Featured Post

Linky Friday #141: God, Family, Terror


[T1] One of the questions I asked myself while I was watching things unfold in the aftermath of Paris was why they didn’t go into the stadium. Question answered.

[T2] While we were watching Paris, a hero did this in Beirut.

[T3] You know what else saved lives (well, a life)? A Samsung smartphone. And not for the first time.

[T4] Michael Weiss interviews Abu Khaled, Daeshian spy.

[T5] One of the terrorists of the Paris attack got in to Paris using a fake Syrian passport, which are apparently pretty easy to get. That he wasn’t actually a Syrian is less comforting than that he apparently snuck in through the refugee system is discomforting. At least, for the European system. (Hopefully ours is a lot better.)

[T6] The National Front in France is allegedly gaining support among gays.


[I1] Before the attacks, Tanvi Misra made the case that Syrian refugees are likely to help the cities they settle in. Maybe, but when you’ve lost Rick Snyder

[I2] Last week I linkied a liberal case against Birthright Citizenship. This week, the conservative case for Birthright Citizenship.

[I3] When the Obama Administration paused refugee entry.

[I4] Images from Ellis Island.


Image by DonkeyHotey

Image by DonkeyHotey Linky Friday #141: God, Family, Terror

[P1] I’m not laughing at all about The Jeb Scenario. He’s still #3 on my poll position, and I think I might be too bearish. {More}

[P2] Also, the whole bit about Jeb helping a National Review reporter with tips on how to clean her room is kinda cool.

[P3] Some black voters may disagree, but Kareem Abdul-Jabbar believes that Ben Carson is perpetuating black stereotypes by denying science. Not sure about that, but he does carry some black comic book character stereotypes (wherein black characters tend to fall into one of three categories, one of which is being incredibly successful and smart).

[P4] Orac looks Ben Carson and why intelligent people aren’t always skeptics. Somewhat related, from 2013, Tea Partiers know science.

[P5] Though I think there was a window of opportunity for him to run, Mitt Romney would not be wise to enter the fray now. He could possibly do his party a lot of good by endorsing Rubio, however.

[P6] Say what one will about the Tea Party, but no faction of the GOP has done more to recruit minority candidates.


paul ryan photo

Image by WisPolitics.com Linky Friday #141: God, Family, Terror

[H1] Matthew Walther is not a big fan of Paul Ryan’s anti-smoking sentiment, brought to light on account of his need to detoxify the Speaker’s office. I am somewhat sympathetic to Ryan’s plight – especially since he doesn’t have a DC residence, though it does actually kind of make me glad he didn’t run for president…

[H2] … because Obama’s seemingly reasonable regulatory regime for ecigarettes is looking worse and worse with each passing month. It’s far enough in the future that the next president will have a lot of influence over what’s going to happen. The decision looks more like a punt.

[H3] Is institutional racism (against minorities, to be clear) responsible for substance abuse deaths among whites?

[H4] The biology of morning sickness. (This is not a hint that Clancy is pregnant. Elizabeth Stroker Bruenig is, though!)

[H5] Horrifying.


Image by sabertasche2

Image by sabertasche2 Linky Friday #141: God, Family, Terror

[R1] The Problematic Bible.

[R2] Sergio types out participants in the Catholic Dating World. They ain’t no Amish, I fear.

[R3] Ardis E Parshall explains (sympathetically) the Mormon policy on children of gay parents.

[R4] Jerry Coyne wants the Quiet Atheists to lay off the New Atheists.

[R5] They may not be enthusiastic about getting Syrian refugees, but The Economist explains why Muslims are heading for Dixie.


[F1] Daniel Drezner argues that work/life balance might be easier if childcare isn’t split 50/50. I tend to agree, and would argue both that typically careers can’t be 50/50, either. And in a statement against interest, it’s actually going to typically (though far from always) be easier to fly in the traditional formation.

[F2] The combination of automatic birthright citizenship and the requirements of expatriates to pay taxes makes for a troubling combination for young Americans born abroad.

[F3] Harry Benson argues that giving cohabitating couples the same rights as married couples undermines men’s commitment. I hadn’t thought about it in quite that manner, but even setting aside some dubious incentives my view is that if you want the obligations and benefits of marriage, there is only one thing you need to do to make it happen. Including for…

[F4] It’s time for gays to get married or lose their benefits. Which is exactly as it should be. When I was living in Deseret, I had a couple of friends – both of which fervently supported SSM – who were irritated that gay couples could get work benefits without getting married, while they would have to get married.

Home Page Twitter Google+ Pinterest 

Will Truman is a former professional gearhead who is presently a stay-at-home father in the Mountain East. He has moved around frequently, having lived in six places since 2003, ranging from rural outposts to major metropolitan areas. He also writes fiction, when he finds the time. ...more →

Please do be so kind as to share this post.

280 thoughts on “Linky Friday #141: God, Family, Terror

  1. H1,
    No one’s bothered that Ryan is releasing known carcinogens into the Capital?
    Ahh, the joys of being completely and utterly wrong!
    Taking a population perspective on “who gets morning sickness” doesn’t give you nearly the insights that asking “which individuals don’t get morning sickness”…


    • Interesting piece. Well, actually the execution is pretty crappy, but the topic is interesting.

      Every sport has to deal with this issue, once it becomes big enough for there to be money in it for manufacturers to market high tech equipment. It appears that curling has finally hit the big time.

      The decision is whether to embrace high tech equipment completely, to adopt it partially, with defined limits, or to mandate low tech. The complete embrace often is the least desirable option, as it turns the sport into an arms race. Mandating low tech inevitably provokes cries of “Luddite!” but it often has a lot going for it. This is the route professional baseball took. The ball is essentially unchanged from a century ago. The bat even reverted. The rule has always required it be made of wood. There were in the 1870s and 80s experiments with composite construction, combining hard woods with springy woods. This is how cricket bats are constructed. Baseball pulled back from that, requiring not only that the bat be made of wood, but that it be a single piece.

