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### 554 Responses to Open Thread 143.5

1. Scott Alexander says:

What’s the best way to measure biological vs. social (eg adopted) siblings in this year’s survey?

The past few years we’ve shown a birth order effect. In order to figure out why it happens, I want to check if it’s caused by having biological older siblings or social older siblings. My first idea was just questions like:

1. How many biological older siblings do you have?
2. How many biological younger siblings do you have?
3. How many social older siblings do you have?
4. How many social younger siblings do you have?

But with social siblings, there are two degrees of freedom: how old they are, and when they joined your family. For example, your family might have adopted a 10 year old when you were 8. This probably wouldn’t have much effect on you.

So my second idea was just to say “only count social siblings if they joined your family within the first 5 years of your life”. But first of all, how do I know 5 years is the right time? And second of all, now the math is off. I calculate birth order effects by comparing number of people with older vs. younger siblings. But older social siblings have more of a chance to be in your family before you are born, and so we can change the ratio of older to younger social siblings just by changing the number “5 years” to some other number. This means we can’t accurately measure birth order effects this way.

My current plan is to ask questions like:

1. Are you the biologically firstborn in you family, ie the first child to be born of your mother?

2. Are you the socially firstborn in your family, ie there were no older siblings in your household at the time you were born?

…and compare the number of biologically-but-not-socially firstborns to the number of socially-but-not-biologically firstborns and see if any pattern jumps out.

But I’m really nervous about this methodology and would appreciate people looking it over, confirming whether it’s a good idea, or proposing a better way to ask this.

• S_J says:

One factor that could be explored is:

“How many years between you and the next oldest (social/biological) sibling?”

Back when I heard some pop-psychologist discuss birth order and personalities, I heard the claim that some first-born traits would appear for children who had more than six years separating them from their next-older sibling.

• Red-s says:

I think you can rescue your first set of questions by modifying them slightly:

1. How many biological siblings did you have when you were born? (answer 0 if you were the first child born to your mother)
2. How many biological siblings have you had in total?
3. How many social (adopted, step, etc.) siblings did you have when you were born? (answer 0 if you didn’t have any older social siblings)
4. How many social siblings have you had in total?

• Dacyn says:

This is not a methodological point, but I would write “socially the first child” rather than “the social firstborn”, since the word “firstborn” doesn’t really seem accurate here, as the whole point is that you might not be born first.

• Vermillion says:

I’ll just note that I’ve paused on previous versions of this question in the past because I’m my dad’s first child and my mom’s second. I suppose I’d say I was socially and biologically the second child although my dad likes to call me his #1 son so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

• NostalgiaForInfinity says:

I second this. Half-siblings are reasonably common but it’s far from obvious how to answer any questions on it.

• DragonMilk says:

May make sense to have a separate question of, “did your parents adopt any children?”

• Perico says:

Why not think of the best possible data format, and figure out a way to get that in the survey?

My shot at the ideal set of tables:

(usually 2 rows)
columns: gender, age difference, relationship to you

Table 1b: Parents of siblings (if required)
columns: gender, age difference, relationship to sibling

Table 2: Siblings
(any number of rows)
columns: sibling number, gender, age difference, relationship to you

Most fields are self explanatory. The relationship columns would allow fixed values, such as biological parent, adoptive parent, biological sibling, half sibling, adopted sibling, other. And then a free text field to add extra details (e.g. ages of adoption), if required. For non-trivial scenarios, we might need a couple extra columns to map parents to children.

This would end up as quite a complex form, but I think it could be worth it.

• eyeballfrog says:

Perhaps a “timeline of siblings” chart? It has boxes for each number of years in the future and past from your birth and you put in when siblings were born/adopted and their ages at the time.

• bean says:

I’m not sure adoption is the only thing that will screw up the “social firstborn” questions. There’s also the issue of “Dad had kids with his first wife, but she got them in the divorce and moved to the other coast, so we only saw them twice a year”.

• anonymousskimmer says:

When my father’s parents split up, they really split up. My father didn’t see any of his half-siblings until *I* was a child (i.e. sometime in his 40s).

• sharper13 says:

Perhaps something more direct, like:
What age order are you in the siblings you lived with at all until age 18? X out of Y total.
Same question, but only counting siblings with the same biological mother as you? X out of Y total.

• Nancy Lebovitz says:

As noted, “lived with” becomes ambiguous if there’s shared custody between families with more than one child.

• DinoNerd says:

2) Am I correct that you don’t want to distinguish only children from first born children?
3) What about joint custody arranegements, with different patterns of social siblings in each household?

• Mark V Anderson says:

What are social siblings? Non-genetically related but lived in your family? I hope you define it in the survey.

• Garrett says:

Is there any chance that late-term miscarriages might have an impact? They would have a lot of the pre-natal impacts on birth order without the post-natal impacts. However, getting precise, reliable data of sufficient sample size might be more challenging.

• anonymousskimmer says:

At what point would an answer of “It’s complicated, but I had 1, 2, X number of people I saw as older than me who were treated as my siblings by my parents” be sufficient?

Crazy family dynamics will have ungeneralizeable effects. At this point it’s worth understanding these effects separate from standard birth order effects. I.e. How typical are people who grew up in these situations compared to both first borns and later borns in more typical family dynamics?

2. DragonMilk says:

As mentioned before, I have a hammer. And a screwdriver (well, I guess two of those, phillips and flathead).

What are 3 tools you’d add to this “set”?

• broblawsky says:

Hex keys, pliers, and a tape measure.

It, of course, depends a great deal on the sorts of things you think you might need to want to do. But for just basic stuff, I think that pliers (I have some needle-nose and an adjustable pair that I use frequently), an adjustable wrench or two (although more fiddly than fixed wrenches, you don’t need a whole set), and a level are very useful, and aren’t break-the-bank expensive. A tape measure, a putty knife, and a hands-free work lamp are also frequently useful. If you do enough stuff, the most useful power tool (by far, I think) is a drill, and I’d recommend a cordless one just for overall ease-of-use. And I love having a whole lot of clamps (especially quick-release, trigger-tightened ones) available.

• Thomas Jorgensen says:

Adjustable spanner wrench (or a full wrench set if you count that as one tool), a measure of some kind, and fifty dollars to buy the specific tool you need to fix the first actual maintainance problem to pop up not solvable with a spanner, a hammer and a screwdriver.

• Phigment says:

Pliers, tape measure, flashlight.

Those are the things you’ll find the most use for commonly.

• Thomas Jorgensen says:

Eh, I am going to go ahead and assume Milk owns a phone, which obviates the flashlight

• GearRatio says:

Depends; if you are, like, fixing cars, you don’t necessarily want to use your phone for this or indeed have your phone anywhere near the job. And a real honest-to-god flashlight is a lot brighter than a phone, which matters for some jobs.

• DragonMilk says:

Oh, I have a flashlight (not phone); I did not consider it a tool.

• Lambert says:

As far as cunsumables are concerned: gaffer tape, WD-40, 3 in 1 oil.

• birdmaster9000 says:

To add on to the above answers, some cutting tools can be rather useful. A simple set to cover the basics might include a box cutter style knife, a smaller x-acto knife, a general purpose pocket knife, and a hacksaw.

• GearRatio says:

1. Ratchet set and wrench set. With a sufficiently complete ratchet set and wrench set, you can now learn to work on cars; fixing cars is, for the most part, a business of manipulating bolts and watching youtube. Obviously other non-automotive bolts.

2. A drill. As mentioned by Littskad, it’s versatile; not only for drilling/screwing/unscrewing, but for taking a number of attachments that do other things; wire brushes (taking paint off of things) sanding pads, buffing pads, etc. As an example, it’s relatively easy to shine/polish headlight lenses if you have a drill. It’s much easier to strip the paint from a bike; so on and so forth.

3. Level and studfinder. If you are doing putting-up-shelf or hanging-up-tv type stuff, these are convenient.

• HeelBearCub says:

Especially as you haven’t mentioned budget, I’m going to go against the grain of what others have said (see, now this is me being contrarian):

A lightweight cordless drill starter kit with bits and drivers – you really do want this for just about any small improvement around the house
A full socket set – more expensive and less universal than an adjustable wrench, but frequently more handy to have. Pliers are a horrible substitute for either one of these.
3 foot plastic level level with length measure included – a smaller tape measure is much more generally useful though

If you can afford these 3, you might as well get all 7 things. Also, probably don’t buy the cheapest version you can find as you will eventually regret it if they are actually cheaply made. A “store” brand like Kobalt is not so expensive, but good enough quality to work well.

• A Definite Beta Guy says:

-Torx drill-bit specifically
-A basin wrench. Just spend the \$15 or whatever and keep it handy.

Also, really, really emphasizing the cordless drill.

A cordless drill/screwdriver is definitely the most used thing in my tool box.

• jaimeastorga2000 says:

A multitool (Leatherman or competitor), duct tape, and WD-40.

• Plumber says:

@DragonMilk says:

“As mentioned before, I have a hammer. And a screwdriver (well, I guess two of those, phillips and flathead).

What are 3 tools you’d add to this “set”?

At home a drill, bits, saw, and a toilet auger.

When I worked on cars and motorcycles open and box end wrenches.

In the pockets of my overalls at work:

Four different sizes of Channel Lock pliers/toothed adjustable wrenches.

Six way screwdriver

Hex key “Allen” wrench set.

Four way “water key” (for hose bibs)

Leatherman tool

Swiss Army knife

Prong for removing “vandal proof” faucet aeration

Six foot folding rule

Small roll of Teflon tape

Various small seals

Small handle wide mouthed flat adjustable wrench.

When I worked construction instead of repair I’d carry a tape measure and torpedo level instead of a lot of that stuff.

• baconbits9 says:

It sounds like you don’t do much, nor intend to do much with your tools in which case I would just buy a multi-tool like a leatherman (one with pliers). Every tool on it will be inferior to a stand alone tool, but will do you just fine for the level of work that it sounds like will be done, won’t take up any real space and will still be useful if you do end up getting into more intense projects as life goes on.

• baconbits9 says:

Also echo the tape measure and headlamp.

• HeelBearCub says:

It sounds like you don’t do much, nor intend to do much with your tools in which case I would just buy a multi-tool like a leatherman (one with pliers).

If you have tools, and know their proper usage, a multi-tool is useful as a convenience. If you don’t, I think it just encourages you use the wrong tool thinking it’s the right one.

Plus, a good multi-tool is way more expensive than a good single-use tool. Bad, cheap multi-tools are frustrating and ineffective.

• Incurian says:

Socket wrench, drill, stud finder. The first two are sort of cheating because they’re most likely sets in their own right.

• DinoNerd says:

This depends on what you are using them for, and on your skills. Also whether you are thinking “tools” or “simple hand tools”.

I suggest pliers of some kind (I think my first were vise grips), something that cuts (exacto knife, saw, power saw – I prefer a jigsaw/saber saw if I can only have one) and something that makes or starts holes (awl, “screw starter”, hand drill, power drill).

Something that pries is good too – I’m hoping your hammer has a claw.

And if you are mostly just putting up pictures and things – you’ll ultimately want tools for removing nails, and filling in the holes they make. Plus maybe a paintbrush, to disguise those filled holes.

Also two things already mentioned, that you might not think of as tools – tape measure and flashlight. If your life is anything like mine, you’ll use both of those more often than even the two you mentioned.

3. Nancy Lebovitz says:

What do you think of having crowd-sourced tags for ssc? I think I’d like them.

• Statismagician says:

What would the point be? Real question, I’m not sure of the intended benefit.

• Nancy Lebovitz says:

I was thinking it would make some kinds of poking around easier. For example, suppose you wanted to explore recipes. Or religion.

• Dacyn says:

Yeah, if we did this it would be nice to have an option to filter all comments through a blacklist (or whitelist).

Probably this just makes sense at the level of top-level comments (despite the fact that we sometimes have runaway subthreads)

• Paul Brinkley says:

I was thinking it would make some kinds of poking around easier. For example, suppose you wanted to explore recipes. Or religion.

I haven’t tried it yet, but didn’t Nybbler set up a database index for SSC comments? How well would it work for this?

(I think the three most useful tags would be #recipes, #books or #bookPlugs, and #effortposts.)

4. kupe says:

I recently got a new job, and I feel like an imposter. How can I tell on my own whether I’m experiencing imposter syndrome, or whether I’m actually an imposter?

• GearRatio says:

If you aren’t getting in trouble and you aren’t leaving things broken in secret to avoid trouble, you are fine.

• Plumber says:

@GearRatio >

“If you aren’t getting in trouble and you aren’t leaving things broken in secret to avoid trouble, you are fine”

Where I’ve worked not doing those things has often been regarded as a sign of not working fast enough.

• eyeballfrog says:

Has anyone who felt this way ever actually been an imposter?

Made the mistake once to employ a pretty face in order to break the stereotype of her being just a pretty face. Turns out the stereotype was right – she failed to grow in any meaningful way, and was miserable because of it. I can guarantee she felt like an imposter. Mercifully terminated her after about a year (small town, not a lot of choice, and a bias on growing people). I think it took her over half a year to get over the whole experience.

If you’re curious, the particular bet I took was that if she could have a few mildly successful blogs with the graphic design done by herself, she could grow into writing and designing stuff for the company. Turned out the talent was in the blog content (girl stuff) and not in doing online stuff generally.

• kupe says:

That’s why it’s hard to tell. I’ve worked with people who have moaned about imposter syndrome, when in reality they were actually bad employees. I’m not sure the experience of “feeling like an imposter” automatically means “actually good at your job, it’s just a feeling”

Just hard to differentiate them from the inside. Simple reassurances aren’t helping me feel any less anxious.

• Nancy Lebovitz says:

I’m wondering whether feeling anxious about being an imposter is a stable feeling. Does learning more about what you’re doing make you feel better?

• Plumber says:

@kupe says:

“I recently got a new job, and I feel like an imposter. How can I tell on my own whether I’m experiencing imposter syndrome, or whether I’m actually an imposter?”

The world makes much more sense when you realize that 9/10ths of everyone working is an “imposter” including the boss.

When you don’t feel yourself to be an imposter anymore is when you start to feel like a chump.

• meh says:

why is there a sharp uptick in this experience recently?

• A Definite Beta Guy says:

I see a lot of quick promotions these days, that seems pretty atypical. I’m a factory accountant, which we have a lot of in the family, and I have progressed far more rapidly than anyone in the last generation or the generation before. Hell, for a while, I was actually technically senior to my Mom, who has 30 years of experience over me.

With this kind of break-neck churn, you usually end up a bit out of your depth.

• magehat says:

One of the things that helped me a lot with this is not to think of myself as my “role” (in my case, software developer), but an independent contractor for my company. Because the company really doesn’t care whether you are living up to some nebulous idea of your what your profession should be, they just care about whether you are a worthwhile investment. That way as long as you remain employed, you can feel confident you aren’t deceiving anyone.

• Viliam says:

If they haven’t fired you, it means they believe they get good value in return for their money.

Of course you are free to set higher standards for yourself, and you probably should. But still, the fact that they are willing to pay money for your work is a data point you should not simply throw away.

• kupe says:

Firing people is pretty hard in my country and company, in particular it’s pretty involved for management (weekly meetings with HR sitting in, measuring performance goals etc) so some managers would rather burden themselves with a mediocre employee than burden themselves with that process.

You are right though, I haven’t had any direct feedback from the hierarchy, and that’s a good data point thanks 🙂

5. Well... says:

For those here who own homes: What are y’all’s experiences with home security systems? What do you recommend?

• Solra Bizna says:

I have a pit bull. She notifies us via bark if someone so much as approaches our front door. Otherwise, she’s (literally) the nicest, most timid dog I have met in my entire life, but an intruder wouldn’t know that…

• A Definite Beta Guy says:

Don’t really see the need. Our neighborhood has virtually no crime. The last time my house was broken into was the 1970s, according to my neighbor who has lived here since the 50s.

• hls2003 says:

An expensive hassle and a big waste of time and attention if you’re in a low-crime area and especially if you have a big dog. In a very low-crime area, you are probably very, very slightly increasing your risk of dying by violence (via misunderstanding with a cop) by having a system, because you will average about one unnecessary cop-call per year, or more.

There would be slightly more utility in having the system installed but not monitored by anyone or hooked up to anything. That could be useful for, e.g., small kids to notify you by sound when they open a door or a gate.

Monitored alarms also watch for fire, which is quite useful.

• hls2003 says:

I guess. But if anyone is home, there are smoke detectors for that. If nobody is home, then fire is not high on my list of worries. In that vein, a more useful feature they offer is basement flood detectors, which could give peace of mind when out of town during a storm that one’s sump pump has not failed.

But when the fire alarm goes off, it calls the fire department. Which is useful for improving response time if you’re home, and getting someone there at all if you’re not, so there’s a greater chance of not having your house burn down.

My insurance company gives me a discount for having an alarm, which almost covers the cost of the monitoring service.

• hls2003 says:

IMO, the risks of fire are too low to justify the hassle of false alarms (esp. while out of town) that such-and-such zone has been tripped, or false fire alarms, or whatever. But that’s just my experience and preferences.

• DinoNerd says:

I have exterior lights with motion sensors – they turn on if something crosses their field – and have had a succession of mid-sized (55 lb) dogs. No burglaries or other issues in the 20+ years I’ve lived here, except one time a burglar fled from a neighbour’s house, down our driveway and over our back porch roof, with a policeman in pursuit. (The dog found it very exciting, and expressed himself quite loudly. The burglar kept running.)

Both of these home security options have good side effects. I enjoy having a household dog, and appreciate having the house lights turn on when I pull into the driveway.

Mostly though, it’s a good neighbourhood. If I left my door wide open and went out, the most likely outcome is probably that a neighbour would close it for me. The dog probably wouldn’t have been enough, on average, in at least one of the places I lived as a student. (But I beat the odds that time.)

• Lambert says:

I wonder if there’s anyone on ebay selling broken systems for parts.
It’s the hoverfly gambit: The burglars don’t know it doesn’t work.

If you just want the appearance of having an alarm system, don’t bother with electronics and just get a “home secured by ADT” sign for your yard. Better yet, steal your neighbor’s sign.

• mitv150 says:

True, but the actual audible alarm going off has at least some scare value.

6. Le Maistre Chat says:

This time in “should be a light novel title”:
A delegate to the seventeenth ecumenical council is a pagan?!

7. Clutzy says:

• FrankistGeorgist says:
• Clutzy says:

That garlic one looks like a winner for our household for sure.

• SamChevre says:

My modification of my wife’s family’s refrigerator rolls:

Rolls:
Makes a 9×13, or two round 8” pans
1 ½ cups warm water
¼ cup sugar
1 ½ tsp salt
6 cups flour
¼ cup oil (or butter)
1 ½ tsp. yeast

By hand:
Mix water, sugar, salt in a bowl. The water should not be so hot that it is uncomfortable to hold your hand in it, and should feel warm.

Add about a quarter of the flour, and stir it in; you should have a batter. Add another quarter of the flour, and the yeast; you should have a thick batter. Add the oil and stir it in. Add more flour and stir it in until you can’t stir it anymore. Put the rest of the flour on the counter, pour the batter/dough onto it, and knead them together until they are smooth—about 5 minute. Let rise on the counter or put in an oiled ziploc bag in the fridge and punch down after a couple hours.
This dough will hold in the refrigerator for at least a week; the yeast flavor will get stronger as time passes. Shape it 3 hours before you want rolls and rise on the counter, or gently warm the dough up to make it rise faster.

Bake at 350 until done.

• SamChevre says:

The effort-post length version, with many details:

Rolls:

Small Batch:

Makes a 9×13, or two round 8” pans

1 ½ cups warm water

¼ cup sugar

1 ½ tsp salt

6 cups flour

¼ cup oil

1 ½ tsp. yeast

By hand:

Mix water, sugar, salt in a bowl. The water should not be so hot that it is uncomfortable to hold your hand in it, and should feel warm.

Add about a quarter of the flour, and stir it in; you should have a batter. Add another quarter of the flour, and the yeast; you should have a thick batter. Add the oil and stir it in. Add more flour and stir it in until you can’t stir it anymore. Put the rest of the flour on the counter, pour the batter/dough onto it, and knead them together until they are smooth—about 5 minutes.

Comments: this dough will hold in the refrigerator for at least a week; the yeast flavor will get stronger as time passes.

Variations:

Use 1 cup milk; scald it, add 1 cup cold water.

Replace 1/4 cup of water with two eggs.

Replace oil with butter.

Use ½ cup sugar for sweet dough

Use up to 2x as much fat for very tender rolls

Use as little as ¼ as much sugar for more French-style rolls.

Fastest rolls: Use very warm water—as hot as you can comfortably keep your finger in, and twice as much yeast; keep the dough in a warm place, and punch down after about 45 minutes. Shape the rolls after 30 minutes, let rise in a slightly warm oven for 15 minutes, take them out and pre-heat the oven.

Wednesday Night Supper rolls:

Put the dough in a cool room. Punch down after 2-3 hours, shape after about 3 more hours, bake after about 3 more hours.

Large Batch:

Makes two half-sheets (13 x 18 inch pans)

6 cups warm water

1 cup sugar

2 tbsp salt

24 cups (6 lbs) flour

1 cup oil

2 tbsp yeast

With a mixer:

Mix water, sugar, salt in a bowl. The water should not be so hot that it is uncomfortable to hold your hand in it, and should feel warm.

Add about a quarter of the flour, and stir it in; you should have a batter. Add another quarter of the flour, and the yeast; you should have a thick batter. Add the oil and stir it in. Now add most of the rest of the flour, put it in the mixer, and knead it for two minutes; add more flour if needed. The dough should be soft, but not runny. Knead for 3-5 minutes total.

Bake: (Either mixing method) In a pre-heated 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes, or until done. Doneness tests: 190 degrees on a meat thermometer, if you break a top crust off the crumb will spring back if you touch it rather than sticking together.

Rising tests: punch dough down when fully risen in all timings. For dough, stick a finger one joint in; dough is fully risen when the hole doesn’t close in. For rolls, press a finger lightly into the surface; it should leave a fingerprint, but the dough should spring back a little.

Best rolls:

Put the dough in the refrigerator. Punch down after about 3 hours, shape after at least 12 more hours (no more than 36 hours). Put shaped rolls in cool room, bake after 3-4 hours.

Refrigerator rolls:

Put the dough in the refrigerator. Punch down after about 3 hours, wait at least 12 hours before shaping. Put shaped rolls in refrigerator, bake after 12 hours. (May need to rise rolls on countertop for an hour or so.)

• salvorhardin says:

http://www.sweetpaulmag.com/food/le-gibassier-a-french-anise-amp-orange-flavored-loaf

Don’t bother with the orange blossom water or candied orange peel; just use the juice of the orange in the dough along with the zest. Do get or grind powdered fennel seed (aka aniseed) rather than using whole seeds.

• Lambert says:

Speaking of candied peel and blossom water, pannettone is nice and topical.

I made this recipe last week and it came out pretty well. Only problem was that it rose right to the top of the oven and burnt on top.

• Enkidum says:

You can’t get much easier than this – time it so it’s done maybe 15 minutes before you eat. Great with soups, or just with butter. We usually use less sugar.

• HarmlessFrog says:

While I don’t endorse the consumption of bread…

• mitv150 says:

Artisan bread in 5 minutes is a nice place to start. A version of the basic recipe can be found here.

You mix a whole bunch of dough and let it live in your fridge and pull out chunks to shape/bake as you need. Very easy and good results.

• I like the Artisan Bread in 5 minutes a day book, but the title exaggerates how easy it is.

I’m fond of their rye bread recipe.

• AG says:

Steamed chinese buns. You can put anything in them, sweet or savory, or just have them with no fillings.

8. The Pachyderminator says:

Edit: The next volume in Peter Adamson’s History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps series, which is on classical Indian philosophy.

9. nimim.k.m. says:

Suggestion: Join a conversation with entry-to-mid-level fans, if that is what you want, and be genuine to all parties involved. Basically, take an approach like, “I know next to nothing about MCU but I find your interest in it interesting, what it your favorite thing in it and why do you like it?”. There are practically unbounded amount of follow-up questions depending on the response. You probably have consumed other kinds of media, and have opinions about that, and can compare and contrast. Or if they can talk about some particular detail in very engaging way, it can be fun to attentively listen and encourage them to go on by asking small questions that keep all parties entertained.

All stated objectives met, and one maybe learns something new.

In my experience, the kind of difficulties stated in original question arise in situations where there are several people conversing about a topic I do not know about and I have difficulties making it known that I want to participate in the discussion productively or that I am simply not interested in what or how they are talking (but for some reason or another try to listen anyway).

Depending on the people you converse with, you might however pick up an interest to consume the said media, or lose interest in talking to them.

10. johan_larson says:

If you want to present yourself as a serious fan of Star Wars, even a new-to-the-game serious fan, you have to watch the nine movies in the main sequence. There’s a LOT more material out there, but having seen those nine films are table stakes.

If you’re ok with being thought of as an interested noob, I suppose you could watch the original (IV) and the most recent one (IX), and find some sort of series summary video. But you will be completely lost if the discussion goes into any depth at all.

11. The Pachyderminator says:

I know this will seem unhelpful, but – if you’re interested in the movies, you should watch them. If you’re not interested in them, leave them alone. Anything in between is a waste of your time.

However, this is an excuse to mention one of my favorite Eliezer Yudkowsky factoids, namely that he wrote HPMOR having read only the first three Harry Potter books. He got the rest of his information about the HP universe from the movies, wikis, and other fanfiction.

• The Pachyderminator says:

And I’d argue it’s possible to be legitimately interested in learning intellectually about something, without wanting to intimately encounter it– like reading a book about Japanese culture without wanting to visit Japan, or watching The Great British Baking Show without actually being a baker.

That makes sense for things like visiting a foreign country or taking up a hobby like baking – highly effortful, time-consuming activities. I’m not sure it makes sense for media like books or movies. It seems to me that if you want to learn intellectually about a movie, the first thing to do is watch it.

Or, for that matter, like watching the movie version of a classic novel, which is a practice that IIRC was defended a few threads ago as something like ~60% as good as reading the book itself.

That’s preposterous. In most cases you won’t even get 60% of the plot, let alone any other literary qualities the book has.

12. nimim.k.m. says:

Hello again, OT. I have come briefly back to ask for book recommendations.

Recently I have found myself wanting to have a more in-depth knowledge of things such as Enlightment values and philosophy, classical liberal thought on ethics, morals, politics, and such. I have superficial understanding from my formal education: I can recall the names of figures like Voltaire, Hobbes, Diderot and Locke, but would have troubles mustering an even paragraph on their thought without referencing Wikipedia or other sources. I have come to conclusion that this is insufficient, especially because I have noticed I do not remember as much of what I have read in school as I thought.

The obvious answer would be to start digging and reading what they wrote. However, nowadays I lead a busy life, and I really don’t possess enough time to start a thorough project of finding, judging, reading, remembering and learning all the primary literature. (I have a beautiful hardcover copy of Tocqueville’s Democracy in America in my bookshelf, it comes with excellent introduction essays and notes by translator, and I have been stuck in Ch 2 for about three years know.)

So, I think a good freshman-level textbook (or very good popular treatment that comes with citations) on Enlightment thinkers, and their philosophical descendants, might be a good compromise. Or maybe good “cultural history” textbook on the era. I do appreciate suggestions of select primary works too, if they are well written or truly worth the effort. Likewise, if they do comment on what is the later and modern interpretation of those thinkers, that is a plus.

For example, I once read On Tolerance by Voltaire and I think it was very illuminating on the lynching mob mentality and sad state of judicial system in France at the time of writing, and his indignation at the injustice that happened. I also have read Confessions by Rousseau until about half-way, when I came to conclusion that I did not agree with Rousseau nor his way of presenting philosophy and had acquired enough information to judge that I could safely just stop reading.

I recall that I saw a recommendation for David Wootton’s The Invention of Science in a similar thread here once, and that was a superb experience that updated my opinion about history and philosophy of natural sciences. Something like that, but about ethical-political domain of Enlightenment would be ideal.

• Tarpitz says:

It’s not restricted to the Enlightenment, but I would suggest reading Bertrand Russell’s History of Western Philosophy. A very clear and readable survey of the field by a major contributor to it.

• Protagoras says:

Also very biased, but of course it is hard to find an unbiased source. Also, it’s probably better on the Enlightenment figures that nimim is interested in; Russell was generally pro-Enlightment, and predictably he misrepresented people he didn’t like more than he misrepresented people he liked. So perhaps not terrible for present purposes.

• nimim.k.m. says:

Thanks, this is a good suggestion, because I have read it ~10 years ago and liked it then, but now have forgotten near all details to the extent of forgetting the book until you mentioned it! Maybe it is a time for a re-read 🙂

I remember liking Russell’s interpretation and writing then, but in retrospect I might have not been able to spot all the flaws. So I am still open to suggestions of something more modern, and less polemic to supplant him.

• nimim.k.m. says:

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy is a seemingly great starting place for questions like this, both in terms of the articles themselves and the further reading/bibliography they provide.

I agree, it is often good when you know what you want to read, but the problem is finding the articles you want. (Of course, occasionally one stumbles on something on a chance: by accident I read the entry on Kierkegaard and he felt like a very inspiring figure: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/kierkegaard/)

Because it is in encyclopedic format, the writing is sometimes bit too wikiwalk-encouraging: you spot a weird term you are not very familiar with, you go down the rabbit whole of reading the articles that introduce the weird terms. I would be more comfortable with a linear book (additionally, physical books come with a sense of progress as you go forward). The writing style also varies from engaging to not-so-engaging.

edit. The Pursuit of Glory appears very interesting. Even better, my local library has a copy.

• AlesZiegler says:
• Protagoras says:

If you do decide to get into any primary texts, Bennett’s Early Modern Texts page is an amazing resource. I find Hume and Mill generally pretty readable, while Kant remains awful despite Bennett’s best efforts.

13. Mark V Anderson says:

I bought cheap \$10 drones for my nephews for Christmas. They looked cool to me too, so I got one for me.

They are really really hard to control. I started out in my backyard, and it ended up on the neighbor’s roof. I tried it out inside and it really likes to crash in dusty, hard to reach corners of the room. I have been trying to get it to hover, so I can then direct it where I want it, but it doesn’t want to stay in one place. Right now I am trying to just take off and land gently, but I have not been able to come down without crashing. And it drives the cat nuts too.

@ Nybbler.
I assume your drone is bigger and more expensive. Is it also very hard to control? I have heard that helicopters are very difficult to fly; maybe this is the same concept. I wouldn’t want to be in the drone that I am flying. Is it just a matter of practice?

• bean says:

I suspect that it basically comes down to how much assistance the electronics are giving you. For \$10, you’re not going to get much. This is also how traditional RC helicopters work, and those are notorious for being difficult to fly. At a higher price point, you can have some electronics to translate “go that way” into drone-language, which makes them a lot easier to fly. Not sure what Nybbler has.

• The Nybbler says:

A \$10 drone is probably worthless outside except in a dead calm. The cheapest drone I’ve flown is the Hubsan Q4, which is a tiny little one that’s about \$20. It hovers fairly easily but if you fly it around it’s easy to get out of control, and it’s not very durable. Most toy quality (but more expensive than \$10) drones are not too hard to fly; the two main things to learn are how much momentum they have (so you can stop them) and keeping orientation straight. Expensive photography drones basically fly themselves; the point there is the camera, not the flying.

You may have damaged yours so it won’t hover properly any more.

I mostly fly RC helicopters (which as bean says are notoriously difficult to fly).With helis it takes a lot of practice to get to the point where you’re not crashing all the time; fortunately for my bank account there are simulators.

• Lambert says:

Aren’t full-sized helicopters also pretty hard to fly?
Longer characteristic timescales than an RC one, though.

• The Nybbler says:

Aren’t full-sized helicopters also pretty hard to fly?

I wouldn’t know, they won’t let me fly one. But from everything I’ve heard, yes. (and apparently the one usually used as a trainer is more difficult than most)

• LesHapablap says:

Real helicopters are much easier to fly than RC helicopters. Why won’t they let you fly one?

• The Nybbler says:

Why won’t they let you fly one?

Because I don’t have a helicopter pilot license.

