Thursday’s Forum

James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Sleeping Dog says:

    Florida man tries to travel the Atlantic in a hamster wheel.

    As Hurricane Franklin was barreling toward the Eastern United States last month, the United States Coast Guard, preparing off the coast of Georgia, encountered another unexpected phenomenon.

    Alone at sea was a man in a buoyant human-size hamster wheel, who claimed he was trying to journey on the Atlantic Ocean. Again.

    The man, Reza Baluchi, 51, of Florida, told officers he had planned to travel more than 4,000 miles to London in the homemade vessel, which the Coast Guard later described as unsafe, given that it was built with buoys. Mr. Baluchi, who has been attempting similar voyages since 2014, threatened to kill himself should officers interrupt his mission, the Coast Guard said.

    He was eventually persuaded to leave his vessel on Aug. 29 and was charged in federal court in Miami on Tuesday with obstruction of boarding and violation of the Captain of the Port Order.

  2. MarkedMan says:

    Yesterday we were discussing Douthat’s column on religious “nones”. He presented it in a way that I have seen many times before and I find fascinating but don’t really understand. He talked about the importance of religion and the value of belief in terms of the benefits to the individual and to society as a whole, without ever mentioning the elephant in the room, i.e. believing in an all powerful god who cares about each of us as individuals. I’ve seen this a fair amount over the years. “People who believe in God are better off by these particular measures”, “Societies that are more religious are more cohesive and more stable in these ways”. And while I think it is an interesting exercise to parse that (it doesn’t seem to matter what you believe, as the more religious do better regardless of the specific religion involved), I’m more interested in the fact that people such as Douthat seem to be arguing that you should believe in god because it will benefit you, rather than because god actually exists. Does Douthat and the like actually believe in god themselves? Or do they just think talking about the benefits is the way to get people on the path towards belief? If the latter, does it work?

  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @MarkedMan: Sounds like more prosperity gospel to me.

  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Barack Obama

    For more than a decade, the Affordable Care Act has been saving lives. Now we know that it’s also helped save taxpayers trillions of dollars that would have raised the deficit. That’s what change looks like.

    Neera Tanden

    Super good news here. And another reason the Affordable Care Act is such a success: its wonkiest policies on payment reform generated huge savings

  5. MarkedMan says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: An important difference between Conservative fiscal reforms (tax breaks to the wealthy, defunding the IRS, etc) and Liberal/Progressive (ACA, Negotiating drug prices, etc): I can’t think of an instance where Conservative programs have met their professed* goals, whereas L/P reforms have more often than not met or exceeded their goals. Yet this lack of credibility of Conservative experts never weighs into public debates.

    *On the other hand if the actual goals of almost all of Conservative programs are what I believe them to be, i.e. benefit their wealthy benefactors and big business interests and damn the effect on everyone else, then they have been wildly successful.

  6. gVOR10 says:

    @MarkedMan: Every discussion of religion seems to break down this way with opposite sides arguing past each other “religion is good” v “religion is false”. I’ve mentioned before that I read Russell Kirk’s The Conservative Mind because it’s touted as a foundational book of modern American conservatism. I found it puzzling. He kept describing one conservative writer after another as the only man (always men) of his generation who understood the great truth. But he never seemed to quite say what the great truth is. Best I could figure out it was that we must all believe. Basically a) belief is a virtue and we must be virtuous and b) the Platonic idea we must as a society share a foundational myth. As you say of Douthat’s religious belief, they sometimes dance awfully close to admitting they know it’s myth.

  7. Slugger says:

    Hey, it’s September. This means we’ll have an eleventh of September. This year let’s forego the commemorations. I know that three thousand people got killed and we lept to some assumptions, but it’s past time to let it go.

  8. OzarkHillbilly says:
  9. Sleeping Dog says:


    Leaving aside the faith/belief v. reality/science debate, the benefit of participating organized religious community to the individual is that it tethers that individual to a group within their community and provides a reality test for beliefs, along with minimum standards of conformity for acceptance. That’s not to say that all religious communities are equally beneficial.

