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Open Thread 143.25

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1,389 Responses to Open Thread 143.25

  1. albatross11 says:

    This post by Razib Khan is pretty depressing–as I interpret his argument:

    a. Objectivity in science is an ideal that we never reach, but people trying to reach it yields a huge amount of value.

    b. Objectivity in science is under attack by ideologues of various stripes of wokeness.

    c. The scientists who should be responding are mostly either philosophically disarmed by their own liberalism (so even if the attacks seem nonsensical, they can’t bring themselves to disagree) or disdain the kind of philosophical thinking that would let them see the attacks as worth responding to and fight back.

    d. The incentives align with scientists keeping quiet, since outrage mobs can and have wrecked scientific careers for speaking simple truth.

    e. Science as a cultural institution isn’t something that’s guaranteed to keep working. It can be wrecked, and then it will mostly stop working and we’ll just stop getting its benefits. He predicts this will happen.

    I’m not sure I agree–I think it’s easy to over-weight current events, and I doubt that social media will continue to function as a huge multiplier of influence of woke outrage mobs forever. But it’s worth remembering that a lot of institutions in our society (science, the justice system, democratic government, honest and competent civil servants) are not guaranteed to work well by some kind of law of nature–instead, they are fragile and barely work now and would be easy to wreck, and once wrecked they’d be hard to fix.

    • LesHapablap says:

      Scott Aaronson outlines his thought process about a similar situation in his most recent post. He has been petitioned to stop using the term ‘quantum supremacy.’

      As far as science stopping working, some interesting arguments about why it works now (and briefly worked a few millennia ago) from David Deutsch’s Beginnings of Infinity.

      • albatross11 says:

        “Oh, look, some people have gotten a lot of attention for a real accomplishment. Let’s see if we can ride on their coattails to get some attention without having to do any useful work.”

    • Machine Interface says:

      Even Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia had scientific breakthroughs. We’ll be fine.

      • GearRatio says:

        I’m confused – did Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia have outrage mobs that silenced scientists for non-scientific reasons? Were either notably anti-science in a way that’s comparable to this? I suspect I know the answer to the first, but I honestly don’t know the second.

        • BBA says:

          How am I supposed to compare “outrage mobs” to the SS and the gulag?

          And it’s not like being “anti-science” is anyone’s goal. The goal is political, and as long as the science doesn’t conflict with the political goal, or can be reframed in a way that doesn’t conflict, it’ll be fine, no matter what system you’re in.

          Of course, I’m a lot more cynical about how true “science” really is than most people around here. It’s all the product of us flawed human beings, and necessarily reflects our flaws. The marketplace of ideas can stay irrational longer than any of us can stay alive.

        • Machine Interface says:

          Both countries engaged in purges destined to get rid of jewish/bourgeois “pseudo-science”, respectively, which often meant rejecting established contemporary theories and replacing them by alternative ideologically theories of dubious scientific values. And this was generally coming from ideologically aligned scientists of lesser grade trying to gain favors with the regime.

          This was occasionally successful, but many times the leadership saw through the tactics and alternative theories and their proponents were brushed aside. For instance there was a campaign of harassment in Nazi Germany trying to discredit the science of Heisenberg as that of a “white jew”. This was cut short when Himmler, who was a childhood friend of Heisenberg, basically told everyone to cut that crap out.

        • Jaskologist says:

          Soviet Russia did severe damage to scientific progress, and purged their engineers to boot. Read up on Lysenkoism and the rest of Soviet Scientific Atheism.

          (Solzhenitsyn has a section in Gulag Archipelago about the damage they did to genetic research, but I don’t think I’ll have time to circle back and post it.)

        • Viliam says:

          Also, in countries like Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia the following happens often: Someone uses their political skills to get a position as a “scientist”, without actually being good at science. Then the person uses their political power to define what is “scientific” and what is not, and anyone who disagrees gets a bullet. This can happen on a large scale (Lysenko), but probably happens hundred times more often on a local scale — when one such idiot paralyses their university or research institute, but the rest of the country doesn’t care about him, although they too may have their own local idiots.

          Imagine that someone like Stephen Jay Gould would get the power to send everyone who disagrees with him, and their entire family, to the extermination camp. How much would science progress in fields where he has a strong opinion?

          • Aapje says:

            I would argue that even in the West, certain ‘scientific’ fields are already dominated by people whose political skills are the reason for their success, while scientific ability are at best secondary.

      • albatross11 says:

        They didn’t quite break science in either Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union, but they certainly damaged it quite a bit, slowed its progress, and purged a bunch of good scientists with the wrong politics. Copying that seems like a pretty bad outcome.

        And it’s not clear that where we are now is very similar. Social media is a new thing in the world–it’s not nearly as horrible as secret police and death camps, but it may be even more corrosive to some important things.

        • LesHapablap says:

          The replication crisis predates all the woke stuff. Even without all the social justice and social media effects, how well is science working?

          Vaping and plastic straws come to mind as non-woke examples of how the system of media, government and science has no objectivity at all and is just carried along on moral panics and mass hysteria.

          • Aapje says:

            Plastic straws have a woke element. Most of the plastic pollution comes from second and third world nations. The concern about straws is ineffective, but blames the right (white) people.

        • Machine Interface says:

          My point is that, even in severel degraded environment for science, science and discoveries still happen. More slowly, not as much, not as in many domain, but still, it happens. We don’t live in the “Hard to Be a God” universe where a bunch of religious fanatics can just decide to cancel the Renaissance and kill anyone who wear glasses.

          And contemporary social media are orders of magnitude less damaging than whatever the nazi or soviets did. So to reitterate: we’ll be fine.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Social media has democratized lots of things, including reigns of terror. Any useful science, like any useful journalism, is probably going to piss someone off. If you pissed off 100 random people in the US, it used to be irrelevant. Now those 100 people can organize and engage in harassment campaigns.

            The antivaxxers is the playbook I’m seeing here. It was easy enough to realize that they are wrong, and plenty of science to easily back it up, but if it is something esoteric, like whether men or women need bigger doses of a drug, there will be no countervailing force. (I’m also thinking how conspiracy theorists are going after ordinary people now. It’s not enough to complain that the government is doing something: it’s the family of dead kids that are secretly crisis actors.)

  2. albatross11 says:

    Twitter comment by Charles Murray: He says he hasn’t been invited to any new speaking engagements at large, liberal universities since the Middlebury talk (shut down by protesters, he and one of the hosting professors were mobbed and she was hospitalized).

    I wonder if this is generally true, or just true in his case. If you think having invited speakers at a university can provide any educational/intellectual benefits, then this seems like an instance where the heckler’s veto (violent protests that cause the authorities to pre-emptively censor some speech to avoid trouble) has successfully shut down some opportunities for education and intellectual growth. Note that Murray is a serious social scientist with decades of influential books and research under his belt, who keeps writing books that drive some important intellectual conversations. If anyone is a reasonably person to invite for a university talk, he’s surely on the list.

    • Red-s says:

      I wonder if this is generally true, or just true in his case.

      I don’t think it’s even true in his case. Middlebury has ~2500 undergraduates. I saw him speak in 2018 at a local university with enrollment three times that number.

      • Aapje says:

        @Red-s

        I don’t see where it is claimed that Middlebury is a large university. The claim seems to be that the event at Middlebury has made large universities stop inviting him.

    • broblawsky says:

      No institution is under an obligation to invite pseudoscientists like Murray to speak publically.

      • Aapje says:

        He is no more of a pseudoscientists than the scientists that they do invite. The main differentiator seems to be his politics.

      • albatross11 says:

        No institution is obligated to invite anyone to speak. But if the reason most institutions won’t invite a speaker is because there’s a movement that organizes violent protests wherever that speaker goes, and the institution doesn’t want the heartache, that seems pretty bad. It is, in fact, exactly the heckler’s veto, and it’s a way we give people the power to silence other people.

        Next year, suppose ROTC students and College Republicans start showing up and having violent protests/riots every time someone critical of the war on terror is invited to give a talk on a college campus, and the result is that universities decide not to invite those speakers anymore to avoid the hassle. Doesn’t that sound like a pretty bad outcome?

      • Viliam says:

        I suppose that an expert on feminist glaciology would be welcome to speak as long as they desire.

    • Viliam says:

      Stupid question, I suppose, but why aren’t students who physically attack someone automatically expelled from the university?

      (Yeah, I assume we all know the answer, but I would like someone on the politically correct side of the history to write it openly.)

  3. albatross11 says:

    Andrew Sullivan wrote a really fascinating piece on Boris Johnson here. I don’t know a ton about British politics, but this seemed quite informative and interesting to me, and left me with a better picture of who BoJo is.

    • broblawsky says:

      As I think has already been discussed, Johnson’s victory is actually pretty historically normal, albeit unusual in its magnitude – the Tories have won 8 out of 11 UK general elections since 1979. The UK’s default government is Tory. The question at that point isn’t why the Tories win an election, it’s why Labor manages to win in the (rare) event that they actually succeed.

  4. johan_larson says:

    Is there any agreement on what is the third most important day of observance in Christianity? Easter and Christmas are obviously the two big ones, but what’s third?

    • Silverlock says:

      There isn’t any sort of official listing that I know of — who would be the officials, anyway? — but I would say Good Friday would be it.

      Actually, I would say Good Friday should be number one, but it doesn’t seem to be celebrated that way.

    • dodrian says:

      If we’re taking Holy Week as a single observance, then I would say the third most important is Pentacost, though I could accept Ash Wednesday as well. Ash Wednesday gets bonus points for being a widely celebrated observance that doesn’t fall on a Sunday (unlike Pentacost, Trinity Sunday, Palm Sunday, First Sunday of Advent, etc).

      • Nick says:

        Michaelmas always appears in older literature as a holiday, but was that just because it was a convenient end of term one? Sounds like a @Deiseach question.

        • Deiseach says:

          I’d definitely go with Pentacost, as dodrian suggests. Ranking would be:

          (1) Easter (this includes the Triduum starting with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Maundy Thursday and concluding with the Easter Vigil Mass on Holy Saturday/Easter Sunday) – the celebration of our salvation by the redeeming death of Jesus

          (2) Pentecost – the descent of the Holy Ghost and the birthday of the Church

          (3) Christmas – the feast of the Incarnation. Easter has always been more highly ranked, and it’s more that the secular celebrations around Christmas have given us an inflated view of its importance (granted, you can’t have Easter without Christmas, but Easter is the culmination of the Grand Plan of Salvation).

          Personally? I’d rank occasions like All Saints’ and All Souls’ Days next, but there are a lot of feast days and there’s arguments to be made that the ones around the solstices/equinoxes would be important too – hence Midsummer’s Day being the feast associated with St John the Baptist, and Michaelmas (the feast of St Michael and All Angels) with the end of September as one of the Quarter Days in the civil calendar.

          But certainly in mediaeval times, at least in the British Isles, a very important day (and one that in modern times has really fallen from its past high station) was Lady Day, or the traditional start of the New Year – the Feast of the Annunciation on March 25th (it’s no coincidence Tolkien has all the climactic action happening on that date in the Lord of the Rings).

          Marian feastdays are/were very important, especially the Feast of the Assumption on August 15th. Basically, depending on (a) what denomination you mean and (b) local custom, what are the very important days of the liturgical calendar after Christmas/Easter/Pentecost vary.

          • albatross11 says:

            I think for Christianity as a whole:

            a. Easter Sunday
            b. Holy Week (Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday)
            c. Pentacost
            d. Christmas
            e. Many other events that Catholics celebrate on a date, and other churches mostly don’t.

            I think all Christians would agree on the importance of many other events that Catholics have a feast day for–for example, the baptism of Jesus is obviously a really important event, as is the ascension of Jesus into heaven, the temptation in the desert (which is celebrated during Lent). There are other important events that don’t get a Holy Day of Obligation in the Church, but still are milestones that probably all Christians agree were important: the calling of the original apostles, sending the apostles out, the appearance of Moses and Elijah with Jesus up on the mountain, etc.

            In Catholicism, we have (as Deisieach pointed out) several important holidays involving Mary–the Solemnity of Mary, the Annunciation, the Immaculate Conception[1], the feast of Our Lady of Guadaloupe, etc. At least the Annunciation and Visitation (where Mary visits Elizabeth) are also recognized by all Christian churches as important, though Protestants don’t put Mary in as critical a place as Catholics (and I think Orthodox churches) do.

            ETA: A pretty good outline of what Catholics think are the critical bullet points of the story of the Gospels and early church can be found in the mysteries of the Rosary–the stories from the bible (plus a couple extra ones inferred theologically) you’re supposed to contemplate while praying the Rosary. Those are:

            The Annunciation
            The Visitation
            The Nativity
            The Presentation in the Temple
            The Finding in the Temple
            The Agony in the Garden
            The Scourging at the Pillar
            The Crowning with Thorns
            The Carrying of the Cross
            The Crucifixion and Death
            The Resurrection
            The Ascension
            The Descent of the Holy Spirit
            The Assumption *
            The Coronation of Mary *
            The Baptism of Christ in the Jordan +
            The Wedding Feast at Cana +
            Jesus’ Proclamation of the Coming of the Kingdom of God +
            The Transfiguration +
            The Institution of the Eucharist +

            * These two are not in the Bible directly, and I don’t think Protestants believe in them.

            + These are newly added, so they’re intended for a modern audience. Still, they seem like really critical points in the story of the New Testament!

            I think of this as a list of things the early Church wanted its mostly illiterate and superstitious members to learn and remember, even though almost none of them could read the bible.

            [1] Note for non-Catholics: The immaculate conception refers to the conception of Mary without original sin. Non-catholics always assume it refers to the conception of Jesus without original sin.

          • dodrian says:

            Would you not rank Ash Wednesday? Not as a celebration of course, but as an “important day of observance?” After Easter/Christmas it’s probably had the most effect on the secular calendar (Mardi Gras), along with All Hallow’s Eve.

    • brad says:

      In the Jewish calendar it’s Yom Kippur. As I understand Christian theology it’s Jesus’ death, not resurrection, that replaces it. So that would point to Good Friday.

      • DragonMilk says:

        You don’t mean calendar-wise or that Yom Kippur is third most important right? (If so, what are 1 and 2 for Jews?)

        Easter Sunday is definitely biggest day since that’s why the “Sabbath” day got moved to Sunday for Christians even though it’s the first rather than last day of the week.

        Odd to rank order days imo

        • brad says:

          No I don’t mean anything about the calendar. Sorry if my post was confusing. I’ll try again.

          For Jews Yom Kippur is the most important. It’s the holiday where atonement is made for sins. My understanding of Christian theology is that as of the moment of Jesus’ death atonement for sins no longer happen on Yom Kippur but instead happens through Jesus. If that’s right, Good Friday could be seen as a replacement for Yom Kippur and this is an argument (albeit perhaps not a very good one) for the proposition that Good Friday is the most important holy day.

    • SamChevre says:

      In Catholic and Orthodox practice, particularly important feasts make the week after them especially important. In Catholic practice, they also have separate readings for the different Masses. (Christmas Eve, Christmas night, Christmas morning, for example – on a regular feast all three would have the same readings.) IN Orthodox practice, the following week is a fast-free week.

      By the standard, the next most important is Pentecost.

    • DragonMilk says:

      I’m not aware that Christians have a rank order of calendar days…

  5. albatross11 says:

    Interesting story about a self-isolated religious community moving into a small Kansas town here..

  6. proyas says:

    Has anyone done empirical studies to find out which paintball guns are the best? The reviews all seem based on hearsay, and the assumption that more expensive guns are automatically better. Nothing seems to have changed since I did research to buy my first marker 17 years ago.

  7. johan_larson says:

    Our friends with the spaceships the size of small moons have shown up again just in time for the holidays, and in the spirit of the season, they have given us a gift: one kilogram of antimatter. It’s perfectly safe, stored in a high-tech container. And the container can be used to transfer the antimatter into other containers (also thoughtfully provided).

    What should we do with this gift?

    • Phigment says:

      We make it the official standard of measure kilogram.

      I’m assuming the aliens gave us exactly a kilogram, not just a scoop of antimatter about the size of a kilogram, and their measurements are likely to be more precise than ours.

      And if it ever changes mass, that’ll be really obvious.

      • mdet says:

        How useful would that actually be? We know it’s a perfect exact kilogram, but we’d still have to measure it and compare it to other things in order to use kg as a measurement, in which case we’ve just introduced our measurement imprecision back in. Also, might be difficult to use and measure if it’s made of antimatter

        • Phigment says:

          It wouldn’t be all that useful, but it would be awesome.

          And it would show our alien friends that we treasure their gift. It’s a public display of appreciation, in keeping with the Christmas season. Like wearing the sweater your aunt gave you.

      • A1987dM says:

        The kilogram was officially redefined in terms of the Planck constant a few months ago.

      • Radu Floricica says:

        And if it ever changes mass, that’ll be really obvious.

        Just want to say that this really tickled my funny bone.

      • The kilogram of antimatter is presumably in a container that weighs something. Removing it from the container is likely to rapidly reduce its mass, as well as having other undesirable effects.

        So how do you use it as a standard?

        • Aapje says:

          Assuming that all containers that you’ve been provided weigh the same, you don’t have to remove it from the container. You can just measure the difference between the full and an empty container.

    • bullseye says:

      Attempt the reverse engineer the containers.

      • johan_larson says:

        I assume the containers are more like magnetic confinement fusion reactors, and less like glass jars.

        • Protagoras says:

          Nonetheless, to perform as described they pretty much have to be better than what we currently have. And similarly the anti-matter itself is not in sufficient quantities to do any kind of serious work, so as others have said using it for research is clearly the way to go. Not sure what kind of research, and anyway the results of the early research would influence what we’d want to do next.

    • pancrea says:

      Wikipedia says: “The reaction of 1 kg of antimatter with 1 kg of matter would produce 1.8×10^17 J (180 petajoules) of energy (by the mass–energy equivalence formula, E=mc2).

      A random homework help site says the United States uses 2*10^20 joules per year, so if we built a power plant for this it would power the US for eight hours.

      Wikipedia also notes: “Isolated and stored anti-matter could be used as a fuel for interplanetary or interstellar travel… Since the energy density of antimatter is higher than that of conventional fuels, an antimatter-fueled spacecraft would have a higher thrust-to-weight ratio than a conventional spacecraft.”

      So let’s do that.

      • Radu Floricica says:

        Yeap, my thought as well. Not much in terms of raw energy, but might be useful as mobile energy storage or, well, obviously weapons.
        We can probably make a water-powered spacecraft that can mine asteroids. This alone will change quite a lot of industries and maybe even jumpstart space industrialization itself.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      If the bit about other containers means it can be divided into smaller quantities, then it can be used for study and power generation.

      • Lambert says:

        Even 1g to prod would probably revolutionise some fields of physics.

        I don’t have time to do the maths right now, but the rest ought probably to be used to send small-ish probes across the solar system or whatever.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      Use it to destroy the aliens.

      • Protagoras says:

        I thought of destroying the aliens when we had the previous question that seemed to open up the possibility of getting the space battleship Yamato. But while the wave motion gun might be useful against the aliens, a kilogram of antimatter would surely not be enough to destroy them. My Fermi estimate suggests you get a blast not that much bigger than the Tsar Bomba from 1 kg of antimatter, and I expect you need a lot bigger than Tsar Bomba to take out even one moon-sized spaceship.

  8. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Particles show unexpected clumping in water of varied densities. It’s a big deal and it was discovered accidentally.

    So, how far would AI have to be developed so that it could notice unexpectedness and start investigating, or at least bring it to people’s attention?

  9. Deiseach says:

    Hello, poppets!

    Music recommendations, this one spurred by listening to the morning show on our national classical music station all this week, with the Christmas music playing, and they played this one on Friday – Leonard Cohen, You Want It Darker.

    Great music, great musician, God rest the man.

    And as an unintentional counterpoint, as we’re counting down Advent to the Big Day, today is both the feast of St Thomas the Apostle (Doubting Thomas) and in the sequence of the O Antiphons for the last seven days of Advent, O Oriens/O Morning Star (O Daybreak) – in the German version by Arvo Part O Morgenstern.

    From darkness to the dawn 🙂

  10. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Christianity Today Calls for Trump’s Impeachment This is a major evangelical magazine/website, though I think it doesn’t appeal to the majority of evangelicals.

    Still, it took the editor a long time to come to this conclusion. Thoughts about whether it indicates or might lead to a shift against Trump among a significant number of evangelicals?

    • HeelBearCub says:

      though I think it doesn’t appeal to the majority of evangelicals.

      It was started by Billy Graham and he was actively involved with it into at least the 2000s, I think. It’s hardly a non-central example of Christian Evangelical publications.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      “President Pence” does sound appealing to evangelicals, I’m sure.

      • hls2003 says:

        Not really. After caving on religious liberty in Indiana to a few randos on Twitter, Mike Pence is best understood as a useless pool noodle propped up with a broomstick.

    • BBA says:

      I don’t read Christianity Today, being an coastal elitist atheist Jew myself, but I understand they’re about as liberal as Jeff Sessions. Which I guess is the point – nowadays Jeff Sessions is a filthy lib because he disagreed with Trump once, that’s how it’s defined in the Red Bubble.

      So I expect evangelicals to keep backing Trump, and CT to lose most of their subscribers but carry on as a thin shadow of what they once were, much like mainline Protestantism. Or Reform/Conservative Judaism for that matter.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Red Bubble

        Damn. Now it’s problematic to get great T-shirts?

        /s for clarity

      • SamChevre says:

        I’d say that Conservative Judaism is a good analogy for Christianity Today. 50 years ago, it was very significant, but polarization has moved away from it–now the Evangelical norm is comparable to the modern Orthodox.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        There are clearly some Republicans and some evangelicals who are opposed to Trump but reluctant so say so in public. It’s not obvious how many there are.

      • Jeff Sessions is a filthy lib because he disagreed with Trump once, that’s how it’s defined in the Red Bubble.

        That’s not an accurate description of the red bubble. I have one foot in that bubble, and while some are mindlessly supportive of Trump despite his failure to implement his agenda, there are many who see the reality and while they still back Trump against the Democrats, will not go any farther than that. It should be noted that Sessions is running for the Senate in 2020, and is leading is every poll he has been included in:

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2020_United_States_Senate_election_in_Alabama#Polling

        • albatross11 says:

          Is there good polling data on what fraction of evangelicals:

          a. Support Trump wholeheartedly?

          b. Support Trump because at least he’s better than the Democrats on most issues they care about?

          I think there are a lot of isolated demands for moral consistency among people who condemn evangelicals for supporting Trump. Many of the same folks were imploring the liberal end of their own party to hold their noses and vote for Hillary in 2016, despite her hawkish foreign policy and friendly relations with big financial companies, in order to make sure abortion stayed safe and legal and the right people got appointed to the supreme court.

          I also wonder to what extent Trump has deep support among evangelicals, as opposed to from some prominent evangelical leaders who face the same sociopath-friendly selective environment as politicians….

          • brad says:

            Is it fair to have an isolated demand for moral consistency aimed at people that ostentatiously claim that their entire identity is wrapped up in being moral?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Is it fair to have an isolated demand for moral consistency aimed at people that ostentatiously claim that their entire identity is wrapped up in being moral?

            Isn’t that also true of social justice activists, though? The argument against racial insensitivity is a moral one, so blackface should be inexcusable, no?

          • Deiseach says:

            Is there good polling data on what fraction of evangelicals:

            a. Support Trump wholeheartedly?

            b. Support Trump because at least he’s better than the Democrats on most issues they care about?

            Somebody did the work there, but it’s behind academic paywall so here’s the abstract:

            White evangelicals overwhelmingly supported Donald Trump in the 2016 election, producing extensive debate as to who evangelicals are, what it means to be an evangelical in the United States today, and whether the electoral results are surprising or not. This paper offers empirical clarity to this protracted discussion by asking and answering a series of questions related to Trump’s victory in general and his support from white evangelicals in particular. In doing so, the analyses show that the term “evangelical” has not become a synonym for conservative politics and that white evangelical support for Trump would be higher if public opinion scholars used a belief-centered definition of evangelicalism rather than relying on the more common classification strategies based on self-identification or religious denomination. These findings go against claims that nominal evangelicals, those who call themselves evangelicals but are not religious, make up the core of Trump’s support base. Moreover, strong electoral support among devout evangelicals is not unique to the 2016 election but rather is part of a broader trend of evangelical electoral behavior, even when faced with non-traditional Republican candidates. Finally, the paper explores why white evangelicals might support a candidate like Trump. The paper presents evidence that negative partisanship helps explain why devout evangelicals—despite Trump’s background and behaviors being cause for concern—coalesced around his presidential bid. Together, the findings from this paper help make sense of both the 2016 presidential election and evangelical public opinion, both separately and together.

          • quanta413 says:

            Is it fair to have an isolated demand for moral consistency aimed at people that ostentatiously claim that their entire identity is wrapped up in being moral?

            Christians are really big on repeated forgiveness, we are all sinners, Jesus can cleanse anything, God works through sinners too, etc. and evangelicals even more so. And to be fair, are often surprisingly consistent about this. Even Jeffrey Dahmer could find a pastor.

            It’d be one thing if Christians had a doctrine that was different, but it’s just weird to expect Christians to be unusually concerned about orthopraxy. They are explicitly less concerned about it than most groups.

            Frankly I disagree with the idea of a focus on belief over practice, but it’s not my religion.

          • brad says:

            Isn’t that also true of social justice activists, though? The argument against racial insensitivity is a moral one, so blackface should be inexcusable, no?

            I think I’m missing the context here, but sure I’ll bite that bullet. Self righteous prigs of whatever flavor should be called out at the slightest hint of hypocrisy.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @brad

            Justin Trudeau didn’t get canceled for his blackface performances, nor did the Democrat governor of Virginia.

            I think blackface is in extremely poor taste but not the worst thing in the world. I have the sneaking suspicion a Republican would not be so easily forgiven for such a transgression.

          • brad says:

            Where did this “canceled” come from all of a sudden?

            Also, I was correct in assuming that I had missed the context of some culture war kerfuffle or other. Still happy to bite the bullet, though I’m not sure Trudeau or the governor are “social justice activists”. Activists, in my experience, are primarily characterized by not accomplishing anything meaningful.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            brad, we are equally old on this one. “Canceled,” I word I learned from this forum, means “declared persona non grata.” It’s popular with the Kids These Days.

            Trudeau and Northam both did something that should be anathema to left-leaning individuals (wore blackface a decade or three ago), yet they are still politically viable.

            I’m not condemning the left for being okay with these things. I kind of see myself donning a BBA hat here (if that’s okay with BBA) and resigning myself to the fact that everything is awful for everyone forever.

          • RalMirrorAd says:

            IDK if you were asking about the origin of the phrase ‘canceled’ — I think it was in reference to say, you find out a comedian said a racial slur 10 years ago, so now all of his/her shows are canceled.

          • BBA says:

            You can borrow my hat, just be sure to return it (and wash it first) when you’re done with it.

            What those two incidents demonstrate is for all the social clout of the cancel brigade, they have a lot less hard political power than anyone thought. And I (typically) have mixed feelings about that. We all have skeletons in our closets and it’s probably a good thing that having something silly from your past dragged up isn’t always career-ending. In the Virginia case, Northam was a rural centrist and never pretended to be woke. He refused to leave office, the activists couldn’t force him out, he’s ineligible for reelection anyway… fine.

            But the sheer hypocrisy of Trudeau and the Canadian Liberals is stunning to behold. Trudeau’s brand is social justice, up to the point of being the first government in world history to accuse itself of genocide (!!!). But between the blackface incidents, the #MeToo allegation against him, and the SNC-Lavalin affair, any of which would’ve sunk any other politician with Trudeau leading the cancellation mob, it’s obvious that neither he nor anyone else in party leadership gives a damn about their supposed ideals. And they won reelection anyway! I don’t know if it was strategic voting by NDP supporters to prevent a Tory win, or if people actually still support Trudeau despite everything… it could be a lot of things, I wasn’t following the election that closely. But I think it stinks to high heaven.

            It’s fine to be a pragmatist. I personally think I ought to be more pragmatic, maybe that’ll be my New Year’s resolution. But if you’re going to claim to be an idealist, at the very least take your ideals seriously.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            Trudeau and Northam don’t have to be social-justice activists themselves in order for Conrad’s parallel to work: Trump isn’t an evangelical either.

          • albatross11 says:

            The main lesson here, IMO, is that outrage mobs don’t have any power except that granted them by actual decisionmakers. If thousands of Twitter handles demand that someone resign or be fired, and they and their employer ignores the wave of outrage for a couple weeks, it almost always blows over. There are still surely people outraged about whatever thing, but most people don’t actually care or even know about the outrage campaign.

            I think the power of outrage mobs to get people canceled mainly happens when either:

            a. The actual decisionmakers with power or the target panics because they interpret the outrage mob as having more power or representing more people than it really does.

            b. The actual decisionmakers or the target gives in because they’ve been philosophically disarmed by their ideology into thinking that they must go along with this kind of cancel demand whether it’s reasonable or not.

            c. The actual decisionmakers were looking for a reason to cancel someone (often there was a power struggle over the person going on internally), and the outrage mob provides a convenient excuse to finish the matter.

            A million angry messages on Twitter and think pieces on Vox talking about how horrible person X is for their problematic tweet or the photo of them in the same room with a Republican ten years ago or something, by themselves, haven’t got any power at all, and never did have that power.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            The main lesson here, IMO, is that outrage mobs don’t have any power except that granted them by actual decisionmakers.

            Interesting comment. I wonder if this is true? How about boycotts, which are often preceded by outrage mobs? In that case, the decision makers are all the consumers. It is true that 95% of boycotts have no economic effect on the firm (pulled that % out of my butt), but some boycotts have effects.

        • brad says:

          BBA

          What those two incidents demonstrate is for all the social clout of the cancel brigade, they have a lot less hard political power than anyone thought.

          Do I count as anyone? I don’t and wouldn’t expect them to have hard political power because they apparently to not wish to affect meaningful change.

          In California they have no mass transit to speak of, live in big houses with lawns, and you have to drink out of fucking paper straws. That’s the face of contemporary “activism”.

          • thevoiceofthevoid says:

            “Not wishing to effect meaningful change” is a bit strong, but I do agree that activism by its nature tends to focus on simple and visible things rather than important things. Sometimes these overlap and you get the civil rights movement; sometimes they don’t and you get paper straws.

    • sharper13 says:

      I’m not an evangelical, so I could be wrong, but they seem to currently to represent the lefter-wing of evangelicals (They have an article mildly opposing Brexit and another favoring LGBT protections, as examples I found in a quick scan of their site), more prominent by their uniqueness, so I wouldn’t read too much into it.

      • GearRatio says:

        This is a sample size of exactly one, so grain of salt.

        I’ve been classifiable as an evangelical since I was six. I go to church twice a week. Most of the people I know socially are Christians. I live in what is historically a fairly red state. I have everything you want if you are trying to stick someone in the evangelical bucket, but I’ve never heard of this magazine (Billy Graham, obviously, I have heard of).

        I’ve never heard another Christian talk about Christian magazines at all; I have zero recollection of even seeing one in real life. If my particular bubble is at all representative, this will have a near-zero impact; I just don’t think anybody is reading Jesus Weeklies anymore.

        Which brings up an interesting thing; with no evidence to back this up, I suspect the people amplifying this article are probably hoping this is important rather than having any hard evidence it is. Like, think about the thing where the twitter atheist democrats will be like “well, if these christians understood their own book, they’d vote for expansive social programs, it’s clearly what Jesus wanted” but on a much smaller, more niche scale.

        What I love about this, if true (and I wish it were) is it’s sort of this thing where, like, say I could bribe Rachel Maddow or whoever the current niche left media person is right now to say “Trump is awesome, he’s MAGAing it up, everybody vote Trump”. I think you can pretty realistically predict that she wouldn’t actually flip a significant amount of voters; people would just find a new niche left media person to watch who still agreed with their politics.

        But there’s this implied conceit in all the secular talk about this that seems to assume pro-Trump Christians will suddenly go “Wait, a MAGAZINE said he’s bad? Well, I didn’t know that. Warren it is!”. And I love this. I can’t explain exactly why, but something about Christians as a group being so alien that somebody who knows he wouldn’t become a republican if The Atlantic went MAGA assuming this one group of people’s minds works a completely opposite way is great to me.

        • but something about Christians as a group being so alien that somebody who knows he wouldn’t become a republican if The Atlantic went MAGA assuming this one group of people’s minds works a completely opposite way is great to me.

          What that misses is that the somebody in question believes that Evangelicals are uncomfortable about their support of Trump, each of them is doing it in part because the others are, and once it becomes clear that some of them are not it will become possible for more and more of them to switch.

  11. ajakaja says:

    An abstract observation about hypocrisy, separated out from political discussions:

    I feel like “defense by shouting hypocrisy” has drastically increased in usage in the last few years. That’s: Group X does something bad and some people say they should be punished. Defenders of group X say “but look at these other people who did the bad thing! They should be punished!”

    Moreover, I feel like shouting hypocrisy is a weird form of disagreement because you’re basically agreeing that the bad thing is actually bad. eg: Group X does something bad. Group X’s opponents say they should be punished. Group X’s supporters call the opponents hypocrites. Well… so that means they agree that the thing is bad, right? So they should be fine with the punishment, and also looking to punish the other group who did the bad thing as well.

    Okay, sure, no one is surprised that defenders of Group X aren’t going out of their way to punish their own side. But it still seems like the argument ought to be useless. They’re agreeing it’s a bad thing — that’s not an argument against punishing it!

    So that’s two things: does anyone else think they have noticed this becoming more common? And, does anyone agree that it’s kinda jarring to read arguments of this sort because they are basically meaningless?

    • sharper13 says:

      To steelman it a bit, I’d say it’s similar to a claim someone is using an isolated demand for rigor. If someone only thinks something is wrong when their opponent does it, but not when they or their associate does it, then that casts doubt that they actually believe it’s all that inherently wrong, but are instead simply using it as an opportunity to communicate that they don’t like their opponent.

      Of course, typically that’s better as a response of “neither should be punished”, rather than “only your side should be punished”.

      • Dacyn says:

        Not only does it cast doubt on whether their belief is genuine, but it also raises the possibility that maybe they do believe the action is wrong, but they do it anyway because they don’t care much about not doing wrong things. That undermines their trustworthiness in other contexts.

        I think usually the response is “your side first, then we can talk about mine”. Probably if side Y starts self-flagellating then side X will just switch to arguing that it shouldn’t be punished based on Y’s values, but that’s politics.

    • Lambert says:

      See also: Whataboutism.

      It’s a good one for the Cold War, since both sides did a lot of dodgy stuff.

      • cassander says:

        whataboutism is a term much abused these days. It’s meant to refer to irrelevant comparisons, with “stalin killed millions! and are you still lynching negroes?” being the traditional formulation. It’s not intended to dismiss claims like “X is totally unprecedented! Well, what about Y, which looks an awful lot like X?” I’ve seen the term used a lot lately to dismiss any attempt at comparison, enough that it’s become a bit of a pet peeve.

    • ana53294 says:

      No, I don’t think that pointing out hipocrisy means you agree the thing the other group says is bad is actually bad.

      Like when that whatshisname Republican Congressman had a lover who had an abortion got accused of hipocrisy because he was pro-life, that wasn’t because pro-choice people agreed that abortion was bad. It was because he himself did not uphold the standard he wanted to hold for others in his personal life.

      Sometimes it’s a thing both X and Y think it’s bad; sometimes it’s X doing something only X says is bad, but wants to force group Y into the standard too, while Y think it’s not bad, but point out that even group X does it, so it can’t be that bad.

      • Viliam says:

        Hypocrisy is an accusation you can use when you and your opponent have no values in common.

        If you agree on a value, you can accuse your opponent of violating the common value. But it does not make much sense to accuse your opponent of violating your value. Like, yeah, the opponent may even gladly admit that.

        When you accuse your opponent of violating their value, that can hurt them if they care; and even if they don’t really care, you make them look bad in front of their allies in the audience.

        This creates some bad incentives, like people paying more attention to how their opponents are following their values, and ignoring what their supposed allies do. Also, the fewer values you have, the less vulnerable you are, so… it’s a good time to be a psychopath, I guess.

    • meh says:

      its not just agreeing something is bad or not. most shouts of hypocrisy are themselves admissions or examples of hypocrisy

    • HeelBearCub says:

      I feel like “defense by shouting hypocrisy” has drastically increased in usage in the last few years.

      I’m going to attack the premise, here.

      To the extent this is true, it’s merely that you are being exposed to argument. I’d argue that most argument isn’t logically consistent. Have forums like Twitter and Facebook increased argument? Could be. On the other hand, if you watch any discussion about sports, you’ll see that argument is eternal and that logical fallacies abound.

