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Culture War Roundup for the week of December 19, 2022

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"Yeah, I spent some time in the Ukraine."

"You can't say the! It implies imperialism! But Ukraine is a real country not just "the borderland!""

"But that's how we say it!"

"Doesn't matter! Shame on you! Follow the current thing!"

In English "the" often indicates a region: The Rockies, the Balkans, the Mississippi, but we say the Congo for the country and don't say the Livonia for the region. Our ancestors said "the Yemen", the "Sudan", "the Lebanon".

In Russian and Ukrainian there are no articles. Instead it works like this:

na = on

v = in

Note that In English, we have in, on and at. Some words use both e.g. sitting na lake but swimming v lake.

There are many specifics and exceptions:

  • na: post office, factory, beach, dacha, city square, stadium, kitchen, East, North, activities (work, lessons)..

  • v: used with countries (because they contain you)

But we're talking about places, Ukraine:

  • na used for geographic things you are on (islands, mountains) and regions (Caucasus, Carpathians, Kuban)

  • v with some regions like Siberia, Polesia or the Carpathian region (uses both)

  • v with places ending in -landia (Iceland, Ireland, Curland, Ingermanland, Scottland, Livonia (Lifland) although they're islands

  • Sicily and Sardinia use v 1/3 as often as na (from google search hits), Corsica gets 5% (most islands never use v). Other trivia like na Malta country/island, but v Malta a village in Irkutsk...

Ukrainian culture warriors say v Ukraine while Russian warriors says na Ukraine. Others fill the middle ground, squeezed between both, while older literature and old ladies do the darnedest things.

But it goes deeper. Other Slavic languages have the same issue. In Poland, they shifted to w Ukraine in the 90s. But if I ask google translate: na Ukrainie. Asking friends:

if someone says w ukrainie, It's a mistake. it's hard to change because we have many cultural stuff that include "na ukrainie". In the song Hej Sokoly we find the line "Na zielonej ukrainie".

Indeed, the Polish national epic starts: "O Lithuania" here referring to the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth. It's title features: na Litwie. With na! (In the verses, w is also used.) Now, Lithuania has many Poles. Anna Pieszko shows how Poles and Lithuanians fight this war:

Poles in Lithuania incorrectly use na with Lithuania, because it implies it's part of Poland like na Kresy. [I highly recommend Kate Brown's A Biography of No Place about the Kresy, to learn a lot about the USSR and nationalism,]

The Lithuanian Algimantas Zolubas believes if "a Pole considers himself a Polish in Lithuania, not a Lithuanian Pole, he's a guest" [not a citizen. An anti-Polish cultural organization Vilnija of course believes usage of na "threatens the integrity of the Republic" in "non-compliance with the constitution."

But Poles also say na Slovakia, na Latvia, na Belarus, na Hungary (Poland's honored brother). Does this imply that Polish na doesn't carry a regional distinction? Either way, the Polish position is continuity with tradition. The New Dictionary of Correct Polish says:

the use of the preposition "na" with the names of certain geographical regions and countries is motivated by a centuries-old tradition, which there is no reason to change, and does not mean treating them as politically dependent territories, and especially dependent on Poland.

Impressive cultural steadfastness. In English we no longer use the article and many Russians have moved to v Ukraine. While we say Germany instead of Deutschland and Türkiye probably won't gain much circulation, Myanmar is gaining on Burma and we have stopped saying Bombay, Ceylon, Siam, Persia (for the modern country), Kiev. (N.b. Peking and Bejing transcribe the same word, just with different systems) And often people don't care: What Italian complains about our Florence, Venice etc.?

In Serbo-Croatian (also outside of Serbia): na Kosovu, but all other culturally relevant regions I could find are u (like the Banat, Vojdovina, Srem, Raška...) except na Balkanu. Friends could not think of more.

The historian Timothy Snyder says names are part of an overreaching colonial process. But how much can it matter? What's in a name? Do Slavs think worse of the Germans who they call mute (Nemcy, Lenard Nemoy's last name means mute)? Do we think worse of the Slavs whose name gives us slave?

Above I wrote "continuity of tradition." What does that really mean across the vagaries of the years of centuries? The Hebrews called Southern Ukraine "Ashkenaz" but as Jews came into Europe (from the Mediterranean Northwards) Northern France and Western Germany came to be the Ashkenaz, Iberia Sepharad and the Slavic lands Canaan. Eventually those Ashkenazi Jews were pushed Eastwards, merging with those in Canaan - the new new Ashkenaz. It stayed this way as borders ebbed and flowed, nations rose, fell and rose again (Poland and Lithuania).

In 1919, the Karaite Adolph Joffe, a Soviet Bolshevist, running negotiations after the Polish-Soviet war with the Baltic countries, found himself negotiating with Max Soloveitchik in Yiddish. Max, the Lithuanian diplomat, asked for what they Jews called "Lita", that is: the whole of the old Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.

Also, the same Westerners who are absolutely convinced that Ukraine is actually a real nation with a long history of her own blood and soil are usualy the same people who will insist that the white race doesn't exist, race isn't real, ethnicities are social constructs and that, say, any Somali goat herder can become a fully-fledged member of the German nation by simply arriving there as a "refugee".

This whole thing is just an idiotic farce.

It appears that history doesn't matter. Only the fervor and unity achieved in the present is what creates a "real" nation.

This but unironically. If the people in a region have a grand shared purpose now, then they are a nation now. A rich and storied history is a good way to achieve that, but on its own is neither necessary nor sufficient.

Bombay, Ceylon, Siam, Persia

You're actually mixing up a lot of different things. Bombay was never renamed - it's transliteration into Latin characters was changed to better reflect it's pronunciation in Indian English. It's always been मुंबई in Marathi and Hindi. (They mostly share an alphabet.)

Florence is simply the original Latin name of a Roman city, and Firenze is what the name of the city drifted to as the local language evolved from Latin to Italian.

