Linky Friday: Suspicious Minds

Love:

[L1] This is a pretty amazing story of an internet dating fraud (catfisher), a woman he marked, and the model whose photograph he used.

[L2] Alysse ElHague and Samuel Perry discuss the relationship between pornography and relationship quality. There are a lot of confounding factors here, of course, but that it’s most damaging for religious couples is a really interesting find.

[L3] Well, I guess everyone should have a chance at romantic happiness. I guess.

[L4] I’ve seen conscientious non-marriage work out, but I’ve far more often seen it lead to heartbreak. To each their own, though as Dharma pointed out in Dharma & Greg, it can be real trouble for children: “Did you ever stop to think that there was somebody in that house that woke up in the morning wondering if this was the day her parents were going to choose not to be together?”

[L5] Three words: Sex on trains.

Marriage:

Image by satanoid

[M1] The genetics of divorce.

[M2] In addition to genetics, there also may be a serious issue with excessively high expectations and over-reliance on our spouses. {More}

[M3] Why women cheat, updated. Also, new research on who is most likely to cheat. And what happens.

[M4] By my understanding of contemporary politics, this means we either need to implement a nudge divorce tax or to ban marriage.

[M5] Claire Cain Miller writes about how marriage because a perk of privilege.

[M6] A look at the cost of weddings. Given the things we didn’t have to pay for (venue being a big one), I’m still taken aback at how much ours cost.

Children:

[C1] David Benatar makes the case against the morality of having children. Over here, of course, it seems to correspond far more with marriage. (Note: No effect for men.)

[C2] A new study suggests that parenthood in Britain makes women more conservative.

[C3] While not all of these are wrong, I think a lot of people will be surprised at how little artificial wombs will actually change the world.

[C4] I’m kind of skeptical of robot baby incubators, in the end, but do wish them all the luck.

[C5] It’s hard to appreciate how devastating the Motherisk story in Canada is.

[C6] Scotland is considering a ban on spanking. I’m not against this in theory (or on “freedom” grounds), though can’t reconcile myself to the type of enforcement that would be required for it to make a difference.

[C7] Just so that we’re clear here, the grandparents aren’t necessarily right! Really, generational divides are going to make this sort of thing pretty persistent.

God:

Image by bertknot

[G1] A look at the modern Orthodox Jew.

[G2] A poor choice of words sent former ESPN writer Anthony Federico’s life in a talespin, ending up with him in the priesthood. Also, a Yale neuroscientist.

[G3] Free love and dark rituals deep in the heart of Missouri.

[G4] A former member of Westboro speaks of her experience.

[G5] A look at Jonestown and the progressive cult that lead there.

[G6] I don’t like Dan Brown as much as his fans, or hate him as much as his detractors, but Matthew Walther’s takedown is something to behold.

Outdoors:

[O1] Sometimes an elephant does not want a selfie with you.

[O2] I don’t even know what to make of radioactive boar.

[O3] The love story of a penguin and a cardboard cut-out.

[O4] Crows are hella smart, so maybe we should try to put that to good use!

[O5] The story behind the glowing corals.


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Will Truman is a former professional gearhead who is presently a stay-at-home father in the Mountain East. He has moved around frequently, having lived in six places since 2003, ranging from rural outposts to major metropolitan areas. He also writes fiction, when he finds the time. ...more →

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211 thoughts on “Linky Friday: Suspicious Minds

  1. L4: In the age of the no-fault divorce, I’m not sure marriage provides that much more emotional security children. Yes, even a simple level-headed no-fault divorce is a much bigger hassle than simply breaking up with somebody your not legally bound to but that doesn’t seem to stop people that much.

    L1: I suppose I’m supposed to find this touching but when you play by the rules and do all the good and honest things and get nothing, stories of lucky liars are not motivational. Its a sign that these things are generally completely unfair.

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    • But she ended up with the model-guy, not the liar-guy. It seems sweet to me.

      Honestly tho, video chat! Seriously people, video chat. If they won’t video chat, cut them off. They’re liars.

      I’ve had a few catfish try this shit on me. One sent me some really hawt pics of a twenty-something tgirl. When I tried to video chat them, they claimed their camera wasn’t working. Bzzt! Blocked.

      One actually accepted my call, but refused to appear on camera. They just held their hand in in the video frame. Like what the fuck! Blocked.

      One used pictures of a semi-famous tgirl porn star. Ha! Blocked.

      Video chat. Accept nothing less.

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      • I once had gotten to the point of exchanging emails with a woman (she refused to give me her number-fine whatever) and I was using Zoosk. Note, the pics on the site had been verified via a separate image recognition action. She asked, in her email, for more pics, then said I wasn’t real. Really?! Want me to post them in my profile and get them varied too? Crickets. I think that was her excuse for buyers remorse.

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      • Honestly tho, video chat! Seriously people, video chat. If they won’t video chat, cut them off. They’re liars.

        Not necessarily. I personally just really don’t like video chat, and don’t own a webcam. For one, I have to sit still in front of the camera. But also, webcams are jerks. The short focal length exaggerates flaws. Same reason selfies look so bad. Look at yourself in the mirror. Now look at yourself in a webcam. If you want someone to be attracted to you, which version would you prefer that she see first?

        I mean, maybe it’s a red flag in a Bayesian sense, and it’s your right to respond to it in any way you like, but it’s definitely not true that everyone who doesn’t want to do video chat is lying.

        That said, refusing to meet or video chat for weeks on end just screams catfishing.

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      • Video chat ahould be treated exactly the same as police body cams. If there are convenient “technical difficulties”, if it’s strangely out of focus, if the LOS is blocked by foliage – they’re guilty as fuck.

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    • Of his works, I’ve only read The Da Vinci Code, back when it was all the rage. I had played Gabriel Knight 3 before reading it, so was already familiar with the Priory of Scion conspiracy theory stuff, which I did find compelling. I thought the novel was boring, though. I can only imagine people conflated interest in the conspiracy stuff with finding the plot interesting.

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    • In my old age I find my standards for prose have risen. This is a problem within SF, where prose style is not traditionally a priority. I find many favorites from my youth to be so clunky as to be unreadable, and am pretty narrowly limited in what new stuff I will read. Fortunately, I also don’t care about reading whatever is selling right now. I am immunized against stuff like Dan Brown because I would flip open to a random page, read one paragraph, and close the book and put it back on the shelf. I also have a sufficiently low opinion of the general reading public that I treat fiction best seller lists as cautionary, not as buying guides.

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  2. O2 –

    One animal shot by hunters was found to have more than 10 times the safe level of radiation.

    speaking of people that use terms that reveal they have actually no idea what they’re talking about.

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  3. M2 – Expectations of marriage with young does seem to be an issue. The article also states that those who have a social network to get different types of emotional support have happier marriages, which also seems evident. Keep friends, social clubs and sports when you get married; you and your spouse will be happier for it.

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    • Aren’t unrealistic expectations of marriage more or less inevitable when marriage becomes less of social and economic necessity and more about a passionate and chemistry-laden loving companionship heavily promoted by the media?

      The keeping friends, social clubs, and sports might be a good idea in general but not economic feasible because of lack of discretionary spending money for at least some hobbies or sports. Dance is not a cheap hobby and it takes time.

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  4. L4: Conscientious non-marriage can certainly work, but there is an element of dodging of bullets. There are some very good practical benefits that accrue with marriage. The article cites two: “What happens when I die? And what happens if I get sick and then die?” It then passes on, ignoring rather than addressing the point. feh. And, as Will points out, the equations change if there are kids involved. Yes, people can get divorced. But there is a presumption of stability in marriage, if only because divorce is a hassle. My reaction to conscientious non-marriage is that the reasoning is at best muddled and at worst narcissistic. Really, the idea that I can wake up one morning and decide I don’t love my wife anymore and walk out the door? What the hell way is that to live a life, much live a relationship? I have the same reaction to the idea of limited-term renewable marriage contracts. It’s coming up soon, so I have to decide if I still love my wife, while she is deciding if she still loves me? That sounds absolutely horrible. It may work for some people, and I’m not saying they shouldn’t be allowed to do what works for them, but I don’t see it becoming the norm.