      But, it’s also true that the internet in general makes it easier for two people who disagree to find each other and argue. It also makes it a great deal easier for you, the 3rd party, to see that argument. So I’ll grant the premise, but I think the premise doesn’t actually mean what is implied.

      I think everyone is just exposed to more opportunity for poor argument.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        I think everyone is just exposed to more opportunity for poor argument.

        That’s the truest statement about the internet I’ve ever heard.

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      Sometimes you get a particularly annoying version which I call hypothecrisy— that’s where I don’t actually have an example to hand of you being hypocritical, but I don’t let that stop me from declaring that you would be totally hypocritical in some hypothetical situation that I just made up.

      • GearRatio says:

        Come on, man, like if somebody was threatening to chuck a puppy off a cliff, like you WOULD’T make up a story to calm them down?

    • LesHapablap says:

      When moral relativism reigns supreme, the only sin is hypocrisy

      • Anatid says:

        I was very affected by a passage about that in The Diamond Age:

        “You know, when I was a young man, hypocrisy was deemed the worst of vices,” Finkle-McGraw said. “It was all because of moral relativism. You see, in that sort of a climate, you are not allowed to criticise others-after all, if there is no absolute right and wrong, then what grounds is there for criticism?” […]

        “Now, this led to a good deal of general frustration, for people are naturally censorious and love nothing better than to criticise others’ shortcomings. And so it was that they seized on hypocrisy and elevated it from a ubiquitous peccadillo into the monarch of all vices. For, you see, even if there is no right and wrong, you can find grounds to criticise another person by contrasting what he has espoused with what he has actually done. In this case, you are not making any judgment whatsoever as to the correctness of his views or the morality of his behaviour-you are merely pointing out that he has said one thing and done another. Virtually all political discourse in the days of my youth was devoted to the ferreting out of hypocrisy.” […]

        “We take a somewhat different view of hypocrisy,” Finkle-McGraw continued. “In the late-twentieth-century Weltanschauung, a hypocrite was someone who espoused high moral views as part of a planned campaign of deception-he never held these beliefs sincerely and routinely violated them in privacy. Of course, most hypocrites are not like that. Most of the time it’s a spirit-is-willing, flesh-is-weak sort of thing.”

        “That we occasionally violate our own stated moral code,” Major Napier said, working it through, “does not imply that we are insincere in espousing that code.”

      • LesHapablap says:

        I had completely forgotten about that passage. That’s one of my favorite books so I probably got the idea from there.

  12. Scott Alexander says:

    Preregistering an experiment: a randomized controlled trial of Sleep Support capsules.

    I claim that these make me wake up about an hour earlier than I would otherwise, feeling equally refreshed and ready to start the day. But I’m not sure if this is placebo or not.

    I’ve figured out a way to blind myself to whether I’m taking real capsules or placebo, and I’ll be recording a total of 24 nights of sleep (12 real, 12 placebo). After each night, I’ll try to record:

    1. What time I went to bed
    2. What time I woke up
    3. How subjectively refreshed I felt upon waking
    4. How energetic I ended up being that day (eg took naps vs. did lots of hard work)
    5. How well I remembered my dreams that night

    Time of going to bed will be whenever I turn the lights off. Time of waking up will be whenever I get out of bed and get dressed (since I wake up a bunch of times in the morning and then go back to bed). I am going to try to not look at the clock at all during the night while I’m doing this, so I don’t psych myself into getting up at a specific time. I’m not going to force myself to go to bed at a specific time, because in real life I definitely don’t do that, so I’ll just have to hope that variation averages out or doesn’t matter.

    At the end of the 24 nights, I’ll check how I did. Primary outcomes are length of sleep and time of waking (I suspect my time of waking is only weakly correlated with when I go to sleep, and I’m not sure which one I want to claim the sleep capsules affect). Secondary outcomes are everything else.

    I’m only going to try this on days off (on workdays, I wake up when I’m forced to, regardless of what I’ve taken), so this will take a couple of months to finish. If I haven’t posted about this on SSC by let’s-say-April, somebody ping me.

    • broblawsky says:

      What brand are you using? That might be important. Also, another parameter to try to track might be your level of fatigue on going to bed, and an important parameter to control might be your light exposure before going to sleep.

      I’m very interested in this, since I’ve used melatonin off and on for a while.

      • sty_silver says:

        Just chiming in to say that Melatonin is amazing. Everyone should use it. Sleep effectiveness is one thing, but another thing it does is make me fall asleep more reliably. I’ve often had trouble with doing that, even after setting up a very regular schedule. Nothing else has made nearly as much of a difference as taking 0.5mg Melatonin 30 min before going to bed.

        If Scott uses Melatonin, I’d bet money on there being an effect.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          Melatonin consistently makes me wake up at 4 AM, often with nightmares, often feeling terrible and unable to get back to sleep; it seems to do this to some sizeable minority of the population. “Everyone should use it” is almost never true of anything.

          • Lambert says:

            Have you twiddled with the dose and timing?

            I’ve had the waking up at 04:00 thing sometimes, but only if I take melatonin later than normal.

            I wonder what kind of dose is equivalent to e.g. not staring at my laptop for an hour.

          • sty_silver says:

            Right. I amend my statement to “almost all people should try it” with the admission that it was silly to imply it would work well for everyone.

          • Scott Alexander says:

            @Lambert: no, I’ll try that, thanks.

            I’m surprised taking it later would make someone wake up earlier, any thoughts on the mechanism?

          • Lambert says:

            To be honest, it’s probably an artefact of small n and my sleep cycle being an utter mess.

            Regarding dosages, I figure that, since your brain is already making that stuff, there must be an amount that doesn’t trigger waking up at 4. And that installing f.lux or whatever must have an equivalent dose, below the thresold of giving Scott terrible side effects. So there might be a theraputic sweet spot for you.

            My first thought would be to start at the minimum dose that any paper had found to have a statistically significant effect and ramp up to 0.5mg or so.

            Once you have found the dose where intolerable side effects appear, play around with timings, combination with other interventions etc.

            The term MSV turns up in the literature. Anybody know where I can find a rigorous definition? Seems to be some kind of % reduction in melatonin. But IDK what exact intervention they use to compare it to what exact baseline.

        • Aapje says:

          @sty_silver

          I’ve seen it claimed by a doctor that many people take it at the wrong time, making things worse, rather than better.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      I don’t use an alarm clock and own an Oura ring – if you give me a link and they ship internationally, I can probably add 1 to the sample.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Why not do workdays, too? Worst case scenario, the data is too noisy and you discard it. More likely, the quantity of data will make up for its quality. Also, it gives you more practice with recording data, making it faster for you to realize that the questions are bad, or something.

      (Actually, worst case scenario is that you develop a tolerance for the drug and it stops having an effect. But how often are you taking it now?)

      • Scott Alexander says:

        The difference I claim the drug makes is helping me wake up at 10 rather than 11. Adding in a bunch of days where I wake up at 8 because my alarm went off isn’t going to give me noisy data, it’s just going to give me a bunch of “you woke up at 8” for me to throw out.

        It’s nonzero cost for me to get the drugs, get the placebo capsules, fill the placebo capsules, and do the blinding process, and I didn’t feel like going through it for days when I was pretty sure I wouldn’t get data.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          You listed more data to record than just time at wake up.

          Placebos and blinding may be a hassle, but you could do a randomized non-blinded study.

  13. HeelBearCub says:

    Obvious in hindsight:

    Consider your daily commute: Would any other smartphone travel directly between your house and your office every day?…Yet companies continue to claim that the data are anonymous.

    We followed military officials with security clearances as they drove home at night. We tracked law enforcement officers as they took their kids to school.

    • Lambert says:

      Obvious in foresight, too.

      If you decide to tell them where you are, they know where you are. That’s easy mode.
      The somewhat harder thing is tracking them when they don’t give (manufactured) consent to it.
      You need to get moderately clever and exploit the many flaws in bluetooth to track their FitBit or whatever.
      Or use cookies and browser fingerprinting to track which IP addresses they’re using.
      If they’re law enforcement, rescue or military in the field, listening in on walkie-talkie metadata (and data, if they forget which setting is encrypted and which is plaintext) is probably the easiest way.

      But nobody listens to security researchers.

    • HarmlessFrog says:

      To what extent is this also true for dumbphones? I know they can be triangulated, as any non-directional transmitter, but is it being done in general?

      • viVI_IViv says:

        The carrier has data on cell id and signal strength, which can localize the phone within a ring around the cell antenna.

      • Lambert says:

        “It’s really like we’re targeting a cell phone. We’re not going after people – we’re going after their phones, in the hopes that the person on the other end of that missile is the bad guy.”

        –Anonymous U.S. drone operator

        https://theintercept.com/2014/02/10/the-nsas-secret-role/

      • Well... says:

        Ed Snowden addressed this a bit on his JRE interview. It sounds like the only absolute advantage of dumb phones when it comes to not being tracked are 1) it’s easy to remove the battery and 2) once you remove the battery most of them really are dead, unlike smartphones which have a small unremovable reserve battery that keeps the clock going or whatever, and can be used to locate the phone.

        • The Nybbler says:

          You cannot locate the phone based on reserve power (at least not via cell towers), because the cellular radio will not be powered. However, it’s known that Verizon, at the request of law enforcement, has pushed firmware updates to phones which prevents them from actually turning off when you appear to turn them off. Pulling the main battery should still work.

      • beleester says:

        It’s definitely possible, but not done routinely. Smartphones, on the other hand, routinely have apps that request your location and put it in a database for some useful purpose, which makes it much easier for your location history to be misused. You might not be a person of interest now, but you could be later.

    • John Schilling says:

      We followed military officials with security clearances as they drove home at night. We tracked law enforcement officers as they took their kids to school.

      And they tracked political dissidents as they organized with other political dissidents, er, “terrorists”. Hey, that unknown cellphone that was at the meeting with the seven known tangos last week? Happened again, third time, so put him on the list and see who’s meeting with him.

      If this is “hindsight” to you, then you haven’t been paying attention. Hyperion, Dan Simmons, 1989, had the bit where just about every terrorist/dissident on a planet was killed by simultaneous precision strikes on their phones, and not because they volunteered “terrorist” in their user profile.

      So, how long before we can stop doing the GPS-ankle-bracelet thing for parolees, etc, because it is easier to just track their phones and as psychologically unthinkable as self-amputation for them to ever put down or turn off their phone?

      • HeelBearCub says:

        … none of this is about the government doing anything.

        This information is available for purchase as a commodity.

        • John Schilling says:

          Do you imagine that the government isn’t one of the customers? Or do you just not care?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I care from the standpoint that this gets cast as a uniquely governmental threat, from which the people will be protected by preventing the government from collecting the data, or dismantling the government, etc.

          • John Schilling says:

            The government has policemen, jails, and armed drones. The corporations have, what, advertising departments? If the two threats we are comparing are that the police might track you down and incarcerate or harm you as a result of ubiquitous surveillance, and that corporations might advertise at you because of ubiquitous surveillance, it seems strange that you regard the corporate threat as greater than the government. Or comparable to the government, or worth mentioning in the same breath as the government threat.

            If there’s some threat that worries you beyond corporations advertising at you, then you might want to spell that out before you expect other people to join your outrage at the dastardly corporations. Though if it’s a hypothetical or edge case of corporate behavior, compared to the central example of government behavior for as long as there have been governments, don’t expect too much outrage.

            Also, turn off your phone for the afternoon.

          • Well... says:

            Of course, the government can put pressure on corporations to hand over data. So ultimately if you’re concerned about the government getting the data it doesn’t matter who is collecting it because the government will likely get a hold of it.

          • albatross11 says:

            Yeah, I’m sure the advertising/tracking companies sell the data they collect to the government[1], or sell it to contractors who launder it in ways that avoid legal challenges and hand it to the government as needed. And if they refused, they’d be legally coerced to hand the data over, perhaps via an NSL that prevented them ever telling anyone they’d done so. But that’s kind-of silly to worry about, since they’ll surely just sell the data without any moral qualms.

            Note that the NYT report is about tracking done by apps on your phone. The app writers collect location data, and then sell that data so they can make more money. The tracking data is used, among other things, to link devices of the same user together–something that’s very much sought after so ads can be better targeted, and thus the ad networks can get paid a little more per impression.

            The internet advertising industry is a force for pure evil in the world.

            [1] Multiple levels of government, each with its own agendas.

        • SamChevre says:

          Yes. This is important to note.

          Within the last year, a finance person from an entertainment business gave a talk at a finance meeting I was at. He mentioned that they had asked for home and work locations for every phone that came on-property in a particular month, and used that to develop customer profiles and marketing strategies.

  14. baconbits9 says:

    The NBA is discussing a mid season tourney with fewer regular season games to replace some of the very low meaning games that occur as teams are out of contention and just floundering. My proposal would be:

    Turn it into a fantasy tournament. Instead of the All-Star break select X number of team captains and have every player who wants to play submit their names. On the eave of the all star break you have a capped draft, where each team is restricted by the total salary cap in terms of what players they select and every player’s value is determined by their cap hit for that season and then you run your 8, 12 or 16 team tournament with those players. I think you could capture the allure of the All-Star game (heavy selection towards good players plus seeing players who would otherwise not play together) without the dull parts (lack of stakes and lack of defensive effort).

    Thoughts?

    • Skeptical Wolf says:

      This sounds like a great idea.

      I rarely watch basketball at all, but I would make a point of watching this.

  15. jermo sapiens says:

    This is a copy of the judgment by The Employment Tribunals, in which a woman’s complaint of being discriminated against on the basis of her sex was dismissed, because she expressed the view that trans women are not women.

    If anyone here knows, please indicate whether The Employment Tribunals is a normal court or whether it is an administrative tribunal, and whether its judgments can become precedents.

    It looks like her consultancy contract was not renewed. On that basis alone, I would have dismissed the case. Nobody has a right to have a contract renewed. But this decision has caught the public’s (and JK Rowling’s) attention because of paragraph 90:

    I conclude from this, and the totality of the evidence, that the Claimant is absolutist in her view of sex and it is a core component of her belief that she will refer to a person by the sex she considered appropriate even if it violates their dignity and/or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment. The approach is not worthy of respect in a democratic society.

    There is plenty of evidence discussed throughout the decision that the claimant was willing to treat trans women as women in social settings, but also that in heated twitter exchanges she called a trans woman a man. Generally her view is that you can and should be polite towards trans people, but in reality trans women are not really women. She considers the existence of female only spaces where trans women are excluded to be very important. This lines up quite nicely with my view.

    I believe the judge strawmanned her position in paragraph 90 so that he could declare it “not worthy of respect in a democratic society”. That is an extremely harsh statement. It’s the kind of thing you would reserve for nazis. Even communists would probably pass the low bar of “worthy of respect in a democratic society”. But the effect is that her actual position of “trans women are not women, but should be treated with respect” is now considered “not worthy of respect in a democratic society”.

    So, in the UK at least, you can be terminated (her case did not turn on contract renewal but on whether her beliefs were deemed worthy of protection) for believing that trans women are not women. That belief is not worthy of respect, even though it’s shared by (pulling figure straight out of my ***) ~ 80% of the population (if somebody has data on this please share, this is just my own estimate).

    Jordan Peterson was mocked by suggesting that you could go to jail for misgendering someone. We are not there yet but we just got a whole lot closer.

    • Nick says:

      Here’s a fuller summary from someone who supports the decision’s reasoning. This case is actually not anything special; we’ve previously discussed cases with such lovely wording as “belief in Genesis 1:27, lack of belief in transgenderism and conscientious objection to transgenderism in our judgment are incompatible with human dignity and conflict with the fundamental rights of others.” Both came down to analysis of the same cases and that same clause (v) of what constitutes a philosophical belief, hence the invocation of human dignity, etc.

      • jermo sapiens says:

        This guy doesnt make many arguments in favor of the judgment beyond “I dont think it is wholly outrageous” and “the Tribunal’s logic is pretty sound”.

        It would seem plainly obvious to me that the belief that any man can declare themselves a woman and be entitled to enter a women’s changing room to be “in conflict with the fundamental rights of others”. However that belief is going to be protected, whereas the converse will not be.

        • thevoiceofthevoid says:

          It would seem plainly obvious to me that the belief that any man can declare themselves a woman and be entitled to enter a women’s changing room to be “in conflict with the fundamental rights of others”.

          Are you claiming that a significant number of male-identifying biological men will declare themselves to be trans women for the purpose of entering women’s changing rooms and ogling women as they undress? Or that anyone with a Y-chromosome entering a women’s changing room will make the women uncomfortable regardless of their intentions, appearance, and actions?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I don’t think any significant number of male-identifying biological men would, but I think a few would. This is why I don’t want the government involved in bathroom decisions.

            Let a transwoman who’s done a fair job of presenting herself as female enter the women’s room without fear of a “no XY chromosomes in women’s rooms” law. Let women shoo a burly man wearing a dress out of the ladies’ room without fear of violating a “thou shalt not prohibit XY chromosomes from the women’s room” law.

            Let people handle it themselves, like reasonable individual humans, without the government making blanket laws covering everyone forever.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Once the government stops other people from deciding who is “real” and who is “faking” it has taken on the role of gatekeeping, whether they want it or not.

          • thevoiceofthevoid says:

            @Conrad Honcho
            I agree, this is largely a problem that can be solved with a healthy dose of human decency and common sense, without resorting to any kind of legislation. I may not have been clear in my initial reply: I don’t think the government should ever dictate what is an acceptable or unacceptable belief to hold or profess.* However, I’ve seen the “trans rights means men can claim to be women and go into women’s locker rooms” argument a number of times here and elsewhere, and I’ve always been mildly annoyed by it. I wanted @jermo sapiens to break down the specific claim that they’re trying to make, since I think that argument hides some questionable assumptions under its brash tone.

            *insert disclaimer about established narrow exceptions to the first amendment

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            However, I’ve seen the “trans rights means men can claim to be women and go into women’s locker rooms” argument a number of times here and elsewhere, and I’ve always been mildly annoyed by it.

            Maybe not so much bathrooms, but I recall an story about a person in a men’s prison who transitioned to female, was moved to the women’s prison and raped a female inmate. Do I think a lot of male prisoners would do this? No, but a few would.

          • albatross11 says:

            Conrad:

            Every other set of rules of politeness and set of rights we have gets exploited by bad people to get away with bad things. It would be quite surprising if this were the one set of rules that didn’t have anyone trying to exploit them for bad purposes.

            The problem is that we’re used to talking about these issues in moralistic and legalistic terms–these are rights, they must never be violated. Whereas we probably need to think in terms of tradeoffs between different peoples’ needs and interests.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Sure, which is why I don’t like the idea of hard and fast rules for this stuff. Let the prison wardens decide who belongs in which jail.

          • DinoNerd says:

            Something similar has happened, and was in the news this past year. Some low-life who seems to get off on upsetting people identified as a pre-op transexual, MTF, and wound up in the news in Canada, for 2 things:
            1) Suing beauticians who refused to wax her scrotum
            2) improper behaviour with female minors

            Even The Guardian – known for its left wing politics – calls her a troll, and links to some of the other articles on her.

            AFAIK, there were no washrooms or changing rooms involved, but it’s clear that not all transfolk are angels, and/or not all people claiming to be transfolk really are.

            My priors would be that proportionately, there are as many scummy transfolk as cisfolk, but this particular case could also have been lying about being trans.

          • thevoiceofthevoid says:

            @Conrad Honcho @DinoNerd
            Good thing we have laws directly criminalizing rape and improper behavior with female minors, so we can deter and punish those crimes whether the perpetrator identifies as male, female, or Martian!

          • Protagoras says:

            Maybe not so much bathrooms, but I recall an story about a person in a men’s prison who transitioned to female, was moved to the women’s prison and raped a female inmate. Do I think a lot of male prisoners would do this? No, but a few would.

            Our prisons do a terrible job of preventing prisoner on prisoner assaults, both sexual and otherwise. Anyone sincerely interested in that would have countless much more promising candidates for improvements in policy; focusing on this isolated incident and suggesting this policy is any significant part of the problem is pretty obvious motivated reasoning.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Whereas we probably need to think in terms of tradeoffs between different peoples’ needs and interests.

            As soon as we do that, on this particular issue, one side sets their coefficients to infinity or the other side’s to zero or both, and then we’re back to absolutes. It’s mostly the pro-trans side that does this (“You’re denying our existence by refusing”/”It doesn’t cost you anything to let trans people use the bathroom of your choice”) but sometimes the other. Thus by observation, this sort of solution will not work.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @thevoiceofthevoid

            Is prevention worth anything?

            @Protagoras

            I don’t think it takes motivated reasoning to suggest we should be careful about letting prisoners with penises in the women’s prison. Yes, I would also like other reforms to help prevent prison violence and abuse, but it costs little to maintain the previous rule of “no prisoners with penises in the women’s prison.”

            I would like to propose a new rule that we allow wild dogs to be caged with the prisoners. Do you oppose this new rule? If so, are you engaged in motivated reasoning because you’re not addressing the failures of the current system to keep prisoners safe?

          • thevoiceofthevoid says:

            @Conrad Honcho
            I think it’s unclear whether a strict “no penises in female prisons” rule would prevent rape or result in more rape overall (I suspect that trans women in men’s prisons are frequently targeted).

            I think that a bathroom bill would do approximately nothing to prevent rape, since I highly doubt that anyone willing to violate the law against rape would be deterred by a mere law against using the wrong bathroom.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ Protagoras:

            Our prisons do a terrible job of preventing prisoner on prisoner assaults, both sexual and otherwise.

            Yes, so we should want to avoid adopting a policy that will make this even harder.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Not having male guards in female prisons might be a start.

    • Erusian says:

      It goes a little further than that: the Judge had to declare that her views on transgenderism were not a legitimate philosophical or religious belief (which are protected in the UK). This is where the ‘not worthy of respect’ component comes in. Further, the non-renewal was equivalent to a firing, something neither side disputed.

      The standards for a philosophical belief in this context:

      (i) The belief must be genuinely held.
      (ii) It must be a belief and not an opinion or viewpoint based on the present state of information available.
      (iii) It must be a belief as to a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour.
      (iv) It must attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance.
      (v) It must be worthy of respect in a democratic society, be not incompatible with human dignity and not conflict with the fundamental rights of others

      So they’re dismissing it on grounds of the fifth caveat.

      • jermo sapiens says:

        So they’re dismissing it on grounds of the fifth caveat.

        Yes, exactly. So a belief which was held by 99% of people for 1000s of years, and which is currently held by a substantial majority (this is just my impression), is now unworthy of respect in a democratic society.

        To the many progressives here who dont understand why others are not concerned about Trump not dotting every i and crossing every t when investigating Joe Biden, this is a big reason why. The issues may not appear related to you, but they are to us. We’re basically being told that saying 2+2=4 is now against the law.

        Edit: Actually we’re being told that progressive beliefs will be protected against discrimination, but not conservative ones.

        • Civilis says:

          Actually we’re being told that progressive beliefs will be protected against discrimination, but not conservative ones.

          There’s a recent story making it’s rounds on the right where someone got sentenced to 16 years in prison for burning a LGBT pride flag. Now it turns out the sentence was for arson, since the flag didn’t belong to him, and there were both hate crime and repeat offender additions to the sentence. Given that, the sentence does somewhat make sense given the law (though I dislike hate crime laws); [arson + hate crime + repeat offender = 16 years in prison] doesn’t sound particularly unjust, given that I’m seeing sentences of up to 20 years in prison for arson itself.

          The question becomes, was anyone ever prosecuted for felony arson for burning another flag, particularly the American flag (assuming the flag belongs to someone else)? Would people be up in arms if conservative prosecutors started charging, say, left-wing protesters who set fire to a trash can with felony arson?

          • Two McMillion says:

            Now it turns out the sentence was for arson, since the flag didn’t belong to him

            My understanding is that it was the arson of burning the flag. It’s not like he burned down a building or something.

          • SamChevre says:

            The flag in Texas vs Johnson (THE flag-burning case) was stolen. And the hate crime seems to be related to to opposing a socially-preferred belief. So I’ll say the whole thing is just a power play – just like the differential treatment of Kim Davis and sanctuary-city mayors is.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Texas and Iowa have different arson laws. In Texas, as in most states, arson is restricted to buildings, vehicles, and crops. But in Iowa third degree arson, an aggravated misdemeanor, is burning of anything worth less than $750.

            I don’t think such an offense makes sense. Successful destruction by fire shouldn’t be treated as different than destruction by any other method. Maybe unpredictable fire is special and attempted destruction by fire should be highly penalized, which is how I believe attempted arson of buildings works. The danger of the fire spreading is already addressed in the Iowa charge of reckless use of fire, which is only a serious misdemeanor.

          • broblawsky says:

            The flag in Texas vs Johnson (THE flag-burning case) was stolen. And the hate crime seems to be related to to opposing a socially-preferred belief. So I’ll say the whole thing is just a power play – just like the differential treatment of Kim Davis and sanctuary-city mayors is.

            The flag in this case was torched in a bar the defendant threatened to burn down. We’re talking about an actual arson attempt committed by a habitual felon, not a symbolic demonstration by a protestor.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Interesting. I thought the big deal was him threatening to burn the bar down, but it’s actually mostly about him being a repeat offender.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            broblawsky,
            He did not burn the flag inside the bar. Check your source again. If he had, he would have been charged with actual arson. I’m not sure where threats come in, but I don’t think that they are relevant to Iowa arson law.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Douglas Knight:
            He stole the flag from a church, returned to the bar where he had made threats to burn the place down, and then burned the flag outside the bar.

            What exactly is your objection?

            ETA: Just to clarify, arson in the US is usually defined as : “the burning of any real property without consent or with unlawful intent”

            A criminal arson does seem to have occurred.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            As a further addendum, here is the Iowa code that defines arson. The $750 in value referenced above raises it to 2nd degree arson from 3rd degree.

          • John Schilling says:

            ETA: Just to clarify, arson in the US is usually defined as : “the burning of any real property without consent or with unlawful intent”

            To clarify the clarification, “real property” in the US is usually defined as fixed or immovable property, i.e. land and buildings. A flag is not “real property” by the legal definition; a flagpole might be.

            A bar definitely would be, but no bar was burned down. And if you want to lock someone up for twenty years for threatening to burn down a bar, without you all being denounced as unjust merciless tyrants, you really need to A: lead with “he threatened to burn down a bar” when you tell the story, and B: actyually convict him of threatening to burn down a bar. Why are you even mentioning the flag?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Quoting from the Iowa code:

            Causing a fire or explosion, or placing any burning or combustible material, or any incendiary or explosive device or material, in or near any property with the intent to destroy or damage such property, or with the knowledge that such property will probably be destroyed or damaged, is arson, whether or not any such property is actually destroyed or damaged.

            So, apparently the distinction “real” isn’t made in Iowa. He was actually convicted of 3rd degree arson, apparently. Which does seem to make arson relevant.

          • John Schilling says:

            Which does seem to make arson relevant.

            But it leaves your gratuitous clarification as irrelevant, and it leaves the whole “threatened to burn down a bar” thing as irrelevant, and it leaves 16-year prison sentences as irrelevant unless you’re a fan of three-strikes laws.

            If it were a Native American activist being locked up for sixteen years because he burned an American flag that someone had legally flown on his tribe’s reservation, and a couple of older felonies for which he’d served his time, I’m guessing you wouldn’t be at all OK with this.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @John Schilling:
            Not a fan of three strikes laws, and I don’t think the sentence is particularly just because of that.

            Past that, I don’t know what in heck you are talking about. Guy shows up at your bowl game watch party and threatens to burn down your house because you are a Bama fan (and he likes Auburn), you kick him out and he drives down the road, steals someone else’s Bama flag, comes back to your house and burns that flag in your driveway. Might he get charged and convicted of arson? Yeah. What actually happens depends on the particulars. Being a twice convicted felon already might affect that.

          • John Schilling says:

            I’m not a fan of three strikes laws, and I’m also not a fan of punishing people for crimes they haven’t been convicted of.

            If someone threatened to burn down my house but couldn’t be proven to have done so, I might want them to be locked up for sixteen years, but I wouldn’t expect it. I wouldn’t expect uninvolved bystanders to think this was justice. And I would be embarrassed to defend the conduct of the DA who did that, against the complaints of people asking why some schmuck loser had to go to jail for sixteen years for a bit of malicious vandalism.

            A sixteen-year sentence for A: stealing and destroying $750 worth of colored cloth and B: having committed two felonies in the past, is an injustice. It doesn’t matter if the means of destruction is fire. It doesn’t matter if we label it “arson”. It doesn’t matter what the informational content of the cloth’s coloration is. And it doesn’t matter what else the guy did, or threatened to do, unless that’s proven in court.

            Also, I’m fairly confident that the people saying “It’s because he allegedly threatened to burn down a bar” are telling a fib, and that they cared more about the informational content of the colored cloth. But since neither one of those ought to carry a sixteen-year prison term, machts nichts.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            FWIW, threatening arson in Iowa is more serious than third degree arson, already a felony that would have triggered the three strikes rule without the hate crime promotion. But he wasn’t charged with threatening arson.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          To the many progressives here who dont understand why others are not concerned about Trump not dotting every i and crossing every t when investigating Joe Biden, this is a big reason why. The issues may not appear related to you, but they are to us.

          Yeah, this is the main reason to support Trump. It’s certainly not his personal qualities.

          • salvorhardin says:

            FWIW I suspect a lot of Trump opponents would agree with you that this is one of the strongest reasons to support Trump: both in the absolute sense that this sort of stupid petty doctrinal rigidity is both wrong in itself and understandably drives people toward supporting Trump, and in the relative sense that it’s (on the anti-Trump view) a pretty serious moral error to rate this sort of wrong as worse than the wrongs Trump and his supporters perpetrate.

        • broblawsky says:

          Apparently, you can discard the rule of law if you feel intimidated by your political opponents. That’s important for us to remember.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            The rule of law is a two way street. When it applies to Hillary and co., I will be glad to have it apply to Trump also.

          • John Schilling says:

            When it applies to Hillary and co., I will be glad to have it apply to Trump also.

            As mentioned here many times before, the usual punishment for the crimes Hillary Clinton could be proven to have committed is to be fired and for future employers to be told she isn’t to be hired for further government work.

            She had already resigned her last government job, the FBI told the prospective employers for the new government job she was applying for what she had done, and they didn’t hire her. Mission accomplished.

          • broblawsky says:

            The rule of law is a two way street. When it applies to Hillary and co., I will be glad to have it apply to Trump also.

            Come on, dude. Trump made imprisoning Hillary a campaign promise, and he’s had 3 years to build a case. If she had committed any actual crimes – anything even theoretically indictable – do you really think Barr wouldn’t have already brought charges against her? This is a remarkably weak argument.

          • cassander says:

            @broblawsky

            Trump repudiated that promise almost immediately after his election win and hasn’t tried to build that case, as far as I can tell.

          • broblawsky says:

            Yeah, because there’s no case there and he knows it.

          • Aapje says:

            @broblawsky

            Or because American politics has an implicit policy to protect their own.

        • Viliam says:

          We’re basically being told that saying 2+2=4 is now against the law.

          No one is going to put you in jail for saying “2+2=4”. (Yet.)

          But if a corporation fires you for saying “2+2=4”, the judge will shrug and say “yeah, this kind of talk really does not belong to the workplace”. So when the HR department tells you that 2+2=5, the smart thing is to shut up.

          Somehow, this type of “corporation is your god and can decide reality” reasoning is coded as left-wing these days. This is what happens when too many trust fund kids take oppression studies at university. In ancient times, left-wing referred to things like unions and protecting the employees.

          • DinoNerd says:

            You can still get in plenty of trouble for not agreeing that the boss’ latest iteration of the plan that already failed 5 times previously is utterly wonderful, and sure to solve all the company’s problems while putting a chicken in every pot. And I don’t mean active disagreement – I mean failure of loud and convincing agreement.

            For whatever reason, I code that as right wing. The “boss is right because he is the boss” – and its corrollaries like “we all agree that the boss is smarter than anyone who works for him” and similar – seems to me to be basically a class system phenomenon, and therefore plainly Tory.

          • albatross11 says:

            DinoNerd:

            Is that different in more left-leaning industries or from left-leaning bosses? Like, say, media/entertainment and tech?

          • BBA says:

            Amber A’Lee Frost of Chapo Trap House infamy wrote a piece recently (soft paywall) on the tension between identity politics and class politics. She’s a dirtbag socialist and it’s clear where her sympathies lie; I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss the role of gender and race and so on. But when the “diverse” crowd thinks HR can solve everything and it falls on the cis het beta cuck white dudes to point out that HR works for management, that says something big.

          • So when the HR department tells you that 2+2=5

            My HR department tells me that the university is committed both to equal treatment of everyone on the basis of race, sex, etc. and to affirmative action.

            But they haven’t asked me to agree that it’s true.

          • DinoNerd says:

            @albatross11

            Is that different in more left-leaning industries or from left-leaning bosses? Like, say, media/entertainment and tech?

            Hell no! (Or at least, not as far as I know.)

            I think the main difference is based on the relative power of workers vs bosses. If the employee is easily replaced, and can be fired “at will” for whatever random reason; if unions are ineffective or banned; if everyone (who counts) agrees that some people are just plain better than others, and you can tell them apart at birth – then things are worse. And its those differences that make this about class/class struggle, and sometimes also race, gender, nationality etc.

            So measures that reduce the power differential – which are generally coded left wing – might reduce this kind of thing. That’s why I see it as politically coded.

          • Aapje says:

            @DinoNerd

            Oppressive behavior to (potential) employees is not just when unions are forced out, but can also consist of only union workers being allowed to be hired, especially if the union is ‘captured.’

            Besides, when ‘the boss’ is a lefty, they can be just as abusive as righty bosses can be.

            So measures that reduce the power differential – which are generally coded left wing – might reduce this kind of thing.

            IMO, a lot of leftism is faux-egalitarian. Having an ideal doesn’t mean that this ideal is actually being worked towards. It can just as easily mean that policies are merely presented in a way that match the ideal, by rationalizations that ignore all the elements and outcomes that don’t match the ideal.

          • DinoNerd says:

            @Aapje – true enough.

            I’ve experienced oppressive unions in Canada, though at least they didn’t require me to claim the sky was green. Here in the US, it’s hard to even find a union, let alone an oppressive one, and (assuming bad bosses or a bad company culture) it’s been all about individual power.

            And of course there’s always the possibility that the bosses will have ethics and/or a sense of shame, or simply not have the personality weakness that prefers a chorus of agreement to advice that might prevent them making a significant mistake.

            Mostly though, power matters. And that the more individual bosses earn in proportion to individual workers, and the more workers are interchangeable parts, easily replaced, the worse behaviour imperfect people are going to get away with, and even justify among themselves as reasonable and appropriate.

            As an engineer of many years experience, I always have potential new employers trying to recruit me. I can also afford lawyers, though not the horde of lawyers a large tech company keeps on hand. There’s also a well known – and quite large – difference in effectiveness between engineers, making us not interchangeable parts. And most importantly, my bosses all know this, so the crap I and my peers encounter seems to be relatively mild. (I’d still prefer less of it, and vote with my feet when the crap gets excessive.)

            But power is at least in part a political thing. Hence the way it looks to me, even though in practice overall assholery doesn’t seem to correlate with political position.

          • Viliam says:

            @BBA: Thanks, I liked the article! Specifically this part:

            some of the most insightful observations came from the bearded and (presumably) cishet white males. One timidly put forth that “HR actually works for management,” while another recognized that the biggest source of “diversi­ty” in the tech industry is highly exploited third-world call-center workers.

            At first glance, the superior class consciousness of the beardy white male tech bro may appear counterintuitive, but it is a function of tech industry managerialism that he has a better view of class con­flict. As an industry, tech has thoroughly absorbed “diversity” into its corporate culture and HR programming, for both legal liability and liberal credibility reasons. If you’re a woman and/or minority work­ing for Google and your job is miserable, you are told by the whole world—and by your employer itself—that this is because you are a woman and/or minority. But, you are also told, your employer is here with sensitivity trainings, diversity initiatives, and at-will firing practices (you know, for the bad employees) to remedy all of that and to build a better work environment and, thereby, a more egalitarian world. If, however, you are a straight white man working for Google and your job is miserable, you know it’s because your job is miserable, and the company isn’t there to help you. Liberal identitarian HR obfuscations don’t work as well on exploited and precarious dude-bros.

            Which in my opinion connects nicely to the real taboo that James Damore broke. His conclusion was, essentially, that women are less likely than men to accept a job that sucks in return for higher salary, if they have a choice; so if you want to have more women in tech companies, the obvious solution is to make the jobs suck less. (Simply paying more to compensate, that’s actually the thing that makes the profession predominantly male.) Well, only an autist would make it public knowledge at workplace that working for the company sucks, and expect a pat on the back for speaking with candor.

