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Culture War Roundup for the week of June 10, 2024

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Chaos in French Politics

After a heavy defeat in the European elections, French President Emmanuel Macron has used his constitutional power to dissolve the French National Assembly and call a snap election.

The significance of this move cannot be overstated. Dissoudre is not something you do lightly, it's a very risky move that can easily have unforeseen consequences.

The last invocation of that power in 1997 by Jacques Chirac had devastating effects. Chirac, who was President alongside a right wing majority that he couldn't properly control sought to get a more presidential majority and in the end the left wing formed the Gauche Plurielle coalition led by Lionel Jospin, won a majority in the election and got Jospin appointed Prime Minister.

Many are speculating about Macron's motives. Not least because he has a reputation as a schemer.

Some see it as a trap laid for whoever wins the necessarily narrow majority. Historically Jospin's own cohabitation government would end up being so unpopular that he wouldn't make it to the second round of the presidential election following his tenure and would retire for public life altogether. Macron has had to rule with a very narrow majority since his own election and he may be ceding power to the left or right blocks which he knows are disunited to lay the groundwork for the next presidential elections.

Others even speculate this may be part of a complex scheme to allow him a third term beyond the two consecutive ones allowed by the constitution, as he would resign and then come back.

Whatever his motives were, he has succeeded in plunging the entire spectrum of French politics into unmitigated chaos. The elections are on the 30th of June and everyone is scrambling to ally and/or betray each other in most dramatic (and French) a fashion.

The Rassemblement National at the gates of power

The clear winner of French seats these European elections, Marine Le Pen's RN has never been so close to power.

This is the culmination of a decade of "dédiabolisation": efforts by her and her party to to become more respectable and erase the stigma of her infamous father and his ex-SS friends.

The broad appeal of the RN has surprised many. It is no longer a reactionary old man's party but has voters in pretty much all social stratas of French society. Young and old, poor and rich, everywhere the RN is now a force to be reckoned with.

The reasons are only now being admitted by French intellectuals who refused to see them for years and recently were even acknowledged by Macron himself: a broad rejection of France's policy on public safety and immigration.

This broad appeal is perhaps best represented by the RN's current party leader and would-be Prime Minister, Jordan Bardella. A 28 years old of Italian, French and Algerian ancestry who used to be a Call of Duty youtuber.

Despite this growing popularity, the RN has never led a French government and is still the would be target of the barrage républicain, the informal alliance of every other party against them on antifascist grounds. Though as we will see, this is now cracking.

The RN is in a sense the board onto which this whole election is played, and all stratagems relate in some way to its growing popularity.

Civil war among Les Républicains

LR is the established center right party, the party of Sarkozy and Chirac.

The party has waned in popularity under Macron but its position at the gates of the right and established apparatus has maintained its importance in French politics. LR parliament members have been the kingmakers as of late since Macron's party couldn't get a clear majority.

However the party's historical roots as a big tent for the right have posed a problem. Within it are now two coalitions, one of center right liberals sympathetic to Macron and another of conservative nationalists sympathetic to the RN.

Party leader Eric Ciotti is squarely on the conservative side which is more popular with the base, while his lieutenants are on the liberal side. A high-low vs middle configuration if you will.

As a result of the dissolution, Ciotti announced an alliance with the RN. This immediately lit the fires of rebellion.

His lieutenants unanimously moved to remove him from the party over this. However he ignored the decision, saying it was illegal and barricaded himself at the seat of the party.

This led to a number of dramatic scenes, including Ciotti talking down to journalists from the window of his office, as if on the battlements of a castle, as well as various party officials saying they were going to remove him by force, or call emergency services to remove him as he had lost his mind. French twitter went ablaze with memes comparing him to Tony Montana and his last stand.

Eventually the party officials found a key to the seat, opened the door and held an exceptional session of the political bureau to remove him with the forms. However Ciotti kept ignoring them and contested the decision before a judge.

His legal arguments were just recently vindicated and his exclusion stayed. Whatever this means for the future of the party or that of their alliance with the RN, nobody really knows.

The implosion of Reconquête!

R! is the party formed by right wing intellectual Eric Zemmour as part of his presidential bid. More radical than the RN on immigration but more liberal on economic questions, it was joined by Marion Maréchal, the niece of Marine Le Pen.

Maréchal and Zemmour share very similar politics, but a very different disposition towards the RN. And have led a bifurcated campaign during these European elections.

Zemmour antagonized the RN quite a bit, and Marine Le Pen in particular as being ineffectual, weak and ultimately left wing, whilst Marion Maréchal held to a more conciliatory stance seeking the union of the right.

This came to a head right after the dissolution, when in a party address, Maréchal, with Zemmour right behind her, announced apparently without his knowledge or consent that she was in talks for an alliance with the RN. To the applause of everyone but him.

They then proceeded to accuse each other of duplicity and treason on various media interviews. Zemmour excluded her from the party and she is now calling for people to vote for the Le Pen-Ciotti coalition.

The rise of the Nouveau Front Populaire

Before dissolution, the French left wing had been at its most fragmented for years. The Gaza war had finished to highlight the division between Jean-Luc Mélenchon's LFI and less radical parts of the left.

Mélenchon's conciliatory stances towards Palestinians and Islam in general may have played a big part in the surprise rejuvenation of the Parti Socialiste under Raphaël Glucksmann. The center left party which used to be the big tent for the left was left completely destroyed by Macron's first election and has only recently recovered the ability to contend with LFI for the leading spot on the left.

LFI had recently managed to put together an uneasy coalition with the left and the greens under the name of NUPES, but it was functionally defunct by the time of the European election.

Nevertheless, dissolution and the possibility of RN government turned every left wing mouth in the country to one word: union.

The same people who were at each other throats over Gaza quickly signed an unanimous pledge to unite under the name of the Front Populaire the famous antifascist 1936 left wing coalition of Leon Blum that instituted paid leave, the 40h work week and led France into its WW2 capitulation.

This new popular front has made a large contrast with the disunity of the right, however it seems on the left the knives still do come out, if after declarations of unity.

Mélenchon himself has not wasted time to attempt to seize control of the alliance. He has already declared himself the putative candidate for prime minister and his party cronies have started unilaterally nominating candidates.

As part of this, Adrien Quatennens, a high ranking LFI MP, who in 2022 had been convicted of domestic violence, pretty brazenly called for feminists to support him after being nominated for his own seat. To massive backlash.

The alliance also nominated François Ruffin (a documentarian and MP very popular on the left) for his own office seemingly without telling him. This angered him so much that he started attacking them and listing all the ongoing controversies with respect to the nominations.

This includes Quatennens' case but also the ongoing purges that Mélenchon has been doing, removing potential seats from anybody who ever criticized him. Committing the crime of "lèse-Mélenchon" as one of the purge victims put it.

The center left is no less divided in this unity. Many see Glucksmann's timidity towards LFI as weakness given he held a larger share of the vote in the European elections, and some, including two former prime ministers have denounced the alliance's inclusion of parties that supported Hamas, including the NPA, a small trotskyist party which is currently under investigation for making the apology of terrorism (which is illegal in France).

The mess in the background

All this political chaos has conspicuously overshadowed what are usually major events in French life: the football Euro and the coming Jeux Olympiques. Whoever wins this election will have to preside over the JO and the already expected chaos of them is to be compounded by the disorganization of a new administration.

Meanwhile and ever since the results of the European election, there has been a constant movement of riots and both declared and undeclared demonstrations against the popularity of the RN. Police officials have opined that with how occupied and exhausted they are with the JO they wouldn't be able to handle widespread riots that are sure to come with a potential RN win.

Overall France is at its most disorganized it has been in years. Even the election itself, the cause of all this ruckus may be difficult to make happen in the given timeline. There are concerns that there physically isn't enough paper to print all the ballots in time and many jurists have deposed motions before the Conseil Constitutionnel to stay Macron's move or delay the election, though the timeline is on the face of it within the bounds described by the constitution.

Many see Glucksmann's timidity towards LFI as weakness given he held a larger share of the vote in the European elections, and some, including two former prime ministers have denounced the alliance's inclusion of parties that supported Hamas, including the NPA,

[citation needed] What prominent politicians "support Hamas"? What did they say exactly?

Here's the official release by the NPA which they are being investigated over. It includes the following phrase:

Le NPA ne se joint pas à la litanie des appels à la prétendue “désescalade”. En effet, la guerre contre les PalestinienNEs dure depuis 75 ans, et la gauche devrait se rappeler de la nécessaire solidarité avec les luttes de résistances contre l'oppression et l’occupation. Le NPA rappelle son soutien aux PalestinienNEs et aux moyens de luttes qu’ils et elles ont choisi pour résister.

I think it's pretty straightforward. They are literally supporting "palestinians and the means of struggle they chose to resist" and end with "Intifada!".

I wouldn't expect any less from revolutionary trotskyists, and I think they should be allowed to say that, but as the law stands in France right now, that opinion is illegal.

Now it merits to be said that this party, despite a long history on the left, is extremely marginal.

A lot more important is the position of LFI, the now most influential left wing pary, and while it isn't anywhere near as inflamatory, they are still aligned to a specific side. Mathilde Panot got raked over the coals for refusing to call Hamas a terrorist organization and Mélenchon himself is constantly denouncing Israel and its appartheid state whilst being a lot more evasive about any questions involving Palestinians.

Anyway. The center left has fought LFI on the Gaza question and I interpret Glücksmann's success as a rejection of "antisemitism" from center left voters given the testimonies of the many such people I know. Though to be fair, I don't have hard numbers to back this.

Good post. It's crazy to me how disorganized and fragmented France can be sometimes. On the one hand this could be the sign of a healthy democracy, on the other hand this level of fragmentation is part of what led France to being shattered so easily by the Germans in WW2.

Leon Blum that instituted paid leave, the 40h work week and led France into its WW2 capitulation.

Small correction, it was Reynaud that led France at the time of its capitulation.

It bears mentioning that the French people are currently on their 5th attempt at creating a healthily running republic.

Others even speculate this may be part of a complex scheme to allow him a third term beyond the two consecutive ones allowed by the constitution, as he would resign and then come back.

How would this work? It's hard to find a direct source on this but ChatGPT claims/hallucinates that Macron can only run again with another person serving a full presidential term in between.

You asked a bot before checking the constitution?

The constitution did not spell out the nuance on what defines consecutive.

The constitution says

le président de la République est élu pour cinq ans au suffrage universel direct. Nul ne peut exercer plus de deux mandats consécutifs

The whole question is this allows for a third nonconsecutive one or not. If the limitation is of more that two terms back to back or if the limitation is anything beyond two consecutive terms.

The literal reading of the text is ambiguous, though it's clear the intention way always to cap a man at 10 years.

Why put the word consecutive at all in there if the intention was to forbid nonconsecutive terms?