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    • Marriage comes with some substantial legal benefits. One of those benefits is that a marriage certificate is a short signal for the hospital that they can trust you when your spouse is incapacitated or if there is no formal will, it creates presumptions on who gets the estate.

      A reason why I’m a bit dubious about polyamory becoming a thing is that the government is eventually going to have to deal with the legal implications of multiple partners if it becomes widespread enough and will find that this is a massive headache. A fellow lawyer friend and I tried to hypothesize what legalized polygamy would look like and quickly decided that created legalized polygamy that is both Constitutional, doesn’t violate the Equal Protection Clause by giving one gender more rights than another, and not a legal cluster fish is impossible.

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      • I once had a very strange exchange with David Friedman, with him making the libertarian case against same sex marriage. When it got to the hospital ER part, he argued that the spousal rights can be replicated outside marriage. To which I respond, it is two in the morning and a hard decision has to be made now. One partner goes home, takes the document out of their files, brings it to the hospital, and waits for the legal department to come in the next morning to review it. Uh huh. I don’t think hospitals actually ask for a marriage certificate, do they? I’m not sure. I wonder if ours is in our fire box. In any case, I’m pretty sure that even if they will take your word for it about being married, an explanation that there is a document at home that replicates the spousal rights for medical decisions isn’t going to cut it.

        Poly: testify, brother! When we look at marriage as a legal status, same-sex works just fine, but the whole thing breaks down with poly. On the other hand, most of this some can be replicated, however clumsily. (This was much of David’s argument, to which I have four words: tenancy in the entirety.) One way to look at marriage is as a set of defaults for stuff like the aforementioned medical decision making, custodial rights, inheritance, and the like. These defaults have “exactly two people” built into them. If a poly group is serious about this particular group being how they expect to live the rest of their lives, they would be wise to get legal advice on setting up all the stuff built that marriage covers.

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        • Libertarian case against same sex marriage seems like a contradiction in terms. Many of them did the get the state out of marriage and replace them with private contracts song and dance routine but they were being really dumb about the legal aspects of marriage.

          Polygamy: I think there is a good reason why legal polygamy lasted longer in the more authoritarian, hierarchical, and inequitable societies than it did with societies that at least preached a theoretical equality before the law. You can do polygamy when you have men can have multiple wives but women can’t have multiple husbands or vice versa. Trying to come up with a working system Where Man is married to Woman A and B and Woman A is also married to Man B and Woman B is married to Woman C is going to give courts headaches. Courts don’t like headaches.

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          • The question I always have is: Alex, Bobby, and Chris are all married.

            Alex is incapacitated and a doctor asks Bobby and Chris to consent to treatment.

            Bobby and Christ disagree about granting consent.

            Now what?

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            • Probably the same thing as when a single parent to adult children is incapacitated?

              IE it depends on the family and how they’ve prepared.

              Maybe there’s a horrible legal battle, maybe there’s preexisting written documentation of who wins, maybe there’s just an agreement within the family about who gets to make medical decisions on behalf of the incapacitated person.

              I see other, bigger problems with legalizing poly marriages than the medical ones – which we’ve already had to solve due to eldercare issues – and I say that as someone who, on balance, would really like them to be legalized.

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              • Yeah, things like Living Wills and DNR agreements become even MORE important.

                (My parents asked me, because I am a biologist and know a *little* about medicine, to be their medical proxy decision maker. I only agreed to after I knew they had advanced-directives in place because I could see other family members trying to second-guess my decisions if it came to that, and I didn’t want to have to deal with that)

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          • Libertarian case against same sex marriage seems like a contradiction in terms.

            One would think. Yet there they were, making an argument that just coincidentally lined up with the Republican Party line. Go figure.

            Many of them did the get the state out of marriage and replace them with private contracts song and dance routine but they were being really dumb about the legal aspects of marriage.

            Yeah, that’s a standard line. While it isn’t entirely wrong, it is entirely beside the point. Arguing for a complete revision of how the government understands marriage is irrelevant to whether or not in the meantime we should make this far more modest change in order to be more equitable. The complete revision isn’t going to happen, and if it does happen it won’t be soon. Side tracking the same sex marriage discussion with this is simply an avoidance technique.

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  5. M6 cost of weddings: This is pretty much bait to set me off on a rant. To my surprise, it was not quite the usual form these take, which consist of confusing the cost of a wedding and the cost of a party, with a lot of bullshit expectations attached to said party. The article managed somehow to be even dumber, confusing the rising cost of San Francisco with the rising cost of weddings.

    Also, engraved invitations: in 1974 this sort of engraving was a current technology for high end stationary and the like. Nowadays engraving is a tiny niche, used almost entirely by people wanting pretentious wedding invitations. I am surprised the inflation was larger. This is like hiring a horse-drawn hackney and being surprised it costs more, even after inflation, than it did in Victorian London. In the meantime, you can get perfectly nice invitations using modern technology. Should someone sniff at you about their not being engraved, you benefit from learning, if you didn’t already know, that this person is a jackass.

    Finally, I have zero sympathy for people complaining about the cost of a church of which they are not members. Large old buildings are expensive to maintain. My church sanctuary is over two hundred years old. I know from time on council that the expenses are startling. If you want a costly set for your personal performance piece, you have to expect to pay for it.

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  6. [L1] Sadly, none of the women I’ve met turned out to be hot supermodels looking for a middle aged dude. :(

    [L3] I expect the number of matches I’d find on this site, given my location in the mid atlantic, would be in the single digits.

    [L4] You don’t have to answer Dharma’s question if you never have kids.

    [L5] I support this!

    [M6] Funny, I did the math and it came out to pretty much what the inflation figure was.

    [C5] Yeah, and people wonder why I have such a poor view of gov’t social services.

    [O1] A few years ago I was in Addo, driving around the park. Our guide told us to roll up the windows as the elephants had a history of reaching into the vehicles with their trunks. Kids had been pulled out of cars that way. These were small elephants, young ones, not the much bigger fully grown ones. I watched a family in another car roll up within 3 feet of an elephant, with the windows open, with the kids trying to touch the animal. I was waiting for a shitstorm to happen. The elephant just ignored them. I’ve always thought it was one of the stupidest things I’ve seen people do. The guide sent me pics later of 5 lions trying to take down a Kudo in the same park that a tourist had caught on film. Nature be real fools.

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  7. G3: Surprising mostly in that the vast majority of communes implode pretty quickly. But America has a long history of such things. Upstate New York was rife with such things for a time in the 19th century. A few beat the odds and persist. The Amana Colonies in Iowa are also a notable example. And really, the Hutterites have been doing this for five centuries. It can be made to work.

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  8. O4: Crows are smart, so I await this going into practice and the crows realizing that snatching butts out of people’s hands or mouths will also get them a treat.

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  9. C5: There are similar problems with the field tests police use to check for controlled substances (too many things generate false positives). Government REALLY needs to internalize the rule that a single type of test is almost never conclusive evidence of something, especially when it comes to biology. A single test may indicate that further testing is called for, but it should be a starting point, not a reason to move forward with whatever action might be the end result.

    So the hair test should be an indicator to place a parent under observation, or conduct further testing (like the mom in the story, 16-18 drinks a day is GOING to show up in a liver panel). It’s also a good way to let the system correct for chain of custody issues (and provide useful ways to audit said systems for errors). Likewise, police in the US should use field tests as a place to start an investigation, but unless they find a significant quantity of something, the most they should do is issue a summons, not make an arrest. They should also be very aware of what could present a false positive.

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  10. Now that’s a take down. C.S. Lewis wrote an essay in the 1950s where he talks about literary readers v. non-literary reader. Our own Tod had a similar essay on OT a while back:

    http://ordinary-gentlemen.com/2012/06/22/the-real-problem-with-genre-fiction/

    The short of it is that non-literary readers and genre fiction is really not about prose. It is about sensation, feeling, and quick emotional responses. The fiction I read is literary fiction and I read it a lot for the prose and to experience good writing at the top of its craft. There is a lot of literary fiction with so-so prose but I find even the average literary fiction writers have more skill than most genre writers.