• imoimo says:

Smarter Every Day tries to hover a real helicopter: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=eXR1olg_I0w

14. eyeballfrog says:

Watch the original Star Wars trilogy because they’re good movies in their own right. That should give you enough of a base to enjoy further media if you feel like continuing. If you don’t, well, ignoring everything other than the original trilogy is an acceptable position in most SW fan communities, so you should be fine.

15. Matt says:

Is there a good argument that Charlie Daniels isn’t rapping for the majority of some of his songs? The Devil Went Down to Georgia isn’t ‘sung’, except for the chorus. Uneasy Rider is the same, except I don’t think there’s any singing in it at all. All of the lyrics are rhymed and essentially spoken to a beat.

Is that distinct from rap?

• SamChevre says:

That same pattern is common in older country music – examples include Johnny Cash in “One Piece At a Time” and Jimmy Dean in “Big John.”

• Well... says:

Much of Jerry Reed’s work, too.

I listened to the Devil Went down to Georgia. It sort of sounded like rap but not quite. It sounded a bit too much like natural speak, especially when the devil is speaking. Rap tends to hit the rhymes harder and I think to have shorter sentences. Rap has a different rhythm to the speech, more like a machine gun. The bit that sounded most like rap was the short sentences that rhymed, “But I’ll take your bet/And you’re gonna regret”.

Irrelevant but it’s weird that the part that Johnny plays, the part that beats the devil, is by far the worst part of the song.

• Silverlock says:

Irrelevant but it’s weird that the part that Johnny plays, the part that beats the devil, is by far the worst part of the song.

Hard disagree — it’s the only part of the song I pay attention to anymore.

• meh says:
• albatross11 says:

Blondie’s Rapture sounds a lot like rapping to me.

• mitv150 says:

I have heard Rapture referred to as the first rap song to chart number one in the U.S.

• Don P. says:

I mean…it’s in the name. It’s not an accident.

• Well... says:

When we listen to my classic country Pandora station I often turn to my wife with a smile and quip “See? White people were rapping first.”

But seriously, I think for rap to really be rap, part of the equation is also what kind of beat is being rapped over. It has to be a rap beat, or at least kids in your school cafeteria banging rhythmically on the lunch table.

• Garrett says:

The spoken part of Michael Jackson’s Thriller is described in the liner notes as a rap, and it isn’t over any music at all.

• Well... says:

The old guy who laughs unreasonably much at his own not-so-clever rhyme? Weird.

• HeelBearCub says:

Vincent Price, reprising his role as the voice of the golden age of creepy films.

• Protagoras says:

Vincent Price is not laughing at his own rhyme, he’s laughing at your doom.

• Well... says:

I mean, I guess my doom might be a little funny, but it’s nowhere near funny enough to justify the ROFTFLMFAO he busts out with.

• anonymousskimmer says:

Adding on to all of this, I never understood why Sublime’s “Summertime” was played on the alt-rock station I listened to.

16. Tarpitz says:

At the risk of looking very silly in twelve months’ time… The Winds of Winter.

17. Civilis says:

[WARNING: MY RECOMMENDATION BELOW IS A BAD IDEA IF YOU EVER ACTUALLY PLAN ON WATCHING WHATEVER IT IS YOU WANT TO KNOW ABOUT]

My go-to for a conversational level approach to a pop-culture subject I want to be passably understanding of (but not actually see) is to go to TV Tropes, read the synopsis, read the Funny / Awesome / Heartwarming / Tearjerker pages, and go through the Characters list skimming the entries for any character mentioned in the synopsis or the pages listed where you don’t yet have an idea who they are. The scenes people are going to remember and talk about are going to be the funny moments, the awesome moments, and the heartwarming / tearjerker moments, and if a character doesn’t show up in one of those, they’re probably not important. This is something you can test; pick a work you’re fuzzy on because you haven’t touched it in a few years, go through TV Tropes, and see if it refreshes your memory and if it missed anything.

For me, it’s not perfect, but it works passably well for works that have few external tie-ins like Harry Potter. This might not work as well for Star Wars / MCU in particular, given the lengthy cross connection between the films and the other works in the canon (the EU for Star Wars, the comics / TV / whathaveyou for the MCU).

[I will second for watching the original trilogy if you haven’t, as a lot of pop culture assumes a basic familiarity with some of the events in the series. If you consume a lot of pop culture, watching the original trilogy will also go a long way towards being able to fill in the events of the prequel trilogy based on conversations with people that have seen it.]

• Going through that seems like more effort than just watching it.

• Civilis says:

It depends on what you are reviewing. Star Wars is probably a bad example (at least for the original trilogy), since the three films have a high ratio of awesome moments to total screentime. It works much better for, say, Harry Potter, where you’re trying to get a synopsis of a seven book / eight film series, and basically all you need to know is who Harry Potter, Draco ‘Leather Pants’ Malfoy, Dumbledore, Voldemort and Severus ‘Alan Rickman’ Snape are and what the four houses, quiddich, and muggles are. How many lines from each Potter film can you expect people to get if you use them in a reference?

It also works better if you’re a quick reader and if you have enough overview of other popular culture. Once you get an idea of the way stories normally go, you can concentrate on what makes each individual story unique and just skim past the repetitive parts (“ok, so Luke’s the hero, Vader’s the villain, and Obi-wan’s the mentor; this is the first film in a trilogy, and it’s following the Hero’s Journey model, so Obi-wan’s going to die, probably at the hands of Vader.”)

18. Dietrich Vollrath: Fully Grown: Why a Stagnant Economy Is a Sign of Success

Historian Patrick Wyman has a book on Early Modern Europe coming out next year which should be good.

19. When it comes to traditions, people will sometimes point to Chesterton’s Fence as an argument against trying to change too much too fast. The problem with that reasoning is that the world is vastly different than it was when people came up with those traditions so they are often outdated. So you might think that we should just try doing things that seem reasonable. Of course, we are really bad at reasoning and doing things from first principles often leads to insanity. You could also just try a lot of experimentation but we’re also bad at reasoning retrospectively. What everyone “knows” from lessons in the past is often wrong or at least oversimplified. Some traditions are still useful and some of them should be eliminated, but we don’t know which is which. The moral of the story is that the last few hundred years is humanity collectively winging it until we reach a more stable equilibrium. No heuristic is going to answer our questions.

• Clutzy says:

This is an incorrect definition of Chesterton’s Fence. Rather, the theory of Chesterton is that you should become familiar with a tradition before judging it and setting out to reform it. Chesterton does not say or imply that there is a bull behind every fence waiting to gore you, rather that you should set out to see if there is first. It is a theory of prudence and caution, not one that opposes progress of all sorts.

For example, lets say a people have a tradition of cremating their dead. Lets say a young reformer comes along and says that this ritual is a waste of firewood, and instead we should simply throw the dead into a ditch near town. It is possible that this young reformer is correct, maybe cremation is a waste. But in order to know, we should first investigate why we cremate. Perhaps it is because of a plague that is exacerbated by open dead bodies, perhaps it is because some drunk priest really liked fires. But until you know the reason, you cannot make a responsible decision about reform.

• Guy in TN says:

Rather, the theory of Chesterton is that you should become familiar with a tradition before judging it and setting out to reform it.
[…]
But until you know the reason, you cannot make a responsible decision about reform.

The logic is sound: When considering a change, it is best to understand the arguments against that change before agreeing to the proposed change.

Alright. But that’s only the first half. Using the same logic: When considering a change, it is best to understand the arguments for that change before deciding to reject the proposed change.

Is this not parallel reasoning?

Is this any more insightful than saying “make sure you consider both the pro’s AND the con’s of an issue”?

• Clutzy says:

So, you replied here before I finished my reply below, but yes, there is a difference. That crucial difference is that the people doing the thing you are proposing to change are actually still alive. So whatever it is cannot be horrifically maladaptive, while the reform could be.

I suppose its kind of a burden of proof standard. Your parents did, in fact, survive to adulthood and create children. Your hypothetical self that eschews all that they did in favor of eating a diet of only mulberries while wearing purple robes without shoes does not have that accomplishment (yet).

• Nancy Lebovitz says:

One thing to explore is whether there’s a consensus about traditions– are there other cultures which are doing about as well even though they have other traditions?

• Guy in TN says:

That crucial difference is that the people doing the thing you are proposing to change are actually still alive. So whatever it is cannot be horrifically maladaptive, while the reform could be.

I suppose its kind of a burden of proof standard. Your parents did, in fact, survive to adulthood and create children.

If we have no other data points, then I suppose defaulting to “trust the oldest person in the room” makes some sense.

But the issue, is that we do have other data points. Human lifespan and well-being has been constantly increasing. Our collective knowledge is accumulating.

On an anecdotal level, many of my “elders” died young due to bad lifestyle decisions (smoking and alcoholism, namely). Should I default to following in their footsteps?

Even in a primitive society, it wouldn’t be that unusual to look at your parent’s lifespans+number of children, compare it to your lifespan+number of children, and conclude that your lifestyle is superior. I don’t see any reason that a “default” to thinking otherwise should be codified as a heuristic.

• I never said that Chesterton’s Fence implies opposing all change. I said it was an argument for caution, which it is.

We don’t know the underlying logic behind the traditions we have and our ancestors usually didn’t either and speculating about why it was put there doesn’t help because our speculation is just speculation. That’s what I’m getting at.

Maybe an example makes it more clear. Look at the Sexual Revolution. Conservatives can tell a story about how strict sexual mores are ubiquitous throughout history and give their reasons why they think so. Liberals can say that the world has changed enough that those conditions no longer apply to us. You’re not going to resolve that debate by thinking really hard about its origin and five decades later, we don’t have a definitive answer that will convince the other side.

• Guy in TN says:

I’ve never understood how Chesterton’s Fence is anything more than a just-so story.

I mean, great, you’ve made up a parable about how you trusted your ancestors, and they happened to be right about something. Well, I can come up with an alternative just-so story about how I placed trust in my ancestors, but they turned out to be idiots. I call it Guy’s Gate. (You can fill in where the name comes from yourself, the details don’t really matter).

So every time someone points to Chesterson’s Fence as a point of argumentative persuasion, I’ll point to Guy’s Gate as a counter. Both are equally weightless just-so stories, of course. But at least now I have a fancy-sounding name to give my argument some Rhetorical Legitimacy.

• Clutzy says:

See my above. Its not about trust, its about investigation and understanding, with a hint of, “well these dingbats DID live long enough to give you life.” Also a hint of, “if you think your ancestor’s were dingbats, why would you think you are not?”

The theory is pretty simple when you boil it down to its essence: Tradition should get extra weight afforded to it because it survived. Your other proposal might be just as good or better, but it is untested. Thus, you have an obligation to demonstrate understanding of the tradition before we take your reform proposals seriously. Otherwise you might be proposing to walk us off a cliff that we have previously intentionally avoided for generations with our tradition.

I think it is rare to find a person who thinks the world needs no (or few) reforms. Chesterton himself advocated for some changes. A quote from him is, “The business of the Conservatives is to prevent the mistakes from being corrected.” I think an excellent contemporary example of responsible Progressive/Conservative collaboration has been the NCAA in college football. For many years the old system of bowls reigned, then there was the BCS, and now there is the 4 team CFB playoff. These have all been progressive reforms, and all have been fairly successful, but they were all also resisted by conservatives to such an extent that almost everyone was aware of both sides. Now the system faces another inflection point of whether to expand to 8 teams. I have seen arguments from both sides, and find neither persuasive (yet). I tend towards 4, simply because I’ve never seen a season with 8 good teams. But, it seems, so far, the decision is not being rushed. It is being studied, which is good.

• Aapje says:

@Guy in TN

Chesterson’s Fence merely argues “there’s probably a reason why things are how they are.”

This seems like a good default, because most things are not random.

• Phigment says:

Right.

Chesterton’s Fence was literally “somebody went to the trouble of putting up a fence here. That person thought there was a good reason for having a fence here. Before you tear down the fence, make sure you know why it was put up in the first place.”

• Guy in TN says:

@Aapje
@Phigment

And if people want to change, there’s probably a reason for that too. People don’t want to change things randomly.

I don’t understand why this argument is typically deployed in only one direction.

• Dacyn says:

If people want to change, their reasons for doing so are object-level considerations, and are thus already taken into account. That’s the asymmetry: revealing the symmetry in what previously looked like an asymmetric argument.

• Phigment says:

Because it’s easy to predict the results of not changing things, and much harder to predict the results of changing things.

If I don’t change anything, tomorrow will probably be a lot like today.

As long as today is OK, that means tomorrow will be pretty likely to be OK, maybe even pleasant, and that’s a pretty good thing.

If I tear the fence down, maybe tomorrow is OK, or maybe my neighbor’s cows wander down the road and get stuck to their bellies in a bog and it takes everyone a tremendous amount of work to get them out again.

• HeelBearCub says:

@Phigment:
I don’t think that argument holds.

The fence is proposed to be taken down because it is unpleasant. Thus not taking the fence down is guaranteed to continue unpleasantness.

The argument is entirely about making sure to take into account whether their is a known/knowable unpleasant effect of taking down the fence, to counterbalance the known pleasant effect. It also supposes that at the time of the fence being put up, there must have been a known effect of putting it up.

• beleester says:

Fred Clark points out that “leaving the fence” is not a zero-cost option, either. Fences need mending, laws need to be enforced. You should not just ask why a fence is needed when you want to tear it down, but also when you go out to maintain that fence!

• Aapje says:

@Guy in TN

Chesterton’s Fence argues that reformers have a duty to not just care about the benefits that their changes bring, but also a duty to investigate potential downsides, so the impact of the proposed change can be evaluated fully. I would argue that it merely addresses a common type of (accidental) deception by those who want change, which is a failure that is very uncommon in status quo advocates.

After all, the consequence of the status quo is typically that things stay as they are. So you don’t have the opportunity for deception as much, as when making a change, where the impact can be far different than expected.

There are a few exceptions, like climate change, where David Friedman argues that climate change has underappreciated benefits. Although it is debatable what the status quo in that situation is (is it to keep producing CO2 or to stop doing so?).

Anyway, if instead you meant that people who are content with the status quo have to do the work for the reformers, coming up with reasons for the change that the reformers can’t come up with (or present convincingly), then that seems unreasonable to me. Why would the people who don’t want the change (yet) have a moral burden to investigate if the change is to their liking?

AFAIK, it is a broadly accepted moral principle that there is no symmetry between action and inaction. In other words, causing a harm by acting gives a larger moral responsibility/blame than not intervening to stop the same harm from happening. Similarly, IMO, the burden is on those who want change to present both the upsides and downsides of that change.

• EchoChaos says:

@Aapje

Although it is debatable what the status quo in that situation is (is it to keep producing CO2 or to stop doing so?).

Keep producing, since that’s been the status quo for about a century.

• Deiseach says:

I don’t understand why this argument is typically deployed in only one direction.

Change is often motivated by enthusiasm, which can curdle into zealotry. It’s the classic risk of “What could possibly go wrong? *does thing, it doesn’t go so well, in the aftermath it’s* How we were supposed to know?”

Nobody is saying change is bad, and change is often necessary. Sometimes the thing you want to change is a big, obvious evil. But not always, and sometimes the thing you want to change is something that’s hugely part of the foundation of your society and culture. Before you start knocking down any walls, be sure that you either know that they’re not load-bearing and it’s safe to knock them down, or have something to bear the load to replace them after you knock them down.

• Aapje says:

@HeelBearCub & beleester

Your arguments seem to be mostly the same, so I’ll try to address them with one comment:

The issue is that there is also a cost to questioning things. You could spend a lifetime investigating all the smaller and larger burdens that you run into during a single day.

Is it necessary for me to get my kids ready for school?
Should I make breakfast for my partner?
Should I close the door of my house?
Lock it?
Should I limit my speed while driving?
Should I drive on the shoulder to get past traffic quickly?
Should I lock my car?
Should I greet my coworkers?
Should I do what my boss asks or what I prefer to do?
Etc, etc, etc.

The optimistic, lazy and/or ignorant reformer simply recognizes the burden and makes the change, seeing how things work out. The issue with this strategy is that you might not be able to simply go back to the old situation. For example, if your partner leaves you, the boss fires you or you die in a car accident.

So the smart move is to use the unique advantage of humanity: our ability to predict consequences.

A problem with predicting consequences of tearing down a fence is that the downsides that we currently experience would like to eliminate or reduce, are a lot more clear than the harm that the fence is preventing.

For example, it is very clear that the fence you are standing in front off is blocking your way. It is less clear that there is a dangerous bull far away on the other side of the field. It is even less clear how bad an attack by a bull can be, unless someone has already torn down a fence once, gotten gored and you heard about this.

Again, the point is not that you shouldn’t tear down the fence, but rather, that you put some serious effort to figure out what the fence was for and whether that reason still holds (perhaps the bull is no more).

Note that there is an element of potential abuse/oppression here as well. Chesterton’s Fence seems to be opposed by left-wing commenters who probably see it as a threat to the progressive project. However, the claim that oppression often comes from people with power being selfish and/or ignorant of others, should IMO lead to support for Chesterton’s Fence to protect the downtrodden.

After all, those who have the power to effect change typically have more power than those they impose the change on. Accidentally or intentionally deceiving people to reduce opposition, so certain consequences are only visible once the change is in effect (making it much harder, more expensive or impossible to reverse) is hardly a partisan affair.

• The original Mr. X says:

@ Guy in TN:

It’s very easy to end up overestimating the benefits and underestimating the negatives of a change: “the grass is always greener on the other side”, and all that. (Just think of the number of people who end up changing jobs/spouses/city in the expectation that everything will be great afterwards, before getting disillusioned when they realise that, after the initial excitement, their life isn’t any more enjoyable than it was before.) So whilst there is no doubt a reason why people want to pull down the fence, that reason might well be “They have an unrealistically rosy picture of what post-fence life would look like.” Hence Chesterton’s insistence that they find out what the fence is actually doing, so that they’ll be in a better position to determine whether or not life without the fence would be better than life with it.

• Guy in TN says:

@Aapje

AFAIK, it is a broadly accepted moral principle that there is no symmetry between action and inaction. In other words, causing a harm by acting gives a larger moral responsibility/blame than not intervening to stop the same harm from happening.

This seems to be one of those “fundamental” value differences. From a utilitarian perspective, there is equal utility loss in directly causing a harm vs deciding not to stop a harm. I’m going to have to simply disagree with you on this point.

• albatross11 says:

Yeah, this is basically the whole point of a lot of trolley problems, right? You can take an action that kills one man to save five, or stand back and let the five get killed. In terms of moral rules (“thou shalt not kill”), you should stand back; in terms of utilitarian reasoning/minimizing deaths, you should shove that fat dude onto the tracks or pull that lever or whatever. I’m not quite clear on what virtue ethics would tell you to do–seems like it depends on the virtues you’re cultivating.

• The original Mr. X says:

@ Guy in TN:

This seems to be one of those “fundamental” value differences. From a utilitarian perspective, there is equal utility loss in directly causing a harm vs deciding not to stop a harm. I’m going to have to simply disagree with you on this point.

I think that very, very few people agree with utilitarianism on this point, even those who identify as utilitarians. You (assuming you’re a westerner of ordinary means who spends his money on ordinary things) could probably save lives by donating more money to charity, but I doubt you think of yourself as a mass murderer.

@ Albatross:

I’m not quite clear on what virtue ethics would tell you to do–seems like it depends on the virtues you’re cultivating.

The usual answer is to evoke the principle of double effect (you can do a good action which has a bad side-effect, but you can’t will a bad effect as a means to getting a good outcome). So you could divert the train onto the track with one person on it, because the death of that person is just a side-effect, but you couldn’t throw the fat person into the way of the train, because in that case your plan requires the bad thing to happen for its success.

• baconbits9 says:

And if people want to change, there’s probably a reason for that too. People don’t want to change things randomly.

I don’t understand why this argument is typically deployed in only one direction.

Traditions aren’t things that one guy did one time, they are generally things that have existed (even if they have evolved) over significantly longer periods. Those traditions were themselves at some point new, which means that a tradition is something that was probably thought out + actually worked reasonably well which is why the fence favors it.

• Guy in TN says:

@baconbits9

Traditions aren’t things that one guy did one time, they are generally things that have existed (even if they have evolved) over significantly longer periods. Those traditions were themselves at some point new, which means that a tradition is something that was probably thought out + actually worked reasonably well which is why the fence favors it.

Okay, but this isn’t the Chesterson’s Fence parable anymore. It’s not that the the fence is a long-standing tradition, revered and respected by the community. It’s just a thing a guy did at one time. Really, the “placement of a fence” is about as good of an example of “thing that happened in the past, but is not a tradition” that one could imagine.

• Guy in TN says:

@Everyone

I see symmetry, symmetry everywhere. Much of these arguments for why the logic of Chesteron’s Fence should be applied only in one direction seem ungrounded. Or at the very least, not inherently obvious such that Chesterson’s Fence explains them as a stand-alone parable (i.e., the parable only makes sense if you already assume conservatism ((here meaning deference to the status quo)) is the best approach, no longer functioning as an argument for conservatism in of itself).

I’ll point them out briefly, commentator by commentator.

Dacyn says:

If people want to change, their reasons for doing so are object-level considerations, and are thus already taken into account.

I do not think it is safe to assume that people who are against a change necessarily fully understand, or have even bothered to take into account, the arguments of people who are advocating for a change.

Phigment says:

Because it’s easy to predict the results of not changing things, and much harder to predict the results of changing things.

and Aapje says:

After all, the consequence of the status quo is typically that things stay as they are. So you don’t have the opportunity for deception as much, as when making a change, where the impact can be far different than expected.

There are predictable, well understood chains of events, and there are chaotic, poorly known chains of events. This does not correlate within the “change vs. no change” framework of Chesterson’s Fence. Many things that are status quo result in more chaotic outcomes, and many things that are opposed to the status quo result in more predicable ones. It would be rather trivial to imagine, even in a literal fence scenario, where leaving the status quo intact results in a more chaotic future (“we have a fence seemingly in the middle of nowhere, and we are now going to have to mow around it, and hope the tractor doesn’t get caught up. Great”) vs. a predictable change (“we are going to remove a fence that is sitting in the middle of the field, apparently doing nothing, in the way of our tractors.”)

I actually encountered this literal scenario from first-hand experience by the way, growing up doing farm work.

@Deiseach

Change is often motivated by enthusiasm, which can curdle into zealotry.

Zealotry is also often associated with orthodoxy. It is not only the advocates for change who can be swept with enthusiasm to the point of irrationality.

@The original Mr. X

It’s very easy to end up overestimating the benefits and underestimating the negatives of a change: “the grass is always greener on the other side”, and all that.

Counterpoint: Nostalgia, “the good old days”, and being creates of habit.

I would argue that in addition to the “bugs” that make it easy to over-estimate the value of change, people also have certain “bugs” that make it very easy for us to overestimate the benefits of maintaining the status quo, becoming irrationally resistant to ongoing and proposed changes.

Just think of the number of people who end up changing jobs/spouses/city in the expectation that everything will be great afterwards, before getting disillusioned when they realise that, after the initial excitement, their life isn’t any more enjoyable than it was before.

I haven’t really followed the econ argument specifically, but didn’t Scott recently link to a Tyler Cowan piece that argued that a serious problem we have is that people don’t move and change jobs enough, i.e. they become so attached to the job/city they live in, that it results in their economic detriment?

• The original Mr. X says:

@Guy in TN:

Counterpoint: Nostalgia, “the good old days”, and being creates of habit.

Yes, but my point was specifically against your argument that people wanting to remove a fence is ipso facto evidence that the fence is doing some harm. People often want to remove a non-harmful fence, or a fence which is no more harmful than any alternatives, and so the mere fact that they want to remove it doesn’t prove that it’s actually doing harm.

• Aapje says:

@The original Mr. X

That is very true. The fact that people want to remove the fence is merely evidence that they believe that the fence is doing harm.

The best example of why equating belief to fact is problematic is probably superstitions. Superstition are extremely common and yet consist of false beliefs that doing or not doing an action causing a desired or undesired outcome.

There is no reason why a fence can’t be part of a superstition.

• Aapje says:

@Guy in TN

Even if you hold action and inaction to be equal, it doesn’t follow that one has to investigate the consequences of actions as much as the consequences of potential actions. After all, the latter is a much larger burden, as the space of potential actions is pretty much infinite, while the space of actions that people actually seriously consider doing, is way smaller.

• Dacyn says:

@Guy in TN:

I do not think it is safe to assume that people who are against a change necessarily fully understand, or have even bothered to take into account, the arguments of people who are advocating for a change.

I agree with this. But my point was that they still had a chance to take those arguments into account, whereas the metaphorical “Chesterton’s bull” represents an anti-change argument that no one involved is able to state, and therefore no one has the chance to take into account. This is an asymmetry, even if its magnitude may be subject to debate.

Regarding your response to Phigment, it seems clear that they meant “it’s easy to predict the results of not changing things, because we have empirical data on what happens when we don’t”, not that it’s easier to predict it from first principles.

• eyeballfrog says:

Chesterton himself addresses this point (emphasis mine):

This paradox rests on the most elementary common sense. The gate or fence did not grow there. It was not set up by somnambulists who built it in their sleep. It is highly improbable that it was put there by escaped lunatics who were for some reason loose in the street. Some person had some reason for thinking it would be a good thing for somebody. And until we know what the reason was, we really cannot judge whether the reason was reasonable. It is extremely probable that we have overlooked some whole aspect of the question, if something set up by human beings like ourselves seems to be entirely meaningless and mysterious. There are reformers who get over this difficulty by assuming that all their fathers were fools; but if that be so, we can only say that folly appears to be a hereditary disease. But the truth is that nobody has any business to destroy a social institution until he has really seen it as an historical institution. If he knows how it arose, and what purposes it was supposed to serve, he may really be able to say that they were bad purposes, that they have since become bad purposes, or that they are purposes which are no longer served. But if he simply stares at the thing as a senseless monstrosity that has somehow sprung up in his path, it is he and not the traditionalist who is suffering from an illusion.

Now, that said, Chesterton has overstated his case a little in a way I think you’ve picked up on, and it has to do with the fact that traditions, unlike fences, are (usually) the result of an evolutionary process rather than a design with a specific intent. To give an illustrative example, there was an experiment to use an evolutionary algorithm to optimize a relatively simple digital logic circuit. The resulting circuit performed excellently, but was nothing like what a human would design. While a human would design a digital circuit to use sequences of gates to do logical computation, the optimized circuit was mess of feedback loops. Further, in digital logic, gates not connected to the input and output are superfluous and can be removed. While this was true of most of the gates in the optimized circuit, there were some “superfluous” gates that were necessary for the circuit to function. Despite being implemented on a digital circuit board, the optimized circuit was doing an analog computation, and determining which gates were truly superfluous would (in general) require an understanding of the underlying analog design.

At this point you’re probably wondering how this illustrates a problem with Chesterton’s fence, rather than being a perfect example of its application. The issue is that truly understanding the analog design is impossible. It depends on the hundreds of tiny electromagnetic interactions between the gates on the board that we abstract away because we can’t measure them accurately and even if we could there would be a nightmarish mess of differential equations to solve afterwards. And this applies just as well to traditions, which have been optimized for the context of the thousands of tiny interactions between humans and with their environment that are hard to measure and even harder to model. We can never be certain that we truly understand the system and aren’t about to remove a seemingly superfluous component of the rules that makes the whole system break. In that sense, Chesterton’s fence is a fully general counterargument against changing anything.

That said, even if full understanding is too high of a bar, that doesn’t mean it should be set at zero. If you’re advocating changing some longstanding rule, you should at least attempt to understand why that rule was beneficial, and take seriously the idea that you might be breaking something important.

• acymetric says:

I really liked this.

Maybe a simpler way to look at the problem with Chesterson’s Fence is that proponents tend to treat everything like a fence. Sometimes it isn’t a fence at all, just a tree that happened to fall across what would otherwise be a nice walking path.

• Phigment says:

This is a good point, expressed well.

• Deiseach says:

Chesterton’s Fence is not “blindly trust this thing on the authority of the ancestors”, it’s “You don’t see the reason for this thing? Well, somebody had a reason for it. Do you know the reason? If you don’t, then you can’t say if it’s a good or a bad reason”.

Chesterton’s Fence says “Yeah, this could be a Guy’s Gate. But until you know why this was done, you’re in no position to say either way, so it’s better to let it alone rather than blindly pull it down, because if the reason is good, it’s a lot harder to build it back up than if you let it stand in the first place.”

• FrankistGeorgist says:

There is one metaphor of which the moderns are very fond; they are always saying, “You can’t put the clock back.” The simple and obvious answer is “You can.” A clock, being a piece of human construction, can be restored by the human finger to any figure or hour. In the same way society, being a piece of human construction, can be reconstructed upon any plan that has ever existed.

• Dacyn says:

But society isn’t purely a piece of human construction. Yes, the choices we make influence what society will become, but there are also plenty of factors that we don’t control. To put it another way, there’s a reason that the social sciences are viewed as less rigorous than engineering.

Sure, but sometimes the choices people will make include “that thing our parents did was too far, we should go back to what our grandparents did.” The pendulum swings.

• Dacyn says:

@Conrad Honcho: Are you responding to me? My point was that “reconstruct[ing society] upon any plan that has ever existed” as FrankistGeorgist describes isn’t as simple as turning back a clock, and that no one person or small group of people has enough control over society to do it unilaterally. So the ability to do so is not necessarily good protection from Chesterton bulls. I agree that “the pendulum swings”, sometimes at least.

Yes, my point is that people making individual choices result in society-wide change, and at times people making individual choices results in society-wide change back.

• FrankistGeorgist says:

My post was a quote from one G.K. Chesterton so I suggest you take it up with him.

• Dacyn says:

@FrankistGeorgist: You know perfectly well that’s impossible. If you didn’t plan to stand by your quote, I don’t know why you posted it.

• FrankistGeorgist says:

Because people should read more Chesterton, and take everything he suggests less seriously. I believe our host said it best, he can’t think in straight lines.

• Dacyn says:

@FrankistGeorgist: I see. Maybe next time you should make it clear when you are quoting someone, especially if you do not agree with what they say.

The problem with that reasoning is that the world is vastly different than it was when people came up with those traditions so they are often outdated.

The world may be different, but people are not. Nothing new under the sun and all that.

• J Mann says:

One implication from Chesterton’s fence is that where possible, experimentation is preferable to wholesale reform.

• Statismagician says:

This is more controversial than I think it should be. I see this all the time out in the real world – us left-y people should love leaving more legislative power to the states; that way, California can do whatever Californian thing it wants, and if it works out well, presumably we can get Mississippi to follow along in a few years.

• salvorhardin says:

+1

• HeelBearCub says:

us left-y people should love leaving more legislative power to the states

“Tragedy of the commons” and “race to the bottom” are well known issues. Or, if you want to go the SJ route, think about the implications of “fully an American citizen, but only in certain states”.

Thus, it is more complex than you are acknowledging.

• Statismagician says:

Because citizenship hasn’t been defined nationally since 1868, and is such a central example of things which would benefit from state-level experimentation instead of different banking regulations or carbon emission-reduction schemes.

• HeelBearCub says:

@Statismagician:
I didn’t expect you to just jump in both feet and confirm my point while thinking you were opposing it.

The Jim Crow South and same-sex married couples before Obergerfell would differ with you.

• Statismagician says:

Both of those are egregiously special cases. Making the South comply with the 14th Amendment is pretty clearly a legit thing for the Federal government to be doing, and it shouldn’t have taken until the 1960s for that to happen either morally or, and this is important, legally – the various Jim Crow laws always were baldly unconstitutional and everybody knew it, cf. the dissent to Plessy v. Ferguson.

Same-sex marriage was legal in various states for over a decade before Obergefell v. Hodges. Would you have preferred Massachusetts not to allow it until 2015?

• HeelBearCub says:

Would you have preferred Massachusetts not to allow it until 2015?

I am saying that grounding support for it in 2015 on the idea of an inerrant right for the states to do as they please is wrong headed. If that is your principle, then this idea of “egregiously special cases” goes out the window.

If Utah’s government made non-Mormons a second class of citizens, would they have any recourse under the Constitution?

ETA: Since, you are saying that forcing compliance with the 14th amendment is something the feds should be doing (so I expect you are going to site the 1st amendment), why don’t you give an example of something the Feds shouldn’t be doing? In what ways are liberals constraining the states’ experimental powers?