Let me put it this way: Macron has already had two consecutive terms. Does this make him part of "Nul" or not? Is he now off limits to the presidency or does the limitation specifically limit how consecutive mandates can be? It's not clear.

I expect the CC to attempt to interpret the intent of the legislator here, which would likely allow for an ex president returning to political life but likely not procedural tricks to get around the rule.

What about 3 terms, all with a term in between? That clearly complies, the intention can't be to cap at 10 years overall.

The argument as I understand it is that the intention of the legislator was to prevent a single man ruling for too long whilst still allowing for enough time to enact an ambitious long term political program.

In this sense, having someone do two terms, retire, and then come back and do two more would probably be fine (though you'd have to start young). Your scenario would probably be fine too, maybe even if we're talking about a Putin/Medvedev situation.

But doing two, then doing some procedural shenanigans where you resign on your last day so somebody else is in the seat and it doesn't count as consecutive? That probably wouldn't be fine.

The question then is where on the spectrum between those two Macron's scheme is, and where on it would the CC put the line.

Macron has a genuine will to power. Hard to describe in other terms, but it really feels like, completely independent from ideology, he desperately seeks a kind of greatness. He will likely fail, but he will do whatever he thinks it will take to get it, even if it involves sacrificing his own party and movement to do it.

I think he wants someone to win. If the RN (or RN-LR coalition) wins a majority I don’t particularly think that he would have much trouble agreeing to much of their program, his own views on things like immigration and security are pretty vague, it’s questionable if they’re even views at all.

Others even speculate this may be part of a complex scheme to allow him a third term beyond the two consecutive ones allowed by the constitution, as he would resign and then come back.

It unironically cannot be ruled out.

Party leader Eric Ciotti is squarely on the conservative side which is more popular with the base, while his lieutenants are on the liberal side. A high-low vs middle configuration if you will.

As a result of the dissolution, Ciotti announced an alliance with the RN. This immediately lit the fires of rebellion.

His lieutenants unanimously moved to remove him from the party over this. However he ignored the decision, saying it was illegal and barricaded himself at the seat of the party.

Hey hey hey, you're not supposed to be making DECISIONS here. You're supposed to be the disreputable figurehead who attracts the base while we respectable people set the policies.

This guy gained so much street cred by telling his party to pound sand until he had a judge tell his party that they couldn't do squat. Not knowing anything else about the guy I'd say he's well placed for a very senior leadership role if the right alliance wins (up to supplanting the 28yo from RN).

The judge seems to have only done the equivalent of a preliminary injunction; the ouster may yet prevail.

I doubt part of the job description of a party leader is make unilateral decisions over alliances for the party with zero discussion.

The leader is not supposed to just be able to walk over the entire party in a parliamentary, party-based system. Like, they are the helmsman, they are supposed to have a great deal of room for making decisions and maneuvering around, but there are obvious limits.

I didn't include it for the sake of brevity, but there were some really funny episodes during this whole thing. At one point the Facebook and Twitter pages of the party were attacking each other because the password holders belonged to different coalitions.

They're just now removing his party credit card from him (as the treasurer is from the liberal coalition). It really has all the trappings of civil war except violence, which is hilarious.

Although my favorite image from the whole thing is tiny Valerie Pécresse, trying to act tough and saying there is "no place for traitors" as she's coming to try and fail to remove Ciotti.

Shameless plug for something I run but we were first up with markets and been surprisingly heavy betting on it. Super heavy RN action. No US/UK/AUS.

What are the odds for Rassemblement National to win a majority in the National Assembly?

$6 for RN to have a straight up majority

I think the polls suggest they’ll probably get 20-60 seats short of an outright majority.

Which, of course, means they have no power at all. In fact, the more seats they get (short of an absolute majority), the more power the far left has. Unless Ciotti wins his fight, but I suspect what will happen is the wrangling will go on until Ciotti loses.

Which, of course, means they have no power at all. In fact, the more seats they get (short of an absolute majority)

Ah, but you forget yourself. Even if they win a majority, there's always the bureaucracy of the deep state, the judiciary, the media and the academy ready to block any meaningful changes.

This, but unironically.

France isn't Germany or the USA; the law of the sword is a lot closer to the surface there - remember, they've had a constitution fail and get replaced within living memory, and French history for the last few centuries is mostly just one bloodbath after another (this is the French Fifth Republic).

Defying the mob there is not a safe proposition.

Pittsburgh: An Urban Portrait

III. The North Shore: When Planners Draw the Map

To old-timers like my father, there is no North Shore. For the past 30 years, every time the neighborhood is mentioned on the news, I hear “When did it become the North Shore? It’s the North Side. There is no shore.” He’s right about it not having a shore. The Allegheny usually sits at lest 6 feet below the riverwalk, and in warmer months there are plenty of boats tied off. As to when it became the North Shore, the earliest reference I’ve seen is from 1974, but I haven’t exactly looked very hard. Nonetheless, for reasons that will soon become apparent, I share my father’s disdain for what feels like a neighborhood that was designed more by city planners than by natural processes. But this time the planners won, and to everyone who isn’t my father, it’s the North Shore.

The North Shore begins roughly at the West End Bridge and runs between the river and the highway for about 2 ½ miles before the last occupied land peters out as you approach the line with the independent borough of Millvale. There are roughly three sections. The first section comprises the area around the stadiums, ending around Federal St. This area was historically known as “The Ward”, the first ward of old Allegheny City, and was similar to the Strip in that it was a rough, mixed-use area near a river with small-scale industry and rowhouses for working-class residents. By the ‘30s the residential areas were being cleared out for warehouses, by the ‘50s the area was run down, by the ‘70s there wasn’t much left. When Three Rivers Stadium was built in the late 1960s, the land it sat on was formerly occupied by a scrap yard. The Carnegie Science Center opened in 1992, but other than that this area was basically a no-man’s land for 30 years, a stadium in a sea of parking lots.

In the ‘90s is when the “North Shore” really took off as a buzzword. The Pirates were demanding a new stadium. The Steelers weren’t exactly demanding one, but they figured that if the Pirates got one then they deserved one too. The Pirates threatened to leave; the Steelers didn’t exactly threaten, but there were mysterious rumors of a stadium being built at a racetrack in a neighboring county. To make a long story short, the teams got their stadiums. I could focus this section on the pros and cons of public stadium financing, but that argument has been done to death. What’s more interesting is the other bullshit that went along with this.

It wasn’t enough that the teams got new stadiums; the North Shore had to be an entertainment district. And in typical municipal fashion the city awarded the exclusive development rights to Continental in a no-bid contract. Development has been consistently behind schedule, though there are rumors that the Steelers are quietly trying to prevent construction on the surface lots because they don’t want to lose tailgating space. The existing footprint is smaller than originally envisioned and a large apartment complex has been delayed for about 15 or 20 years at this point. There’s an okay but rather uninspiring stretch of North Shore Drive that’s occupied by several small office buildings and the kind of bars that sell well drinks by the gallon in a plastic cup after 9 pm, actively recruit bachelorette parties, and reference the “hit” TV show Nashville filming there as a reason to show up. I guess this is what politicians must picture when they envision “nightlife”. In the same vein, when the Port Authority (now PRT) decided to expand the light rail network in the mid-2000s with a tunnel under the Allegheny they decided to make it run west along the Ohio so it could have one stop between the stadiums and a terminus near the casino. This routing pretty much foreclosed the possibility of any network expansion into the more populated parts of the North Side or surrounding suburbs in favor of slightly better access for the occasional southern suburban tourist.

The second section is a small area between Federal St. and Anderson St. that has the most urban feel of the neighborhood. It’s a dense collection of midrises including one attraction, the Warhol Museum (that is, if you don’t include my old office). There may have been residential here at one point, but it’s long gone.

The final section is the most obscure. The remainder of the neighborhood is what used to be Schweitzer Loch, or Swiss Hole. There are a few scattered commercial and industrial concerns along River Ave., and it’s bounded by apartment complexes on either end, including lofts in the old Heinz plant, but it’s mostly empty these days. It’s commonly said that the neighborhood was destroyed when the highways were built between the 60s and the 80s, but that’s not exactly the case. George Warhola, Andy Warhol’s nephew, owns a scrapyard in the area, and he explained the real story to a newspaper a few years back. There were plenty of rowhouses there as late as the 90s, and there are a few remnants of the old neighborhood remaining today. What really happened is that Buncher, the developer largely responsible for the Strip, spent several decades buying up property and demolishing the buildings as soon as the deals closed. The idea was that once the last of their Strip real estate is built out they’ll have acquired the entire area and will be able to build their own model New Urbanist community as a sort of extension of the Heinz Lofts. Warhola basically told them to fuck off innumerable times no matter how much he’s been offered. I say good for him. If some developer wants to tear down a real urban neighborhood so they can build a fake urban neighborhood, they deserve to have a scrap yard in the middle of it. People like Warhola aside, Buncher ended up running into a more formidable foe, the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority (ALCOSAN).

Combined sewage outflows have been a problem in Pittsburgh for quite some time. In the old days, all the sewage, whether from stormwater runoff or domestic water use, went straight into the rivers. In the 1950s ALCOSAN built a treatment plant that was intended to end this practice. The problem is that treatment plants are only built for a certain capacity. While they can handle the actual sewage without a problem, since sanitary lines and storm drains are all tied into the same system, they become overloaded any time there is significant rain (which is pretty often in Pittsburgh). To prevent sewers from backing up into people’s homes, there are several combined sewer outflow points along the rivers and their tributaries. The upshot is that anytime we get more than a tenth of an inch of rain, a certain amount of untreated sewage is being directly discharged into area streams. This isn’t a problem unique to Pittsburgh, but it’s worse here than in any other city in the country.

The most straightforward solution to this problem is to redirect sewage into dedicated lines. The problem is that there is a high cost for the authority to build the dedicated lines, and a high cost for homes to tie into them. The terms of an EPA consent decree meant that houses along the new lines were virtually unsaleable for a while (and accordingly sat vacant), because the cost of redoing the sewerage made buying them financially unfeasible. Decades later, split systems have hardly made a dent in the problem. ALCOSAN’s solution, then, is to build a series of tunnels that will hold the excess stormwater so that it can be treated during dry periods. Construction of the system is expected to take years, but it will reduce combined outflows by 70%. Construction, however, requires a a large amount of land to use as an access point for the boring equipment, and there’s no better place for an access point that a large vacant area along the river. So ALCOSAN bought all of this land off of Buncher earlier this year and will soon tear it all up to build their tunnels. What will happen to the land after this is anyone’s guess (I didn’t read anything about any permanent facilities there), but Buncher is out of the game for the moment. My guess is that once the project is complete Buncher will see what the property looks like and maybe buy it back off of ALCOSAN for less than they sold it for, just in time for them to build their dream community. And since the remaining individual landowners will see their property condemned through eminent domain, Buncher won’t have to deal with the George Warholas of the world. But that’s off the table for now.