  10. gVOR10 says:


    but it’s past time to let it go.

    Once again people will say “never forget”. But we did a lot of stupid stuff after 9-11, and continue to do some of it: GWOT, Guantanamo. As you say, we need to let it go.

    I do not understand how conservatives seem to have recognized Afghanistan was a mistake, and Iraq, but continue to believe W “kept us safe”. And they’re going to try to crucify Biden for his eminently successful withdrawal from Afghanistan. I guess it doesn’t have to make sense, it just has to feel right.

  11. MarkedMan says:

    We all know what a “Karen” is. I propose another category, a “Tommy”. This is someone of low intellectual capability, no curiosity, and little experience outside his own little world yet who has somehow been surrounded by people who think him an exceptional man and who has accepted that wrong belief as a god given certainty. Named after Tuberville of course. Another example, for those who’ve watched “The Good Place”, is the Brent Norwalk character in the last season, the rich guy with an unblinking assumption that he deserves a place at the head of the table despite his unfailing mediocrity.

  12. gVOR10 says:

    @MarkedMan: I would add that when liberal/Dem/Labor policies fail we mostly waste a little tax money and people look silly. (Solyndra, inflation post COVID relief) When conservative policies fail we waste a lot of money and people die. (Bush and Trump tax cuts*, financial deregulation*, Iraq and Afghan wars, women’s health care post Dobbs, etc.)

    * Subject to your footnote on claimed purpose v real purpose.

  13. Kylopod says:


    I do not understand how conservatives seem to have recognized Afghanistan was a mistake, and Iraq, but continue to believe W “kept us safe”.

    Which conservatives have you seen adopt these two conflicting positions? I’m not saying such people don’t exist, but there are real divisions within the party when it comes to Bush’s legacy, with a lot of the America Firsters openly rejecting it as a failure. Remember Trump standing on the debate stage and mocking the idea that Bush kept us safe? For that matter, many of the old neocons have drifted heavily into the Never-Trumper camp. I just don’t think the bulk of the party bothers trying to defend Bush anymore.

  14. MarkedMan says:

    Scientists Say They’ve Now Grown a Whole Human Embryo Model From Scratch Explain again to me why the human race needs men?

  15. CSK says:

    Trump states that as president, he was allowed to do whatever he wanted to do.

  16. Mr. Prosser says:

    @gVOR10: Belief vs. non-belief is not the point, in my opinion. I can’t think of any religion/cult/national or cultural creation myth system that does not have a hierarchy and the bestowing of power on individuals or offices within the system. Conservative thought requires such a system.

  17. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @MarkedMan: *On the other hand if the actual goals of almost all of Conservative programs are what I believe them to be, i.e. benefit their wealthy benefactors and big business interests and damn the effect on everyone else, then they have been wildly successful.

    Ding ding ding… We have a winner.

  18. Michael Reynolds says:

    No one really believes in god, if they actually believed in a being powerful enough to create the universe but who was, for reasons no one can explain, fascinated with the sexual proclivities of homo sapiens, they’d do what that god told them to do. In reality the average middle school substitute teacher has more influence over people’s behavior. If you actually believed in god and actually believed he was watching you, you’d never be able to masturbate to completion. Compare and contrast with how you’d do with your mother watching you jerk off. You believe in your mother, you don’t believe in god.

    At this point if you imagine that a creature, call it what you will, created a universe presently 13.8 billion light years across, and also has strong opinions on whether humans should make cheeseburgers, you’re just a moron. So for the ‘intellectual’ Christian, god has to be pushed ever further off-stage, becoming ever less personal and ever more vague until he’s nothing but a sort of cosmic feel-good energy. Douthat doesn’t believe in god, he just thinks you should, because if you believe in god you won’t be as troublesome to Douthat, as challenging to Douthat’s soft authoritarianism. As I’ve pointed out way too many times, this is how you get a Trump: complete indifference to truth, even outright hostility to truth, married to an instinctive belief in authority. Douthat wants to see you snatch off your cap and knuckle your forehead to authority.