          • Aapje says:

            @DinoNerd

            Sure, but neither the sense of ethics of the employer, nor the balance of power between employer and employee, are necessarily right- or left-wing*.

            I’d expect the right- and left-wing to abuse their power a bit differently, overall, but that doesn’t make one lesser than the other, although you might prefer left-wing oppression to right-wing oppression, in particular if your own desires match what the left-wing more often considers mandatory, rather than what the right-wing more often considers mandatory.

            * For example, Chick-Fil-A seems to be one of the best if not the best employer in the fast-food business and doesn’t seem to demand allegiance to right-wing politics/policies from employees.

          • Aapje says:

            @Viliam

            The problem with your argument is that Google jobs are clearly far from jobs that suck the most.

            No, the taboo he broke is that he made a good case for why women on average have a different definition of “job that sucks.” SJ doctrine is that women like the same things as men, but don’t end doing the same as men due to abusive work environments (#metoo), pressure on women to (not) take certain jobs, expectations that clash with certain jobs (like caring/housekeeping tasks), etc. While these are partially true, they are not true enough to explain women’s choices.

            I think that the quality of his argument really made it necessary to make an example out of him. The only way the media could rebut him was by lying about his claims, which is risky, because if he would engage in a debate, he might wipe the floor with the media. So he needed to be destroyed.

          • albatross11 says:

            Aapje:

            ISTM that a lot of media sources did fine just flat lying about what Damore had said. Googling for a longish document full of heresy and reading it carefully is as big investment; most people weren’t going to put that investment in. Various ideologues in media knew that and exploited it to lie about what was written in that document, knowing that few people would check.

          • Aapje says:

            It’s not a strategy that you can do all the time though, because even if almost no one will read every source, many people will read some source or will trust people who do.

            So this is a strategy that can only be used somewhat sparingly.

    • Aftagley says:

      attention because of paragraph 90:

      Ok, I wonder what the this from “i conclude from this” is referring to. Let’s check out paragraph 89:

      When in an, admittedly very bitter, dispute with Gregor Murray, who alleged
      that they had been misgendered by the Claimant, rather than seeking to
      accommodate Gregor Murrays legitimate wishes she stated: “I had simply
      forgotten that this man demands to be referred to by the plural pronouns “they”
      and “them”, “Murray also calls it “transphobic” that I recognise a man when I
      see one. I disagree”, “In reality Murray is a man. It is Murray’s right to believe
      that Murray is not a man, but Murray cannot compel others to believe this.” and
      that “I reserve the right to use the pronouns “he” and “him” to refer to male
      people. While I may choose to use alternative pronouns as a courtesy, no one
      has the right to compel others to make statements they do not believe.”

      I’ll admit, I’m not sure from context whether or not this was in person or on a twitter exchange, but it certainly looks like she’s not “willing to treat trans women as women in social settings.”

      So, in the UK at least, you can be terminated (her case did not turn on contract renewal but on whether her beliefs were deemed worthy of protection) for believing that trans women are not women.

      It wasn’t her belief that got her contract not renewed, it was that she was vocally repeating that belief in hurtful ways, didn’t listen to her supervisors when they asked her to stop and was reflecting poorly on the non profit.

      Switch out trans people for literally any other minority and you’ll see why this is a non issue. Imagine you had a contractor who wouldn’t stop saying things that offended black people, or jewish people, or men, or whatever.

      • jermo sapiens says:

        I’m not sure from context whether or not this was in person or on a twitter exchange, but it certainly looks like she’s not “willing to treat trans women as women in social settings.”

        I’m not sure either. I assumed it was on twitter but I’m not sure. But I wouldnt go as far as you. I dont think what happens in a “very bitter dispute” is indicative of what you’re willing to do in social settings.

        It wasn’t her belief that got her contract not renewed, it was that she was vocally repeating that belief in hurtful ways, didn’t listen to her supervisors when they asked her to stop and was reflecting poorly on the non profit.

        True. But the case turned on whether her belief should be considered “worthy of respect in a democratic society”. Maybe her claim would have been dismissed regardless had she passed that hurdle, but what people are upset about is not that lady losing her job, it’s that the belief of “trans women are not women” is not considered “worthy of respect in a democratic society”.

        Switch out trans people for literally any other minority and you’ll see why this is a non issue. Imagine you had a contractor who wouldn’t stop saying things that offended black people, or jewish people, or men, or whatever.

        You are conflating the outcome of the case, which I dont care about, with the legal reasoning used to reach the outcome (and which is indicative of how future cases will be decided), which I (and JK Rowlings) do care about.

        • Snickering Citadel says:

          Jermo Sapiens you say she was fired because her belief was not worthy of respect in a democratic society. However the fifth caveat also says “not conflict with the fundamental rights of others.” If the person was harassing her colleagues by calling them other pronouns than they prefer she was in conflict with their fundamental rights.

          Like people are allowed to believe that people who don’t share their religion are going to hell. But if you keep telling your colleagues that they are going to hell, that’s harassment and you should be fired.

          • mitv150 says:

            from the opinion:

            “The Claimant’s position is that even if a trans woman has a Gender Recognition Certificate, she cannot honestly describe herself as a woman. That belief is not worthy of respect in a democratic society. It is incompatible with the human rights of others that have been identified and defined by the ECHR and put into effect through the Gender Recognition Act.” and

            “the Claimant is absolutist in her view of sex and it is a core component of her belief that she will refer to a person by the sex she considered appropriate even if it violates their dignity and/or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment. The approach is not worthy of respect in a democratic society.”

            The concern, I think, is the conflation of gender and sex. Although one may identify as a specific gender, and polite people can/should respect that, biological sex itself exists and cannot be altered. This is effectively what Rowling said and was lambasted for.

            We can debate whether biological sex matters as a distinction, we can discuss the definition (i.e., whether we are referring to genotype or phenotype), but to deny its existence doesn’t make much sense.

            In the first quote above, the tribunal uses the term “woman” without distinguishing whether the concern is the employees failure to recognize gender identity or failure to recognize sex identity.

            In the second quote, the phrase “absolutist in her view of sex” strongly implies that the tribunal supports the conflation of gender and sex.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            Jermo Sapiens you say she was fired because her belief was not worthy of respect in a democratic society.

            No, I did not say that. I said the judgment turned on that point.

            However the fifth caveat also says “not conflict with the fundamental rights of others.” If the person was harassing her colleagues by calling them other pronouns than they prefer she was in conflict with their fundamental rights.

            There is no allegation she was harassing colleagues. You are conflating many things. She was fired for her tweets. She claims that being fired for her tweets is discrimination on the basis of sex, and that her beliefs should be protected by law. The case turns on whether her beliefs should be protected by law. The fifth caveat is a factor which is evaluated in deciding whether her beliefs should be protected.

            On the common definition of the word women used throughout the world and throughout history, trans women are not women. There is no fundamental right to have others believe anything about you. I’m a man and I dont believe I have a fundamental right that others consider me a man. Others will think of me what they will, and the government has nothing to do or say about the thoughts of people. Same goes for trans women.

            But the belief that a man can declare himself a woman and enter a women’s change room does conflict with the fundamental rights of women.

            Like people are allowed to believe that people who don’t share their religion are going to hell. But if you keep telling your colleagues that they are going to hell, that’s harassment and you should be fired.

            I completely agree and that’s not at all relevant to the issue here.

        • Aftagley says:

          I conclude from this, and the totality of the evidence, that the Claimant is absolutist in her view of sex and it is a core component of her belief that she will refer to a person by the sex she considered appropriate even if it violates their dignity and/or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment. The approach is not worthy of respect in a democratic society.

          I think that maybe we’re reading this paragraph differently.

          When I read paragraph 90’s final sentence “This Approach” reads to me as referring to “behavior that violates dignity and/or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.”

          You (and Rowling, I suppose) take “this approach” to refer to her being “absolutist in her view of sex and it is a core component of her belief that she will refer to a person by the sex she considered appropriate”

          Have I correctly represented your position? I agree that if your interpretation is the correct one, this finding could be problematic, but I’m pretty sure mine is what the judge meant and I don’t really have an issue with that at all.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            Have I correctly represented your position? I agree that if your interpretation is the correct one, this finding could be problematic, but I’m pretty sure mine is what the judge meant and I don’t really have an issue with that at all.

            Yes, that’s pretty fair.

            Like I stated in my first comment on this issue, the judge is strawmanning the claimant’s position on this. From what I can gather, having read the entire judgment in which the claimant’s position is exposed at length, if she was in the presence of a trans woman in a social setting she would be polite. But in the context of discussing policy issues, specifically the Gender Recognition Act (I think that’s the name of it), she’ll say things like “No you are a man you are not entitled to enter women’s spaces”.

            If anything, this makes this judgment even more reprehensible, as we cant discuss policy issues honestly anymore. Not only are the courts interfering in private social conversations (where being an asshole is wrong but should be legal, de minimis non curat lex), they are now prescribing what can be said in discussions about policy.

            Again, this is not about her being fired or the outcome of the case. It’s the fact that her belief that trans woman arent women are found to be “not worthy of respect in a democratic society”.

            Her tweets were made in respect of upcoming changes to the Gender Recognition Act, which will only require self-ID instead of a GD diagnosis. She opposed those changes, and was fired for opposing those changes on twitter. She sued on the basis that her comments were based on beliefs which should be protected beliefs. The factors for protected beliefs are listed upthread, the last one of which is

            It must be worthy of respect in a democratic society, be not incompatible with human dignity and not conflict with the fundamental rights of others

            I understand the distinction you’re trying to make but I fail to see how relevant it is to the legal landscape. So if you oppose the Gender Recognition Act because you believe trans woman arent women, you cant actually express it because doing so would “create an environment which is hostile…”

            You know what environment is intimidating, hostile, humiliating, and offensive? A female change room with a self-declared trans woman.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Jermo –

            While I find the woman’s change room argument amusing for playing anti-male biases against people, I’m not sure empowering a more toxic version of the thing you’re arguing against is the best way to go about it.

            Which is to say, if that argument convinces anybody, what exactly have you managed to convince them of?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            A female change room with a self-declared trans woman.

            How do you feel about trans-men in female changing and locker rooms?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            How do you feel about trans-men in female changing and locker rooms?

            I would prefer the law stay out of the issue. I don’t want the government to the be the bathroom monitor. Let individual humans work this out for themselves.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            How do you feel about trans-men in female changing and locker rooms?

            Im not in favor of it but it’s less invasive for men to have a female in their locker room than it is for women to have a male in their locker room.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @jermo sapiens:
            I have a feeling you didn’t click my link.

            ETA: or, I misunderstood the point you are trying to make. I’ll wait for you to clarify.

          • Dacyn says:

            @HeelBearCub: Based on his answer I think he may have also missed that you said “female changing and locker rooms”.

      • mitv150 says:

        Caveat – I don’t know the relevant UK law . . .

        . . . but it seems a very big stretch to say that this woman should fall into a legally protected class. If it was indeed an accidental misgendering, I can’t see how she should be fired but I also can’t see why a court should mandate that she can’t be fired.

        I don’t have enough facts to know whether her pronoun usage was truly accidental or “accidental.” All sides are likely to paint the facts in ways that help them the most. There is no shortage of people ready to take offense at every missed pronoun and there is no shortage of people ready to self-righteously proclaim that they won’t respect someone’s pronouns.

        EDIT:
        but what people are upset about is not that lady losing her job, it’s that the belief of “trans women are not women” is not considered “worthy of respect in a democratic society”.

        this is a good point. The reaction to Rowling’s tweet serves to underscore it.

      • Nick says:

        I’ll admit, I’m not sure from context whether or not this was in person or on a twitter exchange, but it certainly looks like she’s not “willing to treat trans women as women in social settings.”

        This doesn’t follow. By your own quote, she said she forgot it once in a heated argument, and that she reserves the right to use different pronouns. If you dig deeper, you’ll also find this:

        Of course in social situations I would treat any transwomen as an honourary female, and use whatever pronouns etc…I wouldn’t try to hurt anyone’s feelings but I don’t think people should be compelled to play along with literal delusions like “transwomen are women”

        In other words, she does not say she ever exercises said right. There is no evidence she ever did; if there were, we can be sure they’d be writing about that instead.

        It wasn’t her belief that got her contract not renewed, it was that she was vocally repeating that belief in hurtful ways, didn’t listen to her supervisors when they asked her to stop and was reflecting poorly on the non profit.

        Switch out trans people for literally any other minority and you’ll see why this is a non issue. Imagine you had a contractor who wouldn’t stop saying things that offended black people, or jewish people, or men, or whatever.

        This is completely false. Read literally the first line of the decision:

        The specific belief1 that the Claimant holds as determined in the reasons2, is not a philosophical belief protected by the Equality Act 2010.

        The decision is about whether her belief is protected by the Equality Act. It is not about whether she was harassing anyone, something for which literally no evidence is given. It is not about whether she persisted in this despite warnings. It is not about whether minorities are being offended.

        ETA: Sorry if I sound harsh here. This is nothing personal, Aftagley; I’m certainly not accusing you of being dishonest or anything of the sort. But what you said about the case is as best as I can tell just not true.

        • Aftagley says:

          Sorry if I sound harsh here. This is nothing personal, Aftagley; I’m certainly not accusing you of being dishonest or anything of the sort.

          No offense taken, please don’t worry about it.

          Of course in social situations I would treat any transwomen as an honourary female, and use whatever pronouns etc…I wouldn’t try to hurt anyone’s feelings

          Talk is cheap, especially this kind of talk. I don’t think that someone saying that hypothetically they’d be nice to someone else should be treated as evidence for anything. All we have to go off of here is what she said online, which was repeated and, if not hurtful, at least pretty inflammatory. She even acknowledges this, saying on slack after being called out for her tweets:

          You are right on tone. I should be careful and not unnecessarily
          antagonistic.

          Anyway, on to the actual topic of discussion:

          The decision is about whether her belief is protected by the Equality Act. It is not about whether she was harassing anyone, something for which literally no evidence is given.

          Read paragraph 6 and then paragraphs 74-76 to get a view for why this isn’t the case. Her beliefs in this situation are difficult to separate from the harassment she is accused of. There also was some substantial evidence of harassment in paragraphs 24-38. Both of these are backed up by the judge’s following summary of the issue:

          There is potentially significant
          overlap between the belief a person holds, the manifestations of that belief and
          things that are said to be justified by the belief… It is important to note that if a person is guilty unlawful harassment of others
          that conduct is likely to be the reason for any action taken against them, rather
          than the holding of a philosophical belief.

          • Nick says:

            Talk is cheap, especially this kind of talk. I don’t think that someone saying that hypothetically they’d be nice to someone else should be treated as evidence for anything. All we have to go off of here is what she said online, which was repeated and, if not hurtful, at least pretty inflammatory. She even acknowledges this, saying on slack after being called out for her tweets …

            I agree talk is cheap, so I’m fine with basing our assessment of how true it is on what she says elsewhere. My concern here is that we don’t have much data to go on other than that she accidentally misgendered Murray and apologized for it, and that she repeatedly tweeted about Pip Bunce saying that Bunce is a man. Neither of those are harassment; the latter, and a few other quotes, I can see how you’d call inflammatory since she’s clearly not writing to persuade or anything, that’s fair, but that’s very much not grounds for saying she’s unwilling to use trans people’s pronouns, etc.

            Like you can guess my feelings about trans stuff. But if you trawl SSC you’ll also not find to my knowledge any case where I misgendered anyone. This is absolutely a position people take, although to be frank I’m not sure it’s a coherent one. It’s something I’m still thinking about.

            I stand by what I said earlier: if this case were about harassment, that’s what we’d be hearing about. But the judge didn’t rule any of it harassment. The case was instead about whether the belief was protected.

          • Aftagley says:

            The case was instead about whether the belief was protected.

            I don’t disagree with you per se, but my read of the case is that the judge’s opinion is that her behavior and harassment is inextricable from her beliefs, and therefore unacceptable.

            if you trawl SSC you’ll also not find to my knowledge any case where I misgendered anyone.

            Bleugh, that sounds like a miserable way to spend an afternoon.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            I don’t disagree with you per se, but my read of the case is that the judge’s opinion is that her behavior and harassment is inextricable from her beliefs, and therefore unacceptable.

            The judge could have said that. He didnt. He said her belief is unacceptable, in a judgment which presumably can be used as a precedent.

      • Switch out trans people for literally any other minority and you’ll see why this is a non issue. Imagine you had a contractor who wouldn’t stop saying things that offended black people, or jewish people, or men, or whatever.

        If Jews were going around getting offended by people who didn’t believe in their God and demanding they lose their jobs for expressing that view even outside the workplace,(while maintaining that they aren’t being punished for their beliefs but for expressing those beliefs, as if there’s any meaningful difference) then I would regard it as a serious issue.

    • Machine Interface says:

      That belief is not worthy of respect, even though it’s shared by (pulling figure straight out of my ***) ~ 80% of the population

      And what? This was true of opposition to interracial mariage or support for the institution of slavery. How widely a belief is held is completely irrelevent to wheither it is respectable. It is respectable if it’s deemed compatible with the moral norms that are effectively enforced by the government, regardless of those the vulgus thinks should be enforced. That’s an important component rule of law, that’s why child abusers get trials and prison sentences and not lynchmobs (I’m sure 80% of the population would have no problem with this either).

      • jermo sapiens says:

        The actual legal standard is:

        It must be worthy of respect in a democratic society, be not incompatible with human dignity and not conflict with the fundamental rights of others

        which suggests at the very least that democratic opinion of the belief is relevant.

        How widely a belief is held is completely irrelevent to wheither it is respectable.

        I dont think that’s true. And the examples you raised highlight that fact. When opposition to interracial marriage was prevalent, that belief was respectable, almost by definition. It’s not respectable today, but back then it was. Same with slavery.

        It is respectable if it’s deemed compatible with the moral norms that are effectively enforced by the government, regardless of those the vulgus thinks should be enforced.

        Ah yes, if one day I can live in a utopia where all respectable beliefs are determined by the government. I think Trump is planning on declaring by executive order that the belief that Nancy Pelosi is a gigantic loser. Sad! is the only respectable belief to be had on impeachment, and I trust you will join me in celebrating this victory for the rule of law.

        • Machine Interface says:

          Everyone here knows that “democracy” in the west doesn’t mean “the majority decides how things are done” — as witnessed by the fact that we’re not having referendums for each new law to be passed. It doesn’t even mean “the majority decides who gets to make the rules” — as witnessed by how the American electoral system works, or for that matter, how most parliamentary systems work (in fact there are only two countries in the west with an executive head of state directly elected by universal suffrage in a two-round elections: France and Portugal).

          And if you admit that the respectability of a belief can vary over time, then I maintain that wheither or not the law sanctions that belief is a better criteria than how many people subscribe to it. The rules that matter are the rules that are actually enforced.

          I think Trump is planning on declaring by executive order that the belief that Nancy Pelosi is a gigantic loser. Sad! is the only respectable belief to be had on impeachment, and I trust you will join me in celebrating this victory for the rule of law.

          Well it’s a good thing rule of law is totally the same thing as rule by fiat and legalism, otherwise that would be a pretty bad faith argument on your part!

          • jermo sapiens says:

            Well it’s a good thing rule of law is totally the same thing as rule by fiat and legalism, otherwise that would be a pretty bad faith argument on your part!

            You’re the one arguing that the government should be the arbiter of respectable beliefs, with punishment for those with unacceptable beliefs. If you want to pick on my example because I used an executive order, just change the example to congress passing a bill instead.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            And if you admit that the respectability of a belief can vary over time, then I maintain that wheither or not the law sanctions that belief is a better criteria than how many people subscribe to it.

            That’s no help in the present case, where you have to know whether or not the belief is respectable before you can determine whether or not the law sanctions it.

      • EchoChaos says:

        It is respectable if it’s deemed compatible with the moral norms that are effectively enforced by the government, regardless of those the vulgus thinks should be enforced

        We live in nominally democratic societies, so I am not sure I understand the difference.

        • Dacyn says:

          With one, you can argue that the judge’s ruling is a performative utterance which makes the belief not respectable.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            If that’s the case, then it’s impossible to know what is and isn’t a protected belief before you get taken to court, which is very bad from a liberty/rule of law perspective.

          • Dacyn says:

            Agreed. To be clear, I was just trying to explain to EchoChaos what I perceived as the difference between the two concepts Machine Interface distinguished, not to defend any argument based on this distinction. Though Machine Interface can say something if they think I have misinterpreted them.

      • AlexOfUrals says:

        If 80% of the population don’t support them, where exactly do those “moral norms” come from? And how do we decide which 20% get to be the elite educating the unenlightened masses?

      • John Schilling says:

        And what? This was true of opposition to interracial mariage or support for the institution of slavery. How widely a belief is held is completely irrelevent to whether it is respectable.

        If lots of people believe a claim, and thus implicitly respect it at least as a truth-statement, then that seems highly relevant to whether it is respectable. Because, look at all the people who are respecting it. It is demonstrably capable of being broadly respected.

        Now, there’s a definition of “respectable” that only considers whether the right sort of people believe or respect it, and if only the wrong sort of people respect it then it is merely “popular”. But that’s a highly undemocratic standard of “respectability”, so if someone talks about a thing being respectable in a democratic society and ignores all the people who disagree, then I get to call you a hypocrite and laugh at them.

        In virtually all modern anglospheric societies, both “transwomen are women” and “transwomen are not women” are respectable and worthy of respect. And while there may be a basis for disagreeing with the “worthy of respect” part, appeal to democracy is absolutely not it.

        • salvorhardin says:

          “In virtually all modern anglospheric societies, both “transwomen are women” and “transwomen are not women” are respectable and worthy of respect.”

          Unfortunately the position “both of those are gross oversimplifications, reality is complicated” seems much less respected, which is a shame since it also seems to have a fair bit of evidence on its side. As far as I can tell this is the position taken by many/most of the so-called “gender critical” feminist scholars who write for Quillette, for example. The activist left is prone to falsely claiming these scholars believe “transwomen are not women” simpliciter, since the nuance of the “gender critical” position threatens their activist doctrinal purity. The traditionalist right tends to make the *same* false claim, perhaps to lend scholarly support to their own overly simplistic beliefs.

    • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

      The reasoning seems sloppy (unlike the previous case Nick mentioned where I thought they were careful to focus on “I should misgender people” as the indefensible belief rather than broader things).

      But the result (you can fire people for their political views if their expression of them is harming your business) certainly seems correct, and people here and elsewhere are being obviously silly by equivocating between this and saying “trans women are not women” being illegal in general, and between this and saying “biological sex is a thing”.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        In the US, sure. You generally do not have a right to keep your job for the political speech you make, except in [list of exceptions that are usually about working for the government].

        But most other countries consider the US’s fire-at-will barbaric.

        • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

          At-will employment is an unrelated issue. It’s perfectly reasonable to think that:
          1. If you fire someone you must have a sensible business-related justification for it.
          2. Even if you have a justification, you might not be allowed to fire someone if doing so would be discriminatory (you can’t fire someone for doing union stuff even if that would clearly benefit you).
          3. Religious or “philosophical” beliefs usually count as protected for this purpose, but not any old opinion does.

          In fact, as I understand it, that is the situation in the UK (and I assume most European countries are more similar to us than the US). I find it regrettable that decisions about what counts as a philosophical belief often seem to be unprincipled and dubiously reasoned, but it seems somewhat hypocritical to complain about this in this instance if one is in favour of a system where you can fire someone for any reason.

          • The Nybbler says:

            but it seems somewhat hypocritical to complain about this in this instance if one is in favour of a system where you can fire someone for any reason.

            My rules applied fairly >> your rules applied fairly >>>>> your rules applied unfairly.

            It’s not hypocritical to complain about established rules being applied unfairly even if I disagree with the rule, and even when, if my rules were in place, the object-level outcome in the case at hand would be the same as in the unfair case.

            To spell out an example:

            Rs claim to want firing at will

            Ds claim to want firing only for good reasons

            Employer fires someone for being a D, Ds complain, decision is overruled.

            Different employer fires someone for being an R, Rs complain, decision is upheld.

            Rs are upset. Ds responds “Well, this is firing at will, you’re only getting what you asked for, hypocrite”. Ds are wrong here. Effective rule is “It’s OK for fire Rs for being Rs but not Ds for being Ds”, and it’s perfectly reasonable for Rs to be upset over that even if they’d prefer it were OK to fire in all cases.

          • Dacyn says:

            It’s not hypocritical to point out hypocrisy, though. And hypocrisy seems a good name for a system that gives a certain protection to ingroup but not outgroup beliefs, while claiming that it is giving the protection to all philosophical beliefs.

  16. AG says:

    To Eric T, who posted in OT143 looking for “the world is larger and more hostile/chaotic than we know” fiction recommendations for their student, all of the reviews appear to agree that the new Cats movie very much qualifies.

    Then again, perhaps the appeal of such fiction is not to actually experience what the Lovecraftian protagonist experiences, but merely a dampened version of their perspective. So your bright 6th grader is probably better off getting their indirect eldritch fix from reading Cats reviews, than taking the sanity risk to see it in theatres.

    • Eric T says:

      I think I’ll save her the emotional trauma from watching that.

      Though that does bring up something – I’m always curious about how movies that are this bad ever get finished at all. How do they not just get canceled early in production? How does the studio get a script like that and let it go to filming at all?

      I understand how the kind of bad movies that might appeal to some audiences get made. But this appeals to nobody. Not only that, you drop nearly $100 million into a movie and release it the same week as the new Star Wars film? I’m truly at a loss how any profit-seeking business could make these decisions.

      • rocoulm says:

        I’m not saying I believe them, but there are conspiracy theories about how these are basically money laundering schemes.

        Personally, I think it’s more likely some combination of the Abilene paradox and sunk-cost thinking.

      • BBA says:

        This one seems pretty understandable. Cats was one of the biggest shows in Broadway history and theater fans can be pretty obsessive. Furthermore there isn’t much overlap between theater obsessives and Star Wars obsessives so Universal might have figured it was good counterprogramming. And of course it’s got an all-star cast, on paper it’s a surefire cult favorite, if not an outright hit.

        The notion that this stage show may not translate well to the screen – it’s big on spectacle, small on plot – probably never crossed any executives’ minds. As for the creepy CGI… I got nothing.

        • Tarpitz says:

          The same director previously adapted another hit 80s musical for the screen. Les Miserables took $450m at the box office and was nominated for 8 Oscars, including Best Picture, winning 3. The director himself has an Oscar from another project.

          I am a development executive, albeit in British indie movies not Hollywood. I think Les Miserables is not a particularly good film. I think if you had shown me the Cats script and concept I would have concluded that it would be dross – despite the central involvement of a big name creative some of whose other work I greatly admire. But would I be confident that it would lose money? No. I think it would look to me like exactly the sort of project that could make a fortune in spite of its badness.

          The stage show – which is itself notoriously crap and extremely weird – had difficulty attracting investment for precisely those reasons. It has since taken north of $3.5bn. People who trusted the famous and successful creative and invested in the weird bad show made a killing.

          There are projects whose greenlighting is unfathomable. This is not one of them.

        • Deiseach says:

          As for the creepy CGI… I got nothing.

          I’m only going by the trailer but yeah, that was the part that got me. Human-sized actors in cat costumes and makeup, like the stage show, okay. Animated version even better, but whatever, I don’t get to decide on how you make a multi-million dollar movie.

          But cat-sized naked humans with fur but human faces and hands (and human female breasts)? That is simply too damn creepy!

          • Another Throw says:

            But cat-sized naked humans with fur but human faces and hands (and human female breasts)? That is simply too damn creepy!

            It is a pretty uncanny valley. I only casually glanced at the trailer on my phone. It looked like part of the problem is that it isn’t just “(and human female breasts),” but how those look when smashed into clothing, while being ostensibly nude. Which, okay, whatever. But if you’re going the chest bump route you need man-in-spandex crotch bulges as well. Or neither, and do your sexual dimorphism is a different way.

        • BBA says:

          Something I’m realizing now: Cats closed on Broadway in 2000 (and the original London production closed in 2002). There was a brief revival in 2016-17, but it never got the attention of the original. It’s possible that many of the critics watching this movie are totally unaware that it was a stage show, which makes the movie all the more inexplicable.

          Also: how much awareness is there of “legitimate” theater outside New York and London, anyway? I remember this ad coming on during my cartoons, but if you weren’t a ’90s kid in New York you don’t. There’s touring productions, I guess…

          • The Nybbler says:

            That commercial also aired in the Philly market. The last tour played across the country, including in Peoria. So it was pretty well known.

            Also, both the _Chicago_ and _Moulin Rouge_ movies were successes, though the original productions were certainly less well-known than _Cats_.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        Some more books– I’m not sure what will hit the spot.

        A Fire Upon the Deep by Vinge.

        Winter Tide by Emrys.

  17. Viliam says:

    Proposal to standardize the names of the adversarial collaboration essays:

    * Is infant circumcision a net harm?
    * Is eating meat a net harm?
    * Is calorie restriction a net harm?
    * Is space colonization a net harm?
    * Is gene editing a net harm?
    * Is abortion a net harm?
    * Is automation a net harm?
    * Are spiritual experiences a net harm?

    • acymetric says:

      Doesn’t really work that well for space colonization. Also, the “net harm” phrasing feels like it inserts a subtle bias in one direction in the title.

    • Statismagician says:

      I think the question format isn’t necessary; a simple statement of the topic should be fine.

    • DinoNerd says:

      It appears to presume a particular decision making framework, that many of the collaborators might not share.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      Is anal retention a net harm?

      (j/k folks, obsessive compulsive disorder is real and I don’t mean to pretend this is it)

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      Deliberately skimming these while paying minimal attention yields a compelling list for future ACs.
      * Is meat circumcision a net harm?
      * Is infant eating a net harm?
      * Is colonization restriction a net harm?
      * Are space calories a net harm?
      * Are abortion genes a net harm?
      * Is experience editing a net harm?
      * Is spiritual automation a net harm?

      • Statismagician says:

        I was going to say something flippant, but I actually really want to read the colonization and space calorie ones.

      • Randy M says:

        I for one am strongly pro spiritual colonization to mitigate the risks of eating meat.

        (I was going for gibberish, but I’m reading the Hithchikers guide series to my kids and I think this translates into breeding animals that want to be eaten ala the Restaurant at the end of the Universe)

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        Space calories (aka sunlight) are a net good so far.

      • Dacyn says:

        Experience editing sounds like wireheading, and spiritual automation sounds like building robots that are meant to live fulfilling lives so that we don’t need humans to do that anymore. Infants aren’t supposed to eat until 4 months, so that one is a net harm. It may be interesting to also ask whether abortion genes are evolutionarily fit or unfit: the primary effect is obviously unfit but plausibly the ability to have children on one’s own schedule could compensate for that.

  18. Nick says:

    Can we please have a soft ban on impeachment for either the .5 or the .75 thread?

    • EchoChaos says:

      That seems reasonable to me, especially if there haven’t been any major events.

      I am going to self-ban myself on impeachment in the .5 thread for sure.

    • acymetric says:

      Seconded. An “ignore” feature for top level threads and their sub-comments would have been an amazing feature for this OT.

      • Matt says:

        What’s wrong with the ‘Hide’ button, right next to the ‘Reply’ button? I generally use it on the religion threads.

        • acymetric says:

          When you reload the page the comment section isn’t still hidden, so once a thread is long in order to hide you have to scroll all the way up to find the top level posts each time.

        • DinoNerd says:

          It’s also not too useful when reading via the “new comments” list on the upper right. (Currently 72 new comments for me; 7 above the 1st impeachment thread, and it’s too tedious for me to check how many of the other 65 are NOT in one of the impeachment thread(s).)

          • Nick says:

            Yeah, part of the problem with just hiding on refresh is that there are umpteen impeachment threads. Mine can even be considered one, or a meta-impeachment thread if you like.

    • Randy M says:

      It’s hard to make a meta-joke about this without a bicameral commenting body.
      So, to be serious, that seems reasonable.

  19. sharper13 says:

    Let’s talk about the game theory aspects of the current impeachment drama. For the purposes of this thread, I’d request we not get into a debate about the impeachment details themselves, but for the purposes of this particular discussion take as granted that:
    1. The Democrats and Republicans all seek political advantages in all this, but the Republicans (and especially Trump) are the ones who actually improve at the polls among independents and in swing states as a result.
    2. The Senate will either quickly dismiss the charges outright, or else have some sort of show trial to make the Democrats look bad and then vindicate Trump.

    My contention is that in this instance Impeachment of Trump by the House makes it more difficult for the Democrats in the House to hold Trump accountable for anything he does in the future. That if Trump has a proclivity for wrong-doing as President, this sequence of events makes it more likely he’ll be able to act on that proclivity with impunity.

    That’s because after 1 & 2 above, the Democrats will have a much higher bar than before to get over before they will be willing to impeach again. Can you imagine people’s (justifiable) reactions if 6 months from now the House impeached Trump for something similar again, substituting China for Ukraine, say? Does anyone really see Pelosi going down that road again for anything less than a bipartisan and airtight case about something serious? (This is not to say I don’t think they’ll hold hearings in the House in the future to make negative statements about Trump, certainly there will be a never-ending stream of those based on any justification, just that they would be less willing politically to impeach again.)

    In other words, this failed attempt somewhat future-proofs Trump from another similar attempt, even if the next situation were to be about something a little more serious, or more obvious, or more bipartisan, or more provable. After this, it would have to be a much bigger deal for anyone to go back to impeachment, politically.

    Feel free to propose your own game-theory-centric related situation, but I’d prefer if we save the discussions over the merits of the charges for the other related threads.

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      You’ve pretty much put your finger on my main worry. It would be a good thing if we could kick the corrupt bastard out of office now and have done with it, but I don’t see it happening.

    • blipnickels says:

      ehhhhhhh, alright

      The two main game theoretic issues I would focus on are:
      #1 Is this Trump specific?
      #2 Does Trump win reelection?

      I think Trump is a lot less weird in policy terms than a lot of other people but he’s still a unique actor. The big effects are not going to be Trump’s actions over the next 1-5 years but the effects on every future president. Nixon cast a long shadow but every indication is that Trump will win reelection. That’s a big effect; it signals that there are few political consequences to impeachment and there might even be benefits. Every future president will have to wonder if the political environment has permanently shifted, making impeachment no longer a threat, or if this is just a Trump thing.

      It’ll also be interesting to see how Dems do in the House in 2020. Does impeachment have down-ballot consequences? We haven’t been in impeachment very often before and no one really knows the impact but we’ve had 2 out of 3 US impeachments in the past ~30 years and Nixon about 25 years before that, so it certainly looks to be more common

      • sharper13 says:

        A similar type of thing in my mind between the House, Senate, and the President has been the history of “shutting down the government”, meaning not appropriating money to spend on non-essential discretionary items.

        The first couple of times that happened, various people blamed various others (mostly based on their political preferences), but now by the time it’s happened a dozen times, it’s not nearly as much “news”, people tend to shrug and think they’ll sort it out in a couple of days, or else the politicians realize they’re going to compromise eventually, so might as well generally do it before the deadline instead of a few days afterwards.

        If the House/Senate end up in opposite camps w/the Senate allied to the President again in the future, I could see after a couple of cycles of political revenge impeachment turning into a similar type of event. Rare, but not unheard of or that big of a deal anymore.

      • The Nybbler says:

        I’m not sure he’s so unique. His policies aren’t so weird; the main thing about him is his crude style. The usual comparison is Andrew Jackson, but we can find such a cruder President much more recently: Lyndon Baines Johnson, who was definitely rather fond of foul language, and supposedly liked to expose his penis (which he called “Jumbo”) to others in the White House.

        • Twitter hadn’t been invented then.

          Which might be the big difference, although I suspect LBJ was also much more competent at the ordinary business of politics.

          • John Schilling says:

            Twitter hadn’t been invented then.

            Television had, and it would have been trivial for LBJ to achieve broad coverage for Trumpian levels of crudeness or beyond. Just as it would be trivial for Trump to keep his public image at no more than LBJ levels of crudeness, if he so desired and if he had the impulse control for it.

          • LBJ could have, but television is a much less impromptu medium. How much of Trump’s crudeness has appeared in TV appearance, relative to tweets?

    • salvorhardin says:

      One counterargument is that it’s not clear Trump would be any more likely to be removed from office successfully for any of the other plausible types of wrongdoing you might like to punish him for in the future. Basically you will never have a bipartisan case for removal for anything, because Republicans will always find some way to convince themselves that their guy hasn’t actually done anything wrong, regardless of the severity or provability of the wrongdoing. So the Democrats don’t actually lose any power by taking a stand now; the power you worry about them losing is power they would never have had anyway.