• Statismagician says:

Several; trivially through the First Amendment or Article 6, and almost certainly through the 14th Amendment again, but that would depend on specifics.

Where did you get the idea I wanted an “inerrant right for the states to do as they please?” I was talking about the class of stuff including (e.g.) having California do a CA-only version of the Green New Deal immediately rather than spending years and years shouting about it in Congress before eventually passing a meaningless watered-down compromise national version, on the theory that if it actually works, we can then point to actual experimental data and say ‘okay, Mississippi voters, this actually works, would you like to join in?’

Also, judicial =/= legislative, and I have to say it seems like a pretty gigantic leap of logic to go from ‘Statismagician wants states to do more legislating’ to ‘Statismagician wants to let states re-draft the Bill of Rights.’

• HeelBearCub says:

@Staismagician:

us left-y people should love leaving more legislative power to the states;

That’s where I got it from.

And I didn’t see any lefty people decrying, say Vermont, trying to enact universal healthcare. I didn’t see objection to WV teachers striking for better funding for schools. So where are you getting the idea that progressives aren’t in favor of trying to implement change at the state level?

• eyeballfrog says:

Letting the states decide on gay marriage was almost certainly better than SCOTUS laying down the law immediately. If Obergefell had been ruled in 2004 when MA first legalized gay marriage, the backlash would have been immense and likely would have prevented the rather dramatic reversal of opinion on gay marriage that happened in the following decade. c.f. Roe, which overturned 49 states worth of laws compared to Obergefell’s 14. Roe is still a wedge in the country 40 years after the fact, while Obergefell is old hat just 4 years later.

• Clutzy says:

Ideally, I think the original 1865ish vision of how federalism was supposed to work would be ideal. The Federal government ensures that the states give their citizens due process (originalist due process clause interpretation), plus a certain floor of rights (originalist Priv and immunities definition).

Of course, the problem results from what people debate is a “reasonable floor”. You have people like Sanders/Warren arguing that we need universal healthcare, pensions, and free college, while others wouldn’t even implement public schools if given their choice.

• Dacyn says:

@eyeballfrog:

Obergefell is [not a wedge] just 4 years later

I don’t know what bubble you are living in, or else I misunderstand what you are saying…

• cassander says:

@clutzy

while others wouldn’t even implement public schools if given their choice.

This lazy stereotyping of right wing thinking drives me absolutely nuts, and it’s incredibly common. Public education has been mandatory in every state for more than a century. There is zero desire by anyone with political power to abolish public education anywhere, and the idea that it wouldn’t exist without the federal government is totally absurd. Less of this, please.

• eyeballfrog says:

@Dacyn I mean, the Dems clearly see it as settled enough that they don’t need to virtue signal about it anymore (it’s all trans rights now), and I don’t see the organized pushes by the GOP to try to pass a Federal Marriage Amendment that I used to, with Trump himself explicitly saying he’s fine with it and it’s settled. Nor are any states trying to ban it in defiance of SCOTUS. None of that is true of abortion, where red states are just itching to get back to court on the issue, Trump tweets about the horrors of dead babies, and the Dems are trying to one up each other on how many abortion clinics they’ll fund. They’ll have the best abortion clinics. They’ll be huge.

• Clutzy says:

This lazy stereotyping of right wing thinking drives me absolutely nuts, and it’s incredibly common. Public education has been mandatory in every state for more than a century. There is zero desire by anyone with political power to abolish public education anywhere, and the idea that it wouldn’t exist without the federal government is totally absurd. Less of this, please.

Step 1: Literally describe your own POV

Step 2: Get called a troll

Step 3. ?

Of course schools wouldn’t disappear without federal support. But they should not have fed support, and are (IMO) a net negative right now. Not that they have to be, but as you say, they are a 100 year old system that has become sclerotic such that we (in my state) spend about 16k per student per year, for less than half that in value. And the only path to fixing is scrapping it.

• Dacyn says:

@eyeballfrog: Fair enough, though I don’t think Trump is representative of GOP voters. I think a lot of people would want to overturn Obergefell if they got the chance, though maybe they would prefer to use abortion as the first test of that. (My impression is that most people think abortion is a more important issue than gay marriage, not for any historical reasons but because it involves life and death (or bodily autonomy for the other side of the issue) rather than just government recognition of relationships.)

• albatross11 says:

In my pretty liberal Catholic parish, there seems to be a lot of enthusiasm for protesting against abortion, and little or none for protesting against gay marriage so long as the Church isn’t required to take part. I don’t know how representative this is, but it tracks with my own feelings on the matter–the main reason for opposing abortion is because you believe over half a million innocent victims are being murdered every year; the main reason for opposing legal recognition of gay marriage is because you believe that government/society is providing bad moral guidance to the public and is leading people into sin.

• Le Maistre Chat says:

@albatross11:

I don’t know how representative this is, but it tracks with my own feelings on the matter–the main reason for opposing abortion is because you believe over half a million innocent victims are being murdered every year; the main reason for opposing legal recognition of gay marriage is because you believe that government/society is providing bad moral guidance to the public and is leading people into sin.

Mine too. Homosexual marriage is the state promoting an ontological error, but this particular error has relatively few bad material consequences. Insofar as such “marriages” are at least serially monogamous, they even represent an improvement over liberal tolerance of gay male promiscuity.
Abortion OTOH is homicide.

• salvorhardin says:

@Le Maistre Chat

And of course the same hierarchy of priorities holds for those of us on the secular/modernist side as well. Denying same-sex couples state recognition of their marriages is humiliating, unjust, and bigoted, but as long as there are contractual workarounds (registered domestic partnerships, powers of attorney etc) the real-world consequences are relatively mild. Denying pregnant women abortion rights is tantamount to enslaving them.

• cassander says:

@clutzy

what you said came off to me as “those hicks in ‘bama wouldn’t even have schools if we didn’t make them” not “I want to burn down the existing system and start over so we get schools that actually work”, so sorry if I misread your intent. But regardless of your personal view, there’s still no political movement for doing the latter in a serious way in any state, and it’s vanishingly unlikely that one would emerge. even the great New orleans experiment has largely been repealed.

• Nancy Lebovitz says:

salvorhardin:

I agree that forbidding abortion does more damage to people’s lives than forbidding gay marriage, but the workarounds weren’t all that good. They were expensive and not everyone has the money and incomplete.

Also, part of the point is to make gay marriage respective. A major motivation was getting hospital visitation rights.

• Guy in TN says:

I see this all the time out in the real world – us left-y people should love leaving more legislative power to the states; that way, California can do whatever Californian thing it wants, and if it works out well, presumably we can get Mississippi to follow along in a few years.

And leaves blacks in the South to the wolves? No thank you.

To use Chesterson’s Fence argument: There is a reason why progressives in the 20th century fought hard for the federal government to use its power to overrule states rights.

• J Mann says:

I’m a big fan of Jim Manzi’s book, Imprisoned.

You can’t always do it, but in many cases, as long as you’re going to introduce a new spending program or regulation anyway, you can do it in a way that gets you experimental data.

• Probably, but like I said we often don’t know what exactly what worked and why. If we wait for cultural selection to kick in, then the world has already changed and it may no longer be applicable. It’s like that saying about how generals are always ready for the last war. There’s another problem with risk tolerance. Soviet style socialism was an experiment on a grand scale that killed hundreds of millions. How many of those experiments should we be willing to tolerate? How much is too much?

• An Fírinne says:

Soviet style socialism was an experiment on a grand scale that killed hundreds of millions.

Hundreds of millions? Usually the ludicrous 100 million figure is thrown around but hundreds of millions? Got a source for that?

• Sorry. I should have said communism killed tens of millions of people.

• thevoiceofthevoid says:

…huh, this unintentionally served as a reminder that my brain doesn’t really distinguish between “millions dead” and “hundreds of millions dead”; in terms of how much it emotionally rouses me, they elicit identical reactions.

• Nancy Lebovitz says:

The other thing I’ve noticed with numbers is that the significant digits (the one or two left-most digits) are easier to remember than the magnitude.

• albatross11 says:

Yeah, it’s like if someone came up with rock-solid evidence that the Holocaust had really only killed a million Jews instead of six million–that would be a big deal in terms of history, but it wouldn’t change your moral evaluation of the Nazis a bit. I guess in a similar (awful) way, a mass shooter who killed ten people and one who killed twenty people seem about the same to me, morally. In utilitarian terms, they’ve very different, but in terms of violating basic moral rules, they’re in the same category. (And I’d want the justice system to treat them the same way.).

• Phigment says:

Tangent: I kind of think that Chesterton’s Fence is one of those parables that has lost some power because society has changed. Specifically because more and more of the population is urban now, and doesn’t get exposed to lots of semi-idle property.

The original story is that there’s a path or a road, and across it is a fence, and nobody knows why that fence exists. That’s hard to fit into an urban area, where every piece of property has an owner, and it all gets used regularly, by humans, so anything which people don’t know the use for probably has no use.

But my family has a farm, for a few generations now. And it’s super-common for me to be walking around on that farm and find something my grandfather did, and not know the story behind it. And I’ll have to ask my father about it, and maybe he’ll know, or maybe he won’t, but there’s always some story.

So, sometimes the story of that weird fence is “the old sugar cane mill was there 100 years ago, and the fence keeps cattle from getting into that area and messing with it”, and that sugar cane mill is a funny-shaped pile of rocks and a big tree now; we don’t need that fence.

Sometimes the story is “there’s an abandoned well over there, and that fence keeps kids from going there and falling in”, and that abandoned well is still a big, dangerous hole in the ground.

It seems to me that most people these days don’t have a lot of chances to just wander around in undeveloped terrain and find inexplicable things people have done which nobody remembers any more.

• albatross11 says:

There’s an obvious parallel in programming, where you find some weird code you can’t quite figure out the purpose of. Hmmm, should I just comment this out, or had I better figure out why the previous programmer put it in first?

• salvorhardin says:

And note this analogy also supports the experimentation-first implication discussed upthread: software engineers know that the prudent thing, when shipping risky changes, is to release an alpha version first to risk-tolerant early adopters and see how that goes, then a beta with a wider group, and only then roll out to everyone.

• Clutzy says:

Sure, in the sense of a fence in the wild, but I see stuff like this quite often in the city as well. Instead you have No Parking Zones where if you do park there your car gets crushed by snow when the plows go by, or people will have metal bars on the windows of houses that look like they are in otherwise safe neighborhoods (hint, burglars have legs and sometimes cars!), etc. A lot of time you will hear people muse about how ugly they are and should get removed, or how that is a primo parking spot.

• anonymousskimmer says:

No Parking Zones where if you do park there your car gets crushed by snow when the plows go by

Are the postings seasonal limitations, or general “No Parking Ever” limitations?

I’m used to “No Parking between X and Y, M-F”, which has intuitively reasonable purpose. This is equivalent to a fence with a “Beware of dog” sign. Or a barred window with a “Community Watch” or “Property protected by…” sign.

Likewise a driver’s manual states the purposes of red and yellow curb markings.

In the modern era it seems less and less reasonable to not have at least part of the reason for the fence attached to the fence, or explicitly listed in an informational resource made available to everyone who would legally want to cross the fence.

This applies even to Chesterton’s Fence issues where people should be fairly loud about what purposes they believe a thing is fulfilling, so that the debate can be about the rightness of said purposes and fulfillment.

• Clutzy says:

As someone who lives in the city, the problem of people ignoring parking violations that are sensible is very high. People park in the zones that are “no parking when over 2” of snow” zones all the time, when there is expected snow. I have seen the results in 3 different cities.

Obviously there are also other regs that are based on other considerations that are less important. But, my neighbor also suffered a huge damage to her car because she ignored a sign about a diseased tree, and it fell before the city came to take it away. Overall I think it is probably prudent for individuals to heed such signs when their profit is low. An extra 90 seconds of walking with groceries is basically a boon to your cardiovascular system, not a detriment.

But, also, residents are over-regulated as a result of the problems caused by bad enforcement. And that is because the old fence of beat cops has been replaced by meter maids who have no connection to the community.

• The Nybbler says:

Over-regulation is a big problem. Chesterton’s fence makes a lot less sense in a world where 1% of the fences are put up for a reason that is justifiable at the time, and 99% are put up by mad fencers who just like fences, and the difference isn’t obvious at first glance.

• anonymousskimmer says:

Someone ignoring a parking violation for their own sake is hugely different than someone water-blasting a red curb away (or mad painting their own red curbs).

Chesterton’s Fence is about removing the fence for everyone, not personally hopping over it.

20. Dino says:

[USA specific]
It seems to me like mass shootings are happening more frequently. Is this recency bias? Media bias? Or really happening?

I blame Trump.

• eyeballfrog says:

Why does Snopes list that as “mixture” instead of the far more accurate “false”?

• meh says:

your second guess is probably correct

• Aapje says:

@eyeballfrog

Bias

• GearRatio says:

I’m in the odd situation of A. Thinking Snopes is a useless lie hole and B. feeling like I need to defend them a tiny bit here.

Their definition of terms is here, and states that “mixture” is defined as:

This rating indicates that a claim has significant elements of both truth and falsity to it such that it could not fairly be described by any other rating.

Contrast that to the adjacent “Mostly False”:

This rating indicates that the primary elements of a claim are demonstrably false, but some of the ancillary details surrounding the claim may be accurate.

In this case, not all of the primary elements of the claim are demonstrably false – the dataset they are assuming the initial statement to have been derived from doesn’t show any female or illegal immigrant mass shooters. Since they can’t show that all the primary claims are false, it’s not unreasonable to move it one category less severe from “mostly false” using their stated definitions.

Don’t get me wrong: Snopes is a nearly worthless site, and shouldn’t be trusted with framing any particular part of your worldview. It’s best use is finding the rare something they’ve written that says someone on the left is wrong so you can say the phrase “even liberal snopes….”. But to my eyes they don’t appear to be especially wrong or dishonest in this isolated case.

• Ninety-Three says:

useless lie hole

The weird thing about most of the fact-checking sites is that their headlines tend to be uselessly biased lies, but if you click through and actually read the article you often find a presentation of the facts that’s clear enough for you to see the bias and come to your own conclusions.

I take this to indicate that they generally aren’t scheming propagandists deliberately pushing a false narrative, just badly biased humans who see everything their team does in a much better light than the other team.

• baconbits9 says:

If Snopes works like the rest of headline media does then the author holds most of the credit/blame for the body and the editor (or other manager) picks the title.

Another failure mode of fact checking sites is that they get to choose what goes in the Claim box.

Politician: “I claim A.”

Snopes: “Politician claims B, which is false.”

Where B is very similar to but not quite A. In paragraph six they’ll say that what’s actually true is something like A.

• Nancy Lebovitz says:

What do you think of Snopes on non-political topics?

Perfectly fine for debunking urban legends.

• GearRatio says:

On non-political science stuff, I find them to be unsatisfactorily shallow. On topics non-scientific and non-political I wouldn’t know – I’m not sure why anybody would fact-check them anyway.

• eyeballfrog says:

@GearRatio

While me saying it is false is perhaps too strong (though I do think an unhedged claim to truth with zero supporting evidence is a form of lying), I’m still calling Snopes a liar. Looking through their rating system, Snopes does has a rating for statements that could be true but are not supported by evidence: Unproven. By not rating it unproven, they are claiming that there are verifiably true statements in the claim, which is a lie.

• GearRatio says:

@GearRatio

By not rating it unproven, they are claiming that there are verifiably true statements in the claim, which is a lie.

There are verifiable true statements in the claim; they are fact-checking someone who references a more-or-less legitimate information source, and says it makes three claims (no black, no illegal, no women). Of those three, one is false, one unverifiable, and one true according to the document they reference. It’s not until they use another definition for mass shooting not used by the document referenced that they can find some women who fit the bill.

Unproven seems to be to be appropriate if they had only made the second claim (no illegals). The other two fit mixture pretty well, and I’m not sure it isn’t unreasonable to go “Well, you need a specific category for when three claims are made that are true, false, and unproven that isn’t mixture”, so I’m not comfortable calling them a liar in this specific case. It’s pretty semantic-y at this point though, so reasonable people can disagree and all that.

• eyeballfrog says:

You’re overlooking this point:

In 102 of those [154] cases, the archive identified no named suspect, or the race, gender, and immigration status of the perpetrators was unknown or unclear.

It’s definitely unproven that zero of those 102 people are women.

• GearRatio says:

I mean, what do you want them to do here? If “there’s zero evidence for there being women mass shooters by this definition” isn’t good enough to prove “there’s no women mass shooters by this definition”, then they’d also have to use “unproven” on things like “unicorns aren’t real” or “the government is all lizard people”.

If “there’s no evidence, at all, for this” isn’t good enough, then they’d have to put “unproven” on every claim that something doesn’t exist. That’s not a reasonable or useful standard.

• Dacyn says:

@GearRatio: Presumably women commit fewer mass shooters proportionally than men, so let’s concentrate on illegal immigrants. They make up about 3% of the population, so in 103 cases we should expect to see about 3 of them. So it seems like the burden of proof is on the person who says this number is exactly 0. (The fact that none of the 52 suspects whose immigration status was identified were illegals is consistent with random chance here.)

• GearRatio says:

I don’t need illegal immigrants to be innocent for mixture to be appropriate; I just need for a fact-checking site to be unwilling to make this statement, and for their refusal to make it to be reasonable:

“The statement uses a data-set that recorded 153 mass shootings, defined by being a single incident where 4 or more people, non-inclusive of the perpetrator, where shot and killed. This source identified no female shooters. Further, no source of any kind identified a female shooter in 2018 who met these criteria. However, our standard of “no killers” isn’t just “nobody reported any and none were observed” but instead “none were possible”.”

Listen, believe me, I think Snopes is the worst; I don’t think they have any practical value in terms of reliability in any matter of controversy. If they were right here, I think that it means they were asleep on what they consider to be their jobs; I have zero confidence in them to be fair or impartial.

That being said, I don’t think ANYBODY can, in a practical sense, answer questions of this type if the standard is “get a camera on every part of earth at once, or else you can’t say there aren’t unicorns”. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to declare a statement of “no women mass shot this year” accurate if you check and literally no news source or study is claiming there was one.

• Dacyn says:

@GearRatio: All Unproven means is that “insufficient evidence exists to establish the given claim as true”. So in your example statement, “no killers” would have to be replaced by “there is evidence which establishes that there are no killers”. Which seems to pretty clearly imply “none were possible”, at least if “possible” is taken relative to the degree of confidence indicated by the word “established”.

As the calculation in my previous comment showed, I think there probably were illegal immigrants in the sample. I honestly don’t know whether there were women. We don’t have a good estimate of the base rate, but the fact that there were some women under the alternate definition of mass shooting suggests that perhaps this base rate is not so low. So the comparison with unicorns is completely unwarranted. (Even if we didn’t have this evidence, we can easily see how a woman could potentially become a mass shooter, whereas we don’t really know how one would make a unicorn.)

The point being, if you call something “established” and it turns out to be false, then barring special circumstances, it suggests that your definition of “established” is pretty fragile.

(This discussion is kind of ironic because I’m sure people are politically more interested in the base rate itself than in using the base rate to infer something about some sample. But Snopes did phrase the claim it was evaluating in terms of the sample.)

• GearRatio says:

So I’m now in the weird situation of having to break this up into two arguments, the first a meta about the appropriate use of “false” and the second about whether or not it’s likely a woman did a mass shooting in 2018.

Meta:

So let’s say Snopes is evaluating a claim, and that it’s “The President was assassinated this year”. We would expect them to evaluate it a certain way; I.E. they’d look to see if it was reported that he was, and then look to see if that reporting was credible, see if there was contrary evidence, etc.

What we’d expect them to say in this situation is that the claim was “False”. The reason they’d say that is there’s absolutely no evidence he was assassinated. We would all, I would assume, think this was reasonable.

Now say someone comes in and says “Hey, but you don’t actually know that – what if he were assassinated, like, five minutes ago and they haven’t found the body yet? What if he was assassinated and nobody reported on it? Aren’t you a biased liar for not marking this as “unproven” since you can’t actually know?

No, they aren’t; at least no, they aren’t unless you want a functionally useless set of “false” and “true” definitions that demand that every atom of the truth be known absolutely before you make any claim of truth or not.

Does Nancy Pelosi ritualistically torture animals? Unproven.Was Mr. Rogers a rapist? Unproven. Just because there’s no evidence, at all, that these things are true doesn’t mean they AREN’T true so we can’t mark them off. Is the 737 max thing a industrial sabotage thing by Airbus? Unproven. Is the government hiding the cure for cancer? Unproven.

Now, you might want to say “hey, those ARE all technically unproven. they should be marked as such, utility of categories be damned”. That’s fine, I think it’s unreasonable but I don’t think I can change that opinion if it’s what you think. But the context of the thread is “Snopes is a biased liar!” and I don’t think that’s fair – even to Snopes, who I hate – given that they are using the same “there’s no evidence of this anywhere” standard that they’d use to accurately-within-reason report that Trump isn’t dead by the hands of a political dissident.

Probability

Yes, there’s a base-rate of women who commit mass shootings in the “4 people who aren’t the shooter were shot or shot dead” sense that’s being used here. From what I can see on the internet, it’s pretty low (like 1-3% low, depending on standard, it’s complex), but they exist. So it’s possible that there is a mass shooter by this definition in any given year; we’ve seen female mass shooters before.

But taking that possibility as a truth, it’s also true that there are years where there don’t appear to be female mass shooters in a way that just isn’t true of men.

The way we can talk about seeing female mass shooters before is they were noticed and documented and written about, as you’d expect when someone kills 4 people as the gender unlikely to do this in the first place.

I’ve looked pretty hard and can’t find a news story on a woman shooter who killed 4 or more people excluding herself that year. This goes above and beyond “the ~150 in this story didn’t, It just doesn’t appear they did at all in any documented way. So to the extent we don’t know there weren’t any female mass shooters by that definition in 2018, we also don’t know for any year since the invention of the firearm. (I can easily be proven wrong on this if anybody can find a case where a woman shot 4 people in 2018, I just couldn’t after a lot of googling).

So my summary would be this:

If Snopes can’t say there weren’t any female mass shooters in the period of 2018 mentioned, or 2018 in general, then they can’t say it about any year at all since firearms were common; it’s always exactly as possible that a mass shooting went publicized in any year. If that standard is carried over, they can’t call any accusation false; Jimmy Carter *might* have been a secret cannibal and just not caught, etc.

While I can’t change any minds if anyone wants them to be completely factual and label all things for which there are zero evidence “unproven”, I think this enough of a loss of real utility for the sake of pedantry that it would be silly for them to do this. At the very, very least I think calling them biased liars (IN THIS CASE) to be unfair.

• Aapje says:

There was a mass shooting at Youtube in 2018 with a woman as the perpetrator. She only wounded three people, but her intent seemed to have been to kill as many as she could.

• Dacyn says:

@GearRatio: First for non-meta: I am completely confused about what you think here, since you write both

Yes, there’s a base-rate of women who commit mass shootings in the “4 people who aren’t the shooter were shot or shot dead” sense that’s being used here. From what I can see on the internet, it’s pretty low (like 1-3% low, depending on standard, it’s complex), but they exist.

and

I’ve looked pretty hard and can’t find a news story on a woman shooter who killed 4 or more people excluding herself that year […] for any year since the invention of the firearm.

and these two quotes seem to me to be directly contradictory. So maybe you should clarify.

Regarding meta: You bring in a lot of analogies, but they all share the property that the claim is prima facie implausible or at least unlikely. So whether the analogies are valid depends on whether the female shooter claim is prima facie implausible or unlikely.

For the record: I think the “weirdness” is coming partly from the fact that we are trying to ask whether the “Unknown” category applies to a claim that is most straightforwardly interpreted as a claim about the contents of a document. Such an application appears to be nonsensical since the document either says something or it doesn’t, there is no possible state of unprovenness. If we interpret the claim in this way, then “Mostly false” is probably the best categorization, because none of the three statements are consequences of what is in the document, although restricted versions of two of the statements do follow from the documents.

• The Nybbler says:

Looking at the Mother Jones data, which does exclude ordinary criminal violence, I see 10 incidents for 2019, 12 for 2018, 11 for 2017, 6 for 2016, 7 for 2015, 4 for 2014, 5 for 2013, 7 for 2012. So I guess you can blame Trump if you like. It appears most of the mass shootings this year were not ideological. Several job-related, one anti-Hispanic, one anti-Semitic and anti-cop, one maybe Islamic terrorism, and the rest no clear motive.

• broblawsky says:

If you believe that gun control could reduce mass shootings, then you could blame Trump (and Republicans in general) for opposing gun control.

• Garrett says:

Given that Trump has done the biggest restriction on gun rights in several Presidencies by fiat with the “bump stock ban”, he isn’t opposing gun control.

I’m opposed to the bump stock ban simply because “give them an inch and they’ll take a mile.” But I hope no one is actually concerned about bump stocks: they are less than worthless. If SHTF and you show up to the barricades with a bump stock I’m sending you home.

• Garrett says:

I’m not showing up to the barricades at all – I lost all my guns in a tragic boating accident.

• anonymousskimmer says:

There have been a total of three presidents since the invention of the first bump stocks.

The standard definition of “several” appears to usually be more than three.

Rights that literally cannot be practiced aren’t rights.

And Trump removed Obama’s rule placing those receiving SSI disability-benefits with mental health conditions on the FBI’s background check system. Was that a bigger “restriction” than the bump stock ban?

The Justice Department apparently estimated a little over 500 thousand bump stocks were sold. While in 2016 a bit over 3.5 million received SSI for mental disabilities. (I don’t know whether people receiving SSI for a physical disabilty, who also have a mental disability that they aren’t receiving SSI for, were included as well.)

At 30% of US residents owning a gun, this means the SSI order affects a little over 1 million potential gun owners – at least twice the number of those owning bump stocks (assuming only one bump stock per owner). And while the bump stock rule limited a particular use case of a gun, the background check rule potentially limited all use cases of a gun for those affected.

21. eyeballfrog says:

I would be hesitant to use this method for the more recent films. Critical opinion of late has been decoupled from both fan opinion and reality.

• The Pachyderminator says:

There is no “reality”, ie there is no fact of the matter about which movies are better than others.

• If we take “reality” as meaning “that which is not seen through a myopic ideological lens that has little to do with the movie itself”, then it’s fairly accurate.

• The Pachyderminator says:

Believe it or not, there are people in the world who genuinely like things that you don’t like.

• Yes but reviewers are now forthright in going out of their way to judge movies by their politics. Even five years ago, they judged movies as movies themselves. Now they have all decided to become activists.

Next book in the Dresden Files is finally coming in July 🙂 But now for Charles Murray as well.

• A Definite Beta Guy says:

Another Dresden book? This definitely will be the highlight of the year.

• albatross11 says:

Murray’s new book, and the next book in the Murderbot series.

@albatross11
Thanks for the recommendation, Murderbot made great holiday reading. The other series by the same author are as good?

I’ve been binging articles from UnHerd after being linked to the site from here. It’s pretty good stuff. It seems to contain perspectives from all over the political field, with the only common denominator that they all really freaking hate neoliberalism. “Down with selfish individuality, up with responsibility and community!” goes the common refrain, though just what that means for each contributor varies wildly.

I’m… torn.

On the one hand, yes, I also think that neoliberalism sucks. It’s an idealogy that seems made by and for trendy bloggers and columnists, the sort of people for whom paid work and self-indulgent self-expression are one and the same. Who’s never needed to ask for anyone’s charity, since the world has always fallen over itself to reward them for their sparkly specialness. Who absolutely cannot understand or sympathise with someone who considers their day to start when they get to go home from their soul-killing job, and who nevertheless has to be humiliatingly grateful to have that soul-killing job in the first place because homelessness and starvation is a real possibility.

Community-minded traditionalism, on the other hand, does have a place for the only-barely-getting-by, since it places importance on group identity more than personal awesomeness. It’s not a very good place, it’s a place of considerable condescension, constant nagging to conform better and the expectation of eternal gratitude for being allowed to exist, but… a place, all the same. You can make a case for charity on traditionalist grounds. You really kind of can’t on neoliberal grounds – why should the sparkly individuals allow any losers and misfits to cramp their style? At the most, they might throw some money at the freaks to make them go away, but even that is dubious. Being fabulous is expensive, after all, so having to pay for the boring lives of boring losers is the same as being dragged down to their level.

So yes, I’ll take community-minded conservatism over self-obsessed liberalism… if that’s the best choice I get.

But the thing is, that’s still a crappy choice. I don’t like overbearing communities. I don’t like the pressure to conform. I certainly don’t like the idea that we all have to suffer and sacrifice in the name of some arbitrary notion of group identity. I want people to get to live their individual best lives. I just want everyone to get to do that, not just the trendy bloggers. I want a certain amount of self-sacrifice to enable non-self-sufficient people to exist, yes, but not in the name of any ephemeral category but in the name of the essential humanity of even non-photogenic people. I want a collectivism that’s intended to maximise individualism, not one that’s an end in itself.

If neoliberalism is currently being shown the door in favour of lowest-common-denominator populism, as the contributors to UnHerd seem to be constantly implying and which I can’t deny seems to be the case, then I think that that is what it has earned by its elitism and self-obsession. But oh, what I wouldn’t give for a liberalism that could actually extend its promise of self-actualisation to everyone!

• cassander says:

On the one hand, yes, I also think that neoliberalism sucks. It’s an idealogy that seems made by and for trendy bloggers and columnists, the sort of people for whom paid work and self-indulgent self-expression are one and the same. Who’s never needed to ask for anyone’s charity, since the world has always fallen over itself to reward them for their sparkly specialness. Who absolutely cannot understand or sympathise with someone who considers their day to start when they get to go home from their soul-killing job, and who nevertheless has to be humiliatingly grateful to have that soul-killing job in the first place because homelessness and starvation is a real possibility.

You’re not describing anything like neoliberalism here, which was absolutely not in favor of abolishing the welfare state. the neoliberal wave (which is sadly now receding) brought the greatest improvement in standard of living in world history. it lifted billions out of poverty.

You really kind of can’t on neoliberal grounds – why should the sparkly individuals allow any losers and misfits to cramp their style?

again, that’s not an argument any self described neoliberal has ever made. what, exactly, do you think neoliberalism is? because where I come from it was a movement dedicated to opening up global trade and currency flows, designing welfare systems that worked through and with markets rather than against them, and reducing state ownership of industry and control of labor.

• hilitai says:

“[neoliberalism] was a movement dedicated to opening up global trade and currency flows, designing welfare systems that worked through and with markets rather than against them, and reducing state ownership of industry and control of labor.”

Can you give some examples of the second of your characteristics (“designing welfare systems…”) here? Because in my experience, the term “neoliberalism” was mainly associated with characteristics #1 (free trade) and #3 (reducing state control) — but especially #1, a thousand times over.

I had always thought of neoliberalism as pro-corporate, global free trade, and then fund programs for the poor with the profits. Or, more cynically, buy off the poor with programs/handouts.

• cassander says:

In the US, welfare reform was a big part of the neo-liberal push.

• Byrel Mitchell says:

Not the OP, but Milton Friedman is one of the economist icons of neoliberalism as I understand it, and pushed for a universal basic income (prior to the term being coined, so he called it a reverse income tax.)

• Nancy Lebovitz says:

Also, the traditionalist approach doesn’t leave room for people who aren’t part of existing communities.

• The Nybbler says:

I want a certain amount of self-sacrifice to enable non-self-sufficient people to exist, yes, but not in the name of any ephemeral category but in the name of the essential humanity of even non-photogenic people.

People who can’t support themseles aren’t free to support, and it’s not self-sacrificing when the government is extracting the resources to support them. Furthermore, once you start talking about “essential humanity”, you’re writing a blank check. You’re going down a slippery slope that doesn’t end even when a large chunk of your budget goes to supporting them (and ever more is demanded) and when all public spaces must be dedicated or yielded to them. Community-minded conservatism may be mean, judgmental, and miserly, but it does avoid that particular failure mode; community is not expected to be merely a mechanism by which the competent are made to support those who are not.

• An Fírinne says:

Have you heard of Karl Marx? He’s this German philosopher and economist who I would suggest you check out.

