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Open Thread 146.5

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

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1,096 Responses to Open Thread 146.5

  1. Well... says:

    “There, that’s cinque marks so you draw the final one across the other quattro,” said Tom in Italian.

  2. EchoChaos says:

    “Never wrestle with pigs. You both get dirty and the pig likes it.”

    Nancy Pelosi tore up the State of the Union address, a Constitutionally required delivery from the President to Congress.

    I’m not going to argue that Trump hasn’t done worse or isn’t “dirty”, whatever that means in politics. But the Democrats playing his game at his level are not going to win there.

    On the speech itself, Trump’s speech was one of his best, good soaring rhetoric and lots of pro-America “ra ra”. Definitely an early campaign speech, and well done for that.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Also the situation is wrong for that. If this was January 2009, the stock market having just crashed and the talking heads discussing whether we’d have a “jobless recovery” or “no recovery”, that sort of stunt played against an incumbent President’s State of the Union might work pretty well. 2009 was a year too late for that, though, and in 2020, the situation is much different.

      • Matt M says:

        I can’t remember exactly which one, but wasn’t there something of a scandal at one of Obama’s SOTUs when he was discussing Obamacare, and some random GOP senator shouted out “you lie!” Like, we were told this was an unprecedented breach of decorum and professionalism and that it was absolutely inappropriate to accuse the sitting President of lying.

        Ah, the good old days!

      • baconbits9 says:

        Not only is the situation wrong for that but the Dems should probably be keeping their heads down a bit the day after they look like idiots in a primary and the day before Trump is going to beat impeachment. You would think ‘keep your heads down’ would be the short term plan.

    • GearRatio says:

      It’s just going to play bad for her and there’s no possible benefit she or her party at large could get out of it. If the winning message is something like “this guy is uniquely bad, ignores decorum, is rude, is evil and we are the alternative to that”, this is easily spinnable as something like “This is deeply personal for Nancy Pelosi; she tried to destroy Trump but has been defeated at every turn, and now she’s throwing tantrums”.

      I don’t think this was planned or weighed for benefit at all; I think this is the gut reaction of a powerful, entrenched person who thinks they deserve a certain level of deference and didn’t get it. Otherwise, why wouldn’t you play the adult in the room and then sit back and let nearly the entire newsmedia cast you as a noble victim behaving well in the face of bad behavior from the badman? Now she just looks like somebody who lost an argument at a party and keyed the other guy’s car.

      • baconbits9 says:

        I don’t think this was planned or weighed for benefit at all; I think this is the gut reaction of a powerful, entrenched person who thinks they deserve a certain level of deference and didn’t get it.

        Trump snubbed the handshake at the beginning of the speech and she tore it up at the end of the speech, and did so in a fairly measured way after a period of time to plan. I would say it was intentional and calculated by Pelosi since she timed it specifically for the beginning of the applause, stacked it neatly before tearing, held it clearly in frame and otherwise showed no signs of a loss of composure.

        More or less she was in control, thought about what to do and decided to do it.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Trump snubbed the handshake

          Did he? I don’t think he saw it as he turned around too quickly.

          • baconbits9 says:

            The story is being told that way in the media.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Huh. Well I’d like someone to ask him because it looked to me like he just didn’t see it.

          • Another Throw says:

            I don’t think he saw it. He didn’t shake Pence’s hand which you would definitely do if you were trying to snub her.

            It also doesn’t look like he shook anybody’s hand on the walk in either. Maybe he has the flu and he didn’t want to give anybody a wicked case of diarrhea? It is that season. Or get one. He isn’t exactly young, and sitting through meeting after meeting about the coronavirus and the vulnerability of the elderly wouldn’t help your disposition on the question.

            But yes, it looks like the press is reporting it that way.

          • Randy M says:

            Huh. Well I’d like someone to ask him because it looked to me like he just didn’t see it.

            He probably didn’t see it and will say it was intentional.

    • jermo sapiens says:

      One of the most striking things about the Trump phenomenon is how unbelievably inept his opponents seem to be. Starting with Jeb! and all the other Republican challengers, and the Mueller report flop, the failed impeachment push which just increased Trump’s approval rating and ensured the next impeachment push will be seen with extreme cynicism by anyone not afflicted by extreme TDS. It’s obviously quite possible to beat Trump, but in order to beat him you need to understand why he’s popular (hint: it’s not because Trump supporters are racist), but because saying Trump and his supporters are racists is now holy dogma for progressives, they arent allowed to pursue a winning strategy.

      • EchoChaos says:

        It’s obviously quite possible to beat Trump

        Objection: assumes facts not in evidence.

        • jermo sapiens says:

          Ok I will rephrase it as follows:

          “There is no evidence that it is impossible to beat Trump.”

          • EchoChaos says:

            Is this going to be another “white paper is evidence that all ravens are black” argument? Because I think we already had that one. 🙂

          • Nick says:

            The evidence that it is impossible to beat Trump is inconclusive, surely.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            LOL I hope not I dont think I fully grasped that argument.

          • Well... says:

            Trump hasn’t been “beaten” per se, but he has been inspired by the successes of other candidates to withdraw his candidacy at least once or twice (e.g. in 2000). I don’t know if that counts.

      • baconbits9 says:

        One of the most striking things about the Trump phenomenon is how unbelievably inept his opponents seem to be.

        I basically think it’s the cause of Trump, not a counterpoint. If there were competent challengers they wouldn’t have been challengers, they would have been front runners who prevented Trump from ascending.

    • Well... says:

      Call me cynical but I can’t shake the feeling this is all a show.

      Tearing up somebody’s speech is a pretty aggressive display; if I gave a speech and somebody tore it up, I’d be a bit rattled. There’d be a tense energy in the room afterward. This is how we’re supposed to feel all the time about Trump or Pelosi or politics in general or whatever. Maybe that’s normal in the Capitol Building, maybe it’s normal on Twitter. Journalists certainly seem to breathe that atmosphere.

      But then I step back and remember that in the real world, there’s almost never that kind of tension. I work in a very large company in a swing state, in a city that’s quite diverse both demographically and ideologically. Whether at work or out shopping or dining, or even when hanging out with my friends, I’m constantly in buildings and rooms of people with enormous variation in lifestyles and values. We all accept one another and get along. There are never any ostentatious displays of defiance like Pelosi’s.

      Maybe it’s me normalizing my own experience, but I feel like if Pelosi was in a room with Trump and there were no cameras or reporters she’d be personable and they’d get along like two basically reasonable and mature adults, people who’ve raised kids and supported families, who’ve formed and value friendships, who are capable of civilized disagreement.

      But they don’t want to let YOU know that. They want your meatspace world to look like the Capitol Building or Twitter.

      • baconbits9 says:

        Tearing up somebody’s speech is a pretty aggressive display; if I gave a speech and somebody tore it up, I’d be a bit rattled. T

        She tore it up at the end of the speech while he was facing away from her. Unless he could hear it over the applause he didn’t notice.

        Maybe it’s me normalizing my own experience, but I feel like if Pelosi was in a room with Trump and there were no cameras or reporters she’d be personable and they’d get along like two basically reasonable and mature adults, people who’ve raised kids and supported families, who’ve formed and value friendships, who are capable of civilized disagreement.

        I would bet they would fight like a couple going through a divorce, there are plenty of people who are viscous verbally to each other in private (or would be if there weren’t repercussions).

      • twocents says:

        @Well… Where is this diverse yet civil paradise of which you speak? I’m asking in all seriousness. I live in a blue state coastal city and my husband has lost two close friendships due to holding heterodox views. One of these involved a dramatic display of storming out of our house. More generally, there’s an overarching sense of angst about the state of the world that permeates life here, such that my nine-year-old is starting to develop anxiety about the world being “messed up.” We would strongly consider moving to a healthier atmosphere of the sort you describe, but we too have drunk the kool-aid enough to doubt that such a place exists. I’d love to know where you live if you don’t mind saying it here.

    • broblawsky says:

      From the opposite political point of view: it seems to have been astonishingly effective, for how small a gesture it was. The SOTU has fairly little real impact on actual politics; its primary function is as a rallying cry to the President’s supporters, who are the main people who tune in. Trump’s speech was obviously calibrated to inspire those supporters; instead, the overwhelming takeaway from Republicans seems to be outrage at Pelosi. Outrage isn’t nearly as powerful a political motivator as hope is; it’s kind of the default state of everyone’s existence now. @EchoChaos is the only one of you who even mentioned the actual content of Trump’s speech, and even then, he only did so as an afterthought.

      • FrankistGeorgist says:

        +1 Such a concise little move and now the story is “the speech Pelosi tore up” rather than “the speech Trump gave.” On to the next outrage slalom.

        • Well... says:

          But does it actually work in Pelosi’s/the Dems’ favor? Maybe by tearing up the speech Pelosi helped cement the Left’s image as whining children who can’t engage with ideas and are capable only of throwing tantrums. If I was a Democrat I’d be worried.

        • baconbits9 says:

          The story isn’t ‘Pelosi tore up Trump’s speech’ it is ‘Trump ignored Pelosi’s handshake so Pelosi tore up Trump’s speech’ Visually everyone who goes for the clip will see Trump framed and center while being showered with applause with Pelosi tearing the speech in the background. As a further backdrop she is doing this while Trump’s approval ratings are at an all time high and have been rising into that high very recently.

          In my view she looks weak and defeated and the discussion about it will be about Trump beating Pelosi again while she resorts to impotent gestures.

      • Nick says:

        Anecdatum: I’ve been hearing about the content of the speech from other conservatives. I only learned it had been torn up when I saw @EchoChaos’s post on here.

      • EchoChaos says:

        Outrage isn’t nearly as powerful a political motivator as hope is; it’s kind of the default state of everyone’s existence now.

        Outrage is certainly the default state on the left, but I am really hopeful and upbeat, not outraged at all, and I think that’s the larger state in America.

        Trump’s approval is sharply on the rise and a speech like this as a pro-America uniter when the opposition party is playing divisive is right into his hands.

        • broblawsky says:

          And yet, your first expression here of your feelings regarding the SOTU speech was outrage at Pelosi, not positivity.

          • EchoChaos says:

            I haven’t expressed outrage once. I said that Pelosi made a mistake and then talked about how uplifting the speech was.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Yeah, watching it live my response wasn’t outrage, it was a combination of cringe and mild disgust.

      • Another Throw says:

        My personal reaction on learning about it was something along the lines of “OMGLOL, Trump has pwned her so totally this is what she’s left with??” And the press trying to play it like it was some kind of successful power move is amusing. Just this year’s version of that clap.

        • FrankistGeorgist says:

          It’s totally this year’s clap.

          • Another Throw says:

            I realize the whole affair just consists of everyone in frame trying to figure out how to grandstand, live, on national television. But I find the trajectory interesting. With the clap she was trying to signal to her caucus to stop looking so petty, but now she’s the one doing the looking so petty.

            Since AFAIK nobody broke decorum, I assume this was a planned action. Sort of a bargain, if you will, to keep the rest of the caucus from turning it into a complete circus on their own.

    • Deiseach says:

      When I heard it on the morning news, my first reaction was “They’re like a pair of toddlers. If the kids in the preschool here did that, we’d be telling them ‘Donald, you should play nicely with the other children. Nancy dear, we don’t do that here, we don’t destroy things'”.

      I don’t know if this was a planned stunt all along, they made it sound as if “he didn’t shake her hand so she ripped up the speech”. If it was planned, that’s nearly worse, but they were both immature and given all the rhetoric from the Democratic side about being the adults in the room, Pelosi comes off worse here.

  3. Uribe says:

    If you could found a new city in the USA where there is currently not much, where would you put it?

    Let’s say half a million people with average American demographics and spectrum of talent moves there immediately no matter what you do. What industries would you encourage (or would you encourage anything specific?) and how (and why?)?

    Imagine that the winner of this contest is the one who founds the city that ends up with the largest population (measured in a way a reasonable person would consider reasonable) in a hundred years.

    Give lat/ long coordinates if you can.

    You can request federal (state?) funding for infrastructure projects. How much do you need and why?

    Tell us something about how the city government would work if you want.

    • Plumber says:

      @Uribe says:

      “If you could found a new city in the USA where there is currently not much, where would you put it?

      Let’s say half a million people…”

      A new 500,000 people city?

      It would ruin some coastal views, but for pleasant weather plop one down in California between 37°27′32″N 122°26′13″W and 37°37′22″N 122°29′8″W

      “…What industries would you encourage…”

      Building replacement parts for 1950’s institutional plumbing fixtures, replacement exhausts, fuel tanks, and side covers for 1960’s motorcycles, fuel valves for a 1998 natural gas powered Ford Crown Victoria, a replacement battery for my Norelco electric shaver from the 1980’s, reprints (not PDF’s) of TSR and Judges Guild Dungeons & Dragons adventures from the ’70’s and 80’s, the 1975 all swords & sorcery issue of Fantastic Magazine, a 1967 Austin-Healey 3000, and MGCGT, a 1961 Triumph Tiger, and a 1968 Dodge Polara.

      Also good beer and deli sandwiches.

      Maybe a radio station that plays songs I like, and a television station that broadcasts Dragonslayer, Excalibur, First Men in the Moon, 7th Voyage of Sinbad, and Jason and the Argonauts a lot.

      “Tell us something about how the city government would work if you want”

      An independent city-state nominally ruled by the widow Empress Norton, but managed mostly by the brewers and metal trades guilds appointed Lord Mayor and cabinet.

      • Plumber says:

        “….An independent city-state nominally ruled by the widow Empress Norton, but managed mostly by the brewers and metal trades guilds appointed Lord Mayor and cabinet”

        It was the Year of the Behemoth, the Month of the Hedgehog, the Day of the Toad. A hot, late summer sun was sinking down toward evening over the somber, prosperous City of Half-Moon-Pacifica-By-The-Sea. Fisherman toiling at their nets paused for a moment and lifted their salt-stained faces and noted that it would soon be time to commence lesser chores. Cattle cropping the stubble began to move in the general direction of home. Sweaty merchants and shopkeepers decided to wait a little longer before enjoying the pleasures of the bath. Thieves and astrologers moved restlessly in their sleep, sensing that the hours of night and work were drawing near.

        Up the steps and to a side door that blended almost imperceptibly with the walls of the Imperial palace came broad-shouldered, tall and with a full head of brown hair (despite being in his middle years) Lord Mayor “smiling” Jack Strong upon which he tapped a certain rhythm, after only a moment the door opens inward revealing two maids-in-waiting of the Imperial Court in their high necked mandarin collar light wool dark blue with silver buttons court uniform dresses that open at the front and side pea coat style, who in unison say “please come this way”, they turn and Mayor Jack follows to a room with a wide window that overlooks the city and the sea, staring out looking at the view holding a pewter goblet stands a women in a silvery dress, the maids-in-waiting say in unison “He’s here your majesty” and withdraw from the room, upon which the raven-haired (with grey and white strands) widow Empress turns revealing a face that somehow at once resembles Helen Mirren, Thandie Newton, and Michelle Yeoh, smiles and says “So glad to see you, please join me in having a pint of delicious ale”.

        “With pleasure your majesty” replies Jack.

        What brings you by?” asks the Empress. 

        “Why to show you the plans for the newest combination library-tavern-delicatessens” says Jack.

        Oh I’m sure they’re wonderful Jack, but first I do have a favor to ask”.

        “How may I serve your majesty?” he replies.

        Well, I have this itch I just can’t reach…”

        • ManyCookies says:

          There’s a fine line between shitposting and art. This is clearly one the shitposting side, but I appreciated it all the same.

          • Plumber says:

            @ManyCookies,
            Well I appreciate the appreciation.

            Thanks!

            (Hey it’s not like anyone else replied to @Uribe’s query anyway, and I think I did well some high quality literary excellence 15 minutes of writing out idle fantasizing).

            I’m guessing my failure was in not doing greater exploration of the city’s selections of deli meats?

          • The original Mr. X says:

            There’s a fine line between shitposting and art. This is clearly one the shitposting side, but I appreciated it all the same.

            >Implying that shitposting is not itself an artform.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Plumber

            I am pretty sure I owe the merry folk of Olde San Fran a beer for employing you to entertain us like this.

          • rocoulm says:

            @The original Mr. X

            That line is in fact a circle, forming one boundary of many on the Euler diagram of Types of Internet Comments

          • Nick says:

            Can anyone extend Aristotle’s discussion of trolling to the shitpost? They are surely related phenomena.

            Aristotle did not admit trolling as a true art, because it has no function and no place in the life of the serious person, but it is like an art, because it has a practice; and we can speak of the good troll or the bad troll in a loose sense, after all. Certainly the same could be said of the shitposter.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            But trolling is a art…

          • Plumber says:

            @EchoChaos says: “…I am pretty sure I owe the merry folk of Olde San Fran a beer…” 

            First I thought that much beer would require Zuckerberg’s money, but then I realized that beer for just the “merry folk” of San Francisco is quite affordable! 

            Since are congresswoman passes for “merry” here you should be good.

            FWIW, this last weekend the San Francisco Zoo had free admission…

            …to those born in the Chinese year of the Rat.

    • Nick says:

      Why does it have to be half a million people? Can’t I have a decent city of 50,000?

      I guess I’ll put it on the water—any water will do, just ask Cleveland—and not too close to any other cities. It looks like there are a lot of suitable locations along the Ohio River, so that will do. I wouldn’t encourage particular industries or anything like that, I’d just not make Main Street illegal.

      If I get to be more specific, I’ll encourage similar building materials and styles across parts of town, e.g. prefer brick, or prefer wood and Craftsman style in this neighborhood. That doesn’t take a dictator, though—premodern cities did a fine job harmonizing their streets over time from the bottom up. I’d also cancel out anything subsidizing or encouraging the use of cars, since those are sure to destroy the city like they’ve destroyed every other city. Since folks will want to leave once in a while, we’ll need a rail line; hopefully nearby cities (Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, whatever we’re close to) will cooperate there. No federal funding; it always comes with strings attached, and those strings can go pluck themselves.

      My city won’t win on size, but that’s a dumb metric, anyway.

    • How about in northern Michigan at the intersection of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron? It has a good strategic and economic position.

      • Nick says:

        It has a good strategic and economic position.

        You aren’t planning something, are you?

      • CatCube says:

        The Straits of Mackinac have St. Ignace on the north and Mackinaw City on the south. Mackinac Island dominates passage through, and had a fort in the 18th century (now a tourist destination that prohibits motor vehicles). Do you mean adding population to one of those cities?

        • gph says:

          Those towns don’t really take up that much space, you could take over Wilderness state park and still basically be on the straits. Tho I don’t think the same could be said on the St. Ignace side, from what I remember it’s a bit hilly once you get a bit inland

        • Unless you place it in the middle of the desert, there will be someone there. I interpreted the question as doing what Alexander did: take a village and turn it in to a major metropolis.

    • BBA says:

      There are two sizable gaps in the Acela corridor, northeastern Maryland and the area around the Connecticut/Rhode Island border. If nothing else, Havre De Grace and Westerly are convenient for getting to the places where people already want to live, and could compete on lower cost of living, etc.

      • The Nybbler says:

        In the past few decades there has been considerable development in northeast Maryland (much but not all related to to the Aberdeen Proving Grounds). I don’t thing you can call it an area where there is “not much” any more.

    • fibio says:

      Central Park, New York. It’s got the great benefit of already being right next to a major metropolitan area, which mean you have a ready made demand for housing and can easily hook into the existing utilities. Now, it’s a bit of a tight fit, population density is approx. 150,000 people per square kilometer, but that’s not even a tenth of the Kowloon Walled City so clearly its possible. (Although, it is more than twice the population density of the rest of Manhattan but we wont put that on the brochures.)

    • John Schilling says:

      Latitude 00°41′15″N, 23°26′00″E, no, the other 00°41′15″N, 23°26′00″E. It’s got an American Flag on it, so I say we go with it.

      But if you insist on a terrestrial location, 00°48′26″N 176°36′59″W gets you Howland Island, right next door to Baker Island. Howland is a bit small for half a million people, but we’re going to be building it as a proper arcology and we can always hire the Chinese and/or Dutch to make us more land from the surrounding reefs and seamounts. Baker island, being as close as you can get to the Equator and still be on American territory, is where we put the spaceport. Don’t want that inside or directly adjacent to a densely-populated city.

      The two of them together form a designated charter city and free-trade zone for the economic exploitation of outer space. Want to buy a tax-free communication satellite, or some shiny asteroidal platinum? That’s where you go. And any other free trade we can squeeze under that umbrella, of course. As a territory rather than a state, we should be able to appoint a mayor and model the government on colonial-era Hong Kong; not the place to go if you want to meddle in politics, but if being apolitically rich is your thing this is where the wealth of the universe funnels into Earth and it’s still under
      the protection of US-grade rule of law and civil rights.

      The city has to be an arcology for these population densities, which also makes it a superb testbed for closed-ecology life support systems and other useful technologies for space exploration and settlement. If we’re in too much of a hurry to build up the surrounding land, we can even put people in pressurized habitats on in the shallows. Centered on a tower that makes the Burj Khalifia look small, because A: skyscrapers are cool, and B: we’re eventually going to need somewhere to connect the Space Elevator. Take that, Empire State Building with your defunct zeppelin terminal.

      Core industry is of course Aerospace manufacturing and operations, along with being a commercial and transportation hub. And enough support industries, services, entertainment, etc, that nobody will consider it a hardship posting.

      If Sim City is to be believed, a 500,000 person arcology will cost a bit over 8.6 million simoleons, but I’m not sure what the exchange rate is.

      • fibio says:

        If Sim City is to be believed, a 500,000 person arcology will cost a bit over 8.6 million simoleons, but I’m not sure what the exchange rate is.

        Depends on what the going rate for a llama is right now.

      • bean says:

        Latitude 00°41′15″N, 23°26′00″E, no, the other 00°41′15″N, 23°26′00″E. It’s got an American Flag on it, so I say we go with it.

        While I really like where you’re going with this, I have two problems. First, is Mare Tranquilitus really the best spot for a base? Second, the OP clearly states it has to be in the USA, and US claims to that territory are blocked by the Outer Space Treaty, flag or no.

    • Dack says:

      Find a rural interstate junction near a major river.

      41.365621, -89.059594

      That’s I-80 & I-39, near the Illinois River.

  4. theredsheep says:

    This week in Everything is a Religion: Flagellant Cult Dinners for well-heeled white women. https://reason.com/2020/02/04/white-women-saira-rao-dinner-regina-jackson-liberal/

    Not much to add to this, really, except to say that this is an extreme lunatic fringe and I don’t personally know any leftists who’d go for this even if they had $2.5K to blow on having two strangers scold them. I know this is just a freak-show, but if those eight women can waste $312.50 apiece on hot n’ heavy racial catharsis, I won’t feel too bad about it.

    • BBA says:

      Rao was part of the Justice Democrats slate running for Congress in 2018, but lost her primary. At times I almost wish she had won, just to take some of the pressure off Ilhan Omar.

      • j1000000 says:

        I stumble on controversial Rao tweets once in a while and they seem to me indistinguishable from satire, but I suppose I don’t read much very far left stuff so maybe that’s the norm.

        • Nick says:

          Identity politics ire directed at white women certainly exists (remember that “White women, come get your people” NYT op-ed?), but Rao seems to be in a category all her own.

        • albatross11 says:

          Why, it’s almost as though saying outrageous, offensive things is how she gets attention and keeps her prominent position in the world.

    • AlexOfUrals says:

      I imagine there might even be some rightists (or even just anti-leftists) who wouldn’t mind spending 300 bucks to join the event just to sit there and reply “Yes I am racist as hell and proud, and you’re [insert worst internet neo-nazi quotes here]”, and look at the ensuing hysterics. If not for the fact that those money will go to the very people they hate. Although I also imagine most of the people like this will be males.

      • Matt M says:

        I’d definitely sponsor Cantwell being able to attend one of these things, under the condition that he’s allowed to livestream it.

    • Nick says:

      Just to preempt the usual objection: when Scott wrote with some skepticism about claims that this or that is a religion, he admitted in section II that “though it’s easy to say that every belief or movement can be analogized to a religion, I still feel an intuition that some are more ‘religious’ than others,” and said social justice (and environmentalism) in particular are more religious than other beliefs or movements. I maintain my usual contention that social justice stuff is a Christian heresy.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        I maintain my usual contention that social justice stuff is a Christian heresy.

        It’s even has the same name as something Popes said the Catholic Church seeks after the Industrial Revolution!

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      It’s a long-established truth that women will pay good money to be told they’re doing everything wrong. The only novel thing about this one is the subject matter.

      • theredsheep says:

        Other, non-SJ examples? I was aware that certain corporations will pay good money to be told they’re doing everything wrong, provided the person receiving the money is a “consultant.” Was not aware same applied to women, even in stereotypes.

        • methylethyl says:

          You have perhaps missed that there is an entire publishing industry devoted to the subject of what women are doing wrong, and that women are its primary customers: fashion magazines, diet and exercise books, child-rearing manuals, Martha Stewart, etc.

  5. sovietKaleEatYou says:

    [CW: dick jokes] I just came here to say (re: https://slatestarcodex.com/2020/01/05/hardball-questions-for-the-next-debate-2020/) that Buttigieg narrowly squeezes to the top after some sloppy and prolonged CAUCus action. (Relevance of Jovian/Jobian Iowa link left up to imagination.)

  6. Controls Freak says:

    Six point seven five OTs ago, we discussed engineering standards for software. I requested just one, that IoT devices don’t all use the same default password. The UK has proposed legislating three:

    • All consumer internet-connected device passwords must be unique and not resettable to any universal factory setting

    • Manufacturers of consumer IoT devices must provide a public point of contact so anyone can report a vulnerability and it will be acted on in a timely manner

    • Manufacturers of consumer IoT devices must explicitly state the minimum length of time that the device will receive security updates at the point of sale, either in store or online

    Nick Weaver is a resounding yea. Roll call: yea or nay?

    • John Schilling says:

      Yea in principle, but there will be some details in implementation. #3 will be an unfunded liability for the sellers, and they’ll push back. To first approximation, tough on them, but we’ll need to figure out how to deal with bankruptcies, buyouts, and shared responsibility when there isn’t a single shared manufacturer-seller.

      #1 has the potential to brick a lot of devices if the lusers forget their own passwords; I’d allow for reset to a factory default by hardware switch on the device, so the tech support call center can say “use a bent paperclip to press the tiny button inside such-and-such hole in the casing; we’ll rlogin to unbrick the device and reset the password, please write it down someplace safe this time”.

      • Aapje says:

        The normal way to deal with #3 is to make the vendor responsible, rather than the manufacturer. I wonder if the law will actually make the manufacturer responsible or whether the proposed law is being misrepresented (which seems fairly likely).

        • Controls Freak says:

          I’m not sure about final language (I’m less familiar with how this process works in the UK), but it seems to be that they’re referring to this document (found it this morning) and saying, “We’d like a law that requires the top three recommendations.” The relevant section for this says:

          Provision 4.3-2 The consumer should be informed by the appropriate entity, such as the manufacturer or service provider, that an update is required.

          NOTE 1: The appropriate entity is decided by the relevant jurisdiction.

          So, it sort of punts the issue for later determination of who should be held responsible for which types of devices.

      • Murphy says:

        #1 is practical, it just has to not be the same password.

        So rather than “use a bent paperclip to press the tiny button inside such-and-such hole in the casing, the username is now “root” and the password is now “pass123″ ”

        It becomes

        “use a bent paperclip to press the tiny button inside such-and-such hole in the casing, the username is now “root” and the password is the number stamped on the bottom of the unit”

        There’s just too many security fuckups that boil down to manufacturers having a single default username and password for everything that nobody is ever forced to change.

        On a related note, in every hotel room that has a safe with a key code I always try 0000 and 12345 because they almost always have a default “admin” password.

        Most of the time the hotels never change the default so they might as well not even have safes.

        • acymetric says:

          I can’t imagine ever putting something in a hotel safe and believing it is secure (even before this new information), but I guess maybe other people are reliant on them? What exactly are people putting in there?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I think it’s more like one of those “locks keep honest people honest” sorts of things.

          • Another Throw says:

            People traveling with jewelry, etc., that isn’t valuable enough to bother bringing your own safe for, but valuable enough that having the housekeeping staff pinch it would be a serious PITA?

            At the very least, defeating a locking device to steal something usually makes it a bigger penalty than just swiping it off the table… if you ever find whodunit.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      I see some problems, which might be inaccurate, but a good way for me to test my ability to think like a security consultant:

      * With the first measure, consumers may lose or forget the password, and effectively “burn” the now unlockable product. I see no workaround for this that doesn’t make things even harder on the consumer. The least hard workaround is 2FA, but in that case, why not just legislate 2FA?

      * How about permitting a factory setting that requires physical proximity to the product? Is the IoT market really just waiting on the invention of a wifi protocol guaranteed to not work farther than two inches away?

      * What’s the point of mandating a public POC, if they didn’t specify what constitutes a “timely” response? Or does the law specify what the state can do if it finds responses to be maybe-untimely?

      * Or is that the “minimum length of time” the third point is referring to? It’s not clear. [reads further in the article] …wait, no, that’s not what it refers to, which is something I admit is pretty useful.

      Overall, this sounds like a law to scratch what consumers have expressed as their most irritating itches about products currently on the market (I’m thinking wifi routers for the most part). As laws go, it sounds relatively well-informed, at least, although the enforcement problem seems handwavey so far.

      My libertarian side, naturally, is skeptical of this law. Some products aren’t going to be a huge pain if they get taken over by botnets. ZikZak22 isn’t going to hack your IoT juicer to mine Bitcoin, and whoever makes IoT juicers might not be able to afford a tech support infrastructure for every potential vulnerability (or does the law permit them to respond to bug reports with “Will Not Fix”?).

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        I’ve been the number-two-man on an engineer team that sold devices that are close to being called IoT, so I’ve dealt with these.

        For #1, my colleague had a master list of passwords for all devices. We could tell the customers their passwords if they called in. I forget if it was algorithimically derived or just sat in a really safe place. (This list being stolen would be bad, but it would just return us to the default state.) An alternative (which we also did) is to require passwords to be changed on first login.

        For #2, “timely” is a weasel word you see in a lot of laws. If something goes tragically wrong and we find out that people were mailing security@yourshitdevice.com for a year prior and not getting a response, we know that fails.

        The big problem for #2 is that you get a lot of whiny security “researchers” out there who will run an automated tool against your product and demand a bug bounty because you don’t have HSTS set, and now we’ve required manufacturers to listen to all these people with extremely poor social skills.

        For #3, you are just requiring the manufacturer to declare the length of time. “Security updates: until 3pm on February 7, 2020” would meet the letter and spirit of the law, in that it tells customers this device should not be trusted at all. Manufacturers can default to some incredibly short time frame if they want, and consumers can judge them accordingly.

        • Controls Freak says:

          For #2, “timely” is a weasel word you see in a lot of laws. If something goes tragically wrong and we find out that people were mailing security@yourshitdevice.com for a year prior and not getting a response, we know that fails.

          As above, this morning I found what I think is the more important document here. The relevant section says:

          Provision 4.2-2 Disclosed vulnerabilities should be acted on in a timely manner.

          A “timely manner” for acting on vulnerabilities varies considerably and is incident specific, however, the de facto standard for the vulnerability process to be completed is within 90 days. A hardware fix can take considerably longer to address than a software fix. Additionally, a fix that has to be deployed to devices can take time to roll out compared with a server software fix.

          So, definitely a bit weasely, but that’s probably not too bad. The number they give basically adopts Google’s Project Zero timeline, and mostly weasels to say that some situations might legitimately be hard and take longer.

          I’m not sure how to handle your (and Nybbler’s) complaint about bad security “researchers”. I imagine that right now, there’s already a somewhat mushy vetting protocol for the companies that already have open reporting pathways. The document doesn’t really detail any procedure, either. It seems that the consensus is to try to just make companies at least be open to reports (rather than, say, suing legitimate researchers for pointing out flaws in their stuff), and then punt the question of whether they negligently ignored a legitimate report on grounds that they misclassified it as frivolous.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I’m not a fan of legislating any of it. But on the merits, the first one is a good idea that has been implemented by some manufacturers — the bricking issue is avoided by having the default password be printed on the device and/or derivable from a hardware serial number that is not accessible by software, and sometimes limiting the functionality of the device until the password is changed. The third isn’t too bad if the answer could be “no time at all”. The second is pretty bad, since it means your company has to have people and a process to handle every idiot and crank who will be sending spurious reports.

  7. ana53294 says:

    An article that makes me doubt whether Tesla is actually overvalued. I’ve read many, many articles on how Tesla is overvalued, how their EBITDA and cash flow and whatever where too low, and how even if they made as many cars as GM, Tesla’s market cap would be crazy.