      My prediction is that curling will go low tech. The argument seems to be that high tech brooms materially affect game play in a way that the curling establishment would consider undesirable.


  2. P4: When you follow the second link back to the original data source, it might be relevant that the measure is “science and engineering indicators” (emphasis mine). Given that we know the Tea Party is older and whiter than the population overall, it would not be surprising to find that they are “engineerier” than the population average as well. Perhaps related, any number of sources (here’s a short one) have pointed out the prevalence of engineers and engineering students in terrorist organizations.


    • Agreed.

      I mean, we should all be distrustful of “look at how dumb those people are” kinds of arguments, although to be honest I find liking the tea party to be kinda dumb. But still. I think this is (at least partly) an “older male STEM culture” thing.

      Which is to say, an “engineering dude” can be one of the most stubbornly idiotic specimen you might encounter in an average week —

      — while at the same time being totally brilliant. It’s kinda weird, right?

      But to step back, and perhaps be less snide (as if!), I think this falls under the map-territory thing, combined with a sort of person who is completely allergic to any dialectic process. What I mean is, in their minds they have a model of the world, and what does not fit that model has to go, and they are smart enough to build a very elaborate (and completely bogus) model.

      If you now imagine epicycles of social nonsense, then you’re on the right track.

      Anyway, dialectic is the answer. It is to say, “My model works for me, but those other models work for those people, and there isn’t one social truth” — but as an aside, there is one scientific truth, in the sense the world exists, and “not believing in” the bus won’t stop it from running you over. But my point is, if someone thinks their opinions of family structure (to pick a not-actually-random example) is “scientific truth,” well then they are idiots.

      Often highly intelligent idiots. But so it goes.

      Anyway, there is a next step: then you say, “If no modes (of social stuff) are true, and if it is pretty useless to say ‘all models are true’ — cuz fuck that shit — then what do I do?”

      At which point the philosopher grins knowingly.


      • Which is to say, an “engineering dude” can be one of the most stubbornly idiotic specimen you might encounter in an average week… while at the same time being totally brilliant. It’s kinda weird, right?

        Perhaps my sister summed it up well when, speaking about me, she told one of her friends, “Yes, he probably has a mental illness. But it’s a socially useful mental illness, so we’re not trying to fix him.” Exaggerating for effect, but still…


        • Michael,
          Much, much better than the time someone discovered that certain engineers produce much better work when they’re off their medication… [and here I’m not talking about antidepressants, which have known affects on creativity. I think the issue was paranoid schizophrenia]

          A socially useful mental illness indeed!


          • I’ve occasionally wondered if the whole “mad engineer” meme that has been popular in fiction for the last 150 years is a recognition of that. And I say mad engineer instead of mad scientist because what made them dangerous was the engineering they did. Not, “I’ve discovered a new power source,” but rather, “I’ve used my new power source to build an army of giant robots to conquer the world.”


              • Yep.

                It’s like, one of those big, unsolvable social problems. These dudes are lonely. This make them suffer. Suffering is bad, and we should care about them.

                But they are such rotten, toxic people with completely broken views of women — who on Earth would date such a person? Gah!

                Anyway, the whole “incel” space is a cesspool. The fact I find them so fascinating probably reflects poorly on me. Which, whatever. We each get to have a dark side.


                • Professional observation (me being an engineer).

                  Engineering, as a profession, has become so complex that it is almost impossible for it to be a solitary endeavour anymore. Modern engineers (since the 60’s or so, actually) can no longer be anti-social hermits & hope to be successful, so the profession has become much less attractive to that type of personality. It also helps that engineering has been making a long term effort to get more women into the field, even if academia is still struggling. That’s not to say such hermit engineers don’t exists, just that they don’t generally do well in any sector that would employ them, so their ability to gain the experience that would make them very dangerous is lacking.

                  Software development & IT seems to be the current holdout for the hermit, since they can be very anti-social & still be employed (although as software & IT infrastructure gets more complex, and more women get into the professions, I suspect these fields will also become unattractive).

                  Personally, as a former awkward science geek, high school is the greatest forge in which such personalities are generated. Finding some way to fix the damage high school can do to such kids would go a long way.


                  • — Right. Like, I work for a “bigtech” company, and indeed our engineers are on the whole socially well adapted. I mean, we’re nerds. But there are nerds and then there are nerds. So yeah. I’ve met that guy, but he’s usually working in a really small shop, where he can go full “basement geek” mode and churn out (unreadable) code.


                    • veronica d: churn out (unreadable) code.

                      We actually let a developer go for that. She liked to write very tight, condensed code that was unreadable, and would then refuse to comment it to explain what she was doing, and if you called her to ask about it, she’d get snippy and you’d hear a lot of, “We’ll, if you were a REAL developer, instead of a CFD engineer with some hack coding skills…”


                    • There has only been one guy I’ve worked with who produced code none of the rest of us could read. He was the only one in the shop who actually grokked Python. He was at the stage he could intuitively express things elegantly using proper Python metaphors – while the rest of us were perfectly functional but treated it as just another scripting language.

                      So his code was unreadable because it was too elegant for the rest of us to comprehend.


                        • Oh, I know – I was just riffing on “unreadability”. He’s by far the best Python programmer I ever met, and his code was perfect – maximum expressiveness, minimum wasted space, far less to go wrong. Knowing what it had to be doing, I could work backwards and get a mental picture of the concept he was expressing so tightly, but creating it in the first place…

                          OTOH, in C++, which didn’t map so closely to his way of thinking, he was no better than the average bear. It was just a Man/Machine/Moment situation.


                          • This. When I was learning Perl seriously, I used to go bug the local expert. “What,” I would ask, “is the best way to express this generic programming concept in Perl?” At times, the mental model used by a programmer and the notational structure of a programming language conform closely, and amazing things can happen.

                            When I went to work for the legislature, I found the similarities and differences between programming and legislating fascinating. The programmers (legislators) do their best, but work in an environment where the execution platform (executive) may change without warning and the compiler (courts) may decide that an expression means something different starting today.


