Linky Friday: Blood & Money


John Wilkes Booth, Edwin Booth, and Junius Booth, Jr. in an 1864 production of Julius Caesar. (Public domain)

John Wilkes Booth in an 1864 production of Julius Caesar. (Public domain)

[Cr1] I’m pretty sure this happened in Naked Gun, except involving togas and daggers.

[Cr2] Creatively keeping convictions by kicking them loose. Ahhh, incentives.

[Cr3] We might condemn sexual predators in the form of politicians and producers, but what about rock stars?

[Cr4] I have a really open mind on this subject, but… not 11.

[Cr5] Well this is a frustratingly awful story all around.


[He1] I understand Helen Pluckrose’s concern here about fatness becoming an identity worth preserving and defending, so to speak, but we are so far away from this being a problem compared to actual marginalization of the overweight that I believe it to be misguided.

[He2] Well, this does seem kind of suspicious.

[He3] Suneel Dhand laments the demise of the physicians’ lounge. Seems like they’d be better off just having nap rooms. We racked up an average of $400/mo in hotel bills because my wife’s last employer didn’t have call rooms in the hospital.

[He4] The answer to this question is pretty straightforward: More money, more immigration, and lower credentialing standards. Note I say “and” rather than “or.”

[He5] Ed Dolan writes how regulation is hurting the autistic by preventing them from getting the help that they need.


Earth from space, showing melting ice.

Image credit: NASA.

[Cl1] The cost of off-shore wind is fall-fall-falling, turbines being built, a solar surplus in California, and geothermal is becoming more attractive, including in Honduras!

[Cl2] Isn’t causing grief part of the point?

[Cl3] The planet will be fine.

[Cl4] As if we don’t have enough to worry about, now we’re worried about “horizontal hurricanes” in California.

[Cl5] Speaking of hurricanes, look at what 100mph winds does to this house.

[Cl6] A new Trump maneuver may save coal. Also, it may destroy energy companies by forcing them to go bankrupt. If it weren’t for pipelines and signalling for a leftward lurch, it’s possible that Democrats would become the party of Big Energy.


A white driverless car with a painting of people playing on monkey barks, and a female passenger.

By Grendelkhan (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

[Tr1] I would only get on board with this if it’s a murder mystery that takes place on a train.

[Tr2] Hyperlooooooooooooop! Will it bring Amazon to Texas?

[Tr3] It’s not a flying car, but maybe it’ll do.

[Tr4] If California bans the internal combustion engine, it’s not clear that there will still be thirteen states following its regulatory whims. Though who knows how things will look by 2040.

[Tr5] This is highly plausible. I think we can work around that, environmentally speaking, if we’re so inclined. I’m not sure if we will.


[Fo1] A look at the Dutch agricultural revolution.

[Fo2] Here’s what it takes to become (labeled) a Monsanto Shill.

[Fo3] KFC has invaded Ghana, and belts are busting as a result.

[Fo4] I’m always game to try out meatless burgers, but I’ll really believe it when I taste it.

[Fo5] You ask why, I ask why not?


[Bu1] This seems like a really good idea. We’re not the target audience right now, but we have been in the past.

[Bu2] What Russian hackers mean for Russians in Silicon Valley.

[Bu3] If your app’s job is that dogs get walked, losing the dogs is a problem. Be that as it may, dog-sitting (as opposed to dog-walking) services have proven to be a godsend for us.

[Bu4] As people move around from employer to employer more often, employers are increasingly willing to take former employees back.

[Bu5] In training tomorrow’s workforce, Google is investing some pretty big money.

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Will Truman is a former para-IT professional 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 is also on Twitter. ...more →

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446 thoughts on “Linky Friday: Blood & Money

  1. An update on New Zealand’s election.

    Last night Winston Peters announced that he has made a deal with the Labour Party to form a government. The Greens with be supporting as well, giving the three parties enough votes to control the government. This means that Jacinta Ardern will be our next Prime Minister.

    At 37, Ardern will be our youngest Prime Minister ever (we had a Premier who was younger in the colonial days, but that was 150 years ago). In fact Winston peters has been in Parliament longer than Ardern has been alive. Also, this is the first time the plurality party in our parliament has not been in government.


    • Someone I know was talking about this from the feminist angle last night because she likes that a NZ’s Prime Minister is a woman under 40.

      I think it is a kind of devil’s bargain that Labour and Greens are going into considering that it looks like NZ First seems very UKIP and right-wing and anti-immigrant. What sort of deal did Labour and the Greens make with NZ First? The guy’s statement was all about how Labour is going to give capitalism a human face. So are NZ First going to stay quiet on their anti-immigrant stance?


      • NZ First is a party that neither major party wants to associate with, but both have to be willing to because of how coalition governments work. Labour actually is… well, not anti-immigrant but they definitely want to cut immigration.

        Did you read James’ original post on the election? It covers the details pretty well.


      • The feminist angle is getting less play here, because Ardern will be the third woman to be Prime Minister here.

        As for the ideological alignment – New Zealand First has worked with Labour and National in the past, and ideologically fits better with Labour in a lot of ways than National. New Zealand First is more interested in economic intervention than National is and that’s the primary driver of our ideological differences down here.

        And as Maribou points out, Labour is actually in favour of more immigration restrictions than National is, though not quite as much as New Zealand First is.


  2. [Cr1]:

    Mayor: Drebin, I don’t want any more trouble like you had last year on the southside. Understand? That’s my policy.
    Frank: Yes. Well, when I see 5 weirdos dressed in togas stabbing a guy in the middle of the park in full view of 100 people, I shoot the bastards. That’s my policy.
    Mayor: That was a Shakespeare in the Park production of Julius Caesar, you moron! You killed 5 actors! Good ones!


    Last Tuesday, France woke up to news reports that a 28-year-old man and an 11-year-old girl had had “consensual” sex.

    No. They did not have “consensual” sex.

    Foucault was writing a year after the cream of the French intelligentsia published an open letter in Le Monde defending three men charged with having sexual relations with children under the age of 15. The list of signatories included Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Gilles Deleuze, Roland Barthes, Philippe Sollers, André Glucksmann and Louis Aragon. “We consider that there is an incongruity,” the letter read, “between the outdated nature of the law and the everyday reality of a society which tends to recognize the existence of a sexual life in children and adolescents (if a 13-year-old girl has the right to be on the pill, what is it for?).”

    Many years ago I met a women in a bar who told me that one of her first sexual encounters happened when she was 11 and convinced a 17-year old boy that she was 14 or so. If this story happened the way that she said it did, someone needs to have a a very serious conversation with that 17-year old, but I don’t think that his life needs to be ruined. At 28… let’s just say that I think the rules change a lot. I can absolutely recognize that children and adolescents have a “sexual life,” while also maintaining that adults ought to stay the hell away from that sexual life (unless they are acting in their roles of parents/guardians/etc.). I do not have much patience for the idea that having progressive sexual norms grants someone a free pass to be a sexual predator. The key words are “consenting adults” and both of those words matter.


    “Two steps closer to giving him a kidney and we got shut down, basically,” she said.

    Things started to go downhill when Dickerson was arrested for violating his probation last month. Charged with possession of a firearm.

    At some point, folks on the left are going to have to grapple with the idea that their desire for tougher gun laws, and harsher punishments for a number of other offenses, comes into conflict with the desire to reverse the mass incarceration trends. They’re not wrong for wanting to do both, although they are wrong, but they are going to have to prioritize.


    KFC has invaded Ghana…

    I see what you did there.


  3. Cr1: Wanted cops that think before acting.

    Cr2: Prosecutors are theoretically supposed to be concerned about justice rather than getting the most convictions. Most prosecutors seem more concerned about scoring the most convictions even if it means factually innocent people go to prison. This is not a good thing.

    Cr3: At least from the liberal perspective, I don’t think this is right. Liberal blogs have long been down on the sexual abuses committed by rock stars including what was going on during the early days of the Sexual Revolution. We had long threads about this on LGM.

    Cr4: I agree, 11 year olds can not give consent. No exception.

    Cr5: Yes

    He4: Its an interesting issue. Being overweight is a serious health problem but women have been more policed about having the wrong type of body weight than men. Another interesting aspect is that overweight men are getting on board with this movement. Theoretically, losing weight is possible but not that easy and especially so in our food environment filled with tasty but caloric items.

    My main problem with the body positive movement is that it seems arbitrary in that my body group, short men, are still considered fair game to go after. Fat-shaming exists as a concept but short men-shaming does not. My cynical theory for this is that the existence of fat-shaming as a concept benefits both women and high status men, because it gives high status men a cudgel to attack low status men with but short men shaming is not a thing because it only benefits short men. Since being tiny can be a positive attribute in a woman look wise, they really don’t need the concept for short-shaming. Tall men will lose status if short men shaming becomes a thing.

    He3: I’m not sure why people decided it was a good idea to keep people whose job it is to make sure people stay alive tired and agitated. I’d think that well-rested doctors would be an important thing if possible.

    He4: Yes, it should be easier for immigrant doctors to transfer their licenses and the standards set for would be doctors in the United States are higher than elsewhere. I’d also say get rid of pre-med and allow medical training to start right after high school like it does in other places/

    Fo3: He is Colonel Sanders after all.


  4. Cr3: I’ll be an idiot and bite. My theory is that people like Harvey Weinstein are getting in trouble because they producers are seen as largely being physically unattractive people (Weinstein was certainly a schlub) who, at best, use their power and money to get girlfriends and wives who are way more attractive than they are. At worse, they use their power and money to act like sexual predators. On the other hand, musicians are supposed to be sexy and exude sex-appeal. They are supposed to be bad boys and rebels. So societal we forgive them for a lot.

    But this is changing with newer bands. I don’t think a modern musician could get away with the things Led Zeppelin, Mick Jagger, and David Bowie got away with many decades ago. Plus as Lee noted, the 1970s was a decade when seemingly everyone went off the deep end and the last example in the article seems to be from 1980. I think there was a scandal when Death Cab for Cutie’s frontman was accused of sexual assault (but later cleared or at least the matter dropped after a while). There was another scandal last year with a band I never heard of and whose name I can’t remember.

    Cr4: I think most people in France would agree here but I read this story as a one being about how France needs to update its laws defining rape. Not that the French are being rather blase about American notions of sexual consent and tsking us for being puritanical.


    • The 1970s also had a much more constrained media market so exposing salacious behavior was harder. The ideology of the time was different and high status men were able to use the Sexual Revolution to get away with more misbehavior. That’s why Jimmy Page could get away with kidnapping Lori Maddox and R. Kelly gets in trouble for his actions.


      • It also could be that there’s an….ahem….difference in complexion between Page and Kelly. Though the time factor is probably a bigger one.

        I don’t know. I think my answer to it is to shrug and go “everyone is terrible.” I’m not sure what one does. I’ve heard of people suggesting a mass boycott of movies and tv and “read books instead” but I suspect many authors were not exactly paragons of virtue, either.


    • Weinstein involved quid pro quo or at the very least use of deception of a business meeting to get women to his hotel room. Rock fans go looking for the musicians at least for social reasons, and if they are underage, some will see more ambiguity in the arbitrary line-drawing of age of consent laws, which vary from place to place and their conditions, and the lack of mens rea requirements (i.e., the man may not know or have been deceived)


    • I am bemused by the idea that a rock star forty years ago having sex with an underage groupie is anything like a modern movie producer using his power to impose himself on unwilling women. I’m not say the rock star isn’t an issue, but it is an issue nearly entirely unlike the Weinstein issue.


      • Rock stars aren’t exactly promising to make the people that sleep with them big stars. The transaction is somewhat more honest in what its about. Weinstein ostensibly was and was using a lot of chicanery in his actions. He also broke the career of women who wouldn’t sleep with him.


        • Many of the people aghast at rock stars sleeping with groupies are going to argue that none of the groupies could really meaningfully make a free individualized choice because of the power dynamics involved. Societal power dynamics are a thing but if consent is going to be a meaningful concept than people must be able to give consent even with large power differences in play. The more situations a person can’t give consent to under any circumstances than the less meaningful consent becomes.


          • In the linked article most of the “groupies” in question were underage, so this comment seems pretty inapt:

            Societal power dynamics are a thing but if consent is going to be a meaningful concept than people must be able to give consent even with large power differences in play.


            • There’s always been an arbitrariness about where the law sets those limits and social attitudes about it vary widely with the times. I’d think most people agree that the situation referenced in Cr4 is never going to be acceptable but time was that people weren’t as horrified by a 15 or 16 year old getting what she came for from an adult rock star. That isnt to say it was exactly approved of but I’m not sure they were looked at as victims in quite the way they might be now. Attitudes about that have changed but I think we should be hesitant to project current norms onto things that happened 40 or more years ago. I mean… my grandmother was 17 and my grandmother was 32 when they had my mom. She’d laugh at anyone who said she was taken advantage of.


              • Both attitudes and laws vary, of course, and in some jurisdictions 15 or 16 is above the age of consent. But the idea that being too young invalidates consent is, itself, a common one that’s been part of the law for a long time.


            • Also, I’m skeptical that we’re about to plunge into an abyss of consent becoming meaningless because we’re too sensitive about power differentials when shit like this happens:

              ON SEPTEMBER 28, attorney Michael David filed notice of a claim against the New York Police Department, the City of New York, and two unnamed police officers, referred to as John and Jim Doe. These plainclothes cops, alleged the claim, “brutally sexually assaulted and raped” his 18-year-old female client.
              “What was strange,” said David, “was that within only two or three hours of me filing, there was a story leaked to the New York Post saying that the detectives were claiming that the sex they had with my client in custody was consensual. They hadn’t even been named yet.”


  5. An article on how voter oppression turned Wisconsin from Blue to Red:

    Like LGM posters, I think it is comforting to say “HRC should have won Wisconsin” because no one really wants to deal with the implication that voter-oppression is a real thing and spells darkness for American democracy. A lot of people are still in denial over the far-right turn of the GOP.


    • It’s not really the Far Right turn of the Republicans that matter but their revoluntary vanguard beliefs. Many Republican officials and politicians really seem to believe that anybody who disagrees with them is wrong and an existential threat to the Republic and should be treated accordingly.


    • I’ve particularly enjoyed a bunch of the comments this spawned, but most of them IMO are of the “can’t see the forest for the trees” type. The forest, as far as I’m concerned, is that 2016 was at least the fourth election cycle where the Dems lost ground in the Midwest. Over those years, lost state legislative seats, lost governorships, lost Congressional seats… and this past November, lost the EC votes. I admit that I didn’t think last year was the year it would happen, but there was a clear trend that was going to end up at the EC votes eventually if it didn’t change.

      Pres. Johnson said that the Civil Rights Act would cost Democrats the South for a generation. It’s been two now, assuming 25 years to the generation. I haven’t gone back to look in any detail, but suspect that the Midwestern trend has been going on for most of a generation, with the obvious exception in the 2006 and 2008 elections. As a registered Dem in a different part of the country, this is terrifying: in the 2016 EC, one Southern state (and Virginia is the southern end of the NE urban corridor), two Midwestern states, and everything else was either the Northeast or the West.


      • Given this reality, I’m sure we’ll see more calls for the abolition of the rules as they exist now in exchange for rules that would change things.

        Hey! Let’s get rid of the Senate! Wyoming citizens shouldn’t be worth 2.4 times a California citizen! Who’s with me?

        Oh, and let’s not require a Constitutional Amendment to do that. Justice requires action, not being stymied in committee.


  6. [Cr4] I think when we’re talking about horrible things, there’s a tendency to lose the ability to make distinctions between degrees of horrible. Manipulating an 11-year-old girl into agreeing to have sex is a bad thing and should be punished, but is it really just as bad as pointing a gun at an 11-year-old and forcing her to have sex?


  7. CL4: We get those. Call them “A Pineapple Express”

    CL5: I still think that houses in hurricane prone areas can not be built using conventional stick framing. Sure, you can use Hurricane ties and all, but it’s just smarter to make the house more aerodynamic, don’t give the wind something to catch on.


    • A well-known YA author that comments at OTB pointed out that his publisher discovered through a study that half of YA fantasy readers are college-educated moms. He brings this point up to complain about how his industry doesn’t know what it’s doing most of the time, but it stands out to me as pointing to YA as today’s middlebrow reading and here be culture wars.


      • That’s a good point. A lot of YA literature is read by people or are not in any general sense YA. Partially this is because a lot of genre literature is published as YA literature these days. Genre literature has become something of a political issue to a certain type of activist because of its general readership. Literary fiction is seen as being for cis-gendered white heterosexual men to some.


        • This author points to the success of the Harry Potter series as demonstrating the mass appeal of quality YA stories, while criticizing precedents such as Narnia that were overbearing moralizers. There is a long tradition that YA books are supposed to provide some form of moral uplift, even if its simply that the muskateers were honorable and the old regime was not. The linked book sounds like another heavy-handed allegory in the genre.


          • Narnia was a lot less moralistic than other children’s literature even though its literal Christian apologia. C.S. Lewis did not let us theocracy get in the way of a good story. I think that’s mainly because of his love of classical mythology and that his Christianity was a High Church Anglicanism. An American Christian authors wouldn’t write a Christian novel where Jesus was a talking lion and Bacchus was an angel.

            There was an essay on Slate a few years ago on why British children’s literature tends to be better from American children’s literature to the author. American children’s literature until some time in the late 20th century was rooted in a lot of realism, the frontier experience, and American Protestant morality. It was supposed to teach the virtues of hard work, clean living, and equality. British children’s literature wasn’t as tied to a particular didactic purpose the way American children’s literature was.


            • I’m personally indifferent to Lewis, mainly agreeing with Tolkien’s disdain for allegory just about any time. Both my wife and I read to our children every night for bedtime for many years, and I ended up re-reading books like the Narnia series and talking with kids about them. His books were unequal in quality, and if you understood the underlying religious point being advanced, you can see plot points being introduced artificially for reasons external to the story. From a kid’s standpoint, the story can become slow at times and the daughter said the girls got crappy gifts from the lion. It seems like a lot of people agree Prince Caspian is the best one, and that one may have the most Greek influence?


              • This is just my own personal preference, but I really didn’t like the Father Christmas scene. It seems to distract from the story, at least for me. And in contrast to PD Shaw’s children, I wasn’t the greatest fan of Prince Caspian.