    At its latest levels, Tesla’s “market cap” — the total value of its shares — reached $90B. This means that the stock market “thinks” Tesla is worth more than Ford and GM combined ($36.7B and $48.8B, respectively; a total of $85.5B). If we use the theory that share prices are an indication of buyers/sellers view of companies’ future, Ford and GM prospects don’t seem overly bright when compared to Tesla.

    As much as I admire Musk’s combination of strategic vision and improvisational agility, to say nothing of his ability to advance other initiatives such as SpaceX, one wonders about the meaning of such a market cap comparison. A closer look reveals a striking difference: legacy automakers carry the burden of retirees’ pensions and medical costs. In 2004, for example, there were 2.5 GM retirees per active worker, and in 2009, GM’s pension liabilities were in the $100B range. This let financial writers joke that “GM was in truth a huge pension plan, funded by an automobile operation”. In 2009 GM was bailed out by US tax payers while Ford wasn’t — but the latter carries a similar burden. According to a Barron’s October 2019 article Ford’s pension obligations “is more than 200% of its market value”.

    Tesla carries no such burden, it’s still a young company without retirees to support. This, in great part, explains the counterintuitive market cap numbers.

    Considering how much unfunded pension liabilities seem to matter, for states and companies, this seems like a very valid point. I’m not sure whether bonds or pensions get paid first in bankruptcy, but pensions definitely get paid before shares. It’s understandable to be skeptical of a company which has huge unfunded debt, which is not as clearly defined.

    Makes me wonder about how much having huge unfunded pension liabilities will affect countries. Most European countries have public pensions which are unfunded, and a turning demographic pyramid. How much will the economy be affected by this?

    • Matt M says:

      Considering how much unfunded pension liabilities seem to matter, for states and companies

      Counterpoint: It doesn’t seem to matter at all. States (in the California sense) aren’t really being punished for it. Everyone expects that if there ever is a real crisis, they will be bailed out. People still buy US debt, at low rates, despite our staggering amount of unfunded liabilities. Claiming that “hey, at some point we’re going to have to pay for all of this” puts you squarely in the realm of crazy, conspiracy theorist, crank. “Mainstream” economists seem to think we can just print/grow our way out of it with no problem whatsoever.

      Large companies can, have been, and will be, bailed out to save the pensioners. No real threat to them either.

      My suspicion is that the vast majority of people who prefer Tesla stock to GM stock do not hold that preference because they’re worried about GM’s pension liabilities…

      • ana53294 says:

        GM will be bailed out in the future, because it is indeed a “huge pension plan, funded by an automobile operation”. But that doesn’t mean shareholders of GM would also be bailed out. It’s quite likely they would lose value.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        Hasn’t GM already been bailed out of their pension liabilities, back around 2007-2009 when they went bankrupt?

        • ana53294 says:

          No.

          Why would they, when the point was to get GM to pay all those pensions?

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I stand corrected on the bankruptcy’s effect on pension obligations.

            But point of bankruptcy is to create a viable business going forward, not necessarily to make the past creditors whole. If they can be a viable business with existing pension obligations, then they keep them.

    • broblawsky says:

      Ford has a total debt-to-enterprise value ratio of 1.02 and a price-to-book value ratio of 0.87; Tesla has a debt-to-enterprise value of 0.2 and a price-to-book ratio of 11.67. That does back up your theory, I suppose, but it doesn’t seem like it fully justifies the difference in valuations in and of itself.

    • mfm32 says:

      There are some embarrassing mistakes in this analysis, especially given the business pedigree of the author. I guess he was an operator and a technologist, not a finance guy.

      In any, case it does not make much sense to compare the market caps of companies, as the market cap only measures how much the market values a company’s equity. In simplest terms, a company is owned (economically) by its equity and its debtholders together. If you are trying to measure a company’s size in value terms, then, you’d better use Enterprise Value (EV), which takes debtholders into account. On that measure, Tesla is still larger than GM (didn’t check Ford), but not by nearly as much.

      Pensions are indeed one point of differentiation between Tesla and the legacy automakers, but again the analysis misses the point quite badly. GM’s gross pension liability is an interesting number. But GM also holds assets against that liability, so equity holders shouldn’t reasonably expect to shoulder the entire pension liability. I’ll bet GM’s pension is underfunded (you could check in their SEC filings), but it’s surely not underfunded by 100%. So that doesn’t explain the difference in value between Tesla and GM.

    • brad says:

      The numbers I’m seeing are: $159.89B market cap on annualized revenue of $25.5B. In their very best quarters Toyota and BMW flirt with the 10% mark. So let’s wave our magic wands and say that Telsa has steady 10% net margins. That means a PE ratio of 62.

      Now granted if they had those margins and that growth, it’d be an exciting stock, but if they wanted to achieve those margins growth would inevitably slow. The point is that if you think that Tesla is somehow going to be able to turn on margin after growing then by buying in now you need to believe they are going to double to triple their revenues from here and then turn on a dime to best in industry profit margins in order to justify the current stock price.

  8. proyas says:

    The theory that human intelligence level is a gross measure of how well the brain functions overall intrigues me me.

    For other organs in the human body, are there also simple, single-digit measures of overall function (if there were, I’d imagine they’d be in common use among relevant medical professionals)? For example is there a “g,” but for kidneys? People with low “g” scores for their kidneys would of course have medical problems related to those organs.

    • dodrian says:

      The measure for kidneys specifically is the GFR.

    • Statismagician says:

      FEV for lungs. Heart function has variability and ejection fraction, and there’s a four-or-five metric standard liver panel which is pretty close.

    • helloo says:

      me me?

    • fibio says:

      I don’t know why, but feel like if you let the doctors try and come up with a quantitative measure of brain function they’ll come back with a single figure that’s a rough estimate of how many times you did something potentially fatal in the last week. All the other metrics are estimating ‘how likely is this to kill you today’ so why not apply that standard the brain?

    • Vitor says:

      VO2max: cardiovascular + pulmonary + skeletomuscular systems combined. Maybe a bit more general than what you’re looking for, but I think it counts.

    • Viliam says:

      There is Apgar score for the overall function of a newborn child.

      • baconbits9 says:

        When our son was born our midwife gave him a 10 on the Apgar, said it was the only one she had ever given out.

        • Viliam says:

          Really? I had no idea it was so rare. Our first child had 10, the second one had 8 or 9, I don’t remember. I assumed the latter was an exception.

  9. jermo sapiens says:

    So I was reading the NY Southern District Court’s decision in Akilah Hughes (aka Akilah Obviously) v. Carl Benjamin (aka Sargon of Akkad), and this struck me as interesting:
    Link

    Although Hughes contends that her own objective awareness of the term’s meaning does not establish that a “reasonable observer” would interpret the term “SJW” in a pejorative manner, the Court concludes that “SJW” or “S… J…. W….” has sufficiently entered the modern lexicon such that there can be no serious dispute as to its pejorative meaning in this context.

    • nkurz says:

      Interesting. I hadn’t been following this case. Summarizing the outcome for others who might be interested in the copyright aspects, Benjamin published a 2 minute Youtube video titled “SJW Levels of Awareness” consisting only of six excerpts from Hughes’ earlier 10 minute video “We Thought She Would Win” (about realizing that Clinton had lost the 2016 election). Benjamin’s video included had no commentary other than the title, and none of his own video.

      As might be expected, Hughes challenged this as a copyright violation by issuing a DMCA takedown request. Youtube complied, and removed the video. Benjamin filed a counter notification, asserting that his video was “entirely transformative … and intended for parody” and thus was an allowable fair use. Youtube reinstated access to the video, and for the last 3 years the case has made its way through the courts.

      The Circuit Court concluded yesterday that Benjamin was correct, that republishing a 20% excerpt of a video under a critical title was justifiable as fair use, and dismissed the motion “with prejudice”! It agreed that Benjamin erred in calling it a “parody”, but forgave him saying ‘even if SJW Levels of Awareness was not, strictly speaking, “parody” as that term has been defined in the case law … the difference between “parody” and non-parodic copying for the purpose of mocking criticism is subtle, and ultimately immaterial here.’

      I don’t have enough background to know how well the reasoning is backed by case law, but I personally greatly appreciate that the court reaffirmed that using substantial excerpts of a work “for the purpose of mocking criticism” falls squarely under fair use. From my point of view, the system seems to have worked as intended.

  10. rocoulm says:

    A couple weeks (months?) back someone posted a searchable archive of open thread comments they were working on. Anyone got a link to it?

  11. jermo sapiens says:

    I have a personal situation for which I believe the SSC comment section may be able to provide valuable insight.

    My 4 year old is being “diagnosed” by his junior kindergarten teacher as having Aspergers, and both his mother and I as well as our extended family thinks it’s ridiculous. But I want to keep an open mind.

    He was born very prematurely, on March 20th, while his due date was June 6th. He spent 84 days in NICU, but we never felt he had any lingering effects from his premature birth. He appears healthy and happy to us. He can count to 100, he knows all the letters of the alphabet, he can write his name, and he gets along extremely well with his 8 year old brother and 11 year old sister. He never went to daycare, my mother took care of him from 1 to 4. My mother has a story she likes to tell about them going to a park, and he saw a little girl crying and he went to give her a hug (the relevance of this story will be apparent soon).

    Anyhow, he started school in September, and from the beginning his teacher thought that there was something wrong with him. There was one incident where he spilled yogurt during lunch and the teacher got in touch with us, as in “please teach your child proper table manners”. Then at a parent-teacher meeting, the teacher went nuclear. He’s not keeping up with the group, he requires too much attention, he’s not socializing well with other kids, etc… Now we just got his first report card and he’s being accused of among many other things “not consoling other kids when they’re sad”, falling behind in his “global development skills”, he has poor fine motor skills (kind of true, but also true of his older brother and myself), and lots of other things which we found out from a family friend who is a specialist, are all the keywords for an Asperger’s diagnosis. Interestingly the report card also says that he does very well academically.

    We dont want to dismiss the teacher’s comments out of hand, but it strikes us as being very much the opposite of what we know about our son. It’s pretty clear he doesnt have a learning disability. It’s also crystal clear to us that he shows empathy for others, values social bonds, and doesnt avoid eye contact or things like that. We dont discount the possibility that he’s socially awkward with his classmates, but that’s the kind of things we experienced with our daughter also. We’re also not surprised that he doesnt listen to the teacher 100% of the time, but we feel that’s normal. My take, which obviously is just a hypothesis at this point, is that he’s a bit of a weird kid who’s not used to the classroom setting, and the teacher prefers kids who all fit the same mold and took a severe dislike to him.

    But maybe I’m wrong. I’m curious if there are any kind of disorders that he could have despite having strong learning ability and normal empathy towards others.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      My mother has a story she likes to tell about them going to a park, and he saw a little girl crying and he went to give her a hug

      My son, professionally diagnosed as on the spectrum, will do the exact same thing. If anything, he doesn’t understand that there is such a thing as personal space.

      Is this a public school? If so, your teacher is trying to play both sides: if your son has a learning disability, by IDEA your son has a right to “a free and appropriate public education,” so your son taking up “too much time” would be irrelevant. (IANAL and different states may have different rules, even though IDEA is Federal.)

      • jermo sapiens says:

        My son, professionally diagnosed as on the spectrum, will do the exact same thing. If anything, he doesn’t understand that there is such a thing as personal space.

        Ok thanks. That’s interesting. I’m not sure the extent to which my son understands the concept of personal space. But at 4 that seems normal.

        As for IDEA and IANAL, not sure what those are but they seem to be like American education programs. We’re in Canada, but we have similar laws.

        • Randy M says:

          As for IDEA and IANAL, not sure what those are but they seem to be like American education programs. We’re in Canada, but we have similar laws.

          Half right.
          IANAL= I am not a lawyer
          IDEA = Individuals with disabilties [in education] act

      • jermo sapiens says:

        If you dont mind sharing, what kind of behavior does your son engage in where you personally can tell “this is from his condition”?

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          My son does a lot of stimming, even to the point of (low-level) self-harm. He has a set of personal rules in his head that he thinks everyone else should follow and doesn’t like it when someone tells him to follow the rules society has set down. A number of minor disgusting traits that lots of kids have but he doesn’t have the shame to hide them. He thinks he can stand his ground and win an argument, so he’ll have a fit, even though an hour later he will admit he was wrong.

          My son’s disorder isn’t anything that is going to keep him out of the workforce or require him to need unusual/special assistance as an adult.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            Ok thanks. I really appreciate your insight into this.

            My son doesnt do anything that can be considered stimming, or any of those other things.

            My son’s disorder isn’t anything that is going to keep him out of the workforce or require him to need unusual/special assistance as an adult.

            That’s very good to hear.

    • Etoile says:

      Wait, kids are supposed to console someone when they are sad?
      What are “global development skills”?
      Report cards in PRE-school??

      Perhaps it is worthwhile seeing how he does in Kindergarten, and with a different teacher, before jumping to conclusions?

      • jermo sapiens says:

        Wait, kids are supposed to console someone when they are sad?

        Thank you. I think this is ridiculous also. But the craziest thing is that my son is actually quite sensitive to the emotions of others.

        What are “global development skills”?

        I’m not sure. My cynical side wants to say it’s about making the teacher’s life easier.

        Report cards in PRE-school??

        Again, thank you! Here my cynical side says that these are glorified daycare centers but they need to justify their much much higher teacher’s salaries.

        Perhaps it is worthwhile seeing how he does in Kindergarten, and with a different teacher, before jumping to conclusions?

        This is what I’ve been saying since the beginning of this.

        • Etoile says:

          Right; so to be fair, I’m in the US, and my kids are still too small for pre-school.
          I don’t know how much of the kinds of assessments pre-school, or even kindergarten teachers do, have changed since I was in school, or since by (much younger) brothers were. Maybe some kind of “shows empathy” metric is in vogue these days, and so they score on it. (I remember reading my own report card from Kindergarten, and apparently I was very bad at skipping.) My experience with ASD is also pretty limited to meeting someone else on the spectrum in school or as someone else’s child.

          But I know several boys – brothers, cousins (I just have a lot of these in total; not everyone in my family is weird, lol) – who were/are kind of annoying or weird in a particular kind of way, without it being ASD (ADHD in one case) which must trigger a particular kind of teacher and makes her really dislike them. (Also the opposite: very likeable and social boys who aren’t as great academically but the teachers LOVE them, hehe.)

          So while I don’t want to make any ideological statements or dismiss any other parents’ experiences with children who do have kids with ASD, I’d bias myself against her diagnosis.
          It depends on how the teacher frames it, too. I’d think a sympathetic teacher who thought something was wrong with the child would take a compassionate approach and gently point out behaviors she thought concerning, point out issues to look out for, not be in a hurry to diagnose…. not “go nuclear”.

          (Edited last paragraph twice; once to clarify meaning, once to fix a typo)

          • jermo sapiens says:

            But I know several boys – brothers, cousins (I just have a lot of these in total; not everyone in my family is weird, lol) – who were/are kind of annoying or weird in a particular kind of way, without it being ASD (ADHD in one case) which must trigger a particular kind of teacher and makes her really dislike them.

            This is basically my diagnosis for my son right now. It might turn out to be wrong but I’m reasonably confident.

            Thanks for sharing your experience and I do hope you improved your skipping.

    • mitv150 says:

      The questions I would ask (or did, in a similar situation with a different potential diagnosis) are: “If the teacher is right, what would we be doing differently right now? Is there something different we might do now that might make a difference over time? What are the negative consequences of such an action? What are the negative consequences to doing nothing?”

      • jermo sapiens says:

        “If the teacher is right, what would we be doing differently right now? Is there something different we might do now that might make a difference over time? What are the negative consequences of such an action? What are the negative consequences to doing nothing?”

        Thanks.

        Yes I’ve asked myself these questions. And we have an appointment scheduled with a specialist soon. We’ll see what the specialist says and if there’s anything we can do, we’ll do it.

        The teacher wants to talk to the specialist before the appointment. I oppose that.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          You may know this already, but the specialists will often want to talk to the people who observe the child, meaning the teacher is on the short list. Make your wishes clearly known to the specialist so it doesn’t happen by default.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            I would rather the specialist be in control of the process. If they want to talk to the teacher, I have no problems. I have a problem with the teacher butting in without a request from the specialist.

        • viVI_IViv says:

          Yes I’ve asked myself these questions. And we have an appointment scheduled with a specialist soon. We’ll see what the specialist says and if there’s anything we can do, we’ll do it.

          Be ware of quick ADHD diagnoses and the resulting drug prescriptions. More generally, keep in mind that the specialist has a vested interest in diagnosing your child with something.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            keep in mind that the specialist has a vested interest in diagnosing your child with something

            Ugh. That’s a horrifying thought. Maybe not as true in Canada, but I’m not sure.

    • Statismagician says:

      In addition to what mitv150 said – you’d be absolutely correct in dismissing the teacher’s comments out of hand. Senior babysitters do not get to diagnose anybody with anything, especially not people they interact with on a daily basis with highly complicated developmental conditions – that’s, like, Dispassionate Scientific Diagnosis 101, even if there were anything like strictly valid universal diagnostic criteria for anything at all complicated, which there aren’t*.

      If you think there might be something more going on than ‘kid used to interacting with family has a hard time adjusting to a bizarre world with arbitrary rules,’ then you can take him to a specialist and see what they say. Second opinions are, of course, a good idea if you do this, since [see above re: the state of developmental diagnosing].

      Above with a grain of salt; I’m an epidemiologist, not a physician.

      *Developmental, and mental diagnoses generally, tend to be of the form ‘> [x] of [list of conditions] present? Diagnose!.’ This is obviously more open to interpretation than the ideal case, especially since lots of the list items have similarly vague diagnostic criteria.

      • jermo sapiens says:

        kid used to interacting with family has a hard time adjusting to a bizarre world with arbitrary rules

        That’s what I think it is.

        I just want to say the SSC comment section is an amazing resource, filled with fantastic people.

    • no one special says:

      Hello. My son is autistic* and we went through a similar situation when he was in third grade. I’ll give you a brief overview of what happened, and what it means.

      * maybe. Sort of.

      I’m an American, so some of what happened will be determined by that system. It probably also varies by state. Take with appropriate salt.

      My son is definitely an introvert, and had great fun with math. This is basically the TV version of autism. He’s also extremely picky on sensory issues — not stimming, per se, but preferring food without sauces and wearing extremely soft clothing given any choice at all. Also failing to notice if it’s on backwards.

      His handwriting was unfathomably bad. Unreadable. Doctor’s prescription pad looks better. This is a serious problem in the classroom, because you can’t grade his work if you can’t read it. Anyway, his teacher determined that something had to be done.

      We had a big meeting with myself, my ex, the teacher, the principal, a counselor and maybe a few other people. There was an explicit question of whether or not my son was autistic. The outcome was a document called an Individual Education Plan, and a “diagnosis” of “Learning disability in written expression.”

      Because the point of this is not to actually diagnose your child with anything — no one is qualified. The point is to determine if your child can be taught in an ordinary classroom, or needs to be placed in special ed (basically a euphemism for a holding tank.) My ex and I disagree with the question of if our son was diagnosed with autism. For a while I leaned towards “not autistic”, where my ex’s take was “not autistic enough to require special ed.” My ex is probably right here.

      The important takeaway here is that because my son has the IEP document, he can get assistive technology in the classroom, which mostly means letting him write his papers with Google Docs, rather then a pencil, or going over his answers verbally with the teacher. In his case, his third grade teacher actually did him a solid, because if he had to write with a pencil, he’s be getting a lot of zeros for unreadability, or getting in a lot of arguments with the teacher over what his answer actually was.

      If I had to suggest a course of action, it would be: find out what your child’s teacher is trying to do, and decide if that outcome is good or bad. If it looks like get this kid out of my class and into the holding tank, then fight it hard, but it may just be get the bureaucracy to allow this kid access to the tools he needs to succeed, in which case it’s probably a good thing.

      I was really worried about a holding tank outcome, but it was actually a tools outcome, and I’m happy and relieved.

      • jermo sapiens says:

        If I had to suggest a course of action, it would be: find out what your child’s teacher is trying to do, and decide if that outcome is good or bad. If it looks like get this kid out of my class and into the holding tank, then fight it hard, but it may just be get the bureaucracy to allow this kid access to the tools he needs to succeed, in which case it’s probably a good thing.

        Thanks for sharing and for your advice.

        So Loïc (that’s his name, pronounced Lowic, if you cant see that character it’s an i with an umlaut) has already been placed with the group of kids having learning disabilities. They’re all in the same classroom, but the teacher is accompanied with a Special Educator type person, and she’s the one responsible for the “special kids”. He doesnt seem to mind at all. But we’re kind of annoyed by it. This is sort of like a holding tank, but it doesnt seem that bad. I would expect him to be treated like a normal kid next year.

        But yeah obviously, anything that gives him tools to navigate this world, we will gladly accept.

        • Etoile says:

          Yeah, I’d figure the go is to avoid permanent labeling and relegation to a “holding cell”, or attempts to ply your child with mandatory interventions that are harmful to him (if that’s even a danger, but you hear all sorts of things). The danger of the “holding cell” is threefold:

          1) The garden-variety isolated special education class is NOT necessarily staffed with the most compassionate or professional people. What you have is a little different – I’ve heard it called an “inclusion class”, where special-needs are mixed in with regular kids, which is better.

          2) Getting placed in it forever with no way to get out.

          3) Related to #2, being stuck in that holding cell with the very problem kids – with severe learning difficulties, major conduct issues, and such. I don’t know if that’s done much these days, but it was a danger of getting branded “special ed” in my state 15+ years ago.

          Good luck!

        • Aapje says:

          @jermo sapiens

          Be warned that even those ‘tools’ can be limiting. For example, a substantial percentage of dyslexia diagnoses seem to be for kids who have difficulty with language and/or got taught badly, but who can learn. A dyslexia can mean that the educational system gives up on teaching language well to a kid. That kid/adult won’t always be granted extra time to do their work, nor will people always look kindly upon poor spelling.

          I’d try to see if you can get your kid to write well/better, regardless of whether you take advantage of being able to do work on a laptop.

      • eigenmoon says:

        I’m an introvert, have great fun with math, prefer food without sauces, wear soft clothing, failed to notice if it’s on backwards well into my 20s. My handwriting is bad. I could go on, for example, lighting should not be too bright and definitely nothing should be blinking; bad music is physically painful to hear, doubly so if loud.

        If I was a child in US, I would strongly prefer to be unschooled. In the modern world having fun with math can be developed into such power that all the diplomas and certificates that the education system can give are worth nothing by comparison. But the school will have your child lose valuable time on useless shit such as internal organs of worms and spiders or which king won a stupid war.

        • jermo sapiens says:

          I’m an introvert, have great fun with math, prefer food without sauces, wear soft clothing, failed to notice if it’s on backwards up to my 20s. My handwriting is bad. I could go on, for example, lighting should not be too bright and definitely nothing should be blinking; bad music is physically painful to hear, doubly so if loud.

          I find these “symptoms” or whatever they should be called fascinating. I understand they’re all correlated with autism to a degree? But alot of them just seem to be personal preferences with no obvious downside or upside.

          I can say about 1/2 of them apply to myself, and to my son to some degree. But who doesnt like soft clothing?

          • eigenmoon says:

            Being on autistic spectrum is basically just personal preferences until a certain point. To put it another way, it’s not that your child has a learning disability, it’s your school has a teaching disability. I might disagree with Scott here; see this comment.

            That said, there are some downsides, like executive dysfunction and reduced ability to read social situations. But it’s not true that autistic people have less empathy. It’s more like “I’d like to empathize but I can interpret what you said in 3 different ways, and for each interpretation I could come up with 2-3 plausible responses, and for each of those I could predict 2-3 possible reactions from you. How the hell do I come up with what’s best to say?”

            Executive dysfunction I think is mostly a consequence of people dispensing completely inapplicable advice. Throughout the school I was taught to psych myself up into doing stuff and was called lazy for failing to do so, and told to do it stronger. But now I know that in order to do something I need to psych myself down. I’m not saying that this is what will work for you or your kid but in general it’s a good idea to check Aspergers/autistic forums and Youtube for some advice/lifehacks. I’m approaching 40 but I’m still learning (“wait, I can actually buy elastic shoestrings?”). It’s all OK.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            It’s more like “I’d like to empathize but I can interpret what you said in 3 different ways, and for each interpretation I could come up with 2-3 plausible responses, and for each of those I could predict 2-3 possible reactions from you. How the hell do I come up with what’s best to say?”

            Interesting. And I’m not joking at all when I say this is *EXACTLY* how I feel when I’m in a social setting where I’m not very comfortable. I usually end up doing the right thing by instinct, but I’ve had situations where I didnt and awkwardness ensued. This is particularly the case in the texting phase of online dating (I’m recently separated, and when I match on Tinder this girl at work helps me out with the texting but she says stuff like “just say what you feel” and I’m like “wow that’s not helpful at all”. )

          • eigenmoon says:

            @jermo sapiens
            Yeah, I know, right? Most people have hardware accelerated modeling of other people, so they get away with just “feeling”. But we have to model others without hardware acceleration. Texting is difficult for everyone though. Have a look at some theory and good luck!

          • DinoNerd says:

            @eigenmoon

            Ditto. I had to learn what responses would make normal people feel better, and for that matter when not to believe them when they explicitly told me there was nothing wrong, etc. After first internalizing the concept that they might make false claims out of politeness.

            It’s mostly instinctive now – after more than 60 years of learning. Except instinctive is the wrong term – more like driving a car, where I’ve done it so often I can do it without full attention. “Instinctive” would be if a person reacted the way I would, and I could get good results from “doing unto others as I would like to be done to myself.”

          • Aapje says:

            @eigenmoon

            Ironically, society seems to be making people act more like this. Increasingly, ‘normal’ people seem to be made aware* for interpreting situations as X when they are Y, Y when they are Z and Z when they are X, for the same apparent situation. Increased executive dysfunction is the logical result.

            * chastised

          • jermo sapiens says:

            Texting is difficult for everyone though. Have a look at some theory and good luck!

            Thanks I’ll check that out.

        • albatross11 says:

          My sense is that school is kinda broken overall in the sense that it wastes a lot of the kids’ time and is needlessly unpleasant, and that this brokenness lands a lot harder on some kids than others.

          • Matt M says:

            This essay by @webdevmason is probably my favorite reading on the general theme of “schooling is largely a pointless waste of time”

          • Statismagician says:

            Also relevant, this one from Paul Graham.

          • Malarious says:

            Yep. I begged (multiple times! Over a period of years!) my mom to let me enroll in online courses instead of forcing me to waste hours every day going to a place that made me miserable and — even in the best case — taught me nothing. She was convinced I needed to learn how to make friends and interact with kids my age, as if my social skills (which had failed to manifest up until that point) would spontaneously develop if I just kept going through the motions. That kept up until I literally couldn’t take it any more and started really pushing the limits, skipping as much class as I could get away with. My attendance in high school was abominable — well below 30% — and I missed assignments, homework, presentations, etc. It wasn’t until 12th grade when I said something like “I would literally rather kill myself than waste another hour of my life going to that stupid fucking school,” that the alarm bells started ringing and suddenly everyone got Very Serious, a doctor was called, I spent time going to a psychologist, and the school made some accommodations like making exams worth a bigger part of my grade and not counting missed assignments due to absences against me. (If 14 year old me had known those were the magic words you had to chant to make the suffering stop, well, I suspect things would’ve turned out better.)

            Unfortunately, the damage was already done at that point; great grades in 12th grade didn’t really make up for the barely-passing marks I got the previous years, so the only post-secondary I qualified for was community college, and scholarships of any kind were obviously out of the question. It has been a long, slow, brutal climb out of that rut; I’m 25 now and work as a programmer and things are better than they’ve ever been. But yeah… my mom just literally could not conceive of a teenager who didn’t want to go to school, hang out with their friends, and party and drink on weekends, so when I didn’t fit that mold she tried very hard to push me into it. Every time I brought up online courses/distance learning (I had online friends who did it, turned out well-adjusted, and got into decent schools) she basically laughed in my face. If you’re a parent and your kid comes to you, explains their problem and suggests a solution, please for the love of god at least consider it.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            If you’re a parent and your kid comes to you, explains their problem and suggests a solution, please for the love of god at least consider it.

            +1

          • albatross11 says:

            FWIW, my history isn’t as extreme as this, but there are some parallels. My mom was probably the most popular girl in her class, she was the head cheerleader, she was one of the in crowd, etc. Her notion of what high school was supposed to be like was the wonderful time she’d had in high school. It was always clear to me that she was very frustrated that I wasn’t anything like that. I had friends, but I wasn’t the center of attention; I played sports and liked them, but wasn’t a star. And this was all fine with me, but man, it really bugged her that I wasn’t following in her footsteps somehow.

    • aristides says:

      I was in your son’s situation. In both Kindergarten and Middle School, I had teachers approach my parents and suggest that I might be autistic. In both cases, my parents told them to shove it, he’s just a little weird, not disabled. I did not even find out about these conversations until I was 24. On the balance, both of them were probably right. I have never been diagnosed, but I have nearly every symptom at one age or another. However, because I didn’t know, I was kept in the same classes as everyone else, and am much better at passing, than if I was treated differently. I was able to improve my social skills well enough to have a high paying job in HR.

      That said, I was bullied in Middle and High School. My parents stepped in and stopped the worst of it, but I still had few friends, no girlfriend, and low self esteem. It was rough years, but I personally wouldn’t change them. My basic point here, is even if you make the wrong call on whether or not he has autism, your child will still end up fine as long as you do everything important right.

      • Matt M says:

        About 90% of this applies to me as well. To this day I feel very fortunate to have grown up in the time and place I did where my quirks were treated as “he’s just a little weird at some things” instead of “he is mentally ill” and that nobody ever tried to convince me/my parents that I was disabled and needed mind-altering medication. I’m quite confident that someone like me, today, wouldn’t be able to survive modern public schooling without that happening. And while I can’t say for sure, I feel like my life would have been much worse had those types of people gotten their hands on my brain and psyche at an early age…

      • ana53294 says:

        I was diagnosed at age six, my parents decided to keep it from me (and my teachers, also). I always knew I was weird, and I got therapy for coping mechanisms, etc. But most therapists in my back-of-the woods weren’t that good.

        Up to age 18, there isn’t much difference in what my parents could have done by telling me about my diagnosis. But knowing about it has made my life easier in some ways, so I think telling people about it is good, once they’re old enough.

        If there is a good therapist who can show coping behaviours, you don’t have to tell your child they’re autistic, you can tell them they should learn coping behaviours.

      • jermo sapiens says:

        I’m getting the sense that there is no meaningful distinction between “a little weird” and “a little autistic”. I was never diagnosed, but I’ve been considered a bit weird, but I’ve always done well socially. I expect my children to be a bit weird also.

        Looking at the signs of autism, I recognize myself and my children in some, but not in others.

        That said, my understanding is that in very severe autism cases, there is no hope of the individual functioning properly in society. This clearly is not the case for most people who are “on the spectrum” and it suggests that the category of “people with autism” is not particularly useful one.

        In any event, hearing from all of you has done me a world of good. I’m even thinking that if Loic does have some kind of mild autism, it doesnt really matter, I know he’ll be fine.

    • Lord Nelson says:

      Seconding the people who think report cards in preschool are ridiculous.

      I was diagnosed with aspergers as an adult. I question the ability of doctors to diagnose it in very young children. Some of the things you mentioned are signs of aspergers, but theyre also things that little kids are just bad at because they’re still learning. My own aspergers had some early signs, but it didn’t become truly obvious that I was different until the middle of grade school, when my social skills started lagging behind my peers.

      My two cents is not to worry about any type of formal diagnosis at that age if he seems generally happy and socially competent (as four year olds go).

      One thing I’d like to point out though.

      It’s pretty clear he doesn’t have a learning disability.

      Aspergers is a disability, but it doesn’t always have a negative effect on learning. I excelled in school. Some kids with aspergers do very well in classroom settings. (The consistent routine of school made it enjoyable for me.)

      • Lord Nelson says:

        I can’t edit my comment (for some reason), so here’s the remainder of my two cents that I was too lazy to type up on mobile.

        I’ve heard horror stories about early-intervention therapy from the autistic community, so I lean towards “don’t bother seeing a specialist unless your kid is actually having problems in school or with his peers.” I got straight A’s through all of school, got into a prestigious college, and landed several jobs before I ever knew I had Aspergers.

        There are a few minor things that getting my own diagnosis earlier could have solved. For example, being able to recognize emotions through facial expressions (something I’m still very bad at). Or getting accommodations from my teachers to let me read off flashcards during class presentations, rather than having to memorize everything (which was so stressful it made me sick). But on the whole, I’m really glad I skipped the time and spoon commitment of aspergers therapy and was allowed to just be a kid.

        • jermo sapiens says:

          My two cents is not to worry about any type of formal diagnosis at that age if he seems generally happy and socially competent (as four year olds go).

          Thank you I fully intend to follow this advice.

    • Björn says:

      There is another condition that is sometimes mistaken for autism. It is being gifted (having an IQ >= 130).

