Open Thread 148.75

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

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

1,262 Responses to Open Thread 148.75

  1. metacelsus says:

    So, Bloomberg dropped out. At this point I think it’s pretty sure that Biden will be the nominee (unless he gets coronavirus and dies).

    Now the question is: can he beat Trump?

    • fibio says:

      Eh, I haven’t really adjusted my 60/40 odds for Trump winning in over a year. No one in the Dems has come across as having a killer edge that will sway the election. Honestly, Trump remains the most important factor when it comes to the results, he could still implode if there’s a significant crisis before the end of his term and that’s where most of my uncertainty comes from. If nothing goes wrong for him I expect it to be a fairly easy win.

    • Thegnskald says:

      With Warren or Sanders as his VP, I’d say he stands a reasonable chance of winning, but not as good as 50/50; maybe 40/60.

      He’d need to be seen making concessions to a wing of the party I think gets taken for granted.

      • Deiseach says:

        With Warren or Sanders as his VP

        That is the thing, though; how do you go from “debates where we’re clawing each other’s eyes out and tearing our policy proposals to shreds as unachievable moonshine rubbish” to “a winning team working together in the White House (and I’ll cheerfully take orders from them)”?

        I could just about see Lizzie as VP for Biden, but I can’t see either Sanders or Biden being willing to play second-fiddle to each other.

        • JayT says:

          Ronald Reagan chose HW Bush as his VP, and they had a very contentious primary. Bush is the one that came up with the term “voodoo economics”, which Reagan’s opponents have used against him to this day.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          You asked this before, Deiseach, and I told you, it is zero problem in American politics. Every single election the candidates tear each other apart in the primaries and then are best buds in the general. No one bats an eye because it’s just part of the game.

          You apparently didn’t believe me or you wouldn’t be asking this again, so perhaps other Americans can chime in and let her know this is simply part of American political culture.

          • gph says:

            I think you’re right in general, but in this specific case I don’t think Sanders will have much desire to stand with Biden and vice versa. Beyond just policy they’ve both been deeply involved in politics for decades, with Sanders often being further apart from Biden than Biden ever was from his Republican counterparts. And on a cultural and personal level I just don’t see them liking each other very much, and particularly Sanders doesn’t seem like one to compromise his values for a seat at the table so to speak.

            I also don’t think there’s that much to gain from Biden taking on Sanders as a running mate. Most Sanders voters in swing states are probably going to vote for anyone not named Trump no matter who their running mate is.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I disagree. Bernie is a not a fighter. I knew he was going to lose 2016 as soon as he said (paraphrasing) “I don’t care about her damn emails.” And then he turned around and endorsed Clinton and campaigned for her after knowing the DNC was running roughshod over him. You cannot “beat the establishment” if you will not fight the establishment in your own party.

            I certainly don’t think Biden will tap Sanders as a running mate or anything, but as soon as the primary is over, Sanders will endorse Biden and campaign for him, just like Clinton.

          • Aftagley says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            That position doesn’t make sense when you accept that Bernie Sanders is a rational human being who understands that the space between what he wanted and what Hillary wanted was much smaller than the space between what he wanted and what Trump wanted.

            For example, what move would you make in 2016 after it becomes clear you won’t be the democratic nominee? Launch a 3rd party spoiler campaign as punishment to the rest of the Democrats for not siding with you?

            The choice wasn’t Bernie or Hillary at that point, it was Hillary or Trump and thus Bernie Sanders chose to support the person most in line with his goals.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            It depends on what you think Bernie’s political goals are. His most strongly stated goals involve a political revolution to strip the billionaire* class of power, and perhaps eliminate them entirely with statements like “billionaires should not exist.” None of these were anything like Hillary’s goals.

            He could also have just kept his mouth shut, if he were, as gph says, not “like one to compromise his values.” Endorsing Clinton was definitely compromising his stated values. But I don’t believe Bernie Sanders is a sincere person, so this is entirely in keeping with what I believe to be his character.

            * Sanders’ rhetoric used to target “millionaires and billionaires” but switched to only billionaires once he become a millionaire.

          • Aftagley says:

            I’m not accusing you of anything, but I can’t tell if your actually making this argument if I’m just not getting the joke. I’ll try again.

            Here is a list of policy goals Bernie has expressed interest in. I can’t find the same information from 2016, but knowing him, I doubt he’s shifted too far in any direction. I agree that there are probably issues on that list he cares more about and others that he cares less about. I’ll also content that he likely cares way more about ending wealth disparity and decreasing the power/prevalence of billionaires than most if not all the other issues on that list.

            But crucially, that doesn’t imply that he doesn’t care about those issues OR that he can’t differentiate between an outcome that’s say 80% as extreme as what he wants vs. one that is the exact opposite of what he wants.

            With this understanding, it makes a bunch of sense that while he still had a path forward in the nomination, he would fight like hell to get elected – he’d rather be the nominee than someone who only is, say, 70% as extreme as he is. But, once he no longer had that path forward, he’d recognize that Trump, who supports maybe only 10% of what Bernie wants was a less good outcome than Clinton, and would act to make Clinton’s presidency more likely.

          • Deiseach says:

            You apparently didn’t believe me or you wouldn’t be asking this again

            Well, I do and I don’t. From my own side of the water, it is true that in (for example) leadership struggles, the victor often gives the defeated rival(s) a plum job in the administration as a consolation prize. Sometimes it is even genuine ‘working together for the good of the party and the nation’. Sometimes this is to buy them off so as to get them to throw their support behind the other guy, or to keep them inside the tent pissing out as the quote goes. But just as often, there is bitter blood, grudges are held, memories are long and in the immediate aftermath the loser and their supporters can kiss goodbye to any hopes of advancement they may have had. Even years later, despite surface reconciliation, revenge is taken when the opportunity to do down the old rival appears.

            So I find it very hard to mentally picture Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, or Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, standing together on a podium smiling (even through gritted teeth) as Presidential and Vice-Presidential candidates. If Lizzie switches from “Bernie Sanders is a sexist and a misogynist and as good as told me to shut up and get back in the kitchen” to “Bernie will sure respect and value me as his Veep”, then she’s going to lose a heap of credibilty with progressives, and progressives are the target market she has been reaching out to.

            Sure, there’s always “Well we know she didn’t really mean it, it was just political ju-jitsu in the contest to be chosen”, but then why believe she really meant it when talking about debt or healthcare or the rest of it? If they will say anything without really believing it but they have to say it to score points, then if you believe “but no this one thing they really are sincere about”, then that is naive (my own cynical view of all politics; believing for instance, that Bernie really will cancel all student loan debt, he will, he will! is the same as believing Bernie really sincerely deep-down meant it when he said Biden was in the pockets of the billionaires and had a disastrous record on trade and healthcare, he did, he did! If “Bernie only said” the latter to score points in the debate, why think he’s any more principled or at least less willing to say whatever will score him points about the former? Especially if then Bernie is standing alongside Joe as Team White House Wannabes Prez and Veep. And for “Bernie”, insert the names of any or all of them, I’m not picking on one person in particular here.)

            But it’s not me you have to convince that it’s all only kabuki, that nobody means anything they say about principles or policies when attacking a rival, and that it’s understood by everyone including the punters that it’s all kayfabe and behind the scenes they are all jolly good mates: try telling this to the people in the comment threads here saying ‘okay our guy may be a little creepy but at least he’s not a rapist like your guy!’ or ‘our lot do have actual principles, the other lot are just spoilers and wreckers!’ or ‘the Republicans in cahoots with the Russians are trying to do to Biden what they did to Hillary!’ and so forth. C’mon guys, you’re supposed to know that when X was castigating Y as a threat to the nation they didn’t really mean that, it was all acting for the cameras!

          • BBA says:

            Obama made Clinton his Secretary of State, after what was seen at the time as an extraordinarily nasty, drawn-out primary (oh how young and naive we were). Nobody thought it was particularly remarkable, though Jon Stewart questioned why he’d appoint her to State when their biggest disagreements were about foreign policy.

            I don’t see Sanders getting a job in a Biden administration, or vice versa. Everyone else is running for VP or Cabinet and would gladly serve under either.

          • acymetric says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            * Sanders’ rhetoric used to target “millionaires and billionaires” but switched to only billionaires once he become a millionaire.

            Adjusted for inflation 😉

          • Garrett says:

            > Every single election the candidates tear each other apart in the primaries and then are best buds in the general.

            I haven’t seen that happen to the Democrats in the 2 most recent elections. It seems more like they are trying to win without possibly alienating the supporters of the opposition. Hillary v. Sanders was more like a mutual press conference than actual debating.

            This year there’s been a bit of challenge, most notably of the “safe” targets like Bloomberg by Warren. But no other substantial challenges of the merits of the positions put forth by others.

        • Eric Rall says:

          It’s pretty much analogous to nasty party leadership fights in Parliamentary systems ending with the runners-up still getting cabinet positions. Three of Theresa May’s four opponents in the 2016 leadership elections wound up taking positions in her cabinet, for example.

          It also helps that in the US, the Vice President has very little inherent constitutional power. He casts tiebreaker votes in the Senate, has veto power over the never-yet-used 25th Amendment involuntary removal process, and steps in if the Presidency is vacant. Apart from that, the rest of his duties are either entirely ceremonial or are delegated to him at the President’s pleasure. The big carrot that gets people to accept the Vice Presidency is that it gives them the opportunity to ride the President’s coattails into office 4-8 years down the road, and that, too, is dependent on being generally seen as a team player during your Vice Presidency.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            The big carrot that gets people to accept the Vice Presidency is that it gives them the opportunity to ride the President’s coattails into office 4-8 years down the road

            It does not seem like this has mattered for a long time, and may even be a hindrance given the propensity for the electorate to swap parties in power every 8 years.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            Yeah, there have been two picked Vice Presidents (Ford is a bit different case) to become President in the post-war period, and one of them lost badly on his first attempt and took eight years to recover and actually become President.

            It’s actually more common for a Vice President to get defeated attempting to become President than for him to actually win.

          • Eric Rall says:

            Yeah, there have been two picked Vice Presidents (Ford is a bit different case) to become President in the post-war period

            I count three aside from Ford: Nixon, LBJ, and Bush the Elder. Looked at another way, 4 of 14 post-war Vice Presidents (including Biden and Pence, both of whom still have plausible chances to add to the numerator) have gone on to become President: two after their respective Presidents completed their terms (Nixon and Bush), and two through stepping into fill vacancies (LBJ being reelected in his own right later, and Ford losing reelection).

            That’s not a great success rate, but it’s substantially better than other common paths to the Presidency. In the same period, not counting people who were also Vice Presidents, Americans have elected four Governors to the Presidency (Carter, Reagan, Clinton, and Bush the Younger), two Senators (JFK and Obama), one Celebrity Billionaire, and one five-star General. If you do double-count people who were also VPs, that brings the “Senators” count up to 4 and adds 1 each to the categories “House Minority Leader” and “Director of the CIA”.

            And there have been a whole lot more Constitutionally eligible Governors and Senators in the reference period than Vice Presidents. Not sure exactly how many, but probably on the order of hundreds of each. And there have been dozens of celebrity billionaires, depending on where you draw the line for “celebrity”, five 5-star generals, 17 DCIs, and 27-ish House Minority/Majority Leaders or Speakers.

      • salvorhardin says:

        There are other VP choices who would appeal to that wing of the party, though, and check some diversity boxes as well (I cannot imagine Biden in the current cultural climate choosing another white guy as his running mate). Stacey Abrams comes to mind.

    • Loriot says:

      I’m cautiously optimistic, but I think the state of the economy in November will matter a lot, as will the severity and duration of the coronavirus pandemic.

      • Evan Þ says:

        I’m reluctant to call expecting either a Trump or Biden victory “optimistic.” It seems to me “optimistic” better fits a Bill Weld or Evan McMullin victory.

    • jermo sapiens says:

      I think Trump will win with 70% confidence.

      Biden has some strong points that will make it pretty close, but I dont think the Democrats have the unity required to beat Trump. The Sanders wing of the Democrats will be upset, as they were in 2016, and wont come out in large enough numbers. And if the Bernie bros cause violence at the convention, then it’s going to be a cakewalk, but I’m not sure that will be the case.

      The thing I’m not sure about is how much appeal Biden has with blue collar democrats in PA, WI, and MI, and whether he can get some 2016 Trump voters in those states to flip in 2020. Is he seen as Hillary Clinton was, an establishment globalist, or as a fighter for the little guy? I dont know.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Why not? RCP has him leading Trump +5 in the national polls. Hillary beat Trump by 2 but lost on the back of extremely narrow margins in a handful of key states, which she may have won if the Comey letter had not dropped right before the election.

      Trump has incumbency and economic advantages, but he is still unpopular.

    • Plumber says:

      @metacelsus says:

      “So, Bloomberg dropped out. At this point I think it’s pretty sure that Biden will be the nominee (unless he gets coronavirus and dies)”

      I still wasn’t confident of that last night, but this morning I heard that Texas (a “winner take all” State) is called for Biden, that, and all the lesser States Biden has done well in, should counterbalance all but an unprecedented scale win of California for Sanders.

      “Now the question is: can he beat Trump?”

      A chance?

      Sure.

      A strong chance?

      Um, nah.

      Trump has the tailwinds of job growth during his term, and few body bags coming from overseas.

      I think Biden has a better chance than Sanders would, Sanders I think would be likely to flip Michigan, but he’d lose Florida and Virginia, he’d have to flip Arizona and (bug reach) Texas to counterbalance, and I don’t know if enough young Latino voters would show up for that.

      Biden’s strength is among Red-State Democrats, I think it’s likely that he’d get Pennsylvania (where he was born), but I think Ohio, and Wisconsin are out of reach, the path I see for him is to win Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia, maybe Georgia.

      For all that black men as well as women need to pill the lever for him, and while not voting Republican is a given, they’re coming to the polls isn’t.

      I like Biden, I voted for Biden (I also liked Sanders enough to vote for him in 2016), but…

      …Biden is kinda befuddled, itvwon’t be easy for him to win, I’d bet on Trump’s re-election.

      On the plus side, with Trump in the White House the Democrats probably keep the House and may win the Senate, on the negative side a Biden loss means a more Left Democratic candidate in 2024, and another Democratic Presidential loss (barring a recession).

      • Loriot says:

        > I still wasn’t confident of that last night, but this morning I heard that Texas (a “winner take all” State) is called for Biden

        The democratic primary doesn’t have any winner take all states. It’s split proportionately among people who get at least 15%.

        That being said, Biden beating Sanders in Texas is a bullish sign, since it’s once of the places Sanders was hoping to run up the score.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      I don’t think Biden will beat Trump. Trump voters will crawl through broken glass to vote for him, but Biden got picked by all the people who waited until the last second and then said “eh, I guess I’ll go for Biden.” I do not believe he can overcome the enthusiasm gap.

      Beyond that I don’t really know what Biden’s policies are except “generic democrat.” I should probably look into that.

      • jermo sapiens says:

        Trump voters will crawl through broken glass to vote for him

        And how many 2016 Trump voters will vote for Biden in 2020? I would guess not many. Trump’s presidency was what you would expect in 2016.

        How many 2016 Trump voters will stay home in 2020? Again, not many.

        Are there voters who didnt come out for Hillary but will come out for Biden in 2020? Maybe. I dont think that’s going to be a major factor either.

        The only hope for Democrats is changing demographics (which is why they’re so interested in changing the country’s demographics).

        • John Schilling says:

          The only hope for Democrats is changing demographics

          Or a deep and abiding hatred of Donald J. Trump. In 2016, conventional wisdom was that of course Trump wasn’t going to win, so while most people were opposed to a Trump presidency nobody was going to crawl through broken glass just to put one more nail in his coffin. 2020, nobody’s going to be taking Trump’s defeat for granted.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            2020, nobody’s going to be taking Trump’s defeat for granted.

            That’s a good point. But how many people with “deep and abiding hatred of Donald J. Trump” did not go to vote in 2016? Probably a bunch in California and New York. Maybe some in PA, but fewer.

            Regardless of Trump’s win being a surprise in 2016, I think the more someone hates a candidate, the more likely they are to go to vote against him.

          • Loriot says:

            The issue is that the Republicans and/or Russians successfully demonized Clinton, so a lot of swing voters had a deep and abiding hatred of *both* candidates. They’re trying with Biden, but they’ll only have a year this time, instead of decades and the liberal media won’t play along this time.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Loriet

            This is pretty much untrue on both sides.

            Hillary has been very popular nationally, especially during the period while she was Secretary of State and declared her intention to run.

            I collapsed while she was actually running because she was a bad candidate, not because she is inherently unlikable.

            https://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2016/may/22/hillary-clinton/hillary-clintons-approval-rating-secretary-state-w/

            Biden is just like Hillary in this respect. He’s a nationally known politician who is pretty generically popular when he isn’t doing anything dramatic, but sinks when he gets into a contest with someone less well liked.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @John Schilling

            In 2016, conventional wisdom was that of course Trump wasn’t going to win, so while most people were opposed to a Trump presidency nobody was going to crawl through broken glass just to put one more nail in his coffin.

            I don’t disagree that such people exist. But how many of them live in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin?

            The fact that the score may be super run up against Trump in New York, California and Illinois doesn’t change the electoral math.

            I simply don’t buy that there is a huge reservoir of fervent anti-Trump voters in the critical swing states who missed voting in 2016. And polling backs me up.

          • Deiseach says:

            The issue is that the Republicans and/or Russians successfully demonized Clinton, so a lot of swing voters had a deep and abiding hatred of *both* candidates.

            Loriot, people didn’t vote for Hillary because they didn’t like her, and it wasn’t the Russians who suddenly brainwashed them into disliking her. Bill has charisma by the tankerload, Hillary reminds me of cold porridge. Had I a vote in American elections, I’d have voted for Bill, even though I thought him a rogue and a chancer, before the Lewinsky scandal came out. I wouldn’t vote for Hillary even though she’s a woman and part of her campaign was “vote for me or you’re a sexist”. She can’t help it, but she does emanate the aura of “reminding you when you were at school and were kept back to write lines”.

            I was just as shocked as anyone else when Trump actually won, because I thought there was no way he’d get enough votes even against Hillary. If the Russians could really pull that off, can we get them to try social media campaigns to stop littering or the like, because those are some goddamn thaumaturgical persuasion powers right there.

          • acymetric says:

            2020, nobody’s going to be taking Trump’s defeat for granted.

            I disagree, tons of people are taking Trump’s defeat for granted. People are both overestimating how unpopular Tump is (especially in swing states) and overestimating how willing people are to vote against what they perceive to be their own interests/preferred policies just to get a guy they don’t like out of office (especially in swing states).

            Even people who think some of Trump’s policies are actively bad (racist, etc) who have a real problem with it still might not be willing to vote against him if they think his other polices benefit them, personally. People are not as willing to stand on principle to help other people when it goes against their own self interest as some people seem to beleive.

          • albatross11 says:

            Which do you think more likely to win him the election:

            a. Voters thinking Trump’s policies are in their interests.

            b. Voters seeing Trump as supporting their tribe/side/ingroup.

            My guess is that (b) is more important in most elections, albeit maybe not in elections where something serious is going on that seems to need some adult supervision. Having the feds continue to ineffectually dick around w.r.t. COVID-19 would be a pretty good way for voters to switch modes, and that would be bad for Trump against some people–I’m not sure how it would work against Sanders or Biden.

          • cassander says:

            @echochaos

            It collapsed while she was actually running because she was a bad candidate, not because she is inherently unlikable.

            Hillary’s approval rating appears to be inversely correlated with the amount of time she spends trying to get people to like her. I think that’s pretty much the definition of a bad candidate.

      • Skeptic says:

        If there’s a recession, Biden wins

        If Coronavirus hits hard, which is underestimated IMO, Biden wins

        If neither, toss up

    • Chalid says:

      I think Biden’s got a somewhat better-than-even chance at winning. Trump is unpopular in spite of the good economy, and his unpopularity is in the range where incumbents have a good chance of being defeated. If there’s no particular big event between now and the election then I’d call it a tossup. But there’s a decent chance that we’ll have economic trouble between now and the election in which case Biden would be favored. (And I think with a better candidate than Biden the Dems would have quite a good chance.)

    • sty_silver says:

      There’s also a chance that Trump gets the coronavirus, and it’s probably higher than for Biden given his personality.

      • Loriot says:

        Isn’t Trump a germaphobe? You’d expect him to be less likely to get it, even if he weren’t surrounded by the best medical care the nation has to offer.

    • Plumber says:

      @metacelsus,
      I was bummed after viewing videos of Biden’s freaky hair sniffing, and lowered my estimate of his winning, but after seeing some reports of increased turnout on super Tuesday compared to 2016 I’m a little more confident again.

      If Biden is the nominee it looks likelier that Virginia will stay blue, North Carolina looks like it may vote blue again (like it did in ’08), and while its 15 electoral college votes don’t balance out the loss of the upper Midwest they help, but it looks like Texas may actually be in play!

      That’s a very long stretch, but if Florida is won as well that’s a game changer, so DNC, roll the Dice and fire up a barbecue!

      Yee-haw!

  2. TheContinentalOp says:

    On 1 February 1942, five Japanese twin-engine bombers made it through the USS Enterprise (CV-6) combat air patrol (fighters) defenses following the U.S. carrier raid on the Japanese-held Marshall Islands. All the bombers missed and turned away, except the badly damaged lead plane, piloted by Lieutenant Kazuo Nakai, which turned back in an attempt to crash on the Enterprise.

    As the aircraft neared the ship and anti-aircraft fire seemed ineffective, Aviation Machinist Mate Third Class (AMM3/C) Bruno Gaido leaped out of the catwalk, climbed into the back seat of a parked SBD Dauntless dive bomber (his normal position as radioman-gunner when the plane was airborne), and swiveled the plane’s aft twin .30 caliber machine guns and opened fire, standing while pouring accurate fire down into the low-flying bomber’s cockpit, causing it to lose control. The bomber barely missed the flight deck, its wingtip cutting the tail off the SBD Gaido was in and spinning the parked aircraft.

    Gaido continued firing on the bomber throughout, until it crashed in the water on the opposite side of the ship. Gaido then calmly grabbed the fire bottle from the SBD and extinguished a pool of flaming gasoline on the flight deck left over from the crashed bomber. Thereafter, he disappeared into the ship, worried that he would get in trouble for leaving his watch station. Vice Admiral William F. Halsey, the task group commander, ordered that the unidentified gunner be found. A search party eventually located Gaido and brought him to the bridge, whereupon Halsey spot-promoted him to First Class, as everyone who observed the event credited Gaido with keeping the Enterprise from being hit in the extremely close call.

    Link

    I related this to my friend, encouraging him to watch the recent Midway movie which documents this bravery. (Nick Jonas portrays by Bruno Gaido.) My friend seemed to think that Gaido was deserving of a promotion to officer and he cited the Sharpes novels by Bernard Cornwell. Obviously there are many differences: fiction vs reality, army vs navy, UK vs US, 19th vs 20th centuries.

    My question is: “Was it common in the US in WW2 to be elevated to officer for actions like Gaido’s and he just missed out, or did that sort of thing just not happen?

    • bean says:

      Battlefield commissions definitely happened, and were considered an honor on par with the MoH, but as far as I know, they were limited to the Army and Marines, and never happened in the Navy. A lot of this is down to different operational circumstances. An Army Sergeant and Lieutenant have fairly similar jobs, and in units that got hit hard, it was common to find NCOs leading platoons. So saying “you’re a very good battlefield leader, have a commission” makes a lot of sense. At sea (or frankly anywhere other than ground combat units), there’s a much bigger gap in responsibilities and roles between officer and NCO, and much less case to make for handing someone like Gaido a commission. To put it simply, he’s a gunner/radio operator, and the USN essentially didn’t use commissioned officers in that slot. So if Halsey says “congratulations, you’re now an Ensign”, what’s he supposed to do? He’s definitely not a pilot, and even extreme heroism like that doesn’t really speak to his suitability as a leader/administrator, which is what naval officers were expected to do.

      Battlefield promotions were and to a limited extent still are a thing, and were used in the manner described.

      • EchoChaos says:

        To add to this, officers as the result of battlefield commissions were known to have very limited career prospects unless they were able to secure education and the necessary training for their existing rank.

        For example, Audie Murphy became very depressed after WWII partially because of shell shock, but also partially because he was unable to get on the necessary educational level in order to remain in the Army.

      • LHN says:

        If I can trust DC Comics, at least one recipient of a battlefield commission went to a lot of work to get it reversed.

        https://www.cbr.com/sergeant-rock-short-lived-promotion/

    • John Schilling says:

      As someone once said, “Deserve’s got nothing to do with it”. A hypothetical Ensign Gaido would have been useless. Officers are expected to command and/or lead men in combat; Gaido demonstrated no particular talent for that, and the one thing he was unambiguously good at is a thing that is performed at the very bottom of the chain of command. I suppose if he had survived Midway we could have sent him home on a recruiting or bond-selling tour, in which case the snazzier uniform and rags-to-riches story might have been a plus.

      Otherwise, we’ve got things like the Distinguished Flying Cross for airmen who do things that are brave and difficult and heroic but don’t involve leadership or command. Battlefield commissions are more properly for people who heroically step up and take command responsibilities when the proper officers are missing, or for senior NCOs whose job involves front-line leadership and can be observed to be officer material.

      Sharpe is an exception to that rule, commisioned for private heroism, but A: fiction and B: at least an NCO at the time and C: the early 19th-century British army was short on decorations for valor that could be given to enlisted men.

      • fibio says:

        It’s also possible that Sharpe’s command was proving difficult to fill. It hardly seemed like a plumb posting when Sharpe turned up and having an experienced NCO ride herd might have been the best option. Certainly better than throwing another entitled noble brat at the problem

  3. EchoChaos says:

    You have been granted an all expenses paid trip to an event of your choice!

    What event do you want to go to and why?

    Event means a specific notable gathering, so Burning Man, PAX, Davos would all count, but “sunning on the French Riviera” wouldn’t.

    You are given whatever you need to attend this gathering and get back home, but it doesn’t exempt you from consequences, soif you choose to attend a private meeting of the Chinese Communist Party Leadership and go back to Europe or the USA, the Chinese might want to keep you from spreading that knowledge.

    • Thegnskald says:

      Physics conference, assuming they’ll pay whatever fee I need to pay to present. There are a few to choose from, so which one would depend on convenience.

      Yeah, I’ll be in the crackpot section. Maybe somebody is bored enough to see if the crackpots are entertaining. And maybe they’ll be able to figure out what I am trying to say, as opposed to the word salad I actually produce to try to convey it.

    • Elementaldex says:

      The largest Betelgeuse Supernova watching party in North America.

      I’m interested and want to see it. I’m also motivated to live a long time and that’s an event which I expect will actually happen and which requires living a long time (or at least getting to a time when living a long time is likely) to attend. Plus my main expenses to get there are surviving for thousands of years which is probably expensive and thus good to have someone else paying for.

      • John Schilling says:

        The largest Betelgeuse Supernova watching party in North America.

        Oh, you can think bigger than that. Ditch the last three words, and watch from the Betelgeusian Oort Cloud. And tell Brother Cavil I said “hi”.

      • Bobobob says:

        I wonder, would actually watching Betelgeuse explode, from Earth, using a powerful telescope, make you go blind?

        Supernovas are inconceivably powerful events. Randall Monroe puts it best in “What If”: from Earth, watching the sun go supernova would be the equivalent of a billion hydrogen bombs detonating right next to your eyelids.

        • AlphaGamma says:

          No. The inverse square law is a powerful force.

          From what I can find, a Betelgeuse supernova is calculated to have an apparent magnitude of -10 (magnitude is a logarithmic scale, lower numbers are brighter). That is brighter than Venus or any star (and bright enough to cast shadows at night) but not as bright as the full Moon.

          • Lambert says:

            But it’s much smaller than the moon.
            Which means the light energy per unit area* of the retina could easily be much higher than that of the moon. I don’t have the maths on whether it might cause eye damage, but just comparing apparent magnitude isn’t enough. (this is what makes lasers so dangerous to eyes.)

            *technically what’s important to eye damage is the energy per unit perimeter, because there’s not much heat flow normal to the retinal surface.

      • b_jonas says:

        Requesting an event that will happen thousands of years into the future, so that the sponsor aliens have to pay for keeping you alive, is an interesting idea. I think it’s too risky though. The easiest way to satisfy your request would be to chuck you into a cryogenic preservation chamber, then revive you before the event. This may leave you completely unsuited from living a meaningful life in that far future society, and possibly with just barely enough health to not die during the few weeks of the event of your choice.

    • Bobobob says:

      FWIW, I’d like to attend the ribbon-cutting ceremony of a next-generation supercollider, complete with a full-power demonstration. Unless it accidentally creates a black hole and sucks me into the void.

      • Jake R says:

        I mean if it creates a black hole it’s sucking everyone into the void, might as well get an up close look.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Super Bowl the next time the Chicago Bears are in it. It’s an expensive event, and it’s a rare event. The last time they won a Super Bowl was ’86 and the last time they were in a Super Bowl was ’07. Being at a Super Bowl and watching them win would be one of those “once in a lifetime” things.

    • rumham says:

      Wherever the next total solar eclipse is where the weather is decent. That was the hands down most impressive natural phenomena I’ve ever seen.

  4. meakr says:

    I was recently trying to find a good way to survey friends using ranked choice voting, but I didn’t love the existing online options, so I wrote my own. I figured SSC readers might be interested, so sharing it here: Poller.io. Ideally its a really quick way to do low stakes instant-runoff elections, Borda Counts, and the Condorcet Method. Feel free to share any feedback!

    • Well... says:

      FYI you could probably do a ranked voting poll on SurveyMonkey, but I can’t remember whether there’s still a free version of it, or whether the free version is anything but useless.

      • meakr says:

        You can do ranked polls on SurveyMonkey, but from what I can tell, they unfortunately only return a Borda Count equivalent (and I don’t love all the steps involved to set up a super simple poll). I was actually surprised at how few options there were for IRV, but I guess its still a pretty niche thing.

  5. uau says:

    Lately there has been fairly widespread talk about a “crisis of capitalism”. Is there any justification for this? To me, it doesn’t seem like anyone has a particularly good alternative to the basic principles of capitalism. The blame for the problems that society does have belongs at least as much on the problems of democratic governance. Yet you don’t see anyone talking about a “crisis of democracy”.

    So my view is that the track record of capitalism is at least as good as that of democracy. Those that blame “capitalism” for problems don’t really know what they’re talking about. Anyone disagree?

    • Loriot says:

      I think there was a decent case for it during the depths of the 2008 crisis when we didn’t know how things would shake out. But that’s over a decade ago now.

      • Athos says:

        The baselines for how bad things can get vary greatly between economic systems. Look at deaths by starvation, for example. These were unaffected by not only the 2008 financial crisis, but also the Great Depression. Contrast that to the starvation rates during times of hardship under communism, both in Russia and China.

    • gph says:

      Well I’m no expert on the matter, but the near 0% interest rates and constant QE policy of most Central Banks seems to be a bit concerning, especially as it seems to have the effect of having a large pool of nearly free capital at the disposal of the uber-wealthy with seemingly very little risk when things go south. I’m sure SoftBank isn’t happy about the WeWork situation, but they’re also probably quite capable of financially engineering it so that it isn’t the total loss it should be. And the same is probably true about a lot of ventures getting funded by the dumb money sloshing around at the top of the capitalist pyramid with nowhere to go.

      Socialism doesn’t seem to be the answer, but there’s no denying that capital is continually concentrating at the top and producing weird results at times.

      • Didn’t SoftBank lose billions on WeWork? You can’t borrow your way out of a hole no matter how low the interest rate is. You’re going to get another billion and owe another billion. They could borrow, invest, and eventually recover from that loss. But they’ll still be billions poorer than they’d otherwise be.

      • Cliff says:

        I think you just don’t understand macroeconomics

    • “Crisis” is a strong word for it. We have a bunch of workers who are marginally useful at best and we don’t know what to do with them. The proposals to deal with them are generally all bad.

      At the same time, we have an economy that is sputtering because there isn’t enough productivity. So while we have too many of the useless workers, we don’t have enough innovators.

    • Clutzy says:

      I’ve seen quite a few “crises of democracy” pieces lately, but they have been blatantly partisan. That is, the “crisis” is left wing candidates losing in Israel, Britain, the US, etc.

      But I do think there is a different, actual, crises of democracy which is twofold: The first is trying to impose it on places like China and the Middle East, and the global movement running into pushback and multiple failures of this idea. Second, democracies are now consistently running into demographic reality bumping up against various schemes that they had set up, and like a ponzi scheme they only work with lots of new marks coming in.

      • albatross11 says:

        I think China providing an alternative model to Western democracy and civil liberties is genuinely a long-term crisis for democracy. We had it a lot easier when we were competing with an ugly concrete Soviet version of progress. [ETA] When it was kind of a widely accepted package deal that to have fast economic growth you needed to have substantial freedom and rule of law and such, this probably led to more-or-less democratic and free countries. When the alternative model is authoritarian government and few civil liberties and rounding up and disappearing troublesome ethnic minorities alongside substantial economic freedom, I think that’s going to look more appealing to a lot of current strongmen thinking about their countries’ futures.

        • Cliff says:

          Soon enough we will probably see China hit the middle income trap, most likely below the levels of Japan and South Korea. Then it will not be so difficult. China is still a poor nation.

          • Clutzy says:

            Hopefully, but I, like @albatross11 do not have faith. Plus, there is still the demographic problem. China can just cull people secretly while our old people ruin America for 40 years.

            Maybe that will happen, maybe it wont, but that is a major crisis of democracy: Being outcompeted because of selfish old people.

          • eric23 says:

            China cannot cull old people to a significant extent. They can cull Uighurs only because they are a tiny minority. They cannot get away with culling, say, every other person’s grandfather.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @eric23

            In fact, there is a conspiracy theory that COVID-19s deadliness in China is partially because they are intentionally culling people using it as cover.

            Unlikely, but backs up your point that just “culling” is unlikely.

          • The Nybbler says:

            China can just cull people secretly while our old people ruin America for 40 years.

            What do you mean by “ruin”? Is the problem just that the old people didn’t work and accumulate wealth just to die without enjoying it so the young people could inherit it without working?

          • Clutzy says:

            What do you mean by “ruin”? Is the problem just that the old people didn’t work and accumulate wealth just to die without enjoying it so the young people could inherit it without working?

            You know, 20 Trillion in national debt, various unsustainable programs that transfer wealth from the young to the old, including the ones you wouldn’t think like public education.

          • Deiseach says:

            China can just cull people secretly while our old people ruin America for 40 years.

