Open Thread 146.75

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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1,103 Responses to Open Thread 146.75

  1. robirahman says:

    There’s an SSC meetup in DC this Saturday! 631 D St ST NW, 7pm local time. Also, we’ll be playing board games together in Arlington on Sunday afternoon. Details will be on our mailing list.

  2. Matt M says:

    Something I’d be interested to see on the next SSC survey:

    How much is your annual salary?
    How much did you pay for the last car you purchased?
    On a scale of 1-10, assess how “financially responsible” you are

    It occurs to me that “percentage of income spent on car(s)” is one of the leading indicators of financial responsibility. I drive a perfectly nice car that is in no way embarrassing. But I know a lot of people who make significantly less than I do who drive nicer ones. And they aren’t “car guys” or anything like that…

    • Well... says:

      In general I sometimes wonder about the financial health of the people I see around me. Like, I earn well above the median household income and I try to live below my means by driving a tiny 14 year-old car, shopping at the cheapest grocery stores, not buying things I don’t need, etc. and after years of doing that, I’m financially just “on track” — able to save for my retirement, build up an emergency fund, etc. I’m not amassing wealth or anything.

      So how is it that all around me people are driving brand-new pickup trucks, wearing jeans that cost as much my week’s groceries, living in 2.5k sqft houses with 3-car garages, and so forth? Are they all just up to their eyeballs in debt?

      • Randy M says:

        Maybe they live with their parents.
        Otherwise, maybe they are up to their eyeballs in debt. Some random website tells me “the typical American household now carries an average debt of $137,063.” Dunno how reliable “www.debt.org” is.

        • acymetric says:

          I’m guessing that includes a mortgage? If so then that is actually probably lower than I might have expected. If it excludes mortgage debt then that is super high, but in a “my prior was that people carry way to much debt” way, not a surprising way.

          • Nick says:

            If we’re counting old people who’ve paid off their mortgages and young people who can’t afford a mortgage in the first place as households, then I’m not sure it’s that high.

          • JayT says:

            I’m seeing that the average new mortgage is $300K, so that $137K number probably includes that.

        • Bobobob says:

          This may be a dumb question, but isn’t mortgage debt different from other kinds of debt? If I rack up a $200,000 debt on food and clothes and toys, I can’t recoup that by selling what I bought. But if I have $200,000 in mortgage debt, I can recoup (or I suppose the word is eliminate) that simply by selling my house at equal to or over what I bought for it. Or am I missing something?

          • JayT says:

            Well, for one thing, the market could be like 2008, where you definitely couldn’t just sell your house for equal or more than what you paid for it. A house is more of an investment than most toys*, but it isn’t without risks.

            * Though, not all. LEGO sets have appreciated in value fast than the housing market over the last 15 years!

          • Bobobob says:

            I get your point re: 2008, but a house is still quantitatively different from most other investments. A new car will automatically depreciate by [insert percentage here], and the same goes for most consumer items. But houses don’t automatically depreciate, and if you choose wisely and don’t overspend, you shouldn’t wind up too far under water.

          • Anthony says:

            More importantly, if you can keep up the payments, you still have a house, even if you can’t sell it.

            Houses *do* depreciate, as anyone who’s had to do house repairs can tell you. But the mean time to complete failure for a house is much longer than the business cycle.

          • baconbits9 says:

            But houses don’t automatically depreciate, and if you choose wisely and don’t overspend, you shouldn’t wind up too far under water.

            Houses do automatically depreciate, but most homeowners spend the money necessary in upkeep to keep sale value from dropping. The difference between a house and a car is mostly the length of time you can pay to keep it functioning.

        • Well... says:

          Maybe they live with their parents.

          Then how do their parents afford the brand new pickups and 2500 sqft homes with 3-car garages? Not everybody’s parent is an executive at a bank.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Not everybody’s parent is an executive at a bank.

            Unless you live in Short Hills NJ (well to be fair some of them are drug company executives).

          • Randy M says:

            In that case, the young couple is buying the new pick-ups because they don’t have to pay rent, and the parents can afford the 3-car garage because they didn’t buy new cars when they were young.

            Not everybody’s parent is an executive at a bank.

            Maybe you aren’t noticing those who don’t have these things.

        • Elementaldex says:

          Per USA Today
          The average household has $97K in non-mortgage debt. They claim to be referencing the Federal Reserve. Note this is household not individual.

          CC Debit is apparently only $17K which is lower than I would have guessed given that I usually have ~$5K and have never failed to pay in full.

          • acymetric says:

            CC Debit is apparently only $17K which is lower than I would have guessed given that I usually have ~$5K and have never failed to pay in full.

            They could only be counting carried balances, which would mean for people like you that charge a lot but pay off every month you wouldn’t be included (if that isn’t how they’re doing it, it is probably how they should be doing it).

          • JayT says:

            There has to be something wrong with those numbers. There is no way the average American has $50K in student debt. Even if you throw out children and retirees, it’s still only like a 1/3rd of Americans that have gone to college. There’s no way those people have an average of $150K of debt.

            ETA: Just noticed that was household, not personal debt. I still think the numbers are off though for the reasons stated above. Even if you cut all that in half I wouldn’t believe the average American has that much student debt. Maybe the average American with debt, but not the average American.

          • acymetric says:

            Yeah. As someone who thinks student debt is a real problem, those numbers don’t make any sense, unless it is an average amount of debt only including households who have debt so households with $0 in student loans are excluded.

            Looks like we have about $32,885 in student debt per person carrying student loan debt ($1.47 trillion in student loan debt, 44.7 million people with student loan debt). If you grouped that 44.7 million into households I could see where you end up with a number around $50k per household, but that’s the only way I can see to get even close to that number.

            Overall student loan debt per US household (including households with no debt) looks to be about $11,400 per household ($1.47 trillion in debt, 128,580,000 households).

          • Protagoras says:

            @JayT, 1/3 of Americans have a four year degree; add in those with some college and I think it’s closer to half. And the debt figures are per household, not per person. So it’s a lot less than $150k per person who has been to college (closer to coincidentally being around $50k per person who has been to college, perhaps less). Perhaps still surprisingly high, but it doesn’t strike me as completely unbelievable.

          • Elementaldex says:

            I agree that the student loan numbers are suspiciously high.

            I checked and this report by the Fed in 2014 seems to indicate that the average balance for a student loan borrower is $27K which does not square well with the numbers in the USA Today article. Its still possible depending on how households are counted but you would need ~2 borrowers per household and the average household to have ~7 people in it. Which… I doubt.

          • JayT says:

            This site says the average household with debt has $47K.
            https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/loans/student-loans/student-loan-debt/

            They also point out that only 62% of college grads graduate with debt. I think the USA Today article is looking at numbers for people that have each specific type of debt, and I would guess those things don’t necessarily overlap. Is till think their numbers are off.

      • baconbits9 says:

        I’m financially just “on track” — able to save for my retirement, build up an emergency fund, etc. I’m not amassing wealth or anything.

        I think it’s a shame we are at the point where saving for your retirement doesn’t feel like amassing wealth. If you are retiring to a middle class lifestyle in the US you are arranging for 20-30 years worth of not working and enjoying a largely pleasant lifestyle, that requires a large chunk of wealth to do, especially if you are saving for 2.

        • DinoNerd says:

          *thoughtful*

          I read that as the OP’s retirement savings being expected to do no more than allow them to live a similar lifestyle in retirement as while working – actually amassing wealth would mean a significant improvement in lifestyle, and/or reaching the point where they could live their expected/desired lifestyle while living on investment earnings, without touching their capital.

          I wonder how many different definitions of amassing wealth” or “being wealthy” we have among those posting here.

          • Matt M says:

            IMO, retirement should be properly thought of as a very expensive luxury good.

            Someone who is sitting on $1M in cash (or similarly liquid investments) has “amassed wealth,” regardless of whether that person intends to blow it all on purchasing luxury consumer goods, or whether they intend to purchase “40 years of middle class leisure” with it.

            It’s kind of weird for me that someone might say “I haven’t amassed any wealth – well, except for that million dollars I have in the bank, but that doesn’t count because it’s for retirement.”

          • acymetric says:

            Fully agreed with @Matt M here.

          • Nick says:

            I agree with the thrust of all this, but I’m baffled by the numbers I’m seeing here. How many people retire for 20-30 years, much less 40? I thought people retire in their late 60s and live, on average, to their late 70s or early 80s. That’s not even 15 years. How many people are retiring at 50?

          • Matt M says:

            Nick,

            Probably few. But, just thinking of myself here, if I wanted to amass enough wealth to retire “comfortably” that means “live comfortably even if I live to 100” and not “live comfortably to 80 and then run out of money.”

          • johan_larson says:

            Life expectancies are in the eighties for much of the first world. If you retire at 65, the traditional age at which you become eligible for a pension, you could easily live twenty more years.

          • Nick says:

            Okay, I asked around and evidently 60-65 is a more common retirement age. And actuarial tables suggest you’ll live to early 80s average if you make it to 65, not late 70s. So that explains a lot of it.

          • DinoNerd says:

            @Nick Even beyond what others have said, I believe certain jobs have traditionally had earlier than standard retirement – most notably the military, because on average people lose combat-suitable reflexes before they lose the ability to perform other work. Many “retired” military personnel take on civilian employment, but still get some retirement benefits, but I believe the system is often set up so that they don’t have to. OTOH, I haven’t even got anecdata to back this up – it’s just one of those random factoids I can’t even remember where I learned.

          • Matt M says:

            Members of the military are eligible for retirement after 20 years, at 50% of their base salary. Most can continue to serve for up to 30 years, if they want. For each additional year past 20, you get an extra 2.5% of your base salary added on to your retirement pay, so if you retire after 30 years of service (at which point you could be as young as 48) you get 75% of your base pay, forever. And you can seek other employment after that with no penalty.

          • Elementaldex says:

            @Nick

            The denizens of this blog are probably disproportionately long lived and disproportionately good at amassing money. Both of those things being correlated with IQ. Therefore a much longer window of retirement might be normal for us. I’m personally shooting for a 40+ year retirement.

        • DinoNerd says:

          Another random thought – my father didn’t have retirement savings per se – he was merely entitled to a non-saleable defined benefit retirement pension. He couldn’t blow the money on a yacht or whatever, short of waiting for monthly payments as they came in and saving them for that purpose – which would have required him having something else to live on.

          Was he wealthy? If he had instead been covered by a defined contribution retirement plan, and coincidentally amassed just enough to purchase an annuity exactly equal to the payments he received from his actual plan, would he have been any wealthier? He’d have had a bit more control – he could instead have spent it all earlier. But is that enough to matter?

          • Matt M says:

            I mean, “wealthy” is entirely subjective.

            But I would say that, in considering his net worth, you absolutely should consider the present value of the income stream of his vested retirement benefits, yes.

            So yes, I think he’d be “wealthier” if he amassed it all in a 401k, because he’d have all the money available immediately, so you wouldn’t have to discount the income stream. But depending on the discount rate and the time you expect to collect the payments, it might not be that significant.

    • DinoNerd says:

      I know a real estate agent who drives a seriously upscale car. She says that she does this because it matters to her customers – it’s a form of dressing for success. The same phenomenon is even more obvious with Lyft and Uber drivers, though my suspicion is that in their case, they often aren’t earning enough more because of the higher status vehicle to pay its extra costs.

      At any rate, that phenomenon may produce financially responsible people with outlier choices of vehicle. Perhaps add something about believing one’s car is a business investment/expense?

      • acymetric says:

        This is definitely the case for real estate agents or anyone in a sales/promotions role where the people you are after will or might see the car you drive.

        The same phenomenon is even more obvious with Lyft and Uber drivers, though my suspicion is that in their case, they often aren’t earning enough more because of the higher status vehicle to pay its extra costs.

        Almost certainly not, especially if they are using the standard UberX/Lyft services. People don’t get to choose the nicest care from a list of options, you get whoever shows up. If they’re doing the higher cost luxury ride options they’re making more, but as you say probably not enough more to be worth it (although they also get the added utility of driving a really nice car around when the aren’t doing rideshares, which matters but is hard to measure).

        • Eric Rall says:

          This is definitely the case for real estate agents or anyone in a sales/promotions role where the people you are after will or might see the car you drive.

          To the point that a lot of medium-to-large businesses will either provide company cars for their salespeople or give them a “car allowance” bonus to their salary in exchange for a requirement that they buy or lease a new car every X years, selected off an approved list of moderately-upscale makes and models.

        • Well... says:

          they also get the added utility of driving a really nice car around when the aren’t doing rideshares, which matters but is hard to measure

          There’s a huge financial penalty to own a luxury car, beyond the initial price tag. One hour of labor on a BMW is sometimes more than twice the cost for the same labor on a Ford or Toyota. Parts for European cars cost way more than the same parts for American or Asian cars. Luxury cars from any country tend to have a lot of bells and whistles, and especially if they’re the latest greatest thing and haven’t stood the test of time they break a lot.

    • Plumber says:

      @Matt M says:

      “Something I’d be interested to see on the next SSC survey:

      How much is your annual salary?”

      Depending on how much overtime I worked I nominally earn between $95,000 and $110,000 per year, after benefits, deferred compensation (tax exempt investment savings), payroll and income taxes, and the about $10,000 a year I save in cash, my spending money is about $30,000 to $40,000 a year, the biggest chunk of which is California State property taxes.

      “How much did you pay for the last car you purchased?”

      $410 for a used 1991 Honda Accord in 2015, before that $5,000 in 2005 for a used 1998 narural gas powered Ford Crown Victoria with a carpool sticker on it (I miss that car but parts became unavalible for it), and before that $25,000 for a new 2004 Toyata Prius which my wife drives.

      “On a scale of 1-10, assess how “financially responsible” you are”

      About a 3, I blow a lot of money on books and take out meals.

      It occurs to me that “percentage of income spent on car(s)” is one of the leading indicators of financial responsibility. I drive a perfectly nice car that is in no way embarrassing. But I know a lot of people who make significantly less than I do who drive nicer ones. And they aren’t “car guys” or anything like that…

      Seems a generational change, when I started with the City in 2011 most of my then co-workers were older than me and drove cars from the 1980’s, now most of my co-workers are younger than me and drive cars that are only a few years old (Mustang’s are popular), plus (even though they’re older) the ex-Soviet Russian’s who maintain our steam boilers seem to be in competition for who can own the most “flash” German sedan, when years ago they were frugal with cars.

      • Matt M says:

        About a 3, I blow a lot of money on books and take out.

        If your biggest wastes of money are books and food (excluding fine dining), I think that automatically puts you in the top quintile of financial responsibility, by American standards.

        It’s almost impossible to blow a lot of money on books and take-out…

        • GearRatio says:

          What’s “a lot”? If I did takeout every night for the family I’d be in, I dunno, like 600-900 a month. if 7-10k a year isn’t a lot to you, why worry about being frugal in the first place?

          • Matt M says:

            As Randy M points out above, it’s not at all uncommon for American households to pile up six figures of debt.

            You can’t get six figures worth of debt just by buying books and burritos…

          • GearRatio says:

            If “100k or more just off takeout” is the standard, then it takes a pretty extreme situation to do it – 1000k beyond your means per month just on takeout food and books is pretty extreme. But it’s certainly much more reasonable to believe, say, that somebody could accumulate 20k-40k over 8-10 years doing this. That’s a lot to me, but your mileage may vary.

          • Matt M says:

            But it’s certainly much more reasonable to believe, say, that somebody could accumulate 20k-40k over 8-10 years doing this. That’s a lot to me, but your mileage may vary.

            I mean, sure, I don’t really disagree with that.

            I think my general point here is more that I don’t believe most people in dire financial straits (massive debt, living paycheck to paycheck) are in that position due to takeout, but rather due to really big, ill-conceived, impossible-to-really-undo, decisions/purchases.

            If a car salesman is able to exploit your desire for novelty and break down your financial irresponsibility barrier, you can be $20K plus in debt in a matter of one hour. For burritos, that takes a minimum of two years, as you say.

            Consider it a corollary to the Scott Adams “theory of slow moving disasters.” “Stop getting the $5 starbucks every day” may be a useful way of getting out of debt, but nobody is in debt in the first place because of Starbucks. They’re in debt because of cars, houses, student loans, and major purchases on credit cards (vacations, furniture, etc.)

        • Nick says:

          It’s almost impossible to blow a lot of money on books and take-out…

          Have you seen the cost of academic books? 🙁

          Like Plumber, I mostly blow money on takeout and books. But dammit, the first book on my wishlist is $40 used, and the second is $32 plus shipping.

          • Matt M says:

            The typical new car costs somewhere around $20,000. You’d have to buy 500 such books to accumulate equivalent debt.

          • Nick says:

            I haven’t bought 500 such books yet, I’ll give you that.

          • Matt M says:

            And I do speak somewhat from experience here!

            At one point I signed up for Easton Press’ “100 Greatest Books” series. Where they send you a fancy leather-bound edition of some classic book, one per month, at like $45/month. I knew it was a frivolous luxury expense, but I did enjoy it and it makes my library look impressive.

          • Plumber says:

            @Matt M >

            Easton Press

            Ooh, a ways back a used bookstore in Hayward had a bunch of those Easton Press books, they do look mighty fine…

        • JayT says:

          He says that his disposable income is about $40K a year. If he and his wife are eating every meal out, that’s probably close to $50 a day in food, which would eat up almost half his disposable income. So I could see where that would make someone feel like they aren’t being very frugal.

          Though, the fact that he saves $10K a year definitely moves him above a “3” on the financial responsibility scale.

        • ana53294 says:

          If you buy books new, you certainly can. Or if you have a penchant for illustrated books (although that’s more collecting than reading).

          I spent 150 $ on books in January (I’ve just started tracking my spending, and I itemized everything), although I haven’t read all of them yet, so I’ll be reading them till March.

    • Randy M says:

      We have a nice Odyssey van a few years old we bought used at a rental car lot for, about $10k, I think. Apparently they only keep new cars on stock and cycle out the slightly old ones annually. I’m hoping that’s the last family car we buy.
      Otherwise I have an old Forrester I got used for a couple grand.

      I think financial discipline is one of the short list of strengths I have, as we’ve paid off our debts and have some cushion, similar to what Well… describes.

    • RalMirrorAd says:

      84K/Y
      ~8K for a used car in fairly good condition. It came out to about 5k after i’d sold the previous car.
      I’d rate myself as 8.5/10

    • GearRatio says:

      Is this something you can measure as a flat percentage and be fair on, though? I feel like a person making 30k and buying a 5k car looks pretty irresponsible, but 5k-on-payments isn’t even buying them something reliable at that point; they should have spent 10k. But they can’t not have a car most places; people don’t hire people who show up on the bus.

      • acymetric says:

        You can absolutely get a reliable car for $5k.

        • GearRatio says:

          On payments? Maybe, if you get lucky. You certainly have no way of determining if what you are getting is reliable or not on the kind of used-car-lot that sells $5k cars in the “mileage, at least, is in the potentially reliable range” range.

          Cash in hand, if you know what to look for? Sure, you can find something reliable for $2k, and I have.

          • Eric Rall says:

            I did a quick search and came up with this listing for a 2007 Honda Civic with 141,000 miles being sold by a dealership with a sticker price of $4,988. Civics are reputed to last pretty much forever if you take care of them, and they tend to be one of the cheaper brands to service.

            Cash in hand, if you know what to look for? Sure, you can find something reliable for $2k, and I have.

            A lot of banks and credit unions offer auto loans. Their interest rates tend to be a lot higher for private-party transactions than for cars you buy from a dealer, though: BofA seems to be advertising 6.3% APR for private party used cars vs 3.5% APR for used cars bought though a dealer.

          • Well... says:

            You can determine if what you are getting is reliable by buying a Honda or Toyota, and getting it checked out by a mechanic before you buy it. Yes, you still cannot be absolutely sure, but your odds of buying a lemon or moneypit that way are enormously decreased.

            A lot of used lots now are very self-conscious about their reputations because they know how easy it is to comparison shop, access KBB, etc. right from the seat across from the sales agent.

          • Cliff says:

            My understanding was no one would finance a car that’s more than four years old or something?

          • Well... says:

            I think that’s true sometimes if you go to the bank first. If you finance at the lot obviously it doesn’t matter how old the car is.

          • GearRatio says:

            I did a quick search and came up with this listing for a 2007 Honda Civic with 141,000 miles being sold by a dealership with a sticker price of $4,988. Civics are reputed to last pretty much forever if you take care of them, and they tend to be one of the cheaper brands to service.

            This is sort of what I’m talking about, though; this isn’t a dealership with any real reputation to protect. The likelihood they bought that car at a “start and listen” auction where they couldn’t drive it before purchase is high. That car often doesn’t have the original engine or transmission in it, or has other problems that have been patched with sawdust to get the car through the 2 days to a couple of months you are protected by law on it.

            I’m not saying every car is like this, I’m saying it’s a crap shoot. I’ve bought cars at 5k before I had to immediately have an engine dropped into and the clutch rebuilt on. And buying from a place with a premium reputation to lose comes with a premium price – that same car, generally, costs more at an actual Honda dealership precisely because buying it there gives some assurance that the sawdusting didn’t happen.

            And all this is assuming you have the baseline knowledge to, say, avoid a Nissan CVT transmission and go with a civic or similar, even though the salesman is telling you both are fine and the Nissan Rogue looks for all the world like more car for less money. Most of us have that; a lot of people don’t. I can buy 2nd and 3rd gen Subaru Outbacks safely, but most people can’t. It’s not a level playing field in that way.

            This is all kind of moot though. The point I was trying to make wasn’t so much “here’s the definite reliability dollar amount, and this is an unvanquishable bright line” as it was “there’s a vastly lower chance a car you got for 5k is as reliable as one you got for 10k”. The floor a non-car guy buyer can reasonably expect reliability at is something like “<120k miles, low rust, honda or toyota, reputable seller" and that's, typically, a 7k-10k car. If we stretch the miles we get down to 5kish, maybe, but we can't get much lower than that before we are buying from shitty dealers or unknown individuals, and then you have to know how to assess a car and trust that you or a mechanic can catch everything during an inspection (and you/they can't; even a "real" dealership can't reliably get every major problem to replicate during a drive and inspection).

            If that or anything like that is true, that sets a "responsible purchase price floor" that's much higher for a poor person in terms of percentage of income than a rich person's. If you think 10k is the "pretty much always pretty good" number, that's a 10th of a programmer's income for a year, but maybe a third of a $15 an hour person's, and the $15 an hour person is less tolerant of unreliability than the rich person due to other lower resources (tow trucks/repairs cost proportionately more, jobs are less secure, neighborhoods are less safe). If you think 5k is the number, it's still very high for the poor person compared to the rich person – but he can't do without it.

            So you have this thing where there's a number, whatever it is, that is the "A car purchased at this price can be relied upon" number, and anything over that is for show. For a poor person, this can be a massive amount of their yearly income – maybe 1/6th or 1/3rd. For a rich person, much lower. Thus what I brought up – using a flat percentage of income isn't a good metric here. Something like "dollars over the amount determined to be the reliable purchase price" is better.

          • Deiseach says:

            All this car talk is prompting me to (rashly) quote the lyrics of a very NSFW hit song from 2010 here in Ireland (bowdlerised version follows):

            I said F_ your Honda Civic, I’ve a horse outside
            F_ your Subaru, I have a horse outside
            And f_ your Mitsubishi, I’ve a horse outside
            If you’re lookin’ for a ride I’ve a horse outside

          • Matt M says:

            All this car talk

            Don’t drive like my brother!

    • Jake R says:

      I gross about 105k a year including bonuses.

      I drive a 2006 Honda Civic that my parents bought for me to use when I went to college and gifted to me when I graduated in 2013. I don’t know what they paid for it.

      I would say I’m an 8 or a 9 on financial responsibility. I save about 40% of my gross income but I also eat out a lot. I’m trying to get more into cooking though for both health and financial reasons. I work at a chemical plant and it amazes me how many $40,000 trucks there are in the parking lot every morning. My car is pretty consistently the shittiest one in the lot but it keeps running.

      • j1000000 says:

        “My car is pretty consistently the shittiest one in the lot but it keeps running.”

        It is incredible how many truly old Civics and Corollas I still see running on the road — I still see pre-2000 Corollas regularly. Are the modern versions of these vehicles as reliable?

        • Jake R says:

          No idea. What’s crazy is I do next to no maintenance on it. I am not a “car guy” by any stretch. I pay 30 bucks to have the oil changed when the dashboard tells me to and that’s about it.

          The check engine light did come on recently. My plan was to ignore it until the car stopped working but I found out that auto zone will scan the code and tell you what it is for free so I did that. Ended up being the engine coolant temperature sensor, a ten dollar part that I was able to change out in 5 minutes with a borrowed socket wrench because youtube has a video for everything. That’s the most work I’ve done on the car ever.

        • Don P. says:

          My 2005 Toyota Camry is still running fine. I’ve bought new tires either once or twice, replaced the brake pads I think once, change the oil about half as often as I should. Oh and I replace the cabin air filter (not the engine air filter) about annually. That’s it, for 15 years.

    • Bobobob says:

      I will play, since this is something I’ve always been curious about. $76K, full-time, at a company with really really good benefits. (I actually took a cut in pay from my last gig, a full-time contracting job with the US gov). The cost of living here is much lower than where we used to live (Brooklyn, NY), so according to the internet I’d have to earn about $150K in NY to match.

      Our biggest financial vice is eating out 2-3 times a week, about $75 a pop for the four of us. The nominal amount of money I spend on myself is for monthly digital subscriptions (Netflix, Hulu, Spotify), used books, and jigsaw puzzles. I don’t drive a fancy car, but a nice reliable 2018 model. I don’t really want or need much otherwise.

    • J Mann says:

      I think for this, you want to capture how long people drive their cars as well, so you don’t mix up people who pay 2x every 10 years with people who pay x every 5.

    • Eigengrau says:

      All figures in Canadian dollars.

      My annual salary is $55k
      The last car I purchased was $10k. At the time I was making $47k. This is also the only car I’ve ever had.
      I rate myself a 7 on financial responsibility. I have zero debt but need to spend more on retirement.

    • The Nybbler says:

      The ratio for the last car my wife and I purchased for me was about 33%. The last car for her was 10% (she prefers used cars, less worrying about what happens to them). I’d say a solid 10… would you agree?

    • jermo sapiens says:

      Ok fine, I’ll do this too.

      Salary $175K (CAD)
      Car: 2018 Subaru Impreza (~$25K CAD)
      Financial responsibility: 6/10

    • EchoChaos says:

      How much is your annual salary?

      Base salary is $140k, but after bonuses, income from my rental property and residuals from a company my wife and I sold we get about $180k total every year.

      How much did you pay for the last car you purchased?

      About $10k because we had to upgrade to a van when we had our fourth kid. We paid cash to a dealership so we didn’t have to pay any interest.

      My car is still an old Jetta diesel that I paid $8k for in 2012.

      On a scale of 1-10, assess how “financially responsible” you are

      9-10. I hesitate to say straight 10 because of the luxury spending I have, but I put the maximum into my 401k and both my wife’s IRA and mine every year. We own two houses, total debt just under a million dollars, but we have well over 20% equity in both and rent the second out.

    • JayT says:

      My household income is about $210K. We have a 2012 Camry that we bought from family at below market ($12K I think?) and a 2007 Saab that I bought new in 2008 for a major discount, since they were going out of business. I did put the $100 down on a Tesla Cybertruck though, but I haven’t completely decided If I’ll go through with that. I still have quite a bit of time to decide though.

      In my 20s I would say that I was a 3/10 on financial responsibility, now I’m probably a 7. My biggest expenditures are travel and eating out, but we do save a lot of money and max out retirement. I don’t own a house, but that is partially because I’m in a rent controlled place, and I can’t convince myself that owning will be better for me. I can’t imagine that the Bay Area’s real estate prices will continue to climb like they have in recent years, but then again, I said the same thing 10 years ago, and five years ago, and…

    • Eric Rall says:

      How much is your annual salary?
      How much did you pay for the last car you purchased?
      On a scale of 1-10, assess how “financially responsible” you are

      My total compensation is about $300k.

      Last car I purchased was a 2016 Nissan Leaf SV, bought used in 2018. I paid $16k plus California’s outrageous sales and title taxes for a total of $17.6k.

      Probably 8 or 9. I’m very frugal relative to my income, and have been even early in my career when living on a middle-class income, but not to extreme MMM/LeanFIRE levels.

    • Anteros says:

      I don’t have a regular salary, but I make about 10k a year which seriously undervalues my lifestyle – we have a 5 bedroom house with no mortgage. Our car is a 14 year old Skoda Fabia estate which I bought in England, drove it to the South of France and had converted to ‘French’ for about 300 Euros. It cost me just over a grand (and would have been more than twice that in France) An absolutely splendid car.
      I’d give myself an 8 or 9 for actual financial responsibility, but that is because I don’t have any cash to be irresponsible with!! When I was younger I routinely spent my way into debt – getting married has helped with that too….

      • Anteros says:

        For fuller disclosure I also have a motorcycle (when I was irresponsible I had up to 9) a Quadbike which cost three times what my car did, and a digger (a 1973 Ford 550 backhoe)
        I’ve made precious little provision for my retirement, so I guess my financial responsibility is a fair bit worse than I first thought..

    • baconbits9 says:

      Oh man we might win this one.

      Annual household salary 100-150k range

      Last car acquisition was free from my in-laws, though needed ~ $2.5k in work (brake lines rusted out).

      Previous car acquisition was $1,000

    • John Schilling says:

      1. Approximately $150K/year

      2. $16K for a slightly-used 2016 Mazda 6. The $52k for a very used 1976 Grumman Tiger also counts, insofar as I use it for daily commuting, but airplane economics differ in that airplanes are expected to last for 50+ years.

      3. Normalized to middle-class American standards, probably a 7.

    • cassander says:

      Are we counting unrealized or re-invested capital gains? Because that changes the picture considerably.

    • zzzzort says:

      Haven’t owned a car in more than a decade, haven’t driven on a regular basis since high school.

    • Andrew Hunter says:

      I don’t own a car, so zero. (But the last time I did, I bought it for approx. 5% of my annual take that year, or closer to 2% of my current.)

      I don’t know if that says much about my financial responsibility: I feel like I spent profligately, though I do save most of my money.

    • Chalid says:

      Being in the NYC area, I have never owned a car. Here perhaps the metric would maybe be how much you spend on rent (for me ~25% of income in a bad year, <10% in a good year).

    • JonathanD says:

      Household income is around 130K. We spent 18 and change (maybe closer to 19) for a family van last year.

      I’d rate myself about a 4 on financial responsibility. We’ve got life insurance, including some whole on each of us and a small whole policy on each of the kids, my wife has a traditional pension and I fully fund my retirement account. However, I only have three (and, honsestly, maybe two) months in the emergency fund, and we take pretty serious vacations each year.

      • JayT says:

        The fact that you have at least a month’s emergency fund probably puts you well above a 4. If were thinking in terms of percentiles, at least.

  3. Nick says:

    A good piece from Park MacDougald on what’s going on in the right these days. You’ll see familiar themes from the likes of, well, me. I especially endorse this line:

    “Look,” said one editor at a conservative publication, “it’s no secret that this shift on the young right is heavily male. A lot of us just want nice, simple, ordinary lives—lives like our parents lived—and the dating market is not conducive to that at all. I have a lot of friends who are just horrified by what they encounter in the dating market, and there’s an economic dimension to that, too, since houses cost way too much money and we’re all renters and nobody’s moving in with their girlfriends any time soon.” He added, “and you don’t have to be a traditionalist Catholic to think that, because I’m creeped out by those guys, too.”

    • Randy M says:

      By what guys? The guys you find on dating sites? The guys who want nice, simple lives? The renters?

      It sounds like he’s saying the new right males are coming from an understandable place, but still creep him out despite not being Catholic?

      Will read the piece, just confused by the particular point of the excerpt.

      • jermo sapiens says:

        I think by the traditionalist Catholics.

      • Nick says:

        He’s saying he’s creeped out by tradCaths. I wasn’t being serious, since to most people here I’d be the tradCath, and I’m no creep. At the same time, I think it’s a serious point: we shouldn’t be afraid to find we agree with the fringe, as some conservatives have already found they do.

        • Randy M says:

          Ah. It’s an ambiguous “because” then.

        • brad says:

          I know that there is nuance around ex cathedra and whatnot, but you have to admit there’s something a little off about die hard monarchists that don’t like the king.

          • EchoChaos says:

            You can like a system without liking the person currently running the system, I think.

          • Nick says:

            I don’t have to admit that, first for the reason EchoChaos says, second because tradCaths are not the same thing as sedevacantists. Though Francis being widely disliked has made that boundary fuzzy; a lot of people I don’t think were sedes before seem to be now, and I think it’s deplorable.

          • Deiseach says:

            Though Francis being widely disliked has made that boundary fuzzy; a lot of people I don’t think were sedes before seem to be now, and I think it’s deplorable.