  19. Gustopher says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    No one really believes in god

    People believe in QAnon. If they can believe that shit, they can believe in God.

    Which is more plausible, an omnipotent being that creates a universe and then watches you masturbate and takes notes, or that Donald Trump is fighting a globalist cabal of pedophiles?

  20. Kathy says:


    The reason Nixon tried to qualify his law breaking by claiming “if the president does it, it’s not illegal,” is that he was actually capable of feeling shame.

    Benito has devolved past such limitations. If he does it, it’s not illegal.

  21. Kathy says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    If you project your rational worldview on irrational people, you’ll be very disappointed and baffled later on.

  22. CSK says:

    According to ABC News, a Florida man (of course) was busted trying to peddle a homemadde giant hamster wheel across the ocean to visit England.

    Reza Ray Baluchi, 51, threatened to knife himself when the Coast Guard insisted he terminate his voyage. The following day, he threatened to blow himsef up.

    Talk about commitment.

  23. Kylopod says:

    @Kathy: I want to avoid romanticizing Nixon too much–even his resignation speech was just a string of rationalizations in which he never admitted doing anything wrong–but at least there was a point where he gave up and accepted his fate. He did ultimately turn over those tapes. Trump would never have done that, even after a direct order from the Supreme Court. If Trump is in possession of anything he does not want divulged to the public, then the only way we’re ever going to see it is if federal officers pry it from his cold, dead microhands.

  24. Michael Reynolds says:

    They don’t believe Q-Anon, either. People say they believe things, but act as if they don’t. People believe in gravity. People believe that walls are solid. People say for example that they believe abortion is murder, and then work pleasantly alongside people they claim to believe are child murderers. Sit those same people down in an office chair next to the BTK Killer and you’d get a very different reaction.

    People are full of shit. Or, to quote Dr. House, “Everybody lies.”

  25. Michael Reynolds says:

    On the contrary, it’s like being a three dimensional creature observing Flatland. Nothing can be concealed.

  26. Kathy says:

    I found this piece critical of Ahsoka.

    Sometimes it feels like critics are paid to be downers (The Simpsons have a whole episode on that). But it does make a good point: very little has taken place in half the season. this goes back to my complaint that sometimes the full season story arc feels like a two-part ep done in 8 to 10 parts, or a 95 minute movie stretched into about 400 minutes, with more VFX shots.

    What has helped Ahsoka, as far as I’m concerned, is the fan service.

    But I’ve had my fill. We’ve seen Ahsoka, Sabine, Hera and her kid, and Chopper. We’ve even seen the Ghost and the space whales. We’re only missing Zeb. Ezra, too, but the whole point is finding him.

    So, it’s time to move the story forward.

    BTW, Lower Decks season 4 is supposed to come out this week.

  27. Mister Bluster says:

    Mad Mike Huckabee makes more jokes about killing people who disagree with him:

    In the latest episode of his show on TBN, Huckabee argued the legal woes now facing Trump are part of a politically motivated scheme from the Biden administration, an argument touted by many in the former president’s orbit.
    “If these tactics end up working to keep Trump from winning or even running in 2024, it is going to be the last American election that will be decided by ballots rather than bullets,” Huckabee warned in his opening monologue.
    The Hill

    How time flies. In 2011 Huck the Joker said:

    I don’t know anyone in America who is a more effective communicator [than David Barton.] I just wish that every single young person in America would be able to be under his tutelage and understand something about who we really are as a nation. I almost wish that there would be something like a simultaneous telecast and all Americans would be forced, forced — at gun point no less — to listen to every David Barton message. And I think our country would be better for it. I wish it’d happen.
    See it here.

    When I posted Huck’s political murder fantasies on this site years ago there was some sentiment that his threats were a joke. I thought he meant to kill citizens then and I think he means to kill citizens now.

  28. CSK says:

    With Trump, I’m not sure if it’s devolution so much as it is him always being that way.