            Those selfish old people were selfish young people who came of age during the 60s – the era of Free Love, Sexual Liberation, Tune In Turn On Drop Out. Are you really surprised that people who didn’t want to live their parents’ lives of settling down, getting a good job, marrying and having kids because that was such a drag when there was all this fun to be had are now, at this stage of their lives, reaping the harvest of those decisions? If there are more old people alive now to leech off the young than there are young people in numbers to support them, that is because back when they were young they decided it was ‘better for the planet’ if they didn’t have kids.

            And how many kids do young people nowadays have? The problem continues down through the generations, and when this generation is the same age as the ‘old people’ of today, the youth of that time will be wishing for a plague to cull them in the same way.

          • The Nybbler says:

            You know, 20 Trillion in national debt, various unsustainable programs that transfer wealth from the young to the old, including the ones you wouldn’t think like public education.

            Ah, so now that Gen X has about finished paying all those young-to-old transfers, you want to reverse it so we pay old-to-young ones too? That’s the problem with being a small generation.

          • Clutzy says:

            Ah, so now that Gen X has about finished paying all those young-to-old transfers, you want to reverse it so we pay old-to-young ones too? That’s the problem with being a small generation.

            I’m not targeting Gen X, I’m merely stating its never a bad time for old people to behave responsibly. Civilization growing great when old men plant trees who’s shade they will never sit in, and the like.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I’m not targeting Gen X, I’m merely stating its never a bad time for old people to behave responsibly.

            Responsibly? We paid all those taxes that kept the so-called “Greatest” and the Silents and the Boomers in their dentures and adult diapers, and now you want to turn it around so instead of benefiting from taxes paid by future generations, we get to use whatever we managed to keep after taxes to forgive the Millennials debts and pay the Zoomers’ way through college?

            This deal gets worse all the time.

          • Clutzy says:

            Responsibly? We paid all those taxes that kept the so-called “Greatest” and the Silents and the Boomers in their dentures and adult diapers, and now you want to turn it around so instead of benefiting from taxes paid by future generations, we get to use whatever we managed to keep after taxes to forgive the Millennials debts and pay the Zoomers’ way through college?

            This deal gets worse all the time.

            That is, indeed, the definition of being responsible. Just because your parents beat you, that being a wonderful emotional release for them doesn’t mean you should beat your kids for that same temporary high.

          • The Nybbler says:

            That’s the definition of “responsible” that’s often used when handing someone the short end of the stick. It’s like playing the marshmallow game with some kids, but when that second marshmallow is due, instead you come in and take the marshmallow from the kids who didn’t eat theirs and handing it out to the kids who did. And then you tell them that’s only fair, as the other kids clearly wanted their marshmallow more.

            I’ve often claimed that paying ones dues doesn’t get you anything but a bill for more dues, but claiming that’s just the “responsible” thing for some people is going further than that.

          • Garrett says:

            > its never a bad time for old people to behave responsibly

            They could start by visiting unstable ice floes more often.

            Unfortunately, the ones most needing to do so are the ones least capable.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Bailing people out of debts that they should not have taken on is not responsible behavior, it’s enabling behavior.
            If anyone needs to be responsible, it’s the government guaranteeing and proving low-interest rates for poor human capital investments.

          • Clutzy says:

            Bailing people out of debts that they should not have taken on is not responsible behavior, it’s enabling behavior.
            If anyone needs to be responsible, it’s the government guaranteeing and proving low-interest rates for poor human capital investments.

            Wouldnt do that either. I’d stop the entire fedloan program though, because it is yet another subsidy to old people, those people being college employees.

            I’d just stop taxing for a failing system and stop making education k-12 teacher/faculty oriented instead of student oriented. Also preferably less sexist.

  6. jermo sapiens says:

    Is there a sitcom on tv right now (or netflix or whatever) that is any good? The last ones I enjoyed were Parks and Recreation, 30 Rock, Community, and How I met your mother.

    • FrankistGeorgist says:

      Based on that list I would think Brooklyn 99 would be up your alley.

      • Statismagician says:

        +1. Also The Good Place.

      • jermo sapiens says:

        Thanks. I checked it out and it’s good, but I dont find it on the level of any of those listed above.

        • Statismagician says:

          As with e.g. Parks & Rec, it gets much better after the first season, if that matters.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            Yes, that does matter. I guess that’s almost the case in every good sitcom. I’ll give it a second chance.

        • EchoChaos says:

          I had the same reaction. After two seasons I realized I just didn’t care about the characters and ditched it.

          As opposed to 30 Rock, which is my favorite show by a large margin.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            That is the big thing. My problem with the characters in that show was that they seemed to be specifically catered for the woke crowd. Pretty much everyone seems to be there to “blow the minds of those uptight Trump voters”.

            -Gay black super straight-edged police chief (I’m not saying this is impossible, obviously, just that I get the feeling this character was created with a political agenda in mind).
            -Bad ass latina cop
            -Dumb white male

            If the writing was amazing, I would forgive those things quite quickly. But it’s not amazing so far. I will give it another go though.

          • broblawsky says:

            Jake isn’t dumb, he’s actually brilliant. He’s just deeply immature.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            Jake isn’t dumb, he’s actually brilliant. He’s just deeply immature.

            I agree. I was thinking about Charles.

          • broblawsky says:

            I don’t think Charles is dumb either, he’s just deeply weird.

          • Desrbwb says:

            jermo sapiens, I think that’s a tad unfair for a couple of reasons (disclaimer, haven’t seen all of Brooklyn 99, just a fair amount of random episodes, as they come up on British TV).

            The show started in 2013, so it predates a chunk of the modern culture wars, and certainly any concerns about ‘uptight Trump voters’, Obama had barely started his 2nd term when the series was picked up for broadcast.

            As previously said, Jake is not stupid, he’s even specifically introduced in the first episode as the best detective in the precinct.

            Charles? Again, not dumb. He’s very weird and a bit dysfunctional, but so are all of them (goes with the territory being sitcom characters). At worst he’s a neurotic, obsessive doormat. But he’s also intelligent, conscientious, extremely hard working and doing his best for his friends. A far cry from the standard ‘woke male’ who lacks any positive traits and is defined more by misogyny than a real character.

            Does Diaz being latina ever actually come up in the show? I can’t remember it in what I’ve seen. She’s just ‘scary detective’ (which has somewhat more comedic potential imo as a woman, because its funny watching Terry Crews be scared of her). If anything, the very reserved, terse characterisation she gets (especially early on) is a far cry from Hispanic stereotypes.

            Holt, I took him to be like that for the comedic effect, rather than any political agenda. Gay characters, even in very ‘woke’ media tend to be more of the outgoing/gregarious/camp type, so Holt being so very detached and serious works both as a ‘you genuinely don’t see characters like that very often’ (adding a extra level to the laughs imo) plus as a foil to Jake.

            While I’m probably biased (as 99, after being introduced to it last year) had rapidly established itself for me as one of the best American comedies I’ve seen. But if it really is ‘woke pandering’ then I wish more ‘woke’ properties followed its example, rather the train wrecks they tend to be in reality.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            jermo sapiens, I think that’s a tad unfair for a couple of reasons (disclaimer, haven’t seen all of Brooklyn 99, just a fair amount of random episodes, as they come up on British TV).

            You are probably correct. This is just my impression watching a couple of episodes. But generally I think sitcoms do really well when playing on stereotypes. I dont mean racial or gender stereotypes, but “a type of person”. Ron Swanson in Parks & Rec is hilarious because he’s a pitch perfect representation of the manly man. Barney in HIMYM is a stereotype of the playboy (being played by NPH helps quite a bit, but his character is well written also). Dwight Schrute from the Office (american version, corresponds to Gareth in the UK version), is a stereotype of the weird farmer….

            This facilitates comedy tremendously because it helps the viewer in understanding the character without too much work and helps us relate the character on the show to someone in our social circle.

            Doing comedy based on anti-stereotypes (for lack of a better term) seems like an enormous challenge. Not impossible, but from what I’ve seen so far it’s beyond the ability of the writers for that show.

            I do have my own prejudices and biases which dont help me as a viewer to enjoy the show. When I see Holt, I feel bad for the actor having to pull that off. That is a tall order. And my prejudices tell me that he wasnt written like that to be funny, he was written like that to “break ground” or “show a different aspect of gay people”.

            That said, there are no strict rules in comedy other than “be funny”. And the show can be funny.

          • Randy M says:

            Was there a “Weird farmer” stereotype before Dwight? Dwight was more of a “humorless boot-licker” stereotype with some weird quirks that evolved over the seasons.

          • Lambert says:

            I think 99 is woke done well.
            It’s not (usually) hitting you over the head with any message.
            Plots where a character’s race or sexuality is important are few and far between.
            (Terry gets profiled, Rosa comes out, a few about Holt and the not-so-good old days, i think there was a metoo episode)
            Apart from that, it’s just a cast/ set of characters that happen to be really diverse.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            Was there a “Weird farmer” stereotype before Dwight?

            Yeah I was just thinking that’s not the right stereotype for Dwight. The humor around Dwight comes more from him being a nerd and a boot-licker than a farmer. The fact that he lives on an almost Amish beet farm is more of an add-on to his character than his character’s essence.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            Apart from that, it’s just a cast/ set of characters that happen to be really diverse.

            Which is obviously fine, especially in NY, where a non-diverse cast would be unrealistic.

          • Lambert says:

            The characters are heavily stereotyped, just not the way you’d expect based on their race/sexuality.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            I think sitcoms do really well when playing on stereotypes. I dont mean racial or gender stereotypes, but “a type of person”.

            Hmm. We’ve just started New Girl and are finding it a laugh, and much of the humor comes from the fact that the characters are all a little weird, in their own particular ways.

            Last Man Standing is sometimes a little pat, but the characters are distinctive and consistent — except that they keep recasting the daughters. It starts out pretty broad but settles down pretty soon.

            I’m finding The Unicorn surprisingly engaging. The official premise seems like it wouldn’t really have legs unless you went for flat-out farce, but they aren’t doing that. The characters are all different but very likeable, and the premise does have the virtue that the series starts in an unstable position, so things actually change from week to week. (If you don’t have access to the early episodes I’m not sure I’d recommend it.)

            But, to give you a grain of salt, now that Good Place is finished I sort of think Brooklyn 99 is my favorite. There is wokeness, but there is also…what is the right word? Nuance? Reaction? I liked the time when one of the females floated the idea that the females needed to stick together and the other one shot her down.

          • Clutzy says:

            This thread just has reiterated how much I really dont care about any non- Good Place modern sitcoms.

            Shonens, intended for teenagers, are better written than most US TV.

          • Spookykou says:

            There are things to like about Japanese media and writing is not one of those things.

        • FrankistGeorgist says:

          I was recently in a conversation with friends where they begrudgingly admitted that as of the latest season Brooklyn 99 had surpassed their beloved Parks and Rec.

          I am the odd one out as apparently the only person who didn’t like Parks and Rec, so I was more passing on their suggestion than my own. They’re also all fans of the other shows listed, which I also enjoy. I rank Brooklyn 99 at HIMYM levels though, rather than the S-Rank of Community or 30 Rock.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            I rank Brooklyn 99 at HIMYM levels though, rather than the S-Rank of Community or 30 Rock.

            That’s still a very good level.

    • Tenacious D says:

      You know some French, right? A Very Secret Service on Netflix is pretty funny. It follows a young recruit to the French secret service in the De Gaulle era, but it’s about bureaucracy as much as spying.

      Sample clip: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=-JqL2WIkaB4

    • AG says:

      Galavant is still on Netflix, I believe. Medieval musical sitcom with music by Menken himself. Short and sweet with only 2 seasons, too.

    • Snickering Citadel says:

      Santa Clarita Diet was good, at least the first season.

  7. Plumber says:

    Let’s talk beautiful buildings (and some not-so-beautiful ones)!

    A thread (or three) back @Nick raised the topic of the potential “Make Federal Buildings Beautiful Again” proposal that would encourage more neo-classical styled buildings, and I want to share some other styles and examples of them, all from Berkeley and Oakland, California:

    Thornburg Village (Normandy Village), built in the 1920’s, a “Tudor revival” condo complex (the unit I saw had 1920’s steam heat!).
    Maybe it’s “Thomas Kincaid kitsch”, but Lord forgive me, I love it!

    Tupper & Reed Building, built in the ’20’s, same architect and style as above, it had been a musical instrument and sheet music store that later moved into a Mission/Spanish revival building next door and stayed in business into the ’90’s. 

    First Church of Christ, Scientist, built around 1910 in a “primarily American Craftsman style, with Byzantine Revival, Romanesque Revival, and Gothic Revival” style, it’s concrete, but beautiful, what “modernism” could have been.

    The Wells Fargo Building, built in the ’20’s, an example of a skyscraper that isn’t hideous. 

    Berkeley North Branch Public Library, a 1930’s WPA project in a “Mission/Spanish Revival” style, one of my favorite places in the world!

    St Pauls Episcopal Church built in the 1910’s in a “English Gothic Revival” style (I’d call it “a-whole-lot-of-red-bricks-gothic”), I’m including it because of a Catholic Cathedral across the street for contrast… 

    ….which would be the Cathedral of Christ the Light, built in the 21st century, very modern, but I kind of like it!

    and then there’s: Newman Hall, a Catholic church/student center built in the 1960’s
    I’ve been in this building dozens of times, and man is it grim, “Brutalist” is right! It had to have been a lot of work to build, but aesthetically it’s like Lou Reed’s “Metal Music Machine” as a building!

    • Nick says:

      and then there’s: Newman Hall, a Catholic church/student center built in the 1960’s

      And to think people wonder why Catholic practice collapsed in the 60s and 70s. The center was built to serve students, but looking at it, you’d think they’re on the menu.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        A mission To Serve Man the student community.

      • Konstantin says:

        Reminds me of St. Mary’s Cathedral in Tokyo, which looks like a very depressing place to go to church. Screw stained glass or any uniquely Japanese features, instead have massive sloping walls of gray concrete to stare at during Mass.

        • Nick says:

          Apparently the prior cathedral was a wooden building in the Gothic style, with a tatami floor! I tried looking for it online but couldn’t find any pictures.

        • Lambert says:

          What I don’t get is the Catholicism.
          It’d make sense for some hyper-puritan New Model Army types but nothing High Church.

        • Deiseach says:

          Konstantin, that interior shot of the Tokyo cathedral has me itching to break out the whitewash (and knock down those two “Godzilla eyes” lamps). Honestly, a coat of light-coloured plaster would work very well and lighten the interior tremendously, and then the atmosphere would be much more congenial. This picture is much better lit with natural light and it doesn’t look as awful when the sun is shining. Knock a few more windows through, get rid of those monster-eye lamps, and slap some paint on those bare walls, and you could make it bearable. It badly needs some colour to enliven it, but that’s what Catholicism is for – get out the statues of the saints! the Stations of the Cross! stained glass! Sanctuary lamps! Tabernacles gleaming with gold and marble! Candles in flickering rows on votive stands, glimmering through the red or blue glass holders!

          Lambert, I don’t want to say it was the Spirit of Vatican II (but it was the Spirit of Vatican II). They went stone mad for the modernity, and since all the star architecture of the day was that Brutalist concrete, that is what you got for Modern Reformed People-Led Catholicism. This article says don’t blame Vatican II, but it’s not just America which has been plagued with horrible modernist churches. Though I agree that the real problem was the affliction of liturgists who started reforming and re-jigging and turning everything upside down from the 50s onward, and that naturally included the design of churches.

          • Nick says:

            Yeah, the thing about the liturgical reforms is that they started before VII and basically just got fast-tracked on account of the council. That said, the “Spirit” of “Spirit of Vatican II” was often interpreted as a blank check for iconoclasm, almost literally in the realm of liturgy and church decoration.

    • Deiseach says:

      the Cathedral of Christ the Light, built in the 21st century, very modern

      It’s not hideously awful, which is more than you can say for a lot of 20th century modern Catholic architecture, like our friends below:

      3. Newman Hall. This structure enjoyed a much more successful seismic upgrade than the Berkeley Art Museum and combines the aesthetic of Corbu with the Bay Area’s landscape tradition.

      If this is indicative of the “Bay Area’s landscape tradition”, I am suddenly a lot more concerned for the safety and well-being of its inhabitants, given that they have the Esoteric Order of Dagon set up there.

    • Lambert says:

      1,2) Is this what Americans think The Olden Days looked like?
      3) You can build a church with that many influences going on, but not all at once. The trick is to extend it in whatever style is contemporary as the parish/diocese grows every few centuries.
      4) Not bad. Would be better with more buildings of a similar size around.
      5) Nice
      6) Detailing’s too white and too heavy. You want a sort of beige limestone and slightly redder bricks. 150 years of industrial smog might do it good. Belfry could stick out a bit higher too.
      7) nice. kind of evocative of the fish symbol. Kind of reminds me of the temporary Cardboard Cathedral in Christchurch. (the permanent cathedral is still being repaired after the earthquake.)
      8) there’s not enough pictures for me to do it justice.

      Tl;Dr: revival is hard. You’ve got to be sympathetic to the details of the style. Especially when all the examples of the style you’re reviving are older than your country.

      • Plumber says:

        @Lambert says:

        “1,2) Is this what Americans think The Olden Days looked like?…”

        Yes.

        Often described as “Storybook style

        “…revival is hard. You’ve got to be sympathetic to the details of the style. Especially when all the examples of the style you’re reviving are older than your country.”

        True, which is why for California I think “Mission/Spanish colonial” should be the default for public buildings.

        (Lke the W.P.A. built library I cited above, it actually got a “stimulus package” remodel in the 21st century that made it somewhat worse aesthetically, but made it more useful with extra rooms, especially restrooms, plus the political symbolism of, if not new public works, at least refurbishing old ones. Probably not an accident that the great buildings of the ’20’s are private, and the great buildings of the ’30’s are public, as for the ’50’s to ’80’s, it’s like the war shell shocked architecture into being ‘punk rock’, and not in a good way!)

      • Deiseach says:

        8) there’s not enough pictures for me to do it justice.

        I think they have a website, it’s also connected to/called Holy Spirit Parish. They at least attempt to incorporate a few overtly Catholic images and symbols, though the contrast between the Della Robbia/Donatello-style tondo and the ‘sheets o’concrete’ original architecture is stark, to say the least.

        If I were bishop of this diocese, I’d be hacking out that altar – I mean, having an award-winning architectural installation removed to a place where it can be seen by a wider audience and preserved for posterity – faster than you could say “Nobody expects the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments” and replacing it with something that looks a heck of a lot less like it’s straight out of Lovecraft’s “Shadows over Innsmouth”.

        Though I suppose since the entire thing is an award-winning etc. even the bishop can’t do that, but I’d have a darned good try 🙂

        • bean says:

          I’m now imagining you as a bishop, and the results are both amusing and terrifying.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Female clergy seem to have a causal relation to progressive theology/architecture/the whole shebang. It would be amusing to see if Bishop Deiseach could prevent that.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I think it’s more like female clergy are the result of progressive theology. So Bishop Deiseach would take a firm hand to the bishopric to make sure nothing like Bishop Deiseach could ever happen again.

          • Lambert says:

            IIRC, certain statements on Bishops by the Pope were post-facto ruled to be ex-cathedra so she’d automatically get excommunicated.

          • Nick says:

            Why does she have to be a bishop, you clericalists? Deiseach can be an abbess.

          • Deiseach says:

            It’s like I’ve often said: the Catholic Church does not ordain women, and you should all be thankful for that, because imagine what I’d be like as Pope 🙂

            “Okay, tell the Dominicans to stop sitting around twiddling their thumbs, the Inquisition is gonna roll again, baby! And this time we’re really cracking down!”

        • Lambert says:

          It’s like they deliberately studied Catholic architecture* for years and then decided to make the exact opposite.
          I’ve seen churchier-looking churches made from an industrial warehouse.

          *Which is often way over the top. The objectively correct Church interior design is the CofE ‘the minimalists and maximalists decided to compromise once everyone who could so much as carry a matchlock was dead’ aesthetic.

        • Plumber says:

          @Deiseach,
          They don’t all look like that, St. Ambrose by my house is in a “Gothic” style (built in the ’50’s(, and between it and Newman Hall is St. Mary Magdalene which is in a “Mission/Spanish Revival” style (with a very nice interior), so not all Californian Catholic churches are modernist (whether glass & light, or concrete & terror!).

          • Deiseach says:

            I have no idea what it was about 70s church architecture and concrete; the basilica built in Knock, Co. Mayo is all bare concrete. (Or it was, they refurbished it in 2015-16. That interior in the new revamped version used to be bare, gray concrete like the Church of Dagon Newman Centre).

            You can imagine how well that worked in the West of Ireland, where it is rain, rain, rain and for some variety – more rain! Along with cold, damp, windy conditions – yes, bare concrete was so adequate (not). You might get away with concrete in dry, warm, sunny conditions like the Bay Area (if it is dry and warm there) but not really where you’ve got the winds howling in straight from the Atlantic bringing all the sodden clouds along with them to dump their contents on the western coast.

    • Tenacious D says:

      @Plumber:

      This one is specifically for you. There is a water treatment plant in Toronto that was built in the Art Deco style (as a public works project during the depression, no less): https://torontoist.com/2011/01/unseen_city_the_rc_harris_water_treatment_plant/

    • Nicholas Weininger says:

      Christ the Light is beautiful to look at, but an awful place to sing in. The audience gets a decent experience if the choir is really good, but it’s super hard for the singers to hear each other.

      To your general point though, it’s not clear to me that any of these, except maybe the Wells Fargo building, would count as neoclassical or be practical to emulate in the design of large official buildings. I like the Berkeley Craftsman and Tudor Revival styles a lot too, but they’re really more suited to smaller-scale projects.

    • Garrett says:

      > Cathedral of Christ the Light

      This is, in my mind, what experimental architecture should be like. It’s definitely “experimental”. And I’m not certain that I’d like it. But at the same time I don’t automatically hate it and some of the interior photos make it look cozy in a strange sort of way. It gives me that “it could grow on me” feeling.

      Experimental doesn’t have to be terrible. Brutalist doesn’t have to be terrible. But I haven’t seen any experimental brutalist that I like.

    • vrostovtsev says:

      “churches” and “light” bring to mind the Church of the Light built in the 90s. It looks powerful in photos but I always wanted to get inside to see if it’s actually like that.

  8. DragonMilk says:

    So….what if Biden were to pick Michelle Obama as running mate?

    Autowin vs Trump due to minority turnout?

    • John Schilling says:

      I think you’re overestimating the degree to which black people want to be pandered to via the basest form of identity politics. That black people turned out as they did for Biden, indicates that they’re willing to trust their fates to a white politician who is competent and cares about their community. Just like virtually every other “identity” group; e.g. all the women who didn’t care what Bill Clinton did with his interns so long as he could be trusted to guard their reproductive freedom.

      If there were a prominent black governor or senator looking for a vice-presidential job, sure, that would help – but not at autowin levels even then. Someone of marginal political credibility but “look, she’s black and she’s famous in a vaguely politicky way, you have to vote for her and thus me!”, no, I don’t think so.

      • Paul Zrimsek says:

        At best that’s a strategy you can maybe get away with when no one’s too worried about the guy at the top of the ticket not finishing his term. That wouldn’t be Joe.

      • Eric Rall says:

        The impression I’ve gotten is that one of the major driving forces for black voters is machine politics, which makes a lot of sense in a historical context. Machine politics is generally a large force in poor or lower-middle-class sections of larger cities, where most black Americans lived for much of the later 20th century. And for a community that’s faced a ton of very heavy-handed bias and discrimination and still feels a fair amount of distrust for a lot of the rest of society’s institutions, it makes a ton of sense to trust and support the local political machine that’s always had your community’s back.

        Biden, like the Clintons before him, is the favored Establishment candidate, and the Democratic Party’s Establishment is the network the urban political machines are plugged into. And both Biden and the Clintons have made a particular point over their respective careers of giving both symbolic and substantive support to urban political machines and “black community leaders”. Obama is an interesting case here: Hillary Clinton was the more establishment-favored in the 2008 primaries, but Obama did have some establishment support and had personally come up through the ranks of Chicago’s political machinery, and after the primaries the establishment came together solidly behind Obama.

        In the long run, I’d expect this effect to fade away over the next generation or two: black people have been moving out of the inner cities and into suburbs (36% in big cities and 54% in suburbs or small metropolitan areas in 2016, compared to 57% in big cities and most of the rest in traditional Southern “black belt” rural areas in 1990), and systemic racism has been trending better for decades. And the black/white income gap, while still very large, has been closing as well over the past few decades.

    • baconbits9 says:

      Total turnout doesn’t matter so much as specific turnout. If Biden is choosing a running mate he needs someone with appeal in Florida or across multiple mid-western states.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      If Michelle Obama wanted to be in politics, she’d be in politics. Her passions are clearly nutrition, empowering young girls, and fashion. Also if she were to run for national office, she’d run for President, not Vice-President.

  9. Statismagician says:

    Naive question: given that voter preferences differ usefully by state, and that, apparently, people use performance in earlier primary elections in the same cycle as an input when deciding who to vote for in current ones, doesn’t not having all the primaries at the same time make them not super useful as a toll for gauging who the party membership actually wants to be the nominee?

    Or is that rather the point?

    • JayT says:

      A big part of the nomination process is to see who is good at campaigning. You set up a bunch of mini election days, and hope it shows you the person that has the best chance at winning the one that matters. If you just had a single primary vote day, the person with the most name recognition will win nine times out of ten, and the tenth time will be some wacko that managed to get a bunch of press.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Nobody could afford to buy ads or campaign in every state at the same time except Bloomberg.

    • Loriot says:

      The staggered primary season with winnowing works out to be sort of like ranked choice voting, with the voting population realigning to remaining candidates as some drop out.

    • BBA says:

      There is no point.

      The presidential primary system was hastily slapped together after the 1968 Chicago debacle rendered the old method of party bosses in smoke-filled rooms nonviable. It retains a lot of features from those carcinogenic days, notably the autonomy granted to state parties to set their schedules and delegate assignment methods, though that’s been gradually worn away as the formal party structures weaken. The whole thing is nonsensical and we’d be better off redesigning it from the ground up. But this is America, where even the most inane aspects of our political system are treated like holy scripture that God handed down to George Washington on stone tablets, so good fucking luck.

  10. proyas says:

    Why don’t richer countries like China, Japan and Russia ever try to expand their territory by buying uninhabited islands belonging to poor countries, like Papua New Guinea or the Federated States of Micronesia?

    Everyone has his price.

    • EchoChaos says:

      The United States just tried, and despite the fact that the Danes are losing tons of money on it, they wouldn’t sell Greenland.

    • John Schilling says:

      Everyone has his price.

      The territory of sovereign nations, is almost literally priceless. That was not always the case, but there are only a handful of trifling examples in the post-1945 era.

      Partly because the politicians who would have to sell off on it aren’t primarily motivated by money; if they were, they’d have done something else with their lives. And partly because the legitimacy would be extremely dubious in the modern world order; states are expected to hold their territory in trust for their people, not sell it for filthy lucre, and changes to international borders for any reason are a Really Big Deal.

      If e.g. Micronesia sells an uninhabited island to China, as sovereign Chinese territory (as opposed to Micronesian territory whose private landowner is the CCP), expect the Micronesian president to be voted out of office by irate Micronesians in short order. And for other irate Micronesions to spend the next few generations trying to have the sale reversed or at least made troublesome to Beijing, in the World Court, in the court of public opinion, and possibly in the field of (deniably low-intensity) battle, all with at least the tacit support of everybody who either doesn’t like China or doesn’t like the idea of their tribe’s ancestral lands being sold for cash in a politician’s pocket.

      For a two-bit uninhabited Micronesian island, that’s not worth the trouble for Xi Jinping or David Panuelo at any price.

      • SamChevre says:

        What’s the most recent peaceful transfer of territory for money?

        The most recent I’m familiar with is the US purchase of the Danish West Indies (now US Virgin Islands) in 1917.

        • HarmlessFrog says:

          There’s a list.

          Most recent is Gwadar in 1958.

        • John Schilling says:

          Egypt sold a couple of tiny Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia in 2017, more for reasons of administrative convenience than $$$ I think but money did change hands. This occurred peacefully but not entirely without controversy.

        • An Fírinne says:

          The Greek government started to sell its tiny islands in the Mediterranean and Aegean seas back when things were really bad but that was to private owners.

    • bean says:

      Several reasons. First, uninhabited islands are usually uninhabited for a reason. Anywhere that people can live, they generally do. At best, you’re not really getting any land area, you’re just getting military bases. And military bases in the Southwest/Central Pacific are useless to Russia, don’t fit with Japan’s strategy (as well as having a huge and obvious optics problem, and no, the people in those areas haven’t forgotten) and potentially very valuable for China. But for exactly that reason, nobody else will want them to have said bases.

      Second, there’s the whole “imperialism” thing, which tends to cause a lot more international grief than it used to. Best to not make yourself an international pariah.

      • proyas says:

        Here’s a scenario I’m imagining: China offers to buy an uninhabited island from the Federated States of Micronesia, on two conditions:

        1) The deal must be approved by a referendum, so no one can later claim that it had no popular support.

        2) Most of the purchase fee will be equally distributed among all Micronesian adults in the form of a one-time payment that equals one year’s average earnings. The per capita GDP is $3,735, let’s assume 3/4 of Micronesia’s 112,640 people are over 18, so China will offer $315 million for the island, plus another few million to the country’s top politicians.

        I think the Micronesians might accept. If they were smart, they’d approach China’s rivals and tell them to make a higher counteroffer to block the sale to China.

        I’m surprised deals like this haven’t been attempted yet.

        • Randy M says:

          The deal must be approved by a referendum, so no one can later claim that it had no popular support.

          This doesn’t seem like a stipulation China would suggest.

          • Lambert says:

            They’d be fine with it, so long as the people who worded the referrendum want it to pass.

          • Randy M says:

            Sure, sure, so long as it forestalled trouble. It’s just that I don’t think they equate popular approval with legitimacy.

      • Konstantin says:

        Even a tiny island has an Exclusive Economic Zone, if a country owns an island in the middle of the ocean they get exclusive rights to all natural resources within 200 NM. This leads to countries doing strange things like paying huge amounts of money to support a small group of soldiers stationed on an island in the middle of nowhere.

        • Loriot says:

          See also: why China’s dumping mountains of sand into the South China Sea in order to bolster its claims to the nearby oilfields.

        • bean says:

          That only applies when an island is all by itself. Sure, if China bought an island off on its own, then it would probably get the EEZ. But there are very few islands that isolated, and Micronesia doesn’t have any of them. And who determines who gets what fraction of the EEZ? Well, it’s either going to be between the two powers, or it’s going to be an international organization. The latter is not likely to look fondly on this, and I suspect that international law will decide that EEZ claims in newly-transferred territory are secondary. The former seems definitely inferior to a simple lease on some section of the EEZ. That’s a normal part of life, instead of raising all sorts of issues about colonialism and expansion, and it’s probably a lot cheaper, too.

    • AlexOfUrals says:

      Russia has more than enough of uninhabited territory of its own and not all that much money to spare. If anything, they should be selling. Yeah yeah I know, Crimea, but a conquest/liberation/annexation has a certain appeal for [a certain part of] internal audience which mere purchase doesn’t.

    • CaptainCrutch says:

      What good would that be for compared to just conducting business in a friendly nation?

      • proyas says:

        If you bought an island, you would get exclusive control of its EEZ and could build military bases there without any restrictions.

  11. Atlas says:

    Looks like Joe Biden had a very good Super Tuesday. According to Vox:

    The former vice president’s campaign was nearly left for dead just a couple of weeks ago after disastrous performances in Iowa and New Hampshire. He bounced back strong in South Carolina on Saturday and cruised to further wins all across the South on Tuesday night. The evening started with a big Biden win in Virginia, and he followed through with additional victories in North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas, and even Massachusetts and Minnesota.

    Sanders, of course, had wins of his own, including potentially in California (the full results there won’t be known for days as mail-in votes are counted, but Decision Desk currently has him in the lead). But this was Sanders’s shot to knock Biden out and assemble an insurmountable delegate lead. And he didn’t do it. Instead, Biden is now clearly on track to win.

    The nominating contest is by no means done, but Sanders now has his biggest delegate mine in the rearview mirror, while the large and seemingly anti-Sanders state of Florida is still out there for Biden to pluck. The former VP’s fundraising is also very likely to improve now that it’s clear he has a real chance to win and now that there are no real contenders competing with him for anti-Sanders dollars. Biden is once again the frontrunner and the odds-on favorite to be Democrats’ 2020 nominee. What a difference a week makes.

    Now it’s time for some insufferable gloating. Last December, I wrote:

    SVT contend that Clinton’s primary victory, which was by a lower margin than you’d expect for a candidate so thoroughly endorsed by the party’s leadership but still quite decisive, was based on a coalition of non-white and older voters, compared to Sanders’ support from white and younger voters.

    And it seems like Biden’s base is with African-American and older voters, as Clinton’s was. That makes me think, sort of from the outside view, that Biden’s chances are pretty good—at least better than 15%. I think stuff like that might be more important to pay attention to than gaffes/health/MeToo etc. stuff that I (and some other commenters) pointed to. So, I was wrong.

    And, about a month ago after the Iowa caucus results were (sort of) in, I wrote:

    A little over a month ago, I held myself to account for a mistaken predication from the beginning of last year. (In classic Atlas style, after deciding that I was mistaken to underestimate Biden, and switching to being bullish on his chances, Biden seems to have had a fairly weak showing in Iowa, coming in 4th or so. I’m still fairly bullish on Biden, though, because I think his advantages with elderly and black voters will give him an edge in upcoming states. Once again, I see the wisdom of Tetlock’s advice to frequently update your forecasts/beliefs by small amounts.)