Persia was an actual name change; basically the Parsis were (and still are) the dominant ethnic group of the larger region that is now Iran but were originally from a smaller area called Pars. They formed an empire and conquered other ethnic groups/regions (Kurdistan, Balochistan) that - to this day - wish to escape Persian rule (or at least some do). The name change to Iran was meant to be more inclusive. Also, both the official Wikipedia page and most quora questions very carefully forget to mention that shortly after the Shah's 1935 declaration that Persia is "Land of the Aryans", Hitler declared them to be "pure Aryan" in 1936 and forged a close alliance with them.

(Amusing observation: every Persian female I've met in the US purports to be ultra woke socialist leftist, but will revert back to a sneering 1488-style biodeterminist at the idea of Kurdish or Baloch self-determination.)

Siam was also a real renaming - from the Kingdom of Siam to Thailand, the latter of which has the double meaning "Land of the Free" (never colonized) and "Land of the Tai [ethnic group]".

Also, both the official Wikipedia page and most quora questions very carefully forget to mention that shortly after the Shah's 1935 declaration that Persia is "Land of the Aryans", Hitler declared them to be "pure Aryan" in 1936 and forged a close alliance with them.

It was more than that if I recall correctly - the idea for the name change was originally a suggestion by the Nazi ambassador to Persia.

The historian Timothy Snyder says names are part of an overreaching colonial process. But how much can it matter? What's in a name? Do Slavs think worse of the Germans who they call mute (Nemcy, Lenard Nemoy's last name means mute)? Do we think worse of the Slavs whose name gives us slave?

I would say the desire to control the language of the other side comes from feelings of inferiority and new found power. Mexicans use the phrase "fucking gringos" all the time without Americans getting particularly upset about it. I'm sure the Poles have some names for the Germans that aren't particularly nice. I bet in India there are a few nasty nicknames for the English.

The more interesting case is the Falkland Islands where it's the leftish side refusing to let the locals name something and pushing "Islas Malvinas" for the past 250 years.

I would say the desire to control the language of the other side comes from feelings of inferiority and new found power.

I think that it mostly comes from status anxiety which kind of overlaps with your "feelings of inferiority". Where a lion might not care what sheep think of him, ridicule is a narcissist's kryptonite. They don't like being ignored, they don't like being insulted, and they absolutely hate being reminded that they are not all that important.

Mexicans use the phrase "fucking gringos" all the time without Americans getting particularly upset about it.

Mexicans also don't get particularly offended about complaining about "all these Mexicans", either. White Anglo-Americans in close contact with Mexican-Americans don't get particularly offended in large part because it's known that they can take it as well as they dish it out.

Blacks ranting about evil whitey engender a different reaction, for the same reasons, despite also being in a firmly subordinate position economically.

The more interesting case is the Falkland Islands where it's the leftish side refusing to let the locals name something and pushing "Islas Malvinas" for the past 250 years.

Being less white(although, is Argentina still less white than Britain? They probably were in the 80's, but are they today?) does not actually make you leftist.

It's good right up until it isn't. The gf who laughs at Mexicant laughs right up until she reports you.

In my experience people who make a point of saying Malvinas in English are on the left and come at the issue from a general anti-colonial / anti-English framework without much specific knowledge about the situation.

If you're ever talking with older AWFLs who cut their political teeth in the 80s they'll be firm on the Falklands War and the sinking of the Belgrano being examples of horrible illegal things Thatcher did.

The younger, more race focussed, leftist crowd either goes along with them or is just unfamiliar with the issue.

A lot of national identity is tied to symbolism that from an absolute point of view, is meaningless, but carries meaning because of other things that it's associated with or connected to, and because of how people think about it. In some sense most culture is probably this way. Why do we put up fir trees at Christmas? There's some symbolism, but it was mostly invented long after Jesus died and the logic is all post-hoc. Maybe it even swallowed existing pagan traditions (I've heard this claim but haven't looked into it myself). If Christianity had spread further south instead of north, it might have warm-weather symbolism instead. Similarly for nations and national anthems, which are largely full of romanticized or even fictionalized history. The opening line of "America the Beautiful" originally said "halcyon skies" instead of "spacious skies;" should we change it back? Was the decision to change it wrong originally? If removing "the" and changing "Kiev" to "Kyev" makes Ukrainians currently fighting a war for independence feel better, isn't it accomplishing a positive goal, even if it's fairly arbitrary?

In Poland, they shifted to w Ukraine in the 90s.

No we didn't. Some people shifted from "na" to "w" this year, after the Russian invasion, but it's pure wordcelery, trying to justify word changes with sort of made up stories about prejudiced connotations you're describing, like how this week's document from Stanford (?) tries to connect "hip hip hooray" to the Holocaust. Somebody using "w" became a pretty good litmus test for determining if that person is a prog.

The weird thing about this theory is that “Russian” in Russian is in fact «русский», “russkiy”. There is also the less common word «российский», “rossiyskiy”, which describes something more related to Russian state rather than Russian ethnicity. Thus, there are Ukrainians who are «российские», but not «русские».

It's like British vs English. Something the natives care about, but everyone else doesn't. Except Ukrainians, of course, who label everything related to Moscow-based Russia "російський" and keep "руський" for our common predecessor state. And Poles, who use "ruski" for the language they spoke in Lithuania.

This reminds of that woke scifi about AI being unable to grasp gender. Here we also have a binary (v/na) which isn't universal. How English-only speakers grapple with this distinction can tell us how sound the premise of that book is.

You are missing the point of why people think the AI is promoting social justice. The question is not "does it make sense that the AI could misunderstand something" but "is gender one of the things it makes sense for the AI to misunderstand".

The idea that gender is just arbitrary like v/na is what makes it a social justice idea. If gender and v/na are dissimilar, then the inability to understand the latter doesn't tell you how much sense it makes to not understand the former.

But conversely, if even such an arbitrary distinction as v/na can be grasped by non-natives, then a much more natural (ie non-socially contructed) binary that is sex, is unlikely to be beyond comprehension.

It seems like Americans having trouble with ser/estar is another, probably more common analogue.

Hah I’ve been thoroughly convinced I didn’t give Ancillary Justice a fair shake. May have to go back and read it after all.

This also reminds me of when I saw tons of people back in March bitching about people spelling the capital as Kiev, saying this was culturally insensitive and that this actually matters.

The switch to Kyiv seems to be much older than March. Even on fox news I found hardly any instances of Kyiv since the official change in name.