            I agree about the whole sedevacantist thing around Francis; he is our current pope, like it or lump it (and I’ve been defending him for a while now, even though his sympathies and mine do not align – Benedict was the ideal pope for me). There’s a lot of stuff that makes me go “tsk!” and roll my eyes (the whole Pachamama thing has me both puzzled and annoyed, but it’s the kind of stupid crap that has been going on since Spirit of Vatican II and, if we believe the Protestant Reformation, ALL THE TIME ROMANISTS ARE IDOLATERS). But he does have particular traditional devotions, and apart from a few wobbles (I still have no real idea what the heck he is doing around the thorny question of divorce-and-remarriage), once you peel away the newspaper headlines desperate to make him an ideal Episcopalian (indeed, ‘is the Pope a Catholic?’ looking less and less like a joke), he’s reasonably orthodox under it all.

            Still wish we’d been able to have twenty more years of Benny, but what can you do? The Holy Spirit blows where it will!

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Who do you guys want next? I keep hearing tradcaths jonesin’ for Cardinal Sarah.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Deiseach: most Catholic clerics of the world are very traditional (what with First World vocations being dangerously low), but I have to be concerned that Francis has enough time remaining to totally disenfranchise them in the College of Cardinals, to the point that there will never be another conservative pope.
            I want my DEUS VULT African pope. 🙁

          • Nick says:

            Cardinal Sarah would be a wonderful pope. But don’t count on it.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Conrad:

            Who do you guys want next? I keep hearing tradcaths jonesin’ for Cardinal Sarah.

            That’d be good. Most black African Cardinals are good, because they’re from a young Christian rather than post-Christian society (like many Third World Catholics outside Latin America), and Subsaharan Africa is generally a place where they have had to face Islam up close and personal.
            As an individual, Robert Sarah is very smart, being trusted with significant intellectual responsibilities in the Roman Curia. He’s smart at turning the Left’s own cannons back at them, calling promotion of LGTBBQ in Third World countries “Western ideological colonialism” imposed in exchange for money. He’s spoken against mega-immigration.
            On Islam, he’s said “the Islam in my country is a fraternal, peaceful religion”, which I have no reason to doubt but I don’t know how well he understands that they can still peacefully practice most social doctrines he’s denounced (marriage of 9-year-olds, polygyny, etc.) without violence. Salafi Quietism is still a thing.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Well it sounds like we just need to get the college of cardinals to let the SSC Catholic Contingent pick the next pope.

          • Nick says:

            @Conrad Honcho
            I’ll radio the Vatican with our suggestions.

          • Has anyone offered a plausible explanation of why the previous pope resigned?

            It’s a very unusual thing to do, and seems even stranger when it results in a pope on one side of the church’s political spectrum being replaced by one on the other side. If it were part of a thriller plot, either it would be a result of blackmail, with some secret that the incumbent pope couldn’t permit to be let out, or a double cross, in which he thought he was going to be replaced by a younger successor who shared his views, and somehow it didn’t happen that way.

            But there is probably a more plausible explanation in the real world.

          • Deiseach says:

            Ah, speaking of the African cardinals, I really liked (former) Cardinal Arinze of Nigeria, and Cardinal Sarah of Guinea strongly reminds me of him. But I agree that at 74 years of age, he’s too old (probably) for the next Conclave whenever that might be.

            I hear good things about Cardinal Turkson of Ghana, but if we’re going to have an African pope (again), just for the sheer heck of it, I’d love one of the other rite churches to get a look in – like Cardinal Souraphiel of the Ethiopian Catholic Church or the Patriarch of Alexandria in the Coptic Catholic Church 🙂

            I’d happily take any African pope, though, if you’re offering!

            Looking at the list of current cardinals, who else thinks it would be totally awesome to have the next pope be the guy who is the Patriarch of Babylon?

          • Randy M says:

            I’ll radio the Vatican with our suggestions.

            Maybe smoke signals would work better.

          • Nick says:

            Looking at the list of current cardinals, who else thinks it would be totally awesome to have the next pope be the guy who is the Patriarch of Babylon?

            @Deiseach
            I think our Protestant friends would have a cow at that one. 😀

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @David Friedman:

            Has anyone offered a plausible explanation of why the previous pope resigned?

            The most plausible explanation I’ve seen is that he realised that his health was declining and he didn’t want to end up like JP2, i.e., spending the last few years of his life basically dying in public and being too frail to run the Church anymore.

          • Deiseach says:

            Well it sounds like we just need to get the college of cardinals to let the SSC Catholic Contingent pick the next pope.

            Be careful what you wish for, you might get it! 😀

            I think our Protestant friends would have a cow at that one.

            The ghost of Ian Paisley would arise from the grave shouting I TOLD YOU DIDN’T I TELL YOU????

          • brad says:

            You can like a system without liking the person currently running the system, I think.

            That’s true, but it’s also a major downside to monarchism, what happens when you get a bad king? So at the very least, you’d think it would temper enthusiasm.

      • Deiseach says:

        you don’t have to be a traditionalist Catholic to think that, because I’m creeped out by those guys, too.

        Bwa-ha-ha-ha, I cackle, as I lurk in the shadows, frightening this poor delicate man across thousands of miles of ocean.

        God’s sakes, I’d have hoped a “conservative” editor would have had more backbone than that. ‘Please like me, I’m inoffensive in the right way unlike those types who’d drink from the finger bowls if you even let them near the kind of places that have finger bowls on the tables!’ If he wanted to say “Hey, I’m not one of those uncouth religious rubes” then let him do so, but this kind of mealy-mouthed “Okay so maybe some of what we’re saying sounds a teeny bit like what those people are saying, but we’re nothing like them, honest!” is just rolling over and showing your belly in surrender.

        Better to say “I don’t care if this makes me/us sound like those creepy traditional Catholics, we and they are right about this point, so suck it up!”

    • Well... says:

      I have a lot of friends who are just horrified by what they encounter in the dating market, and there’s an economic dimension to that, too, since houses cost way too much money and we’re all renters and nobody’s moving in with their girlfriends any time soon.

      None of this makes much sense to me.

      1. By “the dating market” I assume he means online dating. But there are so many ways to meet girls offline! For starters, more people go to college now than in previous decades; all else being equal I can’t think of any better place to meet your future wife. If you’re not in college but of marrying age, there are still lots of places besides (ugh) bars.

      2. There are lots of places where houses don’t cost “too much money” and where there are jobs — though not if living somewhere unglamorous is a dealbreaker for you — and a mortgage can often be pretty close to what you’d pay in rent. And we’re not all renters BTW.

      3. If the rent is so damn high, why wouldn’t you move in with your girlfriend? Why would you choose to each keep paying your own rent instead of combining expenses to save money?

      When this “editor at a conservative publication” talks about the “young right” does he actually mean kids on 4chan?

      • acymetric says:

        1. By “the dating market” I assume he means online dating.

        Starting off on the wrong foot, I’m pretty sure he just means the dating market generally.

        2. There are lots of places where houses don’t cost “too much money” and where there are jobs — though not if living somewhere unglamorous is a dealbreaker for you — and a mortgage can often be pretty close to what you’d pay in rent. And we’re not all renters BTW.

        Sure, but what if the first job you get is somewhere where houses do cost too much money? Not everyone can afford to wait another 1-6 months to find the job that is “just right” and in the exact location they want. Also (and this would apply to me) what happens if you live/work somewhere that housing is affordable, and then suddenly it becomes rather unaffordable before you have a chance to buy in at the previous lower price?

        3. If the rent is so damn high, why wouldn’t you move in with your girlfriend? Why would you choose to each keep paying your own rent instead of combining expenses to save money?

        I think you’re reading this backwards. The point is that dating is challenging because they’re spending all their dating money on housing instead, and they’re not moving in with their girlfriends any time soon because they don’t have one (hence they care about the dating market) or they’ve only been dating a short time (I’m not moving in with a girl after the 4th date just to save a few hundred bucks, at least).

      • RalMirrorAd says:

        1. We can be quantitative about how easy it is for people to form relationships. These avenues may or may not exist but that doesn’t tell me how effective any of them are compared to the past

        2. Job growth has been concentrated in a handful of metro areas where housing supply is severely restricted. I live in an area that bucks this trend somewhat but that’s the exception not the rule. Again absence of absence isn’t the same as refuting a general trend that certain things have gotten adverse.

        I personally can’t comment on #3, I know there are anecdotes that females simultaneously want a partner who earns at least as much as they do but also want to achieve earnings parity but that doesn’t really apply here necessarily. I’m not sure what the rational-emotional calculus here is that would keep people from sharing rent.

        • Nick says:

          1. Remember this discussion? It has been quantified. 🙂 Per the linked chart, online dating is where about 40% of partners are met, with an especially steep rise in the last ten years. It’s funny Well… mentions college, since it is not and has never been a significant source, though it could be losing answers to “met through friends.”

        • Dacyn says:

          3. Moving in makes things more difficult if the couple breaks up. Breakups are not generally timed with the ends of leases.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        But there are so many ways to meet girls offline!

        According to the college-aged girls who babysit my kids, that is simply Not Done anymore. Guys do not approach girls in public, because that’s creepy. Everyone meets online first. Small sample size, obv.

        • Randy M says:

          Does that actually work? Or are we going to end up skipping a generation?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I have no idea. From what I’ve heard/seen like that “text game” video eigenmoon linked in the last OT it looks exhausting. Back in my day you went up to a pretty girl and said “hi” and it worked out just fine. Or didn’t, but it saved an awful lot of time.

          • Nick says:

            I have no idea. From what I’ve heard/seen like that “text game” video eigenmoon linked in the last OT it looks exhausting. Back in my day you went up to a pretty girl and said “hi” and it worked out just fine. Or didn’t, but it saved an awful lot of time.

            Dude, you are begging for an “ok boomer” right now.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I’m an Xer, so I’m just kind of apathetic about the whole thing.

          • acymetric says:

            I have no idea. From what I’ve heard/seen like that “text game” video eigenmoon linked in the last OT it looks exhausting. Back in my day you went up to a pretty girl and said “hi” and it worked out just fine. Or didn’t, but it saved an awful lot of time.

            I don’t really like talking on the phone a lot, but I would have much preferred dating in a time where the only way to communicate other than face to face was via landline.

            Texting is great for pretty much everything except dating, for several reasons.

          • viVI_IViv says:

            Dude, you are begging for an “ok boomer” right now.

            apropos, it’s worth noting that the current generation of young people, Gen Z, is named after the last letter of the Latin (that is, Western European) alphabet. Analyzing the Kabbalistic implications of this is left as an exercise.

          • mendax says:

            @viVI_IViv: not to mention the Kabbalistic implications of Millenials.

          • Nick says:

            @viVI_IViv
            I’m reminded of Chiang’s “Seventy-Two Letters.”

          • Lambert says:

            I’m fairly sure the millenials and genZ are ready for the apocalypse.

            *Yeets self into lake of sulphur*

          • DarkTigger says:

            @Conrad Honcho
            You don’t seem to understand how assigned identities work.

            You behave boomer, so you are called boomer, and therefor are to blame for everything that is wrong in the world.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Look, all I’m saying is if you kids want a sweetheart, when you see that pretty lass at the sock hop you square up your shoulders, walk right up to her, look her in the eye and say “I’d like to take you to the soda shop and buy you a malt.” You don’t gotta go tweeting all over your facebooks or whatever.

          • Plumber says:

            @Conrad Honcho says: “Look, all I’m saying is if you kids want a sweetheart, when you see that pretty lass at the sock hop you square up your shoulders, walk right up to her, look her in the eye and say “I’d like to take you to the soda shop and buy you a malt.” You don’t gotta go tweeting all over your facebooks or whatever”

            Ir occurs to me: take a Starbucks (and their “frapachinos”), pur in a jukebox with music that annoys non-teenagers, and voila!

            The malt shops of yore are recreated!

            You’re welcome.

        • aristides says:

          I’m a young millennial, and I can confirm. There are only 4 acceptable places to approach a girl that is a stranger, online, bar, club, and class. Work, forget it, that’ll get you sent to me in HR. Even class is a touchy one, and I’ve only known a handful of people that did it right. The biggest problem is for people that breakup with their college or high school girl friend, and have no idea how to meet a new girl. I’m lucky I got married right about when I graduated.

      • viVI_IViv says:

        For starters, more people go to college now than in previous decades; all else being equal I can’t think of any better place to meet your future wife.

        If you discount the risk that if you happen to look in the general direction of a woman who doesn’t like your face, or likes your face too much, a kangaroo court can expel you and the media can smear you as a sexual predator. I mean, after Mattress Girl, UVA, etc., who thinks that dating in college is a good idea?

        If you’re not in college but of marrying age, there are still lots of places besides (ugh) bars.

        Like the workplace? Oops, #metoo.

        2. There are lots of places where houses don’t cost “too much money” and where there are jobs — though not if living somewhere unglamorous is a dealbreaker for you —

        But these are either “burger flipping” jobs or jobs that require previous experience, which you’ll probably have to get in an expensive city.

        If the rent is so damn high, why wouldn’t you move in with your girlfriend?

        Because you already live with > 1 flatmates.

        When this “editor at a conservative publication” talks about the “young right” does he actually mean kids on 4chan?

        Is there any other right that isn’t culturally dead?

        • sidereal says:

          I see this as just so much tilting at windmills. Metoo, kangaroo courts, this stuff doesn’t really affect everyday life if you are just a reasonable human being. You can still flirt and court women, you just can’t randomly touch them or escalate to overt sexuality without them escalating alongside. It’s still mostly the man’s job and women will still mostly play their part.

          I believe these things have always been expected of men, but now women have some teeth to fight back against the worst offenders.

          If you are a low-status male who can’t read social cues… yeah, life is gonna suck for you.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            The fact that the majority of men wont get railroaded by BS accusations is no defense of BS accusations. Just like the fact that the majority of women are not sexually assaulted is no defense of sexual assaults.

            I’m glad women can fight back against sexual predators. However, if you create other victims by removing due process you’re actively harming innocents, including falsely accused men and actual victims of sexual assault.

          • Nick says:

            You can still flirt and court women, you just can’t randomly touch them or escalate to overt sexuality without them escalating alongside. It’s still mostly the man’s job and women will still mostly play their part.

            Have we been reading the same articles?

            Let’s take the Atlantic one that kicked up a lot of interest in this. Does the incident described match your description?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Metoo, kangaroo courts, this stuff doesn’t really affect everyday life if you are just a reasonable human being.

            Chilling effects are a thing, though.

            ETA:

            If you are a low-status male who can’t read social cues… yeah, life is gonna suck for you.

            When has life ever not sucked for low-status males who can’t read social cues?

          • The fact that the majority of men wont get railroaded by BS accusations is no defense of BS accusations.

            There are two different questions which shouldn’t be confused.

            1. Are BS accusations a bad thing?

            2. Are they bad enough to prevent realspace courtship in college?

          • jermo sapiens says:

            1. Are BS accusations a bad thing?

            2. Are they bad enough to prevent realspace courtship in college?

            Right. My comment did not consider the full context of the thread.

          • Metoo, kangaroo courts, this stuff doesn’t really affect everyday life if you are just a reasonable human being.

            Just world fallacy.

          • baconbits9 says:

            I see this as just so much tilting at windmills. Metoo, kangaroo courts,

            this stuff doesn’t really affect everyday life if you are just a reasonable human being.

            You can still flirt and court women, you just can’t randomly touch them or escalate to overt sexuality without them escalating alongside

            If you were talking about 40 year olds i’d be more sympathetic to this point, but college isn’t about showing up as a reasonable person and just going to class, and becoming a reasonable person doesn’t happen without mistakes, missteps and outright bad behavior for most people.

          • Matt M says:

            If you are a low-status male who can’t read social cues… yeah, life is gonna suck for you.

            Metoo isn’t about low status males. High status women have always been able to destroy low status males if they were sufficiently motivated. That’s not new.

            The most prominent targets of Metoo… Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, Louis CK, were very high status. The novelty of Metoo is that now, a woman of any status can destroy even the highest status of men.

          • viVI_IViv says:

            Metoo, kangaroo courts, this stuff doesn’t really affect everyday life if you are just a reasonable human being. You can still flirt and court women, you just can’t randomly touch them or escalate to overt sexuality without them escalating alongside.

            NKVD, gulags, this stuff doesn’t really affect everyday life if you are just a reasonable comrade. You can still participate in the political and economical governance of your soviet, you just can’t sabotage the Revolution or engage in private entrepreneurship.

        • John Schilling says:

          If you discount the risk that if you happen to look in the general direction of a woman who doesn’t like your face, or likes your face too much, a kangaroo court can expel you and the media can smear you as a sexual predator. I mean, after Mattress Girl, UVA, etc., who thinks that dating in college is a good idea?

          Does the word “shit test” mean anything to you? Because I’m pretty sure this is one, on a grand scale. A few signal-boosted scary stories, and all the low-status men lacking in self-confidence (but I repeat myself) will chase themselves out of the dating pool, leaving the girls with the cream of the crop and a much better signal-to-noise ratio. If it ever escalates to the point where young women aren’t getting enough high-status offers for their taste, then they’ll start pushing back.

          • I think you’re reading an underlying societal logic into it that isn’t actually there. Older women do often complain about an alleged lack of men, and rarely have coherent thoughts about its origin.

          • viVI_IViv says:

            You are conflating two different things: being high-status and being risk-seeking.

            Self-made high-status men do take risks, but they take calculated risks where they expect that the payoff is greater than the cost. These are the men who can pick up girls on tinder or in a club, so they just do that instead of risking to fuck up their career by shitting where they eat. Some very successful men go as far as adopting Pence’s rule.

            So you’re left with the low-functioning sociopath types who take high risks because they have little status to lose or just don’t care. Needless to say, they don’t make great partners. Hence, the constant stream of 30-something women asking where have all the good men gone.

          • The Nybbler says:

            If it ever escalates to the point where young women aren’t getting enough high-status offers for their taste, then they’ll start pushing back.

            If it ever escalates to the point where _high status_ young women aren’t getting enough high-status offers for their taste, then they’ll start to push back. But the Chads can ignore this and hit on the Staceys, and both groups can be satisfied while the men lower on the scale are deterred and the women lower on the scale wonder where all the good men are.

          • Aapje says:

            High-status women are getting offers, but largely not the kind of offers they desire, which is why they complain of the missing ‘good men.’

            Also, women seem to have developed the same way as employers: wanting well-developed men, but demanding that society produce those, rather than wanting to take on the burden of cutting that diamond.

            The difference is that society is much better at producing good employees than ‘good men,’ especially since the denial about what actually makes a ‘good’ employee is way less than for a ‘good’ man.

          • Anthony says:

            Older women *do* face a lack of men, because men their age who aren’t married (or effectively so) are able to pursue women ten years younger than they are. At even more advanced ages, differential life expectancy compounds the lack of men.

        • zzzzort says:

          I think by most any measure dating as a woman in college is more dangerous than dating as a man, even if you take the most expansive estimates of railroaded men and the most conservative estimates of sexually assaulted women. This isn’t to say that a lack of due process is good, just that a theory where the limiting factor in dating is the danger to men seems implausible.

          • John Schilling says:

            Stereotypically, at least, the college sexual assaults seem to happen mostly in the course of partying, which is not the same thing as dating. Almost certainly, if you take a group of people who are afraid to strike up even the most vaguely potentially romantic relationships one-on-one and over time by the light of day, and instead say that for anything potentially romantic they have to go into a dark noisy room full of assorted young men and women and then drink to the point where they are no longer afraid to go off and immediately hook up, you’re going to get more Very Bad Sex than you would have under the old rules.

          • Aapje says:

            @zzzzort

            Are you aware that the CDC found equal self-reported rates of last-year victimization for men and women in their studies (which use the rare kind of methodology that doesn’t exclude the more typical kinds of sexual abuse of men)?

            A difference is that female (alleged) victims have much more recourse than men, who are often considered guilty by default and/or not victimisable. Men are also supposed to like ‘surprise sex.’

            You treat both female victimization by Title IX tribunals* and sexual abuse of men as practically non-existent, but this appears far less true for the latter.

            * Most universities refuse to publish demographic information about the prosecuted/convicted, but various data strongly suggests men are almost exclusively prosecuted (and that black & non-American men are strongly over-represented).

            This isn’t to say that a lack of due process is good, just that a theory where the limiting factor in dating is the danger to men seems implausible.

            Women are typically relatively passive and men have to be way more forward and pursuant. So it seems very plausible to me that more risk-avoidant behavior by men has a bigger impact on reduced dating success than an equal increase in risk-avoidant behavior by women.

            That said, I think that the changes to dating has multiple causes.

          • zzzzort says:

            @aapje

            The CDC numbers I found were 43% (weirdly rounded to 1 in 3) for women and 24% for men for any form of sexual assault lifetime, and 21%/~10% for rape or forced sex. The only category that is similar is the last-year category that also includes intimate partner violence and stalking, which is more or less dominated by intimate parter violence just because it is so much more common. Not to belittle intimate partner violence (I think it’s big deal!) but I think being slapped, pushed or shoved (the most common category), is qualitatively different than rape.

            The 5 year graduation rate for the school I went to is 93%, so even if all of those people were men kicked out for sexual misconduct that they didn’t commit, that’s less than 14%, and in reality I would bet it’s much much less.

            It might be that men are more sensitive to marginal risk, but in terms of absolute level of danger I don’t think it’s close.

          • LesHapablap says:

            zzzort,

            If a guy creeps out a waitress by asking her out in public, there’s no official punishment but he might just gain a reputation as a creep and become undateable. If the norms change so that only creeps ask out girls in public, most guys will avoid doing that to avoid getting a reputation as a creep.

          • Aapje says:

            @zzzzort

            If you dig into the actual report(s), the ‘forced to penetrate’ figures for men and ‘rape’ figures for women are close to equal. These are the most comparable categories and don’t include domestic violence and stalking.

            Unfortunately, the summaries don’t highlight this information, even though it is actually one of the most important findings, which conflicts strongly with current policy and mainstream beliefs. I’ll leave it as an exercise to the reader to why they are coy about this finding.

            The last-year statistics seem more reliable and more relevant here. The last-year statistics only involve adult victimization, while the lifetime statistics include childhood victimization. The college population nearly exclusively consists of adults, so childhood victimization is not relevant to their risk profile.

            There are also studies that found that men are considerably less likely to recall childhood sexual abuse, which suggests that lifetime questions may substantially undercount abused men.

            The 5 year graduation rate for the school I went to is 93%, so even if all of those people were men kicked out for sexual misconduct that they didn’t commit, that’s less than 14%, and in reality I would bet it’s much much less.

            It might be that men are more sensitive to marginal risk, but in terms of absolute level of danger I don’t think it’s close.

            I think that being kicked out of college is a pretty severe outcome. The many court cases definitely suggest that it is not something that these men just shrug off.

            Note that the percent of the black population that is killed by the police is way, way, way below 14%, yet the mainstream sees it as a major issue and a reason for black people to be very wary when interacting with the police. So…

            Again, the data suggests that the victimization rates of severe sexual abuse are very similar between men and women. So if that is so, but men also run the risk of being kicked out of college, then the risk profile* for men is bigger, right?

            * If we ignore a potential gendered difference in impact, which was the reason why researchers decided to exclude sexual assault of men by women from the definition of rape. I believe that findings from the study or studies they based this on, are at least in part impacted by stoicism, which is cultural gender norm where men are encouraged to deny that they are hurt (including to themselves). If so, the academic definition of ‘rape’ has adopted gender norms (and itself perpetrates them).

          • zzzzort says:

            I still don’t agree with your characterization of the data. Last year forced sex statistics for women were 1.2 (0.9, 1.7)%, last year statistics for men were 0.7 (0.5, 1.1)%. These (just barely) agree within the 95% CI, but that’s just saying that the uncertainty is relatively large, the numbers themselves could differ significantly. If we want to back out the college cohort data, we could look at the lifetime rates of 22% and 10% for women and men, and then note that the percentage of both cohorts who were forced to have sex for the first time ages 18-24 is nearly identical (38%/39%). These numbers are consistent with the last year data, but again the uncertainty for those numbers is too large to draw many meaningful conclusions.

          • Aapje says:

            I didn’t look (before) at the most recent report, but I have examined the various reports before that, since the addition of the ‘made to penetrate’ category.

            The (combined) report for the 2010-2012 datasets has the estimated number of attempted or completed rapes in the last 12 months at 1,473,000 (for women in table 3.1) and attempted or completed ‘made to penetrate’ at 1,715,000 (for men in table 3.5).

            The newer report, which I didn’t look at before now, has 1,484,000 attempted or completed rapes vs 827,000 estimated made to penetrate cases. So the former figure is quite stable, while the latter changes to an absurd degree. There is no overlap between the confidence interval of the 2010-2012 and the 2015 figures!

            I don’t see any methodological changes that can explain this, nor can I come up with a plausible explanation for why men would answer differently, a few years later.

            At this point I am extra frustrated that no other scientific prevalence studies include ‘made to penetrate’ as a category, as a comparison between studies gives a strong indication whether reality changed or the methodology.

            Anyway, my assertion of near-equality is correct for all reports which include ‘made to penetrate’ as a category, before the last one. The last report is the outlier, when it comes to the 12 month ‘made to penetrate’ category.

            Note that traditional claims about sexual violence of men vs women compare rape, where male victimization of being penetrated is typically a tenth or so of the female figure, with the perpetrators being nearly exclusively men (although women sometimes penetrate men without consent, using digits or implements) and a large percentage of the victimization happening in prison. Based solely on those figures, which come from using sexist definitions, men would only be at minimal risk of severe sexual violence by women.

            However, I think that my point stands that the real rates of severe sexual assault are much more similar than that, with men thus plausibly having much more reason to be wary of being abused sexually by women than traditionally claimed.

      • Deiseach says:

        I think what he means about ‘not moving in with your girlfriend’ is part of that wish for the days of “nice, simple, ordinary lives—lives like our parents lived” when a man could get a job that would allow him to marry and support a family.

        Nowadays people may not want to marry and/or have kids straight off, but they can’t even get the kind of job that will let them have an apartment of their own to move into with a girlfriend; they’re stuck either living at home or with room mates and so they’re seen as less desirable in the dating market. That way they get the worst of all worlds: the promise of sexual liberation from the repression of the past turns out that even in the brave new world, you can’t get a girlfriend not because “Oh Horace, what kind of a girl do you think I am?” but because you’re not making the kind of money to afford renting alone in the current market. You may be able to get casual hookups but committed/long-term relationships are right out.

      • Plumber says:

        @Well…,
        Feel free to throw in an “Okay Boomer” as when I was a sophomore in high school some of the seniors then would now be classed as “Boomers”, but I’m with my wife because she had an apartment (and a series of roommates) but a separate bedroom and asked me to stay, previously I spent some evenings with a few ladies (or they spent some with me), but longer term wasn’t possible because we really didn’t have private enough living situations.
        Whether we would’ve stayed together who knows, but had I my own apartment at a younger age I strongly suspect that I would’ve had a “long-term romantic relationship” instead of “stands” years younger, as it was I was lucky that a (just a couple of years older) Boomer women forgave my being younger and poorer.
        She later did become a housewife living on her husband’s income but when we met she was a law school student with potential and I decidedly wasn’t, then she dropped out of law school, lost her paid internship at a law firm, we lived mostly on her unemployment checks for a year, and then I found a full-time job.
        Going by projection I’m pretty well convinced that with more resources more youngsters would start families.

    • A friend of mine invested in a condo complex in a Mexican town close to the American border. This was around 2008 and after the bubble bursted and all the rich gringos who would have purchased those condos were no longer looking to buy. Some of the condos were finished, others were half built. If this was America what would have happened is a bankruptcy court would have been convened and my friend might have been able to recover some of his investment. Or maybe not. But this was Mexico and so the man in charge of the venture “disappeared,” there was no bankruptcy court, he lost everything.

      There are a lot of people out there who see a story like that and fit it into the common mortality tale. If you have a country where investors property isn’t secure, where they can’t count on contracts being enforced, investors won’t to invest in that country and it will stay poor. These same people will refuse to apply it to certain other aspects of the human experience. Instead if they observe that people are reluctant to do something they used to do more frequently, they will respond only with moralizing, telling that group they ought to do it and scratching their heads at why they don’t. I’ll let you fill in the blanks as far as my actual point here. 

      Krein returned to his work in finance with a more jaded attitude about the American economy. When meeting with CEOs and CFOs, he recalls, “basically every conversation was ‘how do we cut costs, offshore more stuff to China, and use the savings to do share buybacks?’”

      What’d he think capitalism was about? Cutting costs is the essence of economic progress. And what’s wrong with buybacks? You can’t attack “profits” or “dividends” directly, as people will respond “what are you, a communist.” And so you attack buybacks as a newfangled way of doing the same thing companies have always done, return value to investors, as corrupt in some way.

      My advice to any of these pundits who have publicly supported Trump under your own name like Krein did is to follow his lead. Condemn him and apologize for having supported him. Because the conservative establishment is going to force you to do it anyway. Right now, some publicly support him in order to appeal to normies even though it makes them ineligible for gigs in the non-Fox MSM. But after Trump leaves office and he fades from public awareness, there will be no reason for conservative leaders not to go back to their views in 2015: near-unanimous opposition. You won’t be able to get a job unless you toe the party line.

      Remember what Patton said about war: no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country. If you supported Trump because of a cause, because of policy, because of a meaningful change you want to happen in the world, as opposed to the not inconsiderable numbers of people who supported him because of his personality, or to “trigger the libs as an end in and of itself,” your #1 goal should be making sure you have the means to continue to advance that cause, that you have the financial resources you need, that you have the online platforms you need so you aren’t just preaching to the choir. I’d go so far as to say that you shouldn’t identify as conservative or Republican at all. You’re probably not a cookie-cutter Republican anyway. So say you’re moderate, an “old-fashioned Democrat,” “apolitical,” ect. Because if you’re associated with Republican politics you’re putting a target on your back. If there’s anything the past three years has taught me it’s that one side is playing hardball. The other isn’t. You win by not playing.

      • zardoz says:

        My advice to any of these pundits who have publicly supported Trump under your own name like Krein did is to follow his lead. Condemn him and apologize for having supported him. Because the conservative establishment is going to force you to do it anyway.

        I don’t think the conservative establishment will “condemn” Trump, even if he doesn’t get a second term. It just wouldn’t be good politics for them. Trump obviously managed to get a lot of votes in 2016, and they will not want to alienate those voters.

        Now, the party may try to dial back support for some of Trump’s political positions. But I don’t think they will attack him personally. Never Trumper Republicans may seethe about him in private, but they won’t want to make any comments on the record about it. What would be in it for them, at that point?

        I’d go so far as to say that you shouldn’t identify as conservative or Republican at all. You’re probably not a cookie-cutter Republican anyway. So say you’re moderate, an “old-fashioned Democrat,” “apolitical,” ect. Because if you’re associated with Republican politics you’re putting a target on your back. If there’s anything the past three years has taught me it’s that one side is playing hardball. The other isn’t. You win by not playing.

        I’m confused because the first thing you wrote was about “conservative pundits,” but now you seem to be making a more general point about not talking about politics at work. I mean, if I were a “conservative pundit,” isn’t talking about politics my whole job? So I can’t really follow this rule (which is, by the way, an excellent rule for most of humanity!)

        I also think there is a more general point here that trying to please left-leaning media as a “conservative pundit” is a fool’s errand, but… well… this post is long enough, I guess.

        • What would be in it for them, at that point?

          Getting a job at CNN or NYT. Cashing the checks written by billionaires. The same reasons they all condemned him in 2015.

          I’m confused because the first thing you wrote was about “conservative pundits,” but now you seem to be making a more general point about not talking about politics at work. I mean, if I were a “conservative pundit,” isn’t talking about politics my whole job?

          My point was not that you shouldn’t talk about politics but that you shouldn’t identify with these labels of “conservative” or “republican.” Speak your mind and don’t identify with the Red Team, because there’s no advantage to it and many disadvantages to it. Think about someone like Joe Rogan. He’s thinking about whether to endorse Trump or Bernie. What’s the wisest decision for him as an individual, to make sure he has the online platforms he needs to reach his audience? Trump’s a backstabber and I don’t think going on the sword for him is worth it.

    • DinoNerd says:

      That was interesting. Thank you.

      I hope they can figure out ways of getting what they want – or at least the possibility of what they want, for those that want it – without falling into magical thinking, and policies that sound good but actually make things worse.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      This link led me to American Affairs Journal, which I don’t think was on my radar before. This article, The Real Class War, almost exactly matches my thoughts on the current state of America. Excellent read. The ending turns into an uncharitable rant, though, but the rest is great. The rant is good, too, but just not the sort of thing I would actually say out loud.

      • Nick says:

        I’ve been reading AA off and on since its inception. There are some other interesting pieces it’s come out with; Plumber linked its piece on family policy a while back, and I’ve seen other interesting pieces on the so-called managerial elite and how they fit into the class dynamics and meritocracy discussions we’ve been having for a while now. For a more fun piece, Helen Andrews had one in the Summer 2017 issue about the total moral bankruptcy of JS Mill in his later life, stemming almost entirely from his obsession with his awful wife. By her telling, anyway.

        ETA: Check out that Amber A’Lee Frost piece, too, assuming you bought a subscription or are getting around the paywall.

      • Matt M says:

        I don’t agree with most of that piece, but this is one hell of a line…

        Many industry observ­ers believe Schmidt contributed virtually nothing to the company, but he became a billionaire because of his superior grasp of business etiquette: “Google policy is to get right up to the creepy line and not cross it,” he once said. Jeffrey Epstein, erstwhile dinner companion of Schmidt, Bill Gates, and seemingly every other member of this class, had a slightly different policy.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Reading it, I was definitely getting the feeling there was some sleight-of-hand going on. When I got to the Silicon Valley section I was sure of it.