  12. Atlas says:

    Very interesting article from Quillette on “The Decline of the Great American Family Saga:”

    I was raised on the popular fiction of the 1960s and 1970s, and much of that fiction was a celebration of the American extended family. The mid-to-late 20th century was a golden age for the American family saga. Among the best-known of these were titles such as Alex Haley’s 1976 bestseller Roots, Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, Irwin Shaw’s Rich Man, Poor Man and its sequel, Herman Wouk’s The Winds of War and its sequel, Chaim Potok’s My Name is Asher Lev and its sequel, and Bloodline by Sidney Sheldon. Other very popular series of American family sagas were John Jakes’s The Kent Family Chronicles, an eight-volume series written to commemorate the American Bicentennial, Howard Fast’s chronicles of the fictional Lavette Family, a series of six books, including such bestsellers as The Immigrants and Second Generation, which followed an immigrant family’s rags-to-riches rise in America, and Lonnie Coleman’s Beulah Land trilogy, which chronicled a slave-owning plantation-dwelling family in the American South…

    I didn’t realize it when I was devouring American family sagas in the 1970s and ’80s, but not only was the era of the big sprawling extended American family, like those chronicled in the works of Howard Fast and John Jakes, long past, but its successor, the American nuclear family, was fading into history as well. Today, the American family seems to be a mixed bag of singletons, empty-nesters, blended families, DINKs (double-income, no kids), and POSSLQs (persons of the opposite sex sharing living quarters). It would be impossible to turn the lives of my father, myself, and my stepdaughter Andrea into a cohesive three-generational family saga. Andrea and my father met only once, in 1980, at my wedding, when she was 14 and he was 48. He spent almost his entire life in Portland, Oregon, and my little blended family bounced around among various northern California towns for many years after my wife and I married…

    These days American family stories tend to be about small discrete households rather than vast sprawling networks of blood relatives who are constantly weaving in and out of each other’s orbits, wrestling for control of family assets, building businesses together, purchasing family vacation homes together, uniting against hostile outsiders, hiring each other’s children, and all the other activities that used to characterize stories about the rags-to-riches rise of an extended American family. I’m okay with that. But the American bestseller lists of the 21st century seem to be much poorer for it. Today, they consist mainly of legal thrillers, fantasy epics, and the 32nd installment of some name-brand author’s crime-novel franchise. I’m old enough to remember when the multigenerational American family saga was still a publishing-industry powerhouse. Now it is rapidly going the way of the American nuclear family itself.

    One thing I’ll note is that the author points to the popularity Harry Potter and ASOIAF as examples of a counter-trend in culture. However, family, ancestry, heredity, etc. are still central themes in both. (Indeed, the former might even be viewed as implicitly pro-natalist.)

    • Randy M says:

      POSSLQs

      Is this intended to imply a non-sexual relationship, or is it a euphemism for roommates with benefits but without commitment?

      and all the other activities that used to characterize stories about the rags-to-riches rise of an extended American family.

      Is it a coincidence that there is (at least a perception of) less social mobility now? This kind of nepotism is basically the foundation of a great many immigrant success stories, and the economic stability of a dependable marriage and a support network is the best way to keep from slipping in hard times. The best-seller lists are [edit:not] the only thing that get’s poorer when family formation is difficult. If I was a conspiratorial leftist I’d wonder if this was designed by the managerial/corporate elite to promote a rootless, mobile labor pool.

      • Don P. says:

        POSSLQ is from around 1980, and is indeed euphemistic, in that living together as a couple without being married was still a tiny bit scandalous. (And of course it’s, as they say, heteronormative.)

    • Nick says:

      One of the interesting things about Harry Potter (and ASOIAF, for that matter) is all the very old names that are down to single child families this generation and about to be or already extinguished. Based on the course of the television adaptation, it’s going to happen to a bunch of houses in ASOIAF, too, but that’s down more to the genuinely world-historical events occurring in Westeros during that generation, while the Wizarding World just appears to be experiencing a demographic transition.

      At least to me there is something tragic about this. And I’m sure these series might inspire pro-natal sentiment if others feel the same way. But I’m not sure how easily such sentiment can be accommodated, given how we as a society have responded to our own demographic transition.

      (With Harry Potter it is admittedly harder to feel bad, because these concerns are unavoidably bound up with the blood purity ideology of many of these families. Maybe these old names would survive if they weren’t intermarrying among a small genetic pool….)

      • Randy M says:

        given how we as a society have responded to our own demographic transition.

        What do you have in mind here?

        • Nick says:

          I’m being deliberately vague. You can probably fill in the blanks.

          • Randy M says:

            Not trying to entrap you. I just missed the marriage therapy book review thread and have all those issues on my mind.

          • Nick says:

            I know, you’re a friend. I’m being vague because if I really got going on this topic I’d probably get banned. 😛 I’ve already written and deleted a colorful reply or two to let off steam.

      • fibio says:

        One of the things that tends to get whitewashed out of history is just how much churn there was in the medieval and pre-modern upper class. I believe in late medieval France the average noble/knight was only third generation and in times of war the number of people freshly elevated could be a significant fraction of the court. Further, the number of families that could trace their noble lineage back more than half a dozen generations were few and fairly well renowned because of it.

        Because this tends to get glossed over, there tends to be a sense that the nobility are dying out in some series. But that’s because the huge range of social climbers, cadet branches and people marrying for position are absent in most works (and for good reason because could you imagine reading GoT with three times as many characters!).

        Harry Potter is an interesting exception as it appears that the main issue is less a demographic transition (though I really want to read the fic where Hogwarts had to deal with the fact the muggle born population quadrupled over the 19th century due to the explosive population growth) but a case where the Noble houses locked everyone else out of the nobility. With no new blood entering the old families inbreeding increased rapidly, fertility dropped and the internecine wars pretty much put the nail in the coffin of the old order.

        • Nick says:

          One of the things that tends to get whitewashed out of history is just how much churn there was in the medieval and pre-modern upper class.

          I am aware, but its relevance is limited because this is zigzagged pretty hard by ASOIAF. Some houses have extremely ancient family lines, like that of the Starks, going back well before the old kingdoms. Others are really recent, and as you say, there is a good deal of churn due to the war.

          If I had to give a theory of nobility in Martin’s world, it’s that it only changes when history happens. Aegon’s Conquest was history, so houses were lost and made. Robert’s Rebellion was history, so houses were lost and made. The War of Five Kings was history, so houses were lost and made. In the meantime, no matter how much turmoil or decadence happens, houses don’t extinguish, and there’s no need to create new ones. We meet a few of the more recent houses: Baratheon is the youngest of the noble houses, taking over for Durrandon after it opposed the Targaryens. Gardener was also supplanted by Tyrell during Aegon’s Conquest. Hoare went the same way.

          All the same, the Starks have been the Starks for hundreds of years at least, and if the legends are to be believed, thousands. The same could be said of a couple of others, like the Arryns (dating their lineage to the Andals) and even more the Tullys (dating to the First Men). Martin’s history of Westeros is—somewhat self-consciously, I’m sure—truly ridiculous, as we’re asked to believe some of these kingdoms and castles and houses remained essentially unchanged for thousands of years at a time. This is because he took real events in the history of England and blew up the timescale by ten or a hundred.

          So in the end you’re wrong to say that the nobility dying out is an illusion, and that we never meet the upstarts. They really are dying out, or hanging by a thread, in the time of the books, and we meet all sorts of upstarts, from the Tyrells to Petyr Baelish to, well, the entire crowd of people Cersei surrounds herself with in the fifth book, when a very temporary order is restored and the court needs filled out a bit. I think the evidence better supports my position, and the reason the really ancient houses are going extinct is because a whole lot of history is happening right now in Westeros.

        • Nick says:

          Harry Potter is an interesting exception as it appears that the main issue is less a demographic transition … but a case where the Noble houses locked everyone else out of the nobility. With no new blood entering the old families inbreeding increased rapidly, fertility dropped and the internecine wars pretty much put the nail in the coffin of the old order.

          I don’t think this is accurate. Noble houses can be plenty fertile when they want to be; do you remember when it is mentioned that the Weasleys are pureblood? Aside from cases like the Potters or the Longbottoms, who both died just after their first child was born, there’s little reason these houses should be tottering on the edge of collapse. Why do the Malfoys have one child? One! You can hardly secure the existence of your people and a future for your blond-haired, blue-eyed children if you’re not having any.

    • AG says:

      Meanwhile, it’s easy to find every fandom space squeeing over Found Family as a trope, even as Bowling Alone Syndrome continues its rise.

      What has replaced the American family saga is that Friendship Is Magic.

  13. sandoratthezoo says:

    Just to throw something out:

    The Party Decides! Counterexample: Trump. Countercounterexample: Biden.

    People in the media are mulling the above over. But why do parties have to be the same? I’ve thought since at least the tea party that the Republicans are much more controlled by their constituents, while the Democrats are much more controlled by their elites. Why can’t it be that the Democratic Party Decides, but the Republican Party Does Not?

    • Nick says:

      The old wisdom is that Republicans fall in line while Democrats fall in love. I don’t think it has held true for 2016 or for 2020, though.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        NeverTrumpers were always rare. Republicans who didn’t like Trump in the primaries fell in line and voted for him in the general.

        • Eric Rall says:

          Mostly, yes, they did fall in line. According to CNN’s exit polls, about 8% of self-identified Republicans voted for Clinton, and about 4% voted for third-party candidates (presumably mostly Johnson and McMullin). Not significantly more than the percentage of self-identified Democrats who voted for Trump or a third-party candidate.

          That doesn’t count people like me who stopped identifying as Republicans when the nomination went to Trump, but I get the impression there aren’t all that many of us, either. It’s hard to tease out of available datastreams, since both voter registration statistics and partisan identification polls are pretty noisy in general, and since there’s also a different population changing partisan identification in the opposite direction.

          The one signal I found that does point to a non-trivial number of Never Trumpers is comparing the House popular vote to the Presidential popular vote: House Republicans in 2016 polled about 200k votes ahead of Trump, while House Democrats polled about 3.7M votes behind Clinton. Compare to 2012, when House Republicans trailed Romney by 1.7M votes and House Democrats trailed Obama by 6.3M votes. That points to both 2016 nominees being 3-4% less popular relative to their respective parties than their 2012 counterparts. Again, this implies a similar number (actually a bit larger) of NeverHillary Democrats as NeverTrump Republicans.

    • Eric Rall says:

      One of the big institutional differences is that the Democratic primaries award delegates proportionately among candidates who meet the 15% threshold, while most Republican primaries are winner-take-all (exactly what it says on the tin) or winner-take-most (a few different methods that all have the common thread of giving a disproportionate share of the delegates to the plurality winner, such as winner-take-all by district, or splitting the delegates 2:1 between the plurality winner and the runner-up if nobody got an outright majority).

      Because of this, Trump was able to run up a huge delegate lead in the early primaries with about 35% of the popular vote because the anti-Trump voters were split between Cruz, Rubio, Kasich, and (through South Carolina) Jeb Bush. As the primaries dragged on, Trump benefitted from a growing sense of inevitability and his vote share grew into the 40s with the addition of voters who just wanted to wrap up the primaries and get to the general election campaign. And even though Jeb and Rubio had dropped out by that point, the anti-Trump vote was still split between Cruz and Kasich, and those two candidates were so far apart in message and image that it would have been very difficult for enough of the anti-Trump voters to come together behind one of them, any more than Warren’s supporters could have come together behind Bloomberg (or vice versa) in order to get a majority to stop Sanders.

      Had the DNC delegate rules been in place for the 2016 Republican primary, Rubio probably would have stayed in, and the most likely outcome would probably have been a contested convention.

      The other big difference is that South Carolina was a very good state for the 2020 Democratic establishment candidate (Biden), but not a great state for the 2016 Republican establishment candidate (Jeb). Biden’s blowout win in SC seems to have given him a huge bounce just in time for yesterday’s primaries, while Jeb’s dismal fourth-place finish there was what drove him out of the race.

    • sksnsvbanap says:

      I think Jeb was just a less likeable candidate than Biden.

  14. CaptainCrutch says:

    A lot of fantasy and adjacent genres have reactionary heroes. That is, the bad guys upset existing order and usurped the throne and good guys would restore the rightful king. Sometimes rightful kind would abdicate in the end and create some kind of republic. But I can’t think of anything that revolved around heroes who rose up against legitimate ruler because they wanted to create a better society. You’d think Americans would write a lot about overthrowing monarchy for good, but no.

    Do you know any republican fantasy, so to speak, where the hero decides he had enough of the kings, good and bad and demands free elections, or something to this effect?

    • Randy M says:

      Fantasy seems likely to be biased towards people who long for the old ways, hence more static and reactionary. Sci-fi seems like where you’d look for people looking for progress or revolution.

      I’m not sure if this hypothesis holds–in fact, I think it doesn’t, as sci-fi has a hard scientific streak that might appeal less to the utopian sort who would be more okay with overthrowing the current order and seeing what happens. But, there isn’t there a common pulpy sci-fi plot of travelling to an alien society and fighting the rulers over some injustice to our own morality? I’m not sure if that might be deemed offensively imperialistic nowadays, or fighting for justice. Probably depends on the superficial factors.

      Another issue is that if the fantasy is trying to invoke a mythic feel, it will use tropes of blood, conquest, hierarchy and so on. The old order was set down by the gods or by the conquering king and our realm’s good fortunes are magically tied to their continued rule. What’s this modern nonsense of ‘voting’? In other words, it’s a tonal thing tied up in genre expectations.

      • theodidactus says:

        Doc EE Smith’s Skylark series AND John Carter both have the trope of a person from earth arriving in an alien society with some kind of unstoppable superpower and crushing everything in sight, especially bad institutions. These are among the oldest works of sci-fi, and form of a good reactionary metaphor generally.

    • jermo sapiens says:

      There is this. And I’m glad they made a joke of it, because I dont think the fantasy genre mixes well with democracy. It’s much more satisfying to have a man like Aragorn, a king by blood and by deed, rule over Gondor.

      Otherwise, I’m not aware of anything like you described.

    • Deiseach says:

      Not American, but Terry Prachett’s Ankh-Morpork novels fall into this category. In fact, the irony is that the kings are deposed, and it’s agreed this was a jolly good thing too as the last few monarchs tended to be crazy and evil and incompetent, but the nobility continued on merrily holding on to their positions of power. Lord Vetinari is not a king or anything like a king, but he’s certainly nothing like a president either.

      The best one to read about in this vein is probably Night Watch. Sam Vimes, the Commander of the City Watch, is descended from a revolutionary:

      It has been suggested that Sam’s father was a watchman in Jingo and he is a descendant of Suffer-Not-Injustice “Old Stoneface” Vimes, the Watch Commander who instigated the rebellion against, and subsequently beheaded, Lorenzo the Kind, the last king of the city, a sadistic torturer described as “very fond of children.” As a consequence, the Vimes family was stripped of its nobility. For three centuries afterwards, the memory of “Old Stoneface” has lived on in infamy and, as his descendant, Vimes has frequently endured suspicious mutterings from the aristocracy. Vimes is implied to heavily resemble his ancestor and they share a nickname: Old Stoneface. The Annotated Pratchett File notes that Suffer-Not-Injustice Vimes is closely modelled on Oliver Cromwell, and that the name of his supporters, the Ironheads, is a portmanteau of Roundheads and Ironsides, Cromwell’s faction and regiment, respectively.

      • CaptainCrutch says:

        I was not asking about fantasy set in a republic, I’m sure there are some, where some kind of republic is status quo, but rather about fantasy about upsetting status quo and creating the republic. I only read the first Discworld book and I’m positive republic was status quo already.

        • C_B says:

          You are mostly right about the oligarchic republic already being status quo at the time of the Discworld books, but the book Deiseach recommends above, Night Watch, is specifically a flashback (via time travel shenanigans) to a time of social upheaval.

          It’s also, incidentally, among the very best Discworld books, so if you have any interest in that sort of thing at all it comes highly recommended.

          • CaptainCrutch says:

            I’ll look into it, but still prequels/flashbacks is not exactly what am I looking for, again, since status quo is already established.

            Specifically, I am interested in a story where someone decided to try something entirely new – both in-universe chronology and something that isn’t established to exist in previously written works set further in the future – and is treated as a hero for this.

        • Deiseach says:

          Ankh-Morpork isn’t a republic, unless you construe that to mean “government on the basis of ‘one man, one vote’ and the Patrician is the man with the vote” 🙂

          Night Watch tells you how they got to be a republic democracy totally not ruled by an authoritarian dictator who gives everyone a choice: do what he says, or don’t. And if you pick ‘don’t’ then you’ll go back to the horrible chaos of the days of the overthrow of the monarch.

      • J Mann says:

        The Power Mage series is about an anti-monarchist revolution, I believe.

        Ankh-Morpork is ruled by a benevolent dictator. I think the dwarves are somewhat democratic, IIRC.

        The standard Ank-Morpork plot, if I recall correctly, is that some institution is behind the times and the benevolent dictator finds a (usually) male protagonist and manipulates him into forcing the institution to adopt some modern quality (such as packetized data, or diversity), and the protagonist through a force of will causes it to happen, leaving everyone better off. But I don’t recall any advances in democracy.

    • Peffern says:

      Mistborn, arguably, although it doesn’t work out so well.

      • Matt says:

        I would concur, though that’s a bit of a spoiler.

      • Baeraad says:

        I don’t know, don’t they have a democracy in the sequel series? I can’t remember the exact form of government, but it’s at least not a monarchy. One of Brandon Sanderson’s common themes is that social progress is difficult and takes time, so while it’s still worth trying to make the world better you have to be careful about it and expect some setbacks along the way. Revolutionairies, in his books, tend to find out the hard way that changing the system is tricky and comes with a lot of downsides, but they also tend to ultimately be shown to be essentially in the right.

        Mistborn is an interesting example since gur birenyy pbasyvpg bs gur gevybtl vf orgjrra gur tbqf bs Cerfreingvba naq Ehva. Cerfreingvba vf, sbe gur zbfg cnegf, gur tbbq thl, fvapr Ehva jnagf gb raq gur jbeyq, ohg gur svefg obbx npghnyyl unf gur urebrf hajvggvatyl freivat Ehva juvyr gur ivyynva vf ng yrnfg fbzrjung fhccbegrq ol Cerfreingvba – orpnhfr Cerfreingvba, orvat gur hygvzngr pbafreingvir, guvaxf univat na haqlvat qnex ybeq ehyvat bire n fgngvp, hapunatvat rzcver vf njrfbzr! Arvgure bar bs gurz vf gehyl tbbq, naq gur unccl raqvat unf gurve Funeqf zretvat vagb Unezbal, jub vf ng yrnfg fbzrjung pncnoyr bs snibhevat cbfvgvir punatr.

    • mitv150 says:

      Brian Mclellan’s Powder Mage Trilogy involves governmental overthrow and quite a bit more.

    • viVI_IViv says:

      Do you know any republican fantasy, so to speak, where the hero decides he had enough of the kings, good and bad and demands free elections, or something to this effect?

      Star Wars. The Rebellion official name is the Alliance to Restore the Republic, though the republic they want to restore was more of an aristocratic oligarchy with theocratic leanings than a universal-suffrage democracy. Of course, Palpatine status as a legitimate monarch is questionable, but one man’s rightful Emperor is another man’s autocratic usurper, I guess.

      • CaptainCrutch says:

        Star Wars is kinda disqualified because Republic is, once again, an artefact of the past to restore by deposing the usurper. I’m asking about building a new thing.

    • helloo says:

      A lot of the isekai genre (roughly “random person finds themselves in a new world with memories/access of the old world and possibly unique OP skills”) focuses on how people will adapt or transform/initiate change on a fantasy world given memory/access to current world technology/culture.

      A lot of them play out as fairly standard hero vs evil overlord storylines, but many have them planning anything from literally world domination to starting a “new” business to having a self-sufficient farm.
      Some of them are more or less just trying to live out their new life, but there are those that have modern morality as part of their push.

      • Konstantin says:

        However, there are a disturbing number of them where the new world has slavery, and the supposedly heroic main character ends up owning a teenage female slave who falls in love with the MC and refuses offers of manumission.

        • viVI_IViv says:

          Modern isekais are lowest common denominator wish fullfillment for unsuccessful men. They are the male version of 50 Shades.

    • Aftagley says:

      Does the Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe count? They are overthrowing what amounts to a monarchy in favor of a, what, a theocratic oligarchy?

      • Dack says:

        They overthrow monarchy in favor of…more monarchy. (Four times more!)

        • The original Mr. X says:

          Strictly speaking, they overthrow a monarchy in favour of a tetrarchy.

          • Aftagley says:

            For what value of N does an N-archy just become an oligarchy?

          • Eric Rall says:

            For what value of N does an N-archy just become an oligarchy?

            Probably whenever the Latin and Greek numerical prefixes both sound silly, or when they’re so arcane that only Organic Chemists can remember them.

            I think “Heptarchy” (N=7) is the highest number I’ve seen in the wild.

          • Nick says:

            Integralists should adopt the name octarchy.

    • SamChevre says:

      The 1632 series sort-of qualifies. The “Americans” shift the monarchies toward republican structures, while at the same time being pulled into monarchical structures themselves.

      ETA: this may be an example of the isekai genre noted above.

    • Plumber says:

      @CaptainCrutch says:

      “…Do you know any republican fantasy, so to speak, where the hero decides he had enough of the kings, good and bad and demands free elections, or something to this effect?”

      In one of the Tangeled Lands ‘shared worlds’ short stories she has “had enough”, and it looks like that’s going to happen, but…

      Yeah, I guess it’s “woke”, still an entertaining read, and I really like the “magic has a price” trope

    • Tenacious D says:

      The Dagger & Coin series might fit what you’re looking for. One of the main characters is an apprentice banker who dreams of a future where countries make trade, not war (with political changes to match).

      • Tenacious D says:

        ETA: The Years of Rice and Salt is another possibility. It spans many many generations, but a good number of the characters are reformers or revolutionaries in some sense.

    • AG says:

      “heroes who rose up against legitimate ruler because they wanted to create a better society” generally manifests in a “our hero will create a better society by becoming/being king and unifying the nation” way. Your Qin Shi Huangs, your Nobunaga/Tokugawas, your King Arthurs (sure, he deposes the usurper Vortigern, but not in all versions of his mythology, and that’s before uniting the nation). Further back, your heroes were the kingdom/empire-building conquerors.

      Also, even with the American Revolution, it’s not like democracy didn’t exist before, and they created it with the Revolution. Parliamentary democracy was already there, as was the history of the Romans and Greeks. “Taxation without Representation” implies a sort of “we must restore our rights which have been suppressed” situation, not so much creating a better society from scratch.
      So the case of Star Wars is still valid, as are similar YA books where a conquered peoples fight against their colonizers, with world-building where their previous indigenous forms of government were more egalitarian.

      It comes down to how you can’t have true ruling legitimacy, because that’s a social construct in the first place. Legitimacy comes from the consent of the governed, and if someone decides to rise up against the existing power, one tactic is to declare them illegitimate for this or that reason, even if that reason if “you have failed your people.” To have determined that the existing system cannot be changed from within, that it cannot do better, is to determine it illegitimate.

      I can’t imagine a satisfying narrative where the status quo is stable, and then the good guys upset the existing order anyways. You can only start from deficiency from an ideal.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      Does The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress count as close enough to fantasy for this purpose?

    • blacktrance says:

      How much of this is just a case of Villains Act, Heroes React being more common than its opposite? For example, outside of fantasy there are storylines like “villain kidnaps hero’s important person, hero gets them back”, “hero’s life is ruined when villain makes them lose their house”, or even villain-less stories like “hero gets disease and tries to find cure”.

    • Loriot says:

      Fiction typically takes the protagonists’ side, so anyone they are trying to overthrow will inherently not be seen as “rightful”.

      Perhaps Mistborn might be a decent example, as the ruler they try to overthrow has been ruling for 1000 years and was apparently a prophesied hero to boot.

    • Chalid says:

      “Lord of Light” by Roger Zelazny has a protagonist overthrowing the long-established order, and doing so explicitly in order to empower ordinary people. I don’t think he’s explicit about the political system he wants to replace the order with he clearly wants something more democratic. (And it’s a wonderful book which everyone should read.)

      On the other hand the protagonist is very much not an ordinary person, and we don’t actually see much of the ordinary people who are being empowered, so it might not quite be what you’re looking for.

    • Gwythr says:

      Paula Volsky’s Illusion is basically French Revolution in Fantasyland. We mostly see it from the point of naive aristocratic ingenue, but the revolution is there. It’s pretty big on showing both the dread of serfdom under the old regime and the horrors of terror when radicals seize the power after the revolution.

    • a real dog says:

      Pullman’s Dark Materials trilogy is basically about killing God and creating a Republic of Heaven. Pretty ballsy for children’s literature.

      Seconding the point that people who are into fantasy tend to lean reactionary – I certainly don’t view democracy as an unqualified good, just a disgusting solution that works better than alternatives. I’d rather keep it out of my idealized escapism.

    • DeWitt says:

      This isn’t merely fantasy, this is a staple of fiction everywhere. People are ornery creatures, and the idea of brave people fighting to preserve what is theirs is something much more viscerally appealing than the inverse is.

    • NTD_SF says:

      Guardians of the Flame is an 80s series about a bunch of college students sent to a fantasy world trying to end slavery and establish a liberal democracy.
      Generally speaking revolutions and popular governance are made far easier by the printing press and the gun, among other technological advancements, so medieval-tech fantasy has reason not to include them.

    • Spookykou says:

      My read on the American cultural interpretation of these things is that revolution is more strongly associated with communism now.

    • TheAncientGeeksTAG says:

      Depends on how narrowly you define fantasy. Robin Hood and its variants deal with romantic outlaws, and Star Wars is about fighting an evil empire.

      • Lambert says:

        I think the thing about Robin Hood is that the Good King went and got himself killed in Aquitane.

  15. SamChevre says:

    Let’s make a list of fallacies and paradoxes: specifically, statistical/data-related ones.

    Berkson’s paradox: if A and B are uncorrelated in the population as a whole, in the population of A OR B they will be negatively correlated. If you are in the hospital, having cancer means you are less likely to have been in a car accident.

    The lizardman constant:
    Some proportion of answers are either mis-clicks or reflect very unusual understandings of the world. When studying rare phenomena, such answers will be disproportionately common.

  16. Silverlock says:

    Presented as either the luckiest or the unluckiest woman in the world: Violet Jessup, who survived calamity on all three of the White Star line’s Olympic-class liners.

    Jessup worked as a stewardess for White Star Lines and was aboard the RMS Olympic when it collided with the HMS Hawke on 20 September 1911, the liner afterwards limping back into port but remaining on top of the water. She (Jessup, not the Olympic) was also on board the Titanic on her (Titanic, not Jessup) famous maiden voyage. During WWI, she was serving as a Red Cross stewardess aboard HMHS Britannic, which by that time had been converted to a hospital ship, when it struck a mine and sank in the Aegean Sea. She had to jump out of the lifeboat she was in order to avoid the ship’s propellers.

    As remarkable as all that is, even luckier (or not) was a stoker by the name of Arthur John Priest, who survived the same three incidents and also two other sinkings. Eventually, nobody was very keen on being his shipmate. I can’t imagine why.

    • broblawsky says:

      How common was it for ships to sink back then?

      • John Schilling says:

        To be fair, “back then” encompasses a period when basically all of the world’s navies were, in toto, working very hard to arrange that basically all of the world’s ships would be sunk.

        • broblawsky says:

          That’s fair. I guess I’m just wondering about pre-1914 shipping accidents. What was the core technological development that reduced the incidence of maritime disasters? Sonar?

          • b_jonas says:

            My guess is passenger airplanes, because they significantly reduced the number of people who take long distance trips through an ocean on a ship. But radio communication is also a suspect, because it became much better in the 1910s when the cathode ray tube (vacuum tube) let people use AM radios.

          • Aftagley says:

            What was the core technological development that reduced the incidence of maritime disasters?

            Core? There wasn’t really one, it would have been a bunch of things. Definitely not sonar, pretty much no ship relies on Sonar for anything other than depth monitoring, but if you have to worry about the depth, you’re already screwed.

            IMO, biggest advancement would probably be any one of several navigational advancements made over the past century or so. It’s pretty trivial for a vessel to know it’s exact location now in a way that would absolutely amaze previous generations of sailors.

            Previously, assuming the weather was clear enough to see the sky, you could use celestial navigation to determine your position once or twice a day, and basically would estimate your position off those fixes until the next time you could take a fix. This meant that at any given time there was pretty massive uncertainty over your exact location.

            Then, in the 1940s, we implemented LORAN, which basically use radio beacons to fix your position. This was constantly online (meaning you could fix your location whenever you wanted) and “only” had an area of uncertainty of a few hundred meters (later reduced all the way down to a coupe dozen meters).

            Today, of course, we have GPS which further reduces that uncertainty down to a few feet. It’s really, really hard to describe what a big difference knowing where you are makes in terms of safe navigation.

          • Eric Rall says:

            I suspect the big contributor in the 20th century was the development of weather forecasting, especially the ability to deliver timely storm warnings to ships at sea. This goes hand-in-hand with two-way radio, since that’s a vital precondition both for gathering data from far-away observers in order to inform the predictions and warnings and for distributing the predictions and warnings in a timely manner.

          • John Schilling says:

            Marine radio probably does it for mortality-based definitions of “disaster”; even if a ship sinks, the passengers and crew are now very likely to be rescued.

            For the part where it’s rare for large ships to sink at all, the credit goes to modern navigation and global weather surveillance. Ideally in both cases by satellite, but I think 90+% of the gains were manifest by long-range radio navigation (per Aftagley) and the development of integrated networks of weather stations, ships, and aircraft. Both of those are 1940s things.

          • JayT says:

            I doubt airplanes have much to do with it, because there are still a lot of people that go on cruises. I would guess that there are more people taking cruises nowadays than there were passengers travelling across oceans in the early 20th Century.

          • Silverlock says:

            From surveying the lists of shipwrecks in Wikipedia — which is how I got onto this topic in the first place — there were a few causes that accounted for most of the wrecks:

            Enemy action: As John noted, that was going on in this time period, and accounted for Britannic and two of the other ships that dropped out from under Arthur Priest.

            Storm: Ameliorated by modern weather forecasting, radio communications, and radar.

            Collision: Radar was also a big help here, along with GPS and radio.

            Rogue waves: This one is a bit tougher a nut to crack. As far as I know the main defense is stronger ships.

            Grounding: Better charts and the use of sonar helped with this one.

            Boiler explosions: Fewer and better-built steam engines mitigated this.

            Hubris: Good luck.

          • Ketil says:

            In addition to better navigation tools, I’d mention AIS and traffic control.

          • AlphaGamma says:

            I doubt airplanes have much to do with it, because there are still a lot of people that go on cruises. I would guess that there are more people taking cruises nowadays than there were passengers travelling across oceans in the early 20th Century.

            Though cruises, by their very nature, tend to take place in much better weather conditions than liner crossings did.

            (The QM2 is unique among modern passenger ships in having been built as an ocean liner rather than a cruise ship- in other words actually being designed to regularly cross the Atlantic with passengers in all weathers).

          • bean says:

            I’d broadly say “all of the above” to the suggestions in this thread, and the only one I’d add would be the steam engine. Steamship are a lot less vulnerable to weather than sailing ships, although those gains were mostly taken by 1900.

            Note that while passenger sea travel in bad weather (and the North Atlantic is particularly bad) is down a lot, cargo shipping continues apace, and I’m pretty sure the loss rate there is down, too. Some of that is just bigger ships being less vulnerable to the sea, and a lot is increased professionalization.

            But in terms of progress after 1912, I’d say radar and better design standards. The only major disasters I know of after that are Empress of Ireland and Andrea Doria, both of which were caused by collisions. Collisions still happen, but I don’t know of major ones involving cruise ships recently. (Carnival has apparently been hiring from 7th Fleet, though, so watch this space.)

            Also, the most recent Naval Gazing is relevant to anyone who is confused about the evolution of the passenger liner.

            Edit: I am occasionally forgetful. The big piece not mentioned (probably the biggest, as it’s international and not something that can be dodged by flags of convenience) is SOLAS.

          • Aftagley says:

            Specifically wrt transiting the North Atlantic, the International Ice Patrol did a bunch of good work before Sat coverage was omnipresent in tracking and alerting the maritime community of the presence of icebergs. Once you know exactly where all icebergs are well in advance of being able to see them, your ability to evade gets much stronger.

          • bean says:

            Also, pedantic nitpicking time:

            But radio communication is also a suspect, because it became much better in the 1910s when the cathode ray tube (vacuum tube) let people use AM radios.

            Cathode ray tubes are a type of vacuum tube, but they’re not the kind that enabled improved naval radios. Which didn’t even take vacuum tubes, actually, although they did win out in the end.

            the development of integrated networks of weather stations, ships, and aircraft. Both of those are 1940s things.

            Not really. The international ice patrol started in 1914, although obviously without airplanes. I believe it also did some weather reporting.

          • b_jonas says:

            bean: thank you. I wasn’t really aware of those failed intermediate radio technologies between the spark gap and the vacuum tube. And yes, I should have said “1920s” rather than “1910s”. And I’ll try to remember the terminology now: the tubes used for amplification or logic are called “vacuum tube”, not “cathode ray tube”.

    • Aapje says:

      @Silverlock

      Arthur John Priest was actually even more lucky than it seems, since only 22% of the male Titanic crew survived vs 88% of the female crew. In this one sinking, he survived worse odds than Violet Jessup did in all three of her calamities combined (she had 100% chance of surviving for the RMS Olympic collision, 88% for the Titanic and 97% for HMHS Britannic).

  17. AlexOfUrals says:

    It’s a strong impression of mine that many of those who voted for Trump did so just because Clinton was very left and they wanted to screw with her and the Democratic elites she represented. And it seems that Bernie Sanders represents the same things and is at least as left as she was. Therefore he’s a bad choice from the “we must get Trump out of the office” perspective, regardless of his other merits. How wrong am I with this?

    • Aftagley says:

      Clinton was very left

      This wasn’t public perception at the time. Bernie was very far to the left of Clinton in 2016.

      crew with her and the Democratic elites she represented. And it seems that Bernie Sanders represents the same things and is at least as left as she was.

      Bernie’s whole schtick is that he hates the Democratic party. Hell, for the majority of his time in office he’s rejected being a member of the Democratic party. He’s not considered a democratic elite.

      Therefore he’s a bad choice from the “we must get Trump out of the office” perspective, regardless of his other merits.

      I agree, but not for the reasons you listed.

      How wrong am I with this?

      2/3rds wrong?

      • AlexOfUrals says:

        Well that’s probably a poor choice of words on my part, instead of “Democratic elites” I should’ve say “left educated urban population” or whatever. The Blue Tribe. Bernie might be more left economically and Clinton culturally, as Plumber noted below, but what I meant to say is that he’s least as much an enemy for the Red Tribe moderates as she is. From this perspective, the fact that he’s not even in the Blue Tribe mainstream is hardly any argument for him – I mean, he’s more of a socialist than the mainstream, not less so!

        To put it differently, it seems to me that the first and probably the only required step in winning against Trump would be to have a candidate whom minimal number of people on the other side actively hate. And I feel like as [at least economically] pretty much the leftmost of all candidates, Bernie doesn’t exactly fit this role.