The name change goes back to a Ukrainian social media campaign from 2018: KyivNotKiev. I'm generally sympathetic to the idea that we should transcribe their place names from Ukrainian rather than Russian (although it's worth noting that both are spoken there). It's an increasingly common but hardly universal trend to better localize such names. We've practically renamed Mumbai and Czechia. It's unclear if they can make Türkiye happen, and few seem anxious to change Suomi or Deutschland in English.

"Finland" is actually one of the two formal names of Finland, though not due to it being the formal form in English but due to it being the formal form in Swedish, the other national language.

Fox and the others probably switched to Kyiv when the Ukranian official spelling switched to Kyiv... but the pronunciation "Keev" (which I think is not quite right, and sounds awful) seems to have only been used starting this year.

which I think is not quite right, and sounds awful

/'kɪjəw/ is probably the best approximation one can do with English phonemes, and /'kiːjəf/ for the Russian version. /kiːv/ is just weird.


It's a great side to serve with liberty steak.

Oh yeah, that really bugged me, too, even though I was too young to have any political opinions back then. I'm half tempted to believe that this shows I'm balanced, since I just hate anyone who takes this sort of linguistic policing approach, and half tempted to say that this shows how much the times have changed, since 20 years ago it was the right that was trying to pull this crap, and now it's the left. I guess for what it's worth, I'm surrounded all day every day by people who were pissed off at the right 20 years ago about "freedom fries", who are now the same people bitching about "Kiev", so at least I didn't succumb to whatever mind disease they did in the past 2 decades, somehow.

I’ve just noticed that when the red tribe wants to rename something, it’s treated as pointless signaling or laughably poor gamesmanship, but when the blue tribe wants to rename something, all of the institutions of American public life get behind them. This asymmetry is one more reason Chthulu swims leftward.

Are you sure the Kyiv/Kiev thing is a red tribe/blue tribe issue, though? My understanding is that support for Ukraine has been and probably also still continues to be greatly bipartisan, as it is in most of the rest of the west, and people have reported seeing Ukrainian flags or expressions of admiration to Zelensky etc. in small Republican-voting towns in their areas here, at least.

Not the OP but will say that IME, yes support for Ukraine seems to be a bipartisan issue. The Kyiv/Kiev spelling thing seems to be a non issue to me, as @sarker notes in most the change in spelling seems to have followed the official change of name a few years back, but pronunciation on the other hand seems to be becoming something of a shibboleth with "Keeve" being a blue tribe marker while every one else says "Key-ev"

Uh, small town red tribers are anti-Russian, but not in the sense of buying into(Or understanding) the shibboleths of Ukrainian nationalism. It would be totally normal to say Kiev in the middle of a rant about stopping Putin.

I live in the rural southern US and this has not been my experience at all. Frustration with the Republican neocon war backing could not be higher.

Ranting about "stopping Putin" will get you 100% assumed to be a liberal since only liberals hate him enough to care.

Frustration with spending all this money and weapons on Ukraine is common, but almost nobody actually likes Putin or Russia. Ranting about stopping Putin/Russia is distinctly boomerish, but not necessarily lib.

While probably generally true, the right in The US seems to have the only Ukrainian skeptical wing. That is, most people support Ukraine but if you find someone who objects to Ukraine policy chances are the person is right wing.

The right in the US is also unique, globally in its covid skepticism. All the while still maintaining that dynamic of most As are X but all Y are A.

I’m not sure about that. I mean even ignoring Canada, Eastern Europe and Africa seemed mostly United in not taking Covid particularly seriously, and there were left wing Covid skeptics in Britain, and Brazil had very similar partisan dynamics to the USA, which Bolsonaro seemed to be the driving force behind rather than monkey see monkey do.

I think it is because of the founding of the US. Unique amongst nations being conservative here has a liberal streak.

the right in The US seems to have the only Ukrainian skeptical wing

There is a nontrivial amount of skepticism from the tankie-adjacent wing of the far left: witness the DSA statements on the matter and that since-retracted letter from the House Progressive Caucus. Those have been largely pushed aside by the ruling faction, but aren't totally silent either.


Yes. It isn’t so much “rooting for the Russians” and more “none of our business; at least not enough of our business to spend 100b+”


Irrespective of their opinion on Ukraine as such, Red tribe folks tend to despise language policing and ridicule all «ackchyually, starting today the approved word is LatinX» type innovations. Politically correct identity labels, pronouns, trans women are women, Parents 1 and 2 (which Putin tried to play at), words are violence, retiring «problematic» technical terms like master/slave etcetera – they're always apprehensive at the least; and this basic conservative trait, following from their core impulse of guarding against alien moral coercion, is consistent throughout the battlefronts of the Culture War and across the shades of Red. It would be perfectly natural for gun-toting patriots in those small Republican-voting towns to be in awe of Ghost of Kiev and solicit donations for the Ukraine – while taking the piss out of pearl-clutching Blues who accuse them of perpetuating linguistic harassment peddled by Russian trolls with the intent to subvert Our Democracy.

The red tribe would probably start saying ‘keev or however you say it’ if actual Ukrainians asked them to say Kyiv. But by and large it’s their tribal enemies trying to change language for reasons no one can actually explain(blue tribers largely not being well versed enough in Slavic languages to even pronounce‘Kyiv’ properly), which sets off their bullshit detectors.

Neither Ukranian nor Russian has a definite article; all the whining about the use of the definite article indicating colonialism or imperialism is just plain nonsense. As far as I can tell the Ukranians don't like the definite article for the country because the Soviets used it in their official English translations; all the rest is just noise (and not directly related to any Slavic language feature).

There are a few countries which have "the" in their official English names, and at least one of which is not plural in form: "The Gambia".

How about The United States of America?

Plural in form, like The Netherlands.

The United Kingdom

The Peoples Republic of Chinuh

The USA and the UK are not real countries I guess. I mean, I'm firmly on the Ukraine side as far as self-determination goes, but this now twice-removed linguistic bullshit is just ridiculous.

Do we think worse of the Slavs whose name comes from Slave?

It's the other way around, technically. Slavs is a self-name coming from the words "word"/"glory", which then gave Romans the word for slave because they kept importing those peoples as slaves.