        But the Valley has never been particularly fertile for the salaried professionals and “engineers” hired by these companies, who even now generally make less than their counterparts on Wall Street or in Big Law. Kindergarten playroom office spaces and other exag­gerated perks often serve to distract employees from this harsh reali­ty. The median salary for U.S. IT workers, who frequently must live in high-priced urban areas, is only $81,000.

        This is bait-and-switch. A FAANG employee fresh out of college will be making over well 100K in salary alone, and have considerable equity compensation as well. That $81,000 median also includes all the business programmers doing bespoke software for non-tech firms, much of it NOT in high-priced urban areas.

        Going back and looking at the earlier stuff, it appears their source for economic growth distribution is Piketty, who I do not consider reliable.

        Having caught them in blatant deceptive narrative building, I think no need to read in detail. I did skim down and find this

        Jeff Bezos publicly muses about the difficulty of finding a useful way to deploy his “financial lottery winnings,” while Amazon stations ambulances outside its warehouses to treat employees who collapse from exhaustion.

        In my area, towns are having trouble finding bus drivers… because Amazon is snapping up all the CDL holders to do deliveries for them. I guess Bezos figured out something to do with the money.

  4. johan_larson says:

    What parts of the work force are doing things we could seriously do without, if they just disappeared for ten years?

    What got me thinking along this line was digging through some older lists of recommendations for books. And you know, there’s plenty of old stuff I haven’t read. If all the authors producing new stuff just took a decade off, I think we’d be just fine. If the booksellers and librarians and engineers who keep the DRM servers running went away, that would be a GIANT EMERGENCY, since we’d soon be living like animals, swapping dog-eared paperback with increasing desperation, but if the authors went on an extended holiday there would still be be reading material available.

    Any other distinctly optional professions like that?

    • jermo sapiens says:

      80-90% of government employees.

      • johan_larson says:

        Hey @Plumber, how many of the folks in your department could the City of SF afford to lose before public buildings become just plain unusable?

        • Plumber says:

          @johan_larson says:

          “…@Plumber, how many of the folks in your department could the City of SF afford to lose before public buildings become just plain unusable?”

          With the current level of staffing the buildings are already destined to become unusable, and sometimes (especially now that my former bosses bosses boss has been arrested by the FBI for favoritism in contracts) I think that’s on purpose as there’s more opportunities for graft in building replacement than in repairs.
          I have a dozen immediate co-workers, and about two dozen more who regularly also do repairs in the buildings I maintain part if the time, about half of which are private contractors rather than city employees, as it is a whole floor (the jail on the 6th floor) has been abandoned as a cost savings measure, I’m sure you’ve read “Why doesn’t San Francisco enforce the law?” stories (actually I know you have because you linked to one), well part of the reason is that enforcement is expensive.

          I haven’t seen the statistics but from what I observe by far most City employees are police, sheriff, district attorney, probation, and public defenders – add in the court judges and clerical employed by the State, plus the Federal government employees a few blocks away at the Federal court house, and that’s most – maybe the schools come close, but San Francisco just doesn’t have that many public school kids (besides private schools being popular, San Francisco just doesn’t have many children).

          Judging by my time with the City which has mostly been maintaining a court housr with police, probation, and coroner offices, plus a jail, if you had have the crew using tools to repair it the longest it could go without being almost completely unusable is three years, but pick the right week during the last ten years and it could become unusable in less than a month.

          That said across town there’s an office building full of white collar employees in my department that I can’t pretend to know what they do.

          We have two college graduate guys on my crew that previously were white collar city employees (one said he was bored being a clerical, both said that while the blue collar ceiling is lowerthey may get to a higher wage quicker by being in the trades, in four years they can earn what would take ten years to get to as an office worker, though they lose the chance to potentially make even more in 25 years), they’re both bright and easy to get along with, but training them with the needed mechanical skills is harder than training ex-construction workers, so I don’t know how likely it is that office workers can be turned into tool users.

          As a rough guess I’d say my department has three times as many clericals than it does mechanics, but the General Services Administration department is dwarfed by law enforcement city employees.

          • DarkTigger says:

            (especially now that my former bosses bosses boss has been arrested by the FBI for favoritism in contracts)

            I thing I found one or two people in Plumbers direct work envoirenment we probably could do without.
            *scnr*

          • The Nybbler says:

            Just be sure you get the right ones, because if you fire Plumber or any of his useful co-workers, sounds like the city’s public buildings will fill with …uhh…. sewage in no time flat.

          • Plumber says:

            @The Nybbler,
            Nah, not all of them.

            The main library bathrooms would quickly become unusable (which could be prevented by stopping the giving out of hypodermic needles!), but the library branches would be okay for a good while, one fire station needs to be snaked out once a month, but the rest would be okay, as would the police stations besides their holding cells, it would be the medical examiners (coroners), the jails, and the courthouse that would flood, plus the jail wing of general hospital.

            One fire station has drain pipes that settled and don’t slope enough anymore, but mostly the problem areas are where inmates are held, junkies congregate, and dead bodies are examined.

            Living law abiding San Franciscans are pretty easy on the plumbing, though the DA’s and Public Defenders are a bit harder on the plumbing (tampons) than the cops are.

      • mendax says:

        In the opposite case, where the world stops for 10 years to let government employees work, they might almost get caught up.

    • If all authors took a break, the effects would be different depending on the field.

      As an historian, I hate to say this, but history is probably the field that would be least impacted by such a hiatus. While it is good to get new historigraphical takes on, say, the French Revolution every generation or so (because it ties in with politics and helps us situate ourselves in our current period and how we ought to react to current events), they are not strictly needed for society to continue to function.

      Political writing would fare worse. The other day I was reading “What’s the Matter with Kansas” and a few other books from the early 2000s, and it really struck me how already dated and inapplicable to our current situation they currently are. With a hiatus in political writing, you might get an even larger uptick in mutual miscomprehension, confusion, untrue conspiracy theories (as opposed to the true ones that exist from time to time), and civil disorder.

      In the hard sciences, progress would probably still happen at a firm-by-firm basis, from incremental tinkering by engineers and whatnot, but progress would probably slow.

      Literature and entertainment would be fine. There is such a backlog of fictional material I want to read and watch and play that I could probably go the rest of my life without another computer game, movie, or novel being produced.

      • JayT says:

        My first thought was entertainment, but if you, for example, stopped making movies, that would be a huge hit to the economy and would put millions out of work. That would have a pretty huge effect on the entire world, I would think.

        • Nick says:

          that would be a huge hit to the economy

          At a tangent: Maybe it’s a distortion, though.

        • Randy M says:

          But that’s true for any industry; it’s not measuring the impact of losing the product, it’s measuring the number of people employed.

          Obviously, if many people are employed in an industry, it’s got to be providing value to someone, but I think that kind of economic thinking is against the spirit of the question, which is more of a “separate the luxury from the essential” point.

          • JayT says:

            See, I read the question to be more of “what’s something that people do, but if they stopped it would have the smallest effect on the world”.

          • Randy M says:

            Johan can speak for himself, but I think he meant “we [as consumers] can do without.”
            I know I could do without new novels, for example, because there are centuries of them.
            Similarly, but to a lesser extent, movies. There’s a huge back list, though not as many as books.
            Whereas farmers could take a couple days off, but if they were to slack for a season it’d be trouble.

            Legislatures going back to part time would be a boon.

    • JayT says:

      Fine art could probably take a break, right? I imagine all of the artists of the world have enough stock that they could keep the galleries filled for years.

    • Well... says:

      What parts of the work force are doing things we could seriously do without, if they just disappeared for ten years?

      I guess I’ve been here long enough to where I’m curious whether any of the other commenters here can guess how I instinctively wanted to answer this question. (I didn’t answer it that way because I’m not 100% confident in the answer.)

      • Nick says:

        You wanna say journalists.

          • I’m onboard with saying our journalists are hacks and propagandists and all that but what do you think would happen if there were no journalists? The next time there’s a natural disaster, people are going to be confused and want information. Sure, maybe they post things on social media but there has to be a central hub for that information. People will want someone to sift through all that mess and organize it in a coherent narrative that they can follow. Once you do that, you have recreated journalism. It is unavoidable.

          • Matt M says:

            I dunno, I think “journalist” has become a sufficiently newspeak sort of term such that most people now interpret it as “person who lies to you” rather than “person who gives you useful and actionable information that benefits your life”

            Your “local town happenings” Facebook group might technically qualify as “journalism” in a literal sense, but nobody sees the people posting to it as “journalists” and I don’t think they’d describe themselves that way either…

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Perhaps this is a distinction between “reporter” and “journalist.” It’s only the latter that makes me want to sneer when uttering it.

          • Dan L says:

            I view “journalist” as a natural category of human endeavor, given that it seems to emerge naturally in and is in some degree necessary to any functional (modern) society. It may be that most journalists aren’t very good at their jobs, but some most definitely are and I don’t see the point of assigning moral valence to the profession.

            More pointedly, I am extremely skeptical of any definition of “journalist” that doesn’t include Scott.

          • Well... says:

            Both “journalist” and “reporter” imply (IMHO at least) that the person in question is dressing their work in the garments of expertise and authority, while actually possessing neither.

            An astronomer who writes a pop sci book about black holes is not a journalist. But a guy with an English Lit degree who writes an article in a newspaper whose name conveys omniscience and is printed in a blackletter font, about how the proposed work to be done on the freeway will affect your morning commute, he is definitely a journalist.

          • @well

            It doesn’t sound like you have a problem with the concept of journalism, you just have a problem with the prestige of the profession and for some reason you equate reducing their prestige to eliminating the profession.

            Imagine that we had a group of people we call “Currenters” who just write stories about current events and make no claims about expertise. Would you have a problem with them?

          • Well... says:

            for some reason you equate reducing their prestige to eliminating the profession.

            Without the inflated prestige (or rather, the air of authority and scholarliness it attempts to convey through its formal characteristics), journalism is indistinguishable from other less prestigious forms of commentary. So yeah, without that the profession would be effectively eliminated.

            You might say I have a problem with journalism in the same way I have a problem with people putting on lab coats and hanging up a shingle that reads “get your medical diagnoses here” when they aren’t actually doctors. “Journalist” implies someone who writes in a journal, as in an academic peer-reviewed journal. Yet people who do no such thing get to go around calling themselves journalists.

            Certainly there is some utility in non-expert accounts of things, especially if those non-experts happen to be very good at getting access to experts, asking them important questions, and then digesting what they are told so other non-experts can understand it, but I think that utility is cancelled out and then some when the non-experts masquerade as authorities and make their process of distillation opaque.

          • Dacyn says:

            “Journalist” implies someone who writes in a journal, as in an academic peer-reviewed journal.

            🤨

          • albatross11 says:

            What makes you a scientist is doing science, not having a lab coat or a PhD. Plenty of science is done by folks with neither, and plenty of people with lab coats and PhDs don’t actually do any science.

            In a similar way, what makes you a journalist is doing journalism. Not having a journalism degree, or having press credentials, or working for an organization that’s widely seen as a real journalistic outlet. For some kinds of journalism, IMO, blogs and podcasts are much better than any traditional journalistic outlet. For others, we don’t seem to have any modern financially viable way of funding them. But the thing that matters isn’t that there’s a person with an official “journalist” credential writing for an official newspaper, it’s that there’s someone who’s making it their business to show up to all the county council meetings and honestly report back to the public on what’s going on there.

          • “Journalist” implies someone who writes in a journal, as in an academic peer-reviewed journal.

            The people who write in academic peer-reviewed journals aren’t called journalists. They are called physicists, or economists, or law professors, or …

          • @Well

            Do you not realize that there were journalists long before they had an “air of authority”? It came about not that long after the printing press and arose organically in different cities time and time again.

          • Well... says:

            @albatross11:

            We can say that what makes you a journalist is doing journalism. But then what is “doing journalism” and why is it different from blogs and podcasts? Why is it different from people posting to the “local town happenings” FB group? What distinguishes it from any other naturally emergent category of behavior in which people discuss what’s going on?

            I’m saying the difference is in the air of authority and scholarliness it attempts to convey through its formal characteristics, while not actually having any authority or scholarliness. That’s what makes it journalism. That’s why if you take those formal aspects away, or else make them legitimate, it isn’t journalism.

            @DavidFriedman:

            My point was that the title “journalist” appropriates “journal” to lend an air of authority and scholarliness. The WSJ is not a journal, but they want you to think of physicists, economists, law professors, etc. when you see their name. Putting the word “journal” in the name is a cheap easy way to do that. Sure beats having to have a bunch of PhDs peer review what you’re publishing!

            @Wrong Species:

            Can you be more specific?

          • bullseye says:

            Nobody confuses newspapers with academic journals. And that’s a good thing for newspapers, because the general public doesn’t want to read an academic journal.

            Another meaning of journal is a personal diary. Is “journalist” a dishonest word because journalists let other people read their work?

          • Well... says:

            Journalism is content that wears the garments of authority and scholarliness — i.e. the stuff actual academic journals actually have. Journalism does not aspire to remind you of personal journals. So in that latter case I’d say the shared term is a coincidence.

          • albatross11 says:

            As an example, the excellent virology podcast TWIV has devoted several recent episodes to the current outbreak of novel coronavirus in China, including reading and analyzing papers and corresponding with on-the-ground experts dealing with the crisis. Probably nobody on the podcast has press credentials[1] or works for a newspaper, but ISTM they’re doing journalism there. Twenty years ago, I’d have gone to a newspaper to get coverage of this stuff–now, I’m listening to a conversation between a bunch of academic virologists on the outbreak. They did similar coverage of many other big stories in the virology world–Zika, various Ebola outbreaks, avian influenza, the new H1N1 flu that started circulating a few years back, MERS, the suspected link between a murine retrovirus and CFS, etc.

            [1] Alan Dove is a science writer, so he actually might have press credentials.

      • viVI_IViv says:

        Diversity officers. I think their business is part a protection racket and part providing an edge to organizations playing a negative-sum virtue signalling game.

    • Lambert says:

      These tales of impending doom allowed the Golgafrinchans to rid themselves of an entire useless third of their population. The story was that they would build three Ark ships. Into the A ship would go all the leaders, scientists and other high achievers. The C ship would contain all the people who made things and did things, and the B Ark would hold everyone else, such as hairdressers and telephone sanitisers. They sent the B ship off first, but of course, the other two-thirds of the population stayed on the planet and lived full, rich and happy lives until they were all wiped out by a virulent disease contracted from a dirty telephone.

    • johan_larson says:

      If everyone in my profession, software development, took ten years off, first of all all the existing software and online services would stay as they are. There would be no new features, no fixes for bugs, and no new services would appear. If we assume the sysops and SREs don’t count as software developers, existing systems keep working.

      One real problem is that there would be no one to write patches for exploits discovered by hackers, so malware would spread more quickly and would do more damage. I expect that within a couple of years it would be common wisdom that you absolutely do no connect any computer to the internet if you have any choice about it at all. We’d be back to exchanging hardcopy documents and maybe mailing each other floppies in short order. Faxing would make a comeback.

      I suspect most people accept that losing the internet is too high a cost to pay, so the software developers can’t just amble over to Margaritaville en masse. A lot of us could, but not all.

      • helloo says:

        What about computer hardware makers?

        Sure there wouldn’t be as much demand as before, but still likely progress a lot during those 10 years, esp. as they have much better understanding on what will be running on the machines.

        Without increasing software bloat or higher def/process intensive software/services, the split between hardware and software would change the industry quite a bit.

        • JayT says:

          Computer parts wear out fairly quickly. There’s no way we could maintain our current world without replacing parts for ten years.

          You could maybe get away with no designers making new stuff, but you couldn’t shut down the factories.

          • helloo says:

            I am asking what if computer makers were excluded from this 10 yr ban and didn’t have to deal with new software.

      • viVI_IViv says:

        There would be no new features, no fixes for bugs, and no new services would appear. If we assume the sysops and SREs don’t count as software developers, existing systems keep working.

        Even without hackers, software requirements change over time. If there isn’t anybody to implement the relevant updates, lots of business software will become unusable.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Even without hackers, software requirements change over time. If there isn’t anybody to implement the relevant updates, lots of business software will become unusable.

          Not if we also fire the people who would have changed the requirements.

          Honestly, that’s the sort of thing that makes it really hard to tell. There are tons of jobs which exist mostly to deal with stuff people in other jobs are doing, and whether or not the entire chain is useful or just a circle of makework is hard to determine.

    • DinoNerd says:

      90% of salespeople, in particular all the ones who aren’t actually retail clerks with a fancy title. Minus the handful that are needed in order to navigate some incomprehensible bureaucracy just to order the intended product, and those who are currently the only interface that will actually let a major customer get some killer bug fixed.

      All marketing departments, from manager to junior clerk.

      Yes, there’s be a financial crash as some quantity of people didn’t buy products they didn’t need and wouldn’t enjoy, and a few who didn’t know how to search for what they wanted or needed failed to buy that. But after an adjustment period we’d all be far better off. (Also, far better if they took the next millenium off, not just a decade.)

      • johan_larson says:

        All marketing departments, from manager to junior clerk.

        Mumble. I can see things working with a lot less marketing. But no marketing at all?

        How do I as a movie-goer find out what movies are playing if no one at the theatres and movie studios is spending any money at all to tell me? Do I have to call them up and ask? Even something as simple as a weekly ad in the newspaper is arguably a marketing activity.

        • acymetric says:

          Maybe it would be possible to have some information about services/products/entertainment available without having a person or entire department who’s sole purpose is doing that.

          • AG says:

            Huh, does simply having a movie listings/schedule on a theater website count as marketing?

          • acymetric says:

            Maybe, but it is the kind of thing that doesn’t require a dedicated marketing department to do. @DinoNerd didn’t say to eliminate all marketing, just the departments, so even it it counts as marketing whoever does the theater scheduling can just update that schedule on the website.

            A bit of an aside, but in cost disease discussions has anyone done any analysis on the impact of marketing/advertising? I’m guessing the dollar amounts, while seeming huge, aren’t big enough to be a significant factor but I’m not certain of that.

        • Dacyn says:

          @johan_larson:

          Do I have to call them up and ask?

          Not in the age of the Internet. Unless you are going to argue that having a website that lists showtimes counts as a marketing activity.

          I’m actually not sure how well information about movies would spread by word of mouth if there were no marketing. I mean, presumably you would still have such thing as movie reviews and Rotten Tomatoes. It would be an interesting experiment.

          • JayT says:

            The only reason a movie theater would have a website is for marketing purposes, so I think that would definitely count as marketing activity. Now, in this marketing-free world there would probably still be websites that figured out all the showtimes and provided them, but I would guess in general that the person that updates a theater’s website is also the person that handles marketing.

          • AG says:

            That brings up an interesting corollary: in the absence of these tasks being done as jobs, how much of them would still get done by volunteers? Youtuber content would drastically decrease since none of them can do it full time anymore, but most of them started as amateurs anyways.

          • acymetric says:

            @JayT

            We aren’t eliminating all forms of marketing, just marketing departments who have the sole function of doing marketing stuff.

            This would drastically reduce the amount of marketing going on, but there would still be some marketing/product information distribution going on.

          • AG says:

            @acymetric
            Still have mixed feelings about this.
            A is equally good at marketing and content creation.
            B is better than A at content creation, but bad at marketing.
            C is good at marketing, but not content creation.

            Why shouldn’t B and C be allowed to team up?

          • Dacyn says:

            @AG: What does “good at marketing” mean? Two possible answers are “good at getting people to buy stuff” and “good at conveying product information to the public”. When I envision “no more marketing departments”, I envision a cultural shift from the former to the latter. (Such a shift is probably not realistic due to incentives, but we can always dream…)

          • AG says:

            @Dacyn

            The two aren’t mutually exclusive. Conveying product information is a technique for increasing sales.

          • Dacyn says:

            @AG:

            Conveying product information is a technique for increasing sales.

            Right, that’s the attitude we would want to get rid of.

            (I may have missed the point of your comment — I agree they aren’t mutually exclusive)

        • DinoNerd says:

          Wow! It didn’t even occur to me that simply listing available products would count as marketing. I think that might just be a blindspot, though also a result of what I see marketing departments doing – and it’s never that simple.

          OTOH, I guess I’ll happily make an exception for essentially clerical functions like this.

    • Most jobs today provide little value to the world.

      • “Value to the world” can be used as a weasel word. Coca-Cola might have negative value to the world. But individuals derive value from it. If the claim is that most jobs provide little value to individuals, I’d disagree strongly. There are some jobs, in government employment or jobs the government creates in the private sector via regulation.(Like car salesmen, governments often prevent you from buying directly.) Large firms can gather a lot of inefficiencies due to bad incentives,(of course, large firms have inherent advantages) which can include make-work positions. But most jobs are valuable. There might be a lot of slacking off on some jobs, but few in which they are completely worthless.

        • Imagine if Coke just disappeared from the world. What would the result be? Some people might grumble at first, but hardly anyone would care that much in the long run. But at least there we can see where the value comes from. That’s better than a lot of jobs, where people don’t even understand how what they do has any effect, good or bad.

          • Matt M says:

            That’s better than a lot of jobs, where people don’t even understand how what they do has any effect, good or bad.

            I think most of these people are lying, to try and advance their political goals or grant evidence to their cultural criticisms.

            I assume that all the people who go online and (anonymously, of course) claim their job has no value whatsoever would be signing a quite different tune if their boss called them into the office and said “Explain why I shouldn’t fire you right now.” I’m guessing they’d be able to come up with some perceived benefit of their continued employment pretty darn quick…

          • Dacyn says:

            @Matt M: Are you really claiming that people are more biased when their livelihood isn’t on the line? 🤨

          • eric23 says:

            If Coke disappeared then Pepsi would be a monopoly. They’d raise their prices until a new soft drink company entered the market – effectively a new Coke, restoring the supply of cheap soft drinks. And we’re right back where we started.

    • AlexOfUrals says:

      Everyone with a word “gender” or “race” in their job title who works outside anthropology and medicine. All the designers who develop new looks for things that already exist and work fine (which includes all the clothes and accessories). At least 90% of philosophers, but I imagine having a hard time defining the criterion. Everyone involved with offline adds (and online adds are only better insofar they finance things we care about). All SEO specialists, large fractions of software developers and TSA staff (and their colleagues in other countries). Many regulatory bodies. That guy in a club/bar toilet who hands you a paper towel hoping for tips (seriously what the f*ck was wrong with whoever invented this “job”). Every single person who comes to your home/calls on your phone to sell you something you didn’t ask for. 80-99 bottom percentiles – by popularity – of video bloggers and other online celebrities within each niche separately, with cutoff being lower for less popular niches. That’s what first comes to mind.

      • AlexOfUrals says:

        Oh, you said it’s just 10 years. Than make it 100% of all online content creators not involved with the news (and I just thought that it includes porn of course). And everyone working in VR development, hardware, software or content – they won’t come up with anything worthy in the next decade anyway, might as well not bother. Everyone developing new weapons, and many people building the existing ones too, especially the heavier ones.

      • Clutzy says:

        I chuckled about those bathroom tenders. Truly a deranged profession wherein you sit on a stool in a fartbox.

        • johan_larson says:

          I’ve been in bathrooms that looked like they could have benefited from a dedicated attendant. Or maybe they just needed more frequent cleaning.

          If a bathroom has an attendant, and he is doing his job, the toilets will be flushed, there won’t be piss on the seats, there will be enough toilet paper and hand towels, and no one will be using the bathroom to shoot up or get it on. That’s worth something.

    • proyas says:

      We could replace all bartenders with machines and having other staff members check ID cards. Money would need to be invested up front to buy and install the machines, but they would pay for themselves in a few years at most.

    • fibio says:

      Telephone sanitisers.

    • JonathanD says:

      You don’t specify whether this is global or just in the US, but if it is global, how about soldiers? Soldiers are one of those things you have to have because everyone else does. If everyone is getting rid of them, we could do without the lot.

      • Matt M says:

        Fool! Have you learned nothing from Demolition Man???

      • eric23 says:

        Not much use unless you get rid of the weapons too.

        • JonathanD says:

          Why not? I didn’t say get rid of cops. If no one has a military, what happens?

          • moonfirestorm says:

            It probably depends a lot on how the “get rid of X job for 10 years” magic is implemented.

            At the “just anyone calling themselves a soldier disappears” level, I imagine the police/SWAT teams/park rangers/whatever vaguely military-looking organization you can find start recruiting quite quickly, and grabbing some military equipment, and oh oops they didn’t realize that was the border, but now we’ve got this city, so shrug. Most likely everyone does this, and you just see the military balance of power shift a bit depending on how hard it is to get replacement manpower for your missing army.

            At the “anyone doing anything vaguely soldier-like disappears” level it’s probably going to be hard to keep cops around, particularly groups like SWAT teams that look a lot like soldiers. If they have to stand down from their duties or risk disappearing, now the sort of things you would previously have called them in to deal with are a much bigger problem. Terrorism seems like a huge issue as well, unless they’re classified as soldiers too.

            Go too far down the rabbit hole of “anything vaguely violence-related gets you disappeared” and I imagine you start trying to incite your enemies to do things that are just soldiery enough to get them disappeared. I wonder if a strike with an angry physical presence looks enough like terrorism to trigger the system…

            Nuclear arsenals might be a big problem depending on how strict the system is too. Is it safe to do maintenance tasks on a missile?

          • bean says:

            “just anyone calling themselves a soldier disappears”

            This US doesn’t have anything to worry about. That still leaves us two services. And the Air Force.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            This US doesn’t have anything to worry about. That still leaves us two services. And the Air Force.

            Three services and the Air Force.

            …Okay, fine, two services.

          • Dissonant Cognizance says:

            I think Japan suddenly becomes a military superpower, since their entire military is legally a police force.

          • Lambert says:

            How come they never got Wiederbewaffnet?
            Is it because they were safe from the Red Army and the PLA, by virtue of being an island? So they’d never have to fight on home turf in the same way the Bundeswehr was expected to?

          • Nornagest says:

            Is it safe to do maintenance tasks on a missile?

            Modern, American missiles, yes. They mostly use solid fuel, which is pretty safe on the ground. Storeable liquid propellants, used in the Scud and some other rockets, can involve some really nasty shit, though — their oxidizers in particular have a nasty habit of being toxic and extremely dangerous when spilled.

          • moonfirestorm says:

            Modern, American missiles, yes. They mostly use solid fuel, which is pretty safe on the ground.

            Sorry, I meant in terms of the hypothetical. “Safe” in the sense of “does this count as being a soldier, and thus gets you disappeared”

          • bean says:

            Three services and the Air Force.

            …Okay, fine, two services.

            No, you’re right with three. The Coast Guard slipped my mind. I think I’m safe not counting the NOAA and PHS Corps.

    • proyas says:

      All the people who pump gas thanks to ridiculous laws in Oregon and New Jersey could of course be fired tomorrow with no ill effect. In fact, it would be a net benefit to the economy since a deadweight loss would disappear.

    • Anthony says:

      HR, if you kept the people who only do benefits administration.

      By defeating the main purpose of HR, lots more people would get jobs in those blessed ten years.

  5. rumham says:

    I’ve been lurking forever, but I wanted to create an account to answer a question I just read in the last open thread.

    J Mann says:
    February 3, 2020 at 11:17 am

    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.

    It is unfortunately the case that it continued and even got worse.

    Here is link to a highschool debate last year, in which a debate was lost because of a team quoting “white supremacist” Ben Shapiro.

    It gets pretty racist, but of the more acceptable form you usually see on the MSM.

    In addition, one of the stars from that atlantic article (Ryan Walsh) has gone on to teach college debate.

    I would venture that debate at the highschool and collegiate has become completely riddled with overt racism.

    • Nick says:

      A Jewish guy is a white supremacist? I had no idea they were so diverse and inclusive these days.

    • AG says:

      It’s not on the content that you win debate, though. It’s on how you debate. High school debate is filled with people who don’t actually know how to debate well, whether out of inexperience or lack of talent. It’s easy enough to attend tournaments where the pickings are easy. Unless these arguments are consistently winning at the championship level, I’m not worried.

      Haven’t watched the video you linked, but did the team quoting Shapiro call the other team out on their anti-semitism? That likely would have shut the argument down real quick (since the team has thus demonstrated violating their own framework). So, a case of inexperience/lack of talent letting a bad argument win.

      • jermo sapiens says:

        I watched it. Imagine in your head the worst case scenario. It’s much worse than that.

        The poor guy is there claiming “this argument is not racist” and the opposing team is just saying “but you’re white” and the judge calls off the debate because of “actual violence against students”. What was the actual violence, you may ask? Well it’s hard to tell but I think it’s because the white guy didnt immediately accept that he was a racist because the opposing team called him racist.

        So, with respect to your statement that:

        It’s not on the content that you win debate, though. It’s on how you debate.

        I would tend to disagree. It appears that you win the debate by being less white than the other team.

        • MrSquid says:

          Imagine in your head the worst case scenario. It’s much worse than that.

          This is a lot of emotion for a mediocre team getting a DQ instead of a simple loss. Argue until you’re blue in the face about whether this was warranted, but I see zero reason at all to conclude from a single video that debate has become a contest over who can be “less white” rather than the vastly more plausible “one judge in a high school debate round did a whoopsie”.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            Clearly, from watching the video, and from your comment below, my assumptions about debate competitions are wildly off base. There are clearly a bunch of weird rules that I’m not familiar with, and which are probably in place for good reasons.

            I also agree with your comment below that debate should be about who argued better, and not who has the correct conclusion.

            That said, in this case it’s not just that there was a DQ when there should have been a loss. The winning team’s argument (or at least one of their argument) was that the other team was white and they were not. I’m not willing to believe that this is an isolated incident without further evidence. This type of nonsense is perfectly consistent with the cancerous SJW ideology which is everywhere on campuses. If anybody should be DQd, it should be anybody who’s argument is based on their skin color or the skin color of their opponent.

          • AG says:

            Yeah, I forgot to include “high school debate judges are highly dubious in quality” as a plausible case. More than half of them are straight up laymen with zero previous experience in competitive debate.

            I could probably volunteer to judge a tournament, and I haven’t touched it in over a decade.

      • rumham says:

        Haven’t watched the video you linked, but did the team quoting Shapiro call the other team out on their anti-semitism? That likely would have shut the argument down real quick (since the team has thus demonstrated violating their own framework).

        That would have been hilarious. But as MrSquid correctly noted below, Moreno is bad at debate.

      • rumham says:

        It’s easy enough to attend tournaments where the pickings are easy. Unless these arguments are consistently winning at the championship level, I’m not worried.

        Apparently it worked in college in 2017.

        While I personally do not agree with a lot of their arguments, I respect both Nic and Devane greatly because they truly believe 100% in their arguments. In round 8 against Georgetown, they had no problem making arguments like white people have no role in debate and we disrupt the norms and community of traditional status quo debate. Based on those arguments, the more backlash would only serve to supercharge solvency. The point that Devane emphasized was that black people are silenced in debate, and that resisting traditional norms like reading a plan trigger true black agency in the face of violence

        That’s after a lot of searching. This stuff gets pulled off of youtube for a reason. And if college is this hard to find, I don’t think I’m ever going to get much additional info on high school other than from MrSquid.

        • AG says:

          One is still no sample size. Perhaps Nic and Devane are genuinely that talented. Still doesn’t make the whole field “rife.”

          Try searching the Cross-X or Planet Debate forums, if you want to see what the chatter among the plebs is about.

          • rumham says:

            I have been checking out a lot of forums. And I found more examples. Talks of trigger warnings being used to disallow certain arguments, queer theory, afropesimism theory, sexism theory to name a few. I can think of one very important difference between those and say, timecube theory. Kritik for me but not for thee. Being denied opportunities based on your race or sex or sexual orientation seems to be highly discriminatory to me, but it seems that many disagree. The various children of critical theory are all well and truly represented.

            I understand the need for Kritik. It would be almost impossible to win if you have for example, a lay judge who is a school teacher and you are arguing for school choice. So challenge the framework. But these arguments are different.

            Perhaps Nic and Devane are genuinely that talented. Still doesn’t make the whole field “rife.”

            What does their talent have to do with the blatant racism and critical race theory (but I repeat myself)?

            (not quoting you here, just the reddit debate forum)

            they had no problem making arguments like white people have no role in debate

            rife
            adjective
            (especially of something undesirable or harmful) of common occurrence

            What would you consider common? This is important. As I am personally more convinced than ever, I want to see if it is even worth it to go to the trouble of linking more examples. Many are google docs, which, were I not running my operating system the way I currently am, would not have downloaded from an unknown source.

            One is still no sample size.

            If you’ve narrowed it to debate championships after 2014 (because we know it won in 2013 and 2014), then I post 2017, we’re already at 20% of the remaining examples. Seems pretty common to me. I also have posted evidence of why such data is difficult to find.

            If you aren’t narrowing it to debate championships as you stated earlier, then I would encourage you to re-read this and the associated threads as your number of 1 definitely incorrect.

            Try searching the Cross-X or Planet Debate forums

            Planet Debate is apparently gone. Cross-X is being blocked by google because it says that the site is currently unsecure.

            But if you have access to evidence I do not, I for one would love to see an example of these arguments losing. I have yet to find it.

