Open Thread and Link Farm, Man On The Inside Edition

  1. Meta-analysis of field experiments shows no change in racial discrimination in hiring over time | PNAS
    “We find no change in the levels of discrimination against African Americans since 1989, although we do find some indication of declining discrimination against Latinos.”
  2. The TSA is a waste of money that doesn’t save lives and might actually cost them – Vox
    The cost in lives is an indirect effect; it comes about because driving is more dangerous than flying, and making flying slower and less convenient substantially increases the number of people who drive (for example, from NYC to DC).
  3. On eating watermelon in front of white people – Vox
    “It is a sobering thing to face your interior white supremacist nag.”
  4. What I Learned From Playing A Brutal Fat-Shamer On TV | HuffPost
    An actress from “Shrill” on the stress of playing a bigot, and what it taught her about her own internalized fatphobia. I thought the bit about how she made sure to always have donuts near her at a table reading was an ironic opposite of how some fat people are careful to never be seen with fattening junk food in a professional setting.
  5. Experiment: audio from the Cats trailer over the Star Wars Mandalorian trailer – YouTube
    It works freakishly well.
  6. (141) How Star Wars was saved in the edit – YouTube
    “A video essay exploring how Star Wars’ editors recut and rearranged Star Wars: A New Hope to create the cinematic classic it became.” I find this sort of thing – particularly how footage shot for other scenes was repurposed to serve the new story structure – just fascinating.
  7. Who’s Considered Thin Enough for Eating Disorder Treatment?
    How stereotypes and bias leads to maltreatment of fat people with eating disorders. “Doctors will say, ‘Well, whatever you’re doing is working!’ if a heavy patient does lose some weight, without asking to see what they’re eating or how much they’re exercising. Or they give blanket advice like, ‘Try to cut whatever you’re eating in half,’ when someone may already be dangerously restricting.”
  8. Study: many of the “oldest” people in the world may not be as old as we think – Vox
    A new study suggests that the majority of 110+ year olds are exaggerating or in some cases frauds, which puts a bunch of research into question.
    “The paper still needs to undergo peer review, but if its findings hold, it does illustrate an interesting statistical phenomenon: When you’re looking for something exceptionally rare, your data set will be dominated by errors and false positives.”
  9. Biden: As President, I’ll Let McConnell Block Everything
  10. Men Who Send Unsolicited Dick Pics Are Bigger Narcissists, Study Finds – VICE
  11. And, relatedly: I Confronted the Men Who Sent Me Unsolicited Dick Pics – VICE
  12. A Statue in the U.K. Had to Be Moved Because It Was Too Popular | Smart News | Smithsonian
    The idea of a statue in an isolated area on the moors sounds really cool to me. But it proved so popular that visitors were eroding the site.
  13. Song: 50/50 by Garfunkel and Oates – YouTube
    “It probably didn’t cross your mind / That your mom had goals too / That had nothing to do with getting married / And nothing to do with having you.”
  14. Opinion | Harry Reid: The Filibuster Is Suffocating the Will of the American People – The New York Times (Alternative link.)
    So glad to see Reid finally acknowledging reality. Think of what a different world it would be if he had realized this at the start of the Obama administration. It’s odd – Reid was largely against getting rid of the filibuster (although he did reduce it’s scope a little) when the Dems had the Senate, and is now in favor of it now that the Republicans hold the Senate.
  15. Here Are 7 ‘Radical’ Left Ideas (Almost) All Americans Support“(Almost) All is an exaggeration – when I hear “almost all,” I think of numbers like 95%, not 75% – but still interesting.
  16. 15 Charts That Perfectly Illustrate How To Properly Pet Animals
    Thanks Mandolin for the link!
  17. A Maryland teenager who shared a video of her own sex act was punished as a child pornographer.
  18. Thousands of Jews protest ICE raids across U.S., 44 arrested in NYC | +972 Magazine
  19. Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse” copyright case: the $2.8 million verdict is alarming – Vox
    This is alarming. This is going to chill the hell out of artistic freedom, if it’s not overturned on appeal. A good example of how copyright law can undercut free speech.
  20. The Good Samaritan | Radiolab | WNYC Studios
    Fascinating podcast. Man, that prosecutor is a scumbag. Also of interest (spoiler alert): It seems very likely that the “drug reaction” experienced by the EMT was a form of panic attack. His symptoms were real – but putting drug users in prison for people’s panic attacks is a terrible miscarriage of justice.
  21. Ohio State University wants to trademark the word “The” – CNN.
    The article does say the trademark application is likely to be rejected. One hopes.
  22. I’m Latino. I’m Hispanic. And they’re different, so I drew a comic to explain. – Vox
  23. Preschoolers’ perceptions of gender appropriate toys and their parents’ beliefs about genderized behaviors – Early Childhood Educational Journal (pdf link).
    Study: Parents with gender-neutral ideologies are perceived by their kids as not being gender neutral. “Responses indicated that, in spite of evidence that many of these parents reject common gender stereotypes, their children predicted parents would consistently apply these stereotypes as reflected by their approval or disapproval of children’s choices to play with gender stereotyped or cross-gender toys.”
  24. Richard Linklater, Ben Platt, Beanie Feldstein Team for Sondheim Musical | Collider
    Linklater, whose movie “Boyhood” was filmed gradually across many years, is planning to do the same thing with his film adaptation of “Merrily We Roll Along,” taking twenty years to film the movie so he can film the actors at different ages. I’m as excited by this as I can be by anything I won’t get to see until I’m in my 70s.
  25. Circumcision is harmful and wrong and should not be outlawed – The Unit of Caring
  26. What the cancellation of The Hunt says about the power of right-wing outrage culture | Media Matters for America
  27. Should voting be required by law?
  28. The Case for a Fareless TriMet – News – Portland Mercury
    It’s a great idea in theory – as usual, the question is how to fund it.
  29. The Difference Between Happiness & Joy — THE BITTER SOUTHERNER
    An interesting story about a free (or, rather, a pay-what-you-like-but-free-is-fine) restaurant.
  30. How Elizabeth Warren Works the Political System
    This, I think, is the pitch for Warren – she not only has progressive values, but a track record of grubbing out small victories in a gridlocked system.
  31. Shakesville: The End of This Road
    After fifteen years, Melissa is retiring Shakesville.
  32. When the Mind’s Eye Is Blind – Scientific American
    I’m not sure who gave me this link – it may have been someone in comments? If so, thank you. Anyhow, this is one of those interesting articles I read going “yes, yes, this is me, this is me, this is exactly like me.” For example, I’ve sometimes found it odd that I have aphantasia, face blindness, and a memory so bad it’s a joke among my friends. But: “… some individuals with aphantasia report weakness in autobiographical memory, remembrance of events in their lives. In addition, many with aphantasia also suffer from prosopagnosia, impaired face recognition.”
  33. Is It Illegal to Share Your Netflix Password? – OneZero
    No, it’s not. (And Netflix quietly encourages some sharing). But Disney is branding password-sharing “piracy” in advance of it’s new streaming service.
  34. Bang Bros Bought a Huge Porn Doxing Forum and Set Fire to It – VICE
    They literally made a big pile of all the hard drives, squirted some flammable liquid on the drives, and set them on fire.
  35. Some info about the artist who did the paintings illustrating this post, who goes by the name “Nemo.”
    I love the street art photos I’ve been finding to go with these link farm posts, but I’ve found that it’s often hard to find out who to credit. Which makes sense.