    But we live in an anti-snobbery age and the above-paragraph is wrong thought. One of the big problems I have with a lot of SF and Fantasy is that it refuses to be contained by editors. There are door-stoppers in the literary fiction world but they move more briskly to me often when written well. Or they can build a world in a paragraph as opposed to 100 page tangent on the geology of some fantasy world.

    Though someone once defined a nerd as someone “who wants to live on any world but earth” and that could be correct hence the need for hundred page tangents that sound like a Bible begets paragraph.

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    • (sorry Saul and Lee for the cross-wiring – I swear it only happened b/cI was still thinking about polygamy)… The twin glories of literary fiction as a genre are that a) any genre novel that’s really brilliant, prose-wise, can in practice be adopted into litfic and thus “elevated” and doesn’t count; b) any literary novel that’s sufficently bad, prose-wise, can in practice be denigrated as not-actually-literary and thus “demoted” and doesn’t count.

      It’s the No True Scotsman of genres.

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      • I would put it a bit differently, expanding on my comment below. “Demotic prose” is not a criticism. It can be done well or it can be done poorly. Demotic prose generally ages poorly, but in a tiny fraction of cases it is done so well that people continue to read it past the ordinary use-by date. Raymond Chandler is an example. He was working within a specific genre tradition of demotic prose. The vast majority of that tradition is forgotten today because it wasn’t very good. Chandler (and Dashiell Hammett) are the exceptions that are still read today. But even then, most fans of modern detective novels would bounce off Chandler and Hammett. The people still reading them are doing so for their effective use of language, i.e. literary fiction readers.

        See also: William Shakespeare, playwright of the people.

        The same thing happens in music. On those rare occasions popular music from the 19th century is performed, it is treated as classical music at least implicitly, and often explicitly.

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        • Many of the songs or activities we view as kid’s songs or games started off as adult songs and games. The Hokey Pokey is a lot younger than people thing, its from the 1940s, and started off as an adult group dance/game at parties. Musical chairs was also an adult activity that could potentially allow some touching between the genders. More than a few kid’ songs started as 19th century sheet/pop music.

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        • At the same time, the great literary writers do write prose in a style that is timeless. You can read Edith Wharton and Fitzgerald and Greene and get a sense of how people wrote, thought, and talked at the time but it is not opaque and incomprehensible to modern ears.

          The world setting done in the Age of Innocence and Great Gatsby takes mere paragraphs but it tells you all you need to know about the world that the characters in habit.

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              • Being able to parse the prose of ‘classics’ requires exposure in bit of a reverse chronological order. One thing that probably turned me off from reading classics at an early age was being asked to dive headfirst into them in middle and high school by teachers who were a bit too eager. I am a firm believer in reading should be fun, first and foremost. Reading a book as part of a class assignment will detract from the ‘fun’ part straightaway, so the chosen text should be something age appropriate and fun.

                So start kids off with stuff written in the 50’s, then the 20’s or 30’s, then further back. You need to learn how the language evolved by starting close to where you are, so you aren’t spending so much effort just trying to figure out what the hell these people are saying. It also helps a lot to have the historical context of both when the book was written, and when the book is set.

                I mean, Shakespeare has some seriously biting wit in it, but if you have no context for the setting or the prose itself, it’s tough to get, and in my experience, no one bothered to provide that context. Hell, the Cliff’s Notes were more helpful that the readings and associated lectures.

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                • What kids like to read =/ what adults like to read =/ what pursuers of beautiful prose like to read =/ literary timelessness.

                  As an example, anyone who wants to read great prose *should* be reading the timeless Thomas Pynchon. :)

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                • I think part of the problem with teaching Shakespeare to high schoolers is that the bawdy stuff they would enjoy is exactly the bits that high school teachers pretty much aren’t allowed to show them. Add to this the self-inflicted wound of treating Shakespeare oh, so seriously, and you kill all the joy. The kids get MacBeth and Julius Caesar when they should be getting The Comedy of Errors. Use the lighter comedies as the entry drug and get them to the tragedies later.

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                  • At my high school, which was some time ago now, they very much pointed to the bawdy stuff in both Shakespeare and Chaucer.

                    (my time in high school did coincide with a more ‘naturalistic’ treatment of shakespeare in popular media, e.g. Mel Gibson’s Hamlet, Dead Poets Society)

                    Eta now that I think about it we did see Zefferilli’s Romeo and Juliet in a high school classroom also – complete with that one scene.

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                  • My high school theatre did a performance of Midsummer (though we also did Cabaret as a musical without censorship) but yeah this is generally true. Lee once told me about seeing a story about a high school that canceled Grease! and put on Midsummer instead. According to Lee, the high school admin said that they understood Midsummer was dirty sex jokes but people did not understand them.

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                    • My wife teaches high school and is a drama geek, so she was heavily involved in her school’s productions until we had kids and lost our free time. My sense was that there has been a crackdown on what is permissible since my day. This doesn’t surprise me. I came of age after the hippie era but before the backlash had really done its thing, so we were permitted to talk about sex and drugs in a more 1970s way than they could in the 90s.

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                • I have a silly quixotic dream to read all the Shakespeare I didn’t read in school (in other words: nearly all of it). I find the Folger library version are great. They have a gloss on the facing page that explains unfamiliar words and the like, and longer notes at the back in some cases.

                  I actually find a lot of the language not as hard; one of the Folger editors wrote something about how more of his language was allegedly Latin-derived and it may be my history as a biologist (1) and spelling-bee geek when I was a kid. It’s some of the historical references and also the dirty jokes that tend to sail over my head.

                  the dirty jokes are usually easier to “get” if you see a good production of the play, though, because then there’s gesture and tone of voice to let you know.

                  (1) though I still kind of wish I had learned Latin as a kid. I know French pretty well, which is close, though, but I bet there are things I could do more easily as a botanist if I knew Latin

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                • That’s so true. I read Shakespeare in translation when I was 12, and fell in love with it. The translation kept all (most??) of the poetry and wit, but in words that were familiar to me. But I’ve never been able to read Cervantes in my own native language (and XVI century Spanish is closer to contemporary than XVI century English is)

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          • Disagree. Prose is of it’s time. Some old writers are hard to read. Just reading a fairly modern guy like Kerouac takes an adjustment and doesn’t work for everyone. Dickens….nope doesn’t work for many people. It doesn’t mean they aren’t talented or important but styles change and become harder to understand.

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            • Also, go back a bit further. A few 18th century prose writers hold up pretty well: Swift is the obvious example. But he is an exception. I have read Defoe for pleasure, but would never characterize his prose as timeless.

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            • Prose is of it’s time. … Dickens….nope doesn’t work for many people.

              Right. But there are people it DOES work for. So for them it’s timeless. Or at least that it has up-to-our-current-time-ness.

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              • But some old timey stuff becomes less popular often for reasons. The people who search out Dickens or read Byron or Shelly do so after ingesting gateway literature. It’s their hobby, their avocation. It’s not, or rarely, something people just pick up out of nowhere. People still read old latin manuscripts. By that measure nothing has ever gone out of style.

                Malory? what a noob. I stick with Geoffrey of Monmouth for my Arthurian legends. It was all downhill after the youngsters got a hold of it.

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                • Malory? what a noob. I stick with Geoffrey of Monmouth for my Arthurian legends. It was all downhill after the youngsters got a hold of it.

                  It wasn’t when the kids got a hold of it–it was the French. Curse you, Chretien!

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                • “The people who search out Dickens or read Byron or Shelly do so after ingesting gateway literature.”

                  FTR Dickens is one of the first people I read. Like, Charles and Mary Lamb’s retelling of Shakespeare, and Great Expectations and Oliver Twist, all happened before I started school. Ages 4-5. Reread ’em (and Tolkien and Montgomery, who I found later, along with Malory and Greene and modern english translations of Malory, Geoffrey of Monmouth, Bede, Beowulf, Chaucer, etc.) many times before I ever left elementary.

                  I realize this probably explains more about me than about the populace at large, but it’s not ALL people who start with gateways and go to Dickens. Some of us have the reverse experience. (Uh, not that I won’t still read Dickens, mind you.)