                        • You know my day job involved a half million lines of Common Lisp. Talk about “self modifying compiler” — we don’t even have a clear dependency graph between the macro expansions and the final build stages. It’s literally uncanny that this code even builds.

                          But we keep hacking away at it. It’s kinda fun, to tell the truth.


                  • Oscar Gordon: Engineering, as a profession, has become so complex that it is almost impossible for it to be a solitary endeavour anymore. Modern engineers (since the 60’s or so, actually) can no longer be anti-social hermits & hope to be successful, so the profession has become much less attractive to that type of personality.

                    True, but not super obvious, especially to high-school students and the people who help them choose their future path. Which means, we’re getting a lot of anti-social nerds pushed into engineering because people thought “he seems like an engineer”, and then dropping out or graduating without the interpersonal skills to land a job. I suspect a few of my friends would be in that boat were my alma mater not so highly regarded as an engineering school that they’re landing (often-mediocre) jobs anyways. And those are the ones with enough interpersonal skills to make friends with a humanities major.


                    • True, but it seems a trend that is falling. I have a friend who does a lot of outreach to high schoolers interested in engineering & she still occasionally hears things like, “What?! Engineers have to work in teams & do writing & give presentations (etc.)? I don’t want to do that kind of crap, that’s why I want to be an engineer!”

                      She then disabuses them of the notion.

                      Still, it’s something she hears less & less, so it is getting out there.


                • Most engineers do marry despite their lack of graces. My guess is that the part of their mind that makes them so good at doing that engineer thing makes the social interactions required for romance hard. It either seems not rational and stupid or the engineer has such a cultivated sense of eccentricity, he is off putting. Than you get to the sexism.


                • Another issue is that many engineers kind of recognize their misogyny but don’t think that it should matter because Lothario types are misogynists are sexist to. The fact that the Lothario types are much more social and less weird in their behavior doesn’t seem to cross their minds.


                • Engineers are logic, parametric observant critters. Society and culture often define parameters about women and what relationships should be. When applied out in the field as given, those parameters really suck.

                  Playing the game of switching a parameter at a time per date really sucks, and switching multiple parameters per date and trying to figure out which one improved sucks.

                  Added to that each new individual encountered changes the goal post of the last parametric readings. Hence frustration often leading to toxicity is my guess.


                  • Flag on the play, causal connection not established!

                    People who are dominated by logical, parametric observant personalities are attracted to fields like engineering & computer science, but those fields do not produce people who have such dominant personalities.

                    Ergo, those fields are populated by people who have more diverse personalities, where the logical, parametric aspect is but one of many personality aspect employed by the individual.


                    • Ah, I was thinking differently. Not that a woman is a puzzle, but men without much individual self preference, may change parameters about themselves to be more appealing, example: should I part my hair to the right, left, or just spike it all up in a mess, or shave it all off.

                      I mean, if a guy isn’t overly self-defined, he won’t much care what he looks like. And if the desire is to look appealing to someone he might be interested in, it’s a parameter that can be adjusted to maximize appeal. Women kinda help each other out in this regard but guys usually are just wingin’ it.

                      Without input from other peeps, he is kinda trying to mix various parameters to meet some threshold of appealing just to get to the point of conversation.


              • I’ve found that two engineers being married is only slightly better. Most of my friends say things like, “My wife says she’ll divorce me if I bring home another old broken oscilloscope. She doesn’t understand that I’m rescuing them.”

                My wife does very little to check my weird tendencies. If I said, “Let’s build a robot that recognizes and chases the neighborhood children,” my wife might just say, “That sounds cool! I’ll pull the car out of the garage.”


                  • I think we can rely on the ubiquity of cell phone cameras to get something like that onto YouTube without my help.

                    Something I’ve learned watching YouTube: If you’re doing a project in your yard and your neighbor is out with his cell phone taking a video of you, think long and hard about the wisdom of whatever it is you were about to do next.


                • I understand about rescuing. In my last full-time technical gig, people would bring me old PCs, often with the question, “Can you find something useful for this to do?” If I said no, they looked at me like I’d just told them their puppy was going to die.

                  Re the robot: you’ll need software. I can shuffle my little projects around and create some free time to help you with that. Please? Pretty please with sugar on top?


                  • A couple years ago I spend several hours getting a single core Athlon XP 1800 computer back up and running. Having done so, I determined it was useless and it became a Lainstop.

                    Now I’m having to do that with laptops, which just hurts. 1600×1200 resolution!


                    • These days, if I were just looking for some cheap CPU cycles to put to work running something, I’d be inclined to pop the $35 for a Raspberry Pi 2. 900 Mhz quad core ARM processor, a gig of RAM, a real GPU, four USB ports. Runs Linux, the standard SD image includes GCC, Perl, and Python. For , it appears GHC is available, but not GHCi, with the proviso that a gig isn’t all that much memory.


                  • Freecycle is my nemesis.

                    Freecycle – I have a powertool/computer/device that just needs a little TLC.

                    Me – Oh, I know how to fix that, let me just type out a response…

                    Wife – Oh HELL NO! We do not have any more room in the garage for junk you want to ‘Do something with’. Fix what you got first.

                    Me – sulking away…


                • ” “My wife says she’ll divorce me if I bring home another old broken oscilloscope. She doesn’t understand that I’m rescuing them.””

                  Hey! There is nothing wrong with have a dozen VTVMs!

                  (My wife actually offered to grab me a ’40’s Wedgewood to keep in the garage just for me to fettle with…)


  3. [H3] — Yeesh! It is pretty irresponsible to advocate racial disparity based on flimsy speculation. Which is to say, the null hypothesis should be that minorities deserve the same access to pain medications as white Americans, since pain is manifestly awful.

    I cannot believe I had to type that.

    The obvious theory for the rise of depression, drug use, and suicide among middle-class American men is indeed the economic downturn. The authors think they dismissed this theory, but they did not. In fact, I rather think they are idiots.