  29. Michael Reynolds says:

    People (producers and execs) seem to think any story can be condensed or expanded at will. Doesn’t work, because stories ‘want’ to be a certain length. When people ask me why six books for the GONE series, I tell them – honestly – that it was just instinct and experience, I hadn’t planned anything. Like deciding whether you have enough cake to go around. I estimated I had six books’ worth of cake. Four not enough, seven too many. It was either five or six, and I wanted six paydays.

    The guys looking at adapting GONE are feature directors, not TV people, and I worry going feature would be a mistake. But I have confidence in these guys and am willing to sit back and see what develops.

    We could have dragged ANIMORPHS out for another dozen books, but sixty-two was already greedy and we were burning out. It’s all about the plot machine. How much story will the plot machine produce? But non-creatives tend to think in terms of slots to fill. So they may say eight when the creatives involved know in their hearts it should be four or six. You end up with these godawful mini-series that only have half the story they need.

  30. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Mister Bluster: David Barton

    The name was familiar but not being able to place him, I looked him up.

    Hoo boy. Now I know why I had forgotten.

  31. Mister Bluster says:

    Peter Navarro convicted of contempt for defying Jan. 6 select committee
    Peter Navarro, a former White House adviser to Donald Trump, has been found guilty on two contempt of Congress charges for defying a subpoena from the House Jan. 6 select committee.

  32. Mister Bluster says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:..David Barton

    He’s a real sweetheart…

    United States Constitution*
    Article VI

    This Constitution…(not your Holy Book)…shall be the supreme Law of the Land;

    *Edited to reflect my interpretation.

  33. Kathy says:

    @Mister Bluster:

    These Jan 6th. contempt charges are as close as we’ll ever get to charging people with stupidity.

    Suppose his contention that the Cheeto’s executive privilege applies. He could then show up, along with a lawyer, and answer all or most questions with “I can’t answer this question because of privileged information.”

    This would cause all sorts of other problems, but he’d have complied with the subpoena to appear.

  34. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @MarkedMan: Because the vast majority of the population lives in places where the society will derive benefit from reproduction but not have the financial heft necessary for lab-produced offspring? (Just a suggestion. 😉 )

  35. MarkedMan says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Sure, people say they believe in all kinds of things that are complete and utter nonsense. Crystals. Homeopathic medicine. Astrology. Supplements. That the Baby Jesus is watching them from heaven. And then they often act in direct opposition to that belief. Heck, people (myself included) often “believe” two mutually exclusive things at the exact same time. My only disagreement with you is that you give religion too much power. To me, religion is more like Hitchcock’s McGuffin, but in this case used to justify behavior and actions they would take anyway rather than to motivate the plot of a thriller. But like that McGuffin, if they didn’t use religion as the justification, they would do the same things anyway and substitute racial purity (see Japan and Germany during WWII), or nationalism (see, well, thousands of examples), or scientific advancement (see Stalin and Lysenko).

    It’s not that I disagree with your estimation of the worth of specific religious beliefs, it’s that I think you are wrong in thinking that religion is the cause of anything rather than merely the excuse.

  36. MarkedMan says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: So basically, men are a cost saving measure? I’m not sure many women would agree with that…

  37. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @CSK: My response would have been “Well then, go in peace and serve the Lord” as the cutter turned around and returned to base.

    [This has been episode 793 of Why We Don’t Give cracker Positions of Authority. Please tune in next time from wherever you get podcasts.]

  38. Kathy says:

    It’s just a little past 3 pm, I’ve pretty much nothing to do the rest of the day, and can’t leave until 6:30 at the earliest…

    So I’ll pester you here.

    Mexico’s Royal Government announced it intends to issue an edict reducing hourly operations at Mex City’s airport from 52 to 43. This comes after a reduction from over 60 to 52 some months ago, and despite the fact the authorities involved say they can easily handle around 70.

    Of course this is a transparent attempt by his majesty Manuel Andres the Zero to transfer flights to his white elephant airport. Ergo, the royal edict. Officially, though, the excuse is to ease the saturation at MEX.

    The big problem would be for the more popular business flights that take off very early. There are several of these. Some might have to be moved to the white elephant just to meet demand.

