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Memetic prophylactic recommended

Op-ed found on internet: "Who is speaking up for the mothers who, under HHS mandate, have been falsely coerced into feeling that to be a woman means to have 'control' of their own bodies?"

Okay, so the author of that op-ed is a fringe Lutheran. Doesn't make it all right, though. Once again, I feel the need to shout: The Handmaid's Tale was written as a warning, not a road map!

He goes on to define contraceptives as "death-dealing prescriptions". It would appear that the junior anti-sex league has a posse.

(Moderation note: refer to this blog's moderation policy before commenting. Also note that yr. hmbl. blggr. is of the opinion that any quibbling over the absolute right of a pregnant woman to demand an abortion, for any reason, at any point during pregnancy, is symptomatic of misogyny: it implies at a minimum that the quibbler doesn't credit pregnant women with being able to make an informed decision about a matter of pressing personal importance, which is pretty much the bedrock of civil rights.)

PS: Don't mind me, I'm just having a bad news week. This nonsense follows hot on the heels of the government deciding that the Way Forward requires them to privatise the Police. Science-fictional dystopias? Take your pick!

436 Comments

1:

This is the aim of the people who published said op-ed:

"First Things is published by The Institute on Religion and Public Life, an interreligious, nonpartisan research and education institute whose purpose is to advance a religiously informed public philosophy for the ordering of society."

Hmmmmmm. Excuse me whilst I go and throw up.

2:

Hmmmmmm. Excuse me whilst I go and throw up.

+1.

3:

Some of the comments bring to mind a short story I wrote years ago in which all the worlds religions have come together and agreed some sort of truce and agreed that getting the damned atheists and agnostics and allowing religion its proper place in public life is the most important thing.
To be enforced by brain chips which check your religiosity.

I mean, secular humanism was the default which was formed after the example of the 30 years war and lots of other examples of nastiness brought about by religious feelings. Shame it took the enlightenment before people agreed it was a good idea.

Meanwhile, 'free' market capitalism continues to erode the social base on which their churches thrive, and dissolves the sinews of society as a whole.

4:

Reality creating a fortuitous publicity stunt for Ken Macleod's new book?

5:

> at any point during pregnancy

OK, I'll bite! I'm as pro-choice as any, but if someone was to decide, say, to abort a few days before their due date, we should question their morals and sanity.

Granted, it's unlikely that moral or sane people would choose to do this, so the balance of mother's and foetal rights embodied in most (reasonable) laws in this area is intended to provide a backstop against unquestionably immoral and insane behaviour. The correct argument is over balance of rights, not an absolute position in either camp.

6:

They will have to pry our contraceptives off our cold, dead...ewww best not finish that thought.

7:

Quibbler:

Firstly, this is your Yellow Card. There will be no abortion debate here. I'm shutting it down now.

Secondly, you're proposing a straw man argument. A pregnant woman who gets within a few days of the due date has already had 8-9 months to consider and presumably reject an abortion. Moreover an abortion at that stage is a radical and unpleasant procedure. It follows that the situation you're talking about is vanishingly rare and usually involves a catastrophic failure of pregnancy or something like an anencephalic baby -- a non-viable foetus and a situation where continued pregnancy poses a threat to the woman's life.

8:

Saturday's 'Moral Maze" on Radio 4 indicates how difficult it is to have a 'sensible' discussion on this topic, but I think Mr Burke does rise occasionally to troll baiting as part of his work. The program also demonstrates how difficult differences over definitions and vocabulary can be.

On a lighter note;
Have an early spring day from London; the sky is blue, the bulbs are sprung, and some blooms too, the grass has always been riz. It's just everything else we put up with to live only 51 degrees north. It's quite blowy so them birds aren't on the wing.

9:

Despite being strongly irreligious, maybe even anti-religious I don't have a problem with the idea that they should have a voice in the debate. Even if it's a voice to look at and just say "No, no, no" to everything they suggest.

And sadly the extreme religious views have a right to voice their opinions if you have any sense of freedom of speech. Possibly only so we can find them and round them and put them somewhere nice and safe, like in a mental institution on the grounds of risk of harming themselves and others.

That said although I abhor what the message is I'm less surprised by it than I was by Limbaugh over the weekend. Nutty religious types of many sects are anti-abortion and are just wrong. Politicians calling law students at Georgetown "sluts" because they say that access to contraceptives is a good thing was more of a surprise.

10:

This thread is up to 6 comments and the 'recent comments' box hasn't caught up with them, nor has the front page comments count. I've noticed this happening a lot.

11:

That's probably a side-effect of the emergency security patch last Thursday. Which mostly worked, but left various odds'n'ends broken ...

12:

Can we require Cameron to have these private security forces for his bodyguard? no cheating.

I have this lovely vision of someone approaching the PM with an offensive weapon of any kind, and the "unwarranted officer" whipping out his mobile and calling the police, which is what they're expected to do in this circumstances.

Or alternatively, doing the mercenary thing, and step back saying "I'm not paid enough for this(*)", and resigning, which they're entitled to do.

(*) If they were being paid enough, they'd be no cheaper than the police. Police, OTOH, have the duty to act which private security do not. For a practical example, look at the Haliburton drivers vs. the Army in Iraq, first attempted battle of Fallujah, where the insurgents attacked the (privatised) drivers of the ammunition trucks, who said F*ck this, got on a flight home, leaving the army to pick up their toys and go home.

13:

Is there room for one more in the circle of vomiting?

14:

Even I, an extremely cynical person by nature, was surprised by the recent exit from the woodwork of all the (invariably male) anti-contraception nutjobs. What's next? A ban on women wearing trousers?

15:

OCP law enforcement. The only choice!

16:

Over the weekend, I watched The President's Analyst, starring James Coburn as the eponymous headshrinker (it's on youtube). Very much of its time (1967) but it stands up pretty well.

Among the supporting class is a suburban liberal couple who are well-versed in armed and unarmed combat.

It occurs to me that if today's US liberals could show a bit more grit, determination and moxie, the Gileadists might not be so brazenly obnoxious.

17:

Perhaps I have missed something, but surely the other logical part of this is to attack whatever system or methods are used for getting child support from the fathers? After all it's her fault she got pregnant...

18:

Ugh.

Kings. Priests. Entrails.

19:

I meant of course "supporting cast", not "supporting class".

Which would be silly.

20:

Alright, this is the libertarian in me talking, but-- isn't control over your own body a basic _human_ right, regardless of sex? Otherwise it's just "Dance, puppet, dance to our tune!" in a very literal sense.

21:

First you want everyone to have control of their own body, next thing you'll be expecting them to have control of their own thoughts! Where will such madness end?!

(Damn, lost that sarcasm tag again)

22:

Depends on the definition of "your body" (playing devil's advocate here).

23:

I used to think the Handmaid's Tale was a bit over-the-top. Now, I'm not so sure.

24:

C&Ping from my reply to Andrew Ducker's LJ about the police privatisation thing:

f you read the actual details, what's actually happening is *not* the police being privatised.

Two police departments are tendering for bids to outsource those parts of police work that are already (under Labour legislation) legally outsourceable. Note that even the article (which is more than a little misleading, if not outright lying) says "They do not include those that involve the power of arrest and the other duties of a sworn constable."

The Guardian article lists a long list of things they're trying to outsource, which would be privatising the police - if they were outsourcing them. But if you look at the document they took this from - or at least the two pages out of twenty six that they're showing us - what they *actually* say is that they're going to outsource everything they legally can within the range of activities the police have to cover. They then list *all* of the activities the police have to do, in a standard form (the police activity glossary) before saying in effect "Obviously we're not going to ask you to do all of this, just what we can legally get you to do".

In other words, this isn't Tories privatising the police, it's police forces using existing legislation to get services more cheaply from the private sector rather than doing them in-house.

Which no doubt, of course, the Tories welcome, but it's not a new thing from this government.

25:

This morning I was reading this interesting piece that argues that a drive to control female sexuality was implied in Austrian school thought from its inception:

http://coreyrobin.com/2012/02/15/love-for-sale-birth-control-from-marx-to-mises/

This helps confirm what I've always suspected about so-called libertarians - for them liberty is for those who have the money to pay for it, and everyone else can have a boot stamping in the human face for ever and ever.

26:

"Perhaps I have missed something, but surely the other logical part of this is to attack whatever system or methods are used for getting child support from the fathers? After all it's her fault she got pregnant..."

The War on Women has many fronts; one should not expect simultaneous offensives.

27:

By "my body" I mean the one I ride around in. If someone is asserting that a third body possesses ownership of that body, I'd require some form of legal documentation of that party's ownership.
If it's asserted that the aforementioned someone is acting as an agent of that third party, I'd want to see a legal power of attorney valid in the municipality I reside, and signed (by the owning party) in the presence of witnesses in accordance with the laws of the state.
Otherwise, said person or persons alleging authority to act as agents of the alleged owning party can go piss up a rope.

28:

Regardless of what you're saying, it's being pretty much universally reported as "Con party proposes to privatise the Police" (based on BBC Breakfast news "headlines in the papers" on Saturday, BBC news Sat/Sun and "Scotland on Sunday". I'm not saying that you're wrong; rather that the same slant on the reporting seems to apply nation-wide.

29:

That's the movie where Coburn is amazed that the Prez is spending so much time worrying about a little country no-one's ever heard of -- Libya.

As for the police outsourcing thing, a couple of folks Charlie and I know are civilians working in police operations handling the phone lines at a headquarters in England. They're not warranted and definitely not expected to go out and arrest folks; for one thing their guide dogs wouldn't let them.

Police officers are expensive to train and maintain. Having warranted officers doing things like manning phone lines is a waste. Saying that there's an overwork problem where warranted officers don't get "time off" doing the easy stuff like overseeing sheep-dipping to give them a break from, say, dealing with drunken yobs in a city centre week in week out.

30:

It's great isn't it? Coburn's craggy features provided the model for Johnny Alpha in the Strontium Dog strip in 2000AD.

As for police privatisation . . . well, the UK police have a long history of having people turn up dead in their cells . . . especially if they're BME (Black Minority Ethnic). Somehow I can't see some private security firm doing better on that front. . .

31:

The senior UK RC Cardinal is being reported as comparing same sex marriage to slavery. I can't even begin to work out where he's coming from (apart from Outer Nutjobia), but, along with things other people are saying, it strongly implies that among those demanding control over your body, there somebody has title to your body and it probably shouldn't be you.

32:

Look, the problem is not having non-officers doing police work of some sort or another. There's been an expansion in back office staff over the last decade and more, partly because of increased bureacracy* and command and control structures. Plus increased sub-specialisation within the service.

The problem is in giving large private corporations with their hands in the politicians pockets control over large areas of public services where one can reasonably demand a) that the service works 24/7, b) is fully accountable, and c) is working together towards the goal of serving the public.
Once you start handing out major contracts like this, experience shows that 1) circumstances change and contract re-negotiation leads to massive costs, 2) conflict of interest between current employees who want a job at the contracted companies and what is better for the public, 3) the corporations end up being the ones with the specialist power so can jack up prices because they aren't operating in a true market, its a monopsony or monopoly, 4) it decreases efficiency because of fragmentation between the contracted in cheaper staff and the actual officers who do the response and investigations. 'not on my job description' or 'that'll cost extra' will no doubt be heard often.

Plus there is usually a handover period when major problms arise because of the disruption. Somehow these problems are never costed into the bidding process in the first place.

The corporations will do whatever they want to maximise profitability. This sort of thing leaves them in perfect position to take over the job totally, if they reckon they can make more money out of it. Unsurprisnly, ACPO is desperate to help them do so, it is a brilliant example of conspiratorial subversion of the public service ethos.

We know the new labour scum set things up for this. Hence I never voted for them. Unfortunately we are left with 3 main parties who believe in market based managerialism and no options and no feedback possible. Nobody seems to be making arguments for essential public services, or pointing out how market based solutions are inherently more expensive and of dubious efficiency. Nobody in power wants to listen. I am not aware of any privatisation of a natural monopoly or public service which has achieved any goal beyond that of enriching its managers and owners.


*Some certainly unnecessary, some certainly necessary. Few people deny that the police service had to change in the wake of the corruption and racism scandals of the 80's and 90's; the argument is over exactly how much and the best way to make and enforce the changes.

33:

Not to take away the merit of the discussion, Landover Baptist Church is a fake website created for satire: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Landover_Baptist_Church (I think it's obvious to most of you, but I'm posting this in case someone thought it was real - there are stranger real religious websites)

34:

Yeah, but that reporting all stems from the single, flawed, Guardian article being picked up by other people. Literally minutes after I posted that reply the original place I posted it, I heard on Radio 4 the following discussion:
Person from police - "police aren't being privatised, it's just some backroom work will be done by other organisations, this will not affect the policeperson on the beat. This is nothing new, and is not a government privatisation attempt, it came from the police."
Labour person - "the way the government are taking police off the beat and replacing them with privatised contractors is a disgrace, especially that it's going over the heads of the police themselves."
Newsreader - "So controversy there over the government's privatisation of the police..."

Honestly, these days the Guardian is getting as bad as the Mail or the Telegraph at creating a hysterical headline which isn't backed up even slightly by the content of the article, and then getting that to become accepted by the other media. Still, at least having left-wing disinformation *and* right-wing disinformation is probably better than just having right-wing disinformation :-/

35:

Guthrie - agreed totally. It's certainly a *very bad thing*. It's just not a new bad thing, or a new move by the government.

(Personally, I'm pinning my hopes long-term on the fact that the government has stated it's going to bring in a proportionally-elected House of Lords. If that actually goes to plan, we may start to hear a wider range of voices in Parliament. I do think that of the three major parties, the Lib Dems are significantly different enough from the other two to be worth voting for, but the Overton window is dangerously small at the moment).

36:

Who can doubt by this point that the US right wing is fascist? When you have a significant group pushing against contraception (!!!), when a discussion occurs on whether it's alright to call a female a 'slut' for having the temerity to demand female representation on Congressional boards discussing contraceptive coverage, when a real part of the population believes that an employer should have the right to enforce their personal, sexual morality on their employees....

What the hell else do you call that but fascism? Not as a nasty word, but as the simple description of neo-Romantic anti-communist authoritarianism? Folks who will openly agitate for nativist government subsidies, while telling the "girls" to use an "aspirin between the knees" as birth control, and the "immigrants" to simply drop off and die.

Jumping the shark indeed.

37:

Furthermore, an advantage of having a certain number of police in offices and doing other such duties that has been remarked upon by a number of veterans is that when the shit does hit the fan and 10,000 disaffected criminal minded youths go shopping, the youngsters can get on the riot gear (Although i read they'd lowered or even got rid of the fitness test) and deal with it, and the old salts can keep the daily functions going because they've done it all before.
Private companies doing public services make savings by cutting pay and benefits of the lower level staff whilst increasing them for the top tier who sold the service out to them, and by cutting the fat that any sensible society has in order to deal with unusual occurences e.g. a terrorist attack, flu pandemic oe a corruption investigation which get stopped partly because they consume too many man hours.

Allegedly they also manage to be more effient, but no evidence has ever been produced that they are so.

There are two more substatial socio-political points here.
One is that continued dissection and selling off of public services and related areas of government competence put more and more stress on the central government machine to oversee them. This naturally means more jobs for the boys and more centralised power; power centralisation being a major theme for the last few decades, with Thatcher onwards setting out to destroy or subvert any alternative power base, such as universities, newspapers, the BBC, councils etc etc. It also means you get more central mistakes that happen simply because you expect too much of the people in charge, e.g. the not checking passports fiasco.

The second is that by all this fragmentation in schools, hospitals, police, etc etc, you decrease social cohesion and shared experiences, which is bad for the long term. Making us more like the USA is a bad thing, if you are at all conservative minded. But it is ideal if you want maximum profit for yourself now. Of course mental health problems will increase as more people have trouble with the fragmented services (although obviously budget cuts won't help, in fact cutting the mental health budget puts more stress on the police as they have to deal with mad people who aren't on their medication or have absconded from a cheap insecure unit), and by splitting schools up more and cutting benefits, you end up decreasing social mobility, which has been on the decline for years now, even more.

I feel obliged to link it back to the OP, which is easily done- the more centralised the government is and the more fragmented your society becomes, the easier it is for nutty views such as that to infiltrate through the cracks and either go unnoticed because people only see their local issues, or even worse, they get the ear of the government, and are able to bend it to their will. See faith schools for example.

38:

If our leaders are going to insist on us having a dystopia they should at least get around a table and pick one. We'd have a bit of consistency then.

39:

Hmmm.... yes. Value systems that were codified for a bunch of largely uneducated, mostly agrarian peoples living around the Eastern Mediterranean during the time of the mid-Roman Empire make so much sense for today's high-tech, highly interconnected, mostly urban, generally literate and globe-spanning civilization.

40:

"Meanwhile, 'free' market capitalism continues to erode the social base on which their churches thrive, and dissolves the sinews of society as a whole."

Don't you mean the reverse? The churches are thriving precisely where the market is the least contrained, where any security from social relations (whether tribal or social democratic) have been eaten away.

People join churches because they are begging for sinews to support them. That's why so many evangelicals are for radical free markets --- not because they value them, but because it will ultimately result in forcing people into the churches merely to survive.

41:

We aware aware of the status of Landover Baptist Church. Nevertheless, Poe's Law applies.

42:

"although obviously budget cuts won't help, in fact cutting the mental health budget puts more stress on the police as they have to deal with mad people who aren't on their medication or have absconded from a cheap insecure unit"

So it's a good thing that the mental health budget has been increased by four hundred million quid then, to try to rectify some of the cuts that were made by the last government.

43:

I'm not defending bad journalism; just saying that it's understandable how OGH got the wrong end of the stick.

44:

The Missouri Synod brand of Lutherans has fallen mightily in the past 35 years.

I do note, though, that the author is "pastor of The Lutheran Church of the Ascension in Atlanta, GA" while apparently simultaneously "finishing a Ph.D. in systematic theology at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland."

Clearly, my mind is geographically-impaired, having graduated from a school outside of Atlanta and only been to Scotland once--when I would have sworn the planes traveled in different directions, and that there was a significant difference in the times each took.

Perhaps if the UK privatises its police, Scotland will finally secede and join the rest of Georgia. Now there is a dystopia.

45:

To quote a bumper sticker that used to be seen around town* in the 90s:

"Focus On Your Own Damn Family!"

The unsaid bit being: and leave the rest of us alone. We're fine the way we are, thanks.

*Colorado Springs - home of certain similarly named religious org. Haven't seen the sticker in years, and Focus has been quiet lately (in stealth mode? waiting for a Republican to be elected?).

46:

There is indeed a school of theology at the University of St Andrew's, the oldest university in Scotland ... but that's about where the resemblance to Georgia begins and ends.

47:

If you had to pick a dystopia from one of these two options, which would it be:
1) Panopticon police state run by corporations.
2) Theocracy where all your decisions down to the most intimate detail must align with religious dogma?

(And would you be able to spot the difference looking from the bottom up?)

48:

Oh absolutely. If a reputable newspaper says "Police are being privatised by the government", one would expect that somewhere there would be some evidence that the government were privatising the police. It's entirely a reflection on the Guardian, and not at all on its readers, that in this case its headline and rhetoric have little to do with the actual facts of the case, and if I implied otherwise I apologise.

49:

Why do these have to be exclusive options?

"Great flavours, go well together!"

50:

>>>By "my body" I mean the one I ride around in.

Okay, but what about the fetus that is inside the uterus? Is it part of its mother body? They don't even have a fully common circulatory system.

51:

Is a benign teratoma part of the human body it is contained within?

How about a piece of shrapnel, unremoved by surgery?

Our vocabulary for talking about the whole subject is contaminated by ancient and in some cases incorrect assumptions, not to mention the whole messy interface between I and not-I (which we don't, to this day, fully understand).

52:

Dystopia is certainly not preferable, but it may not be inferior.

Take two societies.

One gives women rights, including total control over reproduction, and career opportunites outside the traditional roles of wife and mother. This society has birth rates (TFRs) below replacement level of 2.1

The second imposes severe cultural and religious restrictions on women's lives and choices, in effect keeping them "barefoot and pregnant". This society has TFRs well above replacement level, say 3.0 or higher.

Which society is inferior in the sense of Darwinian competition with the other? Which society will still exist a century (5 generations) hence?

53:

False dichotomy.

Hint: no recent (read: past 250 years) society has managed to last for a century without experiencing demographic and cultural change.

54:

Even in Ireland, some historians believe that the country was about to enter the demographic transition before the potato blight struck.

55:

"Which society is inferior in the sense of Darwinian competition with the other? Which society will still exist a century (5 generations) hence?"

The one that continues developing technology instead of collapsing locally into hunger and panic?

You do know that the only way the Chinese managed to dig themselves out of their technological hole was by refraining to reproduce at large numbers and instead focusing on producing technologists rather than serfs?

What you're describing is the victory of farmers over hunters -- that's about 10kya out of date as a strategy. The "hordes" can't win when one dude with a nuke can decimate a continent, dude (I bet that's the correct assumption).

56:

Oh --- and societies don't compete in a "Darwinian" fashion, given that membership in a society is horizontally transmissible.

I hate it when science is turned into thoughtless pop BS. Don't use Darwin, or Quantum "Anything" unless you're seriously taking science.

57:

I'm rabidly pro-choice; just to be clear and get that out there first. That said, the present idiocy in the US media is not about the legality of or even really access to contraception but rather who pays for it.

Personally, I do not think our government has the slightest business telling private organizations what their internal health coverage must include. The debate over what our public system should cover is a different matter; and I agree that reproductive care of all sorts should be part of that...but no private insurance should be forced to cover it by mandate.

I will readily admit that there are plenty of problems in the US healthcare system...access to and cost of contraception isn't really one of them. The issue has been stage-managed into a political landmine that the social conservatives over here are walking right into.

58:

Depends. If the second society outconsumes its resources because it's growing so fast, it could be devastated by famine and die out within a couple of generations. The first society, on the other hand, has as a proportion of its population twice as many educated people with the tools to fix whatever problems it encounters (even assuming that living in society two doesn't also seriously limit the men as well as the women).

And even if each generation is only 80% the size of the previous one, that would still leave (from an initial population of, say, ten million) over three and a quarter million people at the end of the century. Society two would have grown from the same population to almost seventy-six million, but only if it hadn't died out from famine or pollution or the spread of infectious disease through overcrowding.

The best solution for evolutionary fitness, in other words, is *highly* context-dependent.

59:

Non Sequitur

Both hypothetical societies will experience change as well.

The question is, which kind of change is superior in a competitive/Darwinian sense.

Hint: its the one promoted by conservative religious leaders for reasons that should now be obvious.

60:

In situations like this there is always room for more vomit.

61:

China's one baby policy has been a demographic disaster leading to both a population top heavy in pensioners (China will get old before it becomes rich) and a major gender imbalance (Chinese prefer sons).

For the past decade they hit a demographic sweet spot with low dependency ratios (relatively few retireees and few children relative to the work force).

Now sit back and watch China implode demographically and collapse economically (the same poor demographics prevented Japan from taking over the world back in the 1990s)

62:

You're making the other fundamental mistakes, as Anura pointed out up-thread, of assuming that societies are monadic entities that engage in Darwinian competition. They aren't and they don't.

63:

Alternatively, watch China plug its manpower gap by recruiting the growing African urban proletariat.

64:

That's insulting to the Scots

65:

Of course they compete, often within the same nation state.

The winner ends up dominating the culture and controlling the political discourse (see rise of the Religious Right in America or Orthodox jews in Israel).

The rise of Santorum to within striking distance of the GOP noimination is just a reflection of the Fundy rise in America caused by higher birth rates.

So you better get used to it.

66:

Quantum Darwinism. It's the coming thing.

67:

"sadly the extreme religious views have a right to voice their opinions"

This is not sad... if they were voicing an opinion. What we are actually getting, however, is a proposition which is perfectly falsifiable. Then we let people off the hook with the "Hey man, you can't disprove an opinion" excuse despite the fact that we just disproved them which demonstrates that it wasn't an opinion.

"inferior in the sense of Darwinian competition"

There is no inferiority in any sense in Darwinian anything, just the question of that which survives. Natural selection takes no moral stance.

68:

There's a short story making the twitter rounds on this subject and the Virginia, Personhood Act, called – "ILU - 486" - just does to show there's lots of exasperated people out there.

69:

"Personally, I do not think our government has the slightest business telling private organizations what their internal health coverage must include."

The public and private health-care systems in the US are identical --- it's the public policy of the US to get public health-care to the citizenry indirectly through private organization. This is subsidized via tax-deductions, legal regulations -- and in 2014 by direct subsidies.

There is no "internal health coverage". The method by which the entire system is directed towards paying for health care is that you join a group that is directly tied to your employer. This isn't a competitive benefit like stock-options or a high-salary, but increasingly a basic legal requirement to structure our health care system.

And if you think that for many, many American the cost for hormone therapy isn't an issue, depending on each person's own biology --- well, you're an example of "privilege". Insurance prices are significantly below individual prices, given insurances negotiating advantage. To pay $600 dollars or more yearly on top of paying for your insurance coverage, when the group price could go all the way down to a tenth of that, is to be completely disconnected from economics at all levels.

Private my *** --- Libertarian theory is as useless as Marxist theory, a bunch of vacuous sophistry parading around as careful rationalism.

70:

I would have thought the clear and obvious problems with Blackwater (now Acedemi) would have given the UK police at least pause for thought.

In the US, private security firms regularly overstep their authority. I doubt it is different in the UK. And companies have never been known to cheat for profit, no sir. This should be of concern to the public, especially when dealing with investigations and questions of impartiality. I note that the UK forensic teams are being rapidly defunded. No doubt private ones will spring up to replace the losses. What safeguards would be put in place?

71:

Charlie's commmenters are apparently ahead of the Twitterati - posted here in the "Home Again" thread, Feb. 23rd. ",)
It is an amazing story.

72:

Or China imports all the modern labour saving technology which Japan is creating.

On fundie birth rates and the current clown show, I was under the impression that the effects had hardly kicked in yet and the popularity of the likes of Santorum are due to the better organisation of the fundies and their loudness, rather than actual numbers.

73:

While the religious society with high birth rates will be culled back from time to time by Malthusian agents, the secular low birth rate society will disappear entirely over time.

74:

Yes, I'll agree that Santorum had enough political backing to get into the senate. However, his current run is probably due more to the money of Foster Friess than to the overall politics of the US.