24. viVI_IViv says:

Sorry, I couldn’t resist. But seriously, what are you trying to accomplish? Sure, you can read plot summaries and learn all the factoids, but this would be like reading a description of the Mona Lisa instead of actually looking at the picture: you still wouldn’t get what it’s really about.
If you haven’t watched the movies already, and you aren’t interested in watching them, why do you want to engage people who actually like them?

• Civilis says:

For me, I want to get the references that pop up in day to day culture. These days, there’s enough intersectionality between fandoms and between specific fandoms and the wider outside world that it’s nice to have a passing knowledge of major works because they will be referenced.

I’m a fan of Terry Pratchett’s novels. I have no interest in stage plays. The first Pratchett novel I read was Maskerade, which is a send-up of stage plays, The Phantom of the Opera in particular, and I could enjoy that the novel’s Opera Ghost was a send-up of the Phantom while never having seen it on stage (or elsewhere) because I knew enough to get most of the references. And it was good that the book was so enjoyable that I read more and got hooked.

For an example of a fandom intersecting the wider world, I have no interest in Game of Thrones / A Song of Ice and Fire. I don’t have that much time to spend reading a book series that may never be finished, especially one that seems way to depressing for me to enjoy, and I’m not paying for HBO and spending time in front of a TV to watch it. Still, for a while, there were plenty of references to [Insert Popular Female Politicians] as Denarys Targaren (not bothering to look up the right spelling), Mother of Dragons, so it was worth it to know who she was, and the payoff was when the TV series ended with her doing a rapid transition from hero to villain watching the people that had been making the comparison do a rapid rewrite.

• HeelBearCub says:

Apropos of not too much, this,

there’s enough intersectionality between fandoms

is a good example of the mechanisms by which language can change.

Not sure if this just a typo, or an actual malapropism, but it hardly matters. Contextually, it fills a void of apparent meaning for the reader.

• Nick says:

I think it’s more catachresis than malapropism: the experience of reading fiction laden with Harry Potter and Foundation references is not reducible to reading Harry Potter or reading Foundation, but is a unique combination of the two. Or: yer a wizard, Hari.

• Civilis says:

I’m trying to use it in the mathematical sense (as much as I remember it), from which its usage in Social Justice presumably derives.

The group of fans of Harry Potter is a set.
The group of fans of Foundation is a set.
Presumably, there is an intersection of the two groups containing all the individuals who are fans of both Harry Potter and Foundation, itself a set.

It’s been a long time since I’ve talked about this sort of thing, so I’d appreciate it if there’s a better term.

• HeelBearCub says:

@Civilis:
If you want to talk about it in terms of sets, I think you would just there is an intersection of the two fandoms. Intersectionality is not, AFAIK, a term that’s used in mathematics.

That is actually what I understood you to be saying, which is why I guessed it it was a malapropism. Intersectionality sounds like it should be some form of intersection.

I think if we wanted to form a meaning for intersectionality from mathematical “intersection” and the “-ality” ending (like physicality) then we would be saying something about the inherent nature or property of intersections, rather than the simple fact that you run into many people from and references to different fandoms.

So, the phrase “the necessary intersectionality of pop culture with a many unique and otherwise and dissimilar groups” I think would make more sense (but would still be confusing in any place that talks about social justice). I also agree that this sense of the word is where the social justice meaning comes from.

25. The impression I get from my people I know is that they don’t pay as much attention anymore to the latest Trump controversy, whether they support or oppose him. Do you get a similar impression from people you know?

• J Mann says:

I personally feel like he’s a known quantity. I pay more attention when I see evidence of (a) his policies being successful, or (b) evidence of malfeasance substantially beyond what I expect, because those stories have the potential to surprise me.

I’ve been paying a lot less attention to news in general. Can’t say I miss it.

• Well... says:

“I stopped paying attention to the news. Darnit, I miss the news. I think I’ll go back to paying attention to it.” -Nobody, ever

• Dacyn says:

Actually, this is my dad about a month or two ago, who cut Trump out of his newsfeed but then regretted it because he didn’t hear about the impeachment until it had already been a story for a while…

• thevoiceofthevoid says:

I didn’t hear about the impeachment for a while, but I suspect that as usual it has very little chance of impacting me personally in any noticeable way even if he’s actually remove from office; and that even if it has broad consequences for the nation there’s not much of anything I could feasibly do to affect them. No regrets.

• Well... says:

Did your dad just feel left out of water cooler conversation, or did he have an important reason to know about the impeachment? FOMO is a real thing, I guess, but I’d have trouble buying it justiies news consumption by itself.

• Dacyn says:

@Well…: He didn’t have an important reason to know about it. As to whether it justifies news consumption, I suppose it depends on how big you think the costs of news consumption are.

• Well... says:

These probably happen in different measures to different people, but I’d guess that for the average person who is inclined to consume journalism — especially consuming it due to FOMO — the main costs are loss of time, wasted emotional expenditure, and distortion of one’s worldview and value hierarchy. And of course whatever money or other resources one spends on it.

@thevoiceofthevoid:

Seems to me any given news story can be said to operate along two axes: its objective importance, and the extent to which a typical audience member could expect to be able to act on the information. The two are inversely correlated, too: the more important a news story, the less likely you’d be able to do something with the information.

The catch is, the more likely you’d be able to do something with the information, the more likely you’ll still be able to hear about it somewhere else (often, this is also somewhere more credible) than from journalism. A good example there might be something like a recall on your car: the manufacturer will contact you directly.

If there’s a rational justification for consuming journalism (for most people), I haven’t heard it.

• A Definite Beta Guy says:

Probably. Based on my Facebook feed, I’d agree. However, that might be because Facebook is curating my feed. Based on conversations with friends, I’d say Trump has become much less prominent. It’s very rare that we talk about Trump at our dinner parties much anymore. Same with family Christmas and the like.

That all these things agree with each other makes me think your hypothesis is probable.

• albatross11 says:

I think most people I know recognize that Trump is a conversational black hole.

• AliceToBob says:

@ Wrong Species

My family and friends outside of the US seem to pay attention to Trump news quite a bit. One such family member alerted me to the impeachment effort. But until I hear that Trump is forced out of the White House, I don’t think it’s a good use of time to keep abreast of various alleged scandals.

I stopped reading/listening to any major news outlets back in March after comments here from one poster (might have been Wrong Species or Well…, I’m sorry, I can’t remember) made a convincing argument that it is (paraphrasing) mostly low-content, un-actionable, and biased spam. Those comments aligned with my view of financial news, and so the generalization seemed natural. I seem to learn enough from a handful of blogs, like this one, and I’ve only noticed benefits from this information diet.

Although I don’t think it’s something to be proud of, I’ve thought about trying to remain ignorant of the 2020 election outcome. It’d be tricky to accomplish, and clearly wouldn’t last, but I wonder how long one could do this without a major life disruption (such as losing your job).

• DinoNerd says:

Yeah.

My mind was made up before he was elected. I haven’t seen anything since that convinced me that Trump was even worse than I already thought he was, or that I or those I care about most would be better off with Pence as president. And I’m pleasantly surprised that he’s only started a trade war, and not a shooting war.

The only people I know who focus on this news are those who like to feed their confirmation bias – and spread their evidence to others. Most of the ones I know are spreading their “evidence” that Trump is worse than Hitler, Stalin, Satan and Pol Pot – but I occassionally find those with “evidence” that Trump is the best President since at least George Washington. (Certainly better than every Democrat president they are old enough to think of mentioning.)

[Note to those who don’t know me – I despise Trump. And the paragraph above indulges in what I hope is hyperbole, rather than descriptive of the expressed beliefs of even the worst of the fanatics here.]

26. J Mann says:

Reading this blog has convinced me to shift to free range eggs, and I imagine I’ll shift to free range chicken meat this year.

On the same token, stuff like this, if true, suggests to me that I should morally evaluate whether to buy Chinese goods at all. Are there some good resources I can use to help decide?

• An Fírinne says:

How is making prisoners work and be productive members of society a bad thing? Anyway prison labour is quite a popular thing so you would be boycotting quite a few countries.

• albatross11 says:

And if making prisoners work is good, think how much more good it must be to make each of their transplantable organs work for the good of society. Your arms and back can do a little useful work, but your liver, kidneys, corneas, etc., can do far more….

• An Fírinne says:

If prisoners die then yes their organs should be put to good use.

• marshwiggle says:

Does that extend to choosing the prisoner’s date of death to be able to assure foreign and domestic doctors the date on which an organ will be available? Does that extend to testing the prisoners to check which ones have suitable characteristics for such donations, and choosing which ones die on that basis? Those policies would save quite a number of lives if enacted on a large scale, after all.

• eigenmoon says:
• An Fírinne says:

America uses dead fetuses for stem cell research. Seems to be no different to me.

• eigenmoon says:

@An Fírinne
As far as I understand those “dead fetuses” are in-vitro embryos with about 100 cells in them. I for one see a lot of difference between prisoners and 100-cell organisms. Or is there something else going on in the stem cell research?

• metacelsus says:

On the topic of stem cell research:

Embryonic stem cells (what most people think of when they hear
“stem cells”) are derived from leftover embryos from IVF clinics, which is what eigenmoon wrote. In general, more embryos are produced than the parents actually need. Also, once the stem cells are derived, they can be propagated in vitro without the need for additional embryos.

However, there are a few other types of stem cells used for specialized research applications are collected from fetuses. For example, T cell progenitors are implanted into mice to make “humanized mice” for research into HIV and other diseases that involve the immune system.

• Guy in TN says:

From a utilitarian standpoint, its not on-the-face objectionable to consider using the organs from dead prisoners to save lives.

The “perverse incentives” argument has merit of course, but its effect is an empirical question. My understanding is that the Chinese government has actually been reducing the scope of crimes for which capital punishment is a possibility.

• baconbits9 says:

There is literally nothing that is ‘on the face of it objectionable’ from a utilitarian standpoint, that is one of the major flaws of utilitarian thought.

Perverse incentives.

• An Fírinne says:

How is it any different then an American judge sentencing somebody to community service?

Prison is intended to be punitive. Prison is a forfeiting of ones rights. Forced Labour is certainly less of a punishment then being usurped from your outside life, your friends and family and being put into a cell…

Community service does not usually result in profit.

• An Fírinne says:

Why does that matter? Youre a capitalist right? Are you suddenly against profit?

The state forcing people to labor so entities, private or state-owned can profit does not sound like any definition of capitalism I’m familiar with.

• An Fírinne says:

But the state forcing people into community service (a fancy name for forced Labour) is different because there’s no monetary aspect? So your problem isn’t with forced labour then? You think that’s OK?

I’m not inherently against forced labor, no. Which is why my objection was not “forced labor is immoral” but that profitable forced labor results in perverse incentives. If my workforce is comprised of criminals, I’m incentivized to petition the government to expand the definition of criminality to get me more cheap workers. This compromises something I value: justice.

If the forced labor is not something profitable, like picking up trash on the side of the highway or feeding the homeless at a soup kitchen, I don’t take issue with it.

• slapdashbr says:

I think employing prisoners without paying at least minimum wage is immoral regardless of where it happens.

• Cliff says:

I assume you are invested in this because you think everyone should be forced to labor under your new communist government?

• J Mann says:

That’s a fair point. I am assuming they are unjustly imprisoned, but I don’t have evidence for that.

With that caveat, anybody have resources to help judge whether Chinese forced labor is justly imprisoned/forced?

• Guy in TN says:

Some portion of the population is almost certainly unjustly imprisoned (the same as it is in every country that has prisons). The question should be, is the percent of the imprisoned who are there unjustly at a significantly higher rate than that of other countries?

(And, is “unjust imprisonment” the only axis in which you should use to determine which countries to buy things from?)

Of course, determining whether an imprisonment is “unjust”, or determining any other law or behavior is unjust, will rely heavily on whatever personal value system you subscribe to (and what your goals are).

Personally, given the choice between buying US-made and buying Chinese-made, I would choose Chinese. But I don’t expect that you would feel the same.

• An Fírinne says:

America has something like a quarter of the world’s prison population so there are certainly far more unjstuly imprisoned Americans then there are Chinese.

Alternative explanations:

1) The US has more criminals than China, or other nations.

2) The criminal justice system in the US is more effective than that of China or other nations.

• An Fírinne says:

The US has more criminals, yes. More criminals because of perverse and unjust laws. Hence they are unjustly imprisoned.

• Nick says:

The US has about 2.2 million imprisoned. China has about 1.6 million imprisoned, but also at least 1 million Uighurs in “re-education camps,” as long as we’re going to talk about the unjustly imprisoned.

• An Fírinne says:

China has 10 times the population of the USA so its not in any way comparable.

I think Nick’s comment about the Uyghurs wins, though. That’s a million people imprisoned for their religion, which is way up there on the “unjust” scale.

• Nick says:

Dude, you literally said “there are certainly far more unjstuly imprisoned Americans then there are Chinese.” If you wanted to talk per capita, you should have said per capita.

• Noah says:

@An Fírinne

The rest of the discussion aside, you’re off by a factor of about 2. China’s population is about 4.25 times bigger than the US.

• albatross11 says:

I gather many are imprisoned for being Uighur and retaining their problematic religious and cultural beliefs. This is the sort of thing that civilized people look down on, especially when many of the prisoners seem to die at convenient times when someone important needs an organ transplant.

• Cliff says:

The Chinese are nominally communist, therefore An Fírinne must love them, and certainly prefer them to U.S. capitalist pigs. He chose a tribe and goddamnit he has to stick to it! Forced organ harvesting and massive prison camps be damned!

• anonymousskimmer says:

@Cliff
This and the previous comment you made are the kind of personal attacks that get people banned. I recommend deleting them.

• Paul Brinkley says:

Agreed with anonymousskimmer. I personally may disagree with An Firinne’s economic views as well, but content-free mocking is extremely poor form around here.

27. Machine Interface says:

Jordan Peterson’s voice dubbed over videos of Kermit the Frog is uncanny: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yfve7pM2oyw

28. dndnrsn says:

Hello, and welcome to the twenty-fifth instalment of my Biblical scholarship effortpost. Last time we looked at the Gospel of Luke and at Acts. This time, we consider the final gospel in the New Testament canon, also thought by scholars to be the last of the four to be written – the Gospel of John. John is the “odd man out” of the gospels, presenting a dramatically different picture of Jesus from the three Synoptic gospels, along with stories that are both extremely well-known (if you were to ask a random person to tell you the story of Jesus, elements of John would likely get disproportionate coverage) and attested only in John. As we will see, John is a topic of scholarly controversy, with scholarly opinion on the provenance of its stories and its picture of Jesus ranging widely: some scholars think it is essentially fiction produced for theological reasons; at the other end of the spectrum, some scholars believe it has at its core firsthand experience of Jesus not found elsewhere.

The usual caveats: this is about secular scholarship more than theology. I’m not a full-on expert in this, though I did study it in university. When I refer to “John”, I am generally referring to the document, not one of the people by that name – when I am, I will try to make that clear. I am aiming for a 100/200 level coverage here, but if there are further questions, ask and I’ll try to answer.

The gospel begins with a prologue, in poem form, about the “Word”, God’s agent in creation. The Word – light and life – came to live in the world as flesh. The prologue concludes by stating that “[t]he law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.”

The narrative of the gospel then begins with John the Baptist (already mentioned in the poem). He does not baptize Jesus – rather, he sees Jesus, and identifies him as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” and as the Son of God. Jesus attracts followers, who (for example, in 1:41) identify him as the Messiah and the Son of God. Following a miracle at a wedding, Jesus goes into the Temple and drives the money changers and animal sellers out. Teaching and disputes with the religious authorities (towards whom John, referring to them as “the Jews”, is more hostile even than the Synoptics) interspersed with miracles, follow; compared to the Synoptics, the teaching is quite different (as we will discuss) and the miracles, while fewer, are arguably more impressive (and, as will be discussed, are for a different purpose). The story of Jesus’ last days follows a similar pattern to the Synoptics, but features a long farewell discourse that doesn’t appear in them.

A significant element of John is the “disciple whom Jesus loved”, often shortened to the “beloved disciple”. This otherwise unidentified (in the Gospel; there are traditional accounts of identity, and there is scholarly debate) figure appears a half dozen times, beginning late in the narrative. Notably, the beloved disciple is present at the crucifixion (when no other male follower of Jesus is) and figures heavily in the post-resurrection narrative.

John has, as you will have noted, some dramatic differences from the Synoptics. It has the “highest” Christology of the four gospels: its Jesus is the most exalted, the most divine. There are no themes of confusion about his identity: his followers tend to identify who he is easily, and he never denies it; quite the opposite. This point should not be overstated: he still exists within the context of 1st century Judaism, and his significance is shown by common symbols, such as bread and water. He’s not completely otherworldly, nor does John represent a break with first-century Judaism and Jewish theology – more on this shortly.

A significant difference between John and the Synoptics is Jesus’ teaching and self-presentation. Where the Synoptics generally featured short individual units of teaching, frequently expressed in cryptic parables, and with a strong apocalyptic tone and focus on the “kingdom of God”, John’s Jesus communicates in longer speeches and in discourses, primarily about himself and his identity, and has a message that is considerably less apocalyptic. While in the Synoptic gospels, the miracles are described using a word that means something along the lines of “act of power”, in John, the word used means “signs” – they are explicitly done to show who Jesus is. For example, in John 4:48, Jesus says “Unless you (pl) see signs and wonders you will not believe”, and the account of Lazarus’ death and resurrection in John 11 has Jesus actively delaying after hearing Lazarus is sick, in order that the more impressive raising from the dead can glorify the Son of God, and so that people will believe. Compare this, for example, to Mark 8:11, in which Jesus explicitly refuses to provide a sign.

Previously, scholars often considered John to be the most Hellenistic gospel: the most influenced by Greek philosophy and fusions of that philosophy with religion that had developed over time, such as the Hermetic literature and some of the mystery religions – some scholars link John and the Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria. John’s dualism, emphasis on abstract ideas (greater than the Synoptics) and concept of the Word were supposed to illustrate this. However, one can also make comparisons between material in John and Jewish wisdom literature; meanwhile, non-canonical material found in the Dead Sea Scrolls (discovered more recently than some of the aforementioned scholarship) indicates that elements thought not to be part of the Judaism of that time and place actually were (and widely enough to be found in more than one group, since there’s no evidence of John’s author or authors knowing the DSS).

• dndnrsn says:

Traditionally, since the second century, the Gospel of John has largely been ascribed to John, the son of Zebedee, who is also identified with the “beloved disciple”. There’s problems with this, the biggest one being that John is radically different from the Synoptics: if they represent accurate eyewitness testimony, it seems extremely odd that an account produced by another eyewitness would be so different. The identification of the “beloved disciple” is questionable, because he is described as staying at the cross when the twelve core disciples had fled, and according to the Synoptics only female followers were present at the cross. Most scholars do not think the author of the gospel was an eyewitness – however, as we will discuss, there are some arguments that the gospel has a degree of connection to eyewitness accounts.

On the subject of the “beloved disciple”, some scholars think the figure is supposed to represent a symbolic, idealized perfect follower. The arguments for this are that no name is given, and the “beloved disciple” (or an unnamed disciple) appears in scenes that also show up in the Synoptics but don’t mention such a person. However, one can make the counterargument that Jesus’ mother isn’t named in John, and she shows up in scenes where she does not in Synoptic equivalents; surely she was real! The best view might be that the “beloved disciple” was a minor follower of Jesus, not mentioned in the Synoptics, who became very important to the community in which John emerged – perhaps the core of that community.

John 21:20, 24 indicate that the “beloved disciple” was the author of the gospel; this could be a simplification, however, of 19:35, indicating eyewitness testimony. If we combine these last few points, we have a minor follower of Jesus who was an eyewitness source of the gospel; perhaps this person left some sort of account, or the gospel was written by a member or members of a community that included, or that came to revere, the “beloved disciple”.

It is generally agreed by scholars that the community the gospel appeared in was one that linked itself to the “beloved disciple”; there are various theories about this community. The gospel presents Jesus as a legitimate and observant Jew, and indeed as the Jewish messiah (hardly important to a gentile audience), and stories are told in a way that assumes knowledge of Aramaic. This is frequently taken to mean a Jewish Christian group, perhaps in an Aramaic-speaking part of Palestine. This group, the theorizing goes, was expelled from the synagogue after some time, thus becoming increasingly hostile to the Jewish religious authorities of their time – and by extension, Jesus’ time.

An alternative to this is that the gospel is or contains the work either of the “beloved disciple”, or of a community having access to this person. The significant differences between the Synoptics and John are due to the “beloved disciple” interpreting and reinterpreting his experiences in light of the changing understanding of who Jesus was and what his mission was, or due to another author or authors reinterpreting what they had been told by the “beloved disciple”. This view finds eyewitness testimony in John, but eyewitness testimony significantly more “filtered” than that found in the Synoptics.

Is there evidence John was originally one document, or one that was pieced together from multiple documents? Some scholars take various elements of John as indicating this. First, there are supposed differences in writing style: for example, look at the John the Baptist material in the prologue; it seems a bit out of place in the poem, and might indicate an insertion. Second, there are repetitions that might indicate multiple sources put together (for example, compare chapter 14 and 16: are the similarities for purposes of emphasis, or evidence of multiple sources? Third, there are inconsistencies that could be taken as a sign of multiple sources being combined and rearranged: for example, 2:11 describes the turning of water into wine as the “first of his signs”, and the healing of the official’s son in 4:54 as the “second sign”, but in between, in 2:23, it also refers to Jesus doing signs, which would make it impossible for the healing of the son to be the second sign. The scholars who think John has multiple sources usually posit one source consisting of miraculous “signs” (inventively called the “Signs Source”), one or more sources for Jesus’ discourses and so forth, and a narrative source for the Passion, along with a few others (such as the source for the prologue).

John is usually dated late, to between 80 and 110, with most estimates ranging in the middle of that span. This is done based largely on its reference to the destruction of Jesusalem in 11:48, the complexity of its theology and high Christology, its lack of apocalypticism, and reconstructions of conflict with Judaism (thought to be more advanced in the background to John than in the others). These are fairly speculative, however; a major problem with arguing on lateness based on complex theology and high Christology is that Paul’s theology is also complex and his Christology fairly high, and the letters of Paul universally considered authentic are earlier than any of the gospels. Additionally, the attitude in John towards the Temple doesn’t seem like what one would expect from decades after it had been destroyed. Of course, these arguments are over the dating of John’s current form: if it is multiple sources, it is even harder to guess at how old they might be.

That, then, is John. It’s the “odd man out” of the gospels, quite unlike the Synoptics. Scholars have posited that it is the most Hellenistic of the gospels – but more recent archaeological discoveries have indicated that elements thought to indicate Hellenistic influence don’t necessarily do so. There’s debate over its provenance and authorship, and the associated question of the “beloved disciple”; a fairly moderate view is that it does, in fact, contain (modified) eyewitness testimony. Next time, we’ll move outside the canon, to briefly consider gnosticism, and what is probably the most important noncanonical gospel, the Gospel of Thomas.

• Aron Wall says:

Glad to see you’ve had some time to get back to this.  Now for my usual reply…

There is debate over whether or not the author(s) of John would have had access to the Synoptics; it is extremely unlikely any of them were sources (to leave so many stories out would be bizarre). The most likely explanation is that stories in common were part of common oral traditions.

I have a different perspective on this.  The more I read the Gospel of John, the more obvious it seems to me that John not only had access to the synoptics (or at least one of them) but also expected his readers to be familiar with them.  Even though John does not directly incoporate their material, he seems to be in constant dialogue with it.

For example, consider the parenthetical remark in 4:44: “Now Jesus himself had pointed out that a prophet has no honor in his own country.”  The remark seemingly alludes to a well-known incident in the synoptic Gospels (Mark 6:4, Matthew 13:57, Luke 4:24); John himself does not include that content, yet introduces the phrase in the form of a flashback to an earlier event.  It seems hard to avoid the conclusion he expected his readers to already know this story.  Similarly, the Gospel of John seems to assume the readers know who the “Twelve” are, but never lists their names himself.

Or consider the fact that he gives extensive detail about every aspect of the Last Supper except for the most critical part where Jesus institutes the Eucharist.  In light of the Bread of Life Discourse in chapter 6, this can hardly be because John’s community did not accept the Eucharist.  But it makes perfect sense if John’s readers were already familiar with the Synoptic version.  (Similarly, the fact that John the Baptist baptized Jesus is strongly implied, without ever quite being narrated.)  When the Gospel of John does overlap with the Synoptic events (e.g. the feeding of the 5,000, walking on water, Gethsemene, the Crucifixion/Resurrection) it often provides additional clarifying details to satisfy the curiosity of those familiar with the Synoptics (e.g. John 18:10).

There’s problems with this, the biggest one being that John is radically different from the Synoptics: if they represent accurate eyewitness testimony, it seems extremely odd that an account produced by another eyewitness would be so different.

If the Gospel of John was intentionally written with a goal of not repeating material already found in the Synoptics, then this might account for several of its distinctive elements.  For example there is no need to repeat Jesus’ specific ethical teachings on divorce, adultery, murder etc. because the readers already know about that, but the teaching of love as fulfilling the law (13:34-35), and the union with Christ necessary to do it (15), are treated in greater depth since they are the essence of Christianity.  Yet 15:10 refers to “commandments” (plural), which could be understood as a reference back to the more complex ethical teachings of the Synoptics.

Many of the other differences seem more like differences of focus and style rather than direct contradictions.  For example:

– The synoptics focus on Jesus’ main ministry in Galilee (although the text makes it clear that Jesus spent time in Judea as well).  John focuses on Jesus ministry in Judea (while making it clear that Jesus spent time in Galilee as well) covering his preaching at religious festivals (Tabernacles, Hannakah, and multiple Passovers) and his conflicts with the religious leaders there.

– The synoptics give Jesus’ teaching in the form of sermons, parables, and vignettes accompanied by short pronouncements, while John tends to depict Jesus as engaging in long dialogues with religious leaders.

Probably almost any first century rabbi would engage in multiple of these modes of teaching, including long conversations (although of course not usually about the leader’s own identity), but it takes a special sort of literary talent to describe the gist of such long conversations years later (think Plato or Boswell).  It’s not really surprising that the other three Evangelists didn’t attempt it, especially the ones that were getting their information second hand.  In the absence of immediate transcription, any such record of a conversation will inevitably be at least partially fictitious/artistic/stylized—as I know from having attempted to transcribe a philosophical dialogue once immediately after it took place—but such dialogues can nevertheless convey accurate truth in the form of both 1. the essential points that were made and the replies to them, and 2. the style of speech of the individual described.

That being said, it is also possible to overemphasize the differences.  Some of the miracle stories in John (e.g. the healing at the pool in chapter 5:1-15) could be transplanted into the synoptic Gospels without any incongruity, aside from a few superficial elements of style.  Conversely, there is a passage found in Matthew 11:25-30 / Luke 10:21-22 (hence from the putative “Q” source, for those keeping score from previous installments), in which the Synoptic Jesus seems to drop into a quintessentially Johannine mode: specifically the use of the terms “Father” and “Son” in conjunction with each other, in a way that expresses their unique relationship of dependence and mutual glorification.  (Elsewhere, Jesus’ cryptic self-identification as “Son of Man” is also common to John and the Synpotics, which is particularly noteworthy considering that the early Christians usually preferred to use the titles “Christ” or “the Son of God”.)

John does contain somewhat clearer and more explicit statements of Jesus’ divinity; yet even the Synoptics contain sayings that are very difficult to interpret as the words of a merely human messenger.  Is there really that big of a difference between pointing to bread and saying “This is my body, which is broken for you”, and pointing to himself and saying “I am the bread of life”?  Anyone capable of saying one of these, is clearly capable of saying the other one.  (Even in John, Jesus tends not to begin conversations with a clear statement of divinity, but rather does so after he can lay down some groundwork and see where his interlocutors are coming from.)

Other examples of resonances between the two traditions include: “You are the light of the world / I am the light of the world”; “[Parable of the Good Shepherd] / I am the Good Shepherd” etc, so that in these cases the theology of the Gospel of John might be described as amplifying or making more explicit the Christological claims that are implicitly present in the synoptic tradition.  Does that mean Jesus never really spoke the stronger forms of these statements?  To me, that seems like a perilous deduction to make, given that Jesus surely discussed the same themes on multiple occasions (with different degrees of concealment of his message from his listeners to fit different circumstances) and whoever wrote John was clearly closer to the source of the sayings than we are.  One thing the synoptics make perfectly clear, is that the Jewish leaders understood Jesus as having made explicit and blasphemous claims about his identity.

It has the “highest” Christology of the four gospels: its Jesus is the most exalted, the most divine.

And yet it also emphasizes somewhat more than the other gospels the physical neediness of Jesus (see e.g. 4:6-7, 4:31, 19:28).  And there is at least one moment of emotional angst in 12:27.

John is usually dated late, to between 80 and 110, with most estimates ranging in the middle of that span. This is done based largely on its reference to the destruction of Jesusalem in 11:48, the complexity of its theology and high Christology, its lack of apocalypticism, and reconstructions of conflict with Judaism (thought to be more advanced in the background to John than in the others).

In addition to your other counterarguments, several of these arguments (not the one about apocalypticism, necessarily) seem to presuppose the historical falseness of the material in question.  For example, the Romans intepreting a Messianic claim as a political rebellion and taking away Israel’s status as a nation seems like a perfectly historically plausible reason for the Sanhedrin to be worried about Jesus, and if they really were worried about it, then there is no reason why it can’t have been recorded in any decade afterwards.  Similarly it’s quite plausible that Jesus’ disciples had conflicts with individual Jewish synogogues even before he died, even though the final repture with institutional Judaism didn’t come until later.

The best view might be that the “beloved disciple” was a minor follower of Jesus, not mentioned in the Synoptics, who became very important to the community in which John emerged – perhaps the core of that community.

Sorry, this won’t fly.  The beloved disciple is stated to have been reclining immediately next to Jesus at the Last Supper, so that Simon Peter had to motion to him to get him to ask Jesus who was going to betray him (13:23).  He is the disciple to whom Jesus commits his responsibility to look after his mother in her old age (19:26-27), favoring him in preference to the natural biological candidate (James).  Assuming he is the same as the anonymous “other disciple” mentioned multiple times in the text, he seems to be very close friends with Simon Peter, and the first male disciple to arrive at the Empty Tomb on Easter morning. He also goes on a fishing trip with 7 individuals at least 5 of whom are members of the Twelve, and which is explicitly stated to have included the two “sons of Zebedee” (21:2).

No, the putative author of this text is claiming to be either one of the Twelve Apostles, or some disciple so important that he was present at all of their most intimate gatherings and had equal access to Jesus.  (You can disbelieve this claim if you like, but one cannot reasonably deny that the claim is being made by the text.)  Apostle is simplest and fits best.  But he can’t be Peter, Andrew, Nathaniel, Philip, Thomas, Judas Iscariot, or the other Judas, since these are all mentioned by name without scruples.  He can’t be James son of Zebedee because he was martyred too early.  It would be strange if he were Matthew since Matthew is already closely associated with another gospel.  Despite the inventiveness of biblical critics, really there is a limit to the number of individuals that this person can be!

And why would the author/eyewitness be modestly concealing his name, if he had no special status to be modest about?  Clearly the author does think he had a direct handle on Jesus, just as he states in his first epistle (which has such a similar writing style and theology to the Gospel that it must be by the same person):

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.  (1 John 1:1)

• The original Mr. X says:

In addition to your other counterarguments, several of these arguments (not the one about apocalypticism, necessarily) seem to presuppose the historical falseness of the material in question. For example, the Romans intepreting a Messianic claim as a political rebellion and taking away Israel’s status as a nation seems like a perfectly historically plausible reason for the Sanhedrin to be worried about Jesus, and if they really were worried about it, then there is no reason why it can’t have been recorded in any decade afterwards. Similarly it’s quite plausible that Jesus’ disciples had conflicts with individual Jewish synogogues even before he died, even though the final repture with institutional Judaism didn’t come until later.

And the reference to the destruction of the temple at Jerusalem makes a dubious terminus post quem, IMHO. Even from a purely secular perspective, people can and do make accurate predictions about future events (look at all the speeches in which Winston Churchill warns of the coming war with Germany, for example). There’s nothing implausible about an individual in the 30s AD observing the anti-Roman currents in contemporary Judaea, considering the balance of power and the Romans’ usual way of dealing with rebellions, and concluding that the temple was likely to get destroyed.