      He is 4 1/2 and already displays the math and reading skills of a child who is at the beginning of first grade. This means he is one and a half year ahead of his peers. From your post, you don’t seem like a person who forces their child to learn how to count to 100, so has he learned that himself?

      Beides the high intellectual performance, there are other traits of being gifted. Among them are being very emphatic and getting along well with older children (see here and here).

      But giftedness also brings challenges. Socializing with their peers can be hard when they aren’t thinking on the same level. This can make gifted children frustrated or sad or angry. Teachers often have problems making sense of gifted children, since they learn to fast for the teaching to make sense, think too much outside the box, have different interests and can be quite the hassle.

      What makes me think of giftedness the most besides what he can do already is that how he acts seems to be so environment dependent. It’s really weird that that you and his teacher are describing two extremely different children. His teacher seems to be really irritated by him. This points to there being a problem your son has with the environment at the kindergarten, not a problem within your son.

      One more thing: Giftedness is highly genetic, and you describe similar issues with your daughter. Might your daughter be gifted, too?

      • Clutzy says:

        Fighting with teachers is, perhaps the primary symptom of giftedness. Luckily my school district K-6 shunted 4 of us into a side program for half the day so we would not be bored. But, from knowing many teachers (particularly non-High School teachers) as an adult, they are extremely conformist and not exceptionally intelligent. This is the opposite of what a gifted child would respond well to.

      • jermo sapiens says:

        One more thing: Giftedness is highly genetic, and you describe similar issues with your daughter. Might your daughter be gifted, too?

        Thanks. I really enjoyed reading your comment (for obvious reasons) and I tend to agree with you. As for being gifted, myself and my two siblings were identified as gifted (we ended up 2 doctors and 1 lawyer), and there is no question that my daughter and my older son are gifted as well. We did consider this possibility, but it seems a bit pretentious for me to tell the teacher “you think he has apsergers I think he’s just way smart”. But it does fit much more nicely than a form of autism. Besides, specially after reading all the comments in this thread, it seems pretty clear that the line between gifted and mild autism is awfully thin if it’s there at all.

        • Björn says:

          Do your children have the opportunity to meet other gifted children? It’s quite important for their social development that they meet peers that can actually relate to them. Many people (like your son’s kindergarten teacher) are constantly trying to force gifted people to conform, so it is important that your son learns that there are other things in life than conformity.

      • jermo sapiens says:

        From your post, you don’t seem like a person who forces their child to learn how to count to 100, so has he learned that himself?

        For the record we just taught him how to count starting with little kids books that introduce numbers up to 10. He liked it so we showed him up to 20, and after that he got the pattern immediately and it was just a matter of showing him the words for 30, 40, 50, etc… It was effortless.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Did you show him up to 30? There’s no pattern up to twenty, in English.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            yeah probably. pattern is the same in english and in french up to 69.

            in french we count like this:
            60-nine
            60-ten
            60-eleven
            60-twelve
            60-thirteen
            ….
            and 80 in french translates literally to four-twenties. and then it goes like this:

            80-nine
            80-ten
            80-eleven…

            So he got to 69 and then we had to show him where the pattern is a bit different but it wasnt too hard.

            Also, in Belgium, the above does not apply. They have a word for seventy (septante), eighty (octante), and ninety (nonante).

          • Nick says:

            Some languages have a mix of vigesimal and decimal, yeah.

          • Anteros says:

            I’ve often wondered at the clumsiness of French counting. If you want to say 97 in English, you pretty much use the words Nine and Seven. In French you have to say 4,20,10,7…… (quatre-vingt-dix-sept)

          • jermo sapiens says:

            True. But it becomes quite natural. I only realize how clumsy it is when I actively compare it to English.

          • ana53294 says:

            Basque is the same as French in being based on twenty.

          • Viliam says:

            Just a sidenote:

            A community where the debate starts with “help, teacher said my little child is sick” and naturally progresses into debating numerals in different languages… is definitely full of autists.

          • Timandrias says:

            @ana53294
            Not quite. Basque has a pure vigesimal counting system. Just learning french and giving thanks to the fact that I live in one of those regions with rational counting.

          • ana53294 says:

            @Timandrias
            Basque is not pure vigesimal.

            It’s based on twenty 1-100, and the 100s, 1000s go on their own. 10,000,-100,000, it’s all based on twenty again. 100,000 to a 10,000,000 is again not based on twenty.

            So:

            97 is
            four-twenty-and-ten-seven
            lau-(r)-hogei-ta-hema-zazpi

            200 is
            two-hundred
            ber- ehun

            4000 is
            four-thousand
            lau-mila

            55,000 is
            two-twenty-and-ten-five-thousand
            ber-hogei-ta-hama-bost-mila

            43,000,000 is
            two-twenty-and-three-million
            ber-hogei-ta-hiru-milloi

            Basque’s not completely based on twenty.

            I live in one of those regions with rational counting

            Which is?

  12. Ninety-Three says:

    I’ve always used “normal” computer mice, with left right and scroll being the only buttons. My mouse is dying and it’s time to get a new one, so I thought I’d ask: what’s the point of those fancy many-button mice, what utility do you get from them and should I bother?

    • Murphy says:

      Mainly gaming where a side button on the mouse can be mapped to a function and you can keep a finger on it.

    • Incurian says:

      Having a forward and back button for web browsing is surprisingly useful. Also gaming, those are typically my push to talk buttons. Some other buttons you might have seen adjust the mouse sensitivity, which is mostly useful for gaming but can be nice if you’re doing any sort of multitasking where you want to switch between precision and speed. Some mice have like 20 buttons, and you can program then to do whatever you want. They’re intended for games but I could see them being useful in complicated programs where you frequently switch tool types, or want to automate a series of inputs.

      • Incurian says:

        Fast scrolling is nice too. Check out the Logitech m500 or mxAnywhere for baseline wired and wireless with what I consider to be the minimum allowable feature set. Gaming mice are mostly overpriced.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        They’re intended for games but I could see them being useful in complicated programs where you frequently switch tool types, or want to automate a series of inputs.

        I have a Razer Naga that, yes, is great for gaming because I can switch weapons in an fps with just a click of my thumb, or select a group of units in an RTS. But there’s also software so you can assign buttons to application-specific macros. So I’ve used it in Photoshop for quickly switching tools, and once I was doing a datawarehousing project in Informatica and I had to do some repetitive things I was able to make macros for.

        So, mainly gaming, but you can definitely find uses for those extra buttons/macros in other applications if you think hard enough.

      • John Schilling says:

        Some mice have like 20 buttons, and you can program then to do whatever you want.

        So, you could run a GUI version of emacs using only one such mouse in each hand?

        • Lambert says:

          At that point you’ve reinvented the chording keyboard.

          Which is something I think i’ll do if i’m ever in a situation where I have to do a lot of typing on anything with <102 keys. Should be possible to 3D print one that fits my hand perfectly.

    • GearRatio says:

      I’m a secretary and I’d bet the answer has a lot to do with how often you do repetitive tasks that would benefit from not having to change your hand orientation as often. I have a task I do every morning a couple hundred times that involves hitting the back button; saving seconds and arm durability by being able to keep a “left on keyboard shortcuts right on mouse” positioning is a fairly big deal for me.

      You may not need the back button, but you can also map various keys or even whole shortcuts to a particular mouse button; if you needed ctrl-l or or ctrl-o for Excel, for instance, that would let you have it ready to go without having to do an awkward shift or reach. I haven’t used this, but my understanding is microsoft has some utilities that will allow you to remap those keys on a program-to-program basis.

      The utility of this depends on a lot on how you need this flexibility and if you are willing to dedicate a small amount of time to program your mouse to do it, but it’s not without use.

    • Roebuck says:

      I bought one of these few years ago – because it was reliable and comfortable, not for buttons.

      But since I got buttons on it, I thought a bit and programmed them to do “back” and “alt + tab” on my Windows. I found that super useful, as someone who uses his computer for very usual tasks.

    • Well... says:

      My computer use is mostly word processing and web browsing. Some music recording. I bought a wireless mouse — Logitech M510 — that happened to have two extra buttons above where the thumb sits (if I’m mousing right-handed) and I went ahead and programmed them for “go forward” and “go back” but I never use them. If anything they kinda get in my way and I’d just as well have a mouse without them. Less to break, I figure. I only bought this mouse because it claimed its batteries would last longer compared to the other mice on display around it at a similar price point.

  13. Milo Minderbinder says:

    Iowa caucus results are amazingly not in yet due to numerous technical issues. That being said, Pete Buttigieg has tweeted several statements seeming to imply he was victorious. Sanders and Warren apparently were tracking results independently, and have not contradicted these statements as of yet.

    Assuming Pete isn’t lying, this seems like a pretty big shot in the arm for his campaign. He was polling third or fourth going in, and a win/2nd in NH (being fairly well educated and even whiter than IA, not a huge stretch) will give him a lot of favorable media coverage going into Super Tuesday. That being said, he will look quite foolish if official results contradict his statements. Biden was a “distant fourth” according to the Warren campaign, he’ll need a big showing in SC to regain momentum.

    Besides Biden, the biggest loser seems to be the credibility of the DNC. Sanders’ supporters are furious (regardless of the reasons, it sure looks bad that the results are withheld when unfavorable to the establishment), and with good reason if he was denied the opportunity to announce a strong performance.

    Thoughts?

    • Eric Rall says:

      Apart from Buttigieg winning (which is yet to be confirmed), this sounds pretty close to the best case scenario for the Bloomberg campaign. Bloomberg’s positioning is basically “experienced, electable moderate who isn’t Biden”, so Biden collapsing is good for Bloomberg. It’s also good for Bloomberg if Sanders and Warren are both doing well in the first couple primaries, since that 1) panics the moderate wing of the party into getting behind whichever of the moderates looks most viable, and 2) splits the progressive vote between two candidates so a moderate has an easier time winning pluralities against them in mid-season primaries (doesn’t matter much in terms of delegates, as Dems allocate delegates roughly proportionally, but it can have a big effect on media narratives). And the election-night Charlie Foxtrot with results not announced until the next day at the earliest is good for Bloomberg because it mitigates the obvious liabilities of him missing the first few primaries/caucuses.

      The fly in the ointment for Bloomberg is of course the possibility that Buttigieg’s tallies are more-or-less correct and Buttigieg has won the Iowa caucuses. Buttigieg can’t compete with Biden or Bloomberg on experience, but he has positioned himself as an electable moderate, and that may be good enough for enough voters for Buttigieg and not Bloomberg to be the main beneficiary of a Biden collapse.

      • Clutzy says:

        I think Pete has the weakness of not being heavily scrutinized yet. If he’s ever in first, or threatening first overall, a lot of negative oppo is going to shake out.

    • Guy in TN says:

      Sanders and Warren apparently were tracking results independently, and have not contradicted these statements as of yet.

      Sanders campaign claims to have the results from 40 percent of Iowa precincts, showing him in first place by a lead of 5%.

      If these are correct (and representative of the state as a whole), Buttigieg still has room to claim “victory” in the sense that he, only polling in 4th-5th place nationally, managed to beat the guy polling in 1st place nationally. That’s “momentum” if there ever was any.

      I’d say the biggest take-away from tonight (again assuming these numbers are representative) is that this will be the turning point where Biden’s campaign starts to go in noticeable decline. Four place in Iowa is not a good look for a guy coasting mostly on “electability”.

      • Protagoras says:

        Indeed, though I still cling to a feeble hope that in the final result Biden will be behind Klobuchar; 5th place would really be a humiliation. Biden is such a terrible candidate.

        • Well... says:

          Hah, I cling to much less merciful hopes for Biden. Stuff involving unlucky meteor strikes, or out-of-control buses…that kind of thing.

          • I’m curious — why the hostility to Biden?

            I’m not an admirer of his, but he doesn’t seem like the sort of person people would hate. But I may well be missing things relevant to people who pay more attention to intra-party politics than I do.

    • Hoopdawg says:

      Sanders has now published internal partial count showing him win all three result categories (first count easily, final count and delegate equivalents more narrowly).
      Buttigieg, as far as I understand, has only made vague statements like “we leave Iowa victorious” and “we’re up 8% from our ealier estimates”, which suggests to me his camp is trying hard to spin the results in a safe and non-committal way.
      At this point I’m like 90% certain of Sanders win, with 10% possibility of a narrow Buttigieg comeback in final counts/delegate equivalents. Others are further behind and not even trying to claim a win, though Warren should be happy with her result, while Biden certainly is not.

      Warren staying in the race is the worst news for anyone running to the right of her. She’s not in the same category as Sanders, pulling PMC votes he would never get. And she will be the default “compromise candidate” in case of brokered convention. If she and Sanders are each getting 15% of the vote, and more than 50% together, then the moderates are fighting for scraps and egos, and a Biden failure to launch and Bloomberg run will just hand more delegates to them as some of them fail to clear 15% in state after state.

    • sty_silver says:

      BetFair says that Biden is the big loser and Buttigieg the big winner of the results, but Sanders still the clear favorite.

    • EchoChaos says:

      Thoughts?

      If you told me that on Tuesday morning the clear winner of the Democratic Iowa caucuses would be Donald Trump I wouldn’t have believed you, but here we are.

      In all seriousness, this is really rough for Sanders and the longer it goes the rougher it is for him because instead of “Sanders wins Iowa”, the story is “Iowa is truly hilarious clusterhump and who even knows?” This is assuming the numbers the Sanders campaign is reporting are accurate. If they’re not, Sanders will have egg on his face and that will be all anyone talks about, which will ALSO be bad for him.

      Biden is a massive loser, I said below he was slipping, but I didn’t think he’d fall as far as fourth. That’s a catastrophic showing for the Democrat best positioned to beat Trump. He needs a massive win in South Carolina and even that may not save him. He barely beat Klobuchar, for goodness sake.

      Warren should be modestly happy with this result, as it gives her at least a chance of coming back.

      • Ketil says:

        538 claims they all lose – mostly Iowa, which loses much of its otherwise significant influence on the whole nomination.

        https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/iowa-might-have-screwed-up-the-whole-nomination-process/

        • EchoChaos says:

          Interestingly, they claim that this helps Biden. If he squeaks back into third as some results I’ve seen have him, this is possible, but if Bernie’s numbers are even close to accurate, I don’t see it helping him.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          The presence of Iowa was helpful to Bernie Sanders, whose chances of winning a national delegate majority would have been 24 percent without Iowa — as compared to the 31 percent chance that he had with Iowa, as of Monday afternoon. Iowa was hurtful to Joe Biden, however, whose chances of a delegate majority would have been 50 percent without it, rather than 43 percent with it.

          Well that’s not going to fuel any conspiracy theories at all.

          • Nick says:

            First the “gold standard” of Iowa polling suddenly couldn’t release its results, and now Sanders’ likely victory has been drowned out by coverage about the failed caucus. If I were a Bernie supporter I’d be mad.

          • Guy in TN says:

            At this point, the final results had better hew closely to public expectations (based on polling/candidate statement), i.e., Sanders or Buttigieg winning, or the legitimacy of the election will go very bad, very quick.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Guy, it doesn’t even matter what the results are. Nate Silver’s point is that almost the entire value of an Iowa caucus win is the media narrative. The state’s only worth 41 votes. But the early media coverage of “Candidate A = Winner; Candidate B = Loser!” is immensely valuable for momentum and fundraising. Whoever “wins” now gets 41 votes, but the media narrative is already “massive screw-up” and not “Bernie wins!” or “Mayor Pete wins!”

          • Guy in TN says:

            Yes, the value to the candidates of winning the caucus has been irreversibly degraded. But I was more concerned about the loss of trust in the electoral process. If the final result is a “surprise” in any way now (Biden wins!), the validity of results will be called into question. Let’s hope for the sake of democratic integrity that the results are close to what polling suggested.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Guy in TN

            The two “early results” that we’ve seen are already irreconcilably different, since Pete is claiming he will win final delegates and Sanders has released internal results that show him with a clear (~5%) lead.

            One of them is flatly wrong.

          • acymetric says:

            Supposedly Pete had staffers at every caucus site, so his numbers include 100% of the results, where Sanders’ numbers are based on result data they have for 40% of the sites.

          • jamesf75 says:

            @Nick It’s not actually that bad for Bernie considering he’s strong in New Hampshire, which now oughta basically take Iowa’s role. This is doubly true if Pete ends up winning Iowa.

          • Guy in TN says:

            Thank god, the results are looking “normal”. Crisis of democracy averted, for now.

          • EchoChaos says:

            Looks like Bernie is the wrong one, which is pretty hurtful to him, actually. He lost Iowa, which is black eye one, but he also released info that said he had a large lead, which is black eye two.

            It’s one thing to lose, it’s another to lose by 2% when you said you were winning by 5.

            We’ll see what it affects. If Buttigieg can show himself with legs in one of the other pre-Super Tuesday races, he’s got a real chance, otherwise I think the odds of a brokered convention just went up.

          • Guy in TN says:

            @EchoChaos

            Looks like Bernie is the wrong one

            62% of the districts reporting, and most of what is left is in Sander-leaning counties. The race has been “called” by exactly no one with good reason.

            He lost Iowa

            He received more votes than any of his opponents, even according to the most recent numbers. The Democrats of Iowa, as currently reporting, have shown that they prefer him more than any other candidate. This is not hurtful for him, but massively helpful.

            And if delegates that win you the nomination are what you care about, then he is currently tied with Buttigieg as the winner. He only “lost” in a way of measuring the vote that neither reflects on his national delegate count nor represents the democratic will of the people.

            but he also released info that said he had a large lead, which is black eye two.[…]It’s one thing to lose, it’s another to lose by 2% when you said you were winning by 5.

            And his info for all we know could be entirely accurate. And note that nowhere did he claim that the results were definitive, or that he was the winner. There’s nothing to hold him accountable for here, nothing misleading or untruthful.

            At worst, you could say that Sanders shouldn’t have released any preliminary results with ~40% reporting to begin with, but then again that’s what the the rest of the Democrats just did today, showing Buttigieg ahead with only 62% reporting.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Guy in TN

            You are entirely correct and my post was too early.

            I didn’t realize the official results were with only 62% in.

          • Guy in TN says:

            Well, I appreciate the humbleness. Sorry if I came across too strong.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Guy in TN

            No worries. I was the one who came on too strong since I have no horse in this race.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        If you told me that on Tuesday morning the clear winner of the Democratic Iowa caucuses would be Donald Trump I wouldn’t have believed you, but here we are.

        He’s rubbing it in, too.

      • Deiseach says:

        If you told me that on Tuesday morning the clear winner of the Democratic Iowa caucuses would be Donald Trump I wouldn’t have believed you, but here we are.

        It does seem a bit odd that, after reliably being able to return results in every other election, this is the one where it all goes belly-up, but it seems that they were using a new system/new software? Of course, then all the phonelines being clogged because the new system didn’t work and everyone was trying to phone in the results didn’t help, but that’s what you’d expect to happen when everyone is trying to phone in at once.

        Myself, what I’m finding amusing is every one of the candidates claiming they’re the ones who won; whatever the final results will be (and already it sounds as if the lawyers are getting involved) there will be ample fodder for conspiracy theories.

    • The Nybbler says:

      So, for us paranoid conspiracy theorists…. is there any way, shape, or form these “technical issues” could have been manufactured by Bloomberg?

      • Deiseach says:

        I believe the current most favoured conspiracy theory is that it was Mayor Pete (apparently there is a Twitter hashtag trending about ‘Mayor Cheat’) because of alleged shadowy (heh) connections between the company that created the faulty app and his campaign.

        But don’t worry, I’m sure everyone is going to hop aboard the “the fix is in” train to explain why X ‘won’ and their favoured candidate lost!

        (Seriously, does Trump have the monkey’s paw in his bedside table or what? Talk about cursed with luck when it comes to his opponents managing to shoot themselves in the feet!)

        And what is up with the Bond Villain names of the entities involved, anyway? ACRONYM (sic) describes itself as “an organization committed to building power + digital infrastructure for progressives” and Shadow Inc. claim to be “Creating political power for the progressive movement by building accessible, user-centered tech infrastructure”.

        Maybe less sitting half-lit in swivel chairs stroking your Persians and more effort on making the tech work, lads!

      • Here’s another one: someone on Pete’s campaign told him he was going to win in order to short the betting markets.(currently he’s at 30%)

        EDIT: I refer here to the Iowa Caucus prediction markets.

    • BBA says:

      More like Iowa cockup, amirite?

    • BBA says:

      The silver lining here is that we may get a serious push to rethink Iowa’s first-in-the-nation status, or at the very least move them to a standard primary. Even a functioning caucus is still nonsensically convoluted and can have absurd results like Ron Paul winning months after the fact in 2012.

      Iowa only matters because it’s first. The state only elects 41 delegates out of 3979 and if they voted in April instead of February nobody would care. The usual complaints about corn subsidies and Iowa being too white and too rural haven’t been enough to dislodge the caucuses from their outsized role, but this disaster just might.

      • cassander says:

        So I grant that iowa is not a perfect state to go first. but some state has to go first, and there is no perfect state, so I’m not sure how much good will actually be accomplished by dethroning iowa.

        • Randy M says:

          but some state has to go first

          Why? Divide the states up into regions or categories and have one from each chosen at random go first. Five states at a time for ten weeks. Or vice versa. No reason it has to be one.

          • Nick says:

            Yeah, there is literally no reason it has to be one state. And I’d prefer Iowa dethroned vs not.

          • cassander says:

            if you do multiple states at once, it’s a big advantage to established candidates that can bring in money. which might not be a bad thing, but it is a different thing.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            It could, and should, be a different state each year.

            I’d like it to be sort of a surprise, where the candidates don’t know until ~6 months before which state is going first, to reduce pandering to that state. But I expect running a caucus/primary is so complicated that it requires getting all your ducks in a row at least a year ahead of time.

          • cassander says:

            @Edward Scizorhands

            Don’t be silly. We can just write an app that will aggregate all the votes in real time. What could possibly go wrong?

        • MrSquid says:

          Let’s not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Iowa is horribly non-representative for both parties (skews more hardline-conservative for Republicans than the party at large, skews pretty much every non-representative direction for Democrats), the system is set up in a way that encourages a lot of tactical voting (and it seems fairly likely that a strong part of Biden’s failure is that Klobuchar/Warren/Buttigieg voters would swap to each other before Biden out of tactical considerations), and it’s now had a string of bad results for the legitimacy (2012 winner comes out weeks later, 2016 had a bunch of close results decided arbitrarily, 2020 has whatever this is). And the main reason why Iowa went first is vanishing: it’s no longer that competitive a state. Democrats have numerous better choices (Illinois, for example, is rather representative of the nationwide Democratic Party, but one could plausibly put something like Virginia or Pennsylvania first if the desire is to keep a semi-swing state first).

          • Clutzy says:

            People say Iowa is not very representative of the Democratic party, but way more Iowa Dems end up with the nomination than Iowa GOP winners.

          • But it does sound like an interesting tactical game.

          • MrSquid says:

            People say Iowa is not very representative of the Democratic party, but way more Iowa Dems end up with the nomination than Iowa GOP winners.

            Well neither are representative, but the skew is different. Iowa skews right compared to both parties nationally, so for Dems it will typically vote for the more moderate candidate (who you would expect to win the primary) and for GOP it will typically vote for the more extreme candidate (who you would expect to lose). For modern comparisons, it picked Bush in 2000, Huckabee in 08, Santorum/Ron Paul (depends on what metric is being used) in 12, and Cruz in 16. That’s a set of candidates that were all not known for being moderate and had more moderate challengers. On the Dem side, it picked Gore, Kerry, Obama, and Clinton and the only one there who could have been said to be the more extreme choice was Obama over Clinton in 08. It produces winners for Dems because of the nature of its skew, not because it is skewed less.

      • Pepe says:

        Why can’t the whole country vote the same day and be done with it?

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Then only the biggest, most well-funded campaigns can afford to buy advertising. The nice thing about it being one small state is even the smaller campaigns can afford media buys there. But trying to make the little guys compete is California is nuts.

          I’ve heard Florida is the most USA-like state (the demographics of Florida most closely match the demographics of the entire US), but that’s still a pretty big state. What’s the smallest state that’s most representative of the rest of the US (or Democratic Party voters)?

          • Jake says:

            Looks like NPR tried analyzing that in 2016 (link).

            Looks like Illinois is the closest match, with Kansas probably being the closest of the ‘small’ states. Though if you are just looking at race, maybe Connecticut?

          • Jaskologist says:

            Ohio has consistently voted for the winning president for about 60 years now. Just cut out all the middle-men and let them go first.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Better yet, save a lot of money by just letting Ohio pick the president.

          • Nick says:

            Hey, I don’t want blasted with all of your campaign ads. Pull your weight!

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            That’s a really good point, Nick. This “shove it off on Ohio” idea is sounding better and better…

          • Don P. says:

            Heck, MY money-saving idea is just concede to reality and have the Dems and Repubs switch off the presidency every 8 years. If we’d done that, we’d only have had one 4-year term different (Reagan’s first term) since 1944, and think of all the money we’d save.

            But not this year. And also obviously I’m not serious.

            (I also once suggested that my former tech company abandon all IP protection/security efforts, because it just kept getting in the way, and have you actually run the numbers on it?)

          • Randy M says:

            If we’d done that, we’d only have had one 4-year term different

            Other than the fact that every year would be different, because then there’s not a general election to drag the party centerward.

            Of course, then everyone (who cares) just changes registration every four years, meaning the primary becomes the general.

          • BBA says:

            When’s the last time a “smaller” campaign won a presidential primary? Carter in ’76, and then what?

            This is not to be confused with a campaign winning without the institutional party’s support – Obama in ’08 and Trump in ’16 were both major well-funded campaigns even if their respective parties’ National Committees would’ve chosen someone else. Both certainly would’ve been competitive in a national primary.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @BBA

            Trump was substantially outspent by Hillary in the general and by his Republican opponents in the primary.

          • Clutzy says:

            Cruz won Iowa in 2016, Santorum 2012, Huckabee 2008. None won the nomination, but all certainly were probably given a longer primary leash on life as a result.

        • Dacyn says:

          Because we insist on using first-past-the-post voting, which isn’t appropriate if more than two candidates are running. Having a staggered primary gives an approximation of instant runoff voting, which is still not great but at least better than first-past-the-post.

    • Matt M says:

      IMO this helps Bernie a lot as it will enrage his supporters, who already believe the DNC screwed him over last time and will try and do it again. This maybe helps him more than a straight win would have.

      And I think it potentially hurts Pete, because this will be seen as a tainted and non-legitimate victory. He will be tarred by everyone else as “the pre-selected candidate of the DNC (or possibly Vladimir Putin, depending on how you want to frame it)”

      • Nick says:

        #MayorCheat was trending on Twitter all morning.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        Can they really be more enraged/engaged? They seem to have it dialed up pretty high all the time.

        Pete, unlike many others, doesn’t have to win this year. He’s plenty young and an outcome of a graceful loss will leave him in the catbird seat in 2020. (However, that was probably Obama’s strategy in 2008 and look where it took him. . . )

        • Matt M says:

          I dunno, a lot of the Bernie fans I knew, prior to last night, were saying things like “Sure, they obviously tried to screw him last time. But given how much has come out about that, there’s no way they’d seriously try and pull the same thing again!”

          And today they are absolutely livid that yes, they are pulling the same thing again…

    • Plumber says:

      Milo Minderbinder says:

      “Iowa caucus…

      …Thoughts?”

      How did this foul up happen? 

      The Caucus isn’t secret ballot, they’re more like a big union meeting and you just freakin’ count hands!

      Sheesh!

      Anyway, if the tentative results are accurate then Bloomberg has a better chance at the nomination, and a Bloomberg Party would mark the Democratic Party completing it’s change of coats into the “Rockefeller Republicans” of the ’60’s, which isn’t a majority Party, ’cause while increasing “the Blue-Tribe” is still just a sliver of the electorate.

      I still think Biden is the best chance to win in the general election because he appeals most to older non-collegiate voters (which is most voters), Sanders is a distant second to win the general (and as 2008 recedes in memory and the economy chugs along his change diminishes) as he appeals to those who are younger and poorer, which as a group don’t vote much but are a lot of Americans so maybe, the rest of the field appeal more to the educated, who “punch above their weight” in terms of actually voting (especially among younger voters who vote less), but still a minority. 

      This is lame.

      • Deiseach says:

        The “counting hands” part seems to have gone fine, the problem was the swizzy new phone app by which the results were sent to headquarters. Then, when the centres tried the Plan B method of “ring us up on the telephone and tell us the result”, so many people were trying to get through at once that the lines were tied up for hours.

        All in all, not looking like a triumph for Brave New Technology over “write the results down and deliver ’em by carrier pigeon” 🙂

        Plus, the vague terms in which the official announcement was made, and all the candidates claiming “by our figures, I am the fairest of them all!” isn’t helping matters any. It does help make it look like “hmmm, sure is a coincidence that this time of all times, when Bernie looks like a real threat to the ‘proper’ candidate, that the count goes haywire like this” for the conspiracy theorists. Myself, I don’t think that it’s a deliberate spoke in the wheel, although within the party there’s probably a chunk who would prefer Biden to get through as smoothly as possible; rather, it’s a simple stupid cock-up of the kind that happens when you buy in swizzy new technology that’s never been used on this scale before.

        It’s still great fun (for outsiders) to read all the hissing and spitting, though.

        • Matt M says:

          All in all, not looking like a triumph for Brave New Technology over “write the results down and deliver ’em by carrier pigeon”

          Just the latest in a seemingly never-ending list of simple/effective things made significantly worse and less reliable by people applying “modern technology” for them for no particularly good reason.

          • Nick says:

            I’ve been screaming into the void about this in the education sphere for years and nobody listens. Or rather, they listen, and then they nod politely and change the subject.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I assure you a competent person (yes, one, though two would be a better idea) could have written an app to do this that would have worked. However, I’m sure all the decisions as to who was going to do things were based on political reliability and personal networking rather than competence, so they got what that gets you.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          I don’t think it was just The App.

          If it was The App, they could have contacted each caucus site individually and figured it all out by now.

          Instead, they are saying that they still, as of 4PM, do not know who won.

          They changed the rules, in ways I don’t even pretend to understand, but in ways that were significant enough that the people at the top have to double-check the work of the people on the ground. The ground-level crew had no idea what they were doing, which is 100% the fault of the people at the top; you need to train your staff, especially when doing something different.

          • John Schilling says:

            I don’t think it was just The App.

            If it was The App, they could have contacted each caucus site individually and figured it all out by now.

            It’s the App, and the shortage of phone lines designated as alternates for when the app fails, and hopefully the skepticism of Iowa caucus volunteers when someone calls them from a random personal phone saying “Hey, trust me, I’m the election official you’re supposed to give the election results to”.

            There are about eighteen hundred caucus sites in Iowa and beyond(*). If they set up ten designated phone lines and told all the local officials “don’t trust any call that doesn’t come from one of these numbers”, or printed ten master copies of the challenge-response codebook or whatever, and if it takes ten minutes including overhead and slack for one caller to get the results from one precinct, that’s thirty hours. And probably a de facto timeout from 1:00 AM to 5:00 AM.

            * Including one in Georgia, no, the other Georgia, because someone found two fellow Iowans there and thought “The caucus in the Caucasus” sounded like a cool slogan”.

          • Dacyn says:

            hopefully the skepticism of Iowa caucus volunteers when someone calls them from a random personal phone saying “Hey, trust me, I’m the election official you’re supposed to give the election results to”.

            How would this scam work? I would have thought the scammers would have wanted to pretend to be the person who has the election results.

          • John Schilling says:

            Doesn’t matter how, or whether, the scam would work. What matters is, the safe rule is if you can’t understand how a scam would work, assume a scammer has figured out a scam that you don’t understand and be skeptical of anything unusual from anyone you don’t personally know and trust.

            And sometimes take the risk anyway, but if you’re dealing with anything like yet-unreleased election results, you want to play it very safe on principle. I expect and hope that a lot of Iowa election volunteers are playing it safe and insisting on going through (broken, but eventually fixable) channels.

          • albatross11 says:

            One attack would be to convince you to report your results to me along with whatever authenticating information went with it. Then I could try to report as you, reusing the authenticating information. That would work with a password, but not a signature or MAC.

  14. kochihabaya says:

    If schizophrenia and autism are opposites, then why is it that the mildest disorders of each spectrum (schizoid personality disorder vs Aspergers) are essentially identical (poor social skills, daydreaming, restricted interests)?

    • fibio says:

      Probably because they’re starting from roughly the same point and there’s a limited number of ways you can deviate, initially. It’s only when symptoms get severe that the possibility space widens enough to really differentiate the impacts.

    • viVI_IViv says:

      If schizophrenia and autism are opposites

      They aren’t, in fact they tend to be co-morbid to some extent.

      Specifically, childhood-onset schizophrenia is co-morbid with autism in at least half of cases. As far as I can tell, full-blown adult-onset schizophrenia occurs in autistic people at about chance probability, but autistic people do have a higher than chance probability of psychosis. Ref.