What does the future of the North Shore look like? Probably not too dissimilar to the present. The area is still pockmarked with a number of large surface lots that are unlikely to go away unless the Steelers abandon their current stadium for one built elsewhere and this seems unlikely to happen, because the Steelers aren’t the kind of team that’s going to start screaming for a new stadium. I’m convinced they’d still be playing at Three Rivers (which was a very good football stadium but a terrible baseball stadium) if there hadn’t been such a push to build a new home for the Pirates. Heinz Field is already about as old as Three Rivers was when calls for its demolition began, and the lease on Heinz is set to run out in 2031, but the Steelers have already indicated that they intend to renew the lease and at the very least haven’t given any indication they want a new venue. While I promised I wouldn’t get into stadium politics here, I personally find it pretty wasteful that NFL teams can’t share stadiums like they used to. When I worked on the North Side, I’d occasionally take walks along the river and would see Heinz Field invariably standing vacant, a monolithic white elephant. You’re talking about a facility that cost hundreds of millions of dollars that’s used 8 times a year for regular season games plus a couple preseason games and maybe 1 or 2 playoff games if you’re lucky. The situation in Pittsburgh is actually better than in most NFL cities, because Pitt also plays here 6 or 7 times a year. Add on a couple concerts and the occasional miscellaneous large event and you’re talking maybe 20 out of 365 days that you actually need a large stadium. And these events are almost always on weekends, which is great for parking but bad for integrating it into the urban fabric. I don’t find the baseball stadium nearly as distasteful, because they at least use it 81 times a year, and the environment surrounding a weekday or weeknight Pirates game adds a festive air to a normally mundane workday, as opposed to a Steelers game, or even a Pitt game, which is like “dropping a circus” on an area that’s not really used to it.

But, as I mentioned earlier, the Steelers unfortunately seem to be driving the North Shore’s development, which means that the surface lots adjacent to the stadium on the eastern side are unlikely to ever be developed. They actually build a parking garage on one of them at an od angle, the seeming intention being to make the remaining space unusable for anything but surface parking. There was some recent development next to PNC Park, and there’s some planned development on the western side of the stadium, but nothing to suggest that this will ever develop into a real neighborhood. ALCOSAN’s acquisition of the entire Schweitzer Loch area takes that off the table for at least the next half decade, though it seems unlikely that anything would have happened over there in that timeframe anyway. Buncher certainly didn’t seem to have any problem selling it after spending 30 years acquiring it, and if they have to wait another 10 to buy it back it then it’s no great loss. Given that the entire area is being controlled by developers who don’t seem to be in too much of a hurry to do anything, or are at the very least facing strong disincentives (hey, we gave you that sweetheart deal, so you’d better play by our rules), buzzwords like gentrification don’t really apply. I don’t see the area becoming anything more than it already is, at least within my lifetime, but I don’t see it becoming anything less either, so I guess that’s a good thing.

Neighborhood Grade: Non-residential. There are only 3 residential complexes in the neighborhood at present, with a fourth one on the horizon, but they’re pretty well spaced from one another, and Heinz Lofts isn’t even in the official neighborhood boundaries (it’s officially in Troy Hill, but that’s crazy talk). There’s practically nothing in the way of functional businesses here, which is to say that there may be some but I’m not aware of any. When I worked down here there were plenty of casual bar and grill type places I could go to for a greasy lunch, but not much in the way of casual grab and go spots with the exception of a cafeteria-type place in an office complex lobby that was obviously geared towards office workers.

Having reached the conclusion of this section, I want to say that my father’s hatred of the term “North Shore” is symbolic of the type of boneheaded planning the whole area represents. I have no idea what my father’s opinions are on urban development are, if he even has any (and considering my parents moved beyond the suburbs when they were still in their 20s to avoid having neighbors it’s a pretty good bet that he doesn’t), but the whole enterprise seems like one of these misguided efforts to generate a tourist area from scratch. “North Side” sounds too urban and gritty, “North Shore” sounds pleasant and inviting. And I will admit, the riverfront is very well done. I enjoy tailgating as much as the next guy, but why leave what should be prime real estate an empty lot most of the year so that the diminishing percentage of people who can afford to go to Steelers games can drink outside for a few hours beforehand? The worst part of this is that there is plenty of space under elevated highways that’s really only suited for parking, so filling in the remaining holes doesn’t diminish the total amount of tailgate space as much as an aerial photo would suggest. Why redirect your light rail system toward serving a nonresidential area? Why give development rights to one company that can be manipulated rather than selling the parcels individually?

The answer to these questions is fairly simple — there seems to be an obsession among city planners towards catering to suburbanites who may visit a few times a year rather than creating a neighborhood where people might want to live every day of the year. The Tilted Kilt was not the kind of bar one was inclined to go to every day after work. By their own convoluted metrics, the North Shore has been a roaring success. Even the slow pace of development contributes to this illusion. Instead of a quick wave of construction that nobody can keep up with and that comes to an end they get an endless cycle of project announcements, groundbreakings, ribbon cuttings, etc. Rinse and repeat for every 5 acre parcel. Get the mayor’s name in the paper (though to his credit the current mayor hasn’t seemed as involved with this nonsense). The fact that what we end up with is an incongruous mishmash of parking lots, legitimate destinations, and tourist tat is completely lost on the so-called City Fathers.

I assure you I’m not as salty about this as I may seem. The riverfront is a legitimate asset, Stage AE gave us the mid-size concert venue we’d needed since Syria Mosque was torn down, and the bars have their market. It’s certainly a lot better than it was during the Three Rivers Stadium days. It’s just frustrating to realize that certain pressures never go away. History, largely correctly, regards these kinds of large-scale renewal efforts as failures, and one would think that our elected officials and hired planners would be hip to this. But there’s still a tendency to abide by these old principles, even if under another name. If the presence of sports stadiums drives the kind of economic development that politicians promise when they want to spend money on them, then the land they own in the vicinity should sell for top dollar. They shouldn’t need to give one developer rights to the entire area because even if the developer can list 500 reasons why it needs all the land to achieve the city’s vision it will still be more economical to sell the parcels individually at market rates. But the risk there is that things might not turn out as the politicians envision. Instead of a nightclub and Southern Tier Brewing you could end up with anything. A lot of black people live on the North Side; what if the land doesn’t sell for as much as you hoped and the commercial strip in front of the stadium is filled with check cashing places and pawn shops? What if it looks like Forbes Ave. did in the ‘90s? What if it just sits vacant? There’s a push/pull dynamic of city planners seeing an undeveloped area and developing a vision for it, and then trying to make sure that vision is achieved, irrespective of whether there’s a market for that vision or not. Developers show glossy renderings of shiny new buildings surrounded by lush landscaping on sunny days inhabited by happy pedestrians, and everyone — politicians, the media, normal people, etc. — thinks “that would be nice”, and the politicians want to make it happen come hell or high water. So then begins the long fight of trying to realize that vision, to turn renderite into reality. But then come all the external pressures and arguments about traffic, parking, affordable housing, architectural design, and, above all, cost, and the whole thing gets slow-walked and built in a piecemeal fashion, and since this was the vision of politicians and not the market, there’s no guarantee that it will fill any real demand.

So what we get is the North Shore we deserve. A place that’s good enough. Cromulence, if you will. But it’s nonetheless a place where one is forced to reckon with whether full potential was ever realized. A place that’s urban without the urbanity. It has pedestrians but no real street life. It’s an office park in the day, a bar neighborhood at night, and a festival ground on the right weekends, but it rarely manages to be all at the same time. It’s a place where a pleasant riverside stroll among rare beauty leads to a terminal vista of an empty parking lot. It’s frustrating. I’ve walked around here more than most other neighborhoods, and I still don’t know what to make of it.

Addendum to Part I

I got into it a bit in the comments about my remarks that the Parkway running through Point State Park actually added to the park's charm rather than detracting from it. @sarker argued essentially that there was no way this could be the case, as a tunnel would have kept traffic out of the way while a decorative structure such as an arch would have created the same separation of space that the highway does. I wanted to respond here because I don't want the argument to be buried in a stale thread. First, a tunnel isn't feasible in this location. The length of the Parkway through the Point is only about a thousand feet, and most of that space is occupied by ramps. Most of these, however, are disguised by embankments with trees planted on them, the only exception being where the Fort Pitt Museum stands adjacent, blocking the remainder. The entrance is no mere highway underpass; it's a specially designed arch bridge that required a company that manufactured ship hulls to design the falsework. Pedestrians passing through pass over another bridge over a reflecting pool underneath, which is quite stunning at night when the lights from above and below and the lights from the fountain combine on the water's surface. And most views through the tunnel frame the Point fountain in a pleasing way.

Could this effect have been achieved without a highway? Sure, but then we wouldn't have the Ft. Pitt and Ft. Duquesne Bridges framing the scene. More importantly, it wouldn't have. The city initially wasn't thrilled about having the highway situated where it was. The vision had always been for the park to offer a sweeping vista that reminded visitors of Pittsburgh's historic role as the Gateway to the West. They wanted to avoid a simple rectangular underpass that would make the entrance nothing more than a "keyhole slot", didn't want a wider entrance that would require piers, and didn't want a simple archway that would obscure the view of the fountain. The low, wide arch that exists is an engineering marvel in and of itself, albeit an understated one, and it wouldn't exist if necessity hadn't required it.

Addendum to Part II

I was riding my bike in the Strip last week and I noticed some newer houses that merit consideration. Infill construction is always a tricky proposition. It generally comes in two flavors. The first is ultra-modernist monstrosities that act as a giant "fuck you" to the surrounding neighborhood by drawing attention to themselves. I don't think anything is wrong with them per se, but there's something tacky about a building that shows absolutely no regard for the surrounding neighborhood. The house pictured actually won awards when it was built in 2018, and it looks as though it wants every other house on the street to know it. The other kind is what I call "soft urbanism" that attempts to blend in with the existing vernacular but doesn't try too hard, practically giving away that this is new construction and not a lovingly restored home. The basic forms are still there but there is no attention to detail; instead of trying to accurately represent a historic style the features are sanded off in favor of a generic "old style" look. Compounding the problem is that the setbacks are too far from the street, though everything about these houses is still better than the suburban crap they built in the 70s that now looks shabby and anachronistic (the two developments are across the street from one another in a formerly blighted area).

The houses I saw weren't really infill since they're new construction in a previously non-residential area, but they seem to have broken the dilemma. It seems that the key is to build unabashedly modern houses that still pay tribute to to the styles of the past. The large windows, lack of significant ornamentation, and geometric design are clearly modern, but the traditional brick facing and attic dormers add an understated dignity. If one of these were built in a gap of Victorian-era row houses most people probably wouldn't notice, but they're interesting enough architecturally that they avoid the blandness of soft urbanism. They also managed the setback requirements in a way I haven't seen. Instead of plopping them however many feet back and putting an unusably small lawn on the front, they are raised off the ground. The steep slope practically requires some kind of landscaping, and the stairways act as portals to the private worlds within. Having stoops instead of walkways makes it look more like a city and less like a suburban townhouse development. I'd prefer that they ditched the setback requirements altogether (houses built prior to them don't seem to have any trouble selling), but this is a nice workaround.