The USA and the UK aren't the same. Most states have official names like the Republic of Germany or the Russian Federation. The use of the is for this formal name and wouldn't be used for the informal name of the actual country. No one talks about the America or the Britain.

Twitter Files 9

Wake up babe, time for your 3 a.m. Twitter Files dump: Link

Matt Taibbi wrote this one, arguing the following.

  1. The FBI has finally made a statement about their activities, denouncing the leaks and implying people like Taibbi and others are conspiracy theorists trying to make them look bad. Taibbi responds to this by saying he's got no problem going after other agencies as well.

  2. Turns out that other US government orgs were involved in discussing misinformation with Twitter. The DOD and OGAs (other governmental agencies) were frequently in touch and in meetings with the same set of tech companies we think of: Microsoft, Verizon, Facebook, etc.

  3. Of note was the role played by the multi-agency Foreign Influence Task Force (FITF), a task force about fighting the interventions of others into US politics and discourse. There were countless people from other agencies in these meetings as well.

  4. These people, through the FITF and FBI, were sending hundreds of reports of problematic accounts. Requests were always framed around the idea that the account had violated Twitter's policies. Twitter was aware the FBI had people literally trawling the site for policy violations. They were very thorough - it didn't matter how impactful a piece of media or a post might be, it would be reported no matter what.

  5. Twitter felt a bit overwhelmed by how many requests they got, with one employee complaining about the backlog they had of these requests.

  6. Given the sheer scale of requests, there were some number (not clear how many) of requests where Twitter internally said "there's no proof on this".

  7. There's quite a few accounts seemingly forwarded to Twitter on the basis of being pro-Russia, pro-Maduro, pro-Cuba.

This release seems to confirm something that I had feared from the get-go, namely that the government could apply pressure on Twitter to be more responsive if it demanded certain accounts get taken down. It was not my initial concern upon reading the Intercept article about the DHS, as I felt we were a few steps removed from this point, but it seems I was mistaken in a bad way.

Anyways, I'm honestly just getting annoyed now, because I want to write a full post on the Twitter Files and what they do or don't say, but I can't as long as they keep publishing new pieces. The end of this one suggests we're going to get more. Engagement with these on Twitter is way down, suggesting people are getting burned out or just fading away as they assign the Twitter Files a place in their mind and move on with their lives.

Morning babe. Merry Christmas.

I wonder why most people don’t seem to care about thee drops? Or how they could make them more appealing? Maybe wait till after Christmas where only weirdos like us are still following the culture war…

I wonder why most people don’t seem to care about thee drops?

Most people do not care even in the very very very slightest about the government maybe kind of pushing a private company to prevent conservative trolls from shitposting 280 characters at a time.

And they have absolutely zero patience, none, none at all for this being dribbled out slowly like this. It’s boring.

I don't think any of this is true. The same people had lots of patience for slowly dribbled out show trials like the Jan 6th affair, and think censorship of their political opponents is so important that they wailed and gnashed teeth for weeks at the prospect of it stopping.

Jan 6th was about the possibility of the former president being liable for trying to overturn an election result, this is about Twitter being biased against conservatives. It's just not of the same importance.

You're right, they're not. Jan 6th had zero chance of changing the outcome of the election, the FBIs intervention in Twitter almost certainly did.

Or more fairly: please, anyone can phrase either incident as a constitutional crisis or a nothingburger, depending on preference.

Wait, how the hell can you say that the FBI's interventions in social media changed the 2020 election outcome? That's a wild assertion, you're essentially arguing that enough people were persuaded to not vote Trump by virtue of not seeing this story.

What's wild about it? It was a close election, smaller things could have changed it's results. When you ask Sam Harris and other adults in the room about censoring the laptop story, they will literally explicitly say it was warranted, because otherwise Trump likely would have won.

And no, not seeing the story didn't even have to persuade people to not vote Trump, it just had to not persuade people to not vote Biden.

When you ask Sam Harris and other adults in the room about censoring the laptop story, they will literally explicitly say it was warranted, because otherwise Trump likely would have won.

Can you show me where Sam Harris or these "other adults" said this after the election was done?

And no, not seeing the story didn't even have to persuade people to not vote Trump, it just had to not persuade people to not vote Biden.

But how would it have done that? We're talking about there being a group of voters who, in October 2020, held the unstated belief that Joe Biden was not worth being president, no matter what Trump was/did, if he had acted corruptly with regards to a foreign company. This group of voters also had to be geographically distributed enough that their exertion was a deciding factor in how the electoral college voted.

I do not believe there is such a group of voters that fits such the necessary qualities to make the argument that the NYPost could have swung the election had its reporting not been suppressed by Facebook and Twitter for some period of time. I don't even think the story was suppressed for that long.

More comments

Nailed it. People just don’t like watching boo outgroup misbehavior when they are the outgroup getting booed.

Musks needs to do something real here. And it’s creating standing for lawsuits. He needs to work with gop governors likely who can mimic misbehavior twitter can punish and in the process create test cases to take to the Supreme Court. Then we can have clear legal lines for these things.

I stopped caring as much because it's mostly stuff that I already knew or suspected to be true.

It's just annoying to follow, that's why I'm not appealed to by this. I don't even use Twitter, but that means I have to wait until someone else posts a link to whoever the fuck is doing the latest release. Fuck this rotation bullshit, seriously. Just annoys me that I can't quickly check Taibbi or Weiss' twitter feeds to see if another post is out.

Also, we're 9 releases in, and most people have made up their minds about what the TF releases say. It's like thinking about Fox or NBC - even if you don't follow each article, you could probably guess the angle they're going with.

Happy Christmas to all of ye as well!

I should be surprised and shocked and appalled at this, but I'm not. I think most people have the same reaction; after the War on Terror and setting up Homeland Security and the NSA and all the rest of it, and then the Covid pandemic where every local government official could be a little tin god about where people could go or who they could see (while Our Betters flaunted and flouted the laws publicly), the public in general is jaded and has a cynical expectation that yeah, naturally the three letter agencies and the government will be involved in this kind of thing. Controlling the news and what the populace gets to see and gets to say.