    • MrSquid says:

      Here is link to a highschool debate last year, in which a debate was lost because of a team quoting “white supremacist” Ben Shapiro.

      I would venture that debate at the highschool and collegiate has become completely riddled with overt racism.

      A data point of one debate is a tremendously bad sample to be making sweeping claims off of, particularly when the video does not quite arrive at the same conclusion as the claim. They lost because they are, bluntly, bad at debate. They are aware of the criteria on which they will be judged and rather than attempting to meet that criteria decide to openly attack the idea that such criteria is valid. They attempt to defend positions that are absolutely insane, like the Peterson 16 card that attempts to directly link “identity politics” on the left to the policies of Nazi Germany or claim that there is continuity between Soviet gulags and the US Democratic Party. These are quite plainly bad lines of argumentation that are going to make most high school debate judges rather unsympathetic to further claims. They are even worse when you were already told beforehand that the judge in question is not going to be sympathetic.

      The reaction from the debating world, as best as I can tell (note: I judge high school debate some weekends, but I have not been in high school debate for some time) was that the team in question was going to lose regardless, but the DQ was a bit out of bounds. The video discusses this with the tabroom manager, who more or less states that Moreno’s team was going to lose and have no grounds to appeal that loss, but should have simply been marked a loss and moved on. Having spoken with some coaches and judges, the overwhelming thought was that Moreno’s team was the worse of the two because their evidence is so scant and to justify it you need better than Shapiro or Peterson, who are not experts in the field of political science or race theory and don’t do much in the cards chosen to prove their claims or cite further sources to back them up. They also agreed that the DQ was a step too far.

      As to the question of Wash, well suffice to say that Moreno is a liar here. Wash’s students have repeatedly come out and said that Wash’s argument was not something Wash believes but rather Wash attempting to demonstrate a potential argument against Moreno’s position, other students have come out and stated that Moreno’s claims that they must run specific arguments are false. Moreno has in other posts directly claimed that Wash sincerely believes in the argument he presented, and from what I’ve seen everyone else at Weber State that is familiar with Wash and his methods says that is false. And Moreno’s flatly wrong in his claims that a coach shouldn’t vigorously attack student’s arguments because it is worse than useless to not prepare debate students for what they will see in a debate. Particularly when it’s policy which, for those not aware, is an odd duck of the debate world that is routinely mocked for being full of people using spreading and claiming that everything will lead to nuclear war (this, I’m led to believe, has somewhat changed since I was in debate). If you aren’t prepared to defend against rapid-speed arguments that are varying degrees of at all reasonable, you will lose policy rounds more often than not. Moreno is making the mistake of believing debate to be simply about who has the correct conclusion and not who can argue better (as evidenced by his video, “Debate is not about Persuasion” which quite literally is false and you would not find a single debate coach willing to defend the proposition that competitive debate is not about persuasion) and his conclusions only work if you begin with this false belief.

      • rumham says:

        the overwhelming thought was that Moreno’s team was the worse of the two because their evidence is so scant and to justify it you need better than Shapiro or Peterson

        Wash’s argument was not something Wash believes but rather Wash attempting to demonstrate a potential argument against Moreno’s position

        I’m unclear that on how the youtube channel owner being bad at debate or lying has anything to do with what I said. That these are common arguments that anyone would need to prepare for would seem to support the conjecture that critical race theory and racism is rife in debate.

        A data point of one debate is a tremendously bad sample to be making sweeping claims off of, particularly when the video does not quite arrive at the same conclusion as the claim

        My conclusion was that debate is currently rife with critical theory and racism. You seem to have confirmed that from a judges perspective. So now at least I have two data points.

        • MrSquid says:

          I’m unclear that on how the youtube channel owner being bad at debate or lying has anything to do with what I said. That these are common arguments that anyone would need to prepare for would seem to support the conjecture that critical race theory and racism is rife in debate.

          You are misunderstanding. These are not common arguments. They merely are arguments one ought to be prepared for because one ought to be prepared in debate for a variety of arguments that have their own degrees of intellectual rigour. I think the most obvious strike against them being common is that Moreno is quite obviously acting in bad faith here and trying to present them as omnipresent in debate and his full set of examples are a judge in one round of a debate, a professor making a hypothetical argument (which, as the other students involved noted, was not Wash’s only argument), and a ban on a discord server. If this was so rife, it’d be trivial for him to have demonstrated other examples or cite other cases but he hasn’t.

          I’d also say you are flatly wrong that I confirmed it from a judge’s perspective. My experience is that critical race theory is rare and the kind of racism you seem to be concerned with has literally never happened in a round I’ve witnessed. My sole experience with racism in debate is one student who used a racial slur to describe African-Americans and a student who cited approvingly a publication about immigrant crime rates and welfare usage as evidence for why we ought to ban all Mexican immigrants.

          • Nick says:

            If this was so rife, it’d be trivial for him to have demonstrated other examples or cite other cases but he hasn’t.

            I don’t think that follows at all. When you’re making an argument, you use representative examples; you don’t list all the dozens of examples you could unless an opponent insists your examples are isolated. To do so is usually just a waste of time. It would another thing, to be clear, if the video got this criticism and he made a followup refusing to cite more examples; there I think you would be right. Did that happen?

          • MrSquid says:

            When you’re making an argument, you use representative examples

            That works if your are making an argument that a thing exists or that a thing warrants some concern. But if your argument is explicitly that something is “rife” then one example is rather insufficient to move priors, particularly if the claim is extraordinary such as “High school debating circles are rife with overt racism against white students” that should be assigned very low odds initially.

            It would another thing, to be clear, if the video got this criticism and he made a followup refusing to cite more examples; there I think you would be right. Did that happen?

            It was pretty widely shared and mocked in various debating circles — one of his videos complains that a somewhat large discord banned him and shared screenshots of members discussing Moreno as the “Shapiro cards guy”. You can see for yourself on his channel that he felt compelled to make a response (see both his “follow-up” video and a further “Debate is Not About Persuasion” video), but neither video provided further proof of other cases and insisted that the initial video is sufficient. The closest he gets is his following example with Ryan Wash which he claims is representative and an accurate depiction of events and pretty much everyone else that has knowledge of the situation disagrees with this assessment.

          • Nick says:

            Thanks, that fleshes things out some.

          • rumham says:

            MrSquid,
            It has been decades since high school crossX, and I definitely don’t know anyone currently debating, so I’ll bow to your experience here that it’s rare. But there are some implications here i guess I’m still not getting. For example:

            Having spoken with some coaches and judges, the overwhelming thought was that Moreno’s team was the worse of the two because their evidence is so scant and to justify it you need better than Shapiro or Peterson, who are not experts in the field of political science or race theory and don’t do much in the cards chosen to prove their claims or cite further sources to back them up.

            Who, in your opinion would be best to cite to defend against that you can’t cite fairness because you’re white (from the high school video)?

            but the DQ was a bit out of bounds

            Just a bit? That was nuts.

            My sole experience with racism in debate is one student who used a racial slur to describe African-Americans

            I noticed Walsh and others have used that tactic in final rounds of multiple championships. Once again, far outside of my experience. That would have DQ’d you immediately when I was debating. Was it successful here? Why or why not?

            My experience is that critical race theory is rare

            How rare? Like 1/50? 1/10? How did you judge those? Is there a common tactic now to diffuse it? Maybe Zizek? I have been looking, and I can find no examples of it being beaten.

            And to Jmann’s original question, as I can’t seem to find what I have been looking for online did it keep wining after 2013, 2014, and 2015?

            a student who cited approvingly a publication about immigrant crime rates and welfare usage as evidence for why we ought to ban all Mexican immigrants.

            Seems anti-Mexican to me, but I wonder if we’re using the same definitions of racism. I favor the ADLs: “Racism is the belief that a particular race is superior or inferior to another, that a person’s social and moral traits are predetermined by his or her inborn biological characteristics.” Which would fit “you can’t cite fairness because you’re white” to a T. Is you definition the same? From the second video “you don’t have to answer him because he’s white” patterns to bigotry instead of racism in my opinion, but it could very well stem from racism.

            If this was so rife, it’d be trivial for him to have demonstrated other examples or cite other cases but he hasn’t.

            How many would it take? Ballpark?

            As an aside, I would like to thank you for taking the time to engage with me on this topic, as you provide information from a perspective I no longer have (I was out well before 9/11, so the “everything leads to nuclear war” thing is new to me as well).

    • Pdubbs says:

      Debate has been insane for far longer than “social justice” as it is now was a thing. The most extreme example is Timecube, but you’ll see people losing to everything from “plan is not communist enough” to “laws are bad.”

      This shouldn’t be taken as a sign of social change.

      • rumham says:

        Agreed about the arcane strangeness of debate. But, simply for my own clarification, do you believe I was incorrect in my OP?

        • AG says:

          If competitive debate is riddled with overt racism, it’s only tactically so, not because anyone actually believes it. In the Bush years, “the opposing team’s plan will lead to LOSING THE WAR ON TERROR (which leads to nuclear war)” was all the rage, but not because competitive debate was actually Islamophobic. It was just easy to pick up soundbites to present as “evidence.”

          Debate is full of a team arguing “States good” in one round and “Statism is THE WORST” in the next, because that’s how the goddamn sport works. This same team running the “debate is racist” argument in this round will happily argue against the position if/when someone pulls that argument on them.

          Every team has 5 gallon tubs full of arguments folders, where the “rape is worse than death” folder is right next to the “answers against rape is worse than death” folder, right next to the “zizek” binder, right next to the “zizek sucks” binder.

          The answer is that debate is rife with critical theory and anti-critical theory.

          • rumham says:

            In the Bush years, “the opposing team’s plan will lead to LOSING THE WAR ON TERROR (which leads to nuclear war)” was all the rage, but not because competitive debate was actually Islamophobic.

            That was before my time as well, but I don’t know if it’s really comparable, did anyone use “LOSING THE WAR ON TERROR” as a reason to deny the validity of Muslim students partaking in the debate or being allowed to use certain arguments at all?

            The answer is that debate is rife with critical theory and anti-critical theory.

            I was hoping that was the case, but i can’t find any videos of the anti-critical theory stuff winning anywhere. It seems like its still a trump card only to be wielded by a select few.

        • Pdubbs says:

          For clarification my belief is that “I would venture that debate at the highschool and collegiate has become completely riddled with overt racism.” is a likely true but also uninteresting statement. Since (especially policy) debaters have been making cultural theory arguments, calling people racist on no grounds, and proactively defending Marxism since before 2008 I don’t think them latching on to Extreme Social Justice style racism has bearing on anything outside of the sport. The kids that would run Marx Kritks would go on to work at investment banks and I see no reason debaters who will leverage race arguments are any more sincere in their belief.

      • Lambert says:

        The paragraph where they get into debate strategy feels like reading an advanced strategy guide for a mechanically deep video game I’ve never played.

        • Pdubbs says:

          This is exactly what some kinds of debate are like.

          There was a truism when I was in college that “if the administrators ever saw a debate round they’d cut our funding immediately”

          It seems relevant to this whole conversation that there’s a theory that REM’s “The End of the World as we Know it” is about policy debate, with the speed mimicking a policy round, debate lingo like “net” and “churn” used, and many allusions to the world ending (but I feel fine).

          A tournament of lies indeed.

          • Lambert says:

            I’m not saying ‘time to feed a load of transcripts into GPT-2’ but it’s totally time to feed a load of transcripts of university debates into GPT-2 for shits and giggles.

  6. James says:

    Hey @The Nybbler,

    I’m just having a look at your comment-searching tool, which is neat. Can I ask a couple questions about the implementation? How do you get the comments? Do you just scrape the OT pages, or can you query for them in some nicer way than that? I assume you’re holding them in some kind of database at your end?

    Going to the next page of results seems not to work for me.

    • Nick says:

      The Nybbler’s original post mentions some technical details, though not all of what you’re asking. Paging used to work but doesn’t anymore; I assumed he disabled it.

      ETA: He’s doing something other than just storing a scrape like at the start, because comments made today appear on there quickly.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I scrape SSC for the comments; SSC is easily parsable. The way I get them quickly is I poll the RSS feeds every few minutes. When I see a new page or comment, I scrape the source page and add the comments to the database. There’s actually two databases, one regular nosql database and one Elasticsearch cluster; the comments get added to the nosql database then transferred to the cluster.

      Yep, next page appears to be broken; I’ll take a look when I get a chance. I suspect it’s because Elastic is absolutely terrible about maintaining backwards compatibility and I upgraded it; I think what happened is they changed the format of the “result count” field.

      • James says:

        Ah, getting them from the RSS feed is good thinking; I don’t think I woulda thought of that.

        I ask because I’ve been idly turning over in my head the idea of writing something similar: not search, but a more forum/bulletin board-ish interface to the OTs. But not sure how feasible it is, or whether it’s worth the time it would take me.

      • Evan Þ says:

        Your search fails to find any of my comments, for some reason. Searching “Author:Evan” yields nothing; searching “Author:Evan Þ” yields comments containing Þ in the comment text; searching “Author:”Evan Þ”” yields nothing.

        Am I making syntax errors, or is this a deficiency in your parser, or something else?

  7. Conrad Honcho says:

    1) With regards to Biden, a big problem for him is that the first primary he has a good shot at winning isn’t until February 29th. That is over three and a half weeks of “NON-VIABLE” branding. That will be hard to shake off.

    2) I don’t know much about Fuentes, but would you consider him alt-right or alt-lite?

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      I mean, it seems to me the defining feature of the alt-right post “Heil Trump” / Charlottesville is White Nationalism, which is an explicit call for a white ethnostate. If he’s not calling for a whites-only ethnostate, I wouldn’t call him alt-right.

    • herbert herberson says:

      Right, so it depends how important momentum is.

      Usually overstated, but losing elections is not good for the electability candidate.

  8. Nick says:

    We had a discussion last thread about whether social justice was on the upswing, whether it had lost its momentum, etc. Questions about how one measures the acceleration of an ideology notwithstanding, I think it’s fair to say the all-trite still has some.

    I’m actually not clear on what the term Groyper means precisely, though. I swear I only really started seeing it in the last month or two, but it seems to be everywhere now. Is it just a new term for the same old people? Can you shed light?

  9. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Conan story #2: The God in the Bowl

    This short story depicts Conan as a wild youth encountering civilization. It was submitted to Weird Tales at the same time as “The Phoenix on the Sword”, the earliest depiction of Conan as a king. Thus Robert E. Howard sketched out the whole arc of the character’s life, save its ending, from the first. It was rejected by WT editor Farnsworth Wright and rediscovered and publishedby L. Sprague de Camp in 1951-2, who placed it after “The Tower of the Elephant” – which we’ll be reviewing next – when arranging the stories chronologically.

    It opens at midnight in a candlelit building somewhere in the country of Nemedia. “It was a fantastic establishment, the great museum and antique house which men called Kallian Publico’s Temple, with its rarities from all over the world”: mainly idols, weapons, and shields, and it’s not clear to what extent this is a pre-Classical place of worship vs. a rich art collector’s house. We’re going to find these stories full of anachronisms, and while the socio-technological ones are the basic conceit to accept, a Latin name like “Publico” particularly bothers me. Naming people after Latin words we still use in English undermines that “lost civilization” conceit.
    But no matter! That guy’s dead anyway, and it’s up to the watchman who finds him to discern whodunit. He finds a suspect right away: teenage Conan, who claims he just climbed in the window to rob the place, arriving too soon to be the killer. He’s a bit clueless in general, not realizing that Arus the watchman is a watchman even when he rings a bell to summon six pre-modern cops to arrest Conan. The Chief Inquisitor of the city inquisits him to determine if he’s the killer
    If one’s eyes are keen to Dungeons & Dragons tropes, this bit will amuse:

    How did you enter the Temple?’
    ‘I hid in the shadows of the warehouse which stands behind this building,’ Conan answered grudgingly. ‘When this dog —’ jerking a thumb at Arus—’passed by and rounded the corner, I ran quickly to the wall and scaled it—’
    ‘A lie!’ broke in Arus. ‘No man could climb that straight wall!’
    ‘Did you ever see a Cimmerian scale a sheer cliff?’ asked Demetrio impatiently. ‘I am conducting this investigation. ‘

    (In the earliest editions of D&D, every Thief has an 85% chance to climb a sheer wall or cliff at Level 1.)

    The cops hold the sword-armed Conan in a standoff and come around to investigate Publico’s corpse, finding that his neck was crushed by a cable thicker than a man’s arm, which is not found on Conan or otherwise. They question the dead man’s clerk and enslaved charioteer. The former reveals under threat of torture that Publico came here clandestinely from a villa to look at a stolen treasure. By double-crossing a caravan master, he came into more than temporary possession of “‘A sort of sarcophagus, such as is found in ancient Stygian tombs, but this one was round, like a covered metal bowl. Its composition was something like copper, but much harder, and it was carved with hieroglyphics.” Publico believed that he’d managed to steal the box for the diadem of an ancient giant-king, “which myths say was set with the strange jewels known only to that ancient race, a single one of which is worth more than all the jewels of the modern world.”
    They find the sarcophagus or bowl empty, but it’s unclear it if arrived that way. It’s surmised that “When Kallian had the Bowl open, the murderer sprang on him—or he might have killed Kallian and opened the Bowl himself.”
    Back to Conan. To not incriminate himself by silence, he confesses that a civilized man gave him a diagram of the temple and suggested he use his Thief skills to steal a diamond goblet from it. Meanwhile all clues are starting to point toward Publico having been killed by a serpent sent in the bowl as a “gift” from Thoth-Amon, archenemy of the priest it was intended for before Publico stole it. The prefect of police, who the narrator tells us is a materialist, acts like an idiot and does nothing about the supernatural snake on the loose, even bringing in Aztrias, Conan’s contact, who betrays him. Conan kills him along with the inquisitor, then the remaining forces of civilization are routed as the title character strikes: a constrictor snake with a beautiful, god-like human head. Conan kills that too as he makes his escape from the city and what it represents. But unlike killing a man, it seems to give him PTSD: “The thought of Set was like a nightmare, and the children of Set who once ruled the earth and who now sleep in their nighted caverns far below the black pyramids.”

    I find this a pretty average example of the sort of thing Howard was going for with the Conan tales: genre fiction (unusually in this case a detective story) with brutal action in a context of an eerie sense of supernatural Deep Time.
    Next I’ll cover “The Tower of the Elephant”, and I would like feedback on how many stories y’all think we should review in each OT.

    • Nick says:

      Publico, Stygian tombs, and Set—very much a “cool ancient word” grab-bag here. Does Howard get better about these things in later stories?

    • broblawsky says:

      Conan stories mixing cultural references never really bothered me. Even though the Hyperborean period is theoretically a precursor to the ancient world, I never really expect them to correlate in any kind of meaningful way.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      My library hold just came in so I can read this tonight!

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Okay, I’m all caught up! Also, I read The Phoenix on the Sword because it was before The Frost-Giant’s Daughter in my book.

      Yes, I really enjoyed the whole genre fiction aspect: whodunits are fun. Not so much when it’s blindingly obvious “gee the guy had his neck crushed by a super thick coil, after opening the ancient jar, which came from the place where the Snake God’s race was. I wonder what it could have possibly been.”

      Also,

      He’s a bit clueless in general, not realizing that Arus the watchman is a watchman even when he rings a bell to summon six pre-modern cops to arrest Conan.

      No, he didn’t realize Arus was a watchman until he rang the bell. He says that specifically:

      “Why did you come from your hiding place?”

      “It was dark when I saw the watchman outside the Temple. When I saw him here I thought he was a thief too. It was not until he jerked the watch-bell rope and lifted his bow that I knew he was the watchman.”

      Also, complete dick move of Conan to go for stabbing Demetrio in the groin. The Inquisitor was a fair investigator, and did not believe Conan was guilty of the murder. But barbarians gonna barbarian, yo.

      Other point for continuity: it’s interesting that Thoth-Amon, dread sorcerer of Stygia in this story is the same sorcerer-in-exile in The Phoenix on the Sword, taking place much later when Conan is king.

      I vote for two stories per OT. Now off to read The Tower of the Elephant.

      ETA: just realized that stabbing someone in the groin is literally a dick move.

    • Plumber says:

      @Le Maistre Chat,

      Will it be “The Scarlet Citadel” after “The The Tower of the Elephant“, or something else?

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        @Plumber: It’ll be “The Tower of the Elephant”. Story after that will be “Rogues in the House”.

        • Nick says:

          I’ll be reading “The Tower of the Elephant” for next time! Thanks for linking, Plumber.

        • Plumber says:

          “Rogues in the House”

          Ooh!

          I haven’t read that one!

          Looking forward to it, thanks @Le Maistre Chat

    • bullseye says:

      I remember a Conan story where Conan is a witness to a crime and ends up killing the judge; is this a distorted memory of The God in the Bowl, or is there actually a story like that? I think I also remember, in the same story, the narrator commenting that barbarians are more polite than civilized men because civilized men don’t usually get their heads chopped off for rudeness.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        I remember a Conan story where Conan is a witness to a crime and ends up killing the judge; is this a distorted memory of The God in the Bowl, or is there actually a story like that?

        He kills a judge at the beginning of “Queen of the Black Coast”, then leaps on to a disembarking merchant ship to escape the pursuit that logically follows.

    • Nornagest says:

      We’re going to find these stories full of anachronisms, and while the socio-technological ones are the basic conceit to accept, a Latin name like “Publico” particularly bothers me.

      In The Book of the New Sun, a work set a million or more years in the future, Gene Wolfe uses English for the narrator’s language and Greek and Latin (mostly the latter) for languages that he considers archaic and high-status. This includes names: there’s a Typhon running around. Stands to reason that something similar might be going on here.

  10. proyas says:

    You’re the dictator of a medium-sized country with a closed economy, you’re OCD, and you’ve decided to let your citizens own passenger vehicles. However, instead of opening your borders to trade and letting the markets decide which cars your people want, you’re only going to allow importation of three chassis types, and to allow each chassis to be used to make two models of vehicle. You think this will be a good idea from a logistics and cost standpoint since your mechanics will only need to deal with so many types of spare parts and car systems.

    You can only let in six existing passenger vehicle models that are built on three chassis types. Which do you pick, and why?

    More info: Your country’s per capita GDP is $10,000, and the roads in your major cities and on the highways connecting them are good, but everything else is potholed.

    • Deiseach says:

      Morris 1000. No suspension to speak of (my backside still twinges in memory) but it’s many the gaggle of kids, bale of hay, and a calf that was hauled in the back of one! And if it could handle Irish boreens, it’d be well able to handle rural cart-tracks in any other nation.

    • Protagoras says:

      Hmmm. The Toyota Etios is more expensive than most of the cheap cars made by major car makers for the developing market, but that seems to be because it doesn’t cut as many corners on safety, which appeals to my OCD. And we don’t want Toyota to exploit their near monopoly to raise prices, so perhaps also the Honda Brio/Amaze. If the third chassis fills a different niche, it won’t have any competition, which is worrying, but there are probably other niches to be filled (it sounds like something that will handle poor roads well might be a need), so I’m torn between finding a third competitor and choosing a completely different chassis for the third choice.

      • JayT says:

        You would definitely want a pickup truck and a van of some kind in addition to the subcompact. Though, I suppose you could use the same chassis for both of those. I’m not sure what the cheapest truck is in the world though. I tend to see a lot of Mitsubishis in developing nations, maybe that’s the way to go.

        • Protagoras says:

          I was assuming that “passenger vehicle” meant that work vehicles were a separate category not involved in this scheme. Yes, it’s not just businesses that sometimes need to move around more than just people, but if you’re not talking a construction or shipping company, it’s usually possible to improvise and get by with a vehicle not specifically designed for that sort of thing.

    • Lambert says:

      Do vehicles even have chassises anymore?
      I thought it was integrated with other stuff to keeps weight down.

      Land Rover Series IIA (LWB, SWB)
      Considering where mid-sized dictatorships tend to be, probably go for the tropical roof as standard.

      Hilux/ Land Cruiser (DShK sold separately)

      Aston Martin DB5

    • zzzzort says:

      What’s the climate? And how urban? 10k GDP is definitely a good spot for scooters or motorcycles. Probably go with a Bajaj tuktuk of some variety, electric if I’m setting things up from scratch. On the other end of the spectrum a Roadmaster double decker bus (or does that fall outside passenger vehicle?). And in the middle some generic kia or something? I don’t know why anyone would want that when they could be tuktuking around.

    • The Nybbler says:

      We’re going to need a pickup truck, which should also have an SUV platform. Suburbans were kind of a staple in Mexico back when their roads totally sucked (no, really, they were worse. As in no paved road from the airport to the beach when going to Cancun), but they were a lot cheaper back then. But, on the other hand, I can’t seem to find a shared American <plays national anthem> pickup/SUV platform that’s not full-size (I’m not really a truck guy), so we’ll go for the GMC Yukon/Chevy Silverado. This is going to be for our wealthy citizens; I’m assuming plenty of inequality.

      We’ll probably want something super-cheap too. America is not the place to look here. Mexico used the old Beetle for this, but the new Beetle is not the same animal. Tata no longer produces the Nano, though for the safety of our citizens, probably just as well. The Suzuki Alto seems like a reasonable choice here; it appears there is only the one car built on the platform; it may come in 4WD in Japan, if so that’ll be our variant.

      And of course the muddled middle. For a step up from the Alto, we’ll go for the Ford Fiesta, because it’s available as both sedan and hatchback. It’s not much of a family car, but we’re a poor country.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      Dacia Logan, in 2-3 configurations (classic, MCV, pickup). Easily fits into the budget and has already proven that it can survive potholes – it’s high&sturdy enough to qualify as very light all terrain. Cheapest option starts at around $8000.

      At a higher budget I’d probably go Japanese, but no chance in hell of financing enough cars at 10k. Actually, I think a good idea would be to break up the budget a bit. 10k would be average, so let’s say upper-lower quartile are from 5-15k. Upper quartile would buy new, lower would walk, and middle half would buy used. If we take a median upper quartile income of 20k, so a decent price point would be a yearly payment of 10% of 20k, i.e. 2000 per year, so about $10,000 new car. A bit higher for pickups (business expense) or family cars (two incomes).

    • proyas says:

      BTW, one chassis I’d pick is the Ford Global C. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ford_C1_platform

      Two vehicle models could be built with it:

      1) Ford Focus hatchback (general-purpose, high-efficiency, everyman’s car for use on good roads)

      2) Ford Transit Connect (standard van).

      I’ll fudge my own rules a little here by saying that the Transit Connect would have a work/utility variant and a family minivan variant.

      The vehicle prices would be kept low by deleting many safety features and accessories.

  11. hls2003 says:

    The impeachment vote has concluded, with the results 52-48 for acquittal on the first article (abuse of power) and 53-47 on the second article (obstruction of Congress). All Democrats voted to convict on both articles. Mitt Romney was the sole Republican to vote to convict on the first article, and appears to have voted to acquit on the second article given the total, though I can’t find a full roll call yet.

    Compare to predictions in last week’s Open Thread string. My prediction was off by two on the primary article, having predicted 54-46 with all Republicans and Joe Manchin acquitting. I did note that of all Republicans, I thought Mitt Romney the most likely to vote to convict. So if I count three sub-predictions (total number, identity of Republican defectors, identity of Democratic defectors), I’d give myself credit for 1 out of 3 guesses (more or less, for picking Romney as the most likely defector).

    How’d you do?

    • broblawsky says:

      I expected Romney to vote to convict and Jones to vote to acquit, so I’m 50-50.

    • Milo Minderbinder says:

      I expected a party-line vote, Romney was a pleasant surprise. I would have gladly voted for him over Clinton, I’m pleased to see my assessment of his character was correct.

    • Nick says:

      I agreed with your predictions at the time, figuring a Romney convict was more likely than not and thought a Manchin acquittal was a shoe-in. I’m shocked Manchin voted to convict.

      • hls2003 says:

        I think I under-weighted the fact that in terms of election cycles, Manchin is as far away as possible from a re-election campaign. He’s not up until 2024, which is a long time in voter attention span and, even, his own career span if he is considering retirement or service in a Democratic administration. I’m still surprised.

    • Skeptic says:

      I was off. I expected Manchin to vote for acquittal.

      Most important thing is that it’s entirely political. Trump camp will spin Romney as sour grapes and Democrats as overthrowing an election.

      The Journo-List take will be a destruction and delegitimization of our entire democracy, so expect Vox et al to say we’re now in Nazi Germany. The irony will be that they constantly attempt to delegitimize every institutional and constitutional protection we have.

      • Milo Minderbinder says:

        Doesn’t Romney’s vote/speech kinda undermine the purely political claim though? Trump’s camp will spin as they are wont, but for non-kool-aid drinkers (so ~10% of the GOP, and most independents/Dems) it’s further evidence of the abandonment of anything resembling “conservatism” by the GOP.

        • EchoChaos says:

          Doesn’t Romney’s vote/speech kinda undermine the purely political claim though?

          It does. It’s probably the biggest deal politically of the vote and does pretty decent harm to the GOP.

          Whether that will overtop the earlier harm to the Democrats that impeachment itself did remains to be seen, but Romney gave the Dems a major gift with his vote.

          • I disagreed with Romney’s vote — I think Trump is guilty as accused in the Ukrainian business, but that it’s not so far outside what presidents normally do, more discretely, as to justify impeachment. But I thought the vote we to Romney’s credit, as evidence that he acts on his moral principles, not just on political expediency. That conclusion was reinforced by his voting to acquit on the second charge, which struck me as not merely inadequate but outrageous, since it amounted to the House charging Trump with obstruction because they were not willing to wait for the judicial branch to decide whether or not what he was doing was covered by executive privilege.

            But then my general, not very well informed, opinion of Romney was that he was a man who took his principles seriously, although that might result in his holding views I disagreed with.

            Somewhat the opposite of my view of Bill Clinton, who struck me as a bad man but not a particularly bad president.

          • Matt M says:

            But I thought the vote we to Romney’s credit, as evidence that he acts on his moral principles, not just on political expediency.

            What if we replace “political expediency” with “social expediency.” What does Romney care about political expediency? His political career has already peaked. He’s not going to be President. He’s already fantastically wealthy. If he loses his Senate spot next time around, his life goes on just fine.

            But he voted in a way that guarantees his standing among the global elite will not be in jeopardy. He will continue to be invited to the right cocktail parties. The newspapers and TV networks will call him a hero, rather than a racist. When all the history books eventually conclude that Trump was a villainous wannabe-dictator, he can point at them to his grandkids and say, “See, I stood up to this man!” Etc.

            There are plenty of plausible reasons Romney might have made this vote aside from “personal moral courage” or whatever…

          • Dan L says:

            @ David:

            That conclusion was reinforced by his voting to acquit on the second charge, which struck me as not merely inadequate but outrageous, since it amounted to the House charging Trump with obstruction because they were not willing to wait for the judicial branch to decide whether or not what he was doing was covered by executive privilege.

            I’m not sure what legal action you are referencing. Are you familiar with the Justice Department’s argument in the McGahn case?

          • I’m not sure what legal action you are referencing. Are you familiar with the Justice Department’s argument in the McGahn case?

            I had not followed that, but looking at your link I find:

            It was unclear whether the judges would rule in the two cases before the Senate impeachment trial. Their rulings could be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ultimately may decide the disputes.

            That seems to fit my point. The House is charging Trump with obstruction for claiming executive privilege and refusing to have people testify, without waiting for a final ruling from the court system on whether Trump’s action is justified.

          • Dan L says:

            @ David:

            I had not followed that, but looking at your link I find:

            If you are coming to this issue blind, a single Reuters article is not going to be enough to bring you up to speed. The legal disagreements are not subtle, but the context is complicated if you haven’t been following along.

            The House is charging Trump with obstruction for claiming executive privilege and refusing to have people testify, without waiting for a final ruling from the court system on whether Trump’s action is justified.

            You did not answer my question w.r.t. the administration’s argument – are you aware that a key element is the contention that the court system has no role in determining whether Congressional subpoenas are enforceable? Or is your position that the House subpoena is not valid without a court order? That would be a very unusual interpretation of the relevant powers, and is not to my knowledge what any of the involved parties are arguing.

          • zardoz says:

            Trump and Romney have a long history of hating each other. Romney even went so far as to publicly announce he was not voting for Trump in 2016. I remember there even being some discussion about Romney sending funding or something to third parties in 2016 (I don’t recall the details and don’t feel like digging it up right now.)

            Trump ostensibly made peace with Romney in 2018 and endorsed him during his senate race. But like a lot of the deals Trump has tried to broker, it doesn’t seem to have changed the underlying balance of power much.

            Is this a big sacrifice for Romney, like many media outlets are saying? I don’t think so. Romney wasn’t going to get another shot at the presidency no matter which way he voted. He might lose his next Senate race because of this, but that is comfortably far off in 2024. He is getting pretty old, anyway.

            But then my general, not very well informed, opinion of Romney was that he was a man who took his principles seriously, although that might result in his holding views I disagreed with.

            Somewhat the opposite of my view of Bill Clinton, who struck me as a bad man but not a particularly bad president.

            Oh, David, no. No. Don’t fall for this. Romney was never, ever a conviction politician following his beliefs.

            Just like the first Clinton, he had no principles nor moral compass– just a desire to be elected. He went back and forth on almost every major national issue. For example, he went from being pro-abortion to anti-abortion…. twice! He went back and forth on gun control, global warming, and tax policy. He even had the chutzpah to oppose Obamacare, even though it was modeled on a law he passed in Massacusetts (sometimes called Romneycare.)