                I really liked the other five, though. My favorites are probably the Magician’s Nephew and the Last Battle.


                • Do I remember correctly that you grew up in a more southern part of the country?

                  Asking because for me my love of the Father Christmas bit is directly tied in to living someplace cold and dark, where “Always Winter and Never Christmas” was as powerful as a symbol for a little kid could *possibly* get. Not even for the allegorical reasons but just… literally…. it was really obvious even as a kid that some kind of midwinter feast was bloody necessary to get through how awful winter was….


                  • I actually grew up in the state where you live now, but in the capital city. As you know, gets cold sometimes, but not nearly as cold as your home province. (Compared to where I live now, it doesn’t really get that cold, though. And I suspect it was regularly colder when I was growing up than it is now. But we always had the Chinook winds.)

                    My problem with the Lion, Witch, Wardrobe isn’t the “always winter, never Christmas” part of the story. Maybe it wasn’t quite as evocative as it would have been had I come from a VERY cold climate. But it was evocative enough. My problem is that Father Christmas just seems to come out of nowhere, into a land that doesn’t seem like it would have a Father Christmas.It seems to violate the rules Lewis set out for Narnia. Kind of anachronistic, but with “place” instead of “time” (ana-topistic?).


                    • Ah, see, that sort of oddity (that actually does get explained/contextualized by the rest of the books, just indirectly rather than directly) is part of what I love about it. And as a little kid, Christmas == Father Christmas for me just as much as for Lewis.

                      I mean, if you didn’t find Christmas itself ana-topistic, why is Father Christmas ana-topistic?

                      And I gotta say, living in Denver told you *nothing* about what a real winter is like. Don’t know what where you live now did. It’s not about *how* cold it gets. It’s about how it stays cold, and dark, and overcast, forever and ever and then just when you think it will never stop, comes Christmas and New Years and the midwinter thaw and you feel like you will be able to survive the other half of forever cold and dark.

                      Colorado is kind of “occasionally winter and very often Christmas” by those lights…

                      Given the Magician’s Nephew, both Christmas and Father Christmas actually make a great deal of sense…. which… may be the first time I’ve even seen a reason for reading it before LWW instead of in publication order. Huh. (I have about 50 reasons to read them in publication order.)

                      I mean, you like and dislike what you like and dislike, but I just want to put out there that one can find Lewis’ “intrusions” both charming and part of the world-building rather than breaking it.


                      • Thanks for the primer. I hadn’t quite thought of it that way, although I’m still inclined to think Lucy and the gang could think in terms of Christmas without a “Father Christmas” not being an intrusion. (Please forgive the double negative.) I do think before I launch into any further critique, I’ll have to reread the Lion, Witch, Wardrobe, and probably the Magician’s Nephew, because maybe I’m still missing something.

                        I hear you on how temperate my home town’s climate is. However, I remember winters being much worse in the 1980s and 1990s than they seem to be now. But even then, they weren’t unrelentingly dark.

                        Where I live now is known for its winters, although the recent ones have been very mild, and I understand my foster city doesn’t really hold a candle to the actually cold places in North America. It just has the reputation.

                        I did do a research trip in Ottawa one January (at the National Archives… awesome place to do historical research on Canada!) and I think I got a taste of a much colder clime. It seemed that everything was ice, which made walking really hard. I do remember it being very dark, but I was in the archives most of the days, so I wouldn’t have seen much daylight anyway.


                  • , I’m from a religion without a winter solstice celebration but I admit that there was something appealing about the anti-Christmas logic of some of the more radical Protestant sects. They did look like killjoys taking away people’s fun at one level but at another level, you have a lot of faith in people if you believe that they don’t need psychological crunches like winter solstice celebrations to get through longer winters and darkness. They are arguing that people can do this on their own because they are strong. There is something admirable to that.


                    • That’s true enough but in practice it doesn’t seem to actually work. Presbyterian Scots, for example, merely shifted from having a big Christmas celebration to having a big Hogmanay instead. (It took a while for Hogmanay to develop that way – but it started developing pretty much immediately after Christmas celebration was banned.)

                      I respect and recognize that you don’t experience Hannukah as a winter solstice celebration, and it certainly didn’t start that way, but I’ve heard from many Jewish people who live in cold climes that a festival of light and play and the giving of small gifts to children is especially welcome and valuable in the depths of winter.


                      • Hanukkah didn’t really develop as we know it until the very late 19th century or even the early 20th century. Religiously its considered a very minor holiday that barely gets any mention in the Talmud. The Books of the Maccabees aren’t even considered scriptural. You lit the candles, said some additional prayers, and that was it.

                        When Jews began to acculturate and assimilate during the 19th century, lots of Jewish families started to celebrate secular Christmas because thats what good middle class people did. Many other Jews, especially the Orthodox had a problem with this, because they saw even secular Christmas as a fundamentally Christian holiday. They were also intelligent enough to realize that secular Christmas has tremendous attraction for children and merely telling their kids no Christmas because your Jews around Christmas time wasn’t going to work. Then some people noticed the Hanukkah falls conveniently around Christmas time, give or take a month, and was such a minor holiday with little official observance that it could be changed into a kid’s friendly gift giving holiday with little trouble. This allowed Jewish kids to have something like secular Christmas but saved the parents from celebrating Christmas.

                        Thats one version of how modern Hanukkah as ersatz-Christmas came about. The other version was that when Reform Judaism started during the 19th century an inadvertent effect of the Reform movement was editing out many of the kid-friendly attractions to Judaism. Reinventing Hanukkah as an ersatz-Christmas was a way to provide some kid friendly features into early Reform Judaism.


              • Lewis was a fascinating guy and I love all the Narnia books (especially the Horse and His Boy), but he must have been a super annoying friend to have. “Oh, you wrote a kids book about Father Christmas for your kids! I know, I’ll make the refrain for my book ‘Always Winter and and never Christmas!” and then have Father Christmas show up in a particularly pagan way. Mwahahah.” “Oh, you have dwarves majorly featured in your mythology and they’re all somber and noble and stuff? I’mma write a book (Prince Caspian) in which the dwarves are both good and evil but also super-adorable and winsome!” etc etc etc times a million. It’s quite amazing that they stayed friends, he must have had a lot of compensating qualities.


      • I feel like most insiders believe their industry doesn’t know what is doing most of the time but I digress.

        The tricky and interesting thing is what does it mean that half of YA fantasy readers are college-educated moms. Are they reading it because of their children or independently?
        Suppose they are reading it independently, would they stop if the books stopped marketing
        themselves as YA?


        • Speaking as a college-educated mom who has read some YA, it’s a bit of both.

          For instance Terry Pratchett wrote several books that are listed as YA, but I’d have read them anyway. In fact, I got my 70+ college-educated Dad hooked on Terry Pratchett by giving him ‘Wee Free Men’ which is classified as YA.

          On the other hand, I read the Percy Jackson series b/c my tween daughter got into it and I wanted to see what her major fangirl interest was about. It was okay, but not something I would have read otherwise. However, I will admit to enjoying the new Norse myth based one although part of that is the humor and that the author does a good job of pointing out how *not* racist Viking culture/myth was. (It’s always struck me as ironic that people obsessed with racial purity/superiority latched onto one of the few pagan pantheons that was literally mixed race – Aesir, Vanir, Frost Giant, Elf, Dwarf all intermingled and frequently intermarried).


      • A well-known YA author that comments at OTB pointed out that his publisher discovered through a study that half of YA fantasy readers are college-educated moms.

        I’ve said it before, although probably not here, that I literally do not understand the concept of YA books.

        I mean, I understand the idea of books aimed at teenagers by theme, as in coming-of-age stories. Or by characters, as in stories starring teenagers.

        It’s just…that doesn’t seem to be what people mean why they say YA.

        And I understand a hypothetical ‘easier to read’, that’s how we define children’s books. Except that teenagers who read for fun tend to read at adult levels, or, actually, to flip it around, most adult fiction is roughly around what is called ‘9th grade level’ in the Gunning Fog index, and plenty of it a lot less. (1) YA isn’t notably easier to read than anything else.

        Honestly, at this point, YA really is sounding like a genre of ‘Speculative fiction(2) staring young-ish protagonist, likely to be female.’

        I’m…not sure why we need that classification…

        but it stands out to me as pointing to YA as today’s middlebrow reading and here be culture wars.

        …unless that classification exist to distinguish it from ‘real literature’ because it is, in fact, popular. Because literature is supposed to be high-brow and popular things cannot be that.

        It’s the same way that romance novels and Tom Clancy books aren’t literature either.

        1) The Flecsh-Kincaid grade level, the other way to calculate ‘grade level’, is almost always even lower, and kinda stupidly low. The average there appears to be around 4th grade.

        2) People should remind themselves that spec-fi as an umbrella not only includes sci-fi and fantasy, but alternative history, or, really, any setting that is not the current or past real world. It’s easiest to think of if you think of it is ‘speculative universe’ fiction, that is, fiction set in a speculative, aka, a hypothetical, universe.


        • Most of these categories (and I’d also include mystery, science fiction, fantasy, “literary fiction”, and a few other things) are primarily about marketing. Quite a bit of it seems to be about marketing science fiction to audiences that weren’t traditionally a major part of the fandom for written SF.

          If The Hunger Games‘ protagonist were an male engineer in his thirties, the book would fit in very well with the adventure SF of the late ’50s and early ’60s (though IMO it would be one of the better examples of that corner of the genre).


    • Its orthodoxy in action. All those who depart from the path of social justice on the most minor matter of doctrine will be castigated as heretics. Their polluted contagions will be exiled from the community safe spaces.


      • What irks me is that both the author and Kirkus took great pains to run the book through a number of perspective filters to make sure it was treating the matter well, and they all came back and said it was A-OK. If the people who have the strongest claim to any potential offense are saying it’s good, what cause do random people who have not read the book yet (it’s an early review, book isn’t out yet, AFAIK) have to disparage it?

        As an added bonus, how many of those who piled onto Kirkus do you figure are white, and thus are guilty of some degree of ‘White savior’ themselves?


        • Yep. The social justice left (which I consider myself part of) has this virus of people who decide to attack those closest to their positions for not being identically-minded, while ignoring the people they actually would have valid critiques of. Like, if there’s a spectrum of disagreement, and they’re at a 6, they go after the 5.99s, and ignore the 1s-through-5s completely.

          It drives most of the rest of us crazy.


        • What really irks me, OTOH, is Kirkus calling this problematic: “some reductive wording and the omission of a clear callout that the Muslim character is portrayed exclusively through the filter of a white protagonist.”

          Now, I don’t know what ‘reductive wording’ is referring to. The article seems to think it’s a reference to calling someone a ‘disillusioned immigrant’, which is…a very strange complaint. It seems perfectly reasonable for a Muslim to immigrate here and then become disillusioned as the country turned on her. For a real person, yes, that would be a simplification of them, and perhaps they would object to that description, but this is not a real person, it is a fictional character.

          But anyway, the second part of that is worse: The idea that it is somehow required that it be ‘called out’ that, essentially that the POV character is white and a Muslim character…exists?

          Note there’s no allegation that the book treats the Muslim character poorly, and all indications are that it does not. Just that it doesn’t go into her head. So the complaint here essentially seems to be that the book is in third person limited perspective! Like, uh, most books?

          But, let’s take this at face value. So the writer of the book, a non-Muslim, should have…tried to write a Muslim perspective? Maybe had a few scenes from their POV. Is that the actual complaint here? Do they realize how dumb that sounds as a complaint? That’s the sort of thing that people legitimately complain about when it’s done, when writers who have never experienced any real oppression start putting thoughts into the heads of oppressed minority characters.

          Here, the writer didn’t do that, she intelligently just restricted herself to describing things from the outside, from the POV of a privileged person…and idiots leapt in and complained about her not doing things they would have complained about her doing if she’d done them!

          Basically, Kirkus appears to be agreeing with the commenter who said ‘a white writer should not have tackled this story, and neither should a white character be the center of it’.

          That is actually a very very weird sentiment when you read it. First of all, if we’re talking about ‘what people know’, the book is about realizing and noticing their own privilege, which means, duh, yes, a white writer is exactly the person to write that. I hate to be the guy who has to point it out, but a white writer is obviously much more likely to have experienced privilege to start with.

          This sort of complaint is almost hilariously backward of the normal complaints in this manner, which would be complaining that writers are wandering around writing about minority experiences they don’t understand. Here, the complaints seem to be the writer is _only_ writing about things they experienced, or at least could have, (Observing oppression from a privileged perspective), and _avoided_ writing about stuff they didn’t experience! (How someone who is oppressed feels.)

          Basically, both that commenter explicitly and Kirkus implicitly, seem to think that it’s just morally wrong for certain stories to exist. It really just seems to be basically saying ‘Do not write minority characters if you are not a minority (Or even that specific minority)’.

          Not only is this bullshit, it is very harmful bullshit. White cis-gender straight people, mostly male, still make up the majority of writers in the US. Saying they can’t tell stories that involve minorities, even when they try to make sure those minorities are portrayed accurately, means _there will be no minorities_ in the majority of stories.


          • TBF I think the point was “If you’re going to write a story that is mostly about a future where Muslims are oppressed, and you’re not Muslim, maybe come up with some different story instead. One where you’re not profiting from other people’s experiences that you don’t have to share, *quite* so blatantly.” IE it’s not that there’s no Muslim perspective but Muslim characters, it’s that there’s no Muslim perspective in what appears to be a *Muslim story*, ie the people actually experiencing the crap have been sidelined. Those are two different complaints. Given the historical record of that happening, the latter has a lot more validity than the former.

            Also who says white cisgender straight mostly male people still make up the majority of writers in the US? Published by traditional publishing houses, sure. Acclaimed, definitely (we have the VIDA count to measure that part – they went intersectional this year). Even profitable, I suspect yes. But majority of writers? I wouldn’t be so sure of that.

            I say all of the above whilst continuing to agree that it was a dumb ass attack and especially dumb ass to attack the *review* rather than writing your own review that didn’t happen to agree (which lots of people did and more power to them). I don’t think Kirkus agrees *at all* given their usual MO and their usual reviews (both of which include social justice perspectives but also don’t go over the top in any way let alone a way this dumb), they just were trying to show respect for the people who didn’t like their review. Which is SUPER ANNOYING. And, I agree, actually worrisome. Regardless of sincerity, it’s far more troubling a “sign” than people complaining about them (which, people have been attacking book review organs since at least the 1930s and probably well before).


            • TBF I think the point was “If you’re going to write a story that is mostly about a future where Muslims are oppressed, and you’re not Muslim, maybe come up with some different story instead.

              Yeah, that’s basically what I said they were saying.

              I disagree utterly with that idea, for quite a few reasons.

              The most obvious reason is that these sort of ‘speculative fictions warnings’ basically _must_ come from outside [edit:outside the people threatened, I mean] like that, or people often dismiss them.

              Another one is that a privileged person is probably going to have a better perspective on writing a privileged person, and thus be more realistic and convincing to privileged people.

              I mean, let’s say that both me, and some third-generation inherited wealth guy, have the same idea for a fictional story where a wealthy person gives to all away and finds happiness. One of us will describe that world accurately, the other will not.

              Or, as the article mentioned, Mark Twain. He could accurately describe someone’s experience growing up pre-civil war living on the Mississippi because, duh. OTOH, he was not a slave, and didn’t try to describe being a slave. He tried to portray an escaped slave as accurately as possible, and I don’t think anyone has any problems with how he did so with Jim, but he didn’t go inside Jim’s head.

              But this is because I am approaching this as ‘a non-Muslim’s story in a universe that opposes Muslims’, whereas a lot people seem to be thinking it’s some other kind of story.

              One where you’re not profiting from other people’s experiences that you don’t have to share, *quite* so blatantly.”

              But they aren’t anyone’s experiences. The thing is fictional.

              I could understand the point if this was a historic example…but it’s not.

              IE it’s not that there’s no Muslim perspective but Muslim characters, it’s that there’s no Muslim perspective in what appears to be a *Muslim story*, ie the people actually experiencing the crap have been sidelined.

              I think you’ve nailed it perfectly with the word ‘appears’.

              For something to be a Muslim story, by definition, it has to be from a Muslim perspective, at least in some sense. That’s how that works.

              So this is actually a weirdly circular complaint, in that people are assuming this be a ‘Muslim story’…and then people complain that it’s not how a Muslim story should be written.

              Well, yes. It’s not written how a Muslim story should be written. Because it’s not a Muslim story.

              It’s basically just a story in which Muslim people explicitly exist and have had a specific thing happen to them. It’s a story about a non-Muslim in that universe.

              Just like Huckleberry Finn is not a slave story. That story is about a runaway boy who (among other things) changes his mind about slavery.

              Also who says white cisgender straight mostly male people still make up the majority of writers in the US? Published by traditional publishing houses, sure. Acclaimed, definitely (we have the VIDA count to measure that part – they went intersectional this year). Even profitable, I suspect yes. But majority of writers? I wouldn’t be so sure of that.

              Let me amend that to: The majority of writers writing the majority of things that people read.

              Or not even read. Let’s not restrict ourselves to books here. TV shows have writers, movies have writers, etc. Those areas are even more male-heavy than books.

              And in all those industries, white cisgender straight mostly male people outnumber everyone else by a large majority, and complaining about how dare they write minority characters…not complaining _how_ the characters are written, but that the characters are written at all by non-minorities…is incredibly harmful nonsense that will result in minority characters not being written at all.


              • Well I agree with you on almost all of that, certainly in this case. Although there’s also a LOT to be said for the systematic problems with supporting this book (publishers marketers etc) when many Muslim versions of this story do exist, have been told super-well, and can’t get publishers interested… that’s one I can relate to because people do this to women all the time, pushing inferiorly-written male stories about women’s struggles over better stories by women themselves, because women “don’t sell” or “girl characters don’t sell” or whatever (often because they’re refusing to look factual evidence of more complexity square in the face and pretend it doesn’t exist, MARVEL!!! *ahem*). I can relate to the frustration of it even as I argue that *empirically* the more fleshed-out female characters written by men there are, the more room for women writers and female characters written by women there are, something that certainly seems to be the case for me based both on experience and the studies I’ve read – also on my intuitions about the waning and waxing fortunes of women sf writers, which you can’t suss out just by noticing who is remembered, since a .wane in one decade tends to erase out some of the waxing in the previous one…

                There’s just a difference between “the POV character is white and a Muslim character…exists?” (your phrasing) and “the POV character is white and most of the action of the story is about Muslims” (most of the complainers’ phrasing, and I should mention I’d been paying attention to this before someone posted the link here – it’s not Kirkus’ phasing but as I said nothing in their actions tells me they actually meant a word of their “revisions”). They’re both wrong! I said they were both wrong :D. I’m just saying you should avoid building extraneous strawmen while you’re at the business of explaining why things are wrong.