  15. Machine Interface says:

    I’m working on a fantasy novel. I have a pretty strong vision of what I want to do, but I haven’t read fantasy novels in years (most of my fiction reading nowadays is in comic form), so I’m looking for recommendations for recent, good, original fantasy novels to familiarize me a bit with what’s current.

    Recent: published ideally in the last 5 years, at most in the last 10.
    Good: widely praised among the regular fantasy-reading audience.
    Original: no contemporary/urban fantasy, and no tolkien/D&D-esque fantasy with a generic medieval-europe looking universe.

    Those are my minimal requirements, but as a bonus, I’d prefer standalone books over series, and I’d rather have references to romance and sex be minimal.

    • Plumber says:

      @Machine Interface says:

      “I’m working on a fantasy novel. I have a pretty strong vision of what I want to do, but I haven’t read fantasy novels in years (most of my fiction reading nowadays is in comic form)

      Okay, I’m not too into comics, but I’ve read a lot of fantasy-fiction over the years

      “so I’m looking for recommendations for recent, good, original fantasy novels to familiarize me a bit with what’s current.

      Recent: published ideally in the last 5 years, at most in the last 10”

      Recent?

      Well that’s a little harder, but I can think of some…

      Good: widely praised among the regular fantasy-reading audience.
      Original: no contemporary/urban fantasy, and no tolkien/D&D-esque fantasy with a generic medieval-europe looking universe.

      Those are my minimal requirements, but as a bonus, I’d prefer standalone books over series…”

      , Oh boy that’s even harder, but I can still think of a few…

      “…and I’d rather have references to romance and sex be minimal”

      Oh dagnabbit, that eliminates most of it!

      Okay, not actually a novel but instead a book of four “shared world” short stories by Paolo Bacigalupi and Tobias Buckell called The Tangled Lands which had a vaughely Indian-ish setting, but clearly not our world, and had magic done right (by which I mean “has a price”.

      • Bujold’s fantasy, starting with Curse of Chalion and going on from there. The first books don’t fit your “at most in the last 10” years requirement, but the Penric series, good although not as good as Curse, does.

        • GearRatio says:

          Seconded. Chalion is good and has an interesting, thought-out religion. The spirit ring is also good, but as good and not a series. The sharing knife series is fantasy set in Appalachia basically, if you want to get real off the beaten path.

        • SamChevre says:

          I’ll second the Chalion / Penric books as great fantasy, medieval but not generically so. My only caution would be that the first – Curse of Chalion – was published in 2002.

        • Rebecca Friedman says:

          Sharing Knife is cross-genre Fantasy/Romance (except for the later novella, which is building off a non-romance side plot in the original). It definitely does not qualify for “references to romance and sex be[ing] minimal”.

          Curse of Chalion is great; the sequels all (to my memory) have major romance B plots (though aren’t particularly an issue on sex, if that’s what matters). Pennric gets a romance plotline fairly late in the series, but the first multiple novellas are fine. The Spirit Ring was published in 1992, and was marginal for me on sex/romance when I read it. Bujold is amazing and brilliant, but she is also a frustrated romance author.

          What about Spinning Silver, by Naomi Novik? Published 2018, on my to read list but tends to get glowing reviews from people I trust who have read it.

          • As, I hope, one of the people you trust … . I read it in order to decide whether to give it to my wife as a birthday present. Liked it so much that I decided I had been spending too much time online, not enough reading novels, and read a bunch more novels since.

          • And, while we are on the subject of fantasy novels, let me take the opportunity to announce the publication of my new one, Brothers, the sequel to my Salamander (and unrelated to my first novel, Harald, which wasn’t really fantasy although I think Baen marketed it as such).

    • broblawsky says:

      Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive series looks like it hits your check boxes.

    • johan_larson says:

      Check out “The Fifth Season”. It won the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 2016, and its two sequels won it again in 2017 and 2018. If you’re intending to publish your novel commercially, you really should be familiar with the current state of the fantasy field, and these three highly acclaimed novels would be good places to start.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Fifth_Season_(novel)

      • theredsheep says:

        This. I rolled my eyes at the first book, personally, and didn’t bother with the sequels, but it’s big enough that I heard about it despite being a total cultural hermit.

      • Aapje says:

        @johan_larson

        I think that it is a bad idea to treat prize winning books as the pinnacle of commercial success, nowadays. The Fifth Season has 100k votes on Goodreads, 7 times less than American Gods, 18 times less than Game of Thrones, 6 times less than The Name of the Wind, 64 times less than Harry Potter #1, etc.

        The Fifth Season is top tier in a relatively niche part of the fantasy market, which means that if you are just as good at it, you get a big part of a small niche, which is still not huge. More likely, you’ll get a small part of a small niche.

        If commercial success is the goal, I’d suggest targeting a bigger audience in the first place.

        • theredsheep says:

          MI hasn’t said commercial success is necessarily the goal, and “good” is nebulous enough that defining TFS as “good” seems okay to me. It does have an original world and story, well-drawn characters, etc., even if it is morally myopic outrage-bait. Red Rising has 200K votes on goodreads, close to five stars, and I firmly maintain that it sucks. Anybody here disagree?

          • Elementaldex says:

            I liked Red Rising. I no longer remember it clearly but I liked the world, the pace, and the space opera-y feel.

        • zzzzort says:

          Those have all been out significantly longer, and number of reviews will only accumulate with time. If we look at the number of reviews for Name of the Wind 4 years after publication it would be 2011, when it only had 25k (the others are so old that goodreads wasn’t founded 4 years after publication).

      • Nornagest says:

        It won the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 2016, and its two sequels won it again in 2017 and 2018.

        I’m out of touch with the Hugos, but this says “well-connected in fandom” to me more than it does “really good”. See for example Girl Genius, a good-but-not-great webcomic that won three Hugos running on the strength of being the brainchild of a couple of longtime fan personalities.

        • johan_larson says:

          All three were also nominated for the Nebula award, and “The Stone Sky” actually won it. And the Nebulas are given out by pros, not fans.

          The problem I see with trying to recommend anything to Machine Interface is that ruling out urban fantasy and more traditional knights&dragons fantasy eliminates most of the field.

          • johan_larson says:

            And speaking of the Nebulas, what’s going on with Jack McDevitt? Over the years he has been nominated 12 times in the Best Novel category and he won it once, in 2007, for Seeker.

            Can’t say I’ve seen much discussion of his work, though. On this site, his name shows up four times over the years. Heinlein shows up 328 times, Bujold 79, Cherryh 58. Maybe he’s sort of an authors’ author.

            I should check out his work.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nebula_Award_for_Best_Novel

          • John Schilling says:

            McDevitt is an unremarkably competent and entertaining writer of science fiction, usually of the sort where some people in a spaceship go off and have an adventure, frequently one involving lost alien civilizations or the like. I would consider him a level down from award-winning in caliber, maybe worth a nomination on a weak year, so the 12 Nebula nominations is odd. Not sure what the SFFWA is thinking there. But he’s consistently good enough to be worth reading, and as I said not in a remarkable way so we don’t remark on him much here,

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      What’s “contemporary/urban fantasy?” Favorite fantasy novel I’ve read in the past five years was Lev Grossman’s The Magicians series. Takes place in modern day, but there’s also travel to a high fantasy world involved.

      • viVI_IViv says:

        What’s “contemporary/urban fantasy?”

        Fantasy elements in an otherwise mundane modern-day setting, usually with some sort of masquerade to prevent the muggles from noticing the secret world. Prototypical examples are Harry Potter, Twilight, and the RPG Vampire: the Masquerade.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Okay then, The Magicians definitely counts as urban fantasy.

          Also, why are you linking TVtropes at me? I have stuff to do today. What’d I ever do to you?

        • Randy M says:

          Prototypical examples are Harry Potter, Twilight, and the RPG Vampire: the Masquerade.

          Or, for grown ups, Dresden Files.
          I kid, I kid. One and a half of those is okay for you to cite.

      • Deiseach says:

        Also a heavy (or used to be) overlap with “paranormal romance*”, you know the kind of thing: she is a spunky, feisty, Wiccan private investigator** trying to juggle being a professional woman in today’s fast-paced modern world with reconciling her love life, divided between her long-term werewolf biker boyfriend and that new, tempting, should-she-or-shouldn’t-she interest in that mysterious half-vampire, half-fallen angel, tall dark and brooding businessman at the centre of her latest case involving a millenia-old conspiracy of secret orders of demons controlling the world behind the facade of normality which is all coming to a head in the battle between said demons and even worse alien entities from the darkest Outer Circles to see who will harvest the souls of all humanity.

        Ordinary fare like that 🙂

        *Years and years back, sometime in the late 80s or mid 90s, I was tricked into reading one of these because I thought it was going to be a traditional kind of ghost/horror story and it turned out to be a paranormal romance. Imagine my disappointment! I wanted to know more about the haunting, the curse, would there be any more gory deaths and how were they going to dispel the curse, the author wanted to tell me all about the heroine and the hero getting it on 🙂

        **May or may not be POC or Native American for that “authentic roots in ancient tradition” credit, depending if the author thinks they can get away with it/the novel was written before The Great Awokening, so sometime in the 90s or 00s.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          divided between her long-term werewolf biker boyfriend

          I want to see specialized motorcycle designs for werewolves. That is all.

        • Protagoras says:

          I have a friend who writes that kind of thing (pen name Isabel Cooper). I haven’t read any of her stuff (not being the target demographic), but it is sometimes amusing when she mentions on facebook or her blog what she’s writing about at the moment.

        • Garrett says:

          I … may have enjoyed some books which overly resemble this.

    • SamChevre says:

      Goblin Emperor 2015 Locus award winner, stand-alone. I really liked it–it captured the feeling of struggling to fit into a culture not your own well. Not super-political.

    • AG says:

      May not meet your “minimal romance” standards, since that’s rare in the genre. Especially for epic-scale stories, character motivations often intertwined with passionate feelings, so it’s hard to avoid and still be compelling. It’s especially so, when lots of fantasy is now published as YA, and/or YA sensibilities are filtering back into adult fantasy (as authors who grew up with the YA style join the industry).

      The Priory of the Orange Tree, by Samantha Shannon
      Throne of the Crescent Moon, by Saladin Ahmed
      Uprooted, by Naomi Novik
      The Raven Tower, by Ann Leckie
      Circe, Madeline Miller
      The Poppy War, by RF Kuang (series)
      Kings of the Wyld, by Nicholas Eames (series)

      Technically it’s space opera, but The Stars are Legion by Kameron Hurley reads more like a fantasy to me, wherein the protagonists navigate their way through fantastical worlds on an epic journey, and all of the mechanisms for why the environment does the bizarre things it does are unexplained. But also, everything is body horror. EVERYTHING.
      Also in this “nominally sci-fi setting but reads more like a fantasy” is This is How You Lose the Time War, by Amal el-Mohtar and Max Gladstone.

    • Skeptical Wolf says:

      I recommend Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee. Military fantasy in space, and one of the most original presentations I’ve seen in a long time.

    • mitv150 says:

      For more traditional fantasy that is still original and doesn’t feel hackneyed:

      Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive (and his other books) is excellent.
      Sabaa Tahir – Ember in the Ashes series
      Daniel Abraham, Dagger and the Coin series (Abraham is half of the pair that writes the Expanse series, as well)
      Priory of the Orange Tree, Samantha Shannon
      Django Wexler, Shadow Campaigns
      Brian McCllelan, Gods of Blood and Powder
      Mark Lawrence, particularly Book of the Ancestor, but his other stuff is good too.
      Michael Sullivan, Riyria Chronicles (this may be the least original on this list, but Sullivan is a great storyteller so it works very well)
      Joe Abercrombie, Shattered Sea books

      For books that struck me as truly different/original while still being good:
      Katherine Addison, Goblin Emperor
      Seth Dickinson, Traitor Baru Cormorant (i’d rate this as the most compelling fantasy book/series I’ve read in the last several years)
      Arkady Martine, A Memory Called Empire (this is sci-fi)
      N.K. Jemisin, Broken Earth

      • AG says:

        Obligatory rant here about how the sequel to Baru Cormorant has like 3% of what I liked in the first book. The Monster is even worse than the Matrix sequels in terms of spitting in its audience’s face for liking what they did in the original.

      • Skeptical Wolf says:

        Can anyone comment on how the tone of Joe Abercrombie’s Shattered Sea books compares to the one in his First Law trilogy? I read the later work and, while I recognized the author’s talent, found it too blandly pessimistic to enjoy. Given that, is Shattered Sea different enough to be worth trying, given all the other good things that have been recommended just in this thread?

        • Elphrygian says:

          Bit of a long-time lurker here, but I’ve read pretty much all of Abercrombie’s works. The Shattered Sea is… honestly probably a lot more pessimistic and grim than his (ostensibly) adult works. Not to really spoil anything, but the character from the first book you see in subsequent books grow older and more bitter and manipulative. I recommend the series, but there are few smiles to be found there.

        • mitv150 says:

          Having difficulty parsing this… you read the “later work” – that’s Shattered Sea. or did you mean the “latter work?”

          In any case, all of Abercrombie’s work is pessimistic. First Law and Shattered Sea are both pretty pessimistic. We could quibble over degrees, but I don’t think that’s the point of your question.

    • redoctober says:

      Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is absolutely what you’re looking for. Napoleonic gentlemen-magicians with fey dealings, nearly no romance (a wife is acquired without terrible much to-do), and a really refreshingly weird magic. Highly acclaimed, natch, recently published, and no sequels.

      • Statismagician says:

        +1 – also, there’s a pretty good… BBC, I think? TV version.

      • Plumber says:

        +2

        (and Susanna Clarke’s Our Ladies of Grace Adieu short story collection is also excellent (

        Finest Fantasy of the 21st century

        (but older than ten years, plus some romance)

    • Machine Interface says:

      Thanks everyone for the suggestions.

    • woah77 says:

      All the recent Fantasy books I have read are a part of the sub-genre (micro-genre) of LitRPG or GameLit, and are almost all series (which fails your bonus requirement) but meeting your other requirements are:
      Skeletons in Space by Andreis Louws
      Divine Dungeon by Dakota Krout
      Completionist Chronicles by Dakota Krout
      Ether Collapse by Ryan DeBruyn
      Artorian Archives by Dennis Vanderkerken
      Rebirth of the Undead King by Ink Bamboo
      Sufficiently Advanced Magic by Andrew Rowe
      Sentenced to Troll by S. L. Rowland
      Pautera Online by Dawn Chapman

      • Elphrygian says:

        I’ll second Dakota Krout’s works with the caveat not to listen to the Completionist Chronicles in audio format. Having someone read out stats… and skills… and level-up information.. line… by…… line… that was a bit much. The first Divine Dungeon is some of the most fun I’ve had listening to a book, though. You get the feeling the author is genuinely enjoying himself, even though the genre does often feel like an excited seven year-old recounting their Pokemon to you.

  16. Skeptic says:

    To provide context where I am able:

    The anti-landmine treaty kerfuffle is completely pointless. Basically the US retains the right to use artillery delivered anti-vehicle mines in the Korean Peninsula. The US never uses these but it’s a potent game theory threat and so we keep them in the arsenal.

    Claymores?? The treaty theoretically allows claymores triggered by humans. However the entirety of the Ottawa signatories want to ban claymore mines triggered by soldiers as an anti-personnel device. The equivalent of young earthers believe in banning claymores. In reality it’s the literal norm in defense set up for any platoon outside the wire. Yes I’ve used them.

    Other context:

    Yes, Warren, Biden, and Sanders have pledged to make internet discourse illegal through executive order by repealing 230. Any host of internet comments will incur a libel lawsuit threat from the powers that be. The goal is to entirely shut down free communication. Remember, even a cell phone provider will be criminally liable for a text message.

    Where are the liberals? I look forward to marching arm in arm to prevent a Warren, Biden, Bernie dystopia.

    • Mitch Lindgren says:

      Biden said he wants to revoke section 230. I agree this is a terrible idea. I don’t like Biden in general and although he is popular among registered democrats, I think most of his popularity comes from boomers. I don’t see why any younger dems would want him to be the nominee except for strategic reasons.

      Warren:

      Warren, who voted for SESTA-FOSTA, has proposed a plan that seems to have two main parts. One promises to hold people who “knowingly disseminate false information about when and how to vote in U.S. elections.” The other promises to hold social media platforms accountable for disinformation. Both seem like they’d be legislative fixes. While holding individual people accountable could run into First Amendment issues, the obvious way to hold tech companies accountable would be to create more exceptions to Section 230, allowing the government to penalize services that host disinformation specifically about elections. While she said in December that she’s had second thoughts about SESTA-FOSTA, her new plan for fighting disinformation is not all that dissimilar from it.

      (https://www.vice.com/en_ca/article/pkeamz/elizabeth-warrens-plan-to-combat-misinformation-could-help-ruin-the-internet)

      Sanders:

      “Section 230 was written well before the current era of online communities, expression, and technological development, so [I] will work with experts and advocates to ensure that these large, profitable corporations are held responsible when dangerous activity occurs on their watch, while protecting the fundamental right of free speech in this country and making sure right-wing groups don’t abuse regulation to advance their agenda,” he told the news outlet.

      (https://www.dailydot.com/layer8/section-230-democrats-2020/)

      Do you have other sources that contradict this? If not, claiming that they “have pledged to make internet discourse illegal through executive order by repealing 230” is hyperbole at best.

      • Aapje says:

        @Mitch Lindgren

        making sure right-wing groups don’t abuse regulation to advance their agenda

        This statement by Sanders is immensely disturbing, though. Apparently he wants the law to be used to twart the right-wing.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          This statement by Sanders is immensely disturbing, though. Apparently he wants the law to be used to twart the right-wing.

          In other news, water is wet.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          You probably don’t get to be front-runner for a nomination if you don’t have a strong authoritarian streak.

          Yes, this is gallows humor because I am depressed that we have no one standing up for free speech.

        • Jaskologist says:

          Why is this surprising? Sanders liked the Soviet Union and Castro. I’ve never seen any evidence that he’s changed his stripes or even apologized.

        • Mitch Lindgren says:

          Your interpretation doesn’t match what he said. He said he doesn’t want any legislation that is put in place to be abused by right-wingers for partisan purposes (e.g. by silencing left-wing groups). That is not the same as wanting legislation which discriminates against right-wing speech.

          Do you find it equally alarming when Trump says that he wants to “take a strong look at our country’s libel laws” so he can punish news organizations for reporting things he doesn’t like?

          • Aapje says:

            @Mitch Lindgren

            Your interpretation only makes sense if “right-wing groups […] advanc[ing] their agenda” is the same as “silencing left-wing groups.”

            In itself that is a rather disturbing claim.

            In any case, I see now reason even under your interpretation, why it is legitimate to limit this to just right-wing groups, rather than include leftists and non-partisan groups.

          • Mitch Lindgren says:

            @Aapje, that’s what the phrase “abusing regulations” means.

    • John Schilling says:

      Regarding Section 230, the political reality is that “repeal section 230” will almost inevitably be translated to “modify section 230 so that it doesn’t apply to e.g. social media”. And the candidates saying “repeal section 230” almost certainly know and probably prefer that, but the nuanced version doesn’t make as good a campaign pitch to non-rationalist voters. This is still a bad idea, but not as horribly catastrophically bad as e.g. making cellphone providers liable for every text message.

      Regarding Claymores, the South Koreans have already started deploying sentry guns, which will probably be better in most applications. And the anti-mine folks will want those banned as well, but that will be a new fight and they won’t have Princess Diana on their side.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Section 230 already doesn’t apply to text messages; that still covered by common carrier protection. Section 230 applies to internet service providers, so social media in the wider sense. There’s some pre-Section 230 case law which says there’s no liability for internet service providers who do not exercise editorial control over the contents — this protected Usenet providers, for instance.

        • Garrett says:

          The better solution (IMO) is to put social media under common-carrier regulation. This way they can face innumerable lawsuits for deprioritizing certain messages, *and* they can’t get rid of all of the deplorables.

          • Mark Atwood says:

            Implementing such rules and enforcing them is going to be darkly hilarious.

            What is the difference between “social media” and a widely archived mailing list? Is kernel-dev social media?

            Or a popular blog with comments. Is SSC social media?

            Is a groupchat with 8 members? Twenty? Two hundred? Two thousand?

            Is the US going to try to ban Telegram.app?

            How about a Yammer namespace or Yammer instance?

            I can write a brand new mobile-enabled public-readable message/post/reply service in a couple of weeks. A weekend if I snap it together out of existing major components. And I’m not at all special, as there are many thousands of people with the necessary skills and even more inclination to do it then me.

            The last time I counted, there were almost two dozen different ActivityStreams implementations nearing interop tests.

            To paraphrase from that space wizard knight movie: Social Media is one of those things that, if someone strikes it down, it will become more powerful that one can imagine.

            The US could kill those two big centralized silos, but what will come boiling out of the wreckage will make everyone miss the calm and reasoned good old days of today.

  17. Mark Atwood says:

    Dear speakers of underserved languages: when all the datasets that describe your beautiful language are licensed “Non Commercial”, there is only so much I can do at my dayjob to help you.

    Some academic or some bureaucrat in some small underserved nation may think they are preventing “colonization” by the “corporations”, and well, yeah, maybe they are, but it’s going to be really hard to get Alexa to understand you in your native language, and really hard to get the Amazon sites to render in your native language.

    This is not the first time I’ve hit this problem in the past few years, and it makes me a little sad each time.

    • johan_larson says:

      Is it really that hard to contact the creators and arrange for a paid commercial license? It’s not always about ideology. Sometimes it’s about money.

      • Mark Atwood says:

        That is the traditional way to solve this problem.

        It doesn’t solve the problem when the datasets, dictionaries, and idict files grew from multiple contributors all under the NC license. Then getting it under different terms is problematic.

        A couple of times we’ve dug up a expired copyright set of books written by some Christian missionary in 189mumble. But then the translations sound stilted, archaic, and religious-y, but, so be it.

        And even when paying money or labor can solve the problem, how many times should a corp do that work, for a language that only has maybe a few thousand speakers worldwide, 95% of whom also already speak Hindi or Chinese or Spanish or etc, and greatgrandma can’t use a computer anyway.

        I’ve already spent more time writing these two posts than cracking this particular nut is probably worth.

        It still makes me sad. It does look beautiful, written down.

        • Garrett says:

          Silly, question, but is there any meaningful way for a plebe such as myself to have Amazon be less far-left-wing (specifically anti-gun) other than the cancelling of my Prime subscription and ceasing to do my limited shopping at Whole Foods?

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            Probably no way which doesn’t also entail the possibility of Amazon making you be more far-left-wing and anti-gun– which seems a likelier result once we’ve opened up the possibility of private entities dictating each other’s politics.

          • Matt M says:

            Buy enough shares to be able to attend their shareholder meeting and ask a question about it?

          • Mark Atwood says:

            Sadly, no. I would like to change that myself, but it’s quite above my paygrade. I know exactly where up the stack the decision was originally made and where it is held, and it’s not going to change.

            I can’t even really say it’s the wrong decision, in that doing FFL transfers and the necessary legal KYC is a pain that would require changing nearly everything about operations. It’s much better done by companies that have that paperwork process deeply baked into their DNA.

            I call to your attention that there is no KYC involved in buying from the site, and I have often walked people through the process of buying stuff anonymously from the site. This is such a great social good, IMO, that I’m willing to do without KYC sales to have that feature.

            (The last person I taught how to buy stuff anonymously from the site was RMS. He was incredulous, “Why dont you tell people that!?” )

            Try to take come comfort that you can buy just about every other piece of doesnt-need-a-license related hardware from the site. I bought my most recent set of rifle sights from the site, for example.

    • The Nybbler says:

      What’s Zulu for “F— you Bezos, pay us!”?

    • DinoNerd says:

      Are you talking about machine translations (presumably dynamic), or the sort of thing for which one normally hires native speakers to do the translation for you?

      If the former, I find myself wondering if anyone is yet doing even an adequate job of machine translation. Last I heard, Google translate was notable for omitting phrases it doesn’t understand, without inserting any ellipsis, and sometimes the missing phrase totally changes the meaning. And frankly I can’t recall ever encountering a machine translation that was actually comprehensible to me, unless I also had the original language, and some level of clue about how to parse it.

      That’s not to say plenty of vendors aren’t selling “solutions” to the problem. Plenty of “solutions” on the market aren’t suitable to the task for which they are sold ;-(

      So, if that’s what you are doing, what can you tell me about accuracy and reliability of the results?

      • johan_larson says:

        I’ve had some good experiences with Google Translate. It seems to do a pretty good job translating Swedish to English and Finnish to English, producing usable though imperfect text. Sometimes there’s a few really odd words in there, and I suspect those are context failures, like translating “list” as used when going shopping as opposed to when on a ship. In my experience, it tends to leave in words and sentences it can’t translate, rather than dropping them.

    • James says:

      As a monolingual English speaker, I rather feel like a speaker of an undeserved language—as in, every so often I’ll bump into some quirk of the language that makes me cry, ‘what did I do to deserve this?’

      • MrSquid says:

        It’s so much worse if you study linguistics and start finding things like “American English reduced twelve vowel sounds all into the schwa” or “English flipped the vowels around for no reason and now our spellings are all weird” or “we have to insert a whole extra verb for a bunch of our negations, rather than just one word for ‘no'”. The main barrier to English being a universal language is that the language itself is incredibly dumb and arbitrary with the rules.

  18. johan_larson says:

    This is Gallia of the Endless Dance, a Magic card from the latest expansion. Here is the close-up of the art. And here is an even-closer-up of a background detail with a satyr, her partner/victim/co-celebrant, and a banana.

    In the spirit of just getting along, can we agree that banana requires affirmative consent?

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Sure. However I’m going to have to nitpick that these are Pans (Greek)/fauns (Latin). Satyrs look like dwarves with horse tails who are all nudists instead of smiths.

      • johan_larson says:

        Yeah, well, no one studies the classics any more. Oh, tempura. Oh, morons.

        • Nick says:

          Yeah, well, no one studies the classics any more.

          I feel erased. 🙁

          • Plumber says:

            @Nick,
            Speaking of erasing…

            …a couple of years ago me and the mother of a friend of my son were waiting for our kids to finish up playing at their summer day camp and we started to talk, which was a bit awkward as besides our kids playing together we had little in common (I’m a plumber and she’s a physician) but then we discussed real estate, and enviable locations, and I said: “Well what I’d really like is where the St. Albans church is, that’s a great location and a fine building to convert into a house or three, and why not? It’s not like they’re many Episcopalians around anymore”

            To which she replied:

            “We’re Episcopalian

            Oops!

            Oh, and in class =/= wealth, her husband later divorced her just before her medical practice went bankrupt and she then moved into the apartment that used to be occupied by me, my wife, and our son before we moved into our house, and no I don’t mean apartment building I mean unit.

            Anyway, if you see anything from the Anglican communion about “pipe trades workers erasing us” it’s because I put my foot in my mouth.

        • Dan L says:

          Oh, tempura. Oh, morons.

          There’s a pun here about Temple and Senate doctrine, but I can’t quite find it.

      • Kindly says:

        Theros by any other name would smell as sweet?

      • Dan L says:

        Mythological consistency between types in MtG is sometimes a bit of a polite suggestion rather than a rule.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          Ah yes, you’re certainly right.
          Looking at that, I’m mostly wryly amused that someone tried to combat sexism by making a dryad male.

          • b_jonas says:

            M:tG does in general “combat sexism” by randomizing the genders of everyone. But I don’t think you need that to explain male dryads. If you make a tribe of only females, players will ask how they procreate. The customary answer is that the amazon tribe kidnaps male sexual partners from other tribes. The Witcher describes a tribe of dryads like that too (or so I think, I really didn’t understand the details). But M:tG doesn’t want to tell that kind of story, because they want to sell cards to children over 11 years old. They can put oblique hints to single cards (see the original printing of Distress), but they cannot base an entire featured race on that alone.

          • helloo says:

            The classic reply for dryads is that they are born from oak trees that are “powerful” enough to host a spirit/soul.

            They still do the kidnap thing though.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            If you make a tribe of only females, players will ask how they procreate. The customary answer is that the amazon tribe kidnaps male sexual partners from other tribes. The Witcher describes a tribe of dryads like that too (or so I think, I really didn’t understand the details). But M:tG doesn’t want to tell that kind of story, because they want to sell cards to children over 11 years old.

            That’s true.
            I believe it can be inferred that nymphs and satyrs are one race with Bizarre Sexual Dimorphism, but my evidence is based on comparative mythology (Greeks shared a cultural common ancestor with Hindus, who depicted male nature spirits sometimes as gross dwarves and sometimes full-size and handsome like a female yakshi). But that’s extra sexual and M:tG settings are just secondary worlds, not serious mythology.

          • johan_larson says:

            I guess the question is why they need to kidnap male sex partners. If they look like hawt nature babes, they should be able to find plenty of volunteers. The male of our species is not known for being selective, sexually speaking.

          • The Nybbler says:

            It’s usually the preying mantis thing, though I don’t think Greek dryads engaged in that. Even most teenage boys won’t have sex with something they know will kill them after. (a cynic might suggest the remaining ones would easily sustain a significant population… however, it seems rather dysgenic)

        • Randy M says:

          That makes perfect sense if you put oakheart dryad first (as it came out chronologically) and posit that the nymph/dryad was the common ancestor of the woody dryads and the fleshy nymphs.
          And Magic evolution happens much faster.

          You could make the same diagram with naga/snake/naga-snake as well.

          • Dan L says:

            You could make the same diagram with naga/snake/naga-snake as well.

            Yet how does that mesh with the lamias and snake lamias? It would make sense if the snake lamias diverged from a common ancestor, yet the pure lamia seems to have come first. I’m tempted to blame either Grusilda or Dr. Jumblemorph.

          • Randy M says:

            Oh, I forgot there were Naga and Lamia. I blame convergent mythological evolution.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Yet how does that mesh with the lamias and snake lamias?

            Heh. I just checked the Wikipedia article to see what primary sources descriptions of Lamia it cites.
            I already knew that St. Jerome used “Lamia” to translate “Lilith”, which in turn implies that the plural lilin (supernatural child hunters) were obviously equivalent to lamiae to a 4th century AD polyglot. Apparently one source for this would be an anonymous scholiast on Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics vii.5, naming a vague allusion to folk belief in “a beastly lifeform in the shape of a woman, which tears the bellies of pregnant mothers and devours their fetuses.”
            The 1st century historian Diodorus Siculus, who included rationalized myths in his work, makes a singular Lamia a queen of Libya “who ordered her soldiers to snatch children from their mothers and kill them.”
            However, Apollonius of Tyana (1st century AD) is said in a near-contemporary biography to have banished a lamia from Corinth, and here she’s an illusion-casting vampire-equivalent who seduces youths to feed on.
            Much earlier, Aristophanes, The Wasps, 1035 & Peace 758 mention’s “lamia’s testicles” as an infamously foul-smelling thing, suggesting not just that she’s not unique but a race with males and females to reproduce after their kind.
            Finally, in the Roman era folklore may have simply not drawn sharp categories between magical baby-killers, non-undead “vampires” and mortal witches: Apuleius’s The Golden Ass features two Thessalian witches who are called lamiae one time.

            Where, then, does the snake thing come from? Philostratus’ episode in the life of Apollonius of Tyana was reworked by Keats in his poem Lamia, where it is made clear she bears the guise of a snake, which she wants to relinquish in return for human appearance.

    • Deiseach says:

      Wait wait wait, when did we get female fauns (and yep, Le Maistre Chat is correct that those are fauns not satyrs)? Good old-fashioned your grandmother’s Maenads and Bacchantes not good enough nowadays? Nymphs too boring?

      I suppose lady fauns wielding bananas are as close as the mealy-mouthed card-rufflers nowadays will allow us to get to the original festivals:

      As with the Rural Dionysia, they also carried phalloi, made of wood or bronze, aloft on poles, and a cart pulled a much larger phallus.

      • johan_larson says:

        Heck, those uptight Americans can’t even tolerate pictures of alcohol on their cards. The artist’s original illustration included a jug and cup of wine. The art director made him change it. 🙁

        • Randy M says:

          Can’t assume it’s our fault. It’s an international game these days, marketed around the world with the same art.

          But it probably is.

          • Dan L says:

            Right in principle, but interestingly off in the exception – Japanese foil Liliana is one of the most expensive Standard cards in recent memory.

          • Randy M says:

            I should have said “sold around the world with mostly the same art.” Marketing produces special pieces, there were also Chinese exclusives.

            But to support the “right in principle part”, note that one of the planeswalkers, Kiora , had a last name in her first appearance in the Duels videogame that was later removed–and never showed up in any language–because it was accidental Maori appropriation.

          • b_jonas says:

            If the original link doesn’t work, Dan L means “https://scryfall.com/card/war/97%E2%98%85” Liliana, Dreadhorde General (War of the Spark Japanese alternate art).