Heinz Field

Technically now Acrisure Stadium, I suppose.

One total aside that I cannot cast out of my brain is how much sidewalk quality seems to set the vibe for a neighborhood. Why does the suburban crap side look so much worse than the other newer side? Is it simply newness? Do sidewalks simply need to be replaced after a certain period of time, or repaired, or can grass growing up through cracks in the sidewalk be prevented easily by design or maintenance or is it a losing battle? Does type of concrete matter to avoid the curb crumbling away, or is that also inevitable? Does the fact that the new side planted trees in tiny little cutouts mean that in 20-30 years the sidewalk will be broken up and destroyed by roots?

Another side note: these are awesome. I wish patios hadn't disappeared in so many parts of the country and construction styles.

In Pittsburgh, sidewalk maintenance is the responsibility of the adjoining homeowner. The city isn't going to get on you for a crappy sidewalk unless it's hazardous to the point of a code violation, and maybe not even then unless a lot of people are complaining. The image I posted is from a low income area, and the suburban style houses were built in the 70s when the neighborhood was going downhill fast as an attempt to stabilize it. There's a good chance that these homes are owned by elderly black people who simply can't afford cosmetic sidewalk improvements, especially considering that sidewalks are often bad in much nicer areas. The ones on the opposite side of the street were probably redone when the houses were built a few years back, whereas there's a good chance that the suburban side hasn't been touched since those houses were built decades ago.

The length of the Parkway through the Point is only about a thousand feet, and most of that space is occupied by ramps.

This is indeed the problem! I am reminded of the anecdotal debate among engineers about what kind of engineer designed the human body. The conclusion was that it must have been a civil engineer, because who else would route a sewage system through a recreational area?

There are certainly other ways to build a park rather than to route seven-odd lanes of freeway traffic through it. If tunnelling under the park would not have been possible, it would have been better to move 279 north to the edge of the park instead. The land immediately north of the bridges seems to be primarily parking lots anyway.

I don't think that people are usually fooled by trees and embankments and it is indeed absurd that (eyeballing the map) something like twenty percent of the park is freeways and interchanges. I brought up road noise multiple times in my other posts and you did not respond to this point, so I must imagine that there is indeed a noticeable road noise in the park.

I've spent my fair share of time in parks regrettably close to freeways. Freeways are noisy, they emit pollution, being near them plain sucks. We only tolerate them because they benefit motorists, and while perhaps we can say that the pedestrians should take the L in this case, it really seems like a bridge too far to say that the freeway benefits the people trying to enjoy some time in the park because it's a nice overpass. Again, if the freeway did not pass through the park, I cannot imagine that anyone would miss it.

I don't have anything to add, but i enjoyed the read.

I think one of the strangest instances of a woke injection into a film/story just occurred and it seems to be flying under the radar. FULL SPOILERS AHEAD for Under the Bridge, a Hulu murder mystery show that’s based on a non-fiction book of the same name. For what it’s worth, I thought the show was pretty good despite what I’m writing here.

In real life, Rebecca Godfrey wrote the Under the Bridge non-fiction book. In the Hulu show, Rebecca Godfrey is a character portrayed by Riley Keough. Godfrey (speaking about her character henceforth) was born in Vancouver Island in Canada, moved to New York to start a writing career, and then at the start of the show, she moved back to Vancouver Island temporarily in the late 1990s to write a new book on her hometown.

But soon after moving back, 14 year old Reena Virk is murdered seemingly by a group of her friends. The story is so shocking and intriguing that Godfrey begins investigating the crime independently to write about it. In addition to talking to a bunch of the kids involved, Godfrey reconnects with Cam Bentland, a local police officer investigating the murder. Cam is a Native American who was adopted by white parents, and Cam is also implied to be Godfrey’s ex girlfriend. They soon rekindle their romantic relationship and begin using each other to get different informational angles on the case.

Most of the show consists of uncovering what happened with the murders, and for the sake of this post, I don’t need to go into it. Basically, a group of very troubled girls (aged 14-16) got pissed off at one of their own and decided to beat the shit out of her. Then one girl and another guy took it way too far and murdered her.

Godfrey becomes a key media player in the very high-profile case. She works both with and against the police to push the kids in different ways, and at one point, she passionately argues for the innocence of one of the main accused kids. Meanwhile, Cam eventually discovers that she was adopted by her white parents through the Adopt Indian Métis, in which the government encouraged white parents to adopt Native American orphans. Cam feels disgusted by the revelation, disgusted with her parents for being involved and never telling her, and disgusted with herself for being a cop, so she leaves the police force and decides to try to connect with her real family.

To reiterate, this is based on a true story. Reena Virk really was brutally murdered by her friends, and Rebecca Godfrey really did write a book about the murder. So it might surprise you to learn that in real life:

  • Rebecca Godfrey had no direct involvement in the murder investigations. She wrote her book after everything occurred.

  • Cam Bentland, the Native America cop, was entirely invented by the show.

  • By extension, Godfrey’s lesbian romance with Cam was entirely invented.

  • I have no in depth knowledge of Godfrey, but she was married to a man, and I haven’t seen any evidence that she was a lesbian or bisexual.

  • While there really were some heinous laws regarding Natives in Canada, none of that stuff had anything to do with the murder of Reena Virk or the Under the Bridge book.

  • Godfrey presumably approved of televised adaptation of the show, but she died at the beginning of its production, so it’s unclear if she approved of any of these additions to the real story

Discussion points:

  • If Godfrey wasn’t aware of these changes, then Hulu’s writers portrayed a presumable straight woman as a lesbian/bi woman in a fictionalized account of her. Is that a step too far in wokeness for the average media consumer?

  • Can someone clue me in on what actually happened with the Adopt Indian Métis program and programs like it? In the show, it’s implied (I think) to be literal kidnapping of Native American children by the Canadian government, but I have a hard time believing that’s true.

  • Maybe this is too broad or vague, but is it disrespectful in some sense to take a real tragic story in which most of the participants are still alive and use it to prop up unrelated woke narratives? I’m not meaning this in an obviously baity or culture war-y way. I mean, does calling that “disrespectful” make any sense? Is the concept of respecting true stories in this sense valid?

Can someone clue me in on what actually happened with the Adopt Indian Métis program and programs like it? In the show, it’s implied (I think) to be literal kidnapping of Native American children by the Canadian government, but I have a hard time believing that’s true.

The view of natives by educated liberals was very different at the time. Now people think of them like wood elves with a sacred culture. At the time they were viewed more as backwards illiterate hillbillies who needed to be brought into the modern era.

So there were no foster homes in native areas. If a child needed to be put into the system they were shipped off to a city and adopted. This was before birth control pills so young mothers having children they couldn't take care of was more common.

There's still a lot of debate about how aggressive social workers should be, so I'm sure it is easy to find cases where the child should have stayed in the home.

Can someone clue me in on what actually happened with the Adopt Indian Métis program and programs like it? In the show, it’s implied (I think) to be literal kidnapping of Native American children by the Canadian government, but I have a hard time believing that’s true.

There apparently was encourage adoption by white parents back in the 60's which was later called the 60's scoop. I tried to parse the article about why the kids were taken (eg was it from abusive or neglectful families?), but the article states it was just to place indigenous kids with white families to raise them with white culture. The article also makes reference to a program in the 50's when children were taken from single mothers to place with families.

Similar policies happened in Australia until the 1970's leading to what is now referred to as the Stolen Generations. Even though anyone involved in decision making on the policy is either long since retired or dead and the federal government issued a formal apology in 2008, it keeps being brought up in media by the usual issue motivated groups as an example of modern day racism. What is ignored though is the high endemic rates of child abuse, sexual abuse and neglect that are rife in indigenous communities even to this day.

I've always wanted to see a detailed side-by-side analysis of life outcomes for the 'stolen generation' versus those who remained in remote communities. I've got a sneaking suspicion that the stolen generations actually benefited from the transaction

I agree that it would be interesting to see a detailed analysis like that and I realize you aren't saying large QOL improvements would be exculpatory ... but reading your comment made me think about discussions about progressive indoctrination in US schools.

It's plausible that learning progressive manners and beliefs will give children a substantial leg up, socio-economically. Depending on events, graduates of the Evanston, IL public schools system might be on average, better-positioned than those from, say, the Florida suburbs in the US of 2045. But I don't think many parents resisting leftward changes to their public schools would be impressed by that.

The analogy is quarter-baked, but just contemplating it weakens my openness to arguments that material improvements can justify inter-generational dispossession (for lack of a better term)

Weren't a lot of them half-caste? Seems to complicate things- would they have been treated as full community members had they stayed, or would they have been discriminated against? I'm sure it varied from community to community. Did they have an IQ advantage over their coethnics, or were the white men who impregnated aboriginal women an example of not sending our best? Etc, etc.

would they have been treated as full community members had they stayed, or would they have been discriminated against?

IIRC this was part of the justification for removing them from the communities after some bad headlines around treatment of half-caste children

It's hard to judge - the stats that we have generally compare members of the Stolen Generations (in Australia) typically compare them either to non-Aboriginal people of the same cohort, or to other Aboriginal people in general, rather than to members of remote communities.

These statistics suggest that an SGer is on average worse off than the median Aboriginal - but as you say, SGers were specifically selected from among the worst-off Aboriginals. Is an SGer better or worse off than they would have been had they not been removed? That's the question we don't have an answer for. AIHW's full 2018 report is here. From page 74 on they show that SGers were worse off than 'the reference group', but the reference group is Aboriginal people in general, not remote communities. We have some stats on health in remote communities here and here, but cross-referencing those is more work than I'm up for at the moment. Suffice to say that we know remote communities are significantly worse off.

Yeah the Aboriginal statistics are pretty inherently tainted by the amount of 1/16th suburban Sydneysiders who get meshed in with the residents of Meekatharra. I did a year in Darwin and until you've been out there it's hard to really understand what the situation on the ground is like with the remote populations.

I’d be interested to hear more about your experiences. What’s the situation like on the ground? What

It's precisely because they benefited they can be enough of a fixture in the culture to make a fuss. The kids who got adopted can use the education and stability they got from it to make a fuss about how it robbed them of their culture. While those who got to experience the culture first hand probably just died of alcohol poisoning or are trying to forget they ever grew up on the rez.

A couple of small revelations on what the poor story construction in blockbuster movies reveals about the zeitgeist.