      Another counterargument is that your #1 is probably not true. The relevant sample size is very small, but Clinton’s impeachment appears to have hurt the Democrats in 2000 despite his popularity (which was much higher than Trump’s has ever been). So impeaching now to hurt Trump’s reelection prospects, and even more so to improve the prospects for a D hold in the House and narrowing if not takeover in the Senate, is an uncertain but worthwhile gamble.

      • cassander says:

        Basically you will never have a bipartisan case for removal for anything, because Republicans will always find some way to convince themselves that their guy hasn’t actually done anything wrong, regardless of the severity or provability of the wrongdoing.

        that republicans do not find the current case compelling is not evidence that they will never find any case to be compelling.

        • I’m not a Republican, didn’t vote for Trump (voted for Johnson) and don’t plan to, and I don’t find the current case compelling. Half of the charge amounts to saying that for the president to claim executive privilege in response to a congressional subpoena when the House doesn’t think it is justified is a “high crime or misdemeanor.” The obvious response is that disagreements between the executive and the legislature on the boundaries of their authority are suppose to be settled by the judiciary–and it’s the Democrats who are unwilling to wait for that to happen. If the courts end up ruling against Trump and he still tells his people not to testify, there would then be a case for obstruction.

          The other half looks like a bad thing that he probably did but they don’t yet have clear evidence that he did. Objecting that they don’t have the evidence because he won’t let the relevant people testify faces my previous objection — it’s their decision to go ahead without waiting for the courts to rule on the subpoena issue.

          And while he probably did it, I don’t think it’s clearly beyond the sort of abuse of power that politicians get away with. Someone already linked to what looks like a case of Obama asking the president of Russia to go easy on him until the election, with the implication that he would give the Russians more of what they wanted (be “more flexible”) on the disputed issue after he was reelected. Unlike the Trump case, the exact exchange is a matter of public record, since it was caught on a microphone, although one could interpret it in less damaging ways.

          I don’t remember anyone proposing impeachment on that. His opponent merely referred to it as “alarming and troubling.”

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Half of the charge amounts to saying that for the president to claim executive privilege

            Has the President made this claim in response to the subpoenas related to impeachment ? If so, has this been the entirety of his claim?

          • albatross11 says:

            I haven’t spent a lot of time on the impeachment claims (Trump should go, but he is at least the third president in a row who deserves impeachment, IMO), but I’m in at least broadly the same boat w.r.t. the Russia allegations[1].

            As best I can tell, Trump et al used bad judgment in some of their dealings with Russia (what a surprise), and had some advisors with unduly close connections with Russia. And a chunk of the left which includes a lot of respectable media types and elites have jumped on that to claim Trump is a Russian asset, and also to claim that about basically everyone they dislike, from Mitch McConnel to Tulsi Gabbard. And they’ll toss around those claims without troubling with any evidence or critical thought.

            And now, there’s a substantial bubble of “Trump is a Russian asset, the Republicans are all on the Russian payroll” rhetoric that is bouncing around, which reminds me very strongly of the weird “Obama is a Muslim/Obama is a socialist/Obama isn’t a real American” rhetoric bouncing around a lot of the right end of the media a few years back.

            [1] If it matters, I usually vote Libertarian but voted for Democrats for a few years to push back on the disastrous presidency of W. Obama got my vote in 2008, but lost it in 2012 thanks to continuing most of the war on terror and protecting war criminals from prosecution.

          • salvorhardin says:

            @albatross11

            I think you’re drastically understating the extent of circumstantial evidence for collusion with Russia. It’s not just the advisors and the bad judgment, it’s the absolute refusal to condemn any of Putin’s bad deeds (notably at Helsinki), the repeated going out of his way to serve Putin’s interests (from fiddling with the 2016 Republican platform to, well, withholding military aid from a country imminently threatened by Russia), the fact that Putin more or less openly campaigned for him to be elected, and remarks like “Russia, if you’re listening…”

            For all that it is still circumstantial, and it’s fair to say it’s unwise to reach confident conclusions without direct evidence. But note that Kevin McCarthy was caught on tape saying there was enough there to suspect Putin was paying Trump, and whatever else Kevin McCarthy is, he is not a leftist. The evidence against Trump is much, much stronger than that for any of the wilder theories about Obama ever was.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            from fiddling with the 2016 Republican platform to,

            Here’s the explainer for the GOP platform thing.

            Trump did not fiddle with the GOP platform thing. There was nothing in the platform about Ukraine since the last platform was written in 2012 and the Ukraine/Russia conflict didn’t start until 2013. One delegate wanted the platform to include language supporting Ukraine/condemning Russia, promises of humanitarian and logistical support, and lethal weapons.

            One Trump delegate (who, if Trump was secretly a Putin puppet, was probably not high enough on the totem pole to be aware of this and complicit) said they should take out the part about lethal weapons, because maybe we shouldn’t precommit to giving weapons to people so they can kill soldiers from a nuclear armed nation we’re not at war with. Not saying we won’t do it, but just don’t put that in writing yet. Everyone agreed this was a good idea. When in office, Trump gave lethal weapons to the Ukrainians (javelin missiles, sniper rifles).

            But the platform went from strength 0, someone proposed strength 8, a Trump delegate proposed strength 7 instead and everyone agreed. That still goes from 0 to 7. And then Trump took it to strength 8 once in office by approving the lethal weapons transfers.

            The Washington Post reported this as Trump campaign guts GOP’s anti-Russia stance on Ukraine. Perhaps people got the wrong idea about Trump’s fondness for Russia from gross misreporting like this?

            withholding military aid from a country imminently threatened by Russia

            Did Obama’s refusal to give lethal military aid to Ukraine make you suspect he was too closely involved with the Russians? If not, given that Trump did in fact give the lethal aid Obama refused to offer, is that not evidence Trump is less beholden to Russia than Obama, who we all agree was not beholden to Russia?

          • “Russia, if you’re listening

            I think that was pretty obviously a joke, and would be interpreted as such if anyone other than Trump said it.

            If he really wanted the Russians to do it, he could have found a less public way of asking.

          • mtl1882 says:

            @DavidFriedman, perhaps they are not utilitarians and feel they have a moral obligation to do what they can despite its almost certainly being futile?

            I think this is definitely playing a major role, but I feel like we should stop and think about this a bit more. Where does this moral obligation come from? I mean, this is essentially a religious stance. The impeachment power was clearly designed as a tool for humans to use by choice, not a moral imperative that crystallizes outside the system. That doesn’t make drawing a line and taking a moral/principled stand unfeasible, but I also don’t think it is the obvious approach. One can speak out against Trump’s behavior and take other actions without impeaching, perhaps actions that are more likely to be productive. It’s hard for me to see anything approaching a moral mandate for impeachment where the public isn’t asking for it. I feel like this framing is very unhelpful, and widespread in modern life. We’re investing procedures with symbolic spiritual power, instead of using them to achieve principled ends. Something similar happened with Brexit–the act of making decisions on Brexit somehow became almost immoral or wrong, because it legitimized the “idea” that Brexit had won the vote. They were then unable to use their actual tools to get to work on responding to the situation and preserve what they were claiming were sacred values. I find it eerie.

          • Viliam says:

            And now, there’s a substantial bubble of “Trump is a Russian asset, the Republicans are all on the Russian payroll” rhetoric that is bouncing around, which reminds me very strongly of the weird “Obama is a Muslim/Obama is a socialist/Obama isn’t a real American” rhetoric bouncing around a lot of the right end of the media a few years back.

            What if both sides are right, and American politics is just a battleground between Russians and Muslims?

            Muslims: fly a plane to the towers, to demonstrate their control over USA

            Russians: send American soldiers to Afghanistan, to demonstrate their control over USA

            Muslims: make a black man an American president, just to spite Russians (who are white)

            Russians: make an orange man an American president, and make him say “hey Russians, feel free to take back all Eastern European countries, we don’t really care”

            What if, in this parallel universe, Americans actually lost the Cold War and became mere puppets of the remaining superpowers… Of course they would never admit it, but the evidence speaks clearly.

        • salvorhardin says:

          @cassander

          This one case may not itself be enough to establish that, but the fact that Republicans have not abandoned Trump despite all of his manifest and lifelong crookedness and unfitness for office– and that they continually talk for Buncombe in order to defend him as his base wants him defended, rather than acknowledging facts in front of their eyes– is pretty good evidence. It is difficult, as the saying goes, to get someone to understand something when their salary depends on their not understanding it.

          @DavidFriedman

          In principle that sounds reasonable. In practice it is very likely that Trump is fighting these subpoenas without a legal leg to stand on as a technique for running out the clock while he continues to come up with more corrupt ways to rig his reelection. The case for impeaching now is, as Democrats have repeatedly said, that that is too great a danger to the republic to wait.

          • EchoChaos says:

            The case for impeaching now is, as Democrats have repeatedly said, that that is too great a danger to the republic to wait.

            But not so great that they actually have to try the case. They can hold that off for a while.

          • salvorhardin says:

            If it looked like they would actually be allowed to try the case as Republicans were allowed to try the case against Clinton twenty years ago, they wouldn’t be holding off. (Though FWIW I agree that holding off is pointless and dumb).

          • baconbits9 says:

            If it looked like they would actually be allowed to try the case as Republicans were allowed to try the case against Clinton twenty years ago, they wouldn’t be holding off. (Though FWIW I agree that holding off is pointless and dumb).

            Its not the Democrat’s job to try the case, its the Senate’s job.

          • but the fact that Republicans have not abandoned Trump despite all of his manifest and lifelong crookedness and unfitness for office

            What conclusion do you draw from the fact that progressives have not abandoned Warren, have indeed made her one of their standard bearers, despite the fact that she falsely listed herself as a minority in a database used by law schools in finding professors to hire? When eventually challenged on that, much later, her defense was that there was a family tradition of one distant Cherokee ancestor.

            I find that only mildly wicked, but then I’m not a fan of affirmative action. What I find shocking is that it doesn’t seem to bother people with a very different attitude to the subject.

            That’s not a defense of Trump, who is pretty clearly a worse person than Warren. It is evidence that SalvorHardin is using a double standard.

          • The case for impeaching now is, as Democrats have repeatedly said, that that is too great a danger to the republic to wait.

            To remove him from office they have to not only impeach but convict. Do you think they believe there is any significant chance of that happening, of two thirds of a Republican majority senate voting for it?

            If not, does it not follow that your justification for their action is false?

          • Evan Þ says:

            @DavidFriedman, perhaps they are not utilitarians and feel they have a moral obligation to do what they can despite its almost certainly being futile?

            I could see myself doing the same if I were a Congressman facing some hypothetical Presidents.

          • Could be, but the argument I was responding to was:

            The case for impeaching now is, as Democrats have repeatedly said, that that is too great a danger to the republic to wait.

            “Danger to the Republic” is clearly a consequentialist argument, and I am waiting for the person who made it to either defend it or concede that it was wrong.

            Assuming he hasn’t yet done so in a comment I missed, always possible.

          • cassander says:

            @salvorhardin

            I recall a number of republicans making similar arguments about \obama for 8 years, and before that democrats making it for bush. “You’re a bad person if you don’t hate someone from your tribe as much as an outriber does.” remains a bad argument. Plenty of people around here have articulated reasons why they don’t consider trump as manifestly unfit for office as you seem to think he is. I would suggest examining those arguments rather than just assuming that your outgroup is corruptly devoted to him.

            For my money, I think people who can’t help but scream danger to the republic every time trump as much as farts are doing far more damage to it than he ever could.

          • albatross11 says:

            cassander:

            For my money, I think people who can’t help but scream danger to the republic every time trump as much as farts are doing far more damage to it than he ever could.

            I agree, and I’m one of the people who thinks Trump is a terrible president and a worse human being. It seems to me that Trump has done some pretty bad stuff, and that it has mostly been glossed over or gotten little attention in the flood of Trump-associated clickbait/outrage stories that appear constantly in the media, because Trump gets everyone’s attention. There’s a headline or two every day talking about Trump’s terrible crimes, but 95% of them are for stuff every president does or every Republican does or stupid outrage-storms over the fact that the president is indeed a big asshole on Twitter or made-up crap like the “he’s a Russian agent” accusations. And then, the other 5% of the time, when Trump is doing something genuinely bad, it gets lost in the noise and gets little attention.

            Worse, serious stuff gets swamped by Trump-related outrage storms of little long-term importance. The recent stories about the “Afghanistan papers,” the IG report showing that the FBI used known-false evidence to get a FISA warrant on a major party presidential candidate, ongoing military intervention in places most voters didn’t realize we even had troops[1], the ongoing humanitarian disaster in Yemen presided over by the Saudis with extensive help from us, popular unrest and riots in Iran and Chile–all that stuff drops off the edge of the map, because all the air in the room is taken up with outrage over Trump, one way or another.

            Sometimes, Trump exploits this to push embarrassing things off the front page, or to make a big media splash that low-information voters will vaguely remember in the right direction come election day. But often, it’s just media sources pursuing clicks and serious news sources feeding up a steady diet of junk food for their customers.

            [1] Remember when we had several special forces troops killed in Niger, and instead of the national conversation being about what the hell we’re doing running military operations in Niger, it was about whether Trump was rude to the widow of one of the dead soldiers? This is commonplace, and it’s incredibly broken.

          • Aapje says:

            @albatross11

            The recent stories about the “Afghanistan papers,” the IG report showing that the FBI used known-false evidence to get a FISA warrant on a major party presidential candidate, ongoing military intervention in places most voters didn’t realize we even had troops[1], the ongoing humanitarian disaster in Yemen presided over by the Saudis with extensive help from us, popular unrest and riots in Iran and Chile

            None of those are Trump-specific IMO (and one of them even targeted Trump). It’s just how the US (deep state) normally operates.

            It seems to me that most of the media is caught in a rock and a hard place. They thoroughly dislike Trump as a human being and want to oppose him totally, but with Trump opposing the deep state, this means defending the deep state (or ignoring it).

    • mtl1882 says:

      That’s a good point. I don’t think there’s much strategic brilliance on display. Despite the performative aspects, they don’t see themselves as players in a game–they see themselves more as actors in a drama with a conventional narrative shape, I think. At the same time, if something egregious happened, it really isn’t that hard to impeach–it would just be awkward to re-stage the whole narrative. If they were to use impeachment power like the tool that it is, instead of some external imperative, and the behavior was egregious enough, there’s no reason it couldn’t be a quick and simple process. But it will be harder to use it as a rhetorical threat, and I think that was strategically a mistake. Likewise, saying that they had to do it to prevent him from misconduct in getting re-elected basically commits them to the idea that the next election will be of questionable legitimacy, which seems like it will be a major distraction and weaken any message the election could be said to send. If he is defeated, it would be much better to portray it as a clean, decisive break, totally legitimate, which nullifies the last four years and vindicates them. But almost no one seems capable of making an actual move in a game–the holding back the articles reminds me of Brexit. It is because the political establishment is offended by the idea of politics as a game with strategy instead of a predictably functioning machine. They won’t even use their own power to their benefit, despite holding so much of it.

      • Loriot says:

        Your argument fails if you believe that Trump has already committed egregious acts, and there is nothing he could possibly do that would be egregious enough to lose Republican support, as long as he kept saying the right stuff politically.

        • baconbits9 says:

          This is a weak argument and only works in a world of Ds and Rs, at this point you have to think that Trump has committed egregious acts and that Republicans and more than half of independents are going to continually turn a blind eye to it, which means you are saying your view is correct over both the partisan R view plus the more or less neutral independent view.

          • Loriot says:

            Where did the independent thing come from? In order for impeachment to be a “quick and simple process”, the Republican senators have to be on board with it.

        • mtl1882 says:

          Your argument fails if you believe that Trump has already committed egregious acts, and there is nothing he could possibly do that would be egregious enough to lose Republican support, as long as he kept saying the right stuff politically.

          If it is true that nothing he could do would lose him Republican support, then this is the least of our problems. That would mean the government would be dominated by a group of sociopaths or essentially nonfunctional people, such that replacing Trump isn’t going to do much. More than that, it suggests a good chunk of Americans support these people and their actions—which I generally consider means the actions aren’t egregious (the definition is shocking or outstandingly bad). The public can and has supported terrible things, but this is simply not shocking nor something that a representative system can automatically reject as foreign.

          I know some people feel that Republicans and their supporters are that bad, but if that’s the case, their problem is way bigger than Trump or these issues, and the remedy is probably not in our current system, which assumes the public is functional. And it doesn’t answer the argument that it still could have been used as a threat that influenced non-obsequious Republicans—if Republicans will not let it go through, why do it now? It’s like saying “we’re going to let the Republicans know this is unacceptable, though we know they have no sense of morality and won’t care.” Much of politics now comes down to this, and I think that’s a problem. It’s conflict versus mistake theory. You have to take real, productive actions to neutralize people who are hopelessly “hostile”—you express yourself and “take a stand” when you think the other side is amenable to persuasion, moral or informational.

          Where did the independent thing come from? In order for impeachment to be a “quick and simple process”, the Republican senators have to be on board with it.

          I maintain that if Trump did something egregious enough, public pressure from all groups, but even if just from non-republicans, would be sufficient to get this done quickly, although I think any president is would probably resign if this got close to being the case, like Nixon. Republican senators are opposed not because of some crazy loyalty to Trump and his actions, but because they are go along to get a long types who think they have enough public support that it is in their interest to do so. Were the public to swing considerably, it would be a different story.

          • albatross11 says:

            To be honest, I think high political office selects for sociopaths.

            When the required path forward to keep or enhance their power is to go along with, say, invading and wrecking some third world country that obviously poses no threat to the US, most high level politicians go along with it. When the required path involves jumping on the bandwagon of a moral panic and passing some legislation in a swell of outrage that they know is probably poorly thought out (think of “X
            ‘s law” for some named tragic victim X), again, they generally just go along. When their party’s interests or voting base change their acceptable positions on some issue of conscience (is it okay to torture prisoners, should gay marriage be legally allowed), they mostly go along with that, too.

            People who can’t swallow that sort of thing tend to end up losing power or at least topping out and being unable to advance further. The ones who succeed have been selected for having few principles they won’t compromise on (or perhaps simply having no principles). Similarly, the ones who succeed have been selected for being able to take action they know is probably a bad idea for the nation and will cause a lot of human suffering, in order to stay competitive in the next election or leadership battle.

          • I think high political office selects for sociopaths.

            One chapter of The Road to Serfdom is entitled “Why the Worst End Up on Top” (by memory, so probably not verbatim)

            I think it’s clear that Nixon knew that wage and price controls were a bad idea. He imposed them anyway, because doing so was politically profitable.

          • LesHapablap says:

            The whitehouse audio tapes of LBJ and Nixon showcased in Ken Burns’ Vietnam documentary show how they killed people for their own personal political success.

          • mtl1882 says:

            To be honest, I think high political office selects for sociopaths.

            I generally agree with you. But I don’t think this is especially Republican-specific, nor do I think the Republicans are supporting Trump due to sociopathy—they are just self-interested in a more spineless way, not immune to moral condemnation or empathy. If Trump did something that got the public mad, they would fold and go along to avoid consequences–that generally isn’t sociopathy. It is a desire to fit in and avoid criticism–they don’t have deep principles that they are disregarding to get ahead, and there generally isn’t all that much betrayal or manipulation involved. Being unprincipled is not the same as being utterly impervious to human decency or shame–it’s much more common and boring. My point is that I don’t think the problem is that we have the bad luck of having one party stacked with evil robots who will never respond to events–we have the more predictable problem of a party deciding it is in its interest to band together against an impeachment that is being used to score partisan points against it (I’m not saying that the impeachment is unwarranted, just that there is an undeniably partisan element.)

            I think our system is basically not functional at the moment, which is related to the major deterioration in congressional power. For that reason, I don’t think the system is selecting as much for the people who truly don’t care about others’ feelings, including people close to them, and can manipulate them to suit whatever ends they have in view. Who don’t have shame. That skill isn’t worth as much because the politicians aren’t in control, and there’s not much power to seize. The people gunning to invade third world countries, who make the actual decisions on these things, seem to have the problem of moral certainty, not absence. My main point is that in a system that selects for sociopathy, you will find it on both sides, even if they perform it differently. High political office in a functional system requires a stoicism and Machiavellian calculation that is basically like selective sociopathy, but I think the really morally indifferent people tend to be at lower levels, “just doing their job.” You need some sort of conviction to want to push higher in that realm, and to read the situation well—there are other ways to accumulate power. I don’t think Nixon was a sociopath at all–he was ruthlessly ambitious and arrogant, and that can cause just as much damage.

          • albatross11 says:

            mtl1882:

            I agree it’s not specific to Republicans or Democrats–it’s just that the more integrity you have and the more it bothers you to hurt or kill strangers in order to further your own political future, the harder it will be to climb up the political power hierarchy in the US.

  20. Loriot says:

    I have to say that as maddening as it is to read the CW threads here, it is a really useful check on bias.

    Seeing constant discussions about how “Democrats can’t possibly believe what they say, so what evil conspiracy are they pushing and why?” is a great defense against the tendency for me to wonder the same things about Republicans.

    It’s also a startling demonstration of just how powerful filter bubbles are. The SSC comments section is like a portal into an alternate universe where up is down and only fools could think the sky is blue.

    • Erusian says:

      I wouldn’t say the SSC commentariat is a very representative cross section of Republicans. In fact, I’d argue there’s more Blue Tribe SSC commenters than Red Tribe ones. What there is, though, is a lot of Grey/Libertarian types which code as conservative to Blue Tribe. Perhaps a majority. There’s also a few deeply reactionary types that wouldn’t code as in-group to the average Red Triber.

      That said, if you’re in a Blue Bubble, then some of those Grey Tribers do reflect alternate beliefs. I think it’s generally harder for the Blue Tribe to learn about the Red Tribe because the cultural elite, the media producers, the history producers, etc tend to be Blue Tribe. This means a Red Triber can figure out what the Blue Tribe thinks just by going online or watching TV. A Blue Triber can’t learn it in reverse (and probably doesn’t even know where to go).

      • cassander says:

        I’d like to second this. We have precious few actual red tribers around here, but a lot of heretic blue tribe.

        • Viliam says:

          It’s probably true about internet in general. When I read about “right wing” people saying this or that, most of the time it is actually someone on the left who only believes 90% of the dogma.

          • Thegnskald says:

            I’ve noticed an internal tendency to label SJWs, or those who defend SJ, as basically right-wing, just with a different religion, because they’re attacking what I consider basic social freedoms.

            Assuming this is normal, I suspect any cultural distance between self-described leftists will look like distance to the right.

            ETA: Assuming this is normal, any cultural difference between anybody will look like deviation from “us” towards “them”. Right-wing people may see different versions of right-wing thought as leftward.

            ETA again: …huh. That makes a two party system uniquely terrible for social stability/cohesion.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I’ve noticed an internal tendency

            Just so I am clear, internal here means “internal to Thegnskald”?

            If so, I would say you are just describing the “circular firing squad” effect, and that comes more more from a search for purity. It’s not unique to left or right, and the label for enemies changes as needed based on the nomenclature of the purity searched for.

            IMHO, It’s a basic tendency of regarding good/evil as intrinsically binary in nature.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Internal to me, yes.

            And I don’t really have a “good/evil” metric. I’d also say it is distinct from purity, because I don’t really care about purity.

            To explain what looks right-wing about it (omitting economic considerations, which interact with all this in very complex ways):

            From my perspective, social justice looks like a popular value system trying to make everybody adopt it.

            My conceptualization of leftism, meanwhile, is an alliance of disparate value systems fighting for equal treatment under the law, which is antithetical to any one value system “winning”, and imposing itself on the others.

            Which is to say, leftism has historically been about removing oppressive social structures which restricted the number of ways of life that were permitted, and some leftists now seem to be veering toward creating social structures to limit the number of ways of life that are permitted.

            Leftism isn’t static; it isn’t “This is the correct way to be”, that’s right-wing thinking, conservative thinking, status quo thinking.

            To me, this looks like yesterday’s leftism, packaged for an aging demographic that fancies itself progressive, even as it slides into conservativism. Leftism is a dynamic force, not a set of prepackaged policy decisions, made commodity for mass consumption.

            Which is to say: there is a cultural distance here. One culture’s revolution is another culture’s conservative status quo.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Thegnskald

            Where would you put the attempts to cancel J.K. Rowling over her TERFy comments recently

          • Thegnskald says:

            I’m not familiar with the situation.

            But in general, an attempt at cancellation is basically right-wing, in that it carries a presumption of social dominance, and is an attempt at control of value systems based on that dominance.

            Rowling’s comments might likewise be right-wing, but they might also not be. Don’t care to look them up, mostly because I just don’t think she is relevant.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Thegnskald

            Interesting use of “right-wing”. Would that make conservative Christians the “left-wing” socially right now in your perspective since they aren’t trying to enforce Christian morality, but merely have theirs tolerated?

          • jermo sapiens says:

            But in general, an attempt at cancellation is basically right-wing, in that it carries a presumption of social dominance, and is an attempt at control of value systems based on that dominance.

            I understand you’re basing this on an idiosyncratic view of the political spectrum, but in 2019, basically all attempts at cancellation have been made by people who consider themselves left-wing and would recoil at the idea of being considered right-wing.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Echo –

            Some of them. But leftism isn’t just having unpopular value systems, it is defending unpopular value systems in the general case.

            Jermo –

            Sure. Nobody likes being told they’re being, or supporting, authoritarian bullies on a pulpit of popular approval. They want to imagine that they’re the first people ever to get value systems actually right.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            Sure. Nobody likes being told they’re being, or supporting, authoritarian bullies on a pulpit of popular approval. They want to imagine that they’re the first people ever to get value systems actually right.

            True, but my point was that you may want to consider aligning your view of the political spectrum with common usage if you want to communicate effectively and not create confusion.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Jermo –

            My opening comment set the context, and I was explaining my internal reasoning.

            The fact that other self-described leftists will be described as right-wing is literally the point; I’m explaining why they look right-wing to me.

            And I believe this is a fully general phenomenon; I don’t think my definition of “left” is correct. I don’t think there IS a correct definition of “left”. Rather, we have a bunch of people with their own disparate definitions, which, when you examine them, will tend to define one pole as leftism, and distance from that pole as rightism.

            Right-wing people will tend to see deviations from the right as left, likewise.

            And libertarians, ultimately, just see different flavors of authoritarianism.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            @Thegnskald

            Got it. I retract my comment.

          • Thegnskald says:

            (Also, my definition of leftism is 100% the correct definition, and y’all should get on board with it, but no pressure. Tolerance for everybody! Including the intolerant! Because let’s just bite that damned bullet already!)

          • I think it’s a mistake to identify “blue tribe” with “left.” It’s a correlation, not an identity. So I think you need to distinguish between heretical leftists and people who are culturally blue but not politically left at all.

            There are a number of ways in which I am more nearly blue tribe than red tribe, although I don’t fit very well into either. But I am about as far from left, in a libertarian rather than traditionalist direction, as it is possible to be.

          • Thegnskald says:

            David – I’m pretty red tribe, so I’m using left as a political flag.

            Not David (specifically, general rant):

            The whole “intolerance of intolerance” thing is where leftism fundamentally broke. We are now supposed to be tolerant of intolerance towards poor rednecks, white people, men, Christians, etc., because “structural isms” form a fully general intolerance structure by which people get grouped and assigned intolerance based on cultural markers, and “punching up” is really just being intolerant of intolerance.

            Basically, the whole thing started collapsing as soon as an “All clear” flag was placed on intolerance, as long as the object of intolerance could be labeled themselves intolerant, which can be decided based on whether they embrace the exact value system (which, remember, is the basis for which we decide what is and isn’t tolerance) as the person making the judgment.

            Which is to say, intolerance of intolerance rapidly becomes intolerance of anybody who doesn’t have exactly the same value system as the person making the judgment.

            Tolerance only of people who share your values isn’t fucking tolerance. It’s agreement. And that is what “leftism” is turning into. How is that better than when Christianity was pulling that shit?

            /rant

          • DinoNerd says:

            @Thegnskald

            Interesting idea. I suspect you have a background like mine, though I haven’t made the same generalisation. In particular, growing up where the folks demanding that everyone say what they don’t mean, give lip service to various supposedly moral ideas, etc. etc. were mostly both religious and right wing, while those rebelling against this behaviour aligned left wing.

            In fact, one example of such a time and place would be the 1960s, in both the US and Canada. That’s what influenced me to expect the thought police to be right wing, at least in my own culture. Have you got the same background?

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Thegnskald

            I suggest that calling authoritarianism rightwing adds confusion since there’s a history of both left and rightwing authoritarianism.

            I’ve been seeing somewhat about Republicans who are cautious about public opposition to Trump because of blowback from Trump supporters. Everybody’s got speech codes.

          • Rebecca Friedman says:

            @Thegnskald

            As a (blue tribe) libertarian, I would say I mostly see intolerance from the left, and the idea of “cancel culture” being right-wing strikes me as “and apparently now the sky is green?” I can theoretically see how right-wing people might use that kind of power if they had it, and I can recall historical cases of them doing so (though mostly either pretty far back or in fairly different cultures; I could probably find more recent ones if I looked, this is part of my bubble) but I’ve never lived anywhere they did; for me, “thought police” maps pretty neatly to “left wing”. The attitude you describe (“leftism isn’t just having unpopular value systems, it is defending unpopular value systems in the general case”) strikes me as fairly extreme libertarian; left maybe in my father’s generation, when the left could be more libertarian on social issues (though even then, try defending the draft at Oberlin and see where it gets you), but I would be surprised to see most left-wingers defending it today. And encouraged, definitely encouraged! But surprised.

            As per the parent comment, it is very valuable to see views from outside my bubble. Thank you.

          • Viliam says:

            I think a large part of confusion comes from the left-wing identifying itself as “those who oppose the power” in situation when some of them actually become the power.

            One possible way to resolve this is to say that when (formerly) left-wing people become the power, by definition they become right-wing. That makes sense for a lonely eternally rebelling outsider. But the specific person in power — and their supporters — will continue calling themselves “left-wing”, and their opposition will agree with this label. So, this solution goes against how most people actually use the words.

            (I intentionally avoid taking sides here, because both “arguing by definition” and “arguing by popular usage” feel somewhat problematic to me. Personally, I believe that in some situations the “left/right” dichotomy simply does not reflect the territory. But again, in some situations it does, which is why people keep using those labels.)

            The traditional solution is that the left-wing people in power will insist on a perspective where, somehow, they still remain the underdogs fighting against those “actually” in power. (Even in extreme cases, such as Soviet Russia, there are enemy countries and internal traitors, and you can call them the oppresive power you keep rebelling against.) Stomping on the defeated opponent’s face is called punching up; beating up dissenters or getting them fired is called self-defense or eradicating intolerance. The question is whether you buy this framing; but that mostly depends on whether you support or oppose the people using this framing; and in turn, arguing for this framing becomes a signal of loyalty.

          • Aapje says:

            The eternal cycle seems to be that those who achieve power quickly become a lot less tolerant, when being tolerant limits them stomping on others, rather than prevents others from stomping on them.

            This is why checks and balances are so important. It is hardly the case that eliminating checks and balances is only favored by one side, although you’d believe so if you listen to most of the media.

            As for the ideal of favoring the oppressed, this often seems like an affectation, not something truly desired (and not the effect of the proposed policies).

      • hash872 says:

        I personally think the Red/Blue/Gray tribe categories are too reductionist and really wish Scott et al would stop using them. With that being said, every time I poke my head into a culture war or Trump discussion here, there seems to be plenty of Republicans using standard Republican talking points that you could just as easily find in the comments section of Redstate.com or whatever. I don’t see how SSC could possibly be described as anything but a right-leaning website- which is partially inspired by Scott/the rationalist movement in general, which is at a minimum anti-social justice. (Scott’s views, as far as I can see, are pretty standard Buttigieg-ish leftist, but he also combines that with being strongly anti-SJW?)

        • Skeptical Wolf says:

          every time I poke my head into a culture war or Trump discussion here, there seems to be plenty of Republicans using standard Republican talking points

          There are also quite a few self-described Marxists who drop into the economic discussions to tell us various things that Marxists believe. But I can still see how SSC could possibly be described as something other than a Marxist-leaning website. And those same Trump discussions also have plenty of Democrats using talking points that could just as easily be found on Vox.

          Tolerating the presence of more than one opinion does not make a place enemy territory.

          • The Pachyderminator says:

            There were never all that many Marxists and most of them have since left or gotten banned. (I had a couple examples but I think mentioning one of their names caused the post to be filtered out.) Freddie DeBoer is still around but he doesn’t post communist screeds on a regular basis. There really isn’t a strong Marxist presence here at all.

            To be fair, the “death eaters” have been purged or silenced even more effectively than the Marxists. If that’s the deal, I’m not sure we shouldn’t be happy to take it.

          • Radu Floricica says:

            The readership is probably more to the left, but the commentariat at least is pretty much libertarian – even the leftist here are “left of Friedman”, not left of center.

            To the point where I keep wanting to hear more about actual marxist arguments. In Facebook groups all I get is cats and trolling and people acting like everything else is too obvious to put in writing – which I’ve regretfully coded to mean they don’t know shit.

          • even the leftist here are “left of Friedman”, not left of center.

            To the point where I keep wanting to hear more about actual marxist arguments.

            What do you think defines “center?” You might consider, in the U.S. context, that about half the voters voted for Trump.

            In that context, there is a lot of room between center and Marxist. As best I can tell, even Bernie, although he identifies as a socialist, is not in any serious sense a Marxist.

            I’m pretty sure he hasn’t call for nationalizing GM.

          • Radu Floricica says:

            I’m pretty sure he hasn’t call for nationalizing GM

            Yes, but he has to be moderate to have a chance at being somebody. Or, anthropic-like, he became somebody partly because he’s more moderate.

            But why isn’t anybody here on SSC calling for the nationalizing GM? I’m sure some did call for equivalent things, but well, they met you and others and now they don’t. For better or worse I think the comments here are a bit more libertarian than the mainstream discourse. (personally, I think for the better. But it doesn’t quench my thirst of knowing why somebody would think nationalizing GM is a good idea. Well, probably the same reason people were recently protesting here for rent control as a housing crisis solution)

          • We have had people on who were Marxists or Socialists in a stronger sense than supporting a welfare state. We’ve had at least one person defending Stalin.

            I’m not sure there is anyone who fits that pattern here now. That may because they found it hard to defend the position here, or it may be that they just didn’t find the arguments interesting.

            I agree that having such people here to argue with is desirable. But I don’t think Scott has a conscription option.

        • Randy M says:

          I don’t see how SSC could possibly be described as anything but a right-leaning website-

          Well for starters most websites aren’t categorized primarily by commenters but by the actual content.

        • Paul Zrimsek says:

          I don’t see how SSC could possibly be described as anything but a right-leaning website

          Oh bleeding Christ, not this again. No. No. No.

        • Radu Floricica says:

          Yes and no. We are in general a lot less SJW, but I think a supermajority of us come from a Blue background, originally. I definitely was, a long time ago. I think it’s the same phenomenon as going to a Catholic Church high level conference and try talking about going to hell – I’m guessing, but I think above a certain level people treat is as a metaphor, not a literal fiery pit. Same here – we’re all pro personal freedoms and tolerance, but don’t feel the need to punish people for microaggressions. We’re hell-less Catholics 🙂

      • blipnickels says:

        I think it’s generally harder for the Blue Tribe to learn about the Red Tribe because the cultural elite, the media producers, the history producers, etc tend to be Blue Tribe. This means a Red Triber can figure out what the Blue Tribe thinks just by going online or watching TV. A Blue Triber can’t learn it in reverse (and probably doesn’t even know where to go).

        Is, is Fox News not a thing?

        Like, I don’t think it’s hard for a Blue Triber to hear what the Red Tribe wants; there’s a lot of Red Tribe media out there. I just think it all sounds crazy to them. A lot of political conversation is highly context dependent and when a Blue Triber hears Red Tribe media, it doesn’t make any sense without that context, anymore than you could understand the subtext of an article in Xinhua as an outsider.

        The real value of SSC isn’t radically different viewpoints but the shocking similarity; reading SSC is an incredibly powerful filter for a variety of things and even the most ideologically opposed commentators here are more similar to each other than the general population. Like, if you know what AI risk is or you think Bayesianism is a good way to think you’re already in an extremely small minority and we can make a lot of accurate predictions about your education, income, interests, etc. Thus the outgroup you’re arguing against is similar enough to you that they’re comprehensible, while the typical outgroup isn’t.