                  (Though, FWIW, Dickens was also the Stephen King of his day… and my money remains on Stephen King as the Dickens of ours…)

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    • Asimov had an essay about literary versus non-literary prose, though as I recall he didn’t put it quite that way. He used the analogy of literary prose being a stained glass window: pretty, but not good if you want to see what is outside. Non-literary prose is analogized with clear glass window panes. Looking at the window isn’t the point. You are looking to see what is on the other side. His kicker was that clear glass is a higher tech than stained glass. The point of the essay was to praise (his own) modern prose as the more difficult accomplishment than earlier, pretty but difficult prose.

      I was greatly impressed when I read this essay, probably in early twenties. Asimov impressed me far more back then than he does today. It dawned on me at some point that this guy was insufferable: probably fun at parties, so long as he was the center of attention, but would get old fast to actually be around.

      The essay in question is dead wrong. There has always been prose intended to be unnoticed by the reader. I call this demotic prose. What threw Asimov off is that demotic prose is a moving target. Prose that was unnoticed in 1900 would be intrusive to a reader in 1950, and the prose of Golden Age SF is a barrier to the modern reader. Asimov noticed the transparency of the prose contemporary to him and thought that this was new.

      The difference with literary prose is that it aims to be timeless. It isn’t really, of course, but the process is slowed. People complain about Tolkien’s prose, which is decidedly literary. Had he written The Lord of the Rings in demotic prose, I doubt that anyone would be reading it today except as a period piece, like reading Conan the Barbarian or Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser stories.

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      • Unless it’s David Weber. My god man, in the time it takes him to describe the genius strategic and tactical actions of his big kablooey space battle, the battle is over, so is the war, peace accords have been signed, and enough generations have passed that people are starting to forget what it was all about anyway.

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        • When an author becomes successful enough that he/she can say “no” to the editors and make it stick, readers suffer.

          Then there’s the second half of his last Safehold book, which reads like a piece of fanfic where someone said, “Here, let me tie off the loose ends and finish the damned series for you.”

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          • Anne Rice is my cautionary tale. The money quote:

            I have no intention of allowing any editor ever to distort, cut or otherwise mutilate sentences that I have edited and re-edited, and organized and polished myself… I fought a great battle to achieve a status where I did not have to put up with editors making demands on me.

            I also like

            When you take home a CD of Pavarotti or Marilyn Horne, you don’t want to hear another voice blended in. I feel the same way about Hemingway. If I read it, I don’t want to read a new edited version.

            if only because it shows she hasn’t the least idea of how a musical recording is made, yet feels qualified to discuss it in an authoritative voice.

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            • Oh my God(ess?) Anne Rice! There’s one of her vampire novels where a vampire is telling a story about a vampire telling him a story about a vampire telling him a story about how a vampire told him a story about meeting the vampire queen. You needed a chart to navigate the narrative layers.

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              • I enjoyed Interview with a Vampire, back in the day, but I quickly recognized the downhill trajectory of her writing in later books. I therefore dodged the bullet of feeling committed to reading them, with the inevitable heartbreak following. Contrast this with Tom Clancy, whom I stuck with about three books too many.

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                    • I think Rainbow Six was the one where the villainous plan was so ludicrous that Ding and Clark actually started making fun of it when they heard about it. If your own fictional characters can’t take your plot seriously, it’s probably a time for a rethink.

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                      • I remember RB6 being the one where I was started to see the shine wear on the plot devices.

                        I mean, I don’t mind ridiculous plot devices, as long as the author is being honest that they are so. Black Tide Rising is a series I enjoy specifically because Ringo knows some of his plot devices are out there, but he’s not trying to tell a super serious story, he’s having fun with the Zombie genre.

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                      • Well, I mean they only made Rainbow Six to sell a computer game. If you think of it like a Tomb Raider novelization it makes more sense.

                        I was okay with Clancy until the advent of The Campus, which was just a lazy storytelling device that suddenly everything revolved around.

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                    • The end of the Cold War did Clancy no favors. He was good with the Soviets and honorable foes. With the breakup of the Soviet Union he was reduced to increasingly implausible scenarios to set up a more or less even fight. These consisted of having cultures that have hated each other for centuries suddenly join up against the US, combined with some nefarious scheme to prevent any but a fraction of US military might from joining the fight, converting the ensuing US victory into a come-from-behind win by the plucky underdog. This combined poorly with his weird anti-Asian prejudice. Then he set up his “If Mary Sue were King” scenario in which he lectured us about how awesome everything would be if we just did everything he said, as indeed all right-thinking people want to anyway, am I right? I quit with the book where we learned that the Sierra Club are a bunch of mass-murdering lunatics.

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          • I made it through book 4 of Safehold before I started to just get exhausted reading it. If the thought of picking up the next book in a series is exhausting, the author has lost it (or perhaps never really had it, but did have a damn fine editor).

            I have enjoyed when other authors have starting writing stories set in the Manticore universe.

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            • It seems like when Weber gets a brand new idea, he’s able to keep the resulting prose under control. The first Bahzell, “Paths of the Fury”, “On Basilisk Station”, even way back to “Crusade” and “Insurrection”….

              Then at some point in the resulting series, often sooner than later, he loses it and starts crapping out literal bricks.

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            • I view Safehold as a skimmable, fictional exploration of the evolution of warfare over about 300 years.

              I skim the boring bits, read the interesting bits, and it’s frankly “I’m not in the mood for thoughtful reading” reading.

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                • The last few books kinda recreated WWI, for the most part, only with some WW2 style concentration camps. The ending was so abrupt that I was confused — it didn’t exactly come from nowhere (there was tiny bits of foreshadowing going back several books) but…yeah, suffice it to say, I was 95% of the way into the last book and I was wondering if he’d even be able to wrap it up in the next book or if he’d need two.

                  It was like being 6 books into a history of WW2, you’re reading about the invasion of Normandy, and then someone shoots Hitler and everyone agrees that the Axis should empty the camps, stop killing people, and we can have a nice detente.

                  You’re left going “Wait, what about all those detailed plans for the ground war? The two armies about to come to grips? This whole freaking book about WW2, focused on tactics and weaponry and overall strategy and there’s no big battle? Some sniper plugs Hitler and we’re done?”

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                    • There…sort of is. (I’ll try to be vague, in case you do read them).

                      I can’t tell if he lost focus or decided on something else, but he’d dropped hints that Merlin wouldn’t be unopposed for long — that there’d be, well, a Mordred so to speak, for the Temple.

                      There’s some more stuff about the deep history of the Church and some surviving knowledge, etc.

                      He ended it weirdly and left all that hanging, waiting on Mordred who will arrive in a specific time frame. I think he might have justified it as “Random stuff breaks everyone’s plans in war” and he could avoid a rather boring meat-grinder of WW1 style trenches and have a time-skip.

                      Plus, he really had pushed the tech so far that it was kind of strange there wasn’t more “Hey, wait a second” even from the pro-tech side. Wartime is wartime, but they had gotten to steam engines and railroads.

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      • I can see what that could appeal to some. My big problem with SF and Fantasy fandom is that they want all of the adulation of literary fiction with non of the criticism. They want the Nobel but not the savage reviews that happen between authors and fans of literary fiction.

        And if you critique something like the 100 page tangent, they get hurt and call you an “Enemy of SF”

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        • Saul,
          I might suggest that you actually talk to some writers before you say things that are completely out of your wheelhouse.
          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rat_king

          Savage reviews are all that science fiction is about nowadays. Witchhunts for hidden fascists and bullshit like that. “You’re not sufficiently SJW enough!”… or the opposite.

          There’s no way to actually get a career when the next person will tear you down quick as anything and nobody cares about quality anymore.

          The communists liked Kim’s books a lot. They also liked Le Guins. I don’t think they cared whether the books were good or not, really. (spoiler: Green Mars was bo-ring. Blue Mars was worse). But at least they were pretty consistent…

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    • Saul,
      And yet, I swear to god, if you read Barrayar, you’ll see what a good edit can do.
      Or Weatherman, or half a dozen other edited books.

      And have you read Snow Crash? That’s a damn fucking parody, and it’s got zing — and good writing.

      Curious about what you call “Treasure Hunt” books … kinda like Arrested Development, where the emphasis is on continuity, and development — it’s not on the quick feels, and it’s not on the prose.