        • Aftagley says:

          Well that’s probably a poor choice of words on my part, instead of “Democratic elites” I should’ve say “left educated urban population” or whatever. The Blue Tribe.

          This argument is going to devolve over quibbles of what kind of true Scottsman the blue tribe actually is.

          Bernie’s schitck is, as I said previously, that he is running against the democratic establishment and is pushing policies that the majority of the democratic establishment finds too extreme. Saying the Bernie is the cultural representation of the Blue Tribe doesn’t match either the polling (he’s mostly liked by the radicals and the youths) and it doesn’t make sense on it’s head: he’s leading a revolution against the blue tribe as the standard bearer for the blue tribe?

          I feel like as [at least economically] pretty much the leftmost of all candidates, Bernie doesn’t exactly fit this role.

          I agree with you here.

        • Clutzy says:

          i think you are still missing why Hillary was hated. She was hated because she had been saying and doing things like her “basket of deplorables” comment for 25 years. In addition, she’s an entitled scold who had a rich, connected, dad, married a smart and talented guy, then acted like she had accomplished something.

          Also she has the personality of the meanest librarian you ever got shushed by. But when you point this out she would instantly pull out the “sexism” card (a tactic now loved by Warren).

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        AlexOfUrals’ claim that voters “wanted to screw with [Clinton] and the Democratic elites she represented” boils down essentially to “voted against Clinton, rather than for Trump”. There was definitely an element of that.

        I don’t think she was seen as very left compared to Sanders, or to the progressive wing. But she was seen as very left compared to Republicans, a harbinger of expanded government and regulation into American life. Her reputation as a hawk would not close that gap.

        I see Sanders’ main position as progressive populism. Any hate he might have for the Democratic Party is vastly overshadowed by hate for corporate America – indeed, his distaste for the Dems is likely only to the extent he feels they’re coopted by corporate elites. If Sanders wins, I think we can expect his primary adversary to be Wall Street and Silicon Valley capital, not, say, Nancy Pelosi.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          If Sanders wins, I think we can expect his primary adversary to be Wall Street and Silicon Valley capital, not, say, Nancy Pelosi.

          And Trump’s adversary should have been illegal aliens, but he had to fight Paul Ryan every step of the way. The Democratic establishment would not just roll over and let Bernie have his way with the donor class. He would wind up having to fight Pelosi, and I don’t see any evidence he has the backbone to take on the DNC establishment.

    • broblawsky says:

      I think a lot of people – especially the kind of people who tend to be categorized as “swing voters” – vote not on the basis of left/right alone, but based on how closely their perception of the person they’re voting for matches their idealized self-image. The conservative media spent decades painting Hillary as Lady MacBeth; that was enough to poison her campaign, ultimately.

      • eric23 says:

        My theory is that millions of older women could never forgive Hillary for staying with Bill after Monicagate, and thus legitimizing their own husbands’ potential adultery. Which permanently depressed Hillary’s vote share regardless of her policies, personality, and so on.

        I arrived at this theory after encountering a female relative who preferred anyone to Hillary even when Hillary’s policies were much closer to hers than that anyone’s…

        • gbdub says:

          There is probably some of that, and not just among older women. My girlfriend (who also hates Trump) mentioned it as a reason she couldn’t respect Hillary.

          I think it may have been forgivable if Hillary was loyal to Bill because she was madly in love with him, taking a principled stand to stand by him through better or worse. But the Clintons, for the last 20+ years, have never given off a loving partnership vibe, so Hillary’s “loyalty” feels more like calculated political ambition (and honestly probably was).

          That’s a bad look for someone who is simultaneously acting as if women owe her solidarity. She was willing to throw inconvenient women under the bus and support a serial philanderer/ sex pest (or worse) in order to ride her hubby’s name to her own power.

      • EchoChaos says:

        Hillary had an approval rating of nearly 2/3 of Americans during her time as Secretary of State and was one of the most popular politicians in America when the President she served under was floating around 50%.

        “Hillary was always hated and reviled” is revisionist history.

        • Loriot says:

          That’s because she wasn’t doing anything people cared about. It was obvious her approval rating would tank as soon as she started running for president. I’m pretty sure I can find pre-2016 articles saying that if I bother to look.

          Politicians are always more popular when they’re not being politicians. George W Bush is a lot more popular now than in 2007, but his popularity would drop like a rock if he ever ran for President again (assuming he was even allowed to)

          • EchoChaos says:

            Sure, but “anyone who runs for President will have to deal with lower approval ratings” is a very different statement than “The conservative media spent decades painting Hillary as Lady MacBeth;”

            If we had been so successful, no way that 2/3 of Americans approved of her as Sec State.

            Her baseline “hated Hillary” was 1/3 of Americans, almost certainly all hardcore Republicans. That’s not even slightly a big deal in a general.

          • Loriot says:

            The right did spend decades demonizing Hillary and she did get more popular when she wasn’t actively running for office. I still don’t understand why you think those statements are mutually contradictory.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Loriot

            They are not contradictory, but the idea that right-leaning media painting her as Lady MacBeth over a few decades is what torpedoed her campaign doesn’t withstand scrutiny.

            If right-leaning media had that kind of influence over the electorate, she could never have gotten to 66%, which was clearly a ceiling she had the potential to reach because she actually reached it.

            She lost because she was a bad campaigner who ran a bad campaign.

          • Loriot says:

            You could be the second coming of Jesus and you still wouldn’t get 66% of the vote in a presidential election.

            Approval ratings of non-politicians are near meaningless for how they would do once they actually start campaigning and people put on their partisanship hats.

        • Spookykou says:

          We actually poll the approval rating of secretary of state? I’ve never heard of a cabinet members approval rating before this. Googling secretary of state approval rating all the top results are just about Hillary’s high approval rating as secretary of state. I just tried to Google Pompeo’s approval rating and I got a bunch of articles that at a glance don’t actually mention an approval rating. What source would you recommend for looking at the approval ratings of Trumps cabinet?

          • cassander says:

            it’s not so secretaries of state that get polled, it’s hillary clinton personally.

    • Eric Rall says:

      I think Clinton’s biggest handicap was that many marginal voters viewed her as corrupt or criminal, not that they felt she was too far left. As far as I know, there’s very little daylight between Clinton’s policy proposals and the ones Obama was elected and re-elected on in 2008 and 2012.

      Sanders, I think, is generally views as far more ideologically extreme than Clinton, but also much more honest. If he were the Democratic nominee, I’d expect him to pick up some people who like Democratic party policies but didn’t like Clinton on character/integrity grounds, while also losing moderate voters who are turned away by his overtly socialist platform.

      Elitism I think did play a role in 2016: Clinton came off as an out-of-touch elitist to many, and she was definitely aligned with the Democratic Party establishment, while Trump ran as a rude and crude populist and an enemy of both parties’ respective establishments. But Sanders is also a party outsider running a populist campaign, so I think in that respect he’d fare better than Clinton.

      • Grantford says:

        Yeah, I think that these points, related to what broblawsky mentions above, account for much more of swing voters’ choices than any perceptions that Clinton was unusually far-left. Anyone who voted for Trump over Clinton solely because they thought that Clinton was too far to the left is probably someone who was never going to vote for a Democratic presidential nominee anyway.

      • albatross11 says:

        That’s my impression, too. I think in some complicated way, a lot of the smarminess of Bill’s sex scandals somehow stuck more to Hillary than to Bill–probably because Bill is extremely charismatic and Hillary is not. But also, Hillary tried to push through a major healthcare reform, and I think failed to impress both Democrats and Republicans with her flawed leadership.

        And I think one of the biggest drivers of Clinton’s loss is that she’s just not very charismatic. It doesn’t exactly make sense that we hire someone for a super-important job by running a year-long reality show and popularity contest, but that’s kinda what we do, and while Hillary might have done a lot better than Trump at *being* president, she was much less talented at *becoming* president.

        • gbdub says:

          As for Bill’s scandals sticking to Hillary, yeah he’s charismatic, but most importantly, he never ran for office again while Hillary has been climbing the political ladder since then. And there was never really any reckoning, from Hillary or the DNC, for Bill’s scandals. And they haven’t done anything to distance themselves from Bill himself, while playing off the name recognition. So Hillary is the obvious place for the ick to stick.

        • baconbits9 says:

          The sex scandal stink stuck to Hillary because she stuck with him after a very public and messy sex scandal and ASAP she was turning up the heat on her political career. This makes it very believable that their marriage was one of convenience in a lot of ways which acts to excuse some of his behavior (the consensual accusations at least).

    • Plumber says:

      @AlexOfUrals,
      Clinton in 2016 was perceived as more culturally left-liberal-progressive and especially feminist, Sanders as more of an old Trotskyist, so old Left (Saturday Night Live recently had a little fun with this with Larry David as Sanders asking “You know who’s great at washing his hands?”), so more “woke” vs. more anti-capitalist.

      Ross Douthat of The New York Times wrote: “…This is why, despite technically preferring a moderate like Biden or Amy Klobuchar, I keep coming back to the conservative’s case for Bernie — which rests on the perhaps-wrong but still attractive supposition that he’s the liberal most likely to spend all his time trying to tax the rich and leave cultural conservatives alone

    • lvlln says:

      It’s a strong impression of mine that many of those who voted for Trump did so just because Clinton was very left and they wanted to screw with her and the Democratic elites she represented. And it seems that Bernie Sanders represents the same things and is at least as left as she was. Therefore he’s a bad choice from the “we must get Trump out of the office” perspective, regardless of his other merits. How wrong am I with this?

      As an informal observer without any hard data to back this up, I think you are quite wrong. I think the part that makes you quite wrong is your apparent model of Trump voters modeling Clinton in 2016 as “very left” and Sanders in 2020 as “at least as left as Clinton.” I don’t think a one-dimensional left-right model which places Sanders to the left of Clinton to the left of Trump is the one that the bulk of Trump voters were following.

      Rather, I think there’s a second axis that has to do with some level of “belonging to the establishment” or whatever, and I think Clinton was far higher on that scale than Trump in the minds of many Trump voters, which was a large part of what motivated them to vote for Trump. And I think, in the minds of these Trump voters, Sanders is far closer to Trump on this scale than he is to Clinton. As such, from a “we must get Trump out of the office” perspective, it’s possible that Sanders is good due to his closeness to Trump in this scale, or it’s possible that Sanders is bad due to his being further left in the left-right axis than Clinton was. Can’t really say which one wins out.

      Again, these are my thoughts based on just observing Trump supporters, Sanders supporters, Clinton supporters, Sanders detractors, and their campaigns over the past ~5 years and not based on empirical evidence and as such you shouldn’t take them too seriously.

      • JayT says:

        I agree with this, and I would add that one thing that really bolstered Trump’s candidacy is that he was significantly to the left of Clinton on matters of foreign trade, which is why a non-negligible number of Sanders supporters went for Trump.

      • AlexOfUrals says:

        I see, that makes sense. Without good knowledge of American elites, I was using “adored by liberal media” as a proxy for “eliteness”, which is of course not a very precise measure.

        • gbdub says:

          Clinton was “elite” / “establishment”, but she definitely wasn’t “farther left” – your error was conflating “elite” with “very left”. Clinton is a moderate, neoliberal, product of DNC machine politics. Certainly, to the extent that people hate DNC machine politics, and inside the Beltway elites in general, they would hate Hillary.

          Sanders is a cranky old actual-revolutionary-Socialist who college kids like for the same reasons that college kids have been attracted to socialist politics for the better part of a century (when Bernie himself was picking it up). Definitely much farther left on the usual political scale.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        Yes I think it is actually likely that Bernie will pick a number of the voters who went for Trump for populist reasons. It’s probable pretty stupid to vote for President for this reason, but nobody ever said the voters were smart. Both Trump and Sanders appeal to folks who want to screw the establishment.

        Of course Sanders will lose the moderate Dem voter that do vote on policy and are worried about his extreme ideas. I don’t think a Sanders win is less likely than Biden, but not more likely either. I think Trump is pretty much a shoe-in right now. He will only lose if the economy collapses.

  18. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Conan review #17: Beyond the Black River
    This is one of the shorter Conan novellas, being serialized over two issues of Weird Tales, May & June 1935. It didn’t make the cover: apparently no one submitted Margaret Brundage bait that time.

    This story is basically an anti-Western, set in the uncivilized wilderness west of Aquilonia. “The Black Stranger” shares that setting.
    Yes, the adjective Black is something of a cliche in this series. If you ever have the opportunity to write a Conan story, having him and a woman menaced by the demon Th*** in the ruins of X*** in a yarn titled Beyond the People of the Queen of the Black Colossal Circle River Coast Pool of the Black Strange One would be a correct way to pastiche the original style.

    Anyway, the theme of Westerns is said to be civilization’s need for gunslingers, but gunslinging makes you uncivilized, a liminal figure with no place in the society that’s inexorably replacing the uncivilized life ways of the natives. Here, SPOILERS, civilization doesn’t win, and guns don’t exist.
    We have a viewpoint character other than Conan, a settler named Balthus, though unlike some stories with such protagonists, Conan is introduced quickly, before we even get Balthus’ name, not Chapter 2 or 3. His function is to show how tough a civilized man can be, being a frontier peasant.
    Peasants are absurdly under-represented in this series. I don’t remember how many times Howard himself did it – and I’ll charitably say “not many” since I can’t count them, unlike girlfriends who disappear without explanation or embarrassingly racist use of black people – but Conan defeating his opponents because the narrator says they’re “city-bred” became quite the cliche. One would think there’s been an Industrial Revolution, if 85-90% of warriors are not farmers.
    Conan is employed as a frontier scout by the King of Aquilonia (who he mentions strangling in his throne room, in the stories where he’s the usurping king), clad in buckskin boots, mail torso armor and a horned helmet. Howard cleverly establishes the socioeconomics of his Western/medieval mashup:

    This colonization business is mad, anyway. There’s plenty of good land east of the Bossonian marches. If the Aquilonians would cut up some of the big estates of their barons, and plant wheat where now only deer are hunted, they wouldn’t have to cross the border…

    … some day a man will rise and unite thirty or forty clans, just as was done among the Cimmerians, when the Gundermen tried to push the border northward, years ago. They tried to colonize the southern marches of Cimmeria: destroyed a few small clans, built a fort-town, Venarium — you’ve heard the tale.”

    Balthus experiences a frission of fear and admiration when Conan gives his name and admits being a 15-year-old slayer at Venarium. We’re told that Balthus knows his name but not how long he’s been living in civilization.
    Finding a merchant’s corpse, Conan exposits that this is the fifth Aquilonian killed by “a forest devil” rather than a Pict. The Picts have a wizard named Zogar Sag who’s been summoning such, wanting revenge ever since the indignity of being thrown in a prison (he escaped). Specifically, the thing that killed the merchant has three-toed footprints transition between reptile and bird.
    “It’s a swamp demon — they’re thick as bats in the swamps beyond Black River.”
    This is an interesting statement, because Conan usually dwells in a “low fantasy” setting: non-human beings he encounters are unique or, if a race, confined to island ruins (cf. the nudist NBA players in “The Pool of the Black One” and “Shadows in the Moonlight”). Here we’re told that in much of the Pictish Wilderness, a species of monster is common as bats.
    As could be expected in a pseudo-Western, Conan also calls Aquilonians “white men”, causing the narrator to say:

    The Picts were a white race, though swarthy, but the border men never spoke of them as such.

    Did Howard just say that race is socially constructed despite objective biological facts? That’s an interestingly sophisticated statement.

    Chapter 1 ends with a swamp demon, which “gave off a glimmer of weird light, like a faint blue flame. Indeed, the eery fire was the only tangible thing about it”, tricking them by screaming like a woman. It decapitates the merchant, conveying to the reader that it’s something summoned by Zogar Sag, who’s collecting heads for an altar.
    Because this is one of the most interesting Conan stories thematically but not (IMO) technically or structurally as an adventure story (such as you might mine for RPG inspiration), I’m going to summarize the overall plot and theme before distracting from such with a chapter-by-chapter summary. Conan, Balthus, and some fellow settlers are ordered to do armed recon against Zogar Sag. After being driven off by his summons and human followers, Conan and Balthus are on the run in Chapter 5, where we get the big revelation about the wizard’s magic:

    “He can’t command all the animals. Only such as remember Jhebbal Sag.”
    “Jhebbal Sag?” Balthus repeated the ancient name hesitantly. He had never heard it spoken more than three or four times in his whole life.
    “Once all living things worshipped him. That was long ago, when beasts and men spoke one language. Men have forgotten him; even the beasts forget. Only a few remember. The men who remember Jhebbal Sag and the beasts who remember are brothers and speak the same tongue.”

    This is folk tale stuff. All over the real world, we find stories where animals speak human language. The way Howard weaves that into this “Western without guns” without the disparate elements cracking is genius. Jhebbal Sag also has a special sign:

    “I saw it carved in the rock of a cave no human had visited for a million years,” muttered Conan, “in the uninhabited mountains beyond the Sea of Vilayet, half a world away from this spot. Later I saw a black witch-finder of Kush scratch it in the sand of a nameless river. He told me part of its meaning — it’s sacred to Jhebbal Sag and the creatures which worship him. Watch!”

    By the end of this story, this knowledge will save Conan’s life against Zogar Sag. But his victories are only personal. A huge coalition of Picts succeed in driving the settlers from Beyond the Black River back to the east bank of Thunder River. Conan splits off from his co-protagonist to go east with a warning. Balthus and a big dog named Slasher heroically sacrifice themselves saving many settlers. Later, a messenger catches up with Conan in a tavern east of Thunder River with the news.

    “The heads of ten Picts shall pay for his, and seven heads for the dog, who was a better warrior than many a man.”

    “Barbarism is the natural state of mankind,” the borderer said, still staring somberly at the Cimmerian. “Civilization is unnatural. It is a whim of circumstance. And barbarism must always ultimately triumph.”

    That’s why I call it an anti-Western. A Western would tell us that civilization always ultimately triumphs.
    (I’ll make a follow-up post completing the summary.) Your thoughts?

    • broblawsky says:

      Are the Picts in this story supposed to be similar to those in the Kull and Bran Mak Morn stories?

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Yes. Based on the sinking of Atlantis circa 9550 BC, Howard crafted an epic of geological time for the Picts, from contemporaries of Kull and the barbaric Atlanteans >1000 years before the civilization they went on to develop sank to Roman-era Scotland, surviving two geological changes (the sinking of Atlantis and the flooding of the Mediterranean basin some time between Conan’s death and the 1st Dynasty of Egypt).

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      In Chapter 2, the scene moves to the log fort Tuscelan, which guards the western edge of Aquilonia at the titular Black River. Between here and Thunder River to the east, the king’s subjects make up a people group called Bossonians, who seem to be yeoman archers. Soldiery on the Aquilonian frontier seems to be paid work just like the US Army in Westerns: a mix of archers and pikemen, neither mercenaries nor feudal cavalry like we’re used to from other Conan stories. Valannus the governor exposits to Conan that he has perhaps 750 soldiers to hold the west marches, who “do not believe in ghosts or devils” yet are weakened by fear of the unknown.
      (There’s that “low magic setting” I was talking about: wizards may be known, but not the undead, devils, or any other non-human group. Like in Gothic fiction, they’re supposed to be an unknown quantity whenever the protagonist sees them.)
      He gives Conan a suicide mission to kill Zogar Sag, for which Conan has authority over as many men as he chooses. He chooses a special forces team of Balthus and ten more. They stealthily row one large canoe. Conan disappears into the woods with nine men while Balthus is left to guard the canoe with one another. Then our viewpoint character is attacked by enemies in the dark.
      He wakes bound upright to a post in an open space. It’s the middle of a Pictish wattle-and-daub village, with men in loincloths and naked women and children. And they’ve made a little pyramid of the skulls of Conan’s men. “he was aware that the number of men clustered about them was out of proportion to the size of the village.” Zogar Sag has the charismatic authority to assemble warriors from many clans. He summons a sabretooth tiger: “No Hyborian hunter had looked upon one of those primordial brutes for centuries.” (the march of civilization drives both natural and supernatural species extinct) He also summons a venomous constrictor with a head the size of a horse’s, “the Ghost Snake.” It’s going to eat Balthus, until Conan reappears (turns out he survived by being one of the few who combines a Fighter’s ability to wear armor with the Move Silently skill) to bloodily distract it with a javelin. He flees with Balthus, throwing an axe to slay a Pict who inadventantly pursues them in the chaos.
      In Chapter 5, Conan and Balthus avoid the paths back to the river, as that’s where swarms of Picts will be looking for them. Hiding, they’re trailed by a leopard, whom Conan dispatches with another throwing axe. Yeah, throwing attacks are OP.
      This is where the exchange about the nature of Zogar’s summoning abilities occurs.
      Another leopard comes out and doesn’t reach their hiding place, instead bowing to the sign of Jhebbal Sag Conan carved with awe and adoration. Conan says they have to warn Valannus that at least fifteen Pictish clans are preparing a united attack, averaging 200 warriors each.
      Random ethnographic detail: the Picts believe in “the Hairy One who lives on the moon — the gorilla-god of Gullah.”
      Balthus is impressed that Conan has

      “seen all the great cities of the Hyborians, the Shemites, the Stygians, and the Hyrkanians. I’ve roamed in the unknown countries south of the black kingdoms of Kush, and east of the Sea of Vilayet. I’ve been a mercenary captain, a corsair, a kozak, a penniless vagabond, a general — hell, I’ve been everything except a king of a civilized country, and I may be that, before I die.”

      They’re attacked when they reach the river, and at this point in his life Conan is tough enough to survive seven enemies if his sidekick kills two. Next chapter, they acquire a canoe by killing its lone rower, an envoy from Zogar. On foot on the east bank near the fort, they meet Slasher the dog. He survived his original owner’s slaying. “The frontier was no less hard for beasts than for men. This dog had almost forgotten the meaning of kindness and friendliness.”
      The trio arrive to find the fort already completely surrounded. Conan decides that what’s left to do is warn the settlers to withdraw to the log walls of the next fort, Velitrium. There’s nineteen miles of farmsteads between where they stand and Velitrium, and the first thing they see on their run is Picts cheering over their killing of a young married couple, to show the reader “what will happen to every man, woman, and child this side of Thunder River if we don’t get them into Velitrium in a hurry.” Conan splits off from Balthus and Slasher so they can warn more people. Balthus and Slasher are able to kill five enemies without Conan, saving the lives of four women and numerous children. But those five Picts have reinforcements.
      Chapter 7 switches to Conan’s POV. Herding settlers, he hears Balthus’ voice cry “Wait for me!” But it’s one of those glowing, shimmering swamp demons. It calls Zogar Sag brother and says Conan is doomed because

      “He had not whispered your name to the black ghosts that haunt the uplands of the Dark Land. But a bat has flown over the Mountains of the Dead and drawn your image in blood on the white tiger’s hide that hangs before the long hut where sleep the Four Brothers of the Night. The great serpents coil about their feet and the stars burn like fireflies in their hair.”

      How poetic. The demon says his brother is son of Jhebbal Sag himself by a woman, while his mother is “a fire-being from a far realm.”

      With incantations and sorcery and his own blood he materialized me in the flesh of his own planet. We are one, tied together by invisible threads. His thoughts are my thoughts; if he is struck, I am bruised.

      You can see where this is going: Conan kills the brother, which leaves Zogar dead too. Without his charismatic leadership, the united force of Picts peters out when otherwise it would have besieged Velitrium successfully, meaning the deaths of the settlers Conan and Balthus successfully herded.
      Story ends with messenger catching up with Conan, reporting the deaths of Zogar, Balthus and Slasher. They agree that civilization has permanently lost the land it had held between the two rivers.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Love this story. It’s definitely top two, up there with People of the Black Circle. Like you said, his victories were only personal. I did not expect Conan to fail at his mission to kill the shaman before the attack. I did not then expect him to fail to warn the fort, or lose the fort, and to only barely get the villagers evacuated to safety. I was very sad about Balthus and the good doggo. This was a rough day of barbarianing.

  19. Paul Brinkley says:

    Small scale CW question:

    There are people on the right who look at incidences such as Joss Whedon on the outs, or J. K. Rowling’s friction with the left, or Nancy Pelosi marginalizing “the squad”, and claim that the left is devouring its own.

    To what extent do people on the left claim the right is devouring its own? There are incidents that look qualified: references to Romney, Jeb, Ryan, and Rubio as RINOs; calling people cuckservatives; etc. Does this look like the same thing to the left? If not, why not?

    • rumham says:

      I think that whether it looks like that or not, it will not be spoken of in that way. It is more politically advantageous to claim that Republicans are always in lockstep due to their ignorance.

    • Tatterdemalion says:

      I think the mirror image criticism is much commoner, and speaking as a left-winger I certainly attach more weight to it: I and most left-wingers think that Republicans are not too willing to criticise their own, they’re too unwilling to do so – any behaviour except the one unforgivable sin of criticising Trump is excused or minimised.

      I think the main left-wing narrative of right-wing intertribal conflict (and, again, I may be conflating my views with the mainstream left view, but I don’t think I am – I think they genuinely do agree) is that the majority of Republicans have fallen into lockstep behind Trump, and that the minority who haven’t – Amash, McCain, Romney, David French, etc – have been cast into the outer darkness, but there aren’t many of them and they don’t count for much in the national political calculus.

      • jermo sapiens says:

        I and most left-wingers think that Republicans are not too willing to criticise their own

        Yes, criticizing the ingroup is not as fun as criticizing the outgroup. Do you think the Democrats are immune to this?

        Also, the examples listed in @Paul Brinkley’s post are cases where LWers were criticized for insufficient leftism. This mirrors the case where McCain and Romney, etc… are criticized for insufficient rightism.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Yes, criticizing the ingroup is not as fun as criticizing the outgroup.

          I disagree. Traitors before enemies.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            Yeah sure. But for members of your ingroup who are not traitors (are traitors even in your ingroup? not when you find out they’re traitors anyways.), people generally give more leeway than for members of the outgroup. That’s almost the definition of ingroup/ougroup.

          • albatross11 says:

            There’s some kind of balance needed here. On one extreme, your movement devolves into an endless series of mutual excommunications and purges; on the other, you have no defense against sociopaths and conmen taking over your movement.

          • Aftagley says:

            Wait, is that an intentional description of the current state of the progressive and conservative communities, or was it just a happy accident?

          • jermo sapiens says:

            Wait, is that an intentional description of the current state of the progressive and conservative communities, or was it just a happy accident?

            lol

    • Plumber says:

      @Paul Brinkley;
      There were some reports of “white nationalists” heckling Donald Trump Jr. in a “sow the wind, reap the whirlwind” context a few months ago, and stuff about Boehner and Ryan being forced out, and a lot on the “Freedom Caucus” and/or Cruz annoying other Republicans, from the ’50’s and 60’s there was stuff about Buckley, Rand, and the Birchers getting into scraps with each other, and from the ’40’s there was Dewey vs. Taft

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        Yeah, I’m aware of incidents like this. My question is less about how much of this infighting happens, and more about how the other side perceives it.

        I do recall one of my friends on the left feeling sorry for Boehner, for instance, when the Trump administration effectively barred him (a Catholic) from meeting the Pope when the Pope visited Washington. Otherwise, she was quick to point out every wrong thing he did as Speaker.

        You’re what I’d call a fellow on the left. What narrative did you have for the incidents you named? Particularly the newer ones, unless they play off the stuff from the 40s.

        • Plumber says:

          @Paul Brinkley,
          Mostly “Wow, they changed fast”, “I guess circular firing squads happen on the Right as well”, and “I kinda feel sorry for him”.

          That’s about it.

          Except for peaking at The National Review from time to time, now that it’s harder (and more expensive) for me to read The Wall Street Journal I just don’t read much Right-aligned stuff (it used to be that more “mainstream” stuff like Time Magazine seemed center-right to me, but now they seem center-left), and I’ve also dropped reading most further Left stuff (The Nation, etc.) as well, so I probably miss a lot.

    • CaptainCrutch says:

      My feeling is that “the right” is not promising to play nice, so it doesn’t come as surprise when being the wrong kind of person is punished. Once in a while anti-gay preacher will out themselves as gay or something to this effect, but they have chosen to side with someone overtly hostile to what they are. But I spotted a few articles like “Trad women discover trad men treat them terribly” that have the same spirit.

      Overall, the right wear whatever bigotry they have on their sleeve so it isn’t usually worth pointing out that someone is joining the side bigoted against them. When the left promises inclusivity but will still turn on you if you don’t fit in their dogma and that’s something worth mentioning.

    • yodelyak says:

      I think the book “The Tribes on the Hill” does a great job at describing a model that nicely explains what’s going on underneath the surface that drives why the left’s internal fights often have a different flavor than the right’s internal fights. At a superficial level, the left has a loose coalition that occasionally engages in celebrity-led, purity-driven-witch-burning, while the right has rank-and-file that are in almost perfect lockstep, but whose major players seem to be forever trading attacks on each other, and attempting to poach each others’ loyalists, but rarely if ever bother to go for a kill and force another out altogether.

      The Tribes on the Hill names three kinds of politicians: warlords, shamans, and godfathers. Warlords have turf and value loyalty, and their position on any issue is the position calculated to allow them to expand their turf and reward their loyalists, and turf is measured mostly in dollars appropriated and numbers of paid staff who will write memos helping steer appropriated dollars. The prototype here is the ideologically, uh, flexible Congressman whose friends know his only true motive is using his subcommittees to give nice jobs (both in Congress and in newly created perches in the larger bureaucracy) or direct legislative gifts to loyal supporters, and who mainly achieves this by becoming totally knowledgeable about one or two issues or constituencies (e.g. the parts of an important helicopter, or the right rolodex of behind-the-scenes funders of AIPAC, the right appointments to guarantee disability to any ex-military in his district who applies for it, or etc.) and trading cooperation on that issue for power to reward his loyalists. The “shaman” is a political entity built on principles, and so the shaman is perennially striving to have a crafted, principled position, on the issue du jour, and that way grow and maintain their reputation as a moral leader. (A shaman may have deep principles and tight commitment to moral/ethical behavior, or just a better ability to feign it.) Every time there’s a new issue, the shaman is often the first out with a press release, because the one thing a shaman is committed to is preserving their relative status as leading on said principle/moral/ethic. Finally ‘godfathers’ are mostly former warlords who’ve lost interest in rewarding loyalists/expanding their turf–and who can now be trusted to mentor newcomers, and to broker deals/reconciliations for others. Shamans who suffer embarrassment but hold onto their office anyway may find they can branch out as godfathers also. Senator Byrd, in the back couple decades of his career, was pretty much pure godfather.

      When warlords coordinate, if the public could hear their thinking (which is ideologically empty and just about turf-building and rewarding loyalists) the public would find it stinks for lack of noble sentiment. So warlord discussions are generally kept behind closed doors, or better, limited to the kind of coordination that emerges organically from self-interested behavior in an iterated game. When shamans coordinate, it involves lots of meetings working toward a consensus everyone can accept as a ‘correct’ position, and lots of standing before the public and taking turns confirming that all agree that all are ‘correct’.
      Warlords are opportunists, and when two near-equals fight over something–some plum that can only go to the loyalists of the victor–both know it’s nothing personal, and once it’s over, grudges are generally loosely held because deep-seated grudges are bad for business. A lasting grudge between warlords is also something that might prompt the involvement of a godfather or two, because again, grudges are bad for business. Most warlords are ‘petty’ chiefs, who are not strong enough to even maintain a united defense if directly attacked by a much more powerful warlord, so they mostly just hew perfectly to the party line whenever they’re under the spotlight, and then behind closed doors work for their own ends.

      When two shamans directly conflict, it’s usually because one or both of them appears ‘outside the pale’ for the other. It’s a situation where an apology or clarification either works, or it doesn’t. There’s no room for extracting or trading concessions, because shaman aren’t in the business of turf-expansion or loyalist-rewarding anyway. This is what happened to Al Franken. Some other shamans (Gilibrand comes to mind) demanded an apology for ‘outside-the-pale’ conduct of Franken’s, found the apology insufficient, and then just stayed on a drumbeat for his ouster. Franken had played a pretty nearly pure shaman strategy, where he was viewed as ‘correct’ on issues, not as ‘strong enough to not be worth messing with’–so he potentially had very little ability to punish Gilibrand, and she likely did not spend much time wondering if Franken loyalists might undermine her in the future, if she undermined him. If the same controversy had embroiled a warlord, the warlord’s putative allies would have potentially tried using the controversy to poach loyalists or turf, but what would be the point of forcing a weakened opponent off the stage, particularly if that embitters their supporters into vindictive behavior later? (And maybe the steady mutterings of some Franken loyalists were part of why Gilibrand couldn’t get traction as a national candidate.) The result is that rival warlords are always in a state of low-grade but low-stakes conflict, with minor wins and minor losses the route by which some achieve major power. Meanwhile shamans are getting along famously with everyone until, suddenly, one gets eaten by the others.

      Add to this the old saw that “Democrats fall in love, Republicans fall in line” and you get a recipe for Democrats as a group have more members who rely on shamanistic appeal and shamanistic coordination, while Republicans have more members who rely much more on warlord self-interest and iterated games. The result is, while there are exceptions, a pattern where the Dems act nice but sometimes eat their own, and the Rs act bristly but mostly fight small fights behind the scenes.

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        Wow. I wasn’t sure this would address my question until the end. Very interesting model; thanks for summarizing it.

      • Randy M says:

        Interesting. Any thoughts on whether to repec an enviro shaman into a pub-health shaman to get better dpe in the new corona meta?

    • Clutzy says:

      I think you should just google “Steve Sailer Coalition of the Fringes” to get as best an explanation for this as I can muster. I don’t even know if its true, or if the phenomena you describe is true, but if it is, that is probably why.

    • JayT says:

      I think, traditionally, a lot of this behavior can be explained by the whole near group/far group dynamic. The Democrats have a much more cohesive set of beliefs among the people that actually win elections, and so small differences like “Medicare + private insurance” versus “single payer” becomes a huge dividing point, even though both plans are trying to reach the same goal, healthcare for everyone.

      On the Republican side, you have a lot of coalitions built around single issues like abortion, guns, or free trade. If you look at someone that is passionate about guns, they probably don’t have particularly strong views on abortion beyond “anti-abortion people vote the same way as me”. So as long as that other group doesn’t start going against your group or losing you elections, you don’t really care what they do, and you’ll be happy to toss a few platitudes towards their issue.

      All that said, I think that we are seeing an unraveling of that because the free trade and deficit hawk Republicans are definitely being stomped on, and those people are starting to speak out.