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36 Responses to Open Thread and Link Farm, Man On The Inside Edition

  1. 1
    J. Squid says:

    I’ve long been a believer that TSA security theater is useless. But, to be fair, it’s also annoying as hell. I haven’t taken a flight in 6 years where my checked baggage wasn’t rifled through. At least put it back the way you found it, TSA undy fetishists!

    I’ve also flown less often just to avoid the hassle of having to check bags. My family misses me.

  2. 2
    Grace Annam says:

    Many years ago, I read an article in which the author complained about his baggage getting lost on flights and the guy he was talking to said, “Dude. The solution is called FedEx.”

    I rarely fly. But ever since reading that article, when I do, and there’s someplace FedEx or UPS can deliver at the other end and I’m not taking my sidearm, I just have a carry-on. FedEx and UPS have never lost the bag I would have checked.

    As far as I know, they’ve also never searched it.

    I’m also reminded of the time I flew across the country, years ago. I checked a bag with my sidearm in it, properly packaged, unloaded in a locked container inside the bag, and all legal and correct … except that I forgot to declare it. When I remembered, while waiting at the gate, I hustled back to the TSA area, and they directed me to the airline counter, where I explained the problem… where they told me it had already been screened and was on the plane. They did not seem concerned at all, and told me not to worry about it. It was not an airport near my job, so the people screening my bag had no idea I was a law enforcement officer. But somehow they failed to notice a handgun and separately-packaged ammunition. I’ve been stationed at a checkpoint as the local law enforcement and watched the local TSA agents catch things on X-ray which were not obvious to me at all. I can only assume that in this case they didn’t X-ray it at all.