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  11. C1: I just don’t understand this argument at all. I know that life can contain lots of physical and emotional pain and that some people’s entire lives consist of one long stretch of physical and emotional pain with little or no joy or relief. That being said the idea of not being born is best of all only makes sense if you really believe that there are bunch independent souls hanging out there happy and they get snatched into the world when sperm meets egg.

    In a purely materialistic universe, not being born makes no sense because you are nothing until you emerge from the womb. You might have a lot of pain but most people really don’t live that miserable lives. Even though we have seven billion people, our advances have ensured that fewer people are living with this wrecking physical and emotional pain. Those that would be doomed to an early grave in the past can live to ripe old age in the present. There are lots of good things you won’t get to experience if you aren’t born. Isn’t denying would be people what is good in life by not being born.

    These nihilists are terrible, awful human beings. They take their own misery and would use as a reason to damn everybody else to hell with them. My life isn’t exactly what I want it to be but I’m better off being born than not being born.

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  12. Apparently support for legalized marijuana is at an all time high:

    https://www.forbes.com/sites/tomangell/2017/10/25/poll-legal-marijuana-support-at-record-high-in-u-s/#1ab7f1a143ff

    But I think asking “Should Marijuana be legal?” is a bad question. The real questions is how much of this is a priority/deal breaker to cause people to switch partisan priors.

    How many right-leaning voters would vote for a pro-Marijuana Democrat who also want a welfare state and wants to tax marijuana to fund the welfare state? How many left-leaning voters would vote for a pro-Marijuana Republican or Libertarian over an anti-legalization but otherwise liberal Democrat (say Diane Feinstein or someone similar)?

    My guess is that the number of people willing to cross the aisle is close to zero.

    Plus how much is that 1/3 regular voters or powerful donors?

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      • I’d say it would be more than that. Lots of people are single issue voters in that they view each party as equally awful on everything but X. Legalizing pot is a pretty big X.

        But even your number – 2% – would be huge.

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        • I’m pretty sure that we wouldn’t be able to get one of the white kids who carries signs talking about Palestine and George Bush at a march to vote for a pro-weed Republican… but I’m almost certain that a blue-collar guy who lives on the wrong side of the tracks could be persuaded to vote, just once, for a Republican who talks about legalizing it (and that “could” gets a lot stronger if the Democrat fights back by talking about how important it is that we protect The Children or the usual litany).

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          • Le’ts restrict the discussion to Colorado politics, since Michael Cain, you and I live here. Right now Sessions is on the warpath to investigate and prosecute growers even in states where it’s legal to do so. Question: how many points would a Congressional candidate pick up running on a states-rights, legalize-it, keep-federal-government-outa-our-grow-ops plank?

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              • But it’s extremely unlikely to happen. The system is biased to produce legislators that are older, whiter, richer, and significantly more conservative than their constituencies. (Not by evil intent. Answer the question, “Why are hourly wage slaves egregiously underrepresented in every state and federal legislature in the country?”) The candidates are simply disinclined to take a position on whether weed should be legalized at a federal level. The tipping point will be when polls can be interpreted as “everyone agrees that pot should be legal and regulated,” not as it’s favored 2:1. Based on issues like vote-by-mail here, I put that at around 4:1 in favor.

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                • Michael,

                  Yes that’s true. To my ears, the analysis you provide is the equivalent of saying “the establishment always wins”. But!, right now the Establishment of both parties is under attack and that creates opportunities for candidates which didn’t exist before, and for the electorate to broaden (even if only temporarily) it’s own ability to determine outcomes.

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                  • Come get me when the electorate puts any significant number of people into the US House who aren’t lawyers, doctors, business owners, independently wealthy or professional career politicians. Retirees and “kept” spouses count as independently wealthy.

                    One of my favorite members of the Colorado General Assembly was Paul Weissmann, a non-owner restaurant manager and bartender from Louisville (who continued to tend bar on weekends even when the legislature was in session). He was a rarity.

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        • Anecdata: the UK had a single issue party in the last decade. It pretty consistently drew 1-2%.

          There are legalization third parties here, too, but their performance isn’t indicative because US third parties…

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  13. O2: You get bitten by a radioactive boar as a nerdy teenager and you become Boar Man. Your talent consists of ramming into things with your new found tusks and being able to digest a lot more than you could as a human. You don’t get those cute girls to look at you because lets face it, a stomach ramming is a lot less romantic than an upside down kiss.

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  14. M2 hit home for me and was definitely one of the main issues in Zazzy and my relationship and eventual divorce. We often argued about expectations and what was or was not reasonable… with me having the higher expectations, many of which were exactly as articulated in the article.

    I’ve seen other sources discuss the evolution of our understanding of marriage — towards what is described — and that this is a major factor in a higher divorce rate. In the past, people didn’t necessarily expect their marriages to be fulfilling. Now, we tend to. This may mean more divorce but it also might mean fewer people suffering, especially those who do so in silence (who I’d venture to guess falls disproportionally on women). Time will tell what the right balance is and what is better but as a descriptive analysis of what is going on, I can say that article felt very accurate.

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  15. [M3] First link has me wanting to bang my head on the wall going “You’re taking a crazy risk! Talk, negotiate, be consensual in your nonmonogamy!”

    Second link suggests that the roofs of wood framed houses are likely to cheat with whatever sexy 100 mph wind blows through town.

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    • I think for most people the conversation on consensual non-monogamy is this, at least for the standard heterosexual married couple in Western society:

      S1: Honey, I think we should stay married but start seeing some other people romantically and maybe even sexually. I was reading about something called polyamory on the Internet and I think we should check it out.

      S2: No and if your bring it up again its going to be a divorce.

      The other issue is that the thrill of adultery and the cat and mouse games it involves seems exciting for many people. The consensual, open nature of polyamory lacks that thrill.

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      • Yeah, I realize that – I mean, I get the mechanism that’s causing people to take the risk they’re taking.

        I’m not sure who’s taking the bigger risk there – S2 saying “it’s monogamy or divorce” and risking the answer being “so long, it’s been good to know ya”, or S1 having an affair after that conversation.

        But S1 having an affair before even trying the conversation – it’s obvious who’s taking the bigger risk.

        At least assuming S1 has concluded they’re not able to stay in the marriage if they’d have to actually practice monogamy, then by having that conversation, they clear up what the options are, whether they’re choosing between:
        – the risk of divorce if they’re caught vs. the certainty of divorce by insisting on being open, or
        – the risk of divorce if they’re caught vs. securing their marriage for the cost of a few difficult conversations.

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        • Have you ever consider that at least at the time, people like the risk of adultery. They might not like what happens if their spouse finds out but many people take pleasure from leading a double life. Its exciting, it makes them feel special compared to all the honest clods around them.

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          • Sure, I realize that – some folks like shoplifting things they could easily afford to buy, just for the thrill of getting away with it, and maybe caught every now and then. The whole opening monologue of Trainspotting. etc.

            The particular people described in M3 didn’t seem to me like that’s what they were up to, though. Might have been my misreading I guess…

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    • Yeah I hope fixes the link. I legit want to know who cheats more.

      Obviously by any basic moral calculus, cheating is wrong, but I cannot help but be sympathetic to those who cheat. A lifetime is a long time. Relationships change. The passion goes down. The romance fades. But our thirst for passion and romance don’t go away.

      Poly is the obvious answer to this, but it has it’s own challenges. Not everyone is “up for” poly-style attachment patterns. An occasional affair, on the other hand, it’s a different kind of thing. You still have your core attachment, plus some extra.

      Of course, if you get caught, things go pear-shaped fast. Is it worth it?

      At my age I don’t have time for the bullshit. I’d rather just be poly from day one. I have to work through some relationship insecurities. In exchange I get better at dealing with insecurity. Plus there is the sex.

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  16. So, the GOP continues to float futzing with 401ks. Specifically, they seem to be trial ballooning dropping the limit from 18k to 2400 a year. There’s been, strangely, no talk of increasing the Roth limits (6500 is the most, and requires you to be 65 or older and make less than 120,000 a year). Which means, best case, you can put in only half as much for retirement as before.

    I’m actually a little shocked that they’re this desperate to find offsets. I was surprised enough they were looking at SALT deductions (apparently it’s only double taxation if it’s investment income), but 401ks are a really crazy move.