• dndnrsn says:

I have a different perspective on this. The more I read the Gospel of John, the more obvious it seems to me that John not only had access to the synoptics (or at least one of them) but also expected his readers to be familiar with them. Even though John does not directly incoporate their material, he seems to be in constant dialogue with it.

For example, consider the parenthetical remark in 4:44: “Now Jesus himself had pointed out that a prophet has no honor in his own country.” The remark seemingly alludes to a well-known incident in the synoptic Gospels (Mark 6:4, Matthew 13:57, Luke 4:24); John himself does not include that content, yet introduces the phrase in the form of a flashback to an earlier event. It seems hard to avoid the conclusion he expected his readers to already know this story. Similarly, the Gospel of John seems to assume the readers know who the “Twelve” are, but never lists their names himself.

Or consider the fact that he gives extensive detail about every aspect of the Last Supper except for the most critical part where Jesus institutes the Eucharist. In light of the Bread of Life Discourse in chapter 6, this can hardly be because John’s community did not accept the Eucharist. But it makes perfect sense if John’s readers were already familiar with the Synoptic version. (Similarly, the fact that John the Baptist baptized Jesus is strongly implied, without ever quite being narrated.) When the Gospel of John does overlap with the Synoptic events (e.g. the feeding of the 5,000, walking on water, Gethsemene, the Crucifixion/Resurrection) it often provides additional clarifying details to satisfy the curiosity of those familiar with the Synoptics (e.g. John 18:10).

None of this requires textual dependence on, or even familiarity with, the Synoptics – just familiarity with the stock of common stories and oral traditions and so on. This gets a little into the weeds of highly speculative stuff about the “historical Jesus”, the history of very early Christianity, etc, of which a little more later.

If the Gospel of John was intentionally written with a goal of not repeating material already found in the Synoptics, then this might account for several of its distinctive elements. For example there is no need to repeat Jesus’ specific ethical teachings on divorce, adultery, murder etc. because the readers already know about that, but the teaching of love as fulfilling the law (13:34-35), and the union with Christ necessary to do it (15), are treated in greater depth since they are the essence of Christianity. Yet 15:10 refers to “commandments” (plural), which could be understood as a reference back to the more complex ethical teachings of the Synoptics.

Many of the other differences seem more like differences of focus and style rather than direct contradictions. For example:

– The synoptics focus on Jesus’ main ministry in Galilee (although the text makes it clear that Jesus spent time in Judea as well). John focuses on Jesus ministry in Judea (while making it clear that Jesus spent time in Galilee as well) covering his preaching at religious festivals (Tabernacles, Hannakah, and multiple Passovers) and his conflicts with the religious leaders there.

– The synoptics give Jesus’ teaching in the form of sermons, parables, and vignettes accompanied by short pronouncements, while John tends to depict Jesus as engaging in long dialogues with religious leaders.

Probably almost any first century rabbi would engage in multiple of these modes of teaching, including long conversations (although of course not usually about the leader’s own identity), but it takes a special sort of literary talent to describe the gist of such long conversations years later (think Plato or Boswell). It’s not really surprising that the other three Evangelists didn’t attempt it, especially the ones that were getting their information second hand. In the absence of immediate transcription, any such record of a conversation will inevitably be at least partially fictitious/artistic/stylized—as I know from having attempted to transcribe a philosophical dialogue once immediately after it took place—but such dialogues can nevertheless convey accurate truth in the form of both 1. the essential points that were made and the replies to them, and 2. the style of speech of the individual described.

So, again, into the weeds. There’s a lot of scholars who try to address “what Jesus ACTUALLY said” and it usually ends up pretty circular, and it’s just not as mindblowing as it was back when I was in third year undergraduate or whatever. However, I think that the difference isn’t just style (which is hard to comment on; I’m sure there’s research on discursive norms in first-century Palestinian Aramaic, but it’s out of my wheelhouse): in the Synoptics, Jesus is teaching about the Kingdom of God, while in John he’s teaching about himself and his own identity. Difference in style is understandable (does anyone text in the same “voice” they write academic papers in? – and that’s before they’ve been translated into a foreign language!) The difference in content is enough to raise questions, similarly to how Thomas is all “brief, cryptic remarks” but some are clearly not like the others: it’s relatively easy to see that the gnostic-y stuff is not the same material as the stuff that shows up canonically, and even the hardcore Historical Jesus pro-Thomas partisans only propose something like one or three non-canonically-attested sayings in Thomas as the real deal.

That being said, it is also possible to overemphasize the differences. Some of the miracle stories in John (e.g. the healing at the pool in chapter 5:1-15) could be transplanted into the synoptic Gospels without any incongruity, aside from a few superficial elements of style. Conversely, there is a passage found in Matthew 11:25-30 / Luke 10:21-22 (hence from the putative “Q” source, for those keeping score from previous installments), in which the Synoptic Jesus seems to drop into a quintessentially Johannine mode: specifically the use of the terms “Father” and “Son” in conjunction with each other, in a way that expresses their unique relationship of dependence and mutual glorification. (Elsewhere, Jesus’ cryptic self-identification as “Son of Man” is also common to John and the Synpotics, which is particularly noteworthy considering that the early Christians usually preferred to use the titles “Christ” or “the Son of God”.)

John does contain somewhat clearer and more explicit statements of Jesus’ divinity; yet even the Synoptics contain sayings that are very difficult to interpret as the words of a merely human messenger. Is there really that big of a difference between pointing to bread and saying “This is my body, which is broken for you”, and pointing to himself and saying “I am the bread of life”? Anyone capable of saying one of these, is clearly capable of saying the other one. (Even in John, Jesus tends not to begin conversations with a clear statement of divinity, but rather does so after he can lay down some groundwork and see where his interlocutors are coming from.)

Other examples of resonances between the two traditions include: “You are the light of the world / I am the light of the world”; “[Parable of the Good Shepherd] / I am the Good Shepherd” etc, so that in these cases the theology of the Gospel of John might be described as amplifying or making more explicit the Christological claims that are implicitly present in the synoptic tradition. Does that mean Jesus never really spoke the stronger forms of these statements? To me, that seems like a perilous deduction to make, given that Jesus surely discussed the same themes on multiple occasions (with different degrees of concealment of his message from his listeners to fit different circumstances) and whoever wrote John was clearly closer to the source of the sayings than we are. One thing the synoptics make perfectly clear, is that the Jewish leaders understood Jesus as having made explicit and blasphemous claims about his identity.

The hardcore Historical Jesus types tend to discount Jesus saying anything like that, but I’m softer on that point; there’s no lack of Jewish guys who have claimed messianic status, so the scholars who start from the assumption that it’s unbelievable one did a couple thousand years ago seem to have jumped the gun.

You’re definitely correct that the “even the Synoptics contain sayings that are very difficult to interpret as the words of a merely human messenger”: even if we go full Jesus Seminar and cross out everything Jesus said that’s not a snappy ethical teaching or a cryptic parable about the Kingdom of God, and then say that’s what Jesus said, that’s the ur-text, and everything else is just building on that, we are still faced with a major problem: every source we have is coming from a place where this wasn’t just a human messenger. Even if you go full Historical Jesus and take the view that the stuff about who Jesus was only got developed after his death, when his followers had to explain how this was all according to plan – you’re still faced with the fact that the earliest sources can only be de-Christologized through the Jefferson Bible method.

In addition to your other counterarguments, several of these arguments (not the one about apocalypticism, necessarily) seem to presuppose the historical falseness of the material in question. For example, the Romans intepreting a Messianic claim as a political rebellion and taking away Israel’s status as a nation seems like a perfectly historically plausible reason for the Sanhedrin to be worried about Jesus, and if they really were worried about it, then there is no reason why it can’t have been recorded in any decade afterwards. Similarly it’s quite plausible that Jesus’ disciples had conflicts with individual Jewish synogogues even before he died, even though the final repture with institutional Judaism didn’t come until later.

Yeah, the dating of John is pretty weak. When I was writing this I spent a bit of time flipping through my books repeatedly, looking for the bit where they actually talk real-deal about how John is dated.

Sorry, this won’t fly. The beloved disciple is stated to have been reclining immediately next to Jesus at the Last Supper, so that Simon Peter had to motion to him to get him to ask Jesus who was going to betray him (13:23). He is the disciple to whom Jesus commits his responsibility to look after his mother in her old age (19:26-27), favoring him in preference to the natural biological candidate (James). Assuming he is the same as the anonymous “other disciple” mentioned multiple times in the text, he seems to be very close friends with Simon Peter, and the first male disciple to arrive at the Empty Tomb on Easter morning. He also goes on a fishing trip with 7 individuals at least 5 of whom are members of the Twelve, and which is explicitly stated to have included the two “sons of Zebedee” (21:2).

No, the putative author of this text is claiming to be either one of the Twelve Apostles, or some disciple so important that he was present at all of their most intimate gatherings and had equal access to Jesus. (You can disbelieve this claim if you like, but one cannot reasonably deny that the claim is being made by the text.) Apostle is simplest and fits best. But he can’t be Peter, Andrew, Nathaniel, Philip, Thomas, Judas Iscariot, or the other Judas, since these are all mentioned by name without scruples. He can’t be James son of Zebedee because he was martyred too early. It would be strange if he were Matthew since Matthew is already closely associated with another gospel. Despite the inventiveness of biblical critics, really there is a limit to the number of individuals that this person can be!

And why would the author/eyewitness be modestly concealing his name, if he had no special status to be modest about? Clearly the author does think he had a direct handle on Jesus, just as he states in his first epistle (which has such a similar writing style and theology to the Gospel that it must be by the same person):

Sure, whoever this person is is important within the document, but that’s not really the question I’m interested in. I think it’s more likely that there was a relatively minor follower who got upgraded later on in their own telling of the story, or in someone else’s retelling, than the alternative, where someone is present at events the other telling of the story didn’t have him present for, including at least one event there would be a very good reason for him not to be present.

EDIT: I’m sorry if this is a bit scattered; I’m underslept and in a rush.

• Aron Wall says:

None of this requires textual dependence on, or even familiarity with, the Synoptics – just familiarity with the stock of common stories and oral traditions and so on.

But I wasn’t just trying to explain the similarities with the Synopics, I was also trying to explain the dissimiliarities. And for that written texts fit with my hypothesis far better, because they have definite boundaries.

It makes sense for someone to say, I’m not going to write down the things which were already adequately covered by the other written sources. But I don’t know what it logically even means for a person to intend to write down those elements of oral tradition that are not already covered by oral tradition. (Unless of course they have access to an actual Apostolic eyewitness who knows more than the oral tradition.)

As for the Historical Jesus, if you mean by that the best reconstruction of Jesus’ life which is available using standard historical methods, then I think for people living in the post-Apostolic era, the Historical Jesus is almost (but not quite) identical to the Canonical Jesus. Every speculative reconstruction gets farther from the data, not closer to it. (Not that there aren’t ways of getting closer to the actual Jesus than reading the texts, but they all presuppose religious belief.) If you don’t believe in miracles there’s admittedly quite a bit that you have to cut out, but not in any way that provides any knowledge about what happened instead.

in the Synoptics, Jesus is teaching about the Kingdom of God, while in John he’s teaching about himself and his own identity.

The synoptic teaching also involves some pretty bold claims about Jesus’ identity, even if they are expressed in somewhat more coy fashion. Consider Matthew 12:6 (compare to John 2:21), or Matthew 25:31-46 (compare to John 5:21-29). Even in the Synoptic version, clearly it is the “Son of Man” who will be judging people in God’s kingdom. As for John not including many uses of the phrase “Kingdom of God”, that does seem like a question of style (but see John 18:36 for somewhat similar terminology).

Sure, whoever this person is is important within the document, but that’s not really the question I’m interested in. I think it’s more likely that there was a relatively minor follower who got upgraded later on in their own telling of the story, or in someone else’s retelling,

Typical biblical criticism: start by assuming that the “disciple whom Jesus loved” didn’t actually do any of the things they are reported as doing, then try to figure out who they were.

than the alternative, where someone is present at events the other telling of the story didn’t have him present for, including at least one event there would be a very good reason for him not to be present.

Not true. Minimally, the Gospel of John states that the beloved disciple was present at these events:
1) the Last Supper
2) the Cross
3) Peter racing to the Empty Tomb
4) the Locked Room on Easter evening
5) the Fishing Trip in Galilee
There are a couple of conspicuous mentions of “another disciple” who is probably also intended to be the same character, but this is a little more ambiguous so let’s leave them aside.

The Synoptic Gospels already imply that the Twelve were present for events #1 and #4.

Event #3 is also mentioned in Luke 24:12. At first sight this looks like the beloved disciple inserting himself into a place where he doesn’t belong, but if you read Luke 24 very carefully you will see that in v. 24 it is actually implied that multiple male disciples went to the tomb, so the apparent difference is actually a point of harmony.

Event #5 is unique to John, but the Synoptics make no claim to give a complete list of Resurrection appearences, and John explcitly states that the “sons of Zebedee” were there. (Admittedly it’s a little strange to ask, from a “secular” perspective, whether John was really present at an event which, if the supernatural doesn’t occur, can’t possibly have happened in the first place.)

This leaves only Event #2, the Cross, and here the supposed conflict with the Synoptics is extremely mild. Yes, Mark 14:50 says that all of the disciples fled from the cops at Gethsemene; but this hardly precludes one of them from psyching himself up to go to Golgotha 12 hours later, any more than it precluded Peter from sneaking into the high priest’s house to try to learn about the trial.

The beloved disciple is also explicitly stated to be the author of the book, who “testifies to these things and wrote them down” (21:24) (although not in a way that precluded his community adding their own words in the same verse: “We know that his testimony is true.”)

I don’t see how a verse like this could arise through the vicissitudes of oral tradition without anyone being dishonest. The text quite explicitly claims both that the beloved disciple was present at these events, and that he was directly involved in the writing process.

Either (1) this is true, or (2) some one of the authors of this text solemnly testified to a falsehood: either because (2a) the beloved disciple falsely claimed to be present at important events in Jesus’ life, or because (2b) some other author falsely claimed that the beloved disciple wrote the Gospel. I don’t see how any amount of gradual evolution can escape this stark dichotomy.

• dndnrsn says:

But I wasn’t just trying to explain the similarities with the Synopics, I was also trying to explain the dissimiliarities. And for that written texts fit with my hypothesis far better, because they have definite boundaries.

It makes sense for someone to say, I’m not going to write down the things which were already adequately covered by the other written sources. But I don’t know what it logically even means for a person to intend to write down those elements of oral tradition that are not already covered by oral tradition. (Unless of course they have access to an actual Apostolic eyewitness who knows more than the oral tradition.)

The general scholarly consensus does, as far as I can tell, be something like the last possibility – someone puts pen to paper to record the stuff they/their community has that isn’t wider-known.

As for the Historical Jesus, if you mean by that the best reconstruction of Jesus’ life which is available using standard historical methods, then I think for people living in the post-Apostolic era, the Historical Jesus is almost (but not quite) identical to the Canonical Jesus. Every speculative reconstruction gets farther from the data, not closer to it. (Not that there aren’t ways of getting closer to the actual Jesus than reading the texts, but they all presuppose religious belief.) If you don’t believe in miracles there’s admittedly quite a bit that you have to cut out, but not in any way that provides any knowledge about what happened instead.

I largely agree with this; the methods the Historical Jesus scholars use to try to reconstruct a historical figure tend to be very speculative. I keep going back and forth on whether I want to talk about the scholarship or not; some of it is interesting, but it’s very circular.

The synoptic teaching also involves some pretty bold claims about Jesus’ identity, even if they are expressed in somewhat more coy fashion. Consider Matthew 12:6 (compare to John 2:21), or Matthew 25:31-46 (compare to John 5:21-29). Even in the Synoptic version, clearly it is the “Son of Man” who will be judging people in God’s kingdom. As for John not including many uses of the phrase “Kingdom of God”, that does seem like a question of style (but see John 18:36 for somewhat similar terminology).

The question of what is original and what is not in the Synoptics is pretty big, but even leaving all that aside, yeah, Jesus in the Synoptics is coy, and leaves a lot of stuff to be filled in by the listener. A theology based entirely on Mark would be quite different from a theology based entirely on John.

Typical biblical criticism: start by assuming that the “disciple whom Jesus loved” didn’t actually do any of the things they are reported as doing, then try to figure out who they were.

They’re reported as doing things where the other sources don’t report them as doing things or as being there; if the beloved disciple is meant to be John – which, personally, I will grant is plausible; this series doesn’t represent my personal opinion or lack thereof, just my attempt to digest the scholarship – the issue just becomes “so, was John there or not?”

The alternative is to take early Church traditions, dating to the second century mostly, as to who wrote these documents, and fight to explain away the various problems you end up if you say Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John wrote the documents. I think my personal position is more charitable to the traditional accounts than the usual – I think it’s definitely plausible that the traditional view is an exaggeration of the reality (eg, I don’t think Luke was written by a companion of Paul – but I think it’s likely that a testimony by such a person found its way into Luke). But the strictest interpretation of the traditional credits means a long, long list of conflicts to deal with.

Not true. Minimally, the Gospel of John states that the beloved disciple was present at these events:
1) the Last Supper
2) the Cross
3) Peter racing to the Empty Tomb
4) the Locked Room on Easter evening
5) the Fishing Trip in Galilee
There are a couple of conspicuous mentions of “another disciple” who is probably also intended to be the same character, but this is a little more ambiguous so let’s leave them aside.

The Synoptic Gospels already imply that the Twelve were present for events #1 and #4.

Event #3 is also mentioned in Luke 24:12. At first sight this looks like the beloved disciple inserting himself into a place where he doesn’t belong, but if you read Luke 24 very carefully you will see that in v. 24 it is actually implied that multiple male disciples went to the tomb, so the apparent difference is actually a point of harmony.

Event #5 is unique to John, but the Synoptics make no claim to give a complete list of Resurrection appearences, and John explcitly states that the “sons of Zebedee” were there. (Admittedly it’s a little strange to ask, from a “secular” perspective, whether John was really present at an event which, if the supernatural doesn’t occur, can’t possibly have happened in the first place.)

This leaves only Event #2, the Cross, and here the supposed conflict with the Synoptics is extremely mild. Yes, Mark 14:50 says that all of the disciples fled from the cops at Gethsemene; but this hardly precludes one of them from psyching himself up to go to Golgotha 12 hours later, any more than it precluded Peter from sneaking into the high priest’s house to try to learn about the trial.

I think whether someone was there or not is pretty significant – after all, guy has just gotten grabbed as some combination of blasphemer/anti-imperial rabblerouser; his male followers are probably viewed as potential rebels or what have you – the other accounts just forget that someone was there? Something gutsy and risky like that seems like the sort of thing it would be obvious to know about if possible, obvious to leave in a narrative you’re relaying in whatever fashion, and an obvious question to consider.

The beloved disciple is also explicitly stated to be the author of the book, who “testifies to these things and wrote them down” (21:24) (although not in a way that precluded his community adding their own words in the same verse: “We know that his testimony is true.”)

I don’t see how a verse like this could arise through the vicissitudes of oral tradition without anyone being dishonest. The text quite explicitly claims both that the beloved disciple was present at these events, and that he was directly involved in the writing process.

Either (1) this is true, or (2) some one of the authors of this text solemnly testified to a falsehood: either because (2a) the beloved disciple falsely claimed to be present at important events in Jesus’ life, or because (2b) some other author falsely claimed that the beloved disciple wrote the Gospel. I don’t see how any amount of gradual evolution can escape this stark dichotomy.

An explanation for all of the inconsistencies and conflicts in the different parts of the Bible, Hebrew Bible and New Testament, that doesn’t involve at least one person somewhere at some time being dishonest or abetting dishonesty or something like that, let alone just of being seriously mistaken etc, at least once, isn’t plausible.

The “supernatural” elements (I don’t know if supernatural is the right word; a division of the world into natural/supernatural is not a universal human way of understanding things) of the Bible could all be factually correct, the Nicene creed or whatever statement of belief could be factual truth, but that wouldn’t preclude the Bible from being a book produced by humans, right?

• S_J says:

Thanks for continuing this series!

One thing I’ve noticed is that the Gospel attributed to John causes some confusion over the chronology of Jesus life. The scene of Jesus clearing out the Temple is mentioned early, shortly after his first miracle/sign. Where that act is mentioned in the synoptics, it is placed in the Passion Week.

Another thing I noticed: the narration in the Gospel attributed to John will sometimes introduce characters so that they can ask Jesus a question. Jesus goes into a soliloquy, and the narrator gives the soliloquy. Then the narrator moves onto another scene/act, without mentioning the characters who were part of the last scene. To circle back to the comments from the last section: the Gospel attributed to Luke was definitely the work of a better story-teller.

However, the Gospel attributed to John has many better quotes, and distinctive stories. The conversation with Nicodemus provides For God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten son… and Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God. The conversation with the women at a well in Samaria provides God is Spirit, and they that worship him must worship in Spirit and in Truth. The contested story of the woman caught in adultery has the powerful quote Let he who is without sin cast the first stone, as well as the conclusion Neither do I condemn you. Go, and sin no more.

The story of Nicodemus reminds me of something else. The group labeled “the Jews” come off pretty badly in John, but Nicodemus, said to be “a ruler of the Jews”, doesn’t come off badly. The conversation with Nicodemus provides an instance of him being the ‘intro character’ for a speech of Jesus, while the scene doesn’t have an exit-action for Nicodemus. He doesn’t reply at the end, he doesn’t leave a changed man, nor does he sneak away saying that Jesus gave him a teaching that he couldn’t follow.

But Nicodemus shows up twice further on in the story, once kinda-sorta defending Jesus in a public discusison, and later providing a tomb for Jesus after the crucifixion. He doesn’t appear to be part of the in-group of followers of Jesus, but he is treated by the Gospel as a friend of the movement. Is there any scholarly discussion about the connection between Nicodemus and the author of the Gospel? Did Nicodemus retain his position, but stay friendly to the followers of Jesus?

• dndnrsn says:

Thanks! I’ve been very irregular lately due to busyness, but out to at least be able to crank out one or two before the holidays are out, and do have a plan for finishing this whole thing.

I’ll take another look at the stuff about the placing of events in John and on Nicodemus tomorrow when I start jotting down some notes for the Thomas post.

• dndnrsn says:

On the topic of the placement of the Temple clearing story, Brown (my go-to guy for John) says that the way John does it helps to show the hostility of the Jewish religious authorities from the beginning, and the irreconcilable split between Jesus and those who don’t get on board. There’s also the idea of the Temple as being replaced by Jesus’ body as the true holy place.

Scholarly discussion of Nicodemus (I’m doing a fairly shallow skim, mind you) seems (on the secular side of things) to focus on trying to identify him with a historical person. My personal feeling is that the Nicodemus stuff doesn’t feel “made up” and probably goes back to eyewitness testimony. It indeed doesn’t fit with the hostility towards the Jewish religious authorities.

• Aron Wall says:

If Jesus did disrupt the Temple courts at the start of his ministry, why shouldn’t he have done it again on a later occasion? People who engage in civil disobedience once are likely to do it again, especially when facing the exact same provocation.

• dndnrsn says:

By all means. I don’t know enough about the security of the Temple grounds or norms there or whatever to say whether it would be possible for some guy to cause a ruckus and still get in to cause a ruckus later. Let’s say he did; it’s still relevant that the sources report it as a single event thing, and report behaviour that’s got a significant overlap, but at different points in the narrative, and implying different things about Jesus’ ministry career: someone who’s been to the big city more than once over a span of some years is different from a provincial preacher going there late in his career, causing trouble, and getting arrested. And of course, there’s different theories about the exact nature of what he was doing, based on the context of what he was busting up.

• eigenmoon says:

Thank you.

I find it extremely suspicious that the style of John’s Jesus is completely different from the style of Synoptic Jesus but almost indistinguishable from the style of John himself, even to the point that it’s unclear who spoke the most famous verse in the Bible, John 3:16. Right now I see NET indicating it’s by John but ESV indicating it’s by Jesus.

• dndnrsn says:

Unsurprising, considering that I’d estimate the ESV as being considerably more “conservative-friendly” a translation than the NET.

• Aron Wall says:

As I said in my longer comment, there are in fact some noticeable similarities between the style of Jesus in John and in the Synoptics.

And if a student has a writing style very similar to his master, well there’s another possible way that the arrow of causality could go, isn’t there?

• Le Maistre Chat says:

some scholars think it is essentially fiction produced for theological reasons; at the other end of the spectrum, some scholars believe it has at its core firsthand experience of Jesus not found elsewhere.

This seems perfectly plausible. There are no known alternatives to the traditional attributions, and by those one Synoptic was firsthand (Matthew),* one secondhand at best (Mark), and one a research project (Luke). When two or more people write firsthand about another person, we wouldn’t expect them to be dependent on each other.

*Yeah, I’m fully aware that Matthew being written by the Apostle makes less sense if you accept Markan Priority, but there’s no alternative attribution except the “random anonymous guy” of modern higher criticism.

• dndnrsn says:

Honestly, having sat down and gone through the sources again, I’m a lot warmer to the scholars who think “hey, maybe there’s something here in this John” – it being an alternative tradition that’s gotten changed a lot over time makes more sense to me than it being made up (and also coincidentally getting some details more right than the other version, versions, we have).

• Le Maistre Chat says:

non-canonical material found in the Dead Sea Scrolls (discovered more recently than some of the aforementioned scholarship) indicates that elements thought not to be part of the Judaism of that time and place actually were (and widely enough to be found in more than one group, since there’s no evidence of John’s author or authors knowing the DSS).

This seems like a false dichotomy. We know that sects of both Judean and Egyptian Jews accepted as much Greek philosophy as didn’t contradict the strict monotheism imposed by the Hasmonean Dynasty of Hannukah fame. Surely the philosophy of a text from 100 AD could be both purely Judean and very Hellenized.

• dndnrsn says:

It might be a false dichotomy, but then it’s a false dichotomy responding to another one. I don’t really know enough about the DSS community and so on to say whether they could be described as hellenized. You’re right that it doesn’t have to be an either-or; in any case, there’s evidence that it doesn’t have to be traced to only one.

• cassander says:

Have you collected all of these in one place?

• dndnrsn says:

I’ve got the links more or less bundled for Hebrew Bible posts and when I’ve done this I’ll put together another link. Aside from that, no.

Ben Witherington has a fun theory that Lazarus is the beloved disciple.

29. albatross11 says:

This article talks about the subset of the left that’s opposed to a lot of the anti-Trump stuff done by mainstream Democrats. It’s an interesting article, but it misses a couple things that seem pretty important to me:

a. Matt Taibbi’s critique of a lot of the Russia probe was that it was playing fast-and-loose with the evidence, there were a lot of bullshit claims of Russian influence thrown around by mainstream media sources, and that claims that people were Russian agents was becoming a standard part of Democratic politics, as with the phrase “Moscow Mitch” and accusations that Tulsi Gabbard is on the Russian payroll. He discussed this some on Sam Harris’ podcast.

b. Glenn Greenwald’s critique of a lot of the Russia and impeachment probe wasn’t about mood affiliation, it was a continuation of a critique he’s been making for more than a decade–Democrats in power are very supportive of the national security state, mass surveillance, etc., and are very deferential to the military and intelligence agencies. During the Bush years, the Democrats were at least pushing back a little on the “spy on everyone all the time and if any laws are broken, only the whistleblowers will go to jail” routine; since the FBI and intelligence agencies seem to be on board with weakening Trump, there’s basically none of this anymore[1].

c. I’m not on the left, so I guess I’m not in the category Chait is talking about here. But I strongly oppose Trump, and yet I think:

(1) The Russia probe was massively overplayed for partisan advantage. (Is Trump corrupt, venial, and easily manipulated? Yep. Is he a Russian asset? No, almost certainly not, and as best I can tell, nothing like a real case for that was made anywhere.) There’s been a drumming-up of hostility to Russia that seems pretty dumb to me[2], given that they’re one of the two countries on Earth with whom we could actually get into a war that would end up killing a billion or so people. This hostility has been being pushed by a certain part of the establishment for many years now, and it never did make sense. The narrative that Trump is in bed with Putin probably makes it harder for Trump to back down in any conflict, which probably increases the risk of an actual shooting war that could get very ugly, very quickly. The sort of reasoning I usually see w.r.t. Trump’s Russian influence remind me very strongly of the evidence provided by Fox News et al about Obama’s secret sympathies with Islam.

This has created a kind of conspiratorial narrative that is widely believed. Just as there are still people who think Saddam had something to do with 9/11, twenty years from now there will still be lots of people who think Trump won the 2016 election only because the Russians hacked the election. This is bullshit, but it’s the kind of bullshit that low-information voters will carry around in their heads forever.

(2) Part of the campaign against Trump has been a massive push from a lot of respectable media sources to say that the intelligence services and FBI are totally trustworthy and would never do anything against the national interest. This is nuts–our domestic spying operations are a thousand times bigger danger to our democracy than Russian influence operations could ever be. And their behavior has been massively untrustworthy in the war on terror–lying to the public, lying to Congress, exceeding the law, hammering whistleblowers, spying on the people trying to do oversight on them. Probably the way the FBI handled the FISA application on Carter Page is the norm rather than the exception, and probably plenty more abuses are happening all the time. It’s become gospel for one of the two big parties that we should trust them implicitly–that helps with this month’s political problem, and to hell with what it does for the future.

(3) I absolutely think the Russia probe and the Resist movement has been used by the powers in the Democratic party to try to divert attention from dissatisfaction with centrist Democratic policies–what I’d call the ruling class consensus. If the Trump victory was illegitimate, then we can keep doing what we’re already doing and don’t need to ask any uncomfortable questions about whether our previous backing of the 2008 bank bailouts and free trade deals and domestic spying and a new war every couple years and all are really good policies for getting elected.

[1] In general, the war on terror has been a great opportunity to watch the party of small government and the party of civil liberties close ranks and make sure the state can spy on everyone all the time.

[2] As with the Iraq was, I guess I should note that I agree Putin is a nasty authoritarian leader whose regime spies, manipulates, and assassinates all over the globe, including in the US and NATO countries.

• HeelBearCub says:

a) Very, very minor. I’d suggest avoiding using two different sets of numbers in the same post. Confusing choice given you went through the bother of differentiating by bracket vs. parentheses. Anticipating an objection, no, I don’t care that this is how citation is done in some various style manuals.

b) I don’t think Gabbard is a lefty. And please note that a much discussed quote was completely mangled by the NYT. I do think she is an opportunistic self-promoter who sees opportunity at the ends of the horseshoe.

c) “But I strongly oppose Trump” – Is this a throwaway line meant to signal some sort of comradery? Or am I supposed to believe it? Let me put it this way, if Tulsi becomes the standard bearer for the Democrat, I won’t expect you to believe me if I say I “strongly oppose Tulsi” unless I offer some manifest track record of opposing her. If I just offer apologetics for the Democratic Party at that hypothetical point, I’m not strongly opposing her.

albatross11 has consistently spoken very poorly of Trump for as long as I’ve been reading his thoughts on politics. I’m not sure why you wouldn’t believe him.

• HeelBearCub says:

He has spoken poorly of Trump, but couched within the position that he is essentially indistinguishable from other establishment politicians. That is in keeping with his identification as a Libertarian.

That’s why I said what I said about the Gabbard hypothetical.

For the record, if it was, say, Gabbard v. Romney, I’d lean voting Romney, despite agreeing with contentions about Romney as an extremely dishonest campaigner.

That’s an interesting hypothetical. I’d probably vote Tulsi over Mitt.

• Le Maistre Chat says:

I’d vote Tulsi over Mitt no question.

• Nick says:

Tulsi over Mitt, yeah.

Well I guess that pretty much proves HBC’s point about Tulsi not being a lefty.

• Skeptic says:

HBC,

As a nonpartisan that loathes both sides, this is fascinating to me.

I am going to assume you are a progressive leftist based on your comments, and I apologize in advance if I am misstating your positions or making assumptions.

Tulsi: opposes regime change wars, supports Medicare for All, wants a federal pro-choice law, pro criminal justice reform, pro large federal action against climate change.

Romney is against all of the above, and you also refer to him as a liar, and imply he’s even worse in honesty than most politicians.

Is this a pure partisanship thing?

