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AvatarComments by Doctor Jay*

On “From Freddie deBoer: Ending the Charade

I like Freddie's piece. This whole fracas makes me wonder if we don't need to get a lot more sophisticated in our understanding of free speech, though.

For instance, "free speech" as a slogan has been used to justify doxing and death threats against female videogame critics and writers. (Remember Gamergate?).

It has been used to "take a dump in General", which is the phrase used in EVE Online to pollute the general chat channel so badly that nobody, particularly your enemies, can't use it. You can't stop us, it's free speech baby.

It was used to force the shutdown of my favorite online community, which was the Golden Horde of Ta-Nehisi Coates' blog. It wasn't just about Coates, though. So many of the people there were great people to have a conversation with, without the screaming. They were real people, and we remembered who they were, whether they had kids or a partner, or they were sick or whatever. And then Coates became famous and the jerks came in and smeared feces on the wall so much that they shut the blog down entirely.

This is the sort of thing that makes people think "free speech doesn't work". But free speech never worked that way. You couldn't go into a Methodist Church and start playing heavy metal while there was a service ongoing, but that's equivalent to what people do.

And is the result an overreaction? Yeah, it probably is. Of course, it's the most natural thing in the world when you think your message is being drowned out to speak more loudly and with more intensity.

I think we need to recognize virtual space, such as this space, as being more like private property. I think the legal requirements are mostly there, but the social understanding has lagged behind it.

We need to ask ourselves, "would you say this in someone else's house? How would you expect them to react if they did?" Virtual spaces need curators, if not moderators. Curation is a human thing, it requires human judgement about what's important and what isn't. Which means that Facebook's (for one) attempt to be "one size fits all" is doomed to failure.

One size doesn't fit all. It never has.

On “They Who Must Not Be Named

That is a fantastic photo. I like it.

I like the current logo better than either Chief Nockahoma or the Cleveland mascot. It's nice to know where it came from. It does kind of play up the "noble savage" stereotype, though.

I think it might be hard to trust in good faith from the ball club's management, though.

On “Mini-Throughput: The Living Sun

I predict that we will do nothing to harden the electrical grid, we will get hit, and lots of politicians will say things like "who could have known something like this would happen?"

Yes, I took my cynical pills this morning.

On “The Confederate Flags of Comer’s Store

The sort of person like your grandmother, who wants to be accommodating and race-conscious (to some degree) from a different era can use language and habits that seem quite jarring to us now.

And it seems to me that such a person, transplanted to now, would alter those habits and language to keep with the times, at least in some degree. It can be painful to us to find that what we thought of as good manners isn't, at least not any more. But this is a small price to pay, I think.

Thanks, I liked this.

On “Tennessee Congressman Steve Cohen Introduces Bill to Impeach Attorney General Barr

Sigh. I'm filing this under Things That Will Never Happen. We might get a big of a show out of it, though. Possibly hearings. I expect that Trump/Barr will stonewall completely and ignore subpoenas, and there will be no consequences at all.

I'm going to miss the rule of law.

On “Harsh Your Mellow Monday: Wailing and Gnashing of Teeth Edition

I can see why you might say that.

And, without it, our legal system would be in chaos, with interpretations of laws changing constantly, and legislatures continually trying to chase judgements and foreclose interpretations.


I don't see Trump stepping aside either. I see him phoning it in and blaming everyone else.

You are right, though. This is a moment of great weight. Covid is the biggest thing to hit us since WW2. It might become bigger, it's hard to say. And lots of people aren't coping with it very well. In different times, we could rally together and try and beat this thing, and grow with one another as a result.

But somehow, that's not what's happening. Some of us think that this is all a plot by others of us, and a lie. The weaknesses of our normal information-gathering systems has been exposed.

On “Saturday Morning Gaming: Game Balance

I don't know enough about some of the games you've mentioned to weigh in on, but I have seen many cases where "the internet" hates something that, at our table, works quite well. Groupthink is a thing. Or they might overlook some aspect of how the character/position/game works. Or they just plain don't like it.