Depending on your political inclinations - and this isn't a right/left thing or a Republican/Democrat thing because there are people on all sides like this - if you think that your outgroup or your enemies or the Bad People shouldn't be allowed to spread their hate speech, you will think this is a good thing. If you want to get that account which keeps claiming stuff you know in your bones is wrong (it needn't be factually wrong, but they shouldn't say it because it's bad) then if you can get them banned by anon tip-off snitching that they're pro-Russian (or whatever boogeyman), isn't it all in the service of the greater good?

Look at J.K. Rowling and all that is said about her being a TERF and actively helping to kill trans people. If the trans activists could swing it to get her banned for life from pretty much everything, they absolutely would.

Some people, and again it's not right/left, will think this is censorship and government over-reach and that freedom of speech means you can't do this kind of shit. But most people are so burned-out by it all, they'll shrug and go "yeah, well, what else did you expect?" (I'm in that camp myself).

I’m in the burned out camp as well. There’s just such a lack of seemingly good, un corrupted politicians. Also dismantling the 4th branch isn’t even brought up - Trump said he would drain the swamp but that wasn’t clearly targeted at administrative overreach of alphabet agencies.

Trump said he would drain the swamp but that wasn’t clearly targeted at administrative overreach of alphabet agencies.

Remember how he was nearly impeached for firing the director of the FBI? If he'd really started cleaning house, he'd have ended up with a Betti count somewhere between JFK and Caesar.

I’m too drunk to read that.

A teacup only has one hole all the way through it; so does a donut. Topologists categorize them the same: with a Betti count of one, named for Enrico Betti. A pretzel has three.

JFK had the back of his skull opened by a bullet traveling through his neck from the front. That’s one or two more holes, depending on how his esophagus interacted with them.

Caesar had his circulatory system, a series of tubes, opened to the outside air by several knifes.

Nah, don't think so. They'd just sabotage all his efforts (as they effectively did). So, he fired the FBI director. The new one came from the same swamp. If he dared to appoint a non-swamp FBI director, all his subordinates would refuse to take orders from him, on the premise he is not qualified, and all the press, half of the courts and significant number of Republicans in Congress would support them. And they would use their mastery of the system to organize some embarrassing failure for him (or just frame him - like they did with Flynn) and leave Trump no choice but to choose a swamp-approved one.

Draining the swamp is not just coming out on the White House balcony and declaring "Swamp is being drained now!". It requires a complex long-term effort, by a team of very smart and very dedicated individuals - which team Trump did not have and had no idea how to compose. His individual efforts predictably were swallowed by the swamp with nothing substantial changing and him getting bored and moving onto the next thing. This system have been built for decades and is feeding thousands, if not millions. Dismantling it would require level of effort and competency to which Trump failed to raise - and thus there's no reason to increase his Betti count. His failure is assured anyway.

Desantis is hard core not corrupt politician. He has a net worth of like 250k. Which is like 2 months salary of someone his age/education level.

The stories didn't lead with the bigger bombshells from the start. So much hype was generated around the idea of this being a dramatic expose of all the progressives infesting Twitter like ghosts that when the stories just didn't deliver the right impact, people just slotted it into the narrative they wanted and moved on.

I won't comment on what the right order should have been until the final release, but I think the story about how Twitter was working with CENTCOM should have been in the first 2-3 leaks.

James Baker, "ex" FBI lawyer, arranged things so that he reviewed all the material before it was sent to the reporters. The more interesting info came out after Musk fired him.

I'm a bit surprised that Baker isn't mentioned more often. Before Twitter he was deeply involved in the anti-Trump efforts at the FBI.

I'm pretty sure the powers that be would declare it a nothingburger no matter the order of the revelations. I've already seen supposed liberals dismiss the CENTCOM stuff as "so the US is using Twitter in a propaganda war against it's enemies, why should I care?".

It wouldn't have been as easy to do, I think. The key point about the CENTCOM stuff that is directly objectionable is Twitter lying about combating state-sponsored hostile activity on its platform.

why should I care?

You should care because, as the song said, if you tolerate this then your children will be next. But of course, nobody ever thinks the leopards are going to eat their face. Twitter is banning the people I don't like, everything is working as it should be. Hang on, what do you mean a new guy bought it and is now banning people like me? Intolerable! Something should be done about it!

He was specifically referring to the psyops against Cubans, Venezuelans, etc. The closest thing that can happen to an American in terms of the roles being reversed, is for China to try to use TikTok to psyop the west (which is probably already happening anyway)

If the FBI is paying Twitter to censor Americans, that's bad acting on both the FBI and Twitter's part. If the CIA or whatever is paying Twitter to screw with hostile foreign countries, that's still (IMO) bad acting on Twitter's part but it's kinda the CIA's job.

I wonder how Much of it is due to the MSM downplaying it as well. Not in their interests to give the story any oxygen.

Definitely some of that going on. I think CNN and NBC had some pieces within the last 10 days, but others seem to have just dismissed it after the first couple leaks and moved on.

I find it interesting that the fbi came with a rather dumb response. It seems fairly standard to just accuse the other side of a conspiracy theory today. Just felt very basic to me and standard leftist to accuse the right of conspiracy theories and misinformation. I know people say for Ukraine don’t believe anything until Putin denies it. For the letters it’s about the point where you don’t believe anything until they call it misinformation and then you can mark it as factual.

It almost would have been better not to respond. I’m not even sure what they are referring to as a conspiracy theory. It seems like factual reporting that the fbi sought to censor a lot of tweeters. The question is whether you think this was bad or good or that it was a big deal that the fbi sought censorship

It seems like factual reporting that the fbi sought to censor a lot of tweeters.

Afaik, the calls for specific accounts to be banned had to do with those that were specifically talking about voting on the wrong days. The FBI was thorough but precise about this. They were also going after people who were pro-Russia, pro-Cuba, pro-Maduro, but these amounted to maybe a few thousand requests.

In the grand scale of Twitter, that's a drop in the ocean. But it's made worse by the targeted nature of the tweets. These were specifically about eliminating people who were against the views of the US establishment or talking about something the Feds decided was suddenly very critical to the security of the US.