Better a lying infidel than a Progressive Democrat who colored outside the lines ?

Fascinating. I have much to learn

• broblawsky says:

Speaking as a progressive lefty, I can say that we generally don’t trust Tulsi to actually commit to any of her promises if given power.

• HeelBearCub says:

Tulsi: opposes regime change wars, supports Medicare for All, wants a federal pro-choice law, pro criminal justice reform, pro large federal action against climate change.

I don’t trust Tulsi to do anything more than aggrandize herself. I don’t trust any of her stated policy positions.

The analogy might be, who do I trust to fly my commercial airline jet flight? The guy who voted against the pilot’s union, he’s too slick by half and I dislike his smugness, but with a commercial pilot’s license? Or the person who claims experience flying a Cesna who says the commercial airline pilot’s union is plot to keep everyone else down and ticket prices high?

• At this point, I’d gladly vote Tulsi over Mitt.(or Trump)

• Secretly French says:

Speaking as a progressive lefty, I can say that we generally don’t trust Tulsi to actually commit to any of her promises if given power.

@broblawsky don’t you think that bar is awfully high? She is a politician! Good luck dismantling the war machine that the USA has become; I can tell you with boundless confidence that it doesn’t persist solely with the permission of whoever is president at the time. Gosh, one might almost be lead to falsely believe that the president of the USA has any power whatsoever! Such rubbish.

• quanta413 says:

I’d also take Tulsi over Mitt in a heartbeat which I guess adds more evidence to HBC’s contention.

The only policy she has that I strongly favor is “no more regime change” and I don’t like most of her other policy positions. But Presidents have more effect on this (although maybe still not much) than on legislation and it’s so important to me compared to any other political issue that it’s an easy choice for me. I wouldn’t even expect a high chance of success on that promise. But even a low chance of success is better than a centrist candidate who is guaranteed to be pro-intervention.

• albatross11 says:

I think the “is Gabbard a lefty?” question may be a sign of something interesting, sort of like “is Trump a conservative?” The answer seems to me to be “no” in both cases–Gabbard[1] and Trump are their own thing, which doesn’t fit very well on the (IMO badly outdated) left/right spectrum usually used for US politics. And this works okay for me, since I don’t really strongly identify with either big party or with either side of that spectrum.

I think that a lot of politics right now makes more sense as the establishment vs the fringes. Trump and Sanders were examples in 2016 of someone who basically the whole establishment disliked and opposed. Trump’s victory was partly a signal that a lot of the establishment is less powerful than it seems. (Something similar happened, as best I can tell, in the UK w.r.t. Brexit. Basically the whole establishment, including most of the leadership of the big parties, were opposed to it.) Matt Taibbi and Glenn Greenwald and Noam Chomsky are all broadly on the left, but also anti-establishment; Steve Sailer and Tucker Carlson might be a similar examples on the right. (Sailer doesn’t seem like much of a dissident from the right now, but during the Bush years, he was highly critical of the establishment centrist Republican’s policies.)

Now, Greenwald and Taibbi have both been quite critical of Trump and his administration’s actions. But they’re also totally off-message with the push of the mainstream Democratic party’s opposition to Trump, and as best I can tell, this is the phenomenon that the linked article was trying to explain–why are these people who are supposed to be on our side defecting from our anti-Trump message? Both men were previously quite critical of both Obama and Bush. Which makes sense if you understand that they’re opposed, not just to the rightward end of establishment policies, but to a whole bunch of establishment policies from both the right and left end of the ruling class.

[1] Gabbard in particular would be a noncentral example of a liberal (not exactly a lefty) in many ways–she has served as a military officer and previously campaigned against gay marriage, for example. Hawaiian politics are probably different enough from mainstream politics in most of the US that she’d be an outlier anyway, and she’s a pretty unusual person overall–for example, she and her family are heavily involved with a new age-y guru who somehow associates with Hinduism.

• Rob K says:

To say that Greenwald’s been critical of Trump sort of captures perfectly how a lot of this inside/outside distinction is tribal, and particularly internet-tribal, rather than substantive in some particular way.

Greenwald’s twitter feed and public comments under Obama were largely about criticism of Obama; now they’re largely about criticism of people criticizing Trump. It’s true that Greenwald is in stated opposition to the same policies he opposed under Obama, but e.g. despite the expansion of the drone war under Trump he devotes less of his bandwidth to talking about it.

This makes complete sense, I think, if you get Greenwald’s deal: he’s a guy who likes arguing on the internet and carries grudges, so he’s focused on the fights he’s had going for 10-12 years with center lefty establishment types. Jonathan Chait’s a pretty good example of the same sort of beast from the establishment side.

This makes a lot more sense of the Tulsi Gabbard campaign than policy-based explanations would, imo. She doesn’t have an anti-interventionist track record, but she’s associated with a faction in an internet fight that originally broke with the establishment over anti-interventionism, so people sort of mentally color in an anti-interventionist stance for her. This also makes sense of her stance on impeachment, and the fact that she seems relatively appealing to right of center commenters here despite the fact that I’d guess her official policy positions don’t look like anything they’d be a particularly big fan of.

tl;dr the internet is a hell of a drug, and we’re all on it.

• She doesn’t have an anti-interventionist track record, but she’s associated with a faction in an internet fight that originally broke with the establishment over anti-interventionism, so people sort of mentally color in an anti-interventionist stance for her.

Or maybe it’s because of her publicly stated anti-interventionist stance. But the psychoanalysis allows the establishment Left to call anti-interventionalists hypocrites for having the same views in 2019 that they had in 2015 and 2007.

• albatross11 says:

It may also reflect the fact that Trump is mostly just continuing the bad policies started by others, or the fact that Obama campaigned partly on being skeptical of those war-on-terror policies, and yet ended up embracing them once he had power. Nobody expected any better from Trump.

• HeelBearCub says:

she and her family are heavily involved with a new age-y guru who somehow associates with Hinduism.

There is a word you are avoiding using, and I think that word is applicable, but I’d need to spend time justifying its use.

She is also isn’t running for re-election in her home district in Hawaii. If you think that’s because she wanted to “focus on her presidential campaign”, I think you are fooling yourself.

they’re also totally off-message with the push of the mainstream Democratic party’s opposition to Trump … this is the phenomenon that the linked article was trying to explain

It’s probably useful to know that Chait is someone who once proudly called himself a neoliberal (although that word doesn’t mean now what he meant by it then), and thus is frequently attacked from less centrist members of the party. He is interested primarily in government operating effectively to accomplish liberal ends.

From that standpoint, sure, it’s the establishment vs. the non-establishment. But it’s also “likes to burn things down” vs. “would like to repair things”.

There is a word you are avoiding using, and I think that word is applicable, but I’d need to spend time justifying its use.

Curiosity status: piqued.

• albatross11 says:

If Taibbi and Greenwald want to burn things down, they should support bipartisan consensus foreign policy, so we can do to more countries what we’ve done to Iraq, Libya, and Yemen.

• HeelBearCub says:

If Taibbi and Greenwald want to burn things down, they should support bipartisan consensus foreign policy, so we can do to more countries what we’ve done to Iraq, Libya, and Yemen.

Not actually clever.

• albatross11 says:

Nor is accusing everyone who isn’t on board with centrist Democratic policies as wanting to burn things down.

You can certainly make the argument that the Greenwalds’ and Taibbis’ and Gabbards’ preferred foreign and domestic policies would work out badly, or would even be disastrous. But you should probably start out by noting how badly a lot of the consensus policies have worked out in the last couple decades.

• HeelBearCub says:

Curiosity status: piqued.

Tulsi grew up, and remains in, an offshoot of Hinduism led by one single person named Chris Butler, who goes by Jagad Guru Siddhaswarupananda Paramahamsa. This name was bestowed on him by the founder of the Hare Krishnas.

I think that should set off some alarm bells.

So it’s an offshoot of the Krishnas? Is the alarm bell for the guy or for the Krishnas?

I’m not particularly well informed on them but I have a generally positive view. They served a great spicy bean stew in the quad at my university for donations. I loved getting Krishna lunch back in the day.

• Le Maistre Chat says:

So it’s an offshoot of the Krishnas? Is the alarm bell for the guy or for the Krishnas?

Seconding this question.
The Hare Krishnas are Gaudiya Vaishnavas, a 16th century Bengali offshoot of majority Hinduism that sees Vishnu as the (personal) Supreme Being (Ishvara) within the context of the bhakti (emphasizing ecstatic prayer over more intellectual paths to God) movement that saw a meteoric rise in popularity in the Middle Ages.
Western converts to Gaudiya Vaishnava all trace back to one Indian guru, Bhaktivedānta Swami, coming to the United States in 1966. Since his death in 1977, all gurus of the movement (formally International Society for Krishna Consciousness) have been Anglo.
I don’t see where any of this is an alarm bell. If Tulsi Gabbard takes her sect of Hinduism seriously, I see that as preferable to a Catholic politician sacrificing theirs to leftism.

• albatross11 says:

What principle would we use to decide whether Gabbard’s religious/spiritual beliefs or affiliations are disqualifyingly weird for a presidential candidate? How would that principle work with, say, an atheist rationalist, or a Wiccan?

My total knowledge of Gabbard is from one in-depth piece on her which was linked here, and a few surface-level articles. For all I know, she does have disqualifyingly weird stuff in her associations or beliefs. But I’d like to know what criteria we’re using to decide that.

Most of us are presumably not going to refuse to vote for anyone who’s not a mainline Protestant, nor probably even for {Protestant, Catholic, Jew}. Where ought we to draw the line there?

• albatross11 says:

HBC:

First, thanks for the stylistic note–I agree it was very confusing, and I’ll try to remember not to do that again.

Second, I think Trump is an unusually bad president, as I’ve described many times before. I don’t think he’s going to usher in some kind of fascist dictatorship or make white nationalism a respectable ideology in the US or round up all the gays or anything, I just think he’s a corrupt and not very informed guy whose personal flaws prevent him from having a trusted circle of advisors who could help him make good decisions. He has a scary one-of-a-kind talent at playing the media and controlling public attention and building an image, few or no carefully-thought-out ideas about what policies to pursue, and basically no interest in the details of how to get things done as president. Ironically, this has probably prevented him from doing a lot of harm he’d otherwise have done. W was a better man who did far worse things, partly because he was more competent and prepared for the job so he *could* do those things.

IMO, the main long-term danger of Trump to the nation is that his power comes from keeping everyone divided and angry at each other, and his opponents are also using keeping everyone divided and angry at each other to keep their power–I worry a lot about how that dynamic will play out in the US over the next decade or two, and I can imagine very hard-to-fix damage being done as a result. I also worry about his tendency to knock down norms that have stood for a long time and perhaps were load-bearing in some way we’ll come to understand a couple decades from now.

The shorter-term danger of Trump is that he’s not very competent or knowledgeable and doesn’t inspire much loyalty among his advisors, so if some major crisis comes along, he’s probably going to make a hash of his response. In a crisis, I have zero confidence that Trump will make a good decision.

The thing is, none of this is very much like what I perceive to be the main line of Democratic or liberal or progressive opposition to Trump. They seem to either be claiming Trump’s on Putin’s payroll, or that he’s an overt racist and white supremacist planning to usher in some kind of white supremacist policies, or that he’s going to somehow impose a fascist dictatorship on us. And since none of that seems very plausible or consistent with what I’ve seen so far, I don’t really find myself in much agreement with that opposition. That’s why I rather identify with the Gabbards and Greenwalds and Taibbis. And this is similar to the way I was pretty opposed to a lot of Obama’s actions, but didn’t really sign on to the right-wing campaign of opposition to Obama that was yammering about Islamic sympathies or anti-white extremism or socialism–Obama did plenty wrong, but none of that seemed like it had much to do with Obama’s flaws.

• Nancy Lebovitz says:

The Muslim ban is still making a lot of people’s lives very hard

Trump doesn’t have to go full Hitler to hurt people in targeted groups.

• Aapje says:

Trump’s power comes from the establishment ignoring/working against the interests of many voters. He didn’t create this and doesn’t have the power to keep it going. Trump’s strength is mainly that he isn’t very susceptible to the ways in which the establishment destroys its opposition.

Compare it to a shipwrecked person clinging to a rock. They know that the rock is unpleasant. They still prefer it over drowning.

The shorter-term danger of Trump is that he’s not very competent or knowledgeable and doesn’t inspire much loyalty among his advisers, so if some major crisis comes along, he’s probably going to make a hash of his response.

I don’t have much faith in the advisers that the establishment considers competent, nor in the crisis responses that they like. Do you?

Trump’s MO is to bark loudly, but not follow through, which hasn’t worked out too badly so far. No war with Iran despite the attacks on ships. Status quo with North-Korea (which is the best that can be expected). No significant new wars.

IMO, the main danger of Trump is not Trump itself, but the establishment going all out to defeat him and his, destroying rule of law, democracy, etc in the process.

• jermo sapiens says:

Trump’s power comes from the establishment ignoring/working against the interests of many voters. He didn’t create this and doesn’t have the power to keep it going. Trump’s strength is mainly that he isn’t very susceptible to the ways in which the establishment destroys its opposition.

Absolutely. The vote of 10s of millions of americans was up for grabs like a \$100 bill lying on the floor, but to get those votes you had to pander to the hated “middle american”. And only Trump had the lack of class to bend down and grab that \$100 bill from the floor.

IMO, the main danger of Trump is not Trump itself, but the establishment going all out to defeat him and his, destroying rule of law, democracy, etc in the process.

Alternatively, the main benefit of Trump is not Trump itself, but his uncanny ability to have the corrupt establishment display their disgusting corruption for all the world to see.

• Your [1] is now the quote of the month on my web page.

• albatross11 says:

I’m flattered!

• imoimo says:

You criticize the Russian probe, so what’s your opinion on the Ukraine situation?

• albatross11 says:

As best I can tell, Trump probably did exactly what he’s accused of, it’s plausibly an impeachable offense, but there is no chance of getting a vote to remove him from office in the Senate.

Trump probably did exactly what he’s accused of

1) Is there any evidence? No one even need doubt the testimony of the witnesses: not a one of them testified to having observed Trump do the things of which he is accused.

2) What of the counter-evidence, that the Ukrainians have been the ones trying to get information about Biden to Trump and US officials since summer 2018?

• HeelBearCub says:

not a one of them testified to having observed Trump do the things of which he is accused.

Gordon Sondland.

What did Sondland say?

• Aapje says:

@HBC

While Sondland said Trump had never expressly told him that US military assistance was contingent on Ukraine announcing investigations into Burisma and the 2016 election, the ambassador said he was “under the impression that, absolutely, it was contingent.”

https://edition.cnn.com/2019/11/20/politics/gordon-sondland-hearing-takeaways/index.html

So he didn’t observe Trump demanding a quid-pro-quo, but was “under the impression” that’s what he meant. Apparently, he didn’t bother to ask whether his interpretation of Trump’s words, who is of course known to be a careful communicator that is easy to understand, was correct. That failure means that Sondland cannot be certain what Trump wanted, one way or the other.

SPECULATION: I think all of this got started from bias. If state/CIA employees start with the bias that Trump is bad and Biden is good, and then they hear that Trump and Zelensky are talking about information about Biden being bad, that must be because Trump is pressuring Zelensky for it. The alternative explanation is that Ukrainians have their own reasons for wanting to get information about Biden to Trump. These could be:

1) A genuine desire to root out corruption, like foreign influence over their prosecutions.

2) A desire to appear to be rooting out corruption, and throwing a foreign, former politician under the bus is easier than offering up one of their own.

3) Anger at foreigners meddling in their government appointments. I might not have been a big fan of Loretta Lynch, but I would be very angry if, say, the Canadians had twisted Obama’s arm to get her fired. That’s our business, not theirs.

4) A thank-you to the Trump administration for authorizing weapons transfers to Ukraine.

5) Fear that if Biden gets back into power, he will reverse that policy decision and re-implement the same policy we had when Biden was VP: no weapons for Ukraine.

6) An attempt to curry favor with the Trump administration.

Sondland and others would have served better by at least exploring other possibilities before jumping to the conclusion that Trump was strong-arming Zelensky.

• HeelBearCub says:

“ I know that members of this committee frequently frame these complicated issues in the form of a simple question: Was there a ‘quid pro quo’?” Sondland said. “. . . With regard to the requested White House call and the White House meeting, the answer is yes. ”

Sondland acknowledged that he and others were the ones pushing Ukrainians to announce investigations, but asserted they had merely “followed the president’s orders,” communicated through Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani. Sondland testified that top-level officials — including Pence, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — were made aware at various points of what was happening, and he provided emails to back up his assertions.

Sondland testified that Trump ordered him to work with Rudy, and that Rudy made it clear that things Ukraine wanted were contingent on announcing the investigations.

Also, I thought you guys agree to a moratorium on impeachment for this thread.

And the evidence for that is that he assumed that was what was going on. Trump didn’t tell him to do that. He could have instead chosen to assume the investigation was going on because Biden was dirty, and if I made that claim without evidence you would do exactly what I’m doing: shrug and ask for evidence.

I didn’t agree to a moratorium, but I will. We’ve already all been over this a dozen times.

• Thomas Jorgensen says:

You have demonstrated remarkable resistance to argument re this, but I am going to try a new angle.
The leadership of Ukraine do not listen to fox news. They do, however, have to deal with corrupt assholes constantly. Putting an illegal hold on military aid and then asking for a favor during a following phone call is blackmail, because the odds of Zelensky reading it is as anything other than “Manufacture me some dirt” is laughably low.

Does this prove mens rea? Nah, but it is impeachable either way, either on grounds of incompetence or malice.

• Aapje says:

@Thomas Jorgensen

Biden earlier got an investigator fired who investigated Biden’s company. The establishment tells us that this was not the reason, but instead that Biden demanded a solid investigation into corruption. We are supposed to believe that this was a call for a fair investigation, not to manufacture dirt.

Note that we know that Ukraine interfered with the elections on behalf of the Democrats. So we have Biden using government funds to interfere with the Ukranian government, who interfered with the elections. Yet apparently this is also worth no investigation.

Trump seems to believe that Biden was up to shenanigans and wants this investigated. We are supposed to believe that Trump didn’t want a fair investigation, even though we have no more evidence that he demanded an unfair investigation than when Biden demanded investigations.

Why does Biden get good faith and Trump get bad faith? Why is merely having an investigation suddenly a horrible attack on a candidate that threatens democracy? By that standard, the (illegal) FISA investigation by the FBI into Trump is also an attack on democracy, right?

I am looking for the barest hint of consistency here, but I see turtles motivated reasoning all the way down.

• Thomas Jorgensen says:

This is the guy your narrative insists was an unfairly dismissed anti-corruption crusader. That is not some super custom search, just google news search 2010 to 2018 january before the media gave any shits about what was happening in Ukraine. Guy fired for cause, abundantly proven.

• Aapje says:

The first link I get in your search results is a fairly nuanced story by the NYT, who entertain the idea that Shokin’s decisions were heavily politicized, but that this may be/have been necessary to achieve political stability.

You may be aware that happened after Shokin was ousted and the West strongly backed the pro-Western elements in Ukraine: a war. This was a horrible outcome for Ukraine.

This is the guy your narrative insists was an unfairly dismissed anti-corruption crusader.

No, that is not what I’m insisting at all.

What I’m saying is that Biden had a clear conflict of interest: Shokin had gone after the company that later hired his son. Note that it is typically very hard to prove that a conflict of interest actually played a role, so the typical anti-corruption standard is to recluse oneself when a conflict of interest exists. Biden didn’t do so. Yet we are to believe that his decision could only have been motivated by being opposed to corruption and that even a mere investigation is interference in the elections.

Note that the FBI went on a fishing expedition to find dirt on Trump, lying to the FISA courts about the lacking evidence for any wrongdoing, misrepresenting their fishing expedition as an investigation into solid incriminating evidence. How is this not worse than what Trump did? If Trump asking for an investigation into Biden’s son is bad enough to oust him, then why haven’t the FBI people been ousted, who went after an actual politician, with falsified evidence? It’s this kind of hypocrisy (and the past unwillingness to go after worse behavior by other presidents, like W Bush’s clear violation of the constitution by torturing people), that makes me believe that this is a political prosecution.

Note that political prosecutions can have a real casus belli. However, if the prosecution only happened because of the politics of the person being prosecuted, it is still a political prosecution.

Anyway, back to Biden. Biden gave a lot of government support to Poroshenko, who is hardly free from corruption. He is known to have created a secret offshore company during his presidency (which anti-corruption group Transparency International calls a violation of the constitution). He granted citizenship to Saakashvili, so he could offer him a government job, yet when Saakashvili started his own political party, Poroshenko stripped him of his citizenship. A fairly clear case of neutralizing a political opponent using illicit means, which Trump is accused of having tried to do. It was also alleged that Poroshenko was involved with a severe corruption scandal involving the first deputy secretary of Ukraine’s National Security Council, a close friend of Poroshenko.

Poroshenko seems to have reduced corruption by introducing the Prozorro public e-procurement system. However, no one significant was convicted for corruption during his presidency and it is alleged that the head of the Special Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office coached suspects on how to avoid corruption charges. Note that the major criticism of Shokin was that he didn’t convict important people for corruption, so this doesn’t seem to have changed after his ousting.

So how sure can we be that Biden’s demand that Shokin be fired, was motivated solely by the alleged laxness to combat corruption, when Biden gave a lot of support to a seemingly fairly corrupt Poroshenko, who in particular failed to do the exact thing that Shokin was fired for? Again, it is hard to believe that the real reason was not something else, when the ostensible reason for behavior doesn’t result in the same actions, when a different person does it.

Finally, I want to point out that Shokin was replaced by Yuriy Lutsenko. The prosecutor that Trump wanted to be instated, was…Yuriy Lutsenko. So when Biden strong-armed Poroshenko to replace the existing prosecutor with Lutsenko, he was apparently demanding the installation of a strong anti-corruption prosecutor. Biden never seemed to have demanded the ouster of Lutsenko, so his performance seemed sufficient in the eyes of Biden. Yet when Trump demanded that Zelensky replace the existing prosecutor with Lutsenko, he was apparently demanding the installation of a corrupt prosecutor.

Perhaps this all adds up to a clear case for a Trump impeachment in your eyes, but in my eyes it primarily adds up to a double standard. The entire situation in Ukraine is a shit sandwich, with corruption all over the place. The idea that the pro-Western people are so much better is probably largely a halo effect. This taints everything. When Biden got Lutsenko instated, the halo effect made Lutsenko seem like a crusader for good. When Trump demanded his reinstatement, the reverse-halo effect made Lutsenko seem evil. It’s the same person, merely the halo changed.

• imoimo says:

Glad to hear you (who lean right) say that. I’m on the left but am very skeptical of anti-trump stuff, yet haven’t seen a plausible defense of him re: Ukraine. I agree about the senate, though desperately hope for a few guilty consciences to step in and stop a bad standard from being set here.

• mtl1882 says:

I’m a big fan of Taibbi and I think he pretty much lays out the only sane assessment of these things that is currently available. Your (2) is a big part of this—Trump’s behavior, for me, has been far less jaw-dropping and disturbing than the fact that the FBI etc. have been presented as so obviously trustworthy and altruistic. That takes some nerve! No one here is behaving in a plausibly trustworthy manner–Trump’s winking at this is part of his appeal. That this is appealing shows how dysfunctional things have become. Taibbi has been laying out this deterioration for years in his books and articles.

Trump’s behavior, for me, has been far less jaw-dropping and disturbing than the fact that the FBI etc. have been presented as so obviously trustworthy and altruistic.

I’ve been posting on Slashdot since 1999, and the about face is, as you said, jaw dropping. People who were thoroughly “man, never trust the feds, hack the planet yo” for decades suddenly screaming that if the “Intelligence Community” (please put at least six or seven additional layers of quotation marks around that) said Trump did stuff with Russians then, by Linus, that was good enough for them. Same with /r/politics on reddit.

In 2013 I thought a big focus of the 2016 election would be about the Snowden revelations, and people would have a chance to vote on what sorts of spy powers the government should have, but the whole Trump thing killed all that. I don’t think the NSA collection programs were even once brought up during any debate, the entire campaign. And afterwards the spy agencies became the good guys because they were anti-Trump.

No, Brennan and Clapper were lying liars who lie about their lies in 2013, and they’re lying liars who lie about their lies today.

• mtl1882 says:

Yeah. It doesn’t surprise me that most people barely care about things like NSA, and easily surrender freedom for security, but there is a difference between, “eh, that’s the way things work, everyone in politics plays power games and we have to live in a surveillance state now,” (which I know sounds pretty bad, but also seems to be the general response) and “there are no power games, nothing to feel ‘eh’ about, just appalled patriots acting from the good of their hearts, in a measured manner, in response to this unprecedented threat!” And, far more than that, this was coming from the journalism community, which has firsthand knowledge of how intelligence agencies behave, and quite a history of conflict (and humiliation) there! Early on, the NYT and others basically ran the narrative, “The poor FBI agents have been unprepared for the unparalleled deception they face, having always assumed the good in public servants!” The stuff about staring into Trump’s dark soul or whatever…that’s the entire job of the FBI!

And in doing that job, they’ve made more than a few questionable moves. My first first mental association with “Boston FBI” is “Whitey Bulger,” because it wasn’t all that long ago. Not that the FBI doesn’t do good, but they are always playing power games and manipulating people with an agenda in mind–that’s how they get their information and choose their targets and strategy.

• BBA says:

I’m old enough to remember when the Clinton party line was that the New York FBI was in Trump’s pocket and that’s the only thing keeping the email nothingburger alive. And good God, was Comey ever a sanctimonious prick.

This is an alliance of convenience, but many people on my “side” forgot that almost immediately. And it’s not like Trump is actually opposed to the Deep State on principle, he has no principles to speak of. If they would start kissing his ass, like Lindsey Graham, they’d be fine. But it’s a Burn After Reading world, everyone wants to think they’re the hero in a political thriller who’ll fix the whole system with one well-timed leak, when in reality it’s all meaningless drivel nobody cares about.

• Clutzy says:

I’m old enough to remember when the Clinton party line was that the New York FBI was in Trump’s pocket and that’s the only thing keeping the email nothingburger alive. And good God, was Comey ever a sanctimonious prick.

Its funny, because in some sense they were the only people keeping it alive, because head office was smothering it with a pillow. This eventually led to the Weiner announcement (which should and could have been made 3 months or so earlier) on the eve of the election, because of the Comey/head office own goal of trying to bury evidence.

• BBA says:

The whole #Resist/Russia thing is mostly a response to the immense psychological blow of Trump’s victory. Naturally it’s most popular among those who were most strongly invested in Clinton. But for the most part, it’s not the DNC selling it, it’s third-party grifters out to enrich themselves. (The left-wing equivalent of, say, Glenn Beck hawking newsletters and vitamin supplements – see, we’re not so different after all.)

Now as for the sclerotic bipartisan establishment using its Deep State ties to entrench itself, no argument here. I still find it preferable to Trump, whom I despise with every fiber of my being, whereas I only despise the establishment with, like, 80% of the fibers of my being.

Gabbard vs Romney… that’s a hard call. Gabbard seems completely untrustworthy, while Romney can be counted on to give us a third term of George W. Bush. If you put a gun to my head, I’d probably pick Gabbard, but I wouldn’t feel good about it.

But for the most part, it’s not the DNC selling it, it’s third-party grifters out to enrich themselves.

Rachel Maddow is being sued for calling OANN (newish right-wing news outlet) “really literally is paid Russian propaganda.” This is not at all true, but her legal response is essentially the Alex Jones defense, that “Her comment, therefore, is a quintessential statement of rhetorical hyperbole, incapable of being proved true or false.”

• BBA says:

Despite widespread beliefs to the contrary, MSNBC is not in fact a Democratic party organ.

I know, I was agreeing with you. I was providing an example of what you said, Maddow, a third-party grifter out to enrich herself. She spouts nonsense for ad revenue, and then claims that no one should really believe her when called out on it. She is left-wing Alex Jones. Jones is also not a Republican party organ.

• cassander says:

• Le Maistre Chat says:

I still find it preferable to Trump, whom I despise with every fiber of my being, whereas I only despise the establishment with, like, 80% of the fibers of my being.

See, I hate the establishment with like 80% of the fibers of my being too. If I can assume continuity of the establishment since at least the Truman Administration, 20% of my fibers appreciate them for developing the norms that kept us from nuclear war.
But they hate my people, Trump doesn’t, and he has avoided wars despite the hysterical predictions of the establishment, so I have to hate him with much less than 80%.

• Enkidum says:

I’m pretty much with you on all these points. The about-face of the Democratic rank and file on intelligence agencies and Russia is, frankly, disgusting. I hope at least some of them will reflect back on this twenty or thirty years from now with shame, and perhaps try and influence the discourse for the better then.

Many seem to have given up on the notion that their could be a left wing movement that (a) has any principles other than the maintenance of power and avoiding letting the other guys in, and (b) is actually effective.

I think one of the clearest indications of how much the mainstream left has sold out is the response to coups and coup attempts in Bolivia, Honduras, and Venezuela, which consisted of mostly crickets from the rank and file, and active support from most of the leaders. Utterly shameful.

• cassander says:

There was no coup in Honduras or Bolivia. In both counties, elected leaders grossly exceeded constitutional restrictions and were kicked out.

• Enkidum says:

English has a word for when small groups “kick out” leaders with the force of arms. That word is “coup”.

• cassander says:

by that logic, impeaching trump is a coup attempt.

• The original Mr. X says:

“Coup” usually describes an unlawful kicking-out. Kicking out a tyrant (in the classical sense of someone who rules without regard for the law or constitution) might be a coup according to some definitions, but I think it skirts perilously close to the worst argument in the world.

• Dacyn says:

@cassander, @The original Mr. X: If Trump is impeached and convicted, then according to the Constitution he is no longer the president, and it presumably (IANAL) lies within the legal authority of the police and/or the army to enforce this by removing him from office if necessary. Is there anything in the Honduran or Bolivian constitution which would clearly imply that the leaders were no longer legally in charge? A leader doing unconstitutional things doesn’t automatically mean they are no longer a legitimate leader, in US law and I presume elsewhere.

• cassander says:

@dacyn

Morales resigned. In Honduras, zelaya was impeached by the legislature after the Supreme Court ruled he was violating the constitution.

• Enkidum says:

Morales “resigned” in response to an armed uprising run by the richest people in the country, who are now in charge, and who would never have won an outright election. Honduras was a similar situation. This is (as you are well aware) a fundamentally different process from impeachment through constitutionally-mandated procedures, which would not result in the impeachers gaining power.

Words mean things. Coups are coups.

EDIT: Apologies, I should be less strident about Honduras. I think it was an appalling miscarriage of justice, with terrible consequences, but at least there was a (largely) legal framework for what happened. That simply isn’t the case in Bolivia.

• cassander says:

@Enkidum says:

Morales “resigned” in response to an armed uprising run by the richest people in the country, who are now in charge, and who would never have won an outright election.

Bolivia has a 2 term limit for presidents. Morales got court to rule that his first term didn’t count against term limits then ran for a third term. After winning that, he held a referendum on abolishing term limits, lost it, then got the court to declare that term limits were a human rights violation and ran for a 4th term. He cheated in that election, got caught, and resigned in the face of mass protests. How rich the protesters are is not germane to this conversation.

Now, if you want, you can claim that extra-legal pressure was applied to morales. Fine, but it’s also clear that extra-legal pressure was applied to get him into power, sp I could just as easily argue that his 4th election was a coup attempt.

• Dacyn says:

@cassander: Enkidum said “armed uprising”, which makes me think the extra-legal part involved the threat of force. Is this true in the Bolivian Supreme Court situation as well? If not, the 4th election is probably not best described as a coup, though of course whether or not something is a coup is not really the primary factor in determining whether it is legitimate.

Anyway all of this is interesting, I don’t really know much about the Honduras or Bolivia situation.

30. Eric T says:

I’m currently trying to balance an 8-6 job with studying for the LSAT. I’m doing well enough on my practice tests to feel confident in my ability to get to the schools I want to go to, but with 3 months to go until the test, I’m already starting to feel burned out, and I have a history on giving up on things when they get too difficult. Anyone who’s been in a similar situation have any advice?

• J Mann says:

Take all the practice tests you can under test conditions, one per Saturday if you can find enough tests, then score them on Sunday and think about why are you missing the questions you are. Track your scores on a spreadsheet to gamify the process.