Similarly, the loudness of the Tea Party may be due as much to the money of the Koch brothers and the Walton family as to widespread support for the Tea Party itself (which is primarily southern, white, and older). A few people with a lot of money and far-right politics are having a disproportionally big effect right now.

My take is fairly different. One part is that most people agree there's something seriously wrong with US politics, and that something is the role of private money in politics (aka corruption). Both the Tea Party and the Occupy movement are responses to the problem, and I don't think either one's going to go away just yet. Rather, I think it's going to get even noisier. If the silent middle gets pissed off enough to wake up and do something, we may see rapid changes in US politics. They really are the 99%.

As for kids in the US, look at the inflating bubble of student loans for college, and the dearth of good job prospects thereafter. That's radicalizing the kids even now, and I think it's going to do for the teens what the Vietnam War did for the Sixties. Given the way the Boomers turned out, I'm not sure this is entirely a good thing, but I don't think it will be boring.

75:

Eric:

"I will readily admit that there are plenty of problems in the US healthcare system...access to and cost of contraception isn't really one of them."

Really? Would you care to cite your source?

Many employer-based insurers don't offer contraception coverage. Since 90%+ of women use them at some time in their lives, this is a significant cost savings for insurers, one they can get away with under culture-war cover such as we're seeing now.

The monthly cost for birth control pills, like the cost of most things, is a relatively larger burden the farther you are down the economic food chain. The catastrophic consequences of getting pregnant are also increased. If you are spending roughly 10% of your pre-tax income on a single prescription, that's a resource you don't have to do anything else. The opportunity cost that represents to poor and working-class women is huge.

And never mind that the up-front cost for safe, effective long-term contraception is out of many women's reach if insurance doesn't cover it.

76:

Abortions for some, and miniature American flags for others!

77:

To pay $600 dollars or more yearly

That's ridiculous!

I'm around 25 years out of date, but back circa 1989 the cost of a month's hormonal contraception in the UK was around £3-5. Or under $100/year. Even with inflation to keep track of, that's less than a third the price you're citing.

78:

"Denial ain't just a river in Egypt"

As I responded to Anura, of course socieites compete. They compete politically and culturally.

79:

"(which is primarily southern, white, and older)"

- and Evangelical.

80:

"Of course they compete, often within the same nation state."

No -- that is empirically and theoretically wrong.

Societies don't compete in a Darwinian sense. Turkish farming societies didn't become the world-dominant society by "out-breeding" the rest of the world. The Irish are still Irish after 10ky, even though they speak a West Asian language, leave West Asian lifestyles and have West Asian family structures ultimately derived from Anatolian practice of 8k BCE. The Anatolians converted the world.

The cases of genetic displacement are historically extremely rare --- basically temperate North America and Australia/NZ, which are extreme cases of vast technological differences interfacing on sharp temporal gradients.

And you know what? Most of the North American Indians were actually absorbed into the population -- they weren't "outbred", but converted. They form a large part of "African-American" ancestry and "Appalachian" ancestry.

What's the old saw about the right to have one's own opinions, but not facts? It's sad to see when political correctness, ideological rigidity, overcomes facts. I guess it's what you get from the dominant ideology of the time -- when the left was in ascendance, you saw this kind of behavior there, and now you see it on the right.

81:

But to carry your analogy further, aren't secular, low-birth-rate societies evolved from the religious ones?

A natural development, if you will.

82:

Charlie:

Average cost for hormonal contraception in the US is between $15-$50 a month, depending on type, strength, brand and how much you can get it subsidized by Title X or your insurer.

Average yearly wages for a U.S. woman over 25 with some college: $25,185. A bachelor's degree raises it to $40, 484.

83:

"That's ridiculous!"

Google is your friend: http://www.plannedparenthood.org/health-topics/birth-control/birth-control-pill-4228.htm

$15 to $50 dollars a month. Can be more if you have an unusual prescription. Of course, the individual prices are part of the negotiations with insurance companies -- they are absurdly over-priced because the large number of prescriptions are bought through insurance plans that have "discounts". So what is in actuality a $5/month prescription has a "retail" value of $25/month.

That's the American system.

84:

Charlie, it is indeed ridiculous -- and true. I spent a good many years taking the Pill for non-contraceptive reasons (it's by far the most effective treatment for endometriosis for many women, including me). I was paying $40 a month on a *good* insurance plan, not least because that good insurance plan technically covered contraception but insisted that it would only cover tricyclics, on the grounds that they're supposedly the safest -- even though they are entirely unsuitable for many woman as contraception, and utterly useless for the various other medical reasons for taking a daily dose of hormones. And I'm talking here about the local equivalent of Microgynon 30, not the latest and greatest development.

It was cheaper for me to get a private prescription and stock up when back in the UK or Australia visiting family. :-(

85:

There are some issues with your argument and your later supporting statements.

First, in most of the first world 20 years is too short for a generation, closer to 25-30 (it was 25.1 in the USA in 2002 and had been rising steadily to that point. Source: CDC) so you should be looking at 125-150 years if you want a 5 generation span for your test. Even without that, Israeli culture, while fascinating, doesn't count by your century count, since the county is less than 70 years old.

Also, if you look at many countries and their internal cultures, they are much more liberal than 100 or 150 years ago. For example:

  • Women can vote in most countries (compared to ~0 in 1912).
  • Women are educated in most countries, in most they predominant in a number of professions in terms of new graduates (there were female graduates 100 years ago but they were rare, 150 years ago I don't think there were any, certainly very, very few).
  • The UK is not the most liberal and supportive country for same-sex relationships in the world, although it's pretty good. But in the last five-ten years we've seen a chance for a Labour government carefully introducing civil partnerships to a Conservative leader taking on his own loony right and the church to promote a true civil marriage regardless of the gender of the couple.
  • Access to birth control and abortion has widened in most countries - including ultra-catholic Ireland. It is wider in the US than some want it to be but still far wider than 100 years ago.

The rhetoric from some groups is growing more and more shrill and extreme but unless Santorum somehow gets elected AND has a house that supports a lurch to the looney right, his rhetoric is just so much hot air. The OP piece is definitely not going to be met with support except from the nuts in the UK.

The evidence fails to match your predictions. All those science degrees I studied for suggest that your hypothesis is flawed and needs reformulating.

86:

Here's the American system -- when I had a child years ago, I was offered a deal to pay in cash $2k as a special "poverty" rate. After the birth, I was told (and stupidly and exhaustedly accepted) that my insurance did in fact cover the birth.

I then received a bill for $20k. Which ultimately was reduced to $4k. The numbers in American health care are completely disconnected from production-value, use-value, or market-value. They are random numbers, part of a negotiating tactic by self-dealing bureaucracies.

An X-ray of an ankle, not including radiology, will get you charged $2000 dollars without insurance, for a 100 year old technology that has a cost basis on the order of $1 dollar, and an insurance market basis on the order of $10s of dollars.

It's an economically deranged system that looks more like the failed feedback system of the old USSR than anything else, but with the added insanity of privatization.

87:

Most native Americans were wiped out by the diseases Europeans brought with them.

As for competion in the same nation state between two different socieites, take a look at Israel where where hard right wing Orthodox Jews have outbred the secular Jews that founded the State of Israel.

Having out bred them, they now out vote them.

88:

Ok it's not contraceptive drugs, but a couple of years back our wholesale cost for Tamiflu was about £10, say US$16 for a course. An American friend of mine paid $100, over 6 times as much, just for the drugs! Yes, getting the PHP's prescription isn't factored into that!

89:

well I don't do the twitter thing, I just hadn't wandered past Amanda's blog in a while

90:

"While the religious society with high birth rates will be culled back from time to time by Malthusian agents, the secular low birth rate society will disappear entirely over time."

Dude, are you under the impression that "religiousity" is a GENE? Your statement doesn't even make a lick of sense --- it's barely grammatically correct --- unless folks' "religiousity" is genetically determined.

Quantum Darwinism, indeed --- lot 'o fancy words thrown together willy-nilly.

I guess Charlie is lucky that folks with the IronSkyLovin' gene have bred so successfully for the last few centuries... Some days, I just have to say WOW: fancy words 10, reason 0.

91:

Don't forget the average value exists within a range- even if the average replacement value is less than 2.1, there will be members of that society who have more than 2.1 kids (hopefully in integral values) and others who have less.
Even assuming nobody changes their minds on having kids (say, because a lower population might make wages higher and kids less of a burden), the society will just shift over time to one that both uses birth control but actually likes kids enough to have them by choice.

92:

And, if religiousness were a true-breeding gene, I'd be religious.

93:

My genreations per century were hypothetical, and yes, the number of generations per century can vary somewhat.

And it doesn't change the outcome.

Zero population growth (steady state population where a society fills as many graves as cribs each year) requires a TFR of 2.1.

A society whose replacement level is 1.1 (Italy, Japan, most people who are culturally secular) has a replacement rate each generation of only 52%. In 4 generations, the inital population has been reduced to 7.5% of its original amount.

A society whose replacement level is 2.5 (Mormons, Evangelicals and most people who are culturally religious) has a replacement rate each generation of 119%. In 4 generations, the inital population will have doubled in size.

Its the magic of compound interest applied to demographics.

Santorum and the religious nut cases runing the GOP are just the initial rumblings of a demographic tsunami.

94:

Most native Americans are called "Mexicans" --- and will shortly be the largest plurality in the US. The facts are that haplotype analyses show a significant element of aboriginal ancestry in African Americans and Appalachians, just as a significant African ancestry is found among white Americans with old roots in the country. The relationships are complex --- but breeding is the least of the issues.

And yeah -- there hasn't been huge immigration into Israel and the conversion of those immigrants to religious orthodoxy! Once again, "breeding" is the least of the demographic changes in Israel, given the huge migration of Russians over the last 20 years. If you wanted to give an example where that actually applied, it would be the Palestinian/Jewish conflict where "breeding numbers" is relevant --- and in that case, the "underbreeding" population is massively dominant over the "overbreeding" population.

But then, why would we bother to look at facts? Pseudo-intellectuality is so much easier.

95:

Religiosity is a meme, a very powerful one, leading to high birth rates among those whose carry this meme.

The offspring of these meme carriers tend to overwhelmingly adhere to this meme as well, repeating the process each genration.

Studies of conversion rates show that relatively few people leave a conservative relgion compared to those who continue to adhere to it. Apostates are also outnmumbered by converts to conservative religions.

96:

"Its the magic of compound interest applied to demographics."

And yet the percentage of the American population that belong to those groups has been going down for thirty-years, despite the fact that members of those groups "outbred" everyone else.

Amazing. It's almost as if people are free to join and leave those groups. As if Seinfeld, which has no direct breeding ability, can out-propagate conservative catholics who have 8 children a family.

This is an earth-shattering new discovery, I believe.

97:

This society has birth rates (TFRs) below replacement level of 2.1

In addition to the problems with the idea of "Darwinian" competition of societies pointed out by others above, I think the fundamental error here is assuming the consequent.

There's simply no reason to believe that an advanced society will simply evaporate away because of a below-replacement birth rate. Doomed for a whole host of other potential reasons, perhaps, but probably not that.

For one, this whole low-birthrate thing might well just be a transitory phase, a blip as a society imperfectly transitions from a "subjugate women and outlaw contraception" mode of encouraging birth rates to a more responsible and humane "support parents and parenting in view of their value to society" one. Or not. The point is that there are a whole host of things that can happen -- or can be done -- before the low birthrates actually become a problem. Which isn't anytime soon, because we're still in the phase where immigration more than makes up for it (or could, if it were allowed to).

Which reminds me, if you really want to know what happens, you just have to look at what we actually see happening when wealthy, low-birthrate societies share space with poorer/quasi-Malthusian high-birthrate ones. Hint: it's not Darwinian eradication of the wealthy society. Instead, it's immigration and assimilation, in the direction you'd expect. So wealthy societies get a supply of new bodies/minds to make up for the babies they're not otherwise having, while, simultaneously, the poorer society tends to learn from the other and (if they do it right) gets both richer and lowers its birthrate. (I don't know what you call that outcome in "Darwinian competition", but it certainly doesn't look like Society B outbreeds Society A and wins the prize or whatever.)

99:

You know why I despise Dawkins?

His dumb-as-crap "meme" metaphor, which is a completely unscientific (aka, can't be put into equations). It's appropriate for novelists and poets -- not as a scientifically rigorous concept.

There are NO MEMES. Genes are distinct, rigorously definable abstractions that reflect a concrete structure. Memes was Dawkins talking out of his ***, which was fair enough 30 years ago as the beginning of a conversation, except that "meme" is about as dangerous a meme as one can get --- by which I mean a stupid canned phrase that folks can repeat mindlessly rather than think.

He should have said at least a decade ago -- "You know what? I was ignorant of sociology, anthropology, etc, when I threw out the idea of a meme. It was an honest, but stupid, attempt to tackle the problem of the propagation of ideas. If you're not writing a novel, don't use that phrase. It makes you sound stupid".

Unfortunately, the man doesn't appear to have bothered to study the area about which he spoke in the last thirty years. It's the same kind of Dunning-Kreuger effect that Dawkins would be the first to point out when an engineer starts mumbling about evolution and thermodynamics.

I guess it's a disease we all have at some level.

100:

Your out or date with the effects of immigration from EasternEurope to israel. The primary force in Israeli demograpics is the high Haredi birth rates (from the Jeruslam Post):

http://www.jpost.com/NationalNews/Article.aspx?id=214979

The report, entitled “Israel 2010-2030, on the Path to a Religious State,” examines the demographic factors set to change Israel in the coming years, through a comparison of the religious, haredi, secular and Arab birthrates in the country....

The report concludes that by the year 2030, the majority of Israel’s Jewish population will be religious – a reality that could lead to several different results, including an increase in poverty, the annexation of the West Bank settlements and Israel’s deterioration into an anti-democratic country....

The report, a continuation of Soffer’s 2008 study “Israel: Demography and Density 2007-2020” also finds that the higher haredi birthrate and their increasing demographic weight will strengthen the voting power within their community and the legislative influence of the haredi parties.

“The public agenda, the public square and the cultural aspects of the country stand to all reflect the spirit of the haredi and religious world,” it stated. “Education will become Torah-based, courts will be operated according to Jewish religious law and much of the media will undergo a transformation in which a large amount of the content it broadcasts will disappear

101:

Fry & Laurie on privatized police:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k6CkltzGAxY

On a more serious note, I've long been in favor of private police from a theoretical standpoint. So I'm hoping the UK tries it out so I can see if I'm right or not. Sorry for those of you living in the UK for proposing you be guinea pigs in an experiment, but think of it as a contribution to the greater good of humanity. :)

102:

"And yet the percentage of the American population that belong to those groups has been going down for thirty-years, despite the fact that members of those groups "outbred" everyone else."

Huh?

103:

From @93:

My genreations per century were hypothetical, and yes, the number of generations per century can vary somewhat.

And it doesn't change the outcome.

I don't think it's feeding time at the troll enclosure quite yet, but I do think that at least one side in this argument is not debating honestly.

Take the above statement, and parse it with respect to the debate in hand. Here's what it says to me: I quoted some numbers (which I now admit I made up) and used them to prop up my argument; you proved them false, so now I state authoritatively that they don't matter, and my argument stands without them. Just wait a moment while I restate and slightly shift my argument...

104:

I was going to write something about the police thing, then noticed that Andrew Hickey had already written most of what I wanted to say, so I shall just add:

The government has not decided to privatise the police. In fact, the government has made no decisions or policy changes on this subject during its term in office.

Most police forces in the UK outsource large chunks of their back-office operation: IT services, equipment supply, CCTV monitoring, HR, etc. Some also outsource functions like receptionists and other people who answer phones, which are public-facing but not policing. This has been the norm for as long as I can recall offhand, although I think it was different when I was very young and paid no attention to politics.

Nothing has changed in the past week or so, except the publication of a specious article in the Guardian. West Midlands & Surrey have just put the new contract out to tender and would like to include some more of these services in it; this is not a first or a new policy, although this particular force previously had a higher proportion of warranted officers in these back-office roles than they desire in the future. What you are witnessing here is the way in which news can be invented rather than reported: nothing significant has happened, and yet there is a story.

The Guardian asked the Home Office a carefully worded question, and got back an equally carefully worded answer that just meant "We continue to support police forces who are continuing to apply the well-established policies, and we do not have any firm plans beyond that so I am not going to say anything further", and quoted it in a misleading context to imply that something new was occurring.

(As it happens, a number of Tories rather would like to privatise the police, and are pushing the story almost as hard as Labour are, but those people don't control the government and nothing like that is likely to happen)

105:

I tend to avoid this kind of thread when it pops up in the Graun. I'll do the same here.

106:

"Huh?"

Okay --- you're just throwing words out now. More Americans identify as atheist, non-religious, or "spiritual but not belonging to a church" over the last 30 years. That occurs despite the fact that the religious of all varieties, from fringe-cults to mainline Protestants have a relatively higher birth-rate than those who don't belong to any church at all.

That absolutely falsifies your claim as a general principle.

"Huh?" Seems some folks can't parse sentences when it doesn't fit their preconceived notions.

(And your statement about the Haredi begs the question --- you're talking about prospective birth-rates leading to demographic shifts, which begs the question about what percentage of children of Haredi [20 years from now!] will continue to be Haredi, even though a large percentage of those Haredi are themselves children of Russian seculars.)

Ya basta con esta estupidides.

107:

It turns out you are technically correct to say 400 million increase, although it is over 4 years. Even better, it continues and expands a new labour scheme which was about using CBT and suchlike to deal with early stage mental health issues.
Which is a good start, but unfortunately not the same as replacing the areas where there were previously cuts. Moreover the guardian article on it has comments from evil lefties who claim to work in mental health and are finding that their budgets are being cut.

Beside, the examples the police deal with aren't usually people who are depressed and undergoing CBT, they're more usually people with disorders who need medication, which obviously wouldn't be covered by 100 milion a year on CBT.
Then of course there are the disability living allownace changes, which would appear to be not so good.

On the USA fundies, I'd forgotten their leaving rate was pretty high. Not being my area of expertise, I'm having trouble finding decent rates, but the internet suggests it is as high as 80% of children leave the fundies.

108:

"Spiritual? - are you testing me Satan?"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yRujuE-GIY4

109:

Well, in fact, that was exactly the situation in the slave breeding industry of the antebellum south.

That is the fact of any society in which slavery is legal, whether institutionally or "merely" socially. You have no rights to your body at all.

In fact even when it isn't called slavery, that was the case for women legally most times and most places, even in the enlightened regions of the UK, Europe and the USA -- a woman, and particularly HER BODY, belonged to the man she belonged to, father, husband, guardian. Or even her employer.

This is why that change was the greatest social change ever in the history of the world. And it is so very young. That the pushback on behalf thousands of years of historical social conditioning is relentless and on every front you can, ahem, conceive, is expected. As well, it is so convenient that women don't own themselves or their bodies.

Love, C.

110:

What the CBT funding *will* do though is stop those depressed people getting worse to the point that they attempt suicide and have to be hospitalised. People can get sectioned either as a danger to others or as a danger to themselves, and every bed taken up by someone who's been sectioned as a risk to themselves is one that can't be taken by someone who's a risk to the public. And given that when I was working on a psych ward a couple of years ago we had 21 patients for 18 beds, that makes a big difference.

CBT is essentially preventative medicine, and is also cheap so a funding increase in that area (though it's not just for CBT, it includes other talking therapies) has a much bigger effect than, say, allocating the same amount of money to be spent on ECT for the worst cases.

As for people working in mental health who say their budgets are being cut, I'm sure they are. Overall funding for mental health has increased, but that doesn't mean that within mental health provision some areas won't be cut while others increase. A lot of that is down to local authority decisions, and decisions made by particular trusts, some of which will allocate the money better than others. That's not a central government thing though.

111:

*Colorado Springs - home of certain similarly named religious org. Haven't seen the sticker in years, and Focus has been quiet lately (in stealth mode? waiting for a Republican to be elected?).

FotF was a major proponent of the Cultual Wars. They at first got a lot of support from Evangelical Christians (EC). But over time many ECs realized two things. It wasn't New Testament Christianinty and it wasn't working. So support waned. To the point where their fund raising is barely letting them keep the doors open.

112:

(Oh, and I agree with you on the cuts to ESA, and have campaigned against them. Those wouldn't affect policing, though, for a variety of reasons which I won't go into here because it would drag us ever further from the original post).

113:

The issue has been stage-managed into a political landmine that the social conservatives over here are walking right into.

Wrong verb tense. And speed. Ran into and then called out for their friends to join them.

114:

[ " I will readily admit that there are plenty of problems in the US healthcare system...access to and cost of contraception isn't really one of them. " ]

Actually, it is. Ask women.

And -- it is damned expensive. The price of contraceptives has increased astronomically since I was an undergrad, particularly for methods such as birth control pills, IUDS, and so on -- all those that include the need of a doctor's visit, and maybe several.

You have to be able to get to a doctor and dispensing location. For a lot of women, at least here in the U.S., that's not easy either. There is ONE Planned Parenthood clinic in the state of North Dakota. It is in Fargo, on the eastern edge of this very large state.

Among $$$$Big Pharma$$$$, the political crazies, the oil industry (you have to drive to get anything in most places -- the cost of gas?), the religious determination that insists if I don't believe in contraceptives even if I'm a pharmacist i don't need to give YOU WHO DOES BELIEVE IN CONTRACEPTIVE US any -- it's just about impossible to get any counseling, much less see a doctor or get the method of your choice.

As well, a lot of women use various forms for medical conditions rather than for contraception.

Contraception and the issues around it are not the same for a man as they are for woman, and the consequences and effects, and the needs for it aren't even the same. Cost matters. A lot. Just like access. And there's been a two pronged war on both going on for decades.

Love, C.

115:

@69 Given the number of sources that freely distribute condoms, yes I will stand by the claim that low cost access to contraception is not really an issue. Last time I checked, condoms are still contraception even if not the preferred hormonal treatment everyone seems focused on.

The meddling of government in what was once a private insurance system is part of what I see as the problem. It has resulted in the government trying to provide coverage by manipulating the 'private' side rather than with a functional national healthcare system.

116:

The rise of Santorum to within striking distance of the GOP noimination is just a reflection of the Fundy rise in America caused by higher birth rates.

All the stats I've seen show Fundy's/Evangelicals shrinking in numbers. Quiver Full so far is not a big movement.

I think you're mistaking yelling louder for growing numbers. Santorum's rise seems more based on the dedication of a few more than a movement embraced by the masses. Especially when you look at actual turnout vs population.

117:

I no longer use birth control pills, because the pill was causing me problems. A while back we had a contraceptive accident. Off we went on a quest for the morning after pill. It took all day, and in the end I paid $100 to the drugstore pharmacist for the packet of birth control pills of which I was to take only five -- that was the version of the morning after pill available then.

Love, C.

118:

Your argument remains incredibly weak, and you come across as misogynistic and willfully ignorant of the facts the more you continue to hammer on this. If you want to make the argument that an insurance system which warps cost is deeply flawed, try not to make it from inside my or anyone else's uterus.

1) As many commentors have pointed out, birth control pills have multiple medical applications beyond contraception. Cysts, endometriosis, etc.

2) Medical birth control has a higher rate of effectiveness than condoms, even when they are used consistently and correctly. Birth is far riskier and more expensive, but you have no qualms about insurers paying for that?

3) Insurers currently cover many medications related to people's "choices". Are you suggesting that they should also be free to not cover smoking cessation or lung cancer treatment? I don't smoke. These people could have made the same choice. But, for reasons of their own free will and autonomy, they did and my premiums pay for their care. How is that different than what you're stating?

119:

You are choosing to believe everybody can use condoms, which they can't.

You are choosing to believe that everybody uses various hormonal regulators ONLY FOR CONTRACEPTION, which is not so.

You are choosing to believe that free condoms are allowed to be passed out in every community, easily and publically, which is ver far from so. Sheesh, most communities don't even teach sex education any longer in school because it belongs "to parents not schools / government." You bet that the kids in these schools can just bop down the road and pick up a packet of condoms -- absolutely not! Especially not a girl, coz, you know, then she's a slut. Rush Limbaugh just told you that.

Love, C.

120:

"The rise of Santorum to within striking distance of the GOP noimination is just a reflection of the Fundy rise in America caused by higher birth rates.

So you better get used to it."

I don't know where I saw it, but apparently Santorum has never won the catholica vote in any primary (rather than a caucus). I would suggest as well that he has a voice because he has a funder.

121:

>>>Our vocabulary for talking about the whole subject is contaminated by ancient and in some cases incorrect assumptions, not to mention the whole messy interface between I and not-I (which we don't, to this day, fully understand).

The reason we set an arbitrary line for abortion is exactly because we don't understand the difference between I and not-I. When does the fetus becomes "I"? You choose to place the line at the moment of birth, which I feel is a better place than at the moment of conception. But why?

122:

@Eric: "Given the number of sources that freely distribute condoms, yes I will stand by the claim that low cost access to contraception is not really an issue. Last time I checked, condoms are still contraception even if not the preferred hormonal treatment everyone seems focused on."

And so is abstaining. And so is coitus interruptus.

That's a silly argument. If the preferred treatment -- one that not only reduces birth rates, in conjunction with rubbers, but as well regularizes your cycle which is a significant issue for women who aren't living in the traditional "have a baby, breast-feed to starvation for 4 years, have another one" wild cycle --- isn't available not for strictly cost of production reasons but because of "economic infrastructure",

then it is simple sophistry to argue that "well, condoms are still available".

Well, a sharp stick in the eye to boys who look at girls is also available, but only fascist dumbasses (aka, Sanctorum etc) will argue that that makes contraception AS DECIDED BY THE PERSON easily accessible.

But then, I guess you've got the wisdom to be telling the girls when they should be satisfied, eh? Why do the chicks whine so much, right, when a rubber is good enough? Do you even bother to speak with women?

123:

It appears you missed some thoughts on this topic:

In a recent article in the Journal of Medical Ethics, Giubilini, Minerva(1) make a strong point for trimester independent abortion, extending to post-partem interventions, without requiring considerations regarding the fetal/infant health status.

(1) http://jme.bmj.com/content/early/2012/03/01/medethics-2011-100411.full.pdf+html

124:

I was reconsidering a longer response, as the format of short comments does tend to distort points nicely...but thank you for the predictable accusation that I am raving woman-hater. It did make my afternoon; I'll keep it on a little mental shelf next to the 'Operation Rescue' wing-nuts spitting at me :)

Either way; access may well be a problem for some locally - that bothers me, but I don't think it is a national problem. I find the idea that a pharmacist can choose not to fill a prescription he disagrees with ludicrous and something that should have been hammered out of existence on civil rights grounds years ago - but which sadly hasn't.

