those are costly. Therefore, it’s good if the loser of an election will typically not have very good chances in a civil war either. “Soldiers vote” is a way to approximate who’d win the war. “All men vote, whether they’re currently working as soldiers or not” is a more general and robust version of that.

          Basically, there’s a reason to give voting power to those who could enforce their view by force of arms anyway, regardless of ability to make political decisions.

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            As an aside to your aside, I’d been thinking a while back that Salic Law may not have been as dumb as it looks for a similar reason, namely: the ability to keep lands within one family.

            (The custom of women entering the spouse’s family isn’t the issue; we could just change the custom. The issue is holding on to your land when someone – possibly your spouse – is trying to take it from you by force.)

          • Ohforfs says:

            Well, historically, the political power did came out of the tip of the spear. Many times and places the people that fought or the people that controlled the people that fought were those who made the political decisions. These circumstances dictated whether it would be monarchy, oligarchy or democracy (to simplify it a lot), across history.

          • A1987dM says:

            That’d make sense if elections routinely resulted in 80%/20% splits, but usually they are much much more like 55%/45%, and it seems unlikely to me that the chances of the 45% faction in a civil war would be *that* bad.

    • DinoNerd says:

      Frankly, this gets complicated. I have no idea what official positions are taken by the TG community, beyond the obvious – that the two cases are not comparable, because their position is that being a man (or woman) has nothing much to do with biological sex (in whatever sense you are using it – appearance of genitalia at birth, appearance of genitalia in puberty, normal secondary sexual characteristics matching both of those, all cells having the same gender related chromosomes [X + either a second X *or* a Y – never single X, or XXY or mosaic])

      Not being a spokesperson for that community, I’ll give my opinion. If the law is giving different rights and responsibilities to people based on their gender – as it legitimately does already based on their age – then we’re already in trouble. If we give more social security to female persons, or more child benefits to the parents of male persons, then we’re already commiting an injustice.

      Round about this point, I expect someone to mention the draft. And I’m going to suggest on the one hand that most drafts are unjust regardless of whether the victims are picked by gender, or age, or lottery, or even based on whether their local politician likes them or not – because the war it’s supporting is probably itself unjust. Forcing people to risk their lives to protect the economic interests of some company or other is closer to murder than to justice. But if you must have a draft [e.g. a case that’s actually defence], you need to draft people based on whether they are capable of fighting – including highly fit bellicose females, and excluding the large number of males incapable of fighting (e.g. for reasons of ill health).

      Obviously my position here also tends to exclude affirmative action based on gender – however construed. I’m an old fashioned liberal/leftist, and not from the US, and while I can imagine cases where Affirmative Action is the least bad remedy for a problem, I also think it’s never going to be a good solution.

      Once we’re no longer discriminating based on gender, we can allow it to be a matter of personal preference/identification without any bad consequences.

      Those for whom the biology matters will presumably inquire – e.g. if they want a partner who is capable of becoming pregnant, or simply have a sexual preference for cis-females. But most of the time, it wouldn’t matter outside of intimate contexts.

      Presumably the sports situation will be handled by leagues having whatever rules make sense to them. Some sports already have weight classes, as well as gender classes. Others have para- versions for people with various disabilities. I see plenty of room for innovation here, that would allow transgender people to compete somewhere, if not everywhere.

    • Guy in TN says:

      Should such demands be respected and met by other people and by the state? If yes, what and where are the limits?

      One difference is that when a state gives child or elderly benefits, it is not because that person is fulfilling a socially constructed role of “old person” or “young person”. But rather, the state is only interested in how many revolutions around the sun your body has existed. Because its the physical age, not the social role, that prevent old and young people from working. For example, if a 45 year old is fulfilling the social role of a 65 year old, he still has the body of a 45 year old, which all the state cares about when giving old-age benefits.

      In contrast, when the state crafts gender-specific policy (which isn’t terribly common, but there are examples), they more often are interested in how people fit into the social roles of “man” and “woman”, rather than whether the chromosomes are XY or XX. For example, women-only train cars. If a burly, masculine, man-presenting biological female steps into one of those cars, its going to have the same negative effect on the passengers as a biological male.