Here’s my advice: don’t go to law school. (Except maybe Yale *if* you want to be a professor.)

• BBA says:

+∞

• Theodoric says:

Unless
-You get into a top-14 AND you want to work in biglaw and are OK with crazy hours
or
-You get a full ride (check to see what grades you’ll have to maintain to keep it)

AND you want to work in biglaw and are OK with crazy hours

Very few people have the context to know if they want to work in biglaw. There’s lots that think they do and find out too late they don’t.

You get a full ride

There’s still opportunity cost.

• Cliff says:

OR you can be a patent attorney

If you have the aptitude for it, it’s hard to beat programming. Otherwise, doctors have a good life once they finally finish training. Management consulting sucks, but there’s a lot of opportunities to off ramp to good jobs. Big city cop is surprisingly lucrative when you consider the pension starts right at 20 years regardless of age.

• mitv150 says:

the skill sets that permit one to excel at programming vs law vs being a doctor don’t overlap terribly well.

Not my experience. I think most of my college friends could have done at least fine in any of the three.

• mitv150 says:

“at least fine” != “excel at”

For example: Excelling at law requires a level of inherent or learned extroversion that is not strictly required as a software developer.

Excelling at law almost always means a shitty life. You’re better of doing okay at medicine.

• slapdashbr says:

You don’t need to study that hard for the LSAT.

Familiarize yourself with every question type. I didn’t even do a full “practice test” and I finished every graded section and scored in the 85th percentile.

Even more so than the SAT, the LSAT is designed to be un-gameable. Obviously no test is perfectly objective, but you can’t realistically expect to improve your LSAT score through extensive preparation. So don’t waste too much time on it.

• Clutzy says:

85th Percentile is not going to reliably get a non-minority into any law school worth attending at current prices, and isn’t going to get you the kind of scholarships worth making the cost worthwhile.

• mtl1882 says:

Yeah, it’s not a test you long-term “study” for — it is testing for underlying reasoning principles. I did one practice test section a day in the week or two leading up to it to keep my mental habits in game mode for the questions requiring the most “precision” of thought. I have experience tutoring standardized exams, but have only helped my friend for the LSAT (she scored one point higher than I did!)—I’d be happy to help if you have questions. But you have to think of it as a judgment test and not a content one—if you’re burning out, you probably are not taking the most productive or healthy approach. If you’re doing well enough, take a break and restart before the exam. It doesn’t require that kind of brute force. I second the recommendation against law school, assuming you’re looking to boost career prospects. It is a great education and so I don’t warn against it in that sense, but the market is terrible and I don’t think it will get better any time soon. The competition is brutal, and having a GPA around median at even a good school (on a harsh curve where the differences may be very slight) seems to count for little. If you tend to get burned out, I’d advise you to go a different way.

• ECD says:

You’re getting and likely will get more ‘don’t go to law school’ posts. In my experience this depends a lot on where you’re looking to go and what you’re looking to do. Regional law schools in small markets can act as nice feeders for very nice professional jobs with reasonable hours and reasonable pay benefits (most state AG jobs, almost all non-US Attorney federal jobs).

If you want biglaw, that’s a very different environment and one I can’t speak to.

My experience probably isn’t representative (I was lucky in many ways), but various federal legal honors programs do hire folks straight out of law school and for smaller regional offices, are often more interested in someone who wants to live there than the person with the shiniest resume. If you want a nice professional career, law school can still offer that. If you want to get rich…beats me.

School debt is no joke, but it also doesn’t have to be unbearable. I lived like a grad student for four years and have essentially paid them off (savings exceed the remaining debt, but I haven’t entirely killed it off for credit reporting reasons). This is obviously a lot harder if your debt is larger than mine (110k about), or if you have a spouse/children who don’t want to live like graduate students.

On the substance of your question…yeah, I wouldn’t practice for the LSAT that much. I’d do a review and a final practice test about a week out and call it good.

• blipnickels says:

Regional law schools in small markets can act as nice feeders for very nice professional jobs with reasonable hours and reasonable pay benefits (most state AG jobs, almost all non-US Attorney federal jobs)

I would like to echo this. I’d say \$80k-\$130k is normal for civil servant lawyers, the hours are easy, and the competition is…not always the highest.

As for the substance…I tend to burn then crash so just make sure you don’t crash at the wrong time. Try to make sure you actually relax in your free time. I find time I spend reading Vox or playing online competitive games isn’t actually relaxing, even if it’s fun. Go read garbage Sci-fi or watch something stupid but make sure if you only have an hour to yourself you’re doing something that really, deeply relaxes you.

• mitv150 says:

What he said. Aimlessly going to law school because you’re not sure what else to do is not really a recipe for success. OP doesn’t sound like that person, as they’ve got a full time job.

If you have an idea as to the type of law you want to practice, then shoot for a school that works for that goal. If you want to be a local real estate lawyer, the local city law school will almost certainly leave you in a better spot than going out of state to one of the top 14.

Debt is a real issue, but can be dealt with if you know what you want to do ahead of time and choose your path accordingly. For example, there is a lot of debt forgiveness for civil service jobs. BigLaw salaries, if you don’t have a family, will erase your debt very quickly. Patent law is a path where people frequently have their law school paid for.

• Theodoric says:

Re civil service debt forgiveness: If you’re talking about the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, keep in mind that many participants seem to be set up to fail. 99% of applications are denied.

• mitv150 says:

I was referring to programs like the DOJ attorney student loan repayment program. Programs like this are frequently available if you accept a governmental position as an attorney.

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness program is totally unrelated.

• ECD says:

@mitv150

Indeed, and its worth looking into that before talking to folks (or at least after first round interviews). In retrospect, I probably could have gotten 10-20k if I’d known it was an option and discussed it. Needs some delicacy when bringing up, but often there’s a pile of money available, which won’t come out of the local budget, so they’re perfectly willing to have the admin fill out the needed forms.

Scott,

Submitted for consideration for the next Links post: Puma introduces new shoe for gamers, “Active Gaming Footwear.” With improved…grip. So you don’t slip and fall while sitting on the couch playing video games.

• Three Year Lurker says:

This is not the joke you think it is. Many top tier dance game (Dance Dance Revolution, In The Groove, Pump It Up) swear by lightweight flexible shoes. Some of them even have specific Puma styles specifically for playing.

Ad looks like they have too much grip though. Top tier players often use baby powder to reduce grip at high speeds.

• ninjafetus says:

I can confirm this. The facebook buy/sell group for rhythm game players has pretty regular posts of people selling or looking to buy specific shoes. A decade ago everyone in the scene was wearing Nike frees. Now people seem to like Puma tapers.

And even though I’m still semi-actively playing dance games, I hadn’t seen the linked Puma video until today! So now my weird worlds are overlapping. 🙂

You people need to stop being reasonable and informative so we can laugh at marketers 🙁

• Three Year Lurker says:

Well, the failure here is that nothing in that video actually helps find the product, even typing those exact words into the search on their store page.

So you can laugh at the marketing team for that.

• broblawsky says:

That’s very insightful, thank you.

• Jake R says:

That is ridiculous but they do look hella comfortable.

32. bzium says:

In the same spirit as what Tarpitz said,
The Doors of Stone.

33. I have a suggestion for an ACC, although I’m not volunteering to do it:

Was the sexual revolution a mistake?

Over my lifetime, there has been a striking shift in norms of sexual behavior. Over that same period, there have been changes that might be viewed as undesirable consequences of that shift, most obviously a sharp increase in children born to unmarried mothers and children brought up by single mothers, but also a decline in reproduction that has brought most western societies to below replacement birth rates.

On net, did the change in norms and associated behavior produce good or bad consequences?

• DinoNerd says:

I’m not volunteering either, but I’m curious as to whether the same shift in norms occurred in other places experiencing some of the same outcomes.

• I think it did in western Europe, with a stronger effect on fertility. The U.S., I believe, is still a little above replacement, largely due to the fertility of immigrants, who may be less likely to share the newer norms. But I think most of western Europe is below replacement.

How would one get evidence on my question? One could try data on whether couples where one or both partner had never slept with anyone other than the other partner had more stable marriages, but that has the obvious problem of a very non-random sample — there will be reasons why they acted that way which may themselves be the cause of outcome differences.

A more promising approach might be to find subgroups with more traditional norms and see how they do in the relevant measures. I don’t have any other ideas for doing it, and those are not all that good. But someone else here might.

• albatross11 says:

It seems like a big confounder there would be that people self-select out of (and sometimes into) those more conservative communities. Kids who find Mormonism/traditional Catholicism/orthodox Judaism too stifling vote with their feet and end up in more liberal communities, living by different standards. And that likely happens while they’re at college age or around there, so their prime dating/family formation years are happening after the self-selection.

Is there any way to do some kind of discontinuity thing, where the sexual revolution arrived in different places at different times somehow? Maybe by looking at when different countries got access to the Pill, or got liberalized divorce laws?

• DinoNerd says:

What about Japan? They are notable for hitting the low birthrate/too few young workers problem ahead of other western nations. Did their attitudes to pre-marital and extra-marital sex also change, and do so somewhat before the changes brought on by the 1960s in the US?

• Statismagician says:

Can you point me at a good description of what society was like before the revolution?

• I can’t, but I can give you my impression.

In most U.S. society, casual sex was seen as shameful, especially for women. Premarital sex by engaged couples was normally covert, but not uncommon–calculations for some European cities in the late 19th century suggest that about a third of brides were pregnant.

Sex by couples short of engagement — “going steady” — was not all that uncommon, but again covert. Virginity was a significant asset on the marriage market. It was taken for granted that, in a dating context, men pushed for going further than women wanted to. A man who succeeded in getting a woman to permit intercourse had “gotten lucky,” and while it sometimes happened outside of the context of long term relations, it wasn’t something a man could count on happening.

Given those institutions, the attitude to women who engaged in casual sex was probably rational. Think of it as a Nash equilibrium. Given that being known to engage in casual sex sharply reduced marital opportunities and most women wanted to end up married, acting that way signaled either very short term thinking, poor impulse control, or low intelligence — characteristics that made a woman less desirable as a wife. We have now shifted to a different Nash equilibrium.

That at least is my impression, but it’s largely from external evidence, since I was never very active in the dating market and essentially not at all until a point at which the sexual revolution was already begun (I was born in 1945, socially rather backwards). Other people, especially ones at least as old as I am and more active in dating in high school, may be able to give a more accurate picture.

• DinoNerd says:

From where I sit, there were two stages of this revolution. In the first, which occurred before my time (or yours?), divorce became normal/common enough for a non-starry-eyed middle class woman to see it as a significant risk to her future lifestyle. By the time I became aware (a decade after you) songs about the divorce risk were appearing on pop-radio.

The next thing that happened was two-fold. On the one hand, there was the sexual revolution of the 60s. But on the other hand, the career options being presented to middle class girls began to change – she could train for the ‘traditional’ career of wife-and-mother, with the classic backup/premarital but low-paying office work skills – but she could also train for the same careers that were open to her brothers. (She’d have a hard time of it, compared to her brothers, but she didn’t have to risk being abandoned with children, and no significant marketable skils.)

Once middle class women had career options other than marriage which would enable them to live as comfortably as their parents, some put less effort into catching a man, and were a lot less willing to settle for a substandard potential husband.

Also, during roughly the same generation, laws banning birth control mostly got overturned. (I think this happened a little earlier, but in my mother’s adult lifetime.)

My personal theory – doubtless based on preference since it’s not based on data – is that the main thing which changed the birthrate was alternatives for women, along with more effective means of preventing conception, rather than the degree of shaming of non-marital sex.

• mtl1882 says:

Yeah, it seems like to me the norms and circumstances were hugely interactive. It’s always seemed to me that we don’t pay enough attention to the aChanges in the technology and society generally were in favor of women having more options (and people in general having more flexibility and money), which affects a bunch of other things, and this became a feedback loop. Even if the norms were nominally still in place, they could not have functioned in the same way, because they weren’t evolved to fit the major structural changes that overwhelmed societal arrangements. It can’t really be viewed as a mistake, in that it wasn’t really chosen, IMO. It was more that we didn’t choose to counteract it, or re-frame our way of tackling it.

I do think that most people need structure and stability, and we have kind of dismissed the desirability of this, and pretended people are easily able to impose this structure on their own and somehow keep consumerist society values out of their beliefs about family. A lot of people have suffered because of this. But I think the sexual revolution is only a piece of this larger issue, and that the old system had more hidden downsides that are hard to judge comparatively. It is plausible to me that most people did better under the old system, but for a significant minority, it was hell, and this was likely enough to make change inevitable in an age of mass communication.

Also, I think it is key to keep in mind that under those norms, the result was not everyone being really responsible. Some people were, and it made a difference overall, but the most common outcome was probably people marrying their high school girlfriend or boyfriend, removing the need for restraint. This does not mean they made a thoughtful choice, had a strong sense of commitment, or had long-term stability. It had upsides and downsides.

• broblawsky says:

If at least one collaborator on this isn’t a woman, I don’t think it’ll be a useful conversation.

• Why not? Do you have any specific “blind spots” in mind that men would look past, or are you just assuming they are there?

• broblawsky says:

I feel that it’s hard to make a good argument for something if you don’t have skin in the game, and women inarguably gained more from the sexual revolution than men did.

• The original Mr. X says:

I’ve seen plenty of people argue that women lost out from the sexual revolution, so I don’t think it’s “inarguable” at all.

Also, “women gained more” =/= “men gained nothing” (nor, for that matter, does “woman lost more” =/= “men lost nothing”), so even if you’re correct, it doesn’t follow that men have no skin in the game.

• Lambert says:

I don’t think you can sum over ‘men’ and ‘women’ like that and still have something both true and meaningful to say.

Distinctions like ‘wants to immediately settle down with a spouse and 2.3 kids’ vs. ‘wants to play the field’. and even whether they’re into the kind of person who would beat them, iff it was socially acceptable.

• and women inarguably gained more from the sexual revolution than men did.

It might be true, but it isn’t inarguable.

One interpretation of the previous system is that men wanted sex, women wanted support for themselves and their children.

Women could usually get what they wanted because, in a world without reliable contraception and with norms against promiscuity, even women who didn’t want children had to be very picky about sex, which made it hard for men who wanted sex to get it without marriage.

The pill plus changing norms made sex without marriage much more available to men, which weakened the bargaining position of women who wanted marriage.

One striking feature of the history is that the changes, readily available good contraception and legal abortion, that were supported largely on the theory that they would sharply reduce births to unmarried mother, were instead followed by a sharp increase. A plausible explanation is that the changes reduced the bargaining position of women who wanted both children and marriage, with the result that a fair number of them had to settle for children without marriage.

On that interpretation, it was the men, and some women, who gained, and many women who lost.

• Clutzy says:

women inarguably gained more from the sexual revolution than men did.

Worst statement in SSC history?

The people who gained most were shitty men who are mostly unmarriageable, but “sexy”, who’s sexual prospects have gone from extremely bad to extremely good.

• The Nybbler says:

The rakes may have gained, but I don’t know of a time in history where they didn’t do well sexually. Perhaps their biggest gain is in a far lower risk of getting killed by the woman’s husband.

I personally would not recommend this debate topic. It’s too broad. I would focus on a specific aspect of the sexual revolution that both critics and proponents agree is attributable to said revolution and argue its merits.

For example, was no fault divorce a mistake

• eigenmoon says:

But that leads to the similar problem: if you want to increase population, divorce is horrible, but if you want to decrease it, it’s great. And then the debate is reduced to “what do we want to do with the population?”.

• Dacyn says:

There are plenty of people who think no-fault divorce is a good idea who don’t want to decrease the population. (The idea being that the ability to get out of bad relationships could be more important than any other negative effects.) Presumably such a person could do an adversarial collaboration with someone who was against no-fault divorce, without addressing whether population growth is good or bad.

You’re correct, but the problem is similar in kind but not in magnitude. So what you’re describing would be worse if you tried with a broad topic.

• HowardHolmes says:

The sexual revolution happened because the pill allowed it to happen. The sexual mores in effect before the pill were there because of the lack of effective birth control. Was the pill a mistake? Yes, from a species survival point of view. In EVERY country with effective birth control available, the fertility rate is below replacement including US. As long as females have effective choice they will choose to have less babies that is necessary to reproduce the population. Look no further than what is currently happening to see that this is true. Global fertility rates will go significantly lower over the next generation.

Note that effective birth control includes culture. I was born in 48. We had the pill when I first married in 70. I never even thought about not marrying or not having kids. My own kids all had to face these decisions. This is what I mean by effective birth control and explains why we were still having lots of babies in 1970 and not so much now.

• Nancy Lebovitz says:

Antibiotics for STIs probably also made a difference.

• AG says:

Disagree with this. It could just as easily be that the pill merely moved the population equilibrium point much lower than it was before, so society where the pill exists is far over-populated, hence lower fertility rates. This goes hand in hand with how the perception that the Baby Boom could only occur because there was so much economic opportunity to go around, which doesn’t exist today, hence why Xennials don’t have as much property at the same age as their parents.

Under this model, fertility rates will stabilize and rise again when the population is low enough that the riches are spread all around.

It also makes sense that fertility rates lower to go with increasing ages, period. Part of the riches not going around nearly as much as before is that the eldest cohort are surviving to hold on to their property such that it’s not available for their descendants to buy at the same age as they did.

The pill merely hastens the regression to the equilibrium point.

34. achenx says:

There’s a thread further down about which tools to get. Related question: where do you get good ones? I.e., stuff at Home Depot is “fine”, much of the time, but if you want something better? My parents and grandparents had some tools that still hold up today, where do I find stuff like that now? (Other than “my parents’ basement when they’re moving to a retirement home”)

Thinking unpowered hand tools here, rather than electric. Very specifically at the moment I’m thinking of chisels, but it’s a general question for other tools also.

Sub-point: Finding good sources for quality things is hard, and seems to be getting more so all the time. For example, apparently all appliances are terrible now, as are TVs, and those are a lot harder to source from the past than, e.g., hammers.

• HeelBearCub says:

I’d say that there is no substitute for expertise. What tool and where to buy is very much a function of what you expect to use it for.

Want good chisels for turning bowls? Find people who do lots of turning and ask them. (My Dad does lots of turning and belongs to the local turning society).

• eigenmoon says:

I’m happy with a Leatherman multitool. But portability is a factor for me. If it’s not for you, then maybe a bunch of tools is better.

• GearRatio says:

Especially with things like chisels/punches money makes a big difference; it’s not a 1:1 quality/price correlation, but it’s close. There’s a diminishing return at some point like with everything, but before it makes a big difference you are well in the territory of professional quality tools.

With that said, some stuff matters a lot less than others. Ratchet price matters a lot more than socket price, for instance. Chisel price matters more than punch price (anything with an edge benefits from better steel quality more than anything without it). Hammer price doesn’t matter nearly as much picking the right hammer weight/shape for the job, and accordingly varies much less at the home depot level.

• A Definite Beta Guy says:

Reddit, augmented by general googling and youtube. There are a lot of hobbyist communities online, that have lots of conversations about their favorite tools. Think 9mm vs. 45 cal, or Batman vs. Superman. If you can think of a hobby, there are people arguing over the tools of said hobby.

Might as well just peek in and see what they said.

• Garrett says:

What is insufficiently good about the higher-end stuff at Home Depot (eg. Husky store brand)?
I loathe Home Depot’s poor selection and terrible quality for building materials, but their tool selection seems robust.

The end answer about why everything is terrible is likely that you aren’t spending enough money to get the quality items. If you look at inflation-adjusted costs for refrigerators, etc. from when the “good” ones were made until now, you’ll likely find that current prices are such a trivial fraction of the old prices that you should be surprised that anything works at all.

• The Nybbler says:

Refrigerators have gotten better AND cheaper, though. The thing about tools is there’s often a choice between a very expensive (and hopefully good) version and a cheap and crappy version. The niche of moderately expensive and good enough for anything short of everyday professional use, that used to be typified by Craftsman, is either gone or difficult to separate from overpriced crap.

• Tenacious D says:

There’s a mail-order store called Lee Valley that is a great source for high-quality hand tools.

• Garrett says:

I can recommend them as well, though from the perspective of hardware.

• Enkidum says:

High end stuff at Home Depot etc is high end. Just don’t buy the crap.

35. thisheavenlyconjugation says:

Does anyone have an argument for why prediction markets (PredictIt, Betfair) aren’t heavily overestimating Hillary Clinton’s chances of being the nominee? They are currently putting her at around 4%, which seems crazy to me (on Betfair it’s higher than the odds for Yang and Klobuchar) given that she is not currently running, it doesn’t seem likely that she will start running, and if she did so I can’t imagine how she could win given her loss in the 2016 general.

(Disclaimer: I have a small amount of money bet against her)

• A possible argument is that, as the previous nominee, she is a Schelling point if the outcome of the primaries is a deadlock.

• Eric T says:

I mean, political markets are weird. I knew several people who placed lots of long shot bets for no real reason, since they are so cheap. Add in your usual mix of die-hard fans, conspiracy theorists and the like and it’s really not surprising to see some bizarre noise around the lower tier of candidates.

• Statismagician says:

+1 – weird stuff at the edges of survey results is almost always due to lizardmen.

• Eric T says:

I mean, I don’t want to turn into a conspiracy theorist myself, but roughly 4% of Americans believe in Lizard People. Roughly the same odds as Clinton winning. COINCIDENCE?

• Statismagician says:

Indeed, making the reasonable assumptions that the actual lizardmen weren’t stupid enough to admit they exist on a survey and that not all of their human supporters were either, we can be pretty sure that much more than 4% of Americans either believe in or actually are lizard people.

• Eric Rall says:

I expect the theory is that there’s a small but nonzero chance she’ll jump into the race very late, and if she does, it’ll be because someone unpalatable to the party establishment and major donor base (most likely Warren, but Sanders also fits the bill) is trouncing the establishment-favored candidates (Biden) in early primaries and national polls. In those scenarios, it’s defensible to think she has a fair chance of winning the nomination if the reason Warren (or whoever) is trouncing Biden because of Biden’s shortcomings as a candidate. If Biden’s losing because the establishment is out of step with the median primary voter, though, Clinton’s odds look a lot worse.

Informing this, I’ve seen a couple articles recently that look like trial balloons from Clinton or her supporters for her jumping into the race, and at least one poll from earlier this month showing her leading the pack (with Biden as a very close second) and showing about a third of the people who currently support Warren or Sanders over Biden would support Clinton if she entered the race.

Looking at PredictIt’s prices, it looks like they’re estimating a 37% chance of Sanders or Warren and a 4% chance of Clinton. Those prices are consistent with with a 41% chance that Biden being positioned to lose to Sanders or Warren, and a conditional probability in those scenarios of about 10% total that Clinton enters the race and wins. Say, a 50% chance of her entering the race and a 20% chance of her winning. That doesn’t strike me as too unreasonable.

• meh says:

my first guess would be prediction markets just arent efficient

• Chalid says:

It’s been a long while since I did anything on a prediction market, but it’s hard to make money betting against rare events. One opportunity cost is that your money is tied up and not earning interest until the event is resolved. For a illiquid contract like that you’re also likely to have a significant bid-ask spread, and the amount you can bet without moving the market is going to be tiny. And there are fees. Take all those out and it’s just not worth it to many people to take advantage of the mispricing.

• blipnickels says:

Because the fee structure and risk of uncertain terms create an environment where low probability events can’t get arbitraged to 0%

36. Ant says:

Just finish Fire emblem 3 houses with the Golden Deer. 9/10, would love to have student to genocide evil looking people. I especially like:
* The links mechanics (people near to someone who attack or is attacked give him/her a stat bonus and some affection point that unlocks nice and short conversations). It encourages you to think every move even on unlosable battle, which makes those not boring, and encourage you to play with everyone.
* Most of the characters are well written, and those who aren’t are just a bit bland.

A few minor problem:
* Having ally in the battle is an handicap, which cause me to dread them.
* Some ennemy design are just too much ‘I am an evil character’
* Too much useful fishing to do.

Now a question for those who played it. Did you manage to do 2 or 3 playthrough whithout being bored, and if you did what house do you recommend me to play next ?

• Eric T says:

If you aren’t on board with Edelgard’s wild ride then what kind of a player are you?

Yes to repeat plays. The game cuts out stuff for you on your future runs to make it less repetitive. Black Eagles for life.

• meh says:

I am a huge FE fan in general, and found this game to be quite terrible

• Chevalier Mal Fet says:

Could you expand on why? I’d describe myself as a huge FE fan, but haven’t picked up Three Houses yet.

• meh says:

mostly its just not a FE game, it’s a different game. Game starts off fine, with the tutorial battle, which is not that great, but its a tutorial so who cares. Next you have to sit through 10 minutes of cut scenes. When that’s finally over, you are thinking ‘great, I can finally play more fire emblem’, but instead the game is you running around talking to people. if you like fire emblem for the battles, this is not the game for you.

I did Blue Lions first because bitter-as-hell Dmitri > *. Then Black Eagles. I got half way through Golden Deer and I just needed to play something else. Haven’t gone back to it because there are too many good games in my backlog, but yeah, give it a whirl. Game is great.

meh: whaaa…?

37. broblawsky says:

I had a disturbing thought the other day and I wanted to see if it’s a plausible theory. Given that:

a) About half of all homeless people have suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) either before or during their period of homelessness;

b) We’ve gotten substantially better at treating TBI in terms of emergency medicine (no direct evidence, but the increase in TBI visits to the ER was 8 times higher than the rate of increase of total ER visits from 2006 to 2010);

c) We’ve gotten no better at ensuring improved long-term outcomes for victims of TBI .

Is it possible that the current homelessness epidemic is due to modern medicine improving survival rates for TBI, but not doing anything to improve their long-term quality of life, leading to more and more people surviving brain injuries but who are no longer capable of maintaining themselves in housing?

• GearRatio says:

There’s a lot of work this would have to do to be true, I think. First, that “before or during” needs to be clarified; I expect people living on the streets to have more injuries; I expect people with various mental disabilities/challenges to have more injuries. None of the rest of the theory has a chance if this is just the natural result of living on the streets, as opposed to what put them there.

Second, you’ve provided no evidence at all that we are better at TBI emergency treatment, just that more people go; the study makes no inquiries into or that we’ve gotten better at all; Your B) link says as little as “people are more paranoid about head injuries” or “doctors diagnose TBI more often”. The study says 40 percent of those people are shooed away as essentially uninjured, for instance.

With B) saying we aren’t better at making people survive the initial thing (and I can’t see where it says that), C) doesn’t matter. But C) has another problem: It’s only looking at survival, and it doesn’t find that anything has changed. So you are saying it might say “People survive more, but we don’t fix their brains so they are crazier in the way that makes you homeless” and the studies you link are saying “People go to the doctor more” and “People die of TBI at the same rate as always, we did not look at mental capacity in this study.”.

This isn’t to say you are wrong – maybe people are surviving TBI and living on at a dimished capacity and becoming homeless for that reason all over the place. But your sources don’t seem to indicate that.

38. cassander says:

In 2012, the pitch I made to my left wing friends was “I’m not trying to convince you to vote for romney, but can I at least get you to admit that Obama, as much as you like him, isn’t very good at this?” I had mixed success.

Obama came into office with huge majorities, and presided over their collapse (and a wider democratic collapse at the state and local level) while failing to accomplish much with them. Bush, Clinton, and Reagan all did more with less. Now, there certainly exist structural factors outside of the control of a president, but it strikes me as wildly implausible to attribute none of the problems the administration had to obama’s conduct of the presidency, especially when he had almost as many troubles with democrats as republicans.

It seems almost inarguable that it was possible to do better had obama been more skillful, and that doing better wouldn’t have been desirable for the people who support the things that obama was doing. I grant that evaluating presidential competence is extraordinarily difficult, but how can it not matter?

• cassander says:

Rather, I think that the key is that it would at least seem that “huge majorities” are precisely the kinds to be expected to collapse, because they encompass a larger number of marginal/moderate members and are subject to the cost of ruling/pendulum effect.

Losses were inevitable. but the way obama handled the ACA almost certainly made them worse than they would have been otherwise. Massachusetts sent a republican to congress because of it.

Secondly, I think there’s a pretty strong argument that Obama’s legislative achievements in the 2008-2010 session—the stimulus, Dodd-Frank and the ACA— were the most substantial of at least any Democratic president since LBJ.

Frank dodd accomplished very little, and the biggest thing it did, the CFPB, has been a disaster from the start. the ACA shoved more money into the existing system, has been largely undone, and was severely damaged by a disastrous rollout that was an administration own goal. I believe the stimulus was already in the works before he came into office, and was inevitable in any case. But you’ll note that he couldn’t even use a giant ball of money to make friends across the aisle. FDR or LBJ would never have let such an opportunity go to waste.

I’m not sure if Obama accomplished “more” than Reagan and Bush, Jr. or not, but I don’t think that it’s clear that he accomplished less. They both seem to have focused on relatively bipartisan legislative issues like education and immigration and areas where the president has somewhat more discretion, like appointments and foreign policy.

That’s part of my point. those earlier presidents reached out and found ways to work across the aisle and passed legislation that endured. the Obama administration prefered grand pronouncement to actual achievement, and had poor relations with democrats in congress, to say nothing of republicans.

• HeelBearCub says:

ACA shoved more money into the existing system, has been largely undone

This just isn’t true.

The Trump admin has done what they could to try and make it collapse. Enrollment will be lower than it could be if it was advertised. I suppose there is a chance that the argument going to SCOTUS will actually undo the thing.

But otherwise, Medicaid expansion is being extended to more states. The ACA marketplace still operates. Premiums dropped this year indicating a largely healthy business position. I don’t think we have final numbers for 2020 yet, but I’d expect something like 12 million again. As unemployment is low, dropping numbers of ACA enrollments are to be expected anyway. The total uninsured rate dropped from 15% to 10% after the ACA passed and it is likely to stay around there this year as well.

• cassander says:

@HeelBearCub

I suppose you could say that substantially undone is better than largely undone, but the point remains. the cadillac tax is gone, the mandate is effectively gone, the exchanges have a million fewer people on them than their peak in in 2016, much, maybe most, of the increase in coverage was people already eligible for medicaid signing up for it. It’ll never be completely gone, but at best it’s languishing, and I’ve not heard any of the democratic candidates campaigning on re-building it. Hardly an achievement worth destroying the party over.

• HeelBearCub says:

Talking solely about raw numbers on the exchanges is pointless. The exchanges have about 12 million people participating. Unemployment is continuing lower. We would expect the exchanges to fluctuate in participation with unemployment, so you really mean about an 8% drop in exchange enrollment under conditions of falling unemployment.

I’ve not heard any of the democratic candidates campaigning on re-building it

Joe Biden is still running for President. Maybe he is easy to forget given that he is still stuck in first place in the national Democratic primary polls.

No, he isn’t the new hotness. Yes, other candidates would rather find ways to expand Medicaid. But, that’s also a huge chunk of what the ACA already did. 26% increase in covered individuals (even given red states opting out) and ~15 million new people covered.

• hilitai says:

I live in Iowa, and to confirm HBC’s point, every time I see broadcast television these days it’s a Biden ad banging on about Biden “protecting your healthcare”.

39. blipnickels says:

Three thoughts:

I think it’s worth clarifying what exactly you mean by personal competence. I’m pretty sure you mean a combination of intelligence and government experience but that might be wrong. For comparison, Donald Trump can’t read a briefing to save his life but he can sell out stadiums when he speaks. That’s powerful but it may not be “competent”.

But presuming competence is ‘wonkiness’, ie intelligence and experience, I don’t think it’s terribly important for three reasons.

#1 It’s not hard to think up better systems than our current one. Like, the American health care system is hilariously horrific and just about anything would be better. Your specific idea to improve the health care system is almost by definition better. A successful foreign policy for America is just one that doesn’t invade the Middle East again, that’s the bar for success. The primary issues are political, combine intense partisanship and an untrustworthy administrative state and nothing worthwhile can get passed. The gate, the challenge, isn’t designing the optimal policy, it’s getting something moderately competent passed. An ‘incompetent’ president who everyone likes and trusts will get much better results than the average ‘competent’ president.