I stand completely behind my opinion that government should not be telling any privately paid for insurance system what it has to cover - for anyone. Want me to sign on for a national plan that requires socialized reproductive medical call for all and which is full paid for / run as a Federal program? I'm there.

Is the price of every form of medical care/drug in the US being messed about by industry manipulation, price fixing and gouging? Yep and a lot of it is because of how the gov't is presently interacting with insurance, drug cos and private providers.

125:

I won't comment on the second part of your statement - your political views about your country's government are up to you.

But while condoms are a contraceptive and a useful form of protection against some STDs there is a big problem with them: they deny women the right to work out their own birth control and (regardless of the imprecision of the definition) take control of their own body and control their own choices regarding pregnancy and the like.

In an ideal world both parties take responsibility for their choice, health and deliberately choose to make the attempt to have children together or to enjoy sex together. She can choose the pill, IUD, cap, even sterilisation. He can choose reversible or irreversible sterilisation and the condom. Between them there's a tiny chance of accidental pregnancy.

And while I'm totally pro-choice, those opposed to abortion ought to agitate for more birth control and responsibility on the part of both men and women: if there are fewer unplanned pregnancies it doesn't take a great deal to work out there will be less demand for abortion too.

(I am aware this statement assumes those opposed to abortion are capable of rational thought, believe that women should have a right to choose about whether or not to be pregnant and the like but it's hard to deny the underlying logic and neatly provides a test about the ability of the protesters to parse logic and their assumptions about women. Often a useful tool to have.)

126:

"The meddling of government in what was once a private insurance system is part of what I see as the problem. It has resulted in the government trying to provide coverage by manipulating the 'private' side rather than with a functional national healthcare system."

And that has nothing to do with the former, in any practical sense. The reality is we have a public/private system. We can argue whether a purely public system would be superior, or not --- but once the choice has been made, within that context, your argument becomes decontextualized and points towards an ulterior (and possibly unself-aware) motive.

Sure -- pure "insurance" isn't the best model for contraceptives. But it's not the best model for vaccinations, treatment of diabetes, cholesterol control, ad infinitum. But the question is, why didn't you put all those out there -- why do you have a hard-on for contraceptives, rather than childhood vaccinations?

If anything, government requirements that insurance cover childhood vaccination should be more of an issue than contraception in terms of this "model". Why is this issue getting on your high-horse? Do you go around discussion of vaccination yelling how government shouldn't intrude on the sacred insurer-insuree relationship by requiring coverage of the polio vaccine? When Salk comes up, is that your first thought? Or is this all simply a cover?

127:

"I stand completely behind my opinion that government should not be telling any privately paid for insurance system what it has to cover"

But that's not the argument here --- it's specifically about contraceptive coverage, given that we have our current system. You seem to be sitting in an active battlefield with your bayonet bloody, and complaining that someone spoke rudely to you.

It's a schizophrenic position (decontextualized from the framework), and leads people to believe that your motivation is less than transparent. Why can't you pick a more sensible issue to stake your claim that our entire health care policy is wrong? Why do you pick the most innocuous of all? It's quite self-defeating.

128:

Re: Andrew Hickey 34:
“... police aren't being privatised, it's just some backroom work will be done by other organisations, this will not affect the policeperson on the beat. This is nothing new, and is not a government privatisation attempt, it came from the police."

My key concern is that this backroom work – probably paperwork/admin – must be handled correctly by trained, reliable personnel. Without proper admin/backroom work, there can be no arrest, no trial, -- no justice.

There’s been considerable coverage in the U.S. of how some of its privatized prison system is trying to make (more) money by selling telemarketing services by using their inmates as call-center personnel. FYI -- Credit card and computer support are apparently the most popular telemarketing services currently provided. Having inmates also doing the cops’ admin job is really terminal stupidity – and unfortunately, not all that improbable.


Re: Andyet 61:

“Now sit back and watch China implode demographically and collapse economically (the same poor demographics prevented Japan from taking over the world back in the 1990s)” –

Disagree – China’s age/gender/occupation-based step-wise retirement policy is a built-in mechanism for getting older workers (starting at around age 40) out of the official economy to make room for younger workers. This mechanism can be adjusted unlike in the Western economies where the typical retirement age for all but major professions (M.D.s, lawyers, accountants, etc.), self-employeds and entrepreneurs is still ‘fixed’ at 65. (I’m not aware of any other country with this type of retirement policy – if there is, please let me know. Thanks!)

However, I do believe that China’s society will change a great deal over the next couple of decades. Just not the way you describe it. Instead, I think that China will likely leapfrog over the Western world in high-tech manufacturing processes for two reasons: 1) they waited until high-tech became sufficiently high-tech and cheap to produce; and 2) they don’t have any previous infrastructure investment that they must first milk dry.

129:

Meh. They propose to define a person as something that have aims. But "an aim" is an ill-defined term. You can argue that every living being have an aim to survive. You can argue that a computer can have aims.

And "self-awareness" is an even fuzzier concept. How can we define it when we don't know what "self" is?

In short, they have no new arguments. Indeed, most of their arguments probably originated before the Iron Age.

130:

Eric: I'm not calling you a "woman hater." I am pointing out that this is how the way you are choosing to make your argument is being perceived. If that is not your intention, you may want to rethink your rhetorical approach.

The map is not the territory, but particularly in an internet comment thread, the map is all we have to go by.

131:

Why do you assume that all trends currently in evidence must of necessity continue exactly the same? Because that's the only way your argument that population dynamics remain the same for any given population holds up. And there's a lot of evidence that that's not true for existing human societies. If you applied that logic to non-human species there wouldn't be any vertebrates, and probably no metazoans at all, since bacteria outbreed eukaryotes by orders of magnitude, and non-vertebrates (especially Arthropoda) outbreed vertebrates by orders of magnitudes as well. For example, for every hectare of land containing from 1 to 10,000 humans there can be from 100,000 to over 10,000,000 spiders.

The sort of Social Darwinism you're espousing was never an accepted part of evolutionary theory; it completely misses large parts of evolutionary and population dynamics by assuming that competition along one or a very few axes of a species' characteristics is the only driver. That's wrong; there are also various forms of cooperation and interdependence, as well as multi-dimensional competition among more than 2 species.

If you look at a graph of the Lotke-Volte predator-prey equation in its simplest case, for instance the classic example of foxes versus rabbits, you'll see that what at first sight might seem to be the most obvious asymmetrical competition in which the predator will simply exterminate the prey is no such thing. This ought to make you stop and thing about how much more complex the interactions between human societies are, and how unlikely that the results would be so straightforward. Hint: Malthus' mathmatics was entirely linear; modern population dynamics uses non-linear differential equations.

132:

Highly religious Shakers are notable for having a rather low birth rate. In general I would advise against believing the conservative evangelical propaganda claim that they are the only authentically religious people. Being the loudest doesn't make them right.

133:

I think they're a good deal more specific than that: They say that only being able to experience pleasure or pain is not sufficient to qualify for anything other than not being subject to pain.

This might get fairly complicated if you were to apply the same reasoning to your pain in the ass teenage son or daughter, who might not appear to experience anything other than lust and discomfort, and whose aims might me so indistinct as to be indiscernible, but for a baby, it is not.

They don't have aims in any meaningful sense of the word. A colony of eumycetozoa might flinch from light and heat, but they certainly don't have aims.

134:

"While the religious society with high birth rates will be culled back from time to time by Malthusian agents, the secular low birth rate society will disappear entirely over time."

Unless it accepts immigrants. Or is ineffectual at keeping out illegal immigrants.

Note that Mt. Athos, Vatican City, and Antarctica have rather higher populations than their birthrates would suggest.

135:

>>>>I think they're a good deal more specific than that: They say that only being able to experience pleasure or pain is not sufficient to qualify for anything other than not being subject to pain.

What about a mature person in a coma, that doesn't experience anything, not even pleasure/pain? OK to terminate?

>>>This might get fairly complicated

http://i3.kym-cdn.com/photos/images/original/000/210/119/+_2acc5a8841f8752904d37f90a8014829.png

>>>They don't have aims in any meaningful sense of the word.

Please define aim.

136:

Of course it was a straw man. The point was not about abortion, but why society chooses to limit personal choices and actions. It's a mistake to assume that humans are universally reasonable, and therefore restrictions on unreasonable behaviour should not exist.

I see that the "Yellow Card" has been effective; there's no abortion debate going on in this thread at all.

137:

"...if religiousness were a true-breeding gene, I'd be religious."

Depends how you define "religiousness."

Three of my grandparents joined the Church of Marx, Scientist. The fourth was a devout anarchist.

138:

"What about a mature person in a coma, that doesn't experience anything, not even pleasure/pain? OK to terminate?"

This is a no-brainer. Certainly YES. More than a decade ago Yours Truly suffered serious head trauma. One of the effects was that after I woke up a week later I felt great (thanks to the medication I was on). As far as I'm told, and I imagine I remember part of it, too, I fell asleep (or passed out or just reset) every 15-40 minutes and couldn't remember a thing about what had happened since I took the dive. Part of that seems to have come back, probably only the most recent of these episodes, but I distinctly remember being embarrassed all the time. I didn't remember what I had said, asked or done, but I remember that I could see something was wrong because everybody else did.

That must be what Alzheimer's is like. I wouldn't care to experience that again, even if there are phases of lucidity.

139:

What's so interesting about the current contraceptive kerfluffle(*) is that it actually kind of undercuts the arguably-coherent side of the Pro-Life position.

Like you say, the line we draw to decide when a fetus becomes a person is almost arbitrary. If it's conception, then the Pro-Life position is obviously correct; if it's birth, the Pro-Choice position is just as self-evidently correct. Since the choice is irresolvable, everyone picks their arbitrary position and proceeds to shout at each other from there.

Except! What the Republicans are doing now is tipping their hand and showing that for many of them, it's genuinely not about the poor widdle babies. It really is about controlling women. Fetal personhood wasn't the issue after all, it seems - that really was just a rhetorical tactic used to convince people to let them get control over women again, just like the left has been saying all along.


(*) I don't call it that to diminish the importance of contraceptives; rather, because there is basically no chance at all of any actual policy change coming from this. It's just a PR blitz to get the Christians to show up for Republican primary polling.

140:

"And "self-awareness" is an even fuzzier concept. How can we define it when we don't know what "self" is?"

Self-awareness has quite a few measurable concomitants. It's really no more fuzzier than any other scientific word. I can quite easily tell that someone in a coma isn't aware of themselves -- have no functioning self-model -- while my dog or a cow does, to a lesser extent than a 1 year old, but more than a 1 month old.

It's not easy to answer, because these are all multiple variable relationships. But tough shit, a lot of problems are like that --- they depend on judgment of complex systems, and not merely an automatic process. I think this idea that cases needed to be reducible to a simple automatic decision making process to be fair is fallacious and dangerous. The British Constitution works as well as the American Constitution, despite the fact that the latter is formally "automatic" and the former lies explicitly on the good judgement of all the players.

If Physics is Hard (NP-hard, according to a paper on arxiv), well then sociology is at least as hard, right?

141:

"Except! What the Republicans are doing now is tipping their hand and showing that for many of them, it's genuinely not about the poor widdle babies. It really is about controlling women."

I'd say it's wider -- it's not just about women. It's about "Discipline!" The shout you hear over and over again is how freedom must involve "responsibility", where that responsibility always seems to mean "painful consequences".

It's generally about a disciplined society --- a militaristic society, where everyone gets paddled regularly by those above them. Where freedom means the freedom to choose the birch with which you'll be beaten.

The language is like that over and over again -- that birth control "helps you escape the consequences of your acts". That abortion is an attempt to escape "the consequences". That the social net avoids the "consequences". The point is that there are sins, and those sins must be punished. Since the sins are inevitable (original sin, salvation by grace), life becomes a chain of sins and punishments, a continual S&M club without a safe word. Bringing hell to life, with only temporary escape in church.

142:

"Like you say, the line we draw to decide when a fetus becomes a person is almost arbitrary. If it's conception, then the Pro-Life position is obviously correct; if it's birth, the Pro-Choice position is just as self-evidently correct."

Nope. I'm pro-choice, and would be even if humanity began at ejaculation. No-one has the right to coerce anyone else to give up their own body for the use of another, even if it would save that other's life. No need to draw an arbitrary line there. It's exactly the same argument as not forcing people to donate kidneys for transplant against their will.

143:

If it has a nervous system as complex as a mouse, it has the rights of mouse. Ditto, all the way up the chain to full Human.

144:

Andrew Hickey @142: It's exactly the same argument as not forcing people to donate kidneys for transplant against their will.

What if that person is just an infant, in a coma, or dead, or gullible, or really, really need the money? That wouldn't be "forcing" right?

145:

Wasn't it Ta-Nehsi Coates who was commenting recently that the defining characteristic of the US right wing these days is cruelty?

146:

s/is/were/g

147:

I was about to respond to you on that point but I think I may be skirting dangerously close to the forbidden abortion debate. Which really wasn't my point - my point is that even if you do grant the logical coherency of the Pro-Life position if personhood starts at conception, the Republicans are showing that that's still not what this is about for them.

148:

Aren't you glad you don't live in the US. $600/yr looks about right for pharmacy retail.

Costco has a generic hormone pill that would cost ~$240/yr. (Costco is a great place for inexpensive drugs).

Depending on co-pays (if you are insured) the cost may range from $60 ($5/Rx) to possibly $360/yr ($30/Rx).

Why does this surprise you? You were in the pharmacy business and have visited the US enough to know the high cost of drugs here.

149:

That's my take on it.

The current Republican primary race is fascinating because the mask has slipped -- far enough to reveal that the contenders believe the base are obsessed with control: control over women, control over uppity dark-skinned people ("immigrants"), and so on. Not to mention being full of hate for anyone who isn't just like them.

150:

I wasn't particularly interested in politics until a couple of years ago.

I voted and read newspapers but thats about it.

The right wing lurch, class warfare and kleptocracy that has risen up recently has very quickly politicised me.

The fundamentalism in the US, ideological austerity in Europe and class warfare in the UK has become so obvious that I can no longer sit idle. These things (the IMF and World Bank for example) have been happening for decades but it looks supercharged since 2009.

I will now join in demonstrations, write letters, sign petitions, participate in sit ins and so on. The more I read about economics, foreign politics, political funding and lobbying, media ownership etc the more obvious that we are entering a corporate dystopia. I feel if the Occupy/99er movement loses that we will enter a surveillance, plutocracy.

I am a UK citizen and understand the US is far worse (creationism, right to life, media ownership, TARP etc) but things look bad here too.

151:

Genes are distinct, rigorously definable abstractions that reflect a concrete structure.

Really? You might want to reconsider that statement in the light on current thinking about genes.

152:

And the one guy who isn't really that big on controlling other people gets criticized for being too rich and not conservative enough...

153:

"Wasn't it Ta-Nehsi Coates who was commenting recently that the defining characteristic of the US right wing these days is cruelty?"

I hadn't read that -- but I had just been commenting that to some cohorts last week. There's a hatred in the air that to a yung'un like me smells like the emotional value of fascism. So, independent corroboration by an American who's worried about my neighborhood.

It's a very intense minority with no real ideology, other than self-interest and other-hatred (distinguishable?) They want more government funding for them ("they've earned it") while fuming about the "entitlements" of younger people, browner people, people who speak less English. It's astonishing to me --- you always wonder how "that happened" in country X or Y or Z.

154:

"Really? You might want to reconsider that statement in the light on current thinking about genes."

Really, relatively speaking.

There's a lot of research on non-coding genetic material -- but those aren't genes. You can pretty clearly distinguish between formal genes, that have clear promoters, start codons, splice sequences, and stop codons, and the entire panoply of mRNA's, ncRNAs, siRNAs... but those aren't "genes" and we haven't yet figured out their grammar (and in fact, most people who are working on it are experimentalists who aren't used to thinking in terms of the grammatical structures of systems).

Genes are quite formal and concrete -- which is the basis of the entire genomic project until ENCODE found that there's a lot of state information that are controlled by genetic sequences that aren't genes proper.

155:

I find it odd that the case against abortion and contraception is based on the sanctity of human life, when a simple look at human history will show that very few things are less sacred. Human life is thrown away every day, all over the world.

156:

I am continually amazed at how many right-wingers persist in believing that Steven Colbert is one of their own.

157:

Wasn't it Ta-Nehsi Coates who was commenting recently that the defining characteristic of the US right wing these days is cruelty?

I don't think it's a defining characteristic. I think it's corollary to their tribalism. They're not that cruel to one another, but when their cruelty is directed against an outsider, it's just another expression of loyalty to the group.

158:

Ah yes, the sanctity of human life is clearly a less than compelling argument against ... anything.

(Hm, seem to have misplaced that sarcasm tag ... again)

159:

If so, I think he/she was right. They appear to wallow in it, like they enjoy the very taste of cruelty. They seem to be enjoying the freedom to be cruel, to show their true selves, and not have to hide.

160:

They have more in common with the Taliban than with people like us

161:

Sorry it's off-topic, but what current thinking on genes? Last time I looked there's a clear understanding of genes, and the processes to convert strings of DNA to protein - which is the main function of a gene.

There's not a clear understanding in any sense of all the parts of the chromosomes, but that's a different kettle fish in I think every eukaryote. Even prokaryotes have small non-coding regions. What they do, why they're there, that's all up for grabs.

162:

"I don't think it's a defining characteristic."

Have ya been to Missouri? Have you worked with fundamentalist who home-school?

"Discipline" pervades their lives. They may not call it sadism, but this paramilitaristic lines of discipline sure seem to me like sadism.

163:

The meddling of government in what was once a private insurance system is part of what I see as the problem.

Even beyond the "ok, but why birth control?" objection to this rather suspect line of argument, it still doesn't make sense. I mean, any nominally 'private' insurance system, any even marginally sane one anyway, is going to be a de-facto public/private one.

Because, to protect consumers, the state is almost certainly going to need to "meddle" in order to establish basic things like standards of minimum coverage.

Which is exactly what we're talking about. Minimum standards of coverage.

(And yeah, as a US citizen and resident, I'll be the first to say that a more complete public solution would be preferable. But I hardly think you get from here to there by rolling back what limited consumer protections do exist in the quasi-private one. It's hard to imagine how one can class those as "part of the problem".)

164:

All those RNAs interact with stuff in the cell (other RNAs, mostly) so you could say they are genes all right, they just don't bother going all the way to protein. And then there is stuff like rRNA, which is a structural part of the ribosome.

165:

Despite what Andrew Drucker says, street patrols are up for grabs.

Interesting...

I've tweeted a few mischievous thoughts about how it might be possible to implement a market in which stop-and-searching young black men repeatedly might *just* be a profitable business.

But the ugly truth is that policing is fundamentally unprofitable without a functioning National Health Service.

Forget about getting a commercial insurer to provide coverage for a high-risk occupation like policing. Especially if your workforce isn't *very* highly-trained, and sufficiently well-equipped and well-coordinated to operate as safely our existing metropolitan constabulary.

Policing can be made transiently-profitable by leaving injured low-wage goons exposed and uninsured and dying in the gutter.

But there are hidden costs in having a workforce composed of men so desperate for money that they'll take on a job with significant physical and mental risk, and no health insurance coverage.

It works, for now, for Chinese electronics factories.

But I note that the Peoples Liberation Army has pretty good healthcare; a wise precaution for a ruling class who must rely upon their army's loyalty when it's time to put down any rebellious urges among the wage-slaves.

166:

It's also important to really shine a spotlight on this idea that sex is somehow not a normal part of a healthy life.

At least, not normal for women.

The idea apparently is that not having sex is the default state (for women), so actually getting health care coverage related to sex and sexual health is some kind of dirty, sinful extravagance.

Which is bizarre on its face.

N.B.: Amanda Marcotte had a pretty good post last week about how leading with the "but some women need these pills for [non-contraception health need]" implicitly concedes the other side's "sex is abnormal" message. It's true of course. And a tempting argument (as a few folks here have illustrated), as it makes the fundy efforts to defund this coverage all the more vile. But, strategically, it's letting the other side frame the message.

Better to bring the conversation back to highlight those anti-sex, anti-women foundations. Let those 'principles' stand up on their own if they can.

167:

"All those RNAs interact with stuff in the cell (other RNAs, mostly) so you could say they are genes all right, they just don't bother going all the way to protein."

You could say it --- but most biologists don't say it, because then it would destroy the usefulness of the strict concept of a gene being transcribed and then translated.

The interesting thing is that those RNAs don't just interact with other RNAs --- the current work shows that many of them primarily act to store state data for the DNA, often for the DNA transcribed on the opposite strand. That gives you a completely parallel full-Turing computer --- in fact, the best way to track cell lineages is by tracking "RNA state".

168:

In reference to the original posting - I think it's noticeable that we are continually fighting 'idiot' fires. Each and every one, be it religious zealots trying to impose their psychosis on others, or big media trying to make society prop up their business models via 1984 methods, takes effort and time to put down - only to pop up again 3 months later.

In the 1940-50s we had the idea of universal human rights - things so self evident that every human has a right to expect. Only political chancers and business usurpers have done just that - it didn't have teeth.

What we need is an update; a codification of the expectations that everyone has a right to expect, and in particular where the limits of power are defined. Its no good to say 'everyone has the right to freedom of religion' if you don't also say 'you have no right to impose anything arising from your religion on others'. We also need to give it teeth. Transgression needs to be stamped on hard - I'd suggest by removing the privileges of civilised society from the perpetrators.

The upshot is that we are not continually fighting individual fires and continually being pushed back - but instead determining if the individual/group/company/country has crossed a line, and then chopping their legs off.

In short a standard, a line in the sand, and then consequences for crossing it that mean they never do it again.

169:

It's long past time that we place the correct label on the US Conference of Bishops(RC), Rick Santorum and all the rest of christianist right. They are the Christian equivalent of the Taliban. Opus Dei would be a good christianist equivalent.

Andyet and Anura on Darwinian application to international relations: First, Social Darwinism was discredited over a century ago. Moreover, a reverse Second Law of Thermodynamics seems to apply here. To wit, migration tends to take people from less organized states to better organized states. And, it's reasonable to infer that nations which have high birthrates tend to be less organized.

Immigration - even though the natives often disparage it - has kept the USA in positive population growth. That is why lower population growth (assuming you mean population growth of the native born) does not necessarily lead to national decline.

Eric at various points: the constant equation of personal rights and liberties with economic rights is spurious. Libertarianism is as bankrupt an ideology as virtually all other "isms". To paraphrase von Moltke "No ideology survives contact with human nature."

Damn you Charlie Stross, you inevitably consume my time with your needlessly thought provoking posts. Can't you just comment on the dreariness of Scottish weather or even, that of my home Portland Oregon's weather? Must you persist in saying things which titillate the imaginations of your readers?

By the way Mr. Stross, thanks for the "Evil Vicar" piece.

170:

"First, Social Darwinism was discredited over a century ago."

You'd a thunk. Except you'll get vulgar sociobiology rearing it's ugly head by folks who first over-simplify ants, then over-over-simplify humans.

Hell, look at the entire field of "evolutionary psychology", 90% of which is thinly veiled social darwinism by positing completely under-determined hypotheses that beg whatever question they desire. Exceptions exist --- but there's always a way to smuggle the same old trash in new bags, and the declare that your opponents are ideologues (classic projection).

Some things are strictly indeterminate. When folks go ahead anyhow and take conclusions --- well, they're either crazy or advancing a political agenda dishonestly, using the cover of "scientifery" to rationalize their desires. You'll never kill Social Darwinism.

171:

In the 1940-50s we had the idea of universal human rights - things so self evident that every human has a right to expect. Only political chancers and business usurpers have done just that - it didn't have teeth.

It was also no where near universally agreed on by a majority of the world. Or even North America and Europe. At least not once you got down to the detail levels.

172:

Exactly. The whole "right to life" thing for a start where the USA took it to mean "right to life except for those who in our opinion deserve being killed".

173:

"Both the Tea Party and the Occupy movement are responses to the problem, and I don't think either one's going to go away just yet."

The Tea Party popped up just as the GOP needed a false front group to cover their failures, and has been acting primarily as that. Note that the alleged outrage over bailouts hasn't led to any action over reining in Wall St; AFAIK the Tea Party has been the 1%'s friend.

174:

Well that line in the sand was well crossed by the USA with widespread torture and maltreatment of detainees, lack of trials etc etc. So it's a bit late.
and I've seen a disturbing number of people online saying "pah, geneva convention, who needs it, load of old rubbish."
Such people appear to have no historical knowledge, or are completely convinced that in any war they won't have to fight or be in any danger.

175:

A few wee factual corrections for this bloke's screed:

1) A zygote which is not conceived because a woman is taking a hormonal contraceptive is not "losing its life". A life which exists purely "in potentia", reliant on the possibility of spermatozoa being introduced to ovum doesn't count as a life lost.

Contrariwise, if this bloke's argument is correct, multiple thousand "lives" are being lost each time sex occurs (with or without a pregnancy as an outcome), during each episode of masturbation, and as a result of nocturnal emissions. How does the author propose to deal with this massive wastage?

2) One doesn't have to be on hormonal contraceptives to avoid having children. I'm child-free and female, mainly because my partner and I both decided we didn't want children. One of the side effects of hormonal contraceptives for me is they kill my libido stone dead (as do SSRI-style anti-depressants), and one of the weird things about my partner is he doesn't attempt to force me to have sex when I'm not interested in it. (Funny, that!)

3) Doctors are free to refuse to prescribe contraceptives. Patients are free to choose their doctors. However, I doubt the number of doctors who are refusing to prescribe contraceptives is actually a "multitude". Let's phrase it more as "a minority" - because I strongly suspect the majority of medical practitioners even in the USA tend to be moderate people who believe that their religious faith is something which is between themselves and their deity (see the gospel of Matthew, chapter 6, verses 1 - 18 for the word of Christ on the matter) and not something they're going to force on their patients.

4) I refer the writer to the works of Messrs. Chapman, Cleese, Gilliam, Idle, Jones, and Palin; in particular the film "The Meaning of Life" and the song "Every Sperm Is Sacred". If he truly believes all ova deserve the chance at zygote-dom, then surely all spermatozoa deserve an equivalent chance.