  19. EchoChaos says:

    This isn’t directly related to last thread’s bit on electing the President, but it’s always bothered me, so I’m going to go into it here because people here may care.

    I really dislike the emphasis on the oft-repeated fact that Wyoming’s votes matter more than California’s for Presidential elections. It is technically true but irrelevant, and that’s not the reason Trump won anyway.

    Quick quiz: In which state is your vote worth the least by this metric? It’s actually Pennsylvania, because it has a relatively small immigrant population (immigrants count for Congressional seats but can’t vote) for a very large state. Obviously people in Pennsylvania aren’t worried about their vote not mattering.

    Smaller states are indeed overrepresented in the electoral college due to small size effects (Wyoming has the same number of Representatives as Montana, despite Montana having nearly double the population), but that benefits both sides nearly evenly.

    In fact, Clinton won 7 of the 12 smallest states (counting DC), while Trump won 7 of the 10 largest states.

    What ACTUALLY matters is the fact that all states are winner take all (yes, I know about Nebraska and Maine), so Trump’s winning Pennsylvania by only 45,000 votes gave him the state while Hillary winning California by nearly 4.5 million votes still only gave her California.

    • Dacyn says:

      I think they both matter: this website says that without winner-take-all Trump could still have won if he formed a coalition with Johnson and McMullin. And your 7/12 and 7/10 statistics don’t seem like the right way to look at it: Trump won 30 states and Clinton only won 20 (plus DC) [1], so his advantage from the +2 per state is 18 electoral votes.

      [1] Trump also won some electoral votes in Maine but I’m not sure how to account for that here.

      • EchoChaos says:

        I think they both matter: this website says that without winner-take-all Trump could still have won if he formed a coalition with Johnson and McMullin.

        That’s proportionally distributed within a state, which has never been adopted by any state (has it even been suggested?).

        And your 7/12 and 7/10 statistics don’t seem like the right way to look at it: Trump won 30 states and Clinton only won 20 (plus DC) [1], so his advantage from the +2 per state is 18 electoral votes.

        Yep, and his victory was larger than 18 votes, which means that the fact that he won 30 states is what matters, not the unbalance that e.g. Wyoming gets.

        [1] Trump also won some electoral votes in Maine but I’m not sure how to account for that here.

        If every state split their votes like Nebraska and Maine do, Trump probably wouldn’t have won because Romney would be President, but Trump also would’ve won handily under that system.

        By the way, thanks for that link. It was fun to read.

        • Dacyn says:

          If every state split their votes like Nebraska and Maine do, Trump probably wouldn’t have won because Romney would be President, but Trump also would’ve won handily under that system.

          Yeah, it looks like he would have had 290 electoral votes. So the state-level winner-take-all system gave him just 14 votes; it looks like most of the votes are coming from the difference between proportional representation and district-level winner-take-all.

      • Eric Rall says:

        this website says that without winner-take-all Trump could still have won if he formed a coalition with Johnson and McMullin.

        Similar to that, Vox did a thing about how the 2016 election would have played out as a national election with various vote-counting systems, using a post-election poll to estimate ranked preferences.

        His conclusion was that Clinton would have very narrowly (probably less than the margin of error of his input data) won by plurality, instant runoff, Condorcet, or approval, but Johnson would have won by Borda count (article doesn’t say by how much), and Trump would have won very narrowly (again, no numbers here) by range voting.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      This reminds me of a related question: in what state does your vote matter most, when factoring in swing states? As in, compute the split between red and blue in each state, then divide state population by that, then multiply by electoral votes.

      By this metric, I’d predict Wyoming would count for a lot less, since it’s typically red. In 2016, it went about 70-23 for Trump, with about 240k voters overall – about 120k voters could be said to turn 3 EV. Just above it on the alpha chart is Wisconsin; it went 48-47 for Trump, with a split of only about 27k voters out of about 2.9M overall, affecting 10 EV.

      Of course, it’s hard to tell which state is truly swing until that day, but since we’re reading election tea leaves anyway…

      • Matt M says:

        Iowa, New Hampshire, or maybe South Carolina. The primaries have a more meaningful impact on the ultimate course of national politics than the general, imho.

    • Unsaintly says:

      Both issues are resolved by switching to a nation popular vote system. It is the only system in which everyone’s vote counts the exact same.

      Naturally, we should also get rid of First Past The Post but there’s no point in quibbling over whether +2/state bonuses or nonvoting immigrant bonuses give more proportional power to a given voter and/or party when there’s a button labeled “fix all of it with literally no downside” RIGHT THERE

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        You say that button is RIGHT THERE but implementing that change is rather difficult.

        You also ignore the benefits of state-by-state voting. Creating battleground states helps with catching ballot stuffing. In close states, both parties have lots of election monitors in place to watch out for hijinks. On the other hand, what are you going to do if an extra 50,000 ballots show up in an extremely-blue or extremely-red part of the country?

        • Dacyn says:

          Is state-level resolution enough to prevent that, though? What if you get 50,000 extra ballots from rural Pennsylvania or something?

        • Lambert says:

          >Creating battleground states helps with catching ballot stuffing.

          I don’t think ‘You only have to closely monitor the 10% of constituencies that aren’t effectively disenfranchised’ counts as a benefit.

  20. J Mann says:

    Several years ago, I discovered this blog when someone posted a link to Scott’s piece Right is the New Left,* which has the memorable quote “there is a dark and unpleasant Orwellian part of my brain that tells me: “If you want a vision of the future, imagine a hack misjudging a college debate – forever.”

    Specifically Scott mentions a 2014 Atlantic story in which some debaters used critical race theory, apparently with some success, to challenge debate rules and do well in competitive debate.

    A half decade later, does anybody know how that debate thing turned out? Was it a real thing, and did it continue? Was there any reaction in debate, and has it informed current strategies, etc.

    * Mentioned earlier today, which brought that all to mind.

    • rocoulm says:

      FYI, both you links go the the Atlantic article. I assume you meant to link this

    • Nick says:

      FWIW I tried looking for a bit yesterday after you asked and couldn’t come up with anything. It’s possible things quieted down/national news forgot about it, but if there are any news sources that track national debate competitions they might report on it. I didn’t find any in like ten minutes’ searching, though.

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      Not sure how college debate is today, but IIRC Scott later linked (in a links post, maybe? Or a comment of the week?) a claim that college debate has always been like that (or at least, was already like that a few decades ago).

      • AG says:

        Yes, the documentary “Resolved,” released in 2007, is about this kind of thing happening at the high school level. Spoilers, the “disruptive” team doesn’t ultimately win.

        The reason these “let’s shift the framework” strategies were working for a while is simply out of novelty. Once people start putting together good counterarguments (usually along the lines of “nah you aren’t actually affecting meaningful change, hypocrite”), the performative behaviors lose their effectiveness.

        I haven’t checked, but I assume that if you check the recent rankings, Harvard has regained its supremacy, whether because all of its teams have appropriated the rhetoric, and/or by having strong counterarguments.

  21. ana53294 says:

    Has men’s fashion got much weirder? I was checking out this “Best dressed in 2020” list, and a lot of them were just bizarre, and not very aesthetically pleasing.

    Like, I get the red carpet look (although why wear purposefully ill-fitting clothes?), or rappers, who like to épater le bourgeois to gain traction. But some of them are just some high status men from Hollywood or the beauty industry, and they look just weird.

    It feels like women’s fashion is getting a lot more comfy and normal, and men’s is going in the other direction. Not like the majority of men would dress like that, but even as something to aspire to, it looks weird.

    • Statismagician says:

      I think what’s up is that men’s fashion has not had any substantive, positive innovations since about 1955, and the combination of [people not wanting to wear suits regularly even though they’re aesthetically superior to not-suits] * [men’s fashion magazines wanting people to keep buying men’s fashion magazines despite the lack of actual new men’s fashions] has lead us down some very weird paths.

    • Matt M says:

      Like, I get the red carpet look (although why wear purposefully ill-fitting clothes?), or rappers, who like to épater le bourgeois to gain traction.

      It may perhaps be relevant that the cultural cache and influence of rappers is at an all time high.

    • Randy M says:

      Beyond clean and well-fitting (a couple notable exceptions aside) there isn’t a lot of commonality to the list. Well, no one in dresses, I suppose.
      I think it’s just an excuse to put up pictures of celebrities and sell clicks/magazines? on the basis of wanting to see if they mention your favorite pokemon male celebrity.

    • Thegnskald says:

      Yep.

      Part of a slow cycle in which gender roles with regard to dating invert.

      As men shift to a more passive role, and women shift to a pursuer role, women’s fashion will fade in importance and men’s fashion will increase.

      • Statismagician says:

        Can you say more? Is this a new cycle starting up, or just one with a very long period?

        • Thegnskald says:

          Very long period; my guess is around a century, maybe a little longer.

          (Note: Don’t assume anybody agrees with me on this. As far as I know nobody does.)

      • As men shift to a more passive role, and women shift to a pursuer role, women’s fashion will fade in importance and men’s fashion will increase.

        I haven’t seen any objective evidence for nor does my intuition tell me any of these trends are occurring.

    • Jake R says:

      This rant from ten years ago is looking pretty on the mark.

      • ana53294 says:

        I’d love to have the feminine equivalent of a suit.

        The rules for formality/informality are so much easier for men, too. Take off your jacket and tie, and you’re wearing smart casual.

        • Evan Þ says:

          They’re easier, but there’s much less room to be creative. Sometimes I feel glad to have a standard uniform, but sometimes I wish I could have more different options.

          • Matt M says:

            One of the few (only?) things I miss about being in the military is having a completely standard uniform and never having to worry about what to wear…

          • Eric Rall says:

            I’m reminded of Lois Bujold’s novel Cetaganda, where the main characters (two mid-ranking naval officers) were temporarily assigned to ceremonial diplomatic duties on a planet with unfamiliar and elaborate fashion etiquette, and upon arrival got a briefing from their ambassador on protocol and scheduling which featured this gem:

            “You’ll be seeing a lot of these people over the next two weeks,” [Ambassador] Vorob’yev said. “It should provide a useful orientation.”

            “What should we wear?” asked Ivan. Four of the six cases they’d brought were his.

            “Undress greens, please,” said Vorob’yev. “Clothing is a cultural language everywhere, to be sure, but here it’s practically a secret code. It is difficult enough to move among the ghem-lords without committing some defined error, and among the haut-lords it’s nearly impossible. Uniforms are always correct, or, if not exactly correct, clearly not the wearer’s fault, since he has no choice. I’ll have my protocol office give you a list of which uniforms you are to wear at each event.

            Miles felt relieved; Ivan looked faintly disappointed.

            The narrative goes on to mention that this came as a relief to one of the main characters but

        • Lord Nelson says:

          What’s wrong with women’s suits and blazers?

          • ana53294 says:

            While they’re appropriate for work, women’s suits are not a universal dress smart clothes for every occasion men’s suits are.

            At least where I live, wearing a suit to a wedding, funeral, baptism, confirmation, or any such occasion is not appropriate. Whereas men wear a suit, and change the ties (black for a funeral).

          • Lord Nelson says:

            My condolences.

            I’ve worn a women’s suit to a funeral, a wedding, and to church, and no one frowned on it. Though I imagine this varies based on your denomination. I’m Protestant, so confirmation isn’t a thing, and baptisms are a normal part of church service.

    • eric23 says:

      Fashion designers have to propose designs that are *new*. They can’t suggest any design which already exists, because then their job would be superfluous. If the best possible fashions (by whatever criterion) happen to be ones already in use, then fashion designers’ designs will necessarily be inferior to those. That’s why you see all sorts of weird stuff in fashion shows that few men or women would wear in real life.

      A similar issue exists with architects. Most everyone agrees that the buildings surviving from 100 years ago are pretty beautiful, and it would be the easiest thing to just copy those designs for new projects (updating for technical changes as necessary). But this is a waste of time in terms of an architect’s career. Architects push to make their designs original, and often shocking, even if the client would prefer a tried-and-true modest design. Thus we end up with lots of ugly buildings (and a few beautiful ones) when instead we could have them all be beautiful.

      A similar issue exists with web UI/UX designers, who feel the need to constantly reinvent web pages (even at a cost to functionality) to justify their jobs’ existence.

    • eyeballfrog says:

      Few of them look all that outlandish (mostly just variations on a suit), though I might not be the best judge of such things. I am curious why Luke Day and Cody Fern decided to dress as hookers, though.

  22. Hummingbird says:

    I’m looking for a book on attachment theory, preferably one that is more advanced than a pop-psych self-help summary and less advanced than a collection of academic papers. Any suggestions?

    I’m interested in this from a childcare, relationship, and small community context.

  23. DragonMilk says:

    So I had been planning a trip with my wife to China in March, but Coronavirus makes it more likely we’ll replace it with California.

    I am a bit worried about crime though, in the sense that I’ve heard the state-wide law stating it’s not a felony to break into a car unless car owner can prove the car was locked just seems insane, and has made tourists a target.

    Since we’d be staying in LA for the first bit and drive up to the Bay area, what are some parts of town to avoid? We last went to California about 3 years ago but I’ve heard both homelessness and lawlessness (in the form of theft/vandalism) has worsened significantly.

    • Plumber says:

      @DragonMilk >

      “…we’d be staying in LA for the first bit and drive up to the Bay area, what are some parts of town to avoid?…”

      The last time someone tried to mug me was in the early ’90’s on Blake Street near Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, the last times I saw muzzle flashes and heard gunfire was at Ashby and Sacramento in Berkeley and at the Fruitvale BART station in Oakland during the mid to late ’90’s, and the last time someone broke into my car was when it was parked near Mosswood Park (and my son’s pediatrician) on Webster under the 580 freeway overpass in Oakland about ten to fifteen years ago.

      Beggars, tents, and hypodermic needles on the sidewalks I see more of now than then but I less crime on my person and property.

      There’s supposed to be more vehicle break-ins now in San Francisco but it hasn’t happened to me, but I only park at night here when I’m doing emergency overtime, my experience is that either an empty car or one filled with books, newspapers, and a lunchbox means your car is left alone, but a clean car with a nice looking bag visible may get you messed with.

      I was much younger then but in the times that guys tries to threaten me for my wallet I found that
      telling them “I will blind you first [expletive]” gets them to back off (though I had pepper spray and/or a knife wirh me both times).

      As for gunfire, don’t walk into it.

      In thinking about it the older and uglier I get the less I’ve been messed with, so put on weight?

      Crime statistics and anecdotes say that older Asian women are the most likely to be robbed, so if your wife has grey hair and is of Asian descent stay close to her.

      Where you encounter the homeless most in San Francisco (in my experience) is by the U.N. Plaza and Main Public Library (which is otherwise nice), and south of Market Street by the courthouse (the nearby ice rink on 4th Street is still nice), public parks and playgrounds in San Francisco are surprisingly nice though. In Oakland it’s the opposite, the parks are full of tents but the sidewalks are cleaner, up in the Oakland hills the Chabot Space and Science Museum is nice and I recommend it.

      In Berkeley there’s more beggars on the sidewalks than in Oakland, but less tents in the parks and playgrounds, most tents are by the I-80 freeway.

      Usually you can small marijuana first before you encounter anyone who looks like you’d want to avoid.

      If you do decide to come to the bay area there’s lots of children’s museums, the bison you can see for free in Golden Gate Park, and a WW2 Liberty ship and submarine to see, but probably the best thing to visit is the Tule elk about a hundred miles north.

      • eric23 says:

        The bison disappointed me, they were very far away and I could barely see them. Their paddock is pretty big.

        My favorite things in the Bay Area were the sea lions, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the redwoods in Muir Woods. The various SF cultures were mildly amusing but didn’t make any deep impression.

        In your situation I would consider stopping off at Sequoia or Yosemite national parks.

    • JayT says:

      Chances are, you will be fine and your car won’t be broken into. Just make sure you don’t have a bunch of stuff that someone would want to steal in plain sight, and stick to parking garages instead of street parking. Most of the uptick in crime is petty theft, and most of the petty theft is directed at stores. It’s still very safe to walk around LA and San Francisco, even though you will see some people living on the street.

    • Mitch Lindgren says:

      Where are you from? I don’t live in CA but most of it is really not that dangerous.

      I know you said you’re going to be in LA and the Bay Area, but personally I much prefer San Diego.

      • DragonMilk says:

        NYC.

        I’m not worried about being personally attacked. I’m worried about the rental car being broken into and having to deal with insurance.

    • AG says:

      My suggestion is to leave your car at your hotel, which should have a relatively secure parking lot, and try to get around using public transportation. (Yes, this means some redundant costs if you’re renting a car.) On the peninsula, you can get most anywhere tourist-y without even using a bus. Most major Oakland and Berkeley areas are accessible via BART.

      Another suggestion would be to prioritise hiking in the Bay Area. I don’t know that I’ve heard of car break-ins at the trail staging areas. March would be prime waterfall season, but even then, there are a good amount of areas with cool rock formations.

      Otherwise, “parts of town to avoid” only applies at night, and if you walk confidently and with a fast stride, most would-be crime-doers won’t target you (not worth the effort). Loitering is where you make yourself vulnerable. I’ve even walked through the notorious Tenderloin at night with no issues, because I’m power-walking straight through with earbuds in, no meandering.

  24. Thegnskald says:

    I notice three distinct phases of culture war. In the first phase, weird people misidentified what made them not fit in with society, and started arguing that those things should be normal. In this phase, a key element is that arguing those things should be normal is itself not normal, and such people wouldn’t fit in purely by virtue of being willing to do something so far outside the norm as to argue for changing the norm.

    The second phase is when arguing for changes to the norm becomes normal. This is when culture war both enters the popular discourse, and becomes substantively dumber, as people do it because it is popular rather than because they have actually thought about it.

    The third phase is when it becomes so popular that it ceases to be “cool”. The fashionable people start rolling their eyes instead of agreeing.

    (There is a Scottpost about this as regards fashion and class in general, but I forget what it is called.)

    We are approaching phase 3 on a lot of the current culture war. The question is, what will the next fashionable cause be? Any thoughts?

    • Randy M says:

      I don’t know. I thought Sailer was reaching for it when he predicted Transexuals would be the next underprivileged group to be discussed (is that neutral enough phrasing?), but dang if the 20-teens didn’t prove him right on that account.

      • Thegnskald says:

        It was the safest of the remaining choices, in spite of a contingent of feminist opposition, in terms of not shattering the coalition. It didn’t last, though; it was forced, and fashion is hard to force.

        Illegal immigrants were the next choice, but you can see the danger that posed in alienating the blue collar class. Trump successfully forced that one onto the left, though. I don’t see any safe choices left; everything is going to alienate somebody.

        The worst case scenario for the coalition is probably class; Sanders is dangerous because he focuses attention on the biggest growing crack, which is that most of this is “Middle class people trying to push middle class values on the lower classes”, if not engaging in outright class warfare against them. Imagine the catastrophe that things like “Shaming catcalling is just class colonialization aimed at stamping out lower class culture’s you disapprove of” will turn into.

        • Eric Rall says:

          Trump successfully forced that one onto the left, though.

          I think Trump’s a symptom here more than the root cause. It had been festering in the background for decades (nativism being one of Pat Buchanan’s big disagreements with Bush the Elder, for example), but it became a big high-profile split in 2007 when Bush the Younger tried to push through a relatively centrist immigration reform package (trading amnesty and a guest worker program for improved border and visa enforcement). The package failed in the Senate, with strong opposition from the left and the right. On the left, the arguments were around the enforcement provisions and the restrictions of guest workers receiving public services. On the right, the arguments were around the amnesty being too generous, and doubt that the enforcement provisions would actually be delivered on (based on the example of how the 1986 amnesty played out).

          This energized the activist base on the right on the issue of immigration and highlighted one of several policy splits between the activist base and mainstream elected Republicans. It also made the immigration advocates on the left more prominent among the Democratic party establishment, since any moderate pro-immigration position could be attacked as agreeing with Bush.

          Trump was a second turning point, though. McCain and Romney as the Republican nominees in 2008 and 2012 respectively both tried to triangulate between the nativist elements of the activist base and Bush’s position, with mixed success. Trump’s nomination represented the victory of the nativist wing of the Republican base over the old party establishment, and it was also the point at which some high-profile nativists on the left (most notably Bernie Sanders) found it expedient to walk back their old positions and pretend to have been for open borders all along.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Do you think it was inevitable that immigration was to be the primary point of focus of that election?

          • Eric Rall says:

            Do you think it was inevitable that immigration was to be the primary point of focus of that election?

            Not inevitable, but pretty likely. In June 2015 (just after Trump started running), 69% of self-identified Republicans and 74% of self-identified conservatives rated “Illegal Immigration” as “Very Important” or “Extremely Important” for their vote (page 20-21). Among registered voters, the numbers were 75% for both categories. This is not the top-rated issue, but it was one where there was more high-profile differentiation among the Republican candidates than the higher-rated issues (Economy, Foreign Policy, Health Care, and Terrorism).

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I don’t think it was inevitable for 2016, but the issue was slowly growing in the background. Trump popped the blister.

    • Nick says:

      The post you’re thinking of is this one.

      What makes you think the fashionable people are rolling their eyes, though? Social justice stuff, the most plausible candidate for norm-changer, might have more opposition than ever, but is it losing any actual steam? Is it any less cultural powerful than it has ever been?

      • Thegnskald says:

        It is acceleration, not velocity, and certainly not position, I pay attention to. It isn’t losing steam, because it has no steam left to lose; it is coasting now. You can tell because social justice has become the new “Hey fellow kids”.

        • Nick says:

          And yet everyone I know in real life has, quite recently (i.e. since 2016), gone dramatically more to the left and more social justicey. Literally, I don’t have any conservative friends. Plural of anecdote, etc., but I suspect this isn’t as true as a bunch of us mocking Warren on SSC might make it look.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Yes, that’s what fashion that is just out of fashion looks like. Everyone is doing it. Except the people who are fashionable, because everyone is doing it.

          • Matt M says:

            How many “fashionable” people have publicly taken positions opposed to SJ?

            Kayne West? Ricky Gervais? Joe Rogan? Maybe Chris Pratt? That’s about all I can think of…

          • Nick says:

            That sounded really convincing back in 2014 when we were chatting with smart, interesting Enn Arr Ex folks and Scott himself was blogging withering critiques of social justice stuff. But now it’s 2020 and there are no Enn Arr Ex folks and Scott is afraid to write any of that anymore. We have lots of Pepe memes, though.

          • Thegnskald says:

            SJ not being fashionable anymore.doesn’t make opposing SJ fashionable.

          • Matt M says:

            SJ not being fashionable anymore.doesn’t make opposing SJ fashionable.

            But it’s trivially easy to list dozens of fashionable celebrities who are publicly SJ.

            And the recent trend is that celebrities who used to be “neutral” are moving into SJ, not into anti-SJ (see: Taylor Swift)

          • Nick says:

            @Thegnskald
            I can’t tell how much you’re relying on Scott’s post, since he did treat it as binary. So if it’s not binary, what would you suggest is happening? What is the new fashion?

          • Thegnskald says:

            Binary is always a bit simplistic, yeah. It’s a spectrum. (And I’m not sure I can call Taylor Swift fashionable; the very fact that I am familiar with her suggests she is a no-longer-relevant artist jumping on the bandwagon too late.)

            My suspicion is that causes-as-fashion might be on their way out themselves, and politics is starting to be a deeply uncool thing to talk about again.

          • albatross11 says:

            Barack Obama?

        • broblawsky says:

          It is acceleration, not velocity, and certainly not position, I pay attention to. It isn’t losing steam, because it has no steam left to lose; it is coasting now. You can tell because social justice has become the new “Hey fellow kids”.

          How do you measure any of those with regards to an ideology?

        • The Nybbler says:

          The University of California diversity screening system seems to show it has plenty of steam left.

        • Plumber says:

          @Nick says: “….everyone I know in real life has, quite recently (i.e. since 2016), gone dramatically more to the left and more social justicey…”

          Wow are “bubbles” are different!

          The Republicans I know are a bit more pro-Trump than they were in 2015, and while the “centrist” Democrats I know are slightly more anti-Republican than they were back then, I can’t tell any difference among the Leftists.

          Though compared to the ’80’s there’s less self-described “anarchists” (but I’m not sure teenagers are a good basis of comparison!).

          • Nick says:

            @Plumber
            Very different, yeah. You have to remember I graduated college only a few years ago, though, so my friends are all Gen Z people like me.

    • DinoNerd says:

      In the first phase, weird people misidentified what made them not fit in with society, and started arguing that those things should be normal.

      Why do you think we misidentified our problems? I suspect that if I’d tried to live the life assigned to me by category, rather than rebelling against society, I never would have made it to my present age, having long ago died of suicide or substance abuse. I was lucky – I was born after the 60s made rebelling conceivable, and allowed me to avoid a lot of the guilt about being a “terrible, bad person”, aka failing to comfortably conform to a Procrustean bed. I skipped the substance abuse almost entirely, being addicted to nothing worse than caffeine – unlike similar people of the prior generation. And I’m still here, albeit on anti-depressants.

      It seems to me I got it right, and now that a lot of my weirdness is normal (though still decried by many conservatives), I could imagine a similar child born in the last couple of decades having no more problems than any other child.

      • Thegnskald says:

        You’re here on SSC with other fish who have noticed water is wet. Why are we company you care to keep?

  25. Deiseach says:

    So, our general election is happening on Saturday. Given that the choices range from “Oh God” to “Not that shower again”, I have no idea who I’m going to vote for until I see the ballot paper in front of me. I should like Aontú, what with their social conservatism, but the face on the election posters I see just puts me right off them and there’s some kind of whiff of middle-class do-goodery about them that is also off-putting.

    Given that I often shoot my mouth off about American elections, does anyone want to do equivalently uninformed and opinionated commentary about my own green little island? Bonus points if you want to deeply delve into Leo Varadkar’s college drugs use (did he? didn’t he? does it matter either way?) 😀

    • Nick says:

      Do you mean you don’t like Peadar Tóibín? What’s wrong with him?

    • Anteros says:

      Your comment made me realise that I probably know a lot less about your little green island than most Americans, and I spent the first 50 years of my life living in England. Embarrassing…. but maybe you’re familiar with that phenomenon? I hadn’t the faintest idea you were having an election, but in my defense it hasn’t been featured on the beeb. Is it an important election? 😀

      • rocoulm says:

        How much do you think typical Americans know about it? I’ve gotten 100% of my information on contemporary Irish politics from, like, 3 of Deiseach’s comments, and I feel like most of my peers know even less.

        • Anteros says:

          Fair enough – we’re all clueless about Ireland 🙂
          I suppose the prevalence of Irishness in America led me to believe that there was a greater awareness of Irish things on your side of the pond..

          • Statismagician says:

            Nope, except possibly in particularly old-fashioned parts of Boston and New York. Otherwise, American Irishness is mostly just an excuse to behave badly on St. Patrick’s Day.

          • rocoulm says:

            So, rereading it later, my comment sounded a bit snarky – that wasn’t intentional. Usually the (broadly correct) opinion “Americans are ignorant of world politics” is so pervasive seeing the opposite surprised me.

      • Deiseach says:

        Do you mean you don’t like Peadar Tóibín? What’s wrong with him?

        Not him specifically, I was thinking of the guy running in our constituency, but yeah – there’s something off-putting about his face, too!

        I know that that has to be the single shallowest reason ever – literally “I don’t like your face” – and that politics is not a beauty contest, but I simply can’t get behind Aontú. Looking at the grab-bag of issues yer man going for our local vote has, the only one I feel really strongly about is the right to life one, and let’s face it – undoing the repeal of the Eighth Amendment ain’t gonna happen. Everyone is too busy being proud of themselves for permitting legalised abortion and it’s only ‘cranks and those paedophiles in the Catholic Church who want to go back to the bad old days’ is the view.

        I should like them! They’re socially conservative, pro-life, fiscally liberal and pro-a United Ireland! But I can’t make myself do it!

        Of the eleven candidates going to the polls round here:

        (1) 2 x Fianna Fáil candidates: the party I was raised in as the third generation. Nothing particularly against either of these particular candidates, it’s just that I am still heartily disgusted with the corruption and cronyism from the heights (depths) of the Haughey/Ahearne/rest of the feckers era, plus Micheál Martin is less inspiring than cold porridge that’s been left overnight so it’s welded to the saucepan. And I have no reason to believe that if the party of cute hoors gets back into power, it’ll suddenly reform itself from the cute hoorism. They’ve worn out my loyalty.

        (2) 2 x Fine Gael. Argh, the dreaded Blueshirts! Though I’m not especially enamoured of the party leadership, I’ll probably throw some preference between 1-11 to one of the candidates, seeing as how I am acquainted with them from work – they must think I’m stalking them, every time they turn up in a new place I pop up in that job – this is my third job that they are involved with 🙂

        (3) 1 x Sinn Féin. Again, probably throw ’em a preference. I like Sinn Féin for picking up where Labour dumped the blue-collar/working class, but yes, I have to admit: The IRA Thing. Still, now that Mary-Lou is the party leader instead of Gerry, things may change – she’s compelled RTÉ to let her participate in the Leaders’ Debate.

        (4) 1 x The Green Party. Sorry lads, ye had yer chance back in 2007-11 when ye went into coalition with “the devil”, managed to split yer own party, when in power engaged in the same kind of shady shenanigans as the rest of them, then blew yerselves up with such loss of credibility that it took years to get back to where ye were at the start. Time has marched on, ye are less relevant, and ye’ll never regain the moral high ground ye lost.

        (5) 1 x Labour. Now, I would ordinarily give them some vote, and I have nothing against the guy running here. But (there’s always a but). I am sick, sore and sorry with their carry-on to emulate Tony Blair’s New Labour, the champagne socialism, Ruairí Quinn and Eamonn Gilmore were insufferable when in coalition government, and I have a personal grudge against the current leader, Brendan Howlin* (who was also insufferable when in coalition along with his partners in infamy). God be with the days and the likes of Frank Cluskey, eh?

        (6) 1 x Solidarity – People Before Profit. Again, a party/alliance of parties I should be inclined towards, I don’t know anything either for or against the candidate, but Richard Boyd Barrett gives me a pain where I don’t have a window. No dice.

        (7) 2 x Independents. They’re independents, I don’t know either of them, it’ll depend on the day when I’m looking at the ballot paper.

        (8) 1 x Aontú. Well, I’ve already explained this one 🙂

        God alone knows who is going to get my Number One – possibly one of the FG candidates(!), the one that I know. After that, it’s likely to be the ranking from 2 to 11 for Fianna Fáil (holding the nose there, family and party loyalty still some shreds hanging on), Sinn Féin, and Labour, with the rest of them in random order down at the bottom end of the scale.

        *Back when he was minister, and throwing shapes with the rest of them that got notions now that they were in government about being statesmanlike and doing away with parish pump politics and so forth, he engaged in some good old-fashioned parish pump politics of his own. The statutory local education body that I worked for at the time was, along with its brethren, revamped and reorganised and amalgamated to cut down on the number of such entities for efficiency and cost-cutting and the usual reasons. Now, three of these in the general area were merged into one, and having the headquarters in the middle (which would have been the city of my county) made the most sense.

        Oh ho ho ho. We’re talking about doling out the political largesse and making sure the votes keep flowing, remember? So The Minister arranges that the headquarter is in his neck of the woods, way to the east of the area, and ending up in an industrial estate outside a village in the middle of nowhere. Totally inconvenient and makes no logistical sense, but it means he can get up and announce “jobs for the locality”. Yeah, it’s been six years and two changes of jobs since then but I haven’t forgotten, Brendan!

      • Deiseach says:

        Is it an important election?

        Nah, just a small little one to ELECT OUR NEW NATIONAL GOVERNMENT 😀

        • Matt M says:

          Does Ireland have the equivalent of “every single election is reported on by the media as THE MOST IMPORTANT ELECTION OF OUR LIFETIME!!!!”?

          • Deiseach says:

            It depends. You can have a by-election being hailed as DEFINING MOMENT FOR THE COUNTRY if it happens that the vacant seat means the current government is hanging on by the skin of its teeth, and you can have European elections which should be a big deal (choosing our MEPs to go to the European parliament) getting the equivalent of “watching paint dry”.

            The best part of all elections is the count afterwards 🙂

          • Matt M says:

            Does Ireland have an equivalent of Nigel Farage?

            (Not in terms of actual politics, but in terms of providing quality Youtube content by relentlessly mocking his opponents to their faces?)

      • Lambert says:

        Things I know, as a Brit:

        It’s like, semi-presidential or something?
        There’s Vradakar and also there’s a small bloke with a big dog.
        They have some kind of sortition/focus group/referrendum thing to give the populace a voice even if the political class ignores them. This is how gay marriage was passed and abortion reform has either happened or is on the agenda.
        The Irish border is going to be a mess, isn’t it?
        Politicians who supported the IRA in the North kinda look bad now, in retrospect.
        Barry’s vs Lyons remains a contentious issue.