    IMO, the airlines will preserve the most popular business flights pretty much as they are (load factors and premium seating being what they are), and move the more touristy flights elsewhere. I’d dearly love to see Aeromexico and Volaris move their early flights to Cancun and Acapulco and Ixtapa not to Santa Lucia, but to Toluca. The latter is far more convenient for people in the wealthier areas in the western parts of the city and metro area.

    On other aviation news, some very light buzz is building about a next generation, twin engine BIG jet. This si feeding off speculation of an engine Rolls Royce is spending a lot of money on developing, the Ultra Fan*

    It is a bit out of the ordinary for a company to develop an engine no customer has asked for, especially at such a scale. this thing will be huge, larger than the GE engines for Boeing’s 777X.

    Two ideas are floating about. 1) A 1.5 deck airplane, like the discontinued 747, though perhaps shorter. The idea being a nose door for oversize cargo. 2) a kind of double deck A350 or A330.

    I would discount the second, at least on the short term. The trend is still moving towards point-to-point routes, away from hub-and-spoke, with smaller planes like the 787 and A330.

    The first might work, but only when enough cargo 747s retire, and air freight companies or their customers find it difficult to move certain cargoes by air. Even then, it’s likely an existing design could be modified for outsize cargo, like Airbus did with the A300 and the A330.

    We’ll just have to wait and see.

  39. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Mister Bluster: Huck is just another of the guys who are spokesmodels for the meme “Every accusation is a confession.” If you called him on those points he’d tell you “That’s not what I mean at all, and those people deserve whatever happens to them” and not understand the cognitive dissonance the two statements have when juxtaposed.

  40. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @MarkedMan: It’s not a matter of saving costs. It’s a matter of using a food mill rather than dental implants for lack of $60k. A person not purchasing a good is not an example of “saving costs” most of the time. One has to have surplus at the margins in order to “save cost.” If you don’t have that surplus, your simply outside the market for the product/service.

    (So yes, my answer was a snarky as yours, but had a serious element, too.)

  41. Gustopher says:

    @Kathy: The last two episodes have been short, and took the story from Point A to Point B, with Point B being a natural pause — it doesn’t feel slow.

    And it is giving us time with Baylan and Shin, and making them real characters that we know and love. Ray Stevenson’s performance as Baylan is just great.

    I don’t think it’s a perfect show by any means — for whatever reason Ahsoka has the personality of a plank of wood (I don’t fault the actor, she is working with what she is given, but this is a much more stoic version of the character and it feels like we missed an important part of Ahsoka’s life, or it’s just a weird direction to take her), there’s a cheap death fakeout, and it has yet another map to the goal — but the pacing and structure isn’t one of them so far.

    It’s a tv series, not a movie. Each episode is going to be smaller, and take a little while to get there. Each episode would have been two or three scenes in a movie that was overstuffed to the point it was incomprehensible (Rise of Skywalker) or omitted (“somehow, Palpatine returned”, or setting up the base on Hoth, or all those dead Bothans in ROTJ). A series like this tells a different type of story — it’s less about the destination, and more about the journey.

    The 8-12 episode series is also a very different form than the cartoons, which are usually a full story every 22 minutes getting to a concrete destination, or two or three episodes.

    The journey might suck. It might get repetitive. It might have a section that is painfully bad to watch. I moderately hate Star Trek: Discovery because every season has three critical terrible episodes, and Michael Burnham makes exactly the same mistakes over and over, preceded by her raising her damn eyebrow in a “thoughtful”way.

    Anyway, a lot of the “this series is a padded out” complaints seem to just be people complaining that they don’t like the form of a 10 episode story, rather than anything about the given story.

    Now, if they’re complaining that the show is incomprehensible to anyone who hasn’t watched large chunks of the Clone Wars and Rebels cartoons, with characters they feel no connection to, and concepts that seem very non-star-wars… that’s fair. The retaining characters are just kind of there, and the latest episode’s cliffhanger is unprecedented in live action Star Wars and will seem out of left field.

  42. Gustopher says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    People say for example that they believe abortion is murder, and then work pleasantly alongside people they claim to believe are child murderers.