It seems to me that major movies released in recent decades have bifurcated in scope. At one end, you have character-driven drama set in a household or small town where the budget mostly goes to A-list actors looking to win awards. At the other, you have epic visual spectacles with tons of international locations or even extraterrestrial or extra-dimensional. This could be me finding patterns where none exists, but it seem rational for producers to pick a side: if you want to sell on the intricacies of human relationships, you can do that on a smaller budget; if you want to sell on big explosions and special effects, then you might as well make the story scope expansive and perhaps ridiculous anyway. Ergo, don't worry about realism, just put it in the trailer that if the heroes don't win, then humanity is doomed!

But when story premises grow too big, they necessarily rope in politics and geopolitics, except most movie writers really suck at writing either. I'm going to pick a low hanging fruit to make my point--take Captain America: Civil War, with $1B+ in the box office and great reviews. In it, Earth's superheroes split into two teams, with one wanting to be supervised by the UN and the other refusing the leash. I think it's a fun watch, but its expansive scope rests on a ridiculous understanding and/or portrait of how the world actually works. Without going too deep into it:

  1. If a suicide bomber's explosion is magically diverted and accidentally destroys a floor of a building, thus killing dozens of people but also saves the lives of dozens on the ground, no one is going to think the magician is the criminal. Well, the lizardman constant may apply, but certainly you won't have a plurality to call for her head.
  2. If the superheroes are primarily affiliated with the US, there is no universe where 2/3 of the Senate (let alone a bipartisan "98-1" supermajority per the Fandom wiki) would ratify a treaty that willingly surrenders oversight over to the UN or another international body. I would argue no administration would support that either, but that's less impossible than the Senate.
  3. Who gives a crap if "117 countries" sign onto the "accords"? The UN routinely has symbolic and ineffectual votes with 100+ countries voting in favor and the US vetoing. It's been calling for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza with 150+ countries since last December, and that practically means very little.
  4. The very notion that you can get 117 countries to agree on accords that appear to be 300 pages long within months is farcical. How would the panel be chosen? Who gets a veto? These aren't some silly climate change pledge that just means more free money for developing countries. You're talking about real weapons of war, and you'll never have the major powers lined up all on one side agreeing to a functional system.

Normally, we go into movies with a willing suspension of disbelief. But there is a difference between accepting that infinity stones exist and that half of the avengers are cast out as criminals by the UN. I think it's partly the uncanny valley--either you make the premise obviously fantasy, or you do a good job of making it seem realistic, and partly it's like Sanderson's laws of magic, which really is about having internal consistency--I can accept a fictional world where partisan politics and multipolarity do not exist, hence you get 98-1 Senate votes and 117 countries (presumably including every country that actually matters) coming to agreement, but then you can't also ask me to emotionally buy into the idea that in such a world, I should genuinely fear the secretive Nazi organizations and ultracorrupt politicians and amoral killer CEOs. I mean, is this a utopia or not?!

But evidently most people don't care about this. So maybe the writers simply are illiterate when it comes to politics and geopolitics, but more likely seems to be that they aren't incentivized to try very hard given the paying audience doesn't appear to mind. The third, slightly tin-foil-hat possibility is that it's a very intentional propaganda--to all the teenagers watching superhero movies, it's better if 117 countries vote for a UN panel to be in charge of real power.

Another thought: it's really rather lame that so many conflicts in movies come down to good and otherwise competent people acting excessively emotionally in pivotal moments. Once again in CA:CW, the climactic fight involves Cap fighting Iron Man because the latter learns that his parents were murdered by Cap's friend Bucky when he was under brainwash control. Set aside how ridiculous this convoluted plot was on the villain (how did he know Cap and Iron Man would both end up in the arctic facility together), if the good guys just paused for a min to talk it out, there would be no reason to fight, but then the writers would have to work harder to conjure up a reason for a civil war.

To me, a much more satisfying conflict among good guys would be for good people to fight over complex issues and/or ideological divides, and do so rationally rather than emotionally. But this is politically and culturally impossible, because you'd have to believe that there are good people on both sides (TM). Instead, we end up with good people fighting not over actual reason, but over stupid miscommunications or stupid emotions, because "obviously" good people must agree that there is fundamentally only one righteous ideology, with a consensus so strong that there is no reason to debate over it.

I think it's a mistake to consider the MCU to be porting in the global political situation as it actually exists. They use the same vocabulary because it is efficient from a storytelling perspective, but I thought it was clear that the "UN" in that movie was a stand-in for "political oversight, not otherwise specified".

A lot of the issues you are identifying are medium-specific. Cinema is very very effective at conveying emotional information about specific characters. It is less effective at communicating the intricacies of various philosophical viewpoints. Feature films have good guys and bad guys. That's the format that people expect to see when they pay money and walk into a theater.

To me, a much more satisfying conflict among good guys would be for good people to fight over complex issues and/or ideological divides, and do so rationally rather than emotionally.

I thought Oppenheimer did a pretty good job of this, but at the end of the day, audiences demand cinematic cues who to root for. Some people think Kitty Oppenheimer getting absolutely roasted on cross examination is an epic girlboss moment. It has to be because the music indicates that it is a heroic moment.

To me, a much more satisfying conflict among good guys would be for good people to fight over complex issues and/or ideological divides, and do so rationally rather than emotionally. But this is politically and culturally impossible, because you'd have to believe that there are good people on both sides (TM).

I hear really good things about Twelve Angry Men, though I haven't seen it yet. It's on my list.

Not to spoil too much, but Twelve Angry Men is pretty much the opposite of that.

I wrote an entire story based on a (well, not realistic) but more NrX/libertarian viewpoint on superheroes, right here.

Thanks, I fapped.

But I enjoyed it in other ways too. Though I don't think you have a correct understanding of a flush in poker.

It wouldn't be a proper comic book story without a egregious, poorly-researched error.

As a long time Lurker, I recommend both Molon Labe and it's sequel, Ex Machina.

You're making me blush.

So is that like a Quest thread on spacebattles or something, audience voting on what comes next?

Yes (although it's long finished.) I feel a little embarassed to shill my own stuff, but I'm currently writing fun science fiction. Fun in that 'there are as many cute girls as I can feasibly fit into the suspension of disbelief.

Don't judge me.

Cute girls in libertarian sci-fi worked out for Devon Erikson, it could work for you too. I am also sad that 'methfueledinsaneloli' is not a widely used tag.

To me, a much more satisfying conflict among good guys would be for good people to fight over complex issues and/or ideological divides, and do so rationally rather than emotionally.

This would be more satisfying, but it would make a totally crappy movie. We don't go to the talkies for reason, we go to have our adrenals stimulated.

But evidently most people don't care about this. So maybe the writers simply are illiterate when it comes to politics and geopolitics, but more likely seems to be that they aren't incentivized to try very hard given the paying audience doesn't appear to mind. The third, slightly tin-foil-hat possibility is that it's a very intentional propaganda--to all the teenagers watching superhero movies, it's better if 117 countries vote for a UN panel to be in charge of real power.

Yes, the audience doesn't care because the audience is no longer just American teenagers, it's people across the world .

There's a reason most of these movies don't even have a pretense of real politics like Civil War . Everyone can sympathize with people fighting nondescript aliens or scifi Nazis. Arabs, Germans, Chinese people all get it with minimal fuss.

Civil War has to be more political, but I hardly doubt it'd play well across the world to have the mostly American protagonists laugh off the UN like they're Dick Cheney. Marvel wants their money too and some people still feel sore about that sort of thing. Might as well let them feel like they participated via the UN. Let's not even get into "complex issues". Just having gay people in Eternals caused a minor controversy.

but then you can't also ask me to emotionally buy into the idea that in such a world, I should genuinely fear the secretive Nazi organizations and ultracorrupt politicians and amoral killer CEOs. I mean, is this a utopia or not?!

There's actually a reading that Nazis are why the world is so centralized, and not for any good reason. In Avengers the "World Council" could somehow order a nuclear strike on New York (they warned you early about the bad geopolitics). In Winter Soldier we found out that the Nazis/Hydra have been actively making the world more chaotic to centralize power in a few powerful organizations like SHIELD they could use to take over the world. In Agents of SHIELD the very person who ordered SHIELD to perform the nuclear strike is...a member of Hydra.

My problem with Civil War was that it wasn't a Captain America movie, it was an Avengers movie. I didn't even feel like Captain America was the main character, he just felt like one out of a cast of characters.

I'm sure this just comes from the comics, every time I speak up about my criticisms of the MCU I get told it's because they adapted something straight from the comics.

I had the exact opposite problem as you, but in a similar vain. I thought that because of how limited the MCU cast was at the time, there weren't actually enough characters to fully encapsulate how wide-reaching the storyline was. In the comics, Civil War was a massive event, spanning dozens of characters, including the Avengers, X-Men, The New Warriors, The Fan4stic, etc. And instead of the Airport fight scene, which was pretty cool, the fighting and devastation was much more wide-spread. The storyline also had some pretty hefty short to medium term implications, including playing into the Secret Invasion storyline.

The dumbest thing for me about Civil War started in the beginning: where Tony Stark is guilted into supporting the Sokovia Accords because the mother of someone killed in the battle blames him. The Avengers were literally saving the world from a genocidal robot, and unfortunately, there were civilian casualties. Stark and the other Avengers had been around long enough that "Oh no, an innocent person died and his mom blames us!" was the sort of black and white comic book morality you saw in the Silver Age, not in the supposedly more "gritty" and realistic MCU era.

where Tony Stark is guilted into supporting the Sokovia Accords

Also, Tony should have known better than to trust Accord oversight, considering the first thing they tried to do is nuke Metropolis [or wherever that was] to contain the Chitauri invasion. He ended up directly having to clean up that mess.

I get that Tony Stark very quickly became "Bay Area thought as a superhero", but that was not good judgment. Then again, because Tony really doesn't have good judgment, he'd naturally support the Accords, so maybe I'm more annoyed about it than I should be.

The dumbest thing for me about Civil War started in the beginning: where Tony Stark is guilted into supporting the Sokovia Accords because the mother of someone killed in the battle blames him. The Avengers were literally saving the world from a genocidal robot, and unfortunately, there were civilian casualties.

I don't think that's dumb. If there's anyone to blame, it's Stark. It was his idea to build the robot. I do think it's stupid for the rest of the avengers to feel guilty, but Stark should totally feel guilty.

I'm pretty sure the guilt was supposed to be because Tony in his hubris made Ultron.

I think the tendency to insert politics in this way is a more recent trend. Maybe Superman or Duke Nukem always had to save the president, because he's the president, that's the most important guy. But nobody cared about Senators and Generals, which I can recall showing up in X-Men, BvS, Marvel, etc.

I think as Superhero content has left comics and become mainstream, there's been a perceived need to dress it up as "more" than just comic books. Superhero movies aren't just fun anymore, they're social commentary, they're serious endeavors, they're real cinema, dad. Notably, comic books themselves went through a similar arc.

Personally I agree that all this semi-authentic political back-drama is silly, and I would prefer my schlock to not have to put on airs.