    “Why doesn’t this show up in other countries?” they ask. I mean, let us try to answer that as if we had more than three working brain cells:

    Because the US has a fucking shitty social safety net you morons!

    We lag waaaaay behind the rest of the industrialized world. So Americans suffering economic shock will suddenly lack easy access to health care and housing, which is business as usually for many minorities, who thus have cultural tools to address these problems. White Americans do not have these tools, particularly men. And indeed, we have our particular flavor of patriarchy, with the independent household unit, the notion of the male “breadwinner,” the deemphasis on community and extended family, the general shame in seeking assistance. These things are not uniquely American, but they do cluster here.

    My point is, these authors need to do more work before they advocate racism.


    • This is a good point, but it still can be both/and.

      Meaning, having easy access to a gun presumably increases the risk of suicide, because it makes the decision quick to implement.

      Having easy access to pain meds that will give you a relatively painless sendoff probably has a similar effect, right?


        • note to : I’m not sure what exactly tripped a false positive in the spam filter, but could be the mention of drugs, combined with a link, combined with firearms, possibly coming on top of the earlier version also spam-caught that mentioned pills and pain meds specifically… Anyway, I rescued the above comment. Next time you lose a comment like that you can contact the Editors or Support (me, mainly) via the Contact link in the site’s main Nav Bar.


      • — I think they are saying that the drugs cause the social ills, not that they are the method of suicide. It less “I have pills, at last I can die” and more “I’ve been talking pills for years and now I’m an addict with no prospects so I’ll eat a gun.”


        • Hmmm…I read another article (I’ll try to find it) that I thought was laying out the theoretical causal model differently, maybe that’s coloring how I read this one (the model has little to do with addiction being the cause). It went like this:

          1.) People of color have a harder time getting prescribed pain meds – part of this is due to fear of them abusing them, part of it is because it’s been shown that doctors have a weird belief that people of color are magically more impervious to pain than white people. Both of these are pretty clearly stereotypes/racism.

          2.) Prescriptions for opioid pain meds have increased drastically in the US over recent decades, and per #1, the majority of scrips have been given to white people.

          3.) Therefore, a lot of white people now have access to an easy suicide tool, that people of color do not have as much access to.


          • — Makes sense. To demonstrate this, you’d have to show that the increase in suicide is precisely an increase in suicide-by-prescription-drugs and not (for example) suicide-by-gun.

            The latter of which remains the method of choice. So anyway. Let them do the work.

            This still has nothing to do with the original article. I suspect this “prescription drugs” theory is rank nonsense. I’m quite certain that any hand-wavy dismissal of the economic explanation is literally stupid.


            • To be clear, completely dismissing the economic explanation seems…premature to me as well. Surely it must play some role.

              But even in other countries, people don’t have the access to guns that we have either – and I can’t back this up, but somehow I suspect that, much like Oxy ‘scrips, white Americans ALSO have an easier time getting their hands on a gun than black ones do.

              All of which is to say, I’d be surprised if it’s any one thing we can pin it on, rather than a confluence of several.


                • No data at hand, but…

                  If certain minorities are more prone to getting unfair treatment in the criminal justice system, then they are also more prone to being denied 2nd amendment rights, which means that their legal options for getting a gun to commit suicide with are null, and they’ll have to deal with criminals to get one.

                  So the question is then, would a suicidal person be more or less willing to engage with the black market for weapons just to commit suicide?

                  It’s questions like this that make me wish the GOP would let the CDC do some damn research. This is right up their alley.


                  • “So the question is then, would a suicidal person be more or less willing to engage with the black market for weapons just to commit suicide?”

                    Isn’t this the premise of Breaking Bad, recast to a different situation?


                  • Guns and ammo (and training/practice) cost money, and are non-necessities, so I’d expect wealthier people to have more guns on average, and white people are wealthier on average.

                    As Oscar points out, increased rates of felony convictions in the black community means more people barred from legal ownership.


          • I certainly read the article the way Veronica did–that the authors were suggesting that increased drug abuse is a life factor that leads to increase suicide rates, rather than that increased access to drugs lead to an increase in their use as a suicide method.

            I think it’s worth noting that chosen methods of suicide are incredibly gendered–If access to drugs leads to a direct rise in suicide, we’d probably see that in the population that was most likely to use that method–women. That the particular area of concern is the increase in suicide among men suggests that it’s not a factor, unless the increase in access is itself very gender-specific.


      • I heard that gun access ramps up suicide because it allows impulsive attempts to be successful. Some absurdly high percentage of people with failed attempts never try again, meaning their desire for suicide was temporary. But when these people have guns, their attempts are highly successful.


        • their desire for suicide was temporary

          Supposedly, a large number of bridge jumpers who survive, report immediately thinking “oh s**t, I shouldn’t have done this” right after jumping. So yeah, the whole “a permanent solution to a temporary problem” cliche may have some validity.


          • Don’t know if it was based on any of that research, but Niven and Pournelle’s Oath of Fealty involves an enormous cube-shaped building with easy access to the roof (parks and such), which makes it desirable for jumpers. The edge is protected, of course, but structured in such a way to lead jumpers to a gap in the fencing, which ends at… a diving board. In a largely throw-away piece of dialog, the building managers note that most jumpers who start out the board, which does the usual diving board bouncing, panic and abandon the effort.


    • The obvious theory for the rise of depression, drug use, and suicide among middle-class American men is indeed the economic downturn.

      It started in the late ’90s and has actually slowed down a bit since the downturn started. As I pointed out the last time this came up, a part of this is the fact that the Boomers simply used drugs much more than their parents did. So when the Silent Generation moved out of the late middle age bracket and the Boomers moved in, drug-related deaths were bound to go up.

      Kevin Drum pointed out that the rates of these kinds of deaths were also going up for younger age brackets, which is more interesting, and I don’t really have a good explanation for that.

      One thing worth noting is that prescriptions of opioid painkillers have increased dramatically during this time period. That alone probably explains a lot of it.

      My point is, these authors need to do more work before they advocate racism.