    • Aftagley says:

      The public perception of the right, at least among the lefty circles I run in, is that starting in the late 90s, solidifying during the Obama years and culminating in 2016, the moderates in the party were eaten alive by the extremists. I don’t think this is a particularly controversial position.

      Limbaugh, Coulter and their ilk made making any kind of compromise a personal example of weakness and the right turned into this culture where unless they had seniority and name recognition within their party, the only thing most elected officials feared was a primary attack from the right. This was always done under the umbrella that a certain politician was a RINO, or was insufficiently devoted to the most extreme position possible.

      The reason you don’t hear the left claim that the right is still devouring it’s own… is that it’s already happened? What moderate republican is still out there? Romney?

      Trump’s largest strength, imo, is that he short circuited this line of criticism by shifting the narrative away from their extremism in defense of conservatism towards their extremism in defense of, well, Trump. That being said, you now see people on the right devouring other people on the right for not supporting Trump enough.

      • jermo sapiens says:

        The public perception of the right, at least among the lefty circles I run in, is that starting in the late 90s, solidifying during the Obama years and culminating in 2016, the moderates in the party were eaten alive by the extremists. I don’t think this is a particularly controversial position.

        Compare the positions held by both parties during the 90s and today. Do you think the Republicans shifted right? If so, on what issue? Trans rights? Gay Rights? Illegal immigration?

        Do you think the Democrats stayed where they were? If so, on what issue? Trans rights did not exist as an issue in the 90s, everybody was firmly against gay marriage, and Democrats were against illegal immigration.

        The left won so many cultural battles and they’re moving on to the next cultural battle, moving ever lefter. And as they sit on the train moving leftward they see the Republican position, moving left at a slower pace and based on the increasing distance between them and the Republicans, they accuse the Republicans of moving right.

        • Aftagley says:

          I’m going to do a deep dive on your answer and promise you a more comprehensive and specific reply, but while I do so, I’d like to point out that your kind of dodging the question.

          The initial point was: Do people on the left claim the right is devouring its own?

          To which a summary of my response is: Yes

          With specific respect to this question, doesn’t really matter if, in broad strokes, the parties are moving in any particular direction (I don’t agree they are, at least to the extent you seem to, but will get to that later). If people on one extreme of the party are eating the moderates alive, it doesn’t matter the historical extremity of their various positions.

        • Nick says:

          The Republican platform hasn’t shifted much, but there has been a Big Sort. There’s not much left of the progressive wing of the Republican Party or the conservative wing of the Democratic party. Pro-choice Republicans and pro-life Democrats for instance used to be more common. I’m pretty sure the same story has played out at the level of representatives/politicians, though I can’t find data to prove it.

          There was also the Tea Party, which very much was “moderates/RINOs being primaried by more ideological conservatives,” it was the entire point.

          This does not affect your point that Democrats have become more socially liberal, which I think is true.

        • jermo sapiens says:

          If people on one extreme of the party are eating the moderates alive, it doesn’t matter the historical extremity of their various positions.

          I guess I’m thinking that this question can be determined empirically based on the positions the parties are taking. If a leftwing party is moving left, it suggests that the leftward extreme of that party is in control. If a rightwing party is moving left, it suggests the moderates of that party are in control.

      • zzzzort says:

        Definitely agree this is the perception from the left. The tea party primaries were probably the purest expression (Christine O’Donnell, Sharron Angle, David Brat etc.). The impression is that the Rs will punish people that go against the base, even if they’re popular with the median voter, while the Ds will punish people who scare the median voter even if they excite the base.

      • Clutzy says:

        @aftagley

        Limbaugh, Coulter and their ilk made making any kind of compromise a personal example of weakness and the right turned into this culture where unless they had seniority and name recognition within their party, the only thing most elected officials feared was a primary attack from the right. This was always done under the umbrella that a certain politician was a RINO, or was insufficiently devoted to the most extreme position possible.

        This only worked as an attack strategy because the base felt like every “compromise” they were just getting hosed on. Think of the famous Democratic lines “even Reagan raised taxes” and “Reagan amnestied workers”. Well yes, and the base learned from that that you should never do those things without creating institutional shifts that mean you don’t have to do them again. Raising taxes without eliminating a program (or adjusting a formula that slows its growth permanently) is now correctly identified as not “bipartisan” it is merely losing. Giving an immigration amnesty without something that permanently reduces the influx of illegal immigrants is just a magnet for more illegal immigration.

    • Leafhopper says:

      I think I remember the left gloating a little bit when David Brat primaried Eric Cantor way back in the day, and related claims that John Boehner couldn’t control the Tea Party representatives, but I haven’t seen much of that sort of thing recently.

      You could say that (sporadic) left-wing support for right-wingers who prominently oppose Trump is kind of like this, but I think the narrative here is “look at these brave moderates standing up to Trump, who is dangerous because he is strong“; on the other hand, when right-wingers talk about the left devouring its own, I get the sense they’re trying to convince themselves that the left is weak.

  20. proyas says:

    What the heck kind of pants are these? They stop at the calves and lace up.

    https://imgur.com/a/BqPCF89

    • Lambert says:

      You never needed to change trousers without removing your boots?

      Some modern waterproof overtrousers zip right the way up to the knee.

    • Eric Rall says:

      Looks like knee breeches to me. They were pretty standard in Europe and the American colonies in the 18th century, and went out of fashion in favor of full-length trousers in the early 19th, although they lingered on as ultra-formal “court dress” in the UK well into the 20th century.

      These days, they’re mainly seen on historical re-enactors.

      • Buttle says:

        Still available as “breeks”, worn for shooting in the UK. Not too long so you can show off your tartan socks. I hear the woolly ones are quite practical for cool weather bicycling.

        These look to be made of cotton, my best guess (not to be relied upon) is that they may have been worn for fencing.

  21. JohnBuridan says:

    [Unsolved Mystery: missing art]

    8 years ago there was a youtube channel called Magisch meisje Orkest which had many classical symphonies paired with very enjoyable anime art. YouTube took it down and I have had no success finding the original uploader. There is a current youtuber by the same name who hunted for some of the old videos and started to salvage the trove, but his project has stalled.

    I am thinking of offering a bounty for anyone who turns up the artwork which accompanied the videos. The artwork, I believe, was original and so there is no ethical issue in finding the lost art which accompanied the videos. See his channel for examples of what he salvaged.

    Any suggestions on how to find what is lost?

    • Aapje says:

      Magisch meisje Orkest is Dutch for magical girl orchestra. I searched for Dutch references to ‘Magisch meisje Orkest,’ but couldn’t find anything.

      I did find a Dutch anime blog where a ‘Silerna’ once wrote about a rather old anime TV show about an aspiring orchestra conductor. She appears to have been interested in anime for a long time. So you might want to contact her, to see if she knows Magisch meisje Orkest or can reach out in the Dutch anime community.

      You can find her email, facebook, twitter, etc links here. She speaks English.

    • VoiceOfTheVoid says:

      Have you tried archive.org?

  22. Skeptic says:

    Prediction, 90% confidence:

    1) Black women deliver the nomination to Biden but he will not receive a vast majority of delegates.

    2) Biden inappropriately touching and … sniffing..women is irrelevant. Biden inappropriately molesting minor children on camera will also be excused by every liberal commentator from NYTimes to Vox

    3) Video of Biden sniffing and molesting minors doesn’t impact Democrats’ votes

    • GearRatio says:

      Is this a thing where he’s actually doing something wrong, or is it like a rorschact thing where I just don’t like him so I think he is, ala car top dog carriers?

      • Milo Minderbinder says:

        There’s tons of videos out there over the decades of him touching/sniffing people. The man has a lack of respect for personal space that is super not okay these days. I don’t get the impression that he’s molest-y, merely that he arrogantly assumes everyone wants some personal time with Biden.

      • chrisminor0008 says:

        I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt that he’s just a person from a different time and being so personable and physical worked so well for him that it’s just automatic for him now. But then I noticed he doesn’t do it to men and boys. And now it’s a little offputting.

    • Milo Minderbinder says:

      For points 2/3, his weird pedo touching/sniffing still isn’t as bad as Trump’s, uh, raping. And there’s the rub. God damn the DNC and God damn the Republican electorate and God damn America for making me choose between two creepy senile old fucks who to grant power like unto the Brahmastra.

      • EchoChaos says:

        For points 2/3, his weird pedo touching/sniffing still isn’t as bad as Trump’s, uh, raping.

        Trump has never been credibly accused of rape, and stating that he has is absurd.

        He has been somewhat credibly accused of adultery.

        Neither of these are on camera for the public to see.

        • NostalgiaForInfinity says:

          Trump has been accused of sexual assault or rape by his first wife and over a dozen other women, several two* of whom did so before 2016 (when someone might try to argue that the accusations were politically motivated).

          It is a matter of public knowledge that he started a relationship with his second wife during his marriage to his first – among many other claims of adultery.

          Someone might argue that all of the sexual assault claims are bunk but it doesn’t seem absurd to take some of them seriously.
          Claiming he hasn’t committed adultery just seems ridiculous. The Access Hollywood tape was recorded while he was married to his current wife.

          *Mistake in my original comment.

          • EchoChaos says:

            Trump has been accused of sexual assault or rape by his first wife

            During a contentious divorce. She stated afterwards that it was not true and endorsed him for President.

            and over a dozen other women, several of whom did so before 2016 (when someone might try to argue that the accusations were politically motivated).

            Only one other did before 2016 per Wikipedia. If you have another source it would be one I haven’t seen before. Jill Harth’s allegation is not rape, but sexual harassment and was settled.

            It is a matter of public knowledge that he started a relationship with his second wife during his marriage to his first – among many other claims of adultery.

            I had forgotten about that one. Yes, I meant adultery with his current wife.

          • NostalgiaForInfinity says:

            You’re right that it was only two, I misinterpreted the wikipedia article. My bad. I’ve edited my comment.

            I think we’re just going to disagree on how credibly to take Ivana Trump’s accusation.

            I had separately edited it to add the Access Hollywood comment, which was while you were responding.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @NostalgiaForInfinity

            You’re right that it was only two, I misinterpreted the wikipedia article. My bad. I’ve edited my comment.

            Your comment is still inaccurate. The second accusation was neither rape nor sexual assault. It was sexual harassment.

            I think we’re just going to disagree on how credibly to take Ivana Trump’s accusation.

            My general rule is that anything said during a divorce hearing is the worst possible take on a complex situation, and I find Ivana’s post-divorce rapprochement with Trump and endorsement of him sufficient to make me believe her later statements are more accurate.

            But if you consider it credible I can’t disagree too strongly with that.

            Claiming he hasn’t committed adultery just seems ridiculous. The Access Hollywood tape was recorded while he was married to his current wife.

            And according to the Access Hollywood tape his attempt failed. I am not disagreeing that Trump is not a terribly moral man, by the way.

            I agreed that he has committed adultery in the past, and that the evidence he committed adultery while married to Melania is somewhat credible.

          • baconbits9 says:

            I think we’re just going to disagree on how credibly to take Ivana Trump’s accusation.

            I cannot understand this position. Ivana has made two claims (if this thread is accurate), first that she accused him of some kind of sexual assault and recanted that accusation. To choose to believe one of those specifically over the other without compelling evidence is clear cherry picking.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @baconbits9

            I stated my reasons to believe the second more.

            The reasons are that the first statement was made during divorce proceedings, which is a time when people exaggerate, sometimes substantially, the things that the other person has done to them.

            The other reason is that she has remained relatively cordial towards Trump since their divorce and endorsed him for President.

            Certainly my partisan goggles may be blinding me, but taking things said in divorce court with a substantial grain of salt is something that seems reasonable to me.

          • baconbits9 says:

            @ EchoChaos:

            That reply was to Nostalgia. Generally it would apply to you as well but you did give some reasons which make it much more understandable. Personally I try to remind myself that I am perpetually without knowledge of these things, and that I really just don’t know.

          • NostalgiaForInfinity says:

            @baconbits9

            There are reasons to retract allegations that are well-founded.

            There are (roughly) two possibilities: she entirely made up an accusation of rape or exaggerated an incident that was in a grey area during a heated divorce process. She recanted this for some reason later (e.g. it was no longer to her advantage to make such a serious allegation of wrongdoing).

            Or she made a genuine claim that she was pressured into recanting for money and/or the threat of Trump and his legal team making her life extremely difficult.

            I think the latter is plausible, I don’t necessarily think it’s true. Nobody here actually knows and I have no additional evidence. The original claim I responded to (made by EchoChaos) was that were no credible rape accusations. I disagree that Ivana Trump’s accusation isn’t credible because I think the second possibility is plausible. I’m not choosing to believe her first claim over her retraction.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I think if her recantation were under duress she would not be currently cordial with Trump. She would not have endorsed his presidency. This doesn’t mean she needs to denounce him, but she could have simply declined to comment.

          • baconbits9 says:

            I think the latter is plausible, I don’t necessarily think it’s true. Nobody here actually knows and I have no additional evidence. The original claim I responded to (made by EchoChaos) was that were no credible rape accusations. I disagree that Ivana Trump’s accusation isn’t credible because I think the second possibility is plausible. I’m not choosing to believe her first claim over her retraction.

            A rape claim with a retraction is not a credible accusation, even if it is possible that the claim was true. The boy who cries wolf 9 times isn’t credible his 10th time, even though there could be a wolf this time.

        • Plumber says:

          For what little it’s worth I’ve never heard of Trump raping anyone ever, the majority of my news sources I’d call “legacy mainstream” which I’d now describe as “center-left” (a few of them used to be “center-right”, but sometime in the ’90’s or 21st century they all switched).

          I have heard that there’s some accusations of Bill Clinton, but I don’t know the details.

          • EchoChaos says:

            I have heard that there’s some accusations of Bill Clinton, but I don’t know the details.

            The actual rape accusations against Bill Clinton (as opposed to sexually taking advantage of consenting young women around him), are similarly low credibility.

            Clinton and Trump are a good comparison because they’re both basically the same. Horndogs in positions of power who have lots of young women around them who consent pretty eagerly so they sometimes go too far without checking all the boxes of consent ahead of time.

            But with both of them I find actual rape pretty implausible for exactly that reason. Why fight for milk when so many cows are giving it for free?

            Both appear to have tamed down substantially from their wilder youth late in life, although people aren’t focusing on Clinton nearly so much anymore.

          • Plumber says:

            @EchoChaos,
            Thanks.

            I’m going to go with “Would be in jail if it was true” for both Bill and Don.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        Just as a matter of thing with evidence, Trump has said he liked hanging around the Miss Teen USA dressing rooms.
        https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/donald-trump-former-miss-arizona-tasha-dixon-naked-undressed-backstage-howard-stern-a7357866.html

        • EchoChaos says:

          Sure, that’s not “raping”. I don’t think Biden is a pedo and I don’t think Trump is a rapist.

          Calling either of them those things diminishes the terms badly.

      • Purplehermann says:

        Milo could you refrain from equating recanted accusations to video evidence?

    • Plumber says:

      @Skeptic says:

      “1) Black women deliver the nomination to Biden but he will not receive a vast majority of delegates”

      You mean it will still be close, like Clinton vs. Sanders in 2016?

      That does seem likely.

      “2) Biden inappropriately touching and … sniffing..women is irrelevant”

      The reports were kinda cringe inducing, at least they weren’t of the pinching that used to be common.

      “Biden inappropriately molesting minor children on camera will also be excused by every liberal commentator from NYTimes to Vox

      3) Video of Biden sniffing and molesting minors doesn’t impact Democrats’ votes”

      Say what now?

      Children?

      Call me skeptical @Skeptic, but after months of “He has a racist history, why aren’t you peons supporting Warren instead?” essays in The New York Times/Washington Post/VOX.com, over stuff like the crime bill of the ’90’s the last time that Biden was the Democratic front runner, I’ve little doubt that something that explosive wouldn’t have come up and be front page news.

      The press hunters for red meat no matter what the political leanings of the exposed.

      Harvey Weinstein contributed thousands to the Democratic Party, the press certainly didn’t spare him.

      Nice try, but I don’t appreciate being bullshitted to that extent without levity, and crimes against children just aren’t funny.

      Please link me to ABC, CBS, BBC, NBC, U.S.A. Today, The Week, Newsweek, US News and World Report, or Time Magazine on this now, Lefty or Righty blogs and such aren’t acceptable, legacy and reputable please, and hurry, if true you shouldn’t have waited till after I mailed in my ballot to mention this!

      • sharper13 says:

        Here’s a NY Time reporter’s video of Biden from Super Tuesday. I’m not taking a position on it, I can see how you could read it differently, just figured I’d post the video people are most recently talking about for you to look at, since you asked.

        You’d think Biden would have advisers telling him to not do anything like sniffing hair anymore, but maybe was just having a difficult time remembering stuff on Tuesday.

        • Kissing or cuddling babies isn’t pedophilia, it’s normal behavior, so normal that politicians traditionally do it in order to show what nice people they are.

        • Plumber says:

          @sharper13,

          I’ve been in that cafe, I used to live 7/10th of a mile ’round the corner and down the street!

          Oakland proud right now!

          Anyway, that just looked to me like Biden was trying to look like doing the once traditional expected baby kissing without actually touching.

          Other videos that folks are linking to are something else and I’m still digesting them.

      • Jaskologist says:

        The press turned on Weinstein eventually. But for how many years (decades?) was he left unmolested, as one of those things that “everyone knew” about, and everyone also knew to look the other way?

      • JayT says:

        Here’s a (long) video of Biden being much more touchy with young girls than I am personally comfortable with. It’s to the point that it makes me think the most likely “October surprise” he could face would be someone stepping forward with serious allegations.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DwXweiRjckI&feature=youtu.be

        • Purplehermann says:

          That made me a bit uncomfortable as well.

          Anyone here watch the whole thing and think it’s fine?

          • Byrel Mitchell says:

            Yeah, it looks pretty OK to me. (And I’m unlikely to ever support Biden politically so this is counter to my tribal biases.) Most of this stuff is just normal parent/grandparent behaviors. It’s a bit forward for a stranger to be doing them, but it’s a really old political technique to make them look relatable. The rest is just him managing the positioning for the pictures; you really don’t want shorter people on the edges because it will make the shot look more spread out and less intense.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        This is one of those things where I’m still shocked, given the internet, with the existence of impermeable partisan bubbles. The pictures and videos of Biden touching and sniffing uncomfortable-looking people especially children have been right-wing memes for years. Not a recent thing with the campaign. Years.

        ETA: To Skeptic’s point that Democratic voters won’t care, probably. I’d call it a marginal thing. It’s just one more little nudge on the needle for people who already find Biden off-putting for other reasons.

        • Plumber says:

          @Conrad Honcho says:

          “This is one of those things where I’m still shocked, given the internet, with the existence of impermeable partisan bubbles…”

          it was news to me (as were allegations of Trump being a rapist until this thread).

          I haven’t watched much of the linked videos yet but what I have seen so far I’ll call “uncomfortable viewing”.

          I had found Joe very likable but this really changes my calculations of how electable he is, I think I may have voted for Klobucher or Sanders instead.

          Yeah, I’m even more convinced that Trump will be elected now.

          • meh says:

            is there any chance Biden was hugging children to fill some emptiness? does anyone know of any charitable reason he would be overly affectionate to kids?

          • albatross11 says:

            Most likely, he just likes kids. Many people like kids without it being remotely creepy, and politicians kissing babies and ruffling kids’ hair or whatever is pretty common culturally, though probably it will be less common over time for a mix of sensible and crazy reasons.

          • Lambert says:

            A woman shows affection towards kids and nobody panics.
            A man does and everyone loses their minds.

    • BBA says:

      Can I get myself cryogenically frozen for five years? I don’t expect it to get less stupid, I just want out of the current stupidity.

    • Well... says:

      I’d never heard of this so I did a DDG video search for “biden sniffing”, clicked on this compilation of alleged sniffs, and watched it.

      Let me preface what I’m about to say with the disclosure that Joe Biden is the only politician I actively despise. Commenters who are familiar with me know that I have nothing nice to say about him. I have pointed out that it was he who championed our government’s practice of civil asset forfeiture, which is bad enough on its own but also incentivizes and perpetuates the war on drugs, which is the worst American policy since slavery. I wish only bad things on Joe Biden. The event of his nomination is the only thing that could cause me to vote for Trump.

      That said, I watched that video and none of it seemed bad or inappropriate, except in the sense that it looks really bad on camera. What I saw was a guy, I’m guessing with really bad breath, who likes to kiss his granddaughters and grandnieces or whatever, likes to feel their little faces because their cheeks are soft and chubby. The kisses look like sniffing, but they were pretty much all obviously just kisses. Where the heck else are you supposed to kiss your granddaughter?! You kiss her head, her forehead, above her ears, etc. And yes, those little cheeks are tweakable! At a certain age little girls get annoyed and bothered and embarrassed by having their facial cheeks gently squeezed, but it doesn’t mean the intent behind it has turned pervy just because they’re not 5 years old anymore. Lots of kids still have big squishy cheeks well into high school and that’s probably what Biden sees.

      I’m open to the idea that there is more convincing evidence out there and I haven’t seen it, but if what’s in that clip is the best anyone can come up with then I am unconvinced that Biden’s behavior is anything but innocent.

      I do, however, believe it will be very easy to tell people otherwise and have them believe it, and that Biden will be unable to fend off those kinds of accusations convincingly, because they’re of the “When did you stop beating your wife?” variety. And I don’t have a problem with that because I despise Joe Biden.

      • albatross11 says:

        Well:

        I can’t help thinking that there might be some kind of small downside to accepting or supporting intentionally dishonest/lying PR campaigns because they target someone you dislike. What’s the difference between that and supporting the next 30 dumb Twitter outrage storms where someone lies or distorts another person’s words or actions to stir up a Twitter mob against them?

        If you aren’t against it when your side does it, you’re not really against it.

        • Well... says:

          I’m not going to go around perpetuating anything I believe to be an untruth, and as I just demonstrated I’ll even speak up against those things. But what I meant by the last sentence of my above comment is that I feel no outrage or anxiety from this instance of slander.

          And I think it’s worth saying that I don’t have a side. I only feel emotionally complacent about the smear in this case because it’s Joe Biden. My dislike of that man, and my willingness to watch him burn even because of an unfair accusation, is a one-off.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        @Well
        I want to know more about civil forfeiture. I looked up stuff on Biden and civil forfeiture and it does indeed appear that he was one of the pushers on this thing. I do also detest civil forfeiture, but all these articles were from 30-40 years ago. Does this really mean anything about how Biden would act as President in 2021?

        I am also against the war on drugs, but I think it’d be hard to find any major politician who isn’t for that — at least against dealers, which is where the worst behavior occurs.

        • Well... says:

          I don’t care all that much about what kind of president Biden would be (although I harbor strong suspicions that the kind of guy who could have done what he did back then is not someone I’d want running the country). He should be punished for his crimes. Since that probably isn’t going to happen, we should at least not reward him for them.

          • He should be punished for his crimes. Since that probably isn’t going to happen, we should at least not reward him for them.

            The reason to elect someone president isn’t to reward him, it’s to put the person in the job who can best do it.

          • Well... says:

            That is a true statement, but it doesn’t negate the fact that if a person does X and then later is elected president, the latter can be and often is seen both by that person and others as a reward for the former.

          • Well... says:

            @DavidFriedman:

            Now that I think about it more, I’ve decided your use of the phrase “the reason” was incorrect. Putting the person in the job who can best do it is one possible reason to elect someone, but there are many others. For instance, it is widely theorized that Trump was elected as a way to punish the Left. And of course individual voters have myriad reasons why they vote for particular candidates. Many, I’m sure, vote for candidates as a reward for things those candidates have done in the past.

    • broblawsky says:

      So is accusing their enemies of pedophilia the right’s new go-to move? It’s getting a little repetitive.

      • At this point, my working assumption is that attacks on Biden are more likely to come from the left. That only reverses after he is nominated.

      • Purplehermann says:

        Does that happen a lot?

      • b_jonas says:

        No no. There’s no need to accuse him of pedophilia. Just find a child who lives in the same state and has a roughly similar appearance to a child that Biden sniffed on a video. Shouldn’t be too hard. Then claim that Biden has unintentionally infected the child with the new coronavirus. Nobody can disprove this, because the child has a right to medical secrets, many children catch the cold in March, and Scott already explained that nobody in the U.S. can actually be tested specifically for the virus.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        I wouldn’t call it “pedophilia,” just creepy. I predict that at some point in the campaign, Trump will swap out “Sleepy Joe” for “Creepy Joe.”

      • Deiseach says:

        So is accusing their enemies of pedophilia the right’s new go-to move? It’s getting a little repetitive.

        Accusing people on the right of being rapists is also getting a little repetitive, but hey. Politics. Since the Romans (and probably before) everyone has gone for “My opponent is a dirty rotten lecher and worse, a pervert”.

        Cicero, 2nd Philippic against Mark Antony:

        Shall we then examine your conduct from the time when you were a boy? I think so. Let us begin at the beginning. Do you recollect that, while you were still clad in the praetexta, you became a bankrupt? That was the fault of your father, you will say. I admit that. In truth such a defense is full of filial affection. But it is peculiarly suited to your own audacity, that you sat among the fourteen rows of the knights, though by the Roscian law there was a place appointed for bankrupts, even if any one had become such by the fault of fortune and not by his own. You assumed the manly gown, which your soon made a womanly one: at first a public prostitute, with a regular price for your wickedness, and that not a low one. But very soon Curio stepped in, who carried you off from your public trade, and, as if he had bestowed a matron’s robe upon you, settled you in a steady and durable wedlock.

        No boy bought for the gratification of passion was ever so wholly in the power of his master as you were in Curio’s. How often has his father turned you out of his house? How often has he placed guards to prevent you from entering? while you, with night for your accomplice, lust for your encourager, and wages for your compeller, were let down through the roof. That house could no longer endure your wickedness. Do you not know that I am speaking of matters with which I am thoroughly acquainted? Remember that time when Curio, the father, lay weeping in his bed; his son throwing himself at my feet with tears recommended to me you; he entreated me to defend you against his own father, if he demanded six millions of sesterces of you; for that he had been bail for you to that amount. And he himself, burning with love, declared positively that because he was unable to bear the misery of being separated from you, he should go into banishment.

        …But let us say no more of your profligacy and debauchery. There are things which it is not possible for me to mention with honor; but you are all the more free for that, inasmuch as you have not scrupled to be an actor in scenes which a modest enemy can not bring himself to mention.

        • Milo Minderbinder says:

          Excellent reference. There is truly nothing new under the sun. Maybe we’ll get lucky and see some proscriptions soon.

          • Nick says:

            How about some damnationes memoriae?

          • Deiseach says:

            Maybe we’ll get lucky and see some proscriptions soon.

            Yeah, we haven’t (yet) seen any of the Democratic candidates savaging each other with “you were a public whore until your sugardaddy bought you off by defrauding his father of a shit ton of cash!” 🙂

          • vrostovtsev says:

            Seems like the only way to get ‘lucky’ when the proscriptions are posted is to be Sulla.

    • sty_silver says:

      None of the three is falsifiable, so assigning confidence is pointless.

  23. theodidactus says:

    I can’t remember who exactly on here I got into a debate with, a few months ago, about the propriety of making congress go to court to enforce subpoenas before they carried out the impeachment for “obstruction of congress”, but I was very clear that courts could consider the issue nonjusiticable, whoever-it-was (maybe more than one person) considered this to be a bit silly…

    …but that appears to be exactly what happened with Don McGahn.

    https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2020/02/dc-circuit-don-mcgahn-defy-subpoena.html

    This is important moving forward because it appears to be risky bordering on stupid to try to go to court over this kind of compelled testimony. The smart remedy, perhaps the ONLY remedy, might be impeachment.

    Perhaps higher up the chain this ruling gets overturned but it will
    1) take a while
    2) might still result in a counterproductive verdict
    3) at least a few judges agree with me so my idea wasn’t completely ridiculous (and may in fact be correct)

    • theodidactus says:

      This is discussed extensively in the latest episode of “All the President’s Lawyers”, just by the way
      https://www.kcrw.com/news/shows/lrc-presents-all-the-presidents-lawyers/remember-don-mcgahn

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      The smart remedy, perhaps the ONLY remedy, might be impeachment.

      How is this your takeaway, rather than “Trump vindicated, defying an improperly issued Congressional subpoena is not a crime, ‘high crime or misdemeanor’, and therefore not impeachable?”

      • theodidactus says:

        It’s important to get this right, the court was abundantly clear in its decision that the subpoena was not “improperly issued”

        https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/28/politics/appeals-court-mcgahn-ruling/index.html

        The analysis runs on pages 6-9, the most relevant quote is on page 9: “the committee claims the executive branch’s assertion of a constitutional privilege is obstructing the committees investigation. That obstruction may seriously and even unlawfully hinder the committee’s efforts…but it is not a judicially cognizable injury”

        The ruling says, just as I predicted it would, that it is not a court’s place to interfere in inter-branch disputes like this regardless of their merit. In fact, ruling on the “merit” of this or that subpoena is exactly what a court doesn’t want to do…

        …to be clear, I’m just going to repeat myself, because this message is plainly not getting across:this decision says that courts should not weigh in on the “validity” of a subpoena, regardless of who congress is, who the president is, and how good the facts are underlying congress’ assertion.

        If you need any more convincing please look at page 13: “the absence of a judicial remedy doesn’t render congress powerless. Instead the constitution gives congress a series of political tools to bring the Executive Branch to heel…congress may hold officers in contempt, withhold appropriations, refuse to confirm the president’s nominees, harness public opinion, delay or derail the president’s legislative agenda, or impeach recalcitrant officers.”

        Again, I’m not saying any of the following
        * trump should have been impeached
        * we should impeach trump again
        * trump bad congress good
        * liberals good trump bad

        I’m saying
        * the executive can defy a congressional subpoena
        * in situations like this its very possible courts will be reticent to step in
        * courts consider impeachment to be the remedy when this happens.

        in light of all that, it’s unwise to say “congress should go to court before impeaching over refusing to comply with a congressional investigation”

        • EchoChaos says:

          The ruling says, just as I predicted it would, that it is not a court’s place to interfere in inter-branch disputes like this regardless of their merit.

          We will see if the Supremes agree, since this will likely get appealed, but since the Legislature just agreed that such a subpoena is in fact not impeachable, it appears that all three branches agree that this subpoena is not valid.

          • theodidactus says:

            There are stupendously good arguments on both sides of this but if I had to make a prediction I’d say they uphold the ruling discussed above, though they would most likely be ignoring contrary precedent in doing so.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @theodidactus

            I think they would ignore precedent either way, wouldn’t they? Or perhaps I’m misremembering some legal articles I’ve read.

            I note that I am not a lawyer.

          • theodidactus says:

            I note that I’m only a law student and this isn’t really my area anyway but yes you’re right iirc. The most famous precedent is Nixon of course, but the above decision lists a lot of precedent going the other way.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          That sounds ridiculous to me. It’s absolutely the court’s place to decide disputes between the Executive and Legislative branches.

          • theodidactus says:

            It depends.

            This is a concept that many 1L’s have trouble with when they begin law school. Courts step in when there’s a dispute between the executive and the legislature on a justiciable topic. There are many topics that are nonjusticiable https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_question

            No one is clear where the line is, but I strongly suspect defiance of congressional subpoenas, and congressional investigation, is nonjusticiable given our current conception of the executive.

            if that’s true, it will seriously kneecap impeachment efforts moving forward because the executive will always be able to say “not enough facts, move along”

      • 2181425 says:

        Trying to leave aside the details of the most recent impeachment and looking–say 6 years in the future: from a layman’s perspective how does this not result in putting the Executive branch above the law? If they cannot be compelled by Congress and cannot be compelled by the courts, what next?

        Or am I misunderstanding?

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          That leaves only impeachment or the political process, which rounds down to “the political process.”

          • 2181425 says:

            AKA “mob rule”?

          • theodidactus says:

            I mean, I’ll note that there are good arguments for duking this out politically every time. We don’t want a situation where a court has to say “as a matter of law and precedent, we find that *this* subpoena is an earnest attempt to get to the bottom of an urgent national security matter, but *that* subpoena is clearly pretextual garbage issued only to serve some base political end”

            …because in truth in virtually every situation the answer is “little bit of both, honestly”

            so there’s a fairness having the voting public adjudicate this stuff in town halls and on cable TV. The thing is, if we’re going that way, we need to recognize we’re going that way, and not demand meaningless and misleading judicial process around things like impeachment, withholding money, or refusing to confirm people.

        • theodidactus says:

          I posed a hypothetical on this a few weeks ago on one of the open threads, and the responses I gathered are exactly the reason why I felt it was worth coming back here to follow up post-Mcgahn

    • Dan L says:

      For reference, your prior thread on the general topic was here. I referenced the McGahn case as being a particular point of interest a week later here.

      If you’re a KCRW listener this won’t be news to you, but the decision is a bit of a shitshow – lots of arguments that work in isolation, but a non-negligible amount of contradiction between them and plenty of conspicuous gaps where the court punted on matters of immediate legal concern. It really needs en banc review if only to get a clearer picture of what the heck just happened, and presumably then going to SCOTUS just in time to be a live election issue. Ugh.

      • theodidactus says:

        I agree that the D.C. circuit decision was pretty spare and contradictory. I’ll note though that this just might have to be the case moving forward from here on out. If we imagine this case moving all the way to the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court weighing in favorably, I think it’s still going to be quite easy for later courts to “punt” to “political question” when the issue comes before them again in exactly the same way the DC Circuit did.

        The only way to avoid that would be for the supreme court to clearly and unequivocally state something like “these subpoenas are presumptively valid, you dummies” and that seems really unlikely given the present composition of the court.

        At present, what I’m trying to emphasize is that litigating these particular refusals would have been a very bad decision. Imagine if congress decided to put the issue on hold while these cases worked through the courts. The above decision would have been widely misread, and as you note the subsequent appeals would have arrived at the supreme court precisely in time for this to be the sort of hot-button election issue the court doesn’t want to address.

        For what it’s worth (mostly as a plug) I’m definitely a regular KCRW listener, their coverage is extremely good, especially All the President’s Lawyers. I encourage everyone who wants non-hyperbolic analysis of the president’s legal issues to tune in. I have been remiss in my recent KCRW listening simply because I’m trying to finish strong this last semester.

        • Dan L says:

          I encourage everyone who wants non-hyperbolic analysis of the president’s legal issues to tune in. I have been remiss in my recent KCRW listening simply because I’m trying to finish strong this last semester.

          I missed the earlier thread it came up in, but I’ll second the recommendation of AtPL. I also listen to Left Right & Center regularly, though the past few weeks have been weak without the regularly scheduled R or C. Skippable if you’re behind.