                • Although there’s also a LOT to be said for the systematic problems with supporting this book (publishers marketers etc) when many Muslim versions of this story do exist, have been told super-well, and can’t get publishers interested

                  I guess, although that really sounds like a complaint that should be aimed at publishing houses, not at the author, the book, or even at the book reviewers. (Unless there are better-written, actually-Muslim stories out there that they recommended this book over.)

                  And now we’re in the vagaries of the market, in which…publishers are cowards and idiots. They will take maybe one risk at a time, which means they will take a risk on a ‘Muslim book’ only as long as there are no other risks attached…like some ‘foreign sounding’ writer or whatever racist gibberish is bouncing around inside their corporate heads.

                  that’s one I can relate to because people do this to women all the time, pushing inferiorly-written male stories about women’s struggles over better stories by women themselves, because women “don’t sell” or “girl characters don’t sell” or whatever

                  …or, as they have learned from this, ‘Muslim characters written by non-Muslims always cause controversy, even if writers try very hard to portray them accurately, so, writers, you can’t have them in your book unless you are Muslim…also, weirdly, we don’t have any Muslim writers for some completely mysterious reason, so I guess no stories can have Muslims at all.’.

                  Nice job breaking it, heroes.

                  Also, while I’m sure a large portion of their treatment of women is due to sexism, book publishers as a corporate entity are also complete morons in a more general sense.

                  Or I guess a better way to say it is that their sexism is one of many symptoms of their general moronicness. They have all sorts of prejudices and nonsense that they have decided are ‘gut feelings’, which are the reason we are paying them.

                  It is a major problem of almost all ‘artistic industry’ gatekeepers…heck, it’s probably a major problem of all industry gatekeepers, but the gatekeepers in the ‘artistic’ industries never have to explain themselves because it’s all based in ‘how they feel based on their long experience in the industry’, so they can get away with their prejudices much longer.

                  It’s easy to show objectively that women could be pushing a button in the widget factory, and thus the only reason there aren’t any women is that the hiring manager is discriminating against them. It’s hard to show objectively that a woman’s story is as good as some man’s story, and even harder to show that the gatekeepers should have agreed, but did not due to prejudices.

                  I can relate to the frustration of it even as I argue that *empirically* the more fleshed-out female characters written by men there are, the more room for women writers and female characters written by women there are


                  The prejudice says that women writers can only write women, or something like that. (Well, clearly, women writers can literally write male characters, so I guess the idea is they’re writing them like…women characters? This prejudice is so stupid I can’t even explain it well.) And minorities can only write minorities.

                  This means there are two ways to break the male-dominance of the market…somehow remove that prejudice, which is nearly impossible because there is no real place to appeal or override the industry gatekeepers(1)…or, option two, show there is a demand for well-written female characters, so, tada, women get hired to write them!(2)

                  Same with minorities. Same with LGBT characters. The way to make progress is to show that the market will read those characters (Because the people in charges are very very stupid and do not agree with that.), so that new authors will be drawn from those pools…which rather requires those characters be written and put into books by _existing_ authors, who often are not those things.

                  And, frankly, we need this anyway, completely unrelated to if it reduces prejudice in the industry itself. A world where well-rounded characters exist for all people to identify with is good in and of itself, even if those characters are written by straight white men…which they will be at first.

                  E.g., it’s a good thing that the recent Wonder Woman movie was successful and directed by a woman, but it also would been a good thing if that exact movie had existed and had been that successful, but was directed by a man. Not _as_ good, but still a positive thing.

                  1) I mean, there are review sites that do try to make an impact, that do care about such things, that go out of their way to point out the problems. And the gatekeepers do care at some level about reviews. So maybe that will help. Good thing no one has decided to randomly attack those review sites for stupid reasons.

                  2) Or, option three, tear down the existing industry and bypass the gatekeepers, which is something that writers are also doing in this world of self-published ebooks. And maybe that will be where the ultimate victory comes from, and if so this entire discussion is a bit pointless.


      • And one problem with orthodoxy is that it stops caring about truth and starts caring about performativity. “Oh, a bunch of Aggrieved White Ladies are complaining about this review by a Muslim woman being insensitive toward Muslims? LET US SHARE OUR REGRETS AND EDIT IT.”



        • Very highly ideological regimes like the early Soviet Union, Mao’s China, and others require all art to teach the official doctrine of the state. Many of the social justice people seem to have similar opinions about it. You need to have the official social justice didactic or your work will be deemed pernicious.


        • And one problem with orthodoxy is that it stops caring about truth and starts caring about performativity.

          This. Tho I’d add that accepting an orthodoxy which reduces meaning to subjective interpretations of performative acts (as PM crit lit deconstructionists are inclined to do) makes the resulting slide to valuing pure signaling almost inevitable. (But that’s just my opinion :)


    • My face hit my keyboard, but I’m not as far left as these folks so of course it would. What I really don’t get though is why the fish people like Dreher and Sullivan and the entire right wing media get to point at these folks and then say THEY define the entire left of center political scene. Do the ‘SJW’ faction even have any establishment politicians who toe their lines? I mean the right wing extremists just elected one of theirs President. How the hell do they get to say the entire left is defined by an element that just has one seat at the table on the left?


      • Because the Right defends their own and the Left doesn’t. You’d almost never see a National Review writer praising an article from Jacobin attacking the far-right, while it’s a game to see how quickly various members of blue check Twitter praise any takedown of SJW’s on the Left from right-leaning writers.

        Which may be bad for the Right long term, but in the short term, it means the Right is actually unified when it comes to elections and hating anybody to the Left of them, while the Left hates the Liberals for never backing them up while the Liberals hate the Left for always attacking them instead of the Right.


        • Well, a lot, but the Democratic Party isn’t taking those ‘SJW’ book destroying types and sending them to congress. They’re not even nominating them. Yes everyone balances out the GOP’s entire derangement by pointing at the left wing nuts.


      • What I really don’t get though is why the fish people like Dreher and Sullivan and the entire right wing media get to point at these folks and then say THEY define the entire left of center political scene.

        Here’s why: because the left-of-center political scene is dismantling right now and the current trajectory of the party is pointed at these w***kj*bs gaining control. I’ve heard people on this very site say that the future of the party is with the SJWs. Yikes! And really, I can’t disagree with them on any structural grounds given the incompetence of the DNCCC.


        • I think one can make the argument that the Democratic Party is in danger of going that way or that they’re moving that way but these people say shit like “the Dems have always been that way” or “The Dems are there now” and I’d really like for them to show their work.


            • Well yeah. Sully is semi-retired and was always prone to hysterics; a tendency that non-blog style writing reinforces.
              Dreher, of course, desperately needs for the left to turn ‘SJW’ en masse otherwise it means he’ll have to come up with some other way to justify how he and his religious cohorts treated minorities up until the flail of social policy was wrenched from their weakening grasp.


        • I agree and disagree partially.

          I agree that the old 1990s DLC center-left is collapsing. This the kind of party that would want indirect ways to the safety net and wanted to be relatively business friendly while pushing for “sensible” regulations. This part of the party is dying.

          But weirdos like us who spend too much time on the blogs overestimate how much the twiterraty exist in real life.


      • In the Clinton vs. Sanders debate, the more moderate Social Justice/Intersectionality Leftists sided with Clinton over Sanders because Clinton was seen as the preferred candidate of women and people of color while Sanders was defined as an old white guy. Attacking the Alt-Right as a basket of deplorables certainly had something of a Social Justice/Intersectional flare to it. Some aspects of the Social Justice/Intersectional debate are ending up in the Democratic Party’s rhetoric even if it isn’t to the extent the Alt-Right is embedded into the Republican Party.


        • Not sure I agree with all that high-falutinism, myself. Clinton made strategic decision to overtly cast herself as more sympathetic to southern black folks’ interests than Bernie in order to knock him outa contention quickly, and it backfired by costing her white folks’ votes.


        • Yeah but dear ol’ Uncle Bernie was the non-evil/hideous Trump equivalent. With the wackadoodle policy preferences couched in revolution sound bites as a response for everything, the party outsider running for the party nod? He was literally the Trump equivalent. And he lost. And it wasn’t particular close (and no he lost even if you didn’t count super delegates- HRC got more pledged delegates than he did).

          I mean yeah HRC managed the social element better treating the civil rights faction as substantive and talking to them like adults* but that doesn’t mean they dominate the left.

          *My biased point of view is she handled it pretty tolerably.


          • I don’t think she handled it well at all (if we’re talking about the race stuff). She went backwards, in my view, leaning on a regressive “let the white people take care of you” paradigm. Bernie, for all the grief he took, advocated system-wide criminal justice reform, which is widely popular in the black community and increasingly popular in the liberal white community. Yet his message was derided by BLM activists, TNC and others as not being sufficiently narrowly tailored to the black community’s identity-based interests.

            I never understood that, myself. Plus, her (effectively) pandering to the black community cost her votes with white people. And for all the folks who’ll say “black people’s votes matter too” I’d respond by saying that’s why the future of the party is SJW.


            • I understand that, as the losing candidate, HRC can’t have done anything right but she didn’t have to spend much time tangling with that faction of the party and they instead bedeviled Bernie (who admissibly had no interest in those issues and just kept trying to bat it away). That’s better performance than HRC had in2008 anyhow. I don’t know if HRC could have trimmed more in one direction or the other on that particular issue and gotten much better results. Lord(Lady?) knows she had plenty of other areas where should have done a hell of a lot better.


      • I think Jesse has it right. The right-wing/GOP is very good at supporting themselves or even denouncing while winking. The supposed exile of the Birchers from the right in the 1950s was a lot more ambiguous than they let on with Buckley. He needed them to subscribe to the National Review after all.

        But the left’s flaw is always the circular firing squad.

        Sullivan is still a Tory at heart and he is always going to thinking going slightly right and cow towing to some kind of ethno-national nativism.

        Plus the GOP discovered that repeating something enough might make it true


        • I think Jesse has it right. The right-wing/GOP is very good at supporting themselves or even denouncing while winking.

          Egad Saul. This literally makes no sense. The Never Trump movement was an Establishment Conservative creation. It lives on! Even now you have well respected and influential conservatives on literally(!!) every media outlet almost every day opposing what Trump and the GOP are doing.


          • When you see it as a religious argument rather than a political one, it makes a lot more sense.

            I had people argue that people who left the Babtists for the Presbyterians had demonstrated that they were never Christian in the first place.

            Anybody can be opposed to sin. It’s not enough to be opposed to sin. You must also be *PIOUS*.


          • Sure, but with a few significant exceptions* those denunciations come only when it doesn’t matter and costs the denouncer and their movement nothing. Trump can’t do a thing to Jennifer Rubin or the regulars at National Review (nor does he probably know who they are). Meanwhile the occasional GOP political operator who speaks out about Trump either follows those words up by toeing Trumps line action wise, are about to retire or are retired.

            That said I do agree that Saul’s being overly reductive. The GOP has been circularily devouring themselves for a while. The diff is their kooks and nuts dominate their base so it’s a dicey tiger to ride and with Trump the GOP establishment fell off and is now trying to persuade the tiger to be satisfied with just one leg. The Dems kooks just… don’t… have that kind of pull with the base**. Oh and also while the GOP’s wing hates the GOP they hate the Dems and Liberals more whereas the far left hates nothing more than they hate the center left.

            *McCain, Collins, Murkowski
            **Yet anyhow.


            • I don’t think any president has gotten less support from their party this far in as has Trump. We confuse the fact that he is getting far, far less resistance than we’d like to see (and he deserves) with the idea that he is getting virtually none. Senators vote with their president all the time and always have. The criticisms and the investigations (even foot-draffy ones)? That’s unusual. Senators – even one! – burning their career with open criticisms? Extremely unusual.

              I’m damn frustrated with the GOP and I can’t imagine voting for them while Trump is in play largely because of the degree of support they’ve lent him, but Trump supporters are frustrated by what he’s getting and with pretty good reason.


              • but Trump supporters are frustrated by what he’s getting and with pretty good reason.

                I don’t understand this. By any reasonable measure Trump is getting exactly what he deserves given his incoherent vague flip-floppiness. He’s proposed no policies which are being obstructed. So the frustration can’t be with the way Trump is treated. Hell, this guy lies, makes a guy go on record to corroborate the lie only to immediately undercut the corroboration, and the complaint from his supporters is that people aren’t treating him fairly? He’s a fucking liar! And he has literally has no idea how government or the world works.


                • Well, you see this, and I see this, but they don’t really see this.

                  But mostly, they are frustrated with the attacks he’s getting from his own party. They’re frustrated that they haven’t killed the investigations. They won’t give him the green light to fire Mueller. Ajit Pai undermined his comments about the FCC. They have also failed to give him victories legislatively. Most don’t seem to care too much about the policies specifically, just that Trump needs some victories.


                  • So either Trump suddenly turns into an angel, Trumps supporters wise up to the fact that it’s reality, not the librul media, that is not conforming to their wishes or they shuffle out of politics and on to shuffleboard circuit without ever internalizing that Trump conned them. I depressingly suspect the latter is the most likely outcome.


                  • I think even this characterization confuses folks’ priorities. If it were not the case that the GOP had lied to its base for going on two decades now; and if it were not the case that conservative media made white males feel like the most discriminated-against group in Murka, and if it were not the case that conservatives promulgated conspiracy theories that Dem-voting liberals are part of a UN backed op to institute gun-confiscating, religion-ending, capitalism destroying Marxism on US soil; and if it were not the case the GOP’s crazy anti-government arguments weren’t in turn applied to the party itself … then the GOP might be in a place to stop this downward slide towards nihilism. But it isn’t, so it can’t.

                    Dems, for their part, have a whole mess of their own problems so won’t be of much help, I’m afraid. In the short term, nihilism (ie Trumpism) wins.


                • Mongol General: Hao! Dai ye! We won again! This is good, but what is best in life?

                  Mongol: The open steppe, fleet horse, falcons at your wrist, and the wind in your hair.

                  Mongol General: Wrong! Conan! What is best in life?

                  Conan: To crush your enemies. See them driven before you. And to hear the lamentations of their women.

                  Mongol General: That is good! That is good.


                • He’s proposed no policies which are being obstructed.

                  The Wall. Banning immigration from countries which support terrorism and/or which we’re bombing. Ending Obamacare.

                  And if the Russian investigation turns out to not have a smoking gun or six, Trump’s people will be able to legitimately claim someone was trying to discredit the election.


                  • You’re right about The Wall. But it’s such a stupid idea that even his sycophants can’t bring themselves to support it publicly. Banning immigrants is stalled in the courts because the Trump admin is so f***ing stupid that it can’t write an EO that”ll pass constitutional muster. Ending Obamacare isn’t a policy prerogative from Trump but a political stunt, one which the GOP can’t fulfill because the whole idea is f***ing absurd on it’s face and even THEY don’t agree with it, nor does the electorate.


                        • By which I mean that if you think blithering idiots should be in charge of US policy, then you have a point. Cuz that’s where we are right now.

                          :Sigh: Given we’re in a democracy and he won the election? Yeah, that’s exactly the point.

                          It’s expected that “the people” will occasionally put in charge self interested idiots who will blow up things with bad policy. That’s the threat the people hold over the political system, and it’s supposed to keep things sane most of the time.

                          Keep in mind Democracy is horrible, with it’s only saving grace being all the others are even worse.


                          • Dark, all you’re doing is appealing to the formal properties of democracy which no one disagrees with. He got voted in. No one disputes that. He’s a fucking blithering idiot, tho, and amazingly people do dispute that, and that’s apparently the dispute.


                    • greginak:
                      Banning immigration from countries that support terrorism: like Saudi Arabia, prime sponsors of Wahhabism? Or how about Chad who was fighting along side us in Niger.

                      I’m not sure even Saudi Arabia can reasonably be called a supporter of terrorism by Iranian/North Korean standards. Do their terrorists work for the state?

                      And even if they could, that’s an argument they should be on the list, not that the list shouldn’t exist.


                        • This is some pretty fine hair splitting, seems to me. AQ was a creation of the Saudis and the US, full stop.

                          For all the talk about AQ being the creation of the Saudis and the US, we’re actively trying to destroy it and AQ is actively trying to destroy the Saudis. If Bin Laden had gone back to the Saudis they would have had his head cut off (their death penalty).

                          It’s not useful to pretend that AQ is an arm of either government in terms of setting US gov policy.


                            • We didn’t fund AQ. We funded lots of terrorist/freedom fighters in Afghanistan and maybe AQ managed to get some of the money but we didn’t build them. It was Saudi money that fueled AQ. While the government didn’t like Bin Laden plenty of rich Saudi royalty did. The Saudi gov has poured funded into a variety of extremest groups and Imam’s many of which hate us.


                              • I dunno. There are other sources, but this is from the Wiki page on Operation Cyclone:

                                Some of the CIA’s greatest Afghan beneficiaries were Arabist commanders such as Haqqani and Hekmatyar who were key allies of bin Laden over many years. Haqqani—one of bin Laden’s closest associates in the 1980s—received direct cash payments from CIA agents, without the mediation of the ISI. This independent source of funding gave Haqqani disproportionate influence over the mujahideen.[38] Haqqani and his network played an important role in the formation and growth of al Qaeda, with Jalalhuddin Haqqani allowing bin Laden to train mujahideen volunteers in Haqqani territory and build extensive infrastructure there.


                                • The thing is everybody, from good ( or at least goodish) to fanatical hateful religious maniac was opposed to the Soviets. They were all sort of allies of convenience at the time. Even groups that started to fight each other when there was no outside enemy fought together to some degree. Did AQ get some of our aid? It wouldn’t surprise me at all. In fact some probably did. But saying we built AQ is to far from everything i’ve read. It was the Saudi Royal Family that were their biggest outside supporters.

                                  Also notable from your link is the influence of Pakistan who are our ally but have definitely also tended to favor the harsher groups in Af.