      They didn’t advocate racism.


      • Forgot to add that this isn’t true:

        Because the US has a fucking shitty social safety net you morons! We lag waaaaay behind the rest of the industrialized world.

        In PPP-adjusted per-capita terms, aggregate social spending in the US in 2011 was greater than in the UK, Japan, Australia, Canada, and Iceland; and not far behind Ireland, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. Even Sweden was only 20% higher.


        • I thought I linked to the PPP-adjusted chart, but it still defaults to %GDP. There’s a “Measure” drop-down box you can use to change it. Using %GDP makes US social spending look lower than it is, relative to other countries, because the US has a significantly higher per-capita GDP than most European countries (excepting only Norway, Luxembourg, and Switzerland), in part due to not strangling the economy with ridiculously high levels of government spending. PPP-adjusted spending is a better indicator of what the spending actually buys.


          • She said it was shitty, not cheap.

            Having moved from Canada to the US, one of my first culture shock experiences was “WE PAY HOW MUCH IN TAXES AND IT HELPS HOW LITTLE???”

            Jaybird had to put up with an awful lot of ranting back at the turn of the century. I have since become jaded.


      • One thing worth noting is that prescriptions of opioid painkillers have increased dramatically during this time period. That alone probably explains a lot of it.

        This was my thought as well when I came to learn about the causes detailed in the study.


  4. F3 & F4 are interesting… I hadn’t thought about the unintended consequences in F4; for the companies I’ve worked for its been benefits for married folks, or +1 for everyone else (that couldn’t get married). I guess I assumed we’re more likely to move to just +1 for everyone; but, families are costly (in the grand scheme of benefits) and how does one administer +1 +family +other person’s family. Now there’s another $20k/year at stake for breaking-up (and who decides if the +1 keeps the insurance or not)? Hmmn, interesting.

    The moral hazard of F3 I expect will *not* carry any weight influencing whatever happens in F4.


      • Yeah, atheists and agnostics are kind of quiet about it by natural. The entire new atheist shtick of trumpeting their nonbelief like some kind of evangelist mouth breather runs against the entire grain of the thing.


        • I don’t mind a loud atheist — I was one when I was young and new to atheism — and I don’t mind loud criticism of religion. I don’t think I know any atheists who do. What I dislike is loud atheists whose criticisms of religion sound less like considered critiques than ignorant bluster, whose atheism is little more than a dogmatic vulgar positivism combined with an endorsement of a facile conception of “free thought,” which usually just means being a sexist, sometimes racist ass and thinking “Reason” got them there. See, e.g., Richard Dawkins’ Twitter account, anything he or Coyne has ever said about theology, Ed Harris’ “debate” with Scott Atran about terrorists, etc., etc., etc.


          • Most of the loudest of the atheists are just really, really hurt people, who know that they’re never going to get any justice for the abuse they’ve suffered, and know that the kids today suffering similarly won’t get any either.


            • Many of the loudest of theists are similarly obnoxious but I wouldn’t advance a claim that their loud piety is a product of a wounded psyche. It seems equally wrong to suggest this of loud, obnoxious atheists.


              • To be fair to what Kim’s saying, it’s certainly become a cliche to find that some virulently anti-gay person has been suffering from a life in the closet, or that some extremely anti-social person had a very rough childhood.

                It’s not a 1:1 relationship: plenty of people who didn’t suffer any real trauma are just plain a-holes, and plenty of people who have suffered severe trauma are just fine people; but “a fearful, beaten dog is more likely to bite” is pretty much folk wisdom for a reason.


                • Having spent a fair amount of time around both animals and people who suffered abuse, I would say that a dog who HAD been abused but is not now being – a different proposition entirely than a dog who is still receiving regular beatings – may be more dangerous, or it may be even more gentle and empathetic and in love with its housemates than your average dog. And I feel that the analogy still holds – human trauma may lead to their being both more monsters AND more saints in the world (and more people leaning in both of those directions without being that extreme), but it doesn’t lead to a net worsening of human behavior. A net increase in suffering, yes. But also a net increase in people who know what it’s like to suffer and have a special eye out for others who need their help. It’s almost like a self-correction, on the systematic scale. (But not actually a self-correction, because those latter, more helpful, people are also, usually, full of an extra helping of suffering. They just deal with it differently. Dogs have it easier than people sometimes.)


                  • I would also say that the related misconception – that abused people should be a cause for wariness, because they are more likely to be dangerous than not – is one of the biggest reasons abused people suffer such a stigma. I know it was one of the biggest reasons it took me so long to be honest – even with myself – about how much I went through as a kid. Finding that almost every single one of the people I cared about reacted with “Wow, what a lot you’ve been through, we’re lucky you made it” and not “OMG stay away from my children” (or the much more ambiguous but equally painful Sudden Avoidance Syndrome) was a shock to me.


              • Burt,
                What if someone just shows you the scars?
                You’re undoubtedly aware that corporal punishment is rather popular in certain religious circles.
                You’re probably not aware of how popular exorcisms are…
                [Not my circles, honestly! Someone had an idea for a prank… which turned rather ugly when the young lady’s parents thought she was possessed.]


                • No argument with “some.”

                  Larger point: even if assholery is caused by childhood abuse (a proposition I’m not signing off on), adults need to step up to the plate and take conscious control of their own behaviors at some point.


        • The Protestant Atheists I know are very much into the whole “Great Commission” thing. It is their job to go into the world and convert the heathen. Or whatever the equivalent is.

          The Catholic Atheists I know are cafeteria atheists.


          • Many years ago a certain well-known and widely hated science blogger whose name I shall not mention to avoid that discussion did a podcast that, I believe, never saw nor will see the light of day, and this was one of the topics of conversation: so many of the New Atheists grew up Protestant, and have taken a Protestant attitude toward Atheism. What’s more, they tend to view religion itself through a very narrow Protestant Christian lens. Those of us atheists who were raised Catholic tend to find both of those elements distasteful.