            Romney was infamous for being a “flip-flopper,” willing to reverse his position on pretty much any issue if it seemed favorable.

            In my opinion he had a beef with Trump on a personal level and should have recused himself from the vote.

          • Clutzy says:

            Most people seem to think Romney doesn’t like the Senate anyways. I’d guess that if Trump lost in 2020 there would be a 50/50 chance that Romney resigns as he would no longer have a purpose there.

          • albatross11 says:

            Clutzy:

            What do you think Romney would rather be doing? Being a senator gives him an important job and high status in the world, and maybe even a platform from which to run for president in the future. (If Biden can run again with his history, Romney could, too.)

          • Clutzy says:

            What do you think Romney would rather be doing? Being a senator gives him an important job and high status in the world, and maybe even a platform from which to run for president in the future. (If Biden can run again with his history, Romney could, too.)

            @alba

            I don’t know exactly what he would rather be doing, but several senators have said he is an ineffective legislator. A loner who doesn’t like the process of socializing and building bills or coalitions.

            He’s clearly signaled recently he knows he has no presidential hopes. Sure he could run, he would barely get 5%. I think he might try to run for governor somewhere, or go back into private equity.

            I don’t like mindreading, but if I were, I think his only reason for existing as a political figure is out of hatred and jealousy directed at Trump.

    • EchoChaos says:

      I am surprised by Manchin voting to convict, as I said in that thread, and my gut that 85% chance of party line was too high was correct. Romney was the obvious anti-Trump Republican, although I didn’t call it out.

      Miss on my part.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      As an outsider, I don’t really understand why you bother with this kind of predictions when such a perfect party line voting makes then whole event a charade. A few exceptions barely register as noise.

  12. hash872 says:

    Anyone want to help diagnose my strange sleep issues? I randomly have 1-2 nights of terrible sleep most weeks…. and feel OK the rest of the time (though it does take my sleep deficit a bit to recover from that one bad night). I am doing absolutely nothing differently on that one night than any other, and I have decent sleeping habits overall- follow the same schedule, don’t look at blue light for an hour before bed, don’t eat too late, I do drink lightly some nights but seems to have no correlation with sleep quality. I have no diagnosed psychological issues and do not take medication, though I do always take a melatonin before bed. I’ve had this issue for years and years now.

    Any idea what could cause just 1 night to be bad, and the others to be fine?

    • baconbits9 says:

      What is your exercise and caffeine consumption like?

      • hash872 says:

        I don’t drink any caffeine after the early afternoon, and I no longer do cardio late at night (the latter affected my sleep quality as well).

        Overall, I just don’t see a consistent pattern as to what causes it

        • baconbits9 says:

          I find if I don’t meet a minimum of exercise in a week I will have at least 1 night a week I wake up (or at least I used to find this, small kids mean I don’t sleep consistently enough to notice only waking up once a week). It wasn’t necessarily a day where I had/hadn’t exercised, just not enough overall.

    • Eric Rall says:

      Is there any correlation between the nights of terrible sleep and the ambient temperature? Being too hot or too cold at night can wreck sleep quality.

      Are your evening eating habits consistent between the nights you sleep poorly and those you sleep well? Eating later than usual, eating a larger or richer dinner than usual, or eating something particularly salty for dinner can all interfere with sleep.

      Could you describe in what way your sleep is terrible? Waking up frequently? Having trouble falling asleep in the first place? Sleep through night as far as you can remember, but wake up feeling sleep-deprived?

      • hash872 says:

        I don’t see a temperature correlation, though I can play around with the temp some and see if I get anything.

        According to my Fitbit when I used to wear it, I wasn’t getting any ‘deep’ sleep. I am in bed and unconscious for 8 hours or so, but I feel awful when I wake up and I stay feeling awful all day, especially in the middle- so your last sentence

    • fibio says:

      Any commonalities in diet? Do you always sleep badly after pizza night or steak night, for example? A lot of people have minor food intolerance that don’t seriously disrupt day to day life but can still cause the occasional bought of discomfort or poor health.

  13. Canyon Fern says:

    The article “How Knitting Fell Into a Purity Spiral” discusses how “knitting Instagram” is the latest subculture to be captured by an unfortunate wokeness spiral. The article mentions other purity spirals which this comment section has discussed, such as in the notoriously-woke world of young adult (YA) fiction. Quotation:

    A purity spiral propagates itself through the tipping points of preference falsification: through self-censorship, and through loyalty tests that weed out its detractors long before they can band together. In that sense, once one takes hold, its momentum can be very difficult to halt.

    Our documentary analysed just two latter-day purity spirals — Instagram knitting culture and young adult novels. Both seemed perfectly-sized to be taken over — they were spaces big enough to have their own star system, yet small enough for the writ of a dominant group to hold.

    In each, a vast tapestry of what were effectively small businesses competed for attention online by fluidly mixing personal and professional brand. On social media, opinion, diary and sales often existed within the same posts. Each individual small business was uniquely vulnerable to being un-personed, ‘cancelled’. But, simultaneously, each could benefit enormously from taking on the status of thought leader — from becoming a node that directed moral traffic.

    I believe there are relevant SSC and LW posts, but haven’t the time to find them now. If you have such links to hand, please share them.

    (This article’s author is Gavin Haynes, who has written for Vice, but is not to be confused with Vice co-founder Gavin McInnes. I made that mistake at first.)

    • Nick says:

      Thanks for sharing!

      The article is interesting, but the ending has a mistake I see a lot in discussions of purity spirals but never know quite how to formulate. Haynes writes,

      Having been an unhappy tourist inside a couple of purity spirals for many months, my sense is that the phenomenon isn’t going anywhere. These are deep psychological truths about humanity, carved into the cliff-face of how we construct our societies. The cudgels of morality will always be a convenient lever for hidden competition — you can pretend to be socialising the private realm, when in effect you’re privatising the social realm for your own status gain.

      The problem is, knitting Instagram self-evidently didn’t implode before social justice. Neither did YA fiction, or the many other communities this has happened to. Social justice showed up, and everything went to hell. It’s all well and good to say this could happen to anything, and to point it out among, um, Neo-Nazis, but these ideologies, it seems to me, must have particular beliefs or practices which give rise to purity spirals.

      Haynes is on surer footing when earlier he says,

      A purity spiral occurs when a community becomes fixated on implementing a single value that has no upper limit, and no single agreed interpretation. The result is a moral feeding frenzy.

      Like, this is more specific. I’m not sure it’s right, but it’s something we can work with. He was better off ending on this note.

      Unrelated to the above, I want to note there was good reason for “problematizing” Richard Dawkins, the Atheism+ debacle aside. The Dear Muslima letter was not just some faux pas.

      • edmundgennings says:

        Social justice does indeed have tendancies that make it more prone to purity cycles compared to many political issues such as lowering the marginal tax rate on income between $80,000 and $90,000. Still it is not unique to it. I have observed what look like purity cycles within modern and historical Catholic contexts though not as intense as in social justice.

        The lack of an “arbitrary” hierarchy and the sense of mental taint by disagreement are both very strongly the case in social justice and I suspect that these are the main source of the problem.

        • DeWitt says:

          though not as intense as in social justice.

          Are you sure intense is the word you meant to use here? I think prevalent might be better. SJ nerds, to me, seem more quarrelsome than the catholics did or do, but less bloodthirsty about it. The two are likely related, since the cost of raising a stink is lower when nobody is likely to die from it.

          • edmundgennings says:

            It definitely seems less intense and less linked to explicit denouncing. Also it is generally much slower.

            All current and much of the historical Catholic purity cycling occured without bloodshed. Even when there was violence linked to purity cycles that was generally linked to other stuff.

        • rumham says:

          I have observed what look like purity cycles within modern and historical Catholic contexts though not as intense as in social justice.

          I recall the Southern Baptists going through one as well, around the turn of the century. Something about keeping women in the home.

      • Matt M says:

        You can see plenty of ’em in action, completely ideology-free but driven by exactly the same personalities, in the beta levels of middle-school girls’ social hierarchies.

        The recent controversy over that book about Hispanic immigrants recommended by Oprah that everyone suddenly had to denounce for being insufficiently-woke reminded me so much of the Fashion Club in Daria. If I had decent photoshop skills, I would have created the following comic:

        Quinn: “I really enjoyed that book about struggling hispanic immigrants.”
        Sandi: “Gee Quinn, it’s almost as if you didn’t realize that book trafficks in problematic stereotypes and that the author is not authentically representative of the culture depicted. You wouldn’t want people to think you were a racist, would you?”
        Quinn: “Oh no, Sandi. What I meant to say is that I would have enjoyed the book if it wasn’t so full of thinly-veiled attempts to otherize the Latinx community and ultimately justify the inherent white supremacy of American culture.”

      • Aapje says:

        They also tend to be fallback communities

        Like gaming journalism…

        I think that a major issue is that very many people in these fallback communities have very little love (and respect) for them. They are perfectly willing to burn down their community for their personal benefit and/or a chance to escape the ghetto.

        One of the things that I noticed about GamesGate was that pretty much no one on the anti-GG side (journalist or random SJ advocate) actually cared about the unethical behaviors that were uncovered. They didn’t care about gamers being misled about what are good games by bought reviews, because they didn’t actually care about games or gamers in the first place. For many of the journalists, this was just a niche where they got paid to write, with them being disappointed that this required them to write about games, rather than being excited about that topic.

        So maybe SJ’s compassion-based rhetoric provides a narrative that’s uniquely flattering to the self-image of that type of person

        It seems to me that it is extremely attractive to people who see themselves failures*, because it allows a moral superiority which elevates their status in their own mind. This moral superiority is relatively cheap, being achieved through mere rhetoric, rather than other kinds of achievement, which are often much harder.

        * Note that this doesn’t mean that they are actually failures in a more objective sense.

        • Matt M says:

          Sports journalism definitely has this as well.

          Back before saying stuff like this would get you cancelled, Tony Kornheiser used to talk about it quite a bit. His theory (which seems 100% correct to me) was that the vast majority of sports pundits are not “sports fans who happen to be reporters” but “journalists who happen to cover sports.” They went to journalism schools, mostly with the dream of being political reporters who would change the world. Maybe they always liked sports, but they never saw it as the truly glamorous or important work of journalism. So those who ended up in it always had a bit of envy and jealousy of their more prestigious political journalist peers, who got to cover the “very important” issues of the day. And this is why everyone at ESPN is so eager to immediately dive head-first into anything that vaguely resembles a political issue. It’s the chance they’ve been waiting for. Now at their next class reunion, they can talk about how they struck a decisive blow for civil rights, rather than meekly admit that their primary job is to shout about how the Lakers need to trade for a new point guard…

        • Clutzy says:

          Gaming Journalism is the worst, because not only are they hacks that want to burn the place down, they use whatever power they have to chase out people that will do actual work, like RLewis.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        “Academic politics are so vicious precisely because the stakes are so small.”

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      I strongly recommend the related bbc podcast— it has material which isn’t in the article, including that the knitting community may be recovering.

  14. theodidactus says:

    Anyone listen to *All the President’s Lawyers*
    https://www.kcrw.com/news/shows/lrc-presents-all-the-presidents-lawyers

    If not, this is a good time to start. Good evenhanded analysis of Trump’s legal issues, not just shrill Maddow-mutterings. Their coverage of the post-impeachment game board is particularly good.

  15. Skeptical Wolf says:

    I would like to hear from SSCs GURPS fans, if they can spare me a moment. What keeps you coming back to it? Which supplements/splatbooks/settings do you recommend? Are there house rules you commonly use? Are there situations that you try to steer away from for system reasons?

    Thank you for the GURPS Social Engineering recommendation in the previous thread, I’m reading my way through that an enjoying it.

    Context: I’ve played a bit of GURPS 3rd edition and run three games in GURPS 4th edition. I like the concept of a super-flexible toolbox game, but found the power lists to be oddly specific. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing (an enduring legend was built around a pet ferret with the snatcher power and a fondness for girl scout cookies) but did push it out of the “toolbox system” niche and into the “this is the native system for IOU” niche. GURPS Mysteries is on the short list of books I recommend every GM read. I’m a collector of RPG systems and want to spend some time understanding what makes this one so enduring. Normally I’d do this by reading and running, but having read and run multiple times, I still feel like I’m missing something.

    • cassander says:

      GURPS is always very easy to break. Unless you have players that won’t try, or a gaming circle that will enjoy trying and the chaos that ensues, this can be a pretty serious problem.

    • Protagoras says:

      For the most part I like GURPS:Magic better than the magic rules in most fantasy systems, though there are a number of variants in Thaumatology that I would really like to try out at some point. On the whole, a pure mage is probably overpowered if you go with the rules as written, so I would tend to recommend at least some house rules to restrict magic. In genres other than fantasy, on the issue you raise of the powers perhaps being too specific, the additional rules in Powers make things considerably more flexible (and admittedly breakable; cassander is right that this is an issue, but it can be addressed by a GM willing to say no to players). One thing I recommend in any GURPS game is being generous with talents; there’s a power-ups supplement with a bunch of extra talents, and I recommend making more extra talents for the game setting (and maybe, with oversight, letting players devise their own talents). There are two basic kinds of characters that are fairly flexible and powerful and that people tend to gravitate towards in GURPS, the high DX character with lots of physical skills and the high IQ character with lots of mental skills (the latter is especially powerful if a mage, of course); using talents can make it possible to make characters with a variety of decent skills that aren’t just slight variants of one of those two optimizations.

      • Skeptical Wolf says:

        I enjoy the spells-as-skills aspect of GURPS magic, but find that the costs for well-rounded wizards quickly push their players to buying up Int or talents instead of improving the skills directly. Has this tendency shown up in your games, and if so, how did you deal with it?

        Looking at the Steve Jackson website, I see that “GURPS Powers” and “GURPS Power-ups” are two different books. Do you remember exactly which of the two had the talent expansions you mentioned?

        Can you give a couple examples of talents you added for your games? Do they tend to center around professions, party roles, or something else?

        • Protagoras says:

          Power-ups has the talents. And, yes, buying up individual skills seems to become inefficient quickly; that’s exactly why I was recommending talents so DX and IQ aren’t the obvious only things to buy up (leading to only two basic kinds of characters). The existing talents seem to focus on professions or attempts at reflecting plausibly realistically connected skills, but I recommend being more liberal; party roles seem to be a good thing to center some on.

          Trying to find a way to make PCs put more points in skills directly is probably hopeless, and I’m not sure it’s beneficial; I think it encourages other problems. Skills vary in how broadly applicable they are (probably unavoidably), and any attempt to encourage people to focus on spending points on skills rather than stats/talents just encourages people to pick one or a couple of the more broadly useful skills and try to find excuses for using the skills they’ve bought way up to do everything. It certainly would discourage acquiring any skills that aren’t fairly broad in their applicability, while the stat/talent based approach encourages throwing a point into anything you have good bonuses for, making it more likely that characters will have some less common skills.

        • bean says:

          The skills system is definitely one of my least favorite things about GURPS as written. It gets way too expensive way too fast. Particularly when non-training bonuses to single skills usually come in at 2 pts/+1, which is IMO a much more reasonable rate. We can leave the 1 pt for the first level and just go with 2 pts/level past that.

          • Protagoras says:

            All skills are not created equal, though. If there’s one weapon which you overwhelmingly use, getting better with that has a range of high value benefits (for melee weapons, improving parry and allowing feints to bypass defenses, and for any weapon hitting specific body locations and such). And there are already johnny one-spell builds using magic that are quite powerful under the existing skill costs. So while making higher levels of skill cheaper would make sense for most skills, there are a few critical cases where it would create problems (or making existing problems worse). Unless you increase complexity by going back to different skills having different costs to raise, I think it is overall better to err on the side of making high skills overpriced.

          • bean says:

            Fair enough, but with the current system there’s very little incentive to put more than 4 points in a skill, because that gets you two levels past the basic, and each level past that costs as much again. A cheap talent is 5 points, and you get a lot more benefit from it. Maybe you don’t let someone go to level infinity at 2 pts/level, but you certainly could let them buy up, say, 4 extra levels at that cost. So 12 points would be base + 6 instead of base + 4. Which is a reasonably big shift, but not game-breaking.

          • Protagoras says:

            Yes, I’d be all for making the increase in skill costs as you go up less steep (and re-introducing an increase in cost as you go up for IQ and DX (ST and HT don’t seem to need it) and perhaps for talents), but it seems that SJG decided it was more important to simplify things in 4th ed.

    • bean says:

      I’d definitely say that Powers is necessary if you’re going to use the system to the fullest extent as a generic toolbox. It’s funny that you bring up Snatcher, because that was actually what we ended up basing my character’s transmutation ability on in the last game I played. There were some enhancements in Powers that turned it much more generic, and a couple of extra limitations gave me a rather broken but very fun ability to turn any manmade object into pretty much any other manmade object with an IQ roll. (The result was a monster getting hit with 6 flashbangs made from a section of car. It woke him up, and won us the fight, while blinding the entire party. The other players were rather unhappy with me over that.) Powers also fills in a few other gaps in the ability set, and brings it much closer to generic than it had been before.

      • Skeptical Wolf says:

        Thanks for the recommendation. I can understand why your party was a bit grumpy. Half-dozen discounts are supposed to be applied to baked goods, not explosives!

        I’ll definitely take a look at Powers. I’ve been working with five books so far (the Basic 2, Magic, Martial Arts, and Mysteries). Hero System showed me just how useful superhero rules can be for modelling other things (including genres less fond of spandex).

        • bean says:

          Powers isn’t the superhero rules (that’s Supers, IIRC) so much as it is just an expansion on the basic Advantages system. IMO it should have been part of the core books, and I basically treat it as a core book if I’m doing something exotic.

          I can understand why your party was a bit grumpy. Half-dozen discounts are supposed to be applied to baked goods, not explosives!

          Actually, I made a half-dozen because that was as many as I could throw to full range, not because that was all I could have made. I think I could have made 50 or 100 at once, but I couldn’t have thrown them.

    • johan_larson says:

      I find you need to be careful with default skill rolls, particularly defaults from ability scores, or talented people can do virtually anything with zero training or practice. High IQ (the stat, not the real-world score) characters are particularly prone to this. Make it clear from the start that using ability-based default checks for activities that generally require training only works for rudimentary tasks.

  16. Dan L says:

    I am working on a much expanded version of my previous SSC readership v. commentariat analysis, using both the 2020 survey data as well as looping back to include the 2018 and 2017 results. Two points I would appreciate some feedback on before I switch from analysis to cleanup:

    1) My previous analysis was structured around a “Single Filter” model, where the overall readership (represented by the total survey participation) was winnowed by a single selection criteria to produce the commentariat (represented by readers who listed their commenting frequency as >1/week). For a number of reasons, I have since rejected this model in favor of a “Double Filter” theory where Filter1 eliminates all pure lurkers, and Filter2 further winnows this set to frequent commenters. The problem: frequent commenters represent approximately ~1% of the total survey responses. As we know, weak signals of this magnitude are easily overwhelmed by a number of factors both accidental and malicious. The data on Filter1 looks pretty good, but I’m debating whether I should consider any Filter2 results meaningful. Most look perfectly reasonable and the correlation between survey years could be ironing out most of the issues… but it’s cause for doubt.

    2) Speaking of which, an occasional meta-CW topic is what political biases (if any) exist within the commentariat. I have done my best to avoid endorsing a narrative on the topic (because I’m genuinely unsure, natch), but I found a specific empirical observation that seems to be well-evidenced and I’m wondering if it might reconcile everyone’s direct observation:

    Given the SSC Survey question regarding Political Spectrum alignment on a 1-10 scale, and the Filter1 and Filter2 definitions given above: Filter1 selects against left-wing commenters weakly (~x1.3-1.5 effect), but Filter2 selects against left-wing commenters strongly (~x2-5 effect). That is, taken together a randomly selected right-wing reader is x3 – x7 times as likely to be a frequent commenter than a randomly selected left-wing reader.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Don’t throw out data. In particular, don’t force a binary. Don’t collapse commenter frequency into a binary. Look at the trend. If the trend from lurkers to infrequent commenters to frequent commenters is, say, increasing conservatism, it’s probably true. If your threat model is a fixed number of lizardmen, they might overwhelm the small number of frequent commenters, but they won’t overwhelm the larger number of infrequent commenters and even less a combined category.

      But how to actually do it? How to visualize all these different ways of combining data from multiple years and multiple frequencies? I don’t know, but it sounds like hierarchical modeling.

      • Dan L says:

        Don’t throw out data.

        This effort is purely based on the public SSC survey data, and can be replicated by any interested party. Furthermore, this year I’m giving at least half a thought to posting the .xlsx sheet itself with all the relevant caluclations – any additional recombination should be pretty easy from there.

        In particular, don’t force a binary. Don’t collapse commenter frequency into a binary.

        The survey data bins frequency into five categories; I’m coming up with numbers for all of them, and then running the analysis on three – I don’t see too much use in dis-aggregating “less than once a month” and “at least once a month” categories, and the “very often” category has some pretty small Ns to be standing alone.

        If the trend from lurkers to infrequent commenters to frequent commenters is, say, increasing conservatism, it’s probably true.

        With the above said, I am looking for discontinuities in the trendline – whether or not someone posts at all is a binary, as is whether or not someone participates in these Hidden Open Threads. Some of the categories I’m evaluating do show a smooth relationship, but others actually reverse powerfully at different levels of engagement. (Political affiliation isn’t my largest interest personally, but I figure others here would like seeing it.)

    • EchoChaos says:

      I’d just like to register that I’m really interested and looking forward to your review of the data for this.

  17. Aapje says:

    South Africa has a private prosecutor, Gerrie Nel, who used to be state prosecutor (who prosecuted ‘blade runner’ Pistorius where he famously told him to stop crying). He is employed by AfriForum, an NGO working for the interests of Afrikaners. This seems to be an response to an increasingly failing state, where rich citizens are doing things privately more and more.

    The private prosecutor needs permission from the judge to take a case, so it is essentially a way to run around the public prosecutor.

    The South African public prosecutor seems to be heavily politicized, refusing to go after powerful politicians & companies. The intervention by Gerrie Nel has resulted in the public prosecutor taking cases that they earlier refused to take, including the prosecution of Grace Mugabe and the son of Jacob Zuma.

    South Africa may be(come) a test case for substantial libertarianism in an advanced state, albeit in the context of a incompetent and corrupt state.

    • AlphaGamma says:

      Private prosecutions are probably something South Africa inherited from English law, where they are still reasonably common. While the state prosecutor (the Crown Prosecution Service) has the right to take over and discontinue private prosecutions, they don’t need approval from a judge.

      The highest-profile regular use of private prosecutions in England is in cases of cruelty to animals, which are mostly prosecuted by the RSPCA (a non-government organisation).

      Historically, England didn’t have public prosecutions at all until the 19th century (except maybe for offences against the state like treason). Until the 1980s, the vast majority of criminal trials were legally private prosecutions, though the prosecutor would usually be a police officer.

    • Dacyn says:

      I am confused, the “substantial libertarianism” is that rich people are above the law?

      • The substantial libertarianism is that part of law enforcement is in private hands rather than governmental hands.

        As I put it in discussing possible reasons why England in the 18th century had private rather than public prosecution was that, if all prosecution is by the crown, the King’s friends can get away with murder.

        With the Black Panther killings in Chicago in 1969 my standard example.

        For the flip side, from 18th c. England … . John Wilkes was a radical journalist/politician, at various points in his career jailed, an outlaw in Europe, a member of Parliament, and Lord Mayor of London — Americans are more likely to have heard of his famous namesake. At one point his London supporters demonstrated outside the jail he was in, the authorities got worried, the troops opened fire on the crowd, and several people were killed.

        The magistrate who gave the order ended up being tried for murder.

  18. brad says:

    After the Global Entry news and seeing the impact of the SALT cap, I’m dreaming of revenge. It looks like Wyoming has the strongest support for Trump.

    You’re the new President and it’s Feb 2021, what are some quick Presidential actions you can take to make life miserable for Wyoming-ites? Can the President unilaterally close federal lands in a state?

    • EchoChaos says:

      Why would lefties care about the SALT?

      I thought that making the rich pay more in taxes was a big thing that you guys were for?

      • brad says:

        Suppose I was in general in favor of shorter prison terms. Do you think I’d support a federal law that shortened the prison terms of everyone convicted of a federal crime in and only in a state that went for Trump in the last election?

        Edit: Also I don’t speak for “lefties”. Not even sure I am one.

        • EchoChaos says:

          Do you think I’d support a federal law that shortened the prison terms of every convicted of a federal crime in and only in a state that went for Trump in the last election?

          Probably yes, since it creates precedents you like.

          And this isn’t what happened. Washington and Nevada went for Clinton and have no state income tax, so they weren’t penalized at all. Iowa went for Trump and has a higher income tax than New York.

          This is purely “the wealthy pay more”.

          • brad says:

            It’s not purely that. Purely that would be raising the rate on the highest bracket. The law did the opposite. Why do you think that is?

          • albatross11 says:

            It’s mostly “people from wealthy states pay more,” which isn’t the same thing as “wealthy people pay more.” You can make a good argument for the change, but IMO it was done largely because it was a way to get more revenue that landed almost entirely on states that never go Republican anyway.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            Is it correct to say that SALT limited the federal tax deduction for state income tax to $10,000?

            Assuming that is correct, the law seems to be predicated on the principle that high-tax states should not be (excessively) subsidized by low-tax states, which seems fair to me.

          • brad says:

            There is no such subsidy flow. Very much to the contrary.

          • brad says:

            In any event y’all have made me a conflict theorist and I want to close federal lands and ban scary black rifles. How to do so is the actual topic of this thread.

          • SamChevre says:

            One difference between the SALT limit, and just raising the top-bracket rates, is that it effectively captures some wealth (via real estate tax), rather than only income.

            It’s the most progressive tax code change I’ve seen in 30 years.

            (And it costs me – I live in MA, and my charitable giving is relatively high, so the new deduction regime is a lot worse for me than the old one. But it’s definitely progressive.)

          • jermo sapiens says:

            There is no such subsidy flow. Very much to the contrary.

            Can you please elaborate?

            It seems plain to me that if a state has high income taxes, and said high income taxes effectively reduce the amount of income taxes collected by the Feds from that state, this is a subsidy.

            Are you suggesting that other effects (like the overall greater wealth of states like NY and California) overwhelm this subsidy?

          • EchoChaos says:

            @jermo sapiens

            Are you suggesting that other effects (like the overall greater wealth of states like NY and California) overwhelm this subsidy?

            That is probably what he is suggesting. It is one of those statements that might be true depending on what counts as a subsidy.

          • Matt M says:

            It’s mostly “people from wealthy states pay more,” which isn’t the same thing as “wealthy people pay more.”

            No, more accurately, it’s “wealthy people from wealthy states pay more.”

            Non-wealthy people don’t generally itemize, and this only affects you if you itemize.

            I know, you and all your friends/family itemize. But the SSC bubble is much more wealthy and financially savvy than the average American (even the average Californian or New Yorker)

          • The Nybbler says:

            I’m wealthy and I don’t itemize under the new tax code (though I did under the prior one). But as far as I could tell, the actual effect on me was a wash; AMT cutoff is way up, rates are down, deductions are reduced. There were some articles indicating NJ really wasn’t hurt by it (though others indicating it was). The people over in Short Hills (who are REALLY wealthy) were not seen crying into their single-malt, probably because they benefited far more from the business tax cut than they lost from the SALT cap.

          • Plumber says:

            @The Nybbler says: “…as far as I could tell, the actual effect on me was a wash…”

            Same here, as a Californian who pays far more in State taxes than in Federal I was expecting a bigger hit, but my Federal income taxes barely budged.

          • Matt M says:

            The Washington Post developed a tool where you can see exactly whether your taxes go up or down, depending on your income and how much you have to itemize.

            They go down for nearly everyone. The only groups who see an increase are the significantly wealthy (like 3x higher than national median household income) or the working poor who somehow have racked up a ton of itemizable deductions (a very small and somewhat unusual group).

            I strongly encourage you to mess around with it.

          • This is purely “the wealthy pay more”.

            Not purely.

            It is also, and perhaps more importantly, “state expenditure doesn’t get subsidized by the federal tax system.”

          • Anthony says:

            David – you’re the last person here who should be calling a tax break a “subsidy”.

            Brad – most accounts of how some states subsidize others do not take into account the “tax subsidy” that high-tax states got from the full deductibility of state and local taxes. Do you have any figures on those compared to other subsidies?

          • brad says:

            Are you suggesting that other effects (like the overall greater wealth of states like NY and California) overwhelm this subsidy?

            Yes. The value creating parts of the country massively subsidize the non-productive parts of the country.

          • Matt M says:

            Sounds like the value creating parts should probably secede and form their own union.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            Yes. The value creating parts of the country massively subsidize the non-productive parts of the country.

            That’s a fair point. I still think that state-level decision to have higher (or lower) taxes should affect that state and only that state, as much as possible. If only so that the effect of that policy can be more clearly evaluated.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @brad

            That’s pretty much false.

            https://thefederalist.com/2017/11/17/red-states-tax-takers-blue-states-tax-makers/

            It’s pretty evenly divided overall.

          • brad says:

            EchoChaos intergovernmental transfers are hardly the only way people living in non-productive parts of the country leach off those that live in the productive areas. And even your biased link wasn’t able to massage away the tax differences.

          • Anthony says:

            Brad – you still haven’t provided any evidence regarding your claim that the symbolic manipulating parasite states are subsidizing the materially productive states, much less data that covers the tax subsidy of the state and local tax deduction.

    • EchoChaos says:

      @brad

      In any event y’all have made me a conflict theorist and I want to close federal lands and ban scary black rifles.

      The things that the President CAN do to hurt the Republican states are pretty plausible. Closing Federal lands can be executive order. To hurt Wyoming, closing Yellowstone would be the obvious choice.

      For black rifles, you can direct the BATF to stop processing NFA requests, since that’s discretionary use of their funding.

      • Deiseach says:

        Yeah, but wouldn’t closing Federal lands cause a lot of protest on the left/progressive/Democrat/whatever we’re calling it side? I saw a reasonable amount of anti-Trumpism coming from people online and in the media decrying the mismanagement of public parks; surely shutting them down altogether (and presumably letting them go to hell by not paying for upkeep etc.) would have environmentalists and so on crying out in outrage?

      • brad says:

        Nah, not Yellowstone that’s used by tourists. All the BLM lands.

    • Matt M says:

      Can the President unilaterally close federal lands in a state?

      I assume by “close” you mean something like “retain custody of the lands but prohibit anyone from using them for anything fun or useful?”

      I guess they could, but that’d probably invite a lawsuit from Wyoming that says “fine then, please return those lands to state custody” which would be a pretty big win for red tribe in the end.

      • brad says:

        but that’d probably invite a lawsuit from Wyoming that says “fine then, please return those lands to state custody”

        Under which constitutional provision?

    • The Nybbler says:

      Can the President unilaterally close federal lands in a state?

      Legally? Sure. In Wyoming? I wouldn’t recommend it; you’re asking for a Cliven Bundy situation all over again. You could safely close the ski resorts and hurt the Kemmerers, I suppose. Closing Yellowstone is an idea but my impression is most serious nature types are Democrats, so it’s probably largely an own-goal.

      • brad says:

        Legally? Sure. In Wyoming? I wouldn’t recommend it; you’re asking for a Cliven Bundy situation all over again.

        Is Janet Reno still alive?

        • The Nybbler says:

          Janet Reno died in 2016. Lon Horiuchi is still alive, but you’re going to need a lot more than one of him.

    • JonathanD says:

      According to the Wiki, Wyoming’s economy is mineral extraction, tourism, agriculture, and not much else. You could probably do a lot of damage just by shuttering the national parks, which would clearly be in your purview. Past that, there might be something you could do with the mining industry with licensing, but I don’t know a ton about that.

    • hls2003 says:

      Direct the Bureau of Land Management to refuse agricultural and husbandry-related use permits on federal land. No more grazing on federal acreage. Plausible deniability could be achieved by cloaking it as re-checking environmental impact assessments; those can go on forever.

    • Randy M says:

      At the risk of engaging with a topic I’m not terribly informed of on behalf of people I’m not entirely sure exist (I’ve driven through Wyoming, if they have four digit population that’s got to include tumbleweeds), losing state deductions from federal income tax looks a lot like ending an unfair privilege and not so much like oppression, even if the privilege was largely held by one political demographic.

      I wonder how friendly you’d be to the thought of a thread of revenge fantasies against other demographic groups that happened to vote the wrong way? I recall some speculation that Barrack Obama running in 2008 was what passed “proposition H8” in California.

      • brad says:

        Are we reading the same website?

        • Randy M says:

          Is the question whether I have an accurate model of your view point? Probably not. Is the question whether we have had similar rants posted for public amusement before? Possibly, if you link we can quibble about distinctions.

          I honestly do not recall “I’m dreaming of revenge. How can we make life difficult for ___ ?” posted around here before, but I don’t quite read everything. Maybe that’s a regular feature on weekends?

          I didn’t report you or anything, I just don’t think this is a prompt you’re going to be terribly proud of.

          • EchoChaos says:

            +1, although I’ll note there is a bit of a difference between “how do I punish Wyoming” v. “how do I punish working class whites”.