    • Evan Þ says:

      Are your elections being impacted at all by last weekend’s Brexit?

    • Matt says:

      “Not that shower again”

      I don’t understand ‘shower’ as an insult. Certainly I’m not qualified to pontificate on Irish politics.

      • Deiseach says:

        “Shower” is short for “shower of [fill in the opprobious epithet yourself]”. Don’t bother about qualifications – God knows I’m not qualified to comment on American elections, but does that stop me? Now is your chance, dear Americans, to get your own back!

        Are your elections being impacted at all by last weekend’s Brexit?

        Somewhat. Not as much as you’d expect, but that’s mostly because of fatigue given that it took so long to get the damn thing done, and there are still ongoing negotiations between the EU and Britain, and nobody is exactly sure yet about customs, trade barriers, and all the rest of the things we’ve been arguing over for the past few years.

        People are more concerned with domestic issues like our very own housing crisis, homelessness, and so forth (whatever the most pressing local issue for each constituency is). There’s also a sense of weariness, since (a) while the state of the nation is not ideal, neither are we as bad as we were at the worst times, though there are faint rumblings that the economy may be approaching Celtic Tiger-times overheating (b) Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, our two largest and major parties, are pretty much Tweedledum and Tweedledee so whoever gets in is not going to be a huge change. It’s unlikely that Fianna Fáil will ever again regain the kinds of majorities they used to have, so they would need to form a coalition if they wanted to form a government (if they get into a position to be thinking that way after the election). Fine Gael is currently in a coalition with a collection of Independents, so even its good results in the last election didn’t hand it enough seats to form a government on its own. Ironically (given that it was the party of Oliver J. Flanagan, a notoriously conservative politician of yesteryear), they’re selling themselves as the party of social progress and warning that Fianna Fáil will be less progressive. Though as I said, both parties are much of a muchness and wouldn’t make a huge change whoever is in power.

        We’ll know by next Monday!

        • Nick says:

          It had seemed to me ever since Brexit became a live possibility that the border with Ireland would be a big problem, possibly the biggest factor in the old “submarine made of cheese” portrayal of May’s position. Yet no one seems to be worried about it anymore. Is Johnson just in a good enough position to negotiate that this is no longer a problem for the deal? Were people mischaracterizing the Ireland border situation all along? The whole thing seriously confuses me.

          • Deiseach says:

            The whole thing seriously confuses me.

            We’re all still confused. My impression at the moment is that it’s a combination, for both the public and the politicians, of (a) Brexit fatigue (b) hoping that now Johnson does have a majority and is not depending on keeping the DUP happy he can actually make things happen and get them to stick (c) our lot are more involved with our current election (d) a bit of ‘waiting and seeing’ to see how initial negotiations between the UK and the EU go (e) keeping a low profile so as not to trigger the British media and the more excitable political types into “this is blatant Anglophobia!!!!” and thus killing off any kind of bargaining or deals being done because Johnson needs to keep up the image of “we’re not being bullied or pushed around by anyone” for public consumption, whereas he might (heavy on the ‘might’) be more reasonable behind closed doors regarding compromise.

            I’m laughing at the Telegraph and that Anglophobia bit because after all, Leo and the boys just got over being accused of being all too Anglophilic 😀

          • Thomas Jorgensen says:

            Johnson is willing to break the United Kingdom to get brexit is the answer.
            Mays position was logically incoherent – the red lines would never, and could never be agreed to by the EU, but the EU has no particular problem signing of on “Northern Ireland is now a special economic zone which will remain in the EU, and follow EU regulations”, with the customs border being in the Irish sea. That is by and bye going to result in a united ireland, de facto, and pretty likely de jure, too.

            Hell, Johnson might loose Scotland too. Why is he willing to do this? Because Rump UK will be incredibly tory.

          • cassander says:

            @Thomas Jorgensen

            Hell, Johnson might loose Scotland too. Why is he willing to do this? Because Rump UK will be incredibly tory.

            That, or he thinks they might bitch and moan and threaten, but they won’t actually go. And regardless of what you think of Johnson, “This thing I don’t want to happen definitely won’t happen if I do the thing I want” is not an uncommon human thought, particularly among statesmen.

    • Orion says:

      What does “not that shower again” mean?

      • Matt says:

        I interpreted ‘shower’ as the counterpart to ‘grower’, but did not interpret that as necessarily insulting. Deiseach clarifies above.

    • Plumber says:

      @Deiseach says: “

      …I have no idea who I’m going to vote for until I see the ballot paper in front of me. I should like Aontú, what with their social conservatism, but the face on the election posters I see just puts me right off them and there’s some kind of whiff of middle-class do-goodery about them that is also off-putting…”

      I “feel your pain’ The “wiff of middle-class do goodery” in their social liberalism (and their now amazing degree of tone-deafness) strikes me about many of today’s Democrats on this side of the ocean, but negative partisanship is a thing and I look at some anti-union judicial and legislative actions of Republicans to remind myself of why I try to ignore our Democrats rhetorical lunacy (though there’s now two Republican Senators who I’m keeping an eye on to see if they ever match some good rhetoric with deeds).

      FWLIW, when my union and my wife tell me to vote the same way, I seldom bother to do any further research (and frankly as a Californian, my votes aren’t remotely decisive so I don’t feel much guilt about any lack of “due diligence”), and my days of precinct walking and phone-banking are done (maybe again after both sons are grown).

      IIRC you don’t have a husband, but maybe you have someone you respect (friend?, parent? pastor?) otherwise, eh just look at your union’s endorsements, trust that they’re trying to keep you having a pension, and go from there (unless they really have an endorsement that sticks in your craw, I’ve known plenty who support the Democrats on nine-out-of-ten issues but the tenth is Roe v. Wade, and that’s a deal breaker).

      For myself on our side I had a real struggle about who to vote for in the primary in 2016, but as March 3rd 2020-01-25 gets closer I’m finding myself more enthusiastic about voting for what had been a slight pro Biden lean, as I find his mistakes endearing.

      If it’s Sanders?
      The idea of him giving the State of the Union address is gleeful for me.

      Warren?
      I doubt it’ll be her but I liked The Two Income Trap and maybe she or Trump will wear a Hollywood Indian headdress in the debates and that would be hilarious.

      Bloomberg?
      His win would make my wife happier, so good.

      Trump re-elected?
      I had a bit of a scare with the Iran thing, and I don’t want the NLRB in Republican hands, but otherwise?
      That Trump proponents and opponents get in Weimer-ish fist fights (and worse) bothers me, but his own actions I’m increasingly convinced are relatively neutral, and if he’s re-elected Pelosi probably keeps the House, and they’ll thwart each other (if a Democrat, especially Sanders or Warren, is elected President I expect a Republican Congress instead).

    • dpm96c says:

      If I’m pretending I’m you, I think I would hold my nose (or close my eyes) and vote Aontú. Given the other parties’ hostility toward anti-abortion politics it seems like the most important thing anti-abortion voters could do is try to force the pro-life position back into the edge of the Overton window for as many people as possible. One way to do that would be to try to ensure that it’s a thing that people with multiple different economic/non-abortion-social leanings can affirm. Two pro-life parties, one with conventional right- and one with conventional left-economic views, is something that the US, certainly, can’t boast.

      It also seems like the best use of your vote because it looks like they’re a young party looking to get established. The most work your vote can do, then, would be to make this party attempting a political fusion you theoretically like look more realistic as a going concern. Success makes good cover for politicians—maybe an impressive first or second foray into national politics means Aontú picks its next batch of candidates from a better-trained, higher-status, or just better-looking group!

      • Nick says:

        Maybe Aontú should run Deiseach as their candidate. I’d tune into that debate.

        Whoever their candidate is, though, I’d kill for a platform like that in the US.

        • Plumber says:

          @Nick,
          Check out this platform

          (slim to none chance to actually win, but it exists).

          • Nick says:

            Yeah, I like the Solidarity Party! And they have some presence here in Ohio. Though I haven’t seen them on my ballot.

            Maybe I’ll write them in for the 2020 presidential election.

      • Deiseach says:

        Given the other parties’ hostility toward anti-abortion politics it seems like the most important thing anti-abortion voters could do is try to force the pro-life position back into the edge of the Overton window for as many people as possible.

        If there was the remotest chance of that happening in the near future, I’d do so. But the effect of the sexual and other abuse scandals in the Irish Church really has exploded the influence of Catholicism, and being pro-life is seen as being one of the weirdo, fundamentalist (and that’s as much an insult over here as in the US) cranks and crazies who want to force people to stay in abusive marriages, have twenty kids, compel raped women to carry to term and give birth to babies that will die in agonising pain within minutes of delivery due to fatal foetal abnormalities if they’re not causing the agonising death of the woman herself (the Savita Halappanavar case was the drum beaten by pro-abortion rights groups both within and outside Ireland) and meanwhile allow child-rapist clergy to run the country.

        Aontú are not going to row back the mood of the nation on this.

  26. Bobobob says:

    Is Preacher (the comic book/graphic novel) the most blasphemous artifact in the history of pop culture? I don’t often reference blasphemy (I’m a typical cosmopolitan atheist) but this series has:

    –A snivelling, weaselly Supreme Being who quits his job and refuses to accept the consequences
    –An Allfather of the Grail (kind of like a modern pope) who weighs 1,000 pounds, throws up on himself at meals, and tortures his staff to death for the slightest infraction
    –A direct descendant of Jesus who is an inbred babbling moron
    –An out-and-out evil character (Grandma) who as far as I can tell is the most religious person in the series (I’m two books into the six-book arc)
    –A title character who swears, fornicates, shoots people, and is best friends with a vampire

    I could go on and on. I’m enjoying it, except for the talky bits, but this thing makes Life of Brian and that Brazilian Gay Jesus show on Netflix look like genuine New Testament gospels. What do you think?

    • It’s not really that blasphemous in our society. Having a white, Christian, socially conservative father be the hero is so much more rebellious today. The closest thing I can think of is the Roseanne revival when it very briefly was on.

      • acymetric says:

        Pretty sure it was meant to be “blasphemous to Christianity” not “blasphemous to your take on liberal/SJ culture”.

        In any case, I’m pretty sure I could come up with some examples that are even more overtly blasphemous, but maybe not.

        • Would you consider it blasphemous for a Medieval Christian to write something critical of Zeus or Thor? It’s about being critical of what is sacred in your society and criticizing Christianity is only beyond the pale to a small number of people today.

          • acymetric says:

            That is

            A) Not where we are at as a society with respect to religion, don’t be ridiculous

            B) Not what people mean when when they use the word blasphemy

          • silver_swift says:

            That is clearly not the usage of the word bobobob had in mind. So you’re either changing the topic in order to have a semantic discussion or you’re being willfully obtuse.

            In either case: less of this please.

          • I won’t go in to an extended argument about what what counts as blasphemous. I’ll just say it’s weird to talk about blasphemy in reference to something that isn’t even sacred in our culture anymore.

      • Don P. says:

        Responding to the least important part of the post: The Roseanne revival is still on, without her, under the name The Conners.

    • aristides says:

      I was going to suggest some anime, namely Hellsing, Blue Exorcist, and a Certain Magical Index, but Preacher might be worse based on what you are saying. There is a lot of anti organized religion in anime, but usually God and Jesus specifically are not insulted too much. There are a lot of overly sexualized nuns, and a lot of statements that make no biblical sense, but I’m going to assume Preacher has both of those in spades as well.

      • Nick says:

        Catholics get it pretty bad in Hellsing. Though Alexander Anderson is awesome bad guy or not. It’s not really blasphemy, though, just making religious people look awful. The Abridged series is the one with out and out blasphemy.

      • Lord Nelson says:

        I’m not sure I’d count Blue Exorcist as blasphemous. What I’ve read of the manga plays very fast and loose with Christianity. Aside from the devil and demons being characters, and the fact that their world has an organized church, I can’t remember any specific references to Christianity. The few Christianity-inspired details read more as set dressing, which is a pretty common thing in anime/manga.

        What’s in Index? I don’t remember anything religious in the anime.

        Japan really loves their fighting nuns, for some reason. My personal favorite is chrno crusade, which is thankfully not sexualized.

        • aristides says:

          What follows are spoilers for the a certain magical index anime. I’ve read some of the light novels, but the most blasphemous parts are in Old Testament anyways.

          A certain magical index has the Anglican Church having a secret witch hunting division that uses forbidden magic to counter the witches, a Roman Catholic Pope that is a figurehead for the true leaders’ God’s Right Seat, whose goal is to become the Person above God, and a Russian Orthodox Church led by a shota boy, having a secret spirit hunting division led by Vasilisa the Beautiful who is perverted enough to have her followers wear fetish gear. There is also a scene where a Japanese Christian Saint fights Archangel Gabriel with a Katana. The most blasphemous part though, is probably that Aleister Crowley is still alive, the Big Bad, and implied to have been right with all the blasphemy he said in real life. All this is takes place in a backdrop of nuns in miniskirts taking impressive amounts of clothing damage.

          • Deiseach says:

            There is also a scene where a Japanese Christian Saint fights Archangel Gabriel with a Katana.

            *blinks* That’s not the usual image one has of St Paul Miki!

    • Two McMillion says:

      I’m not sure how you rank blasphemy, but, “Jesus and Hitler: A Romance” has to be up there (though with nothing close to the popularity of Preacher, of course).

    • Deiseach says:

      It’s not quite Baby’s First Atheism but it is very much “so I grew up in small town Bible-bashing territory, got the hell out and gladly fell face first into all the modern vices, now let me give a good kicking to the sensibilities of the people I grew up with”, which is terribly impressive when you first meet it at the age of fifteen but as you get older and experience more “let’s shock the rubes” stuff out there both modern and historical, soon becomes rather commonplace.

      It transgresses all kinds of things, including good taste, but since the only real danger there was being caressed to death by the plaudits of the critics for how brave how daring how refreshing nobody doing anything like this in graphic novels, I’m neither that outraged nor that eager to read it. What I do find somewhat interesting is Ennis’ complete dislike, distaste and disdain for ‘superhero’ stories, which makes it strange that he ended up doing comics, and the type of comics which are heavily reliant on the whole superhero trope, even if the idea is to do a complete reversal of them – after all, if your story is all about how superheroes would ‘really’ work in the ‘real’ world, it only works in the context of the history of how they have traditionally been portrayed in superhero comics – it wouldn’t work at all in romance or detective comics!

      EDIT: “A direct descendant of Jesus who is an inbred babbling moron” – pffft, small beer compared to Michael Moorcock’s Behold The Man in which it is Jesus Himself who is the inbred babbling moron and SPOILERS this is why the timetraveller Karl Glogauer has to take on His historical role.

      Like I said, when you’ve cut your teeth on the likes of that, then “ooh lemme mock and deride religious figures in a comicbook” isn’t strange, new or startling 😉

      • Plumber says:

        @Deiseach >

        Behold the Man

        I read it in ’88 ’cause of the recommendation of a then friend who back then was an anti-religion teenage rebel who later wrote and had published a book about themselves returning to Catholicism and now counsels others attempting the same.

        • Plumber says:

          @Deiseach,
          Strangely I must not remember the book well, as in my memory the time traveller never found Jesus and decides to take up the cross himself, but I checked and indeed your description is accurate.

      • Baeraad says:

        I have read The Boys. It makes Preacher look like a marvel of eloquent high-brow criticism.

        What I do find somewhat interesting is Ennis’ complete dislike, distaste and disdain for ‘superhero’ stories, which makes it strange that he ended up doing comics

        In fairness, I believe he hates superheroes specifically because they have so completely taken over comics that anyone who wants to write comics (which he does want) has to write superhero comics (which he doesn’t want).

    • Plumber says:

      @Bobobob says:

      “Is Preacher (the comic book/graphic novel) the most…”

      Eh, after that description I’ll take your word for it.

      FWLIW, a blasphemous novel that I found to be pretty good read (when I was a teenager and had a higher tolerance for “edgelord” stuff) was Michael Moorcock’s The War Hound and the World’s Pain which I’ll spoiler below:

      (way below so it can be skipped)


      .

      .

      .

      .

      .

      .
      Von Bek, a German mercenary soldier-captain of Protestant background serving a Catholic army in the 30 years war realizes that some of his men have the plague, abandons them, wanders into a near lifeless country, finds a castle inhabited by a witch and her zombie servants, she tells him that she is Lucifer’s slave, he doesn’t believe her until he meets Lucifer and is amazed by the former angel who charges the soldier-captain to “find the Holy Grail” which Lucifer believes will allow him to communicate with God again and maybe be reconciled with him, Lucifer further explains that as an
      already damned soul Von Bek may travel into the “Mittelmarch” which is “the world in between heaven and ours” (basically Faerie) to find the Grail in return for getting back his soul which Lucifer already owns because of Von Bek’s war crimes, Von Bek agrees if Lucifer also frees the witch.

      The Dukes of Hell rebel against Lucifer and try to hinder Von Bek’s quest…

      (even more spoiled below)


      .

      .

      .

      …but he finds the Grail, uses it to calm the armies of Hell sent against him, brings the Grail to Lucifer who does communicate with God, who then charges Lucifer with the task of redeeming humanity (I think it was supposed to be a parable about the enlightenment).

      Pretty damn blasphemous, but I’m a sucker for tales of Faerie, damnation, and redemption.

      • Bobobob says:

        Given that last line, I’m guessing you’ve read Sandman. It’s fascinating how Neil Gaiman weaves angels into the hell-up-for-auction plot.

        • Plumber says:

          @Bobobob says:

          “Given that last line, I’m guessing you’ve read Sandman. It’s fascinating how Neil Gaiman weaves angels into the hell-up-for-auction plot”

          Nope, I’ve read a few of Gaiman’s novels and short stories, but never his comic books, which I’ve heard are good, once a young lady librarian told me when I was checking out Stardust: “I love Gaiman!, Well his comic books anyway”, were I still a youth I probably would have gotten them all then, but somehow now I find “graphic novels” less enticing (and lately novels as well, I mostly just read short fiction now).

      • Baeraad says:

        While it doesn’t correspond to any serious theology that I know, I’m not sure if “blasphemous” is quite the right word for it. The premise of the story is, after all, the Devil himself admitting that God was right, and being a sinner is portrayed as absolutely wretched while Heaven is described as a place of at once perfect freedom and perfect righteousness – in other words, true freedom isn’t following your lowest impulses, it’s being able to be your best self.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      What units are we using to measure blasphemy?

      • Bobobob says:

        Metric. Millisblaspheme is when a character says “damn,” megablaspheme is when he rapes an angel.

        • Protagoras says:

          Given that angels are usually described as lacking sex organs and not uncommonly as lacking bodies altogether, how exactly does someone rape an angel?

          • Evan Þ says:

            Well, medieval legends say that you can have sex with fallen angels, so perhaps they don’t always lack sex organs?

          • The Nybbler says:

            So if you rape a fallen angel, is that still blasphemy?

            “Buy ‘Raping Lucifer’, the new series from Heretic Press”

            (I’m pretty sure I’d be going to hell for this if there weren’t so many other reasons)

          • Protagoras says:

            I expect fallen angels acquire sex organs when they fall (as that seems in keeping with Christianity’s usual attitude toward sex). Though probably I should at this point stop pretending to be taking seriously things that don’t make sense, as this is not one of the occasions when it seems to have turned out to be particularly amusing.

          • Deiseach says:

            Given that angels are usually described as lacking sex organs and not uncommonly as lacking bodies altogether, how exactly does someone rape an angel?

            Aha, the air and angels question! Often debated, as in: did the archangel Raphael have an incarnate body when he accompanied Tobias or was it only a seeming, did he eat and drink in earnest or only pretence? Milton came down on the “corporeal, eating and drinking angels” side of the question (see the battle in Heaven where the angels and devils can be wounded by using weapons and bleed ichor), whereas the Book of Tobit has Raphael saying “I seemed indeed to eat and to drink with you: but I use an invisible meat and drink, which cannot be seen by men”.

            Well, given the story of the angels who appeared to Abraham at Mamre and Lot and the angels, then there must be at least the appearance of physical bodies that can be harmed. St Thomas Aquinas goes into this, and you see where Donne got the “angels assume bodies of air” notion for his poem:

            Reply to Objection 3. Although air as long as it is in a state of rarefaction has neither shape nor color, yet when condensed it can both be shaped and colored as appears in the clouds. Even so the angels assume bodies of air, condensing it by the Divine power in so far as is needful for forming the assumed body.

            As for “how can you rape an angel”, that’s above my pay grade as they say, but years ago I did read a semi-series of short stories in the dark fantasy/erotica genre where aggrieved and damned souls/demigods/spirits used particular objects and rituals to evoke angels and bind them into physical bodies, then raped and tortured them out of hatred and despair that they themselves were damned and lost to Heaven, so they dragged down spirits to the earthly plane to defile them and keep them bound from ever returning. So people have thought about this in fiction before Garth Ennis.

        • Plumber says:

          @Bobobob,
          Judging by how much I laughed at ”metric blasphemy” I suspect I’m quite damned.

        • AG says:

          Boooo, clearly it’s superior to say that something is a half blaspheme, a quarter blaspheme, a third blaspheme, an eighth blaspheme, a five-thousand-two-hundred-eightieth blaspheme [/to be on brand]

    • SamChevre says:

      Hmmm. Is James Morrow pop-culture? Because if so, it’s competing with Only Begotten Daughter and Towing Jehovah–which are memorable, but definitely post-Christian.

    • quanta413 says:

      Brazilian Gay Jesus show on Netflix

      I hope this is 1/2 as good as Life of Brian, but I’d settle for 1/4.

      • Bobobob says:

        Actually, it’s really funny, I’d say 3/4 the level of Life of Brian. I’m not sure if Netflix is still showing it, there was a lot of pushback from religious folks in Brazil. I think there may have been a sequel, I can only vouch for the first installment.

        • Deiseach says:

          Ah, I’m not interested enough to look that show up, but theologically there have been arguments that Jesus was/must have been gay (John is described as the beloved disciple! the young man running away naked in the garden of Gethsemane! Jesus having no named wife even though He was Jewish and called a rabbi, and so would have been expected to marry! and so on) all in the cause of gay rights/queer theology:

          In a paper read at the Conference of Modern Churchmen in 1967 titled “Jesus, the Revelation of God”, Hugh William Montefiore offers a controversial interpretation of the early life of Jesus. Jesus was not aware of his vocation as Messiah until approximately age thirty, Montefiore argues, and this vocation can therefore not explain the celibacy of Jesus. Apart from the Essenes, celibacy was not a common practice in Jewish life. Montefiore suggests we might need to look for a non-religious reason to explain the celibacy of Jesus:

          Men usually remain unmarried for three reasons: either because they cannot afford to marry or there are no girls to marry (neither of these factors need have deterred Jesus); or because it is inexpedient for them to marry in the light of their vocation (we have already ruled this out during the “hidden years” of Jesus’ life); or because they are homosexual in nature, in as much as women hold no special attraction for them. The homosexual explanation is one which we must not ignore.

          It’s kind of hard to find something startlingly original in blasphemy that hasn’t been done before either as deliberate transgression or as heresy. Modern stuff tends to be more ‘in your face’ grossness and obscenity, largely because they’re incapable of nuance and subtlety and, to be blunt, too stupid to pull it off or they want the shock, horror reaction (the Piss Christ thing was a combination of both, I never believed the artist going “but how could I possibly foresee that people would put such an interpretation on my completely innocent work?” and I wished that people hadn’t jumped at the bait in outrage and given the reaction desired).

  27. EchoChaos says:

    Coronavirus discussion update:

    I’d like to upgrade my estimation of the damage from 3-4 to 5-6 now.

    Again, this is 90% because of the knock-on effects of the quarantine on the Chinese economy and exports. The Chinese stock market opened this morning down 8% and may actually push them into recession, despite a surprise lowering of interest rates by their central bank in order to prevent this.

    Driving China into actual recession would be a massive gut punch to the global economy and could cause some serious follow-on in the Pacific Rim and eventually the US and Europe.

    • Anteros says:

      Seems to me the disruption/cost per life lost is higher than for any similar situation in the past. It’s the kind of conversation that usually feels odd or wrong to me, but is there a way of optimizing this? I suppose the lack of knowledge about a new virus is always going to incentivize a strong response, but at some point it’s going to strike people that the response is causing an order of magnitude more suffering than the virus (if that’s how it pans out..) If I heard someone else make that point it would sound pretty crass, but a few hundred billion out of the global economy would presumably mean a proportion of that comes out of health care, development aid etc etc

      • MrSquid says:

        I think this is less caused by novel virus (since we really do understand coronaviruses in general and can get along fairly well by abstracting from SARS) and more by the cultural context. China is a kind of boogeyman for a lot of the west currently, particularly in the eyes of the Trump admin, and they were pretty roundly criticised for the response to SARS which appears to have been way easier to contain but far more lethal (the current strain has about twice as many confirmed cases already as SARS had in total, but with less than half the deaths). This has spiraled a bit into some truly wild conspiracy theories, even from major news sources — Daily Mail’s bat eating videos, Washington Times claiming it was linked to Chinese biological weapons programs — and there’s a real danger that the response is stronger than necessary because the political environment is putting a lot of scrutiny on the Chinese response and the calculus is that damages from overreaction are easier to handle than damages from underreaction. I don’t know to what degree we’d see different outcomes if not for (potentially justified!) Sinophobia in current politics, but I would bet that we’d see the response be not as severe.

      • DinoNerd says:

        The trouble with insurance is that you have to pay for it, even if the insured-against catastrophe doesn’t occur. I see this disruption as insuring against a pandemic on (at least) the scale of the WWI flu pandemic.

        The one difference from true insurance is that buying fire insurance doesn’t make the fire less likely to happen – so you can tell for sure when having bought fire insurance saves you money. Whereas some proportion of quarantines and similar actually prevent a pandemic – but we don’t see the pandemic that didn’t happen.

        It’s been popular lately for people to choose to forgo insurance of all kinds, from vaccination to various regulations – sometimes on behalf of a whole society – so as to improve some kind of profitability in the more common case where the event insured-against doesn’t happen.

        That’s an overally bad idea, however tempting. Arguably the 2008 crash is a result of decisions of this kind.

        Note that this is a seperate question from whether a given insurance plan costs more than the risk is worth. But they get entangled in practice. In this case, I’m inclined to believe that the quarantine measures are erasonable, rather than a case of over-expensive security theater. But because people are human, it’s hard to exclude the hypothesis that people are doing unwaranted things simply to appear to be doing something.

        • EchoChaos says:

          This is an excellent point. We don’t know yet if China’s reaction is overkill because we don’t know the full severity of this coronavirus, nor do we know how many unreported cases there are (i.e. people staying home to recover because the hospitals are jammed).

          And even if it is less severe than expected, the quarantine might be the right call.

    • Anteros says:

      And yes, my level of concern has risen since I last commented on it.

  28. A Definite Beta Guy says:

    Iowa Prediction Thread?

    Bernie 29%
    Biden 23%
    Pete 22%

    Narratively: Bernie is going to win by over 5% and Pete and Biden are going to finish within a % of each other, with Biden likely taking 2nd.

    Warren finishes 15% or below.

    • EchoChaos says:

      I think Bernie may do better than that. Biden has done fairly poorly recently and Pete has been sliding hard.

    • Silverlock says:

      I find it interesting — well, a teeny bit interesting — that Buttigieg and Sanders are referred to so often by first name whereas Biden and Warren are usually last-namers.

      • gbdub says:

        Two syllables, or maybe three, seems to be the sweet spot for a political one-name. One works if better options are not there.

        “Elizabeth” is too long, and “Liz” too unserious.

        “Pete” has a long and hard to pronounce last name.

        “Joe” is too common.

        “Sanders” would be fine, but “Bernie” is the perfect name for an old man yelling at banks, that works just as well whether you think that’s a positive or negative image.

        I think this rule is also why you got “George Bush” or “Dubya” instead of just “Bush”.

        Doesn’t explain why it was “Obama” and not “Barack”, although Obama is more mellifluous.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Isn’t that how their own campaigns branded them, though?

      • Eric Rall says:

        I’ve noticed in the past that candidates tend to go by their first names (or first-name-based nicknames) under two-ish main groups of circumstances:

        1. They have hard-to-spell surnames. E.g. Rudy Giuliani, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Dwight “Ike” Eisenhower.

        2a. They share surnames with other high-profile politicians (relatives or otherwise). E.g. Hillary Clinton (shared with Bill), Jeb Bush (shared with his father and brother), Rand Paul (shared with his father), and Fred Thompson (common name, shared with the unrelated WI governor Tommy Thompson).

        2b. While not specifically in 2a, their last names are common enough as first or last names to be ambiguous: e.g. Ron Paul being known by his full name (or as Dr. Paul) because just calling him “Paul” would have been ambiguous with Paul Ryan in many contexts.

        Buttigieg is a clean fit for category 1. I’m not sure about Sanders: it’s a common surname, but not nearly common enough for 2a or 2b to apply. At least, I can’t think of another nationally-prominent politician named Sanders off the top of my head. My guess is going by “Bernie” is part of his image as a scrappy underdog and a folksy populist, which is a more novel reason for a first-name campaign.

        • acymetric says:

          Dr. Paul

          I don’t think I’ve ever heard him referred to that way. To the extent that I didn’t realize he was a Dr.

          My guess is going by “Bernie” is part of his image as a scrappy underdog and a folksy populist, which is a more novel reason for a first-name campaign.

          I think it is probably part that, and then part labeling from his opponents (“Bernie” sounds a lot less respectable than “Mr. Sanders” or whatever).

          • Eric Rall says:

            “Dr. Paul” was more of a thing in his 2008 campaign than his 2012 campaign, and even there it never really caught on outside his hard-core supporters.

        • AlesZiegler says:

          Bernie is obviously trying to avoid being confused with Otto Viktor Karl Liman von Sanders, German commander of the Ottoman Army defending the Dardanelles in WWI.

        • Deiseach says:

          At least, I can’t think of another nationally-prominent politician named Sanders off the top of my head.

          I agree about the “folksy scrappy underdog” bit but I also wonder if it’s because if you think “Sanders” you also think “Colonel Sanders” as the nearest Famous Sanders, and that’s not an association anyone wanted 🙂

    • Matt M says:

      Bernie will win. Media will spin it as him not winning by as much as he should have, and all coverage will minimize Bernie and promote the highest finishing non-Bernie (and probably non-Biden as well) candidate as the person who is clearly best positioned to win the nomination.

      • acymetric says:

        Sounds about right.

        • albatross11 says:

          Also, if Yang or Gabbard get any substantial traction, various media sources will accidentally leave them off their screen showing the election results. Oops, accidents happen.

          • Matt M says:

            Yeah. If you see any media “lists of finishers” where one number is skipped entirely (like, they tell you who finished first, second, fourth, and sixth), the “omitted” ones will definitely be Yang and Gabbard.

          • Nick says:

            Wall to wall coverage of Beto getting one write-in. 😀

  29. Machine Interface says:

    It was mentionned here before that the US have the lowest life expectancy among fully developed countries. One proposed explanation was that the poor lifestyle of African-Americans somehow drags the average down.

    However, if this was the case, you’d expect the US to do better in specific metrics where lifestyle has had less time to be a factor, such as infant mortality, where you could imagine that due its alleged better healthcare system, the US here would be within or above the average in the developed world, and the gap would also manifests as people age and die early due to lifestyle factors.

    Except this is the opposite of what we observe. When it comes to infant mortality, not only do the US still do worse than all other fully developped countries, but they do worse than more than half of eastern Europe as well, being ranked 35th in the world for life expectancy, but 44th for infant mortality.

    By that token, it would seem that “lifestyle” is not actually pulling American life expectancy down, it’s pulling it up, compensating for the faillings of the US healthcare system which disproportionally affect infants (since those are the most vulnerable to a sub-par healthcare).

    • Zephalinda says:

      No opinion on the debate itself, but note that lifestyle of the mother absolutely does have the potential to impact infant mortality.

      • Randy M says:

        This. Babies are very vulnerable to lifestyle.
        But also, I’ve read several times (edit: and more in this thread, of course) that the US just defines infant mortality differently, something like we count premies as births when other nations don’t.

        • johan_larson says:

          I’ve heard the same. But I’m a bit skeptical. Medical research is an international activity; scientists routinely study, seek employment, collaborate, and present their work across national borders. I would expect the community to be able to arrive at a common definition for what does and does not count as a live birth, even if local standards differ.

          I know we have some physicians and life scientists here. Anyone care to weigh in on this, professionally?

          • baconbits9 says:

            There are actual differences in the reported statistics, each government has its own definition, but the differences outside of the most extreme situations* do not cover the full spectrum. The US does have a large discrepency by race in its infant mortality, with Blacks more than doubling the rate of hispanics and whites (and also native americans and native islanders having high rates but with a much smaller population size). 2016 numbers from the CDC.