        Like, Vox and Brietbart are mutually unintelligible. Their assorted facts, their history of the recent past, their values, all of these are so alien to each other that you can read either without really understanding them. SSC gets around that, more or less.

        But I think it’s wrong to assume that this is a Blue Tribe fault. Every Blue Triber knows about Fox News and can turn it on at any point to get the Red Tribe view. We can study and predict each other’s actions but actually being able to comprehend and sympathize with the other is very difficult and requires a lot of commonality; SSC has a few norms which build that commonality but mostly it’s just a strong filter for people with a lot in common mentally.

        • cassander says:

          The difference is the blue triber has to choose to turn on fox to get the the red tribe view. The red triber will get a constant barrage of blue tribe views from almost every other news source, schools, Hollywood, his HR department, etc.

        • Clutzy says:

          I think you vastly underestimate the exposure your average right winger gets to left wing ideas on a daily basis. Vox is to NBC as Breitbart is to FoxNews (not Fox TV). There are 3 NBC (clones on this point), Fox TV is basically run by the local people (in Chicago and Pittsburgh it is still broadcasting from a clear Dem-leaning POV). Plus you have many other incidental left wing encounters. I recall watching sporting events on NBC and ABC recently and encountering anti-gun soliloquies. The hardest reporting Fox Sports has done on politics was Bill O’Reilly giving Obama a puff interview.

          That is the kind of incidental immersion people on the right get to those on the left. Its unavoidable unless you are a super hermit. This is borne out in quizzes, conservatives are significantly more accurate at predicting the answers of progressives than progressives are at predicting the answers of conservatives.

        • Erusian says:

          Is, is Fox News not a thing?

          Harder != impossible. But part of the news bubble is that programs ‘innoculate’ you against enemy news sources by telling you what they said. So, for example, the Daily Show will show some clips of Fox News and mock them and you feel you understand what Fox News is without ever having actually watched Fox News.

          I’m sure you feel you know what Fox News is. Have you ever actually sat down and watched an hour of it? How much of your knowledge of the channel comes from people (even newspeople) telling you about it?

          The same effect exists on the right, by the by. But the average right winger has to engage with more culturally dominant institutions that have left-wing leanings.

          • Aftagley says:

            I’m sure you feel you know what Fox News is. Have you ever actually sat down and watched an hour of it? How much of your knowledge of the channel comes from people (even newspeople) telling you about it?

            Yes. I think in total I’ve watched somewhere in the realm of a few thousand hours of Fox News*. The actual news-reporting part of it was biased, but not too terrible. Most of my issues were with what they chose to cover, not necessarily how they covered it. The opinion side of the channel was eye-clawingly awful. Outnumbered has got to be the worst show ever conceived.

            All in all, none of my priors about Fox were challenged or seriously modified having watched an insane amount of it.

            *I was working in an office with a tv constantly tuned to the news, a republican leaning cohort and democratic control over which channel we’d watch.

            The same effect exists on the right, by the by. But the average right winger has to engage with more culturally dominant institutions that have left-wing leanings.

            In what way would your average 50-something non-college educated white man who lives in a small town (the “average” right-winger) regularly have to engage with dominant left-leaning organizations? I’ve been there, I’ve lived in those towns. You don’t see or hear left-leaning viewpoints any more often than you’d see right-wing views on a college campus. Arguably less.

          • Nick says:

            *I was working in an office with a tv constantly tuned to the news, a republican leaning cohort and democratic control over which channel we’d watch.

            This is hilariously phrased. I feel like this is happening all the time on SSC lately.

          • Randy M says:

            This is hilariously phrased. I feel like this is happening all the time on SSC lately.

            I going to break in since it is almost on topic to the tangent and thank Nick for saving the “It’s a small world” pun about Steve Bannon being involved in the Biosphere project for me to use.
            Sometimes there really are twenty dollar bills on the sidewalk puns that everyone else passes by.

          • Aftagley says:

            @Nick

            Thank you!

          • Erusian says:

            Rightly or wrongly, then, I consider you unusual. It’s my anecdotal experience that there are a small number of people (like you) who have. Most have not.

            In what way would your average 50-something non-college educated white man who lives in a small town (the “average” right-winger) regularly have to engage with dominant left-leaning organizations? I’ve been there, I’ve lived in those towns. You don’t see or hear left-leaning viewpoints any more often than you’d see right-wing views on a college campus. Arguably less.

            Really? Because you’re statistically rather wrong on this one. Democratic districts are less politically diverse than Republican ones, even now after the House has majority Democrats. Democrats routinely score ten to thirty points higher than Republicans in their district, meaning more Democrats exist in Republican districts than vice versa. This means that Republican majority counties have more Democrats than Democrat majority counties have Republicans.

            Now, those might be moderate Democrats rather than New York types. But if we restrict “Blue Tribe” to that, then we’re just using a word for coastal elites. That’s where we get into slipperier definitions. Is the liberal theater manager in a small city not Blue Tribe?

            Further, the media, Hollywood, the Federal bureaucracy, and the school system are all very left leaning, Blue institutions. Two of them have basically compulsory interaction and the other two are so ubiquitous as to be almost inescapable.

            You could, I suppose, make the argument that these institutions aren’t left wing (at which point I would show you how many donations went to Democrats vs Republicans). If you decline to, your question then becomes: “How would an average 50-something non-college educated white man who lives in a small town ever have to engage with the media, Hollywood, the Federal bureaucracy, or the school system?” This question is, of course, obvious.

            Likewise, the studies showing Republicans can generally replicate Democratic talking points better than vice versa.

            As I said, I can’t think of a nationalized culturally dominant institution. Like, they exist: the Church, the Army. But they’re far easier to opt out of. More people watch television each Sunday than go to Church.

            Anyway, maybe you are accurately conveying your rather unusual experience. But in this case, I do actually know your experience is unusual.

      • albatross11 says:

        The thing is, if in my filter bubble, we all agree on X, then finding a community where people question, doubt, or dispute X seems jarring and extreme. And this is just as true when X = “humans evolved from apes” as when X = “Iraq has WMDs and poses a threat to the US” or X = “vaccines cause autism.”

        The jarringness of hearing ingroup consensus challenged doesn’t depend on whether the consensus being challenged is rock solid (evolution) or likely based on the balance of the evidence (AGW) or plausible but unproved (robots are going to put us all out of work) or clearly wrong (vaccines cause autism). And especially, how offensive a statement is to your sensibilities has basically no correlation with how likely it is to be true. When someone claims that the industrial revolution was only possible because of the wealth from slavery and colonialism, or that humans are evolved from apes, or that putting your kids in daycare is bad for them, this causes a strong emotional reaction in some people, which *feels* like information about whether or not the statement is true, but which actually contains no information about the factual statement.

      • Loriot says:

        IMO, Blue tribe/red tribe/grey tribe is a largely useless concept. The actual definitions Scott gave are just a collection of stereotypes, but in practice, people just use them to refer to the parties (with the grey tribe being people who want to feel smug about being above it all). But the parties are big tents, and you’d need a whole rainbow if you even want to try to capture the actual cultural diversity of the US.

        • Guy in TN says:

          I agree that its an overused concept. There seem to be people with an interest in reducing the analysis of all political disagreement to “tribal conflicts”, in which groups are just vying for power, with no side necessarily right or wrong. The deflection is often deployed to avoid from having to talk about ideas/ideology.

          I suspect the motivation for this stems from a difficulty in justifying their political positions using any widely accepted framework of morality. So the only framework in which their position is persuasive is if politics is nothing more than the naked struggle for power. Talking about “tribes” further advances that amoral framework.

          Your OP clearly said “Republicans” and “Democrats”. Yet nearly every response diverted to talking about “tribes”. It’s almost reflexive at this point. Very unhealthy stuff.

      • brad says:

        That said, if you’re in a Blue Bubble, then some of those Grey Tribers do reflect alternate beliefs. I think it’s generally harder for the Blue Tribe to learn about the Red Tribe because the cultural elite, the media producers, the history producers, etc tend to be Blue Tribe.

        Seems pretty outdated in the age of the internet. The days of the conversation being dominated by a couple of TV and movie studios are long over.

        The harping on a largely irrelevant and contestable cultural dominance looks to me like an attempt to recapture the underdog low ground.

    • Skeptical Wolf says:

      Seeing constant discussions about how “Democrats can’t possibly believe what they say, so what evil conspiracy are they pushing and why?”

      Would you be willing to elaborate a bit on what gives you this impression? I tend to read a lot of the CW discussions and find them valuable precisely because they so rarely degenerate into this sort of thing. The one down-thread is probably the worst I’ve seen in quite a while and even there the low point was a mutual round of “I don’t find your journalists to be credible”. Which is certainly suboptimal, but a lot more understandable than rampant conspiracy-theorizing.

      Perhaps these look different to people coming from different points on the political spectrum? I tend towards the center myself (or, at least, my left-leaning friends see me as right-leaning and vice versa) and wonder if that leads some of the more extreme arguments to appear less antithetical to my own positions.

      • Loriot says:

        I think it’s a little difficult to quantify, and perhaps it’s the most extreme examples that stick out in my memory, overstating the effect. I’ve seen people argue here multiple times that “Democrats don’t really care about immigrants, they just want to get a bunch of people dependent on them and then let them vote to rig elections” or “Democrats don’t really care about the environment, it’s just a pretext for dictating how the economy runs” or stuff like that.

        But even without stuff that blatant, it seems to be implied with varying levels of subtlety in most of the political discussions I see here. I think part of it may just be the filter bubble/alternate reality thing, and the difficulty of forgetting your own beliefs when modeling others. For example, the right wing mostly believes that Trump obviously did nothing wrong and no reasonable person could think otherwise, and so they unconsciously assume that Democrats also believe this and thus that the whole impeachment thing can only be motivated by some secret partisan goal.

        For what it’s worth, I consider myself to be a moderate/centrist Democrat.

        • profgerm says:

          “It’s a pretext for taking over the economy” is admittedly a paraphrase, but taken directly from AOC’s staffers.

          “The interesting thing about the Green New Deal is it wasn’t originally a climate thing at all,” Saikat Chakrabarti said in May, according to The Washington Post. “Do you guys think of it as a climate thing?” Chakrabarti then asked. “Because we really think of it as a how-do-you-change-the-entire-economy thing.”

          That said, I personally think that Democrats would behave quite differently if their focus was actual on immigrants and on the environment rather than using those as political tools, and thus I lean more towards the cynical explanations. For whatever it’s worth I consider myself a “roughly centrist by triangulation” independent.

          the right wing mostly believes that Trump obviously did nothing wrong and no reasonable person could think otherwise, and so they unconsciously assume that Democrats also believe this and thus that the whole impeachment thing can only be motivated by some secret partisan goal.

          From the Republicans I know, they don’t think it’s a secret partisan goal at all- Democrats were marching in the streets and demanding impeachment before he was even sworn in, and after three years of that, they find it hard to take any of this seriously. And I don’t blame them. I think Republicans that said “not my president” when Obama was elected were equally stupid and self-defeating.

          • Loriot says:

            From what I’ve heard, “The Green New Deal” was specifically a proposal for environmental measures and economic changes wrapped into one package in the hopes of being more politically palatable. So your quote doesn’t say anything about whether environmentalism or the climate change movement in general is a cynical conspiracy, which is what is usually asserted.

            As for the impeachment stuff, this seems like the outgroup homogeneity bias in play. I’m sure you can find people arguing for impeachment from day one, but that doesn’t mean it was a mainstream position. We already know that Pelosi wouldn’t entertain impeachment over the emoluments clause stuff or even after the FBI all but accused Trump of obstruction of justice. Even with someone as hated as Trump, impeachment is a very high bar, and the Republicans here don’t seem to realize that because they think anything bad anyone has ever said about Trump is equally risible and thus can’t understand why Democrats are moving forward on impeachment now.

          • So your quote doesn’t say anything about whether environmentalism or the climate change movement in general is a cynical conspiracy, which is what is usually asserted.

            Not to respond to your particular point, but I don’t think it is cynical, and not really a conspiracy. I think climate change provides new arguments for things that lots of people already wanted to do, and that makes those people more willing to believe and repeat exaggerated versions of the threat posed by climate change.

            The new arguments are particularly useful given that the old set of arguments for doing those things, the idea that socialism (economic sense) works better than capitalism, mostly died with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the abandonment of socialism by China.

            As I pointed out in a blog post some time ago, that interpretation of climate alarmism is supported by a cartoon that was popular among the people in question.

            “What if it’s a big hoax and we create a better world for nothing?”

        • cassander says:

          @Loriot

          I’ve seen people argue here multiple times that “Democrats don’t really care about immigrants, they just want to get a bunch of people dependent on them and then let them vote to rig elections” or “Democrats don’t really care about the environment, it’s just a pretext for dictating how the economy runs” or stuff like that.

          As someone who has made something similar to this argument, that’s not the argument. the argument is (using climate change as an example):

          Democrats claim that the climate is an existential threat, but they reject solutions that don’t involve other things they say they want, like higher taxes or more regulation of the economy. For those of us who are opposed to higher taxes or more regulation, this makes it seem likely that they are driven in part by motivated reasoning.

          And, as profgerm and davidfriedman said, there’s nothing secret about any of this. We’re discussing openly espoused goals and desires, and even people very transparently talking about how, e.g. climate change legislation should be a tool for societal transformation beyond merely energy.

          And for the record, the same is true of the right. To take one example, In 1999, the bush administration campaigned on cutting taxes because the economy was doing so well that revenues were way up. In 2001 they passed that tax package while arguing that the economy was doing poorly and needed stimulus.

          One could argue that this is evidence that republicans don’t care about economic performance, they just want to cut taxes and are looking for excuses. I would say instead that republicans want good economic performance and they also want lower taxes. Because of this, they’re going to be naturally inclined towards solutions that involve lower taxes. That doesn’t mean they aren’t sincere, but it does mean that any claim they make that lower taxes are the perfect solution for [current problem] should be discounted, as should democratic claims about solutions to global warming that just happen to line up exactly with the energy and environmental policies that they’ve been pushing for the last 4 or 5 decades.

          Put more generically, assuming values are constant policy recommendations should shift more often than the justifications for them. When we see justifications changing around a policy, it’s reasonable think that there might be motivation for that policy besides the current justification.

          • Clutzy says:

            I would expound on this vis-a-vis immigration. The problem with Democrats favoring low skill immigration is, that other than the voters, it does not align with any other policy goals.

            It increases inequality (a huge portion of our larger gini coeff compared to Europe), it breaks down labor unions, it causes many public services like schools, healthcare, social security, etc to become fiscally unsustainable. It causes overcrowding in the cities because, low skill immigrants do not (to the chagrin of libertarians) move to North Dakota to frack, or join other pioneering industries, instead they move to cities driving up housing costs. It is very much a policy that is traditionally opposed by environmentalists because immigrants to the US consume more and use more carbon (and other pollutants).

            So progressiveness’s other goals are very much at odds with immigration, which is why it is considered suspicious.

    • sharper13 says:

      I would second that the CW threads are great here. It’s one of the few places to find intelligent discussion from differing points of view, as opposed to thoughtless disagreement. Even when I’m totally at opposites with someone, I generally find their arguments to at least be something worth reading and considering.

      I can get the other sorts of arguments from Google News or Facebook in whatever quantity desired, but the SSC comments-style better debate is much rarer. At this point, I think the SSC culture is tending to err on the side of too little conflict and drama compared to the wider society, and I’m personally just fine with that.

      • Loriot says:

        The sad part is that discussions here are better than anywhere else I know of.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Being banned from here suuuuuuuuuuucked. Trying to converse in any sort of reasonable way with people anywhere else was terrible. Like, expecting anyone to support their arguments was a fool’s errand. It was like that scene in Judge Dredd where Max von Sydow has to go bring the Law into the wasteland. It’s pointless. There’s nothing there but monsters.

          • Deiseach says:

            Some people were wondering about my recent ban that, if I’m banned for three months, why would I ever come back?

            Well, where else do I get theology, Biblical criticism, cosmology, movie criticism, logistics military and civil, urban planning, pop culture, politics, law constitutional and civil, cookery tips and puns ranging from the sublime to the terrible all in one thread? 😀

    • In a way, the long thread on biblical literalism that I was recently in reminds me of an experience I had quite a long time ago. I got into a conversation in the Bombay airport with a woman from southern India. We were both flying to Sydney, Australia, and ended up talking for a good deal of the flight.

      She was going out to join her husband, a physician. It had been an arranged marriage, which she saw as the normal pattern in her society. My society’s pattern seemed as odd to her as hers did to me. On the evidence of our small sample, her system worked better–my first marriage had recently broken up, she was happily married.

      We usually view foreign institutions through a lens biased against them, in favor of our own. But she wasn’t an uneducated primitive but an obviously intelligent and thoughtful woman, as much part of the modern world as I was, from a very different culture.

      Similarly here. It’s a useful experience to see what seems to me like a very odd view of the world presented by an intelligent believer.

      • GearRatio says:

        I highly resent the implication that I’m not an uneducated primitive, David – these stone tools are a lot of work. They don’t just chip themselves!

        • Well... says:

          Knap. They don’t just knap themselves.

          • GearRatio says:

            If they don’t get their knap in, this makes them cranky – the cranky stone axe of the uneducated primative gets like +2 blunt damage.

        • Randy M says:

          You sound more like an educated primitive.

        • DragonMilk says:

          I have a confession. I bought an MDF board from the home depot as a platform for my pet turtles and needed to cut a hole in the middle of it.

          Lacking the Proper tools (circular saw) in Greenwich, I surveyed what was available.

          And so I went out to the parking lot with a bucket, hammer, and chisel (flathead screwdriver) and banged out a hole for many many minutes.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Lacking the Proper tools (circular saw)

            Uhhhhhhh, I have a feeling a circular saw isn’t what you think it is?

            That, or you are talking about plunge cuts which will work, as long as the hole you want is quite big and you don’t really care about the corners.

            Perhaps you meant a jigsaw?

          • DragonMilk says:

            I meant something like this

            In the absence of that, a hammer and screwdriver is what I scraped together.

          • mitv150 says:

            A better tool may have been a jigsaw or a hole saw. Hole saws can get pricey for larger holes though, and don’t have any other uses. Even the mini-circular saw in your link can only make relatively large holes.

            Either way, the hammer and screwdriver method is one to be applauded – not to mention the tenacity to apply it.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I would caution against using a circular saw to plunge cut a hole in something if you are unfamiliar with the regular use of a circular saw. Just wanted to throw that out there to the laceration gods.

          • acymetric says:

            Jigsaw doesn’t really work because you still have to cut in from an edge.

            I think the tool everyone is looking for is a spade bit on a drill (unless the whole needs to be really large, in which case hole saw on a drill).

          • mitv150 says:

            Good point. With a jigsaw you typically use a spade bit to drill a starter hole from which you then work.

          • acymetric says:

            @mitv50

            I did miss that you already mentioned a hole saw. Also fully agreed on the tenacity of the hammer/screwdriver approach.

          • Matt says:

            @acymetric

            Jigsaw doesn’t really work because you still have to cut in from an edge.

            You drill a hole big enough for the jigsaw blade, generally on and inside the circle you’ve drawn to cut out, then start the blade inside that hole.

            Ninja-ed by mitv150

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Jigsaw doesn’t really work because you still have to cut in from an edge.

            Jigsaw blades are slim. You don’t need a spade bit to start the hole, a 3/8” bit will do.

          • acymetric says:

            I may have been imagining a smaller hole than what is required. My take is that by the time you’re drilling a hole to slide the jigsaw in, you might as well just drill the hole.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Roughly up to 3/8” diameter you can use a standard bit, 1/2” to 1” needs a spade bit. There are specialty hole saws for use with a drill that tend to top out at about 2” or 3”. Past that you are likely doing something else.

            But you aren’t likely to be cutting a 3” diameter hole with a plunge cut, so I assumed larger.

          • John Schilling says:

            And so I went out to the parking lot with a bucket, hammer, and chisel (flathead screwdriver) and banged out a hole for many many minutes.

            Mark Watney and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory approve. At least they do if the last step was “bash it with a really big rock”.

          • Lambert says:

            I’m a fan of the ol’ drill a few dozen 8mm holes in a circle then connect them together with brute force, ignorance.

          • GearRatio says:

            @dragonmilk

            In the absence of tools and the ability to get them/the knowledge to use them safely, I feel like you did the admirable thing.

          • Well... says:

            I kept turtles my whole childhood and we always used rocks for platforms: one wide flat rock, tilted up at one end by propping it on top of another more cube-shaped rock, making a ramp. The wide flat rock was submerged on one end and out of the water at the other. The turtle(s) (sometimes there were two) would clamber up and sit on the dry end under a light bulb. We had to take the rocks out once every few weeks and scrub them with toothbrushes to get the algae off.*

            But you’re talking about making this out of OSB…first of all, if you submerge part of the OSB that part will rot. If you don’t submerge any of it, how do the turtles climb up? Second, how do you clean the inevitable algae off it?

            Do you even have turtles, or are they actually tortoises?

            PS. Just now I learned that box turtles really are turtles! My whole life I’d thought they were actually tortoises. But, they aren’t aquatic like normal turtles, so I’m pretty sure whatever habitat you provide for one would be more like a tortoise’s than a turtle’s.

            *Yes, our toothbrushes, that we used on our teeth. Because that was the punishment for causing mommy and daddy’s divorce.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            The only missing from this subthread are four guys and a couple sixpacks of Alamo.

          • DragonMilk says:

            @well: I have a branch that goes up from the tank through the hole to the MSF board part of it. They are capable of climbing up but always dive into the water when I come around.

            I’ve actually had no algae yet. I change the water once a week though. Perhaps the tap water has enough chlorine to make it ok but not enough to make turtles afraid?

    • Etoile says:

      While I’m in the right-of-center camp, I can’t dispute that right-of-center opinions dominate here. I’m a relative newcomer here, but I hope that the CW threads don’t drive you off, and don’t make you write off either Scott’s writings or the blog in general as just another biased element of the right-o-sphere, or a pipeline to the alt-right, or something like that.

      I think Scott puts in tremendous effort to make it not the case; to maintain might call “left wing credibility” as much as possible without just agreeing fully with progressive left points.

      I know that one difficulty I’ve had in debating my left-of-center friends has been precisely this: that there are absolutely no right-of-center content outlets which they accept as in any way authoritative; and only a few that I would trust myself as having high-quality content – but that’s not their problem. For example, when Quillette was first launched, it was obscure, and I could link to an essay from there and have someone take it on its merits and engage with it in good faith. Now, because it is known as being Intellectual Dark Web-adjacent, and a forum for right-wing ideas, most people on the left will dismiss the essay out of hand as biased in some hidden way, even if they can’t put a finger on it. Part of the problem is that a medium is frozen out by one of the sides, and its material gets selected to be more and more biased; it’s a vicious cycle chicken-egg problem that is hard to resolve.

      But at the same time, it’s really nice to engage in a forum where you aren’t in the extreme minority, which I at least am in my social group – and so the right-of-center commenters might drop some of the circumspection they’d exercise in person around left-of-center friends…. Which leads to the perception of someone left-of-center of a right-of-center forum that is aggressive and unwelcoming.

      Anyway, that’s an end to my rambles there.

      • AliceToBob says:

        @HeelBearCub

        I’m not sure why I even bother, but … the right has spent the last 30+ years yelling “liberal media bias!” at every turn.

        So, uh, let’s say the lack of self-awareness in this statement is hilarious(ly depressing).

        I don’t know either…your response seems to be nothing more than an insult.

      • Skeptical Wolf says:

        My initial response was just going to be “less of this, please”. But on further reflection, HBC’s comment provides an excellent example of something that is otherwise difficult to talk about.

        I would expect a right-leaning space to be, at a minimum, one in which a right-leaning person can share a personal experience and their thoughts about it without immediately being met with condescending insults. It has just been demonstrated that the SSC open threads are not such a place.

        The idea that a person on the right drawing attention to the problem of media polarization somehow demonstrates “a hilariously depressing lack of self awareness” only makes sense if you have already accepted “everyone knows this is their fault”. A place where that sort of negative stereotype about the right is so ubiquitously accepted that a leftist barely feels the need to reference it when insultingly and uncharitably dismissing a point can be a lot of things, but “left-leaning” would seem to be a fair description to me.

        Also, less of this, please.

      • DinoNerd says:

        there are absolutely no right-of-center content outlets which they accept as in any way authoritative; and only a few that I would trust myself as having high-quality content

        The set of outlets I accept as having high quality content seems to be dropping year by year, regardless of political alignment – though of course the presence of blatant political alignment reduces my trust in any content.

        For context, since you are new here, my political opinions were formed in Canada, starting in the 1960s, and I place a huge value on not forcing people to accept limitations based on their membership in unchosen categories. I also place what appears to be a higher than average value on not speaking falsehoods. This clearly appears left wing in the US today, and on SSC.

        I’m also allied with the local (US) left wing party, as the one less likely to attack people like me, but it’s not a happy alliance.

  21. Chevalier Mal Fet says:

    Sorry if this has been discussed recently; I no longer have time to even skim every open thread, let alone read them. But I thought it was relevant given the release of The Rise of Skywalker (I wish I could say the last Star Wars film, but we all know that’s not going to happen).

    10. The Force Awakens
    09. The Phantom Menace
    08. The Last Jedi
    07. Attack of the Clones
    06. Solo
    05. Revenge of the Sith
    04. Rogue One <—- Films below this line are actually good.
    03. Return of the Jedi
    02. A New Hope
    01. The Empire Strikes Back.

    Discuss.

    • JayT says:

      For me, it goes:
      01. Rogue One – I was seriously shocked how much I liked this movie, and I would actually rather watch it than the original trilogy.
      02. A New Hope – Sentimental favorite, though the acting is by far the worst of the OT.
      03. Return of the Jedi – I still think this one has the best action in the entire series. I also love everything on Tatooine.
      04. The Empire Strikes Back – I understand why this is at the top of most people’s list, but it’s the one I’m least likely to watch.

      Big gap.

      05. Solo – I found this to be a very fun movie. It has serious flaws, but I enjoyed all of the places they went, and I liked the characters.
      06. Revenge of the Sith – I actually haven’t seen this one since the theater, so I don’t have a lot to say about it. I should rewatch it.
      07.The Phantom Menace – I think this is unfairly maligned. There is some poor acting and dialog, and the effects don’t hold up, but I think the story is actually a lot of fun, it has a great lightsaber fight, the alien and ship designs were all very interesting, and I also just have good memories of all the lead-up to its release.
      08. The Force Awakens – Unnecessary, and it cheapened the accomplishments of the characters in the original trilogy. That said, it looked very slick and I found the new characters likeable. I didn’t really like it, but it gave me hope that the new trilogy could create characters that would be remembered.
      09. Attack of the Clones – I like the storyline and character designs, but the dialog is so bad, the acting so stiff, and some of the effects are just terrible. It makes it very hard to watch, even though it has some good stuff.
      10. The Last Jedi – Unlike most Star Wars fans, I actually didn’t have any major issues with the way they imagined Luke. In fact, I liked pretty much everything about Rey and Kylo Ren’s story. My problem is that only made up about a third of the movie, and the rest of it was pointless and boring. You could take Finn completely out of the movie and nothing would have changed. They didn’t advance his character at all, instead they just made him go though the same character development he had already done in TFA. And Poe’s part of the story was even worse. The “chase” reminded me of the scene in Austin Powers when he’s driving the steamroll at 1 mph, and there’s a guy in his way that can’t get out of the way in time.

      • cassander says:

        The last half hour or so of rogue one is great, but the first hour or so is pointless and didn’t manage the only thing it had to do, make me care about the characters.

        • fibio says:

          I’m completely the opposite. Rogue One was pretty much the only Star Wars movie that made me care more about the characters than the main plot.

          • AG says:

            Rogue One is very much a classic movie pastiche, for ensemble war movies. Think Dirty Dozen, Kelly’s Heroes, or The Great Escape. I’d throw Magnificent Seven in there, too, though such “ensemble team” movies seem rare in the western genre.

            In these kinds of movies, you don’t really have to care about the characters as individuals. It’s about having broad stroke personalities bouncing off of each other. I will admit that Jyn was dull as paste, and they didn’t make Cassian as distinct as they should have, but the rest of the team was good stuff.

          • acymetric says:

            I didn’t really care much about Jyn, and only slightly more about Cassian (although both characters were somewhat redeemed in the closing scenes), but I quite liked K2, Bhodi, Baze, and Chirrut throughout the movie. Heck, even Saw.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          I liked Rogue One a lot more after I played the Rise of the Empire expansion to the Star Wars Rebellion board game. I actually started caring a little about Krennic and Jyn Erso, etc.

          This ties in with my general feeling that I like the toys in the Star Wars sandbox much more than I like the movies themselves. The prequels aren’t very good movies, but I love the droids and the clone troopers and all the locations when I play Battlefront II*. My big problem with the ST is no fun new toys for the sandbox. Still tie fighters and x-wings, just a different paint job, no cool new aliens, no neat vehicles. Crait with the red dust is neat but that’s about it.

          * which by the way, is having a big resurgence, and is still very cheap. If anyone wants to play a really fun Star Wars multiplayer FPS, buy it.

      • Tenacious D says:

        Endorsed.

        When it comes to Solo, I have fond memories of playing Shadows of the Empire on N64, and it had the same feel.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        07.The Phantom Menace – I think this is unfairly maligned. There is some poor acting and dialog, and the effects don’t hold up, but I think the story is actually a lot of fun, it has a great lightsaber fight, the alien and ship designs were all very interesting, and I also just have good memories of all the lead-up to its release.

        There are two big problems with TPM:
        1) Anakin comes from Tatooine. Good job, whoever leaves Luke there under his father’s surname!* There are >100 billion planets in the Star Wars galaxy, and this is where you hide him?
        2) The huge high-tech battle is won by an 8-year-old and a Jamaican CGI Olsen twin. A movie can be made for children without… that. Lucas should have known better: the original Star Wars was itself aimed at kids.

        *Obi-Wan, but we didn’t know to blame him at the time.

        • AG says:

          Doesn’t Anakin have to come from Tatooine, though? How else does Luke end up living with an aunt and uncle?
          Of course, then TPM cocked that up by making Anakin an only child, so they had to resort to “Mom remarried” shenanigans in later films to make Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru still make sense.

          • acymetric says:

            They could have just gone with “not actually biologically related” or something. People call non-relatives “aunt” and “uncle” with some regularity in the modern world. Or they lied to Luke as a child that they were his aunt/uncle when they were really old friends of Obi-Wan’s or something.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            They could have made Owen and Beru entirely unrelated to Luke, by marriage or otherwise. They could have been friends of Obi-Wan who agreed to raise the baby and lied to him, saying they were his aunt and uncle. They weren’t exactly honest about who his father was. No reason to be honest about his aunt and uncle.

            edit: ninjer’d

          • acymetric says:

            Great minds think alike 🙂

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Doesn’t Anakin have to come from Tatooine, though? How else does Luke end up living with an aunt and uncle?

            As others have noted, this also got botched in the prequels. An old friend of Obi-Wan’s and their spouse would be as much aunt and uncle to baby Luke as his biological father’s stepbrother the father was never raised with.

    • Nick says:

      This list is fine, except the “actually good” line should be between Rogue One and Revenge of the Sith, and you put The Last Jedi waaay too high.

      • TripleS says:

        At first I thought you meant that the only good Star Wars film was ESB, which seemed a bit extreme.

      • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

        I could be persuaded to swap the Last Jedi and the Phantom Menace.

        As for the line, it’s deliberately AT Rogue One. Half of Rogue One is a good movie. Half is…not.

    • EchoChaos says:

      You’re missing the Holiday Special.

      • Nornagest says:

        An undisputed classic, obviously.

        Classic of what, I’m not sure.

      • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

        To my great shame as a Star Wars fan, I’ve actually never seen it. I can’t properly rate it.

        Probably throw it in in the Attack of the Clones/Solo/Revenge of the Sith area, there’s no way it could possibly be as bad as the sequels/Phantom Menace zone.

        • acymetric says:

          It’s no great shame. The Holiday special is an extra kind of bad. Off the scales. Worse than the worst parts of all the other movies combined.

        • Aapje says:

          Probably throw it in in the Attack of the Clones/Solo/Revenge of the Sith area, there’s no way it could possibly be as bad as the sequels/Phantom Menace zone.

          Ye of little faith.

          It is way worse. It’s bad in the worst way. All the ways in which it doesn’t make sense, don’t make sense because the creators were pandering and slapdash, not because the creators had a failed vision. They never had a vision in the first place.

          It is boring, but the most offensive kind of boring that you can’t just tune out. It’s bizarre, yet extremely dull at the same time. It’s pretty common for people to have to take breaks just to get through it.

          It has Chewbacca’s dad watching really bad VR soft porn (apparently he is a reverse-furry, who likes human women). Note that the holiday special was intended as family entertainment.

          It has an Imperial officer visit Chewbacca’s family to search for him, only to allow himself to be distracted by watching a full Jefferson Starship song. If only we had had Jefferson Starship songs during WW II, so many Jews would have been saved.

          There is a weird ‘Christmas, but we won’t call it Christmas’ holiday being celebrated in the special. At the end everyone somehow teleports into space and then walks into a star, to end up at the tree of life. Then Leia sings a song.

          It randomly switches to showing a cartoon (introducing Boba Fett).

          All the Star Wars actors look like they desperately want to be elsewhere. Mark Hamill looks like a drag queen who binged on eye liner. Carrie Fischer looks coked out. Harrison Ford looks like he got a lobotomy.

          Don’t watch it if you are prone to depression/suicidal thoughts.

      • broblawsky says:

        You’re history’s greatest monster.

      • Deiseach says:

        You’re missing the Holiday Special.

        EchoChaos, you are Chaotic Evil.

        I saw the Holiday Special broadcast on television back in the day*, and there’s a damn good reason it’s never been re-broadcast. It’s like everyone involved is on drugs, and the audience would need to be on drugs to watch it, but given that it’s pitched at kids/family-friendly audience, you have to see it sober.

        *You kids will never know the suffering we went through at your age!

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          It’s like everyone involved is on drugs, and the audience would need to be on drugs to watch it, but given that it’s pitched at kids/family-friendly audience, you have to see it sober.

          Harrison Ford is visibly not on drugs, and always looks like he’s bottling up great hatred.
          But then he never even liked the good Star Wars.

          • Deiseach says:

            I’m repressing those memories as hard as I can, Le Maistre Chat 🙂

            But yeah, Ford plainly hates every second and does not want to be there; you have to wonder what calibre and how many guns they were holding on him off-camera to force him to participate!

    • blipnickels says:

      I’m really torn on the Last Jedi, but in general I think it should be higher.

      My case, in short, is the Last Jedi is the only movie since Return of the Jedi with genuinely great moments.

      Yes, the movie has problems, lots of problems, so many problems, it’s like 80% problems.

      But the Kylo-Rey stuff. That stuff is genuinely good, bordering on great.

      Kylo’s “Join Me” scene is genuinely grade-A great. It not only was perfectly in character for both of them, it clarified and advanced their relationship. It opened up so many possibilities, so many cool things could have been done, and if the film had ended right here it would be worth all the bad. C’mon, when’s the last time a bad guy made a “Come to the dark side” speech and it not only made sense, you were rooting for the hero to take it. It comes out of nowhere, makes 100% sense…and then just gets dropped.

      And yeah, the movie is still overall bad and yeah, yeah, all critiques. But I already can’t remember much about the prequels and I don’t expect to remember much about the recent crop but this plotline, this plotline I expect to stick around. Not just in terms of memory but in terms of something I care about.

      • cassander says:

        I stand by my assertion that Kylo ren is far and away the best character of the new movies. People say he’s a lame emo darth vader cosplayer, to which I say “yes absolutely! that’s what’s great about him!” There’s no way that that the star wars galaxy wouldn’t be full of people like that, and it’s his weaknesses that make him interesting.

        • Ouroborobot says:

          Is that even an opinion anyone would dispute? I was honestly under the impression Kylo Ren was the far and away the most popular character. Yeah, he’s emo and angsty, but he’s a three dimensional character with an actual arc. It also helps that Adam Driver is a fantastic actor with a charismatic screen presence.

          • cassander says:

            I’ve gotten a lot of pushback on the idea from people I’ve talked to about it in person. But most of them had very different opinions than me about which of the new movies are good and which ones aren’t* so maybe I shouldn’t be surprised. I also tend to be a pretty harsh critic.

            *for the record, solo was the best of them so far but only ok. the last jedi was fascinatingly bad in ways I never thought it would be. TFA had some moments but was acceptable at best. and rogue one was a great last act and terrible first two. The prequels had some great ideas that were terribly implemented and should be remade. The first couple episodes of the mandalorian seem to have more thought put into their worldbuilding than all the new movies put together, and I remain absolutely shocked that disney took a 4 billion dollar car out for a ride without a plan.