          • brad says:

            I see lots of people celebrating a president whose election was in no small part motivated by “how can we hurt those people”.

            There’s no legitimate policy reason for not letting me renew global entry. It’s pure spite.

            If you prick us, do we not bleed?

          • jermo sapiens says:

            I see lots of people celebrating a president whose election was in no small part motivated by “how can we hurt those people”.

            This is absolutely false and wrong on many, many levels. I understand disliking Trump, but now you’re buying in to the characterization of Trump voters by CNN and other fake-news peddlers. Find me a Trump voter who actually said that he’s voting Trump to hurt others. I’m sure you can find a million far-lefty pretending to read the mind of Trump voters who will say that, but not actual Trump voters.

            Consider perhaps that there are many millions of people in the US who have a vastly different life than you do and who feel hurt by the policies of the Bush/Clinton camps. If you paint your ideological opponents as pure evil villains with hatred in their heart, you’re painting a false picture, you will justify committing evil against them, and you will ultimately harm yourself far more than anyone in Wyoming.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            There’s no legitimate policy reason for not letting me renew global entry. It’s pure spite.

            No, it’s because your identity documents are no longer reliable since your state decided to give them to criminals.

          • Matt M says:

            Find me a Trump voter who actually said that he’s voting Trump to hurt others.

            Well, I didn’t actually vote for Trump (I’m leaning towards doing so in 2020, but won’t definitely do so), but I will admit that I like him in no small part due to the fact that he annoys and aggravates my tribal enemies.

            That said, I don’t necessarily believe he has “hurt” them, aside from maybe some minor emotional discomfort attached to the knowledge that their domination of the culture has not been as complete and total as they may have previously believed.

            But ultimately speaking, I do think his policies will be beneficial to the entire nation. Even to the enemy tribe that hates him.

          • brad says:

            No, it’s because your identity documents are no longer reliable since your state decided to give them to criminals.

            I have a US passport.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @brad

            Which is one of two documents needed for Global Entry. The other is a state driver’s license or ID card, which the Federal Government can no longer trust because the NY DMV cannot share data by law.

          • brad says:

            Trust for what purpose?

          • Dacyn says:

            @brad: Even if Trump voters are motivated by spite, I think we can aspire to do better here. (In support of Randy M’s points)

          • John Schilling says:

            Which is one of two documents needed for Global Entry. The other is a state driver’s license or ID card,

            Or anything else that establishes residency, including e.g. a recent utility bill. Is the administration telling the TSA to accept Global Entry applications from New York residents who establish residency by means other than the allegedly-suspect state drivers’ license?

            which the Federal Government can no longer trust because the NY DMV cannot share data by law.

            New York does issue, on request, Real ID compliant drivers’ licenses which the Federal Government explicitly does trust. Is the administration telling the TSA to accept Global Entry applications from NY residents using Real-ID compliant drivers’ licenses?

            Or is the administration coming up with a pathetically thin rationalization for a bit of transparently petty vindictiveness? Or is someone else trying to do that on the administration’s behalf.

          • hls2003 says:

            Here is DHS’ comment justifying the change. I do not know enough to say whether their description of how much they rely on the DMV database is accurate or not.

          • Aftagley says:

            Here is DHS’ comment justifying the change.

            Well, let’s look at the justification:

            CBP also uses that data for national security purposes and to ensure safe and lawful trade and travel. Specifically, CBP is able to offer Trusted Traveler Programs like Global Entry because we are able to use DMV data to make an evidence-based assessment that those individuals who seek this benefit are low risk and meet the eligibility requirements…

            …Customs and Border Protection (CBP) runs Trusted Traveler Programs like Global Entry, FAST, SENTRI and NEXUS which rely on access to DMV data to determine whether the person is who they say they are and if they have a criminal record. When that data is denied, the security is compromised.

            This quote is probably true in that they use DMV information as a supplementary data source, but using the world *rely* in that sentence pushes it into BS territory for me.

          • The Nybbler says:

            It appears this is the bill and DHSs objections are to the changes to Section 201, which prevent the Feds from having access to the records without a court order. The records may be disclosed to the individual who is the subject of them, but not to the Feds with the permission of that individual, which is going to make it hard to do the background check.

            The part that looks most fishy is that the bill specifically relates to non-commercial licenses only, and DHS included their commercial program (FAST). Perhaps I’ve misread the bill, or perhaps DHS is indeed looking to punish New York.

          • Aftagley says:

            I read that as being “here are all the programs we use that rely on DMV data” not “here specifically are the programs that will be impacted by this particular change in NY’s policy.”

            That being said, I’m still pretty confident this is an attempt to punish NY; this could have been handled in any number of ways – going this big has to be political.

          • brad says:

            @brad: Even if Trump voters are motivated by spite, I think we can aspire to do better here. (In support of Randy M’s points)

            @Dacyn

            When you say aspire to do better here, do you mean all of us should forgo ever being motivated by spite or do you mean we should pretend those motivations don’t exist in our discussions here?

          • Randy M says:

            When you say aspire to do better here, do you mean all of us should forgo ever being motivated by spite or do you mean we should pretend those motivations don’t exist in our discussions here?

            IMO, it may be appropriate to decide it’s time to deploy the punishment mode of your tit-for-tat strategy, and it’s welcome to be honest about your feelings, but the kind of decorum I would prefer is not one that stokes contempt within oneself or others.

            You do not have to actually turn the other cheek, but indulging in an impotent fantasy of immiseration of presumed enemies–or in this case, an admixture consisting of 67.4% enemy–is probably bad for an open discussion, and one’s soul if that is a concern.

            An analogy: “I don’t think prison as stands is adequate deterrent; what would be better ways to reduce crime?” is a better prompt than “Damn my car got stolen. Help me think of ways we could make prison just really suck for thieves?” Granted that second sentiment is certainly out there, and I have felt it myself, I would be shamed to endorse it.

          • Cliff says:

            Do you feel the same way about all the many levers the federal government uses to force states to do what they want- like withholding block grants to force states to accept unreasonably low speed limits and unreasonably high drinking ages?

          • Deiseach says:

            I see lots of people celebrating a president whose election was in no small part motivated by “how can we hurt those people”.

            Which people? I agree that there was an amount of “this’ll give a black eye to the stuck-up urban elites who were rejoicing that we were going to curl up and die in our rural wastelands” but, given the ‘basket of deplorables’ thing and the ‘bitter clingers’ thing, that was pot and kettle.

            I also see an amount of “they hate us because we’re good people who love women’n’minorities’n’kittens’n’sunshine” self-consolation being indulged in from those whose party lost the election, but as the little corruption scandal in Plumber’s neck of the woods proves, even the Party of the Perfect isn’t impeccable when it gets to be the machine running the show for decades!

          • Deiseach says:

            There’s no legitimate policy reason for not letting me renew global entry. It’s pure spite.

            Okay, I had no idea what global entry is, so I had to look it up. The conditions seem to be these:

            How to Apply for Global Entry
            Before you apply, make sure you are eligible for Global Entry.

            It’s easy. Just follow these steps:

            1. Create a Trusted Traveler Programs (TTP) account. Regardless of your age, you must have your own TTP account.

            2. Log in to your TTP account and complete the application. A $100 non-refundable fee is required with each completed application.

            3. After accepting your completed application and fee, CBP will review your application. If your application is conditionally approved, then your TTP account will instruct you to schedule an interview at a Global Entry Enrollment Center. Each applicant must schedule a separate interview.

            4. You will need to bring your valid passport(s) and one other form of identification, such as a driver’s license or ID card to the interview. If you are a lawful permanent resident, you must present your machine readable permanent resident card.

            So which is your difficulty: you’re not eligible in the first place since you’re not a citizen of one of the listed countries (in which case nobody can help you), you don’t have the spare $100, you can’t make it to the interview time and place, or you don’t have what are recognised as valid ID documents? Because if it’s No. 4, I have to tell you that you would be in just as much trouble over here in Ireland with the various jobs I’ve worked (including my current one, see the second page of this form) that require what are accepted as valid personal ID, and it’s not due to spite because you vote Democrat in American elections.

          • Theodoric says:

            @Deiseach
            New York driver’s licences are no longer accepted for Global Entry. New York recently started giving drivers licences to people who are not in the country legally, and, as part of that, forbade the federal government from accessing DMV records without a court order (apparently even an auth from the person whose records they want isn’t sufficient). Other states allow people in the country illegally to get drivers licences, but I don’t know if they also forbid the federal government from accessing their DMV records without a court order (as opposed to just requiring an auth from the person).

  19. Nick says:

    Dread stirrings in the architecture world, SSC. From the magazine Architectural Record, “Will the White House Order New Federal Architecture To Be Classical?”:

    While the country was riveted by the President’s impeachment trial, a Washington rumor was quietly bubbling about a potential executive order that, if implemented, would profoundly affect the future of federal architecture.

    RECORD has obtained what appears to be a preliminary draft of the order, under which the White House would require rewriting the Guiding Principles for Federal Architecture, issued in 1962, to ensure that “the classical architectural style shall be the preferred and default style” for new and upgraded federal buildings.

    The story made its rounds, being picked up by the New York Times yesterday:

    WASHINGTON — Should every new government building in the nation’s capital be created in the same style as the White House?

    A draft of an executive order called “Making Federal Buildings Beautiful Again” would establish a classical style, inspired by Greek and Roman architecture, as the default for federal buildings in Washington and many throughout the country, discouraging modern design.

    Now, I want us to be absolutely clear here. The draft order, as both the original article and the Times‘ make clear, would establish a default style. A default, folks. From AR:

    The mechanism for the radical upending of these principles, in order to promote classical and traditional regional architecture (Spanish colonial style, for example, would be permitted in places like Florida), would be a President’s Committee for the Re-Beautification of Federal Architecture.

    From the NYT:

    If a style other than classical is proposed for a project, the order establishes a high bar for getting approval: it would establish a presidential “re-beautification” committee to review designs and would still give the White House final say.

    This point has been confused in every single discussion of this I’ve seen. Every single one. I’m not crazy, right? We all saw what AR said: the order promotes traditional regional architecture, too. We all saw, per the NYT, that there is a review process for non-classical designs. I’m not making this up.

    Let’s look at the American Institute of Architects’ response, however:

    “The AIA strongly opposes uniform style mandates for federal architecture. Architecture should be designed for the specific communities that it serves, reflecting our rich nation’s diverse places, thought, culture and climates. Architects are committed to honoring our past as well as reflecting our future progress, protecting the freedom of thought and expression that are essential to democracy.”

    Uniform style bad, got it. So since this draft order doesn’t mandate a uniform style, the AIA has no problem, right? Meanwhile, the alternative is that buildings be designed for the specific communities they serve. Sorry, do traditional regional architectures fail that metric? Do they fail to reflect our rich nation’s diverse places, thought, culture, or climates, either? Do they—or classical architecture for that matter—fail to honor our past? I’m confused. If this draft isn’t what the AIA wanted, what is it they do?

    To answer this question we’ll look at recent federal buildings, products of the prior rules. Let’s talk about the San Francisco Federal Building. It has a Criticisms section longer than the rest of the Wikipedia article combined; you needn’t read the rest. We learn, in order, that the building’s bizarre design, intended to save on HVAC costs, in fact added millions to the price. Then we learn the architect, who was designing specifically to be as green as possible, never took LEED certifications into account. Then we learn it’s hated and dysfunctional:

    In 2010 the GSA commissioned a survey of employees in 22 federal buildings nationwide, to determine employee satisfaction with their workplaces. The San Francisco Federal Building was included in this study even though commissioning was still underway, and tenant improvements of some floors were not complete. The 22 buildings included in the study scored between a low of 13 and a high of 98% employee satisfaction. Seventeen of the 22 buildings scored above 50% employee satisfaction. While incorporating many green concepts more aggressively than other buildings, the lowest ranked building for employee satisfaction was the San Francisco Federal Building, with a rating of just 13%; the next-lowest was considered twice as satisfactory, at 26%. The San Francisco building scored well below the median in the categories of thermal comfort, lighting and acoustics.[11]

    A “green” building, built by a top architect, which fails its certification goals, public satisfaction, and the basic categories of “Am I hot or cold?”, “Can I see what I’m doing?”, and “Did you hear that-that-that-at-at-at?”

    I wonder, meanwhile: does this reflect California’s Spanish colonial heritage? Does it reflect our nation’s diverse places, cultures, climates? Ah, wait, I lied. There’s one line in the rest of the article that’s relevant:

    The San Francisco Federal Building won a Design Award from the AIA San Francisco chapter in 2008.

    Oh. Oh.

    The AIA was not the only one to criticize the draft order. Amanda Kolson Hurley reminds us that the architects of the US Courthouse in Austin, singled out in the order, don’t actually practice Brutalism or Deconstructivism, which the order says are influences today and have “little aesthetic appeal.” As an architectural journalist, Hurley need not be reminded that a building can be influenced by a style without being that style, but I digress. I want to emphasize another point universally missed by these discussions: classicism is not one style. Greek classicism and Roman classicism are distinct, each with rules of their own; there’s a style too for every Renaissance pattern book, there are neoclassical schools which combined classical forms and motifs with other styles, and there are a multitude of architects who began with pattern books and ended with their own style. Classical architecture, in reality, is a grammar and a vocabulary with which you can express any message you like. Architects who believe it to be stifling perhaps need reminded that absence of limitations is the enemy of art.

    This is no doubt obvious to Hurley, yet she strangely sounds the alarm that Trump has appointed such dreaded classicists as Duncan Stroik, too. As someone who with an ounce of familiarity with Stroik’s work (he’s designed some contemporary Catholic churches), I can tell you he is not some rigid copier of 16th century pattern books. If you don’t believe me, check out his stuff. Indistinguishable from a Roman temple, wouldn’t you agree?

    Hurley is a sober rationalist by comparison to our final take. Brian Goldstein, a professional architectural historian who worked for the GSA Office of the Chief Architect under Bush 2, recounts how the administration tried to get a classicist. After “an outcry in the profession” their classicist was given no work. Goldstein wishes fervently for this draft order to be “gummed up” until the next presidency. He closes by announcing that this is all about “whiteness.”

    I’m a classics student, so I must have missed the part where we learned about the strong racial identity of Greeks and Romans. Athens, as we all know, was obsessed with nothing other than its own whiteness. Besides that, I’m curious what the alternative is. What non-white places, cultures, etc. does the San Francisco Federal Building reflect? How about the US Courthouse in Austin? Quit gaslighting us, Goldstein: your favorite styles were invented by white people. Corbu is white. Van der Rohe is white. Not all of them are white today, of course, but then, neither was Julian Abele.

    All sarcasm aside, I want to end by tackling what I take to be the fundamental assumption here: that architects know best what to build. This animates the old set of rules, drafted by Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who wrote, “The design must flow from the architectural profession to the government. And not vice versa.” It’s behind the New York Times‘ broadside against the draft order, which quotes one architect after another saying that entrusting style decisions to us is “absurd,” that they need “freedom of expression” and “contemporary thought.” And it is false. It is so, so false.

    Contemporary architecture is a failure. It’s so hated that celebrated Brutalist masterpieces can’t get the funding they need to survive. Imagine that—building something so ugly that everyone hopes it will just fall down. The buildings are dysfunctional, because they throw out centuries of understanding how to make buildings comfortable and functional for humans. They’re ugly, and like, that’s just my opinion, man, but I share it with a vast majority. We have to live with what you build, you know. A building isn’t something you hang on the wall of your den, it’s out here in the world. We live and work and pass through the built world, and when it’s ugly it depresses us, and when it’s beautiful it makes us happy. I want to be happy. Let us please make beautiful things again.

    • EchoChaos says:

      I voted for him over immigration, but if achieved this Executive Order would be nearly as good.

    • Lurker says:

      I don’t like Trump. At all.
      But this has me going “Yes, please! Can we have that in my country, too? Pretty please?”

    • Plumber says:

      @Nick,
      I’m confused.

      No love for “National Park Service rustic” style (basically Craftsman, like the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite)?

      • Nick says:

        Rustic styles can be really nice when they don’t descend into kitsch. I make stuff like Ahwahnee Hotel in Minecraft sometimes, for instance. But let’s be real, for our rustic palaces Châteauesque is the way to go.

        • Deiseach says:

          Split the difference, rustication has a venerable architectural tradition. Plumber’s linked hotel looks quite reasonable as it’s built in a defined style using materials that reference the environment, and works where it’s located.

          You mightn’t want exactly the same thing in a civic offices building, but that’s where rustication comes in! If it was good enough for the Medici palazzo, it should be good enough for the Gopherville State Tax Bureau 🙂

    • ana53294 says:

      Architecture should be designed for the specific communities that it serves, reflecting our rich nation’s diverse places, thought, culture and climates. Architects are committed to honoring our past as well as reflecting our future progress, protecting the freedom of thought and expression that are essential to democracy.”

      While I personally wouldn’t mind, I think using some of the USA’s rich diverse history in federal buildings would get you accused of cultural appropriation. But a federal building made of wood inspired on a longhouse sounds good. Any monstrosity made with wood instead of concrete would look better. Materials matter.

      While I like classicism, there is something obscene with concrete classical buildings. I’m going to be a purist, and say, if you’re going to use a classical style building, at least cover it with classical materials. Limestone is fine, you don’t have to use marble.

      • zzzzort says:

        Pedantic need to point out that the Romans made extensive use of concrete… cannot be suppressed…

    • Lambert says:

      Now maybe I’ve recently fallen into a rabbit hole after finding a savanna village in minecraft, but I propose that all federal architecture be built in a neo-sudano-sahelian style.

      Not-quite-vertical adobe walls suported by logs which stick out.

      Why can’t civil servants work in something that looks more like the Great Mosque of Djenne?

    • Protagoras says:

      I’m solidly anti-Trump, but I suppose nobody is so vile as to always make the wrong decisions. And I’m big enough to admit Trump doesn’t seem to have been wrong here.

    • FrankistGeorgist says:

      Interesting, given the mixed bag of his properties I took Trump as a modern architecture fan. Or maybe I just took him as a skyscraper man. Was this in his campaign somewhere? Pleasantly out of left-field.

      • Nick says:

        The Times article says that Trump’s interior decorating style is lavish with a side of gaudy, then goes on to say… well, I’ll just quote it, it’s hilarious:

        Architects have regarded Mr. Trump, a former real estate developer who keeps close watch over his family’s portfolio of luxury properties, with a certain degree of wariness since he took office. His design style at his personal properties favors gilded furniture, marble flooring, and Louis XIV-style flourishes. But two of his higher-profile business projects, including the Trump Towers at Columbus Circle in New York City and The Trump Tower in Chicago, were built with modernist influences.

        “At one level, it’s aspirational, meant to project the wealth so many citizens can only dream of,” the author Peter York wrote in 2017 of Mr. Trump’s style. “The best aesthetic descriptor of Trump’s look, I’d argue, is dictator style.”

        • Deiseach says:

          “The best aesthetic descriptor of Trump’s look, I’d argue, is dictator style.”

          How else would one expect the God-Emperor to furnish his dwellings? 🙂

          • Lambert says:

            Emperor, yes.
            But a God-Emperor ought to go 19th c. Gothic revival.
            (because Pointy Arches = Religion)

    • Deiseach says:

      (1) There’s guiding principles for government architecture? Who knew? I thought the idea was “make it as ugly as possible, you want to look modern not like the fusty old past don’t you?”

      (2) Oh no, they will have to do a Neo-Classical pastiche style instead of yet another tubular glass construction or something that looks like it fell off the low-loader while in transit and crashed on the site. Goodness me, however will the public survive having to clap their eyes on this instead of that?

      (The MI6 buiding isn’t bad as such, just not well-integrated in its parts).

      • Plumber says:

        @Deiseach,
        When I visited Ottawa in the late ’80’s my friend and host took me to see the French Consulate there which overlooked the river separating Ottawa from Quebec, and looked like a very large beautiful private home of someone with great wealth and taste, she then took me to see the British Consulate building which was a very drab box on a block of other drab boxes.

        I’m sure the contrast between the consulate buildings was due to when they were built, but the temptation to read something about revealed national characters was strong!

        • jermo sapiens says:

          That’s an amazing spot. It’s right next to the Prime Minister’s official residence, and the view is stunning.

        • AlphaGamma says:

          The British diplomatic representation in Ottawa is a High Commission not an embassy or consulate (Commonwealth countries exchange High Commissioners not ambassadors). It is hideous, though, as is basically every British government building from around that time.

    • Matt M says:

      Just in case anyone is curious, right-wing Twitter is going nuts over this. They absolutely love it. Everyone from Steve Sailer to Faith Goldy has been lavishing praise!

    • BBA says:

      For God’s sake, stop yelling at the modernists for the horrific postmodernist architecture we’re getting now. As the names would imply, they’re different movements. If you can’t tell Saarinen from Gehry, we’re not going to be able to have a conversation.

      Honestly I think government policy should favor boring but cost-effective design. Regional Social Security offices don’t need to be cathedrals. For “flagship” buildings like courthouses, yeah, go traditional, but limit it to one flagship per county.

      • ana53294 says:

        boring but cost-effective design

        But that doesn’t, and shouldn’t, mean ugly.

        A lot of the fancy butt ugly modern buildings are actually very expensive.

        • BBA says:

          Ugly isn’t boring.

          Glass boxes are boring, but not ugly. And I assume they can be built efficiently because we have so goddamn many of them.

          • Nick says:

            Glass boxes are easy to build and, in themselves, cheap. But they have Issues. Heating/cooling and lots of glare are two.

          • Matt M says:

            Which is why it’s especially impressive that most recently constructed government buildings are both ugly and boring!

          • ana53294 says:

            Ugly isn’t boring.

            Counterpoints: 1, 2, 3.

            Some of them are not just ugly and boring, but dangerous also (while still being boring). And they end up as huge liabilities for cities, because nobody wants to live there, if there are better alternatives, so only poor people end up living there, creating ghettos.

          • acymetric says:

            I think the point was that ugly isn’t inherently boring, not that something can’t be both ugly and boring.

            For example, this is most certainly ugly, but I wouldn’t call it boring.

          • Nick says:

            There are kitschy buildings I’d call ugly but not boring, like the Abraj Al-Bait.

      • Matt M says:

        Gonna go out on a limb and guess that just because all of our modern buildings look plain and boring does not mean that they’re anything close to “cost-effective.”

      • Nick says:

        I only called it contemporary, not modern or postmodern. Though I did name Corbu and van der Rohe at the end, so you’ve got me there.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I think government buildings should reflect the ugliness and implacability of the government itself. Something like the AT&T Long Lines building should be their ideal.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      A++++ rant, would be angered by again.

    • Deiseach says:

      Out of curiosity I had a look at those 1962 Guiding Principles for Federal Architecture, and I can see both why and where Moynihan was coming from, and why the end result was more a mess than New Periclean Athens.

      It’s the same principles as with so much contemporary architecture (of the time and later) about building new Catholic churches, and all too often it ended up with “is this a church, or an aeroplane hangar, office space, warehousing or the Temple of the Estoeric Order of Dagon?”

      The development of an official style must be avoided. Design must flow from the architectural profession to the Government. and not vice versa. The Government should be willing to pay some additional cost to avoid excessive uniformity in design of Federal buildings. Competitions for the design of Federal buildings may be held where appropriate. The advice of distinguished architects ought to, as a rule, be sought prior to the award of important design contracts.

      I understand what they were trying to do, but on the other hand – and this is probably my social conservatism and love of hierarchy speaking – I don’t have any strong objections to, and don’t see why there shouldn’t be, an official uniform style for government buildings. I don’t see why it shouldn’t be easily obvious, when you go to a strange city, as to which is the courthouse/city hall/official what’s-it, particularly if you’re a stranger needing to locate such a place to get your paperwork processed. If it works for chain restaurants and coffee shops, why not for government!

      I am sighing wistfully at this part, though:

      The policy shall be to provide requisite and adequate facilities in an architectural style and form which is distinguished and which will reflect the dignity, enterprise, vigor, and stability of the American National Government. Major emphasis should be placed on the choice of designs that embody the finest contemporary American architectural thought. Specific attention should be paid to the possibilities of incorporating into such designs qualities which reflect the regional architectural traditions of that part of the Nation in which buildings are located. Where appropriate, fine art should be incorporated in the designs, with emphasis on the work of living American artists. Designs shall adhere to sound construction practice and utilize materials, methods and equipment of proven dependability. Buildings shall be economical to build, operate and maintain, and should be accessible to the handicapped.

      Vernacular architecture and fine arts? I wish! Instead we got concrete eggboxes (speaking for Ireland), whatever this is made out of, glass glass and more glass, and Extruded Wall Decoration Product.

      Speaking of Extruded Art Product, from the linked site, look at this Guernica rip-off. How many corporate headquarters decorators are going to even know what it’s referencing, apart from being told by the company that “oh yass, ver’ Fine Art, qaite the thing, doncha know”? (At least their botanical prints are inoffensive and tolerable, because the creators had to make the flowers look like flowers. Some of them I wouldn’t mind having to look at eight hours a day, five days a week, at work).

      • Nick says:

        I don’t have any strong objections to, and don’t see why there shouldn’t be, an official uniform style for government buildings.

        Yeah. The way I put it to a friend was, “I don’t think a default classical style is a bad thing. This is because I don’t think a classical style or a default style is a bad thing.”

        With a country as large and diverse as the US, though, I think there’s a great case for using regional architectures. Does Ireland have distinct regions the way the US or, say, France does?

        • Deiseach says:

          With a country as large and diverse as the US, though, I think there’s a great case for using regional architectures.

          That is a good point. I think the main problem with the modern architecture most of us are complaining about is that it really isn’t, in the end, any more diverse or responsive than the old-fashioned architecture it replaced: there’s a kind of International Style (the glass box, with weirder and weirder variations on it in order to win prizes and make your glass box stand out from the other guy’s glass box) that has been adopted and gets slapped up everywhere to signal “modern, urban, cosmopolitan, not some rural backwater!” where the cities are second- or third-tier and trying to make themselves look more impressive. But it’s a Standard Kit Impressiveness.

          Does Ireland have distinct regions the way the US or, say, France does?

          Not really. Firstly, Dublin tends to dominate and unbalance things because it’s the single largest population centre in the country as well as the capital. Secondly, thanks to ‘modernisation’ efforts in the 60s and 70s that involved a lot of political-developer collusion and corruption, a lot of our traditional built architecture got torn down for the sake of throwing something new, concrete, shoddy but profitable up in its stead. Thirdly, the most distinct area would probably be the West, where the ‘traditional native Irish-speaking culture’ is supposed to be preserved, and naturally a lot of that vernacular architecture was peasant-style, which is heavily associated with poverty and backwardness. White-washed thatched cottages are quaint for the tourists to take photographs of, but for a lot of the people who lived in them or their children and grand-children, they preferred modern houses when they could get them.

          Cue our own mini-furore over architecture: Bungalow Bliss turned Bungalow Blight. Back in the 80s there was pushback against it, and I was torn because (a) on the one hand, yes I agreed that the new houses people were privately building often looked terrible in themselves and completely out of place in the local environment but (b) I also agreed that most, or a lot, of the protest was indeed middle-class professionals in Dublin who never had to live in a traditional cottage, were living happily in their modern build homes, and who only saw the local environment for two weeks’ in the year when they visited their holiday homes down the country. To quote an article from last year in the Farming section of the Irish Independent:

          In recent years, the rural bungalow has attracted the kind of urban opprobrium normally reserved for hare coursing, country music and ham sandwiches.

          The wax-jacketed classes never cease to express their horror at their country cousins for abandoning the rustic bothán in the hollow for the white single-storey house on the hill.

          In my early childhood I lived in one of those labourer’s cottages, so I know what it’s like: this is why I say the single greatest thing ever is running water piped into the house (thanks, Plumber and all your fellow tradesmen!) It’s easy to be nostalgic when you’ve never lived in the poverty and poor-quality housing; but on the other hand, we have very poor or non-existent visual and built heritage appreciation here, so a bit more quality control wouldn’t go astray either.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      This is unalloyed pure good news, Nick. And as we have learned to expect from anything good, it’s accompanied by lying screams from influential people with non-STEM degrees.

    • JonathanD says:

      I don’t hate this, but he’s missing the best architectural movement.

    • hls2003 says:

      I have a bit of a weird thought, given that Trump seems to have the focus and attention span of a teenager, and I’m not claiming this is true, but… for some reason this almost feels like something Trump might have been directly involved with. He’s a real estate and buildings guy. He has a strong sense of performative symbolism. He seems to have a regret for America’s “best days behind it” and to want to reverse course to more traditional ways. Pokes a finger in the eye of “decadent elites who think they know better than the common man.” And some of the wording in the order sort of sounds like his sloganeering. There’s probably no way to see the actual chain of decision-making, but I’d be fascinated to see if this was something he dealt with explicitly.

      • Nick says:

        The Times article points to Trump criticizing the FBI headquarters in DC. The name of the order, “Making Federal Buildings Beautiful Again,” certainly sounds Trumpian, but I figure it’s likely as not that some office or whatever is pushing for it and hoping he signs it soon.

        ETA: Disclaimer for BBA’s sake: the FBI headquarters is Brutalist, which is not a style that’s built anymore (though I certainly see architects clamoring for its return). Still, that may be why the executive order singled out Brutalism among others in its criticism of contemporary architecture.

    • b_jonas says:

      To those like me who don’t live in the U.S., can you tell me how many buildings this may affect, and how many of them are outside D.C.? There’s this division between federal and state governments work, so I don’t know how many new buildings are there that are built specifically for the federal government. Does the post office in every small village count as a federal government building? I also don’t know how often these buildings are constructed specifically for the government, as opposed to the government buying an existing older building.

      • Nick says:

        According to the Times article, the guidelines only concern projects $50 million or more. So I don’t think this includes every post office. (My hometown, incidentally, has a very nice old brick post office which is now a bakery. Probably my favorite government building to visit, which I did on a regular basis.) It’s details like that that make me wish I could read and/or link you folks the actual draft. The quote, anyway:

        The order, spearheaded by the National Civic Art Society, a nonprofit group that believes contemporary architecture has “created a built environment that is degraded and dehumanizing,” would rewrite the current rules that govern the design of office buildings, headquarters, and courthouses, or any federal building project contracted through the General Services Administration that costs over $50 million.

        • Matt M says:

          According to the Times article, the guidelines only concern projects $50 million or more. So I don’t think this includes every post office.

          Is that a challenge? Because I’m sure they can find a way…

    • Kelley Meck says:

      I’ll just dump my thoughts.
      “The first function of architecture is to make men over make them wish to go on living, feed them fresh oxygen, grow them tall, delight their eyes, make them kind.” — Ray Bradbury
      I don’t have that many strong architectural instincts–as long as it’s functional, lots of very different styles, although not all of the weirder Gehry stuff, seem fine to me. (I wouldn’t wish living in one of his angular residences I know about on anyone.) I think the ‘starchitecture’ idea is one I don’t really know enough about to judge, but it does seem to me that e.g. the Sydney Opera House and the Louvre, and yes, Gehry’s Bilbao museum, pay for their eccentricities many times over with the number of people who travel to see them. And preventing architects who harbor ambitions of becoming starchitects from descending into incompetence or madness is a laudable goal… but I don’t know where the line is in advance, and I don’t really think our executive branch does either. Instead, I strongly suspect this will get handed to a bureaucrat or set of them who make the wrong choices, with exceptions being granted as plum political favors from the executive branch, on the rare occasion the executive isn’t too mired in more urgent concerns. I don’t want a more powerful executive.

      I like the Hatfield Courthouse in Portland, and I like National Park Rustic for stuff like national park lodges and gates. Chateauesque is great within reason for things like high schools and libraries, but so are other styles (e.g. hatfield courthouse), and whatever the style, keep it focused on function and floor space and price–we’re Americans, not Shah Jahan, and we have better things to do with our time and money and downtown spaces than to cover an acre of space with rows of stone buttresses or what-have-you, no matter how nice they would look if we didn’t have to sometimes remember the cost of building them.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        whatever the style, keep it focused on function and floor space and price–we’re Americans, not Shah Jahan, and we have better things to do with our time and money and downtown spaces than to cover an acre of space with rows of stone buttresses or what-have-you, no matter how nice they would look if we didn’t have to sometimes remember the cost of building them.

        Philistinism should not be a point of national pride.

        • Nick says:

          It makes very little sense, either, in the abstract. No one has ever been able to explain to me why the most fantastically, incredibly wealthy civilization to ever exist suddenly can’t afford architecture.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Labor costs increase faster than wealth, and the kind of architecture you’re talking about has high labor cost.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Labor costs increase faster than wealth, and the kind of architecture you’re talking about has high labor cost.

            Modern governments employ far more people, both absolutely and as a proportion of the population, than virtually any pre-modern government. The ability to pay people clearly isn’t an issue in modern society.

            Also, I’d dispute the claim that beautiful architecture has to have high labour costs. This building near where I live, for example, looks nice, and wouldn’t have required any more labour than the equivalent area of brick walls for houses would.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I was under the impression the ugly concrete buildings aren’t cheap, so who is saying we can’t afford architecture? We can afford it, are affording it, and for the same price or more we’re choosing the ugly concrete buildings.