#2 The bureaucracy is way too big for the president to get a real understanding of the issues. He’s essentially just managing the Cabinet and his party and that’s already a ton of work. The President isn’t going to double-check the work of the Secretary of Transportation, that’s not realistic, so the ability of the President to find capable and trustworthy people is far more important than his ‘personal’ competence.

#3 Do you really want a ‘competent’ president? I mean, there’s a giant foreign policy apparatus filled with smart, dedicated people spending their lives to keep America safe, the most ‘competent’ branch imaginable, and they keep invading the Middle East. That’s their bright idea, that’s the ‘competent’ solution. We’ve had technocrats in Washington for 40+ years now and it’s turned out so badly that people elected Trump. If you think Washington is failing, why would you want someone trained and socialized in that milieu?

• Like, the American health care system is hilariously horrific and just about anything would be better. Your specific idea to improve the health care system is almost by definition better.

Depends on who “you” are. If America’s system is really so bad, listening to a reform from the same type of people who helped create it is not likely to improve outcomes.

40. I think the problem with contemporary Christmas music(anything from, say, the last thirty years) is the same problem that Christian Rock has. It’s basically just inferior regular music with some sleigh bells and a few buzzwords thrown in. Classic Christmas songs are actually about Christmas. They don’t just ape its symbols.

• salvorhardin says:

Specifically (and I say this as a nonbeliever) there is no pathos in a lot of modern Christmas music and so it is sugary nonsense. Most good music is about sorrow or desire, most great music is about sorrow *and* desire, most contemporary Christmas music is about neither. Exception that proves the rule: Amy Grant, “Breath of Heaven.”

Speaking of which, and lmk if you think this is derailing and should have a separate thread: this seems like a good time to poll people’s favorite Christmas music that they think is actually good and compelling as music. My nominations:

Lo How a Rose. Not just the original Praetorius version: there are also a lot of good 20th C rearrangements, notably the one by Hugo Distler.

In dulce jubilo, in the R.L. Pearsall arrangement.

Queramus cum pastoribus, Jean Mouton.

• SamChevre says:

Favorite Christmas music – noting that I generally listen to music with words and grew up with fairly traditional hymns as almost all the music I was exposed to.

Music I like to listen to:
Gabrieli Consort, Praetorius – Mass for Christmas Morning (I’ve listened to this while cooking Christmas dinner for years)
Benedictines of Mary, Christmas at Ephesus

Things I like to sing :
Four classics:
Of the Father’s Love Begotten / Corde Natus
Come Thou Redeemer of the Earth /Veni Redemptor Gentium
Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence (yes, I know it’s properly Eucharistic rather than Christmas)
Unto Us A Boy Is Born / Puer Nobis Nascitur

Five more-recent classics:
Adeste Fideles/O Come All Ye Faithful
Brightest and Best of the Sons of the Morning (I know this is properly for Epiphany)
What Child is This (the version where each verse ends differently)
Once in Royal David’s City
Joy to the World

And two modern hymns
In the Bleak Midwinter (probably my most-favorite; it’s best with all five verses)
A Stable Lamp Is Lighted

• Deiseach says:

Of religious music, it’s more what music I can’t and won’t listen to, which tends to be “John Rutter, anything involving John Rutter even as a conductor, and anything that sounds like John Rutter”.

Sorry John, your style is just too treacly for me.

Traditional: Arvo Part’s setting of the O Antiphons; the Veni Veni Emmanuel paraphrase of same, generally the traditional carols (even if I quietly grump at times that “We Three Kings” is really for Ephiphany not Christmas). The Mediaeval Baebe’s compilation Mistletoe and Wine isn’t bad at all (it came from that part of their career before they went all pop, no mediaeval). And of course, everyone likes singing along to Steeleye Span’s version of Gaudete.

Secular: Mmmm. Depends. I can’t stand Michael Bublé (don’t ask me why, I acknowledge that he can carry a tune) and he gets played all the time at this time of year. From “Frosty the Snowman” to “Santa Baby”, they neither please nor displease me, though very poor versions do drive me up the wall. Well, the Pogues and the late Kirsty McColl and Fairytale of New York is an exception, as it’s practically the second Irish national anthem at this stage 🙂

• Skeptical Wolf says:

My favorite holiday music is by Trans Siberian Orchestra – they do Christmas stories (and occasionally others) in a rock opera style. They’re probably best known for their rendition of Carol of the Bells (that version was originally performed by Savatage, but many Savatage members continued with TSO), but all of their stuff is strong. “Christmas Eve and Other Stories” is probably the best place to start with their seasonal offerings. “Beethoven’s Last Night” is a good starting point for people who have already had enough Christmas music.

It’s definitely not anything like traditional religious music, but I have yet to find any traditional religious music that I enjoy (unless Gregorian chant counts), so I can’t recommend anything in that category.

Most good music is about sorrow or desire, most great music is about sorrow *and* desire.

I think this is overly reductive. Most great music hits strong emotional notes, but there is a much greater variety than just those two represented there. Joy, determination, ambition, anger, wanderlust, excitement, love, serenity, whimsy and many others have all been conveyed in masterpieces.

• Paul Brinkley says:

Most great music hits strong emotional notes, but there is a much greater variety than just [sorrow and desire]. Joy, determination, ambition, anger, wanderlust, excitement, love, serenity, whimsy and many others have all been conveyed in masterpieces.

I instantly began trying to think of examples of each. It’s hard, since I’m not enough of an audiophile to know specific songs, but I can still imagine genres. Love, serenity, and whimsy are easy (and I can throw patriotism in there, too). I can imagine joy, determination, and wanderlust. Ambition, though, feels subsumed under desire, and I can’t think of any songs that evoke anger and excitement in themselves; they’re always anger or excitement about one of the other emotions. What are you thinking of?

I rather like this not exactly Christmas song that really went nowhere after its release.

• TheContinentalOp says:

“Christian Rock doesn’t make Christianity better, it just makes rock worse.” /Hank Hill

• acymetric says:

That’s a great line. Wish it was still on Netflix.

• Well... says:

Ninja’d me.

• Skeptical Wolf says:

Why all the snark for Christian rock? Sure, bad examples of the genre import the failures of both rock and traditional Christian music, but that’s true for every fusion genre. The strongest works, on the other hand, import the strengths of both predecessors and use them to overcome those weaknesses.

• Well... says:

And yet I think in this case it’s different. Rock and Christian music are inherently antithetical. Rock isn’t really rock without some element of bravado, menace, rebellion, sexuality, brooding, etc. (pick at least two). Christian music on the other hand is meant to inspire the listener with awe, humbleness, gratitude, etc. Those two sets of emotions just don’t mix, and when rock and Christianity are mixed it always feels very forced and unnatural. One or the other is contorted and cracked like a square peg brute-forced into a round hole.

There are rock bands that have made good songs about their Christian faith. (I’m not ashamed to say Creed’s first album was really good. So was Chevelle’s, by the way.) And usually it’s when the songs are about struggling with that faith. But as a genre, Christian rock does not work. Hank’s quote, “Can’t you see you’re not making Christianity better, you’re just making rock’n’roll worse” is spot on.

There’s so much great traditional Christian music (not to mention black Gospel music), why commit an artistic sin just to accommodate rock, or rap for that matter? Makes no sense to me, though huge crowds swaying to mega-church Christian rock apparently disagree. I say they have bad taste.

• Skeptical Wolf says:

I don’t deny that those are commonly recurring themes in those genres, but I don’t think either is essential.

Consider some (non-Christian) rock counterexamples:
A Smile From Heaven’s Eye by Ride the Sky
Last Ride of the Day by Nightwish
Rock and Roll All Night by KISS

These are all songs of celebration, a theme commonly found in Christian worship songs like We Will Dance.

There’s also a common theme (which you would probably classify under ‘Bravado’) in rock of perseverance through adversity or finding the strength to go on. Christian rock bands take the same theme and execute it by making their faith the source of that strength. Compare, if you would:
Bring It On by Steven Curtis Chapman (Christian)
Invincible by Skillet (Christian)
Not Done With You Yet by The Classic Crime (Christian)
Battle Symphony by Linkin Park (non-Christian)
Winterborn / This Sacrifice by The Cruxshadows (non-Christian)

I don’t think these Christian examples suffer from the sort of inherent contradiction you’re describing.

And, of course, most bands that stay together long enough eventually end up making a song or two about parenthood. For the last set of comparisons:
My Little Man by Ozzy Osbourne (non-Christian, in case you were wondering)
With Arms Wide Open by Creed (Christian)

If you’ve made it through my Christmas-morning wall of text, would you mind recommending some traditional Christian songs (or especially some Gospel songs) that you enjoy. I make a habit of finding music I enjoy in a log of genres, but haven’t had much success in Gospel yet.

• Nancy Lebovitz says:

Dance in the Graveyards by Delta Rae. Christian, I think. Possibly not rock, though I’m not sure what genre it is.

• Deiseach says:

Rock and Christian music are inherently antithetical.

I was agreeing with you, Well…, in your contrast of the Dionysian and Apollonian there, until the little contrarian that lives in the back of my brain popped up and reminded me of what the mediaevals (drat ’em) liked to do.

Think of The Armed Man (A Mass for Peace) by Karl Jenkins; the inspiration for this modern work came from the custom of re-purposing popular secular music for Mass settings (and L’Homme armé is a banger, no mistake).

You could have been pounding the tables in the tavern on Saturday along to the latest hot hit and then heard it rearranged by the new modish composer for Sunday in church 🙂

It’s a constant impulse to bring secular music into church services, and various bits of canon law and other instructions have fought to stem this. Not to bash on Vatican II more than necessary, but in the wake of it and in the name of encouraging the congregation to sing (always an uphill struggle in Catholicism), a lot of poppy tunes were co-opted, and even pop songs in their original were sung (it’s debatable if Morning Has Broken has religious sentiment, but I’ve heard it sung often in Catholic churches as one of the hymns. The Simpsons wasn’t too far off the mark with Bart’s prank!)

CORRECTIONS AND AMENDMENTS: Okay, Morning Has Broken is a legitimate hymn but I only knew it in the Cat Stevens version 🙂

• SamChevre says:

@Deiseach

I repeatedly hear from church-musician friends that they have to routinely turn down Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah as a wedding song – at church weddings.

@ Skeptical Wolf
Can you give some idea of what kind of songs you are looking for? I listed a bunch of Christmas favorites above. I love hymnody, and know a lot of hymns–but I don’t know where to start. I’ll give links to three – “more like that” for any of them I’ll happily provide.

Chant
Alma Redemptoris Mater (simple, more complex)
Magnificat (Anglican chant)

• SamChevre says:

@ Skeptical Wolf
(Breaking this up to avoid too many links in one post)

Joy to the World

A Mighty Fortress
When Peace Like a River

• SamChevre says:

@Skeptical Wolf

“Gospel” (a hodge-podge of styles)
Bigger than Any Mountain(I love the house-party feel of this one, but try the Burke SDA one for a very different feel)
Dem Bones
I’ll Have a New Body

• dodrian says:

@Skeptical Wolf

A few of my Gospel favorites:
I Will Sing Praises Joyous Celebration
The Storm is Passing Over, especially this version by the Detroit Mass Choir
Said I Wasn’t Gonna Tell Nobodythis one by Angie Primm
Soon and Very SoonAndrae Crouch

For modern Gospel styles I like Kirk Franklin, Fred Hammond, and Hezekiah Walker.

• nimim.k.m. says:

@ Skeptical Wolf

Consider some (non-Christian) rock counterexamples:
A Smile From Heaven’s Eye by Ride the Sky
Last Ride of the Day by Nightwish
Rock and Roll All Night by KISS

I do not know Ride the Sky, but that the latter two are about celebration that includes a nontrivial amount presumably-out-of-wedlock love life. Especially KISS one, given the etymology and the cultural history of the “rock n roll”, it is kinda the central part of the whole Familienähnlichkeit (I probably do injustice to the German grammar, but “family resemblance family” does not have the same ring to it). For the Nightwish tune, a listener can carefully not to choose to hear it because of advanced use of metaphor, but then one is gravely ignoring the context, that it is sung by Nightwish.

Undoubtly that particular theme can be made to work with a Christianity, but not any of the traditional ones I am familiar with.

However, let me continue your concept-matching task, because I do think I have found a pairing and I believe it works better than most of stereotypical Christian rock and it is an organic product, even. The shared thematic cornerstones of thoughtspace include solemnity, dealing with sorrow and all sorts of pain and darkness in human soul, yet also defiance and anger at those who cast the first stone.

Christian interpretation of several flavors of doom-ish metal is not only possible but sometimes resonates quite well, without committing grave sins against either party, yet of course it is a heresy to both (which precisely makes it metal).

(Pagan Altar, Judgement of the Dead.)

• Kindly says:

Much like music with a political bent, Christian rock inspires people to judge it by things other than artistic merit. This means that on average, it is worse – and also, you’re more likely to be exposed to the bad stuff, because it’s going to be popular for other reasons.

• AG says:

Christian rock is even under Sturgeon’s Law-predicted ratios of crap by design.

They have to be good at their work… but not too good. “The better the songs are,” he writes, “the more likely they will fall short of worship because they might become too pleasurable to sing and stop people from worshipping directly to God” (4). Songwriters “approach songwriting with no small measure of reverence, understanding that their songs must not be so affecting that they fail as worship”—that congregations will start admiring the song rather than worshiping God (64). Worship bands are in a similar bind. If they play poorly, the songs will be hard to sing. On the other hand, “worship always aspires to expressions that are larger than the music itself,” writes Kelman, and so, “worship leaders understand… that, in a sense, they should fail at making music in order to make space for worship” (93).

Christian music that, ironically, is about the artist, tends to be good. I’ve heard some really good folk/country stuff, but it’s in the context of the artist giving a concert, and the audience consuming that performance.
The genre of Christian music that really lets the audience participate is gospel, and even there, there’s no pretense that the audience can’t praise the performance as performance.

41. toastengineer says:

Long ago, I asked for resource for self-teaching machine learning. Being the goofy goober I am, I lost the list that was given to me. I presume those resources are now out of date anyway.

So – can folks recommend me some resources for self-teaching machine learning? Ideally, not too much in the way of “type these magic commands, don’t worry about what they do,” nor “here’s some calculus, go fuck yourself.” Assume I’m smart and know how to program but don’t know much beyond that.

And Merry Christmas, everyone.

• mustacheion says:

http://neuralnetworksanddeeplearning.com/index.html was all I needed.

Play around with TensorFlow. Don’t bother with the high level API at first, learn to use it as a linear algebra library.

Don’t get too into the idea of a neural network as some kind of special intelligence generating thing. A neural network is simply an elegant way to formalize an arbitrary function that maps one vector space onto another in a way that is easy for a modern computer to compute, and easy to plug into an optimization algorithm.

• albatross11 says:

MIT has an open courseware class on AI here. It’s an overview of the field, and gives an introduction to many of the machine learning techniques that are now being pushed forward. I found the lectures easy to follow and understand, and just watching the lectures isn’t a huge time investment if you’re into that sort of thing.

• broblawsky says:

I’ve had a lot of success with Coursera so far.

42. Deiseach says:

Good morrow to ye all! (Though ’tis afternoon where I am).

So, wishes of the season(s) to those that celebrate whichever ones you celebrate, and to those that don’t, let me take a page from the Google Doodle and wish you all Happy Winter! (Or Happy Summer, to avoid Southern Hemisphere Erasure, and Happy Everyday to those living in zones where it is neither winter nor summer).

The presents are wrapped and under the tree, the Christmas lights are twinkling in the it’s grey and overcast and damp-hang on the sun has made an appearance-no it’s gone in behind a cloud again weather we’re having, the scented candles are alight and the house smells great, and I have the ham on steeping before baking it tonight.

In case anyone else needs a good basic recipe for baking instead of boiling a ham for four hours, Delia Smith’s recipe saved my life and sanity. Basic recipes that work reliably and reproducibly is her forte; you don’t cook Delia for adventurousness or the newest exotic ingredients and fusion trend, but her recipes work without fuss. I get fancy with the glaze at the end; one year I tried a good chunky home-made (not by me!) marmalade that worked really well, this year I’m thinking of slicing some oranges thinly and pinning them to the fat with cloves to bake at the end of cooking time.

I also am indulging in a drop of Christmas cheer – Ginger Beard by Wychwood Brewery. I’m not a beer drinker, and this is sufficiently ‘alcoholic ginger beer but still ginger beer’ to not be too beery, if that makes any sense. So, things are going pretty well so far!

What is everyone else doing out there in the great wide world?

• FrankistGeorgist says:

Whole family together at my new house where I’ve escaped the collective depressive episode that is New York to everyone’s great relief. A fancy feast of the seven fishes tonight, then tomorrow recreating the meal my mother made my father on their first date – minus the broccoli he choked down but couldn’t stand. He’s in the early stages of dementia so he’s got a fancy bottle of wine he wants to taste while he can still remember. Brother and I are both sad he’ll likely not get to see grandchildren at the millennial rate we’re going, but he’s spent every day going to shelters to pet old grumpy cats and dogs which is his favorite thing to do in proto-retirement.

Homemade all the stocking stuffers this year – including the traditional-for-us frozen snickers bar. Minimal decorations because it’s my first year hosting and my mother wants to grab all the half priced stuff later this week because she loves a sale.

And friends I introduced to each other just got engaged, which I’m told is a Shidduch and a mitzvah and I’ll probably be in the wedding. Altogether a happy Advent-Christmastide.

• Deiseach says:

And friends I introduced to each other just got engaged, which I’m told is a Shidduch and a mitzvah and I’ll probably be in the wedding.

Love stories begin on Slate Star Codex! Congratulations and you should definitely get the position of guest of honour! 😀

• S_J says:

I’m having a restful Christmas Eve. First time celebrating Christmas at the house I moved to this past January.

My wife and I are trying to rest. She’s expecting our first child (due sometime in the next four weeks), so this is our last Christmas as a childless couple.

We won’t be sharing a glass of champagne on Christmas. Though we will be relaxing over hot chocolate tonight. And probably again tomorrow.

We’re doing a little baking, and plan to be heading out for a Christmas Eve service. (Even Protestant churches in the United States do services on Christmas Eve…)

I spent a little while reading up on Chunakah, catching up on in-laws that I haven’t talked to in a while, and preparing gifts. Some of the best from relatives is sad. A marriage that I thought was happy is actually strained to the point of breaking… I’m praying, and trying to find advice to offer.

I’m also trying to do the finishing details of preparing our house for a new child next month.

The story of Mary with child takes on another dimension when I’m seeing the pains and aches of pregnancy first-hand. I’m now thinking about the human side of the story of the birth of Jesus.

Congratulations on the new baby, and Merry Christmas!

• Deiseach says:

Congratulations on the new baby, and remembrance in prayers for you and your family!

• SamChevre says:

May the mother and baby be well!

We have a near-Christmas baby–it makes the Advent/Christmas distinction more pointed for me. The last few weeks before the baby is born seemed really long.

I’m cooking for Christmas tomorrow – we have a couple families of friends coming (20 people or so total), so I’m making roast beef AND ham (usually I’ve made one or the other). And onion gravy, and sherry gravy, and cumberland sauce, and all the “things that go with” – braised spinach and roasted potatoes and mushrooms and sweet potato casserole if I get around to it.

And many desserts. I’m not in charge of desserts.

I still have to work a half day, but my wife is busy preparing the Feast of the Seven Fishes. We have a big group of people we get together with every Christmas Eve, a lot of whom I only see once a year on this day. We’re hosting this year, so it’s kind of a housewarming too since we just moved in to the new house back in August. So, fish, drinking, games, all that good stuff. Merry Christmas!

• and this is sufficiently ‘alcoholic ginger beer but still ginger beer’ to not be too beery

You might like to try making the “Weak Honey Drink” from The Closet of Kenelm Digby Opened, a 17th century source. It’s easy to make and is a sort of mildly alcoholic ginger ale. If you want to try it, you can find the recipe in the Miscellany, a book Betty and I self-publish on our medieval hobbies.

What we are doing is spending a few days with Betty’s brother and sister in law, along with Betty’s mother, sisters, one sister’s partner and their adopted daughter. Pleasant people. The location is above Denver, so a bit short of air. Members of the family have just finished decorating the tree, presents have not yet been put out. Various members of the family are going out to a church service in a few hours and I will be charged with the final stages of the 13th c. Andalusian lentil dish that my wife and daughter are currently preparing as part of dinner.

Part of my contribution to tomorrow’s gift giving will consist of bringing out a bunch of pendants and letting each of the female members of the party choose one. One of my hobbies is lapidary work and I cut many more stones for the fun of it than I actually turn into jewelry. This year I decided to get a bunch of nice premade settings (constructing a setting takes considerably longer than cutting a stone for it and is less fun) and go through my accumulation of cut stones to find ones that fit, after which I cut more to the calibrated sizes. Mostly laboradorite, which I like to describe as the poor man’s opal and am very fond of, but other things as well.

• Lambert says:

What kind of tools do you use tor lapidary?
The maori craftsmen I saw working greenstone and paua shell had big dremel-esque things.
But I’m guessing if you want western-style faceted or cabochon stones, a big flat piece of spinning abrasive is more useful.

• I use a lapidary machine that connsists of six cylinders covered with diamond of various degrees of fineness, spun by an electric motor. For about forty years I used a much lower end modern machine which required me to repeatedly change things so as to get a succession of finenesses. A few years back I decided to get myself a birthday present, and I’ve cut a lot more stones per year since then.

We have some information on classical and medieval stone cutting technology, but I haven’t been sufficiently ambitious to try to replicate it.

I’m cutting cabochons. Faceting would require a different sort of machine, and I don’t particularly want to try it.

• A Definite Beta Guy says:

Enjoying a bit of rest! This has been an incredibly stressful month: we have a new baby, and work is crazy due to simultaneous accounting changes and IT changes. There’s a ton of work, then coming home to do a ton of chores, and all on about 4 hours of sleep a night.

Our families live close, so we spend Christmas Eve at the in-laws and Christmas at my parents. Not going to lie, I don’t really dig Christmas at my in-laws. Alcohol is effectively banned and the food is generally nothing to write home about. Last night we had vegetarian pasta and a store-bought Caesar salad. I would’ve preferred just roasting a turkey myself and getting some nice potatoes together, with some braised carrots and parsnips. However, family is nice, and they are quite nice.

My wife doesn’t really like our Christmas either, but eh. We generally eat beef tenderloin and drink a lot. Plus I see my nieces and nephews. Pretty stoked!

Since it’s also 50 degrees, we’re going to take Baby Beta (or Gamma as people tell me I’m required to call her…) for a walk down to Starbucks for hot chocolate.

• and drink a lot.

Can you explain why you see that as a desirable feature of the event? It’s clear that your attitude is widely shared, but I don’t understand it.

43. EMP says:

Is there anyone here that might know of research related to cognitive impairment and things like sleep deprivation, fast food consumption, etc? I’d like to know the average amount of variance in intelligence in individuals. In other words, does sleep deprivation act as a functional loss of 5 IQ points on average? Eating sugar and bad foods a loss of another 5? I know that these have negative cognitive effects, but would like to see these effects quantified rather than described qualitatively.

I myself have been testing this out on myself. Today, rather sleep deprived and full of sugar, I took a sample Wonderlic test and scored a 26 out of 50. On another day, after having exercised, had a full night of sleep, and having eaten no sugar or processed foods, scored a 42 out of 50. Obviously there is some amount of test variability irrespective of diet and energy levels. It is hard to say if my experience is representative of the average.

• mitv150 says:

Some of the most comprehensive sleep deprivation / cognitive impairment research I know of is U.S. military related. I don’t have any links off-hand, but that might help you narrow down your search.

• On a related issue, does anyone here know of a good source on the subject of age related cognitive impairment? I think there is good evidence that my memory is not as good as it was a decade or two back. So far the only thing I am doing is following a regimen designed to prevent or reverse early stage Alzheimer’s, but although I have one copy of the APOE4 gene, which increases the risk, the risk still isn’t that high, so the odds are that my problem is due to other causes.

44. albatross11 says:

I recently bought and read Stuart Ritchie’s very short and accessible book about IQ, Intelligence: All That Matters. (I was motivated by it being on sale on Amazon at a pretty low price.) I very much recommend this as a quick overview/intro to the field, written by a working researcher in the field, if you’d like to understand something about IQ testing more than you can get from random online articles.

Reading the book was odd–I felt like I didn’t learn a lot of new information from the book, but I did learn that some things I’d vaguely picked up from reading were actually also things that a genuine expert is willing to state in a short popularization. That is, I had the confidence with which I hold some ideas about IQ/intelligence updated, but there wasn’t much in the book that I found surprising and new. I plan to follow up on his extensive bibliography–I’ve had an amateur interest in this stuff for a long time, and would probably benefit from reading more of the scientific literature.

• HeelBearCub says:

Intelligence: All That Matters

Taking no position as to what is in the book (as I haven’t read it), I’m inclined to think that potential double meaning of the title isn’t an accident.

• jaimeastorga2000 says:

Double meaning?

• HeelBearCub says:

vs.
“Intelligence is all that matters”

• Dacyn says:

Oh no, we have motte/bailey puns now?!

The first (presumably correct) interpretation didn’t occur to me until you mentioned it.

• BBA says:

On a related note, it’s been scientifically proven that nothing can change anyone’s opinions on IQ. Confirmed in that I couldn’t even make it through the Amazon description of this book.

• That’s not true. People change their mind about this stuff all the time. The problem is that they either keep it to themselves or are immediately shunned if they speak publicly. That’s why you have to do a Straussian reading on anything covering these issues.

It’s been scientifically proven that nothing can change anyone’s opinions on IQ.

If that were true, if no amount of evidence could change anybody’s politically influenced opinions on scientific matters, then the correlation between politics and opinions would be 1. But the correlation quoted by Lee Jussim was about half of that, .49, pretty high but not totally unalterable.

See the study quoted by Lee Jussim:

“Survey of expert opinion on intelligence: Intelligence research, experts’ background, controversial issues, and the media” by lHeiner Rindermann, David Becker and Thomas R.Coyle

Considering that it had “more than double the percentage of experts on the left (54%) than on the right (24%).” and “The far-right position was observed for only 4.48% (N = 3) of experts”, what percent of experts do you predict (before looking into the study) that consider that genetics is significantly involved in the Black-White IQ gap ? More precisely, what do you predict, what are te percents of the experts that think that the gap is (1) at least 10% genetic and respectively (2) at least 50% genetic ? Think about it, then look into the study at Figure 3 and the paragraph before it to see how close or how far away your predictions were.

• broblawsky says:

That’s a really good study, thank you.

• BBA says:

I think you’re proving Jussim’s point: the science is so inconclusive as to be a Rorschach test. Everyone who claims to have solid results is just seeing what they want to find in the inkblot. Apparently this even applies on a meta level.

Obviously most IQ researchers think it’s real science. If you thought IQ was racist pseudoscience why would you make your career researching it?

• Clutzy says:

That isn’t what I’d conclude. Assuming an average political person (not true, but assume it) that we had a 40/40/20 split of people going into intelligence research. That would mean 40% in favor of a 10-100% answer, 40% in favor of a 0%, 20% undecided. In reality, we have a structure where its 80/10/10 (at most) where the 80% would prefer to find the 0% answer, but instead far more than 80% find a nonzero answer.

• albatross11 says:

The specific question of how much of observed racial differences in IQ are genetic is a place where the evidence is inconclusive, as far as I can tell. That is reflected in the disagreement among experts about the question.

The main way to decide if IQ or race or any other thing is scientifically useful or meaningful is to try to use them to make predictions about the world. Both race and IQ help you make better predictions about how individuals and groups will do at work, in school, and in life—that means they’re concepts that are probably worth keeping in your mental toolkit.

• zardoz says:

Similarly, “nothing can change people’s opinions on evolution.” The same people who were pushing creationism 10 years ago are still doing it. Therefore, the science must be inconclusive, and we can safely conclude whatever we want about how old the Earth is, and so on.

45. Le Maistre Chat says:

SSCers who were fans of Babylon 5: did you realize that half the cast is already dead 20 years after the series wrapped?
Michael O’Hare (Sinclair): written out due to mental illness, yet dies of a heart attack at only 60.
Jerry Doyle (Garibaldi): natural causes/possibly heart failure at age 60.
Richard Biggs (Dr. Franklin): complications from aortic dissection at age 44.
Andreas Katsulas (G’Kar): lung cancer, age 59.
Stephen Furst (Vir Cotto): complications from diabetes, age 63.
Jeff Conaway (Zack Allan): pneumonia with sepsis, chronic opiate abuse contributing. Also age 60.

Was this show cursed? They hired Bill Mumy and Walter Koenig from ’60s sci-fi, and they’re still doing fine.

• Deiseach says:

I knew about Michael O’Hare, Richard Biggs and Andreas Katsulas but not the others. That’s quite a list of deaths from one show!

• Garrett says:

Some people shine so brightly that they burn faster.

I love the show. I knew of most of these. I’m saddened by their loss.

46. baconbits9 says:

I would say I disagree with nearly all of the basic premises you have, first I would say that the increase in debt to GDP since 2000 has been a major sign of incompetence, incorporating both the excessive spending and slow growth over this period and with entitlements/pension plans approaching fiscally dangerous levels you have people peddling moronic and dangerous solutions that they can make work on the back of napkin. That these issues haven’t caused the US to falter is a testament to how strong of a position it was in at the beginning of this period, but it shouldn’t be taken for granted either.

As far as experience goes I don’t think that being governor of Delaware prepares you to be president, there are maybe 3 or states where being governor is a real feather as far as experience (California, Texas, NY, Fla) plus arguably a long stint as VP when you compare the size and scope of the federal government to individual states.

47. thisheavenlyconjugation says:

Biden’s chances are certainly better than 15% now, as reflected by the markets. That doesn’t mean they were in January, when people like Kamala Harris and Beto O’Rourke hadn’t dropped out.

48. I suspect that the most important skill for a president is choosing subordinates. The job is much too big for one person to do.

But individual competence beyond that is probably still valuable.

49. acymetric says:

Merry Christmas SSCers!

Does anyone have any recommendations for where to buy a refurbished laptop? Either in terms of quality or in terms of good prices. I’m trying to get in cheap on a laptop with a dedicated graphics card…does not need to be terribly modern though I’m just hoping to have it adequately run older games (Morrowind, Oblivion, Skyrim, and some other titles from that approximate era).

Thanks!

• acymetric says:

Supplemental question: Am I correct that I need a dedicated graphics card, or have things progressed enough that an integrated card could be…adequate for running some of those?

I am just totally out of the loop on computer hardware these days because its been so long since I’ve been in the market and I haven’t kept track of anything.

• HeelBearCub says:

Why a laptop specifically?

You will get way, way more bang for the buck buying components and assembling your own desktop machine.

• acymetric says:

Because it’s primary purpose is to do work remotely, I just also want to be able to play some (older) games from to time. Because of my current living arrangement portability is a requirement.

• HeelBearCub says:

To answer one of your questions, yes you almost certainly need a dedicated GPU, one that is designed for gaming. A few years ago I bought a laptop with just integrated graphics for other reasons and tried to load Rocket League on it (which is about as low intensity as you are going to get). Couldn’t get more than 15 FPS in solo training mode on the lowest possible graphic setting.

For that reason, I’d have some doubts about refurbished laptops. The best source of those refurbished laptops would be ex-business laptops. Plus a refurb will more likely be an HDD rather than a SSD.

Not sure, but buying new, but low on the totem pole, might be a better bet.

I hope someone can come in here and tell me I’m wrong.

• anonymousskimmer says:

I’m way out of the loop as well, but second the idea of getting a lower-end new laptop.

I’d guess looking up the recommended GPU/CPU/RAM statistics for those games, cross-referencing with current GPUs/CPUs on performance charts, and then filtering current laptop models along those lines (and on price) would be a good starting point.

With a new laptop you’re also guaranteed a new battery, which could be a significant part of the price of a refurbished laptop.

• acymetric says:

For that reason, I’d have some doubts about refurbished laptops. The best source of those refurbished laptops would be ex-business laptops. Plus a refurb will more likely be an HDD rather than a SSD.

Thanks for the input. There are definitely refurbs available with SSD (and I would be explicitly looking at refurbs with dedicated graphics cards, ideally Nvidia). I kind of figured that would be the result of running a game with integrated graphics, but was hoping someone would tell me I was wrong.