It might be stronger in recent years, where pushing "the message" became much more of a thing in entertainment, but the anti-mutant Senator Kelly was created in 1980 and appeared in the 1990s X-Men animated series. (Because you've listed X-Men alongside BvS, Marvel, etc., I'm guessing you're thinking more of the 2000s Fox movies, or possibly the recent X-Men '97.)

If a suicide bomber's explosion is magically diverted and accidentally destroys a floor of a building, thus killing dozens of people but also saves the lives of dozens on the ground, no one is going to think the magician is the criminal. Well, the lizardman constant may apply, but certainly you won't have a plurality to call for her head.

They had to keep it simple, but you don't need to change things too much to make it realistic. There would need to be a strong existing political movement demanding superhuman registration that's popular with DC types. The terrorists would need to be from a State Department backed group. Slightly muddle what happens.

In that situation the press would aggressively spin the things to get their preferred policy and protect their friends in DC.

Not to burst your bubble, but the problem with Civil War actually originates with the source material. One might watch Civil War and ask why Tony Stark, aka Iron Man is on the side of the government despite being a tech entrepreneur who refused to share his suit tech with the government for years and Captain America, an FDR Democrat (aka the closest thing we have had to a dictator since George Washington) is on the side of the libertarians. The answer is the original writer wrote it that way for nonsensical reasons.

As a result, the whole story is nonsensical, and the movie reflects that because it is based on an idiotic comic book that shares its incoherence.

One might watch Civil War and ask why Tony Stark, aka Iron Man is on the side of the government despite being a tech entrepreneur who refused to share his suit tech with the government for years

Because he built an AI that killed people and almost destroyed the world.

and Captain America, an FDR Democrat (aka the closest thing we have had to a dictator since George Washington) is on the side of the libertarians.

Because the government agency he worked for turned out to be a front for a bunch of evildoers.

I've never even seen Civil War but if there's something stupid about it conceptually it's that Cap didn't say "Hey doctor Frankenstein I agree someone should be in charge of making sure you don't blow up the world again but I just club people over the head with a shield so maybe get outta my ass."

Like Superman, Captain America's political affiliation has (intentionally) never been specified. He's supposed to represent America, and being partisan would destroy his entire mythos. (There have been various stories in which both political parties try to get Cap, and Superman, to join their ticket, and they always refuse.)

Obviously, over the years some writers have put their own political sentiments in the mouths of the heroes they're writing, but generally it's understood that flagship characters are not supposed to be Republican or Democrat.

I don't think there was ever anything in the comics at the time, i.e. the 1940s, indicating how Captain America voted? He's always been a character deliberately open to interpretation - he stands for the best vision of what America can be, but he shifts over time and is often strategically vague so that readers can project their idea of what that means on to him.

That wasn't the only problem with the comic book version. The other problem with the comic book version is that the writers didn't agree on what was in the registration act. It could be anything from just registration to conscription, and it could or could not apply to borderline cases (like unpowered fighters). Needless to say, if you're going to have political stories, stuff like that will make a big difference, and that part was completely incoherent too.

Having so many different writers work on big projects is my least favorite parts of western comics, and that's stiff competition against all the other stuff they do wrong.

I read all the early Judge Dredd comics once, and important details got changed every single episode on the whim of some writer who couldn't even be bothered to coordinate with his coworkers.

Why is Cap on the side of the libertarians? Because you'd expect Cap to be on the "trust the government" side so we have to invert that to make it more "interesting". It's just expectation subversion, Rian-style, with no thought about whether it's consistent for the characters.

AIUI, the Civil War comics came out years before the current zeitgeist was born. Bizarre that they chose to adapt the story for the MCU, given that I was always under the impression that Civil War was one of the weakest storylines to come out of 21st-century Marvel.

Making heroes fight each other for questionable reasons with no lasting consequences is a proud comics tradition. Seeing them fight each other is fun, and that's what Marvel wanted on screen.

I'd indeed agree that poor political framing is deliberate because it minimizes people getting their feelings hurt and maximizes profits and audience (most of the time; you still have things like "Don't Look Up"). Imagine if Captain America Civil War actually included a more potent anti-UN arguments. You'd get a lot of negative news coverage, distracting from "Spiderman shows up and fights . Is this corporate greed and cowardice, or is it something more particular to the screenwriters and directors? Probably both, but I actually think the people themselves (whether you think this is corporate capture or not is a separate question) are choosing to enforce these hedges. Like many movies with fantastical/superpower/supernatural/advanced sci-fi elements, it's a work of fiction and escapism and spectacle, and the hard part is finding the right balance between these things. Which is actually hard. For example a too-grounded superhero film can exist (Logan maybe?) but requires much more character work, and risks boredom if it fails. A too-much-CGI film can flop, even if the CGI is good, because on some level it strays too far. Oh, but wait, if it's sci-fi, you can get weird again, but wait, you still have to anthropomorphize things to a certain extent, and you still can't get too weird or it sounds like bad writing even if there is an interesting deeper meaning. Hard to pull off. At some point "vibe" starts to matter which goes beyond just the script itself. District 9 is perhaps one of the few, very few, sci-fi films that successfully marries weirdness with actual groundedness.

I actually think the middle fight scene in Civil War at the airport is a great case in point. We go into Civil War excited for some Captain America as a character, and we know he will work at solving some mostly-solvable problem. We go in excited to see Spider-Man and Cap fight it out. We go in curious what might happen with conflict between "good guys". Fans might be wondering about the aftermath of the whole Hydra thing from Winter Soldier and other plot points. We get this! In the airport scene, we also clearly get the violence pulled back. Anytime it gets too real especially in the side cast, we get a joke, but one that's usually topical enough it doesn't feel like a total distraction (though it actually is). It is entertaining, and it mostly works. We already have accepted that kids are a prime audience for the movie. In fact, making things kid-friendly is probably part of it. Nothing exactly forbids a kids movie from discussing real-life, difficult questions, but it's harder to pull off, harder to market, and if we're being honest kids don't generally want too-hard questions in their movies. That's an adult thing. So an R-rating is an crude and easy proxy for adults to pay attention, even if it isn't strictly necessary.

I agree that personally, I find conflicts in fiction without clear good-bad divides and more than 2 factions incredibly enjoyable on average. I do wish there were a bit more of it. But also ask yourself, have you ever shied away from watching a movie because it was too explicitly political? Even if it didn't line up exactly with current attitudes or parties? I think that experience is more common than many movie-goers would let on.

I do circle back to District 9, actually, as an example of what I assume you want more of. Have you seen it? How did you feel about it? Can you think of similar others? The only ones that spring to mind are maybe things like Minority Report, Children of Men, V for Vendetta, maaaybe Dune 2.

I definitely agree with this. Especially for franchise films, they want a simple non controversial film that nobody in the audience can find a reason to dislike. It’s one reason I’m mostly over big franchise movies and TV — they’re so busy protecting their brand that they’re mostly bland and boring with very few things that are difficult to understand or too political. Making people think often means some in the audience might get confused (even more likely with the international audience) and if you say something political (outside of DEI inclusion) you run the risk that someone in the audience might disagree which would mean that person will not be there for Big Franchise: Subtitle. Most of them have become so overtaken by corporate that they’re paint by numbers, cohesive stories, good actors, or realistic fights be damned. They’re McDonald’s or Burger King at this point, and you won’t find anything that has a strong taste because there’s a chance someone might dislike the taste.

outside of DEI inclusion

This is a huge parenthetical. They're definitely alienating people with the way they're doing this, consciously. And it's not just about the inclusion, it's about the very intense way in which they're doing that inclusion and how communicating the right message flows through everything that gets made.

I think there's a lot of paint-by-numbers going on, but I'd remind you that the most controversial movie of the past decade was almost certainly The Last Jedi, which famously had an auteur who deliberately made unexpected, confusing, and ✨subversive✨ choices that alienated people and damaged the brand. There's a lot of both going on; the only constant is DEI.

I think some of it is true belief, but some of it is also artsy people(the sorts who direct movies) having different tastes than the general public(source: visit an art museum), and DEI is a convenient way for those people to shield themselves from criticism.

When I was a youth the 'in' thing for artsy types was to look down their noses at Michael Bay movies, which nevertheless sold like hotcakes. The 'designated cool grownup' teacher when I was in high school explained to a group of these kids like thus- "I know, when I go to a Michael Bay movie, that I'm going to be entertained. It's going to have action, the plot might not be great but it'll be passable and at least a little bit compelling, there's going to be a lead who actually does something, etc. I'm a teacher trying to support a family and have to choose which movies I pay to go see and I don't know that Oscar-bait is going to entertain me, but a Michael Bay action movie will. Therefore, like many others facing that decision, I see Michael Bay movies." I'm paraphrasing a bit, but the truth is that the general public and art people have different preferences. And artsy types generally resent being expected to earn a return on investment for their employers, and employers famously at least claim to put DEI before profits, so telling an artsy story about black lesbians is a way for artsy types to make their movies art and not business.

At this point, subversive isn’t even really subversive because it’s almost a trope. If there’s a single set of heroes or archetypes that haven’t been “subverted” by now I’m not really aware. The subversive thing for the modern deconstructed media landscape is actually playing it straight, having a hero who’s actually a decent guy and a villain who’s actually bad and actually doesn’t have a point to make, and a plot that actually makes sense.

Watch some anime.

A recent example I'm thinking of is Frieren, where - minor spoilers - it turned out that the demons actually were bad. That is, the story didn't follow the "what if the bad guys were actually good and the good guys were actually bad" subversion seen in, for example, every single webcomic that ever included an orc and/or goblin: instead of being different-looking people wrongly oppressed for looking different by the retrograde powers-that-be, they are actually inhuman predators who exploit the former mode of thinking.

On some more-progressive corners of the internet (I saw kerfuffles in threads on and SomethingAwful) this made (a minority of) people upset for being a racist idea. Racist against what group, exactly? Well, it wasn't that: it was just that the idea of irreconcilable differences existing between groups that could (apparently) communicate with each other was too dangerous to be entertained at all.

I think that betrayed a weakness of faith in anti-racism on the part of the people who said that. Frieren demons are clearly unlike any real-world humans, and thus their example should be a positive thought-experiment for coexistence in our world. One thing I like about fantasy and science fiction and so forth is its utility as a lens upon our own world: it lets us consider what things would be like if something we believe is true were different. What would things look like then? If they're necessarily obviously different, then perhaps your beliefs have stood the test. If the result seems more like reality than your understanding of the real world does - then perhaps you've learned something, too.

Arguably sociopaths. My understanding of demons in Frieren is they evolved to lack empathy. They understand that humans will lower their guard if you tell them your parents or your children died, but they don't fully understand why because they can't feel familial love or sadness. There's even a demon who is portrayed slightly sympathetically as he alternates between helping and torturing humans because he's trying to see if he can experience emotions.

One thing I like about fantasy and science fiction and so forth is its utility as a lens upon our own world: it lets us consider what things would be like if something we believe is true were different.