      So in this case the state doesn’t care about XX or XY, its only interested if you are presenting as a man or a woman. But if they were like, subsidizing prostate exams, then I suppose that people without prostates should be ineligible. (I doubt that would be controversial?)

    • thevoiceofthevoid says:

      AFAIK, there are few legal benefits that are tied to gender. I think your analogy falls flat here; your hypothetical trans-agers are trying to obtain social security benefits etc. from government or other agencies. Transgender people aren’t trying to gain monetary benefits, but rather want to feel comfortable in their own bodies and in their social interactions. They do often seek to legally change their names, and if possible their officially recognized genders, but to my understanding this is about confirming and validating their self-image. A friend of mine is actually holding off on doing so since the $300 fee to change her legal name is more than she’s willing to spend at the moment.

      I think the issue of whether transgender women (assigned male at birth) ought to be allowed to participate in women’s sports competitions is an entirely different question from whether we ought to accept transgender people in general. I don’t have a strong opinion on it.

      • Adrian says:

        I think your analogy falls flat here; your hypothetical trans-agers are trying to obtain social security benefits etc. from government or other agencies. Transgender people aren’t trying to gain monetary benefits […]

        The analogy applies as soon as there exist situations where one gender gets preferential treatment, e.g., hiring quotas. Hiring quotas, whether mandated by law or by HR, are getting increasingly common in various countries. Therefore, I don’t think you can just drop this aspect.

        They do often seek to legally change their names, and if possible their officially recognized genders, but to my understanding this is about confirming and validating their self-image.

        So, if I understand you correctly, it would be okay if someone can change their birth date in their passport in order to confirm and validate their self-image, provided that their true birth date determines which social and monetary benefits they receive?

        • thevoiceofthevoid says:

          The analogy applies as soon as there exist situations where one gender gets preferential treatment, e.g., hiring quotas.

          I’m not a fan of hiring quotas–I think the main issue here is the quotas themselves, not the remote possibility of someone identifying as trans to game them. Even if there were people switching their gender on forms solely in an attempt to increase their hireability, they’d be a separate group from the people who are transitioning because of genuine dysphoria. Also, F->M is a thing.

          So, if I understand you correctly, it would be okay if someone can change their birth date in their passport in order to confirm and validate their self-image?

          If there were a myriad of social customs, expectations, and prototypical appearances based on, say, whether someone was born on an odd or an even date, than I’d bite that bullet and let people change their birthdates from odd to even. (Perhaps we’d have to require some evidence that they were sincerely presenting as the opposite divisibility and not attempting to do so for nefarious purposes.)

        • Guy in TN says:

          To step in real quick regarding government documents: items such as passports and driver’s licenses don’t exist for the card-holder’s benefit. They exist to help the people who keep track of things identify you faster.

          Its the reason why they include categories such as “eye color” and “height”. If a police officer needs to identify you quickly, the gender you are presenting as is actually far more useful information than whether you are XX or XY (particularly if the person has undergone sex-reassignment surgery).

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            If a police officer needs to identify you quickly, the gender you are presenting as is actually far more useful information than whether you are XX or XY

            I’m not sure whether any benefits aren’t outweighed by the confusion introduced when your presentation gets penetrated. A pat-down might be all it takes (assuming the person hasn’t undergone sex-reassignment surgery).

            Having your sex in your documents is a useful identifier because it allows us to discard ~50% of people who aren’t you without much effort at all.

            Having gender (that isn’t tied to your sex) is much less useful, because the only thing that allows us to determine gender is presentation. In other words, we need to take the person whose identity is in question at their word that they are a given gender.

            Now – things are different if someone has undergone sex-reassignment surgery. In this case, I wouldn’t be opposed to a mandated change of sex in identifying documents/records. It is a sex-reassignment procedure, after all.

          • zzzzort says:

            I don’t believe I have ever been pat down invasively enough to identify my biological sex. I also think that gender expression is persistent enough, hard enough to fake, and easy to quickly identify to be useful.