For instance, I know someone who doesn't like getting hit (in game, we're all like that in life), so avoids characters that mix it up, even though they can be quite effective. For instance, that's quite the case in Gloomhaven. Don't know about your game.

On “Pity Parler

I've been thinking for quite some time that monoliths in social media aren't really going to work. I see some people are starting to agree with me that a more balkanized collection of smaller platforms, each with its own culture and norms, is going to work better. Consider that stuff that is par for the course in some people's homes might get them thrown out of others.

We all know this. Parler may or may not become one of these places. It kind of reeks of money with little understanding or desire to serve behind it, but who really knows? I'm fine with that. One size does not fit all.

On “Slate Star Codex has been deleted

It seems that the fundamental thing Scott wants to address is "what happens when a patient types my name into Google, in a naive way?"

I can't say this makes me more likely to read the NYTimes. Rather than asking whether he has a right to anonymity, we could ask what purpose is served by doxxing him? What value is added for the readers?

On “Duty To Protect: CHAZ/CHOP Edition

I have so many conflicted feelings about this. I'm going to air them. I'm not sure if I'm on a "side" of this or not, please don't assume that I am.

Every bit of training I've had with regard to emergency services has emphasized, that Rule One is "don't bring another victim to the scene". The occupiers of of CHAZ think that they are harmless, and there's no danger, but there's no trust there. I think they are naive to think there would be trust. And yet, having been that person that wasn't trusted (not for any personal reason), it can seem outrageous to not be trusted.

And the suspicion, the lack of trust that the occupiers have for authorities, that was earned to, in no small measure.

In some sense, "fsck the system" is precisely correct, though maybe it means something a bit different to me than to Raz. We are in a bad place. I think it's a bad place on the way to a better place, but it's still a bad place.

Also, if you declare a location an "autonomous zone", you probably should be prepared to be, well, autonomous, and not rely on the city government that you are rejecting to provide you with services.

And as I say that I know, in my heart, that some will read this and think, or perhaps write, "See, he doesn't really get it. He doesn't support BLM. He's a racist." Is this attitude a solution, or part of the problem?

Just this morning, I had a text chat session with my daughter. When we spoke of politics and BLM, she expressed the notion that I didn't seem angry enough. This was in response to my praise for the organizers of BLM for their tenacity and fortitude to keep on this issue for what, 10 years? It's working, things are changing. That's good. But I say this and my daughter accuses me of not being angry enough.

I'm not really bitter about this, it was a nice chat otherwise. I told her that I was angry, I just hold my anger differently.

Others will think I'm a squishy centrist, and I engage in "bothsidesism". Maybe I do, but that's not how I understand myself. I am a systems thinker, and I try to understand all of the parts of the social systems we find ourselves in, and then try to imagine what sorts of interventions will alter the system to something more to our liking. Human social networks are far more complex than we might think, and tweaking them for the better is hard, not easy.

Which this incident is a fine case in point. Does it say anything at all about the worthiness of BLM's cause? I don't really think so.

On “How Tan Was My MRAP

Like many of you, I think this is a problem. I think the Moundsville PD is not going to need this, and they will soon find it to be an expensive white elephant, never mind an incitement to overreaction.

At the same time, I'd like to describe what living in a small town is like, and what kind of impact this sort of event has. It represents acquisition of a major resource for the nominal benefit of the town and its citizens. I grew up in a place like this.

There are folks everywhere stockpiling items that might have some future undefined use. That's because they have little money, but lots of space, which is the opposite of how it works in the city, where folks may have some money, but not much space to keep things, so they are likely to winnow furiously. That's the style I have learned, but it's not what I grew up with. My father and my uncles had sheds full of odd equipment that hadn't been used in 10-20 years.

So, the Chief brings in some new equipment that would normally be super expensive and everyone, and I do mean everyone in the town is buzzing. To be sure, there will be some who think it's dumb and a waste of time. But everyone is talking about it, thinks its interesting, and wants to get a look at it.