    Even if they increase the Roth limit to make it “neutral” in terms of the max you can contribute, that’ll hit every who actually saves for retirement square in their weekly paycheck. Most voters can tell if one number is smaller than another, especially if that number is “How much I get paid”.

    And even if they don’t increase the Roth limit, and so your paycheck is bigger because you’re not allowed to put several thousand a year into a retirement fund anymore — you’re going to know it’s because you can’t save it for retirement.

    Now, clearly I’m not a GOP voter. But I can’t help but be puzzled at how this can be sold, given the non-retired GOP voters are most likely to believe SS won’t be there for them, so telling them 401ks won’t be there for them either seems……a hard sell.

    Honestly, it’s a really crazy move. Not one anyone would have floated even 5 years ago. And to do it now, for a tax “reform” so heavily tilted upwards?

    Bold move, Cotton.

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      • Yeah, but we’re not talking small changes. They generally sold this stuff by letting the middle-class get tiny tax cuts, or hiding tax hikes inside stuff you’d only notice at filing time. Like the proposed changes to the personal deductions and standard deductions. It’s a tax hike for most middle class payers, but it’s not obviously so — it seems like a “simplification” (we’re reducing this, but increasing that to match! You come out ahead!) — most people would only notice if they ran a comparison (filed their taxes under the old set and the new set).

        But 401ks? Anyone who puts in more than 2400 a year (which isn’t sadly as many as it should be) will know right away that they’re losing something big. Anyone transferring to a Roth to put away more than 2400 will see the diminished paychecks, every week.

        People can literally see it in their paychecks. Anyone getting a bigger paycheck will know it’s because that money is no longer being saved for retirement, a choice they could have made at any time and very deliberately didn’t.

        Heck, for a lot of people — it’s instantly lost money. Anyone making more than 40k who has a 6% match will instantly be losing money when they cap at 2400.

        And the real rub of it is — it’s aimed at the very people most likely to think about things like this. People who put in more than 2400 a year into a 401k are people planning for retirement. They’re people who think things like “If I don’t put in at least 6% I’ll be leaving money on the table”.

        And while Democrats have an edge in white collar workers, it’s not that much of an edge. They’re taking aim at the people most likely to notice they’re getting the shaft. Maybe if they’d cut it to 15,000, but going from 18k to 2400 is….pretty freaking noticeable for the folks that plan for retirement.

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      • One thing about paring down your voting base to only the people who will support Donald Trump is that you don’t have to worry too much about them turning on you after careful policy analysis or a sober examination of the real world. You can always blame time traveling Obama or alternate universe President Hillary from Earth 3 for the fall out and as long as you can get Hannity to spread the word, they’ll stick with you.

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        • Well, as I understand it the GOP has the following problem: Their big donors have told them the money spigot will turn off if they don’t cut the 0.01%’s taxes a whole lot. They planned to “pay” (under budgetary rules) for a lot of this by repealing the ACA. They failed. Now they’re struggling to find a whole lot of money so that, paired with some really optimistic Kansas-style growth projections, they can claim with a straight face it’s close to budget neutral.

          If they’re committed to lowering the taxes on the people with most of the money (the rich), they’ve only got a handful of places to turn.

          They can’t cut spending enough (Defense will go up, SS will stay roughly the same lest they rile up their more dedicated voters, Medicare/Medicaid will be cut as much as possible without angering their voters but will be a drop in the bucket to what they need). So they have to raise taxes on the “not-rich”. That is, it appears, anyone making less than about 300k a year.

          They won’t raise the bracket rates (too obvious), so they’ve got deductions. And they need a lot of money. That leaves mortgage (seemingly DOA), SALT, personal and standard (they’ve already sorted that out — it’s confusing enough most voters won’t realize they’re paying more), and 401ks.

          SALT isn’t nearly enough. The deduction changes aren’t nearly enough without getting too blatant for their own voters. Mortgage is going nowhere — again, because of their own voters. Only pot of money left is 401k. It’s a desperation move.

          They need to much money and they think it’s the only pot left big enough to drain. The rich have entirely different retirement plans than plebeian 401ks.

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      • Oh, I suspect even if they raise the Roth limit, give it about 10 years and they’ll start talking about taxing Roth withdrawals. It’s too much money in the hands of the “wrong sorts” to just leave there.

        Double taxation is only a problem when it’s taxing the dividends of the investment class.

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    • I heard an interview this morning on NPR that made me laugh out loud. Something about how the reductions in tax free limits for a 401K would be magically offset by the higher wages we will all see after all the corporate tax cuts.

      Now I’m on record as being all for lowering or removing corporate taxes, but I am not seeing the incentive for those savings to get paid back to workers in any way that would result in my paycheck going up enough to make a difference. And neither does the CBO.

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      • In my experience corporations hire when they need people, lay off when they don’t. They do not now, nor have ever, hired people just because “we had more money lying around due to tax cuts”. They’ll pay it to themselves, or out as dividends, but it is is demand that hires people — not tax cuts.

        The proposed 401k change will hit me hard. So will getting rid of the SALT deductions. I’m a white-collar, upper-middle class white male in Texas. Most of my demographic peers, shall we say.. are very conservative.

        The screwing is very visible, but I expect the GOP to screw me over. I’m not sure how those demographic peers are gonna feel — as best I can tell, they don’t think the GOP would ever screw them.

        They’re proposing to screw my retirement and jack up my taxes. Not subtly, either. This is hammer to the forehead tax hike with the gratuitous “work until you die” insult thrown in.

        Incredibly desperate or incredibly clueless, is all I can surmise. That the 401k thing is on the table at all is very telling.

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        • I’m in NJ so the SALT deductions will bone me even worse. And the 401k stuff isn’t going to be fun either.

          I’m far enough to the left that I believe that I’d pay considerably higher taxes in an ideal world.

          I’m not at all enthusiastic about paying more just so a bunch of people who are even richer than I am can pay less.

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          • I’m in NJ so the SALT deductions will bone me even worse.

            No it wouldn’t. What the SALT deduction does is allow people in states with high spending push off a portion of that cost onto taxpayers in states with low spending. You guys have been using the SALT deductions to bone people in low-spending states all this time. Repealing the SALT deduction would just take away your ability to do that, and require the taxpayers of New Jersey to pay the full cost of your state government. Losing your privilege may feel bad, but it doesn’t make you a victim.

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            • so you want most people to pay federal tax on money their state never let them near in the first place? like, imaginary assets they never actually held?

              if the GOP sees SALT as an unjust subsidy, why not put a federal tax on the states’ tax revenues instead?

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              • Sure, I guess, if you want to call it that. But really, you’re just paying two different taxes on your income. It’s no different from not being able to deduct your payroll taxes from your taxable income.

                I’m mostly concerned with eliminating the tragedy of the commons caused by the SALT deduction (and mortgage interest and employer health insurance deductions, to name the other major offenders). There’s a certain amount of spending that has to be funded by a certain average tax rate on the nation as a whole, and that doesn’t change based on the formal structure of the system.

                I guess in theory you *could* eliminate the tragedy of the commons by having the Federal government tax state revenues, but I’m not sure it has the constitutional authority to tax the states directly. And if it does, I don’t see any real advantage here. The states would have to raise taxes, which would cancel out the benefit of the deduction anyway, just by a more roundabout way.

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                • But wouldn’t that put the blame for those higher taxes on the higher paying states where you think it belongs? instead of on the feds? and wouldn’t the states then be under pressure (and possibly referenda) to charge less tax?

                  Perhaps my perspective on this is warped by living in a state where the state has to give money back if it charges too much in taxes.

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                  • Oh, you’re talking about PR. I don’t know much about that. I mean, I’d hope that people would see that the reason their taxes are higher than taxes of people in other states is that the voters in their states elected politicians who raised taxes to fund more expensive government services, but that might be asking a bit much.

                    Note that, for the most part, taxes in high-tax states are not “too high” in the sense of running budget surpluses. They’re high because the state government spends a large portion of state GDP and needs to fund that.

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                    • “I mean, I’d hope that people would see that the reason their taxes are higher than taxes of people in other states is that the voters in their states elected politicians who raised taxes to fund more expensive government services, but that might be asking a bit much.”