A lot of people are unable to consume media in this way. If a piece of media says something is true in this fictional hypothetical that wildly diverges from out world, they are trying to say it is also true in our world. So, Starship Troopers a story about a united humanity fighting against literal bugs is really promoting racism and white supremacy in our world, despite it's protagonist being Filipino.

It's similar to people who argue against the hypothetical in thought experiments. They seem to believe worlds in which their current politics fail just can't exist and anyone who would think up such a world only does so to push evil beliefs in the here and now.

In the defense of midwits, people who argue against the hypothetical intuitively sense that the other party is trying to convince them of something, and that is always unambiguously suspect, so it's better not to give the other party an inch.

On some more-progressive corners of the internet (I saw kerfuffles in threads on and SomethingAwful) this made (a minority of) people upset for being a racist idea. Racist against what group, exactly? Well, it wasn't that: it was just that the idea of irreconcilable differences existing between groups that could (apparently) communicate with each other was too dangerous to be entertained at all.

I'm reminded of the thread spawned by this Tumblr post, which begins:

Fantasy races are an uncomfortable concept, because they present a world that literally works the way racists think that it works. The attempts to mitigate this problem often fail to address the core concern, merely making the idea more palatable.

It also addresses sci-fi — specifically Mass Effect — as also problematic for having different alien races be, well, different:

This is something that puts me on edge in Mass Effect, otherwise one of my favorite games. True, the game ultimately lands on condemning the genophage, and it’s not subtle about that. I mean just look at the name… But it’s still considered debatable, morally grey, and Mordin Solus remains one of the most charming and enduring heroes of the series. The setting has bent over backwards to make every racist stereotype and talking point as legitimate as possible. In this setting, it is objectively true, scientifically proven that it is in the DNA of Krogans to naturally be violent, warmongering killing machines whose explosively rapid breeding poses an existential threat to the galaxy. That in turn is meant to make us think that maybe forced sterilization is something worth considering. It’s hard to ignore the parallels to real life racist propaganda. I don’t think it’s malicious, just ungrounded and thoughtless; the result of creators to whom these ideals are abstract thought experiments, rather than reflections of real history.

In short, treating differences between thinking beings as anything other than purely cultural is Problematic.

I don’t know how else you’d handle magic creatures or aliens. They’re not the same species. Orcs are specifically not humans, and neither are elves. Klingons aren’t humans. And as such saying that an Orc or a Klingon doesn’t act like a Southern California PMC half wit isn’t quite the same as being a racist.

The things that make me uncomfortable in those settings is less that Orcs act differently than humans, it’s that all orcs have the exact same culture and belief system and nobody rejects it or questions it. Humans are certainly one species, but we are different and have different opinions and cultures and religions. Or maybe I just wonder what a hippy orc would be like.

The female Ghostbusters was within the last decade.

I don't know, wouldn't the Cathedral want control over superhumans? Wouldn't they make a power-grab to centralize control over these dangerous rogue elements lest they overthrow the empire of finance and paperwork with personal power? Wouldn't they want to divide and undermine any would-be Caesars? We saw in another universe the superhumans are in complete control, the 'Illuminati' rule.

However, I 100% agree that Marvel movies are stupidly written and don't make sense. The superheroes are weak in relative terms. A couple of Stryker brigades could demolish Thanos's army. Iron Man is worth maybe five to ten jet fighters. None of them could handle tactical nukes. All superhero movies seem to adore Bronze age tactics: mass charges and 1v1 duels.

DC did better I thought, Superman takes on seriously powerful beings who are fast and strong enough to overmatch human forces. He does tank nukes. It makes sense for people to fear him. But DC also had a lot of ridiculous plot decisions and some silly character interaction (your mother's name was Martha too, I guess we're best friends!)

You could have an interesting movie about the struggle for political, economic and military power between capes and mortal men. But scriptwriters aren't smart enough to write that or don't want to. It's as if they're taught in movie school 'who cares about having a plot that makes sense, we need to affirm these saccharine character moments where the power of love, cameraderie and family triumphs over all odds'. I think only the 5% of the population in the INTJ/INTP area really cares about having plots that make sense.

But scriptwriters aren't smart enough to write that or don't want to.

I could be wrong, but I believe that scriptwriters at the level of actually writing scripts are professionals who produce the script they're being told to produce by the person paying them to do it. The plot, characters, etc. are decided on by directors and producers.

Yes. Whedon said the list of required character vs character fights or interactions was so large it took up all of the run time for The Avengers. To the point where he had no time to conclude the story and simply decided that all the aliens would fall over dead at the end to instantly wrap things up. Which he thinks is a bad ending, but he had no choice given the constraints.

However, I 100% agree that Marvel movies are stupidly written and don't make sense. The superheroes are weak in relative terms. A couple of Stryker brigades could demolish Thanos's army. Iron Man is worth maybe five to ten jet fighters. None of them could handle tactical nukes. All superhero movies seem to adore Bronze age tactics: mass charges and 1v1 duels.

Good luck making a show about tactics like the survability onion the thing is that modern tactics make terrible movies. You can't talk to the villan when all your weapons move at mach 2 and a lot of defensive tactics are based around stealth, evasion and recon. The staple trope of superhero movies of the villan/hero discussing the villan's plan doesn't work at all when the entire conflict strategy is to not be seen heard or detected and the fighters can't even see each other.

Unless you're one of the weird nerds who wants their shows to seem "real" it's typically accepted to do completely irrational actions so that the movie can actually be good. (Otherwise you get the Saga of Tanya the Evil where the magical characters actually do use rational tactics but the show has little character)

If you were a skilled artist, surely you could make such a film entertaining. Imagine a band of heroic scouts discovering some deception operation, that the enemy was trying to outflank them or that a seemingly huge army was actually just balloons and dummies. What about a duel between cyberpunk drone operators, scrabbling around a ruined megacity as their drones hunt eachother's weak flesh and blood body? That's just extending what we see in Ukraine a few steps.

What about using clever tactics to get around superior firepower by fighting in close quarters? Or basic things like fire and manoeuvre, characters working together?

Tanya the Evil was well-liked IIRC.

You could, but then it would be a War Movie, not a Summer Blockbuster, and would appeal to fewer potential audience members.

I can imagine certain types of shows working with those sorts of premises, but the key there is there would be no dialog between our pro/antagonists except before and after action sequences. So our cyberpunk drone operator sequence would be cool but it would have to be a thing where all the talking happens by characters that aren't our drone operators, maybe observers in a meeting room or something.Can't have them communicate via comms since that would cause them to get caught by the other operator.

The only other example I know of is The fan animation astartes which you know isn't even a real show. Reading /r/combatfootage sort of shows just how hard it is to even come close to making modern weapons interesting storytelling, you walk around in a trench and then boom an artillery round killed you. No drama between you and the antagonist, just nothing nothing nothing dead.

As for the saga of Tanya the Evil, it's a decently popular show, but definitely not some major franchise like the MCU or something. The author of the novels is clearly some guy who played a lot of Hearts of Iron 4 and also clearly read a lot of World war history novels before making the original books. Unlike live action, the animation actually can make explosions ect that "look" real because in spite of the cartoons not being real this means the stupid cartoon can have the bullet actually go through the persons head. According to imdb it's probably about in the top 15% of shows ratings wise. Now I will admit the show really does use rational tactics for the mages, having them provide cover fire, spot for artillery and engage in aerial bombardments, even though it's a show about magical girls. (heck one of the main villains is called Mary Sue :D) But it's a major exception, and one I'm a big fan of.

Reading /r/combatfootage sort of shows just how hard it is to even come close to making modern weapons interesting storytelling, you walk around in a trench and then boom an artillery round killed you. No drama between you and the antagonist, just nothing nothing nothing dead.

Tolstoy did a good job of it where Prince Andrei was just walking around, pacing somewhere, and then boom, a cannon ball, then, because it's Tolstoy, FEELINGS, Universal Love, loss of consciousness. But that has probably never translated well to screen. Also the scene where (someone who's name I've forgotten) is in the middle of a battle, and it suddenly occurs to him that the other fellows are actually trying to kill him -- whom everybody loves! But it's really difficult to pull off inner monologues in movies. But, also, Tolstoy makes it pretty clear they weren't using much in the way of tactics, just throwing men at the problem, so it might not count. A relative has been watching drone footage from Ukraine, and it really just sounds depressing.

Oh War and Peace is great but was a terrible movie precisely because so much of the book does not translate to the big screen.

I watched some drone footage of Russians fighting drones and it's a really depressing scene, lots of footage of drones flying not seeing anything then transmission ends via shotgun blast. (you often see the shotgun shells just before impact).

I can imagine at some point a video game where you are using drones shotguns and artillery to fight your opponent with drones shotguns and artillery in a trench, maybe even some Rifles and machine guns placed in for more trench warfare. Clearly you being the player would have to control drones, but small drones dropping mortar round after mortar round would be a fun game maybe idk.

Astartes was universally beloved though, it's the platinum standard for 40K fanworks. The guy who made it was clearly super talented but it proves that it can be done. 'Show don't tell' is great!

I think you could have a film with a nailbiting, dialogue-free action finale between drone operators. Or maybe they do psy-ops to taunt eachother with pre-recorded messages on their drones? If you can send a signal from your person to the drone, you could send a message too. Occasionally there are these scenes where soldiers bait drones to attack and then dodge. Or that Bradley-BTR duel from the other day, these crazy moments are rare but do happen.

Tanya the evil novels were fun, I liked all the autistic stuff they put in about how Russian air defences were so shit a random Finn landed a light aircraft in Moscow, so they could do a deep strike there and get away with it.

Ahhh I see you're like "the few examples of actually good uses of military action are incredible and I want more of it."

Sadly I just agree, The Saga of Tanya the evil was the best war show of all time in spite of it involving fucking magical girls. The levels of thinking in those books/shows was just off the charts. I get a lot of the same vibes as when I hear Skullagrim review mary the virgin witch somehow by having higher variance the animated shows can have some of the best depictions of conflict.

I really liked the Saga of Tanya the evil and am looking forward to season 2, Season 1 was so good and while the books are ok, the animated version really sells you on the "this is what war is like" doctrine (except for mary sue fuck mary sue)

/r/PoliticalCompassMemes of all places tipped me off about an entertaining animated short movie depicting two mercenary groups in realistic urban combat:

Very inferior in quality to Astartes, but still quite nailbiting while dialogue-free.

That was probably the best depiction of modern weapons ever, except for the part where the girl goes rambo mode at the end.

I've seen a few actual special forces people react to that video and they were very impressed, talking about how the tactics were used in surpression ect, though they said that the security company was clearly fighting a low tier terrorist org but this was a much better showing than anything they've ever seen. and they made basic tactical errors due to fog of war but everybody makes basic errors in the heat of battle

That was a cool video, liked the fire-and-manoeuvre plus hand signals.

