My favorite fantasy is definitely that I could stop time. I used to have an elaborate daydream that was more or less, "if I could stop time and head to a cabin in the woods, how many days would I want to spend there?" The fantasy hinges on stopping time and not just taking a vacation, so that I'm not shirking my family duties, and not missing any special moments or incurring consequences. Just pressing pause.
If I were being really practical, though, I'd probably use it mostly:
1. for getting more sleep at night and staying up as late as I want. I used to think I could stop sleeping altogether in real time, and just stop time to sleep whenever I wanted, but I think there's value in keeping one's circadian rhythm not too chaotic. So: every 5 am, probably stop time for 4-5 hours. Sleep in, read stuff online, enjoy a big lazy morning.
2. Aside from that, I'd tap out a lot to get more time being a lazy fuck. Going on walks, reading whatever I want, writing the personal blog. Basically being a house cat.
3. After years of playing this game, it only occurred to me today that this doesn't help at all with things I dislike. I can't imagine I'd spend more time cleaning. In fact, if you have a task you hate and you're on a tight deadline, this could really be deadly because it would enable infinite procrastination. You might think that you'd be productive when you're tapped out, but I bet not, unless you genuinely enjoy the task.
4. It also occurs to me that this is the time equivalent of the Parable of the Shmoo:
In the 1940s comic Li"l Abner, there are only two classes: Workers and capitalists. The capitalists are looking for a community where labor is cheap and settle on the town of Dogpatch, which, it just so happens, has become overrun by a benevolent creature called a "shmoo." Shmoos have the ability to change themselves into anything necessary for human existence but not into luxury items. So a shmoo could turn itself into a sturdy flannel shirt but not a Ralph Lauren blouse. Even better, since the shmoos can multiply themselves an infinite number of times and desire only to serve humans, "in effect, the shmoo restores humanity to the Garden of Eden."
The idea is that there are unlimited Shmoos, and we can look at the effect on the balance of workers vs. capitalists, if everyone has their basic needs met. It's the fantasy version of a UBI.
One rule is that you can't tap another person to join you in stopped time, although the internet works fine for reading stuff. Sorry, rules are rules.
Guest Post - "America's Political Public Sphere"
Nick S. writes: Brad DeLong brings together a number of things that he's been saying for the last couple of years, and I think does well.
On the center and to the left, those like me in what used to proudly call itself the Rubin Wing of the Democratic Party--so-called after former Treasury Secretary Bob Rubin, and consisting of those of us hoping to use market means to social democratic ends in bipartisan coalition with Republicans seeking technocratic win-wins--have passed the baton to our left. Over the past 25 years, we failed to attract Republican coalition partners, we failed to energize our own base, and we failed to produce enough large-scale obvious policy wins to cement the center into a durable governing coalition.
We blame cynical Republican politicians. We blame corrupt and craven media bosses and princelings. We are right to blame them, but shared responsibility is not diminished responsibility. And so the baton rightly passes to our colleagues on our left. We are still here, but it is not our time to lead.
On the right, however, things are much worse. Looking to the right of the Rubin Wing of the Democratic Party, we see rubble. Then we see more rubble. And more rubble. Beyond that, rubble. And then, at the far end of the political spectrum, what former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright can only call the American version of a twenty-first century neo-fascism, devoted to entrenching plutocracy and stoking ethnic and religious hatreds, with which a great many people who ought to know better are making accommodation.
That reads to me as not just a comment on the current political situation but a final putting-to-bed of Clintonism.
I believe DeLong is, appropriately, proud of the work he did in the Clinton administration and I take that as public acknowledgment that it failed to build a lasting framework for political policy.
The quoted passage also speaks to my own feeling that that one of the things I was excited about, during the 2016 election, was that the political opinions of white men were no longer the sole center of gravity of the Democratic party. I hoped that having Clinton following Obama as president would make that clear. Obviously that didn't work out, but I remain optimistic for the future of a party in which the opinions of people like me don't matter as much as they would have a generation ago.
Heebie's take: I was 14 when Clinton was elected, and wasn't paying that much attention except roughly 1) this is much better than the Republicans who've been running the show for the majority of my life, and 2) some family members lament the Clinton policies compared to some hippie ideals they've got. So I was never old enough to really be sold on neoliberal principals, and I was young enough that they were undermined for me as they were on the ascent.
This is the first time, then, it's occurred to me how reasonable it must have seemed - let's govern based on the very, very milquetoast axiom that both parties are composed of adults. And if that axiom had been a solid foundation, we might be in a very different spot today. I would never have personally advocated for neoliberal private-public market solutions etc etc, but they might have been far more intact and entrenched and widely accepted by now.
Now let's all reminisce about the counterfactual world where shitty middle ground compromises became the norm because Republicans were adults.
(I assume now everyone's going to point out all the shitty middle ground compromises that do in fact exist, despite the fact that Republicans are never, ever functional adults. But think big! How much more limping capitalism-infected public institutions we might have had!)
(Sorry Darb, I'm probably being too harsh on you here. I'm really uninformed.)
I guess we might as well have a thread. Here's his opening statements, in which he's not pulling his punches, at least.
I kind of thought for the first year or so of Trump's presidency, that if we retook the House and all these investigations began, that it would feel more euphoric. Instead what it feels like is, "Yes. Anyone who was paying attention in 2016 was gobsmacked that the Russian angle wasn't getting any attention." This is just the same old information, but by now we're used to the fact that it doesn't move the needle. I didn't expect to feel even more pessimistic at this part of the process.