    A dude’s gotta eat, so a dude’s gotta work.

    I believe Chinese factories are offensive, cruel labor conditions, and yet my house is filled with Chinese electronics. People pick their battles, or they go live off grid in the wilderness and get eaten by sheep or whatever.

    Acting on your beliefs is basically a privilege. You have to be pretty isolated from the consequences or willing to suffer.

  43. JohnSF says:

    Interesting update on international support for Ukraine from the Kiel Institute:
    Total European support for Ukraine (nominal dollar terms) is now roughly double that of the US.
    That is military and civil, short term and long term, programmes.
    In military aid in nominal dollars, EU plus non-EU European now marginally exceeds that of the US.

    In terms of aid as percentage GDP, the US is 16th; just behind Bulgaria.

    The point: American “realists” arguing the US can compel Ukraine to negotiate (aka surrender) by turning off assistance are ignoring the shifting international environment.
    The world is changing. Again.

  44. Kathy says:


    I saw almost nothing of the Clone Wars show. I did see Rebels start to finish, twice*.

    I still think it’s going slowly. Next ep I don’t expect things to pick up. It will likely be how Ahsoka and Hera mange to make the long, long, long, trip to the other galaxy without the extra special hyperdrive ring. Predictions: Ahsoka will exit the world between worlds at the right location, while Hera will rely on Jacen getting help from the space whales.

    *Thus far.

  45. DK says:

    @JohnSF: We are spending only 3-4% of our defense budget to help democratic Europe defend itself from Putin’s fascistic and genocidal warmongering, a warning to economically-flailing China.

    Strategists, moralists and (true) realists are largely in grudging agreement that this is a very good bargain for us, and that talks of negotiation are premature.

    We should keep helping Ukraine claw back territory as long as a) American troops are not required b) the rest of Europe is paying its fair share and b) Ukraine is willing to fight. The question now is whether to double or triple our assistance, not whether to draw back.

    At bargain basement costs, we are defending our values, assisting a fledgling democracy, prompting Europe to bolster its defenses (finally!), crippling our main military adversary, and deterring our main economic adversary. What’s the problem here? The fake “realists” suggesting we greenlight more war — more Russian and Chinese imperialism and colonialism — by leaving Ukraine defenseless sound like puppets of Putin and Xi to me.

  46. JohnSF says:

    True. But “your job requires you to work with John Q. Serial-Killer” might get a testy response.
    In historical practice abortion has not been regarded as the same as murder, and for very good reasons. The current religious right attempts to categorise it as such are foolish over-reach.

    @Michael Reynolds:

    No one really believes in god

    Maybe. The main shift has been that before the 19th Century, people had no really good explanations for the existence of the material universe and the living world. We now do.
    So, the evident rational and moral problems of traditional religion, and post-Newtonian physics, were leading a fair number of more thoughtful people toward eg Deism, Unitarianism and other “sceptical” stances .
    (Gibbon on the Christianity of the late Roman Empire is a classic example of late 18thCentury eye-rolling about “enthusiastic” religion)
    But only 19th Century geology and biology really holed Biblical explication below the waterline.
    We continue to deal with the cultural implications of that change, and reactions to it.
    There is, IMUHO, still a sort-of possible theistic approach that is intellectually and ethically viable.
    But it has very little relation to current politicized versions of popular Christianity in the US, which seem more to do with chosen individual socio-political identity than anything else.
    See the difference between US religion as personal identity, versus in much of Europe as just community custom.

    The value of religion as a social matrix separated from any truth-value has a very long history in conservative thought. And indeed in anthropology.

    The various modes of worship, which prevailed in the Roman world, were all considered by the people, as equally true; by the philosopher, as equally false; and by the magistrate, as equally useful.

  47. DrDaveT says:


    The main shift has been that before the 19th Century, people had no really good explanations for the existence of the material universe and the living world. We now do.

    Not really. “It happened, and the results were like this” is not really an explanation.