          At present, what I’m trying to emphasize is that litigating these particular refusals would have been a very bad decision.

          I was less confident than you seem to be that this court was going to find it non justiciable (and probably put correspondingly higher odds of reversal on appeal), but I’m hostile to claims that it clearly was justiciable, especially when that stance is being used asymmetrically as a bludgeon against the Dems.

          The only way to avoid that would be for the supreme court to clearly and unequivocally state something like “these subpoenas are presumptively valid, you dummies” and that seems really unlikely given the present composition of the court.

          IMO the greatest political issue facing the US at the moment is how polarization has crippled the ability to address crises, be they material or abstract. There are serious open questions regarding Congressional powers of oversight & the extent of executive privilege that this ought to be a perfect vehicle for SCOTUS to address even before getting into the (extremely relevant) particulars of the case. But while I fully appreciate the bind Roberts is in if he wants the SC to continue to exist as a relevant political force, I wouldn’t even trust this court to uphold US v. Nixon by anything more than 6-3 on narrow grounds.

    • zzzzort says:

      This sounds like a trolly question, but I’m legitimately wondering what this means for the inherent contempt/sergeant at arms arrests Mick Mulvaney route? Surely that has to be judiciable?

      • theodidactus says:

        While a lot of crim. law junkies like me would LOVE to see that happen, I think this whole circus is only getting as far as it is because everyone knows that we’re at one of those points where the best lack all conviction

        I think you are correct that any restraint on liberty like that is clearly justiciable, by way of Habeas if nothing else. I would say by analogy that any of congress’ other means of compelling testimony should also therefore be justiciable, but no one made that arguement.

        None of this constitutes legal advice, obviously, so if the sergeant at arms comes to arrest you you’re on your own and I can’t be your lawyer.

        • zzzzort says:

          But would it mean ruling on the merits of the detention (which is to say, the validity of the subpoena)?

      • theodidactus says:

        As of a few minutes ago, Mulvaney is apparently out as chief of staff, so who knows maybe they’ll try this out for real

  24. Well... says:

    Assuming Trump wins reelection (which I personally would not bet against at this point), what happens to the Democratic party on November 4th, the day after the election? What changes? What stays the same? What will they be telling themselves, or arguing amongst themselves about?

    • theodidactus says:

      It’s easier at this point for either side to just say the other side cheated than change anything substantive.

      • If Bernie is the nominee and loses, the party establishment says “told you so.”

        If Biden is the nominee and loses, the Sanders people say “if only you had chosen Bernie.” The party establishment says “It’s the fault of those damned Sanders people for staying home instead of voting for Biden.”

        • Ninety-Three says:

          “It’s the fault of those damned Sanders people for staying home instead of voting for Biden.”

          Unlike “It would’ve been different with a different candidate”, isn’t that a verifiable claim? I thought we had polling data from the last election about how many Bernie voters stayed home: compare that to the margins the candidate lost by and you can tell if it’s true.

          Are you saying it’ll be true, or that facts don’t matter and the establishment will say it regardless?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I think the only way to verify an election is to run an election. Sure, you can count up Bernie voters who stayed home, but you would also need to count up the centrist voters who voted for Biden, but had Bernie been on the ballot would have said “no, I don’t want to lose my private health insurance and be forced on Medicare” and either stayed home or held their nose and voted for Trump.

            The best evidence that the 2nd place primary finisher could not win the general election is that he or she could not win the primary election.

          • albatross11 says:

            I don’t think this is always true. It’s possible to have your primary voters far enough to the left / right of the majority that the person who came in second in the primary would have done better in the general election.

          • lvlln says:

            “It’s the fault of those damned Sanders people for staying home instead of voting for Biden.”

            Unlike “It would’ve been different with a different candidate”, isn’t that a verifiable claim? I thought we had polling data from the last election about how many Bernie voters stayed home: compare that to the margins the candidate lost by and you can tell if it’s true.

            It seems that the claim

            “If all the Sanders supporters who would’ve voted in the general election if Sanders were the nominee had voted for Biden in the general election, then Biden would have won”

            is a verifiable claim. Hard to verify since tracking down all those Sanders supporters and counting them up in each state is hard, but theoretically verifiable.

            But saying that it’s the fault of Sanders people isn’t just a statement of fact, it’s one of responsibility and culpability. In calling it their “fault,” that necessarily implies that those Sanders people had some sort of positive responsibility to actively go out and vote for Biden in the general election and they failed in fulfilling that responsibility.

            I find this questionable. My view is that voters are free to vote or not vote for anyone or no one for any reason or no reason, beholden entirely and only to the arbitrary whims and preferences of the individual voter. Voters are responsible to themselves and *only* to themselves when choosing who to vote or not to vote for. And therefore voters can’t be considered to be at “fault” for the results of their choice of voting or not voting for anyone. At best, they can be said to be causally responsible for someone winning or not winning.

        • acymetric says:

          If Biden is the nominee and loses, the Sanders people say “if only you had chosen Bernie.” The party establishment says “It’s the fault of those damned Sanders people for staying home instead of voting for Biden.”

          This is 100% accurate, and I can imagine a serious split (maybe enough to create a moderately sized third party) in the Democratic party as a result.

    • GreatColdDistance says:

      I think this depends pretty fundamentally on who they nominate and what kind of campaign they run. Given how it looks likely that Biden will win the nomination, I suspect his loss will be taken as a vindication for the socialist left and idpols who will frame it as the obvious result of nominating a centrist old straight white male. “There are no swing voters” and “progressive policy fires up the base to get out to vote” will be the narrative, and the next nominee will likely be further left and *feel* further left.

      Whereas if Sanders wins the nomination and gets stomped, it’ll be all about how we can’t count on youth turnout, and we need to appeal to moderate voters and swing voters in order to win. It will be pretty devastating for the socialist left, if they can’t even beat the most unpopular president in American history. Frankly, given how unlikely it seems to be that Sanders would win the general (after seeing his youth turnout on Super Tuesday) I suspect the cause of democratic socialism in the US would be better served in the medium term by him losing the nomination.

      • acymetric says:

        It will be pretty devastating for the socialist left, if they can’t even beat the most unpopular president in American history.

        It would be devastating, regardless, but is he the most unpopular president in American history? I can believe that he is the most hated by the people that don’t like him in history, but I’m not sure I believe he is the most unpopular.

        • EchoChaos says:

          but is he the most unpopular president in American history?

          No. Not even close.

          The lowest in the post-war period was Truman during the Korean war at 22% approval and 67% disapproval. Trump’s lowest is 35% (same as Reagan) and his highest disapproval is 60.

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

          Edit: Note that Trump is unusual in the low size of the spread of his approval ratings.

        • GreatColdDistance says:

          Yeah sorry I drafted this comment off the top of my head, was thinking of things I’ve seen about how unprecedented it is that his approval ratings have consistently been so low, but looking into it the way I phrased it was unclear, sorry about that. I think the point still stands if you replace the sentence with “if they can’t even beat such a remarkably unpopular president”.

          EDIT: Actually JK, I retract my retraction. Looking at the link EchoChaos shared it looks like Trump has had the lowest average approval rating of a president by a significant margin since they started polling the question, which I think is a better measure of who is the “most unpopular president” then highlighting the lowest trough their approval hits. Truman is the next lowest and his average approval is 5 points higher than Trump even though his lowest point is lower.

          It is very fair to point out that there’s lots of presidents from before they started polling who very well could have been more unpopular, and that makes such claims quite sketch. I do think that calling something “the biggest X in history” implies “the biggest X in history that we have such records of”. Perhaps I should revise the sentence to be “It will be pretty devastating for the socialist left, if they can’t even beat a president who can credibly be called the most unpopular president in American history.” or “the most unpopular president in recent history”.

          • Wency says:

            “Looking at the link EchoChaos shared it looks like Trump has had the lowest average approval rating of a president by a significant margin since they started polling the question”

            This seems to be about true — the area of red space on the graphs. Though if you just look at certain Presidents’ 2nd terms, the average seems to be lower.

            Certain pre-FDR Presidents may have been less popular if a poll were taken, but I have to think that in eras with lower levels of communication technology, opinions on the President were just not as strong all around. You likely never heard him speak, might not even recognize his face, government was smaller, cultural issues were less prominent. Also you were busier and had bigger problems.

      • Deiseach says:

        It will be pretty devastating for the socialist left, if they can’t even beat the most unpopular president in American history.

        “Most unpopular” until the next one comes along. Someone remind me, how many “most unpopular/worst president in American history” are we up to now? In my own lifetime (from 196x onwards) there have been:

        Lyndon B. Johnson – I think he got some criticism for Vietnam
        Richard M. Nixon – Good ol’ Tricky Dicky?
        Gerald Ford – I do seem to remember some mockery about him being either stupid and/or clumsy and accident-prone, and there were two assassination attempts so somebody disliked him
        Jimmy Carter – too religious, too Southern, undistinguished and accusations of financial impropriety
        Ronald Reagan – Bonzo Goes To Bitburg, remember?
        Bush I – this guy thinks there may be one or two small things amiss
        Bill Clinton – ahem
        Bush II – yes, there was certainly never any “Chimpy McHitler” type commentary that I can recall

        And that brings us up nicely to Obama and Trump!

    • albatross11 says:

      I think political discussion of that kind is like 99% instrumental, so the narrative that people push will be entirely based on what outcome they’re hoping for.

    • BBA says:

      Three words: Taylor Swift 2024.

      • Doctor Mist says:

        My first thought was, But you have to be 35. But Oh My God she will be.

        • Don P. says:

          “I won’t be old enough to be President on Election Day 2024, but I will be by Inauguration Day” said Taylor, prematurely.

      • LesHapablap says:

        Joe Rogan 2024: Whoa! It’s kinda like ju jitsu

        • albatross11 says:

          Rogan will be good on his feet, but I think he’ll need to work more on his ground game to get elected.

      • Bobobob says:

        Is Martin Shkreli out of jail yet?

      • AG says:

        Yo, BBA, I’m really happy for you. I’mma let you finish, but Taylor is gonna have to beat one of the best rappers of all time!

        • EchoChaos says:

          Anyone who predicted Taylor Swift v. Kayne West having Swift as the Democrat and West as the Republican needs to share their drugs.

    • Clutzy says:

      I’d assume very little.

      In most scenarios of a Trump win, the Democratic candidate will win the popular vote, or be very close. This plus the NY/DC/SF/LA echo chamber and majority Dem representation in news Dems are exposed to means nothing changes for the perception of the elites of the party. Both Bernie and Biden are white males, either losing reinforces the idea that diversity is the future. Biden’s loss can be written off as senility, Bernie’s loss can be written off as lack of enough neoliberalism. Both are already majority opinions of the powerful parties in the Dem sphere.

      If you think of the 2012 Republican “autopsy” it was just a bunch of things Republican elites already wanted, but Trump won despite not being anything like what that prescribed. He wasn’t a 1-off. The 2014 results are more of the same. New Republican senators in 2014 were hardly autopsy-friendly. People like Tom Cotton, Dan Sullivan, Perdue, Ernst, & Moore are basically the antithesis of that whitepaper. But most Republican commentators are not ACELA, they are not on the Big 4 networks, etc. So the changes were not top down.

      Contrast that with the Dems, and they have very few outlets that would give them a narrative to change to. Perhaps if it is Biden and he lost big, the AOC wing could gain some power, but that is a very low probability event. Probably around 2%, unless there is some huge outside factor which could be blamed anyways.

      • acymetric says:

        Biden’s loss can be written off as senility, Bernie’s loss can be written off as lack of enough neoliberalism. Both are already majority opinions of the powerful parties in the Dem sphere.

        The powerful Dems think Biden is too senile to run? Than why has he been the party leadership’s preferred candidate since before he even entered the race?

        • gudamor says:

          Perhaps it is best not to model groups of people as a single entity. Some arguments against a monolithic “powerful dems” preference include the New York Times endorsement of both Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren, changing Primary Debate criteria to allow Bloomberg participation, and the lack of endorsement by Hillary/Barack.

        • Clutzy says:

          I’m fairly certain all or most powerful Dems preferred if Kamala or Warren or Pete had really connected with the people and become the leader after Super Tuesday. But it didn’t turn out like that because Kamala is the worst campaigner, Warren doesn’t appeal to anyone who ever got sent to the principal’s office, and minorities still generally hate gays. So they were left with the option of old Joe vs. independent socialist Bernie. So they picked 1 of the 2 options left. That this option has a built in excuse for losing doesn’t change my point.

          Edit:

          One thing to point out that people don’t really understand about the R-D difference is that there was no Biden option for Republican elites to choose. The alternate was Cruz who the establishment hates as well.

    • If Trump wins, there’s going to be a serious crisis of perceived legitimacy. Ilhan Omar already refers to Trump as the “occupant of the White House” rather than the President, a sentiment which would spread further. Schumer is threatening Supreme Court justices. What happens when conservatives get a more decisive judicial majority? I seriously expect people to advocate defying the Supreme Court, as it’s an “illegitimate” institution. I’m not sure how else this perceived legitimacy issue manifests but people are creative.

      • gbdub says:

        Winning twice makes him less legitimate?

        • I don’t know whether Trump really changed peoples beliefs or whether it was hidden because no one was threatening the system, but it’s pretty clear that a non-trivial number of leftists don’t view democracy as actually giving legitimacy. Legitimacy is derived from their beliefs being enacted. I remember there was an article from a guy who said something like “racists” shouldn’t be allowed to vote. I’m sure people will tell me that he’s just one guy but it seems more like he’s saying the quiet part out loud. The longer Trump is in office, the more of a threat he is. Of course, he isn’t actually doing all that much but it’s the perception that matters.

          • herbert herberson says:

            but it’s pretty clear that a non-trivial number of leftists don’t view democracy as actually giving legitimacy.

            This is silly. The central plank in the leftist case for Trump’s illegitimacy is his substantial popular vote loss. The center-left adds in the Russiagate stuff, which for a lot of rank and file voters includes a belief that votes may have been hacked.

            The left doesn’t think the electoral college has legitimacy, and sneers at the whole idea that the founding era counter-majoritarian framework is worth revering or upholding, but democracy itself? It’s clear that it places far more value in that than the center and the right–note, for example, how prominent and panicked the discussion about the Popular Vote Compact was at CPAC this year.

          • Aapje says:

            Would they feel that their own president lacked legitimacy if he or she lost the popular vote? You can only show that you have principles if there is an actual cost to it.

          • Matt M says:

            The left doesn’t seem particularly inclined to respect the popular vote results in Georgia.

            And they sure do seem to complain a lot about gerrymandering, which is, at its core, an attempt to ensure “majority rules” at the state level.

          • Loriot says:

            It seems unlikely we’ll ever find out, but I suspect that most Democrats would quickly learn to love the electoral college and most Republicans would call for its abolition.

            >And they sure do seem to complain a lot about gerrymandering, which is, at its core, an attempt to ensure “majority rules” at the state level.

            Huh? It’s literally an attempt to ensure that one faction can stay in power with a minority of the votes.

          • Matt M says:

            You can’t gerrymander unless you were elected by statewide majority popular vote in the first place.

          • Loriot says:

            Yes, but we generally don’t include “one person, one vote, one time” when we talk about “democracy”.

            To pick a more extreme example, would you consider Russia to be a democracy? Putin did win a fair vote at some point. But campaigning against his de-facto dictatorship now doesn’t mean you’re against democracy.

          • acymetric says:

            And they sure do seem to complain a lot about gerrymandering, which is, at its core, an attempt to ensure “majority rules” at the state level.

            You can’t gerrymander unless you were elected by statewide majority popular vote in the first place.

            No, the point of gerrymandering is to take a statewide majority and turn it into a pretty much impossible to reverse supermajority, which is why in heavily gerrymandered states you get results where 40% of the state votes for a party but they only hold 15-20% of the seats (those are made up numbers, I’ll see if I can find the real numbers which are pretty close to that and share them when I do).

          • Matt M says:

            I’ll go ahead and tap out/retract my comments related to gerrymandering.

            I was under the impression that this process was controlled by the governor, who would always be accountable to a statewide majority voting population.

            But it occurs to me that I may very well be wrong, and that if it’s controlled by the legislature, your objections would be appropriate.

            In any case, I think it remains true that there are instances where the left does not favor a clear and obvious “majority rules” approach to everything. The left is fine with “states rights” if it means California gets to legalize marijuana, etc.

          • acymetric says:

            But it occurs to me that I may very well be wrong, and that if it’s controlled by the legislature, your objections would be appropriate.

            I know you’re tapping out, so this isn’t meant to be piling on but merely informative. Your thought here is correct, so far as I know it is entirely controlled by the legislature. Maybe the governor has to sign the bill, but all that takes is getting one governor from [gerrymandering party] elected to sign it, and then you likely have a veto proof majority going forward barring massive changes to the electorate in your state.

            Source: I have been living this for ~10 years or so.

          • herbert herberson says:

            Would they feel that their own president lacked legitimacy if he or she lost the popular vote? You can only show that you have principles if there is an actual cost to it.

            I don’t much doubt that some hypothetical future left who enjoyed the benefit of counter-majoritarian institutions would manage to cobble together new arguments to justify them.

            But the fact that human beings are usually self-serving and inconsistent doesn’t change the bounds of the current discourse and politics, which has the NPVC promoted almost entirely on blue states and a left that desperately wants to increase voter participation, while “we’re a republic, not a democracy!” discourse and policies that have decreased voter participation as a cost find their home almost entirely on the right. At the absolute most, you can say “no one really has principles when you get down to it”; to suggest that the left is uniquely antidemocratic is agitprop not supported by any real evidence.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            In any case, I think it remains true that there are instances where the left does not favor a clear and obvious “majority rules” approach to everything. The left is fine with “states rights” if it means California gets to legalize marijuana, etc.

            In the last Canadian election Trudeau was re-elected despite the Conservative party winning more votes. No leftist tears over that one.

          • gudamor says:

            @Aapje

            Hillary campaigned as if the popular vote ‘mandate’ mattered to her, and arguably it did cost her the election.

            In fact, the whole chain of comments that assert, evidence-free, that the Democratic party would be hypocritical on this is rather infuriating.

          • Does anyone seriously think anything would be different if Trump had won two percent more of the electorate? Do you think RussiaGate wouldn’t have happened? Would the Democrats have not tried to go through with impeachment? Would they not have cried about “kids in cages”? Would they have refrained from a making a comparison to Hitler every single day? Let’s be honest here.

          • rumham says:

            @gudamor

            In fact, the whole chain of comments that assert, evidence-free, that the Democratic party would be hypocritical on this is rather infuriating.

            -Quizical eybrow raised-
            They are hypocritical. The democratic party runs it’s primary with a disdain for the popular vote…

          • Loriot says:

            blue states and a left that desperately wants to increase voter participation, while “we’re a republic, not a democracy!” discourse and policies that have decreased voter participation as a cost find their home almost entirely on the right.

            See also: The fact that California goes to great lengths to ensure as many people vote as possible, despite the fact that there is no real partisan advantage to doing so.

            They are hypocritical. The democratic party runs it’s primary with a disdain for the popular vote…

            The Democratic primary is much more reflective of the popular vote than the Republican primary, since there are no winner-takes-all states. It’s all proportional. This year, they also got rid of most of the anti-democratic caucuses.

          • rumham says:

            @Loriot

            The Democratic primary is much more reflective of the popular vote than the Republican primary, since there are no winner-takes-all states. It’s all proportional. This year, they also got rid of most of the anti-democratic caucuses.

            Never mentioned the repubs at all, but you are aware of the brokered convention rules the dems have, yes? How does that square with their apparent reverence of the popular vote?

          • Loriot says:

            If it ever comes to a brokered convention, than by definition, democracy failed to come to a consensus, so I’m not sure what you expect in that case. Luckily, that is highly unlikely to ever happen.

      • albatross11 says:

        If the SC continues to shift right, I expect to see a lot of voices on the left, including respectable NYT-type voices, calling for defying the court, and demanding that the people be heard rather than a bunch of unelected judges who are legislating from the bench. Most people don’t have principles, but almost everyone has a side.

        • Garrett says:

          > If the SC continues to shift right

          You mean, towards upholding the Constitution as-written as opposed to as-desired?

          • Elementaldex says:

            I don’t think this comment supports the discussion. What could he respond with that you would consider a good response?

          • albatross11 says:

            I wouldn’t be surprised to see a right-leaning SC make up law in much the same way as was done in Roe, but just for different goals.

          • Thomas Jorgensen says:

            Shelby County v Holder is egregiously in violation of both the spirit and the letter of the 14th amendment. If you want an example of legislating from the bench, it does not get much clearer than that. It also subsequently has been proven to be wrong as to the facts of the ridiculus argument it put forth, and the dissent proven entirely correct.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            Shelby County v Holder is egregiously in violation of both the spirit and the letter of the 14th amendment.

            I just read the wikipedia entry on this case. I can imagine someone disagreeing with the decision, but it’s not immediately obvious from what I read that the decision is wrong. Can you please expand?

          • Thomas Jorgensen says:

            https://www.law.cornell.edu/supremecourt/text/12-96#writing-12-96_DISSENT_5

            The dissent spells it out in painstaking detail. So does the subsequent record of increased voter suppression.

          • rumham says:

            @Thomas Jorgensen

            Shelby County v Holder is egregiously in violation of both the spirit and the letter of the 14th amendment.

            If you read the text of the 14th amendment to include disparate impact claims, do you also take the plain language?

            No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws

            Because I can read that as being against gun control and driver’s licenses a lot more easily than against disparate impact.

          • Loriot says:

            Texas v. United States seems like a pretty clear case of legislating from the bench.

            Congress removed the individual mandate while specifically declining to repeal the rest of the law. Then the Republicans sued arguing that the individual mandate was so important to the law that Congress couldn’t have possibly meant to keep the rest without it and it would be unconstitutional to *only* repeal the individual mandate and therefore the entire law should be struck down.

            Regardless of your political affiliation, I can’t understand how anyone could possibly seriously entertain that argument.

          • Thomas Jorgensen says:

            14th and 15th. Sigh. I should really just copy the entire dissent in here. Ginsburg is far far better at explaining than I am.

            The reconstruction amendments gave congress vast power to intervene against the states in defense of the rights of individuals. That was, and is, their entire point. This is not like the commerce clause being stretched beyond all reason, the entire trust of this part of the constitution is that if necessary, the federal government could damn well take over the entire election apparatus of a state engaging in voting suppression and run it directly and that would be constitutional. The ERA was a very restrained and effective exercise of this power, that passed congress 98 to 0.
            Then the supreme court decided to rewrite it on its own recognizance with no goddamn justification in precedent nor the text of the constitution which is not on its face farcical.

            Seriously, congress should have impeached all five justices that put their names to this for disgracing the office. Still should.

          • vrostovtsev says:

            Roberts puts the argument for the decision in Holder pretty well.
            “the Act imposes current burdens and must be justified by current needs”. The cries of ‘voter suppression’ are heard every time anyone tries to curb the voting fraud and they are as unconvincing as ever.

          • Thomas Jorgensen says:

            Did you read Ginsburgs dissent?
            Do that, then be mortally embarrassed that you were fooled by that argument.

            Again, 14th and 15th are not narrow grants of power, they are sweeping ones enacted in the shadow of the civil war to bring extremely recalcitrant southern states to heel as regards civil rights.

            The only limitation on them is that legislation authorized under them must be appropriate measures towards the ends of civil rights. – that is, if you were building roads under this penumbra, the court could call bullshit. But the VRA did not have that problem.

          • vrostovtsev says:

            As for Texas v United states, the real mistake was upholding the ACA farce in Sebellius, and maybe the Court will finally correct it.

          • vrostovtsev says:

            I did read Ginsburg’s dissent and like most Ginsburg’s dissents it’s unconvincing.

            Again, you can’t use the problems of post-civil war era to endlessly push the overreaching federal legislation. Imposing undue burdens on the states requires continuous justification.

          • Thomas Jorgensen says:

            *blink* “and you cant use the defense needs of the post revolutionary war to endlessly push gun rights” is an argument you would accept? The reconstruction amendments are damn well as fully a part of the constitution as the rest of them.

            and also… Ginsburg took that argument apart. Seriously, read it again.
            The only way to still be “burdened” by paragraph five of the vra is if you filed proposed regulations within the last ten years which the feds found to be discriminatory in intent, otherwise you can just use the exit clause. If you have tried to write discriminatory legislation within the last ten years, the feds are damn well entitled to keep an eye on you.

          • vrostovtsev says:

            It would improve this discussion (and any discussion really) if you would stop assuming that re-reading Ginsburg will brind some sort of enlightnment to the other side. I am glad you like her argument but as I mentioned above, it is simply not convincing to me. It wasn’t to Roberts either.

            As for why the section 5 is burdensome, I think Black put it very well in his opinion in Katzenbach:

            “Section 5, by providing that some of the States cannot pass state laws or adopt state constitutional amendments without first being compelled to beg federal authorities to approve their policies, so distorts our constitutional structure of government as to render any distinction drawn in the Constitution between state and federal power almost meaningless”.

            It’s pretty obvious also that your argument is another form of ‘law-abiding [X] have nothing to fear from [overreaching Y of the state] which is pretty tiresome.

            (I won’t engage with your argument against 2nd amendment for the question is not with 14th or 15th amendments here but one specific overreaching law.)

          • Thomas Jorgensen says:

            .. My second amendment argument was just a straight reframing of your argument to an area of law in which I was pretty darn sure your biases fell on the other side, in an attempt to get some actual thought going instead of just reflexive partisanship. It is goddamn terrible, because your original argument was terrible.

            And yes, the VRA tramples all over state power. The constitution explicitly empowers congress to do that where needed to enforce civil rights. Pointing that out is not even an argument? I did read the majority, it is just, to be extremely polite, very bad.

          • vrostovtsev says:

            >And yes, the VRA tramples all over state power. The constitution explicitly empowers congress to do that.
            No it does not. It empowers the congress to pass the appropriate legislation. Black seems to think ( and I agree ) that distorting the structure of government is not an appropriate measure.

            > The constitution explicitly empowers congress to do that where needed to enforce civil rights.
            And the Supremes challenged the Congress to clearly define this ‘where needed’ part. Roberts spells it clearly:

            ” To serve that purpose, Congress—if it is to divide the States—must identify those jurisdictions to be singled out on a basis that makes sense in light of current conditions. It cannot rely simply on the past. ”

            > My second amendment argument was just a straight reframing of your argument
            it was, but you applied it to an amendment instead of a single law. I won’t dispute that some amendments have deep roots in the era when they were enacted, this is true for both 2nd and 15th — but the concerns that amendments addresses, such as the loss of freedom and security of the state or denial the parts of the citizenry its right to vote — the concerns are timeless. Therefore ‘it is just an expression of a concern of its time’ is not a good argument against an amendment. It is however a good argument against a radically overreaching law that was enacted as an extreme measure to combat the deficiencies of its year.

          • Thomas Jorgensen says:

            … I find it really difficult to take the undue burden thing seriously, since assuming good faith on behalf of the states, it basically amounted to a requirement that states not do electoral regulations at the last minute.

            Given the long and fresh history of dire harm the VRA fought, that is entirely acceptable.

            There is also the fact that, well, as soon as it was gone, a bunch of these places started playing stupid games again. The south is growing in population, but it is loosing polling places, and that is already quite a bloody dire problem.

            I have mentioned this in other contexts, but I am not american. And watching footage of elections with 7 hour queues *on workdays* just blatantly stands out as an attempt to keep people from voting, full stop. I have never in 24 years of voting in every election that came up seen a polling queue of more than five people. This is not a difficult level of access to achieve if you want voting to be easy.

          • Aapje says:

            @Thomas Jorgensen

            Isn’t a major issue that there is a shortage of people who volunteer to be a poll worker and/or who are willing to work for little compensation, that many poll workers refuse to attend training (or are simply not competent enough) and that quite a few don’t show up for work?

            This seems to be a worse problem in non-white/poor neighborhoods.

            ^Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity incompetence.^

            I have never in 24 years of voting in every election that came up seen a polling queue of more than five people. This is not a difficult level of access to achieve if you want voting to be easy.

            I haven’t either, but there seem to be very many competent Dutch people who are willing to volunteer to work the poll. Perhaps many Americans merely want to volunteer their labor for a specific candidate/party, but few want to contribute to uphold the democratic system itself.

          • Aapje says:

            @Thomas Jorgensen

            Also:

            The south is growing in population, but it is loosing polling places, and that is already quite a bloody dire problem.

            Volunteering seems to be down in general, but more so in rural and suburban areas, which are probably more common in the south.

            What you see as a conspiracy, may just be a consequence of people volunteering less often, at the expense of volunteer-dependent institutions.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            Given the long and fresh history of dire harm the VRA fought, that is entirely acceptable.

            I did read most of Ginsburg’s dissent, and I havent read the majority opinion, but I think I get most of the issues at this point. Ginsburg certainly makes a strong case that the VRA has been very useful in preserving minority voting rights. And I found her criticism of the majority most relevant when she discussed how the equal sovereignty principle only applied when states joined the union (I dont know anything about that but I will defer to RGB on this).

            But my understanding of the majority decision is that s. 4b) of the VRA was a formula for deciding whether states were subject to pre-clearance was based on data that was out of date. Ok, that’s reasonable and easily fixed right? Get new data, and re-legislate. Pre-clearance might be useful and in compliance with the 14th and 15th amendment, but it’s still an extraordinary measure, and should not be mandated unless supported by recent data. That doesnt seem to be “legislating from the bench” to me. That’s more like “you want to impose this extraordinary measure, then do your homework properly, cross the Ts and dot the Is”. If I’m understanding the majority wrong here, please let me know.

            In contrast, Roe v Wade said “oh look here, we found a whole new part of the constitution. where? oh in the ‘penumbra’. What’s the penumbra? it’s a poetic word for a partial shadow. And guess what, we hereby declare that the constitution is a “living document”, very poetic right? So now if something that’s not in the constitution but we want it to be, we just say it is.

            Also, Roe v. Wade doesnt say that the prohibition against abortion can be legislated in certain circumstances (say by updating the data for a 40 year old formula). It closes the door completely on that. Imagine if Roberts and the others in the majority said “We found a right for states to discriminate against minorities in the penumbra of the constitution. Therefore s. 4 and 5 of the VRA are unconstitutional.” You would need to overturn that decision to re-enact the VRA, not just update an old formula. That would be “legislating from the bench.”

          • Aftagley says:

            @Thomas Jorgensen

            For what it’s worth, I’d never read Ginsburg’s dissent on this one until you linked if and I’m now convinced this is a travesty.

            Therefore ‘it is just an expression of a concern of its time’ is not a good argument against an amendment. It is however a good argument against a radically overreaching law that was enacted as an extreme measure to combat the deficiencies of its year.

            The “year” you’re describing here would be the most recent year that congress determined the law was necessary and reauthorized it, so 2006.

      • albatross11 says:

        Prediction: If Trump is re-elected, we will continue to see:

        a. Mainstream Democrats and media organs talking about how scary, authoritarian, unbalanced, inept, etc., he is.

        b. Those same mainstream Democrats and media organs will continue supporting broad executive powers, pervasive eavesdropping on Americans, and generally concentrating ever more power in the hands of the guy they keep telling us is a cross between Adolph Hitler and Bozo the Clown.

        I do not understand this pattern, but it seems consistent across all of Trump’s time in office, as well as Bush’s time in office, and to a lesser extend was mirrored by Republicans when Obama was in office.

        • Statismagician says:

          Well, sure. How else is [side] supposed to undo all that bad stuff [other side] did?

      • Deiseach says:

        If Trump wins, there’s going to be a serious crisis of perceived legitimacy.

        Remember when Trump claiming he would not accept the results of the election if he lost as he would consider it rigged was something worthy of mockery and disdain? Then he won, and all the people laughing at him for being a potential sore loser started shouting about “the election was rigged! we don’t accept this result!”

        Ah, humans: we’re stupid.

        • rumham says:

          My mother was one of those. She also has yet to move to Canada as she vowed, despite me offering a Canadian friend of mine to be her sponsor.

        • The difference is that regardless of what people think Trump would have done, Republicans didn’t claim the presidential elections were rigged the times they lost. It used to be a running joke that the Republican establishment didn’t want to win, they wanted to lose “gracefully”. Ever since Trump won, many on the left have been panicking as though he’s the second coming of Hitler. They were already pushing for packing the Supreme Court back when Trump was nominating a guy that basically stuck to the status quo. If he wins again, it’s going to be much worse.

        • DinoNerd says:

          [epistemic status – silly speculation]

          I remember thinking that the best evidence I had for the election being rigged was the eventual winner claiming that it would be rigged – against him. Based on that observation, Trump, who’s closer to the political mechanisms of the US than I am, appeared to believe that elections were a matter of competive rigging, not competitive voting. Also, anyone who claims “the other side is doing <bad thing>” especially stridently, seems to me to be more likely than average to turn out to have been doing the same <bad thing> themselves.

          [epistemic status: slightly more serious]

          As a software engineer with an interest in (software) security, I’m regularly hearing discussion of ways that modern election system are insecure. I don’t think the technology used in much of the US would withstand a concerted effort at creating a fraudulent election result, performed by a competent state actor, or even some group with lesser (but still large) resources. And I also don’t think it would produce a sufficient audit trail to show what happened, or how – the only evidence available would be in the form of unexpected results, and if the hackers weren’t over ambitious, that would simply be shrugged off. If we found out at all, it would be much later, when some country’s 100 year old achives became publically available, or perhaps rather sooner if someone defected and was believed.

          • Loriot says:

            It really depends on the scale you’re talking about. The larger the scale, the harder it would be to pull off without getting caught.

          • Thomas Jorgensen says:

            One problem is that the US does not preform exit polls suitable for checking for fraud at all. A standard exit poll as the rest of the world does it is just “How did you vote just now”, while the US pollsters want to ask you 99 additional questions about your age, ethnicity, and what you had for breakfast this morning, so they can make neat graphs of who voted for who. But the additional questions biases the heck out of who can be bothered to take the exit poll, which means the pollsters have to “correct” for that bias.. which they do by slapping a counterbias on it until it matches the reported results.

            Which means US exit polls literally cannot be used to detect even quite massive rigging.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Schumer is threatening Supreme Court justices.

        He’s not, he’s just mangling half-remembered Bible references.

        Hosea 8:7

        For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind: it hath no stalk; the bud shall yield no meal: if so be it yield, the strangers shall swallow it up.

        Kavanaugh apparently also used it in his confirmation hearings, which may be why Schumer used it here. The point is that the actions will in themselves lead to bad consequences, not that anyone (well, other than God) will inflict those consequences upon the actor.