    Grace

  3. 3
    J. Squid says:

    As far as I know, they’ve also never searched it.

    Every. Fucking. Time.

    They used to leave a note in the suitcase, but they haven’t done that for years. But it sure taught me what having your suitcase tossed by TSA looks like. I’m left wondering what, exactly, is in my file that they feel the need to search. Who knows? Perhaps it was because I attended the No Nukes rally in NYC in 1980.

  4. 4
    Mandolin says:

    Until I was maybe 25, I’d always get pulled aside for last minute luggage checks at the gate. I’ve always assumed this was because I look largely inoffensive and unlikely to get super upset at them. There was at least some sexual harassment in it, because one guy was very blatant.

  5. 5
    nobody.really says:

    Richard Linklater, Ben Platt, Beanie Feldstein Team for Sondheim Musical | Collider
    Linklater, whose movie “Boyhood” was filmed gradually across many years, is planning to do the same thing with his film adaptation of “Merrily We Roll Along,” taking twenty years to film the movie….

    Does Linklater actually know who will star in the movie? Twenty years is a long time. And sometimes people die or otherwise become incapacitated.

    I wonder what kind of audition he did. “Please provide a release for your medical history, and for the histories of everyone in your immediate family….”

    Moreover, as Linklater films his stars, will he also be filming the scenes with understudies? But if there are three lead roles, and you have one understudy for each role, then you’d need to film each scene eight times.

    Maybe Linklater is just gonna count on CGI improving over the next twenty years.

  6. 6
    LTL FTC says:

    https://theoutline.com/post/7887/shakesville-golden-age-blogging?utm_source=

    Interesting article on the end of Shakesville and the sorts of ways online cultures curdle with time.

  7. 7
    Ampersand says:

    Nobody Really, I think he’s just taking a chance that no one will die. It worked for him on “Boyhood.”

  8. 8
    nobody.really says:

    Nobody Really, I think he’s just taking a chance that no one will die. It worked for him on “Boyhood.”

    True enough. But Linklater controlled the story line of Boyhood; if an actor became incapacitated, he could incorporate that fact into to story. Not so with Merrily.

  9. 9
    Lee says:

    Films do usually depart from their source material. I see no reason why Linklater’s Merrily couldn’t depart from the original as well.

  10. 10
    Ampersand says:

    It will be a little hard, since I don’t think anyone would want anyone but Stephen Sondheim writing new songs for a Sondheim musical, and Sondheim is now 89 years old.

  11. 11
    Mandolin says:

    Recasting works. We all know how to pretend.

    Otherwise, yeah, it’s not impossible to steer what is essentially an opera without the composer, but it would take a fair amount of work to tailor the plot in such a way that you could preserve as much of the original musical material as possible, while incorporating a minimal amount of music from others of his works to stop up the gaps.

    Just recasting in the middle seems fine.

  12. 12
    Nancy Lebovitz says:

    https://www.huffpost.com/entry/played-fat-shamer-on-tv-shrill_n_5d1b9c16e4b07f6ca58521c1

    For some reason, your link didn’t work for me but this one does.

  13. 13
    RonF says:

    During an interview while he was stumping for votes in Iowa last week ex-V.P. Joe Biden said that he wanted to eliminate guns with “magazines that can hold multiple bullets”. He also said that “It is no violation of the Second Amendment.”

    1) That would eliminate every single handgun (with the exception of a few antiques) and the vast majority of the rifles in the U.S.
    2) It sure as hell would be a violation of the Second Amendment. The Supremes in Heller confirmed the judgement of Miller that the Second Amendment protects the civilian possession and use of those firearms in common use.
    3) Firearm owners simply wouldn’t stand for the confiscation of all such firearms. Hell, in New Zealand they’ve tried to confiscate all semi-automatic rifles and so far compliance is somewhere around 1%.
    4) It’s not the first ignorant thing he’s said about firearms (remember that he said that if someone tried to break into your house you should just fire a gun out your window).
    5) He thinks this is going to get him votes in Iowa?
    6) I love it when people who apparently don’t know jack shit about firearms lecture people on firearms.