            There’s also a distinction between the path(s) people took to atheism. Mine was through philosophy and politics, while so many of the New Atheists came through science. In a way, philosophy and political philosophy became my religion, and science theirs’.


              • That’s unsurprising (by the way, you probably know who the widely-hated science blogger is).

                When I was most militant, as an atheist, was when a substantial portion of my social circle was comprised of current and former Evangelicals and fundamentalists. Some of this is because I was young, with the zealotry of the (recent) convert, and stupid. Now that I’m older, no longer a recent convert, and stupid, I’m much more mellow.

                It probably also helps that in my 20s and 30s I met and befriended a lot of atheists of all different stripes — positivists, new agey types, postmodernist types, atheists whose militancy was directed elsewhere (mostly politics and activism), etc. One of the reasons I became a pretty harsh critic of New Atheists from the moment they became a thing, I think, was that they tended to treat their atheism as the atheism (and tended to belittle all other types of atheism, e.g. “Chamberlain Atheists”), and I prefer Big Tent Atheism.


                      • The guy refers to is who I thought you were talking about too. Remember the whole communionwafergate thing? Communionwafergate is exhibit “A” in my evaluation of obnoxious atheism — it made us all generally look bad in the way that Westboro Baptist Church generally makes Christians look bad even though the rest of us are perfectly aware that functionally no Christians we are ever likely to encounter are anything like those WBC jagoffs.


                        • PZ and I were not on speaking terms. Our arguments, on our blogs and even more in the ScienceBlogs email forum, were not friendly. Not only did I not like his brand of atheism, but more than that I didn’t like that he, and all of his little epigones (as by far the biggest traffic source on SB, many of the other bloggers kissed his ass for traffic, which meant money since we got paid for hits), always equated science with atheism. This was in the middle of the rather heated and politically/legally/educationally/culturally impactful creationism/ID debates, and I thought it was pretty counterproductive to a.) spend a lot of time insulting the people you’re trying to convince (which they did) and b.) play right into their belief that science is inherently atheistic (not only methodologically, but metaphysically, and of necessity).


                • The intensity of one’s prevailing social environment likely plays a very strong role in the intensity of one’s own beliefs and desire to espouse them.

                  In the USA, Sunnis and Shias generally have little difficulty getting along. Switch from USA to KSA, you’re going to up the friction rather a lot.


            • The science-religion is a weird one insofar as you’d think that they’d have a better grasp of science than, say, Christians have of the Bible.

              But, if I may extrapolate from my own experience, you’ve got a similar number of experts and a similar number of people who are more than happy enough to outsource learning about this sort of thing to others.


              • Not quite the same thing.

                At a certain point, it makes sense to rely upon the expertise of another person. I’m not a medical doctor, for instance, so assurances of the correctness of medical advice, descriptions of medical processes and functions, and assessments of what constitutes good medical ideas is for me a matter of reliance upon a doctor’s expertise, experience, and education.

                Worse, where that point of reliance on the expertise of another may be found eludes precise description.

                Consequently, it’s easy to see how that sort of reliance gets characterized as “faith” by those who rely on actual religious faith for certain purposes (whether for good or for ill). Some else says something, you believe it’s true, you act on that belief, that’s faith, right?

                Well, sort of. But not really. You can satisfy yourself that a person has appropriate credentials indicating appropriate education, experience, and expertise. You can satisfy yourself that a person’s peers, who also possess similar credentials, do not object too strongly to the statements made even if there are differences of opinion. The fundamentals of a discipline can be known to anyone of reasonable intelligence with reasonable effort, and statements that are susceptible of objective disproof or verification in such an environment are more likely to be reliable than other kinds.

                If you’ve at least satisfied yourself that “The person who’s telling me something is in a good position to understand the thing that she’s talking about,” then accepting the truth of such a statement and relying upon it is qualitatively different than acting on “faith.”

                I can accept, for instance, a Biblical scholar’s translation of an ancient Aramaic writing to contemporary English. It’s reasonable to assume that the scholar has studied Aramaic and that other scholars who actually know Aramaic will, given an opportunity to do so, point out if the first scholar’s translation is inaccurate. If I really cared, I could learn Aramaic myself and travel to a museum somewhere and read the ancient writing for myself.

                It’s a different thing altogether to go from saying “This ancient Aramaic document says that Jesus is the eternally-living Son of God” to saying “Jesus really is the eternally-living Son of God.”


            • This might explain why a lot of Jewish atheists are on the mellow side. Since Judaism is a non-missionary faith, it never occurs to Jewish atheists to go nuts with it.


      • A pity, because Coyne is often a good source of information. I’ve found atheist criticism of the “New Atheism” to be distinguished quite readily from atheist criticism of the “New Atheists,” although neither of them are new.

        It’s one thing to say Richard Dawkins has said many things demonstrating an unenlightened attitude about issues of cultural equality like sex and race. It’s something different to say that maybe his argument that even “moderate” religions necessarily harbor, sanction, and promote violence and evil paints with so broad a brush as to be readily dismissed when compared with everyday experience.

        To criticize an argument is not to criticize the arguer.


  5. G4 – I forgot to mention in the blurb that I mentioned this to Clancy and it just made her day. It is apparently a recommendation that she has been disregarding for some time and mentioned that anesthesiology is one of the big last male strongholds in medicine.


  6. T1:

    A real fear of mine is terrorists launching a minor attack on a location like a stadium and then, as people file out, laying waste. They’d be sitting ducks.


      • Yeah, I want to watch the movie again now, I’m one of those people who always found the second half (in-country) to be less compelling (while the first half is just hypnotic – if I am channel surfing and happen across FMJ in its first half, forget it, that’s what I’m watching), but now I want to see the mirroring he talks about.

        The writer was an AVClub commenter, and he started out writing recaps of The Shield in the comments of the site’s recaps that frankly just put the OPs to shame (he teased out a lot of thematic and subtextual stuff that I wouldn’t have caught on my own because the show is so plot-dense and fast-moving, but it’s deeper than it looks).