          • Nick says:

            If we were paying sculptors to make every last detail by hand that would be a problem. But we don’t have to do that. Recall that in the late nineteenth century architects like Louis Sullivan were designing stunning and elaborate terra cotta facades. Check out here and here for a sense of it:

            Reactions to the Chicago fire in 1871 spurred interest in terracotta as a fireproof building material. In the age of skyscraper construction, the cast iron frame needed to be protected. Terracotta was a lightweight, moldable, fire and pollution resistant material that could be mass-produced. Architects such as Burnham and Root, H.H. Richardson, Louis Sullivan, and McKim, Mead & White became interested in using terracotta as a building material rather than just as imitation stone.[12]

          • Plumber says:

            @Nick,
            Maybe it has to do with where the wealth goes?

            Surviving pre-1930’s buildings seem (on average) far better looking than those built afterwards, though the few private homes built in the ’30’s look better than the post war ones if not as nice as the ones from the 20’s and earlier. 

            The early 20th century neo-classical San Francisco City Hall looks great, my house built in 1927 (when times were prosperous) looks mighty fine, the public buildings of the ’30’s look great, and since the Federal government was acting as the “spender of last resort”  then that makes sense, but the millions of single family homes built in the ’50’s and ’60’s look terrible, and so do the public buildings! 

            Come the ’90’s and some commercial and private buildings start to look good again, and a few public buildings start to look better as well in the 21st century (not as good as early 20th, but better than mid 20th century).

            Cars are an interesting contrast, those of the ’40’s and ’60’s look great (many of the ones from the ’50’s look too “rococo” for my tastes, but there’s great ones from that decade as wel!l), the only good looking cars of the ’70’s were ’60’s holdovers, and ’80’s ones are just plain awful looking, but some cars start to look better again in the ’90’s. 

            The building that I repair most was strongly built from 1958 to 1960 and has some nice interior marble, but otherwise is “brutalist’ and not something to look at, the new jail built in the ’90’s across the alley rises to “interesting looking, the Public Defenders building (which is the building I next most repair) that was built in the ’80’s is…

            …oh what an ugly shoddy steaming pile cluster foul up of mess it is, if it was cheap for the taxpayers that’s its only virtue!

            So what happened? 

            Pre-1945 urban and suburban single family homes were a luxury good, and looked like it, after the war the tenements emptied and the suburbs filled fast, building quick was prized over aesthetics, but as for public and commercial buildings? 

            Maybe it was a psychological holdover from the War that big buildings had to look formidable? 

            Everything was ugly in the ’80’s,  punk rock man!

            Come the ’90’s it’s (some) buildings as luxury goods again, also cities start to say “enough of this mess!”, in Berkeley there’s a neo-art deco/mission skyscraper built in the late ’90’s/early 2000’s that’s gorgeous, ’cause the city said “if you want it that tall don’t make it ugly!”, nothing good comes out of committees?

            Depends on who’s on the committee! 

            Also, kitsch is cool! Check out “Normandy/Thomburg Village” built in the ’20’s!

          • Lambert says:

            I wonder wether there are any cutting heads for masonry.
            You could mass-produce corinthian columns with a 5-axis mill.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      Wow, so many comments about how a building looks. I wish there were more people like me, who don’t care a bit what a building looks like. Just make it cheap and functional. The world wastes far too much money pretending to make buildings “beautiful.”

      • Nick says:

        incoherent screaming

        • jermo sapiens says:

          lol

        • Kelley Meck says:

          Nick,

          I feel you likely have struck a nerve here, and a lot of people would enjoy if you tried making some lists of your favorite and least-favorite buildings, and why. Maybe you even say a little more about which buildings and styles are good, and why–I do have buildings I hate, and seemingly for reasons you’d agree with. E.g. Lewis & Clark Law School has half of its classrooms in a one-story brutalist bunker. The roof isn’t sound-isolated from the classrooms, so whenever it’s raining, which in Portland, OR is half the year, anyone who isn’t speaking into a mike is hard to hear because the rain is that loud. And, of course, the classrooms are all windowless, so whenever it isn’t raining, there’s no place on earth you’d more prefer to avoid than the windowless bunker building.

          Oh, also, I learned about half of all the architecture vocabulary I know from https://mcmansionhell.com/. If you’ve got time, why not point me toward some examples of good architecture, and why? I definitely enjoyed following the other links in this thread so far.

          • BlackboardBinaryBook says:

            This post did indeed strike a nerve so here I am bothering to actually log in and comment!

            1. Count me as another person surprised at my approval of a Trump decision.

            2. Agreed re: Hatfield.

            3. Why you gotta give me law school flashbacks? When I first moved to Portland I was convinced it had the ugliest architecture I’d seen outside of Russia.

            4. An example of a contemporary federal building that doesn’t suck to look at (and is in Portland): The Edith Green – Wendell Wyatt Federal Building. The “green wall” trellis is so perfectly fitting for the city.

      • Randy M says:

        Do you disagree that buildings can be beautiful, that anything can be, or just that it is worth paying a price for it?

        • Mark V Anderson says:

          @Randy
          A little of each. I guess theoretically a building can be interesting looking, but the prices we pay for this are insane.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I see this asserted a lot in these debates, but never with any actual argument or evidence to back it up. So the wealthiest and more technologically-advanced civilisation in history now can’t afford any nice buildings? Why not?

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            To ballpark the lowest number:
            238902 architects in US
            Average salary $76,930

            Multiply that together indicates that architects’ salaries cost us $18 billion per year. Of course the real number for creating “beautiful” buildings over functional buildings are probably an order of magnitude higher than that. To mitigate this, I suppose we’d need some architects to create even some functional buildings, but I’d guess only a tenth of that.

            Yeah I can think of lots of better ways to use billions of dollars. Especially since one can NEVER get agreement on what constitutes a beautiful building. Maybe if we spent that money on making the buildings earthquake proof, allow more uniform climate control, don’t collapse when hit by jets, etc. I suppose some of those improved functions would also require architects, but at least we could all agree that the end result would be useful.

            Edit: Oh, as someone who invariably has a cubicle in the middle of office buildings, I’d like like to have sunlight somehow directed to interior portions of the building, but I don’t think architects have figured that one out yet, unless office is on top floor (with skylights).

          • Loriot says:

            Do you think architects do nothing all day besides draw “beautiful” buildings?

          • CatCube says:

            @Mark V Anderson

            I suppose we’d need some architects to create even some functional buildings, but I’d guess only a tenth of that.

            It pains me as a structural engineer to defend architecture, but I have to. You need architects to create buildings, functional or not. They’re the design discipline in charge of arranging the floor plan, to include providing egress and compliance with applicable building codes and laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act.

            How much space is there between the shitter and the partition walls in your office’s bathroom at work? Your building’s architect designed that. How many stairwells are there, and where do they let out? Architect. How wide are the halls? Architect. What materials and layouts were used for partition walls? Architect. Do the doorknobs comply with the ADA? Architect. Where do you need automatic openers for wheelchair access, which cost about $3,000 each? Architect. Everything permanently attached to a building that you touch except for the thermostat, light switches, and plumbing fixtures is designed by the architect.

            There are about 10,000 functional rules you need to make sure your building complies with to be safe and efficient, and you don’t have a hope of doing it without a professional. That professional is the architect.

            Is there a real problem with the modern architecture profession? Abso-fuckin’-lutely. The garbage that so-called “starchitects” inflict on the public is a disgrace, caused by these people forgetting that they’re designing buildings, not sculptures, and I absolutely support the proposed Executive Order to help rein these clowns in. However, there’s a lot of stuff that the discipline does that is absolutely critical, and the vast majority of your imputed costs are due to those critical things, not the clownish sculptures masquerading as “buildings.”

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ Mark V Anderson:

            Erm, you are aware that all buildings, including functional or ugly ones, are designed by architects, right? Building nice-looking buildings instead of horrible ones isn’t going to increase architect costs, because you’d need an architect for a horrible building anyway.

            Especially since one can NEVER get agreement on what constitutes a beautiful building.

            Can’t one? This thread seems to have a pretty strong consensus that classical architecture is more beautiful than modern.

          • This thread reminds me of a book I read long ago by an British author, which complained that architects designing, I think, apartment buildings, were trying to impose their view of how other people should live on the future tenants, with no concern over how people actually wanted to live.

            My vague memory is that the author was a libertarian or classical liberal, but I do not remember either title or author.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            Erm, you are aware that all buildings, including functional or ugly ones, are designed by architects, right?

            Wait a minute, every house is designed by an architect? I don’t think that is true. It has been my understanding that bigger buildings always have some architectural input, but I’m not sure why. Hallway space, egress requirements, etc., I don’t understand why they need to be different for every building. Sure someone has to verify that every building follows the 2 million different building codes. Does this person need to have “architect” next to their name? CatCube has discussed the various building requirements in the past, and I don’t think he’s an architect.

            This thread seems to have a pretty strong consensus that classical architecture is more beautiful than modern.

            Hmm, I’d be surprised if the commentariat even agrees as to what is considered “classical.” Should every building have non-functional Greek columns?

          • CatCube says:

            @Mark V Anderson

            There is something called the Residential Code that provides prescriptive designs for small, simple structures like single-family residences or townhouses. The rules are simple enough that they allow the homebuilder to execute them without certification by licensed design professionals (either an architect or structural engineer).

            These rules are too restrictive to be economical for larger buildings, so there you need an architect. Once you get into more complex occupancies, or even mixed occupancies, figuring out how the rules interact with each other becomes a task you need more design effort and experience for.

            Hallway space, egress requirements, etc., I don’t understand why they need to be different for every building.

            They might be different because of different occupancy categories. It really doesn’t make much sense to require a single set of rules for everywhere, since not everywhere has the same functions and hazards. As a trivial example, a general requirement for egress is that doors be freely operable by the people inside the building, but this obviously won’t work for prisons. Less trivially, something like a theater will have more-or-less the maximum amount of people packed into a small space, due to the economics and purposes of a theater. You will have both more danger to more people and a harder time for all those people to exit in an emergency, which leads to more aggressive requirements for exits. Compare to a store, where you don’t expect to have nearly as many people in an equivalent space.

            Sure someone has to verify that every building follows the 2 million different building codes. Does this person need to have “architect” next to their name?

            The person who verifies most of these requirements is the architect. Laying out a building floor plan and ensuring it’s an efficient use of space and meets code requirements is a huge part of architecture, and this is what most of the people making the average $76,000 you discuss above will be getting paid to do. I don’t know what you’re asking here…you just object to calling somebody who spends most of their time doing architecture an “architect?” I think this is more that you don’t have a good grasp of what the profession does, though to be fair apparently even most architects don’t know this until they become one.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            @CatCube
            You are right, I don’t have a good feel for what architects do. I just came up with because I needed to push back on Mr X’s comment that we are a rich enough society to spend money on beautiful buildings. No one else gave any dollar numbers, so I had to come up with something. So now I get push back on my numbers. I still think the US spends billions of extra dollars on subjective beauty, even if my previous numbers are not convincing.

            Anecdotally, there was discussion in my city recently about spending x dollars on putting in a new bridge across the Mississippi, and many were saying we should spend millions more dollars than the cheapest price so we didn’t get an “ugly bridge,” whatever that means. I believe spending the extra money to get a “beautiful bridge” won the day, because government money is monopoly money and doesn’t mean anything.

            Edit: I still don’t see why you need an architect to build say a chain retail establishment, when they’ve already done 100 others just the same. Maybe these chains do spend a minimal architectural amount on each new store. I hope so.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            You are right, I don’t have a good feel for what architects do. I just came up with because I needed to push back on Mr X’s comment that we are a rich enough society to spend money on beautiful buildings. No one else gave any dollar numbers, so I had to come up with something. So now I get push back on my numbers. I still think the US spends billions of extra dollars on subjective beauty, even if my previous numbers are not convincing.

            Even if the US really spends “billions of extra dollars” (and your lack of familiarity with how architecture works should perhaps make you question your assumptions about how much it can and does cost), living in a nice environment is an important contributor to people’s quality of life. The US already spends billions of dollars on quality-of-life improvements — TVs, cars, having more than one pair of clothes, medical treatment for non-fatal conditions, etc. — so unless you’re going to demand we give all of these things up as well, the claim that we should live in ugly concrete boxes just comes across as an isolated demand for rigor puritanism.

            Anecdotally, there was discussion in my city recently about spending x dollars on putting in a new bridge across the Mississippi, and many were saying we should spend millions more dollars than the cheapest price so we didn’t get an “ugly bridge,” whatever that means. I believe spending the extra money to get a “beautiful bridge” won the day, because government money is monopoly money and doesn’t mean anything.

            Anecdotally, the Scottish Parliament Building was completed three years late and at a cost of over ten times what was originally projected. Ugly =/= cheap.

            Edit: I still don’t see why you need an architect to build say a chain retail establishment, when they’ve already done 100 others just the same. Maybe these chains do spend a minimal architectural amount on each new store. I hope so.

            If you’re going to do that, then there’s no reason you can’t get the architect to design a nice-looking chain retail building.

          • albatross11 says:

            I find arguments that we should ignore aesthetics in favor of utility and low cost very convincing intellectually, but I also find that I’m happier in a more aesthetically pleasing environment and using more aesthetically pleasing products. I think Apple, in particular, makes products that are aesthetically pleasing in several dimensions, and that this often drives their ability to charge more money for the same basic functionality offered by some cheaper Windows or Android device. And I’ve had the experience of handling some devices that were just pleasant to have in the hand and felt right somehow–phones, handguns, some pens, and various tools have all had this impact on me. There’s something valuable there, I think, even if it’s hard to quantify.

      • Clutzy says:

        Cheap and functional actually will (mostly) adhere to these guidelines. Locally sourced material, like wood, and traditional building methods will result in a cheap and functional building that comes in on time and on budget.

        However, modern urbanists will decry these buildings as uninteresting because they will look like the cities built in the 1600s (which still stand today).

      • quanta413 says:

        If we want cheap and functional buildings, we’re almost certainly better off with the older style lovers ruling the roost than whoever currently is driving things. All that swooping glass seems unlikely to be cheap, and definitely isn’t functional.

        Those of us who mostly don’t notice should ally with the traditionalists to get cheaper (or at least not more expensive) and more functional buildings.

      • DarkTigger says:

        I kind of agree, but everyone who thinks modern architecture is “cheap and functional” is just wrong. They are build to be aestheticly pleasing to a certain kind of people that need to read Scotts article on how not to sound like an evil robot. And are simply not cheap for any meaningful defenition of the word.

        And while we’re at it, they are also not “sustainable”, or inclusive or any other buzz word you can come up with.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      What a bunch of dorics.

    • The original Mr. X says:

      He closes by announcing that this is all about “whiteness.”

      I know I should be used to this sort of thing by now, but it still depresses me to see the extent to which some people view literally everything through the lens of racial conflict.

      • Nick says:

        It still bothers me, too. Last night I saw Kate Wagner of McMansion Hell fame join the fray to speculate the draft order might have been influenced by antisemitism. And this morning I encountered this howler, h/t Tyler Cowen:

        Online, traditional architecture enthusiasts, white suprematists [sic], and other groups have aligned their shared passions for classical aesthetics with sordid nationalist politics to consistently weaponize classical motifs under a variety of nativist mantles.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          “Beauty is a sign of white nationalism, anti-racists have to love inhuman concrete blocks!”

          Honestly, I sometimes wonder if these people are secret alt-right propagandists.

          • The Nybbler says:

            It’s true that the alt-right tends to like classical architecture.

            The alt right likes classical architecture
            You like classical architecture
            Therefore you are alt-right.

            Classic fallacy of the undistributed middle.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            “Beauty is a sign of white nationalism, anti-racists have to love inhuman concrete blocks!”

            Honestly, I sometimes wonder if these people are secret alt-right propagandists.

            I mean, yes, but it’s a secret even to themselves. Before they pushed their propaganda that far, I’d bet that white nationalists numbered fewer than 30,000, based on the fact that the SLPC monitors every white nationalist group down to four unemployed whites who have regular meetings in a booth at Denny’s to commiserate that Mexicans and Jews did it.

        • Kelley Meck says:

          Nick,

          Following your link to Kate Wagner’s tweet, it looks like she thinks she’s doing something other than just speculating–she’s decrying the fact that a number of anti-semites who inhabit pro-classical-architecture accounts on Twitter have got her wondering if the draft order was influenced by anti-semitism.

          A little way downthread, another twitterer says,
          “It’s so shitty and I hate that it will inevitably entrench people’s idea that classicism is inherently fascist when in reality it’s always been a diverse tradition with plenty of subversion, queerness, multiculturalism and joy.”

          Kate Wagner replies, “I feel similarlly.”

          In other words, this discussion that could have been about architecture (and so far on SSC, has included lots of race-free discussion of actual architectural styles and specific buildings) instead ends up talking about how Hitler had a jazz band, but the jazz band and all jazz under Nazi control was subject to dozens of rules, like no finger-plucking of the bass, because fascists gotta fascist and jazz was degenerate.

          I’d like to think my contribution to this conversation has moved us toward talking about architecture, and which kinds are the good stuff and how to effectively support the good stuff in government buildings while retaining a sense of multiculturalism, the kind of healthy national pride that is the sturdy antidote to ethnonationalism, and just plain joy in beautiful buildings, and I’m not confident I’ve done that yet. I did really like reading those wikipedia pages about terracotta that you shared–thanks for those. Fires in modern times don’t seem to be the problem they were when those buildings were popular, and I don’t know enough to evaluate whether they’re really superior on other grounds, but I did like looking at the prettier examples.

          I don’t want to spend a lot of time accusing Kate Wagner or anyone else of having bad faith or bad politics, I want to learn about architecture. Do you have any favorite apolitical books or, better for me, blogs, about architecture?

          • Nick says:

            Hi Kelley,

            I was trying to be kind to Wagner by putting it the way that I did, because I find the idea that a bunch of anonymous Twitter accounts brought about the draft order to be absurd. I’m sorry that she’s wondered about this so seriously she’s depressing herself, but whose fault exactly is that? She is the one who has introduced an association between the draft order and these Twitter accounts, and now she’s deploring that association. That makes zero sense. Zero. ArchitectureRevival did not inspire a Trump administration official to promote classical architecture, and it sure as hell didn’t inspire him or her to do so on antisemitic grounds. I’m sorry if this seems flippant, but what else can I say?

            It would be nice to have a discussion on architecture free of the nonsense that prominent people have been saying about this, and I like a lot of the architectural discussion that has gone on here, which I think has been—surprisingly, given my tone—a little less tense than some past ones. But ultimately I wrote this post as a corrective to what I’ve been reading, and that means dwelling a little on what smart, influential people are saying. Besides, my two most important points are not political at all: 1) classicism is not being mandated, and 2) classicism is not one style. These remain almost totally neglected in all the commentary I’ve read.

            When it comes to architecture, I follow the tumblr account archimaps, the Twitter feed @WrathOfGnon, and I read books. The books I’ve been reading for the last year or so have been almost exclusively about Gothic architecture, though, because of a project I’m doing. But if you don’t mind a video—sorry, SSC!—there’s an excellent, excellent 4-part series from the ICAA on the foundations of classical architecture: Roman Classicism, Greek Classicism, Motifs & Details, and Classical Design Principles. There’s no better introduction to what I mean when I say classicism is no one style. For that matter, there is no better introduction to what Wagner meant when she agreed that the classical tradition includes subversion, queerness, multiculturalism, and joy. My notes on the first video are here, summarizing the content chronologically; open the file as html and it should be nice and legible.

          • Kelley Meck says:

            Terrific reply, nice thread. I will check out all these suggested links.

            I don’t agree about everything, and in particular, I think it’s good to be charitable toward people who worry about fascism in American politics, not to blame them for raising the concern they are concerned about. But let’s leave off on this good note. Thanks for the links!

          • Nick says:

            You’re very welcome!

          • Deiseach says:

            she’s decrying the fact that a number of anti-semites who inhabit pro-classical-architecture accounts on Twitter have got her wondering if the draft order was influenced by anti-semitism

            Well, one way to assuage such worries is ask yourself “Does this thought I have just thunk sound as if it might fit comfortably in the mouth of someone who hasn’t bathed in three weeks and is folding headgear out of aluminium foil? Yes? Then perhaps I should discard it as not worthy of consideration”.

            Are there anti-Semites under the bed in every corner of every possible interest? There well could be, but are there enough of them and in positions of power to jump on every single “this could be down to ANTI-SEMITES SNEAKILY SNEAKING AROUND” possible instance? I’m sure even the SPLC hate list is right sometimes about “there are Roman Catholic groups out there which are still anti-Semitic” but I’m not worrying about them because the Church as a whole is saying “nah, that’s bad, and tell ’em the Pope said so”.

            If someone’s knee-jerk reaction to “can we please not have concrete boxes/glass rectangles as the default architectural style” is “YOU’RE BLAMING THE JEWS AREN’T YOU!!!!”, then I think they have worse problems to be concerned with, frankly.

      • Aftagley says:

        He closes by announcing that this is all about “whiteness.”

        I don’t think this is a fair summary of his final tweet. It’s not a false summary, but it alides the actual point. Here is the tweet Nick is referencing in full:

        This is more red meat in DT’s ever widening culture war. It’s advancing an idea of the U.S. in the tradition of Western Civilization against all those weird ideas of modernism. It’s about whiteness.

        So, yeah, race is brought up – but it’s specifically brought up in reference to the idea that this idea is part of the Culture War. It’s about picking winners and losers based on some criteria other than their architectural significance or merit.

        Now, am I biased on this front? Sure. I think the Austin Courthouse looks very cool in pictures, despite never seeing it in person (I should also note that around 10 minutes of googling revealed basically 0 criticism of the building, so it being singled out here is odd.) I’ve also been to a few meetings in that San Francisco building and found it to be fine. A little weird and it gives off the feeling of being a bit over-designed, but it in no way shape or form comes off as architecturally sabotaged to the point of being non functional.

        I also really don’t want culture war to infect another segment of our civilization, which this order would do. (or maybe this order is just the final acknowledgement that architecture is now CW, in which case, well, shucks). If this becomes popular and people who otherwise don’t care about architecture now suddenly have to start caring. We’re going to end up in a world where republicans keep rebuilding the Parthenon and dems retaliate by, i don’t know, basic the design of the next federal building off of Spaceship Earth.

        So, like all things with this President, it comes down to a scissor statement – do I want my vote for President to ALSO be a vote for how all federal buildings are designed over the next 4-8 years? No, I don’t. This isn’t actually a problem now and any attempt to make if feel like one is precisely designed to evoke the reactions you can see among pretty much everyone upthread.

        • Nick says:

          I hate to disagree here since you’re being very fair-minded, but I think you’re being way too charitable to Goldstein. First, this isn’t Donald Trump’s culture war; I and other ‘traditional architecture fans’ have been fighting this particular battle for years. In other words, this was already a front, just one you were unaware of.

          Second, notice how Goldstein structures his complaint: he says the US is being placed in the tradition of Western Civilization (which it is) against modernism (not quite accurate, but hey, it’s the modernists who set themselves apart!). And what comes after, if we presume it isn’t a complete non sequitur, is explanatory: it’s about whiteness. Whiteness is being held up as the justification, the motivation for our identification of governmental architecture with classicism. That’s why I focused on it. And that claim is just ridiculous.

          I don’t relish the thought of fighting with you folks about architecture, but in the interest of brutal, constructive honesty, I think you’re wrong and should agree with me. Like, you’ve been to the SF Federal Building. Maybe you only interacted with the one in eight people who don’t hate the building. Maybe everyone knew not to open the windows in the conference room. Maybe you happened to be visiting a floor divisible by three. I don’t know. But man, I’m not the one disagreeing with an entire wall of employee criticisms.

          One last thing, a point of fact:

          This isn’t actually a problem now and any attempt to make if feel like one is precisely designed to evoke the reactions you can see among pretty much everyone upthread.

          I’m not sure whose reactions you mean. I didn’t see anyone say this was a terrible idea and culture warry. But I saw lots of, “I hate to give Trump credit, but I like this,” which is the same position I’m in, and as the author of this giant thread that’s refreshing and encouraging!

          • Clutzy says:

            The other insane thing about the “whiteness” comment, is that if the FBI building looked like the Taj Mahal, while it might look out of place in D.C., whos founders envisioned a city of Greco-Roman buildings, I don’t think people would hate it. People wouldn’t hate if West Coast cities used Japanese and Chinese influenced architecture. Instead they hate modernist style, which were invented by weird white guys!

          • quanta413 says:

            What Clutzy said.

            The whiteness thing is nonsense, because most of the “modern” architecture is designed by white guys! And they sure didn’t design it with any reference to anything but their aesthetic sense. It makes no sense to claim that defaulting to having more classically inspired or regional traditional architecture instead of whatever weird blocks or swoopy glass things we tend to get now is some sort of racial battle because there is no racial fault line in architectural style or architects.

          • Lambert says:

            Yeah. Lets stop designing buildings according to the whims of priveleged white architects, and instead look to the creations of some of the most ethnically, culturally and religiously diverse civilisations of history.

            That thing where some people on the right mentions a thing on the internet, then the left ceeds that whole concept to them. Can we stop doing that?

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Lambert

            Can we stop doing that?

            On one hand, it would bring the Overton window back to where I want it to be, but on the other, ceding things wholly to the right gives us some major victories. Tough call.

          • quanta413 says:

            Yeah. Lets stop designing buildings according to the whims of priveleged white architects, and instead look to the creations of some of the most ethnically, culturally and religiously diverse civilisations of history.

            I wonder what were the most terrible architectural styles other empires had for their important buildings like the U.S.A. often has.

            Is the ugly stuff the Romans or the Tang or Mughals built forgotten because it was ugly? Depicting ugly stuff is a less popular activity. Has it all fallen over? The Tang built a lot with wood. Was it torn down to build other stuff? Europeans dismantled not ugly Roman stuff too, so probably.

            Is it uniquely tempting to build bizarre and ugly large buildings with modern technology but not with stone or wood? Perhaps glass and steel drive architects mad. Are we doomed by our mastery of glass and steel?

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Yeah. Lets stop designing buildings according to the whims of priveleged white architects, and instead look to the creations of some of the most ethnically, culturally and religiously diverse civilisations of history.

            Eh, I think this is a fairly tendentious account. Employing native auxiliaries =/= “embracing diversity”, at least not in the sense most people today would understand the phrase.

            Also, “it turned a one-note Italian heavy infantry system into an unbeatable combined arms force through allies and auxiliaries” — that “one-note Italian heavy infantry system” had already beaten the Carthaginians, Macedonians, Seleucids, Spaniards, Gauls, etc. Obviously local auxiliaries were useful — that’s why they were hired, after all — but implying that the Roman army wasn’t very good until it diversified is misleading.

            (Also, I’m not sure that even before its overseas expansion the army was “one-note”. The notion that early Rome relied on its infantry for everything mostly comes from the Roman cavalry’s defeats at the hands of Hannibal’s troopers, but Hannibal had an exceptionally good cavalry force. Roman equites had managed to hold their own against plenty of opponents in previous wars.)

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Is the ugly stuff the Romans or the Tang or Mughals built forgotten because it was ugly? Depicting ugly stuff is a less popular activity. Has it all fallen over? The Tang built a lot with wood. Was it torn down to build other stuff? Europeans dismantled not ugly Roman stuff too, so probably.

            Is it uniquely tempting to build bizarre and ugly large buildings with modern technology but not with stone or wood? Perhaps glass and steel drive architects mad. Are we doomed by our mastery of glass and steel?

            There are plenty of historic (parts of) cities where all the buildings date back centuries, and plenty of centuries-old depictions of cities, and none of them incorporate anything as ugly as modern architecture. So I don’t think that survival bias is the reason people think old buildings were prettier; modern architecture really is uniquely horrible.

          • Lambert says:

            I think the text of the tweet is kinda 140-char rhetoric, not a nuanced account of roman combined-arms tactics. The guy researches Roman armour as his day job, so he knows what he’s talking about.

            And yeah, I was somewhat shitposting. I’m just tired of all the cool old stuff being declared ‘alt right’ without any kind of resistance.

          • I view problems with modern architecture as one example of the rising marginal cost of originality.

            Suppose you are the first city planner in the history of the world. If you are very clever, you come up with a Cartesian city, where it’s easy to find addresses. Suppose you are the second city planner. You can’t do a Cartesian city because that’s already been done. If you are very clever you come up with a design almost as good, perhaps polar.

            You are the three hundred and fiftieth city planner. All the good ideas have been used, all the so-so ideas have been used. You design Canberra.

            I expect it works for architecture too.

          • bullseye says:

            You are the one thousandth city planner. Your pet chimpanzee steals your pencil and designs Atlanta.

          • Clutzy says:

            I view problems with modern architecture as one example of the rising marginal cost of originality.

            This + Arrogance is also my theory. I have seen quotes from architects where they make clear that their goal is to “stand out” (this is the benevolent side) or even to “impose upon” (malevolent imo) on the populace. Much of modernity isn’t terrible, but its not enjoyable or functional. I took by Brother and Sister-in-law to the Art Institute of Chicago recently, and we started in the modern wing. It was not good. And it was so large that we hurried through it and into the other, better wings.

            Fundamentally, art and architecture need to comfort the people, otherwise they will represent an intrusion into personal spaces.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I think the text of the tweet is kinda 140-char rhetoric, not a nuanced account of roman combined-arms tactics. The guy researches Roman armour as his day job, so he knows what he’s talking about.

            Yeah, but researching something as one’s day job isn’t incompatible with tendentiously portraying it to score political points.

          • Lambert says:

            I can not-go to the Tate Modern any time I like. Likewise, I can avoid Stockhausen’s violo’copter. But people have to y’know, live and work in the kind of building that wins lots of architectural awards but is, in the eyes of us hoi polloi, ugly and impractical (or worse).

    • aristides says:

      Congratulations! You have probably found the single issue that unites President Trump and avowed socialist Nathan Robinson!

    • Plumber says:

      @Nick says:

      “Dread stirrings…”

      You scooped them, but I now see that The New York Times has weighed in on the issue.

      • The Nybbler says:

        The New York Times article refers to a “10-story concrete tower” as part of a “renewed interest in classical architecture”, which indicates to me that one or the other of us is completely confused about what “classical architecture” is. The features I would recognizes as closest to “classical” in that structure are the columns, and they’re more prominent in the “old” design whereas it’s the new design they deride as classical. I suppose deleting the cupola makes it more “classical”, or at least less “non-classical”.

        I also found this kind of funny:

        In other words, federal buildings, most of all federal courthouses, should resemble Roman temples as closely as possible — although presumably without any statues of false gods in the lobby.

        Hey, if it’s good enough for the Supreme Court…. Statues of gods included, though they aren’t called that.

    • EchoChaos says:

      Another thing I saw happen as a response to this is that Trump is making his enemies side with something really unpopular. Again.

      How does he keep doing it?

      • Nick says:

        I know, right? I was just thinking about this piece earlier.

        ETA: As I said above, though, I don’t think there’s much indication Trump is involved in the draft order. My guess remains that it’s the idea of someone in his administration.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        The thing that’s nuts is since Nick first posted about this the tone of articles I see has shifted further afield. First it was people opposed to the new classical standard. Now I’m seeing defense of and support for the hideous concrete blocks. It’s amazing.

  20. acymetric says:

    Has the cluster**** in Iowa just been drowned out by the SOTU address and impeachment proceedings, or do most people just not care how totally botched that primary was (is)?

    • EchoChaos says:

      Has the cluster**** in Iowa just been drowned out by the SOTU address and impeachment proceedings, or do most people just not care how totally botched that primary was (is)?

      ¿Porque no los dos?

      Iowa really only matters for “who is a viable candidate” purposes. That narrative is done (Biden is hurt, Buttigieg is helped, Sanders is neutral), so we’re on to New Hampshire and the actual final vote doesn’t much matter.

      Republicans don’t want to harp on it too much because it doesn’t really matter to us and Democrats don’t want to harp on it because it’s divisive and New Hampshire is right on the horizon.

      • albatross11 says:

        I suspect that Iowa screwing up the results hurt Buttigieg somewhat since he didn’t get the huge publicity boost from winning that he should have. OTOH, it probably doesn’t matter all that much.

        The SOTU, the (utterly predictable) end of the impeachment trial in the Senate, and the ongoing coronavirus outbreak are enough news that it’s hard for the Iowa caucus screw-up to stay in the headlines, especially when they really only matter for horse-race type coverage.

        • acymetric says:

          Or does it help Buttgieg, because he got at least some publicity for winning? With 97% reporting (although there are reportedly a ton of errors so who knows if these numbers are accurate) he is ahead in the SDE count by .1%, and behind in the popular vote by about 2,500.

      • acymetric says:

        Republicans don’t want to harp on it too much because it doesn’t really matter to us and Democrats don’t want to harp on it because it’s divisive and New Hampshire is right on the horizon.

        This is probably a big part of it. I’m not so much interested in “who wins” so much as I can’t believe the rampant errors in the data haven’t gotten more coverage (errors that appear to impact basically all the candidates so it isn’t clear who will benefit the most if they ever get corrected).

        Edit: I should add that I do think they are errors, as opposed to a sinister plot from the DNC. Just layers upon layers of incompetence all the way through the process from counting the votes to reporting the votes to releasing the results.

        • EchoChaos says:

          I should add that I do think they are errors, as opposed to a sinister plot from the DNC.