On “Me and Three Women in a Garden

One of the habits I've developed that has really got me through life is to assume that whomever I'm with, no matter how boring they might seem, has done something, been somewhere, or seen something that is well outside my own experience, and, as a result, is quite interesting. The point of a conversation with them is to find that thing.

That has stood me in very good stead, and your description just underlines it. It's harder with some than with others, though.


I love this piece, Rufus. I love how much you love your co-workers. I love how you describe them well enough that I connect them to certain people I know, or have known.

And the capstone is this: As you get older, you start to realize that no one is in control of anything.


On “Wednesday Writs: SCOTUS, Gorsuch, and The Amalgamation of Bostock

[WW1] Given that Alito and Thomas were quite willing to strike down all of Obamacare on the basis of , "nyah, nyah, you wrote it wrong", I mean textualism, their sudden conversion to purposivism is, ahem, unconvincing.

Nothing about Kavanaugh's opinion changes my assessment of him as a bootlicking people-pleaser.

I think that it's fair to ask why the SCOTUS didn't use Gorsuch's reasoning on prior cases. If memory serves, the CA Supreme Court did exactly that in striking down Prop 8. Maybe the simple answer for Gorsuch is, "they didn't have me".

On “Police Unions, Shake Shack, and The Milkshakes of Machinations

There are bad-faith actors embedded in unions, abusing the power this brings them. This is a repeated pattern.

If this brings you to call for the destruction of unions: consider this:

There are bad-faith actors embedded in corporations, abusing the power this brings them. This is a repeated pattern.

The situation needs to change. We have institutional problems. I'm not arguing for status quo. It's just the union-bashing seems pretty unexamined.

On “SCOTUS Rules in Favor of LGBT Rights in Workplace Discrimination Case

So, why not vote for it? Dude's trying to have it both ways. Which is pretty much why he makes a poor judge. He's always worried about who to please.


I'm sure there are some that will be unhappy. Because no matter what it is, there's somebody unhappy about it.

At the same time, I think the really big unhappiness was about SSM, not workplace discrimination.

So we will likely see some pushback whataboutism: "What if it's a Christian Bookstore?" etc., etc. but not a lot of crowds in the streets over this one.


I feel quite confident that Kennedy would have joined the majority on this one, while his replacement did not. I wonder if he thought that sort of thing would happen.

On “It’s Just Property

Well, this is a much better response than anything I was going to say. So I'm going to endorse it, and leave things there.

On “Weekend Plans: Lime Cilantro Rice, After Multiple Attempts

Ok, at $20, why not try it? The ability to fire and forget is something I prize in my "boil water for tea" gadget. Ordered


I've never had a rice cooker. I've never used a rice cooker. I've always done - boil the water, put in the rice, let it sit covered for 20 mins. I sometimes alternate with just boiling it like I would do pasta, and draining it and that's workable, too.

How does a rice cooker work? How does it improve on that? It must - people wouldn't just use a gadget for the sake of a gadget, would they?

On “Old Men in Poorly-Fitting Pants

This is one of the very rare times where I disagree with @veronica_d and agree more with you. I think you carry wounds that are real, and they are showing here.

Of course, she has very real wounds as well.

My own life is moving into "old man" territory, and it isn't all that fun. Even if I may have a few more resources available than many. I know others making this trip and having a very rough time of it.

But for what it's worth, seeing little girls wear masks doesn't make me feel sad. A mask doesn't mean "I'm afraid" to me. It doesn't mean, "You might contaminate me" either. It means "I care about you, and don't want to make you sick". If you were to see me these days, most likely it would be with a mask on, and that's why I would be wearing it.


The phrase "surplus to requirements" really stings me. So good.


Boom! Yeah, what @veronica_d said. This is really good, and thanks for writing it.

For some of these, to be a man is to take a beating and not blink.That's what defines them. Death may win in the end - death always wins.

It's bad for them, and the badness sometimes spills over. It creates some resentment. If they have to take it with a smile, why are so many other people frowning?

*Comment archive for non-registered commenters assembled by email address as provided.