(I'm strongly in favour of this song receiving wide coverage throughout the USA - particularly outside abortion clinics in opposition to protest groups, in the public galleries of legislative assemblies debating foetal "personhood", and at any other place where the rights of the female gamete are being championed to excess[1]).

[1] Where "to excess" means that the fertilised ovum is assumed to have a greater list of rights than the female human.

176:

"Amazing. It's almost as if people are free to join and leave those groups. As if Seinfeld, which has no direct breeding ability, can out-propagate conservative catholics who have 8 children a family.

This is an earth-shattering new discovery, I believe."

'Meme' is one of those terms which is a negative indicator of intellectual content.

177:

"But then, I guess you've got the wisdom to be telling the girls when they should be satisfied, eh? Why do the chicks whine so much, right, when a rubber is good enough? Do you even bother to speak with women?"

At this point in the (general) public conversation about contraception, this is a good thing to ask men - I'm a guy, and I'm sick and tired of the f*cking ignoramuses who spout off, despite knowing less than I do (and I'm rather ignorant).

178:

"I stand completely behind my opinion that government should not be telling any privately paid for insurance system what it has to cover - for anyone. Want me to sign on for a national plan that requires socialized reproductive medical call for all and which is full paid for / run as a Federal program? I'm there. "


Eric, this was not an option. Did you follow the debate in 2010?

179:

"These things (the IMF and World Bank for example) have been happening for decades but it looks supercharged since 2009. "

I've heard it stated that what we are seeing now is simply the neoliberal agenda being applied to Us, rather than Them.

180:

Anura- I have found your comments to be insightful and spot on, and although I agree that perhaps the scientific merits of memes compared to genes may be lacking, I think it a bit strong to say they don't exist altogether. Perhaps they are merely a metaphor, or lack a solid definition testable in reality, but I would suggest the definition of a gene in science may also be a bit fuzzy in reality, considering all the ways they interact, and relate with each other, in the same ways definitions of a species or even an individual are not always so concrete in reality. For example, a good chunk of cells in my body don't have my genes(gut flora and fauna) I most certainly wouldn't survive or be me without them.
I'm not trying to get get prickly with semantics, merely trying to point out that many of our definitions are models that help us understand reality and its it processes, not the actual thing.

181:

Loved that comment

182:

Personally I more or less agree with Charlie on my preferred abortion policy.

However, I don't think I have a right to demand that those who disagree just shut up and accept how wrong and personally bad they are, which some people here seem to think.

(Not Charlie, and mind you, he has a perfect right to impose whatever limitations he likes -in his blog-. It's his, after all.)

Freedom of speech (and political organization and action) applies equally to idiots and creeps. And if the Sovereign People, in their infinite wisdom, decide to listen to them and implement idiotic, creepy policies, that's their right.

It's important to remember that there is no truth in politics, only opinions, because politics is essentially a struggle over value judgements.

Value judgments are inherently arbitrary; they're feelings, sentiments, not a testable hypothesis. You can use reason to argue -from- a fundamental moral assumption, but you cannot reason -to- a fundamental moral assumption, because there is no connection between "is" and "ought".(*)

They're just subjective opinions, preferences like a taste for shepherd's pie or a dislike of carrots.

To be blunt, opinions are like arseholes. Everyone's got one, and few bear close examination. So nobody is in possession of the Truth and the Way; we're all just opinionated arseholes.

(*) for example, the ubiquitous utilitarians accept Bentham's equation of "pleasure" and "pain" as equivalent to "good" and "evil". I consider it pernicious nonsense. To each their own.

183:

Have ya been to Missouri? Have you worked with fundamentalist who home-school?

I live in Alabama and was raised in a fundamentalist church, and I still think cruelty is a side effect. Yes the American right wing is cruel, but cruelty is a symptom of their condition, not the cause. The cause is that they feel no kinship toward most of humanity.

You won't make much progress in reducing their cruelty until you get them to view life from the perspective of people who aren't just like them. Social conservatives are, for the most part, people who have never had to deal with a variety of strangers. That's one reason why social conservatism is not an urban phenomenon.

184:

On outsourcing official functions:

Even after uniformed standing armies became common in the Western world, it was rare for all their support functions to be done by "soldiers", that is to say, regular uniformed State functionaries.

Until well into the 19th century, most of that was done by sutlers (private contractors) and "camp followers".

Having all functions "in-sourced" was essentially a product of the mass conscript armies of the period between the Napoleonic Wars and the Cold War.

These made military labor very cheap; conscripts were available in immense numbers, had to be kept busy, and were paid virtually nothing but their keep. The advantages of having them do everything from repairing torn uniforms to peeling potatoes therefore far outweighed the drawbacks.

However, mass conscript armies have largely gone the way of the dodo -- even China has phased out military conscription in practice, if not in theory.

In most Western countries, soldiers are now relatively scarce goods, and expensive.

It therefore no longer makes sense to have them doing KP or other routine stuff. They're elaborately trained and equipped violence specialists, and it's more cost-effective to farm out the cooking, cleaning and other housekeeping chores.

That has the added advantage that the contractors providing the services can be dismissed at the end of a campaign, thus enabling the government in question to focus on the resource (trained soldiers) which is hardest to improvise when you're putting together an expeditionary force.

The actual soldiers are a capital investment; the support personel are a variable operating cost.

It's hard to see, though, how this could be applied on the same scale to police functions.

185:

I've tweeted a few mischievous thoughts about how it might be possible to implement a market in which stop-and-searching young black men repeatedly might *just* be a profitable business.

That is simple enough. You just need a law mandating that they be charged for information retrieval services. Simple, robust and the only way to protect our society against the Terrorists.

186:

Look, all this birth control mess is something to get people out a vote Republican. People who would not have bothered. And it seems to be killing the right wing. I think Obama judoed them. Worry about other things that are real.

187:

Rick, the term "American Taliban" has been floating around some circles for many years now. I believe I first saw it during GWB's 2nd term, and I know Tom Tomorrow connected those dots in at least one comic during GWB's first term.

188:

I'm not sure that works out. There are all sorts of ways in which having those support roles militarised makes sense in modern war. It provides a certain resilience in units, a trained reserve to replace casualties which is immediately available. And in modern wars, with no clear front line, can you hire and retain civilian truckers when supply convoys still need armed escorts?

It isn't just the mass conscript armies which forced the development of a militarised logistics system to keep an army in the field.

Also, hiring civilians has some legal issues, involving the Geneva Conventions. There's no argument that a soldier of the Royal Logistic Corps is a soldier, in uniform and under military discipline. What about that Civilian Trucker--the way the USA has used the term "Unlawful Enemy Combatant" is going to bite back.

Finally, the soldiers in the field know they depend on the logistics system. If those people in the convoys and depots aren't soldiers, if they're not "people like us", what is that going to do to the morale of the front line military force?

War isn't a corporate activity, working according to the lessons of a Harvard MBA course. It's not about delivering physical product at low cost, but about throwing away physical product. It's about destruction, not efficient creation., and yet that destruction is almost an incidental. The will to fight, soldiers and politicians, is the key to winning wars.

189:

Having control over one's own body doesn't make one a woman. It makes one a free human being. And that's clearly what bothers the people who rage so strongly against that freedom: the notion that women are human beings complete with the will, intellect, and self-respect to make the decisions that work best for them.

But the choice to continue a pregnancy isn't just about whether one has room for a child in one's life, or whether there's enough money, or the right partner. It's about mortality. For every 100,000 live births in the US, 16.7 women die. And the global number of childbirth-related deaths among mothers was 343,000 in 2008. Women still die in childbirth. Even when they're in hospital, even when there's a doctor to help.

So when certain people say that women should have no choice in whether or not they should remain pregnant, or even whether or not they should maintain the right to prevent pregnancy, what they are really saying is that women should have no control over something that might well kill them.

190:

Generally, the equivalence between memes and genes is certainly false, But, in the context of Dawkins' book, The Selfish Gene, they clearly share the characteristic that the survival of the entity is not closely linked to the survival, or breeding success, of the individual carrier. At best, reading that book and knowing what has come after, the meme is an analogy.

So the success of the religious meme-set ebbs and flows without much connection with the survival of the individuals who carry it. It's a good example because it can be well-defined, and because many variations include the explicit idea of conversion. Some include rules on celibacy which even prevent a class of carriers from passing on genes: clearly, memes are not genes.

Part of the problem with "meme" is that most of the people who use it have never read the original source. It has become a shorthand for a vague feeling of an idea or concept, as a class of things. It's a label, more than it is any sort of clear scientific concept. And, maybe pushing the "selfish gene" analogy too far, the survival of a meme doesn't depend on whether it has any reality. So "meme" is very much a meme, with all that implies.

And a part of the problem is the way people still invoke the discredited and barbaric ideas of Social Darwinism, both to genes (whatever they think they are) and to memes.

Go back to Dawkins. Genes don't have to benefit every carrier to survive and thrive. Memes don't have to benefit all the people who believe in them. And "Survival of the Fittest" doesn't care about individuals.

191:

Thanks Stuart, I couldn't agree more.

This is also one reason why I find the concept of faith schools worrying. I think that we should be trying to make the "in group" of our children as inclusive and diverse as possible.

192:

There's also the provocatively-named "rape culture" element, supported by statistics of high numbers of sexual assaults.

It's provocative because a great many people have an image of rape as a violent attack by a stranger, and of course they don't do that.

It's also controversial because "sexual assault" can include a great deal more than sexual intercourse.

So both sides can accuse the other of messing with the figures.

Anyway, whatever you class it as, a loose analogy is that there is a lot more that robbery with violence, and the fraud and con games are supported by the same culture that wants to take away other sorts of control by women: no contraception and no right to say no.

I glimpsed something in a British newspaper yesterday, a headline which suggests we're not much better than the USA. Yet I also hear American-born friends saying they feel safer here.

I'll just say that we guys can still do better.

193:

Not sure you've got the reasons for logistics becoming part of the services right, at least in the UK. The Royal Navy (sail warships) and Royal Naval Reserve sail the supply ships. They are unarmed and not expected to engage in combat. They often sail through combat zones unchallenged too.

For the Army, the UK Government didn't want to give all the power to the Army so had a separate logistics organisation. That organisation really screwed up supplies during the Crimean War, delivering them to docks and not to the soldiers, delivering stuff that the soldiers couldn't use even if they could get to it. The government changed its mind and the Army started commissioning and delivering its own supplies.

My military history is pretty poor, especially for countries outside the UK, but there was a fascinating series about it recently.

194:

Late to this discussion ( Head inside railway operations yesterday ... )

Charlie:
Dystopia?
Try THIS piece where comment is made on BTP now being armed at major railway stations - all part of the vile olympics security theatre.
It's true - I've already seen one, at St Pancras ....
SHUDDER.

guthrie @ 1 & Charlie @ 2
Erm .. "non-partisan"
LIARS
But then, they are religious believers.

Eloise @ 9
No problem
Oops - Problem - the religious want SPECIAL PRIVELGES - because they are religious.
Or had you not noticed that little problem?

Rotwan @ 23
NO
Be very afraid.
Anyone else here seen the OPERA of The Handmaid's Tale ??
Deeply scary - frightening, actually.
I needed several drinks afterwards.

DJPo'K @ 30
Not just BME's either!
Anyone else see the YouTube of a pink, early-middle-aged women being beaten in a country Cop-shop last year?
Not a good one.

Andrew Hickey @ 34
these days the Guardian is getting as bad as the Mail or the Telegraph at creating a hysterical headline which isn't backed up even slightly ...

You mean you only just noticed?
Criticising a certain religion will get you branded "racist" without any examination of the evidence in that paper.
Talking of which said believers (who also regard women as breeding-fodder, and "inferior to men, and subject to their orders") are trying entryism on the Lem-o-Crats, in my part of London, at least.

guthrie @ 37
See faith schools for example.
Let's not, please?

@ 52/3
AND ... the society that limits its' population is much more likely to have better weaponry, and be better aboe to defend itself against the religous nut-jobs. - UPDATE
I see several others have spotted that one - thanks.

Alex Tolly @ 70
BUT here, you can ( & I have ) challenged private "security" jobsworths ...
"Where is your authority? You are not a Police / Customs / authorised miltary person - you cannot touch me - to do so is assault and I do not recognise your presence"
Works, too - but make sure you are not in a hurry, if you want to play that game .....

anura@ 80
Anyone else heard about the living descendants of "Cheddar Man" (#7150 BC) - living just down the road, in Cheddar village, right NOW ....

Eloise @ 85
WRONG
New Zealand geve women the vote in 1893 ....
Check Wikipedia article - fascinating stuff.
Did you realise, that, theoretically women (who were 40/- property owners, and unmarried or widowed) could vote UNTIL 1832 (the so-called "Great Reform Act")

andyet @ 87
And will get them all exterminated if they are not very careful!

anura @ 99
Profoundly disagree
"meme" is a shorthand, yes, but it really does seem to work.
look at the inversion, self-absorbtion and refusal to look at real eveidence as displayed by any profoundly religious group. My own recent example of this was the "occupy" tossers outside St Pauls' - reason, argument, rationality - what are they?
Lets just spout our religious phrases ......

Eric@ 115
Very unfortunately, you are correct.
But, IIRC Obama was PREVENTED from introducing a single-payer national healthcare system, as used elesewhere (lots of elsewheres) because, you know, it was COMMONIST (!)

Eric @ 124
I find the idea that a pharmacist can choose not to fill a prescription he disagrees with ludicrous and something that should have been hammered out of existence on civil rights grounds years ago - but which sadly hasn't.
Well, here in London, there is a really excellent healthcare centre, NHS-funded - we would like to join it (our GP is nearing retirement) BUT
IT DOES NOT DO ANY CONTRACEPTION - even for married couples.
Why - RC church, that's why.
That is the depth of the problem here, never mind the USSA.
Sorry, but you are seriously mis-informed on this subject.
You need to speak to Charlie's wife &/or mine on this one - it's be a real education. (!)

anura@ 141
That is almost a poster-description of fascism, isn't it?
And other people have noticed as well.
Why don't the US-right notice, or do they actually want it? Or are they too stupid?
I'm really baffled that peole can fall for this, only 70 years after the last go-around.
& Charlie @ 145 - spot on - not nice at all.
& others et seq.... I don't think Hick Sanatorium will win this time (today's vote is important (?)) but 2016 is the one to watch - Heinlein might have been only one term out in his prediction.

Rotwang @ 155
Yes. "Right to life/life is sacred" - except OTHER people's of course.
Ad provided it is done in the name of [insert name of appropriate "holy cause" here].

Dirk @ 160
Yes, they are both/all profound religious believers.

@ 170/171
First, Social Darwinism was discredited over a century ago
YES BUT
The christians, especially continue to raise it, and wave it - as a way of claiming that "evilution" = Nazism and other malicious deliberate lies.
There are really nasty pieces of work doing that in this country, too!

195:

Try THIS piece where comment is made on BTP now being armed at major railway stations - all part of the vile school sports day> security theatre.
It's true - I've already seen one, at St Pancras ....

Correction inline, bold. ;-)
[meantime, back at the point]
Monday there I was at Glasgow Airport waiting for a plane. I was passed by 2 police armed with sub-machine guns. I was saddened rather than scared or re-assured. Of course, I was in the place where the local Police took a failed suicide bomber into protective custody, to protect him from angry locals!

196:

um, I think everyone wants special privileges. Religious types are just naively open about why.

But just because they want them, and say they want them, doesn't mean I, or anyone else, has to give it to them. I'll listen and consider. As I've said before in a different set of comments, I have some time for the bishops in the House of Lords. They regard it as part of their duty to speak up for those in need - and since that's been me I whole-heartedly approve. Even as I think the Archbishop of York is miles out of line about same-sex marriages.

197:

Spot on wrt. Dawkins on memes.

The trouble with his original definition (circa the late 1970s) is that it's only about as well defined as the extremely fuzzy definition of "gene" that was in use in the 19th century. Our knowledge that DNA was involved in gene transfer only dates to the 1930s (and its structure has only been known since the late 1940s); before that, our understanding of genetics was pretty vague. Moreover, while Gregor Mendel did a lot to formalize genetics, his work was only really recognized in the 20th century (it was mostly misunderstood, ignored, or mis-characterised as experiments in plant hybridization at the time of publication). So, although the existence of some sort of hereditary mechanism was understood even before Charles Darwin, the precise mechanism was indeed about as well understood as Dawkins' memes are today.

Upshot: memes, per Dawkins, are a very approximate placeholder for something we don't actually understand. Dawkins himself clearly understood this when he described the concept in "The Selfish Gene" (and the rather more technical "The Extended Phenotype"). But too damn many people have either heard of memes at second hand, or have no deep grip on the principles of genetics and evolution on which to base their understanding of the metaphor, and so get [the meme of] memes horribly wrong.

198:

Greg, your first URL in that comment points back to this discussion!

199:

AIUI the weapons carried by Transport Police in British airports are HK-5s, but they're not SMGs -- the receiver is set for single-round or three-round burst fire only.

They also carry Glock-17 pistols.

The reason for the HK-5s is that they can be aimed much more precisely than the pistol -- important in the event the cops have to shoot across an airport concourse full of by-standers -- they but fire pistol calibre ammunition that doesn't have the penetrating power of a rifle round (again: important for reducing the risk of death or injury to by-standers). Actual full-auto fire is notoriously inaccurate, so they don't have that capability. Extra bonus: big black scary guns with lots of bolt-on bits are something the public have been trained to be afraid of, so they add to the cops' intimidation aura.

I think (I may be wrong here) that there's generally only a single two man patrol around each terminal at any time when there isn't a specific alert out. The other cops are 'unarmed' (for values of: batons, pepper spray, radios, anti-stab vests, and quite possibly tasers these days).

Now, if you really want to see British cops to be afraid of, you need to either visit bandit country in Norn Iron or go hiking around a nuclear reactor site. But those are special places ...

200:

Charlie
Ooops!
Let' try a direct link, and see if the filter will take it ...
http://www.christianwolmar.co.uk/2012/03/armed-cops-mistake/

201:

If only the Police were privatised maybe they'd be actually arsed and solve some crimes.

Speaking from family experience the whole justice system is crap.

1 friend was being was attacked by her then boyfriend and then stalked. After having threatening phone calls, interviews were done and nothing happened. By moving and changing job and he slightly coming to his senses ti fizzled away, but we did get a visit 7 months later telling us he was arrested for harassment. Nothing happened there.

When my niece was sixteen she was riding the bus home with her friend from the cinema, at this point they were the only two left on the bus. The bus then came to a stop between villages. After a while she went down stairs to find out what was going on and the driver was masturbating while looking at them through the mirror to the upper deck. Long story short he ended pleading guilty to keeping someone detained against there will and the judge let him off with a warning, since 'he had family' as the judge explained to my outraged sister. As far as we are aware he is still driving buses.

The worst was when my poor niece was a student in London an one Sunday morning when she was home invade tied up and had guns shoved in their mouths while their flat was ransacked, screaming about where is the money. Turns out their landlord used to collect rent in person, an that soon led to a suspect where the landlord had illegally evicted someone for non payment. So lots of suspects, but it was one cock up after another and they got away with it.

So when I read that 50% of policemen never go on patrol (even in a car), that only 10% of their week is spent on patrol. That time when most policemen are on duty turns out to be Monday mornings, it does not surprise me at all.

Frankly they need a good kick up the backside, they run the service for their own convenience.

Take one example. A recent study showed that over the last 15 years the number of people willing to intervene if they see someone else in trouble has collapsed. How often have we seen the police advising people not to get involved to stay away and not confront wrong doers. If a member of the public stops a robbery or a beating, the police are nearly always there critising them. The perception now is that police will often treat a good samaritan as a criminal. While there are few prosecutions (it look bad) there is always a formal investigation, even arrests and the public gets the very clear message that you should not get on the polices turf.

The problem is of course that the Police can't be everywhere, if a community can't self police itself at the low level, then it soon gets out of control.

I'll stop now otherwise I could go on about the ferals and their 'I know my rights' etc.

202:

I've seen our local (Bedford) police carrying a Steyr. Which seemed to me to be rather irresponsible

203:

All I could really tell short of doing "can I look at your big gun mister?" (which seemed like a very bad idea somehow) was stock design, overall length, and a fairly big box mag.

204:

The privatization of the military has been quietly happening on a massive scale. In every theatre of warfare, when you hear the word "civilian contractor" think "mercenary" and you will be right 99% of the time.

205:

While we're at it, over the weekend I heard on the news that some RC priest in Scotland was complaining about gay marriage.
Assuming that he's not being forced into an arranged marriage with another man, could someone please explain why the fuck his opinion is worth anything?

206:

Government should get out of the marriage business completely, including taxation-wise. Leave it up to assorted religious nuts and contract law.

207:

phuzz @ 206
But, you obviously don't understsnd, he's - a priest.
His views MUST be "respected" and you mustn't disagree loudly ("secularist militant" you know) and you must give him and all his fellow-deludeds in [insert name of appropriate BigSkyFairy here] as much time and space as possible to express their deeply held religious convictions.
Ahem.

208:

To be fair, the Church is ignored whenever their views conflict with those of our masters. I have not heard Gingrich or Santorum vowing to fight against the death penalty or "intense interrogation practices." A large number of churches are "progressive," but they are always presented as a fringe by the media, even though they are anything but.

In other words, everyone falls for the hype in a different way.

209:

The system seems to be working well enough that we have full prisons, despite massively increasing the numbers in jail over the last 30 years.
The issues seem to be that we have more people doing criminal activity and no way of stopping them re-offending.

210:

Why is your opinion that he shouldn't be heard worth anything?

Hearing the voices that oppose your views is usually worth doing. And trust me, I listened to his opinion and thought "So what?" - he hasn't changed my views on same-sex partnerships at all. But I'd rather he has the right to express his views and have them reported than that he doesn't.

Dismissing him as a crank and a nut-job ought to be done after hearing him out. Once he's got a track record of it, maybe you stop and reconsider.

I will, similarly, listen to those that are reasonably skeptical about climate change. While I'm convinced it's real and we need to do things to prevent or reduce it as much as possible, there could be something that's been overlooked. A rational, skeptical voice is more likely to point that out than anyone else. The apologists sponsored by people who think their precious income sources might dry up if they can't sell petrol, coal and the like I don't listen to any longer. They've sold their credibility in my judgement. But I don't hear them speak I can't make that judgement.

But perhaps most people prefer living in a bubble where opposing voices are never heard and they trust other people's judgement entirely to filter out news and views that might challenge their own beliefs. I know, lets call those who sit in judgement the inquisition and those who speak for things I don't believe in heretics. It works so well.

211:

I we imprisoned people to the same degree we did in the 1950s our prisons would contain 3x as many as they do now. However, that is largely due to crime being 20x higher.

212:

Quite so. And real squaddies hate mercs - what does that tell us?

213:

Why is someone who's job depends on toeing the party line that AGW is real more worth listening to than someone who works for a fuel company? Other than because the first guy's opinion agrees with yours of course.

I accept that climate change is happening. I have yet to see anyone produce evidence that this is actually due to human activity rather than the end of the "Little Ice Age". Where are the vineyards in Yorkshire and the arable farms in Greenland? These were real things from the Medievil Warm Period which happened before the LIA.

214:

Where are the vineyards in Yorkshire and the arable farms in Greenland?

Can't speak for Greenland -- I don't have any Danish so can't follow the relevant media -- but you can find plenty of vineyards in Yorkshire these days; start here. Meanwhile a lot of French vineyards are suffering from heat stresss ...

215:

While the religious society with high birth rates will be culled back from time to time by Malthusian agents, the secular low birth rate society will disappear entirely over time.

What happens in real world is, better educated and more imaginative members of Society A emigrate into Society B and internalize its values.

That happens within countries as well as between countries. In US, the more religious people are the more children they have, yet with every generation proportion of atheists and non-observants increases. This seeming paradox is due to better educated, more imaginative childen dropping their parents' ideology (and sometimes literally emigrating to coasts). In a very real sense your Society A is replacement pool for Society B.

In post #62 Charlie wrote "You're making the other fundamental mistakes, as Anura pointed out up-thread, of assuming that societies are monadic entities that engage in Darwinian competition." You replied that societies do in fact engage in Darwinian competion, and you are right. But they are not monadic. Horizontal transfer is ver important.

216:

John - I agree that perhaps the scientific merits of memes compared to genes may be lacking, I think it a bit strong to say they don't exist altogether.

Agreed --- blog comments are necessarily terse, and therefore oversimplified. There's some sort of informational propagation within the sphere of "ideas" --- it's the underlying metaphor that idea propagation is "like" gene propagation that is bad.

There was some good stuff done on this by anthropologist back in the 50s and 60s, before post-structuralism took hold.

217:

Alternatively, watch China plug its manpower gap by recruiting the growing African urban proletariat.

Which is a special case of "societal replacement pool" I described in my previous post.

218:

Studies of conversion rates show that relatively few people leave a conservative relgion compared to those who continue to adhere to it. Apostates are also outnmumbered by converts to conservative religions.

I'd love to see these studies, because it is blatantly false. If it were true, atheists (who started out at 0 some time in 18th century) would have remained at 0. Instead, their proportion has been increasing worldwide with every generation.

219:

" still think cruelty is a side effect. Yes the American right wing is cruel, but cruelty is a symptom of their condition, not the cause. The cause is that they feel no kinship toward most of humanity."

Maybe it's neither cause nor effect -- but a feedback loop. The ethnocentrism leads to cruelty, which becomes an end in itself and leads to ethnocentrism. There's too many cases of internal cruelty --- of demanding that girls who've been raped by a church elders shut up and cover up, of women being kept submissive as church principle, of abuse within these movements to say that the hatred has a life of it's own.

I've known too many bearded guys from fundie churches who homeschool their kids --- when I've met their families, they've looked terrified and down-beaten.

Christianity is transparently masochistic, right? So the flip side of that is sadism. I don't see how you can get away from that for radical Christianity.

220:

It's none of that.
It's about trying to assert control over a changing world. It's the whole meaning of the word "conservative". The result is that the more the world changes, the more extreme are the measures needed to slow down or reverse that change.

221:

"The trouble with his original definition (circa the late 1970s) is that it's only about as well defined as the extremely fuzzy definition of "gene" that was in use in the 19th century."

The interesting spot there is that the 19th century Darwinian idea of "transmissible characteristics" were not only fuzzy and incorrect -- they were incompatible with Darwinian evolution! The latter was apparent from the mathematics of "mixed characteristics", which was one of the reasons why Darwinian evolution was basically discarded for 30 years, until Mendel was rediscovered leading to a rediscovery of Darwin.