            There is also a large split between unattended home births, attended home births, hospital births, and hospital births with a midwife. Unattended home birth data is spotty and harder to find, but this site claims a study found attended home births with a 13/10,000 death rate, hospital births with a 6/10,000 death rate, and hospital+midwife at a 3.5 rate. Home births are most frequent in the white population, and depending on how frequent it is across Europe it could account for a large amount of the discrepancy between white US infant mortality and European white infant mortality.

            *I have heard the claim, but not seen evidence for, Cuba pressuring at risk mothers to abort which pushes down their infant mortality.

          • John Schilling says:

            I would expect the community to be able to arrive at a common definition for what does and does not count as a live birth, even if local standards differ.

            So what if they do? There isn’t a medical research scientist in every obstetrics department of every hospital around the world to categorize births by they hypothetical universal-medical-researcher criteria. There is a government bureaucrat who’s going to be stopping by every month to collect his statistics according to the officially-approved local standards, and he’s going to cause a lot of grief if they aren’t done “properly”.

          • Thegnskald says:

            In the US, reported infant mortality rates correlate with political opposition to abortion.
            T hat pretty much sums that up.

            Note also that the US has an unusually low rate of reported stillborns, about 20% lower than, say, France or Iceland.

            I’d guess even after accounting for the immense variability in reporting, we’d still have higher infant mortality, just not for any given person. I suspect we have some Simpson’s Paradox effects going on, much like lifespan, where any given person would be better off here, but the overall statistics look worse.

          • AlphaGamma says:

            See the article I linked in another reply where they tried to do that by excluding any infant born before 22 weeks or weighing less than 500 grams at birth.

            (They also exclude multiple births, as these have a higher mortality rate so a country’s infant mortality rate would be affected by the frequency of multiple births, which in turn is affected by the availability of IVF).

          • Randy M says:

            @Alphagamma
            Okay, thanks.

            We document similar patterns across Census divisions within the US. The postneonatal mortality disadvantage is driven by poor birth outcomes among lower socioeconomic status individuals.

            Hmm, is this contradictory, or is “Census divisions” a euphemism for race/ethnicity and not socioeconomic status?

            Regardless, this could provide evidence for America’s poor being under served by it’s medical system, or of America’s poor being more prone to risky or unhealthy behavior (like poorer maternal nutrition, for example). Or both, of course.
            But wouldn’t most of the causes of infant mortality the kind of acute effects that will be treated regardless of ability to pay at any emergency room?

            I wonder if any of this is due to the US being more rural? Maybe poor people live further from hospitals in the US than in denser Europe?

          • AlphaGamma says:

            @Randy M- The “Census divisions” they use are geographical, so probably include all sorts of factors- race, poverty, urban vs. rural…

            Note that the lowest-mortality Census division is the Northeast (with a similar rate to Austria) consisting of New England, NY, PA and NJ. The highest-mortality one, East South Central (with double the mortality rate) is MS, AL, TN and KY.

            (Of course, something is a bit wrong here as AFAIK the Northeast is actually two separate Census divisions- New England and Mid-Atlantic.)

            I don’t get the sense that they are Deliberately Not Talking About Race, though:

            it is important to note that our estimates are not driven by the mortality outcomes of black infants (who have long been observed to have relatively poor birth outcomes in the US): Appendix Table A.1 (row 5) excludes blacks from our US sample, and a similar postneonatal disadvantage is still evident.

            The non-US data they use don’t report race, though the Austrians report whether the mother is an immigrant.

    • Fitzroy says:

      Infant mortality is generally defined as death before the age of 1. That leaves plenty of time for parental lifestyle factors to have a negative impact.

      • Clutzy says:

        The most important period of time being from conception to birth, actually. The OP is so off-base on this argument (for anyone who has been healthcare-adjacent) that it seems almost like a soft troll/ attempted scissor statement.

    • AlesZiegler says:

      This is unlikely since there is a giant gap in obesity rates between Americans and the rest of the developed world. I doubt that it is purely “black problem”, of course.

      • Ketil says:

        From https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html:

        Hispanics (47.0%) and non-Hispanic blacks (46.8%) had the highest age-adjusted prevalence of obesity, followed by non-Hispanic whites (37.9%) and non-Hispanic Asians (12.7%).

        It looks like it is not a purely “black problem”, but “black and hispanic problem”, or maybe “everybody but the asians problem”. But there’s also geographical differences, and even more obviously, SES differences. And in any case, the rate for non-Hispanic whites is almost 40%, way higher than European countries (mostly in the 20s, AFAICT) – so whatever else it is, it seems to also be an American problem.

      • baconbits9 says:

        Obesity has very little impact on mortality rates as most related deaths occur late in life.

        • rcafdm says:

          Obesity has very little impact on mortality rates as most related deaths occur late in life.

          Most deaths occur later in life generally. What we care about here (predicting life expectancy) is relative mortality rates and apparent effects on relative mortality rates are very large (quite a bit of evidence to suggest this is mostly causal). Young people with BMIs of 40 are more than 3x likely to die in high-income countries as compared to people in the relatively optimal BMI range (US, Canada, N/W Europe, etc). At age 20, this has been estimated to correspond to about a 6 year loss in life expectancy in the US just a few years ago.

          https://randomcriticalanalysis.com/2019/11/07/a-tale-of-two-covariates-why-owid-and-company-are-wrong-about-us-healthcare/#rcatoc-mortality-increases-quickly-much-beyond-optimal-bmi

          Edit: I don’t disagree with your argument that car accidents, homicide, and the like contribute. Indeed, I point this out in that same blog post. These factors explain about half the gap whereas obesity and closely related metabolic issues (diabetes,etc) are likely to explain the other half.

          • DarkTigger says:

            I don’t find it atm, but the IDF has made a big study about this.
            They draft basically citizen at age of 18 and hold close tabs on them for reserve reseaons. So they have very good nation wide data, on peoples health. They could show a very clear corelation between overweight at age 18 and raised death rates in the next 20 years.

          • baconbits9 says:

            I will try for a longer response later but this post relates much better to US life expectancy VS some theoretical maximum life expectancy than vs other developed countries life expediencies which is the question in the OP.

          • Eric Rall says:

            Most deaths occur later in life

            I think I know what you mean (most deaths occur at relatively advanced ages), but it still amuses me that an overly literal reading of your statement is tautologically true.

          • Dacyn says:

            @Eric Rall: If you look at it that way, it’s arguable whether deaths actually occur “in” life at all…

        • rcafdm says:

          I will try for a longer response later but this post relates much better to US life expectancy VS some theoretical maximum life expectancy than vs other developed countries life expediencies which is the question in the OP.

          I’m specifically arguing differences in obesity rates explains much for the US vs other-high income countries (about 50% of the gap). If you’re referring to my use of Years of Life Lost (YLL) in some parts of that analysis, it’s used to calculate the cost of various sources of excess mortality in terms that can be related fairly directly to life expectancy. The hypothetical life table derived by IHME, WHO, and others are little more than the collection of the lowest national mortality rates in each age (span) amongst the developed world currently (which will ultimately change). The results would be broadly comparable if we simply weighted causes of mortality by age using Japan’s life tables (or some other long-lived country). The important thing for this application is consistency and, to a lesser degree, general reasonableness (not far too high or far too low).

          • baconbits9 says:

            I understand that, but I don’t think this is a correct method. As I said I’ll try for a longer reply later but assume that you presented people with a table of choices. They could pick

            #1 Smoking
            #2 Overeating
            #3 neither vices

            While you have assumed (again just a quick skim by me, I am ready to be wrong here) that if you took #2 off the table then those people would move to #3 and not to #1.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            @baconbits9
            Well, yes, that seems like a fairly reasonable assumption. Why are you assuming that vice is conserved for some reason?

          • Randy M says:

            There’s different possible models for vices.
            1) I have a taste/predilection for this activity that makes it worth more to me than the costs. Increasing the cost will eliminate this vice without making others more appealing.

            2) I am stressed and look for an easy activity that reduces stress. If you make my chosen vice more costly, I may give it up, but will look for another. Possibly another vice, since I obviously wasn’t too concerned with health before.

            3) I participate in this activity due to social pressure. If you make it too costly, I will search for another, which might be a vice, or might be a healthy activity.

            4) I participate in this activity specifically because it is disapproved. If you try to eliminate, I will cling to it more tenaciously for a time. Eventually the cost will be too great, so I’ll move on to something else with mild disapproval.

            others?

          • rcafdm says:

            While you have assumed (again just a quick skim by me, I am ready to be wrong here) that if you took #2 off the table then those people would move to #3 and not to #1.

            I didn't specifically approach it from that lens of obesity (over-eating) vs smoking, no. However:

            (1) That's quite a different angle than the argument that obesity-related deaths occur so late in life as to be of little consequence.

            (2) The US is about middle of the pack in current smoking rates amongst high-income countries (about 5PP lower than Germany). More importantly for current mortality rates, the US had very high rates in earlier decades (peak effects lag by several decades). This is why IHME and others show the US loses more life years from smoking

            (3) Including smoking risks would improve my model and make the US health system look relatively better, but it’s not needed to explain and I wanted to simplify this analysis so as the call attention to the primary factors. That said, the US compares poorly in lots of other lifestyle issues

            (4) Smoking isn’t likely to be that explanatory for obesity rates as to frame them as a strong, direct tradeoff. If we look at OECD regional data, for example, we find areas with higher obesity rates suffer from lower life expectancy. Likewise, if we look within the United States alone and take the weighted average on obesity and life expectancy, we find a very strong relationship between obesity rates and life expectancy — so strong that this relationship is likely to be partially confounded by other factors, like higher smoking rates. Obese places also tend to smoke somewhat more, holding other major observables roughly equal (which isn’t to say smoking doesn’t cause some weight loss…..)

    • An Fírinne says:

      That tends to happen when you put profit before people.

      • albatross11 says:

        Mostly, it happens when you put lots of high-calorie food before people. They eat it and get fat.

        • An Fírinne says:

          Yes, then they get sick and can’t afford health treatment and die. God bless America!

          • albatross11 says:

            Hence the health benefits of the Cuban regime, where relative poverty plus really good universal medical care add up to long life expectancies.

          • An Fírinne says:

            Yes, everybody knows that when you think peoples lives should be before profit you are an ardent Castroite. There’s no third way, it’s one or the other

          • @An Fírinne,

            Wasn’t Obamacare supposed to fix this by allowing everyone to afford to buy health insurance?

          • baconbits9 says:

            Hence the health benefits of the Cuban regime, where relative poverty plus really good universal medical care add up to long life expectancies.

            There is some evidence that Cuba basically fixes the numbers, but not conclusive evidence.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Less of the sniping back and forth, please. (Not counting those who appear to be injecting a claim of fact.)

        • AlesZiegler says:

          I suspect difference between US and European obesity rates is mainly about car usage. It is not exactly difficult for Europeans to buy tons of unhealthy comfort food.

          • albatross11 says:

            One thing I notice when I travel to Europe is that public transit + walking tends to work a lot better for getting around than it does in most of the US. In the suburbs where I live, I have to make some special effort to walk a couple km–in the places I regularly go in Europe, walking around is just the normal way to get places and is pretty straightforward, and there are usually trains or subways or busses available for longer distances. (Albeit sometimes confusing ones for foreigners.)

          • Ketil says:

            I suspect difference between US and European obesity rates is mainly about car usage. It is not exactly difficult for Europeans to buy tons of unhealthy comfort food.

            Also interestingly, many countries including some with lower GDPs are starting to have much higher obesity rates. The Middle East from Libya to Iraq are well into the 30s, and almost as high as the US, and Australia, Chile, Argentina and Mexico (but not the rest of LA) are on the verge of breaking 30%. South East Asia, on the other hand, has virtually no obesity – in spite of several well-off nations.

          • albatross11 says:

            There’s clearly a genetic element to obesity, and my impression is that American Indians, and in particular those who are the ancestors of a lot of Mexicans, Salvadorans, Hondurans, Guatemalans, etc., are quite susceptible to gaining a lot of weight from an American diet. Also, while East Asians mostly don’t seem to gain a lot of weight, South Asians do.

      • aristides says:

        You could always go to one of our many non-profit hospitals?

        • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

          Congratulations, you just solved healthcare! No need for any kind of reform, just tell people who can’t afford insurance to go to non-profit hospitals! Why did no-one think of this before?

          • Nick says:

            An Fírinne contended that the problem was putting profit before people. Nonprofits self-evidently do not put profit over people. No one is suggesting that this solves healthcare.

          • aristides says:

            Thanks, Nick, that was exactly my point. If you want to fix healthcare you need to change things beyond getting rid of the profit motivation. I’m probably extra sensitive about this since I work for a hospital and never appreciate the implication that we are horrible because they are greedy. We may in fact be horrible, but greed has little to do with it.

          • Matt M says:

            We may in fact be horrible, but greed has little to do with it.

            I’d like to see this banner hung up at the entrance of every medical facility I enter.

          • Nick says:

            @aristides
            Indeed. I work for a nonprofit health insurance company, so I sympathize.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            Nonprofits self-evidently do not put profit over people.

            Indeed, therefore bringing them up seems seems rather nonsequitorious. It hardly seems likely that An Fírinne was blaming non-profit organisations for putting profit before people.

          • acymetric says:

            Nonprofits self-evidently do not put profit over people.

            I’m going to need you to cite your sources on that. Just because we give it a nice name that makes it sound like they are not seeking a profit, doesn’t mean it isn’t all about money.

          • albatross11 says:

            Lots of hospitals, perhaps the majority, are nonprofits. This turns out not to fix the crazy cost spirals or the weird situation where nobody can name a price for anything.

          • Randy M says:

            Which should provide evidence that shareholders of hospital, inc, are not the main drivers of prices.

            But hospitals employ lots of well-paid (if arguably reasonably so) doctors, nurses, and other professionals who want compensation for their time.
            Does that count as “putting profits before people”? If so, what is the alternative?

            But I suspect that “profits before people” probably refers to insurance companies who would want to ensure that they pay out less than they take in. Presumably as much less as possible.
            But ultimately, governments are going to have similar incentives. Which is more directly responsive to the customers/citizens is certainly debatable.

          • acymetric says:

            @Randy M

            I wonder, is the highest paid person at a hospital a medical care provider? Second highest?

          • Randy M says:

            I wonder, is the highest paid person at a hospital a medical care provider? Second highest?

            I don’t know. Probably if they have a rare specialist, like a top rated heart/brain surgeon. Otherwise I’d expect it’s the administration or maybe some legal department.

            I’m agreeing with the point that being “non-profit” doesn’t mean you can’t have lots of people within the organization making substantial profits. It just means the organization itself has a different nominal purpose, right?

          • acymetric says:

            It just means the organization itself has a different nominal purpose, right?

            I mean, if the people in charge of a non-profit are, themselves, making significant profit running the organization…

          • The original Mr. X says:

            But I suspect that “profits before people” probably refers to insurance companies who would want to ensure that they pay out less than they take in. Presumably as much less as possible.
            But ultimately, governments are going to have similar incentives. Which is more directly responsive to the customers/citizens is certainly debatable.

            I mean, most developed countries spend less on healthcare than the US…

          • achenx says:

            I wonder, is the highest paid person at a hospital a medical care provider? Second highest?

            I don’t know. Probably if they have a rare specialist, like a top rated heart/brain surgeon. Otherwise I’d expect it’s the administration or maybe some legal department.

            Probably varies based on the type of hospital, etc. And I don’t have actual stats. But anecdotally, a family member was the CEO/head administrator of a small-town hospital and was paid less than many of the doctors. I don’t think they had any brain surgeons; anything like that the patient would have traveled to a larger hospital in a bigger city. This would have been compared to your “everyday” surgeons.

            In a larger hospital I don’t doubt the administrator types would have been much higher paid, but again in a larger hospital you would have had the fancier specialty surgeons as well.

    • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

      Yeah, that proposed explanation is just not true. Contrary to assertions made, white Americans have lower life expectancies than white Europeans.

      I wouldn’t read too much into infant mortality rates though, since how that is measured varies quite a lot between countries.

    • AlphaGamma says:

      I’ve seen the claim (for instance, here) that part of the difference in infant mortality is that the US sometimes records babies born extremely prematurely who die within 24 hours of birth as infant mortality, while other countries record them as stillbirths.

      Once you correct for this, you find that neonatal mortality (within 1 month of birth) in the US is much more similar to the figures in wealthy European countries such as Finland and Austria. The US does, in fact, have significantly higher infant mortality than these countries, but that is driven by post-neonatal (between 1 month and 1 year) deaths. These are also likely to be due to lifestyle/socio-economic factors, since there are huge geographical and class differences in the post-neonatal death rate.

    • rcafdm says:

      you’d expect the US to do better in specific metrics where lifestyle has had less time to be a factor, such as infant mortality, where you could imagine that due its alleged better healthcare system

      No, IMR, life expectancy, and other indicators are very strongly correlated. It’s routinely used as a proxy for population health because of this. These issues are not unrelated.

      IMR is very much affected by the health of the mother. Obesity alone is a major risk factor for complications in pregnancy, delivery, and the health of the child after mother and child have been discharged.

      More generally, US health outcomes are well explained by (1) the existence of rapidly diminishing returns to health spending and (2) behavioral/lifestyle issues, especially obesity, car accidents, homicide, and drug abuse.

      https://randomcriticalanalysis.com/2019/11/07/a-tale-of-two-covariates-why-owid-and-company-are-wrong-about-us-healthcare/

    • DarkTigger says:

      Open Wikipedia, look at “List of countries by traffic-related death rate”, “List of countries by intentional homicide rate” and “List of countries by body mass index”*. Compare the U.S. with European states.
      I make no claims about black – and white people here. I would say your health system at best part of the problem.

      Ninja-Edit: Or what rcafdm said while I was writing.

      • albatross11 says:

        That’s America: Fat people, fast cars, lots of guns, and expensive doctors. Hard to see why any of that would lead to lowered life expectancy….

        ETA: More seriously, medical interventions mostly matter for life expectancy later in life–you should be looking at life expectancy at 50 or something. And using that to judge the US medical care system is a little complicated, because we have universal healthcare for people over 65 already. (I’m not convinced M4A is a great idea, but it’s pretty implausible that we can’t afford it when we already provide Medicare for the highest-cost demographic in the country.)

        • DarkTigger says:

          I’m not sure if you are agreeing with, or ridiculing me. But seriously the “List of countries by traffic-related death rate” was pretty eye opening to me.

          One of the main arguements for introducing an maximal speed on the German highways (you know the Autobahn), are the amount of traffic deaths we have. But if you look at those numbers, you see that Germany is not that out of the ordinary for a central European country. Or it is even rather on the low end.

          • AlphaGamma says:

            An interesting point with the traffic related death rate is that it’s higher in the US even after correcting for distance driven. So it’s not just that Americans drive more, but also that the roads are less safe in general.

            (Regarding Germany, meanwhile, IIRC there is no difference in death rate between the stretches of autobahn that have speed limits and those that are still unlimited- though the unlimited stretches tend to be less busy- or between German autobahns and those in neighbouring Austria which all have speed limits.)

          • albatross11 says:

            DarkTigger:

            Definitely not ridiculing you, it’s just kind of a funny topic in a gallows-humor sense.

            I think US highway deaths may represent having more long-range travel done by road. I think a lot of trips that Americans make by car are made by rail in most of Europe. But that’s just a guess.

            Car accidents and homicide are heavily concentrated among younger people, though your probability of surviving one depends heavily on the health care you receive. And this is likely to be pretty good even if you’re poor, because you’ll be taken to a hospital ER by an ambulance and treated even if you don’t have any money[1]. You’ll later receive an outrageous bill that you can’t possibly pay, and which you may end up declaring bankruptcy to get out of, or which you may negotiate down to some sensible amount. (In general, the US health care system is quite high quality in terms of care, but the billing/payment for it is a nightmare.)

            I think the pathologies of US health care are likely to show up in looking at mortality rates among adults 40-65. That’s where chronic illnesses (diabetes) and slow-moving illnesses (cancer) tend to accumulate, and the screwed-up billing of US healthcare probably causes a lot of people with those problems to miss doctor appointments or skimp on maintenance of their condition.

            [1] There’s a law requiring this, and as best I can tell, that law is followed pretty well.

          • rcafdm says:

            @albatross11

            I think the pathologies of US health care are likely to show up in looking at mortality rates among adults 40-65. That’s where chronic illnesses (diabetes) and slow-moving illnesses (cancer) tend to accumulate, and the screwed-up billing of US healthcare probably causes a lot of people with those problems to miss doctor appointments or skimp on maintenance of their condition.

            (1) The US probably does more preventative care of this sort, although there’s not much evidence to suggest this activity has large effects on mortality. The diminishing returns to spending is also suggestive of this because this sort of activity tends to increase with income levels and these richer, higher-spending countries don’t live longer than more marginal high-income countries.

            (2) To your specific point-the gaps between the United States and Europe are much larger earlier in life and they progressively shrink as people get older. There is not a sudden drop at Medicare enrollment age (65) as you might be expecting. The existence of (declining) gaps even later in life is consistent with the accumulated damage of lifestyle (obesity, smoking, binge drinking, etc)…. as homicide, car accidents, and other external causes of mortality fade as people age, the lifestyle factors still weigh Americans down.

            (3) If healthcare were really a major explanation I’d expect to see much larger gaps associated with SES. The truth is, large SES gaps in life expectancy and mortality rates exist throughout the developed world and the US gaps don’t appear to be obviously larger. The better measured education-linked gaps are probably smaller in the United States than many other high-income countries (including the nordics). The income gradient (comparison data aren’t as comparable) might be *slightly* larger here, but income is also significantly more strongly linked to education and cognitive skills in the United States than nordic countries especially (both indicators are strong independent predictors of risk in the United States and other developed countries)

            (4) It’s pretty obvious the issues with metabolic conditions (obesity/diabetes) and heart disease cut across income levels. Rich, fully-insured Americans are, on average (looking at the country as a whole), substantially less healthy than their counterparts in other high-income countries

          • Ketil says:

            @rcafdm: just wanted to thank you for injecting some facts into the debate. Two extra points of rational karma for you!

    • baconbits9 says:

      It was mentionned here before that the US have the lowest life expectancy among fully developed countries. One proposed explanation was that the poor lifestyle of African-Americans somehow drags the average down.

      The two main culprits in the US are violent deaths and auto accidents, both of which are concentrated in the sub 30 year old population which gives it a greater impact. Obesity related deaths come fairly late in life and don’t have that large of an impact overall.

      • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

        Source? I find that very unlikely given how infrequent both of those are. My rough calculations give that a decrease in homicides and traffic accidents to rates of 1 per 100k and 5 per 100k respectively would give increases in life expectancy of a couple of months each.

        • rcafdm says:

          The average at age of death for these causes is very important here — US loses a disproportionate share of YLLs between ages ~15 and ~45. A paper published by some CDC researchers found that car accidents, gun homicide, and drug poisonings arithmetically explained >=50% for men, and a bit less for women, relative to many high-income countries. IHME estimates are broadly comparable.

          The rest can be reasonably well explained by rapidly diminishing returns to spending (little reason to expect America’s higher spending to buy better life expectancy than those spending much less) and obesity rates.

          https://randomcriticalanalysis.com/2019/11/07/a-tale-of-two-covariates-why-owid-and-company-are-wrong-about-us-healthcare/

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            I don’t think that paper contradicts what I’m saying. It finds that in total 22% of the gap (it’s a lot lower than 50% for women) is explained rates of car accidents and gun homicide, which given a gap of 2.2 years works out to “a couple of months each”. My point is that if 35% of the gap is explained by drugs, car crashes and homicide then that leaves 65% to be explained by lifestyle factors like obesity. So baconbits9 was wrong to say that violent deaths are the main culprits and obesity is less important.

            I’d also quibble slightly with that paper in that I think the choice of comparison countries may exaggerate the gap somewhat. For instance, Canada seems like the most appropriate individual point of comparison, and your graphs show a difference of 22% for YLLs (compared to 35%, assuming those are comparable).

          • Ketil says:

            https://www.verywellhealth.com/top-causes-of-death-for-ages-15-24-2223960

            Here, we find that motor accidents, homicides, and drugs (including alcohol) cause approximately 55% of deaths among young people. If those factors explain 35% of the gap, then other accidents (16%) and suicides (18%), and possibly also alcohol could close the gap some more – so it’s not just obesity left.

            Losing 1% of 20-year-olds from a population that otherwise lives to 80, reduces life expectancy by 0.6 years. Guns kill roughly 1 in 10K people in the US, so this is close to 1% (since they do so every year). This includes most of the suicides and homicides – but of course, not all victims are young.

          • rcafdm says:

            @thisheavenlyconjugation

            So baconbits9 was wrong to say that violent deaths are the main culprits and obesity is less important.

            Yes, he over-estimates the contribution of those two factors alone. Such factors can account for ~0.5 years relative to typical comps, and another ~0.5 years if we include drug abuse deaths. The gap conditional on income or health spending levels has long been about two years, which many people seem to think is “large,” so I’d say it’s still highly significant (explains about half of it).

            Of course, one needs to look to other significant differences to explain the remaining life expectancy gap (~1 year). The addition of obesity alone can put the US about the middle of the pack, not to mention other important factors, like America’s leading smoking rates decades prior that likely still contribute to excess mortality because of lagging effects.

            Canada seems like the most appropriate individual point of comparison

            There’s a lot of idiosyncratic variation, which is unlikely to be attributable to health care system inputs so that I wouldn’t latch onto any one single reference point. Still, we can say such differences are substantial, plausible, and likely to be highly explanatory for America’s mediocre health outcomes. It’s also worth pointing out that there’s a lot of variance in the United States between different regions and different ethnic/ancestry groups. Such differences are also poorly explained by health system factors (physician density, insurance rates, health spending, etc.), yet they align quite well with behavioral/lifestyle factors.

    • Garrett says:

      Infant mortality is also a function of the mother’s self-awareness and willingness to get healthcare. I’ve had patients with several successful pregnancies who’ve insisted they couldn’t *possibly* be pregnant. Yup – pregnant. So that means less prenatal care. Also, many of the risk factors for pregnancy complications are increased in African-Americans, such as diabetes, hypertension, and blood clots.

  30. Any recommendations for good books about Tenochtitlan and Cortés? Historical fiction would be ideal, but engaging histories also gratefully accepted.

  31. hash872 says:

    Prediction for the next couple of decades in the US- racial minorities start making distinctions between less privileged blacks & Hispanics, and supposedly ‘more’ privileged Asians & Indians (ethnically from India, obviously). There are some pretty dramatic educational & income differences there! I can’t see blacks & Hispanics maintaining any type of solidarity as ‘people of color’ with the much wealthier Asian & Indian immigrants or children of such- and the reverse is true, the doctor/lawyer/software engineer Asian/Indian types are probably not interested in most issues important to lower income groups.

    Somehow, in some magical way, black & Hispanic groups will find a way to assert that Asians & Indians have privilege which explains their different outcomes. The arguments won’t make sense, but there will absolutely be a split in the future (I’m already hearing quiet rumblings of it). In the US in the 2020s, 2030s, 2040s, etc., the educated upper middle class will be (some) whites, Asian and Indian descendants- and class usually trumps race. Past racial fights between African Americans & Jewish groups (or Korean storeowners, I know this is a California issue) will look like foreshadowing.

    One slight flaw in my argument is that the nature of being ‘black’ in America will keep changing with more & more immigration from Africa. For example, Nigerian Americans are a very educated, high-income group here in the US. Also I suspect that more recent arrivals will come with different attitudes (read: more positive) towards America in general, entrepreneurship, education, the fundamental fairness of US society, etc.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Prediction for the next couple of decades in the US- racial minorities start making distinctions between less privileged blacks & Hispanics, and supposedly ‘more’ privileged Asians & Indians (ethnically from India, obviously).

      Already done, at least in engineering and tech. The key term is “URM”, or “Underrepresented minorities”.

      Underrepresented minorities (URMs) — African Americans, American Indians/Alaska Natives, and Latinos

    • sami says:

      This is already the case. The only people I know who take the “people of color” idea seriously are upper middle class social justice types (of any race/ethnicity). I’ve lived in working class urban neighborhoods for years, and almost no one in that class stratum would consider this a meaningful grouping.

    • quanta413 says:

      I don’t think the grouping of all minorities in one group and all whites in another has ever had depth to it so to speak. Politically, it was occasionally convenient for some interest groups, but most people aren’t politically involved in interest groups that supposedly represent them.

      There has never been much there.

    • EchoChaos says:

      Yeah, this seems pretty plausible to me. I think the long-term pattern of the United States will likely be a much richer Brazil.

      On a side note, for Democrats who think that this demographic change means a permanent Democrat majority, the 55% victory of Jair Bolsonaro should be something of a warning.

      • Plumber says:

        @EchoChaos says:

        “Yeah, this seems pretty plausible to me. I think the long-term pattern of the United States will likely be a much richer Brazil”

        Unfortunately I don’t know enough about Brazil to guess what you mean, if it’s not ban-worthy please elaborate.

        “On a side note, for Democrats who think that this demographic change means a permanent Democrat majority, the 55% victory of Jair Bolsonaro should be something of a warning”

        Well this Democrat never believed it (but I’m a heretic judging by the “what are voters priorities” polls, as “preserving Roe vs. Wade is just about my lowest priority, and I’d be okay with it’s repeal, but I’m no Republican either, the last poll I’ve seen of Republican priorities has “gun rights” being high while I want cities to be able to ban any damn thing they vote to, but I see no support for my “Independent City-States with independent Countrysides and Independent Outer Suburbs” plan, so I’ll stay a Democrat for now).

        Basically assimilation works, if not their kids than enough of the grandkids of immigrants will become Republicans that the parties will stay in balance, the only way that the “emerging permanent Democratic majority” works is so much continued immigration that keeps the number of foreign born residents high, and that rate swings more towards the anti-open borders Party and won’t be sustainable.

        The very structure of U.S. government encourages a two-party system, we occasionally get a sort of four party system (like in the ’40’s to the ’80’s) where bother major parties have conservative and liberal wings (you sort of see a shadow of this with relatively conservative Louisiana and West Virginia Democrats, and relatively liberal Maine Republicans compared to the rest of their parties), but two-party is the default, even as the parties change coats.

        • EchoChaos says:

          Unfortunately I don’t know enough about Brazil to guess what you mean, if it’s not ban-worthy please elaborate.

          Not ban-worthy at all, I hope. What I mean is that our society will no longer be “white and black” as it was in the 20th Century, where other minorities were substantially less common, but “multi-racial”, where the alliances and political groups shift more rapidly and are less directly tied to race, unlike modern America.

          Brazil’s largest group is still white, as will remain the case in America for my lifetime at least, but Pardos (what we call Hispanics, but mean mixed race European/indigenous American) are a large minority with tremendous cachet.

          The very structure of U.S. government encourages a two-party system, we occasionally get a sort of four party system (like in the ’40’s to the ’80’s) where bother major parties have conservative and liberal wings (you sort of see a shadow of this with relatively conservative Louisiana and West Virginia Democrats, and relatively liberal Maine Republicans compared to the rest of their parties), but two-party is the default, even as the parties change coats.

          Yep. Which means that one party will start picking up the minorities of the other until a consensus is reached. We’re seeing this already where English-only Hispanics (I realize by definition this doesn’t make sense, but it means mestizos who only speak English) vote Republican at about the same rate as whites.

          What we will see is a lot more “larger than life personalities” on both sides of the aisle. Fewer Mitt Romneys and John Kerrys and more Donald Trumps and Bernie Sanderses.

    • albatross11 says:

      Hispanic and black activists have a lot of common interests, but hispanic and black Americans don’t. And hispanics are a whole bunch of very different groups with different interests and culture and experience–Puerto Ricans and Mexicans and Cubans aren’t really all that similar.

      Further, hispanics tend to assimilate into white or black American culture in a couple generations. Without large-scale immigration, hispanic activists lose their constituency, which I think is one reason why those activists are in favor of lots more immigration, as well as stuff like bilingual education.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      One slight flaw in my argument is that the nature of being ‘black’ in America will keep changing with more & more immigration from Africa.

      This is the ADOS (American Descendants of Slavery) movement. My understanding is that this is a product of blacks disappointed with Obama. He didn’t advance certain important black causes, like reparations. One’s family history is more important in shaping their worldview than the color of one’s skin.

    • Deiseach says:

      One slight flaw in my argument is that the nature of being ‘black’ in America will keep changing with more & more immigration from Africa. For example, Nigerian Americans are a very educated, high-income group here in the US. Also I suspect that more recent arrivals will come with different attitudes (read: more positive) towards America in general, entrepreneurship, education, the fundamental fairness of US society, etc.

      Isn’t that already happening with Tariq Nasheed’s Foundational Black American (and I think other terms by other people along the same lines)? A definition of “An American-born Black person who’s descended from Africans (who were forced over to America via slavery) who built this country” does seem to be making a distinction between African-Americans and more recent African immigrants.