  14. 14
    Ampersand says:

    Frankly, getting basic facts wrong seems par for the course for Biden, and not just on guns.

  15. 15
    Mandolin says:

    ….Jeez, *I* knew enough about guns to tell that’s wrong.

    (I have researched guns for stories, but not much.)

  16. 16
    J. Squid says:

    Biden is far too old and far too awful a campaigner to be POTUS. No, sir, I don’t like him. I don’t like him at all.

    But he, like almost every other person in the US would be less catastrophic for our country and the world than the narcissistic white supremacist currently in the position.

  17. 17
    Kate says:

    I hope Ron is right about Biden in Iowa. The best thing that gaffe-prone plagiarist can do for the Democratic party is to crash & burn before Super Tuesday.
    That being said, I will do everything in my power to get him elected if he wins the nomination.

  18. 18
    Petar says:

    The funny thing is that if tomorrow, there was a law to outlaw any gun with a magazine that holds more than one bullet, the day after tomorrow there would be guns which store dozens of cartridges in non-detachable receptacles.

    The only reason the select-fire automatic rifle Автомат Фёдорова is not considered an assault rifle is that for quite a few years, no one had come up with the bright idea of making its magazine detachable. It had fully automatic fire, a intermediary cartridge, etc. And I’m talking about an assault rifle, not an “assault style weapon” whatever the fuck that may mean.

    Most people would argue whether the non-detachable tubular magazine present on many shotguns would be affected by the law… and even if it were, then the law would do nothing about single action mechanisms that do not use a magazine at all. I know of at least four distinct systems, but you all know of at least one – the humble revolver does not have a magazine but can fire its six (or seven, or eight, or twelve, or sixteen) rounds as fast as many semi-automatics.

    ———–

    I just checked the Bulgarian “Bookish guide to street English”, something like a Urban Dictionary. It defines “assault style weapon” as “firearm that looks scary to American legislators”.

  19. 19
    Charles S says:

    I can’t think of Biden and guns without thinking of “Flying Robots”.

  20. 20
    RonF says:

    Petar, the magazine of a firearm need not be detachable from said firearm. I’ve used such firearms myself, many times. In fact, the rifles we use at Scout summer camp to teach Rifle Shooting Merit Badge often have integral magazines. However, B.S.A. regulations require that we don’t actually use them – the Scouts are only allowed to load one cartridge at a time into the rifle.

    From here:

    A magazine is an ammunition storage and feeding device within or attached to a repeating firearm. Magazines can be removable (detachable) or integral (internal/fixed) to the firearm.

    Petar:

    Most people would argue whether the non-detachable tubular magazine present on many shotguns would be affected by the law.

    In the N.Z. law such firearms were explicitly included in the law banning semi-automatic firearms.

    I figure that the cylinder of a revolver would be considered a magazine. It holds “multiple bullets” (actually it holds multiple cartridges, not just bullets, but that’s something else Biden messed up). Clearly he’s talking about any kind of firearm that can hold multiple cartridges regardless of how it does so.

    J. Squid, I’m loving the Ren and Stimpy call-out.

  21. 21
    RonF says:

    Re: #10;

    I couldn’t believe this kind of thing was going on until I had a chat with some 30ish/40ish women I know. I am *trying* to figure out what kind of mentality figures that a woman is going to be attracted to them or want to get to know them based on sending said woman an unsolicited picture of their genitalia. Seriously. Or is this a gross way of the guys involved seeking to insult a woman or cut off further communications with her?

  22. 22
    Kate says:

    I can’t speak to male motive, but most women I’ve read who have written about receiving such unsolicited pictures seem to experience it as harrassment. Since the results appear to be the same, the motives may be as well.

  23. 23
    Mandolin says:

    Yeah, one of our teenage friends just went on a date with a cis guy, and he decided to preface the event with a photograph. I expect he thought he was showing off and trying to be cool, but it really freaked her out. This will probably be a learning moment for him since it meant she wasn’t interested in going out anymore even though he still really liked her. That’s part of being a teenager. Learning stuff.

    Hopefully next time, he’ll ask first. Because the next girl might well think it’s cool, but he’ll save a lot of trouble if he knows what she wants before possibly guessing really wrong.

    Hopefully he won’t take a negative message about his body and its parts instead. But in my experience as a high schools student with other high school students suggests to me that it’s easy to make teenagers internalize hatred about their bodies and parts.