The meme of memes is dangerous --- and I'm not so sure that Dawkins has that clear, in the same way that Darwin failed to understand why "mixed characteristics" were incorrect. There do exist actual expertise in that field --- and why Dawkins has failed to show any evidence of studying the field but decided to pull a DK is a big fail in my book.

Memes are not a good place to start. Ideas are promiscuous, so you have to start at a more systematic level of rituals and systems. There is no "unit" at the level of statements or ideas --- the units are verbs, not nouns.

222:

See that and raise http://www.ryedalevineyards.co.uk/vineyard.html They only planted in 2006, so are they really evidence that UK temperatures are typically higher than there is existing historical evidence of?

223:

"It's none of that."

How distinct are dominance/submission ("control of the world") from sadism/masochism ("cruelty")? Aren't the two fetishes highly correlated, necessarily intertwined?

Control demands the loss of autonomy of another. That loss of autonomy seems to automatically imply cruelty. In reverse, cruelty demands control, because otherwise the victim wouldn't allow the cruelty to continue.

Doesn't Islam mean submission? Is it that different from Christianity? --- and Christianity demands sadism and masochism.

224:

He's not just a priest, he is a Cardinal and as such the most senior RC in Britain. His views can reasonably be taken as representing both the Catholic church and a large number of the people of Britain. The fact that you (and I) disapprove of his entire credo is irrelevant. He should be judged on what he says.

He seems to have gone a bit over the top even by the standards of senior churchmen. That is why it is especially newsworthy.

What is more interesting is that the reaction has been almost universally been 'go away and calm down', even from Cameron and The Torygraph.

225:

Whoa. Leave an email and I can snow you under with evidence, ranging from physical reality to modelling results. Otherwise we'll be a little too much off topic.

226:

"Other than the first guy's opinion agrees with yours of course." Yeah, right, this to the person happily living in a same-sex relationship and fairly dogmatically atheist. Bound to agree that same-sex marriage is a sin.

The difference is one of time and exposure. I haven't heard from this guy before on this topic. I was pretty sure the Catholic Church would be against it but I hadn't heard an articulated opinion. I now have. It's an opinion I disagree with on all levels but I would rather have heard it and dismissed it than not heard it at all.

I listened at first to the spokespeople for the climate change deniers lobby too. Weighed what they said. Decided they were talking garbage and now ignore them because they are recycling the same old garbage.

Why is it so hard to appreciate that listening to other people's points of view is a good thing? Listening to sensible, well argued alternatives may make you change you mind of course. That's a disaster if you believe you're infallible. Or refuting it, internally or externally, may make you consider and reaffirm your evidence and conclusions. That's only bad if you don't think people should think for themselves. Listening to the frothing of lunatics for too long is probably not productive. But listening for long enough to make your own judgement about it - that's fine by me.

Alternatively I can apply your own logic. You clearly disagree with me, so I should stop reading your comments to this blog. There's nothing worth considering in what you say. Prejudged without consideration.

227:

Studies of conversion rates show that relatively few people leave a conservative relgion compared to those who continue to adhere to it. Apostates are also outnmumbered by converts to conservative religions.

According to the American Religious Identification Survey, the number of Baptists (by which I'm willing to bet they mean right-wing Southern Baptist Convention Baptists) increased by over two million between 2001 and 2008, while more moderate mainline Christians declined by over seven million.

http://commons.trincoll.edu/aris/files/2011/08/ARIS_Report_2008.pdf

However, there's another interesting trend I've noticed. Almost every atheist I know personally was once a fundamentalist. It could be that I don't notice atheists who were raised as moderate Christians because they don't become as militant once they deconvert, but I believe fundamentalism creates more atheists because it brings one face to face with the parts of Christianity that are hardest to accept. Unlike more moderate Christians, they aren't able to avoid thinking about their religion. So American Christianity's hard move to the right may backfire.

228:

I think you'll find that BDSM folk are big on consent, safewords, and so on. There's precious little of that on display among the reactionaries ...

229:

Reality creating a fortuitous publicity stunt for Ken Macleod's new book?

To: Reality
Cc: Ken MacLeod

Please stop it.

Yours
ajay

PS: Reality: don't get any ideas about doing stunts like this for Peter Watts either.

230:

Reality creating a fortuitous publicity stunt for Ken Macleod's new book?

Which one?

231:

S.M.Stirling@184 said ...The actual soldiers are a capital investment; the support personnel are a variable operating cost.

True. This led to the UK MoD being the largest single customer of SIUS-ASCOR electronic targetry - it's far more efficient to have your troops on the firing point, rather than having half of them in the butts raising and lowering target frames.

Similarly, the UK's Military Provost Guard Service provide armed guards at a lot of military bases - at a lower cost than using trained soldiers, and with far less annoyance factor (no, you can't go on leave / come training with the rest of us, you've got to stay here and make sure no-one tries to blow the camp up).

The tricky bit is keeping the right mix of people and skills "in-house".

Eloise@194 said Not sure you've got the reasons for logistics becoming part of the services right, at least in the UK. The Royal Navy (sail warships) and Royal Naval Reserve sail the supply ships. They are unarmed and not expected to engage in combat. They often sail through combat zones unchallenged too.

Not so, it's the Royal Fleet Auxiliary. And they are armed - e.g. if you look at a picture of RFA Fort Victoria, you'll notice the Phalanx system mounted just above the bridge. The "not expected to engage in combat" would be a surprise to the crews of the RFA Sir Galahad and RFA Sir Tristram (not to mention the SS Uganda and SS Canberra, and certainly not to SS Atlantic Conveyor) after being rather actively involved in the Falklands War thirty years ago - several died.

There are ladies out there with the South Atlantic Medal from their time as civilian staff on troopships, and a civilian canteen manager on HMS Ardent who took his his turn manning a GPMG on the side of the ship (to the extent of shooting down two enemy aircraft and winning the Distinguished Service Medal).

Dave Bell@189 said ...in modern wars, with no clear front line, can you hire and retain civilian truckers when supply convoys still need armed escorts?

Yes. How else do you think fuel is currently being delivered to ISAF forces in Afghanistan? It's civilian truckers through Pakistan and as far as the logistic base, and then military truckers forward to the operating bases.

Dave Bell@189 said ...Finally, the soldiers in the field know they depend on the logistics system. If those people in the convoys and depots aren't soldiers, if they're not "people like us", what is that going to do to the morale of the front line military force?

Not a lot. They have been known to ridicule them for being base rats anyway, so a uniform or lack of it has little additional impact. What matters is whether the supplies turn up a) sufficiently and b) in time.

You're right that the difference in logistics between commerce and military is one of "Just In Time" rather than "Just In Case" - it all gets messy when someone decides to earn an OBE saving money for the taxpayer by proposing an inappropriate commercial solution to a military problem.

For example, most Landrovers act as pickup trucks delivering food around peacetime training areas; so why replace them one-for-one with hugely expensive mine-protected vehicles?

Going too far would be removing them all, and proposing the use of that well-known Dutchman for cheap minibus hire (Hertz van Rental). After all, most of the time those Landrovers are just sitting in a car park - the only downsides are "now we have to book vehicles 48 hours in advance of training" and "having a large white van in the middle of your training activity, that can only travel along metalled roads".

232:

"I think you'll find that BDSM folk are big on consent, safewords, and so on. There's precious little of that on display among the reactionaries ..."

That's precisely the point --- decent modern people take their dangerous impulses and transform them into something that isn't destructive of others. They recontextualize them, turn them into play, sublimate them and so forth.

But that's a new phenomenon, a post-enlightenment phenomenon. This is one of the reasons why some conservatives hate the enlightenment --- BSDM isn't as fun with safe words for some people.

233:

dominance/submission

I think you've nailed it! A lot of confusing phenomena, such as why they are transparently racist against uppity Obama but not against conservative Herman Cain, why they hate competent Hillary Clinton but love cute Sarah Palin, why they don't want to uplift the poor even if they are poor themselves, and why they have bumper stickers that simply say "W: The President," could be explained by their desire to have a structure of dominance and submission where everyone "knows their place."

Okay, I'm changing my mind now. Tribalism is probably a side effect of this.

234:

"it's far more efficient to have your troops on the firing point, rather than having half of them in the butts raising and lowering target frames."

Not sure how true that it.
It came as quite an enlightening surprise for me having a 7.62 mis-aimed round crack 6" over my head, showering me with splinters and going on to kick fist size gobs of mud 20 feet into the air. Sort of emphasized what one of those "A-team" TV series flesh wounds might really mean.

235:

I'm fairly certain that my #214 was a comment on the AGW debate, not on same sex relationships, contraception, or abortion (I suspect we agree here).

It was putting the view of the guy in the middle that neither side is actually producing any decent science or statistics. Guthrie's #225 of "I'll snow you under with graphs and reports but not actually let you audit the underlying mathematical and statistical models" is typical of the responses I get from both sides on that one, so I'm saying that neither side is worth listening to.

236:

One would expect such a difference to exist, but the Transformers got the US Military to shift to Just in Time Logistics around 2001. See eg. http://www.almc.army.mil/alog/issues/MayJun08/jitime_vs_jicase.html To this civilian it seems daft, but I've only been studying war academically for 15 years.

237:

Intrusion:
http://www.kenmacleod.blogspot.com/2012/03/lights-camera-action.html

"The story's premise is:

A single-dose pill has been developed that corrects, without risk, many common genetic errors in a developing foetus. When a pregnant woman refuses to take The Fix, as the pill is known, she divides friends, family and even the law with a moral dilemma. Is her decision a private matter of individual choice, or is it tantamount to wilful neglect of her unborn child?"

238:

Yet again: The Authoritarians.
You've pretty much reached the same point independently, but the book has graphs. (",)

239:

Good Lord, there's a thought to keep one up at night...

240:

All military logistics is Just In Time and has been for centuries. There are no giant warehouses on a battlefield, they exist (if they exist at all) hundreds of miles behind the lines and there is a dedicated branch of Logistics Corps and quartermasters who work to move those supplies to where they are needed. If they do it better than the other side then they will probably win, all other things being equal.

The alternative to giant warehouses filled with supplies is to produce what is needed and deliver it as expeditiously as possible to where is can be used. The large warehouse system is still in use even in the US, the Master of Logistics -- the Strategic Petroleum Reserve is just one case where very large stocks of essential materiel is kept on hand. However things change, sometimes quite rapidly and, for example keeping a stock of billions of rounds of .45ACP ball ammo in a US military warehouse would be kind of pointless nowadays. Other stuff wears out or degrades to uselessness in storage -- electrical batteries, drugs, explosives etc. Either they are produced, warehoused and replaced at regular intervals or other means are applied such as maintaining a supply chain that can be rapidly expanded in a crunch. The US' ability to produce ball ammo was put to the test in the early part of this century and the manufacturers coped easily with the demand for increased production and delivery schedules at the cost of fully supplying the civilian market.

241:

It looks more like world wide class warfare rather than being anything to do with transnational boundaries.

The uprisings in Africa, middle east, Europe etc are what Marx would call combined uprising. They are food riots, politicised and coordinated via social media.

The food riots are caused by manipulation of oil, food and commodity markets due to QE, bank bail outs, Low interest long term loans from central banks and IMF bail outs. So effectively what you have across the world - developed and not- are two stories.

Banks and multinationals paying no tax, getting higher profits (from wage construction due to higher unemployment) and wealth transfers from taxpayer to corporation.

For citizens it's ideologically imposed austerity, higher commodity, fuel and oil prices (core inflation), higher taxes, unemployment and surpresses living standards.

The only reason this happens is corporate ownership of the media and political parties and the only response is direct action and social networking.

242:

Well, that's quite a reply. Apart from the simple fact that 'auditing' science isn't actually part of the scientific method, requires extra resources which governments and suchlike are loath to permit, fails to take into account the historical situations whereby national meteorological data is usually leant out only on the basis you don't hand it on to someone esle because the originators want to make some money selling it in the private sector, requires the 'auditors' to actually know something and works a whole lot better when they are acting in good faith rather than trying to score political points, and the fact that your home computer can't run the stuff they use for the more complex things, as well as the fact that its all been repeated globally by different groups.
Heck, you might even have heard of the Berkeley climate project, an anti-AGW attempt announced with much fanfare that was going to really put the science into the long term temerature records.

Their end conclusion - the climatologists had got it right, and hence it was quietly ignored by the denialists and most others who had fallen for their lies. The man leading it was honest enough to stand up and admit that their results matched those of the climatologists, but the rest of the people playing politics then turned on him.

Finally, what you actually typed was:
" accept that climate change is happening. I have yet to see anyone produce evidence that this is actually due to human activity rather than the end of the "Little Ice Age". Where are the vineyards in Yorkshire and the arable farms in Greenland? These were real things from the Medievil Warm Period which happened before the LIA."

This ignores the known physical effects of CO2 and the other greenhouse gases we are releasing. Increasing their concentration guarantees that the planet will warm, absent other balancing factors such as a decrease in solar output. Please produce your evidence and arguments that CO2 is not a greenhouse gas.
By the way, an eccentric person planted a vineyard by Loch Ness a few years ago, although I think he he died not so long afterwards, so it never got off the ground.

Greenland meanwhile is producing vegetables now and every indication is that it is already at least as warm as it was in the medieval warm period.

Finally, before i run out of space, what mechanisms do you think would be responsible for halting the expansion out of the little ice age for a few decades then causing temperature to increase rapidly again? Where is the energy stored, where does it come from?

Failure to consider or answer these basic questions indicates a lack of knowledge of the climate and ignorance of the last 50 years of scientific effort by thousands of people across the planet.

243:

Hmm, looks like I was wrong - it was Loch Tay and the person concerned has run away to South Africa leaving behind debts. Nobody doubted the ability to produce wine though, just his ability to pay for the hotel.

http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/scottish-news/2010/10/24/suppliers-rage-as-loch-tay-hotel-boss-bolts-for-south-afirca-86908-22655845/

There's also a vineyard been planted in Fife apparently.

244:

Refer to this study by the pew Foundation, "Faith in Flux, Religious Conversion Statistics and Changes in religious Affiliation in the United States"

http://www.pewforum.org/Faith-in-Flux.aspx

To summarize the results:

56% remain in the same religion they were raised in
44% changed religious affilitation as follows:

11% affiliated as children became unaffiliated as adults (note that "unaffiliated" is not the same as "atheist" - Less than 2% of the US population describes itself as atheist)

and

4% unaffiliated as children became affilited as adults (resulting in a net of only 7% becoming unaffiliated)

29% changing to a different religious affiliation

In summary, approximately 90% of the population either remains religious or becomes religious. And the majority of those not affiliated with a religion remain theists.

Atheists remain a marginal fringe group of little or no importance demographically.

245:

Professional logisticians seem to disagree with you (see my previous link to the professional journal of US Army logistics). The idea of just in time logistics is that you minimize your spares and reserves and rely on a steady flow of new supplies which arrive just as they are needed, minimizing the amount of capital tied up in storage and lost to wastage and warehouse costs. This requires excellent scheduling, and a very reliable transport system, so it wasn't practical before the late 20th century.

Since gunpowder became common, armies have traditionally carried large amounts of spares that they don't expect to need, and stored others in depots in the area of operations. I have read lists of spares that Henry VIII provided for his French campaign, and 18th century documents which talk about providing enough ammunition for two battles plus a reserve (in a period when one battle in a campaign was the talk of Europe!)

The Transformers wanted to apply "just in time" principles to NATO armies. The problem is that cutting down reserves makes a logistics system brittle, and there are a lot more ways something can go wrong in even a colonial war like Iraq than in a rich country in peacetime. As that article laconically puts it “When the just-in-time model was implemented in a predictable environment, these dependencies and assumptions were acceptable. Just-in-time was efficient, reducing inventories and saving the Army a great deal of money. However, problems arose when the just-in-time model was attempted in a deployed (unpredictable) setting.”

246:

Atheists remain a marginal fringe group of little or no importance demographically.

Actually, that's self-declared atheists, according to some studies. Given that there's strong anti-atheist prejudice in the US, it's not so surprising that people don't declare as such. When surveys look at actual belief and church-going, the proportion of people who don't believe in superstitious causation or participate in organized religion is a rather larger minority (in double digit percentage range).

Similarly, in the UK it used to be the case that anyone who didn't explicitly espouse some other creed was classified as the default -- "Church of England". Except that when surveys looked at what people believed and did, around 75% of the CofE members turned out to be nothing of the kind.

Over here actual "out" atheists/agnostics are around 40% of the population.

So I'm calling bullshit on your assertion about the prevalence of religion.

247:

The point about military logistics is surely that it needs to have stockpiles available to counter many possible eventualities and enemy actions, yet in the heat of battle ends up being just in time, as in "The enemy were held off because of the arrival in the nick of time of extra petrol and tank ammunition."

Anyone suggesting an actual just in time setup for an army in combat is either dealing with a counter terror campaign against a badly disorganised enemy or a nutter who has never read any military history. Or maybe they will make money selling you the shiny thing. That is not to say that a just in time setup wouldn't work in peacetime mind you.

248:

Statistics are wonderful things. For example ARDA reports between 32 and 50% of the American population were irreligious in 2002, probably up from 45% in 1990 (depending on how they adjust their numbers for known underreporting).

Not the same as declared atheist, agreed, but still not really supporting the other data where you claim 90% are religious.

According to another statistic, (from the Christian Post but reproduced elsewhere and not linking back) says that in 2008 although most identify themselves as Christian, only 8% believe religion is the most important thing in their life - family, health and career are all more potent drivers.

And Charlie's "didn't explicitly espouse an alternative creed" actually understates the problem. At one point I was admitted to hospital, stated my religion as "Taoist philosophy" and the nurse looked at me and didn't say a word. When some friends visited they looked at my chart and asked why I'd said CoE for the admissions check.

249:

Actually having lots of materiel stockpiled close to the battlefield or line of battle is a bad idea; it gives the enemy something fragile to attack and it's usually within range of modern weapon systems like rocket artillery and ground-attack aircraft. It's notable that the wargamed use of tacnukes in any possible European war tended for them to be aimed at railheads, major road connections and known supply stockpiles of fuel etc. rather than widespread fighting force groups, armoured divisions and the like since the armour was usually NBC-proofed whereas the tanks and AFVs wouldn't get far if their fuel supplies and the means to get replacement fuel stocks to the pointy end were vapourised.

It's a balance, keeping reserve stocks up to date -- no real need to warehouse a division's worth of gas masks for cavalry mounts nowadays -- and just keeping the capability to make what you need like the aforementioned ball ammo manufacturing lines.

250:

"4% unaffiliated as children became affilited as adults (resulting in a net of only 7% becoming unaffiliated)"

"In summary, approximately 90% of the population either remains religious or becomes religious. And the majority of those not affiliated with a religion remain theists."

So, a 7% shift resulting in 10% being unreligious --- which implies an increase of irreligiousity propagation of 233% over a single generation, over and above population growth --- is demographically irrelevant?

And then you were earlier quoting a growth rate of the Haredim at approximately the same rate as a devastating change? They're only up to 20%, from a similar growth rate over the last two generations.

Doesn't internal consistency count for something?

251:

I am getting irritated by Andeyt.

Read this as advance notice of a yellow card in his future if he doesn't chill out soon.

252:

The history of wine-growing in the Pacific Northwest corroborates the warming trend that's allowed vineyards in Scotland. Up 'til the 1970s the weather here in Oregon was too cold and the rain pattern too constant in the spring for high-quality wine grapes. Over the subsequent couple of decades the winters in the Willamette Valley warmed, and the spring rainfall changed from fairly constant drizzle to heavier storms interspersed with sun (indicating that more energy was being inserted into the circulation of water vapor), such that we can now grow world class pinot grapes. But the trend is continuing, and more vineyards farther north in Washington state are growing better grapes, while the growers in Oregon are concerned about the climate here getting too warm.

253:

Anura, I've noticed that a whole lot. Any time people say "Rape isn't about sex, it's about power" I always ask "What makes you think they aren't both intertwined?"

So much of what we see in society comes back to chimpanzee power plays, dominance and submission. Just as there are those who want to be tops, there are those who want to be bottoms. Those who don't want to take either role are to be attacked and destroyed.

It's easy to understand the thought process of the person who wants to be dominant. Hey, it's good to be the king. It takes a little more work to understand how the submissive's thought process works. He likes order. He likes rules. He likes to know where he stands in a pecking order. If there is a strong and powerful will to submit to, he enjoys doing so, offering obeisance and fealty. And while this person might lack the stones to try to be the top dog, to rule the kingdom, he enjoys exercising a delegated power. He enjoys submitting to the king and then demands submission in turn from his wife and his family. It's like stealing a nip of the master's wine; intoxicating. And what about the people who elect to opt out of the mind games here? This is not allowed! This is not permitted! There is no such thing as free choice! All must submit! All must obey!

Whenever religious leaders talk about wives submitting to husbands, both submitting to God, I always imagine them doing so while wearing leather fetish gear, a tremor of incipient sexual arousal in their voices. It puts everything in context.

254:

Oh yes, stockpiles vulnerabilities are known, and as you say it is a matter of getting a balance.
After all, a just in time system doesn't work if you are German troops in France in June 1944 because all your railroads have been bombed to bits and your road travel is under attack during daylight.

255:

Thank you for the clarification. I agreed with all your points regarding the inaccuracy of assuming cultures duke it out in the Darwinian sense, but as Charlie pointed out in a later comment,I feel memes are poorly understood right now in the scientific sense. However it doesn't mean we may come to a "real" understanding of their possible functions at a later date with advances in neurobiology and the like.

256:

Oh and later on I saw your issue about where do they start, verb not noun. But perhaps where to start in a physical sense, is in the actual neurons themselves. Perhaps ideas have similar network structures in the minds of people who share them, or not. Either way, I would think the implications could be interesting.
To get more to the point about the recent misogyny displayed by the right here is the US, I work with one of them, and he told me today that he agreed with good ol' Rush. This man is otherwise a caring individual, for the most part, and a hardworking loving father. I asked him to back up his stance and he just repeated what fox news told him. I feel for many right wingers it is merely about belonging to some group which excepts them. He is uneducated, from a very small town, and from a religious background. His church is where he feels he fits in. He gets guns, so do people from his church, he can feel smart there. Outside of that realm, he cannot, therefore conversations about science, complex society, and issues in books and the like, are areas that he may not feel he can participate in. Many of his beliefs seem utterly incomprehensible to me, but I don't think it makes him a bad person, just a uneducated one, who I wish could find a new club to except him.

257:

I wouldn't have your patience, and would have slapped the yellow card down hard way back yesterday sometime. Andyet seems quite happy to throw out stats that may or may not be made up (or "hypothetical" in his words), and then throw them under the bus in favour of another set of dubious and misquoted numbers as soon as someone holes them below the water line.

Apologies, off topic, but he's really annoying me.

258:

Both the sex drive and the power drive are complicated and not quite as neatly entangled as you suggest.

Although fetishistic and power-exchange sex are pretty common, it's often those who are in a powerful position who are submissive in the bedroom. Max Moseley and the allegedly "Nazi SM orgy" is a classic and recent example. He won his case on the grounds there were no Nazi elements and quite openly admitted to be in the sexually submissive role in the scene that was reported. Scandals about judges and the like are nearly always about kinky sex. Many of Cynthia Payne's clients were high-ranking police officers and judges.

I'm sure there are driven, powerful people who are also tops. I rather suspect the D/s axis of power-exchange sex is actually orthogonal to the power in every-day life axis - although the somewhat anecdotal evidence suggests it's at 180º.

Although I will cherish the image of the preachers screaming about hellfire and damnation while in their gimp suits.

259:

Oh there's a fair number of BDSM conservatives (both little c and big C)

260:

I think that actually advances the position of an intertwining of sex with dominance games and politics. The flip side of sadism is masochism --- those who get "satisfied" with dominance in their public life, then require sadism privately to complete the game, while those who are publicly in a "bottom" position need the excitement of being a dominant privately. Just as children who are abused have a greater probability to grow up to be abusers.

The contrast excites them. It just seems to me that I too often see unproductive games in the workplace that I can only explain with the dominance/submission games that are disconnected from rational economics. If anything, people seem to be more driven by this (which traditionally included explicit sexual elements of sexual harassment, gender based discrimination, etc) than by the money. What the money buys is the role, rather than the other way around.

I doubt it's necessary, since a lot of people are perfectly happy with out it, among folks raised outside of strong authoritarianism.

261:

A reporter friend of mine tells me not only do they exist, but they dominate* the BDSM scene. I should have made the connection earlier.

*ha!

262:

John: "I feel memes are poorly understood right now in the scientific sense."

Ideas are very poorly understood --- we had post-structuralism come in during the 60s to give a definitely needed correction to the globalism of modern philosophy and analysis. Unfortunately in my view, that degraded into postmodernism that just became philosophy of critique, without anything positive to add.

Social structures have to be in our brains, if you don't believe in ghosts --- I'm not sure how we can figure out the relationship. Take the example of AI neural networks --- you get this twines of connections relating input and outputs, but it's almost impossible to figure out the relationships from looking at the network.

And in this case, we don't even know where the information storage is --- is it the synapses, the dendrite branching, the nuclear RNA, the astrocyte structure? It's probably better to stick with anthropology and sociology --- and not try the impossible, which is more likely than not to mislead us.

263:

Anyone notice how slow it was too get bremelanotide through the certification process? Notice that once it was considered a legit drug it was not widely manufactured? Notice how they took it off the lists in several countries,at the slightest hint that it might be "harmful to health"?

Contrast that with Viagra.

264:

It might be nice if the arrangement and interaction of power drives and sex drives in individuals were simple and easy to define and predict. But while the drives may be simple, the potential complexity of the conditioning of behaviors to stimuli isn't simple, and all kinds and combinations of kinks are possible as a result. Most popular accounts of abnormal psychology I've seen simplify things to make them easier to understand, but leave the reader or viewer with some unwarranted conclusions. One case that really annoys me is the popular idea of all serial killers as geniuses with obsessions that make them even more competent at committing their crimes and evading capture.

265:

" Just as children who are abused have a greater probability to grow up to be abusers. " !!!

I thought that it was because their 'childhood's' had failed to demonstrate/ encourage healthy interpersonal relationships with _anybody_, not because they 'want' something or that children are small and don't understand what's meant (or not) to be on.

Sorry extensive rant nailed right down.