                                  • Also notable from your link is the influence of Pakistan who are our ally but have definitely also tended to favor the harsher groups in Af.

                                    We still use Pak as cover for Afghanistan ops, by funneling money, equipment and logisitical support thru them as a form of political laundering.


                              • While the government didn’t like Bin Laden plenty of rich Saudi royalty did.

                                I don’t think that’s accurate. The US fomented an insurgency in Afg and used whatever tools were at their disposal. OBL and his associates were useful tools. Once the Rooskies were kicked out, tho, the US backed that Taliban which pissed off OBL and his cohorts (AQ), and that’s what started the conflict, rather than synergy, between US interests and AQs interests.


                                    • I’m actually fine with some Realpolitik at times if we need to ally with people we usually wouldn’t. But there has to be some limits instead of a permanent patron/client relationship ( Saudi Arabia, Pakistan) and if we are more open about what we are doing instead of BS’ing that those countries fully on our side/share our values.


                                • Stillwater: Once the Rooskies were kicked out, tho, the US backed that Taliban which pissed off OBL and his cohorts (AQ), and that’s what started the conflict, rather than synergy, between US interests and AQs interests.

                                  Is there a typo or two somewhere in this sentence? Because it’s in the ‘not even wrong’ – the terms you are using to label orgs are not how they are labeled.

                                  (For instance, the Taliban was founded as an organization well after AQ was (and well well after the Rooskies pulled out), and got to power due to help from the ISI – at a point where US – Pak relations were practically non-existent due to Pakistan’s nuke program)


                                  • After the rooskies were kicked out there was a period of civil wart during which the US was largely a non-participant. As the civil war was winding down the US opted to back the Taliban as the power center. OBL was pissed.


                                    • OBL was anti- west already. He didn’t learn to hate us because we supported the local dudes he was against. He wasn’t even a local himself. He and his crew were outsiders who were fighting against the local afgans.


                                        • The Saudi in Afgan was opposed to US meddling. Meh. He was a hard line religious fanatic.

                                          On a separate note our intell in Af/Pak has never been good as far as anybody knowledgeable has ever admitted. Is the secret intell much better, i doubt it. We didn’t always really understand the players and who we were supporting and where our middlemen like the Pakistani’s were shuttling funds. We were likely getting played by multiple players which didn’t matter much while we were on the same side.


                                          • The Saudi in Afgan was opposed to US meddling. Meh. He was a hard line religious fanatic.

                                            Sure. But he was also a freedom fighter.

                                            (Too soon?)

                                            His primary objection was with the West meddling in ME Islamic state’s affairs. And he was right about that as far as it goes.


                                            • Yeah he didn’t like us mucking about in his part of the world. Fair enough. But a mega rich Saudi who was po’d about the West? The Kingdom very much wants us involved on their side and supporting them. They are fine with our weapons and backing and want us to help keep their enemies in their religious conflicts down ( Iran). And they are fine with supporting their religious extremists who hate us.


                                    • That’s the complete opposite of being correct on multiple axes.

                                      Edit re: this

                                      After the rooskies were kicked out there was a period of civil wart during which the US was largely a non-participant. As the civil war was winding down the US opted to back the Taliban as the power center. OBL was pissed.


                                      • I don’t know how. We have the words of OBL himself as well as the structural clusterfuck the US created in order to break the Soviet’s back. It’s all pretty well documented.


                                      • Thinking about this some more I’m even more perplexed. The US supported the Taliban officially for a short time but has supported it “off the books” thru the Pakistani ISI.


                                        • I still don’t understand your understanding of the timeline. Here’s my understanding of it

                                          late 80s – US funds & gives weapons to mujahadeeen (mostly Northern alliance) and US gives money to Pakistan ISI – and ISI plus Saudi govt and non-govt sources give money and arms to other mujahadeen. In this mix is Bin Laden, using his own finances as well as the other money sloshing around to support himself and some other Arab nation fighters in the anti-Soviet Afghan war. Then Soviets pull out, and Bin Laden as well as nearly every other foreign fighter goes home. This band of fighters Bin Laden labels ‘the base’.

                                          early 90s – the pro-Soviet Afghan government hangs on for a few years, until finally collapsing, softly, in 1992.

                                          Meanwhile Iraq invades Kuwait, and US forces enter Saudi Arabia on the request of Saudi Arabia. This pisses of Bin Laden, Bin Laden makes his objection known, and that pisses off the Saudi royal family. Bin Laden is kicked out of Saudi Arabia and moves to Sudan. Bin Laden fully gets into his head that the West (America et al) is evil, the Saudi Arabia royal family is evil, (Israel is also evil), and what is called for is a new caliphate that unites and restores the lost glory of the Islamic world and pushes the West out of the area (and eventually, takes over the West). He starts sponsoring terrorist attacks towards these ends.

                                          Mid 90s – The post-Soviet Afghan govt is a joke. The world at large isn’t even paying attention. The fall of the Soviet Union means the CIA isn’t playing reindeer games anymore in the area or anywhere else for that matter.

                                          A group of former mujadeen fighters living in Kandahar finally get sick and tired of a local warlord lording and waring, (and going Harvey Weinstein on the local young teenage girls), get together, get some guns and one tank, assualt the warlords compound and hang the warlord from the turret of the tank. This group calls itself the Taliban, and starts to attract followers and the attention of the Pakistan ISI. The Taliban is austere and rough, even by the standards of the area, but they are more or less fair when it comes to justice, especially in the numerous disputes between landlords and tenant farmers. This gives them the support of the population in the Pastun belt.

                                          Bin Laden gets kicked out of Sudan, but finds refuge in Afghanistan, and hooks up with the Taliban through friends of friends. Bin Laden helps the Taliban attack some of the Taliban’s enemies, in the Taliban’s push to take over the whole country.

                                          With the help of the ISI (and de minimus help from Bin Laden), and their overal political momentum, they finally take over Kabul and become the de facto government of Afghanistan. (the first they do is take the old Soviet era president from house arrest and hang him from a lampost). Their government is only recognized by Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and UAE. Bin Laden names Mullah Omar the Numero Uno Enchilida Caliph. The Taliban government doesn’t exert control over most of the northern areas, especially those that are home of the non-Pastun ethnic groups.

                                          late 90s – Bin Laden is indicted in US federal court, Bin Laden orchestrates the bombing of two US embassies in Africa in response, the US bombs Afghanistan and Sudan in response to that. (meanwhile, Monica Lewinsky coverage is saturating the news). Mullah Omar is super duper pissed at Bin Laden, but they make a deal that Bin Laden can hang out for a few more years until he finds new digs.

                                          early 00s – just about when that clock is due to expire, Bin Laden takes out one of Mullah Omar’s enemies, Ahmad Shah Massoud, and two days later, conducts the attack on the United States that Bin Laden’s wanted to do for over a decade.

                                          Immediately after September 11th is when the Pakistan government got back in the good graces of the US goverment (a specific and very public decision by Musharraf).

                                          The Taliban government falls very quickly, but between the American government checking out Iraq like some woman in a red dress, and Pakistan playing both sides (as well as some other rich Gulf State patrons), the Taliban and Bin Laden (seperately) hang out in Pakistan for the next decade.


                      • How does NK support terrorism? Sure it’s a crazy oppressive dictatorship but terrorism? SA, oh yeah you betcha. Remember 9/11 for one thing. The Wahbbi movement are some of the harshest and most aggressive of the middle east theocrats. The argument is that list is incoherent and doesn’t do squat to protect us. It’s makes it harder for people to flea from the maniacs we hate and still allows maniacs from terror supporting countries that we like to enter.


                        • I wanna highlight this (comment from Dark, not greginak):

                          I’m not sure even Saudi Arabia can reasonably be called a supporter of terrorism by Iranian/North Korean standards.

                          I’ve not heard a single instance, ever, of NK sponsoring terrorism abroad by either NKans or surrogates. I’ll be happy to be corrected on this point. NK does not engage in state-sponsored terrorism. The only finding I’ve read is the assassination of KJU’s brother, which isn’t an act of terrorism (no matter how people characterize it). The fact that you throw that out as a data point is, well, reprehensible, if you don’t mind my saying so.


                          • The NK’s have engaged in direct low level conflict with SK. Not terrorism though. Pakistan however had a top scientist, AQ Khan, who helped the NK’s advance their nuke program. Really aces at nuke proliferation. Pakistan isn’t on the immigration list since they are an ally of ours although not necessarily a good one in many ways.

                            However NK is on the immigration ban list because that really was a problem, all those NK refugees paddling across the Pacific. I’m assuming if we actually had a NK refugee we would grant them asylum. Well i’m pretty sure we would.


                            • Having nukes and being labeled an “enemy” of the US is apparently sufficient for being a terrorist-regime. That’s where we are in political discourse right now.

                              A’course, it wasn’t more than a decade and a half ago that some of us said that Iran would be looking to acquire The Bomb as a deterrent to US aggression in the region, and we’ve seen how that prediction turned out. Well, sort of anyway. The status is evolving.


                              • I’ve met some Iranian refugees. Iranian jews who have made a giant pile of money in construction in LA. Good thing we don’t want that kind here any more.

                                Terrorist = bad guys pretty much covers the operating definition.


                          • I kinda mind you saying so?

                            I mean, I also kinda don’t because one of my favorite uncles is Iranian-Canadian and I really don’t see why Dark cherry-picked Iranian/North Korean, for reasons you and Greg already detailed. The problem IMO is the ban, not the “logic” behind the ban.

                            But if someone’s wrong in a belief, they’re wrong, not de facto participating in evil, and if they seem to be claiming something ignorant, the claim may be reprehensible while their action in throwing it out there is merely extremely ill-informed.

                            And as far as states supporting terrorism goes, it has little to do in the cases of NK or Iran with literally giving terrorists arms, and much to do with their diplomatic positions and claims. For eg Iran acknowledges Hamas as a “liberation organization” and legitimate political entity and the US treats it as a terrorist group. The US will *of course* fume and fuss at Iran for recognizing the wrong-according-to-the-US entities as liberators, that’s business as usual.

                            I do think it’s cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face to blame refugees from these nations for the choices of their governments, and refuse them entry, and it’s painfully stupid of Trump to try to enact a ban. But the idea that those two countries are sponsors of terrorism has been state department policy since before 9/11. It’s not Trumpian ridiculous to make the claim, or at least if it is, it’s ridiculousness that Hillary was equally a part of when she was the head of the state department.

                            And I object to you saying people throwing out names of countries as supporters of terrorism that *have been called that by the US for nearly 2 decades if not longer*, is reprehensible of them to do.

                            Even if you frame it politely.


                            • PS Here’s a state dept article from 2002: explaining why they call a state a sponsor of terrorism and what that actually means. It was already the case before 9/11 and it continued to be the case during the Obama presidency, although the exact nations may have come and gone.

                              I will say (again) that I think it’s stupid to attempt to ban immigrants from those countries and stupid that Saudi Arabia isn’t on there and actually, yeppers, I’m enough of a globalist/humanitarian to think it’s stupid to have a list like that in the first place at all. But all that stupid *except for the ban* is just typical American stupid that other countries have been rolling their eyes at forever, or at least very similar to the stupid of, for eg, 1980s American policy (I am not old enough to remember earlier stupids that my countrymen and the BBC may have been rolling their eyes at) – not special Trump stupid.


                                • That one sprung to mind, of course, as did American foreign policy in China during WW2 and aftermath….

                                  But I only *remember* the 80s. Plus also one of the things I remember about the 80s is that a quarter of the back-to-the-landers we knew** were vietnam vets and another quarter were draft dodgers. and they all got along JUST FINE as no one said anything about vietnam and policy stuff. stories could be told about being at war. stories could be told about protesting the war. but they needed to stick to *stories* of personal experience, micro-history I guess, and not start talking about whose fault all that awful was and what the larger purposes of anything might be. And then they could stay good neighbors.

                                  Also, Jane Fonda did not exist, for purposes of these discussions.

                                  **we were hippies on a mostly-rural island, so most of the adults I was exposed to


                                  • Also, Jane Fonda did not exist, for purposes of these discussions.

                                    She ruined whatever enjoyment Barbarella might have offered to a lonely young guy trying to find his way thru a confusing, sexually revolutionizing world, and that’s a damn shame to be honest. Speaking for my friend, he’ll never forgive her for that.

                                    Well, maybe.


                            • Well, that’s a delightful comment as well, tho the distinction I’m relying on isn’t the State Dep’s categorization but the actual acts states engage in. I mean, the Axis of Evil is official State Policy, right?

                              If state department designation suffices then the US can create terrorist regimes out of thin air.


                              • Yah, but there is a difference, stupid as it is, between “terrorist regime” and “supporter [or sponsor] of terrorism.” The latter is 2nd hand, not first hand. It’s a stupid distinction and it’s stupid that that’s how your country’s foreign policy works. But I don’t think it’s productive for the site if you call people’s running with it reprehensible? If that’s what you were doing? which you seemed to be?

                                I mean, even if you’re friendly in how you do so, where are they supposed to go from there?

                                It is, perhaps, the conversational equivalent of telling someone to “check their privilege”? (:P a bridge too far?) Only with the added effort of using an actual insult word….

                                (sorry for all the uptalking? i’m all socialed-out at the moment, after a fun game night with a lot of new people there, and my normal conversational rules have mostly deserted me.)


                                • Yah, but there is a difference, stupid as it is, between “terrorist regime” and “supporter [or sponsor] of terrorism.”

                                  Sure. And NK doesn’t satisfy either condition.

                                  Don’t get me wrong tho. They’re EVIL.


                                  • Well I don’t actually think they are terrorists or sponsors of terrorism either, obviously. I was just objecting to characterizing the holding of the latter belief as reprehensible. Even cheerfully. (I’d object to the characterization of holding the former belief as reprehensible but I’d be less motivated to do so, although I don’t, for example, think it’s fair to call Otto Warmbier’s parents *reprehensible* – they’re just grieving and dumb.)

                                    It’s definitely frustrating that people believe that, given that there are so many horrible things going on there without having to drag terrorism into it. It may be, no wait, I believe that it *is* reprehensible of the state department to attempt to convince people that it’s true. But I don’t really see how it’s a reprehensible act to hold it as a belief.


                                    • Wait. So you think folks holding and essentially advocating beliefs which are demonstrably false and may lead to military conflict based on those false pretenses aren’t reprehensible?


                                      • If they have enough power to actually have any effect on millitary conflict whatsoever, and ought to know better, eg for example Hillary Clinton or George Bush? Yes. Or even if they can’t possibly be expected to know better because they are a blithering idiot but for some reason we all collectively decided to put them in charge of the country (I accept part of the blame for this – certainly not enough to be called reprehensible – even though I am *literally* disenfranchised)? Yes.

                                        If it’s a random internet dude’s thrown off comment that was actually more about Saudi Arabia and which he hasn’t actually been given the chance to explain why he thinks that dumb thing and which will *in no plausible sense be more than infinitesimally causative of whether we end up in a war with North Korea*? No. And if that dude is a regular participant on this website that has a stated *mission* of encouraging people to learn from each other, and he has generally shown himself to be willing to learn and change (if awfully and sometimes frustratingly stubborn about it**)? Also no.

                                        Being ignorant is not the same as being worthy of condemnation. Being ignorant about something you are powerless to change is not the same morally as being ignorant about something that’s your *job*, either.

                                        That seems like a pretty clear and defensible (perhaps *obvious*) set of distinctions to me.

                                        ** me calling someone stubborn = cast-iron pan calling kettle black


                                        • Uh, that was grammatically backwards.

                                          Please to read “Yes, they are reprehensible” in the first para’s yeses and “No, it’s not okay to call them reprehensible nor are they” in the second para’s nos.

                                          You probably weren’t reading me that literally anyway but it’s gonna bug me if I don’t acknowledge it.


                                        • First off, you don’t get to claim any responsibility for Trump. You’re Canadian. Us Americans need to own that all by ourselves.


                                          Being ignorant is not the same as being worthy of condemnation.

                                          Well, that sure sounds like a nice principle, but if I adhere to your advice you’ve just eliminated every grounds upon which I would condemn the Trump presidency. And I think that’s a bridge too far. We’re gonna have to revisit it, to be sure.


                                          • That’s what “Being ignorant about something you are powerless to change is not the same morally as being ignorant about something that’s your *job*, either.” was for. You’re covered on that front. I would never ask for commenting behavior that made it impossible to condemn Trump. I mean jeez.

                                            Plus I am Canadian but I’ve also lived here since I was 20 and a half. I could’ve been writing letters about the frigging apprentice, man, and quixotically tilting at windmills about reality television setting that man up as any kind of an authority *back then*. I COULDA. and I didn’t even try. So I’ll cling to my existentially valid but infinitely small amount of illusion of control, um, I mean, responsibility, and you can’t make me stop unless you get me deported.

                                            If I get deported I’m totally going to stop worrying about this place, and quite possibly move to New Zealand. (It’s kind of hard not to worry about the US from Canada. Too much geographical proximity. Though perhaps I could put my worrying efforts into establishing my American loved ones as Canadian immigrants instead of the stuff I end up worrying about now…)


                          • North Korea got added to the list of terror supporting countries by blowing up a civilian airline.

                            They’ve since renounced terrorism… and “only” threaten to militarily attack its various neighbors, now with nuclear weapons. They’ve also done such things as kidnap random(?) civilians because they can teach their spies how to behave like civilians, and used banned chemical weapons in a civilian airport.

                            Iran supports various organizations which believe any Jew can be killed, simply because they’re Jewish.

                            These states are problems, as are various (semi-)failed states which lack control over “their” territory and are host to various terrorist organizations against their will. And yes, most of the countries which fit this narrative are Muslim majority, but it’s worth pointing out that there are 50 Muslim majority countries and it’s just the bad actors and failed states which are on Trump’s list.

                            I don’t think what Trump is doing will be especially effective, but IMHO the Dems don’t do themselves any favors by proclaiming that it’s purely a Trump-is-a-racist issue.


                            • Regarding the no immigration list the argument is that it is incoherent, silly and doesn’t protect us. Is immigration from NK a problem? Not really that much. Of course NK is a dangerous regime, there is no argument about that. However every bad behavior isn’t terrorism. Or it shouldn’t’ be unless terrorism becomes a magic boogie word used to scare people and justify any and all security measures. Ok, that is how the word is used. So there.