        • vrostovtsev says:

          it is extremely charitable to Shumer that you would assume that he both understood the fine philosophical point of a Biblical quote and at the same time mangled it beyond recognition. I am pretty sure the “you won’t know what hit you” part is the modern language is used as a direct threat and not as an implication of divine retribution/carmic comeuppance.

    • Leafhopper says:

      If Trump wins reelection, the Democrats move left regardless of whether they nominated Biden or Bernie.

      If Trump loses, the Republicans move right.

      I have serious doubts about Trump’s ability to win, though, or his ability to actually exert any control over the country if he does win.

      • Thomas Jorgensen says:

        Lets see. Worst possible scenario… OOOh.

        Trump wins, Putin announces that yes, indeed, he is the manchurian candidate. (Truth value, irrelevant, it is the announcement that does the damage)

        • Leafhopper says:

          Putin then surreptitiously releases a deepfaked video portraying the “golden shower” allegation from the Steele dossier, belief in the accuracy of the video splits along partisan lines.

  25. Mark V Anderson says:

    The third book on intelligence I read recently.

    Intelligence: All That Matters (2015) By Stuart Ritchie

    This book was recommended by albatross. I have found this very short book to be essentially just a summary/update of the first part of The Bell Curve, where it was explained why IQ testing is so important. At one place in the book, they describe the book as an introduction to the subject. That makes sense too. But the book is far too short to be convincing in their view on IQs in the face of so much withering criticism by others. I am convinced of this view, but only because The Bell Curve, with its overwhelming data, does the job for me. So this book is good, but I would have preferred it to be more substantial. But one benefit of it being so short is it does help to have this book around when I am looking for “pro-IQ” positions.

    I didn’t much like the title, especially since he explicitly stated that there are plenty of other factors that matter as much as intelligence. But then I realized that “All That Matters” is a series of books on many different subjects, not one chosen by Ritchie in particular.

    I found the last section of the book, called “100 Ideas,” to be very useful. Amongst other things, he lists other books on IQ that would be interesting, both pro- and anti- IQ, several papers of interest, and a list of 10 important questions to be answered with more research. Unfortunately I’ve only been able to get free access on the Internet to three of the ten papers listed.

    • Purplehermann says:

      Glad to see you aren’t using https://sci-hub.tw/ to get access to any and all scientific papers despite all the great reasons to do so 😉

      • albatross11 says:

        Yes, definitely don’t do that–it would be totally unethical to deprive the scientific publishers of their monopoly rents extracted from the free labor of academics who do the actual research and the peer review well-deserved revenue.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        I had heard one could do this, but I didn’t know how. I tried this for one paper and it did work! Although one “paper” was being sold as a book — I don’t think it will work for that?
        https://www.amazon.com/Intelligence-Introduction-Ian-J-Deary/dp/0192893211

        • Purplehermann says:

          That is wonderful horrible.
          What you shouldn’t do is use it for papers that are on-site, just behind a paywall.

          With books from amazon though the data of the book’s contents isn’t on site so that link wouldn’t find anything to extract, you can’t use the link even if you wanted to

        • sksnsvbanap says:

          Whatever you do, don’t search for those books on https://libgen.is

    • ChangingTime says:

      I didn’t much like the title, especially since he explicitly stated that there are plenty of other factors that matter as much as intelligence. But then I realized that “All That Matters” is a series of books on many different subjects, not one chosen by Ritchie in particular.

      This trips a lot of people up, especially with a topic as controversial among laymen as intelligence. It’s supposed to be read “this is all that matters with regard to intelligence” and not “intelligence is all that matters”. As you say, there are several of these books, and they’re supposed to essentially be a slightly-higher-brow ‘dummy’s guide to ‘. Concise, to the point, and interesting while conveying as much of an introduction to a topic as possible.

      Also – much thanks for doing these reviews. I’m interested in more to come.

  26. Teldaru says:

    Real life math problem that I am apparently too stupid to solve:

    A betting site is giving me 2:1 odds that A happens and 3:1 odds that B happens (A and B are mutually exclusive). This is the equivalent of them saying that the chance P(A or B) happening is less than 33+25=58%, right? If I am very sure that P(A or B) is say at least 70%, but I don’t know if they are underestimating P(A) or P(B) or both, then how should I bet 100 bucks in a way that wins me money if I am estimating P(A or B) correctly?

    • Tatterdemalion says:

      The problem isn’t quite specified enough to calculate what strategy will give you the maximum expected return – to give a perfect answer, you’d need to make rough guesses at the relative likelihoods of A and B.

      But if we’re just looking for something where the missing information doesn’t matter, you could bet 4/7 of your money on A and 3/7 on B so that whichever comes up, you’re going to end up with 12/7 of your original stake; 70% * 12/7 is 120%, so you definitely have an expected profit of 20%.

      • Teldaru says:

        No, this doesn’t work. the odds are 2:1 and 3:1, not 3:1 and 4:1 as you are implying.

        To do what you say I should put 3/5 on A and 2/5 on B so I end up with 6/5 either way. But 70% of 6/5 is less than my stake, so it’s not a winning bet.

        • Jon S says:

          Tatterdemalion has it right. If you bet $4 on A and A happens, you get back $12 (you get your original $4 returned, plus the $8 payout at 2:1 odds).

          • Teldaru says:

            Yep, I was confusing fractional odds with decimal odds in my mind and messed it up. Thanks!

  27. Gwythr says:

    Long-time lurker here. If I want to ask for a personal\psychological advice about a situation only tangentially related to the ideas of this community, is a whole-numbered open thread a good place to do so, or it’s better to go to subreddit?

    • Tarpitz says:

      Either is fine, but why not both? The commenter populations are significantly different.

    • Anteros says:

      I don’t see why it would need to be a whole-numbered open thread. Ask away 😀

  28. johan_larson says:

    Here in Toronto, housing prices over the last fifty years have generally increased. They haven’t gone up consistently every year, but the general trend is upward. Things seem to work the same way in other desirable cities: the rent is never too damn low.

    The government can do a lot to affect housing prices. They control land use through zoning regulations, and they greatly influence who can afford to buy homes through rules about mortgages. Also, having housing prices go up or down is not universally good or bad. Rising housing prices is good for owners, but bad for renters; falling prices, vice versa. If we accept that the government should continue to greatly affect housing prices, that raises the question of what they should be aiming for. Rising prices or falling? And how much? Is there some optimal answer here?

    I’m thinking the right target might be trying to keep property values are approximately level. If you buy property, live in it, maintain it (including the occasional renovation), and then sell it at some point later, you will generally get your money back. You won’t get more or less, just what you originally spent (plus inflation?). If you wanted to make money in real estate, buying wouldn’t be the way, unless you could spot some exceptional deals. To make money in real estate, you would need to rent it out, build it, renovate it, or sell it.

    Is there some problem with this I’m not seeing?

    • sharper13 says:

      Maybe what you define as “desirable” cities is ones which elect politicians trying to restrict growth, but many metro areas have somewhat flat housing prices when adjusted for inflation, especially if you take sq. footage into account. For example, Charlotte is price-wise within 10% of what it was 30+ years ago, at more than double average square footage. Toronto, NY and SF are among the most restrictive in North America, I’d estimate.

      Here’s an overview and here’s a page with some good charts to compare areas.

    • eric23 says:

      Level prices is one positive outcome, for reasons similar to what you say.

      Low prices in places you prefer people to live is another positive outcome. This could mean large cities (where people are most economically productive), or maybe suburban areas (if you think cities are psychologically bad due to lack of nature or whatever).

      Lack of zoning is also a positive because it increases the extent of people’s rights to their own property. (I am talking about zoning density restrictions, not restrictions on noise/pollution which affect neighbors)

    • FrankistGeorgist says:

      If you buy property, live in it, maintain it (including the occasional renovation), and then sell it at some point later, you will generally get your money back. You won’t get more or less, just what you originally spent (plus inflation?) If you wanted to make money in real estate, buying wouldn’t be the way, unless you could spot some exceptional deals. To make money in real estate, you would need to rent it out, build it, renovate it, or sell it.

      So you want to encourage people to invest in their physical property and reap the reward from it. And you want to avoid wasteful land speculation where people reap windfalls by restricting rather than expanding the supply of housing in a market. Why the answer is Georgism and specifically the Land Value Tax. But good luck trying that.

      It maybe works okay if you force it on people, but people like when land values rise and they reap a huge windfall on their house. It’s one of those cases where huge windfalls can sometimes accrue to normal people like granny just for being a pillar of her community for 40 years. At the same time, people are very sad when they are forced to move from their own land because it’s become too expensive and their only recompense is hundreds of thousands of dollars and to watch their childhood home bulldozed for more “efficient” tower blocks. There’s also the secret that on the whole real estate isn’t really that great of an investment, but it is warped to an extreme degree in some cities because that’s where market forces are pushing people.

      In Georgism, rising land values accrue to the municipal government, which is also unpopular. By what right does the state claim that value, and why does that top the interests of the individuals who actually own the land? In your case, why does the state get to run roughshod and push down values to deprive their citizens of it? At least in a Georgist situation the state is simply taking the difference in land value for themselves, in yours that value has to be destroyed or dispersed somehow.

      If your interest is in keeping value roughly flat, how much variation is acceptable? And how do you calculate what’s unearned and what’s a real investment by the landlord? If it rises faster than a hypothetical municipal government can control it, the result is individual landowners getting a little richer. They’ll like that, even if renters feel the crunch. There are definitely things which decrease land value, and a municipality which made it their goal to introduce them wherever value was rising too fast would be kicked out of office very quickly by the “don’t-salt-the-earth” party. Even by renters, who want to live in high value places – that’s why the value is so high. The government could I guess mandate obscene amounts of building to keep pace with increasing value – but at some point to keep up with it they’ll just become the landlord themselves, which I’m told works okay in Vienna, Singapore, and Hong Kong. I suspect it worked less well in Moscow, and America’s state owned housing looks more like Moscow than Vienna.

      Especially in America, saying “we’ll make sure your house doesn’t increase in value” is basically telling people “we’re going to tank your largest investment.” Now again, maybe real estate isn’t what you want people investing in, maybe you wish they’d invest in stocks and bonds, but people still won’t like it. Perhaps Canada is less enamored with the legend of homesteading.

      Asides:
      I was shocked to find out that Denmark, which has a Land Value Tax, actually has comparable rates of homeownership to the US – though it’s stagnated recently where elsewhere the rate has risen. South Korea also has one but has a rate 10% lower. I’ve heard Germany is a nation of renters, with a rate similar to South Korea, and doesn’t particularly suffer for it, so there’s probably more than one way to skin the cat of housing people.

      And as sharper13 says, how much housing you’re getting is also not necessarily the same across time. I could rant for hours on how we’ve made flophouses illegal.

      • yodelyak says:

        What’s your 5-minute version of the flophouse rant? I would read that with interest.

        • FrankistGeorgist says:

          The simplest version is culled from Christopher Jencks The Homeless. Basically there was once a kaleidoscope of awful low end temporary housing, of which flophouses were themselves at the lower end beneath boarding houses, “cages”, “barracks,” and dormitories. This whole realm of housing has been gradually eroded in slum clearances and zoning, by hook or by crook, pushing poor people in 2 directions, into bigger housing outside their price range, or onto the street. If the same magnanimous society insists that people not be housed in filth, then they should at least see that the result of that insistence isn’t people being UNhoused in filth. Shelters have all the problems flop houses do, except there’s no more competition, profit motive, or sufficient supply. By forcing everyone together (and oh hey, here comes the 90s and deinstitutionalization) the worst influences dominate. Now you can’t work your way up the ladder of awful housing, all the bottom rungs are cut off.

          • CatCube says:

            I think another effect of minimums imposed by building codes is to make the problem of dishonest landlords at the bottom end worse. Not to say that always hasn’t been a problem, but it probably moves the bottom-end dishonesty up the chain, because it makes the price at which an honest landlord can make a buck much higher.

            If the landlord isn’t pulling in enough to keep up with the maintenance, they have very little incentive to put any of that money back into the building. Assume that you have an honest landlord that takes only a modest salary for himself out of the rent and plows the rest back in to repair what he can, which brings it up to, say 75% of the code minimums. He doesn’t get a pat on the head and an “attaboy” for making things better; he gets a citation for that missing 25%. The dishonest one keeps all of the rent and gets just as cursed as the honest guy. When the rent coming in will never pay to get it to 100%, you may as well keep 100% of it and never touch a bit of maintenance.

    • Ninety-Three says:

      If we accept that the government should continue to greatly affect housing prices, that raises the question of what they should be aiming for.

      Is there some problem with this I’m not seeing?

      What are the voters pressuring them to aim for? Even if we could agree that it is in some sense objectively optimal for a government to aim for prices at X% of median income for Y square feet, the government’s not going to do that. They’re going to check whether more homeowners or renters are willing to elect a candidate on housing policy, and then drive prices up or down accordingly.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Zero return only makes sense if there’s also zero risk. However, that’s not the biggest issue; the biggest issue is the side effects of policies designed to affect rents and property prices. The law of supply and demand bites you in the butt almost no matter what you do: given limited supply (which always exists to some extent) places that become desirable are going to go up in price and places that become undesirable are going to go down. So, once you’ve opened up supply as much as possible, the policies which reduce prices are mostly going to be those which make the places less desirable. If you try direct interventions (e.g. price controls), you can get prices to go down but you end up with shortages (e.g. New York City’s lottery system for affordable housing).

    • AlesZiegler says:

      Why should the government attempt to limit housing supply in the interests of homeowners, who are not exactly a disadvantaged group?

      • EchoChaos says:

        Because homeowners vote pretty aggressively relative to other groups and government likes remaining in power.

      • arbitraryvalue says:

        It’s a natural consequence of the fact that politicians representing an area are elected by people who live in that area, not people who would like to live in that area but can’t. And IMO there’s nothing wrong with that.

        • AlesZiegler says:

          But an area which is in effect empowered to set its own immigration restrictions should not be arbitrarily small. I lean towards the position that should be huge, although there are certainly good arguments against it. Like, um, infectious diseases.

    • baconbits9 says:

      The government can do a lot to affect housing prices. They control land use through zoning regulations, and they greatly influence who can afford to buy homes through rules about mortgages. Also, having housing prices go up or down is not universally good or bad. Rising housing prices is good for owners, but bad for renters; falling prices, vice versa. If we accept that the government should continue to greatly affect housing prices, that raises the question of what they should be aiming for. Rising prices or falling? And how much? Is there some optimal answer here?

      Housing prices on their own aren’t particularly informative, certainly in the US. Almost all homes are bought with mortgages, so the cost of home ownership is the amount you have to borrow * interest rate + local taxes + insurance. Discussions of housing prices where borrowing is the primary tool require a discussion of interest rates to really understand what is going on.

    • If we accept that the government should continue to greatly affect housing prices

      Just say no.

      • I don’t mean to sound rude or flippant here, but to a lot of us this is like a conversation of “if we are going to wage wars of conquest, who do we invade.”

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Keeping housing prices level might be equivalent to imposing a loss, considering the costs of selling and moving, and in many cases, the costs of a new place.

      Also, does this mean the government should be somehow supporting the prices of houses in places where people no longer want to live?

      • Thomas Jorgensen says:

        I think the point Johan is trying to make here is that government (which, in this context will mostly be municipal government) should consider rising home prices a problem and try to address them by supporting the creation of more housing, instead of – as happens far to frequently currently – holding it up as a good news.

    • GreatColdDistance says:

      I think it depends why prices are going up or down. Prices going up because the area is such a nice place to live that everyone wants to move here is good, prices going up because there is artificially limited supply is bad. Prices going down because lots of good housing is being produced at reasonable costs is good, prices going down because the area is going to shit is bad.

      Therefore I think the gov shouldn’t target to make prices higher or lower, but rather target to make housing more available while making the area more desirable. The two effects will cancel each other out to a certain extent, so a gov pursuing good policy may end up driving prices up or down.

    • ana53294 says:

      If you buy property, live in it, maintain it (including the occasional renovation), and then sell it at some point later, you will generally get your money back. You won’t get more or less, just what you originally spent (plus inflation?).

      While year on year changes in house prices probably do not reflect increases on value, decade on decade, houses do go up in value.

      Just maintaining a house is not enough. Even if we find a way to put a new house in stasis, so nothing gets damaged or degraded, in fifty years, it won’t be very desirable housing. It won’t have 15 G internet stands, automatic house cleaning, and no automatic cooking kitchen.

      The thing is, at least in the last three centuries, houses have been improving: they have toilets, baths, showers, round-the-clock hot water, electric/gas ovens/stoves, glass windows, electrical lightning, heating, automatic heating, and many other things.

      For example, my brother, who bought a home with a perfectly functional electrical system, had to change the whole thing, and the walls had to be tore down to get to the tubes that contain the cables because it turns out they were a fire hazard.

      Houses are not just maintained; houses are improved. Some additions, like toilets, are visible; some, like non-flammable walls, are less visible, but still improvements. Some changes in house building are of course not improvements (linoleum rather than tile/wood), but I would still prefer to live in a house with a linoleum floor and drywall walls with modern plumbing and an electrical system that a solid nice brick house with wood floors and no electricity.

  29. Iago the Yerfdog says:

    I’d like to propose a concept-handle if one doesn’t already exist for this: “outrage pump.”

    An outrage pump is a fact that, while accurate, is frequently cited as if it settled some controversial matter so decisively (it doesn’t, at least not in the simplistic form usually given) that it proves the outgroup is a bunch of morons and evildoers.

    Concrete examples are controversial, so let me supply some templates in lieu of them:

    1. “[Famous rich person] makes [$$$] per [time unit].”
    2. “[Evil political party] had [political philosophy] right in their name!”
    3. “Well, ackchually, [outrage pump countering a different outrage pump].”
    4. “[Members of a group] [score differently on a given metric] than [members of a different group].”

    Three points: (i) an outrage pump has to be true,and (ii) an outrage pump has to be used to boo the outgroup. If it’s false, you don’t need the concept-handle of “outrage pump”: just point out that it isn’t true. If it’s used as part of a substantive argument that addresses the nuances of the issue and doesn’t try to emotionally blackmail the audience into agreeing with you, then it’s just a fact.

    • Kaitian says:

      I’ve been thinking about this kind of argument too. I have come to the conclusion that there are basically two reasons someone uses an argument like this:
      Either they are really unaware of counter arguments, in which case they’re not pumping the outrage pump maliciously.
      Or there completely uninterested in the argument as such, and are only focused on making the opposing position look bad.

      In case someone is just naive, it might be useful to analyse the argument with them. But in most cases, they probably have a mix of both motives going on, and don’t want to give credence to any arguments supporting the evil opposition.
      This connects to the concept John Michael Greer calls a thoughtstopper: once you’ve convinced yourself that something is fascist / un-American / demonic, or whatever your personal most hated category is, your thoughts don’t go past that point, and any counter arguments are not worth considering. The process here goes something like this:

      Opponent: [states some position]
      You: That position is [bad]. Don’t you know that [insert outrage pump here]?
      Opponent: Actually [outrage pump] is not as significant as it may seem, because…
      You: Why are you defending [bad people]? You must be one yourself.

      I think this happens mostly in public debates (where you’re never trying to find the truth, just to convince listeners), and online, where it’s easy to dehumanize your opponent.

      • Iago the Yerfdog says:

        That’s a really nice description of the phenomenon!

        And I can certainly see outrage pumps as a more elaborate version of a thoughtstopper: instead of just saying, “No, that’s socialism!” while throwing a chair at the other guy, you point out that (to use an example that I assume was a troll and really hope never becomes an actual outrage pump) Medicare-for-All means giving free healthcare to racists.

        Accurate, but, uh…

    • meh says:

      The United States is a republic, not a democracy

      • Iago the Yerfdog says:

        I’ve never seen/heard that one used with quite the level of affect that I had in mind, but I agree that it counts.

        Alright, I’ll give a concrete example: “If you don’t pay your taxes, men with guns will come to your door and haul you off.”

        This is accurate, and a respectable case against the morality of taxation can certainly be built around it. It’s when it’s deployed as a rhetorical weapon to DESTROY statists with FACTS and LOGIC that it becomes an outrage pump.

      • Unsaintly says:

        But that doesn’t pass the “obviously factually true” side of things. Republic and Democracy have had a number of different meanings throughout history, and people insisting that Republic means Representative Democracy are cherry picking a single specific definition.

        • Iago the Yerfdog says:

          For what it’s worth, I think the context here sets the meaning pretty well: public opinion is only indirectly relevant to government policy, and this is by design.

          This is an example of a “Well, ackchually…” outrage pump because it counters the opposite outrage pump, “This is undemocratic!” (EDIT: In cases where “undemocratic” obviously means, “against or indifferent to public opinion on the matter.”)

    • rahien.din says:

      You’re just describing rhetoric. The “_____ pump” phenomenon works for outrage, sympathy, enthusiasm, pathos – anything.

      Dennett’s term “intuition pump” deserves its own category because it is inducing a specific conceptual insight, rather than inducing a specific emotion.

      But it’s still all just rhetoric.

      Also, Taleb said it better : speak in aphorisms.

      • Iago the Yerfdog says:

        Sure. My goal isn’t to identify something radically new, it’s to provide a label the makes it easier to to defuse the emotional impact of the tactic, which I think is common and damaging enough to warrant such a label. Compare the terms “sob story” (which when the story is true is a kind of sympathy pump) and “hype” (which is a little bit like an enthusiasm pump).

        In addition, I think your statement, “it’s still all just rhetoric,” proves too much: it would prove that it’s worthless to identify different types of fallacies because “it’s still all just bad reasoning.”

    • AG says:

      In CX debate, arguments mostly all take the same structural form.
      1. Inherency/Uniqueness: Here is the current situation.
      2. Link: An action happens because of thing the other team proposes
      3. Internal Link: This action leads to a certain consequence.
      4. Impact: This consequence is bad because of these reasons.

      Counterarguments can take the form, then, of negating any of the above steps. A No Link is that the action won’t happen. A No Internal Link is that the action won’t lead to the consequence. A No Impact is that the consequence isn’t bad.

      Your outrage pump is simply people taking one of the components above and asserting that as the entire argument. Sometimes the person actually hasn’t thought through the “so what?”s, or sometimes the rest of the argument is implied. Or, outside of the context of an actual debate, it’s just a shibboleth, where the one part is a short hand for the rest of the argument, which those in the know should know.

      • Iago the Yerfdog says:

        Fascinating. I’ve never had any experience with formal debating, so to see it laid out systematically like this is pretty cool.

  30. Well... says:

    This seems conceptually true to me: in a two-party system such as the United States, when political party A is in power, party B often wishes for A to fail to accomplish things, even things B would normally support.

    In practice, is this equally true of Democrats and Republicans, and if so, what are some examples of both?

    • Aftagley says:

      Isn’t the counterargument to this position literally every piece of bipartisan legislation ever passed?

      • Byrel Mitchell says:

        I mean, he does say ‘often’, not ‘always’. So the existence of bipartisan legislation isn’t strong evidence against his idea.

      • John Schilling says:

        What, both of them?

        OK, not really. But for the past decade or two at least, it has been rare to see a significant bipartisan consensus for any legislation that isn’t basically about making sure the government continues to do what it has already been doing for as long as anyone can remember. Things that nobody can presently claim as an “accomplishment”.

        • S_J says:

          OK, not really. But for the past decade or two at least, it has been rare to see a significant bipartisan consensus for any legislation that isn’t basically about making sure the government continues to do what it has already been doing for as long as anyone can remember. Things that nobody can presently claim as an “accomplishment”.

          The most recent piece of bi-partisan work on major legislation that I can recall are… the “No Child Left Behind” education support initiative, and the “Medicare Part D” work. Both of which count as within the last two decades.

          The education bill had both John Boehner and George Miller as co-authors of the House version; it had Edward Kennedy and Judd Gregg as authors of the Senate versions. It was signed into law by George W Bush.

          The Medicare bill was based on proposals by Nancy Pelosi and Tom Daschle during the late-1990s; based on an idea proposed by then-President Bill Clinton. George W Bush continued to pres for the Medicare Part D bill, and eventually Congress gave him a version of it so that he could sign.

          Also during the Presidency of George W Bush, the Patriot Act and the Authorization to Use Military Force in response to the Al-Qaeda attacks were strongly supported by most members of both political parties, at the time they were enacted.

          During the Presidential campaigns of 2004 and 2008, the candidates attempting to win nomination for President in the Democratic Party routinely derided the provisions of the Patriot Act. They also spoke against many details of the military operations that were begun under the AUMF. We don’t know if John Kerry would have pushed for a revocation/end of either, but we do know that Barack Obama did not push for Congress to repeal/revoke either of them.

    • Silverlock says:

      I would say it is true up to a point. You won’t find that many people on either side who want a terrible calamity to befall just so they can point to failure of the party in power, but there are certainly people around who look forward to the smaller failings.

    • Thomas Jorgensen says:

      No. Seriously. I am on another continent, and it is blatantly obvious that “Obstruct Everything” is solely a republican thing. The democrats will oppose things they oppose, but not just because a republican supports it.

      • Byrel Mitchell says:

        I question the neutrality of your sources. As an example: last year, when they were fighting over the budget, the Democrats opposed and killed an independent bill to provide interim funding for an insurance program for disabled children which has broad bipartisan support.

        That’s a program that was completely in line with democrat goals and that they had no grievance with; they were using the possible outage of that program as popular leverage to portray the budget fight as Republicans being incompetent or evil and a no-strings-attached interim funding bill would have eliminated that line of attack.

        I have no idea if it’s equally distributed between the parties, but it’s certainly something both engage in.

        • John Schilling says:

          See also the Washington state carbon tax, and Warren “coyoteblog” Meyers’ attempt to build a base of moderate-conservative support for gay marriage in Arizona. Things that the political left wanted, but not as much as they wanted to be able to use “you evil Republicans hate Gays and Mother Earth” as a political cudgel.

          • RobJ says:

            I’m not sure how the Washington carbon tax fits here? It may have been opposed by a few groups from the left, but I don’t think you could claim it as being obstructed by democrats by any stretch. And in my memory it was still much more popular in democrat heavy counties than republican ones.

          • zzzzort says:

            The Washington carbon tax thing was definitely more about the perfect being the enemy of the good than about partisan sabotage (for one thing, since it was a ballot initiative in a Democratic state, the credit would have primarily accrued to the Democrats).

        • Aftagley says:

          Last year, when they were fighting over the budget, the Democrats opposed and killed an independent bill to provide interim funding for an insurance program for disabled children which has broad bipartisan support.

          What program are you talking about? It sounds kind of like your talking about CHIP, but the details either of the program or what happened in congress don’t match up with reality.

          • Byrel Mitchell says:

            Thanks for calling me on this. It was CHIP I was referring to, and I went back and researched it. I had quite a few errors; unfortunately I can’t go back and edit to fix them.

            It looks to me like the republicans in the house passed a bill to fund it in mid january (around the 17th), which was opposed because the democrats wanted a bill which both funded CHIP and had a favorable resolution to the ‘dreamers’ issue, and were unwilling to simply support the bipartisan program. Quote from the dem Minority Leader at the time:

            “[Republicans] were using the 10 million kids on CHIP, holding them as hostage for the 800,000 kids who were Dreamers. Kids against kids. Innocent kids against innocent kids. That’s no way to operate in this country.”

            To me, it seems clear that he was opposing the funding extension BECAUSE it was standalone and he was able (in his view at least) to blame the republicans.

            While my details in the first post were wrong, I think this definitely stands as an example of this class. Democrats had been beating republicans up publicly over the lack of funding for CHIP, and refused to vote for a short term funding bill to keep it going because they wanted the public leverage.

          • Aftagley says:

            Ok, you’re less wrong, but I think you’re still kind of wrong.

            First off, in the months leading up to January 2018, everyone knew that the CHIP program was running out of money and needed to be reauthorized. The only people who objected to CHIP… was the house freedom caucus. Because he didn’t want the bad optics of relying on Dems for votes, Paul Ryan kicked the can down the road. Yes, republicans had a majority in both houses and could have funded CHIP without any democrat support if they wanted, but internal republic opposition to the program scuttled that idea.

            Then comes winter, 2018 and another republican debate between the freedom caucus and the moderates over a spending package. The government was set to run out of money and would shut down if the spending package didn’t get approved by the republican-controlled congress.

            Democrats decided to not vote in favor of any republican spending bills if it didn’t fully include protections for DACAs. The house freedom caucus objected to the spending and also vowed to vote now. Thus, the government was on track to shut down.

            Then, the CHIP program was added to the republican spending bill – your memory is incorrect, there never was a standalone CHIP bill, it was always part of the overall spending package – it’s inclusion was a deliberate attempt from the Republicans to fracture the democrats unity and get some of them to vote for the spending bill which, and I cannot say this enough, only couldn’t pass because republican leadership couldn’t get the freedom caucus to vote for it.

      • Well... says:

        @Thomas Jorgensen:

        I can’t think of any examples to support your argument — not because I don’t believe there are any but because I just don’t know enough. Can you provide some?

        • Nick says:

          Thomas didn’t argue anything, he flatly asserted it. And no number of examples are going to prove a negative (“Democrats never obstruct anything”), but one counterexample can disprove it….

          ETA: To be a little nicer: Thomas can salvage his point by weakening it to “Republicans engage in a lot more obstruction than Democrats” and pointing to, say, number of filibusters or bills killed in committee or something.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        The fact that you are on another continent does make you neutral.

      • jermo sapiens says:

        Oh it’s blatantly obvious that Republicans are big meanies and Democrats are principled and wise? Wow, thanks for your insight. I will now go home and reconsider my life choices.

        • John Schilling says:

          Yeah, when their side opposes “bipartisan” legislation, it’s because they’re partisan meanies. When our side opposes “bipartisan” legislation, it’s because we were wise enough to spot the subtle trap, the poison pill, that they wove into the compromise bill because they’re partisan meanies.

          Two can play that game.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2020/04/how-to-destroy-a-government/606793/

            This is an article about Trump destroying American institutions. I largely agree with the article on the object level (Trump is doing it, and it’s bad that Trump is doing it), but while the article uses scare quotes around “deep state” it earlier describes a “permanent government”:

            [Trump] harbored a deep suspicion that some of them were plotting in secret to destroy him. He had to bring them to heel before he could be secure in his power. This wouldn’t be easy—the permanent government had defied other leaders and outlasted them. In his inexperience and rashness—the very qualities his supporters loved—he made early mistakes

            So, there we go. What we obviously knew as true is true: there’s a bunch of unelected people with a duty to the government who are just trying to pour sand in the gears of government policy. (Again, on the object level: I often agree with them. But on the meta level: a government that isn’t subject to the will of the people is a scary thing, even if the people are dummies and want bad things.)

          • Deiseach says:

            [Trump] harbored a deep suspicion that some of them were plotting in secret to destroy him. He had to bring them to heel before he could be secure in his power.

            What “plotting in secret”? When there are stories about deliberately frustrating the president’s decisions being published in the newspapers and books published on the matter, I don’t think that counts as “secret”.

            I only made it halfway through that article because I couldn’t stand the whole “the adults have left the room” silliness; also I could not find it in myself to cry salt tears for the former lawyer in the civil service who quit her job because she didn’t like the boss, and quite frankly I don’t understand the point being made here: if her political likes had won the election, she would have continued on as a yes-woman because rocking the boat would have meant her career would stall? But Trump is the bad guy here because… he would behave in the same way as her favoured political party if she went against his wishes?:

            The election in November changed her, freed her, in a way that she understood only much later. If Hillary Clinton had won, Newland likely would have continued as an ambitious, risk-averse government lawyer on a fast track. She would have felt pressure not to antagonize her new bosses, because elite Washington lawyers keep revolving through one another’s lives—these people would be the custodians of her future, and she wanted to rise within the federal government.

            …No one risked getting fired. No one would become the target of a Trump tweet. The danger might be a mediocre performance review or a poor reference. “There was no sense that there was anything to be gained by standing up within the office,” Newland told me recently. “The people who might celebrate that were not there to see it. You wouldn’t be able to talk about it. And if you’re going to piss everyone off within the department, you’re not going to be able to get out” and find a good job.

            I may be thick as the ditch, but I am not seeing the fine shade of difference between “under Hillary if I or anyone else in this department pissed off one of the high muck-a-mucks, we could kiss goodbye to our career” and “under Trump if I or anyone else in this department pissed off one of the high muck-a-mucks, we could kiss goodbye to our career”.

            Though I do like the tinfoil hat linkage of SINISTER CATHOLIC PLOTTING to the greater story:

            Barr spent the quarter century between Presidents Bush and Trump in private practice, serving on corporate boards, and caring for the youngest of his three daughters as she battled lymphoma. Barr and Cipollone also sat together on the board of the Catholic Information Center, an office in Washington closely affiliated with Opus Dei, a far-right Catholic organization with influential connections in politics and business around the world. During those years, the Republican Party sank into its own swamp of moral relativism, hitting bottom with Trump’s presidency.

            Trump’s arrival brought Barr out of semi-retirement as a reliable advocate. When Comey reopened the Clinton email investigation 11 days before the election, Barr wrote an approving op‑ed. When Trump fired Comey six months later, supposedly for mishandling the same investigation, Barr published another approving op-ed. The only consistent principle seemed to be what benefited Trump. Then, in June 2018, Barr wrote a 19-page memo and sent it, unsolicited, to Rod Rosenstein. The memo argued that Robert Mueller could not charge Trump with obstructing justice for taking actions that came under the president’s authority, including asking Comey to back off the Flynn investigation and then firing Comey. In Barr’s expansive view of Article II, it was nearly impossible for Trump to obstruct justice at all.

            Writing that memo was a strange thing for a former attorney general to do with his spare time. Six months later, Trump nominated Barr to his old job.

            Gasp! Not Opus Dei! (Dan Brown has told you all about them and what they get up to). Horrid Popish Plot Redux! Ah yes, you cannot trust us Papists, slinking around in alleged retirement but really working to assist the Anti-Christ to sit in the highest seat of power!

          • Unsaintly says:

            The Deep State is a motte and bailey. “Government bureaucrats outlast specific administrations and have their own motivations” is obviously true and pretty benign. But if you call that the Deep State, you can’t then talk about Deep State Conspiracies or the Deep State acting in any unified manner. There is no Deep State Conspiracy, nobody is issuing out marching orders being followed by a legion of Obama Loyalists embedded in government. It’s just basic institutional inertia.

          • Matt M says:

            Unsaintly,

            I agree with you! But I’m not sure there’s nearly as much of a distinction between the two ideas as you think.