266:

But it's not just a "failure to encourage healthy relationships" --- that's assuming that somehow the pathological is simply a "lack of" the healthy.

An abusive childhood is just as much a positive training program about what the child will believe to be healthy. They're not necessarily confused --- they positively believe that what you or I call "abuse" is actually normal, healthy behavior.

They look down on us as much as we do them --- that's a separate question from which of us are in fact correct. If you look at what was considered medically normal child-rearing in the early twentieth century, you'd be horrified. But they thought it was "healthy" --- our great-grandparents didn't lack a good model, they had a positively bad model that they loved. Look up "hospitalism" to be truly horrified by what educated people thought was "healthy".

Maybe healthy is just a completely wrong concept in social relationships --- the model of social disturbances as a "disease" rather than as a competing alternate set of relationships makes us smug without solving the problem. Hmm, maybe another way to think about what Bruno Latour is saying with regard to modernism...

267:

Ahhh. A rational way to process the world.

268:

"A-team" TV series flesh wounds

I watched way more of the A Team than my brain should have allowed but I never saw ANY bullets hit anyone. Are you saying that people actually got shot on the show?

269:

Not that I recall.
I just remember the kind of generic stuff where the hero gets a "flesh wound" from something like an AK47 and just sticks on a bandage and carries on. A bit like being shot in the leg in war movies just results in a limp - not the whole leg hanging off on shattered bone and ripped muscle fragments.

270:

The shifts described in the Pew study are over lifetimes, not generations. As such they are not comparable with birth rate differentials.

271:

At one point I was admitted to hospital, stated my religion as "Taoist philosophy" and the nurse looked at me and didn't say a word. When some friends visited they looked at my chart and asked why I'd said CoE for the admissions check.

Was this in the UK? I've never seen such a question on a form in the US. At least not since I've been involved in hospitals. I'm sure it might have been there in the (from my point of view) distant past.

272:

I think our greatest ignorance about memes is not having a clue as to how the kind of promiscuous copying they would have to do works in the context of variation and selection. Genes based on replicating strands of molecules like DNA and RNA have some physical restrictions about how many variants can be created at one time, and how phenotype selection is affected by the number of offspring (R vs k strategies). There are basically 2 major replicant strategies for genes: horizontal transmission, as in bacteria which can share genes without creating offspring organisms, and vertical transmission as in budding, fission, and sexual reproduction. Meme replication may involve elements of both, or even neither, depending on what the unit of replication is, and how the copying works.

273:

You're getting at an idea that is slowly gaining prominence: rape prevention is not the victim's job, it's the perpetrator's.

Too often when we educate girls and women about rape, we suggest strategies for women to undertake: avoiding parking lots, not drinking too much, wearing "the right" clothes, etc. This is about as effective as telling little kids to be wary of strangers, when in 2002, 200,000 American children were abducted by family members, while only 115 were abducted by strangers. Basically, we focus on teaching potential victims to live in constant fear, rather than teaching potential rapists how to feel empathy, treat people with respect, and understand what real sexual consent looks like. Moreover, we also need to teach boys and men that rape can happen to them, too, and that assault is assault no matter what your gender.

Similarly, the idea that reproductive choice and responsibility is solely a women's issue is ludicrous. It's often characterized that way, because women carry the result, but men have decisions to make about whether to carry, wear, and insist upon condoms. And it's not just about preventing pregnancy, but preventing the spread of diseases like AIDS and HPV. It's about preventing cancer. We teach boys to wear seatbelts from the moment they can fasten a buckle. But somehow, riding bareback with new partners is still acceptable.

274:

By 1912 women could vote in all elections in the Isle of Man New Zealand, Australia and the Grand Duchy of Finland. Along with some US states.

275:

"Too often when we educate girls and women about rape, we suggest strategies for women to undertake: avoiding parking lots, not drinking too much, wearing "the right" clothes"

All precautions I take when I visit dodgy areas of London. Muggings and just random violence happen far more often than rape, even to men. And it's no good telling the perp that it's their fault and they should stop what they are doing immediately.

276:

In terms of submissive roles I might mention Bill Hicks' meditation upon Rush Limbaugh and the kind of man he looks like but this is a family blog. Lol

A friend of mine was in the scene years back and she said the dynamic for rich and powerful guys is that being subby was a place to finally feel comfortable not being in control, being vulnerable, it's ok to cry. But then there are also men and women who are always doms and will never step outside of the role.

There are enough accounts in divorce cases amongst evangelicals to show that sadistic and non-consensual behavior is rather common amongst the elect men of the church.

Most of the serial killers I've read about are operating off of a miswired sex drive. It's a powerful compulsion to fight regardless of whether or not what you want is legal or acceptable to the general public. There are many things for men to feel vain about and it's really hard to keep the sex out of it because it's a kind of currency of power. I won't go our on a limb and say everything comes back to it, I won't say Steve Jobs did what he did because of sex though there was certainly a ton of ego involved beyond simple business sense. Sex is usually a safe bet. That or daddy issues.

277:

I worry about my home country. I'm at the time in my life where moving back seems more important than anything else, regardless of the reasons why I left in the first place, but I do worry. I'm not completely out of touch - I do visit as often as I can but that's not the same as surviving on the street. Let's hope there's still something to come back to...

278:

"What happens in real world is, better educated and more imaginative members of Society A emigrate into Society B and internalize its values."

Hence the pressure amongst the religioids for home schooling - it keeps those nasty secular thoughts away from their Precious Darlings.

279:

Jared Diamond in Collapse said that societies tend to go through a cultural flowering and/or religious upsurge prior to their final collapse. He used the experience of Easter Island and the Mayans - it was also religion that made the Aztez and Incan Empires easier to knock over.

It is hard to see the slow train wreck that is the US. They might still have reservoirs of intelligence that will assist them make their transition from superpower to just a power without a cultural or economic meltdown. The UK did it, the USSR did it.

It is interesting - from a fellow anglosphere member (Oz) watching the weirdness in the US. Various members of our own conservative establishment regularly look to the US as inspiration for their mini-movements in Australia. The Religious Right has definately had a big impact on political debate here, usually via our own Conservatives (the misnamed Liberal Party). So yes, the Happy-Clapper Fellow Travellers are rife with moral indignancy Down-Under.

Like the American Right, they right in Australia has the tension of on one hand being economically liberal, small government - but on the other hand being socially conservative. Our previous leader of the Loyal Opposition was an active republican (in the sense of getting rid of the monarchy) and supportive of feminism and the rights of homosexuals. Our current opposition leader is a conservative catholic who banned the importation and testing of RU486 when Health Minister. So the tension between the two sides - 'l'iberal and conservative continues.

Sanity, in the main, manages to keep its head above water. We have universal healthcare, government funded abortions, widespread government funded contraception programs. Creative Design/Creationism is banned in schools here - no matter what their religious flavour.

Still, I would be the first to the trenches if the religious fundamentalists became anymore strident and influential. It'll be me battling the Angels in our version of the Appalachians should the Handmaid's Tale blueprint ever come to fruition.

280:

I would take long term -- that is, multigenerational -- predictions of Haredi growth rates with some very hefty doses of kosher salt. It is a relatively new ideological phenomenon with unsustainable economics and politics. Neither mine nor Charles' ancestors found Jewish Orthodoxy to be ideologically compelling given the alternatives. I suspect that today's Haredi youth will be exposed to more ideological alternatives in the decades to come than their nonagenarian leadership would prefer.

281:

Another anecdotal point: my grandparents came to the US from Ukraine in 1906; all 4 of them were Orthodox Jews, and at least on of my great-aunts was Conservative. To the best of my knowledge, none of their grandchildren are Orthodox or Conservative, and only a few of them are practicing Jews at all.

I think one of the reasons why religious orthodoxy is not stable over multiple generations unless it's physically isolated (like Amish or Mennonite communities* is that for each group there is only one very narrow set of beliefs that is accepted as orthodox, and there are many and varied beliefs, belief systems, philosophies, and ways of thinking that conflict with that orthodoxy. It only takes one of those conflicting beliefs to wedge open the shell of orthodoxy in a person susceptible to that particular conflict, but once opened, orthodoxy is very fragile.

* And even they are not so well isolated that they don't lose a certain percentage of each generation to the "English".

282:

Those who insist that moral responsibility lies with the rapist not the victim, and that people should be able to go wherever thy wish without fear, are correct. At the same time, they remind me of a famous epitaph:

This is the grave of Mike O’Day
Who died maintaining his right of way.
His right was clear, his will was strong,
But he’s just as dead as if he’d been wrong.

Some people are just as amoral as a bear or a prairie winter, and preaching the ethic of consent to them will be exactly as effective as telling a forest fire that it would be unfair for it to burn your house down. For these people, its best to avoid them, and next to fail their "will this person make a good victim?" interview. This sort of pragmatism is one reason that accessible contraception and abortion are so important in the flawed world where we must live.

283:

I will never understand people who truly believe that if you have the right to something, its safe to do. As in standing outside a bar late at night and screeching at a big drunk. And thinking that a cop will always be there somewhere.

284:

DJPoK @ 213
Look up Niccolo Machiavelli on why Mercenaries are dangerous - the bad ones will lose you the war, and the good ones will take your country over!

paws4 thot @ others on climate
Look up "Natures Calendar" - a LARGE "Mass-Observation" study (over 20 000 recorders) of easily-observed seasonal changes, recorded every year in the UK.
Because their data is from so many collectors, the error-bars are very small.
It's getting warmer.
If you grow your own plants, you'll notice this anyway - I do.

ilya & DJPoK @ 218
Alternatively, watch China plug its manpower gap by recruiting the growing African urban proletariat. Otherwise known as COLONIALISM.
But that's all right, because only the evil, nasty Europeans do that, just like "racism".
Ahem.

anura @ 224
Well all religions are "Dominant" (possibly excepting some forms of Bhuddism?) and require submission to "authority".
As for sadism and cruelty, try reading the "recital". Erm.

Jim Smith @ 225
So, he's a Cardinal. HE is STILL a "priest" - that's the way the system works.
His spoutings are still authoritarian bullshit, anyway!

Martin @ 232
To which I might add the recent mistakes made by Somali pirates, who have tried conclusions with both an RFA, and a French equivalent.
Both ships carry Marines, and an armed helicopter, as well as light assault boats.
Terribly sad, that.

andyet @ 245
Err ...
The "Pew Foundation" is a christian promotional outlet.
They lie, quite deliberately.
One should, of course, not expect any better of them, but you might have checked, first?
NOT a sound basis for any argument, here, at least.

guthrie @ 255
Another example, not remembered now.
In 1914, Britain took in over 5000 Belgian railway personnel - why?
Because, they had, on orders, systematically trashed their own system in their retreat. Driving your largest locomotives, with train attached, into a partially-open swing-bridge over a canal will really fuck with the use of that route for several weeks if not months.
And the Schlieffen/Moltke logistics plan relied on capturing SNCB intact. Which meant that, not only did the their troops have to shorten their line, and present their flank at the Marne, they were virtually out-of-supply, of almost everything.

And, yes, generally: Just-in-time-miltary logistics.
Might I mention the carefully-arranged supply-chain that fed the march from the Low countries to the banks of the Danube, resulting in the great victory at Blindheim, 13th August 1704.

"Over the hills / and over the main / to Flanders, Portugall and Spain / Quenn Anne commands / We must away / Over the hills and far away"

John @ 257
[ Godwin warning ]
That's horrible. And how many ordinary members of the NSDAP (or the Komsomol for that matter) finished up doing appalling things as a result?
I wonder.

Mike B @ 278
Wait until after 2016 ...
And won't you be screwed for US taxes, anyway?
And what will you do for healthcare?

285:

"Otherwise known as COLONIALISM.
But that's all right, because only the evil, nasty Europeans do that, just like "racism".
Ahem."

Oh, for f@%*'s sake, Greg. When I have ever said anything remotely approaching that? The neo-colonial potential of the Chinese move into Africa has already become a political issue in many African states - it was a key line used by the current president of Zambia during that country's recent election.

286:

One thing I like about this blog is the tendency of discussions to ramify in so many directions. Here, for example, a horrific example of fundamentalist Christian views on women and a comment on privatization of some aspects of British policing led, among other things, to a discussion of military supply tactics. At least for me, it has been an informative conversation on an unfamiliar subject.

To pick up on the line of discussion at comment 281 on the perpetuation or not of fundamentalist beliefs—the exposure of orthodox groups to contrary beliefs can work both ways. It can lead adherents to test their beliefs and find them wanting. It can also lead them to defend them even more loudly and assertively. I think that is part of what we are seeing in the rise of noise levels among fundamentalist Christians over the past few decades. If you strongly believe (for whatever reason) in a monotheistic religion with an omniscient god with a demonstrated propensity to define what is and is not right (even a brief reading of a randomly chosen section of the Old Testament reveals a god obsessed with rules and obedience and punishment), anything that would lead to questioning of those rules has to be denied and shouted down. Some of this is, I think, an argument they are having with themselves. They live in a society which presents many alternative viewpoints, often with truth claims that society strongly accepts (e.g., science) or the promise of greater pleasures (sex). Fundamentalists must continually have to wage an internal war to guard against these attractions, especially since, from their viewpoint, their god doesn’t seem to be cooperating with them by destroying the enemy. And joining with those with similar worries and temptations and loudly reassuring one another that you have really got it right and anyone who disagrees is wrong is a tactic found among many groups. If you drown out your opponents, internal and external, and get away with doing so, then according to fundamentalist thinking that proves that you are right. After all, god would punish you if you were wrong.

One problem with this is that there is always someone more orthodox to one’s right. The orthodox end up competing to see who is the most orthodox and this pulls their whole discussion rightward until you get people like the writer quoted at the beginning of this discussion who fears that the new healthcare rules in the United States will force women to be in charge of themselves.

Of course, fundamentalist Christians are not alone in pursuing orthodoxy and defending the ramparts of faith. Many organizations have a core group who attempt to police thought and behavior, even outside the organization.

287:

Was this in the UK? I've never seen such a question on a form in the US. At least not since I've been involved in hospitals. I'm sure it might have been there in the (from my point of view) distant past.
I don't know this for sure, but I suspect so.

Since I happen to be friends (but not part of their congregation) with a number of clerics, I can tell you that it's mostly so that the ward staff can quickly determine which of the verious hospital chaplains you're most likely to want to speak to without needing to ask your religion when you ask to speak to a cleric.

288:

"Maybe healthy is just a completely wrong concept in social relationships" –

I used healthy as the best word I could come up with, rather than normative or typical, as I thought it had some utility in its positive meanings rather than as in the negative. Hey its all relative anyway and we'll all be dead soon so what does it matter…

But then I was doing my best to wear my bright innocent flower hat.

289:

DJPoK @ 285
I never suggested you did.
I was being sarcastic, and using your line as a pick-up/intro - put it down to crossed wires.

After all, we KNOW don't we, that only the horrible Europeans do nasty things like ...[ insert name of favourite unfashionable / "evil" activity here ] ....
And the rest of the planet's peoples and nations are as pure as the driven snow, with no evil or dominating intent whatsoever.

290:

What's next? A ban on women wearing trousers?

Already done.
Here, in france, we have an (admitedly old) law forbidding women to wear pants, save in precise circumstances, like medical prescription.
It was never abrogated.

Some deputies tried to have it expurged from the law last year, but it was replied to them that this was unnecessary, as it is not applied.

Which means, as far as I understand it, that any police officer can arrest a woman who wear pants. And that, legally speaking, she may very well be sued.

291:

I feel there should have been some more punctuation in the last sentence.

292:

Yes, that's a standard British question.

I'll note that in my experience of CoE chaplains in particular, they know they're something of an easy default, for everyone, and they know the point of the parable of the Good Samaritan. I suppose it's a side effect of being the modern Established Church.

They don't come bearing down with Salvation, all sails set, unless you ask them to. They're civilised people.

293:

When the UK government started down the track of allowing 'civil partnerships' a few years back, I was disappointed that they failed to make the conceptual separation with marriage, or to pursue the concept to its logical conclusion.

Marriage is a religious ritual; if religion X wants to declare that it may only be carried out between one man and one woman that's fine by me. After all, religion Y could have a rather different prescription.

However, outside of the religious context, I think that civil partnership should be permitted between any size group of consenting adults -- the point being that members of a civil partnership would have the same sort of visitation, inheritance, property rights, responsibility for minor children and taxation benefits that are only applied to families nowadays. It doesn't imply anything about sexual relations between civil partners, intent to produce offspring or even emotional attachment (although in practice this would almost certainly be present.)

The classic example here is two elderly ladies that share renting a home. If the one that happened to have her name on the lease should pre-decease the other, the survivor would find herself in a pretty pickle.

294:

There were, around a decade ago, two distinct Land Rover fleets in military service. One was essentially straight off the production line, civilian standard, used mainly in the UK. They may have been fitted with the standard NATO towhook, and my recollection was they were painted green, but maybe the Land Rover colour rather than military paint. One obvious distinction was the rear bumpers. These were on lease from a civilian company.

The other fleet was from the Special Vehicles division of Land Rover, and was built to full military standards, and had things like a older-model turbo-diesel engine which didn't depend on an electronic control system.

Of course, the way a standard Land Rover is built, it can get pretty well anywhere a military model can, though different tyres will have an effect.

I've worked on both military and civilian models, and there are some differences you can't see, but it's not remotely like the difference between a hum-vee and a Ford Transit.

295:

To be fair, the Church is ignored whenever their views conflict with those of our masters.

Cafeteria Catholics, to be sure...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mater_si,_magistra_no

But then, one Roman Catholic Bishop recently said something that could be interpreted to the effect
that he thinks homosexual sex is immoral, but if
it had to happen, a stable relationship would be
better than a promiscuous life style. So, well,
there might be some hope.

For reproductive freedom, I think that even if the
curiae wanted to change their stance, it might be
difficult. First of, you have to remember that the
whole RC hierarchy gets labelled liberal pussys by
some guys, where some of the things making the news
recently were aimed at reconciling them.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Traditionalist_Catholic

Second of, Catholic teachings on sexuality make
somewhat sense in context, like everything else:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic_teachings_on_sexual_morality

So finding a justification that doesn't stink of
lawyering might a problem.

That being said, it can always get worse. In RC context, the Ratz is a Conservative, but not a
Reactionary. For the latter, think Williamson,
but less psychotic.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Williamson_(bishop)

BTW, the real problem for the RC comes when you have to calculate Easter date on a planet without a moon...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Easter#Date

296:

Yes, standard question in the UK. Although anecdotal evidence (I try not to spend time in hospital that often) suggests they're better about writing down what you say these days. Although not perfect.)

297:

Apologies for not doing my research better. I should have remembered NZ in fact.

But the underlying point remains - in 1912 you can usefully list the countries where women are allowed to vote. By 2012 it's a much shorter list to list those where they can't. We're much more inclusive and liberal a century on.

298:

Perhaps because marriage in the UK was never solely a religious ritual, and even until only a few hundred years ago local custom in parts of the country was to permit short term one year marriages arranged simply by the two people swearing to stay together in front of witnesses. Medieval marriages were little more than that, then the religious people moved in and added a blessing or two and slowly began to take over. Registry office marriages are not to my knowledge specifically religious and they have been around for decades.
Hence the lack of religion in the definition.

299:

Just to add someone else's 5c to the discussion, I found it fascinating to read Adam Curtis's latest post, on the rise of religious fundamentalism in politics.

Especially relevant to the discussion on religious orthodoxy is the bit where Khomeini used the embassy siege to destroy his liberal rivals, and then used the war with Iraq to eliminate the malcontents amongst the revolutionaries and solidify his style of rule.


http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/adamcurtis/2012/03/who_would_god_vote_for.html

300:

The "Pew Foundation" is a christian promotional outlet.
They lie, quite deliberately.

You say this because you've looked at their data or you believe it just because they come from a Christian point of view?

They are fairly respected over here as a survey polling organization. The are continually upsetting many faith groups and denominations by exposing many myths about their membership numbers and the beliefs of their members.

And when they realize that their poll may have produced odd results they admit it and usually try and do another poll later that corrects the information. I'm referring to the no answer defaulting to CoE situation mentioned earlier.

301:

I think that one of the features of the Cold War economy in the UK was that manufacturers of canned food were expected to keep so much stock as a war reserve. It wasn't so big a chunk of the shelf life, but it would have made a big difference if a war had interrupted shipping.

And that makes me wonder if Just in Time didn't take off as a method until the Cold War ended.

302:

Yes, but when was the last time you put your drink down on a table or shelf behind you in a pub?
The point is that rape prevention education shouldn't be, and definitely shouldn't _have_ to be, "Women: be afraid!"

303:

"Getting married" by jumping the broomstick (literally, hence no quotes) was recognised as late as the Napoleonic Wars.

304:

For these people, its best to avoid them, and next to fail their "will this person make a good victim?" interview.

The trouble with this is that it's a competitive examination. So this is much more a victim displacement strategy, than a strategy for reducing the number of victims. And such competition seems more nearly at the expense of the victim pool than of the villain pool. That isn't what I call a Good Trend.

It's one very reasonable strategy for individuals - though not the only one. But it doesn't seem obviously more adequate at reducing the ambient level of viciousness, than a pure strategy of trying to turn the marginal villain towards decency.

305:

when was the last time you put your drink down on a table or shelf behind you in a pub?
Never, since I'd not be readily capable of getting in there or lifting it again without spilling some. I am known to leave it unattended whilst visiting the loo though.

306:

Dirk, I'm with you on the need to be aware of the risks we can do something about. Watch any slasher horror flick and see the stupid things people do, which promptly get them killed.

But that does reinforce the idea that these things are the victim's fault.

Then again, I was once walking down a rather "busy" street in a British University town, late on Friday night, with some friends. One said afterwards that I had looked frightening. I'm not sure why, unless it was that I was paying attention to my surroundings, and walking a little like the way I'd seen my grandfather walk: a combination of confidence and "don't mess with me".

Looking at the dates, it was about the time that David Cameron was a University student, though I'm sure he wasn't the sort to get stupidly drunk on a Friday night. Wrong street, wrong bars, wrong students, but such a tempting thought.

307:

Yes, the religious right says things that are: a) nasty; b) dangerous and c) unnerving to hear from people in prominent positions in public life. Yes, these statements should be met with every kind of resistance appropriate to the specific context, not excluding merciless ridicule or armed force. Yes, there are bad things in the subsurface of modern society which continue to promulgate narratives and policies harmful to women and to the community in general.

That said and after we have gotten our rant on, I can't help but think that most of what is going on is the deliberate creation of hyper-allergic responses in alternating segments of society. One day, they throw in the red meat of single welfare mothers or poor people somehow destroying the mortgage industry and rabid reactions from the right ensue. The next day they throw Rush Limbaugh and the like to us and watch us maul a few of our enemies. Then at selected intervals they line us up to vote for either Kang or Kodos.

To give a concrete example of what's really going on. Most people fill in a narrative that is simpler and more logical than what actually happens because what really happens does not make a whole lot of sense. Many people speak as if Obama tried to get health reform and was forced to compromise. Obama started with a "preemptive compromise" because supposedly he would never get single payor, then amazingly he stuck with that "compromise" and helped destroy his party's Congressional base by insisting on its passage in that form, despite the fact that everyone on both sides hated it and the polls indicated a small majority of the "people" favored him going further with health reform. He did not pitch an idea for the American people to engage with; he did not set up a situation where his opponents would have to make a stand against those ideas which could be resolved at the polls and he did not budge from a mechanism that nobody wanted and that was on its face unwieldly and borderline unconstitutional, plus guaranteed to provide ammunition to his enemies.

I don't think Obama is that insensitive or just plain dumb. I think he got what he wanted: a guarantee that private insurance companies would continue to run and profit from the U.S. health care industry. In the next term the Kang administration will remove tax breaks for health care insurance as a revenue measure. OR the Kodos administration will remove tax breaks for health care insurance as a sop to the Ferengi wing of their party. Many employers will drop health insurance as a benefit and their workers will then be forced to buy more expensive policies with less coverage. Every year this cycle will repeat as the market prices reasonable health care policies higher and higer and more employers opt out or buy worse policies for their workers. (And due to the wage structure in the current economy, the increase in other compensation to make up for the decrease in health benefits will only be a fraction of the loss (and don't be surprised if that fraction often approaches zero percent.)) Evenutally the system will break, but the people making money off this right now don't care as long as they can get mega profits for another decade or so.

The sad thing is that it is necessary to oppose the Nehemia Scudders; so even if you realize there's a man behind the curtain of these culture wars, at the end of the day you don't have the energy or the access to reach him.

(Plus honestly, Authoritarian/BDSM theories? 1962 wants its shocking truths back.)

308:

Do you ever leave the house? Exact same principle; you're just quibbling about the amplitude.

309:

"After all, we KNOW don't we, that only the horrible Europeans do nasty things like ...[ insert name of favourite unfashionable / "evil" activity here ] ....
And the rest of the planet's peoples and nations are as pure as the driven snow, with no evil or dominating intent whatsoever."

Greg, STFU, please. Or get in a time machine and travel back to the 1980's, when you might actually find some people on some campus who believe this.

310:

Mayhem @ 299
So Khomeini was copying Stalin ????

David L @ 300
They (Pew) were the people, IIRC who trotted out a "well-known" atheist (whom I'd never heard of) as converting - and who was always surrounded by "minders" when he appeared in public ...
The poor old bugger was suffering from something like ALzheimers' ...
Which makes one VERY suspicious of anything they say.

paws4thot @ 303
Over broomstick "weddings" were recognised as late as the railway-bulding boom of the 1840s, and notoriously during the construction of the Woodhead Tunnels 1837-45. Maybe as late as Blea Moor 1871-75

311:

" Meme replication may involve elements of both, or even neither, depending on what the unit of replication is, and how the copying works."

But ideas aren't copied verbatim, like genes are (in general). In genes, variation (mutations) are fairly rare events --- and most are failures that are quickly eliminated.

But when I "copy" a phrase, I rarely if ever copy it verbatim. I always mutate it, reuse it in new ways, abstract it and template it. Ideas are very different from genes --- so the analogy basically fails. They are constrained primarily by how they "fit into" larger structures --- and they can be self-modifying.

We don't understand memes, because memes are a poor theory for why we see the same talking points crop up again and again. For example, you can safely assume that when you see almost identical genes in species, that they are "descended from a common ancestor". But that isn't the case with "talking points" --- it's quite likely that the same idea was inferred from a common social practice or principle, not inherited from a common ancestor.