Brink of Brexit
I've been terrible about having Brexit threads due to not really being clear on what's major and what's not until I see it rise organically in the comments. I apologize for that. But anyway...
(There was also one embarrassing thread that I spent far too long wondering why we kept discussing some special thing that wasn't coming up until May. You guys really shouldn't give me any responsibility whatsoever.)
Guest Post - House photos
Minivet writes: Going around Twitter. You have to scroll through to the last of the photos in the set.
Something about the confluence feels extraordinarily unfoggedy to me.
Heebie's take: Redfin cleaned up the photos, but go here instead for what used to be the last photos in the set. Honestly, the juxtaposition is what's so fun, so if you want to do it right, you should click around the first link for a sec, first.
Guest Post - Hosting Online Political Discussion
Nick S. writes: I don't know more of the back-story beyond what's presented in the post, but I was fascinated by Scott Alexander's ruminations on the effects of having a long-running, active, moderated but ideologically broad discussion about politics and "culture war" issues that was indirectly connected to his blog.
During the last few years of Culture War thread, a consensus grew up that it was heavily right-wing. This isn't what these data show, and on the few times I looked at it myself, it wasn't what I saw either. After being challenged to back this up, I analyzed ten randomly chosen comments on the thread; four seemed neutral, three left/liberal, and three conservative. When someone else objected that it was a more specific "blatant" anti-transgender bias, I counted up all the mentions of transgender on three weeks worth of Culture War threads: of five references, two were celebrating how exciting/historic a transgender person recently winning an election was, a third was neutrally referring to the election, a fourth was a trans person talking about their experiences, and a fifth was someone else neutrally mentioning that they were transgender. This sort of thing happened enough times that I stopped being interested in arguing the point.
Whatever its biases and whatever its flaws, the Culture War thread was a place where very strange people from all parts of the political spectrum were able to engage with each other, treat each other respectfully, and sometimes even change their minds about some things. I am less interested in re-opening the debate about exactly which side of the spectrum the average person was on compared to celebrating the rarity of having a place where people of very different views came together to speak at all.
[The narrative around the culture wars thread was] that the the thread was "dominated by" or "only had" or "was an echo chamber for" homophobic transphobic alt-right neo-Nazis, which always grew into the claim that the subreddit was dominated by homophobic etc neo-Nazis, which always grew into the claim that the SSC community was dominated by homophobic etc neo-Nazis, which always grew into the claim that I personally was a homophobic etc neo-Nazi of them all. I am a pro-gay Jew who has dated trans people and votes pretty much straight Democrat. I lost distant family in the Holocaust. You can imagine how much fun this was for me.
People would message me on Twitter to shame me for my Nazism. People who linked my blog on social media would get replies from people "educating" them that they were supporting Nazism, or asking them to justify why they thought it was appropriate to share Nazi sites. I wrote a silly blog post about mathematics and corn-eating. It reached the front page of a math subreddit and got a lot of upvotes. Somebody found it, asked if people knew that the blog post about corn was from a pro-alt-right neo-Nazi site that tolerated racists and sexists. There was a big argument in the comments about whether it should ever be acceptable to link to or read my website. Any further conversation about math and corn was abandoned. This kept happening, to the point where I wouldn't even read Reddit discussions of my work anymore.
Also worth reading, this comment:
As a transgender woman, the issue I had was not so much with transphobic posts to the culture war threads, but with the idea that discussing transgender status had been relegated to "culture war".
I feared that any mention of my transgender status, or experiences of transgender people in general, would be singled out as inappropriately culture-warry in OTHER threads even if salient to the topic of discussion. Even my "woman" status feels that way, based on the apparently-hard-right tenor of the comments in the CW threads and elsewhere.
All of this despite knowing how wonderful and lovely a person Scott is, particularly including his expressed views and behavior towards gender/sexual minorities!
Staking out "culture war" as a place to talk about things like "gender" means that a salient part of my own experience was delineated as inappropriate.
and this reply to the previous comment.
I think this is a good post - not because I agree with everything in it (and I don't disagree with everything in it either, to be clear), but because it perfectly lays out how and why the "I don't feel like I can talk about things comfortably" problem manifests. "Just talk about them uncomfortably" is a bad solution, and so is "make sure it's possible to talk about them comfortably EVERYWHERE." Because people care about different things, and a disregard for the things one person cares about can be (totally justifiably, oftentimes) considered a hostile attitude.
No truly public forum can be truly welcoming. I think that's tragic and enables some really toxic behavior. I also think it's an inevitable conclusion.
Heebie's take: this is very timely for me, for work-related reasons which I'll summarize as this gap between student beliefs and conventional beliefs regarding free speech:
[A]mong many current college students there is a significant divergence between the actual and perceived scope of First Amendment freedoms. More specifically, with respect to the questions explored above, many students have an overly narrow view of the extent of freedom of expression. For example, a very significant percentage of students hold the view that hate speech is unprotected. In addition, a surprisingly large fraction of students believe it is acceptable to act--including resorting to violence--to shut down expression they consider offensive. And a majority of students appear to want an environment that shields them from being exposed to views they might find offensive.
I somewhat agree with the students: the internet has changed speech. Hateful speech now has the power to drown out reasonable marketplace-of-ideas conversation. There's two different things being mushed together, of course: protected free speech in the streets, and protected free speech on a college campus. Bottom line: I just think this Chereminsky guy who is 100% "the answer to hateful speech is more speech" on a campus is a bit of a tool.