                              Yup Iran supports some nasty characters. Iran is also a socially freer country than SA and has in the recent past been far more western culturally and socially. Why don’t we want Iranians to come here? We aren’t being protected.


                          • I’ve not heard a single instance, ever, of NK sponsoring terrorism abroad by either NKans or surrogates


                            There’s also this

                            plus the many abductions of Japanese citizens. There’s some evidence (though nothing conclusive – and the Soviets were backing most of this stuff worldwide anyway) that the DPRK supported the Japanese Red Army during its heyday.

                            There’s also this weird legacy of Imperial Japan leaking into the Cold War leaking into the present day, where some of the population of ethnic Koreans living in Japan all their lives (even to the second or third generation) are sorta kinda North Koreans legally.


              • Senators vote with their president all the time and always have.

                Not always. Look at how many GOP ones voted against Bork. Or Ds against the CRA and VRA. The branches used to be far more independent.


            • Oh and also while the GOP’s wing hates the GOP they hate the Dems and Liberals more whereas the far left hates nothing more than they hate the center left.

              Which is why the Dems are in trouble: everyone hates the center left, which is the Dem Party establishment.

              Meanwhile the occasional GOP political operator who speaks out about Trump either follows those words up by toeing Trumps line action wise, are about to retire or are retired.

              It’s not the occasional opperator, tho. It’s Senator McCain, Sen. Flake, Sen. Cornyn, President Bush, pundits galore, thinktankers out the yin-yang. Hell, even Trump’s cabinet openly opposes him and his policies.


              • McCain is fishing -Dying- (and also got a special mention), President Bush is retired, Sen. Corker is retiring, Sen. Flake has never voted against anything Trump wants and the cabinetry is willing to say anything nasty about him only on the condition of deniability/anonymity.


                  • Thus sub thread is pretty muddled but it boils down to saul saying the left is not circular firing squad like the right is; Stillwater pointing out that the right is firing on its own quite a bit and me saying while I think Saul is overstating his case the examples you raise are (excepting three Senators) a lot of cheap talk and thus not much in the way of ‘live fire’ on themselves.

                    To your question: Currently, as far as I can see, the right can’t even figure out what their favored policy is. Which is why their agenda is grinding gears dirt biker gunning uphill in the mud.


                    • But you said that Flake hasn’t voted against anything that Trump wants. So let’s just stick with that. If you were a Democratic Senator, what would a President Hillary Clinton have to do for you to cast a vote against something she wanted solely as a protest?


                      • But you said that Flake hasn’t voted against anything that Trump wants.

                        Hold it right there. No one is voting for or against these bills because of what Trump wants. Trump doesn’t want anything other than that people vote for bills regardless of policy. He doesn’t know a damn thing about policy. We know that. Let’s not pretend otherwise.


                      • Well it’s a hard comparison because HRC could probably be counted on to reliably want something and stay wanting it from day to day. Trump doesn’t seem to reliably want anything except praise.


                      • If Hilllary (or to be closer to reality, President Kanye) had done 1/10th the things Trump has – absolutely.

                        Especially if there was milquetoast liberal as his VP that could easily be brought up to the Presidency.

                        I’m not saying he has to change his mind on policy. Obamacare will still be there to repeal and taxes were still be there to cut after you deal all the terrible things Trump is doing, according to Flake.


            • I actually think what is saying is quite founded. The weirdos on the SJW left don’t dominate the Democratic party now but the reactionary-populist right didn’t always control the GOP either. It happened over a long period of time where a certain energized strain was allowed to grow in influence until it took over the grass roots. It’s quite possible Obama will be remembered as the last of the Clintonite third way Democrats.

              My hope is that the party will turn more towards a Sanders style push to renegotiate the social contract but theres no reason to think that the energy coming from the SJW corner won’t prevail. The tribal nature and urban vs. rural aspects of our political moment favor a coastal coalition of college educated whites (particularly women) and minorities, where the SJW side side is strongest. Essentially the coalition Hilary thought would win her the election.


              • Most of the “SJW”s, including most of the people talking about intersectionality, are more *like* Sanders than like people who want to get rid of a book review because it wasn’t sufficiently performative, though.

                Or are you saying those people are loudest, when you say strongest, or most ruthless, rather than most common?


                • All I have is anecdata but as best as I can tell the SJW crowd was ‘with her’ and the critics on the left were racist, sexist Bernie bros. Of course this could lead us into a discussion of what ‘social justice’ really is- and its a pretty nebulous term when you get down to it. Who I mean when I say ‘SJW’ would be the illiberal intersectionality uber alles left. And yes, I think the energy and where our political fault lines lie favor them to win over the Democratic party then promptly eat their own in an orgy of witch burning like the ditto-heads have the GOP.


              • “Essentially the coalition Hilary thought would win her the election.”

                My argument is that coalition, with Kamala Harris, Sherrod Brown, or some other candidate that there hadn’t been a 25 year fatwa against, can win.

                Also, every SJW I know, including myself, are all for union rights, universal health care, etc. We just aren’t willing to throw brown people or pregnant women who want an abortion under the bus to get the votes of rural white dudes in Wisconsin.


                  • No, that’s why I said a candidate with Hillary’s views, but without Hillary’s baggage could easily win in 2020.

                    But, there are a lot of leftists and centrists basically saying white working class men in the Midwest should have veto power over the DNC platform.

                    Also, many Obama-Trump voters drifted against Obama when he started to to things like talk about Trayvon Martin, etc. in 2014 according to all reporting.

                    Personally, while I think Obama would’ve beaten Trump, he still likely would’ve had almost the same shifts Hillary had in WI, MI, and PA, but he would’ve gotten more minority turnout.


                    • I generally agree.

                      Next two election cycles are basically definitional for the Dems. If they can’t whup the hollowing out husk of the GOP and drum Trump out of office in 2018/2020 then something is foundationally wrong and there needs to be a severe re-examination.


                    • Saying any particular identity group should have veto power over the party platform is silly and its likely to alienate a plurality of voters in a big diverse country. I’m not sure I agree with your facts on public opinion around Obama but I guess we’ll find out. Maybe hunting heretics will work out for you. The right managed to kill all the RINOs, though I’m not sure we’re better off for it.


                    • No, that’s why I said a candidate with Hillary’s views, but without Hillary’s baggage could easily win in 2020.

                      So, in essence, Obama 2.0.

                      I think it was InMD who mentioned The Guns of August as an example of how military strategery is constrained by always trying to win the last war. Obama was the last war. Obama’s victory changed the a whole bunch of stuff. I’ve read people on this very mellow milque-toasty site say that Obama – himself, the person – was why we have the current GOP backlash. So I think things have changed, myself.

                      And while I wouldn’t reflexively oppose a Kamala Harris or Corey Booker or Elizabeth Warren nomination in the primary, I’m very, very skeptical that they could rise above their current SJW inclinations to win in the general the way Obama did.

                      We need a New Hope!


                    • there are a lot of leftists and centrists basically saying white working class men in the Midwest should have veto power over the DNC platform.

                      This is tendentious. To the extent that it’s close to accurate, those folks are saying that in order to win national elections, Democrats need to consider the views of that group of people. You might not agree with that assessment but it’s unfair to phrase it as a positive goal rather than a nod to what they see as the political realities.

                      It’s easy to have strong moral opinions when you just assume that they won’t cost you anything.


                  • No, he threw same-sex marriage advocates under the bus instead.

                    (I personally think he was right to do that, he was circumspect in how far he was willing to go, and he sent a heckuva lot of signals to the non-center left that they should trust him and be patient, but it was slightly miraculous that they *did* trust him, given their previous Clintonian experience with being told politicians were just playing to the right and then watching their supposed play-acting translate into regressive policies).


                    • I actually look at this differently. I think old fashion liberalism won on gay marriage through slow persuasion, elections, and the courts (I was happy to vote for it in a referendum). Obama passing (or failing) some litmus test didn’t matter and burning him at the stake would have been counter productive. This is what I hear SJWs asking for- treating anyone who doesnt co-sign on the the most radical aspects of the race/gender studies view of the world or whatever the craziest BLM affiliate has said as evil.


                      • He campaigned on no gay marriage, only civil unions, in 2008. Like, pretty hard.

                        It’s possibly he literally changed his mind rather than deliberately sending one set of signals to the american populace at large and another set of signals to QUILTBAG people. But the number of signals he was sending to QUILTBAG people that he would eventually have an “epiphany” was … pretty loud… in 2008.

                        And it’s mostly *the same people* advocating loudly for same-sex marriage in 2008 and for intersectionality / BLM / etc now. The fringe people were there being fringy in 2008. They have neither more power now nor more effect on the rest of the … what would you like me to call them? intersectional-civil-rights left? than they did then. I believe they’re louder, because internet, but I don’t believe the rest of it.

                        And that’s anecdata on my part too, but as someone who actually works with the large groups of people who aren’t pushing anything shocking, just trying to encourage everybody to both walk the walk *and* talk the talk – and who also tries to help the ultra-orthodox fringies move to a less rigid, more humane version of their religion…. I have a crapload of anecdata. Like, that’s the water I swim in and most people who think intersectionality is a thing? Don’t think if you aren’t 100 percent on board with the very fringe of leftism you’re evil. At all. That’s why I characterized this stuff as a virus, because literally *everyone* who isn’t like that is repulsed by it and reacts to it like it’s germs germs germs. And anyone who might POSSIBLY be infected (ie objects to certain things using overlapping language with the fringies) gets treated like anathema by the rest of y’all. Seems viral or bacterial to me.

                        The only people who seem to think that this rigid wild-eyed illiberal leftism is the most powerful leftism are the people on the actual left fringe, and then about half the center-left, rightwards. It’s a major image problem, for the entire left, but I think if the center-left that believed it would give up the belief and look into who *most* of these SJWs are, and listen to where they sit, they’d be like “oh, I have already accepted most of their ideas because they’ve been pushing them hard since the early 90s [intersectionality was coined as a word in 1989, and obvs civil rights has been a big part of leftist politics since the 60s] and most of them are pretty solid and not much like what those whackos have run with.”

                        FWIW I already figured that out about Republicans (even the ones who like to watch Bill O’Reilly and listen to Republicans – even a lot of the ones who break my brain by continuing to support Trump!) back in the early 2000s. That most of them actually have a lot of common ground with any given left person on both desired outcomes and desired policies *even when I cannot parse what they are doing given what they want and how they *act* in the world, except through the lens of tribalism*. Why it’s so hard for the center left to extend the same empathy leftward that I regularly extend in both directions is part of my puzzlement about american politics in general. The Canadian Liberals don’t run on how dangerous the NDP are, at least not if they want to beat the conservatives… they run on how conservatives have fished up or will fish everything up. Canadian conservatives other than Stephen Harper (*spits*) likewise…


                        • “they run on how conservatives have fished up or will fish everything up. Canadian conservatives other than Stephen Harper (*spits*) likewise…”

                          Just realized I wasn’t very clear about this if you don’t have Canadian background. My point being Canadians (other than Harper and people like him) don’t usually run on how “dangerous” other politicians are. They run on how incompetent at good governance they are, and how much their approach, if actually *enacted*, will ruin everything that matters, has ruined everything that matters, and/or is a complete baldfaced lie that won’t at all turn out as promised. That might sound like dangerous but it really isn’t.

                          It also isn’t some kind of saintly state but does tend to prevent me hitting my head against the desk quite so much.

                          I except the Harper years as that was just such a massive fish-up – largely because he lied like an m-fer once he got into office – that everyone started pulling the dangerous ideas crap. Ugh.


                        • I can’t tell you about the people you work with or organize with. All I can say is the face of what we’re talking about are people who believe race or sex or who they are attracted to is the most important aspect of life, and all thoughts and ideas ought to be weighed and filtered based on the traits of who uttered them, not the merits. Contrary to your characterization, these are not people who advocate civil liberties. In fact they protest when the ACLU comes to teach people how they can more effectively exercise their rights. It’s the opposite of what liberalism is supposed to be about.

                          I very much appreciate your perspective on this but I really don’t have common ground with anyone putting identity before policy and civil liberties. In fact I want that perspective to lose and be marginalized before they harm efforts to improve society by allying themselves with other illiberal groups (see carceral feminism) or cause the rest of the polity to dismiss liberalism as the realm of spoiled rich kids who joined a cult in college.


                          • But why is what you linked to “the face” of caring about identity, and not, say this?? I know which one looks more plausibly like grown-ups to me…

                            We’ve decided *as a society* (or at least the center-left and center-right have decided) that we are more interested in the stuff kids yell at college speaking events than we are in the serious, sober work being done by people who are left and right of center. Or than we are the average joe who happens to mostly agree with those sets of folks.


                            • Maybe it’s an issue of definitions. As I said above, I think ‘social justice’ is a pretty nebulous term, and it can mean different things to different people. I cited the example I did because what I’m talking about is a politics that puts identity above all else. That’s what I hear when I hear or read ‘social justice.’ Maybe its not fair to use the ‘sjw’ internet lingo, and I have encountered people who say their politics are oriented in ‘social justice’ whose views overlap with mine in many respects. That said I don’t think its how the the term is generally being used or understood. We’ve both said we are speaking from anecdotes/individual perspective, not hard evidence.


                              • Oh gosh I would love it if people stopped caring about my identity. Tell you what, make all the hate and bigotry go completely away, just gone. After that I’ll be happy to stop talking about my identity.

                                Until then, guess what! My identity is really fucking important to me. It’s a real thing that matters.

                                The cluelessness is astounding.


                                • I agree that as long as certain elements on the right insist on making politics care about identity (and despite what the law is, those people still work to find ways to make politics care about identity in a negative manner, because they are busybodies who just get all butthurt that someone who is gay or trans (or not white) might have an equal footing in society). So yeah, identity politics matter.

                                  To a point.

                                  My criticism of the SJW/SJC/what-have-you set isn’t that they work to equalize legal and social footings for all identities. It’s when they insist that the same filter of identity politics be applied to matter of art or taste/personal preference. It’s one thing to say, “I don’t like this book[1] because of the ‘White Savior’ trope”, it’s something else to insist that no one else like it by attacking a review to have it pulled, or demanding a boycott, or in some way trying to limit the rights of others to exercise their free speech or ability to experience art. It’s just the Moral Majority all over again.

                                  [1] after you’ve actually read the damn thing, or at least tried to.


                                  • PS: Why I care about college students, etc yelling on the internet is the same reason I care about moralizing soccer moms yelling about kids doing the lambada at a school dance. Because when a movement is so certain of their righteousness, one of the first things they try to do is enforce that righteousness through political action.


                                • This response doesnt make sense to me. Nowhere did I say anyone should stop talking about anything or advocating for themselves. I said I don’t think every idea or argument (or piece of art or other issue of any kind for that matter) should be viewed/assessed solely through the lense of identity politics. The movement thats defined itself by that approach to life is at best intellectually vapid and and at worst no less illberal than the old Christian right. If someone thinks I’m wrong and wants to talk about that on the merits I’m always happy to discuss. Conversely, if all we’re doing is appeals to sex organs, skin color, or nebulous academic newspeak I find it to be a waste of time.


                                  • You can’t reasonably ask people to stop viewing politics through the lens identities [1] the central element of their politics when those identities are used as an excuse by the government to strip them of their rights. Seriously, what the hell else are they going to do? Pretend that the President didn’t just order them kicked out of the military while his fellow state-level Republicans try to make it illegal to use the bathroom?

                                    [1] Gender in this case, but similar considerations apply for racial minorities.


                                    • You can’t reasonably ask people to stop viewing politics through the lens identities [1] the central element of their politics when those identities are used as an excuse by the government to strip them of their rights.

                                      OR!!, you reasonably expect people to stop viewing politics thru their own identity-lens to prevent them from enacting policies which strip others of their rights. I gotta say, I just don’t understand how identity politics is supposed to lead to a less identity-based political world. Incoherent, to me.


                                      • OR!!, you reasonably expect people to stop viewing politics thru their own identity-lens to prevent them from enacting policies which strip others of their rights.

                                        Yeah, I’m sure the Christian Right is going to start living up to reasonable expectations any day now.

                                        Until then, what, are people supposed to just act as if the policies the state enacts are just when they’re anything but?


                                        • I’m pretty sure I don’t understand the point you’re trying to make, unfortunately.

                                          As a baseline, tho, Christians comprise a significant part of the electorate. Is the idea that we should oppose those people because of their identity to further the interests of other people because of *their* identity?


                                          • Is the idea that we should oppose those people because of their identity to further the interests of other people because of *their* identity?

                                            No, the idea is that the Christian Right [1] is working hard to pushing through transphobic policies at the state and federal level, and they will continue to do so regardless of how trans rights activists view gender identity.

                                            [1] Which is not the same thing as the “Christian […] part of the electorate”.


                                            • Right. Christians are trying (to some extent anyway) to pass legislation which limits individual expression. But why focus on the Christians? Why not focus on the right (insofar as you believe that’s true) of people to do what they want?

                                              The battle shouldn’t be between Christians and the LGBTQ community. It should be between whether people have those government accorded expressive rights or not. People’s identity, in a pretty profound way, drops out of the equation in that debate.


                                              • But why focus on the Christians?

                                                Because they’re the ones who would have to change their perspective if we take the approach you advocate, where people “stop viewing politics thru their own identity-lens”

                                                It should be between whether people have those government accorded expressive rights or not.

                                                Except that one of the sides in the debate is dedicated to denying that people have those expressive rights, primarily because they want to make sure LGBT folks can’t exercise them.


                                                • Yes, of course. You’re just describing the cultural tension between stasis and change. I think it’s better to think of it this way: there is a large segment of the population that doesn’t believe in allowing people their gender-related rights, for whatever reason!, and the political issue is whether they are right or wrong about that. On this view, Christianity has nothing to do with it. It’s an argument that applies fully generally, either way. And that’s important, in my view anyway, because government – at least *our* government – isn’t supposed to make laws based on the religious prerogatives of the dominant, or even a minority, group.


                                                  • The thing is, you’re arguing that if one group of people should stop viewing politics thrown the lens of identity, to resolve the injustices, when it’s a totally different group of people who are creating the injustice through the focus on identity. So you’re proposing a non-solution to the problem.

                                                    Also, I think it’s interesting that, for all that identity is supposed to be the problem here, people who are most opposed to LGBT rights (members of the Christian Right, TERFs, et c.) seem to be very focused on denying that the relevant identities exist at all.