Round hole, square peg. Even if you have a hammer, not everything is a nail.

312:

Barry @ 309
Really?
So the Arabs never traded slaves up-&-down the E. AFrican coast, and China isn't colonising Tibet?
More to the point, I don't know about now, but certainly 20 years ago, one sometimes had to be careful on building sites, making sure that "caribbean" (origin - not necessarily immigrant) workers were not close to/left alone with "W African" (usually Ghana/Nigeria) ones.
There was a tendency for knife-fights, because the "Africans" would taunt the "caribbean" ones about being descended from slaves, and the latter would accuse the former's ancestors of actively promoting/encouraging said trade.
It could get messy.
Meanwhile the current PM of Trinidad (in a blatant attempt to direct attention away from local corruption) is demanding the "Brits" erm "apologise" for the slave-trade, over 200 years after we abolished it.
Err - no my statement is still true, and the allegation is still false (if you see what I mean), and no, you couldn't make it up.

313:

Ref #303 - Cheers; I was aware of them being recognised up to the end of the Napoleonic Wars; all I meant to do was make the point that they were recognised less than 200 years ago.

314:

maggie: "I used healthy as the best word I could come up with, rather than normative or typical, as I thought it had some utility in its positive meanings rather than as in the negative."

But the connotations are there anyhow. They constrain how we read the sentence, how we tend to follow the logic.

You contrasted healthy with the abusive upbringing that leads one to fail to form non-abusive relationships, rather than putting it in terms of succeeding in building abusive relationships! None of that was apparent, because of the use of "healthy" --- but it natural follows from the connotations of the disease model.

If you use a metaphor, you've got to own it.

315:

Meanwhile, cutting back to the script.
It looks as if Romney has JUST won Ohio, making him the definite front-runner.
Gingrich will have to drop out soon - to whom will his votes go? ANd will Hick Sanatorium go all the way to the convention?
If Romney wins, what are the realistic prospects of him beating Obama?
I KNOW this is not a US blog, but it matters to all of us, unfortunately.

316:

"Plus honestly, Authoritarian/BDSM theories? 1962 wants its shocking truths back."

Give me a damn break. No one is claiming shock -- what's shocking is that we keep on pretending that folks aren't driven by basic orientational attitudes when the problem was really settled a century ago.

And yet, since it offends some folks to be confronted by their basic irrationality, particularly those who's irrationality is destructive to others, it has to be repeated over and over again.

They weren't "shocking" in 1962 --- unless you had missed the preceding half-century. What's shocking is this kind of lame "oh, Freud was just an old fraud, and we all know we're irrational except we can't talk about it because that's so old".

That kind of lame-ass pseudo-sophisticated cynicism is the most obvious rhetorical trick in the book. That sort of trick was parodied by Aristophanes: the Iron Age called, it wants its weak rhetoric back.

317:

"Plus honestly, Authoritarian/BDSM theories? 1962 wants its shocking truths back."

Give me a damn break. No one is claiming shock -- what's shocking is that we keep on pretending that folks aren't driven by basic orientational attitudes when the problem was really settled a century ago.

And yet, since it offends some folks to be confronted by their basic irrationality, particularly those who's irrationality is destructive to others, it has to be repeated over and over again.

They weren't "shocking" in 1962 --- unless you had missed the preceding half-century. What's shocking is this kind of lame "oh, Freud was just an old fraud, and we all know we're irrational except we can't talk about it because that's so old".

That kind of lame-ass pseudo-sophisticated cynicism is the most obvious rhetorical trick in the book. That sort of trick was parodied by Aristophanes: the Iron Age called, it wants its weak rhetoric back.

318:

"But ideas aren't copied verbatim, like genes are (in general). In genes, variation (mutations) are fairly rare events --- and most are failures that are quickly eliminated."

If I remember the way Dawkins describes memes correctly you are mixing up the way they are expressed, their phenotype as you will, with the underlying meme-unit itself. The meme as described was closer to a platonic ideal than to the way they express in daily life.

The building blocks themselves can be tiny ideas, or cultural units. With the ideas as you describe them actually consisting of assembled and interacting memes. In that interpretation ideas that seem to spring up independently are actually relatively robust agglomerates of memetic sub-units, and if ideas seem to re-arrange to much to be memes it is an indication that the building blocks are smaller.

319:

I did not direct that at anyone personally. I thought the thread in general was getting a little overheated on the "look at the freaks" angle. I imagine that most of the people in power have rather conventional mores and practices. While it can be fun to charge up on lurid fantasies which make people we don't like look ridiculous or depraved, I think it distracts from the bigger picture. Most of the evil in the world is done by ordinary people for very ordinary reasons. Very boring and un-sexy reasons usually.

Freud was objectively a fraud. He made up the Oedipus Complex to hide the socially embarassing fact of how many children were abused in respectable homes. To be fair he was under horrendous social pressure to recant, but the fact is he did recant and then proceeded to make up an enormous mosaic of lies for his own benefit.

I think you are adding a fair amount of your own content there to create the argument you want to have. To the point where I am not exactly sure which points are worth responding to. I will note that you do seem to love to latch onto small rhetorical devices and pretend they are the most important aspect to dispute.

But yes, I do think your point is overstretched and to the extent it is applicable, it was known a while back. Some of the people commenting were so enthusiastic about its merits and some of them did seem to find it revelatory, that I just wanted to dial it back a bit.

320:

Greg - last year I had occasion to visit a couple of the old slaving castles on the Ghanaian coast. From a distance they look like pretty picture postcard edifices.

Once you get in, and see the condition slaves were kept in, you realise that this is the sort of place where if you knew what it was like to go there, you would not want to go.

And at the entrance to the door of the slave's quarter in the castle Cape Coast city, there's a plaque whose message apologises for the involvement of local chiefs in the slave trade all those years ago.

The point is that no one seriously denies the involvement of local African rulers in the Atlantic slave trade. Quit foaming at the mouth and find yourself a new straw man.

321:

"Most of the evil in the world is done by ordinary people for very ordinary reasons."

I absolutely disagree -- I think that's a post-hoc rationalization made by modernist trying to hide from their (personal) motivations. We find "ordinary reasons" for what we have done --- but anthropology doesn't find people historically behaving for "ordinary reason" but for quite extra-ordinary reasons. Modernism has the entire pyramid of thought upside down --- placing the tactics used to advance inherently pre-rational motivations as motivations themselves.

If it was otherwise, technical manuals would be as interesting as lurid dramas.

The fraud that Freud was involved in is a spectacular case in point, of irrational behaviors cloaked under the fraud of rational self-interest. I mean, you actually say it, and then fail to follow the trivial implications --- Freud's career pattern wasn't driven by some abstract "cash maximization", there were better ways to make a living! He wasn't "conspiring" to cover up abuse!

This is where your conspiracy theories about some great plan to jerk people around comes from --- either the structural defects of our system come from mass emotional motivations, or there must be some super-rationalists constructing this to manipulate us. The nonsense of the conspiracy theory is the inherent failure-mode of modernism, of the failure to see ourselves as freaks. I say --- ourselves --- because there has been no implication that it is just "them": projection on your part (you freak! ;)

322:

"Yes, but when was the last time you put your drink down on a table or shelf behind you in a pub?"

Never out of sight

"The point is that rape prevention education shouldn't be, and definitely shouldn't _have_ to be, "Women: be afraid!""

Why not - it is for just about every other type of crime. Burglary? Householder - be afraid. Check your doors and windows are locked before going to bed. I take it you are not old enough to remember those public service ads.

323:

I don't think Khomeini was copying Stalin per se, although I can see the parallels. I think they were just both doing things in a similar fashion to most dictators throughout history - sieze power, destroy your nearest rivals, and then head off any challenges from below.
The relevant context was the liberal US Gov under Carter communicating with the moderates in Iran being conflated with the previous CIA assistance to the secret police of the Shah. Coupling that with the desire to enforce religious orthodoxy made for a very powerful movement.
He then had the fortune of a war with Iraq at the point where internal political unrest was starting to emerge, and changed the rhetoric to make dying as a martyr into something glorious which nicely got rid of a lot of his dissenting followers.


324:

Here's a picture of the man who was probably crucial in implementing the bulk of the Jewish Holocaust. He's not as famous as the usual suspects, but he was my no means "ordinary". IMHO one of the most evil people who ever existed
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_Wirth

325:

Those are all good anti-mugging strategies. But here's the thing: approximately two thirds of rapists are known to their victims. They aren't strangers in the same way that muggers are. They can, in fact, be your friends. They can be your boyfriend. They can be your dad. Or your co-worker. Or the manager of your volleyball team. They can be anyone who thinks that using physical intimidation or emotional manipulation to obtain sex is okay, and that rape is only rape when a the victim is screaming and clawing, not when the victim is terrified into silence.

The Home Office appears to agree, and has released a PSA targeted at youth to that effect.

326:

"He's not as famous as the usual suspects, but he was my no means "ordinary"."

As long as we allow the discussion of motivational issues to stay in the land of "reason" --- then these things will continue to go on, because we've been banned from speaking about what's actually going on, what the goals of the machine are.

The 3rd Reich was a rational attempt to satisfy irrational, sadistic pleasures, but since discussing that is and was verboten, folks were only allowed discuss whether the tactics were rational, not whether the ends were desirable --- or what the real ends that tie the narrative together were.

Why do the Koch brother's want to control the US government? More "money"? Why do church going Americans support these groups that would apparently be anti-Christian? Discussing the means, "the ordinary reasons of ordinary people" misses the whole point. Revelation, prophecy, domination --- none of these things are "ordinary", and they're not simple cons.

Rational economic self-interest ("ordinariness") doesn't even explain why one would desire to be rationally economically self-interested.

Why did Thomas Jefferson hold slaves at home that were obviously his own children --- and everyone commented on it? To get his dishes washed?

Ordinary people doing ordinary things --- what a flimsy excuse! Hannah Ahrendt was wrong --- she took the justification for the motivation. Evil isn't banal.

I never believe someone's claims about their motivations until I've gotten them thoroughly sloshed.

327:

"I never believe someone's claims about their motivations until I've gotten them thoroughly sloshed"

Which is a very good method - in vino veritas.
My motivations for much of what I do go back to early childhood, and I have only ever told one other person even part of the truth. It's just so bizarre.

328:

Or I could be in a different jurisdiction. ",)

"Known men accounted for over two-thirds of assailants" (source here) is a representative sample of the statistics of rape. How many burglaries, muggings etc are committed by people known to the victim? You're not comparing like with like.
The classic 'stranger in a ski-mask' is a definite risk, but it is the minority of attacks. Therefore, rape prevention should not be focused on risk mitigation on women's part - if only because it's the equivalent of premature optimization, and Amdahl's Law says the effort would be better spent elsewhere.

329:

"How many burglaries, muggings etc are committed by people known to the victim?"

In the US, it's mostly neighbors. Most murders are family members, most robberies are by the folks down the street.

330:

DJPoK
Point taken, though it is not actually a strawman - hence my comment on the current leader of Jamaica.
That castle sounds really nasty.

Re: Christian Wirth
Try Googling for Martin Luther + Jews.
Euw.

331:

"Here, in france, we have an (admitedly old) law forbidding women to wear pants, save in precise circumstances, like medical prescription."

Wait, you can get a prescription for trousers? For what medical condition? (Hypothermia?)

332:

I am relying on 15 year old memories here, but if I remember correctly: Freud tried to tell the truth; he was blackballed from making a living; he was on the brink of ruin; a friend of his suggested that maybe his patients were imagining this stuff; Freud picked up the suggestion and ran with it. Whether Freud would have starved to death or just been forced to scrape by as an ostracized has-been, I think there is some amount of instrumentality in his coversion, though not a deliberate "conspiracy" in the usual sense of the word.

I think one can postulate more than one process going on at the same time. Some groups/people are being created/driven by irrational urges, but that does not mean other people are not manipulating them. Or that a particular individual is not in one role in one context and another in another.

Take Santorum (please!) He appeared to be a true believer. Now we find out that at a crucial stage in his political career he decided that being pro-life was more useful to him than being lazily pro-choice. The movement that creates the role may be driven by the collective irrationality of millions. Santorum's need for power may be driven by an irrational desire for dominance. But his choice to fill a role he probably does not particularly believe in is pure manipulative self interest. You could argue that he could have chosen a different role to the same end, but there are only a fairly limited number of options at any one time. He chose the one he thought was a winner and after a short while, one's options are usually constrained by one's early choices. He can stop playing a lunatic anytime he wants, but then he can also stop aspiring to be Vice President or whatever it is he desires at this time.

A more interesting question is will/can Obama function as a progressive once he does not need a billion dollars of other people's money to keep his job. (Or generally can anyone with large political aspirations function as anything but a lap dog while campaign finance is what it is.)

333:

"I think one can postulate more than one process going on at the same time. Some groups/people are being created/driven by irrational urges, but that does not mean other people are not manipulating them. Or that a particular individual is not in one role in one context and another in another."

Absolutely agreed. I think it's necessarily so -- emotional desires have to be operationalized, and that requires that they be rationalized which then constrains the further development of the primitive motivations.

"A more interesting question is will/can Obama function as a progressive once he does not need a billion dollars of other people's money to keep his job."

But, then he'll need that money to set up his post-presidential power base to continue his program! "Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love 'ya tomorrow..."

I prefer to infer the "ideology" from the pattern of actions --- words are much too easy to lie (to oneself) with. When someone says "In an ideal world...", I immediately do a double take.

I don't believe in super-secret rationalist revolutionaries just waiting to get to the top so they can pop out of the cake. You are what you do and who you party with --- and what you do and who you party with makes you what you are. (Back to memes, eh?)

334:

Having had a chance to read the later comments, I think I understand more of where you are coming from. However, I think you can choose the scope or objective of your inquiry and then decide what method is appropriate. There is not exactly one right method or one completely wrong one.

With regard to the in vino veritas line, I actually disagree. People are so enmeshed in the contexts which gave them being, I don't think you can find the one true person behind all the masks. The masks are the person and drunk mask is no more real than any other. Childhood trauma persona is no more real than child watched 2001 and wanted to go to Saturn persona. I will grant that some are older, more active or more persistent.

335:

"With regard to the in vino veritas line, I actually disagree."

The hard part is getting the drunk part out for most people --- but I agree, it's not the ONLY motivator. Cybernetic systems, not syllological. It's easy to get a Libertarian to tell you the high-minded classical liberal theory --- but it takes a good drunk to tell you that, yeah, the poor deserve to die, fuck em.

336:

And then of course, adult trauma some bastard wrote voluminously about why I am never going to Saturn ever ever ever persona. That's the one that's really in control, so be warned Charlie.

337:

How is the crime distributed though? Here it tends to be more concentrated, insofar as if your house is being burgled by someone you know or you are mugged by someone you recognise it is because you live on one of our delightful sink estates. In more up market areas people simply don't prey on each other that way. The crimes there tend towards financial fraud and less personal ways, all the way up to the dodgy financial dealings of the City, where the only obvious victims are other companies. (Although obviously there is a lot of damage to the small people and shareholders and suchlike)

The USA seems to be a scared society, by contrast the UK is much less so; it requires a constant drum beat of scare stories in the media in order to make people afraid all the time, yet if you ask many people when the last time they were a victim of crime was the answer is much less than the claimed level of fear would make you think.

338:

Well, irrespective of place or gender, if you get staggering drunk in a pub or nightclub there is a huge sign that lights up above your head that says: "Easy pickings".

339:

I am well aware of that fact, thank you. Maybe I never got mugged in Manchester because I am over 6ft tall, avoided being obviously drunk in public and dark areas, and walked very fast all the time whilst keeping a good eye out all around me.

340:
I don't believe in super-secret rationalist revolutionaries just waiting to get to the top so they can pop out of the cake.

Neither do I, but I do believe in (often ad hoc) groups of like-minded, non-rationally-motivated power-seekers. The classic manifestation of conspiracy is the political faction; there's not a great deal of difference in structure or origin between the factions of nobles and would-be nobles who swirled and fought around Elizabeth I or Henry VIII and the various quasi-religious, quasi-ideological groups that infest the Republican Party. Power at that level can have very large effects on the general society, though often at the level of unintended consequences, and rarely as the result of rational planning.

And I suspect that the only real difference between those Republican factions and the power groups around Idi Amin Dada or Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili is one of the level of first-hand brutality they're willing to exhibit.

341:

I would also add: don't walk round wearing headphones/earbuds.
In other words, if you want to avoid being a victim think defensively ALL the time

342:

Anyone motivated by a "One True Way" ideology is an atrocity waiting to happen.

343:

Even more recently in Scotland. Back in the 1990s when I worked in benefits administration the guidance was if their friends thought they were married/treated them as if they were, then they were.

From Wikipedia since I'm lazy:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marriage_in_Scotland

"Under earlier Scots law, there were three forms of "irregular marriage" which can be summarised as the agreement of the couple to be married and some form of witnessing or evidence of such. An irregular marriage could result from mutual agreement, by a public promise followed by consummation, or by cohabitation and repute.[2] All but the last of these were abolished by the Marriage (Scotland) Act 1939, from 1 January 1940. Prior to this act, any citizen was able to witness a public promise. The tradition of eloping English couples searching for blacksmiths resulted legally from the fact that blacksmiths were necessarily citizens and could often be recognised by strangers by their presence at their forge.

A marriage by "cohabitation with repute" as it was known in Scots Law could still be formed; popularly described as "by habit and repute", with repute being the crucial element to be proved. In 2006, Scotland was the last European jurisdiction to abolish this old style common-law marriage or "marriage by cohabitation with repute", by the passing of the Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006.[3]"

344:

The USA seems to be a scared society, by contrast the UK is much less so; it requires a constant drum beat of scare stories in the media in order to make people afraid all the time, yet if you ask many people when the last time they were a victim of crime was the answer is much less than the claimed level of fear would make you think.

There seems to be a constant emphasis on "bad things" that is way outside of the stats on the details of such bad things. Fear of break ins. Kidnapping of children. Etc... And most folks don't understand the stats. And a lot is driven by local TV news producers wanting to put on the most sensational stories. (Do you have local TV news in the UK and is it anything like the US. Local news usually accounts for the income that keeps the doors open over on this side of the big pond.)

Currently there is a pending requirement to put backup cameras on every new car sold in the US. This is eliminate the horrible deaths that occur from folks backing up over people. Especially kids. But when I read about it the article writer had not done the math. Based on what I read they were looking to save under 300 lives a year in the US. And the cost to the economy was going to be around $1 million per death. I have to ask, given that we seem to kill about 35,000 people per year in auto accidents, isn't there easier low hanging fruit to be picked for $200 to $300 million dollars per year in auto costs?

Maybe. Maybe not. But we don't discuss that.

345:

What is this, teach your grandmother how to bake cakes day? I've been walking around with naked ears since I was a teenager precisely because I like to hear what is going on around me. I've got an entire LJ post somewhere on the topic of how to deal with potential agressors and make it look like you are big and scary enough to put off potential muggers. I've been out for a jog and had young neds go "awright man", probably because I looked big and scary and stared at them in an intimidating fashion.

However, I don't let the defensive thought get in the way of my life. Lots of people act or speak as if they do, "Oh I'm too scared to go out at night or answer my door". Meanwhile as has already been said, teh majority of rapes and such are by people you already know, and if you seriously want the response to that to be "act and think defensively all the time even with people you know" then that's one fucked up society you are tying to build.

I rather like the radical feminists idea of the whistle and gun or such for the anti-rape kit. You give the kit to your friend, who then blows the whistle or shoots you when you have the urge to rape.

346:

"What is this, teach your grandmother how to bake cakes day?"

It's for others who read this - not you.
Believe it or not, there ARE people who I see rolling drunk in the street at night (male and female), and others walking round with their ears blocked. Then they wonder why bad things happen to them.

347:
The USA seems to be a scared society

Exactly so. We are spending more on law enforcement (at the national level, primarily, as the state and local budgets have been decimated by austerity measures) and prisons than ever before, at a time when crime, especially 1-on-1 violent crime, is at historically low levels. Politicians and heads of law enforcement beat the drum of fear for more and more abridgments and suspensions of basic civil liberties and rights, at a time when the threat of terrorism from external sources (such as al Qaeda and its affiliates) has largely been eliminated, and the threat of terrorism from internal sources (white supremacists, violent anti-abrtnsts, and survivalist-militia local feudal-lord wannabees) is considered (incorrectly, IMO) to be non-existent by law enforcement in general. The fear campaign has had to push the notions that any Muslim represents a potential terrorist, that drug-fueled violence waits right around the corner for any citizen, and that organized gangs of pedophiles have invaded our schools and playgrounds, to maintain the fiction that life here is more dangerous than it has ever been.

348:

"The USA seems to be a scared society"

And it's self justifying.

For example, since everyone is terrified of the roving gangs of pedophiles, there are no children outside of an arms reach of their parents. Therefore, if you do let your children out to ride their bikes, they are the only children out there, making them huge, bright targets for the crazies -- crazies who've had their insanity reinforced by the idea that they, the crazies, have the upper hand.

The feeling of hostility makes one hostile. When you expect everyone to be violent, well --- you become paranoid, unwilling to help others, isolated and angry. A beautiful recipe for an impending social explosion.

Upstream, there's discussion of the criminal arms race -- you lock your windows to keep out thieves. But the thieves simply move on to softer targets -- so everyone locks their windows, and you're a target again, since the thieves still have to eat, and the cultural basis for their behavior has only been altered infinitesimally. So now you put up bars... and so on and so on. The crime rate is independent of the individual defensive behaviors, which only increase the total cost to everyone of simply living.

Instead of focusing on the ultimate aggregate causes, we focus on individual defenses, living in our little variations of prisoner's dilemmas.

This is called freedom, I'm told here.

349:

Bruce: "Neither do I, but I do believe in (often ad hoc) groups of like-minded, non-rationally-motivated power-seekers."

Of course -- anyone who has owned a business knows that the world is filled with ad-hoc, temporary conspiracies in the formal meaning of a group of people who agree to screw other people. The historical record, for those who haven't had the luck of running a business, is incredibly clear --- and the claim that somehow human nature has changed since Rome is not credible.

I believe in 6 billion factorial conspiracies --- just not one, or that any of them are terribly competent or rational. It's the omniscience or super-rationality that turns something into an evil "Conspiracy Theory".

I think that the tendency to do that --- assume super-rationality --- is a failure mode, a fallacy, of Modernism. The mirror image is "Hanlon's fallacy" -- that if you don't assume super-rational maliciousness, your other option is incompetence (randomness). That's all built on the assumption of everyone as "rational agents" --- a very incorrect assumption. I've never met a rational agent --- I've met people who intermittently act rationally and almost always with insufficient information.

350:

The mirror image is "Hanlon's fallacy" -- that if you don't assume super-rational maliciousness, your other option is incompetence (randomness).

Heh. Kind of like SF readers (and sometimes writers) who seem to assume any story set in the future must be either a utopia or dystopia. The type who, when asked "Why do you write dystopias?" answer "Because utopias are boring" -- as if there were nothing in between.

Is there a name for this fallacy, and how does it come about? Because I had seen it A LOT.

351:

False dichotomy.

It comes about because of structural issues in culture -- we naturally analyze things as dichotomies that are appropriate in a given context, and then we generalize and forget that the dichotomy was originally based on a specific context.

352:

Greg - I really have to show my ignorance here, considering I had to look up, Godwin warning, and two other terms you mentioned. After re-reading my post, I suppose I do come off as a sympathizer, which was not my intention. I was merely trying to shed some light on how I perceive the ways the extreme right of this country coerce and take advantage of the worst parts of small town culture. But I agree that the effects are horrible, and I would like to combat them, but like any opposing team, reason and logic don't seem to overcome the power of group identity.

353:

Reason and logic are not enough.
To win you need to engage emotion.

354:

"To win you need to engage emotion."

And that doesn't just mean feelings in a kumbaya way -- you need to "convert" them, to change the emotional bases by which they construct their reason. Reason basically fine-tunes the conclusions that are in harmony with how you expect/want the way to work -- to push folks out of that local minima, you've got to offer them another world that is more satisfying than the one they're in --- one that gives them prestige, love, security, etc.

It's not fuzzy things. Emotion means very real, hard things. Believing in creationism means you are accepted in church -- being accepted in church means you have prestige in the church, opportunities for business, folks who give you support in child-rearing, help in bankruptcy proceedings, information about political developments, sexual partners, ...

Paris is worth a mass, correct?

355:

Believing in creationism means you are accepted in church

Depends on the church. Really. The problem is the ones where it does not matter are not yelling or making an issue of it.

356:

"Depends on the church."

Well --- of course. In some churches they want you to believe in creationism, others just require belief in virgins giving birth to gods and priests conjuring blood from wine. Others want you to believe in river gods bringing commandments from mountain gods, or mountain gods becoming incarnate in magic incantations.

Hell -- there's even churches where you just have to believe that all beliefs are equal, and everyone gets to believe anything that's consistent with everyone getting to believe what they want! But you do have to agree to that -- which seems to me just as "irrational" as believing that the world is 5000 years old...

357:

My point was that it is not even a majority position unless you get real specific about denominations and geography. So:
you have prestige in the church, opportunities for business, folks who give you support in child-rearing, help in bankruptcy proceedings, information about political developments, sexual partners, ...
doesn't apply in most places/churches anymore.

But yes there are other things. But then again, church isn't all that much of a social requirement/crutch as it used to be in most of the US. Better or worse is another question. I think we're better off that it isn't.

358:

Since we're discussing gender issues and crazy governments, I'll offer this anecdote from US history. The town of Umatilla Oregon had a highly lackluster government, which was very bad about actually doing things. Then a conspiracy (of about two dozen people) voted in a new city council, which you can do when only 34 votes (total!) are cast for mayor. The new mayor was Laura Stockton Starcher, wife of previous mayor E.E. Starcher, who'd managed to miss the fact that his wife was running until she beat him 26-8. Mrs. Starcher and four other women took control of the town council and started 'reforms' such as paying the electric bill.

359:

"But then again, church isn't all that much of a social requirement/crutch as it used to be in most of the US"

Probably not as much -- given the rise in atheism/spiritualism, especially at the top end of the income spectrum.

But for focus at the lower end, particular spanish-speaking immigrants, especially outside of urban areas, it's still huge. If you go to S. Carolina, you'll see bus loads of Central Americans being transported by their local Pentacostals to spots for swimming, to get groceries, etc.