    Echidne writes here about pornography as sex education – http://echidneofthesnakes.blogspot.com/2019/09/online-pornography-as-new-sex-education.html

    It’s not directly relevant to photos of body parts, but it discusses some of the ways in which teenagers are exposed to things as normal that they have to unlearn later, and the unlearning can be a really difficult process — and it can be a really difficult process with really nasty outcomes.

  24. 25
    J. Squid says:

    On my flight to Chicago my bag WAS NOT TOSSED by TSA. That’s the first time since at least 2011. I just got back, so I haven’t checked the results of the return flight, but I’m optimistic!

    Speaking of Chicago… I’d love to take you to lunch/dinner, RonF, if our schedules match next time I’m there. And maybe you can tell me why speed limits in construction zones are entirely meaningless in Illinois while we eat.

  25. 26
    J. Squid says:

    Ah. Nope. Suitcase was tossed on the return trip. They must be so disappointed.

  26. 27
    Harlequin says:

    And maybe you can tell me why speed limits in construction zones are entirely meaningless in Illinois while we eat

    Have they suddenly become meaningful in Illinois outside of construction zones? :D

  27. 28
    Ampersand says:

    Quoted from someone’s tweet:

    happy Palindrome Week y’all! For the next 10 days, the date is the same forward and backward

    9.10.19
    9.11.19
    9.12.19
    9.13.19
    9.14.19
    9.15.19
    9.16.19
    9.17.19
    9.18.19
    9.19.19

    this is the last ‘palindrome week’ of the century!

  28. 29
    Harlequin says:

    It’s incorrect that it’s the last one of the century: 1/20/21 through 1/29/21, for example. Still fun, though!

  29. 30
    nobody.really says:

    As Rome was in its ascendancy, it organized its centurions into tight phalanxes, armed with shields, spears, and short swords that soldiers could wield in tight formations. But as the empire declined, military discipline and training broke down. The phalanxes grew sloppier, and the length of the Roman swords grew longer. Yes, this meant that soldiers had a greater risk of hitting each other. But each soldier found himself in a long retreat, having to cover a larger bit of terrain than his predecessor had. This is the nature of empires in decline: They sacrifice discipline and restraint in a desperate gambit to slow their collapse.

    And this is what we saw on display at the National Conservatism Conference, and in the debate between David French and Sohrab Ahmari.

    It is all well and good to embrace libertarian discipline and constraints when you feel your side benefits from those constraints. This dynamic fueled the fusion between libertarians, Christian conservatives, and white supremacists. These groups could unite in opposition to bussing, civil rights, and the social safety net. But as racism, sexism, and homophobia became more stigmatized, as immigration became more common and controversial, as the labor market produced ever greater disparities on the basis of education and location, and especially as religious affiliation declined, the Christian Conservatives and the white supremacists concluded that the libertarian discipline was no longer delivering the goods they had come to expect. If the free market of ideas no longer produced the desired outcome, why not resort to compulsion? The only people to object would be the libertarians—and it was only a marriage of convenience anyway.

    But it is not clear that the libertarians were the first to be abandoned. Arguably as the ship began sinking, the first bit of baggage to be tossed overboard was Christianity. So-called conservative Christians are now in thrall to an abject vulgarian. Moreover, Conservative Christianity is increasingly populated by rural people who do NOT attend church–that is, people who have a faith that is both dogmatic and unschooled. It has devolved into white nationalism in everything but name.

    This is truly the death rattle. Republicans have held North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District for the past half-century; Trump won in that district by 12 percent. On Tuesday, the Republican Congressional candidate prevailed–by 2 percent. Similarly, senators in Republican strongholds such as Georgia and Texas have each faced a near-death experience. And the three swing states that provided Trump his narrow victory in 2016–Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin–now all since elected Democratic governors and secretaries of state. What are the odds that all three states will generate state-wide victories for Trump in 2020?

    Every day, more elderly white rural Americans pass away. Every day, more people of color reach their 18th birthday. Every day, more northerners move to Arizona, Florida, and Texas for jobs or retirement–and bring their voting preferences with them.

    What, exactly, does libertarianism have to offer white supremacy now? While the libertarians gather in their coat and tails in the Titanic’s lounge, drinking a final snifter of brandy, the white supremacists toss women and children aside in a mad scramble to board the last lifeboat. They have no use for the consolations of dignified stoicism and principles in the face of an unmistakable and unavoidable doom. They might have use for the consolations of Christianity; maybe there are still a few scraps on board?