                                                    • So you’re proposing a non-solution to the problem.

                                                      Disagree. Let’s agree that the problem is a restriction of rights which LGBTQ are accorded. The solution to that problem is to create a system of governance in which those rights actually are accorded. I can, for example, make an argument that government has no business limiting the rights of consenting adults to marry each other without invoking the gender, sexual orientation or religious beliefs of disputants in the debate. It seems to me that what you view as a solution is no such thing, but rather tactic to achieving the desired solution. We both agree on the solution; we disagree about the tactics to get there.


                              • I just find it puzzling because it seems like a really narrow definition of the term.

                                I mean, I’m speaking from anecdotes / perspective, but I’m also telling you my anecdotes speak to a very broad set of meanings for the term. I don’t have social science data, but I have done a lot of reading and research about social justice and the history and scope of it as a movement, it’s not just my buddies I’m talking about here. I didn’t get into all that much, beyond pointing out that Crenshaw coined intersectionality in the 1980s, because I generally feel that isn’t a respectful way to discuss things, acting like a lecturer on a stage. But the facts *are there* if you look for them.

                                Like, just as one example among many, social justice was being used by Catholics to focus mostly on poverty and race and global oppression by dictators (think liberation theology) for most of the 19th century. As a religious requirement, it was introduced in *1931* by Pius XI and has never actually left, so that gives you what, a billion plus people who at least in theory consider themselves responsible for enacting social justice in their day-to-day lives? I think that’s a pretty clear thing, numbers-wise. (It also may go a long way towards explain why the populace likes Pope Francis a lot more than the Curia do…)

                                (As an aside, Pius XI’s work around this concept probably underlaid his decision to work with an American Jesuit – someone who was active in advocating for African-American rights in the United States, actually – to write an encyclical against Hitler. (He died the day before he gave the speech, and Pius XII was more into lip-service-plus-smuggling-people-to-safety…))

                                (Also as an aside, if it seems religious in its tendencies, which I agree that it does, although in a more measured way where not everyone is a crazed zealot – that might be because of its religious roots. Catholics, Quakers, Reform rabbis, womanist black preachers and African-American Baptist ministers were among its strongest proponents historically, and for that matter clergy still *are* among its loudest proponents outside of political-internet-land – it’s a movement that very much grew up intertwined with churches and synagogues and in dialog (sometimes hostile dialog!) with them.)

                                Point being, it’s not a new idea, it’s not a new phrase, and treating it like the rando internet extremists who’ve seized on it are the sole proprietors, rather than one end of a very very broad spectrum, may not be in your best interests as a generally leftward-leaning person. Actually I don’t think it’s in the right’s interest to do that either, and a quick Google suggests there are people several miles rightward of me who agree with that sentiment (although they place the blame for the shift differently, of course).

                                It might be more useful to you to do the same. Like, don’t take my word for it. But maybe put some effort into actively seeking out information about the much broader range of people (Catholic or not) who see it as part of their job as decent human beings, and come up with a different set of words for the randos.

                                Today I’m leaning toward “people who need a giant dose of perspective” but that’s also, of course, far too broad a brush.


                                • I’ve got a basic understanding of the historical, religiously based movements, though I suspect youre far better read than me. That said I was raised Catholic and am still strangely involved in the Church in some ways despite personal agnosticism, also did a lot of Latin American history in undergrad where it was a major topic at times. What I’m talking about here isn’t the same thing.

                                  Stillwater’s description below is much closer to the mark and pretty in line with how I see the movement. It isn’t about helping people through personal actions and public policy. Its about establishing a new cultural morality police and using the political system to do it if possible. Maybe we need to come up with a better name for the movement, I’m just going by popular lexicon for internet debates.

                                  Fwiw I can also tell you aren’t who I’m talking about based on how you discuss the subject.


                                  • I can tell I’m not who you are talking about either, I just think there are a lot of people who get written off as supposedly who you (and/or Still) are talking about based on internet lexicon, who aren’t. (And those movements aren’t, as I said above, *historical* – they’re still active.)

                                    And I think the only people who benefit from ceding the term/movement/word etc are the fringes of the right and the left. They benefit from making a thing that used to be appealing to many, fringe-ified. Because people more like me hear “intersectionalists” and think “hey, that dude is lumping me in with idiots!” and most of ’em can’t be bothered to stick around long enough to learn otherwise (honestly the main reason I did, not that it makes me look good, is that Jaybird was so obsessed with this place when it started up. i’ve evolved from there *a lot*, but that’s the main reason.)

                                    And people on the right of me (perhaps not you) end up thinking that everyone who talks about intersectionality and oppression a lot is indistinguishable from the foamers-at-the-mouth.

                                    It pushes polarization, rather than defeating it. Seems counterproductive.


                                  • Social Justice Advocate – someone who believes in social justice as a legal/social good.

                                    Social Justice Warrior/Crusader – someone who takes the idea of social justice to the extremes of personal expression/taste and attempts to use political/social power to enforce their expression/taste upon others.


                                    • Except that the term Social Justice Warrior originated *in the 80s/90s* as a term Social Justice Advocates (the ones who didn’t just believe in it, but acted in accordance with their beliefs, which I suspect is how you meant the term above so sorry if I’m nitpicking) used to somewhat ironically oppose the warmongering language of the War on Poverty, the War on Drugs, the Gulf War (aka War on Terror 90s version) etc etc etc. It was… self-bolstering snark basically. Meant to, as much as anything, *remind* the people who self-identified that way of the dangers of crusading.

                                      And then the right wing nutjob radio people seized upon it to complain about all kinds of things (still not on the internet here,bear with me) that as far as I can tell, most of y’all who use the term pejoratively on the website actually agree are good things.

                                      And then the fringe lefties were all like “YEAH WE ARE WHAT THEY SAY WE ARE AND IF YOU AREN’T GO AWAY YOU AREN’T ONE OF US” (on the internet by that point) and gradually the term in that narrow ridiculous use spread. And then (IMO non-coincidentally, very very noncoincidentally) the narrow ridiculous behavior spread too.

                                      The part that baffles me is why anyone to the centers of the fringes is willing to run with using SJW as a pejorative term. Because all it does is shove people toward the edges… incrementally of course. It’s a small piece in the grand scheme of things. But it seems so darn easy to *not* do it.


                                      • So what you are saying is a term that was used kinda internally within the movement escaped the movement and was turned into a pejorative by other people?

                                        Didn’t we just have a very long discussion about how symbols and terms get co-opted in ways we don’t particularly like?

                                        In my mind, as some who, at best, could be considered on the fringes of a SJ movement, SJW/SJC has a very specific meaning, a pejorative one, describing a person who has essentially lost reason and perspective on the topic.

                                        If that annoys you, you are welcome to try and reclaim the term, but given that it wasn’t exactly a complimentary term when it was an internal label, I’d argue you have an uphill battle ahead of you.

                                        Personally, to me, the term ‘Advocate’ has a strong positive connotation. ‘Warrior’/’Crusader’ has negative connotations (Warriors are not team players, they are in the fight for their own reasons, and not for the greater good; Crusaders are Warriors who have allowed their identity to be consumed by the cause).

                                        An Advocate I can talk to, a Warrior/Crusader I will have to fight, even if I don’t want to.


                                        • The problem with your distinction is that SJA/SJW/SJC are already all being used interchangeably as pejoratives by people well to the right of you. “Social Justice Advocate” is said by those people with the *identical sneer* as any of the others. So the overall effect of *using* the term, at all, is more or less equivalent to calling someone a feminazi.

                                          What’s been coopted is not the warrior part (all kinds of people still use that unironically, after all), but the SJ part.

                                          And I happen to


                                              • It’s feasible to stop using the pejorative though. It’s feasible to stop using SJ-anything as a quick and handy label for people you find to be awful. Some thing with complaining about “identity politics” as a pejorative term when for so many people that term just means – still means – “standing up for my civil rights”. You don’t generally get into arguments with *them* about it because they generally either write you off or find ways to talk to you that don’t require the use of the term.

                                                There’s a reason, perhaps headed in the other direction but similar all the same, that I almost never use “white supremacy” on this site (except to talk about actual Klan members, self-identified Nazis, support thereof, etc.) even though I think it’s actually a pretty accurate term, I get why the language is shifting, and I would say that I *benefit* from white supremacy in ways I couldn’t give up if I wanted to other than by working to change things… but I don’t usually use it on this board because the only thing it would do is chase you guys off of my arguments.

                                                So I wish you all would not contribute to chasing off people who are uh, social justice advocates, or believe in fighting for their identity, or what have you. I haven’t censored anyone for it because, well, that would chase people off whose voices are important. I already get people chased off for just being as moderator-y as I am, the last thing I want is to do it more. But it does *bother* me, deeply, personally, every time someone says that in that way.

                                                Like, you alone or me alone might not be able to change the language direction. It’s possible in 20 years I’ll be using it as unironically as some other word I would have complained about 20 years ago.

                                                But we don’t have to *help*.

                                                That’s all I was actually asking for. Advocating for? Whatever.


                                                • One side-note anecdote and then I SWEAR i’ll shut up.

                                                  To be perfectly clear, I do think there are times and places for needling people’s rigid tendencies to turn social justice into Orwellian doublespeak.

                                                  I am on a bar trivia team, for example, called, “Did You Just Assume My Team Name?”

                                                  Here is the story of how that happened.

                                                  Someone wanted to call the team Hajj Stampede. Which is our usual team name because I don’t get more than one vote. I said, “no, not at this venue, they’ll assume you’re doing it to start a barfight and I don’t want to have a barfight and none of us are Muslim.” Which actually sunk in for once.

                                                  A bunch of people in the group suggested a bunch of seriously obnoxious things because well, these guys I hang out with also hang out on whatever 4-channers move on to when they decide 4-chan is stupid.

                                                  One of those people (a different someone than the first one) suggested, to general acclaim, “Did You Just Assume My Team Name?”

                                                  I leaned over to them and said, “Um, you know I’m genderfluid, right?”

                                                  They said, “THAT’S WHY IT’S FUNNY.” And I said, “OH GOOD WE’RE ON THE SAME PAGE.” (I just wanted to make sure they weren’t actually going to shun me if they found out – I mean, better to get it over with and it wouldn’t be the first time.)

                                                  And for the rest of the night every time our name got announced in the standings and all those very cisnormative college kids sucked in their breath very disapprovingly, I have to admit, I smirked. Because yo, people need to be able to make fun of their friends and themselves in public for society to be healthy.

                                                  One of the teams that beat us, btw, was unusual in that it had some very obviously queer-coded people on it. Did they suck in their breaths disapprovingly at us? No they did not. One of them rolled their eyes the first time and then seemed not to care; another one looked at me, raised an eyebrow, I nodded, and they smirked and leaned over to their table and said something in a way that didn’t seem at all like they hated us.

                                                  So, like, I get it I guess I’m saying? This stuff can certainly become ridiculous even in well-intentioned people (cf the book review drama under discussion – WHY KIRKUS WHY) and the desire to poke holes can be very strong.

                                                  I just don’t want to lose the “trying too hard” people by treating them like the extremists.


                                                • Fair enough.

                                                  So, seeing as how you are invested in the terminology, how would you label people who have lost the ability to be reasonable with regard to social justice issues (in the manner we are discussing)? Is there a handy label, or do we always have to be long winded and concise to avoid allowing the language to be co-opted?


                                                  • I’m guessing you meant long-winded and not concise? or and precise? Only asking because if you find a way to be long-winded and concise, I’d really like to try it.

                                                    Left-wing fringe works in my experience, and it’s not echoing Glenn Beck et al in the same way. (Poor Glenn, he used to make sense once before he got too famous.) I tend to talk about “overwrought college kids” because that’s usually who they are. Or “nutty philosophers”. Like, I don’t really see the point in lumping them? But left-wing fringe is good. It’s a bit non-specific but it’s really usually clear from context whether you’re talking about communists or not.

                                                    I’d bet there’s a better term. A friend of mine and I have actually been talking about this for a long time and we haven’t really come up with something. Like, alt-left could work? Except it’s already being used in the same way SJW etc are used, to lump non-crazy people in with crazy people. (No offense to anyone with mental health issues, eh? I fully acknowledge I’m a crazy person, just not about these sorts of things.)

                                                    I mean, I’d welcome non-mocking suggestions. I think it has a lot to do with control… “control politics” would work pretty well. It doesn’t really distinguish between leftward and rightward proponents but given that their ultimate ends aren’t really different…. we maybe need to distinguish between them *less* and not more. And I think it would be pretty easy (and less inflammatory) to say “hey, dude, those aren’t Controllers, they’re just…” on either side of a debate.

                                                    Anyway I’m not saying you have to use my terms, I’m just spitballing since you asked.


                                                • I mean, if we are deciding those terms are off limits on OT I’d have to abide by it or be banned I guess. My intent hasnt ever been to chase anyone off. I did not see any of my comments as pushing the envelope but if there’s a rule I need to follow to stay in good graces here I’m happy to comply or vanish if I find it unfair.


                                                  • Aw, no, it’s not a rule at all. That set of pejoratives are very specifically pejoratives that I wouldn’t *ever* ban and would only warn off someone for or corner them for if I thought they were deliberately attacking other people, because as far as I can tell I’m the only regular commenter (who is still around anyway) who is particularly bothered by them. I know that’s not how you use them! They’re *contested* words, that’s kind of a major point of this discussion (on both sides I think?). It’d be a big abuse of power on my part to rain down any consequences whatsoever for using them.

                                                    But I do call things like I see them, regardless, and I can tell you that every time I see “intersectionalist” or SJW, etc, even today after years of knowing that isn’t how you and a few others on this board mean the term, I feel personally attacked because of the people who DO use them as mean overblown pejoratives about any liberal idea they don’t like, and have been for years, and I know there are other people I don’t invite to the board because I know they’d feel the same way. And people who don’t spend a lot of time in the comments because they don’t want to shift their whole frame of dialogue to do so prodcutively rather than have to keep explaining themselves or be taken for utter fringy nutballs. (FWIW, I don’t think this is a one-sided problem, at all… we have the same problem with making conservative folks who aren’t right-wing fringe feel that way.)

                                                    You’ll never get punished for it, at all, at least not unless someone waves a magic wand and the internet lexicon shifts, and if that’s the best way you have to express yourself, I’d be a jerk to suggest you *have* to change it in any way. Some of my best friends give me crap about being an SJW and they kind of half mean it pejoratively, I’m not about to ban someone for talking about them in the abstract.

                                                    If you found yourself changing how you phrase things, though, I can’t pretend I wouldn’t be pleased. And I feel ok asking you as a person to think about not doing that, or advocating for you to do that, and even as an editor who wants the site to reach a wider readership – but I’m absolutely *not* moderating you to not. I’ll honestly probably never bring it up again – especially not if it makes you feel like I’m moderator-warning you – this just seemed like a less fraught place to try to talk about it than most of the contexts where it might come up.

                                                    Do you see the difference? I hope so.


                                                    • I do see the difference and I’ll work to take it into account moving forward. At the very least I can’t take a position against jargon or sterotypes in one instance then lazily resort to them myself. Regarding moderation of comments no need to keep the subject off limits with me. I just wanted to confirm I understood.

                                                      I value the community here and would hate to contribute to any problems. I get that its a fragile thing, and appreciate that work done by you and the rest of the staff.


                                              • Yes, it is worth fighting for. The irony – to me anyway (and this doesnt’ apply to Maribou or anyone on this thread) – is that according to PoMo CritLit Decononstructionism there is no one true meaning of words (they’re texts, yo!). Yet here we are in a debate about the role PoMo deconstructionism plays in Social Justice Warriorism and appealing to objective definitions to better reveal what issues are at stake.

                                                (Maybe Aaron D will be the only one here to find this as amusing as me.)

                                                And for the record, , I think there are objective definitions of the term which people can and often do agree on, but the idea that *that* definition is worth fighting for sorta gives up the game that words are, in practice if not theory, texts. It’s sorta where we’re at right now, seems to me. A symptom rather than a cause.


                                                • Oh sure, and I actually do find it ironic as well. I mean, I wrote a paper in college about how the reading we were given to exemplify postmodernism and the postmodernist critique of modernity was actually, as a piece of text itself, about as modernist as you could get. I was meant to just be summarizing it but I couldn’t help myself.

                                                  I happen to think words ARE texts, I just don’t believe in the death of the author, so I don’t believe they’re without truer and less true meanings. My critique of colonialism comes from a different place.

                                                  I guess that makes me pre-modern by academic terms ;).


                                                  • As an aside, I don’t think I’d be straining the limits of philosophical theses’ real world applicability to say that Kripke’s arguments in Naming and Necessity pretty much settle the debate over whether semantic values are internally determined. He extends the attack (I use the term “attack” advisedly granting that philosophers like more than the idea of engaging in ideological warfare) in his book on Wittgenstein and rule following. Of course, those arguments exist independently of Derrida’s own incoherence in defending internalism by employing the strike-thru.

                                                    Maybe Chris could help out here, but I’m not familiar with a post-Kripke critique which successfully refutes externalism, myself.


                                                • If you’re saying that in principle words should have clear meanings I’m with you. If you’re saying we should fight for social justice to have a clear meaning I’m not sure that a concept so fleeting and malleable ever can. That fundamental emptiness is why the warriors always speak in euphemisms and inscrutable jargon. Maybe these things have meaning in academia but in popular debate its magical words used as tribal identifiers or rallying cries.


                                                  • I’m saying something a bit different. PoMo is, to overly simplify things to potentially the detriment of clarity, a thesis which accepts that words in a language are texts containing their own subjectively determined meanings for the individual speaker/listener. And that’s descriptively accurate as far as it goes. For example, the N word means different things to different people depending on context and so on.

                                                    My point is that some words’ semantic values (ie, their meanings) are not determined by the speakers subjective state. Some of those words actually do reach out into the world and refer to real things. So in that sense their values are not determined by a speaker’s subjectivity, but just that person’s relation (eg., one of reference) to the external world. Proper names, natural kind terms, the plus function and others are examples of this.