    …but that’s for the masses. At the intellectual edge, the burning question is how to reconcile materialism/physicalism with reason. If we’re all just biochemical robots, then none of our thought processes are dependable. “Cause and effect” is very different from “premise and conclusion” and probably incompatible with it. So you come full circle — if you reject God and religion, what’s your new basis for thinking that any particular evolved biochemical thought is more valid than any other? If all beliefs are causally equivalent, they’re all equally justified.

    It’s a poser.

  48. JohnSF says:

    But also: “God: and the results were like this” is little better.
    There are quite elaborated philosophical explanations as to why either absent God, or with a passive God, ethics can still exist.
    And I see no reason why a materially based consciousness should be less reconcilable with reason than a one grounded in spooks.
    Indeed, a consciousness based on not getting eaten by leopards should be one very well attuned to physical reality.

  49. Gustopher says:


    In historical practice abortion has not been regarded as the same as murder, and for very good reasons. The current religious right attempts to categorise it as such are foolish over-reach.

    There’s murder and then there’s murder.

    Are victims of the Rwandan Genocide any less dead than the children in your neighbor’s basement? No, but you’re going to feel more strongly about one than the other, unless you happen to be in Rwanda.

    Plus, few people announce their abortions, so it’s abstract in the case of your coworkers. Sure, odds are that a decent percentage of women you work with have had an abortion, but is it Sally down the hall who brought in that lovely bolognese sauce with the tiny fingers cookies?

  50. Gustopher says:

    @Kathy: Are there any of the recent 10 episode stories that you thought really worked? Star Wars, Trek, or non-Star?

    I think there’s a certain meandering element to the form that episodic tv and time constrained movies have to cut to bits.

  51. Kathy says:


    The Mandalorian (which includes The Book of Boba Fet) has been working well for three seasons. Loki was rather good. Season one of Picard. I’ve liked Discovery, though some of it feels stretched. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier advanced the MCU plot. Severance. Perry Mason season 1. Avenue 5. Harley Quinn. Foundation.

  52. Kathy says:


    When I debated religion vs reality on message boards, two of my stock arguments were:

    1) God did it is not an explanation so much as an admission of liability.

    2) We don’t know how X happens/works is not license to impose supernatural explanations bereft of evidence.

  53. JohnSF says:

    Well, I had a person I worked with tell me they were having an abortion.
    Perhaps because we were friends, and she needed someone to talk to about it at that moment.
    And if anyone accused her of being a murderer, I’d have set about their heads with a cricket bat.
    Still would.

  54. Daryl says:
  55. DrDaveT says:


    And I see no reason why a materially based consciousness should be less reconcilable with reason than a one grounded in spooks.

    I think I failed to make my point clearly.

    If all of our beliefs are just the results of chemistry, there’s no reason to think that any of them are valid. We know that chemistry is not a reliable source of truth; we can see this by looking at what actual people actually believe.

    So what else is there? Where could actual reasoning (based on logic and not physics) come from? Dualists and spiritualists have a (bad, partially formed) answer; physicalists have nothing.

  56. CSK says:


    Whose death are they promising/threatening?

  57. JohnSF says:

    Yes. I know this line. But my answer is always: evolution requires that a mind must be aware of external reality.
    Or else the leopards are going to eat your face.
    IMO consciousness can be quite adequately be explained by the requirements of coping with an tediously recalcitrant external reality.
    Still more with sapience, when that external reality is to a large extent ones fellow annoying apes.

  58. DrDaveT says:


    But my answer is always: evolution requires that a mind must be aware of external reality.
    Or else the leopards are going to eat your face.

    Of course.

    But, the next step: we are all equally evolved. Each and every one of us has met that challenge; the leopards did not eat our ancestors’ faces. And so, given that we all disagree about essentially everything, how do you decide which of us is right?

    With regard to physics and chemistry and evolution, there is no grounds to advocate for one belief over another. So either we need something beyond physics and chemistry and evolution, or nothing we believe is credible.

  59. JohnSF says:

    Oh, that’s easily resolved.
    Be reasonable, and do what I tell you.

    Essentially: the informed consensus rules. Other opinions may be held; if that is the wish of the consensus.