            Is there a “deep state conspiracy” full of “Obama loyalists?” No, I suppose there isn’t.

            Are the federal bureaucracies packed full of people who loved Obama and what he stood for, and loathe Trump and what he stands for? Yes, absolutely.

            It’s not the case that there’s some shadowy cabal trying to take down Trump… but only because there doesn’t need to be. Every federal bureaucrat just doing what comes naturally to them will take you to the same place…

          • Thegnskald says:

            Aligned incentives tend to look like concerted behavior.

            Rooting out the deep state cannot work, because the incentives are the thing being objected to.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Matt M

            Probably a secret conspiracy of Obama holdovers would be better for our Republic long term.

            Then you just need to find and root out people who are actually attempting to undermine the government.

            If it’s just that institutional inertia prevents anyone who is elected with a vision too far from the “Deep State” vision from doing anything, that means the President gets reduced to a figurehead that we choose every four years based on whim who has no actual power.

            Fortunately, it’s not that far gone yet, but I’ll note that “The Deep State is just regular bureaucrats” is not terribly reassuring.

          • Randy M says:

            It’s an issue of, like Edward Scizorhands sharply points out, how responsive the government is to the will of the people.

            And I don’t mean to say it should be immediately and fully so. Some inertia is probably a good thing.

            But too much creates perverse incentives for those aligned with the state ideologically, when the size and power of the state is one of the ideological fault lines, and having a faction that the beerocracy sees as being on their side

            edit: Ninjas everywhere…

          • Jake R says:

            Is it just me or is the phrase “permanent government” both more descriptive and more frightening than the phrase “deep state”? Whoever decides these things should have just gone with that one from the beginning.

          • John Schilling says:

            So, there we go. What we obviously knew as true is true: there’s a bunch of unelected people with a duty to the government who are just trying to pour sand in the gears of government policy.

            More like trying to keep the gears of government policy properly oiled, under a commander-in-chief who doesn’t know the meaning of the word tribology.

            I don’t know about you, but I actually read the piece you cited. Admittedly, skimming some parts. But I couldn’t find one example of any “permanent government” civil servant failing to implement any vaguely legal administration policy or command during their period of employment. So I think you’re off base here.

            But on the meta level: a government that isn’t subject to the will of the people is a scary thing

            So, is it scary that Senators have staggered elections with six-year terms? And can filibuster? If the people change their mind tomorrow, the government isn’t subject to the will of the people, O, the horror!

            Every apology for Democracy, even at the “worst except for all of the others” level, acknowledges that we’re not talking about the sort of mob-rule democracy where every transient whim of 50.1% of the population is immediately implemented as written(*). So, spare me the feigned terror at about the bit where a president who got 46% of the vote can’t immediately have everything his way because Will Of The People.

            This is how it’s supposed to work. Just as the Senate can block the democratically elected president from passing laws, or the courts from enforcing them, the bureaucracy can prevent the president from throwing sand into the machinery of government because he wants to bring parts of it to a halt. And, if “the people” want to change that, they need to do it by way of a persistent majority or maybe quicker but only with a supermajority. Which they can do. Donald Trump, can’t. If the American people had wanted, they could have looked at his performance in 2017-2018 and given him that power in the midterms, but they didn’t.

            That’s not scary. Scary, is doing it the other way in a world with e.g. 737s and nuclear reactors.

            * exactly as written, and implemented good and hard by one of the malevolent genies from the stories.

          • Randy M says:

            So, spare me the feigned terror at about the bit where a president who got 46% of the vote can’t immediately have everything his way because Will Of The People.

            I was going to object to this, because we don’t have different presidential powers based on number of popular or even electoral votes received. But you pointed out that we in fact do, it’s the whole political process and party system. So, good point. Trump should get less, not due to that 46% figure, but to the extent that it is harder for him to convince other officials to cooperate with him.
            However, this does seem to imply that a president should, if he wants to get anything done and disagrees substantively with the prior admin, clear out much of the civil service and fill it with cronies or aligned ideologues.
            I recall years ago it was a transient scandal with GWBush fired some largeish number of US attorneys.

          • Lambert says:

            >However, this does seem to imply that a president should, if he wants to get anything done and disagrees substantively with the prior admin, clear out much of the civil service and fill it with cronies or aligned ideologues.

            Number 10 seems to think so. Sajid Javid stepped down as chancellor because they wanted to purge his advisers. Not sure what the deal with the Priti Patel accusations is but I’d not be shocked it it was related.

          • Statismagician says:

            Note that the President is specifically prohibited from doing this, because before he was the result was corruption on a scale only matched by its predictability.

          • John Schilling says:

            However, this does seem to imply that a president should, if he wants to get anything done and disagrees substantively with the prior admin, clear out much of the civil service and fill it with cronies or aligned ideologues.

            The president should, if he wants to get anything done, work with the civil service to get it done. And no, it isn’t generally the case than only Democrats can do this because the civil service won’t work with Republicans (or with populist reformers). It just requires skills and temperament that one Republican in particular happens to lack.

            Plan B, if the civil service is impossibly recalcitrant, is for the President to join or form a political party that shares his agenda and have them change the civil-service laws to allow him to overhaul the civil service as needed – hopefully as a one-time special event, because as statismagician notes we really don’t want that sort of thing to become a norm. And I admit to using “46% of the popular vote” as a casual shorthand for “POTUS is not in fact spearheading a popular movement capable of this”; the metric that really matters is being able to convince the American people to vote in 60 senators willing to support a civil-service purge.

            There may be a Plan C where the president and the courts work to rein in a bureaucracy out of control; haven’t thought hard enough about that one yet.

            If all you’ve got is a bare majority for one election to one office, you don’t have a mandate for something like that and ought not try to do that; at that level you’re a caretaker president in charge of making sure the things that almost all Americans agree on don’t get broken any further than they already are. So do that for two years and go back to the people at the midterms to ask for more.

          • Eric Rall says:

            There may be a Plan C where the president and the courts work to rein in a bureaucracy out of control; haven’t thought hard enough about that one yet.

            The civil service laws already contain provision for dismissing protected federal employees for cause. The procedure is pretty heavyweight has a lot of Due Process provisions and appeals procedures. I looked it up, and the last appeals venue is the US Merit Systems Protection Board, consisting of three board seats with staggered 7-year terms.

            And curiously, all three seats are currently vacant. Trump has nominated replacements (in March 2018, June 2018, and April 2019), but all three nominees are still pending Senate confirmation. I don’t know why they’re pending so long, but my first guess is some kind of fundamental disagreement between Trump and Senate Republicans over the nominees.

          • John Schilling says:

            The civil service laws already contain provision for dismissing protected federal employees for cause. The procedure is pretty heavyweight has a lot of Due Process provisions and appeals procedures.

            Right. If you want to dismiss a few civil servants, and particularly if the rest of the bureaucracy doesn’t mind seeing those particular few go, that’s a reasonable proposition. If you’re seeing a vast deep-state conspiracy that you need to purge, you’re either going to need a very sympathetic judiciary, or you’re going to need congress to change the laws. I think this is generally a good thing on checks-and-balances grounds.

          • Eric Rall says:

            If you’re seeing a vast deep-state conspiracy that you need to purge, you’re either going to need a very sympathetic judiciary, or you’re going to need congress to change the laws. I think this is generally a good thing on checks-and-balances grounds.

            Yeah, I think I agree with most of that. Whether it’s a conspiracy or just an institutional culture problem, then if the President can’t manage uncooperative civil servants by firing the worst offenders to encourage the others, that implies that there’s a huge problem either with the civil servants or the President, and we really need at least one of Congress or the Courts to step in and fix things.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            If I wasn’t clear, I’m glad the permanent government is defying Trump, because he’s dangerous and doesn’t know what he’s doing.

            But the fact that this government exists is unsettling. Like if we elect a President to take up the cause of, say, Criminal Justice Reform, and these staffers just decide not to really do the work necessary because those fucks belong in prison or something, I’d be mighty pissed.

          • Loriot says:

            > But the fact that this government exists is unsettling.

            There’s two sides to every coin. I work at a relatively small company, but I still often have to ignore or favorably interpret orders from on high in order to get anything useful done, since they don’t know what it’s like in the trenches. If they got serious enough about it, I’d start following them more literally, and everyone would be worse off for it.

          • John Schilling says:

            But the fact that this government exists is unsettling.

            If the “permanent government” is unsettling to you, then it would seem that either you are an anarchist who wants no government, or you want some sort of “temporary government”.

            How is that supposed to work, exactly? We replace all the civil servants whenever we get a new president, with ones by definition short on experience but by inevitability boot-lickingly loyal the new president, and how is that supposed to work any better than it did the last time?

          • cassander says:

            @John Schilling says:

            and how is that supposed to work any better than it did the last time?

            To be fair, under that system, the US went from a collection of farmers on the fringe of the world to the richest and most powerful (potentially at least) country in the world. Which is not to say that it was ideal, just that it wasn’t exactly crippling.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            To be fair, going from farmers on the fringe to one of the world’s richest took about 130 years. I don’t think the original commenter is advocating a 130-year cycle of civil servants.

          • Aftagley says:

            To be fair, the Pendleton Act ended the spoils system in 1883 and most people don’t count the US as having become a superpower until the late 1890s, so you could just as easily say that the Pendelton act turned the US from a collection of farmers to a superpower in only a decade and a half.

            (warning: the above argument may not actually have been fair)

          • cassander says:

            @Aftagley

            the pendleton act was passed in 83, but it didn’t immediately transform the entire federal government. The way the act worked was a ratchet. only a small number of jobs were made civil service at first. Presidents were given the power to convert agencies to civil service, but not turn them back. I don’t have exact numbers in front of me, but I believe that a majority of federal employees were still not civil servants at the turn of the century.

        • Thomas Jorgensen says:

          sigh. The republican party explicitly and openly made “We will oppose everything the other side wants” policy. Mitch Mcconnel brags about this. This is not something the D side of the isle has done. Any equivalency you care to make here is false.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            What do you make of the Resistance, and “Resist Trump” bumper stickers? I don’t think the Resistance is interested in evaluating each of Trump’s policies and figuring out which ones are worth resisting and which ones are not. It’s a blanket call to resist everything Trump-related.

            This shows up in bizarre areas, like the “controversy” Nick’s brought up on SSC over federal building architecture, with left media outlets defending brutalist architecture that, until Trump was against it, so was almost every man, woman and child in the United States.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            What do you make of the Resistance, and “Resist Trump” bumper stickers?

            I may get some details of this wrong, but maybe a year ago, Trump proposed pulling the troops out of Syria and the Democrats were outraged with “But what about the Kurds??” At the time, I admit I thought this was opposition for opposition’s sake, and not simply the Democrats following their longstanding principle of favoring more military action in the middle east.

          • Nick says:

            @Conrad Honcho
            Specifically, remember one of the tweet threads was from Brian Goldstein, who used to work in the GSA Office of the Chief Architect and hoped that the executive order would get “gummed up” until the next president could can it.

          • Aftagley says:

            Trump proposed pulling the troops out of Syria and the Democrats were outraged with “But what about the Kurds??” At the time, I admit I thought this was opposition for opposition’s sake, and not simply the Democrats following their longstanding principle of favoring more military action in the middle east.

            Dude, come on. You think the only two options possible was the either the evil democrats were just being obstructionist OR the evil democrats were desperate to have more military engagement in the middle east?

            The argument against pulling out troops from northern Syria, put forward be people across the political spectrum was – there is very little cost to remaining here (in terms of lives and treasure), our support here is resulting in real gains (We were using the Kurds to seriously disrupt and detain ISIS fighters throughout the region) AND if we leave our allies will likely get invaded by Turkey.

            We pulled out, and in the year since – at least triple digits of previously detained ISIS fighters are back in the wild and Turkey has invaded Syria, triggering pretty substantial regional instability. Literally the arguments we made against taking this action have come true, and yet you’re still writing it off as baseless obstructionism?

            Moving on, let’s examine this idea:

            the Democrats following their longstanding principle of favoring more military action in the middle east.

            Is this a serious claim your making? It’s spurious, but I want to make sure it’s actually worth refuting before I invest the time in doing so.

          • albatross11 says:

            We’re still in Syria, we just screwed over our most valuable local allies and left them to get crushed by the Turkish military.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            Dude, come on. You think the only two options possible was the either the evil democrats were just being obstructionist OR the evil democrats were desperate to have more military engagement in the middle east?

            No, in this case I just used an example that I could come up with to show that opposing for the sake of opposing was not unique to the Republicans. I have no strong position on Syria and it appears my example was poorly selected.

            Is this a serious claim your making?

            No, it’s not.

    • Well... says:

      Since nobody has provided them so far, I guess it looks like I should add, I am especially looking for examples of where Republicans have blocked Democrats from doing things the Republicans themselves wanted or would likely want, just because it’s the Democrats/a particular Democrat doing it.

      • abe says:

        I think blocking the raising of the debt ceiling, which resulted in the national debt rating being downgraded by Standard & Poor, fits the bill pretty perfectly.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_debt-ceiling_crisis_of_2011

        • Clutzy says:

          I don’t want the debt ceiling raised, and politicians like Ted Cruz genuinely do not want that either.

          Also, you have to remember that someone who wants to change things only has 2 major opportunity points: When there is no passed budget and the government is going to shut down, or the debt ceiling needs to be raised. At all other times the status quo-ers can do nothing and keep winning.

          • Loriot says:

            Even among Republicans, most of them don’t want the US to arbitrarily default on its debts. They also seem to have no issues raising the debt ceiling when a Republican is in the whitehouse.

          • Randy M says:

            If we go back to the general/shaman dichotomy, very few Republican generals will want to institute measures that restrict their power, while it is indeed and issue that the shamans care about.
            The true believers certainly aren’t a majority, of course, and plenty aren’t true believers in limited government so long as they are in limiting the power of the other side.

          • Clutzy says:

            Even among Republicans, most of them don’t want the US to arbitrarily default on its debts. They also seem to have no issues raising the debt ceiling when a Republican is in the whitehouse.

            The first point has nothing to do with the debt ceiling. The S&P downgrade was nonsensical at best and political in all likelihood. Raising the debt ceiling increases the chance we will default on future debt.

            The second point is merely about people understanding leverage points under different forms of government. Ted Cruz has almost no power other than obstructionism under a D-Presidency because Congress and SCOTUS have allowed that branch to have much more power than constitutionally intended, under an R-Presidency he has great power by just having a sit down with the President and Majority leader.

    • Loriot says:

      It’s probably always been true to some extent, but my view (as a Democrat) is that it got much worse under Mitch McConnell. I’m sure Republicans will say that actually the Democrats started it.

      • cassander says:

        can you give an actual example? and no, the ACA isn’t even close to one.

        • Loriot says:

          Part of the problem is that there is no fact with political relevance that is so indisputable that more than 60% of the population will accept it. It makes it really hard to debate political matters.

          • EchoChaos says:

            I feel like there aren’t even many facts without political relevance that don’t become politically relevant if Trump talks about them.

            His recent foray into architecture proves that.

          • rumham says:

            Even objectively verifiable fact. Exhibit A: tax cuts

        • abe says:

          As I mentioned in another thread, dragging out the debt-ceiling crisis for so long that the national debt was downgraded is a fitting example.

          • cassander says:

            Right, but the Democrats do that too. Everyone bitches about the debt when they’re out of power and plays games with those votes. The claim is that republicans escalated things under McConnell.

          • Chalid says:

            The debt ceiling fights *did* escalate under McConnell.

  31. rlms says:

    The latest SSC Diplomacy game is looking for a couple more players, sign up here if you’re interested!

    • Lambert says:

      When is it expected to start (and end)?

      • rlms says:

        Planning to start imminently (once I send emails to some new signups who will take the last place in the current game). If enough new people sign up there might also be a second game starting later. Speed will be 1 week for the first turn, then 1-2 days for each, so game length probably 1-3 months depending on how long your last.

  32. Pandemic Pi Party – Virtual Meetup

    On Pi day (3/14), starting at 3 PM Eastern, I will be hosting a virtual meetup for SSC readers. It will take place on Zoom and either Slack or Discord.

    It’ll be a perfect occasion to hang out with fellow readers and participate in the community without exposing yourself to the horrors of the outside world like the coronavirus, national borders, and personal hygiene. Come one, come all! If you are not the typical reader and don’t go to meetups normally – now is your chance to maintain your iconoclast persona, but also hang out with your fellow readers.

    I will post the participation links on the SSC subreddit and Discord an hour before the meetup. This post is for marking your calendars and suggesting topics/activities/readings. Any input welcome!

  33. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    What detail has thrown you out of a story?

    I snagged the question from a semi-private discussion elsewhere.

    One thing mentioned was a society which has tailoring but not scissors, and I realized I have no idea whether tailoring could be done if all you had was exacto knives, leaving aside the question of the likelihood of having exacto knives (possibly with heavier blades) without having invented scissors.

    My contribution was an X-Files (?) movie where an ancient virus was presented as especially dangerous. I *think* it not having evolved in the presence of modern immune systems would tend to make it less dangerous, but I suppose it could go either way.

    • Aftagley says:

      The Movie Looper – the plot relied on the future mob sending people back in time to be eliminated by hitmen in the present day. The hitmen would kill these unwitting time travelers for a while and were paid in bricks of silver that were sent back in time with the victims.

      Sooner or later, however, the hitman’s future version would be eliminated by the future mob (to get rid of the witnesses). They would be sent back in time to be killed by their past version who would know what was going on since the hitman would be paid in gold bars for this job.

      I never understood why the mob just didn’t send the future version of the hitman to a different hitman. Why send someone you want to kill to the only person on earth with a vested interest in not killing them? Over the course of the move we see this happen two times and each time the past version wimps out and refuses to off their future version.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Also, why bother with a hitman at all? Send them back in time to just above an active volcano.

        • sandoratthezoo says:

          Hitmen are unionized, no automation allowed.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            If hitmen were unionized, work rules would require 10 hitmen for each victim, and then you’d need 100 hitmen to off the 10 hitmen and it would just spiral out of control.

        • viVI_IViv says:

          Why bother with time travel at all? Just drop them into an active volcano.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            According to the premise, there are “tracking systems” that make it near impossible to dispose of a body in the future. How disposing of them into the past is a workaround for this I don’t know…wouldn’t the tracking system still know the last place the victim was before the time travel event? Since the victims are bound up and masked, you would think their last known location would still be “boss’s lair with the time machine.”

            Also, I’m not sure why being able to track the bodies matters that much. Great, you’ve tracked the body to the volcano. Good luck gathering forensic evidence.

            Oh, but as for why time travel is a good idea for active volcano disposal, we know when the volcano was active in the past, and we’re assuming it’s not active in the future/present. So you take the victim to the dormant volcano and then chuck them into the past when the volcano was active.

          • Aftagley says:

            ccording to the premise, there are “tracking systems” that make it near impossible to dispose of a body in the future.

            The idea was that a global monitoring system was so robust that it could detect the exact time and place of someone dying.

            Which invites the immidiate follow-up question of, “wait, why can’t whomever runs this system ALSO just track incidents of time travel?”

            or maybe,

            “wait, why can’t whomever runs this system tune it to track the gangsters and mafiosos who are implimenting this very complex and illegal system?”

            I’m glad other people find this as upsetting as I do. I’ve been furious about this movie for years.

          • acymetric says:

            I’m glad other people find this as upsetting as I do. I’ve been furious about this movie for years.

            You should have just done what I did. Say “that looks dumb” when they first started advertising it, and then never watch a second of the movie ever.

          • Aftagley says:

            You should have just done what I did. Say “that looks dumb” when they first started advertising it, and then never watch a second of the movie ever.

            Thanks… if only there was some kind of technology that would let me convey this information to the past version of myself.

            Anyone have any silver bars I can borrow?

          • viVI_IViv says:

            Ok, maybe they had to use time travel, but then they could have strapped a bomb to their neck rather than a silver bar to pay a killer, or just teleported them above a volcano as Conrad says, or into the ocean, or into a mountain. Sloppy world-building.

            I see a pattern here:
            “So, to me the notion of what’s the entire galaxy or world that you are creating or something, I can’t imagine getting excited about creating that. To me what I’m excited about is creating a two hour long experience for an audience to have in the theater. And that means how they engage moment to moment with the story and the characters that are on the screen. And that doesn’t change in either one of those.”

            Ok, Rian, this may work for comedies/murder mysteries like Knives Out, but please stay away from fantasy and sci-fi.

    • S_J says:

      In an early James Bond film, the moment when one car chases another down a gravel road…and the sound effects for car-going-around-a-corner include squealing tires. The kind of squealing-tires sound that happens on pavement, and not on gravel.

      I don’t remember which Bond film it is, but I know that it starred Sean Connery. At the time, I was trying to watch the Bond movies in sequence.

    • AlexOfUrals says:

      Trains driven by diesel and nuclear engines through an interstellar network of wormholes. As well as I at least dozen other details in Pandora Star by Hamilton, bit that’s the most egregious. If you can open a wormhole to anywhere within N light-years, you certainly can open it to a hundred or two kilometers above, build as many solar panels there as you need and lay a cable through it. In fact this possibility – go to space by just opening a wormhole there – is specifically mentioned in the book and used for a couple of plot critical things. Hell, Earth in fact does have all its energy generation done by solar panels on the Moon! However all other planets prefer to enjoy their smog and oil spills (also mentioned in the book a good number of times) or go primitive, except for those few that can afford 21st century clean energy technologies.

      • fibio says:

        I think a recurrent theme of Hamilton’s, humanity reaches for the stars and then proceeded to make all the same mistakes as their forebears. Often in exacting detail. One colony expedition I believe doesn’t even bother to supply the settlers with power tools which is just insane given they got there via FTL spaceship.

        • Tarpitz says:

          See also the first man to receive rejuvenation, a visionary genius who takes advantage of the fresh start to… bang his teenage son’s girlfriend.

          And, well, I wish I had enough faith in the general competence of humanity to be sure interstellar colonists would be issued with power tools, but…

        • AlexOfUrals says:

          That happens on the character level too. Ozzie Isaacs spent few hundred years as the richest person and the most famous adventurer in the whole galaxy, and yet he doesn’t know how to console – or send off – a teenager, or how to hook up with a woman. Many others are also surprisingly naive about some things for their stated multi-lifetime experience.

    • Faza (TCM) says:

      I’ve recently been binging on old Doctor Who (specifically, early Jon Pertwee) and I’ve had a fair bit of that with the Ambassadors of Death storyline.

      I know Doctor Who well enough to be aware that the show’s approach to science was always fast and loose, but this particular story’s take on radiation was giving me constant needle-scratch moments. For a start: if something is radioactive enough to kill you outright on touch, it’s probably radioactive enough to give you severe radiation poisoning by standing anywhere near it. Also, make everything in its immediate surroundings insanely radioactive, too. Oh and let’s not forget “isotopes” being used as meaning “radioactive substance” (there’s actually a crate labelled “Warning! Isotopes”, or some such, on screen).

      Other than that, I never fail to be amazed how absolutely incompetent UNIT are. It’s almost like the British military took the absolute worst performers that, for whatever reason, cannot simply be sacked and said “put those lot in UNIT, they won’t do any harm there”. I get that they may be outmatched when faced with a hitherto unknown alien menace whose powers greatly exceed our own, but in Ambassadors they repeatedly get their asses handed to them by what are essentially criminals and it’s not because the criminals have superior information (they do) or incredibly cunning plans. UNIT – a military organization, with military-grade gear – is incapable of handling mobsters armed with pistols in a straight up firefight.

      While on that subject, they could learn a thing or two about proper security protocols, because – apparently – if you’re guarding a place you know is under threat, you just let enemy agents come and go as they please and/or station solitary guards in key spots to be knocked out by said agents or otherwise overpowered.

      Which reminds me of the preceding storyline (Doctor Who and the Silurians) that helpfully informs us – in these trying times – how not to perform a quarantine. Pro tip: if you’re in a sealed underground complex that your military controls and you learn that a highly infectious and deadly pathogen has been introduced for the specific purpose of culling the human race, you do not allow one of the people who were in the room with patient zero, just before he helpfully expires to demonstrate just how bad the disease is, to get on the early train to London before you seal off the place. The correct response is: nobody gets in or out starting right now!

      • Eric Rall says:

        For a start: if something is radioactive enough to kill you outright on touch, it’s probably radioactive enough to give you severe radiation poisoning by standing anywhere near it.

        Yup. One vivid example is the combined statistics from the two Demon Core incidents, where scientists running near-criticality experiments with a prototype core for a Fat Man style A-Bomb on two separate occasions (with the same core, hence the name) accidentally sent the core into a supercritical state (i.e. undergoing an uncontrolled fission chain reaction).

        In each event, the person closest to the core (working directly with it, and in the second incident, physically touching it to knock the top off the core to take it out of critical) died of acute radiation poisoning, 25 and 9 days later respectively. About a third of the other people in the room at the time eventually died of long-term diseases that can be triggered by radiation poisoning (two cases of acute myeloid leukemia and one case of aplastic anemia; the former in particular hard to draw conclusions from since the lifetime base risk of cancer-related mortality is counterintuitively high, and AML in particular is fairly common and has other well-documented risk factors including smoking). Nobody died right away. I’m not even sure it’s possible to kill someone immediately from radiation alone, short of pumping enough energy into them to literally cook them.

        Also, make everything in its immediate surroundings insanely radioactive, too.

        Only for neutron radiation, which you usually only get from an unshielded/under-shielded active nuclear reaction. The forms of radiation you see from radioactive decay, alpha particles (high-energy He+ ions), beta particles (high-energy electrons), and gamma rays, will ionize and denature molecules, but don’t affect atomic nuclei and can’t make anything radioactive itself. Well, technically matter heats up when it absorbs radiation, and it will re-radiate some of that heat energy as infrared or visible light, but that’s not what we mean by “radioactive” in this context.

        • Faza (TCM) says:

          Only for neutron radiation, which you usually only get from an unshielded/under-shielded active nuclear reaction.

          You’re right, of course. However, the show makes a big deal out of being able to detect where said radioactive sources have been by residual radiation, complete with Geiger counters ticking like a metronome to a Dragonforce song.

          Now, technically, this could be the result of radioactive matter being shed by the sources (despite the fact that there appears to be no way this could happen), rather than the environment itself becoming radioactive, but I’d venture that for the very definitely unshielded humans doing the investigating it’s a distinction without a difference.

          The only way to deal with it is to accept that “radioactivity” in the context of the show is just another word for “magic”.

          • Eric Rall says:

            However, the show makes a big deal out of being able to detect where said radioactive sources have been by residual radiation, complete with Geiger counters ticking like a metronome to a Dragonforce song.

            You’re right. I’d forgotten about that part, as it’s been years since I last watched that story.

            The only way to deal with it is to accept that “radioactivity” in the context of the show is just another word for “magic”.

            As I recall, the same can be said of “reversing the polarity” in that era of Doctor Who. Kinda like how the later Star Trek series frequently “Quantum” or “Neutrino” to mean “magic”.

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            I was wondering whether I was remembering it correctly, so I just checked and at some point the radiation being detected from the sources is quoted as being 2 million rads plus a bunch of other numbers that I can’t quite make out over the screaming. The screaming might be me.

          • Lambert says:

            Is there any equipmaent that detects rads? I suppose at Mrad levels you could probably do calorimetry. And a time base would be helpful.

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            Presumably, some form of dosimeter might do (as in: give a readout in rads). The show is from 1970, so it predates the adoption of the sievert.

          • Lambert says:

            Huh even the REM wasn’t a thing till ’71.

      • viVI_IViv says:

        they repeatedly get their asses handed to them by what are essentially criminals and it’s not because the criminals have superior information (they do) or incredibly cunning plans. UNIT – a military organization, with military-grade gear – is incapable of handling mobsters armed with pistols in a straight up firefight.

        I googled it and eww, what’s this crap? Reminds me of Adam West’s Batman, but at least that one was supposed to be funny. Anyway, it’s an episode from 50 years ago, I’m sure that in half a century our present shows will look equally idiotic.

        • Faza (TCM) says:

          what’s this crap?

          Britain’s finest.

          Reminds me of Adam West’s Batman, but at least that one was supposed to be funny. Anyway, it’s an episode from 50 years ago, I’m sure that in half a century our present shows will look equally idiotic.

          I actually like it for the old-school charm. For all my poking fun at it, the writing is generally clever enough to keep me reaching for the next episode, even though it’s way past bedtime.

          The core of the story is actually a pretty solid thriller that could really shine if given a few “ok this is silly/doesn’t make sense” passes. Not much we can do about the production values, though, unless we assume a much later date and bigger budget.

    • whale says:

      The train heist in the final season of Breaking Bad. Even though they knew where in the lineup the methylamine would be, the train needed to stop +/- a few meters of where it did for them to pull it off, which seems unlikely given how much cargo the train was carrying. In my estimation, if the conductor applies the brakes half a second earlier or later, the whole plan doesn’t work.

    • Jake R says:

      In Ocean’s Twelve, as part of the heist, Julia Roberts’ character impersonates famous actress and celebrity… Julia Roberts. My family, with whom I was watching the movie, thought this was clever. I could barely get through the rest of the film.

      • Randy M says:

        It’s just set in an alternate world where there is a Julia Roberts and Bruce Willis, but not a Brad Pitt or George Clooney, etc.

      • The Nybbler says:

        “But she doesn’t look a thing like Julia Roberts!”

      • silver_swift says:

        I agree with your family, I thought that was kind of a clever fourth wall breech.

        What bothered me much more was the hall of slowly moving lasers that you can get past by dancing.

        • AG says:

          Heist show Leverage’s showrunner ran fan Q&As on his blog during the run of the show:

          [Fan question]: LASER TRIPWIRES DO NOT WORK LIKE THAT!

          Answer: Do not even get me started on the laser tripwires. However, TV Tropes basically require their presence for The Big Heist. And what’s that? It’s the oncoming rumble of the FUN TRAIN! WOOOOOOT!! WOOOOOOT!

    • Deiseach says:

      Don’t know if it exactly counts as a detail or more a switch of genre – from supernatural horror story to plain old ‘eek it’s a monster’ horror story – but years ago I was enjoying having the living daylights frightened out of me by a book in which there was an (apparently) supernatural entity slaughtering everyone in a remote town. It seemed to be unkillable and able to go anywhere and get anyone it wished, and nobody had the faintest idea what they could do to stop it. On top of that were the apparent supernatural elements, as I said, which were freaking out the plucky band of ‘demon’s happy meals on legs’.

      Then for no discernable reason it swerved off the tracks to be “Surprise, it’s a material animal monster!” which totally killed the entire mood for me and stopped scaring me. Because if it’s material, it can be killed (and was, eventually, by our plucky gang). All you need is a Sufficiently Big Gun and/or bomb(s). You can’t shoot the Devil or a Lovecraftian cosmic horror, but a big ugly monster made out of flesh and blood? No problem (eventually). I did read on to the end, but I was so disappointed – the delicious scares had stopped because I was just turning the pages until our heroes accumulated enough artillery to blow the thing to kingdom come.

    • Eric Rall says:

      Just about any medical drama (or comedy, for that matter) seems to take place in an alternate universe where HIPAA privacy rules aren’t a thing.

      There’s one episode of West Wing where John Larroquette’s character storms into the White House Chief of Staff’s office (right down the hall from the President’s office) brandishing a cricket bat and shouting about how he’s going to kill someone. And at no point in the scene does he get tackled by a Secret Service agent.

      In the movie 300, the Persian cavalry is shown as having stirrups. This is about as anachronistic as it would be for a movie about Attila the Hun that depicts his warriors as armed with matchlock muskets.

      • Lambert says:

        It’s not like any of the other aspects of 300 were much more realistic.

        • Eric Rall says:

          Yeah, but most of those were defensible as artistic license, depicting a combination of how the Spartans themselves would have seen things and how the story would be told today as a fictional story set in a heroic fantasy universe.

          For the former, one big example is minimizing the contributions of the Athenian navy and reducing the contributions of the other Greek cities’ soldiers at Thermopylae, especially the Thesbians and Thebans who stayed and died alongside the Spartans to cover the retreat of the rest of the defenders. Another is showing the Spartans going into battle wearing flashy read cloaks and budgie-smuggler loincloths instead of heavy armor and face-covering helmets: Spartan artistic depictions of themselves from that era often show their warriors fighting naked except for a flashy red cloak fluttering dramatically in the breeze, and the loincloths were no doubt added to keep the rating down to R instead of NC-17.

          For the latter, the clearest example is probably the Persian army apparently taking their stylistic cues from Mordor.

          • John Schilling says:

            What’s the excuse for the bit where Gerard Butler gives the speech about how Sparta has no use for individually capable warriors because it’s all about the cohesion of the phalanx, the movie then offers one brief scene, less than a minute, of something close to a proper phalanx, and then it’s all about the individually superb lone-wolf Spartan warriors individually swordfighting the Persian horde into oblivion?

          • Eric Rall says:

            That bothered me, too. Less than the stirrups, since the did at least give us the token scene of them doing it right-ish before switching over to flashy individual dance-fighting.

            And even the latter is defensible by a combination of the two categories of artistic license I called out before: Spartan artistic depictions of their warriors in action that I’ve seen appear to be split about 50/50 between showing something like the tight formations they would actually use and showing warriors fighting individually. And the latter also maps better to modern movie fight choreography tropes, so I understand them going with that instead of figuring out a way to keep tight formation phalynx fighting exciting for two hours even though I would have preferred the latter if they could pull it off.

          • Deiseach says:

            Another is showing the Spartans going into battle wearing flashy read cloaks and budgie-smuggler loincloths instead of heavy armor and face-covering helmets: Spartan artistic depictions of themselves from that era often show their warriors fighting naked except for a flashy red cloak fluttering dramatically in the breeze

            As the French history painter Jacques-Louis David demonstrates, all a real Spartan warrior needs is a flower crown and to lace his sandals up right before going into battle. The Romans, being more practical, dispensed with the flower crowns 🙂

          • Eric Rall says:

            The Romans, being more practical, dispensed with the flower crowns 🙂

            I think my favorite part of the second painting you linked is the strategically-aligned scabbard worn by the fellow in the foreground towards the left side of the frame.

          • Deiseach says:

            The strategically-aligned scabbard

            He needs a big scabbard ‘cos he’s got a big sword (if you know what I mean) 😀

        • Jake R says:

          Everything else about 300 was perfectly realistic! As soon as you remember that it’s being told within a frame story by the lone survivor trying to raise morale before the real battle. The enemy as a horde of inhuman monsters being carved apart by our superhuman fighters seems par for the course.

          Of course none of this explains the stirrups.