The privileged and the poor live in two different countries. I've known people become conservative/charismatic Catholics to get health insurance, for example.

360:

It's bloody hard to look intimidating, never mind big and scary, when you're fifty, five foot six, skinny with specs.

361:

okay, ficty-two (in vino veritas indeed)

362:
I believe in 6 billion factorial conspiracies --- just not one, or that any of them are terribly competent or rational. It's the omniscience or super-rationality that turns something into an evil "Conspiracy Theory".

No, they're not terribly competent, but sometimes competence and success aren't directly related. Often you don't have to be the fastest runner around, only the next to slowest, because the tiger catches the slowest. So you don't have to be very competent to be successful, only more competent (or more lucky) than your competitors. I cite the US Democratic Party as an example: they're not very good at what they do, but they seem to be better at it than the Republicans just now.

The notion of super-rationality may have come from economics or game theory (and note that much of game theory was the work of a brilliant mathematician who was also a paranoid schizophrenic at the time), but I find it very reminiscent of the best-seller, film, and TV concept of a serial killer: an implacable genius whose primary talent is confounding law enforcement. Looked at another way, the stereotype of the rational conspirator is Ernst Stavro Blofeld. At least he's nice to his cat.

363:

Indeed, although that was not exactly what he was after, rather it was cultivation of awareness of surroundings and such. However I expect that very few of the readers of this blog tend to get stocious in strange areas of town and make themselves easier prey for robbers etc. And I think the rape issue has been covered well enough already.

Thus the key point is how to de-fear society, how to remove the desire to be on the defensive and to ensure that people are less violent and criminal. That will lead to fewer victims than telling people not to park their cars in dark areas or walk home alone.

364:

It's not cruelty, exactly -

It's disdain, supplemented by disgust, and fed by a mind-numbing smorgasbord of self-righteousness and self-congratulation.

If it comes out cruel, it's only because they can see no reason to treat anyone they so instinctively and deeply loathe with any more consideration.

365:

Ernst Stavro Blofeld would be on the covers of magazines now days. Talking about how the Left Wing Brits kept trying to hold his better ways back.

366:

Backing up? It would be trivial to include an audible alarm. In the UK, a sounder module with built-in driver circuit retails at three quid. It would connect to the reversing-light circuit, drawing 10mA extra.

Anyway, we have the things on trucks already.

They're both technical fixes for relatively low-probability accidents, but it seems American politicians and campaigners are only satisfied when they get the expensive shiny. I've had dealings with American corporations which will unerringly go for the technical fix, even for problems which could be solved by a decent set of instructions for their site's registration page.

367:

I've just coined a phrase for the setting my stories are in.

Swan Utopia: a utopia with a surface smoothness and grace, depending on sometimes frantic activity hidden below the waterline.

It's the crazed paddling where you find the good stories. What do you think Culture Special Circumstances is? (One example from a rather better writer than I am.)

I won't apologise for the episode involving the Ninja Pirate Clowns.

368:

Ernst Stavro Blofeld would be on the covers of magazines now days. Talking about how the Left Wing Brits kept trying to hold his better ways back.

I would like to refer you to the afterword of "The Jennifer Morgue" -- a wee essay on the subject of James Bond, in the course of which the author tracks down and interviews Ernst Stavro Blofeld on exactly that topic.

369:

Do you have local TV news in the UK and is it anything like the US
Yes, for values of "local" that relate to fairly arbitrary sized broadcast areas. Scotland has one local TVN programme, London, Wales, Northern Ireland, and English regions which need a map to explain. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:UK_digital_switchover.svg is actually about the "digital switchover" but draws in the region boundaries that local news programmes are intended for.

I've no idea how content compared with the US though.

370:

I watched a video that's doing the rounds yesterday about the new airport security measures from the TSA. Although there was a huge amount of political rhetoric in it, the "I smuggled this metal container through 2 different airports and their scanners without a problem" element was kind of fun.

But as an example of over-expensive solutions that don't work a salutary lesson to all if he's telling the truth.

But while I initially agreed with Dave Bell's #366 comment about a reversing alarm (the UK's favoured solution) in the US I'm not so sure. I'm guessing if you're driving a car and you reverse over a child (however infrequently it actually happens) you're liable. The child can't necessarily be expected to hear the alarm and get out of the way after all. And so many places have that "OMG, we must protect the children from everything!" response in the culture that it's an easy way to scare up panic. But in US politics it seems germane to follow the money. Who is pushing the bill? How much are they being paid by the in-car camera lobby? You see a cost of $300M to the economy. They see an increased turnover of $300M.

371:

I don't know the specifics of who's pushing this but it isn't a bill.
http://www.businessweek.com/news/2012-02-29/backup-camera-rule-at-cost-of-2-7-billion-delayed-by-u-s-.html
It is a regulation that a bill requires the NHTSA to implement. Which means more meat for the political grinder.

Expected to save about 150 lives per year.

I was wrong about the costs. Estimated costs are $2.7 BILLION but it's not clear if that's per year or what. Cost per car is estimated at about $58 and $88 if the car already has a display and $159 to $203 per vehicle if not.

Since the US buys just north of 10 million cars per year I'm guessing the number is for each year going forward.

I like backup cameras. But there's got to be a cheaper way to avoid 150 deaths plus other injuries. To be honest I suspect a lot of people will pay as much attention to the display as they do to their mirrors when backing up.

These things in the US tend to come up from consumer advocacy groups that in no way stand to make money from the spending involved. Which gives them a cloak of purity in their policies.

If you don't want to read from the Business Week point of view then you can Google News search for it.

372:

These things in the US tend to come up from consumer advocacy groups that in no way stand to make money from the spending involved. Which gives them a cloak of purity in their policies.

In these situations, it can be prudent to ask who finances the group(s) in question.

373:

My bad, sorry, don't really understand the terminology - but follow the money and ask who is going to gain is still a good idea. Especially if it's $2.7 Billion! That's a lot of incentive.

374:

It's an interesting cost exercise because the initial roll-out would require retrofitting the devices to each existing car/truck, but once it's in place it's just an extra feature, like seat belts or wing mirrors. And camera CCD chips are cheap these days, and most modern cars already come with some sort of display screen anyway.

If we look at the on-going costs of, say, $60 per vehicle and 10 million vehicles per year and 150 lives saved per year, then we're looking at spending $600M year to save 150 lives, or $4M per life. That's marginal, but not hopelessly unreasonable.

Unlike the TSA: $100Bn/year to save how many lives from terrorist incidents? (Even if 9/11 was an annual recurring phenomenon, $100Bn/3500 lives would be seen as a bit inefficient -- $33M/life saved. And 9/11 was a shocking anomaly, not business as usual. If it's a once per decade incident, then that's $0.3Bn/life saved, which is getting ridiculous. And so on.)

The stupid aspect of the reversing-camera idea isn't that it doesn't work, but that it's going to be a legally mandated technical fix to what is actually a behavioural problem. Like that ever works well ...

375:

Swan Utopia: a utopia with a surface smoothness and grace, depending on sometimes frantic activity hidden below the waterline.

Ooh, I like that phrase! (Would a reference to Apple products be out of line here?) I hope to have reason to use it myself sometime.

376:

#371 - From your quoted article "At a cost of $2.7 billion a year for an annual fleet of 16.6 million" (my emphasis).

It seems clear enough to me!

#374 - I agree.

377:

Andyet said "Having out bred them, they now out vote them."


So perhaps we need to stop people indoctrinating children into religion. What I like to call Religious Grooming.


I think most people would be OK with NOT forcing all kids to adhere to one fixed religion ('cos there's a good chance it wouldn't be the one you were brainwashed by!), so maybe it'd be possible?

378:

"The stupid aspect of the reversing-camera idea isn't that it doesn't work, but that it's going to be a legally mandated technical fix to what is actually a behavioural problem. Like that ever works well ..."

It depends. Interlocks and warnings are frequently very useful to me (and frequently very irritating).
The blanket statement you're making is a rather large blanket, perhaps more suitable to covering an elephant.

379:

One other thought, directed at the person who pshawed about the psycho-sexual mania of conservatives and fascists being nothing new:

There may be nothing new under the sun but even the oldest truths are a fresh revelation to those who hear them themselves for the first time.

380:

It depends. Interlocks and warnings are frequently very useful to me
Ok, what's your design for an interlock that will stop a reversing vehicle in response to detecting a person on a camera screen that will never stop it in response to detecting a post or a tree?

Or are you planning on detecting whther the driver is looking at the VDU? If so, how do you stop the car stopping reversing when they look "up" to see if there is moving traffic on the roadway they're reversing into?

381:

I think most people would be OK with NOT forcing all kids to adhere to one fixed religion

Then you must have mercifully narrow experience with people. The vast majority of people that I know believe that it is tantamount to child cruelty *not* to indoctrinate their children into a religion ("But you're cutting them off from God's love!"), and on any other topic they are rational, thoughtful, and intelligent individuals.

The religion blind-spot is terrifying.

382:

The rest of his sentence was "'cos there's a good chance it wouldn't be the one you were brainwashed by!"

It's the argument I make to irredeemable conservatives who want to dissolve the wall between church and state: If there's a state religion, chances are it won't be precisely yours. Alas, despite their paranoia of becoming minorities, they can't seem to imagine a world in which state sponsorship of (one) religion backfires on them.

383:

To them it's unthinkable that any rational person would choose a different religion -- after all, whatever they believe is the one true faith.

Unfortunately the second sentence is irrelevant, because that's not the way people who believe children must have a faith think (to begin with, they don't think they're brainwashed, they're saved).

384:

Backup cameras have some utility, but probably not much for their ostensible purpose of preventing backing into oblivious children. The Volvo 940 wagon I had for 14 years had extremely good vision coverage from the driver's seat, with a good downangle allowing me to check clearance very close to the car all around. When I finally replaced it with a 2004 XC70 I discovered that the higher clearance required by the all wheel drive and the changes in the frame had reduced visibility, especially close up. Backing up safely is more difficult in the new car; a backup camera would make driving considerable easier in tight parking structures, and in backing out of my driveway, which comes out to the street at a bike/pedestrian lane at a blind curve in the road.

So I'd be willing to pay an additional $100 or $150 for a camera that would make it easier to see railings and bicyclists coming up perpendicularly to me on my blind side, but I don't see that mandating them for all cars is going to be very cost-effective. For one thing, I don't believe it will save as many lives as the proponents estimate; you have to look at the display for the camera to be useful, and a lot of those sorts of accidents seem to happen because the driver is distracted by something else (selecting music, answering a cell phone, drinking coffee, ...).

paws4thot, I can think of several ways to design interlocks, though none would be failproof (or foolproof), and all of them would be considerably more expensive than a simple camera/display design. And I don't think any of them would be worth deploying short of complete automation of the driving. A design that uses sensory integration of the parking proximity detectors and an infrared camera to detect bodies that are warmer than the surroundings would work (except in very hot weather or very cold weather in which the body is heavily swaddled in outdoor wear). Detecting the direction of the driver's gaze with an expert system to measure the gaze time against a learned standard for that driver would work, but would probably have too high an incidence of false negatives to be acceptable for the purpose of preventing a small number of fatal accidents per year..

385:

With regard to state religions, might I mention the book "The Founding Fathers and the Place of Religion in America", by Frank Lambert, Princeton University Press. He distinguishing between the Planting Fathers, who founded colonies in the Americas in the 1600s, and the Founding Fathers in the 1770s. There is, as they say, a vast sea change between those two points.

Several of the original colonies had state religions: the Puritans in Massachusetts, the Church of England in Virginia, and Quakers in Pennsylvania. Between 1659 and 1661 four Quakers were hanged by Massachusetts for persistently seeking to proselytize in New England. The best known today was a woman, Mary Dyer. Google her for details.

Frank.

386:


> Hell -- there's even churches where you just have to believe that all beliefs are equal, and everyone gets to believe anything that's consistent with everyone getting to believe what they want!

Slag-Blah is what you want there:


http://www.airshipentertainment.com/buckcomic.php?date=20071222

http://www.airshipentertainment.com/buckcomic.php?date=20071225

387:

Can I just have a late addition to Room 101?

Apple Fanbois.

Please? Pretty Please?

388:

Oops, sorry, wrong heading.

389:

Jonathan Chait of the New York Magazine who is quite a funny political pundit puts the reasonable point that the GOP is actually in terminal, demographic-lead decline.

The wackiness currently being exhibited by decidedly mediocre and unrepresentative candidates during the Republic Primaries is just the slightly off cream rising the top.

This current fracturing in the Republican Party Reaganomic consensus, between the Religious Right, the Mainstream Republicans and the Lunar Libertarians is just the result.

As Chait says, he's not saying that the GOP won't be able to obtain majorities in the future, but that the demographic and sociological trend - particularly Latino and African-American lead - is against it.

So perhaps there will be a liberal, social democratic New Deal somewhere in the US' future - come to pick up the pieces of Imperial over-extension.

390:

"Back to memes"

Ok folks. What's this? (Invisible Children)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4MnpzG5Sqc

Certainly has viral qualities.

391:

Intrade currently has Obama's re-election at 61%, but I think that's low absent a major event (Iran, triple-dip recession, etc.).

Romney will almost certainly be the nominee. A Santorum or Gingrinch on the top of the ticket would hurt every other local GOP candidate and endanger the House Majority. The moneymen won't let that happen. Romney's nomination is a real problem for Republican Get Out The Vote efforts. He's literally a heretic in the eyes of the GOP base; where Baptists and other "conservative" faiths have the Old and New Testaments, the LDS Church has a whole other book. Some clerics come right out and say that Mormons are not "real" Christians.

While your average Republican might not vote for the Kenyan Shariacrat, he might stay home rather than vote for a guy who's not a "real" Christian. And he definitely isn't going to take the day off work to pound on doors and drive old folks to the polls. Meanwhile, the spectre of 3 Romney Supreme Court appointees is gonna keep the Democrat GOTV fired up. The union operations are a shadow of their former glory, but they're more reliable than the pay-to-play operations Romney is going to have to rely on.

Plus, the GOP faithful have been conditioned for three whole years to think of "Obamacare" as the worst thing since we got kicked out of Eden and it is demonstrably identical "Romneycare." (That's kind of why it sucks.) The GOP parrots keep reciting that 60% of the country dislikes Obamacare, but they neglect to point out that's because 30% of us want single payer.

392:

The regulation is for new cars, it doesn't require retrofitting to old cars. The reference to existing models in the article means models currently in production. The 2012 Canyonero TSV (toddler squishing vehicle) has already been designed and production started, but it's going to need a retrofit kit. The 2011 model that's on the roads already won't.

That said, I agree with your post entirely. 50 injuries a week, two of them fatal makes for a borderline case, but if the money came out of the TSA budget it would definitely be a good thing all round.

Did anyone else get a bit of a sick chuckle out of the awkward phrasing? "Fifty children are backed over each week on average" - you'd think the parents would learn after the first two or three weeks.

393:

Bruce Cohen @ 340
And I suspect that the only real difference between those Republican factions and the power groups around Idi Amin Dada or Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili is one of the level of first-hand brutality they're willing to exhibit.
Care to make a small bet on that?

David L @ 344
VERY interesting side-line here.
WHAT IS A HUMAN LIFE WORTH?
To which the answer is: "It depends on where you are (working)"
On the Railways here, the value is set (yes, really) at about £10 million - if you can save a life for less than that figure, you do it ....
Hence the joy with which changing the methodolgy and cost for operating what are called AOCL's (in Scotland particularly) from about a million-a-throw, down to about £10^5 has been greeted almost deliriously by the railway operators.
On the roads, a life is worth about £50 000 - which tells you something.

paws4thot @ 372
In these situations, it can be prudent to ask who finances the group(s) in question.
Ah, we have those over here.
We call them "Fake Charities"
Usually intetering busybodies trying to ban everything, and "safeguard the children" - especially when it comes to advertising and FOOD.
It makes one think dangerous, Libertarian thoughts, when one comes across these bastards.
See also the "safe alchohol limits" as pushed by our guvmint.
A deliberate, public LIE.
Ask Charlie for more information on this crooked scam ....

Dave the Proc @ 381
The religion blind-spot is terrifying. Amen to that brother (ahem)
The nutters around the corner from me are a classic example ..
They are determined to force jeebus on you for your own good.
& 383
To mis-quote H. Beam Piper ...
No, he’s just a “Monotheist”, Kalvan wanted to say, but there wasn’t a word in the language for it.
One who respects no god but his own. We had that in my own country (time).
They are people who believe in only one god, and then they believe that the god they worship is the only true one, and all the others a re false, and finally they believe that the only true god must be worshipped in only one way, and those who worship otherwise are vile monsters who should be killed.
The Inquisition, the wicked and bloody Albigensian crusade, St Bartholemew’s, Magdeburg, Badr, Sunni-&-Shia, Katyn, the Killing fields.
We want none of that here.

from "Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen" – updated.

Re: REVERSING
Many people-carriers here have an extra convex mirror fitted over the rear door/window.
I'm wondering about getting one for my L-R, since reversing that barge can be a problem, and I don't want to give a parked car a tow-ball pressing!

394:

Just posted.
NO LINKS
Still got "held for approval"
wtf?

395:

Most back-up camera designs that I've seen will improve your vision directly behind you at bumper level on the Canyonero TSV (qv). AIUI your required functionality that means they're looking at 90deg to where you want (sideways on the passengerside rear quarter panel yes?).

I'm not particularly surprised that you think you could design interlocks: I suspect that I might manage it too. The point was that without the right interlocks the device will inhibit safe functioning of the vehicle and/or be ineffective in combatting the real problem of lack of operator spacial awareness.

396:

Calm down Greg. I get this occasionally too, and don't see the point of stressing out. I'd rather an occasional post gets held for no obvious reason than have to live with an excess of spammers and trolls (Charlie can confirm that I've said this to him in conversation before).

397:

Right now, and for the past few days, this blog has been receiving something on the order of one spam posted every 20 seconds. A fortnight ago, that was only (only?!) one every 200 seconds.

The number getting through is vastly smaller than that, because there are automated filters. Sadly, it is of the nature of such filters that there are occasional false positives, when a legitimate post goes AWOL, either categorised as a spam, or as a marginal case. It is not obvious to me why certain ones get held and others don't, but it does seem to be related to length: most of the spam we see is chunks of badly formatted text apparently composed using a Markov chain algorithm using entire phrases rather than individual words.

Also, the longer the filters learn, the more they will see certain words and phrases as being spam markers. That, rather than links, is the likely cause here.

398:

Thanks for that; I honestly do hate spammers, and feel that having an odd genuine comment held is a fair price for the near genius job the spam filters do.

399:
near genius job the spam filters do.

But will the long term cost be worth it?

Someone should write a book about it.

400:

As long as the filter doesn't think it should electrocute us through our keyboards....

401:

"On the Railways here, the value is set (yes, really) at about £10 million - if you can save a life for less than that figure, you do it ...."

Give me £1million or I jump under a train.

402:

>>>Give me £1million or I jump under a train.

Tempting fate a bit, there, Dirk.

403:

Me: "It depends. Interlocks and warnings are frequently very useful to me"


paws4hot: "Ok, what's your design for an interlock that will stop a reversing vehicle in response to detecting a person on a camera screen that will never stop it in response to detecting a post or a tree?"

Actually, both would be nice, and proper design would probably not *stop* the vehicle, but warn the driver, for obvious reasons.

Second, your logic is bad here - 'Interlocks and warnings are frequently very useful to me' does not imply 'all interlocks and warnings are useful', nor does it imply 'I know how to design them'.

404:

"It's the argument I make to irredeemable conservatives who want to dissolve the wall between church and state: If there's a state religion, chances are it won't be precisely yours. Alas, despite their paranoia of becoming minorities, they can't seem to imagine a world in which state sponsorship of (one) religion backfires on them."

They won't believe it, because they figure that they'll have the power, and they generally don't really see themselves as the powerless minority (they *talk* that way, but if you believed their talk you'd think that they were hiding Ann Frank-style in a hidden attic room).

405:

"The point was that without the right interlocks the device will inhibit safe functioning of the vehicle and/or be ineffective in combatting the real problem of lack of operator spacial awareness."

Yes, badly designed things tend to work badly.

406:

#403 - You're the one who was defending the application of a technological fix to a behavioural problem (reversing cameras of themselves will not stop people not reversing slowly whilst looking where they are going). All I did was work out what additional kit was needed to stop the reversing vehicle if it detected a possible hazard and/or the driver was indulging in the objectionable behaviour.

407:

Is that not extortion?

408:

... and trespassing on the railway, which is specifically a crime. Since a criminal may not legally profit from their criminal act, no money for you Dirk!

409:

"Is that not extortion?"
Just trying to save them £9 million!

411:

Interesting, and troubling. If you allow doctors to lie to patients in one circumstance, how long before you allow them to lie in others?

412:

And how long until you start forcing them to lie?

i.e. Making it an offence to report certain conditions

413:

Which is sort of the reason I think homeopathy should not be used in any way. There's a fair number of people who think "It doesnt do them any harm and placebo effect so why not use it?"

Well, because you're lying to them and encouraging magical thinking.

414:

The vaginal probe section of that law got removed within a day or so after it became news.

Haven't read through the second one.

415:

And if your doctor said to you that telling you the truth would mean that your illness would continue, but lying to you would result in a cure?

416:

I'll add my own "+1" to that, if you'll permit...?

417:

"#403 - You're the one who was defending the application of a technological fix to a behavioural problem (reversing cameras of themselves will not stop people not reversing slowly whilst looking where they are going). All I did was work out what additional kit was needed to stop the reversing vehicle if it detected a possible hazard and/or the driver was indulging in the objectionable behaviour."

Which just means that the implementation will have to be done by actual engineers, with testing and all of that stuff.

I'm trying to figure out your point.

418:

"Interesting, and troubling. If you allow doctors to lie to patients in one circumstance, how long before you allow them to lie in others?"

Uh, ... five minutes?

419:

You know, maybe we've got this business of vaginal probing all wrong. Maybe Republicans are really flying saucer aliens, and they've finally realized they've learned all they're going to from anal probes and they need to try some different procedures.

420:

"And if your doctor said to you that telling you the truth would mean that your illness would continue, but lying to you would result in a cure?"

In that case, I'd grab the healing potion out of his hands and just drink it. And then see a cleric for a 'cure disease' prayer.

Then I'd hit up the tavern for a flagon of mead, and to find a thief and MU to complete our party.

421:

Actually, the term is "Placebo"

422:

You say that like it makes it OK. I'm prepared to say it makes it somewhat better - there won't actually be any state mandated rape in Virginia, good. But that they can pass the law in the first place is still a disgrace.

And although Virginia may have eventually seen sense, as the furore over the Doonesbury strip shows, it's still there in other places. See http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/mar/11/doonesbury-strip-texas-abortion-law for example.

423:

There's a family planning clinic at the bottom of my road (in Brighton, UK) that has a 24/7 Fred Phelps-style picket outside it, displaying graphic images and harrassing passers-by. It's sickening.

Given that the majority of the protestors are women, I do wonder if these fundamentalists are aware of 1 Timothy (where Paul writes that women should basically shut up) but I've no wish to engage them in conversation. Bigots who seek to change other's minds but won't change their own, and don't even understand their own book. I am shunning them for wearing mixed fabrics anyhow.

Anyway, as long as the picket is there, I'm going in to the clinic every Monday morning to give the staff a £5 Waitrose voucher so they can get a tin of Quality Street(*). I think it's important to let the staff know they have friends in the local area. Strangely, the picketers are not from Brighton.

The picket's latest stunt? Claiming to be members of Anon, they hacked the clinic's servers and threatened to release the client list. Funny how fast that hacker got arrested. Maybe some real Anon members noticed? I couldn't possibly comment.

I first noticed the picket on my way to rent "Red State".

(*)The drug of choice for hard-working nurses

424:

My previous post held for moderation.

Tl;dr version - if there is a picket outside a clinic near you, pop in and give the staff a tin of Quality Street. Together we can beat these barbarians.

425:

I think they took the statutes against witchcraft off the books, but it would make a nice story if a mob weighed them against a duck.

426:

Given that killing witches is back in fashion, even in the UK, that may not be too implausible

427:

You mean murdering children that deluded adults think are posessed or are some form of witch, despite a lack of evidence for anything remotely like that? MOreover, based on a specific form of christianity. The better way to phrase it is that some christians think murdering an allegedly demon possessed child is a good thing to do.

And remember folks, in England witches were strangled, it was on the continent that they burnt them. Burning was for heresy, although obviously it was possible to be both a heretic and a witch, although I can't think of any examples myself, it isn't my main area of interest.

428:

Yes, either a miscarriage of justice if they weren't witches, or they got what was coming to them if they were.

429:

Here are some other terms. "Medical ethics", "informed consent" and "slippery slop". Lying to people is wrong.

430:

You seem to be heading off into another universe in which witchcraft actually works, or else where it is legal to punish people for it in the UK. PLease clarify what you are talking about.

431:

The past is another universe. Hmmm, I like it! ;-)

432:

"You seem to be heading off into another universe in which witchcraft actually works, or else where it is legal to punish people for it in the UK. PLease clarify what you are talking about."

When witchcraft was illegal those who practised it and were convicted and punished got their just deserts from a legal POV.
Also, the fact that witchcraft almost certainly does not work is no mitigation when used in an attempt to murder someone. The intent is enough. Same as stabbing someone with a knife in an attempt to kill them, when the knife actually turns out to be a rubber toy is no mitigation.

433:

"You seem to be heading off into another universe in which witchcraft actually works, or else where it is legal to punish people for it in the UK. PLease clarify what you are talking about."

When witchcraft was illegal those who practised it and were convicted and punished got their just deserts from a legal POV.
Also, the fact that witchcraft almost certainly does not work is no mitigation when used in an attempt to murder someone. The intent is enough. Same as stabbing someone with a knife in an attempt to kill them, when the knife actually turns out to be a rubber toy is no mitigation.

434:

Maybe you've not seen the reporting of the recent case of a teenager murdered by their sister and her partner (Although the partnet appears to be somewhat insane).
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-17255470

I thought you might also be referring to that and the spate of other such reports over the last few years.

435:

When I check and Dirk writes that killing witches is back in fashion in the UK, I cannot help but feel it is a form of fraud to then talk about historical witchcraft stuff in the most general sense.

436:

Why?
There's not much to add to the fact that superstitious Africans have imported their witch mania into the UK.
Of course, if you're really worried about witches there's a shop in Brixton that sells "Devil Be Gone" powder.

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