They pushed and succeeded hard with getting Alex Berenson banned despite being American and only reporting factual data against official narratives. And I haven’t checked every ban but it seems like these types of actions are well against American norms and not OK.

It seems fairly standard to just accuse the other side of a conspiracy theory today.

Indeed. And this has trained me to think that modern conspiracy theory accusations are typically admissions that rightoids have a valid point.

Making the word conspiracy low status was truly the CIAs master stroke.

And basically inviting contradiction when they said it wasn’t about other agencies. At least wait until Taibbi is done and can’t just...drop something else.

If we’re going to get a sinister conspiracy, I want it to be better planned than this.

Turns out the argument that grand conspiracies require ultra-competence and great levels of coordination was wrong all along.

If I was in twitter's position I would ignore all email requests by the FBI unless it's life or death , like terrorism. Twitter needs to make it clear that they are only a social network, and that twitter's staff has no responsibility beyond that. If it's important enough they, the feds, will notify via registered mail or some other means. Someone posting misinformation about an election? not our problem.

Taibbi does argue in the release that Twitter execs were nervous about getting dragged in front of Congress again over alleged foreign interference and their lack of action. The implication is that they feared getting hit with new regulation or fine or whatever.

With the Feds attempts to censor I wander if they have a decent case to challenge any attempted government fine. If a speech company faces regulatory or fines they would not have a fairly decent argument that any fine violates the first amendment - since it can be construed as punishment for not participating in censorship.

It does seem like an outright requirement to censor would not be feasible, I agree. But there are other ways the gov might retaliate for failure to obey that might be next to impossible to prove are motivated by politics.

besides russia, have any of the drops included a list of which countries letters agencies believe to be at work? or do you know from your readings which have been named?

Yes, Venezuela and Cuba were mentioned in this latest one. Twitter was receiving requests to take down accts deemed pro-Cuba or pro-Maduro. To my knowledge, no other countries have been explicitly named by the emails and slack screenshots.

It’s Christmas Eve, and over-the-air TV stations around the country are playing Frank Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life. Meanwhile, a thread on Reddit’s Movies sub is having an actual rational discussion of the film’s exploration of economics after the OP identifies it as socialist propaganda.

Of course, the OP is not alone. Ayn Rand herself is said to have identified IAWL as a vehicle for socialist thought, specifically a class war between unrepentant valueless rapacious businessmen versus class heroes of the working class, written by Communist sympathizers and socialists within the movie industry.

Or did she?

An article from The Atlas Society reveals she said nothing about IAWL, and despised the House Un-American Activities Committee as publicity-seeking partisans:

For the record, while Rand did testify at the House Un-American Activities Committee hearings in 1947 as a Friendly Witness, she did so under subpoena. She seems to have considered the appearance a formality, and she scheduled her testimony to take place during a business trip, sandwiching her HUAC appearance between research for Atlas Shrugged and over a dozen interviews with journalists from major media outlets to discuss her own writing. The only movies that she discussed in front of the committee were The Song of Russia, which she considered such blatant Soviet propaganda that it was hardly worth mentioning, and The Best Years of Our Lives. The latter film she criticized because the banker, Al Stevenson, played by Frederic March, is praised for lending without collateral. It is interesting to think about Al Stevenson in relation to the fictional Eugene Lawson, one of Rand’s characters from Atlas Shrugged, whose humanitarianism bankrupted the Community National Bank in Wisconsin.

While Rand-haters like to claim that she took offense at the depiction of Mr. Potter, played by Lionel Barrymore, in It’s a Wonderful Life, there is no evidence that she was concerned for the reputation of the miserly banker, and it is difficult to believe that she would have defended him. On the contrary Potter bears a resemblance to Mayor Bascom of Rome, Wisconsin, a chiseler of Rand’s own creation, again from Atlas Shrugged, for whom she really did have contempt.

In any case, as an Objectivist-influenced thinker, it’s great for me to be able to point at It’s A Wonderful Life as an example of the paradox of Randian selfishness. It was selfish for George Bailey to save his brother from the pond at risk of his own life: he wanted a world where his brother was alive, and selfishly didn’t care if his parents lost both boys if he failed. He selfishly put off his honeymoon when the market crashed to save the family business he inherited.

In each case, his choices added the kind of irreplaceable value to the life he wanted, despite costing him his dreams of going to big places and making big things for big people to admire. If those big dreams were genuinely his values, he’d have worked for them with his whole heart instead; he’d have selfishly spent time and money to headhunt a like-minded soul to run the S&L, sell the business, and go to architect school next to Howard Roark.

I hope that each and every one of you have a merry Christmas, without resentments, without loss or pain, because I value each of you for daring to selfishly stand up for your highest values: truth, purpose, and communication between minds, with the intent to make the world you want.

I always thought the movie was about the importance of community and it wasn’t very hidden. Isn’t the angels entire visit at the end about all the great things George did for the community? The final scene is the community giving back to him. This is in contrast to Potter who only cares about money.

Isn’t the angels entire visit at the end about all the great things George did for the community?

Not quite how I would have framed it but yes. George's key character trait is that he has consistently put others before himself. Even when he is at his lowest point and considering suicide, part of his motivation is that the life insurance pay-out will at least secure his wife and kids' near-term future. Clarence the angel's core message/goal is to convince George turn away from despair because the world is a better place with George in it.

This definition of selfish can include pretty much every traditional moral act of selflessness. “Jesus sacrificed his Life because he selfishly wanted a world where his Father was pleased and Man freed from sin.” It’s clearer to understand selfishness in the traditional understanding as a zero-sum decision which helps oneself at the expense of helping another. Attempting to save one’s brother is thus selfless, as the word is most clearly used, as it comes from a selfless desire to save the life of another at peril to oneself.

Complexity does develop when we ask: “is it most moral and for the greater good to selflessly attempt to save another every time, even if there’s a 55% chance both die, meaning that over 100 iterations it’s certainly causing greater loss of life?”

And the answer to this I still say yes, the selfless act is still greater, because (1) such acts inspire the whole of society, (2) such acts make each member of the society feel safer, knowing he can trust the other, (3) the emotional impetus of the act is heroic and good, and in crises we usually behave according to our emotional intuition.