          • Clutzy says:

            IMO Kylo Ren is a potentially good character, but he is miscast in the Trilogy (at least the first two films) so far. He is a character who is rebellious in nature, but his rebellion is not relatable. We dont see why he dislikes his father, and the explanation about his mentor is contrived. From day one of his introduction he has little reason to rebel anymore.

            There is a good Kylo Ren trilogy that could have existed, but that set of movies was not made. It is similar to how Lucas could have written a good “fall of Anakin Skywalker” trilogy for the prequels, but did not.

          • acymetric says:

            Definitely. There are plenty of people who don’t like Kylo, I’m one of them. I also just don’t like Adam Driver generally (which is apparently some kind of sacrilege, but whatever). I liked Kylo in TFA when he was introduced, but didn’t care for him much in TLJ (maybe partly because in TLJ I could see Adam Driver’s face the whole time…could be my anti-Driver bias there I guess) and unlike the person a couple comments up I thought the Kylo-Rey stuff was one of the worst parts (among many!) in Last Jedi.

        • fibio says:

          My biggest complaint about Kylo Ren is that he’s just not scary enough. Star Wars is a fantasy epic with larger than life heroes and villains. Kylo Ren feels like the wrong villain for the setting, heck I think that’s why so many people rooted for Darth Rey. She has a lot more menace in her heroism than the First Order manage in their villainy.

          Actually, random unrelated thought but there could be an interesting Star Wars story where Jedi and Sith have flipped roles in the public perception. When the Empire fell it led to chaos and balkanisation rather than reunification and so twenty years only the Sith idea of order and fear is looking pretty attractive. Far more so than the Jedi who’s commitment to peace and justice appears more nihilistic than laudable when faced up against a galaxy gone mad.

          • albatross11 says:

            There are a huge number of interesting stories that could in the backdrop of the original Star Wars movies (4-6). But nobody seems very interested in telling any interesting stories. They can afford a gazillion dollar special effects budget, but getting a screenwriter who can make a logically coherent plot with consistent rules of the universe from one scene to the next is apparently out of their budget–let alone finding a writer who could make a compelling SFnal plot with all the raw material they have.

          • acymetric says:

            @albatross11

            It’s especially puzzling because there was literally an entire industry around writing Star Wars content expanding on what happened before, after, and in between the movies for decades. Not only are there a huge number of potentially interesting stories, we already have a huge number of existing ones! Some of it wasn’t very good, but some of it was great! I suppose Disney doesn’t want to use it because they don’t want to pay someone else for their ideas or something, but there is plenty of material to use for inspiration, if not outright make a movie adaptation of a book or series of books. Heck, even one or two of the old video games offer prime source material.

          • albatross11 says:

            Would it really have been that hard for Disney to have bought movie rights to some of the better books? I mean, it’s not like they’re short on cash.

            My guess: the decisionmakers don’t take anything about Star Wars seriously–they think it’s a dumb story for kids whose main job is to provide a special effects spectacle and sell toys. And so it’s utterly foreign to them to worry about internal consistency of rules, or character development, or coherent plots. Why does a dumb cartoon for kids whose purpose is to sell toys need any of *that*.

            And they’re right, as far as box office receipts go. (Which is frankly the only thing they care about.). TLJ had space bombers and a several-hour boring spaceship chase and a stupid away mission and they still made a pile of money on it. TFA was basically a rehash of ANH, with all kinds of stupid implausible magic stuff happening. They still made money.

            What do they care if they took a big steaming dump on the serious fans and the Star Wars universe? The money keeps coming in, and that’s the point. They’ve made such crappy movies that they’ve managed to lose some of the box office money they’d have made with even competent plotting and writing, but from their perspective, that probably just looks like noise.

          • Nick says:

            It’s especially puzzling because there was literally an entire industry around writing Star Wars content expanding on what happened before, after, and in between the movies for decades. Not only are there a huge number of potentially interesting stories, we already have a huge number of existing ones! Some of it wasn’t very good, but some of it was great!

            +1
            This is one of the things that pisses me off the most about the new trilogy.

          • Nick says:

            @albatross11

            What do they care if they took a big steaming dump on the serious fans and the Star Wars universe? The money keeps coming in, and that’s the point. They’ve made such crappy movies that they’ve managed to lose some of the box office money they’d have made with even competent plotting and writing, but from their perspective, that probably just looks like noise.

            But the poor reception of Solo did have consequences for planned content, ranging from putting films on ice to outright canceling them. So clearly somewhere up the decision chain it was realized that the money can’t just roll in endlessly and that a change of strategy was necessary. To really pursue this “competent writing doesn’t matter” thing is short-termism of the First Order.

          • acymetric says:

            @Nick

            The whole Solo thing is a mis-read on Disney’s part. Solo bombed because:

            A) They released it too close to Last Jedi, regardless. Should have been spaced out a bit more.

            B) They especially released it too close to Last Jedi after was received so poorly by large segments of the fan base. Enthusiasm for Star Wars films was at an all time low when Solo was released. I didn’t go see it in theaters (which, having since watched it on TV, I now greatly regret)

            C) Disney managed to perform approximately 0 damage control when all the bad press about Solo being a trainwreck during filming and production was coming out, further dampening enthusiasm. All the coverage of the movie was basically “this movie has been a disaster and will be terrible”.

            Disney then took the result of their horrible bungling of two consecutive Star Wars releases as evidence that people just don’t want more Star Wars. Hopefully they’re taking the time to re-evaluate how to actually make good movies, and aren’t actually considering pulling out of making more movies alltogether. Also, not all the movies need to be super-expensive blockbusters where the film has to do $1bil+ to be worth making.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Disney then took the result of their horrible bungling of two consecutive Star Wars releases as evidence that people just don’t want more Star Wars. Hopefully they’re taking the time to re-evaluate how to actually make good movies, and aren’t actually considering pulling out of making more movies alltogether.

            As far as I can tell though, the Mandalorian is universally loved. I have yet to see anyone say a bad word about it.

            But can you believe they failed to make Baby Yoda dolls in time for Christmas? Holy crap, who would have thought it possible for Star Wars to screw up (since the infamous roll-out for the first movie) by having too little merchandising?!

          • Nick says:

            @acymetric
            I don’t really disagree with any of that, but it’s beside my point, which is that clearly someone with decisionmaking power cares when Star Wars isn’t making as much money anymore and will adjust accordingly. Even if they read the circumstances wrong.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Also, not all the movies need to be super-expensive blockbusters where the film has to do $1bil+ to be worth making.

            They kind of do. They would be ok with a couple of movies making a little south of $1 billion as long as none were actively losing money, but with what they paid for the franchise plus the opportunity costs of making these movies they aren’t realistically going to start releasing movies on sub $100 million budgets, especially if they risk fatigue for the large ones in doing so.

          • acymetric says:

            @Nick

            I don’t really disagree with any of that, but it’s beside my point, which is that clearly someone with decisionmaking power cares when Star Wars isn’t making as much money anymore and will adjust accordingly. Even if they read the circumstances wrong.

            I mean that is self evident…obviously they care about how much money they’re making. My point/concern is that they are misdiagnosing the problems, and thus are unlikely to correct them for future movies.

          • acymetric says:

            @baconbits9

            they aren’t realistically going to start releasing movies on sub $100 million budgets

            Sure, but the cheapest one so far is $265 million. There is a lot of room to drop down there and take more risks with a film, where if it fails you aren’t out as much and if it succeeds you could end up with with a (relatively) cheap movie that makes nearly a billion dollars and spawns a whole new line of toys/marketing nonsense for additional revenue.

            The pressure to make every movie a billion dollar blockbuster is most likely hurting the bottom line and ultimate revenue from the franchise, not protecting it.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            There is a lot of room to drop down there and take more risks with a film, where if it fails you aren’t out as much and if it succeeds you could end up with with a (relatively) cheap movie that makes nearly a billion dollars and spawns a whole new line of toys/marketing nonsense for additional revenue.

            As has been pointed out elsewhere in this OT, the Disney movies are really bad at presenting new toys. The vehicles are the same at Ep 4-6, aliens are mostly gone in favor of more diverse humans (in ugly clothes), and each film introduces just one new droid, IIRC.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            As far as I can tell though, the Mandalorian is universally loved. I have yet to see anyone say a bad word about it.

            I have only watched the first episode so far, and I think it holds promise, but, absent everyone telling me the series is great, I probably would have very little interest in continuing watching based on the first episode. There are big red warning flags in the first episode that say “This will end poorly”.

            Just doing this to scratch that apparent itch for ya. 😉

          • acymetric says:

            That’s what I’m saying though. Make cheaper movies with more risks (new creatures, vehicles, etc.), see what sticks, and sell the crap out of it. The way they’re doing it is definitely the wrong way.

          • Statismagician says:

            I wonder if the choice of platform for The Mandalorian doesn’t shield it from a lot of criticism it would have gotten somewhere else – I haven’t got Disney Plus because I don’t particularly care for anything Disney makes, I mean.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Aw, man, HBC, can’t we just agree on this one thing?!

            Seriously though, keep watching, it’s good!

          • acymetric says:

            @HeelBearCub

            There are big red warning flags in the first episode that say “This will end poorly”.

            For what its worth, my take on the episodes:

            Episode 1: Ok
            Episode 2: Slightly better
            Episode 3: Really good. In contention for best so far.
            Episode 4: Also really good
            Episode 5: Ok
            Episode 6: First watch – bad. Lots of other people loved this episode. I rewatched it and decided it was actually ok.
            Episode 7: Really good, the other episode in contention for best along with ep. 3 (although I probably lean 3)

          • baconbits9 says:

            Sure, but the cheapest one so far is $265 million. There is a lot of room to drop down there and take more risks with a film, where if it fails you aren’t out as much and if it succeeds you could end up with with a (relatively) cheap movie that makes nearly a billion dollars and spawns a whole new line of toys/marketing nonsense for additional revenue.

            You risk eating up your core audience for the big films which is the real fear.

          • acymetric says:

            My point is that I don’t think you do eat up your core audience that way. You eat up your core audience doing what they’re doing now.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Oh, and the other thing Mandalorian has going for it: I’m excited to see future episodes because I actually care about what happens to Baby Yoda and Mando. I do not care at all what happens to Rey, Finn, or Kylo.

            I’m sure people will be talking about Rise of Skywalker, though, so I’ll see it, but I’ll probably do what I did for TLJ: pirate a screener.

          • baconbits9 says:

            My biggest complaint about Kylo Ren is that he’s just not scary enough. Star Wars is a fantasy epic with larger than life heroes and villains.

            Star Wars started bungling the villains with TPM, the goofy and completely ineffective droid army, prior to that the empire was a menacing specter with a massive army/space navy/space air force. Vader is introduced walking through a slaughter of rebels as symbolically the head of the storm troopers. From there you have a Luke/Vader dynamic and a rebellion/empire dynamic, but you don’t have Luke running around killing Storm Troopers (excepting those who die in tie fighters or on the death star). Killing masses of droids/clones/storm troopers has had no storytelling weight since then.

          • lvlln says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            I’m in the same general boat as HBC. I watched the 1st episode and enjoyed the opening action scene and the overall tone and pacing, but the climactic action scene at the end of the episode completely turned me off with its lack of tension or believability. As someone who’s only moderately into Star Wars, this was enough to make me drop the show.

            I decided to check out the 2nd episode recently after hearing so much praise of the show for so many weeks, and I’d say it was about the same. Opening action scene was half decent, the one at the end was atrocious. The tone and pacing were really good. But the whole rebuilding-functional-spaceship-within-days-from-dismantled-parts just broke my suspense of disbelief. I can believe that a highly skilled bounty hunter and a highly skilled hermit could make some very significant repairs to a spaceship, but this was Lego Star Wars-level rebuilding.

            I’ll probably check out a 3rd episode after another few weeks of hearing praise about the show.

          • baconbits9 says:

            My point is that I don’t think you do eat up your core audience that way. You eat up your core audience doing what they’re doing now.

            That wasn’t their intention though, and there is no reason to think that 3 good Star Wars movies would have eaten their audience. These movies largely (imo) fail by trying to do to much. Trying to appease fans, while building a whole new fan base and also injecting some politics into the mix for good fun is what has made this mess, adding onto that isn’t going to solve the core issues and will likely exacerbate them.

          • roystgnr says:

            “each film introduces just one new droid, IIRC”

            But keep in mind that the first sequel’s one new droid was BB-8, IMHO one of the most toyetic characters in Star Wars history. Thanks to my preschooler (who hasn’t seen any Star Wars yet but loves the graphic novelizations) and my wife (who doesn’t like Star Wars but loves our little girl), I think our house now has 3 remote-controlled and one Halloween-costume BB-8, plus uncounted BB-8s in plush, Lego, clothing, etc. forms.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            But keep in mind that the first sequel’s one new droid was BB-8, IMHO one of the most toyetic characters in Star Wars history.

            Sure, I completely agree with you. They don’t mess this up 100% of the time, and BB-8 was the best of their rare hits.

          • mdet says:

            They can afford a gazillion dollar special effects budget, but getting a screenwriter who can make a logically coherent plot with consistent rules of the universe from one scene to the next is apparently out of their budget

            @albatross11, and anyone else who didn’t like TLJ, what did yall think of Rian Johnson’s Looper? I thought it very good, despite regularly fudging the time travel logic (who doesn’t fudge the time travel logic?)

            I think Disney actually *was* intending to hire a talented sci-fi filmmaker when they brought Rian Johnson on. He only had the one sci-fi movie to his name, but Looper was a pretty big critical and commercial hit. And contrary to the Marvel movies, which bring talented directors on but weigh them down with too many constraints, Johnson clearly had *plenty* of freedom making TLJ. After the backlash, they replaced deviated-too-far Johnson with safe, formulaic JJ again.

            And Rogue One went to the writer of the Bourne movies, which aren’t sci-fi, but given that Rogue One was supposed to be a departure from traditional Star Wars towards a grittier, more down to Earth Jedha type of action movie, that also makes sense.

            These may not have been the best choices, but I think I can follow the reasoning here.

            Edit: Actually, Colin Trevorrow was originally intended to write Ep IX, along with Derek Connolly. Their most prominent credit is Jurassic World (yikes), but they also made Safety Not Guaranteed, which I hadn’t heard of but wiki tells me is a sci-fi romantic comedy that won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award and was praised by Roger Ebert for its dialogue and character depth.

            But then they replaced those two with Abrams and a writer whose most prominent credits include Batman v Superman and Justice League? Why???

          • baconbits9 says:

            @mdet:

            I can buy the explanation that they thought they had the right director in Johnson, but I struggle with the statement that he had a good degree of freedom. It was fairly obvious and widely reported that Disney execs were pushing their political ideology into the films and also that they specifically wanted the old characters phased out in a hard way to make room for a new set of characters for a new generation of consumers who would then spend the next 30 years buying Star Wars products. That structure is more constrictive than it appears because it requires Johnson to have his initial pitch and his final vision be really in line with those mandates which can be creatively stifling (not that I am crying for Johnson, just that lots of freedom is a bit misleading for what appears to have happened).

          • Aapje says:

            IMO, The Mandalorian is OK, but not great. If you don’t like the first one or two episodes, I don’t see any point in continuing. It doesn’t really become better.

            It leans heavy on fan service, so if you are not a significant fan already, I think that you will enjoy it far less.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            It’s especially puzzling because there was literally an entire industry around writing Star Wars content expanding on what happened before, after, and in between the movies for decades. Not only are there a huge number of potentially interesting stories, we already have a huge number of existing ones! Some of it wasn’t very good, but some of it was great!

            No, they have the rights to everything in the EU, and have made a point of drawing the fanbase’s attention to elements from EU works showing up in the Post-Disney Canon Star Wars projects. The relevant bit announcing that EU is no longer canon is:

            Now, with an exciting future filled with new cinematic installments of Star Wars, all aspects of Star Wars storytelling moving forward will be connected. Under Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy’s direction, the company for the first time ever has formed a story group to oversee and coordinate all Star Wars creative development.

            “We have an unprecedented slate of new Star Wars entertainment on the horizon,” said Kennedy. “We’re set to bring Star Wars back to the big screen, and continue the adventure through games, books, comics, and new formats that are just emerging. This future of interconnected storytelling will allow fans to explore this galaxy in deeper ways than ever before.”

            In order to give maximum creative freedom to the filmmakers and also preserve an element of surprise and discovery for the audience, Star Wars Episodes VII-IX will not tell the same story told in the post-Return of the Jedi Expanded Universe.

            Click through the link above for the whole announcement, but the short version is: “Star Wars EU material published Before the Disney acquisition is non-canon, which we now call “Star Wars Legends” for branding purposes. Going forward, all Disney-produced material, including movies, games, books, comics, and other tie-ins ARE canon and will be a single internally consistent continuity. We reserve the right to utilize ideas from the old EU/Legends content, and IF we use those ideas in some form in the new, Post-Disney content, THEN it will be canon.”

            That was in 2014. But did everyone +1-ing this really miss the deliciously ironic quote from Kathleen Kennedy regarding the lack of source material to draw inspiration from when coming up with Star Wars ideas?

            Interviewer: Jurassic World director Colin Trevorrow was slated to write and direct Episode IX before you brought J.J. Abrams back in. Is this final entry in the trilogy a particularly hard nut to crack?

            Kathleen Kennedy: Every one of these movies is a particularly hard nut to crack. There’s no source material. We don’t have comic books. We don’t have 800-page novels. We don’t have anything other than passionate storytellers who get together and talk about what the next iteration might be.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @Aapje

            How do you figure Mandalorian draws on fan service, much less heavily? There’s very little there from previous films. No previously seen characters have shown up. It’s almost entirely new stuff.

            @Trofim

            There’s no source material. We don’t have comic books. We don’t have 800-page novels.

            That’s sort of rage-inducing.

          • Theodoric says:

            @acymetric

            That’s what I’m saying though. Make cheaper movies with more risks (new creatures, vehicles, etc.), see what sticks, and sell the crap out of it. The way they’re doing it is definitely the wrong way.

            Perhaps these lower budget Star Wars movies could be straight to Disney+ releases? In fact, that might be where movies are going generally: Blockbusters in theaters, most other stuff straight to streaming.

          • mdet says:

            I am interpreting the fact that Rian Johnson was able to blatantly scrap most of Abrams’ story threads from the previous movie and insert his own to mean that he had plenty of freedom. Mandating that the original trilogy characters die off for the new ones doesn’t sound particularly restrictive.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I’m googling for it but can’t find it, but I swear there exists an interview with Rian Johnson during production of TLJ where he’s asked whether or not JJ Abrams gave him an outline of his plan for the series and he says no, that he has total freedom to do whatever he wants.

            There never was any plan. Abrams’ “method” of creation is the “Mystery Box,” the idea that the viewer is presented with a mystery they want to solve, but don’t really care what the mystery is. Just like Lost: set up a bunch of stuff and then see what happens. There’s no actual plan.

            I think this is a horrible way to make movies, or any kind of fiction, but it seems to make dollars for Abrams, so here we are.

          • Nick says:

            @Conrad Honcho
            You might be thinking of the Daisy Ridley interview where she said Abrams had drafts for 8 and 9, but Johnson scrapped them:

            “Here’s what I think I know. J. J. wrote Episode VII, as well as drafts for VIII & IX. Then Rian Johnson arrived and wrote TLJ entirely. I believe there was some sort of general consensus on the main lines of the trilogy, but apart from that, every director writes and realizes his film in his own way.

            “Rian Johnson and J. J. Abrams met to discuss all of this, although Episode VIII is still his very own work. I believe Rian didn’t keep anything from the first draft of Episode VIII.”

            With the obvious caveat that Ridley could be mistaken—it was widely reported, but I looked for commentary from Disney or Johnson and found nothing—this is very concerning.

            It doesn’t of course suggest that Johnson had very great creative freedom. He might well have been constrained by executives in many ways. It just means none of those constraints was “make any goddamn sense.”

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Found it!

            Questions in bold:

            How much of the story of “The Last Jedi” was dictated to you, either by events in “The Force Awakens” or by Lucasfilm?

            I had figured there would be a big map on the wall with the whole story laid out, and it was not that at all. I was basically given the script for “Episode VII;” I got to watch dailies of what J. J. was doing. And it was like, where do we go from here? That was awesome.

            So there’s no one telling you that your film has to contain certain plot points, or that certain things have to be achieved by its end?

            Nothing like that. But it’s the second film in a trilogy. The first film got these characters here. This second movie has to dig into and challenge these characters. I wanted this to be a satisfying experience unto itself. I didn’t want it to end with a dot, dot, dot, question mark.

            It is incredibly annoying trying to search by date in google. I can’t figure out a way to do it except various degrees of “most recent.” I wanted to exclude all interviews after the release of TLJ because I knew this interview was before that.

            Anyway, yes, there was nothing planned out. J.J. did not have any plan for the origin of the First Order, who Snoke was, who Rey’s parents were, what Luke was doing on that planet, any of it. He created the Mystery Box, handed it to Johnson, and said basically whatever you say is in here, who cares?

            And Rian largely responded by…throwing it all away. You can call that first scene symbolic. Rey passes the lightsaber to Luke, J.J. passes the baton to Rian…and Luke and Rian both chuck it over their shoulders.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            It is incredibly annoying trying to search by date in google. I can’t figure out a way to do it except various degrees of “most recent.”

            You can’t do it from advanced search and you can’t do it from the mobile page, but it is possible. In the desktop version of google, “search tools” switches from being recency to being full date control. You can get the desktop page from a phone by issuing the “request desktop site” command.

          • viVI_IViv says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            I actually care about what happens to Baby Yoda and Mando. I do not care at all what happens to Rey, Finn, or Kylo.

            Same here. And it’s quite telling that a dude whose face we never see and a freaking muppet come across as characters way more interesting and likeable than the bland diverse power trio written by a committe of marketing execs.

            @baconbits9

            Star Wars started bungling the villains with TPM, the goofy and completely ineffective droid army, prior to that the empire was a menacing specter with a massive army/space navy/space air force.

            The droids were lame, intentionally for comedic effect, but I always thought Darth Maul was awesome.

            @mdet

            what did yall think of Rian Johnson’s Looper? I thought it very good, despite regularly fudging the time travel logic (who doesn’t fudge the time travel logic?)

            I haven’t watched Looper or anything else from Rian Johnson prior to TLJ. Thought he was a hack, but then someone recommended me Knives Out and I actually enjoyed it. Clearly a completely different genre, but he can write and direct good movies.

            I don’t know what happened with TLJ, maybe he was pressured to cram into it as much woke politics as possible. This would explain hobo Luke, Rose Thicco neutering Finn and dragging him along on her side quest to fight capitalism and free cute horses, and Vice Admiral Gender Studies defeating the toxic masculinity of the Poe and smashing the white Supremacy (yes, the First Order ship is literally called the Supremacy). Still doesn’t explain fucking up Hux, Snoke or Rey’s origins, though.

            And I can quite buy that JJ had left him with an empty mistery box and he had to make stuff up in order to fill it, but he should have been able to come up with something that vaguely made sense instead of throwing the mistery box over his shoulder and making a movie basically disconnected to the previous one.

          • mdet says:

            If you liked Knives Out, I’d recommend Looper. I think Brick & The Brothers Bloom were alright, but a little too “quirky”.

            While none of his previous movies had any ideological leanings, Knives Out is at least as culture-warry as TLJ, so I think Rian Johnson did that much on his own.

            I don’t think Luke’s characterization was “woke” at all. I saw it as being in line with “Old Ben” in the original and Yoda in Empire — the esteemed Jedi master retires and becomes a crazy old recluse, who initially trolls the young hero with silliness before reluctantly agreeing to teach them. Or compare to Creed — Rocky is initially too old and jaded and cynical to train Adonis Creed. But Adonis’ persistence and talent eventually lead Rocky to reluctantly take on an apprentice.

            The lightsaber toss and “laser sword” line were too flippant, but Luke’s portrayal otherwise was standard “cynical mentor comes out of retirement” arc. Combine that with some commentary on how the Jedi Order’s excessive stoicism is what led Anakin to become emotionally stunted and put him on the path to the dark side; Luke himself creating Kylo when he momentarily lapses into fear; Luke concluding that the Jedi have done more to create Sith than to destroy them, until he eventually forgives himself and is able to embrace his role as a symbol of hope, and I thought Luke’s characterization was one of the parts of TLJ that was actually really good.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I thought Darth Maul’s makeup was awesome, but he didn’t seem to have any personality.

          • Aapje says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            I think that a lot of entertainment value of The Mandalorian comes from familiarity with/interest in the universe. Like seeing baby Yoda learn his powers, seeing the mandalorian get his beskar armor, etc.

        • baconbits9 says:

          I stand by my assertion that Kylo ren is far and away the best character of the new movies

          I really don’t understand this perspective, he murdered his own father way to early in the series to make him actually interesting. His only two reasonable paths here are driving himself mad with guilt or just going full evil. The angsty/confused act after that just can’t be a real character, if that wasn’t a character defining moment then you can’t have a character defining moment*.

          • acymetric says:

            Agreed, although that argument also works pretty well for Vader being irredeemable which was one of the main premises of RotJ.

          • baconbits9 says:

            The presentation matters here, Ren murders his father who is a sympathetic character, on screen and in cold blood. Vader is presented as ruthless, and having been seduced by the power of the dark side, but in the first trilogy he doesn’t do anything nearly so dramatic and he only kills side characters (and not many of them). To be equivilent he would have to murder Leia on screen in the first movie, then have it revealed that he knew she was his daughter, then have him redeemed, but also have him act really indecisive in movie #2. As it is the Vader redemption arc is Luke’s triumph, and the light side’s triumph, and there is a compelling reason for Luke to want Vader’s redemption, which also doesn’t exist for Kylo/Rey.

          • acymetric says:

            I fully agree with your last sentence, and I think that’s where the key difference lies.

            Kind of disagree with the first part, Anakin murdering children (who knew him by name and who he implicitly had helped train and had a relationship with) which was shown on screen (in hologram form) probably counts.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Kind of disagree with the first part, Anakin murdering children (who knew him by name and who he implicitly had helped train and had a relationship with) which was shown on screen (in hologram form) probably counts.

            This is shown 20 years after the fact though, the redemption arc in the original trilogy is completed and locked into people’s minds well before that point. In the original trilogy Vader supposedly betrayed and murdered Luke’s father which is reversed a movie later.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Here is how I would re-write (almost) the same sequence of events (with gaps between points obviously).

            1. Kylo is all emo and conflicted
            2. Rey beats Kylo in light-saber fight#1
            3. Kylo beats Rey in fight #2
            4. Kylo spares Rey and says ‘join me in doing something different’
            5. Rey rejects the offer
            6. Kylo smashes helmet
            7. Kylo kills han
            8. Kylo rebuilds helmet

          • baconbits9 says:

            This all gives you the room to make Kylo a really good villain. Have some early Han/Kylo stuff without tension and conflict without resolution, have Han express really strong negative feelings toward Kylo, and develop a strong bond with Rey over a few movies. Then have Han hear about/witness Kylo sparing Rey, then go to Klyo to try to win him back and have Kylo murder him in cold blood (or replace Leia for Han, or mix them both in).

            Long arc with multiple possible outcomes, solid motivations for every character, every character having a real impact on the story, a dramatic twist when Kylo murders one of his parents with real stakes and finally a reason for Rey to really hate Kylo which presents opportunities for the final resolution.

          • acymetric says:

            Is it too late to submit that idea and reboot the whole sequel trilogy? I would love to watch those movies.

          • baconbits9 says:

            How I rewrite the whole series.

            Kylo is a general and Jedi under Leia in the new republic, but being influenced/controlled by Snoke. He leads a coup that splits the armed forces, and Han + Leia have a massive falling out with Han insisting that she has to use military force against their son, and her insisting that he is good at heart and will come around. Han is more or less exiled from Leia’s side which is weakened by her lack of decisiveness and is now on the run from Kylo and the newly formed First Order. Lots of planets are sitting it out just waiting to join the winning side.

            Han is an outcast, hated by his son for siding against him and kicked out of the side he believes in, when he meets up with Rey on some distant planet and the fact that she has never heard of him/the force anything is a huge relief. Here we rewrite Rey to be more like Han, shes a little devious and mischievous as you might expect from an orphan struggling to make it on her own.

            Kylo goes through his army and finds force sensitive troops to train, Finn is one of those discovered, but he has repressed his force ability due to (insert tragic backstory). Finn at first takes to the training but refuses to kill at some point and goes on the run and meets up with Han and Rey (insert scene with Kylo teaching force sensitivity to Finn so that he can discover his own powers and then Finn uses that to discover Rey and is drawn to her).

            Poe is a high ranking officer in the New Rebellion who was friendly/admiring toward Han but sides with his superior Leia. As Leia is shown to be wrong about Kylo he is torn between duty and disillusionment, which sets him at odds with the rest of the resistance.

            Leia is at first portrayed as a doting grandmother type, a legend to everyone around her, but old and tired from decades of politics and with a huge blind spot for her son. She is forced into a corner and the young, feisty, bold Leia comes out and she engineers an escape that saves her leadership position and weakens Kylo. Probably put her into the Holdo position where she sacrifices herself to save the resistance, and the news of her death shakes Kylo, and is the instigating factor in Kylo killing Snoke and offering Rey the new path.

            Luke is a crazy monk on an isolated planet who has forsworn violence and turned his life into trying to find the balance between the light and dark of the force. He trained Kylo for a while, but Kylo left him for a more romantic and adventurous life, and Luke’s naval gazing is why he completely missed Snoke’s emergence and manipulation.

            Meeting Rey reinvigorates Han, but Rey is disgusted when she learns Han was a legend who saved the universe but now has checked out and is doing nothing to stop his son’s reign of terror. Rey reveals some part of her tragic backstory that explains why she reacts this way, and this shakes Han into action. He says the only person he knows who can help is obviously Luke, and the three (Finn is with them at this point) go to see Luke.

            Luke is blown away by Rey’s hidden force power and is terrified of her, Han/Rey/Finn don’t understand and Luke is forced to tell them that the only time he has felt a power like that was within his father- who was also (insert parallels between Rey and Anakin from the prequels), however some exposition about how Vader’s internal conflict that he refused to recognize until the end of RoTJ prevented him from mastering the force which allowed the Emperor to rule over him.

            Rey wants Luke to join them and train her, but Luke says ‘Obi Wan failed my father, and I failed Kylo’ but agrees to come to try to end the civil war. Finn meanwhile teaches Rey in secret what he knows about the force, allowing her to tap into it.

            Before Luke confronts Kylo he tells Han in private that he is going to sacrifice himself which will be the first step to redeeming Kylo. Luke pulls a variation of the Obi-Wan disappearing/death trick, but Finn and Rey aren’t in on it and explode with anger and attack Kylo. Kylo defends himself well, but he recognizes Finn and doesn’t want to kill him, and is also surprised by Rey’s massive burst of power. This combination allows the two of them to best him and force him to withdraw.

            Meanwhile Leia is fighting pitched battles against the First Order and winning fights but unable to overcome their sheer force of numbers. She devises a plan to use herself as bait with Holdo (her #2) ambushing the First Order and dealing a massive blow that will rally the planets sitting it out to their side, knowing that it will likely lead to her death. Poe rejects the idea, he says that Leia is the one thing holding the resistance together and it will fall apart under Holdo, and he runs to get Han to talk Leia out of the decision.

            The gambit partially works, but fails to deliver a crippling blow because Poe’s squadron is left without its leader and is wiped out during the ambush. Poe is devastated and contemplates suicide, with Holdo snapping him out of it by demanding the he honor his men by continuing to fight and refusing to abandon the cause a 2nd time. Poe devotes himself to serving Holdo and the resistance after this.

            Elsewhere Snoke mocks Kylo for losing to a girl and enrages him when he informs him of Leia’s death. Kylo kills Snoke, and goes out to search for Rey who fascinates him. Luke’s ghost returns to try to guide Kylo back to the light side, and Kylo meets Rey, fights and disarms her and then offers for them to forge a new path together. She rejects him and he smashes his helmet in anger, and threatens to kill her if she refuses again. She responds that his actions after being refused show his true character and she takes death over such a partnership. He is stunned again and leaves her alive.

            Han was witness to this and searches out Kylo to try to talk him back, Kylo murders Han and repairs his helmet and puts the First Order into full repression of all rebellious activities mode. Rey summons Luke’s ghost and asks him again to train her, he replies that he has failed Kylo twice and reveals to Rey that Kylo murdered Han who has been a father figure to her for two full movies now. Rey’s shocked expression turns to a steely one and she says something about how she won’t let him fail her.

            Ghost Luke trains Rey and Finn, and in the final showdown you have Rey+Finn vs Kylo plus the other hand picked troops that he was training. These other guys mock Finn for his unwillingness to kill and the fights turn into Kylo vs Rey and Finn vs the other guys (unknown number). Finn refuses to kill any of them, and only fights to protect Rey from their interference. Rey fights Kylo, and beats him, refusing to kill him. Finn fights for a while but is outnumbered, beaten, disarmed and held hostage. Kylo demands to be set free or he will order his men to kill Finn, Rey refuses and Kylo orders Finn’s death. Finn is murdered in front of her and Kylo mocks Rey for being truly alone now and to weak to save Finn. Rey responds that Kylo is the one truly alone having murdered his own mother, father and uncle and that he can only rule through fear. Then she reveals that she is not alone, placing her hand on her belly and stating that their son will live on. An anguished Kylo throws himself on his light-saber and is dead.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Is it too late to submit that idea and reboot the whole sequel trilogy? I would love to watch those movies.

            If we have learned anything from Spiderman its that it is never to early to reboot.

          • Randy M says:

            That sounded all good but I missed the part where Rey would have been impregnated…

          • baconbits9 says:

            That sounded all good but I missed the part where Rey would have been impregnated…

            Its a family movie so it happens off screen.

            Alternate version: Luke impregnates Rey so you can still call the last movie ‘the rise of skywalker’

          • Nick says:

            @Randy M
            Maybe it was a virgin birth like Anakin?

          • John Schilling says:

            Meanwhile Leia is fighting pitched battles against the First Order and winning fights but unable to overcome their sheer force of numbers. She devises a plan to use herself as bait with Holdo (her #2) ambushing the First Order and dealing a massive blow

            Not Holdo. She has no business being in these movies, when we’ve got a perfectly good Admiral Ackbar waiting to fill that role. That massive blow from ambush is a suicide attack, and I’ll even give them lightspeed ramming for this, because Ackbar’s last words are,

            well, you know.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Ackbar’s last words are,

            well, you know.

            “Hold my beer?”

          • Thegnskald says:

            Conrad –

            If you haven’t already, you should try Expeditionary Force. I think you might enjoy it

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Is that a game? I’ve never heard of it.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Science fiction… comedy? book series. Red tribe markers, but apolitical, insofar as anything can be anymore.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Not Holdo. She has no business being in these movies, when we’ve got a perfectly good Admiral Ackbar waiting to fill that role. That massive blow from ambush is a suicide attack, and I’ll even give them lightspeed ramming for this, because Ackbar’s last words are,

            well, you know.

            I will admit that thought hadn’t crossed my mind, and it would be a great call-back.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            “Columbus Day” is book 1? That looks neat. I’ll check it out, thanks. Mad my library doesn’t have it, though…

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            While we’re rewriting Star Wars, you know what I really want? Not a strong female hero, but a strong female villain. There’s a whole archetype there never explored. Give me a sexy as hell sith witch. She’s beautiful, seductive, manipulative, powerful. All of the dark side of femininity.

            In Battlefront II they had to create their own character, Iden Versio (Imperial special forces commando) just to have a female villain besides Phasma, who’s had all of 4 minutes of screen time across two movies. Give me a powerful female villain. That’s at least new and interesting.

          • John Schilling says:

            Give me a sexy as hell sith witch. She’s beautiful, seductive, manipulative, powerful. All of the dark side of femininity.

            I think you’re looking for the Blake’s 7 remake that has been repeatedly promised and never delivered.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I’m just saying, wouldn’t it be cool to have a Sith who turned the mind trick up to 11?

          • Protagoras says:

            @John Schilling, Yes! We need more villains like Servalan!

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        C’mon, when’s the last time a bad guy made a “Come to the dark side” speech and it not only made sense, you were rooting for the hero to take it. It comes out of nowhere, makes 100% sense…and then just gets dropped.

        Completely agree. The movie would have redeemed itself much if she had done it. Now that’s subverting expectations! “Screw this Light Side/Dark Side stuff, let’s go do our own thing!” Also might have made Rey in any way interesting, just to be shown doing something she maybe actually wanted to do for once, to give me some hint as to her motivations and desires.