          Honestly, a sinister plot would do more to inspire confidence in the people asking to take control of the entire healthcare system in this country.

        • acymetric says:

          In case anyone is interested in what types of errors are being found, check out Nate Cohn’s Twitter (yes, yes, the NYT is terrible and so on, whatever he’s doing as good a job of following it as I’m seeing anywhere else).

          There are more than 100 precincts in Iowa with some kind of irregularity or inconsistency in the returns across one of the various vote counts…

        • nkurz says:

          > I do think they are errors, as opposed to a sinister plot

          It’s worth noting that the process of fixing random errors can lead to biased results, even if the original errors were purely accidental. If the errors are only noticed because answers don’t match the expectations of those checking the results, errors that go against the biases of the fixing team will be quickly corrected while errors in the other direction will silently remain. In a properly error-rich environment, unless one is careful, the more errors that are fixed the more biased the results can become, even in the absence of a “sinister” plot.

          • acymetric says:

            I think that is more of an issue with errors of the type “candidate x recieved y votes, that seems to [high/low]”.

            The main problem I’ve seen reported so far that needs correcting is

            “candidate x received 0 votes but was awarded 3 delegates”

            OR

            “candidate x received 10 votes and was awarded 2 delegates, candidate y received 20 votes and was awarded 1 delegate”

            which should be fairly easy to identify and fix without introducing bias.

            Of course, there could be and likely are other errors.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Ah, the story of the global temperature datasets.

          • Matt M says:

            If the errors are only noticed because answers don’t match the expectations of those checking the results, errors that go against the biases of the fixing team will be quickly corrected while errors in the other direction will silently remain.

            Reminds me of how in 2000, we just knew the ballots were confusing or poorly counted, because how else would anyone actually vote for Pat Buchanan?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Pat Buchanan and the Reform Party agreed those votes probably weren’t his.

          • Chalid says:

            we just knew the ballots were confusing or poorly counted, because how else would anyone actually vote for Pat Buchanan?

            You must know that’s not actually the reason. Less of this, please.

          • Matt M says:

            I know that technically there was more to it than that, but I do recall that being how it was presented in the general interest media.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Wait, Chalid, can you explain? That literally was the argument, that Buchanan’s vote tallies in Palm Beach were indicative of error because those demographics were unlikely to vote for Buchanan, and his support there was out of proportion to his support in other counties in the state. Buchanan and the Reform Party agreed.

            I also agree, and I voted for Buchanan in the ’96 primaries, put a Buchanan bumper sticker on my car in 2000 and only at the very last minute voted for Bush so as not to “throw my vote away.”

            Matt M is right.

          • Matt M says:

            To be clear – I’m fine with saying “The unexplained presence of a significantly higher than average votes for a particular candidate in a particular jurisdiction should be treated as a red flag that something may be up.”

            I’m not fine with suggesting that such a discrepancy is, in and of itself, evidence of any particular wrongdoing. Significantly higher than expected votes for Candidate X in Precinct Y is smoke, but it isn’t fire.

            And I do think most coverage was a little too snarky about it because it was Buchanan specifically.

          • Randy M says:

            I’m not fine with suggesting that such a discrepancy is, in and of itself, evidence of any particular wrongdoing

            I hate to be pedantic, he lied, but around here we would call that evidence. What it isn’t is proof, or probably even strong evidence, though that depends on the quantity.

          • Matt M says:

            Sure. I guess what I would say is that “disproportionately high votes for a generally unpopular candidate” is valid reason to launch an investigation. But if the investigation doesn’t reveal anything beyond that, you cannot conclude any sort of malfeasance or foul play. All you can conclude is “Huh, I guess Pat Buchanan was more popular than we thought” and perhaps “Out of ten thousand precincts in the country, there’s bound to be a few statistical outliers where he receives high votes.”

          • Randy M says:

            Absolutely, and I think Trump’s success probably would raise our probability estimate that some of those Buchanan votes were legit–absent other evidence, of course.

          • Matt M says:

            Right. Part of the reason I’m so sensitive to this is that in the more hardcore corners of the Russiagate scene, there are still people making an argument that basically goes, “How could the vote totals be legitimate given that Hillary had such a huge lead in the polls!”

            The correct answer is “Trump was more popular than you thought, and the polls were flawed.” Not any sort of conspiracy theory involving Vladimir Putin.

        • Guy in TN says:

          It’s important to keep in mind that a major part of the ambiguity surrounding Iowa comes from just how dang close the SDEs are between Sanders and Buttigieg. If it was a blowout victory for one of them, these calculation errors probably wouldn’t matter that much. The only reason we remember hanging chads in Florida is that the margins were so razor thin that they actually became relevant.

          And secondly, just to reiterate what others have said, the caucuses have probably always been error-laden like this. There’s no reason to think that the vote-counters across the state in 2020 were any less competent that they were in 2016 or 2008. The difference is, this time they were forced to “show their work”, meaning that everyone on Twitter and Reddit gets to find the errors they made.

          So no, I don’t think this was a conspiracy by the DNC to create a false-flag caucus failure, turning public opinion in favor of the more democratic primary system. That’s too 4-D chess for me. But if this debacle did result in the end of the caucus system, that would be extremely good IMO.

          • Chalid says:

            the caucuses have probably always been error-laden like this

            Remember how in 2012, the Republicans announced that Romney was the winner on election night, only to reverse themselves and declare Santorum was actually the winner two weeks later in a Friday midnight news dump?

    • Nick says:

      It seems like it to me. If nothing else, though, either Buttigieg or Sanders will be vindicated pretty soon; they’re virtually tied with 96% reporting. That ought to be reported on.

    • Matt M says:

      My new conspiracy theory is that the DNC set all of this up on purpose.

      And by “all of this” I don’t mean “Pete wins, or almost wins, or whatever” but “the result is total chaos.”

      This will be used as justification end the Iowa caucus system, which is a goal a lot of them have held for some time.

      • baconbits9 says:

        You think the plan to end the Iowa caucus system was to look like a bunch of idiots the day before the SOTU and two days before the acquittal?

        • Matt M says:

          Yes. I think they were counting on the media to spin it as “Those crazy non-diverse Iowans and their stupid confusing backward voting system caused this.” As to whether that succeeded or not, YMMV?

          • acymetric says:

            Seems unlikely they would be willing to risk throwing the 2020 election to accomplish this.

          • Matt M says:

            There is no risk, provided they can count on their allies in the media establishment to affirm and reinforce that the story here is “Iowans are incompetent” and not “Democrats are incompetent.”

          • Deiseach says:

            Trouble was that it wasn’t the stupid confusing backward voting system that was the problem, it was the shiny new hi-tec app created by a company that has a bunch of current and former Democrat candidate supporters aboard.

            So the people really at fault here aren’t the stodgy non-diverse Iowans, it’s the trendy new diverse (in a mild way) people who are part of those wanting to do away with the Iowa caucus system.

            If there is any corruption going on with ACRONYM and/or Shadow Inc., it looks more like ‘jobs for the boys’ and ‘cosy contracts’, i.e. using connections with and within the party to have them buy your shoddy new app to replace boring old dependable Windows they’ve been using since the last Ice Age, not any high-level conspiracy to cook the votes. Still not a good look, Trump’s campaign could get a lot of mileage out of “They want to run the country but they can’t even run their own selection process” from this one.

          • acymetric says:

            @Deiseach:

            Actually, at this point it appears that some precincts may have reported results incorrectly independent of the app issues, so it is not entirely on the app. The app had a lot to do with the delay in results, but is not the only source of inaccuracies in the reported data.

            There were some rule changes new to this year’s caucus which may have been a partial cause there.

          • Nick says:

            Trump’s campaign could get a lot of mileage out of “They want to run the country but they can’t even run their own selection process” from this one.

            Andrew Yang beat him to it!

          • baconbits9 says:

            If this conspiracy theory is honestly the case then they are a bunch of morons. There is no way to spin a Democratic primary failure as ‘those backwards Iowans’, the best case scenario is always going to be ‘those backwards Democratic Iowans’. Further the app which was supposed to improve things made things worse, which opens up all kinds of ‘the dems say X is broken, but look at what happens when they try to fix things’ attacks. Put in a string of events that mostly come off as impotent or incompetent this is pretty dumb timing.

          • Deiseach says:

            Actually, at this point it appears that some precincts may have reported results incorrectly independent of the app issues, so it is not entirely on the app.

            Agreeing with you there acymetric, as the reports I’m seeing make it look more and more like a complete dog’s dinner – and whatever is going on will provide even more fuel for any conspiracy theorists or those who just want to stir the pot.

            I do wonder why this year, of all years, they decided to scrap the old tried-and-tested system and run with something new. It’s not a great omen for the start of the Democratic selection process!

          • acymetric says:

            And now Tom Perez calls for a recanvas, which may or may not actually solve anything because some results may have been recorded wrong at the source.

            It is certainly wide open for conspiracy theorists at this point. Buttigieg and Sanders both have legitimate gripes about the way this botched election has effected their campaigns (while everyone who underperformed is breathing a sigh of relief that it appears nobody cares who wins what in Iowa anymore).

          • Matt M says:

            There is no way to spin a Democratic primary failure as ‘those backwards Iowans’,

            I think you underestimate their ability to spin.

            They managed to spin an event where a teenager smiled at a valor-stealing progressive activist and fringe religious group shouting racial slurs into a narrative on how catholic schools are openly embracing white supremacy.

            Spinning the events in Iowa as “this is because Iowa has a weird caucus system few people understand and not a simple primary, and hey why should they get to go first anyway?” is small potatoes compared to the typical amount of spinning they do on… basically every story.

          • dodrian says:

            I don’t go for conspiracy theories, but for the sake of fun, Matt M’s is the one I’d agree with.

            – It would have to have been organized before they knew the timing of the impeachment vote.
            – Plenty of media coverage asking the Why Iowa? question in the lead up to the vote
            – NPR this evening gave a whole segment to a “comedic” poem lamenting the death of the Iowa caucuses
            – I think the Democratic Party bigwigs have genuinely convinced themselves that it’ll be a cakewalk to beat Trump 2020, and can afford a little negative press that will easily be drowned when the primaries kick off for real (though I’m sure they’re underestimating Trump, and suspect they’re also underestimating how well he can turn this to his favor)

          • Deiseach says:

            while everyone who underperformed is breathing a sigh of relief that it appears nobody cares who wins what in Iowa anymore

            Yup, it needn’t be a big conspiracy (just normal human screwing-up) but it certainly doesn’t help but add fodder to any “they’re out to screw Bernie over again/the powers that be are pushing Joe” now that the big story is “Iowa caucus results complete waste; blame technology or the people running the show?” rather than “Biden in shock result fourth place” 🙂

    • Plumber says:

      @acymetric says:

      “Has the cluster**** in Iowa just been drowned out by the SOTU address and impeachment proceedings…”

      My Republican boss happily mentioned all three yesterday (most I’ve heard him talk politics since the Kavanaugh hearings), so I’m thinking not.

      The San Francisco Chronicle has had local matters on the top half of the front page instead, but The New York Times is full of all three (I don’t see The Wall Street Journal at our building snack bar anymore so for the “Right’s” views I have to rely on the two most talkative Republicans on the crew plus SSC comments).

      • Plumber says:

        My mistake, today’s Chronicle has “Trump acquitted” as a headline along with “S.F. plans sobering center for meth”, “Protecting the piers”, and “How FBI secretly got Nuru on tape” (the last about thr arrest of my former boss of my bosses boss).

        • Deiseach says:

          I’ll refrain from anything more than a mild dig that in the Democratic Wonderland of San Francisco, even their politicians and political establishment of the Caring Party have their own corruption, bribes and back-handers as well as “the so-called “city family,” a go-to official relied on by mayors and supervisors to clean up the sort of messes that can easily derail the career of a big-city politician” 🙂

          Politics is the same all over. We’ve had our own little corruption scandal in my last job, where a town councillor was jailed for four years for alleged bribery – receiving money from a local developer in return for lobbying for land rezoning. He got his conviction quashed just over a year ago, but he’s already served his sentence and had his career and everything else ruined (the irony being that in a separate trial, the alleged donor of the bribes was not convicted: how can you be guilty of taking bribes when the guy supposed to be giving them isn’t guilty of the same I can’t work out, but that’s the law for you).

          Pro tip: if, hypothetically speaking, you’re going to, um, increase your revenue stream by extra-curricular donations, don’t then dump your wife for a younger woman in a very, very messy break-up where your missus finds out you’re playing away because you mistakenly sent the text meant for your bit on the side to your teenage daughter. Scorned spouses may then tell all to the cops 🙂

    • BBA says:

      I remarked before that there’s no secret DNC cabal out to rig the election, or else Hillary would’ve won every time since 2004.

      I’m now starting to wonder if the national and state parties are trying to force a brokered convention, where after umpteen deadlocked ballots a savior will ride in on a white horse to rescue the Republic…

      Mitt Romney, as prophesied.

      • Plumber says:

        @BBA,
        Well Romney won a higher percentage of the popular vote than Trump did…

        ….but I think “Romney” is spelled “Bloomberg” now.

      • Deiseach says:

        Mitt the Misogynist who want(s)(ed) to keep women barefoot and pregnant?

        Obama senior advisor David Plouffe and traveling press secretary Jen Psaki spoke with reporters before boarding a plane to Iowa following the debate, criticizing Romney’s claim that he wasn’t against any woman having access to contraception.

        “He basically told tens of millions of Americans that he didn’t support legislation that would allow employers to make contraceptive decisions for female employers,” Plouffe said, saying he expects the issue to take on “increased importance.” “He was for it. It was as black and white as something can be.”

        Has he been rehabilitated enough now that selecting him as a candidate won’t cause cries of outrage at the danger to women?

        Make no mistake, when it comes to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s policies on women’s rights, there is little to distinguish the Republican presidential candidate from the more radical elements of his party. The many examples of waffling by Gov. Romney are nothing more than attempts to obfuscate his true positions and claim that he is a moderate regarding social issues when he most certainly is not. Here’s the real truth about Gov. Romney’s anti-woman agenda: Whether we’re talking about women’s health, reproductive rights, or economic independence, he would take women backward.

        I thought the manufactured fuss over the “binders full of women” was absurd at the time, and I don’t think it any less absurd that people who were willing to make hay out of “dangerous choice for the presidency, will bring about The Handmaid’s Tale in actuality” are now hailing him as statesmanlike and guided by principle. It’s all theatre done out of what will give most advantage to one’s own side.

        At least this guy is honest about the quid pro quo:

        Trump may not go down so easily, but there is still space for a “hero” in the room. It might as well be Mitt Romney. Make no mistake: I don’t believe the man is acting out of principle. A principled man would have never acquiesce to such a vile president whose hobbies include bigotry and contempt for the rule of law.

        But I do know Romney is one of the better opportunists on the right, and there can be value in a useful opportunist. He is someone who can match his careerist interests with some nominal level display of decency in speaking out against Trump and calling on his GOP senators to jump from a sinking ship.

        At this point, I don’t care if Romney is only interested in bolstering his place in history and perhaps running again for president alongside someone like Nikki Haley, another opportunist who claims to be better than Trumpism yet attached herself to it out of self-gain. All I know is that the longer Trump stays in power, the more dangerous it becomes for everyone in this country — particularly the most vulnerable among us. And if he is allowed to not only remain in office, but potentially extend his presidency for four more years, the tyrant in training wheels will sink this country more than he already has.

    • Plumber says:

      acymetric says:

      “…Iowa…

      …primary…”

      Something that caught my attention:

      “…Sanders won overwhelmingly among voters under 30 and Biden swept those over 65, Buttigieg’s voters were relatively well distributed across the generations (as were Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s). Buttigieg’s strongest group: voters between the ages of 45 and 64…”

      What is it about those candidates that attracts support from those age groups?

      Sure, Biden’s older and attracts older voters, Buttigieg is younger and attracts voters younger than Biden’s, but Sanders is older still and his base of support is noticeably younger than Buttigieg’s.

      Why is that?

      • The Nybbler says:

        Sanders is a communist, and communism has long been popular among the youth… who both don’t know any better, and don’t have much in the way of wealth and property to be yielded for the common good.

        • acymetric says:

          Sanders isn’t a communist, but you’re smart enough that I’m pretty sure you already knew that.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Is there actual evidence for this? Sanders was in fact enamored of both the Soviet Union and Castro. Has he ever penned anything examining where he went wrong there, or even admitting that he was wrong?

            I’m asking sincerely, not just as a gotcha.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Because they think he’s going to forgive their student loans.

      • Matt M says:

        Biden non-ironically uses the word “malarkey.” How could he not dominate the over-65 demographic???

      • baconbits9 says:

        Sanders is winning with the crowd who has the least experience with taxes and promises about taxes, and are currently on the low end of the earning ladder. Student debt forgiveness/free college/free healthcare sound way better to a 25 year old than to a 35 year old, while tax deductions hit the 35-55 year old crowd much harder than the 25 year old crowd.

      • Guy in TN says:

        @Plumber
        Because over the past decade, young Democratic voters have lost faith in capitalism, and Sanders is the only socialist running for office.

        Gallup:

        Americans aged 18 to 29 are as positive about socialism (51%) as they are about capitalism (45%). This represents a 12-point decline in young adults’ positive views of capitalism in just the past two years and a marked shift since 2010, when 68% viewed it positively.

        The more interesting question is why the relative support for socialism vs. capitalism is changing for young people.

        I’ll tell you one reason that I don’t think is a satisfactory explanation: The 2008 recession. Sander’s strongest support demo were in elementary school when that happened, and have experienced nothing but historical stock market growth their entire adult lives.

        • JayT says:

          I suspect it’s because they weren’t alive to see the worst of socialism, and so now they associate the term with countries like Canada or the Nordic Countries.

          • JayT says:

            I’d also go as far as to guess that the majority of those 51% of people that have a positive view of socialism wouldn’t mention things like “centrally planned governments” or “the means of production”. You would probably hear a lot about “free” healthcare, wellfare, and taxing the rich.

          • Statismagician says:

            I hope it’s not too controversial to suggest that the reason people are thinking of Scandinavia and Canada rather than the USSR might be because they want to emulate the policies of the former, not the latter?

          • JayT says:

            Right, but my point is that the word socialism doesn’t mean the same thing to the young people of today than it does to older people. The Nordic countries are some of the most free markets on the planet, more free than the US, yet people associate them with socialism because they have robust welfare programs, even though that really doesn’t have anything to do with the economic idea of socialism.

          • Guy in TN says:

            JayT

            I’d also go as far as to guess that the majority of those 51% of people that have a positive view of socialism wouldn’t mention things like “centrally planned governments” or “the means of production”.

            Isn’t Bernie’s central policy platform the nationalization of the healthcare industry? Do you really think people are unaware of this? I think at some point you have to abandon the “people don’t know what socialism actually is” arg.

          • JayT says:

            The perception that, when comparing countries with similar levels of development, the extent that a country’s industry is nationalized seems to be positively correlated with overall quality-of-life

            This is only true if you abandon the actual meaning of socialism. You can look at any ranking of economic freedom (ie, more capitalist) and the countries with the highest rating are almost always the countries with the highest quality of life.

            For example, compare this
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_economic_freedom
            to this:
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Where-to-be-born_Index

          • Statismagician says:

            Hang on a second, you can’t use a QoL ranking which includes GDP to prove that prioritizing economically-legible goals improves QoL, that’s obviously circular.

          • JayT says:

            You can choose some other QoL metric if you like, but just looking at the list it’s obvious that the best places to live are disproportionately weighted towards the top of the economic freedom list. Also, GDP is a big part of QoL, so if one system increases GDP more than others, then it will have a leg up on improving QoL, so even there, I think it is still an ok comparison.

          • JayT says:

            Isn’t Bernie’s central policy platform the nationalization of the healthcare industry? Do you really think people are unaware of this? I think at some point you have to abandon the “people don’t know what socialism actually is” arg.

            Support for a fully socialized healthcare system still is not very popular in the US. Bernie calls his system “Medicare for All”, and I believe that most people think that means “Medicare for people that need it, I can still keep my doctors if I don’t”, which they are in favor of. If you tell people that they are going to lose their current care, the popularity of the system drops off quite a bit.

          • Guy in TN says:

            @JayT

            These economic “Freedom Indexes” are not a measure of capitalism vs socialism. They are a measure of what the authors consider to be “freedom”, which has high overlap with things that socialists also consider to be “freedom”. For example, impartiality of the courts, judicial independence, sound money.

          • Guy in TN says:

            @JayT

            I believe that most people think that means “Medicare for people that need it, I can still keep my doctors if I don’t”, which they are in favor of.

            This is such a bizarre position to me. The only conceivable system that could guarantee that people will be able to keep seeing the doctor they like, would be the extremely authoritarian and slavery-esque. Capitalism certainly can’t guarantee it, people lose/change their health insurance constantly. And before Obamacare, people were simply priced out of seeing their preferred doctors.

            No candidate should be expected to make such an outlandish promise.

          • JayT says:

            And yet, that’s what people believe, and that’s one of the reasons I think a large portion of them don’t actually understand what socialism is about.

            https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/medicare-for-all-isnt-that-popular-even-among-democrats/

          • Clutzy says:

            I hope it’s not too controversial to suggest that the reason people are thinking of Scandinavia and Canada rather than the USSR might be because they want to emulate the policies of the former, not the latter?

            @statis

            It would be if you were in a debate with me, because they don’t seem to chart a logical course where the starting point of America is diverse populace with a fairly corrupt and incompetent regulatory state (for a western nation) and the endpoint needs to be a re-distributive, but very well run regulatory state (that is also light handed in many key areas), oh and by the way you don’t get to become less diverse or a higher trust society on the way.

          • Thomas Jorgensen says:

            Right wing rhetoric backfire, basically.

            Socialism, in US political discourse was deliberately made so insanely broad as to be goddamn useless, in order to permit the right to tar social democrats with the crimes of Stalin.

            After a couple of decades of people calling extremely civilized social democratic policies and politicians socialists as if wanting a national health care system that is not utterly dysfunctional necessitates the seizure of all land and all means of production, the youth of america, who have never experienced socialism to mean anything other than

            “any and all politics that does not see us ground under the heels of the plutocracy” then of course take the word to mean that. And embrace it.

          • cassander says:

            @Thomas Jorgensen says:

            Socialism, in US political discourse was deliberately made so insanely broad as to be goddamn useless, in order to permit the right to tar social democrats with the crimes of Stalin.

            If you don’t want to be tarred with the crimes of stalin, maybe don’t describe yourself with the same terms that stalin used. And definitely don’t honeymoon in the USSR and spend decades talking about how their model was better. You don’t see anyone on the right going around today saying “I’m a nazi, but not like that hitler guy, he wasn’t doing TRUE naziism.”

          • DeWitt says:

            Ok, so keep tarring everyone to the left of Reagan a socialist. See how well that works out.

          • Clutzy says:

            Socialism, in US political discourse was deliberately made so insanely broad as to be goddamn useless, in order to permit the right to tar social democrats with the crimes of Stalin.

            If this were how people worked, people would have been identifying as racists and fascist en masse for decades. Those slanders are more overused, and have been for longer.

        • The more interesting question is why the relative support for socialism vs. capitalism is changing for young people.

          Yes.

          I don’t know the answer. More generally, I don’t have a clear idea of why intellectual fashion, the body of things that everybody knows although few can show why they know them, changes.

          One possible part of the cause is that an increasing number of people go to college and college is, to judge by my daughter’s experience, a political monoculture. But that’s an experience of only two schools, both relatively elite.

          • Guy in TN says:

            My top ten reason for increasing support of socialism:
            (Bias note: I am a socialist)

            1. “Socialism” became a partisan signifying term during the 2008 election. If Republicans are saying “Democrats are socialist and bad” and you don’t like Republicans, and definitely aren’t whatever they are, then average Joe thinks: Maybe I really am “socialist”? Its a way simultaneously of “owning the insult” and showing what group you belong to.

            2. (Related to 1.) Conservatives in 2008-2012 shifted the term “socialist” to make the attacks stick by expanding the term to include people who would be called “social democrats”, at most, by political scientists (e.g., Nancy Pelosi, Barack Obama). The new definition has stuck with us, or at least shifted on the margins.

            3. (related to 1 and 2) The shift in the Democratic party from neoliberalism to social democracy, and the historical lack of the term “social democracy” in the US discourse. This renders the average Joe without the necessary vocabulary to describe this political shift, other than the word “socialist”.

            4. Rising anti-elitism on all sides (and globally), with the left’s version of anti-elitism being socialism. If you are a Democrat who is fed up with the status quo, why would you vote for someone like Joe Biden, who’s campaign is essentially a promise of return to the “good old days” of 2015? Who is the left’s version of “let’s shake things up” who isn’t a socialist, or socialist-leaning?

            5. The increasing penetration of the internet, allowing for the rise of alternative media sources, rendering people able to break the information stranglehold that capitalist-friendly media outlets had in the late 20th century. Sander’s success thus far is certainly despite the efforts of mainstream media outlets, not because of it. It’s difficult to image an outsider like him being able to cultivate an alternative media sphere even as recently as 2008.

            6. (related to 5) The lack of a major socialist enemy country since the collapse of the Soviet Union, shifted US propaganda from anti-socialism to anti-Islam, opening the door for more people to identify as “socialist” without fear of social retribution. Rising anti-Chinese sentiment may counteract this, but we aren’t there yet.

            7. Declining levels in general of racism, nationalism, and religiosity have allowed young people to instead increasingly identify their place in the world in terms of “class”.

            8. The concrete reasons: Increasing wealth inequality, stagnant wages (the counter-argument of “but you get so much more value via paying more in healthcare costs” doesn’t meaningfully counter this), and the increasing sense that our lives are controlled by billionaires.

            9. Mainstream liberal economists becoming increasingly theoretical in the late 20th century, relying more on axiomatic deductions and assumptions that come in conflict with people’s basic intuitions. For example: Telling us that we if we don’t like how things are, we can always buy control of these things to make them better per Coase Theorem. And if we don’t, that’s only evidence that we don’t value these things as much as rich people, and therefore rich people should continue to control them. The economic ideology of “capitalism” didn’t used to be like this.

            10. (wonks only) The perception that, when comparing countries with similar levels of development, the extent that a country’s industry is nationalized seems to be positively correlated with overall quality-of-life (e.g., the relative success of the Nordics compared to the US). “But what about Venezuela!” doesn’t hold much weight when Norway is sitting right there. Other countries are a lot more socialist that the US, and seem to be doing a-okay. The renders the 20th century’s “lesson of socialism” as less clear-cut than previously presumed.

          • Lambert says:

            Also the Recession and bailing out of the banks.
            And the reactions to it, such as Occupy.

          • albatross11 says:

            Guy in TN:

            I think your #1 and #2 are spot-on. Right leaning media and pundits spent 8 years calling a pretty popular and moderate Democratic president a socialist at every opportunity, and by the end, they’d convinced lots of Americans that “socialist” meant “someone who likes the same economic policies as Obama.”

            Left-leaning media have spent four years so far doing the same thing with “white nationalist” and Trump. It would not be a shock to see that work out the same way.

          • and the increasing sense that our lives are controlled by billionaires.

            Many of your suggested causes seem plausible. But this one just pushes it back to my initial question of why people believe things.

            Do you think our lives are increasingly controlled by billionaires? If so, what’s the evidence? If not, why do people increasingly believe that they are?

  21. Deiseach says:

    Plumber, this one’s for you!

    It’s Hard To Break Free From A Union (not a trades union in this case) 🙂

  22. DragonMilk says:

    I am embarking on my first national park trip as an adult, and bringing along my not-so-outdoorsy-but-allegedly-open-to-hiking wife who has possibly impossible expectations of pristine washrooms.

    Looking for tips of what to see and logistical considerations (water, gas, food, parking, etc). Lodging agenda as follows, along with initial thoughts.

    a) Arrive in Oakhurst Monday evening Mar 16, depart Thursday morning the 19th.
    b) Spend Thurs/Fri in Yosemite Valley (lodging in Valley for Thurs night and have parking for both days as a result)
    c) Depart for Berkeley Friday afternoon/evening

    So essentially, 2 Yosemite Valley days at the end, and (probably) 2 non-valley days before. One of those I’m thinking of Bass lake, in which case I’d ask boat rental advice (type of boat) vs. hiking. Was also thinking of driving into the valley just to test how bad parking is.

    Chronologically, we’re hoping to spend a couple days at Joshua tree first, but I haven’t booked lodging for that yet. This would be 12 and 13th.

    Suggestions/tips?

    • Elementaldex says:

      As someone who has a not-outdoorsy-barely-tolerant-of-hiking-wife. Two person camping hammocks are cheap and make everything better. Hiking and tired – set up a hammock and cuddle in a beautiful place together. Get somewhere nice – set up a hammock and cuddle in a beautiful place together. Hungry and unhappy – set up a hammock and cuddle in a beautiful place together and eat in the hammock far away from bugs.

      I use Bear Butt which is a cheap and good knock off brand, buying the better straps is worth it though.

      Enjoy!

      • DragonMilk says:

        Would these fit in carry-on or should I purchase something like this once I arrive in LA and call it a wash?

        • Elementaldex says:

          That is exactly the product I use (though I do recommend better straps)

          It would definitely fit in a carry on. Radius of maybe 2.5 inches and maybe 9 inches long. Modestly squishy.

    • DragonMilk says:

      Oh, I left out an important bit. We’re flying into LAX with only our carry-ons and renting a car, so we’ll need to shop for outdoorsy essentials. What are these? Sun screen? Bug spray? Bear mace?

      • bean says:

        Sunscreen – definitely. Bug spray – probably not, but check with people who have been there (I’ve only been to Joshua Tree on your list). Bear mace – not unless you’re getting deep into the backcountry, which you shouldn’t be.

        I’d make sure your shoes/boots are good before you go as the most important thing. Also, make sure you have rain gear and plenty of water. Rain gear doesn’t have to be fancy. Even the cheap plastic ponchos are a lot better than being wet.

        • gbdub says:

          You can (at least at Glacier and Yellowstone, I’ve not been to Yosemite recently) rent bear mace, which is a good option since you can’t take it on the plane. Probably trivial cost compared to the price of the vacation.

          Much better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.

          The one time I’ve seen a bear in the wild it was at Glacier, I was less than a mile from the parking lot (hardly “deep in the backcountry”) and hard I been 30 seconds faster I would have completely inadvertently ended up between a mama brown bear and her cub who were crossing the trail with thick brush on either side.

          You can bet I had one hand on my camera and the other on the safety pin of my bear mace.

          I guess disregard if you plan to stick to only the cattle call trails in Yosemite that are always packed, but if you’re on a trail where you expect even a modicum of solitude, bears are a possibility, and being unprepared for them is a mistake unlikely to bite you, but when it does it does so literally and definitively.

        • gbdub says:

          For practical advice on the other issues, bean is right on. I would add make sure you have a convenient way to carry plenty of water (camelbacks are great), and dress in layers of synthetics or smart wool (no cotton and especially no denim).

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        Ooooo, you’re having the Brinkley experience, then. (I flew into John Wayne.) Hope you’re okay driving a loooooong way. Like, eight hours each way. And three hours between Yosemite and the Bay Area. The rental agent was very impressed when she saw my odometer.

        Confirming bean – sunscreen is good. Bug spray probably not necessary in February. You won’t need bear mace, bear bag, etc. An airhorn might be wise as an easy precaution that won’t expire by the time you need it, but I didn’t bother. You probably won’t need a pocketknife, but you should bring a park map. Don’t rely on Google Maps (in case that’s not already a no-brainer).

        Shoes or boots are probably the #1 thing to have in good condition. Tied for first is two one-pound water bottles (I just buy a thing of Gatorade and re-use the bottle). Get into the habit of topping them off every time you see clean water (from a fountain, not from a stream). If you must use a stream, bring iodine pills with you, and follow the directions. Aye to a simple poncho as well. February is probably cold, but you’re hiking, so dress in layers – simple tee, then a pullover or sweatshirt, and if you’re still cold, a light jacket. You will quickly remove these as you hike. Jeans are fine, but might even feel warm, too, so bring shorts just in case. They should have pockets.

        If you’re going LAX -> Yosemite, I wouldn’t go to the Grand Canyon unless you’ve got a lot of extra time. Palisades is much more on the way. So is Big Sur (if you don’t mind driving the PCH).

        Also, if you’re staying in the Bay area for a day, you might enjoy whale watching. FastRaft.com is my favorite venue for that – it’s a six-person raft rather than a yacht, so you can actually touch the water.

        • DragonMilk says:

          Trip will be March 11 to 23. Probably going LA -> Oakhurst on the 16th, and then Yosemite -> Berkeley on the 20th. Leaving out of SFO the 23rd.

    • Matt M says:

      I haven’t been to Yosemite, but FWIW I found Joshua Tree to be entirely pointless and boring. See if you can maybe do Death Valley instead? Or even go farther east and hit the Grand Canyon or some of the parks in Utah?

      • DragonMilk says:

        Oh really? Would you stay in LA proper itself instead?

        What made Joshua Tree so bad? I figured March might make the scenery alright?

        East and Utah will have to wait for another trip given the timing (just having Thursday and part of Friday)

        • Matt M says:

          It was just desert with a few weird looking cactus-tree thingies. At least that’s what I remember, maybe I missed the good part of it or something.

          My favorite thing to do near LA is just drive on the P