Thus the paradox of selfishness: what aspect of a choice is essential to accurately calling it selfish or selfless? It seems to me there are three main metrics to use when judging any choice:

  • Who benefits? (higher status? better experiences? more resources? freer agency? The chooser, the person it impacts, or no one?)

  • Who does it cost? (lower status? worse experiences? lowered utility? restricted agency? How much?)

  • Do any of these parties consider the trade of cost / benefit to be fair or unfair?

To boil a multidimensional cost/benefit analysis down to a simple binary may be handy for a rule of thumb, but it’s absurd to make hard-and-fast judgments of any choice’s morality simply by whether the person making the choice is not one of its major beneficiaries.

But beyond all of that, Rand made crystal clear the poison is not in the simplification but in the implication. She found it utterly repugnant that anyone should disdain the self because it is the self. The glory of the human spirit is that we build tools to solve problems, our problems, and often find win-win solutions to do so, including arpeggiating serial win-win-wins through market forces. She praised and elevated people who knew how much they were truly worth and despised anyone who insisted on producers sacrificing their potential and resources for short-term wins for people who squander their potential. It was selfish of her to want a society where people with potential succeed and build great things to use or inspiring art to admire; thus, she heralded selfishness.

Taking it all back to Bedford Falls and George Bailey, George performed righteous and heroic acts, wherever they were on the axis of selfish or selfless, whether he benefited himself or vicariously through people he valued, whether he himself knew the positive consequences or not, whether they inspired anyone or not. If more Bedforders lived honestly for their values, and their values were focused on greatness and not mediocrity, perhaps George wouldn’t have wanted to leave his small town for bigger things. What ate away at George was the sense that he was the only one who could fix things, and it always felt unfair how much he was called upon to give away resources, status, and opportunities for positive experiences. But he gave anyway, because the world he cared about would be worse if he didn’t.

George was almost fooled into insurance suicide by a society which recognized no transcendence in his life and character, only a slight and momentary increase in its own values extracted from his death. That’s the kind of selflessness Rand railed against, whether it be a man or an entire country: that he should value his life less than his death.

This definition of selfish can include pretty much every traditional moral act of selflessness.

Rand had a very idiosyncratic definition of "selfish". I've always wondered if it was something to do with the way the words translate, interpreted with autistic literalism. But she just means "beneficial to you, in a fully contextual, long-term sense." In her view, screwing over others in short term winnings is ultimately counterproductive, and harmful to your long-term self-interest. In her use of the terms, a "sacrifice" is something that you wouldn't willingly trade away without duress. The classic example is the virgin sacrificed to the Volcano God. Obviously the village would rather have a healthy young person than no health young person. They only "sacrifice" that person under the perceived threat of violence from the Volcano God. Conversely, Jesus was voluntarily paying a cost, much as I would be if I went hungry to feed my kids. I value their health above my own, which means that harming my direct interests to benefit theirs is within the Randian conception of "selfish".

I'm surprised people think it's socialist, the hero is a literal banker and it makes the case for loans very clearly positive. I don't know how you can build a leftist worldview on such a foundation unless leftism includes free markets and capital investment.

Yeah it always seemed like a pro new deal if anything. The S&L would have been struggle free in a world where Fannie Mae and the FHLB provided liquidity.

Man that Reddit thread was such a mess. Debates over the definition of words (particularly old, broad words like socialism) are fruitless.

My country is being exceptional again on European polls. (If you don't want to click, it's a poll on how many agree with the question "One of my main goals in life is making my parents proud", and while in most European countries well over 70% would strongly agree or agree with this statement, and even in other Nordic countries the affirmative answer ranks in the 50% range, in Finland only 25% agree.)

Some explanations I've seen:

  • The word "proud", or rather its translation, just has a different, considerably more negative connotation in Finnish. Like, if hearing this question in English, the idea of "pride" I'd get would just be a beaming parent going "So proud of you, son!" while imagining the same phrased in Finnish, using the word "ylpeä" (direct translation), has much more of a connotation of an arrogant, conceited parent going around their friends going "Oh, you didn't know my son/daughter is a doctor?"

  • even taking this into account, the Finnish/Nordic culture of "collective individualism" (which I've discussed here) might play a role

  • some have just guessed that Finns tend to answer surveys like this more honestly and bluntly, actually thinking about their priorities instead of just automatically giving the pro-social answer - yes, something of a self-serving explanation

How many here would answer this question in affirmative, anyway?

Yeah, I would not say "Make my parents proud" is actually a life goal to me but I'd certainly think twice about doing something that would move away from that direction.

Yeah. I'm not necessarily driven by doing things for my parents' approval, but a lot of the situations that would equate to 'my parents disapprove' would likely be what I'd consider failure states for myself regardless.

Same. I don't have a strong drive to make my parents proud, but I have a VERY strong drive to not make them ashamed. To @hydroacetylene's point, it certainly helps that most of the things that would make them ashamed would be bad things in and of themselves.

I don’t feel strongly either way. I mean I like my parents but don’t respect their opinion with regards to my life goals. I don’t want kids so that’s a big issue.

I would probably answer the question in the affirmative, because I can't think of anything disappointing to my parents that wouldn't be a bad thing, and so "make your parents proud" comes off as "avoid bad outcomes". And, yes, I do consider going to prison, having children out of wedlock, using narcotics, etc to be things that are unstated goals to avoid.

If asked to list my lifegoals, I probably would not say "make my parents proud". Partly because this is accomplished, but also because it seems unstated and can therefore only be conspicuous by its absence.

That sounds like the life goal of someone who has never explicitly thought about their life goals, but just read the question and interpreted it as something like "how much do you love your parents". A true life goal is supposed to actually guide your decisions, not just be something nice that you'd like to get. I think about my life goals at least weekly, when I take an hour-long evening walk to think about how my current short and medium term plans will achieve the ultimate goals of my life. I very, very much doubt that people are doing this sort of goal-oriented optimization with the goal of "making my parents proud", most people just don't have life goals that they're explicitly optimizing.

some have just guessed that Finns tend to answer surveys like this more honestly and bluntly, actually thinking about their priorities instead of just automatically giving the pro-social answer - yes, something of a self-serving explanation

I used to do some work for a major american company with customer satisfaction scores, customer retention and upsales. A major issue was that the American management compared different European countries with each other using only the CSR score and there were very large cultural differences in how people answered them.