                                                    PoMo “word as text” often collapses (I’d say it logically entails collapsing otherwise the respective theses are not philosophical but instead a form of social science) that distinction by arguing, or sometimes assuming, that a word’s meaning simply is determined by the speakers or listeners intentions and psychological history, and hence that a cultural critique of those intentions (and so on) will reveal that words don’t, in fact, reach the world but merely express the speaker’s culturally determined views. Reality, on this view, is a construct of language (broadly construed). That’s why things like Sokal’s paper about transgressing the boundaries of externalist conceptions of quantuum gravity have been accepted into PoMo “literature” and constitute insightful critiques in their own right of the discipline’s methodology.


                                                    • That’s actually the most helpful explanation I’ve ever recieved on the subject. There are some big premises in there I reject, or at least would consider to be begging the question (in the logical fallacy sense). That probably goes a pretty long way at explaining my annoyances at many of the positions adopted by adherents of the philosophy in question. Your comment taught me something about the world and myself, and for that I thank you.


                                                      • Thanks for saying that, but I’m sure the debate will rage on, if you know what I mean. For my part, I don’t believe that the descriptive content of post modern critiques cannot be accounted for by analytic philosophy and in naturalistic terms. That’s the social science part, of course. My problem with the theory is viewing it as a philosophical thesis, for the reasons stated.

                                                        I mean, I’m a big fan of Foucault. He had plenty of interesting and important things to say. I think people should read him. But let’s not get carried away, right?


                                                        • I like Derrida’s strike-thru.

                                                          FWIW, and I think here we’re in your wheelhouse and I’m well out of mine, but I read a few of Derrida’s works (because I could, and as a freshman in college, so without the benefit of context really, although I am french-english bilingual which is something) and they struck me as deliberately paradoxical and playful and kind of goofy. Like, on purpose goofy to tease out the complexity of things, not to be taken seriously like some kind of bible. The whole thing about rhizomes, for eg, actually seems quite grounded in concrete reality/the science that was modern at the time, just expressed very playfully. It still continues to surprise me that people made him into the start of a PoMo religion of sorts, when really he seemed to be playing with the things he said, in the same way that Camus and Sartre, in their more dour way, also were. Like, we’re too weighed down by a lot of this stuff, let me make the clown to help us think more broadly; rather than the straight-faced angry tearing down that later PoMo people seem to have embraced. This fits with what I read philosophically, but most of that was in a foundations of christianity course, so obviously fairly narrow.

                                                          Do you think there’s any foundation for that reading, or am I giving him way too much credit?


                                                          • Do you think there’s any foundation for that reading, or am I giving him way too much credit?

                                                            I think you’re right to give him credit for that on a “people are crazy” social science reading, but not on a “this is the deeper nature of reality” philosophical reading. He meant it as the latter (incoherently), not the former. But if you wanna go the former then we’re explicitly talking about social science and not a philosophical thesis seems to me.

                                                            Which is fine! But let’s agree, then, that we’re in the land of empirical theories governed by evidence and so on. I think you’d be fine with that, given everything you’ve said on this thread.


                                                            • Oh yeah. My background (undergrad) is actually in science, so I can see that innocent everyone-gets-science 18-year-old me would have just assumed he was poking fun at philosophy itself with all that “deeper nature of reality” stuff. Particularly if it wasn’t coherent.

                                                              I also have a tendency to think horror movies are funny on purpose when they (at least according to everyone else) aren’t trying to be at all.


                            • Because the people who have media platforms that let them influence the direction of the conversation can imagine themselves being yelled at by college students more easily than they can imagine themselves being shot by a cop for no reason.


                              • Arguably.

                                I can see that as the daughter of a criminal hippie who has always been able to reason with distraught or angry college students, this might be a big blind spot in my vision.

                                Personally I think it has more to do with what they are teaching (many of) the kids these days ie not enough *meaningful* history…. the people with those particular social platforms are as young and uninformed as the people grabbing their attention. Meanwhile the young and informed don’t generate as many clicks…

                                *shakes her cane wrothfully*


                              • I think there’s some confusion about what the term SJW refers to or how it’s defined. In my view, SJWism isn’t merely ensuring that laws and constitutional protections apply, in practice, to everyone equally. Heck, conservatives and SoCons believe that. So the term SJW seems to me best characterized not as (eg) what the ACLU does, but a project of progressive change which takes place primarily at the cultural level, ie., at the level where dominant culture intersects with an individuals skin color, biological sex, gender, ethnicity, religious orientation, etc. IOW, without the concept of individual identity (and intersectionality, etc) the contemporary social justice movement wouldn’t make any sense. So the movement isn’t merely trying to achieve parity in application of rights and protections before the law, but requires deconstructing the “dominant culture” as well. It’s that last bit that constitutes the difference between contemporary social justice movement and it’s older counterparts.

                                As an example of the difference: folks *can* argue that black people are unfairly treated by the criminal justice system without invoking intersectionality, individual identity as a “black body”, and the logic of oppression exhibited by dominant culture.

                                Some of what I wrote up there might be contentious, but descriptively that’s how it seems to me.


                                • “folks *can* argue that black people are unfairly treated by the criminal justice system without invoking intersectionality, individual identity as a “black body”, and the logic of oppression exhibited by dominant culture.”

                                  Folks can *and do* make those arguments without those terms – often the very same folks who make the arguments using those terms. Because they’re smart and they understand audiences. But why should they have to? Why isn’t it as much all of our job to listen to what they want to say how it makes the most sense to them to say it, as it is their job to say it the way other people want to hear it? Communication goes *both* ways.

                                  And the dichotomy between the ACLU and the intersectionality folks (not *fringe* SJWs, but just average identity-focused-but-not-exclusively-so folks) is a false dichotomy. The #blacklivesmatter page I linked to in my comment to InMD was *an ACLU page*. They’re not at cross purposes *in general*. It’s only the fringe that’s at cross purposes.


                                  • Maribou,

                                    I agree that people are allowed to think about these things in whatever terms they choose, and one of them is by *not* participating in the debate intersectional SJWers would like them to engage in. And that’s the problem, as I see it. SJWers appear to think that if they just explain themselves clearly enough people will agree with them, and that the failure to engage that debate is not only additional evidence of the underlying problem but acts to confirm the correctness of their analysis. And all that may be true (for all I know). Circularly true, perhaps, but true nonetheless.

                                    But I don’t think politics works that way, and I don’t think cultural change works that way either. One of the best comments about the whole kerfluffle surrounding privilege I’ve read was merely an observation offered by someone who studies that sort of thing. Basically, the claim was “I don’t know by what mechanism a person is supposed to voluntarily give up their privilege.”

                                    And if that’s right (and I think it is right) then pomo-inspired deconstructive SJWism only wins by taking away the dominant culture’s expressed privileges. It’s a zero-sum game. So it’s no wonder that folks with privilege are reluctant to play it, which in turn inclines the SJWer to push even harder for “the dialogue”.

                                    As you know, I’m not a big fan of pomo deconstructionism generally, but I think that even if I were more supportive of the project my description of the political dynamics would still be the case. On the other hand, if I were more supportive I’d necessarily believe that it’s the best path forward to a more equitable and just world. So there’s that.


                                    • See, to me “I don’t know by what mechanism a person is supposed to voluntarily give up their privilege.” is not insightful, but just… off-topic.

                                      I have a buttload of privilege. No one who talks to me about that has ever wanted me to give it up. Here’s what they want me to do:

                                      1) Observe it. (easy)
                                      2) Listen to them when they say I’m missing something because of it and imagine how I’d see the world without it. I don’t always agree with them afterward, and that’s fine, but I feel I’m obligated to make the effort wholeheartedly first. (not exceptionally difficult given that I’ve been reading novels since I was three, the listening part is harder but not that hard, given 1).
                                      3) Work to make things more equitable so that everyone else can have similar amounts of who-they-are-that-isn’t-a-moral-choice-being-taken-for-granted-as-fine-and-delightful, because it isn’t a zero-sum game (damn hard, actually, but worthwhile)
                                      4) *Use* it to help me do the work of 3 without undermining folks who don’t have that particular privilege by talking over them, ignoring them, or telling them how to live (should be easier than 3, but due to brain habits, harder than 3 when it comes to day-to-day things)
                                      5) DISMANTLE THE OPPRESSIVE SYSTEM SO EVERYTHING WORKS DIFFERENTLY AND AAAAAAAAAAAAH (OK, yelly person, I feel your frustration and I have been the yelly person, but insofar as I want to help you with that, I’m going to just sit here and/or step out of the room until you stop yelling and we can get back to 3 and 4, because I was abused as a kid and I can’t really deal with all that yelling)

                                      No one has *ever* asked me, personally, to give anything up. They’ve argued that society should change such that I’d be given less of an advantage *in that particular dimension* and I’ve voted or advocated for or adopted those changes mostly out of self-interest, not altruism. Unfairness *bugs* me. Shitty behavior *bugs* me. So does too much homogeneity. And too much social control by any one group. I don’t actually *want* to be treated better by my supervisors than my equally amazing coworker, for any reason, let alone stuff that neither of us chose to be the case. (Note that my current direct boss does not do this. Yay current boss, even when it makes me grind my teeth because I’m used to getting my way without trying very hard, and being the one in charge of when that isn’t the case. But it’s still the case systematically and I see all the little places where that happens. There are a few places where people treat her better than me, for reasons that have equally little to do with anything either of us chose, and fwiw those situations piss her off just as much.)

                                      I have, btw, refused promotion partly on ideological grounds. But I’m extremely aware that I’m not giving something up when I do that – it’s a privilege to be able to do that, too. Just a privilege that I’m willing to *use* to make a difference, instead of pretending I don’t have it.

                                      All that said, I’m not the biggest fan of how privileged people seize on the word privilege and try to use it to school each other about whatever privilege, mostly because I think they are prone to doing so in a way that actually hurts the folks who are suffering the *most* (*bites tongue to avoid using the word intersectionality*). Just as one example, student leaders at the college where I work keep making first years do this thing called a “privilege walk” to (supposedly) teach the most privileged kids how much of a leg up they’ve had, by how far ahead of everyone else they are, but as it’s enacted, all it ever does is make the kid at the back of the room (ie, least privileged) feel ashamed, exposed, and full-aware of all the stereotype threat (“you don’t BELONG here” in this case) that they normally have to tune out in their day-to-day lives to get anywhere. I’ve had kids cry on me after a privilege walk and it was NEVER, fucking never, the one percenters, who generally seem to feel refreshed and duly, slightly smugly, chastened by the exercise. It was always the kid left at the back of the room. It’s invasive and gross. I’ve spoken up against such practices repeatedly when I encounter them and the power dynamic is such that I think it’s fair to do so (ie I challenge assistant vice presidents, not the students they are supposed to be riding herd on).

                                      But I think there’s more to be done by pointing out that the miserable students have the right to speak up against it being invasive and gross, and that speaking up about it DOESN’T make them not-caring-about-social-justice, that the people who do such things to them are ignorant at best and self-serving at worst, than to turn my back on the whole dialog and ask them to do the same.


                                      • The problem is that there are enough people who argue such things as this:

                                        ‘I don’t think parents reading their children bedtime stories should constantly have in their minds the way that they are unfairly disadvantaging other people’s children, but I think they should have that thought occasionally,’ quips Swift.

                                        Sure, on one level that’s just nutpicking.

                                        On another, people like this are driving the conversation. If the main argument was “hey, you’re pretty fortunate… you should keep in mind that a lot of other people aren’t anywhere *NEAR* as fortunate as you and be more grateful for your advantages and compensate on the part of others for their not being as fortunate”, nobody would have a problem.

                                        But they say stuff like “by reading to your kids, you’re disadvantaging other peoples’ children”.

                                        And so the provocative claim completely derails the reasonable one.

                                        And, yeah, it feels like a motte/bailey thing.

                                        But, for what it’s worth, the claims you’re making are completely uncontroversial and only crazy people would disagree with them.


                                        • But see, I don’t think the (new) problem *is* Swift. He’s a philosopher. No offense to you or any other philosopher here or elsewhere when I say this, but making absurd and ridiculous non-commonsense claims is what philosophers *do*. (Plato’s ideas on the family, reffed in the article, seem apt as an example of the longevity of this phenomenon.) Every so often, either a commonsense, humane, connective dude comes along (recently, Berlin, Camus) or something ridiculous turns out to be actually true (uh, you’d have to help me out on this one, Jay, I don’t know any surprisingly accurate philosophers of the 20th century and would have to lean on physicists instead – late Wittgenstein maybe?? Arendt but she’s pretty far over into political science and/or commonsense from my perspective )…. and everyone is like “OH RIGHT THAT’S WHY WE KEEP ENCOURAGING THESE GUYS”.

                                          What’s new and weird is that a substantial portion of the media picks up on these nutty theories and treats them seriously because it *brings all the clicks*. The reporter on this story called it a “cool reassessment” for pity’s sake. I mean, I guess given yellow journalism it’s not that weird, but serious people didn’t treat yellow journalism seriously. Serious people also didn’t used to treat philosophers seriously most of the time.

                                          Why do serious people treat philosophers seriously now?

                                          Because I see all these articles, about the left OR the right, and the people in them are either children or esoterics, and I think “when did mainstream thought start treating children and esoterics *as mainstream*???”

                                          tl;dr you’re making my point by example…


                                          • I guess given yellow journalism it’s not that weird, but serious people didn’t treat yellow journalism seriously

                                            I don’t know about you, but lately I’m having a hard time delineating between serious and yellow journalism. It’s all starting to take on a canary character in some way or another.


                                            • I have a degree in librarianship so it’s pretty easy for me to tell them apart most of the time. That said, yes, serious journalism is harder and harder to find even from previously serious journalists. And much harder to distinguish than it used to be. Starting probably in the 80s if I’m really fair about it. They need to start teaching Amusing Ourselves to Death in j-school. At least it’s back in print.


                                              • Remember, my wife has the MLIS as well, and yeah, she has a hard time telling the difference in a lot of cases.

                                                I mean, it’s easy when it’s something we know a lot about (what’s that term for when you are critical of news where you have a high degree of knowledge, but accepting of it in areas where you don’t?).


                                                • Hmmm, I’m not sure. Quick Googling tells me George Miller (1998) refers to it as intellectual virginity but that’s probably NOT where we want to go :D. Local skepticism isn’t quite right because that doesn’t require expertise. Discipline-specific credulity is backwards, and discipline-specific skepticism sounds prety but obviously I just made it up and it’s not the right word.

                                                  *thinks, looks*

                                                  Yeah, I got nothing, I’ll bring it to you if I think of it, and please do likewise because now it’s going to nag at me. I did find this very entertaining (at least for Maribous) and somewhat related PDF of a 2016 keynote by Susan Haack: Anatomy: Credulity of a Vice , so thanks for asking:). (It’s off-topic but I figure at least one person might find it as fun to read as I did :D ).

                                                  And it’s true that there’s a lot that’s hard to tell apart but there’s also a lot that isn’t (including the thing Jay linked), and as journalists are usually no more expert in what they’re talking about than librarians are, our little tricks of how to suss out reliability and credibility, *other* than authority which seems borked at this point, still work pretty well. Granted there are at least as many credulous librarians out there as non-credulous ones, but it strikes me that generally that’s because they quit listening to their own advice. As all of us do sometimes, I suppose, even when we know better.

                                                  There are definitely some expert bs’ers out there now though, more expert than ever before. Some of em seem to have themselves fooled.


                                                • Gell Mann Amnesia

                                                  Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect works as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray’s case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward-reversing cause and effect. I call these the “wet streets cause rain” stories. Paper’s full of them.

                                                  In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story-and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read with renewed interest as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about far-off Palestine than it was about the story you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.


                                        • But they say stuff like “by reading to your kids, you’re disadvantaging other peoples’ children”.

                                          I’m beginning to suspect that the problem with so-called “SJWs” isn’t that they say things that are untrue, but rather that they say things that are true but uncomfortable. After all, for all that you suggest that you might be nutpicking by bringing Swift’s comments into the conversation, I cannot for the life of me figure out what’s actually incorrect about your paraphrase of Swift’s point.


                                          • My problem with it is that it makes a lot of game theory assumptions without doing any work to show they are correct. Simplest case it fits is the zero sum game. I don’t believe in the zero sum game for humanity. An advantage to Y does NOT necessarily translate into a disadvantage for Q – even in cases where a disadvantage for Q does translate into a direct advantage for Y. Because Q and Y don’t exist in algebraic tension.


                                            • This is a good comment. Soviet Russia created a system in which everyone (other than the bureaucratic elite) didn’t suffer any disadvantage relative to their brother/sister. The fact that everyone was suffering was beside the point. Rawls talks about this.


                                            • That’s probably true, but I believe that in the context of the contemporary US, those game theoretic assumptions are correct, because so much of one’s ability to do well in life is tied up with a need to acquire a “good education”, and that “good education” is largely defined as a credential [1] from a certain sort of post-secondary institution, and are more positional goods than absolute groups.

                                              On the other hand, I shouldn’t be assuming that everybody shares my degree of cynicism about the relationship between education and employment, which means they’re less likely to believe Swift’s comment is correct without seeing a lot more argument supporting it.

                                              [1] One may hope that such a credential is accompanied by some useful skills and knowledge, but if it is, that increasingly seems to be a happy accident, and one that prospective employers are only vaguely concerned with.


                                              • Even if I grant your premise, there’s no necessary reason that reading to my kids will disadvantage other kids. I mean, if we make it personal (which is how I believe most people read it, frankly, and how Swift framed it) – the kid I read to most recently (and that reading to actually broke a barrier she was having with reading and now she’s a bookaholic like everyone else in the family) … that kid is a) mixed race and b) being raised by a mum whose fire for justice is pretty close to unmatched in my experience. *That* kid is probably going to use her advantages to improve how things work for everybody, which will lead other kids having *better* chances of getting good jobs and good educations. So if I gave her an advantage (I think I did), I was subverting the system’s usual outcomes, not disadvantaging other kids.

                                                Likewise, my mum spent a lot of time reading to me which is quite directly linked to why I have a job where I mentor people who end up helping a whole lot of kids get good jobs and educations. Even if my mum *did* disadvantage some kids by advantaging me (I doubt you), even *if* she did – a whole lot more kids have since been advantaged by my mentorship than were originally disadvantaged by my leg up.

                                                I mean, we could play this game a lot further out, for sure, there’s a riposte to what i just wrote, but I have a riposte for that riposte, etc etc etc…

                                                So it’s just … wrong. As an absolute statement taken at face value, it’s very wrong. In the more nuanced way Swift presents it, it’s eyerollingly dumb but no more or less so than most of what makes philosophy “newsworthy”.