                      Is this necessarily the case? Some things cost more in certain areas. Cost of living is a factor.

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                  • Far from me to sound like a Republican, but taxing dividends is silly. It’s money that’s already been taxed. Almost no country but the USA taxes dividend income, and doing it creates enormous distortions in the way US corporations operate compared to its pairs worldwide, as well as putting them at a competitive disadvantage versus those from other jurisdictions.

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                    • So’s taxing money that paid taxes.

                      But by and large, we tax money as it changes hands. Sales tax, income tax, dividends, interest — you get money from another party, it gets taxed. Maybe we should all switch to a VAT, but in the meantime I don’t see any reason while a guy coasting on the dividends from 10 million in the market should be paying a lower rate — or apparently none at all — than I do for working my butt off.

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                      • Look, we are in the same side. I’d rather That, in general, taxes were higher. Taxing capital gains at a rate different than regular income is, in my book, both unfair, and stupid.

                        But taxes on dividends are a bad idea. Notice that the USA is an outlier in doing that. Countries with much higher taxation levels do not, generally, tax dividends. But they, in general, also tax corporations at the same rate as individuals. And there are good ecomomics reasons for that.

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            • NJ is already subsidizing other states when you look at federal revenues and outlays, so nah. And of course one of the things that allows some states to have lower state tax rates is a higher level of federal expenditures, so double nah.

              Not that I particularly care about how this is structured [1], nor do I think a world where we just got rid of the deductions and left everything else the same or lowered marginal rates in a way to make things revenue neutral and more progressive would be worse than the one we live in. My taxes going up to make things more progressive would be good.

              That, of course, is not what’s going on here.

              [1] There are federalism arguments for SALT, I suppose, but than again I don’t really care about federalism.

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            • But of course those low tax states don’t hesitate to come weeping to the feds when their low outlays screw them in areas like flood mitigation and management, roads or healthcare to say nothing of the part where they’re net beneficiaries of federal largess funded largely predominantly by those higher tax blue states.

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        • Oh, it would screw me sideways. I’d love it if they raised the max to $25K. I suspect it will screw enough middle class GOP voters who are not even remotely counting on SS to be adequate that the political class will start seeing the metaphorical pitchforks and torches out their windows.

          In a way, I kinda want to see how far along such a proposal gets before the GOP starts sweating enough to kill it. But then I remember we have someone like Trump in the WH, and I’m not sure this is a game of chicken I want to see play out.

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          • That’s why I think it’s a desperation move and a signal tax reform is in a of trouble.

            Clearly, they’re getting serious pushes from their donors. No sane Republican would be looking at SALT changes (no matter how much it’s being pushed as a blue-state aimed screwing, it’ll screw Republican voters too). Definitely no sane Republican would be looking at slashing 401k deductions by 90%. Not unless they were forced to.

            And the insane ones even less, as they’re almost all Tea Party folks and this is a direct kick to the nuts to their own voters. A blatant tax hike on them for the rich.

            So clearly they’re under a ton of pressure to pass these cuts for the rich, and they can’t get the deal past the Tea Party deficit hawks and/or the parliamentarian without massive tax hikes or spending cuts. And they can’t find the spending cuts.

            That they’re floating these ideas so early means they don’t have any that might be easier to sneak past their own voters. That’s a crappy position to be in for a bill that is, bluntly, entirely optional. When your best foot forward involves obvious tax hikes to most of your voters, in return for Bill Gates getting a nice tax handjob, well….

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            • Mmmm I’m skeptical there. If the deficit hawks had any teeth in their beaks we’d have seen the Senate’s version of the budget go down in flames. This feels to more like classic GOP flailing to me. They’ll gibber and squawk a bit and then just pass a wealthy oriented tax cut and put it on the national credit card just like Bush W. did. Sure that wouldn’t be popular but it wouldn’t be suicidally unpopular. I just don’t see any big genuine deficit hawk constituency in the GOP as opposed to the ice-cream for Republicans broccoli for Democrats opportunism that we saw the last time power switched hands.

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              • Deficit hawks will take “dynamic scoring” to an extent, but they’ll require more than just that.

                Something has be pushing the SALT deduction talk and the 401k talk. It’s not the “Deficits only matter when it’s a Democrat” wing — why would they lard their tax cut with stuff that might rile the rubes and cause push-back?

                It’s not the rich — they really don’t care, as long as they get theirs.

                It’s not Trump, bluntly he doesn’t understand any of it.

                It’s not Democrats.

                All that’s left are the deficit hawks. They have to want at least some cover for the cuts, more than dynamic scoring can achieve, even pushed to it’s extremes.

                Nobody would float a 90% reduction in 401ks unless they were being arm-twisted. If they’d proposed a 20% cut, sure. 50% maybe. It’d have been unpopular, but not so blatantly so. But 90%?

                No, they’re talking SALT and 401ks because they think they don’t have the votes on just spending cuts — they’ll need a solid chunk of revenue to appease some block, and there’s only a few places to find it.

                I think tax reform is on as shaky ground as the ACA repeal now. Those are dangerous changes, to a politician up for re-election. Too obvious. The personal and standard deduction stealth hike? That’s the sort of thing they can sell a lot more easily.

                If they’re floating such politically dubious ideas, they’re clearly trying to thread a very fine needle when it comes time to get votes on an actual bill.

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                • Well I really really hope you’re right. But since I’ve come of age politically and begun watching American politics the pattern with the GOP in control has been:
                  -Deficit issue vs any other issue: Taxes, defense spending, social spending, cowbell
                  -Deficit hawks squawk
                  -Deficit hawks fold, proposal proceeds.

                  Also there is a strategic element to these toxic policies as well:
                  -Float horribad ideas voters will hate.
                  -Voters howl
                  -Say “okay okay we’ll back down, We’ll just run up the deficit instead”
                  -Hopefully voters are relieved rather than saying “Wait why are we handing the wealthy this tax cut again?”

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                  • Mueller’s started his indictments, which will either make passing this easier (everyone’s watching Russia) or harder (everyone’s asking why the GOP is ignoring Trump).

                    Unless, of course, you believe the funner corners of the internet, which believe that the indictments Mueller has gotten (announcement and arrests Monday-ish) are not for Trump, but for Clinton.

                    Uranium One, Emails, or possible Seth Rich. Or even conspiring with Russia to cost herself the election, which is my favorite.

                    And unsurprisingly, Fox News has not mentioned the breaking story of “Mueller issuing multiple indictments” in favor of the clearly more pressing Uranium One issue.

                    This does explain the sudden blasts from the past (that the DNC picked up FusionGPS’s tab after the GOP dropped it, which we’ve only known for 10 months, Uranium One, her emails, whatever) that have been flooding social media the last few days.

                    I’m guessing Mueller’s targets were aware what was coming down the pipe this week.

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                    • Yeah I’m long past hoping anything Mueller finds will make a difference. Expect the worst so all your surprises are pleasant and all that.

                      But God(ess?) it’s tickle the hell out of me if the GOP is so inept now that can’t even manage tax cuts. It isn’t going to happen though. I can feel it in my bones*; they’re gonna plunk a huge tax cut down and it’ll be almost entirely deficit funded.

                      *Those same bones, admissibly, that thought** Trump had no shot at the GOP nod and would cataclysmically whipe out if he got it.
                      **Though they also knew HRC had the nomination from the get go, it wouldn’t be close and that Trump would be by far the most ineffectual of the potential GOP candidates if elected so I’m not a pristine anti-predictor.

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                      • I’m sort of puzzled by the timing. Fridays are news dump days. Of course i don’t think Mueller cares about news cycles so it’s just the way things worked out. But it is interesting the news drops on Fri afternoon with a WS game. It does leave us a weekend to guess how who the first contestant is. I think Trump popularity is close to or at its cellar. But his unfavorables can still rise.

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                        • I’d imagine it gives a weekend for his targets to sweat and maybe do something stupid.

                          Now I understand for white collar crimes it’s pretty common to give people a few days to get their affairs in order before having them surrender quietly, but nobody has leaked any names — and a number of people are freaking out (Roger Stone’s meltdown was pretty epic).

                          So I’m not really certain the people about to be indicted know for sure it’s them. (Although I’d guess a few people are pretty darn certain they’ll be indicted eventually).