However, I 100% agree that Marvel movies are stupidly written and don't make sense. The superheroes are weak in relative terms. A couple of Stryker brigades could demolish Thanos's army. Iron Man is worth maybe five to ten jet fighters. None of them could handle tactical nukes. All superhero movies seem to adore Bronze age tactics: mass charges and 1v1 duels.

The superheroes are weak, which is actually a double penalty because the armies/countries have to be weak for them to matter. So Asgard's army has to be useless outside of flashbacks, and let's not even get started on any battle in Wakanda. And the bad guys basically have to be incompetent hordes literal children can fight.

Say what you want about Snyder but you actually get why people with modern armies would actually keep his superheroes around.

Well, Watchmen kinda exists. And so does The Boys. The TV show Watchmen does too, though it goes in a crazy different direction which I can't help but wonder how this forum would feel about it. It takes place in some alternate reality where they pass massive reparations for Black Americans and the show is set in Tulsa (deliberate echoes of the Tulsa race massacre) and there's a neighboring white slum/trailer park trash place locals call Nixonville. A white supremacist group starts targeting police officers and so cops start to wear masks to protect their identities -- in a country where masks and vigilante superheroes are explicitly illegal, and hunted down. The main character is a cop but also a closet superhero, and also tortures people, and it turns out at least one other cop is a closet KKK member. And then there's other wild Watchmen stuff that happens. Not exactly what you're describing, but it was interesting.

I think only the 5% of the population in the INTJ/INTP area really cares about having plots that make sense.

I regularly get told to stop thinking so much when I point out plot holes in movies. I'm probably not the only one here.

I run into this issue with plot holes, where I can see them if the show/movie is "thinky" or is trying to make you think, but when the show is just trying to be fun you can easily ignore the plot holes because the show isn't trying to do this. Books are typically the domain where you can have stories that have thinking and work well. Stuff like to Kill a mockingbird works because it's in book form. The television show Attack on Titan was like this, the first few seasons were a pure spectacle, there was no real deep plot going on and no need for one, but once they started having a major plot in the last 26 episodes+2 1.25 hour long television specials, the holes in the story started to show.

I don't know what to call this it isn't "suspension of disbelief" it's more like "suspension of thinking rationally about the plot". Like the issue is that these stories have 1 writer only and you have to write both a plot and the characters. Most people actually care more about #2 than the plot and most plots kinda blow. The spectacle of most shows is more important than the actual story for good reasons, (Books typically are a much better medium for pure storytelling, but a lot of the best books tend to fall in the "books you read in high school" category, which if you really pay attention the grand narrative of them is mostly trash). The only exception was this tiny weird niche space opera called Legend of the Galatic heroes which I swear is like if star wars was written by a Neoreactionary. Breaking bad is also good but it is more of a "character driven narrative". I should watch house of cards someday

LotGH is far above the average for stories when it comes to caring about the plot and world making sense, but even then it has a few things that seem poorly explained/motivated. Off the top of my head:

Everyone's insistence of following Commodore Fork's invasion plan regardless of how retarded it was

Trunicht's motivation for letting the child emperor live in alliance territory and form a government in exile

Almost everything surrounding the Reuental Revolt, though I feel like the author was starting to run out of steam at that point

The novels behind LoGH were quite good too. I think the English translations were released a few years ago.

Translations of the first two books were ok (not amazing). They changed translators for book 3 onwards and they were pretty awful, it would have been almost impossible for me to follow if I hadn't already seen the anime.

Blah. Thanks for the correction. I stopped at two when grad school got really busy, planned to get back to it... guess that's out.

I think this forum is about 60-70% INTJ or INTP. But in broader society the ratio is much lower.

INTJ is just Myers-Briggs for autist, I guess.

But seriously, another INTJ reporting in. If I recall correctly, it’s among the rarer MBTI types. I wonder if you’re right about your assessment of this place as having massive overrepresentation.

Have we ever done surveys or tried to get a handle on the demographics here? Given the amount of wrong think/number of witches, it might be interesting. Or people might not want to participate and we’d see skew as a result.

I wrote a fucking book because I'm tired of plot holes and shoddy world building, it grates like diamond dust beneath my eyelids.

This has been a busy week for the US Supreme Court, with a total of six published decisions on hot-button culture war issues including abortion (a boringly unanimous Article III standing decision, already discussed in its own thread below), gun control, immigration, labor relations, and even a Trump-bashing trademark registration case. Even the sixth case, about boring-old bankruptcy fees, produced an unusual 6-3 split: Jackson wrote the majority opinion, joined by Roberts, Alito, Sotomayor, Kagan, and Kavanaugh. Gorsuch authored an impassioned dissent, joined by Thomas and Barrett.

The trademark case, Vidal v. Elster, is more interesting than it looks at first glance. The question is whether a provision of the Lanham Act (the federal statute governing intellectual property issues), which forbids registration of trademarks featuring the name of a person without that person's consent, is constitutional. All nine justices agree that it is. And yet, instead of a simple unanimous opinion, we get:

"THOMAS, J., announced the judgment of the Court and delivered the opinion of the Court, except as to Part III. ALITO and GORSUCH, JJ., joined that opinion in full; ROBERTS, C. J., and KAVANAUGH, J., joined all but Part III; and BARRETT, J., joined Parts I, II–A, and II–B. KAVANAUGH, J., filed an opinion concurring in part, in which ROBERTS, C. J., joined. BARRETT, J., filed an opinion concurring in part, in which KAGAN, J., joined, in which SOTOMAYOR, J., joined as to Parts I, II, and III–B, and in which JACKSON, J., joined as to Parts I and II. SOTOMAYOR, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, in which KAGAN and JACKSON, JJ., joined."

The gun control case, Garland v. Cargill, divides predictably 6-3 along right/left lines. Thomas, writing for the majority, holds that "bump stocks" are not machineguns within the meaning of the National Firearms Act, abrogating a (Trump-era) ATF ruling that sought to ban such devices.

The immigration case, Campos-Chaves v. Garland, is the closest of all, with Alito writing for the 5-4 majority and Gorsuch joining the three liberals in a dissent authored by newcomer Jackson.

The labor case, Starbucks Corp. v. McKinney, was almost unanimous, except for Justice Jackson's solo partial-dissent-but-concurrence-in-the-judgment. It seems to me (I have not attempted to quantify this impression) that Justice Jackson is much more likely than the other liberals to author a solo opinion.

I have only skimmed a few of these cases, so I don't feel equipped to dive deep into the merits of each case, but I always enjoy the Motte's Supreme Court culture-war takes. For my own contribution, I just want to articulate my view of the Justices' voting patterns: I feel like the Court's conservatives disagree with each other a lot more often than the liberals do. It's very common to see conservatives on both sides of an issue, while the liberals overwhelmingly tend to vote as a block. This week is just an example of the general pattern, I think. Many right-leaning court watchers see that as a bad thing, as if the Court's conservatives are wishy-washy and ideologically unreliable. I tend to see it differently; to me, it suggests the conservatives are more even-handed and unbiased, while the liberals are more interested in conformity and towing the party line--undesirable traits in a judge. As I said, though, I haven't attempted to test my hypothesis by quantifying who voted which way, when. Someone has surely done that, and I'd be interested to see their results.

I'm far too late, but I wrote up the (unevenly too long) following on a plane ride.

A few noteworthy, or amusing things I didn't see mentioned:

  • The Vidal case is essentially 5-4 on methodology, despite all that mess. I don't really see why the majority is doing what it's doing, at all?

  • Alito using "alien" and Jackson "noncitizen" at every possible opportunity, which is hilarious.

  • The dissent from Gorsuch in the bankruptcy case is pretty strongly phrased. Jackson, in turn, quotes back Gorsuch's own words from a previous case, that the dissent is "just that."

  • Barrett's trademark opinion at one point refers to someone attempting to register a trademark for Duchess of Windsor for ladies' underwear.

Regarding your point on the conservatives disagreeing more, the liberals agreed in eight of the nine cases the last two weeks—the only case not unanimous between them was the (in effect) 8-1 NLRB case, (and I suppose if you want to count it, agreeing with different portions of Barrett's concurrence). Meanwhile, the conservatives were less unified. Nearly every pair of conservative justices had some disagreement somewhere in the past two weeks:

Gorsuch disagrees with the other conservatives on the immigration case. Barrett disagrees with the other conservatives on the trademark case. Roberts disagreed with the remaining conservatives on Native American healthcare. Thomas disagrees with the Alito and Kavanaugh on the bankruptcy case. That leaves only Alito and Kavanaugh who didn't really disagree at all these last two weeks.

Anyway, now to what I had written:

Two days of opinions, this last week, in six cases. I've commented on the one about mifepristone here—in short, the doctors trying to get it removed from the FDA had no standing, that is, nothing that made them eligible to bring their case, no harm done, no remedy, etc.

As to the others:

Thursday's cases were all 9-0, at least in judgment, but only the above was truly unanimous; the others had some form of disagreement.

I had a bit more time, so I wrote more.

Starbucks Corp v. McKinney

Thomas wrote the opinion and everyone except Jackson signed on. Jackson filed an opinion which agreed with part of what they said, but had more to say, and I think, disagreed with what the practical outcome should be, despite agreeing on the court's action. That is, Jackson is "concurring in part, concurring in the judgment, and dissenting in part."

That's opaque, so let's get into it.

The case is between Starbucks and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Some starbucks workers tried to unionize and called in a news crew to support them. Starbucks fired them. The NLRB was contacted, who filed a complaint with Starbucks, and filed a §10(j) petition (of the NLRA) asking for a preliminary injunction (that is, until the actual judgment) making Starbucks reinstate the fired employees. Notably, the judgment will be by the NLRB itself. The question is how exactly that petition should that be handled.

§10(j) authorizes a district court "to grant … such temproary relief … as it deems just and proper."

Courts follow two sorts of tests: a two-part test, used by the 6th circuit, or a four-part test. The two-part test is peculiar to the NLRA, and asks whether "there is reasonable cause to believe that unfair labor practices occurred" and whether granting the injunction is "just and proper." Note that "reasonable cause" is kind of broad—you don't actually have to think that they're right, this just requires that it's not "frivolous". This also seems to be derived from the statute of 10(j), as listed above.

The four-part test is from for preliminary injunctions more generally. They cite another SCOTUS case here, which, I think, applies to preliminary injunctions more generally. What this requires is that they are (1) likely to succeed, (2 )to suffer irreparable harm unless granted such a preliminary injunction, (3) "that the balance of equities tips in [their] favor", and (4) "that an injunction is in the public interest." Note especially that "likely to succeed" is a good bit more stringent than the previous "reasonable cause to believe," and "irreparable harm" than "just and proper."

Thomas argues that section 10(j)'s "just and proper" phrase isn't establishing any other standard than the already accepted one, and so they should use the four-part test.

But the board, and Jackson, yield this. Where the disagreement rests is how those should be applied. Thomas addresses thi