  30. 31
    Petar says:

    As Rome was in its ascendancy,

    The doctrine you describe in such positive terms only came to be after the Marian reforms, which, most historians agree, are one of the primary causes for the downfall of the Rome Republic. They certainly undermined the democracy in the Rome army, and very likely were the cause of the repeated, ultimately successful, attempts to turn the country into a dictatorship.

    The Rome Republic had been in ascendancy for four fucking centuries before the reforms, managing to create a state, unify the Italian peninsula, as well as extend its reach far beyond it. After the reforms, it entered a series of civil wars, culminating in Ceasar coming into power, his assassination, Octanvian’s ’emergency’ extraordinary powers, and the end of the Republic.

    For a comparison, the Rome Republic territory grew to 100 times its size at the League dissolution before the first civil war. At its height, the Empire never made it to twice that. If that’s your ‘Rome’, it also lasted less than the Republic.

    are was in it organized its centurions into tight phalanxes

    Centurions in phalanxes? “Gather up all the first lieutenants, captains, and majors, and charge! Popcorn for everyone else!”

    armed with shields, spears, and short swords that soldiers could wield in tight formations. But as the empire declined, military discipline and training broke down. The phalanxes grew sloppier, and the length of the Roman swords grew longer.

    The swords grew longer, without added weight or lost functionality, because of better metalworking. The infantry swords for soldiers below the rank of rank holder did not lengthen overly much, until the infantrymen requested to be armed with the spathas of the more prestigious cavalry units. In the same way they voted away their heavy armor, training requirements, helmets, etc.

    Yes, this meant that soldiers had a greater risk of hitting each other. But each soldier found himself in a long retreat, having to cover a larger bit of terrain than his predecessor had.

    Have you ever held a shield formation? I have, against rioters and looters in 1989, and in historical recreations from 1993 to present day. Increasing the length of the weapon does not make you more likely to hit your comrades, it makes it less suitable for stabbing and more suitable for slashing. That requires a change in shield shape and doctrine, not spacing.

    The switch from pilum to thrusting spear, from gladius to spatha, the increased reliance on non-citizen axiliaries, etc. were an answer to evolving metallurgy, horse breeding, Central European terrain, steppe horse warrior intrusions, etc. I.e. technology. Most of the harmful shifts were a direct consequence of armed forces being the facto capable of precipitating regime changes.

    Or are you one of these people who talk about how the disciplined Roman infantry would have destroyed post-crucible-steel heavy horse on the battlefield?

    This is the nature of empires in decline: They sacrifice discipline and restraint in a desperate gambit to slow their collapse.

    Hmm. Looking at it differently, one could see a country that has destroyed the democratic traditions of its armed forces and made its leaders hostages to the good will of career murderers and foreign mercenaries. And when the coffers and granaries ran dry due to changing climate conditions, the ruling class moved to greener pasture, leaving the plebs to their fate.

    Oh, sorry, I forgot that Americans know next to nothing about the Roman Empire after Rome stopped being its administrative center.

    History is like the Bible – you can find support for anything, depending on how you look at it. Libertarians, xenophobes, religious fundamentalists, communists, fascists, anarchists, etc. all have their reading of what caused Rome downfall. I will not say which of the above your particular post matches.

    If you look at the history of the Eastern Roman Empire, Kievan Rus, Bulgar Empire, the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth, etc. you could make a very solid case that the cause of empires’ downfall is preoccupation with internal divisions and individualism (nascent feudalism) in the face of an external, united threat (Mongols, Islam). Or you can make a case for the natural superiority of freedom loving, pure-of-faith horse warriors over dirt-bound, hierarchy-obsessed agriculturalists.

  31. 32
    nobody.really says:

    Libertarians, xenophobes, religious fundamentalists, communists, fascists, anarchists, etc. all have their reading of what caused Rome downfall. I will not say which of the above your particular post matches.

    Do tell! With kids out of the house, I no longer get regular feedback about whose side I’m embarrassing.

    Oh, sorry, I forgot that Americans know next to nothing about the Roman Empire after Rome stopped being its administrative center.

    Excuse me? Do not — and I cannot emphasize this enough –underestimate our ignorance about the period when Rome remained the administrative center, too. Our ignorance is vaster than you can imagine. It is legion.