        • I haven’t read the review yet, but it seem to me the first half of the movie is setting you up for the hard punch in the second half. Like a mindfuck rope-a-dope.


        • The people i know who saw it at the time and were looking for a standard war movie hated it. It really does take you places that other war movies don’t in a visceral way. I’m not quite go all the way with his deconstruction of “dehumanization.” For almost all people it takes quite a lot of training and indoctrination to make them killers. He is certainly correct that war making is a “normal” human state. But it takes a lot to get people there and it does involve striping away many standard human attitudes and beliefs. And even then some soldiers are haunted by killing for the rest of their lives.


          • his deconstruction of “dehumanization.” For almost all people it takes quite a lot of training and indoctrination to make them killers. He is certainly correct that war making is a “normal” human state. But it takes a lot to get people there and it does involve striping away many standard human attitudes and beliefs. And even then some soldiers are haunted by killing for the rest of their lives.

            I don’t think he’s arguing against any of that. What he is arguing against is the idea that killing is *other than* human.

            Look at the words you yourself use – “stripping away” – that is, the dark thing is there at the core, once we peel back the outer layers.

            It’s not implanted, or alien to humanity. It’s part of what we are, and under the right circumstances it’s any of us.


              • It wasn’t so extreme as killing, but one of the most profound experiences I ever had – in understanding myself and others – was not when I was hurt badly by someone else; but when I hurt someone else badly, in a way that I never thought I would. In a way that I’d seen others do, but swore I never would. In a way that I’d had ample opportunities before to do, but never had, and so was sure I never would.

                Realizing that even I – who thought I knew everything there was to know about myself, and my capabilities, beliefs and intentions – might still under the right (wrong) circumstances act completely differently than I was certain I ever would, was an incredibly sobering experience, and one which profoundly changed how I saw myself, and others.

                To whatever degree I am “grown-up” now, it’s what I did to another that is responsible for that, as much or more than what was done to me.

                And I similarly had to make peace with that newfound darkness inside me, accept that it too was part of who and what I am (and of course, take steps to ensure it stays in its proper place in future; accepting your darkness doesn’t mean giving it free reign).


          • Re: looking for a standard war movie and hating it: Interestingly enough, we were shown Full Metal Jacket by our Marine DI in the last week of Navy OCS. (we also became aware during our time there due to a dining out skit that he was a fan of A Few Good Men)


    • I like the review. But to quibble, I got this this line:

      War stories have the same story from Thucydides to Hemingway to Mark Bowden and beyond: “bunch of people got into a fight. Most of them were men. A lot of them died,” which means that there’s always something universal about them.

      And like, um… did he read his own words?


        • — The juxtaposition of “most of them were men” and “there’s always something universal about them” maybe kinda misses what the word “universal” means. File under “a man thinks that stories about men are ‘universal’.”

          (And yes I know the sniper is a woman, but woman as symbol is something different from women.)


          • Hey, you’re right. Most men have never fought in a war, either. Also, there are, ironically, no wars on Mars. God, this guy is so full of it!

            Presumably he means universal in the sense of being shared across many different cultures, not universal in the sense of something experienced by all individuals.


              • Does the huge, cross-cultural canon of giving-birth-stories that would be necessary for that comparison to make sense actually exist? The experience is universal, sure, but he was specifically talking about stories.

                Anyway, I don’t see any point in speculating, nor do I know anywhere near enough about this guy or his corpus to do so with any degree of competence. What he actually said was fine. Why complain about things you imagine he might say?


  7. T2: I often get annoyed by the overuse of the word “hero.” It is a valuable word and should be saved for very special people. If this is an accurate account, Adel Termos is definitely one of them.


  8. T2: I almost want to write a post on it, but I can’t think of what I’d say. Except maybe just that I find that the fact that story isn’t being run with gusto on all the US news networks is entirely predictable and entirely depressing.


      • I rather liked — Kevin Drum, I think’s — response to that. “Yeah, that’s what competitive markets do”. If the ACA is functioning even remotely like a market, some companies are going to lose. Some are going to win.

        I’ve been noticing a lot of flack about the mapping process (if your current insurance leaves your exchange, what you are mapped to is often not even remotely close to what you would pick as the ‘closest to what I had’) and the price fluctuation in the cheapest plans of the year.

        In short, if you reshop every year the odds are your prices will stay fairly steady. However, if you just re-enroll automatically you’ll likely see a jump (especially if you were in the cheapest of the previous year) and if it maps you onto a new plan, no telling what you’ll get.

        The ACA prices should be fluctuating rather wildly, and the companies with the best and more accurate actuaries should be beating (or driving out) companies that are unwilling or unable to adjust to the market paradigms of the Exchange. Especially now, in early years, without the benefit of experience and historical data.

        Nobody throwing up their hands and slinking back to the big employee pool (or folding entirely) would be as big a sign of a screwed up market as everyone leaving.


  9. H5: What about a 3-year-old in a car seat? I searched, and every link seems to only be about babies and infants. Maybe that once made sense, but not anymore now that kids are in car seats until they are old enough to drive.


  10. P6: I’d like to see the numbers on that. In particular, I’m curious as to whether “recruits more candidates” translates into “recruits more candidates that win.

    R3: A weird article. The Author seems to be saying “I don’t know why people are upset. If you accept the idea that gay people and gay families have no place in the LDS church, then the policy is neither irrational or cruel.” Which, while probably correct, doesn’t matter to the various Mormon and non-Mormon critics who object to that inital assumption.

    F2: I like how it’s all hypotheticals and absurdities. “What if their grandmother gave them ten thousand dollars?” “If they get summer jobs, they’ll have to hire expensive CPAs to fill out a two-page tax form”. I’m sure this is an actual problem for some people, but mostly it looks like rich expatriates using children as an excuse to avoid the actual substantive issues of our tax policy for citizens abroad.

    F4: Agreed. In particular, these domestic partner benefits were offered voluntarily by our strongest supporters, sometimes at significant cost, because other parts of society refused us. To continue to rely on that support now that we no longer need it is an insult to those supporters.