                          If I was a special prosecutor with the support and resources Mueller uses, I might give my suspects a few days to do something stupid as they flail about. Make phone calls on tapped lines, attempt to destroy evidence the FBI already knows about, and in general give the FBI more leverage.

                          This is the guy that started with spouses and family, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he was hauling up low-level staffers and campaign folks while watching Manafort and Page’s moves very, very closely.

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                      • Oh I think it will make some difference, and part of the reason it won’t make a huge difference is diminishing returns. Trump is already pretty despised, and his strong supporters are mostly the people from the Lincoln quote that you can fool all the time.

                        That’s also a lot of the reason for the dumb deflections we’re seeing with Fusion GPS, etc.

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                    • Uranium One is almost as stupid a theory as Hillary conspiring with the Russians to make herself lose. When you get past the various wrong details, you face the question of why we wouldn’t sell uranium to a country that’s had nuclear weapons since Truman was in office.

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                • It really is bizarre. I figured they’d just completely eliminate programs that poor people use before they ever started to poke the upper-middle class with a stick. I always took some comfort that when the Republicans won, even though I wasn’t going to get my policy preferences, at least I was just at the lower end of the income bracket that they pander to and might get a few hundred bucks extra back at tax time.

                  It looks like the top 0.1% has finally said, “We don’t care if you piss of the other 99.9%. Give us everything.” And they’re actually thinking about doing it.

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        • Guys. Come on. This is textbook economics. Capital is mobile. If I have money to invest, I can invest it in the US, China, India, or wherever. The corporate tax I pay depends on where I choose to invest. If I invest in the US, I pay US corporate tax rates. If I invest in China, I pay Chinese corporate tax rates. Where I choose to invest depends on a lot of factors, but basically I’m trying to maximize my risk-adjusted returns, net of taxes. All else being equal, cutting the corporate income tax from 33% to zero increases my after-tax returns by 50%. On the margin, this greatly increases the incentive to invest in the US.

          Cutting the corporate income tax leads to more investment. More investment means more demand for labor, and higher wages. It has nothing to do with corporations deciding to hand out money just because they have it lying around.

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          • I can see an argument being made for eliminating the corporate tax but:
            A- You would have to do something huge to stomp out pass through corporations or it’d blow a gaping hole in the budget and the electorate would kill you and
            B- You’d probably have to hike the capital gains tax, a lot.

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            • Hiking the capital gains tax and taxing dividends to make up for eliminating the corporate income tax sounds like a good change to me. I’d rather tax people than corporations, all else held equal. They’re a lot easier to pin down.

              Even though I live in a high tax state, I’m OK with eliminating the state tax deduction, but like the mortgage interest deduction, it needs to be eliminated s-l-o-w-l-y. Given the choice between abruptly eliminating them or keeping them, I’d say we have to keep them. The chaos from changing either one of those quickly would be huge.

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                • Yup. I really think the mortgage interest deduction is godawful, but I’d be pretty hosed if it just went away overnight, and so would tons of other people. I suspect the way the impact of the tax changes is assessed cuts against phasing things in and out gradually.

                  Which is annoying.

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                  • When I was a kid in the early 80’s, mortgage rates were in the teens. When I moved to Colorado (in 1990), they were in the high single digits.

                    Mortgage rates now seem to be under 5%.

                    That strikes me as a recipe for a much, much larger amount of the country to not see the mortgage interest deduction as being worth more than the standard deduction. (I mean, *I* am in a place where the standard deduction is just as good as the mortgage interest deduction and I assume that I am not anywhere near an outlier.)

                    Extrapolating from me, I’m wondering if most of flyover isn’t in a similar situation and the mortgage deduction would hit hardest in the places that have the highest rents/housing prices… which, as far as I can tell from a quick google, happens to be the urban enclaves on the coasts.

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                  • Right. And it’s not really just about the effects on individual households. We’re talking about almost $10 trillion in debt economy-wide. The proposal is to simultaneously cut the value of the collateral that secures the debt and the borrowers’ ability to service it. Doing it overnight is a recipe for disaster.

                    Doing it over 20 years would be a great idea that I’d vote for today.

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      • I figure there’s gonna be something that happens that makes me regret scrimping and saving and putting money away for retirement. Like, it’ll become taxable at a much higher rate, or it’ll be nationalized and I’ll lose most of the money I put aside, or something.

        Already I figure Social Security will be gone by the time I retire.

        I don’t take fancy vacations, I don’t buy expensive fancy clothes, I try to be frugal with grocery shopping, I don’t have a lot of electronic gadgets…so I can contribute to a 457B and a Roth.

        Still, I do it. I do a lot of things that I suspect are illogical in the long run because it’s how I was taught to be “responsible” but I wonder if I’m going to wind up regretting it.

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    • The only way this is rational for the GOP is if they have enough research showing that gerrymandering and/or negative partisanship and/or culture war stuff is really going to save them again and again.

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      • Recall, these are the guys who tried three times to boot 20+ million people off health care. In favor of a bill that polled, at best, at 20%.

        Three times they stuck their junk in the grinder for that. And paid for it three times.

        I dunno. They’re either ridiculously confidant or desperate, and I’m starting to lean towards the ladder. Trump’s an albatross, who frankly is looking likely to kick off an unpopular war (general tip: Really unpopular leaders tend to get blamed for wars, not rallied around for one), and the donors have apparently just moved to flat-out, blatant, threats about what happens if they don’t get their money’s worth.

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      • It could be rational on a more cynical level, as well: that McConnell is correct in believing current-donor cash flows are necessary to ensure the future success of a GOP in which he is majority leader. In that sense we might be seeing is an instance of the Iron Law of Institutions in action. McConnell is more interested in maintaining his personal power within an institution than he is furthering the power of the institution itself.

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    • So, the GOP continues to float futzing with 401ks.

      This is really weird, because the war on savers has traditionally been a Democratic thing. Until this year, it’s always been Democrats who were floating plans to levy extra taxes on IRAs and 401(k)s, raise taxes on investment income, raise the estate tax, kill HSAs, and in general royally fish over anyone who even thinks about saving. Preventing that is basically the one thing Republicans are supposed to be good for.

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      • Yes, I do remember all the bills Democrats have proposed in the last 20 years to tax 401ks. Although sadly, I’m struggling to recall details there — perhaps you can help? I’m struggling on them killing HSA’s too.

        Now the estate tax, sure. Investment income — if you mean taxing gains like regular income (you know, the rate I’ll pay on my 401k when I retire) sure. I mean that is totally crazy! Why should someone making a few million a year on investments have to pay the same tax rate I do on my 401k money. That’s crazy, right?

        I’m sure somehow that’ll destroy the economic powerhouse of the US or something. I mean, look at Kansas. What they’ve done there is just inspiring.

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          • I note that, for starters, nobody actually introduced a bill. And secondly, she wanted to turn the 401k system into a nationalized pension system. So it’s real hard to say the left is coming after the 401ks, as at worst\ they’d like to return to pensions and also they’ve actually done nothing to, in any way, impede 401ks.

            The GOP, who pretty much invented the 401k and even wanted to change SS to be just like it, as recently as 10 years ago, just…wants to cut it by 90% and replace it with…nothing.

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            • Everything I have read indicates that Ghilarducci and her allies at places like The New School and the Roosevelt insitute want to take the pot of money I have put aside for retirement and redistribute it so everyone (including me) gets a share.

              The one positive thing about the GOP floating this now is that it’s a vaccine – I have new found confidence the Harris admistration won’t go after 401ks, or all those other tax benefits that lean towards the upper middle class in major metro areas.

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            • Sure, but if you people on the left saying they don’t really like 401Ks and want to do something about them, and you don’t hear that from the right, then it stands to reason that, if there was any kind of legislative action against 401Ks, it would come from the left.

              Doesn’t really matter that no one has every actually put forth a bill calling for it. For that matter, the GOP hasn’t put forth a bill either, they are just kicking ideas around in committee.

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          • I always thought the GOP’s whole purpose in life was lower taxes in general and a lot of defense spending pork. Apparently the GOP’s whole purpose in life is the elimination of the estate tax, specifically. I think it’s good that we’re all learning that.

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