                                                It’s *far* more important to other people’s children what your children end up *doing* than whether or not you read to them. And you are far more likely to *advantage* other people’s children by reading to your kid *and also bringing them up to want to help people and be self-reflective and self-critical in how they go about doing that which reading and discussing literature is often part of*, than you are to disadvantage other people’s children by reading to your kid.

                                                The eye-rolling isn’t because it’s uncomfortable, it’s because if your desired outcome is an increase in social justice, discussing who you harm by reading to your kid is a really stupid way to go about it. The best analogy I can come up with is, if your desired outcome is to stop your upstairs neighbor from flooding your apartment, discussing how you could avoid the leaks by turning your entire ceiling into titanium. That’s… technically true given a particular set of priors… but a really really stupid thing to say. And also completely divorced from the real world.


                                                • I think it’s much more likely that you aren’t unfairly advantaging your own children by reading to other people’s children. Indeed, it sounds like you’re actually proposing a number of things that you believe will resolve the problem that Swift is raising!

                                                  Which, sure, maybe you’re right. But that doesn’t mean the problem doesn’t exist.


                                                  • Except I don’t have any kids of my own, the kid I was reading to was my niece, and my love of reading (and for that matter my investment in mentoring, and my success in obtaining the position where I do it) are *directly tied* (according to Swift’s read of the facts) to my mum reading to me. Which, according to Swift, was disadvantaging other people’s children. Except it *wasn’t* because life Is Not A Zero-Sum game, and her actions subverted the system, they didn’t reinforce it. (To give full props to my mom, she was also a literacy volunteer for adults and she taught kids with reading difficulties how to read as a job for several years. Now, before you get excited that that proves something, consider that *she only went into teaching children after she discovered she loved teaching her own children*. Ie if she hadn’t spent so much time reading to me and my sibs, etc., she *literally* wouldn’t have been teaching other people’s children how to read.

                                                    Is it a problem that some kids don’t get read to? That’s obvious, clear, been reported a hundred times, etc. But that doesn’t mean reading to one’s own kids is disadvantaging anyone because *real life is not zero sum*. real life is frigging complicated. and reading to one’s own kids is *not* the actual problem.


                                                    • …life Is Not A Zero-Sum game…

                                                      Yes and no. My kids are better off if all other kids are functional and successful (dysfunctional people cause various problems). My kids are also better off if they’re the most successful in their group when we’re competing for scarce resources. Even if most situations don’t result in a single winner, many resources are limited.

                                                      There are an unlimited number of smart phones, cars, and lots of other things.

                                                      But not everyone goes to Medical school/Harvard/Engineering school. Not everyone gets a close-to-full-ride scholarship. Not everyone gets an internship at my company.


                                                      • What if your kid ends up doing stuff with her success that helps out lots of other people’s kids? Still a zero-sum game then? Does having read to your kid make that help more or less likely to happen?

                                                        (The social scientists say more likely, btw. I’m too tired – and at work – to look up the links, but this is my field and/or adjacent to my field as well as having been my mom’s professional field, so I’m real sure of the data. Sorry I can’t be more specific.)

                                                        The problem is that, on either a personal, or a mass, scale “reading to your kid” and “tutoring your kid in math” and “being elite enough to be extra-good at tutoring your kid in math” and “buying your kid tutors to do what you are too ‘successful’ to have time to do” and “sending your kids to elite schools” and “sending your kids to elite schools while avoiding your social responsibility to make sure other kids have a decent education so that they are successful *enough*” are not interchangeable advantages and they do not fit into some equation interchangeably.

                                                        For some of them it *might* – I say might – be reasonable to claim that you doing them is disadvantaging other kids.

                                                        For reading to your kids? No, it’s really not.

                                                        Now if you make a big effort to read to your kids while actively opposing policies that would let other parents have time to read to theirs, I can certainly take objection to that on a number of a different levels – but just the reading part? Pish tosh.

                                                        And the pish-tosh-y-ness of reporters treating philosophers talking about it like it’s otherwise just makes the entire left look stupid or deceptive.

                                                        When actually most of us… would never complain about people reading to their kids. Even the ones who side-eye the idea of elite charter schools combined with school vouchers…


                                                        • And the pish-tosh-y-ness of reporters treating philosophers talking about it like it’s otherwise just makes the entire left look stupid or deceptive.

                                                          I thought the philosopher was approaching it from a pretty high level and was clearly not suggesting it as a policy, much less a serious policy. I’m fine calling it a caricature of the Left and their arguments.

                                                          Having said that, the line of thought was logically valid and pointing out its limitations is also pointing out the limitations of “equality think”. It’s not just society is never going to be perfectly equal, a sizeable amount of that lack of equality comes from good things we want to encourage.

                                                          I’ll even argue this line of reasoning suggests many other countries’ equality is more because of their cultural uniformity rather than any specific gov policy.

                                                          The issue really Should be, “how do we encourage good/functional behaviour”… which instantly runs into various landmines because we’ll need to define “good” and who isn’t doing it.


                                          • I cannot for the life of me figure out what’s actually incorrect about your paraphrase of Swift’s point.

                                            For one thing, it’s absurd. How? Well, let’s explore whether it has a limiting principle.

                                            If you feed your children, are you disadvantaging other peoples’ children?

                                            If you go out of your way to spend an hour on Saturdays playing with the child and actively interacting like playing catch or making a couch cushion fort, are you disadvantaging other peoples’ children?

                                            If your child gets a fever and you give your child Dimetapp, are you disadvantaging other peoples’ children?

                                            Do the other peoples’ children that are being disadvantaged in this theory include the children in China, India, Africa, South America, Canada, or only the ones in America?

                                            If children exist on other planets, are they being disadvantaged by your reading to your children or is this limited by the earth’s atmosphere?

                                            Are you disadvantaging other peoples’ children by watching Reading Rainbow with your child? Does a tax subsidy of Reading Rainbow (by it appearing on PBS) effectively mean that the Federal Government is contributing to the disadvantaging of other peoples’ children?

                                            Are the parents who do not read to their children somehow disadvantaging their children at all, on any level, or is that all on the people who read to their children?

                                            Do you seriously not see anything incorrect about the idea that if you read to your child that you are disadvantaging my child by doing so? Nothing at all? (Does the disadvantaging happen even if I do not have children? Are you disadvantaging my cats at all?)


                                            • (And another thing! His actual quote includes the word “unfairly”. Like, you’re *UNFAIRLY* disadvantaging other peoples’ children by reading to your children. This is something that you’re not only doing but you’re *UNFAIRLY* doing it. It is absurd. It’s *NOT EVEN* wrong.)


                                              • :Amusement: Of course it’s “unfair”, my kids didn’t get to pick their parents, it was simply a matter of luck. So yes, the opportunities we sought out for her/them are advantages. Me correcting their math homework is an advantage. Even girl #2’s six foot three height is an advantage.

                                                If equality is your first priority, it’s reasonable to point out they have advantages many kids do not, maybe even MOST kids do not. It’s also reasonable to point out that advantages are unfair, that’s why they’re called “advantages”.

                                                This actually is an ethical conundrum, and my answer is “I don’t care. Equality isn’t my first priority.

                                                Other parents have other answers, some dodge the line of thought, others send their kids into the worst school they can find for the sake of the system.


                                                • But he didn’t say “they’re giving their kids unfair advantages”. He said that they were unfairly disadvantaging other peoples’ children.

                                                  What he said is so dumb that people have to change what he said in order to defend it.


                                                  • But he didn’t say “they’re giving their kids unfair advantages”. He said that they were unfairly disadvantaging other peoples’ children.

                                                    Sooner or later, my kid(s) will be in competition with other kids. There’s only X number of slots for training doctors, one of my kids wants one of those slots. There’s only X number of scholarships, and so on.


                                              • I think some of this is just terminological. We have no problem saying that children are disadvantaged by having inattentive or absent parents, but that means that they’re disadvantaged relative to children who have attentive parents. Therefore in some sense, by being a good parent, you’re disadvantaging the children who don’t have a good parent. And it’s unfair because the distribution of good parenting is unfair. But that doesn’t mean he thinks that parents should therefore stop being good parents – he just thinks that parents shouldn’t send their kids to elite private schools.


                                                • We have no problem saying that children are disadvantaged by having inattentive or absent parents

                                                  I agree wholeheartedly.

                                                  but that means that they’re disadvantaged relative to children who have attentive parents

                                                  Sure, positionally, yes.

                                                  Therefore in some sense, by being a good parent, you’re disadvantaging the children who don’t have a good parent.

                                                  And what happens when you put the word “unfairly” in there the way that he did?


                                                    • This one doesn’t work so well — it’s due to the fact that so many parents do vaccinate that the anti-vaxxers’ kids still largely don’t end up with the targeted diseases.

                                                      Anyway, as I said, I think the maximally charitable read is that Swift is not telling parents not to be good parents but rather inviting them to think about ways to spread the good parenting resource more equitably. Whether his extreme focus on equitable distribution is itself well-justified is another question.


                                                      • it’s due to the fact that so many parents do vaccinate that the anti-vaxxers’ kids still largely don’t end up with the targeted diseases.

                                                        Does having a society with more children that are read to offer some sort of herd immunity for some more social/cultural ailments?

                                                        (I think it does, for the record.)

                                                        The maximally charitable read of what he said involves us removing words from what he said.


                                                      • Do you see the difference between “children have an unfair advantage because their parents are not feckless morons” and “parents who are not feckless morons are unfairly disadvantaging other peoples’ children”?


                                                        • If those parents are only using their superior judgement to provide benefits for their own children, then no, I do not.

                                                          Polio vaccination is a somewhat bad example, though, because of the existence of herd protection, programs that subsidize vaccines for children, and soft requirements that children get vaccinated. We make some effort, in this instance, to ensure that non-feckless, non-moronic parenting is equitably distributed.


                                                          • If those parents are only using their superior judgement to provide benefits for their own children, then no, I do not.

                                                            That’s how we’re interpreting “reading to their children”?

                                                            “only using their superior judgement to provide benefits for their own children”?

                                                            This seems to be suffering from the lack of a limiting principle as well.

                                                            On top of that, the only people in this dynamic who are receiving moral opprobrium are the parents reading to their children… and why are they getting it? Because they’re reading to their children.


                                                            • Well, yes, I mean I think it’s reasonable to direct a measure of moral opprobrium at parents who are making sure that their children benefit from a very inequitably distributed resource while other people’s children do not.

                                                              If “good parenting” is such a sharply constrained resource, well, there you go.


                                                                • The weird thing is that this “problem” would be “solved” by the parents not reading to their kids anymore.

                                                                  Na. People like me would cheat and read to their kids on the sly.

                                                                  The actual solution is to have the State take all children and raise them in one big group… which I think Israel somewhat tried during it’s more socialistic days.


                                                              • :Shrug:

                                                                I don’t care, in the slightest, about equality where it conflicts with helping my kids.

                                                                has pointed out there’s a liberal city (name?) where this attitude results in Apartheight light; So I have to admit there are problems associated with my worldview.


                                                                  • Thank you… thinking about it… “reading bedtime stories” probably isn’t a big deal by itself.

                                                                    However when you select for that you’re also selecting for Parents who have a certain level of resources, interest in the kid, etc. Or alternatively when you select for Parents who don’t do that you’re selecting for the opposite and they also don’t do lots of other basic things.


                                                                    • Right, so the critique that the actual criticism voiced in the article is pointless at best and pernicious (because of its effects on people, mostly 2nd or 3rd order effects) at worst, still stands.

                                                                      FWIW, reading bedtime stories has actually been shown to have a positive effect on children academically if you *control* for resource levels, interest in the kid, etc etc. All by itself, it’s an advantage. At least according to the social scientists. So if it’s all a zero-sum game, Swift would have a point. But the problem is, it’s not. And no one in the article is showing anything like the amount of work they’d need to show to prove that *absent* a zero-sum game, it’s an advantage which corresponds to disadvantaging anyone else.


                                                                        • Are you teasing me? Obviously I meant control for in the sense of filtering the data, through having a big enough sample to be able to perform statistical analyses and pull out correlations. I am out of practice at that so I couldn’t actually SHOW you how they did it, but I have enough background from bio to be able to spot the good ones vs the bad ones and most of this research is … fairly good. As educational-related sociology-related stuff goes, and if I sound cynical when I say that my biases are definitely showing.

                                                                          FWIW, the more interesting *finding* from all of that subcorner of the field, IMO, is actually that just having a large number of books in the home (i think they did cut-offs at 20 and 200? I don’t remember) – is quite a bit more powerful than reading to the child (again, doing the same sorts of data filtering and analysis, controlled for confounding variables like how much income the parents have) and that *modeling* reading, ie the parents spending time reading to themselves where the child can see it is even more powerful than that.

                                                                          I’d be curious whether seeing the parents spending time on STEM things by themselves and having STEM tools around the house is equally powerful (cards on the table, I’m almost certain it does), but if *that* subniche of research exists I’ve never seen it.

                                                                          I mean, I actually find the whole thing kind of stupid if I’m being really honest? There are infinite many more powerful reasons to make sure kids in rough situations get government help of the type that forms an outside-the-dysfunctional-family affectionate and educational bond with the kid, infinite many reasons why literacy is good for the populace, and infinite many other things floating around if you look at the big picture of what folks like pillsy actually want people to *do* rather than how they explain it.

                                                                          And there’s far sturdier research out there to justify many of those things (eg in Adverse Childhood Event research and does Montessori work research and what is the effect of adult literacy teaching research and what is the effect of teaching kids to read with their parents present research and ESL research and etc etc etc. some of it’s crap too but a lot of it is much better.). So if you’re a numbers person, and curious what the gov’t should perhaps try doing, that’s where I’d be looking. This whole industry of researching and reporting on what parental strategies give kids a leg up and who should feel guilty about what is … basically it exists to sell books to (or drive clicks from) middle-aged middle-class parents who already put a ton of energy into their kids and have enough time to spare to read all about what else they should be doing (which means those kids are most likely in the low-ace-score high-investment fast track to success anyway). Oh, and to meet publish-or-perish requirements for early-childhood education professors, of course. Insofar as it’s *ever* used to encourage and educate parents who are well-intentioned but not well-equipped, they’re basically just teaching people the same (relatively effective *on that group of parents*) strategies they have been since the 50s.



                                                          • ” herd protection, programs that subsidize vaccines for children, and soft requirements that children get vaccinated”

                                                            There is plenty of evidence that people who read more fiction have more empathy for other people (herd protection); public education is literally a subsidization of reading to other people’s children (helping other children get vaccines), and there are soft requirements of getting taught to read that are actually hard enough that parents usually (in most states at least) have to *prove* that their kids are learning to read (among other things). And there is, actually, no known way of learning to read without being read to.

                                                            Which makes it a really good, closely paralleled example, actually.

                                                            You can certainly claim that public education is borked. But that suggests the problem is *with public education policy*, not with people who read to their children. Which, again, is *not something it is in the public interest to criticize*.


                                                            • Maribou,
                                                              I’d be curious how they’re measuring that.
                                                              At any rate, one should always be careful about what nam shubs one is putting in one’s head. Some are downright toxic, and are pretty damn good at eroding sentience.


                                                            • Sorry, I should have said parents have to prove their kids are learning to read in order to be allowed to homeschool them.

                                                              Figured it was obvious from context but on a reread probably not.


                                                            • You can certainly claim that public education is borked.

                                                              Well, yes, that’s true. If public education were less screwed up, being read to would be less of an advantage.

                                                              But we live in world where public education tremendously broken, and where the educational system, and the job market, are shaped by public policy to be gratuitously zero sum (or even negative sum).


                                                              • But we live in world where public education tremendously broken

                                                                Is it? My local school district is excellent.

                                                                (See, there’s the rub: There is no “public education” system in the US. There are 50 state systems, broken down into thousands of individual systems. There are indeed broken school districts, badly so. But to claim the whole system is broken because of those? That’s like claiming all legs are broken, because Bob broke his skiing. It’s just not so).


                                                                • Yeah. Standardized test scores don’t really show US education to be terrible or getting worse. It’s certain districts which have problems and are almost always those that also have immense poverty. Standardized tests have their problems but if we are going compare states or countries then they are the go to measure.


                                                                • My local school district is excellent.

                                                                  Which is kind of the problem. Kids in your neighborhood have access to much better education than kids in many other neighborhoods. And the argument that we would have to have all the kids go into state run creches or something to get rid of that inequity is hardly plausible, since we’re already talking about state run schools.

                                                                  I think Swift’s argument would be much less plausible if we were taking even half of the reasonable steps we could take to resolve these imbalances.


                                                                    • Perhaps the worst—in the sense of most obviously weird and bad—is funding schools from local taxes, so expenditure per pupil varies wildly, leading to (often) large class size, bad facilities, and so forth. As long as we do that, and as long as school district quality is a major driver of home prices, we’re going to be consigning a lot of kids to bad educational outcomes for no particularly good reason.


                                                                        • Yeah, I have no illusions that it would fix all the problems.

                                                                          Still, fixing what we can, and doing straightforward things to address inequity in education is still, I think, a big part of discharging our societal responsibilities in ways that make the claim that, for instance, reading to kids unfairly disadvantages other kids untrue, or at least less true.

                                                                          (And I think if I agreed more with you and about the nature of competition and the opportunities available, I’d also agree that the original comment was bad.)


                                                                      • Perhaps the worst—in the sense of most obviously weird and bad—is funding schools from local taxes, so expenditure per pupil varies wildly, leading to (often) large class size, bad facilities, and so forth.

                                                                        We’re funded worse than Detroit. Yes, there are districts which use a money cannon to fix all problems (real and imagined… mostly imagined), but that’s cherry picking. Detroit spends enough money to do FAR better than they do, that money doesn’t make it to the classroom.

                                                                        (From memory) our (Teacher:Non-teacher) ratio is 1.0:0.6 (so for every three teachers there are two non-teachers). Detroit’s is something like 1:4

                                                                        My dark expectation is if we increased funding a lot, it STILL wouldn’t make it to the classroom.

                                                                        Much, much worse… I doubt fixing even that would help much. If you put 5+ disruptive students in a classroom, basically nothing useful happens there.