    • Talking of candidates that win. At least mostly. The word “recruit” may be strong, but they’ve played a role promoting almost every minority GOP candidate elected since 2008: Rubio, Cruz, Scott, Love, West, Labrador. Including a couple that missed like TW Shannon (black-Chickasaw guy in Oklahoma that was beaten in the primary).

      The rest of the party should be deeply embarrassed.


      • Hasn’t the Tea Party played a role in promoting just about every GOP candidate elected since 2008, minority or otherwise, though? Given that, isn’t a comparison between Tea Party and non-tea party just comparing the racial demographics across generations? That’s always going to look bad for the older generation.

        I mean, there is something very interesting in the way that the Tea Party embraces certain candidates of color given the degree to which their attacks on Obama often tend towards nativism and criticism of the parts of the safety net that help racial minorities, but I don’t think that says as much about the non Tea Party portions of the GOP.


        • The noteworthy thing about most of the candidates I’ve mentioned is that they ran through competitive primaries, and many of which against (white) establishment picks. Cruz knocked off Dewhurst, Rubio knocked off Crist, etc. The non-TP have put up minority candidates, but generally in pretty hopeless races. It’s not a universal thing, but it’s noticeable over time.

          Without the Tea Party, the composition of the House and Senate caucuses would be even whiter than it is. Whatever their faults on the race front, they did actually make an effort at this while the rest of the party seems to shrug.

          (Which is, to be honest, not *entirely* fair to the rest of the party. They don’t disregard potential minority candidates. But they do look towards the next in line rather than thinking outside the box. That leads to situations where they overlook minority candidates with a great deal of potential.)


    • FWIW dealing with the IRS as an adult who didn’t grow up here is pretty fucking terrifying – I can see why expatriates get anxious. (They wrote me a letter once that threated me with deportation for filling out a form wrong (as in making a non-money-related error), if I didn’t fix it RFN. (Don’t ask; I still can’t think about it too hard more than a decade later. as ordeals that don’t involve any face-to-face conversations go, that was a nasty one.)

      (And yes, it was the actual IRS, not a spammer.)


      • Wow, does mileage vary. Through this past year, I’ve always done my own taxes and basically I never get it right. Since I graduated from the EZ form, I’ve gotten dinged twice (once fairly substantially, for completely forgetting one income-generating account) and had money returned all the other times (in fact, just today I got my post-six-month-extension rebate of what was apparently a ridiculous overpayment). Since I seem to err on the correct side most years, I’ve literally never had any communication other than the yearly “you got it wrong again” adjustment. No hint of even an audit despite clear evidence that I have no idea what I’m doing…


          • Heh, actually I think you should double down on your theory. I’m about as privileged as it gets – Dad’s pa came down from Canada just before WW1, and the other branches came during the post-unpleasentness immigration wave. I’m the first to be above just-barely-middle-class, but the roots are there.

            My point is that, yeah, they basically give me a free pass as long as any mistake is either (a) in their favor, or (b) clearly due to my idiocy.

            They really don’t seem to think I’m going to cheat. This is yet another reason that my philosophy is evolving – yet another example of unexpected and possibly unrealized privilege in action.


            • Even if you DO cheat, they only assess you a fine enough to prevent you from doing it all the damn time and simply playing the stock market with your tax dollars. (Seriously, people would do this, if it was profitable).


      • They love to make threats. I got a letter from them once telling me that, because I hadn’t filed a return about five years previuously, they could take everything I own including my home and I’d wind up either in the streets or in jail. (Naturally, it arrived on a Friday, and I couldn’t so anything about it until Monday.) When I called them to say that, according to my records, not only had I filed a return that year, but they’d sent me a refund, the response was “Oh.” And when I asked for a second letter to be sent acknowledging that the matter was resolved, the answer was “We don’t do that.”


    • “I’d like to see the numbers on that. In particular, I’m curious as to whether “recruits more candidates” translates into “recruits more candidates that win.”

      The assertion all along has been “the Tea Party is a bunch of lily-white racist assholes”. Whether the candidates the Tea Part supports win is not actually relevant to countering that assertion.

      Unless you’re suggesting that this is some kind of eleven-dimensional chess where they intentionally back minorities whom they know will lose so they can use them as examples of how American isn’t interested in non-white political leaders.


      • I would never accuse the Tea Party of playing n-dimensional chess, for any n greater than one.

        I think the Tea Party has plenty of room for both lily-white-asshole racism alongside the garden-variety non-malicious-structural-racism that the rest of us participate in.


  11. What to make of these comments:

    Point: Rep. Steve Russell (R-OK): “I understand the genuine and heartfelt concerns that people have [about admitting Syrian refugees]. I know they are motivated by passions that are real, but we can’t let those passions damage our liberties and who we are as Americans.”

    Counterpoint: Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa): “We just should remember that, when … we were in our grade school that’s when the world was right and we tend to want to recreate that idyllic scene in our adulthood thinking that’s the best thing for America. … But you know, while I was going on, [Obama] was going to a school in Indonesia, so his idea of America is entirely different than the idea that most Americans have of what we ought to be like, and he’s filling our country up with people that will continue to attack us.



      • I’ve been paying attention, so the content conveyed by the King quote is exactly what I expected. :) What I didn’t expect, tho, is an explicit admission that his view – and I think the views of many other conservatives as well! – is entirely driven by his/their passions to the exclusion of any objective considerations whatsoever.


    • I can’t say I’m surprised by the second quote; Steve King is easily one of the nuttiest people who’s ever been elected to Congress. This is the guy who once suggested we electrify the border fence because, quote, “we do that with livestock all the time.”


  12. Looks like Les Miles’ tenure at LSU is coming to a close with the support of the boosters, who’ve apparently agreed to pony up the $17 million!!! owed Les and his staff. Question: is this consistent with the whole “purity of amateur athletics” exemplified by the NCAA and college sports, where college athletes are suspended for taking Taco Bell money from a booster?


Comments are closed.