        • Nick says:

          I’ve already said this here before, but based on the trailer material I was thinking the two would go for a “screw the Jedi order and Sith ideology, let’s forge our own path,” which is a decent idea. And when I was watching TLJ it seemed at times like it was heading this way, but zigzagged about four times and then ended up at… nah, Rey’s just gonna be a standard Jedi and Kylo’s just gonna be all grr I’mma Sith, so fuck that, I guess.

          • albatross11 says:

            This would have made an interesting story, but I think Rey would have had a hard time completely abandoning her friends. OTOH, they could have worked it out–this is certainly no more shocking than Anakin’s two-scene face-heel turn from brave Jedi with some dark impulses to child-murdering Sith lord.

            Ideally, work it so that Luke shows back up to save the remnant of the Rebellion somehow, in light of Rey’s abandonment.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I think you’re selling Anakin’s fall a little short. In AoTC he murders all the sandpeople, which is extremely unJedilike*. It was “justified” sort of, but very evil. So the transition from “did evil murder to the guilty” to “did evil murder to the innocent” took quite awhile.

            * how do you write that? Un-Jedi-like? Un-Jedilike? UnJedi-like? Or maybe just “not like a Jedi.”

          • Nick says:

            Forging your own path doesn’t mean dark side, it just means not being beholden to the ideology that caused Anakin’s fall and the rise of a totalitarian opposition. One thing they could have done on Ahch-To was have Rey encounter (either in the books stored there or something else on the island) a light side path that doesn’t require foregoing all emotion and that other nonsense.

          • acymetric says:

            Foregoing the Jedi order to create a more “gray” Force path wouldn’t necessarily require her abandoning her friends. Maybe this new, balanced force paradigm is how she saves the resistance and her friends.

            I don’t especially like that story, but it is kind of interesting and could make sense/be perfectly coherent.

            Edit: Kinda ninja’d by Nick

          • AG says:

            Thing is, the EU tried to do that whole “queer the Light/Dark binary” thing several times, and every time they killed off the person who did it, and more often than not said person went full Dark.

            So even the EU couldn’t really get away from resetting to old tropes.

          • Nick says:

            @AG
            🙁

      • The Nybbler says:

        Kylo Ren’s “Join Me” speech just made me think how much better Vader’s original was.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Discuss.

      I don’t feel qualified to answer until I see both Ewoks movies.

    • sty_silver says:

      1. Attack of the Clones
      2. Revenge of the Sith
      [point above which movies go from “not worth watching” to “worth watching”]
      3. Empire Strikes back
      4. The Force Awakens
      5. The Last Jedi
      6. A New Hope
      7. Return of the Jedi
      8. Phantom Menace

      And I haven’t see the others. Actually I might have seen (part of?) Rogue one but I don’t remember anything.

      I’m generally distraught at the lack of anyone having what seems to me the only reasonable opinion, which is that none of the original movies is very good (at least not IV and VI) and obviously Attack of the Clones is by far the best one. I don’t think I’ve ever found another person who thinks Attack of the Clones is the best one. Although sometimes people admit that it has a good plot if I press them, and then say that the script is bad.

      Equally confusing is why people like A New Hope. Is it inaccurate to say that the plot is straight-forward deus-ex-machine cheesy win-against-all-odds with no surprises at all? (Especially the last third.) Is that just ok because it was one of the first movies to do that? Or is Darth Vader so cool that the bad plot can be excused? Or is the acting/setting just so convincing that the plot doesn’t matter?

      I really can’t find many good things in A new Hope. Maybe Darth Vader and the general way the world is portrayed. But the plot is just so bad, and although I don’t care much about effects and such, I think there’s a point below which it becomes distracting. Everything that takes place in space in that movie is pretty hideous.

      • Two McMillion says:

        This is interesting to me. I think Attack of the Clones suffers because the name is terrible. It has some cool moments, yes. What do you like about it specifically?

        • sty_silver says:

          Quite a few things, actually. I thought everything about Obi-Wan and the clone army was very strong. It’s unpredictable and it goes to unusual places (when do the good guys ever have the overwhelming army?) Having a completely original, unpredictable, and not-stupid storyline is a pretty high bar.

          Definitely a big piece is that it’s also just fun to watch. It’s fun to see Obi-Wan travel to this remote planet, and it’s a really cool location. I bring this up because, unlike with episodes IV and VI, my biggest problem with V was just that the stuff on screen wasn’t really pleasant to follow. Hence my not questioning how people can like V.

          This next part probably sounds contrarian, but I honestly also found the dialogue pretty good. After watching II and III a couple years ago, my feeling was basically that I could take II seriously, and then III went way over board and I couldn’t take it seriously anymore. There’s stuff like Obi Wan just jumping in the middle of an army and then the guy whom he wants to kill conveniently challenges him to a duel. Also lots of unnecessary cool-sounding lines. II felt far more mature.

          Anakin is less interesting across the board but unlike everyone else, I also don’t find his scenes particularly bad.

          The one thing that I thought was completely awful was C-3PO being the comic relief. if he was taken out completely, that might boost the movie from being legit good to legit great.

          Edit: Oh, and another big piece – The Jedi council. In episode I, they’re around but useless. In ep III, they’re main thing is that they all die. From episode IV onward, there’s always just one or two jedi that are somehow supposed to be able to save the world. Episode II is the only one where you have a setup that makes sense and the coincil actually does something useful. So good!

      • Statismagician says:

        If you don’t mind my asking, what age were you when you first encountered Star Wars, and which movie was that?

        • sty_silver says:

          It was the Phantom Menace. A then-friend told me he thought I’d like it a lot (and I did, I remember a time when they were my absolute favorite movies). I don’t know how old I was, maybe 14. So I definitely grew up with the prequels. But I don’t tend to have a lot of respect for my younger self’s opinions.

          I rewatched episode I – VI in order some years ago and unless I remember this wrong, I was quite surprised that I ended up liking AOTC.

      • baconbits9 says:

        Equally confusing is why people like A New Hope. Is it inaccurate to say that the plot is straight-forward deus-ex-machine cheesy win-against-all-odds with no surprises at all? (Especially the last third.) Is that just ok because it was one of the first movies to do that? Or is Darth Vader so cool that the bad plot can be excused? Or is the acting/setting just so convincing that the plot doesn’t matter?

        ANH is a straightforward adventure movie that is very well edited done, with good character development and incredible visuals (I don’t mean the special effects, which were great at the time, I mean the approach and the framing of shots and costumes etc). The fact that it is straightforward also adds to the intensity of the twist in ESB, you are almost two full movies in and they pull of a major plot twist that wasn’t seen coming at all and only contradicts basically a single line that came before it (which also has a reasonable explanation), and then they managed to pay off that twist at the end of RoTJ (excepting the Ewoks).

        ANH is a good story with some neat imagination aspects that is pulled off nearly flawlessly for what it was. It was made to be a complete standalone movie with also having two hopeful sequels set up at the same time which is harder than you might think.

        • sty_silver says:

          I don’t mean the special effects, which were great at the time

          Does the fact that you point this out mean you give the movie at least a few extra points for having been made a long ago? (Not implying that you wouldn’t like it anyway). For me that doesn’t enter the calculation at all.

          The fact that it is straightforward also adds to the intensity of the twist in ESB, you are almost two full movies in and they pull of a major plot twist that wasn’t seen coming at all and only contradicts basically a single line that came before it (which also has a reasonable explanation), and then they managed to pay off that twist at the end of RoTJ (excepting the Ewoks).

          Yeah, you won’t hear me say that ESB has a boring plot. I do consider it by far the best one of the originals.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Does the fact that you point this out mean you give the movie at least a few extra points for having been made a long ago? (Not implying that you wouldn’t like it anyway). For me that doesn’t enter the calculation at all.

            Yes, it deserves some consideration in my view, doing something revolutionary that also has staying power is an impressive combination. Avatar deserves some credit as a movie for its effects despite the fact that it is a terrible script, with bad acting. That its special effects are no longer impressive on their own but the film deserves some respect more than other terribly written, and poorly acted current sci fi movies which have similar quality for introducing that level of craft. Certainly for a movie with a solid script and performances to have that impact as well it should be elevated at least a little.

      • aristides says:

        One thing you identify that causes my difference of opinion with you, do you think plot is the most important part of a movie? In my experience, plot is perhaps the least important part. If a movies is well written, acted, and directed, Id probably watch it no matter the plot. A good example is probably every Monty Python and National Lampoon movie.

        • sty_silver says:

          I definitely don’t have an explicit rule for what I value. I first observe whether I like it and then often think about why.

          Nowadays, my most common reason for disliking something is “the characters are being obviously stupid”. And the second most common is probably “this plot is predictable”. If the plot is predictable, then I can’t get immersed because it doesn’t feel real.

          So I guess kinda? In case of Star Wars, I don’t remember being particularly annoyed at characters doing stupid things, so it might be accurate to say that plot ended up being the most important element. And I would consider plot to be a part of how well a movie is written.

        • zardoz says:

          One thing you identify that causes my difference of opinion with you, do you think plot is the most important part of a movie?

          It depends on the movie. The plot is probably not the most important part of a Beavis and Butthead movie. But for a more serious movie, if the plot doesn’t make sense, the whole movie doesn’t “work.”

      • The Nybbler says:

        Equally confusing is why people like A New Hope. Is it inaccurate to say that the plot is straight-forward deus-ex-machine cheesy win-against-all-odds with no surprises at all? (Especially the last third.)

        If anything, it’s “deus sans machine” (classics professors are now double facepalming), and yes, it’s inaccurate. It’s not deus ex machina because there is no element introduced last minute to save our heroes. We’ve had the existence of the Force beaten into us, we know about the weakness in the Death Star through the plans which have been in play for the whole movie, and the existence of the Millennium Falcon is well established. It may not have been precisely surprising for the Falcon to come back, but it wasn’t a forgone conclusion either. It was “win against all odds”, but that’s it.

        • John Schilling says:

          Luke’s piloting skill could have been better and earlier established; “best bush pilot in the outer rim territories” is maybe a bit of Deus ex Darklighter. And I believe there was a deleted scene on Tattoine to that effect. But generally this; there’s a very straightforward path to destroying the Death Star using plot elements established in advance for that purpose.

        • sty_silver says:

          I think I meant “deux-ex-machina” in the sense that the mission miraculously goes well, which seems fairly implausible. But yeah, that’s not quite what deus-ex-machina means, since there isn’t any new solution introduced. Fair enough.

    • John Schilling says:

      IV V VII Rogue I Solo III II VII VIII(?) IX(?)

      A New Hope is simply good in all the ways that matter, with a superb cast patching over Lucas’s weakness for dialogue, and the foundation on which all else stands.

      Empire Strikes Back is vastly overrrated in fandom, but it’s still a very good movie and better than the middle movie of a trilogy has any right to be. For those who weren’t spoiled, the reveal over Luke’s paternity was superbly done, and two ad-libbed words by Harrison Ford push this one into the #2 spot.

      Return of the Jedi is a solid end to a solid trilogy, fully sells the Han/Leia romance set up in IV, and introduces Ian McDiarmid’s Emperor Palpatine.

      Rogue One took a while to get started, but a solid story and with Grand Moff Tarkin and Darth Freaking Vader to remind us what a proper Star Wars villain looks like.

      Phantom Menace merely requires that you excise every single scene involving Anakin Skywalker. Do that, and you have a short but solid movie with Qui-Gon Jinn showing us what being a Jedi ought to mean and with Emperor Palpatine’s all-paths-lead-to-victory plotting leading to a victory that even his adversaries celebrate with him.

      Solo is a second-rate Guardians of the Galaxy knockoff cluttered with inside jokes only the worst sort of fanboy will enjoy, and without a proper villain for most of the story. But they get Lando and Chewbacca right, and there’s fun to be had here.

      Attack of the Clones is I believe the movie for which my review was “This could be a great film if only someone were to rewrite every single line of dialogue”. Looks pretty. Revenge of the Sith was a very very slight improvement. Both movies were atrociously bad as written, and both have Hadyen Christensen seducing Natalie Portman in a manner that can only be explained by the Weinsteinesque use of the Jedi Mind Trick.

      The Force Awakens gives us a final glimpse of Han and Chewie in action, and Harrison Ford still had it. Otherwise, it was a second-rate retread of ANH with a third-rate villain and with every other character just reflecting in the awesomeness of the awesomely omnicompetent Luke-alike, and no reason for me to care.

      Last Jedi, did not see because TFA and Solo, but the balance of the reviews (weighted by whether or not the reviewer was mind-tricked into praising TFA) and discussion here suggests probably worse than TFA.

      Rise of Skywalker, see above, but now even some of the reviewers who liked TFA are willing to call it out as a mediocrity.

      • Nick says:

        You put VII twice; was the first meant to be VI? Also, Rogue I has hilarious potential to be misread.

        • John Schilling says:

          Yes, first one was VI. And I’d like to claim the “Rogue I” pun was deliberate, but honesty forbids.

          IV, V, VI, Rogue, I, Solo, III, II, VII, VIII(?), IX(?)

          Hmm, if I retroactively downgrade TPM a notch, can I slip a “Rogue Solo” pun in there?

    • Statismagician says:

      I say, in descending order of preference:

      V,
      III,
      IV,
      VI,
      Rogue One,
      [line dividing things I’d cheerfully re-watch from those which at least have fun scenes]
      Solo,
      II,
      I,
      [vast unbridgeable chasm of awfulness],
      VII,
      VIII (?),
      IX (?).
      [second, deeper chasm, this one filled with monsters]
      Holiday Special

      I didn’t see The Last Jedi and don’t intend to see the new one, so their ratings are provisional. The Holiday Special is a unique kind of bad which defies normal categorization, and is a serious contender for Literally The Worst Movie.

    • Randy M says:

      For those wondering whether or not to see Rise of Skywalker, the BabylonBee gives a ringing endorsement: We’ll say this in no uncertain terms: Rise of Skywalker is better than Cats.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        But was it better than The Amazing Alexander?

        • Randy M says:

          Ha! Great reference. And from a non-fanboy perspective, rather analogous.

          Even better is that when I clicked your link, the video started with an–unbeknownst to me–completely unrelated video ad for some courtroom drama. I was looking for the joke and just figured you were taking the opportunity to advertise a recent film you saw.

      • AG says:

        Excuse you, Babylon Bee, how did you put up this review for the new James Cameron Avatar film before it was even made? Suspicious….

      • Trofim_Lysenko says:

        If you loved The Last Jedi for it’s bold and progressive take on deconstructing a hoary old franchise and making it new, exciting, and relevant again…don’t go see Rise Of Skywalker, you’ll be disappointed.

        If you disliked The Last Jedi for seeming to be more interested in being up its own ass with how cleverly it could deconstruct Star Wars than actually tell a good and interesting Star Wars story….don’t go see Rise of Skywalker, you’ll be disappointed.

    • aristides says:

      I have not seen Rogue 1 or Solo, so they are not included.

      08. Attack of the Clones

      07. Revenge of the Sith

      These two are at the bottom simply for having the absolute worst, cringe inducing dialogue of the series, combined with Hayden Christensen’s horrendous acting. The romance scenes were Incredibly unbelievably and vomit inducing.

      06. The Last Jedi

      05. Force Awakens

      These are in the category of turn off you brain and enjoy. I can watch them and have a good time.i don’t watch many action movies anymore, but these two are at least better than the average action movie, even if worse than the average Star Wars.

      04. The Return of the Jedi

      03. Empire Strikes back

      These are actually good movies, especially ESB, but I don’t enjoy watching them as much as the top 2. I generally prefer upbeat movies, and these are more negative.

      02. Phantom Menace

      I’m sure the first question you will ask is how old was I when I first saw it. I was 9 when it was in theaters. To a 9 year old, young Anakin was an amazing hero. Jar jar binks was funny, pod racing was cool, and Darth Mail was terrifying. For the longest time this was my favorite movie, but I admit it has it’s flaws. Also, even at 9 I was nerdy enough to be really interested in a trade dispute plot line, which says more about me than the movie.

      01. New Hope

      Everyone else has said plenty of good things about New Hope, but I will add how great of a self contained story it was. It has a complete rescue the princess arc, in just one reasonably length movie.

    • Tarpitz says:

      1. Empire Strikes Back

      2. A New Hope

      3. Rogue One

      significant gap

      4. Return of the Jedi

      Jedi contains my absolute favourite moments from the series – the Rancor keeper, the confrontation with Palpatine. Unfortunately, it also contains Ewoks. It was the first one I saw, and as a child it was my favourite. Now… well, let’s just say I’m an enthusiastic believer in the Endor Holocaust.

      5. Solo.

      I really enjoyed Solo, and if only they’d cast an actor who could do the role justice as Qi’ra – a character who could have been really interesting in other hands – it might have been properly good.

      big gap

      6. The Force Awakens

      A bit too fast and explodey, and largely nonsensical, but basically competent on a micro level and broadly enjoyable. The best of the current trend for rehashboots (not a very high bar). I hate Adam Driver’s face and voice.

      7. Attack of the Clones

      A weird mix of things I actually like (McDiarmid and Lee) and so-bad-it’s-goodery. The first time I saw it I thought Hayden Christensen was the worst actor I’d ever seen. Then I watched it again, and concluded the only way to deliver those lines and have them not sound terrible was to shay them like Shir Sean, because Connery can make literally anything cool.

      8. Revenge of the Sith

      A so-bad-it’s good classic. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

      9. The Last Jedi

      Incomprehensible tripe, and quite annoying with it.

      10. The Phantom Menace

      It’s like someone said “You know what’s great about Jedi? The Ewoks. Let’s do more of that.

  22. proyas says:

    Is there a strategic logic to the placement of U.S. military bases within the U.S.?

    For obvious reasons, I know that naval bases must be on the coasts, ICBM sites should be as far from the coasts as possible, and the high-level planning and management stuff should be centralized near the seat of political power, and near a big city where there are many smart people (D.C.). But why doesn’t, say, the Army consolidate the functions of ten of its bases spread out across the country into one, large megabase? It would probably be cheaper and more efficient.

    Have the bases been spread out to provide staging areas for defending against a land invasion of the U.S. that is projected to reach some parts of the country first, and then spread to others?

    Are there many, spread-out bases to minimize the risks of a decapitating nuclear first strike against the U.S. military?

    Are the bases purposefully spread out so as to give the central government the means to quickly attack local insurrections? (I’d believe this was the case in the South after the Civil War)

    If the answer is “Yes” to any of those questions, then is there a U.S. policy document that sets that as the rationale? Like a declassified Pentagon analysis that makes the case for building new bases in specific locations, or not shutting down old bases even though they were otherwise not worth keeping open?

    • hls2003 says:

      Military bases have historically been driven more by Congressional district appropriations than by military necessity, but there has been some attempt to systematize and de-politicize the process. For an introduction, see here and here.

    • woah77 says:

      It’s possible there are doctrines that dictate these things, but several reasons are historical in nature.

      First: We needed to deploy people both East and West during world war 2 and many bases that grew in size during that time are just still around today.

      Second: Several Marine bases are former Navy bases, from when the Navy was much larger/needed more ground support. Instead of decommissioning the bases (because they were located in advantageous locations) they turned them over to other locations.

      Third: Several bases are located remotely because the training performed there is loud/dangerous.

      Fourth: Bases located across the country allows us to perform training that spans the country, allowing for war games on a continental scale, instead of just a localized operation.

      Fifth: Many bases house the National Guard, which by it’s nature needs to be distributed across the country, since it is responsible to the governor of the state, not the federal government.

      Sixth: The amount of infrastructure to support a military base strikes me as growing exponentially with the size of it. This alone makes the inefficiency of distribution countered by the inefficiency of aggregation. The ideal size of a base would depend on the functions intended by the base in question.

    • bean says:

      First, as has already been pointed out, Congressional interference in these matters is a major driver of basing. But I’m going to ignore that because it’s not really what you’re asking.

      Second, I think you overestimate their ability to consolidate. Most military operations take a lot of space, either on the ground or in the air. That megabase which replaces 10 existing Army bases is going to need to be awfully big. (Also, which bases do you propose to replace?) Likewise, the Air Force can only put so many aircraft at each given base because they need to operate them in a tactical manner instead of like Heathrow does, and your range facilities are going to get eaten up quickly.

      Third, there is a strategic advantage to dispersion. Not just in the case of enemy attack, although that is a concern, but also because of things like weather. Tyndall AFB got absolutely trashed last year by Hurricane Michael. That’s annoying, but it’s not the end of the world because we still have several bases in Florida, to say nothing of elsewhere. Now, what happens when instead of 4% of the USAF combat aircraft inventory being based there, we have 25%? Even if we fly the planes off, we still have a bunch of facilities we have to rebuild.

      Fourth, I suspect that the economies of scale eventually peter out. Even if there’s enough room at the megabase for all the training you need, you’re still looking at longer trips to the relevant areas, more competition for the best facilities, and worse commutes for those who live off base, both military and civilian. For that matter, you’re going to have a hard time finding that much land with a population center capable of supporting it nearby. Contractors need somewhere to live, from the expert in maintaining your helicopters to the guy who works at the dining hall.

      • Matt says:

        Contractors need somewhere to live, from the expert in maintaining your helicopters to the guy who works at the dining hall.

        Yes. If NASA MSFC was moved to a ‘mega-base’ in the middle of nowhere, where the commute was 2 hours or whatever, it’s extremely unlikely that I would go with it. I prefer the 20-25 minute commute I have now.

    • Matt says:

      The base I work at is Redstone Arsenal at which the Army performs a lot of work, but so does NASA, MDA, and increasingly the FBI. A lot of civilian contractors as well.

      The joke is that it can never be closed because of all the explosives and toxic chemicals buried out here. My building shakes pretty regularly due to explosions, sometimes because of missile range testing and sometimes because the Army is destroying some buried bombs.

    • Aftagley says:

      Army consolidate the functions of ten of its bases spread out across the country into one, large megabase? It would probably be cheaper and more efficient.

      Have you ever been on an Army base? They are already huge, and service hundreds of thousands of personnel. Your proposal would basically transform military bases from “medium towns” into “city.” Just a quick eyeball at troop levels and population sizes, moving 10 bases worth of active duty personnel, their families and the civilian employees/contractors would give you about 1 million people. For reference, that’s a city about the size of San Jose or Dallas.

      Here are some issues with your plan:

      1. Military bases below a certain size can “draft” of the services provided by the local municipality. They get water, some power and everything else without having to build their own services. Your average base might have their own fire fighting service, but that’s about it. Now think about housing – bases near normal cities have access to housing, this one won’t.

      2. Bases are pretty specialized, and it’s unclear how getting rid of that specialization would improve anything. Like, take Pensacola – it’s a base dedicated towards training naval pilots. Everything on base is focused around that mission and they can direct all of their resources towards training pilots. Everyone at the base, from the nonrates mowing grass to the CO knows that their primary mission is training pilots. That produces a measurable benefit that would get lost if the base was forced to consolidate and specialize.

      3. Crime at that mega base would be insane. That would be one of the most terrifying places to live on earth. We’re talking judge dread levels of shenanigans. Any military base is going to create a surfeit of 18-25 year old males, but going from thousands of them to millions of them would be downright dystopian.

    • JayT says:

      It wasn’t always the case that it would have been possible to consolidate bases, and so they were spread all over to protect all over. Today, I suspect the main reason that there isn’t more consolidation is that it’s very hard politically to shut down a base. Many towns and cities have military bases as a major source of employment, and convincing people that they should shut it down to save a couple percent will be a non-starter in most cases.

    • Incurian says:

      No idea about policy, probably mostly congressional corruption, but in addition to all the other stuff people have said, it’s useful to have different terrains and climates to train in. And as others have said, the congestion would be unimaginable.

    • proyas says:

      Thanks for the great responses.

  23. rocoulm says:

    Question about diets:

    I’ve always found the “calories in, calories out” explanation of the metabolism to be appealing (mostly because I like simplicity), but most people explain it as “it’s just thermodynamics, bruh” or something to that effect. I feel like that includes some hidden assumptions I’m not sure they realize they’re making.

    The thinking goes:
    (calories digested) – (calories exerted) = (calories surplus/deficit),
    the assumption in question being that the first value comes from your food’s Nutrition Facts label – but this is the part I’ve never heard specifically addressed. Is the human body is known to always get the same caloric value from a given food? Or can it let calories “pass by” if it thinks it has plenty already?

    Opponents of CICO also talk about “metabolic rate”, but I’ve never understood exactly what they mean – is this what they are referring to? Or is that more related to the second variable (i.e., accounting for calories expended)?

    • hls2003 says:

      CICO is 100% correct at the level of physics but nearly incalculable at the level of biology.

      Practically nobody gains from digestion exactly the same amount of calories from a diet as another person on the same diet. And practically nobody uses up exactly the same amount of calories for a given metabolic exertion. So the formula, while logically impeccable, ends up being virtually impossible to calculate with precision.

      It doesn’t make it completely useless. You can guesstimate and with a large enough fudge factor, it works well enough for most people. But it’s primarily “not normal” edge cases who are usually confounded enough to get into the weeds of CICO. And thus they conclude it’s bunk, because the back-of-package numbers and numbers from the treadmill / internet don’t match up. Also, the body is a dynamic system and feedback occurs constantly, affecting metabolic pathways and rates.

      Bear in mind also that most people don’t really know how “gaining weight” and “losing weight” works physically. People aren’t nuclear reactors. Conservation of mass applies, but the body is in no way a closed system. Water weight is the first to go and the easiest to cut, but if you’re going to remain alive, it will bounce back. Actually changing fat to muscle may result in zero weight loss (or even weight gain). If actual body mass is lost, my understanding is that it is primarily breathed out – exchanging CO2 for O2 (and thus losing the mass of a partial mol of carbon per breath). Some is also excreted in sweat, urine, or feces, but those tend to balance out in the long run. That process of producing excess organic molecules for excretion is also subject to feedback loops, as noted.

      None of this means CICO is wrong. It’s trivially true for everyone, and practically-speaking true for most people. But the calculation problems make it imprecise as a practical guide for hard cases.

      • Randy M says:

        Also, losing or maintaining weight is trivial if your hunger signals align with metabolic expenditure, and very difficult if they do not.
        Most people go through most of their life paying no heed to weight or caloric content of food eaten, but simply eating when hungry. I don’t think it’s safe to say that this is true for everybody. I think there’s enough incentives to lose extra weight to chalk it up to everyone being a slave to pleasure.
        Which doesn’t mean it is beyond control, as the signals may be trainable or related to the macro- or micro- nutrient profile of the diet, or other environmental cues–seasonal, even, perhaps.
        Just that approaching the topic with a mathematical mindset may not work as easily as it does for, say, budgeting (or I have a blindspot for the latter and it’s more analogous than I realize…).

        • hls2003 says:

          The biggest benefit of CICO that I’ve observed or read about is simply that paying attention to CICO requires tracking, and tracking provides the primary mechanism in helping lose weight because it makes you more aware of and deliberate about what you’re ingesting. Paying attention makes a difference. Tracking also provides a baseline – you can approximate whether you’re eating more or less than before, even if you don’t know the exact calories before or after.

          • Randy M says:

            Sure, and that’s the premise behind weight watchers. But I don’t track at all. I barely keep track of the number of meals I eat, let alone the calories, and my weight is pretty consistent give or take ten pounds for twenty years.

          • Statismagician says:

            Indeed. Any plausible energy balance equation you come up with is going to be quite inaccurate; acting as though CICO is strictly true will at least help you reform your food and exercise habits along more healthy lines as much as anything else will if that’s your problem. As with any other intervention, regular reference to your well-being and progress towards goals is vital.

      • rocoulm says:

        Practically nobody gains from digestion exactly the same amount of calories from a diet as another person on the same diet. And practically nobody uses up exactly the same amount of calories for a given metabolic exertion. So the formula, while logically impeccable, ends up being virtually impossible to calculate with precision.

        I figured this, but the thing I’m most curious about is whether the calories you yourself get from a given food is even constant. Can your body, in times of plenty, process a “500 calorie” doughnut and only get 250 calories since it doesn’t need the rest, but during a period of calorie restriction extract all 500 if it chooses? This would explain a lot of people’s dieting experiences, but I have no idea if the human digestive system can possibly work this way.

        Edit: Also, how does the mysterious “metabolic rate” play into this stuff? Do some people really have a “fast metabolism” that lets them eat whatever they want and stay thin, or is this (as I suspect) a myth? If it’s true, what exactly is the mechanism?

        • Randy M says:

          Gut biome will have an influence on how many calories you get out of some foods, and this can change based on diet, health, medicines, etc., though how exactly is beyond me and I think much of science.

          But if you’re talking eating pure sugar, I think your body will take as much of that as it can every time. Pretty simple to break down and turn into fat.

          One thing I’ve heard that sounds plausible is that thin people fidget more, and this could possibly be triggered by a calorie excess. Presumably so could shivering or heart-rate. But this is speculation.

        • hls2003 says:

          I’m not a medical researcher and couldn’t give you the pathways, but I do think it’s true that the body changes its food processing based on environmental conditions. I don’t know that it’s in the direction you’re suggesting though; the body wants to store fat in good times and is hesitant to break it down in bad times. I’m not sure if your body sucks more calories out during bad times, or if it simply slows down your metabolism so that the same number of calories go further. Someone else mentioned diabetes and glucose levels, so obviously at the margin even the gross calorie extraction changes. But clearly net calorie extraction changes.

          Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is the amount of calories your body uses to perform its normal everyday functions of living, usually calculated excluding strenuous exercise. It takes a certain number of calories for your heart to beat, your blood to circulate, your brain to think, your diaphragm to contract, your liver to process toxins, your stomach to churn food. BMR roughly scales with body mass, but you can also look at it as “naturally thin” people having less efficient body processes, thus requiring more calories to do the same work. It’s also just hard to compare apples to apples; for example, I’ve read that “jittery” people who tap their foot and whatnot will burn a significant percentage more calories just sitting than people who sit more quietly, even if both report “sitting” on their exercise chart.

          Edit: Ninja’d on the fidgeting.

        • LewisT says:

          I can say that it is true in at least some cases. I live a moderately sedentary lifestyle, yet I usually eat somewhere around 3,500–4,000 calories per day, while generally hovering around ten pounds above “underweight” on the BMI scale. What the mechanism is, I don’t know.

          Also, believe it or not, this isn’t exactly a treat. My food budget is relatively high as a result, and I spend far more time cooking and eating than I would like.

        • HarmlessFrog says:

          Edit: Also, how does the mysterious “metabolic rate” play into this stuff? Do some people really have a “fast metabolism” that lets them eat whatever they want and stay thin, or is this (as I suspect) a myth? If it’s true, what exactly is the mechanism?

          This has been studied extensively by Leibel et al. The seminal paper is here (it’s on Sci-Hub and I recommend a read). Key takeaways:
          – People at their stable, normal, effortlessly maintained weight have similar basal energy expenditure (the energy required to just keep living) per unit of fat-free mass (muscle, bones, organs, etc).
          – Deliberately overfeeding people will cause weight gain, but will also cause a host of metabolic adaptations that resist putting on weight. Their basal metabolism will go up, they will fidget more, they will be disinterested in food, have less appetite at meals, etc. The moment you stop force-feeding them, they will rapidly go back to their normal weight.
          – Deliberately underfeeding people (calorie restriction) will cause weight loss, but will also cause analogous metabolic changes that resist weight loss. Basal metabolism goes down – BELOW what a naturally lean person of the same fat-free mass would need to eat to maintain the weight – appetite and interest in food goes up. Look up “semi-starvation neurosis” if interested.
          – The amount of body fatness the body wants to maintain is highly variable between people.

          • Randy M says:

            – The amount of body fatness the body wants to maintain is highly variable between people.

            Do you think this is most of the reason for obesity (basically genetics) or is there something to changing one’s set point through diet composition, exercise, fasting, whatever?

          • Matt says:

            @Randy M:

            The last time I looked at the data, it showed that the average American had increased caloric intake by about 500 calories since 1930.

            There are also similar changes in the amount of physical labor being performed. We have much more automation nowadays.

            We’ve increased our ability to survive the health effects of being overweight.

            BMIs have gone up quite a bit.

            How much genetic change do you think there has been in the last 100 years?

          • Randy M says:

            How much genetic change do you think there has been in the last 100 years?

            Frankly, quite a bit just looking at demographics. It’s quite plausible to me that different racial groups work better of different diets.

            But I do not think those facts necessarily contradict a genetic set-point; for instance, we may eat more because we can afford it and it tastes good, but have a higher basal metabolic rate.

            Personally I think diet composition–we eat too much sugar, basically–has a lot to do with it, though I was curious about Harmless Frog’s take specifically.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            The last time I looked at the data, it showed that the average American had increased caloric intake by about 500 calories since 1930.

            There are also similar changes in the amount of physical labor being performed. We have much more automation nowadays.

            I think I am just amplifying the point Matt is making, but these two points should cause everyone to think really long and really hard about naive CICO that ignores the idea of setpoints and metabolic self-regulation.

            Yes BMI has increased, but naive CICO would posit a steady state of weight gain for the entirety of time we have more caloric intake and less activity than people 90 years ago.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Yes BMI has increased, but naive CICO would posit a steady state of weight gain for the entirety of time we have more caloric intake and less activity than people 90 years ago.

            This assumes that larger people burn the same number of calories than smaller people do. Physically this is false, it takes more energy to move 200 lbs than to move 100 lbs, and while this might not actually fit the differences it is plausible that CICO is true with these facts as presented.

          • HarmlessFrog says:

            @Randy M

            Do you think this is most of the reason for obesity (basically genetics) or is there something to changing one’s set point through diet composition, exercise, fasting, whatever?

            It’s basically the same thing as intelligence. If you keep environment constant, it’ll be mostly genetic. If you keep genetics constant, it’ll be mostly environmental. Guyenet says that about 75% of the effect is explainable by genetic differences in the modern environment, and I believe him. (Not just because he cites literature. 😉 )

            It is definitely possible to use non-calorie-specific dietary interventions to alter the set point. There’s stuff like the ultra-low-fat diets, which work for weight loss, despite what the lowcarbers claim about carbohydrates and insulin. The same is true for ketogenic diets. Then there’s the protein leverage hypothesis, where simply upping protein content prompts people to reduce their ad libitum caloric intake. And finally simply removing gustatory factors from food, feeding patients nutrient goop from a straw will cause obese people to physiologically realize they are horribly obese and consume very little, while lean subjects eat to maintain weight. Prolonged fasting may sometimes help (I have no other explanation of why Angus Barbieri didn’t regain all his bulk), but usually leads to normal regain.

            @Matt

            The last time I looked at the data, it showed that the average American had increased caloric intake by about 500 calories since 1930.

            Yup. The interesting question is – why did people suddenly start eating extra calories?

            I’m in broad agreement with Guyenet, that the food environment has greatly changed in the last hundred, and particularly the last sixty years. The genetics remained the same, but we have been outmaneuvered by technology and market forces.

            A couple of centuries ago, even if you were well-to-do, you did not have a think tank somewhere whose day job is to figure out the recipe that will squeeze out every bit of craving out of the consumer. There weren’t nearly as many restaurants and fast-food joints. There weren’t any vending machines. There weren’t supermarkets packed with every imaginable ready-to-eat food. There wasn’t convenient refrigeration to store the foods you like year-round. Globalization of the food supply was just taking off. And there were next to no processed seed oils, and no agricultural-commercial-medical complex pushing for the replacement of natural animal fats with literal repurposed industrial waste (do check out the origins of Crisco).

            Instead, you mostly ate at home, meals prepared by a hobbyist, not a professional or a machine, out of non-standardized ingredients that were sometimes only seasonally available. Poor people’s diets could be as simple as “oat porridge and fish” in some places. Imagine eating that – I almost guarantee that you couldn’t get fat eating that day in, day out.

            @HeelBearCub
            @baconbits9

            This assumes that larger people burn the same number of calories than smaller people do. Physically this is false, it takes more energy to move 200 lbs than to move 100 lbs, and while this might not actually fit the differences it is plausible that CICO is true with these facts as presented.

            Yes, fat people eat and expend more calories than lean people… so long as they’re fat. If you reduce them, they will expend less calories than lean people of the same fat-free mass. Some of these changes can be horrific in magnitude. Imagine living with the fact that you can only eat half as much as you normally would, or otherwise balloon to extraordinary size.

          • HarmlessFrog says:

            @Randy M
            @Matt
            @HeelBearCub
            @baconbits

            I must be triggering some forbidden words, because my post gets spammed. See the pastebin for my answer.

            http://pastebin.com/EbjiqSYX

          • Randy M says:

            Maybe just too many links. I see you reference Denise Minger, I’ve always liked her work.