    (And then the administrative center shifted to … Constantinople? Jersey shore? An offshore location with lower corporate taxes? Or better parking? Am I getting warm here?)

    [O]ne could see a country that has destroyed the democratic traditions of its armed forces and made its leaders hostages to the good will of career murderers and foreign mercenaries.

    You’ll be shocked to learn that I have no idea what this refers to.

    But I was shocked to hear that the pre-WWII Japanese army was more “democratic” than I had imagined, in the sense that subordinates who disagreed with their superiors had a habit of killing them. This seemed to have been a particular habit of the most nationalist factions. And this may have contributed to Japan’s inflexibility in WWII: Any leader who showed a willingness to compromise or negotiate risked being killed by his own men. Indeed, the tradition continued right up until the end of the war, when there was an attempted coup against the emperor to oppose Japan’s surrender.

    Then again, people who have actually studied history might know otherwise.

  32. 33
    Gracchus says:

    @nobody.really I am not sure if I am just reading your post wrong, but you talk about being killed by “their men”. To me this implies Vietnam style fragging by rank-and-file soldiers against their commanding officers – if this is what you meant to imply, it isn’t quite true. Generally the threat of assassination inside Japan didn’t come from rank and file soldiers, who were mostly conscripts and thus not highly invested in Japanese foreign policy. The coups you mentioned, and the less high-profile military violence, originated from the mid-to-high ranking officer corps (Captains, Majors, Colonels, some junior Generals), where nationalist and militarist sentiment was strong. But maybe you knew this and I just didn’t get what you were saying? If so, sorry for the digression.

  33. 34
    Gracchus says:

    Petar, most historians do not really engage with the concept of the “fall of Rome” any more than they do the “dark ages” or the “feudal system”. These are concepts in pop history but they are not really useful for historical analysis. This is something conservative, liberal, anarchist, socialist and communist historians all agree on – whatever conclusions they draw, any question of “what caused the fall of Rome” would be answered by “Well, it’s not really accurate to talk about the ‘fall of Rome’, because…”

  34. 35
    nobody.really says:

    [S]orry for the digression.

    Before we could have a DIgression, we’d need PROgression. I cannot identify a common theme connecting any more that two comments. So no worries.

    [M]ost historians do not really engage with the concept of the “fall of Rome” any more than they do the “dark ages” or the “feudal system”. These are concepts in pop history but they are not really useful for historical analysis.

    Really?

    I mean, sure, I expect any effort to compartmentalize history will reflect some arbitrary choices. We can identify continuities and discontinuities all around us, and the choice to focus on some to the exclusion of others will largely reflect the bias of the focuser. I regularly exhort people to beware categorical thinking for precisely this reason.

    That said, I surmise the human mind latches onto categorical thinking because of the intellectual burden of the alternative. Shall we strive to regard all of history as some undifferentiated whole? Intellectually pure–but kinda hard.

    Scott Alexander reviewed Peter Turchin and Sergey A. Nefedov’s Secular Cycles and Age of Discord, books that purport to identify patterns of “rises” and “falls” throughout history. Alexander tries to evaluate whether the authors have identified actual trends, or merely arbitrarily chosen to focus on variables that happen to support their thesis to the exclusion of equally plausible variables that would confound it. But whatever the merits of the thesis as a basis for understanding history, he found the thesis helpful as a basis for LEARNING history:

    [Secular Cycles] makes history easier to learn. I was shocked how much more I remembered about the Plantagenets, Tudors, Capetians, etc after reading this book, compared to reading any normal history book about them. I think the secret ingredient is structure. If history is just “one damn thing after another”, there’s no framework for figuring out what matters, what’s worth learning, what follows what else. The secular cycle idea creates a structure that everything fits into neatly. I know that the Plantagenet Dynasty lasted from 1154 – 1485, because it had to, because that’s a 331 year secular cycle. I know that the important events to remember include the Anarchy of 1135 – 1153 and the War of the Roses from 1455 – 1487, because those are the two crisis-depression periods that frame the cycle. I know that after 1485 Henry Tudor took the throne and began a new age of English history, because that’s the beginning of the integrative phase of the next cycle. All of this is a lot easier than trying to remember these names and dates absent any context. I would recommend this book for that reason alone.

    So maybe the thesis will fall into the category of “pop history”–but popularity has its uses.

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    Gracchus says:

    Yes, pop history has its uses, but I was under the impression was that we were trying to do here is analyse, not just familiarise ourselves with the basic structure of events.

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