An Italian company that was about to drop us could rate us as 10 while a Swedish company where we did a ton of business and that loved us, with no plans of changing partners, could rate us as 7 with comments like "it isn't perfect", and a customer with minor complaints could rate us a 6.

We had far higher retention and upsales and yet far lower CSR, and this wasn't just a Swedish problem. The entire Nordics and to a lesser extent all "germanic"/protestant countries trended far below the Mediterranean and eastern countries, regardless of actual customer satisfaction.

Some made accusations that the Mediterranean

and eastern countries encouraged their customers to lie, which might have been true, but I suspect that differing cultural interpretations of the question played a large role.

I almost never answer a question like this as 10. To me 10 would mean service above and beyond the call of duty, a truly mindblowing experience.

I rate adequate service with no problems as 5/5 because it would be unfair to expect anything more.

I do not expect nor do I wish for anyone to go above and beyond the agreed upon level of service. I think it is unhealthy for society to expect more than what they paid for and unfair to workers.

To those of you who write reviews like "Amazing restaurant, the food was delicious and service was excellent. 4/5 stars", what the hell do you want? Pre-meal sloppy toppy? Explain why one star is missing so they can improve their service or stop pointlessly penalizing them because you had a better meal at the French Laundry three years ago (assuming their aggregate rating is greater than 4.0).

My average restaurant rating is a 3/5 lol. I ignore all social conventions. My head canon rating is normally distributed and I rate accordingly. Only the very best restaurants will get a 5/5, like truly exceptional amazing restaurants, where the food is better than a pre meal sloppy toppy.

Idgaf if this hurts business. I write reviews for no master but the truth.

Well, it would be nice for a consumer to be able to distinguish between delicious-food-and-excellent-service and oh-my-god-this-place-is-on-par-with-the-French-Laundry by seeing if people rate it 4/5 or 5/5. For many people, 4/5 means "excellent service".

I think giving a place a less-than-5-star rating for adequate service does not mean we expect more than we paid for. Maybe what we're paying for is a 4-star restaurant!

tldr: ridesharing apps offer rating systems out of 5 stars and anything other than 5/5 threatens the driver's longevity on the platform. I think at one point, ~4.7 was the cutoff. Local restaurant owners and other similar industries; a "bad string" of "bad" 4/5 reviews and The Algorithm rears its ugly head.

The USA tends to treat less-than-perfect scores as egregious failures. Two issues: enough people are somewhat conscious of the reality that, despite agreeing with your sentiment (it wasn't perfect; there's room for improvement; giving a 100 percent makes no sense), the choices available are "perfect" or "bad enough that I want to damage their bottom line." So we maintain the "perfect is the normal answer" -- but there's still enough people who aren't in the loop (or don't care) that they'll write a glowing 4/5 review for a local business not understanding how frustrating that must be for the proprietor: clearly the customer enjoyed their experience and plans to return... but a 4/5 just lowered the restaurant by seven positions on assorted metric consolidation sites... because the top 10 restaurants are all between 4.7 and 4.9 (for example).

rating systems out of 5 stars and anything other than 5/5 threatens the driver's longevity on the platform. I think at one point, ~4.7 was the cutoff

I considered that academic scoring could potentially play a big role. In the French system, getting a 20 is extremely rare. It'd be like a 14 year old wrote publishable research. A score of 13 or so is considered fantastic. An Iranian friend applying for US PhDs had an issue where enrollment offices just turned her score into a percentage, giving her a 2.something GPA yet a 170 GRE score. Eventually we got it sorted. The UK has a similar thing too, if I remember correctly. Finland doesn't have such a range however. Germany also only uses 1-5 and expects near perfection.

Finland uses 1-5 for normal academic scoring. However, things like matriculation examination, grad theses etc. have a weird Latin grade system explicated here, and elementary schools use a system where the lowest (failing) result is 4 and the highest is 10.


Probably because fake reviews are almost all "this place is absolutely perfect" and real reviews are dominated by "the serial killer owner looked me into the eye while masturbating on my sandwich and held me hostage until I ate it". Since places that aren't terrible have no real reviews, the average good restaurant has a 5/5.

An old manager of mine told me an unverified story about peer reviews at the company.

Some cultures (e.g. Indian) would give effusive reviews regardless of the actual effectiveness of the employee. The modal review was essentially "this employee is perfect." Others (I'm told the Israelis stood out here) gave relatively critical reviews, with most employees getting a "they're okay." But this affected comp and promotion decisions. So the company had to adopt a strategy where they normalized scores to get a meaningful signal out of them.

Haha -- an absolutely fantastic mom & pop's breakfast diner near me has 4.7 (out of 5.0) on Google. They'd obviously rather get no review at all from you than receive a 4/5.

My guess is it's an emergent property with a self-sustaining feedback loop. If enough people are mapping a perfect score to "I was pleased" and the opposite to "I wasn't pleased" and most people are pleased, then you'd expect to see some sort of pareto distribution with a slight bump at the lowest.

Why do people do this? Not sure; maybe shared empathy from working customer-facing jobs. A server could knock it out of the park on a grueling horrendous shift for every customer but one; and that one customer leaving a scathing review online would seriously jeopardize the server's job. So, if I leave a review it's with perfect scores and if I mention names I'll speak of them with exuberant glowing language (even if they were just decent) because it may brighten someone's day a bit.


Yeah, I was once in a Germanic country where I was reviewed as 8 or 9 out of 10 on all except one aspect, but as a 7 overall. I haven't experience anything similar in the US or Asia.

OTOH it's easier for me to give 5/5 than 10/10, funny how it works.

I wonder if rideshare apps operating in other countries eventually learn to adjust their scales culturally or if people using the rideshare apps tend to have the sort of cultural awareness to fix their own behavior to fit the company's expectation. The first would be more likely.

I instinctively almost never give 10/10 scores to anything, and appreciate it when companies that are really just wondering if service is good enough use a three point scale; I think it captures what they're looking for better (was it good enough? Was it so terrible I'll be complaining to everyone who will listen?)