    • CICO is correct in the strictest sense (calories as a unit of heat), but doesn’t mean the energy you derive from food perfectly matches what it says on the nutritional panel. I find it helps to remember that you can’t actually ‘eat’ a calorie. It’s just a number you get by burning stuff in a bomb calorimeter, and human bodies are not bomb calorimeters.

      Some points of difference:
      – Not all food is absorbed during digestion
      – Thermic Effect of Food (TEF) & similar (energy used digesting and absorbing nutrients)*
      Atwater values vary slightly between individual foods
      – Microbiome health
      – Inaccurate nutritional labels
      – Possibly other things I can’t remember right now

      So there are a bunch of variables that affect ‘calories in’ which have nothing to do with the actual volume of food consumed.

      Then there are a bunch more variables that affect the ‘calories out’ side, which similarly have nothing to do with the actual level of physical activity performed:

      – Basal metabolic rate (which is influenced by dozens of factors)
      – Waste and excretion
      – Digestion (TEF mentioned above, might fit better on this side of the ledger)
      – Environmental temperature
      – etc

      So CICO is strictly correct, because it has to take all these things into account by definition.

      Another way of thinking about this is that the two sides are talking past each other (I think?) The anti-CICO crowd are saying: ‘what about all these other factors, then?’, because they’re thinking of calories as something you eat.

      The CICO crowd are saying ‘the laws of thermodynamics are non-negotiable’, because they’re thinking of calories as a unit of heat, and the overall energy balance must account for any and all such factors.

      More briefly: Calories in(to your mouth) ≠ Calories in(to your body’s energy balance)

      *TEF is already factored into macronutrient values, e.g. a gram of protein produces ~5.2 kcal in a bomb calorimeter, but it’s weighted at ~4 kcal on a nutritional label. Important to note because you often see people use TEF to argue against CICO, which makes no sense when it’s included in the Atwater values.

      EDIT: got sniped by hls2003.

      • hls2003 says:

        Yours is more complete.

      • HarmlessFrog says:

        Basal metabolic rate (which is influenced by dozens of factors)

        Most saliently, it is strongly influenced by how fat you are, in relation to how fat your internal fatness regulation system wants you to be. If you’re underfat (according to it), it will downregulate BMR. If you’re overfat, it wil upregulate BMR.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        A specific example– people with lactose intolerance get fewer calories from dairy. And that’s complicated by some dairy being more digestible than other dairy, and lactose intolerance can be erratic.

    • Matt says:

      People with untreated diabetes who consume sugar and are unable to process it come to mind. Essentially they’re walking around with very high blood sugar that the body can’t ‘burn’, so it gets tossed into urine and they’re always thirsty. They can eat tons of sweets and they’re very likely to lose weight anyway.

      Definitely an edge case, but really any condition that throws unused calories into urine or feces will lead to this. Presumably there are some such conditions that are not as extreme as diabetes.

      • HarmlessFrog says:

        Another edge case is raw vegans. Humans don’t digest fiber all the way down to the large intestine, and there the energy and nutrient gains are small, which wastes a lot of nutrition that could be extracted if thermal processing were to demolish the cellulose walls. I suspect that the heavy use of blenders (mechanical processing helps to get at the nutrients inside the cells, too) is the only reason they don’t rapidly starve.

      • Radu Floricica says:

        The one I know of is intestinal parasites. They also seem to give some benefits against an over active immune system. Overall a pretty interesting option, but AFAIK not (yet?) actually recommended for weight loss.

    • DragonMilk says:

      My personal hypothesis is that the time at which you eat something influences how % calories absorbed vs % calories pooped out. That of course, and what you’re eating. At a trivial level, if I have a bottle of magnesium citrate with my lunch, I’m probably going to be absorbing minimal calories.

      Time of meals may just be the temporal magnesium citrate!

    • lvlln says:

      The thinking goes:
      (calories digested) + (calories exerted) = (calories surplus/deficit),
      the assumption in question being that the first value comes from your food’s Nutrition Facts label – but this is the part I’ve never heard specifically addressed. Is the human body is known to always get the same caloric value from a given food? Or can it let calories “pass by” if it thinks it has plenty already?

      This is an irrelevant point though, if one’s goal is weight loss. The Nutrition Facts label isn’t 100% accurate to begin with, since there’s natural variation in each individual food product. Even if some of the nutrition value in the label doesn’t get processed, what the label represents is some maximum possible value of calories that one will take in if one eats that food, +/- error of the label relative to that specific package. Maybe one doesn’t take in all of the calories, but one certainly won’t take in any more.

      Likewise, it’s possible to set a minimum calories expended in a day or an activity or whatever. A calorie is just a unit of energy, and we can calculate how much energy it takes to, say, accelerate a massive object (including one’s own mass) by a certain amount for a certain distance. One’s body might be more or less efficient than average, but the work required to do this sort of acceleration sets a minimum bar of how many calories one expends by partaking in some activity. Of course, there’s no simple label for this, though.

      But make the [maximum calories in] lower than the [minimum calories out], and one will lose weight.

      In practice, since the [minimum calories out] value is difficult to accurately calculate, what’s done is to use popular algorithms for various exercises and then modify accordingly based on how one’s weight changes while tracking the [maximum calories in] value.

      • rocoulm says:

        Maybe one doesn’t take in all of the calories, but one certainly won’t take in any more.

        True, and I’d considered that, but this post wasn’t really about proving or disproving CICO; I personally have found it quite effective. I was more interested in learning the particulars of how digestion works, and studying CICO was what got me started on this line of thinking.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      Just a quick note, as I see many detailed comments. Thermic Effect of Food (TEF) varies based on food mixture and your own body composition. Generally it goes from almost zero (obese person eating carbs – yes, it’s bad) to 15% for a mixed meal. I see Wikipedia puts it at up to 35% for protein, but I haven’t seen values that high. Anyways, you have at least a 15% variance based on your body and the types of food you eat (with protein and mixed meals leading to higher TEF).

      Metabolic rate varies a lot less than you’d hope. There is a small difference in, to put it plainly, “fidgeting”. And you can be an athlete and burn a lot of extra calories per day. But for normal people, sweating on the treadmill for what feels like an eternity will gain you about 150 cals.

      The biggest variable is by far behavioral.

      • HarmlessFrog says:

        Metabolic rate varies a lot less than you’d hope. There is a small difference in, to put it plainly, “fidgeting”. And you can be an athlete and burn a lot of extra calories per day. But for normal people, sweating on the treadmill for what feels like an eternity will gain you about 150 cals.

        The biggest variable is by far behavioral.

        I wouldn’t interpret it like that.

        You can totally influence your metabolic rate a lot – simply gain or lose substantial amounts of weight by caloric restriction or overfeeding. Your internal lipostat will helpfully try to restore you to normal by altering your BMR significantly (and not just that). Someone who diets down to 90% of their normal weight will have a BMR 300 kcal/day less on average. Someone who diets up to 110% of their normal weight wil have a BMR 500 kcal/day more on average.

        https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7632212

        • Radu Floricica says:

          Yeah, sure. It’s already a thread full of very detailed comments 🙂 I tried not to add to much. Plus, there are things that tend to compensate – like how the TEF for carbs goes low for obese people, while the BMR goes up. Even more complex when you exercise and lose weight – muscle is more expensive, muscle creation in itself burns calories, but you may lose a lot of fat so there’s a decrease as well… Then you pause exercising at a given weight (so no more muscle creation) and maybe diet maybe not…

          Overall I think it’s just easier to ignore BMR changes when dieting, and just keep one thing in mind: the body doesn’t really like a sub-optimum body fat percentage, so it will start making it exponentially more difficult to diet after a certain threshold. You’re probably fine up to 10% men / 20% women, and it’s getting into “damn hard” when you go to 5/15. But fortunately that’s already well into bodybuilding competition territory – regular folks can easily look stunning at 10/20.

          • HarmlessFrog says:

            Sure, there probably are mechanisms to prevent severe underfatness, in addition to the mechanism that regulates around a set point (which has nothing to do with healthy weights, on average, in our food environment).

    • HarmlessFrog says:

      I’ve always found the “calories in, calories out” explanation of the metabolism to be appealing (mostly because I like simplicity), but most people explain it as “it’s just thermodynamics, bruh” or something to that effect. I feel like that includes some hidden assumptions I’m not sure they realize they’re making.

      CICO is a tautology. Always true, whether you’re weight stable, on a diet, being force-fed like a goose, or dead… but unfortunately rather useless in practice, unless your goal is to diet down temporarily. Helpful for bodybuilders preparing for a competition, not so much for the obese. People (most higher critters, probably) have internal lipostats which automatically guide their consumption and expenditure, and fighting that with conscious control of calories is wasted effort, in my mind. Much better to try hacking the set point – lower that, and let it do the work for you.

      Scott has reviewed a good book on the subject of the etiology of obesity, as understood by modern science, the Hungry Brain by dr Guyenet. I highly recommend it. Another book that I can suggest is Robert Pool’s “Fat: Fighting the obesity epidemic” – that one is on open library, but you’ll have to wait until I’m done with it, if you want it that way.

  24. bean says:

    I am very confused by ads I’ve seen on youtube recently. They’re just the name of a medication, without even an indication of what it might be useful for. I actually googled one, and was very confused as to why YouTube was trying to sell me anti-diabetic medication. Thoughts?

    Edit: I’m more confused about the nature of the ads (“Here’s a medication!”) than I am about the anti-diabetic specifically.

    • Aftagley says:

      You’ve recently bought a bunch of candy on amazon?

    • TripleS says:

      Cyberpunk Answer: You’re part of a demographic group that Alphabet has determined through its various projects (rightly or wrongly) is at higher risk of diabetes, so they’re just trying to help you out with that sweet sweet ad money.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      One of the more famous Superbowl ads was the Bud-weis-er frogs.

      The fact that you don’t know what the medicine does probably means you aren’t firmly in the target market, and therefore haven’t seen the other branding adds (and may also be missing the in-group signals).

    • Douglas Knight says:

      There are two questions. Your explicit (1) Why are they showing these ads to you? and the implicit (2) Why are they showing weird ads to anyone?

      I doubt that there is any interesting answer to (1). They probably have a glut of advertising space on youtube and are showing them to everyone. I believe that they have a glut of space because they want to make the service lousy so that people will pay for the ad-free version. (2) If it is true that advertising is cheap, advertisers might as well try weird things like this. This has long been a weird loophole in US drug advertising regulation. If the ad says what the drug does, it has to list side effects. If it just names the drug, it can put whatever imagery it wants and no downsides. In the past it wasn’t considered worth it, except for very well known drugs, like viagra. But maybe they’re experimenting with it because maybe you’ll google the drug. Conceivably, google could track if the person who saw the drug googled it, but I doubt that’s what they’re doing, yet.

      • bean says:

        Your answer to 2 makes a lot of sense. I was really baffled why someone would advertise a drug and not even say what condition it’s for, but if there are regulatory benefits, then I can see the logic.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Wait, you’ve come this far in life and didn’t realize that ads for drugs have to include side-effects if they say what the drug is for?

          ETA: That’s just weird to me, maybe because I was an adult already when the FDA first started allowing ads. It’s one of those “wait, I’m swimming in water!?” moments)

          • bean says:

            I grew up watching very little TV, so no, I didn’t realize that.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Fair enough. I remember it being a topic of news coverage at the time as well.

          • bean says:

            Actually, that’s another part of it. I was born in 1992, and the whole issue seems to have been sorted out by the time I was 10 or so. I wasn’t paying close attention to the news that far back, to put it mildly.

          • thevoiceofthevoid says:

            I knew that, but didn’t realize that ads for drugs don’t have to include side effects if they don’t say what it’s for.

        • BBA says:

          There was one case in [looks it up] 2001 of a weight-loss drug with a long list of unpleasant side effects. The makers got around disclosing the side effects by making two ads to run separately. The first was a 30-second ad talking about new solutions to weight loss and ended with “ask your doctor” without mentioning a product. The second was a 15-second ad with the same footage and music, but a different voiceover that didn’t mention weight loss: “ask your doctor about Xenical.” The two ads would run in the same commercial break, but with unrelated ads for other products in between them, so viewers would associate Xenical with weight loss but no ad would have to mention the number it does on your gastrointestinal system.

          I haven’t seen this tactic used since then, so presumably the regulators have closed that loophole.

      • Lambert says:

        > If it just names the drug, it can put whatever imagery it wants and no downsides.

        It seems we’ve not even begun to plumb the depths of brokenness of US healthcare if this kind of thing is floating around without being common knowledge.

        Y’all need to do a hard reset. Liquidate the insurers, throw their assets into a volcano and salt the real estate, set fire to all the health legislature and toast marshmallows over it etc.

        • Evan Þ says:

          Wait, we get a separate “health legislature” for debating healthcare issues? Do we also get a separate foreign policy legislature, a separate environment legislature, and so on? This might actually be a good idea!

          • Lambert says:

            *legislation

            I suppose that’s what the Civil Service is for, but they’re unelected and nominally apolitical.

          • The Nybbler says:

            All issues are interconnected, through the economy if nothing else. Your environment legislature is likely to be biased towards proposals that they think have effect on the environment without considering their effects on the economy, foreign policy, healthcare, crime, etc. And same for the others.

          • BBA says:

            Bloomberg tried to impose his soda ban through the quasi-legislative powers of the NYC Board of Health. The ban was overturned as exceeding the health board’s authority. (As I’ve explained many times before, Bloomberg’s only reason for trying a soda ban, as opposed to a more sensible soda tax, was that the health board could ban things but only the state legislature could tax things, and Albany rejected the soda tax when Bloomberg proposed it to them.)

            There’s a decent argument for electing the health board and similar bodies, but on the other hand we already have far too many elections that nobody pays any attention to.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I believe having no indications of what it is lets them avoid making the full long list of disclosures in the ad. As for the bad targeting… sorry, no help for you there.

    • Well... says:

      Others are probably right about why an ad for a drug doesn’t say what the drug is for. But that is separate from why there are weird ads whose point isn’t clear. Those ads are often meant to create buzz, get people talking about what they saw, associate the brand with something like fun or daring, etc. It’s sort of a hallmark of “viral” marketing.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Given that the drug manufacturers (IIRC) lobbied to be able to at the very least be able to do this (name the drug without discussing both what it does and the side effects and complications), that’s probably also the explanation for the drugs.

        As I alluded to above, there are many ads who are mostly trying to make brand name Y a fixture in your head. So when you are looking for something that does X, and you find X and Y that do Z, you choose Y … because it’s not an unknown like X.

  25. Conrad Honcho says:

    Learning languages has come up frequently on SSC and I wanted to plug the method I’m using to learn Japanese kanji. About a month ago I decided I wanted to be able to play Japanese video games in Japanese, and maybe watch the animus with neither subs nor dubs. Japanese has three “alphabets:” hiragana (phonetics used for Japanese words), katakana (phonetics used for transliterated foreign words), and kanji, which are the pictographs representing entire words or concepts imported from China around the 5th-7th centuries (which is neat, because learning the Japanese kanji gets you most of the way towards being able to read Chinese, too). There’s about 2200 kanji in common use, and I think most westerners, when they hear about the thousands of Japanese or Chinese pictographs are floored, and think it’s impossible to memorize such a thing. But this method makes it easy, fast and fun.

    I decided I would go ahead and bite the bullet and learn the english meanings of all 2200 common kanji before going on to pronunciation or spoken Japanese vocabulary. I’ve been at it for 27 days straight, learning 22 kanji a day in about a 30-45 minute “learn new and review old” session. So that’s 594 I have learned, and with this method my recollection is excellent. Yesterday I reviewed 95 kanji and got 100% accuracy, and today I did 98 and only missed 2.

    The method works like this: the kanji are often assembled from smaller pictographs called “primitives.” You learn meanings for the common primitives, which is easy because you see them repeated over and over in different kanji. Then, you look at the primitives in a given kanji and tell a story about them that helps you remember the meaning. The story can be anything you want, so long as you remember the narrative, because we’re better at remembering narratives than facts.

    So, ⼝ means “mouth.” This is easy to remember because it looks like a mouth. And it’s used in several dozen if not hundreds of kanji. ナ as a primitive means “by one’s side.” Because it looks like a dude holding something by his side. 右, the combination of these two, means “right.” To remember it I tell the story “the mouth by my side is the angel on my right shoulder telling me the right thing to do.”

    Then you combine this with another primitive, like ⺾ for plant or flower. Again, very common primitive that’s in lots of kanji so you can’t forget it. 若, which I read as “flower, right” reminds me of the story “the young girl held a flower in her right hand.” The kanji means “young.”

    言 means “say,” with a primitive meaning of “words” because it looks like a bunch of words coming up out of a mouth. Combine with young, 諾, “the words of the young aren’t good enough; you need parental consent.” The kanji means “consent.”

    I get the meanings from the book “Remembering the Kanji” by James Heisig. Then I use an open source flashcard program called Anki to review them. This program is amazing for learning/memorizing/reviewing anything. It uses timed repetition. So you load up the cards for whatever you want to learn and when you review one, you mark how hard it was. If you missed it, you want to see it again that same day. If it was hard, maybe tomorrow. If it was easy, 3 or 4 days from now. If something was easy and when you see it again in three days, you still mark it “easy,” it might not show up for another 5 or 6 days…then 10…then 20…and so on. So it adapts to how easy or difficult it is for you to remember each card. Oh, and while you can make your own cards for anything, there’s already published decks for lots of things, including several for kanji.

    This is amazing. I never thought this would be so easy or fun. Using the flashcards is like the same dopamine hit from playing a video game.

    If you have ever considered trying to learn Japanese (or Chinese) and want to learn the kanji, try this method. It is great.

    Also, some of them are pretty funny. Like 嫡, which means “legitimate wife.” It’s a combination of the word for “woman” and a primitive meaning “ancient.” I found this hilarious. My wife did not 🙁

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      I had a phase where I got gung-ho on remembering kanji, before I got caught up in other stuff, stopped, and then forgot most of what I remembered. 🙁 I have Remembering the Kanji too, but a different edition, I think. (The cover is different on mine.)

      One interesting thing is the sort of half-dearth of online tools for learning and remembering kanji. And it changes a lot. When I tried to learn a couple years ago, my go-to dictionary was Jim Breen’s. Now, a search reveals several, and I’m no longer sure what the best one is.

      Looking up a kanji in a dictionary is an adventure in itself, given that you don’t have the pronunciation of the word, let alone a Roman alphabet (“romaji”) spelling. Imagine looking up a simple picture in a dictionary, by the items it seems to depict…

      Most dictionaries I’ve seen index them by radicals, which are the common building blocks, such as “mouth” and “side”. Some radicals join to form complex radicals which themselves form more complex kanji still, although this only seems to go two steps total. Kanji often seem to have distinct “slots” where radicals go; many will have a slot on the left, one on top right, and one on top bottom. Some radicals change significantly in appearance depending on which slot they fill, so when you look up a new kanji by radical, you have to be ready for this.

      Dictionaries will also index by number of strokes. This might be easy, but you have to be used to how strokes are made. Consider 田 (rice field). How many strokes? 6? 12? 4? Turns out, it’s 5: first is the leftmost vertical, second is an L tracing the top and right; third, fourth, and fifth are the middle vertical, middle horizontal, and bottom respectively.

      Finally, some kanji are in small font, or a font abstracted enough that I can’t recognize the radicals inside. I’ve sometimes spent half an hour trying to figure out a kanji due to this. Plus, it’ll be a screenshot or scanned image, so I can’t even just look at the Unicode.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Dictionaries will also index by number of strokes. This might be easy, but you have to be used to how strokes are made.

        This is handled in (at least my edition) of Remembering the Kanji. There is a standard stroke order: North-to-South, West-to-East, Northwest-to-Southest. Just about anything with that right angle on the right will be done in one stroke. So “mouth” is three strokes: the vertical on the left, the top and right as one stroke, and the completing stroke on the bottom. Using these principles, you can usually figure out how many strokes a kanji is. If you’re off, you’re probably only off by one (usually one of those hook-types, like ⼥ (woman) is three (the left one that looks like a < is one stroke) but ⺙is four. I think that's the one Heisig calls "task master." In the online resource I’m looking at it’s called “activity, strike, hit.” I’m not sure if they’re the same thing or not.

        I’m still confused on how “official” the names of the primitives are. I haven’t been entirely certain if some of the names Heisig gives them are his own invention, or if they’re in common use everywhere. I can’t find the bare symbol, but for instance “location”: 場. That’s “soil” on the left, and then Heisig calls the part on the right, which is day (sun) over primitive form of sow/pig, “piggy bank.” Also appears in “hot water” and I think “intestines.” I have no idea if anyone else calls it “piggy bank,” or just the people who read Heisig. So if I were to say to a Japanese person, “oh, this is soil and piggy bank; better remember the location in the soil where you buried your piggy bank” I’m not sure they wouldn’t look at me like I was crazy.

        My coworker is Chinese and I’ve been talking about this with her (she’s been quizzing me) and she doesn’t really seem to care much about the concept of primitives. When she was young she just memorized the shapes and learned them as concepts, so it hadn’t occurred to her until I pointed it out that ⽉ (moon) can also have the meaning of “flesh” not because the moon has anything to do with flesh but because it appears over and over again in body parts (elbow, gall bladder, intestines, abdomen, gland, etc).

        Finally, some kanji are in small font, or a font abstracted enough that I can’t recognize the radicals inside.

        When I cut-and-pasted the kanji in my post above I don’t think I would have been able to read some of those. And now every time I see kanji anywhere I try to read them just to test myself, and so I’ll see panels of a manga or something online, but the kanji are written in such a stylized manner I wouldn’t recognize one I knew if I saw it. I assume that will get better with exposure, and also with context.

        • woah77 says:

          When she was young she just memorized the shapes and learned them as concepts, so it hadn’t occurred to her until I pointed it out that ⽉ (moon) can also have the meaning of “flesh” not because the moon has anything to do with flesh but because it appears over and over again in body parts (elbow, gall bladder, intestines, abdomen, gland, etc).

          It strikes me that it is less that moon means flesh in this context, but more that it means “Hidden”. Japanese (referencing my 15 year old memories from when I was studying it) uses some symbols in an allegorical manner. The moon is hidden during the day, much like organs are hidden. We know they exist and in the right context can see them, but you aren’t normally going to unless you seek them out.

          I suspect that Heisig has modernized many of the names to make them more relateable to those who are learning it today. That said: I did some digging and what I found was that the radical you called “Sow/Pig” seems to be called “wrap” and so “Location is where Earth wraps around the Sun” might be more accurate? Or vice versa?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I guess. I’m not sure how etymology works in Japanese/Chinese. Do they have stories about how these symbols came to be? Anyway, yeah, I think “hidden” works well, because right now I can’t think of any ⽉ kanji I’ve learned that are parts outside the body, all internal. Except maybe 肘 (elbow).

            Also, ⼓ is “wrap” or “bind up.” Looking at this, they call 勿 “not.” But I don’t think that’s quite right because there’s an extra stroke at the top of the primitive that Heisig calls “piglets.” When I said “day, sow/pig” I should have said “day, piglets.” I can’t find anything that’s the specific primitive alone.

            Edit: as for allegorical usage, I’m curious again about the etymology. To what extent are the allegories culturally obscure? There are a lot of them that don’t seem to make any sense at all, like 貼 (shellfish and fortune telling) for “stick, paste, apply, post a bill.” Is there some Chinese legend about…oysters telling the future if you…paste them to something?

          • woah77 says:

            I’m not sure. I would imagine that most Chinese/Japanese allegories are culturally obscure even to people who enjoy a lot of Japanese/Chinese media. I know that some radicals definitely have alternate forms for style purposes (like how English has silent e’s and what not). Also, if I wanted to go with “Not”: A location is on Earth, not on the sun.

            And, as for elbows, those are usually hidden under sleeves. Now, it’s entirely possible I’m missing some other meaning that could be at the root, but it seems to me that most kanji and Japanese words are not just literal, but also have an implicit or associative meaning. Take Tensai (Genius) which is the characters for Heaven and Gift. And while that makes sense, even to us westerners, it wouldn’t surprise me (and it’s my memory) that most words end up having some linking idea between them that might not be easily understood outside the culture.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            You just reminded me that “undress” is 脱, which is “flesh; devil” or in your reading “hidden; devil.” It works either way I suppose.

            And “devil” could also be read as “horny teenager,” with the horns over 兄 (elder brother).

            This is all very fun.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            The Devil is naked and our elder brother. A sobering thought.

          • woah77 says:

            I would actually read Undress as what Hidden Horny Teenagers do, and while that might not be quite accurate, it’s a good mnemonic.

      • AG says:

        nciku.com allows one to draw in a box. Definitely been useful for looking up kanji in an image that you can’t copy and paste!

    • SamChevre says:

      I have no comment on kanji, but I can strongly second Anki. I use Ankidroid for French vocabulary, and it is immensely helpful and does a lot to maximize the value of memorization time.

    • Lord Nelson says:

      I hope it goes better for you than it did for me. I used Anki for about 6 months and had somewhere between 300-500 kanji memorized. The problem was that memorizing the meanings only went so far; it didn’t help me at all on pronunciation or on alternate meanings.

      I’ve taken a hiatus from studying Japanese due to lack of time, but if I ever get back into it, I plan to use some basic reading material (manga, children’s books, etc) and a kanji dictionary. The kanji I learned that way stuck in my mind much longer than the flashcard kanji, and have been far more useful.

      PS – Not sure if you’re trying to learn how to speak it or only read/listen. If you want to speak Japanese and don’t have any native speakers nearby, I’d recommend the Pimsleur audiobooks, or something similar.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        The problem was that memorizing the meanings only went so far; it didn’t help me at all on pronunciation or on alternate meanings.

        Yeah, that’s volume two.

        We’ll find out soon enough. With the plan I’m on I’ll have all 2200 common kanji learned in another 49 days. After that I’ll work on pronunciation, grammar, etc.

        Do you have any recommendation for easy/beginner/children’s manga/books? I would love to read the Japanese version of “run spot run” just to feel like I’ve accomplished something.

        • Lord Nelson says:

          I’ve heard good things about the Miyazaki film novelizations. Kiki’s Delivery Service is recommended most often, probably because the target demographic is younger. Unfortunately, most of them were prohibitively expensive in the west the last time I checked.

          Manga aimed towards gradeschoolers is also recommended frequently. Dragon Ball, Pokemon, anything that includes furigana. The one major drawback with manga is that you won’t get as much practice on grammar and common sentence structures.

          Picture books don’t work quite as well, in my experience. I picked up a fair number of picture books at my local library (they have a sister library in Kyoto, for some reason) and in the foreign section of Half Price Books. The problem with picture books is that many of them don’t have any kanji. Even the basic books had some words I didn’t know, and it was much harder to figure out said words without the kanji.

          For non-fiction, I’ve heard that NHK News Web Easy allows you to toggle furigana on and off. Never tried this since I don’t read the news for fun.

  26. MrApophenia says:

    A few weeks ago there was a discussion here about the Epstein conspiracy theories and how plausible they were/were not. Something that didn’t get much discussion then because I think everyone already forgot about it (myself included) – about two weeks before his death, he had another “suicide attempt” which he survived. He claimed his cellmate tried to strangle him to death; the cellmate claimed he had saved Epstein from attempting to hang himself.

    Now prosecutors have admitted that the footage from the camera outside his cell on that occasion has also gone missing. https://www.cnbc.com/2019/12/18/jeffrey-epsteins-first-suicide-attempt-video-is-missing.html

    If this wasn’t a conspiracy to murder the guy, it’s almost starting to look like a conspiracy to make it look like there was a conspiracy.

    • jermo sapiens says:

      If this wasn’t a conspiracy to murder the guy, it’s almost starting to look like a conspiracy to make it look like there was a conspiracy.

      That’s the best argument I’ve heard so far on why it’s not a conspiracy. But I still think there was a conspiracy.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      I just think the whole “conspiracy to murder him” thing is too Hollywood. He went from “billionaire island with all illicit sex fantasies fulfilled” to “prison cell forever surrounded by rough people who round off what you did to pedophilia.” That seems like a pretty good excuse to kill himself.

      The best I can manage as to a conspiracy here is, “the guards were paid off to make it easy for him to kill himself.” The missing tapes would fit in with that at least.

      • MrApophenia says:

        Right, but he also knew exactly which illicit sex fantasies he had arranged to be fulfilled for multiple world leaders and other rich, powerful types, and on top of that we know he had parleyed that knowledge into a Get Out of Jail Free card once already. So what do you figure the odds are that he was just planning to fall on his sword and go to jail for the rest of his life?

        The complicated part with Epstein is that the list of fantastically rich, politically powerful people who had a pressing urge for him to shut up is so long that picking any one suspect to have arranged for it to happen is probably futile.

        Also, the fact that his cellmate for that first suicide attempt was a former cop who is now on trial for becoming a hitman is just *chefs kiss* too.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          But by murdering him, is there no fear of a deadman’s switch? If you are fantastically wealthy and powerful, wouldn’t it make more sense to try to get him that Get of Jail Free card instead?

          I would find a conspiracy that his death was faked, and he’s retired and living like a king in Patagonia more believable than that he was simply murdered.

          Note: my belief is that he killed himself.

          • Matt M says:

            Is there any historical example of a “dead man’s switch” actually existing and working successfully, as intended?

            It’s something you hear about frequently in movies, but I’m not aware of any *real* examples.

            Any entity powerful enough to arrange for Epstein’s murder also probably has sufficient resources to do whatever is necessary to identify and defuse any surprises/booby traps he may have tried to leave behind…

          • MrA says:

            Get Out of Jail Free is complicated specifically because they had already done it once so flagrantly – the last time this happened, the Justice Department stepped in, took over the case from the local authorities, and then offered Epstein a deal so ridiculously mild it was arguably itself illegal. This was so outrageous that the investigation into that deal and how it happened wound up winning a Pulitzer, which is essentially what prompted this new investigation.

            So stepping in and doing the same thing again, with all this scrutiny now underway, would have been very problematic.

            On the other hand, we can definitely see that it is quite possible to place your high profile suspect in a cell with a professional killer and then arrange to have the footage vanish, because, hey, check it out, that definitely did happen, even if he did kill himself.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            On the other hand, we can definitely see that it is quite possible to place your high profile suspect in a cell with a professional killer

            On the other other hand, the professional killer failed to kill him. How hard can it be to choke a guy?

          • Is there any historical example of a “dead man’s switch” actually existing and working successfully, as intended?

            They aren’t hard to set up with software:

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dead_man%27s_switch#Software

            Though given his evident incompetence I’d think he wouldn’t have been able to do it even if he had blackmail-able material.(which I don’t think he had)

            Get Out of Jail Free is complicated specifically because they had already done it once so flagrantly – the last time this happened, the Justice Department stepped in, took over the case from the local authorities, and then offered Epstein a deal so ridiculously mild it was arguably itself illegal. This was so outrageous that the investigation into that deal and how it happened wound up winning a Pulitzer, which is essentially what prompted this new investigation.

            Eighteen months in hail for a first-time offender accused of statutory rape is hardly “arguably illegal.”(the illegal part was not notifying the victims)

          • John Schilling says:

            Is there any historical example of a “dead man’s switch” actually existing and working successfully, as intended?

            Is there any historical example of “kill the criminal mastermind what has kompromat on all the rich and powerful people so he can’t tell anyone” actually being implemented successfully?

            For that matter, is there any historical example of “fulfill the illicit sex fantasies of the rich and powerful, then blackmail same for cash and immunity” working successfully?

            All of these are basically Hollywood fantasies of how power games among the rich and powerful play out. And Epstein may have tried to play one of them out in reality, but if so he didn’t succeed in the end. Reality is messier.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Is there any historical example of “kill the criminal mastermind what has kompromat on all the rich and powerful people so he can’t tell anyone” actually being implemented successfully?

            Would Lavrenty Beria count?

          • MrA says:

            Eighteen months in jail for a first-time offender accused of statutory rape is hardly “arguably illegal.”

            The arguably illegal part is that he wasn’t even charged with statutory rape. He was charged with soliciting a prostitute, even though the girls he had sex with were underage and legally incapable of consent, which means calling them prostitutes in the charges is questionable.

            That’s the “arguably illegal” part; the outrageous but technically not illegal part was that they had mountains of evidence of far more serious crimes but only charged him with the absolute minimum they could, and then even during that 18 month sentence he had daily work release so they just let him spend his “jail time” in his own home.

          • Cliff says:

            He had sex with plenty of women who were of age (18+… though actually age of consent is 16 or lower in many places)

          • DeWitt says:

            Wait, what? What kind of defence even is that?

            ‘You are accused of murdering your coworker, what say you in your defence?’
            ‘Well, your honor, just look at all the coworkers I didn’t murder.’

          • I assume Cliff’s point is that he could have been charged with soliciting a prostitute on the basis of one of the women he had sex with who was not underage.

          • albatross11 says:

            De Witt:

            We can call it the base rate defense. “Your honor, for 364 days, 23 hours, and 59 minutes of 2018, my client didn’t kill a single person. Surely we should judge him based on what he did for the great majority of that year….”

          • John Schilling says:

            Would Lavrenty Beria count?

            Beria counts as “put in power a regime that will vigorously memory-hole any of his old kompromat that surfaces, and gulagize whoever was stupid enough to bring it up, and at that point it’s mostly redundant to kill Beria himself but OK yeah sure”.

            And really, kompromat itself usually only works if it’s backed by a regime with memory-holing power.

          • fibio says:

            @ albatross

            “Your honor. My client’s median murder rate per day was zero across the whole year. I move that we dismiss the time it was seven as an anomaly.”

      • Matt M says:

        The best I can manage as to a conspiracy here is, “the guards were paid off to make it easy for him to kill himself.” The missing tapes would fit in with that at least.

        Is there really any functional difference between “Someone comes in and kills him” and “Someone comes in and explains to him that he isn’t getting out of this, he will spend the rest of his life in prison, and everyone he once cared about how hates and despises him and sees him as a huge liability, and oh by the way I’m just going to leave this sturdy rope right here and I’ve made sure that for the next hour the guards won’t bother you…”

        I know that technically speaking the first is murder and the second is suicide. But generally speaking…

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Maybe not? I’m just saying the “murdered” thing doesn’t fly. If he was murdered, there’s a murderer. So either you happened to find a prison guard who’s in the murder-for-hire business, or you sent a hitman into the prison, past the guards, or with the cooperation of the guards. That’s too many loose ends. I can believe they looked the other way and allowed him to do what he wanted to do anyway. I cannot believe a man went into his cell and put his hands around his neck and squeezed until he was dead.

        • aristides says:

          This adequately describes my belief. It fits the evidence better, and would likely be cheaper and easier, too. Convincing two prison guards to turn a blind eye is easier than convincing them to murder.

          The other functional differences are the investigation needs to be conducted slightly differently, and the sentence for those responsible will be lighter, if caught. (Though presumably, the people really in charge are guilty of crimes much more heinous than murder, anyways)

      • viVI_IViv says:

        “prison cell forever surrounded by rough people who round off what you did to pedophilia.”

        More like “make a deal, get a slap on the wrist sentence and then spend the rest of his life on some tropical island enjoying is hidden funds”.

        • John Schilling says:

          You understand he already did that, right? It didn’t take, and the guy who made the deal went from cabinet official to despised nobody because of it. Deals like that are only possible if nobody is looking or if nobody cares, and that window had irrevocably closed for Epstein.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      If the same camera malfunctioned on two special days and otherwise operated correctly, that’s pretty damning. If it even malfunctioned just on the one special day, that’s damning. The only non-damning explanation is that it had been broken for months (and that, say, 10% of all the cameras are broken, which is damning in a non-specific way). But if it had been broken for months, then it is no news that it was already broken two weeks earlier.

      Why do they say that the footage was lost, not that the camera was broken? Probably information has been lost in a game of telephone. You shouldn’t draw too many inferences from information leaking out in these disparate channels. If the warden wants to reassure us about what happened, he should address these questions, but he wouldn’t do it through this hearing. (Even very basic questions like, were the two stories about the same camera, are not going to be answerable by piecing together short clues.)

      Why didn’t anyone notice that the camera was broken when they received the request two weeks earlier? They probably ignored the request for weeks. That delay may well have been enough for the footage to have been erased, regardless of function. Maybe they delayed in good faith, because the requested camera did not exist. There was no camera directly on the cell that would show what happened in the cell. When Epstein had no roommate, hall footage would be useful to determine if he was alone. But when he had a roommate, hall footage would not show what happened between them. By the time the roommate’s lawyers clarified that they really did want hall footage, as implausible as that sounded, the two weeks had past and the camera was already discovered to be broken. More likely, they delayed in bad faith, that cameras are to protect the guards, not the prisoners. It is good to draw attention to such corruption, but it is not specific to Epstein.