    • zzzzort says:

      I think it’s more dependent on the evolution of the republican coalition. As a social grouping, ‘all minorities’ doesn’t always make much sense. But if one of the two political parties goes all in on white christian identity politics, then ‘everyone else’ makes sense as a political category, and political identities are becoming more and more salient. The political right could find a new organizing principle, or the definition of whiteness could change to incorporate more people than it does now, but in both cases I see that change initiating with white people’s behavior.

      • cassander says:

        Are you really claiming that it’s the republicans that are going all in on identity politics and everyone else is merely responding?

        • zzzzort says:

          I wouldn’t say it’s entirely one sided, but definitely more on one side. The democratic coalition is more diverse, so wrangling over what each group wants tends to be more explicit. But the republican electorate is overwhelming white and disproportionately christian, so things like “the war on christmas” and the elevation of guns and farmers can serve as identity politics without getting coded as such.

          • cassander says:

            >I wouldn’t say it’s entirely one sided, but definitely more on one side.

            Now, if you want to argue that, in practice, the things the republicans advocate policies that sound neutral but will actually benefit white people,, fine, but that’s not the same thing as embracing identity politics. The republican part extols the virtue of color blindness. The openly cite racial solidarity as a justification for voting for them and advocate a huge raft of polices based explicitly on race. The democratic party calls that racist and says republicans want to enslave black people. What on earth is that except explicit identity politics of the sort that would get any politician run out of town on a rail if it were tried with white people?

          • zzzzort says:

            Immigration is a big one, with limits to both legal immigration, asylum seekers, and illegal immigrants, and special attention paid to ‘scary’ muslim majority countries. There are various arguments about why you might want to limit immigration, but the fear of the other, and concerns about a changing ethnic/cultural makeup were the main argument.

            The welfare state has a strong identity component, where social security and medicare are seen as going to ‘deserving’ white people while food stamps and disability are being scammed, often by minorities.

            Police are universally praised with rhetoric such as ‘thin blue line’ or ‘blue lives matter’; arguments that they harm minorities are dismissed.

            Christianity is viewed as the default which must be defended. “The war on christmas” was a thing. Oklahoma passed a constitutional amendment banning sharia law. Cake bakers are vigorously defended, but building a muslim prayer site in the general vicinity of the twin towers is viewed as a provocation.

          • cassander says:

            zzzzort says:

            Immigration is a big one, with limits to both legal immigration, asylum seekers, and illegal immigrants, and special attention paid to ‘scary’ muslim majority countries.

            Again, you’re claiming that at best implicit or coded appeals to racial solidarity are more significant than the democrats open advocacy of politics on the basis of race.

            The welfare state has a strong identity component, where social security and medicare are seen as going to ‘deserving’ white people while food stamps and disability are being scammed, often by minorities.

            Again, I’ll take this argument seriously when republicans start to advocate for welfare programs specifically for white people, because democrats do advocate for welfare programs for minorities.

      • EchoChaos says:

        Republicans are very much not in on White Christian identity politics.

        They’re fairly Christian, but that’s an overwhelming majority, so they’re fine there. None of their planks includes being White, and at this point in their primaries they had more minorities running than the Democrats do.

        • Plumber says:

          Today’s Republican voters are disproportionately white compared to the Nation as a whole, (and Democrats are slightly more non-white than the Nation as a whole) but in terms of elected officials for Governors and Lieutenant Governors as well as United States Senators the numbers of elected non-whites and/or Hispanics is pretty comparable for Democrats and Republicans, both historically and currently.

          Currently there’s one Republican black Senator and two Democratic black Senators, two Hispanic Republican Senators, and two Hispanic Democratic Senators.

          What Republicans lack now is Asian Senators, Democrats now have three (though one Senator – Kamala Harris, is counted as being both Asian and black), and Republicans don’t anymore (though they’ve been some in the past).

          With non-white and/or Hispanic State Governors in the last ten years there’s been five Democrats, and also five Republicans.

          Obviously, Republicans need to elect a couple of Asians if they want to be even more comparable, if they’re mixed and also black or Hispanic then Republicans can boast about “having more diversity” than Democrats.

          In terms of women currently in Congress Democrats are way ahead, but there’s been a couple of years where that wasn’t true.

          In looking it up Americans seem pretty willing to vote for those who “don’t look like themselves” and also those who are foreign born as well.

      • Clutzy says:

        I agree with @Cassander

        The whitening of the Republican coalition appears to be the result of their core values being unappealing outside of White voters, not because they court them. Remember, if the 2012 electorate had the demographics of the 1984 electorate, Romney would have won 49 states. Look at books like, “The Emerging Democratic Majority”. Bringing in nonwhite voters is an explicit tactic.

        • zzzzort says:

          But as the original post pointed out “not white” is an incredibly varied group of people. Democrats will try to appeal to every group of course, but do you really think it’s plausible that they managed to craft a message that appeals to african americans, hispanics, south asian, east asian jews… when those groups have very different needs. Or is it more likely that the republican message pushes away people that aren’t white christians?

          • jermo sapiens says:

            Democrats will try to appeal to every group of course, but do you really think it’s plausible that they managed to craft a message that appeals to african americans, hispanics, south asian, east asian jews… when those groups have very different needs.

            Yes, the message is “white man bad, take his stuff”

          • zzzzort says:

            Pretty sure you’re mostly trolling, but you would expect a coalition based around anti-whiteness to have fewer white people. There are too many white people for a political party of non-white people to be effective. There are enough white people for a party of pro-whiteness to be effective.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            I’m not trolling.

            Perhaps you can give me a better explanation for how anti-white rhetoric gets published in prestigious newspapers and is taught at every university in the country then.

            I’ve been reliably informed by progressives that hate speech is always just a prelude to genocide, so you’ll excuse me for being concerned about anti-white hate speech. And I know very well they dont mean themselves (when the anti-white speaker is white). They mean badwhites, ie Trump voters, or red Tribe.

          • Matt M says:

            Pretty sure you’re mostly trolling, but you would expect a coalition based around anti-whiteness to have fewer white people.

            And yet, some of the most virulent anti-white racism I encounter online comes from… white people.

            As much as I get annoyed by Rao and her ilk, the one thing I’ll give her is at least she has pride in her own self identity. I’d rather get denounced and mocked for being white by non-whites than by my fellow whites, personally…

          • jermo sapiens says:

            And yet, some of the most virulent anti-white racism I encounter online comes from… white people.

            If only there was a very well written 10000 word essay explaining exactly that phenomenon.

          • zzzzort says:

            The obvious response is that to the privileged, equality feels like oppression. No one is advocating for black supremacy in the nyt and “the unbearable whiteness of skiing” is not hate speech.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            The obvious response is that to the privileged, equality feels like oppression

            Indeed. And that’s why when I ask for equal treatment in terms of prohibiting anti-white hate speech and anti-anyone else hate speech, I get so much push-back.

            “the unbearable whiteness of skiing” is not hate speech.

            Go ahead and publish anything containing the phrase “the unbearable blackness of [whatever]”. Let me know how it goes.

          • Clutzy says:

            But as the original post pointed out “not white” is an incredibly varied group of people. Democrats will try to appeal to every group of course, but do you really think it’s plausible that they managed to craft a message that appeals to african americans, hispanics, south asian, east asian jews… when those groups have very different needs. Or is it more likely that the republican message pushes away people that aren’t white christians?

            I think the group is less varied than you think. It composes, more or less, an underclass that is concerned with poverty related things, and a upper class that has a bunch of meta-projects that it is concerned with. The only outliers are the East Asian parts of the coalition, who have been defecting in just about every area with only family reunification on US soil keeping them as Majority-D voters.

          • zzzzort says:

            Hi SES minorities include east asians, south asians, and jews. Don’t know what you mean by meta-projects (beyond just has political desires). There are also preferences that would seem to be directly contradictory, for example Indians and Pakistanis have not historically gotten along, but they’re both in the same political coalition. Anti-semitism is more prevalent in the african american community, but they’re in the same coalition as jews.

            Don’t know what your source is for east asians voting/identifying republican; in the 2016 election republican vote share was 24% for Chinese 14% Korean, 27% Filipino and 32% Vietnamese. The overall number is worse than for Romney or McCain.

      • jermo sapiens says:

        Who’s side says stuff like this:

        “The unbearable whiteness of [x]”
        “This group has two many white males”
        “The future is [something other than white male]”

        I could go on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on with hateful anti-white rhetoric from Democrats and progressives in general. If you can find any republicans saying similarly hateful stuff about minorities, I would be most impressed.

        • albatross11 says:

          There are plenty of people who say stuff like that about nonwhites. The difference is, they’re a fringe group that nobody wants to associate with, whereas the folks saying nasty things about whites/men/white men sometimes get op eds in top newspapers.

          ETA: I understand why the NYT doesn’t want to give a white supremacist an op ed to talk about how all the problems of the white working class are due to black crime and dysfunction and low-wage competition from illegal immigrants. But it’s a little hard for me to see why they then turn around and give the equivalent views an op ed when they’re directed at white men.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            There are plenty of people who say stuff like that about nonwhites. The difference is, they’re a fringe group that nobody wants to associate with, whereas the folks saying nasty things about whites/men/white men sometimes get op eds in top newspapers.

            Yes, that is precisely the point.

          • The Nybbler says:

            But it’s a little hard for me to see why they then turn around and give the equivalent views an op ed when they’re directed at white men.

            The simplest explanation would seem to be that they agree with or are at least sympathetic to the anti-white-male views, but not to the anti-minority views. Straight-up conflict theory.

          • Dacyn says:

            I don’t know how fringe it is (rather than just hidden), e.g. my dad was pretty explicit the last time we moved that he wanted to get away from the Mexicans that had taken over that part of town. Not exactly hateful but it seems comparable to u/jermo sapiens’ examples.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            Not exactly hateful but it seems comparable to u/jermo sapiens’ examples.

            You can learn alot about what forces are powerful in a society by looking at what is published in an op-ed and what is only said privately.

            When the NYT publishes hate speech against white people, nobody bats an eyelid. There are no calls for boycott. There is literally nothing that happens beyond a few weirdos complaining about it on some dark corners of the web (exhibit A: this comment).

            When some nobody on some mediocre university campus puts up a poster that says “It’s OK to be white”, it’s national news and the headlines are about how some super racist hateful nazi thug is literally committing genocide with his posters.

            When some low-level schmo at some random mid-sized company in the midwest makes a politically incorrect facebook post, he is ritualistically fired with a statement from his employer about how diversity is our strength, this employee did not reflect our values, apologies to those offended, and a promise for more diversity training for their remaining employees.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            There are plenty of people who say stuff like that about nonwhites. The difference is, they’re a fringe group that nobody wants to associate with, whereas the folks saying nasty things about whites/men/white men sometimes get op eds in top newspapers.

            Nobody wants to associate with them to the extent that it’s almost never under one’s own name, only on an anonymous forum.

          • Clutzy says:

            I don’t know how fringe it is (rather than just hidden), e.g. my dad was pretty explicit the last time we moved that he wanted to get away from the Mexicans that had taken over that part of town. Not exactly hateful but it seems comparable to u/jermo sapiens’ examples.

            But even a comment like that need not be racist. People move out of neighborhoods because they don’t like what they have become. Sometimes that is crime, sometimes littering, etc, but just because he identified (likely correctly) the cause, doesn’t make him racist, it means he didn’t recite a specific incantation.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I don’t know how fringe it is (rather than just hidden), e.g. my dad was pretty explicit the last time we moved that he wanted to get away from the Mexicans that had taken over that part of town. Not exactly hateful but it seems comparable to u/jermo sapiens’ examples.

            That depends on the reason he wanted to get away from the Mexicans, surely? If, e.g., the Mexicans didn’t speak English very well (or at all) and only socialised with other Mexicans, it would be perfectly reasonable and not at all racist for your dad to move somewhere where he would fit in better and have an easier time making friends.

          • Dacyn says:

            @Clutzy, @The original Mr. X: I am not claiming my dad was being unreasonable. I was saying what he said at least sounded comparable to u/jermo sapiens’ example quotes (well at least the last two, the first one is kind of extreme). Though it’s possible those quotes were worse in context.

        • zzzzort says:

          “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” -DJT

          “Send her [Ilhan Omar] back” -Trump rally chant

          “Why do we want these people from all these shithole countries here? We should have more people from places like Norway.” -DJT

          “He’s [Mexican-American judge Curiel] a Mexican. We’re building a wall between here and Mexico” -DJT

          “the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit, and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America” -Palin

          “Let them call you racist, let them call you xenophobes, let them call you nativists. Wear it as a badge of honor.” -Bannon

          “For everyone [Dreamer] who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there that weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert” -Steve King

          “We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.” -Steve King

          I could go on…

          • jermo sapiens says:

            None of these are racist attacks against a specific ethnicity, or even non-whites in general.

            The first quote you mentioned is clearly not racist, as has been explained by our gracious host here.

            The second one is against an individual.

            The third one is about countries. It’s an important distinction.

            The fourth one is about an individual.

            The fifth one is a positive statement about small towns.

            The sixth one is a comment on how progressives call everybody racist.

            The seventh one is a comment on illegal immigration.

            The eight one is a statement about our low birth rates.

          • Dacyn says:

            @jermo sapiens: Your analyses of the fourth and eighth quotes (at the least) seem disingenuous. Curiel being Mexican is clearly singled out as important, and so is the “somebody else’s” part of the last quote.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            Yeah the charge against Curiel is that being Mexican he may have some bias over the question of a wall at the Mexican border, which is not a statement against all Mexicans or that Mexicanness is some kind of nefarious evil the same way people talk about whiteness.

            As for somebody else’s babies, I dont see it as an attack on other people’s babies, but a call to have our own babies.

            In any event, none of these come even close to the level of vitriol and sheer hatred expressed openly and proudly in the prestige press and universities.

          • zzzzort says:

            I’m really confused by the insistence that identity coded statements about individuals don’t matter, especially in the case of Omar who is trotted out by fox specifically because of her ethnic and racial identity. Also disagree with your other points (‘real america’ is pro-small town with the obvious corollary that urban america is somehow unamerican).

          • jermo sapiens says:

            identity coded statements

            People dont like Ilhan Omar because she’s a far leftist anti-semite who married her brother to commit immigration fraud. Not because she’s a Somali-American. You’re trying to give her special protection because of her ethnicity.

            ‘real america’ is pro-small town with the obvious corollary that urban america is somehow

            It only has that obvious corollary if you insist on taking an obvious figure of speech and construe it as if it were a literal statement of fact. I’m sure you know better.

          • Matt M says:

            Didn’t Omar herself publicly admit this was true?

            I seem to recall back during one of her recent spats with Trump, she said something like “If I was wearing a MAGA hat, Trump wouldn’t be calling for me to be deported!”

            To which, Trump sympathizers (myself included) replied: “Yes, exactly, that’s the point!” Trump doesn’t hate you because of your race, he hates you because of your politics.

          • zzzzort says:

            That’s a bad comparison; the question is whether he wants to deport white people who disagree with him (which is obviously absurd). The idea that the americaness of minorities is contingent is the problem.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            The political left, especially in the US but also elsewhere, actively encourages members of minority groups to identify primarily with their minority group rather than with the country as a whole, denounces expectations that minorities should assimilate into the majority culture as racist, cultivates racially-based voting blocs, etc. So ISTM pretty hypocritical for people on the left to get all outraged when right-wingers treat minorities as “other”, given that the left has spent the past however many decades trying to maintain or increase the distinctions between the races. I guess it’s a bit like affirmative action, where we’re required to believe both that AA is righteous and necessary, and also that nobody with a job or university place could possibly have got it through AA and that it’s terribly offensive to even suggest the possibility.

          • albatross11 says:

            zzzzort:

            Even the quotes you chose as demonstrating racial animus being expressed in public have plausible non-racist interpretations–they may be dogwhistling, or they may not[1].

            By contrast, mainstream media outlets pretty routinely cut loose with overt blame or anger at whites, men, or white men. It’s not ambiguous or muted or a dogwhistle, it’s just straight out there.

            [1] If Elizabeth Warren made the Palin comment, I think nobody would be talking about it being a racist dogwhistle. And Trump calling very poor and dysfunctional countries shitholes is typical Trump, but isn’t any more racist than using nicer language that translates out to shithole. I mean, if he’d talked about wanting fewer immigrants from impoverished dysfunctional countries with high levels of crime, corruption, and terrorism, in favor of countries from wealthier and better-run countries, would that be racist? And so on.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @zzzzort

            That’s a bad comparison; the question is whether he wants to deport white people who disagree with him (which is obviously absurd).

            Yes, if a German immigrant came to America and said the things about America that Ilhan Omar says about America and Americans, Trump and Trump supporters would definitely want to “send him back” to Germany. This is the sentiment expressed in “America: Love It Or Leave It” bumper stickers. If one hates this place and its people so much, perhaps they should go someplace they find more agreeable.

            On the contrary, if during a Minnesota rally a Somali immigrant wearing a MAGA cap and a “Somalians for Trump” t-shirt were spotted in the crowd, Trump would get a huge smile, point him out, call him “my Somalian!” then bring him up on the stage, give him a big hug, put him in front of the microphone (unscripted!) so he could tell everyone how much he loves America and loves Trump, and everyone in attendance would get big smiles on their faces and cheer for him.

            It is not about race.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            Everyone is kind of piling on to zzzzort, so I ask people to hold off a bit. It is very hard for him or her to respond to everyone. I would request just a response to Conrad’s post, who I think explained Trump’s lack of racism the best. I mean, who knows, maybe Trump is racist, but the evidence we’ve seen in his quotes don’t show it.

  32. Ninety-Three says:

    Looking for recommendations from our tabletop roleplaying nerds. I want to run a campaign that’s much less combat-focused than the typical D&D session, but with a decent amount of rules and stats rather than picking up one of the rules-light improv/freeform ones like FATE. Can anyone recommend me a crunchy tabletop system that doesn’t spend most of its mechanical depth on combat, ideally but not necessarily supporting “magic user” as a character role?

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Can anyone recommend me a crunchy tabletop system that doesn’t spend most of its mechanical depth on combat, ideally but not necessarily supporting “magic user” as a character role?

      Oh, that’s easy: Ars Magica. Everyone plays a magic user, and also members of their mundane retinue.

    • Protagoras says:

      GURPS does spend a lot of mechanical depth on combat, but it has fairly detailed rules for a lot of other stuff. I’ve always thought it does fantasy particularly well.

      • johan_larson says:

        If you want rules for non-combat interactions, check out their Social Engineering supplement. I’ve heard good things.

        http://www.sjgames.com/gurps/books/socialengineering/

        • bean says:

          I’ve got a copy, and it is indeed quite good. Overall, GURPS is a good choice for this, as it has rules for everything. Yes, even that obscure thing you just thought of. Except for vehicle-building, but that’s probably for the best. (No, GURPS Vehicles of legend was GURPS 3E, not the current 4E.)

          The one thing I will say about GUPRS is that it’s best played with a slightly casual group. My group has since moved on to other systems, but it was really nice to be able to go “roll at +2” instead of spending 10 minutes trying to find the exact modifier if it wasn’t a situation I’d prepared for. That’s not to say you couldn’t play with rules lawyers (and it’s even reasonably coherent, so it’s a lot less vulnerable to munchkinism than, say, 3.5. Of course, that’s a really low bar) but it’s a lot easier to play than the reputation suggest if you can get away with that.

    • Plumber says:

      King Arthur Pendragon was the pinnacle of RPG’s in 1985 and the newest “5.2” edition is little changed from the original (and that’s a good thing!), there’s a version out now called Paladin which has a Carolingian rather than Arthurian setting that I haven’t seen yet but sounds AWESOME!
      You play Knights not magicians (the 4th edition of Pendragon had rules for such PC’s but wisely they were dropped), are they rules for combat?

      Sure, plenty but there’s also rules for courtly romance, managing estates, families, et cetera.

      Best RPG evuh!

      Flaws?

      Character creation is lengthy, charather death is inevitable (and then you play the PC’s heir if you have one), but the main “flaw” is you play men not gods and the RPG players of the mid 80’s to early 90’s didn’t recognize what a achievement this game was (“we want to play Champions, Cyberpunk, Vampire and other lesser games instead”, so lame you were 1992!).

      Call of Cthullu is also good.

    • fibio says:

      I’ll always go to bat for the World of Darkness, particularly playing as a mage. It has quite a detailed system for rituals and learned spells, while still letting players at any time say ‘I want to give myself eagle eyes, what’s the roll for that?’ and allowing the DM to come up with a number in just a couple seconds.

      • aristides says:

        I will second WoD. If your GM runs it by the book, combat should only be a Third of the game, and if they feel like it, could run the game without conventional combat entirely. The system has it’s flaws, but no one would accuse it of being rules light. It’s personally my favorite system.

    • Orion says:

      Blades In The Dark is about playing members of a criminal organization is a haunted steampunk city. During character creation you choose an overall specialty for the group, such as thievery, drug dealing, assassination, or worshipping elder gods. It has robust mechanics for tracking the accumulation of minions and resources for your business, and a pretty loose / rules-light task resolution system that provides similar amounts of detail for combat, magic, stealth, and social interaction. You can read the basic rules for free on the publisher’s website and see if it appeals.

    • Skeptical Wolf says:

      I recommend looking at the Infinity RPG from Modiphius. While it does have extensive combat rules, it also has in-depth systems for resource acquisition, contacts, social cons/heists, hacking, and general interaction. I played a social character in a game that saw combat maybe once every 3 sessions and enjoyed it greatly. A lighter-weight version of the same system features in Star Trek Adventures.

      Amber Diceless and its successor, Lords of Gossamer and Shadow are both worth checking out. Expansive multiverse-style settings, detailed supernatural systems (most of which aren’t combat assets), and more immortal politics than you can shake a stolen crown at.

      Legend of the Five Rings works very well for this style of game if you run it in a court. Both the older AEG editions and the current one from Fantasy Flight Games work well, but the Fantasy Flight one has a particular emphasis on social and internal conflict, which sounds like what you’re looking for.

      John Wick’s Houses of the Blooded is a game entirely built around operatic tragedy among land-holding nobility. It strongly emphasizes politics and intrigue over combat and has a very interesting and enjoyable system for building up your domain over the course of years.

      If Powered by the Apocalypse games aren’t too rules-light for you, there are a few particularly worth considering. The Sword, the Crown, and the Unspeakable Power is a dark fantasy system where politics, treachery, and sorcery all trump martial might. Legacy: Life Among the Ruins is a post-apocalyptic game that tells the story of a society rebuilding itself over the course of several generations. It does assume a little more combat than you seem to be looking for, but would easily handle a focus on exploration and diplomacy instead. And lastly, Uncharted Worlds is a Star Trek inspired sci-fi game of exploration and diplomacy.

      Ars Magica, Pendragon, and Blades in the Dark are all excellent recommendations. If Blades in the Dark sounds interesting, you might also want to check out Scum and Villainy. It uses the same core system (they call it Forged in the Dark) to create a sci-fi game that leans into either Star Trek, Star Wars, or Firefly depending on which ship your group picks at the start of the game.

      Shadowrun defaults to combat-heavy, but has subsystems that support a lot of other styles. Try an all-decker game for high-stakes heists where bullets rarely fly.

      Finally, while I wouldn’t recommend the system for this project, Stars Without Number has some excellent GMing advice for running this type of game. Goal pyramids in particular are a tool I find myself relying on whenever I run heavily social games.

  33. What are some examples of really old “elder statesmen” who have been selected to lead countries? I don’t mean people who were allowed as incumbents to get really old, I mean selecting them while they’re really old. I can think of:

    Paul von Hindenburg(age 77 in 1925 and 84 in 1932, when he was re-elected)
    Philippe Pétain(age 84 in 1940)
    Mahathir Mohamad(age 93 in 2018)

    Not exactly a list inspiring confidence…

    • BBA says:

      Does Konrad Adenauer (age 73 in 1949) count?

    • SolveIt says:

      There’s also Raúl Castro, who came to power in his mid-late 70s (76 when he officially became president of Cuba in 2008, although the transfer of power had started two years earlier and he only became First Secretary of the Communist Party in 2011).

    • broblawsky says:

      Hastings Banda was 66 when he became Prime Minister of Malawi. Not as old as the others on your list, but still pretty old, especially for post-colonial Africa, where leaders tended to be fairly young. Still pretty awful.

    • AlphaGamma says:

      Churchill was 76 when elected to his second term as British PM, and Gladstone was 82 when elected to his fourth (note that this refers to coming back into office after a period out of power, not being returned to office as a incumbent).

      The oldest first-time Prime Minister was Palmerston (70).

      • albatross11 says:

        Reagan was 69 when he became president, and appears to have started having serious cognitive decline/Alzheimers in the last couple years of his second term. For any of the three very old Democratic candidates, as well as Trump, I’d worry about cognitive decline, especially if they get a second term.

    • Bobobob says:

      Enrico Dandolo, appointed Doge of Venice in his mid-’80’s (and, if I recall correctly, remaining Doge of Venice until he was 98).

  34. Atlas says:

    Possibly dumb/naive economic history question(s):

    So, Merriam-Webster defines capitalism as:

    An economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market

    My question is: why doesn’t this describe the economies of post-hunter-gatherer societies from the invention of agriculture to the industrial revolution? (Say, 3000 BC to 1800 AD.) I understand how capitalism differs from socialism or communism. But I don’t really understand how it differs from whatever the economic systems of e.g. ancient Rome, India, Persia and China were. Were (non-slave) ancient Romans not free to privately purchase, own and sell goods, labor and property?

    For example, I understand that there was an economic system called “feudalism” in Europe that developed during the Dark and Middle Ages. In my vague understanding, the peasants paid dues to feudal landlords in exchange for use of agricultural land that the nobles’ ancestors had acquired (or, stolen) and for protection. How did this differ from the economic system prior to the fall of the Roman Empire? Or prior to the creation of the Roman Empire? How did this differ from a free market system of agriculture and protection? Were peasants not free, as the result of physical/legal coercion, to choose to work for and be protected by other landlords/nobles, such that each individual noble was like a rent-seeking monopolist/government? How did things work in the agricultural parts of the Americas, the Middle East and South and East Asia while this was going on? David Friedman made some persuasive arguments in The Machinery of Freedom about how law could perhaps be provided privately and why government is generally inefficient. If they’re true, why didn’t somebody, somewhere in the past 5000 years think of those arguments before and try to put them into practice, and then make a society that out-competed and gradually inspired everyone else to imitate it by removing the (allegedly) parasitic role of government? Was the creation of British capitalism of the 18th century AD, which seems to be where we think of capitalism in its modern form emerging, the result of technological changes which led to societal changes, vice versa, both or something else?

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      For example, I understand that there was an economic system called “feudalism” in Europe that developed during the Dark and Middle Ages. In my vague understanding, the peasants paid dues to feudal landlords in exchange for use of agricultural land that the nobles’ ancestors had acquired (or, stolen) and for protection. How did this differ from a free market system of agriculture and protection?

      I mean, there are a couple ways of looking at this:
      1) Capitalism required the Industrial Revolution. If you tried to implement David Friedman’s anarcho-capitalism in a society where 90% of people have to farm for themselves and the other 10% to not starve, most people becoming renters who owe the landowner whatever he says they do is a stable equilibrium. The beloved example of Iceland, where each family had a freehold and could choose their godi, was not impossible but certainly an odd outlier.
      2) Feudalism was not a free market system of protection because you couldn’t change defenders whenever you felt like it.

      • Atlas says:

        1) Capitalism required the Industrial Revolution. If you tried to implement David Friedman’s anarcho-capitalism in a society where 90% of people have to farm for themselves and the other 10% to not starve, most people becoming renters who owe the landowner whatever he says they do is a stable equilibrium. The beloved example of Iceland, where each family had a freehold and could choose their godi, was not impossible but certainly an odd outlier.

        Right, it makes sense to me why 90% of people would have to do subsistence farming before the Second Agricultural Revolution. But I still don’t understand why the economic system before that was a different system than capitalism, as opposed to capitalism with less technology.

        That is, I understand why most people becoming land renters to a landlord is the equilibrium, but I still don’t understand why they didn’t become renters to a landlord who had to set a rent for land and/or protection in some sort of free market in that equilibrium. (Why both in the sense of “why was the actual market not free?” and “if so, why was that?”)

        2) Feudalism was not a free market system of protection because you couldn’t change defenders whenever you felt like it.

        Because you were legally and/or physically coerced by your particular noble into not doing so? If so, how much, if at all, did peasants differ from slaves? Or for some other reason?

        • Christophe Biocca says:

          Serfdom had many slavery-like restrictions:

          As with slaves, serfs could be bought, sold, or traded (with some limitations as they generally could be sold only together with land, with the exception of the kholops in Russia and villeins in gross in England who could be traded like regular slaves), abused with no rights over their own bodies, could not leave the land they were bound to, and could marry only with their lord’s permission.

          And it was hereditary, so while you might have become a serf by choice, this would also bind all future progeny.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Yes, Russian serfdom was so slavery-like that the Czar who liberated them was seen as analogous to US President Lincoln. That was an outlier. In other countries, a serf had rights to their family’s land (thus Enclosures were seen as taking farmers’ rights away) but also duty to produce for its owner. A lord could demand that a runaway serf return to their farm unless they stayed in a town for a year and a day (I don’t remember what all countries this law applied to). Because serfdom was an institution grown in Christendom, they couldn’t be raped like slaves. That and right to tenancy were the two big differences from slavery.

            @Protagoras:

            they would be viewed as suspicious strangers wherever else they went. It certainly wasn’t anything like the modern labor market. Capitalism makes doing business with strangers normal; in previous systems it was unusual and problematic.

            This. There were cultural barriers preventing pre-industrial society establishing “capitalism with less technology.” You need no banditry and relatively high trust of strangers.

        • Protagoras says:

          The level and effectiveness of coercion varied, but while people certainly could and did try to run away from lords they didn’t like, and might well succeed, they would be viewed as suspicious strangers wherever else they went. It certainly wasn’t anything like the modern labor market. Capitalism makes doing business with strangers normal; in previous systems it was unusual and problematic.

      • most people becoming renters who owe the landowner whatever he says they do is a stable equilibrium.

        2) Feudalism was not a free market system of protection because you couldn’t change defenders whenever you felt like it.

        I think both points are exaggerated. The feudal lord couldn’t charge whatever he wanted for two reasons. Legally speaking, there were customary dues. Economically speaking, if the rent charged was too high peasants might run away to the city or to another feudal lord. That seems to have become an issue after the black death, when the market equilibrium rent fell, customary dues didn’t, and there was suddenly a problem of runaway peasants. I can’t prove it, but my guess is that feudal dues were, in practice, limited to market rent, because it was too costly to prevent peasants from running away.

        Marc Bloch comments somewhere that, in France, the claim that peasants were bound to the land only shows up at a fairly late date — I don’t remember exactly when, but my guess is after the plague (14th century).

        • viVI_IViv says:

          I can’t prove it, but my guess is that feudal dues were, in practice, limited to market rent, because it was too costly to prevent peasants from running away.

          Do you think the upkeep for slaves in the Americas was also close to market wages? If not, why? Slaves could also run away in principle, and some did in practice, but most of them were successfully forced to work against their will, as evidenced by the fact that once slavery was abolished, slave-intense industries such as cotton farming collapsed, since they couldn’t just hire the former slaves at market wages and remain profitable.

          • EchoChaos says:

            as evidenced by the fact that once slavery was abolished, slave-intense industries such as cotton farming collapsed

            What? America remained the world’s leading exporter of cotton until 1934, when domestic consumption rose to the point that we were passed by India and Egypt.

            It only took until 1870 for production to exceed pre-war production and by 1880, we were exporting more than we were at the start of the war.

            http://mshistorynow.mdah.state.ms.us/articles/291/cotton-and-the-civil-war

            Slavery inhibited cotton production, not enabled it.

          • rcafdm says:

            as evidenced by the fact that once slavery was abolished, slave-intense industries such as cotton farming collapsed, since they couldn’t just hire the former slaves at market wages and remain profitable.

            Slavery made cotton somewhat more profitable for the owners of slave plantations (most of this was likely absorbed by lower prices for cotton), but cotton production actually recovered not all that long afterward. This was an era in which the real wages paid to labor of this sort weren’t all that much higher than the cost to maintain slaves (actually less in most other parts of the world). The profitability of slaves in the cotton states largely derived from the efficiency with which they were employed. Free American labor would need to get paid significantly more to work like that. The sudden collapse of slavery made their production techniques obsolete overnight, lead to an immediate shortage of labor, and caused credit markets to implode since slaves were the primary assets with which capital was secured in the cotton states. It took a while to sort these issues out, but they did get resolved.

          • DarkTigger says:

            Acutally yes, I would even argue that on an national economy level, slave upkeep was more expensive than wage labour even if you only factor in the cost of having to pay enforcement, and replacement of those worked to death.

          • EchoChaos