Morning Ed: Politics {2017.02.20.M}

Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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232 Responses

  1. Saul Degraw says:

    Protests and the Appeal of Trump as a
    totalitarian: Saying people on both sides told you that BLM flipped North Carolina is vague, anecdotal, and conjecture. Who are these people? What is their proof and credentials? Did they conduct scientific polling or is it based on their feelings and sentiments? I don’t disagree with Trizzlor’s observations but what is to be done? There will always be fascist authoritarians. In the book, The Authuratarians, the author suggests full opposition and dissent caused people with such tendencies to back down and moderate. Reasoned debate with authoritarians gives cover to the idea that such views are reasonable.

    Anyway, everything said about BLM was also said about MLK and the SNCC including the lunch counter protests. If anything, MLK received it worse. Have you ever seen photos of lunch counter protests? In some, it looks like the entire restaurant was poured on people. No one on the left ever claimed that protests came without reactionary baclash. I think it is only time and distance that makes us looks at protests in a positive light.

    And sadly if OT was around in the 1960s, I could see us having the same debates about whether lunch counter protests were effective or not and whether MLK should tone it down.Report

    • The North Carolina comment was on platelets anecdotal. I just felt it was pertinent to the study, which wasn’t.Report

    • Kim in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      The people behind MLK and BLM are very, very different.
      So, no, not everything said about BLM was said about MLK.Report

    • Chip Daniels in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      Thats another variation of “Uh oh, if you resist, he will just hit you harder” advice.

      Which is true, actually, until it isn’t.

      I’m thinking of the repeated calls by gay activists for SSM during the 90’s and 00’s, which were so successful at defeating liberals and helping elect conservatives that Karl Rove famously had them added to ballots.

      Until around 2006 when it stopped working, and the issue, having been raised to prominence, started working against them.

      Because even as the anti-SSM side kept winning, their base was shrinking and the other side growing.Report

      • In my view, though, the SSM battle was one by presenting relatively bourgeoisie. They made arguments about radical homosexuality agendas seem silly. That isn’t really the tactic discussed here.

        (That’s not to say that extreme protests never do work. I would just argue that SSM is a poor example.)Report

        • Chip Daniels in reply to Will Truman says:

          SSM didn’t occur until the end of a very long march, starting with Stonewall, leading through the very silly Gay Liberation protests during the 70’s, when men dressed in tutus paraded through the streets, leading people like me to shake my head and advise them that they were just turning off more people than making converts.

          The first part of protest is to force people to acknowledge you exist. To say “I will not be ignored”.

          Blocking traffic, impeding businesses, shutting down streets isn’t meant to make a thoughtful cogent argument; Its to demonstrate the power to force the other side to react and to set the agenda of discussion.Report

        • Saul Degraw in reply to Will Truman says:

          ACT-UP worked. And BLM is far from the extremes of 1960s protests.Report

          • I don’t think the protests as planned are an issue so much as how they unravel.

            I go back and forth on stopping traffic, but haven’t dismissed its utility. I though Ferguson worked in part because that was during the “Drawing attention” phase and more importantly there were sound arguments that the police started the row.

            I think the bigger issue (a bigger issue than alleged concern trolling) is the notion “Our cause right, therefore what(ever) we do us right (and productive).”

            But perhaps everybody has everything in hand and things are going as well as they could be.Report

            • Chip Daniels in reply to Will Truman says:

              When we read history it always takes a long tangled messy series of events and smooths them out into a neat clean narrative arc that, in retrospect, seems inevitable.
              The 1954 Brown decision; The bus boycotts; the lunch counter sit-ins; the 1964 VRA, and triumph! Denouement and fade out.

              I reference the gay rights struggles because I witnessed it and remember how messy and awkward and ugly it was, and how the advances grew in fits and jumps, and sometimes moved backward.

              It really was ugly at times. People of good will were forced into awkward dilemmas caught between competing demands, and were often wounded and saw friendships dissolve.

              Politics is ugly and divisive, and I don’t know any way around it.Report

              • Kim in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                Just you wait. Politics gets a whole lot more ugly and divisive when you can’t feed everyone.

                If your story of Civil Rights doesn’t include “How the Little Guy beat the Big Players on Wall Street” (carefully eliding the races, so as to not get banned), then you’re missing well over half the story.Report

            • Saul Degraw in reply to Will Truman says:

              The general point of civil disobedience is to break the law in order to draw attention to an injustice. Sometimes an injustice that is enshrined as law/social structures.

              This is what the lunch counter protestors did. They sat in whites-only areas until the situation could not be ignored anymore and the government stepped in to rectify the situation. They were also met with massive resistance as I said above:


              The protestors were trained to put up with the kind of abuse shown in the photo. Were they taking seats from someone who just wanted lunch? Of course they were? Were they disrupting and making people upset? Of course they were? Did they get hauled off to jail? Many of them did and much worse as we saw in the article comparing Donald Trump to Marion Barry.

              I am generally a leave me alone sort. I don’t even like telling chuggers no thank you especially now that they learned to gauntlet and be on both sides of the streets. I get annoyed when Critical Mass clogs the streets and makes it harder for me to get home.

              But I think there is a kind of fallacy that many right-leaning people either have sincerely but wrongly or put on to counter the protestors. The fallacy is that the changes the protestors want would happen organically and over time and the protestors are just making things worse by demanding action now and are actually impeding progress.

              I think this is wrong or at least doesn’t understand the fierce urgency of now to borrow a phrase from Martin Luther King, Jr. I think it is very easy for someone whose civil rights are not being oppressed or limited to think that the changes will occur organically and all will be good because this does not involve making people uncomfortable. At best, this is telling minorities to just deal with injustice a little more or a lot more because the organic time line of change is never clear. At worse, it is just a delay tactic because the speaker is opposed to the reforms and changes.

              Inertia is a great force in human action and history. Nothing changes without much struggle. I think protestors understand that there can be blowback and times when you have two steps back for every step forward but eventually the changes come.Report

              • I’m not knocking civil disobedience. I’m knocking the logic that says “We are right. We are doing this. Therefore this is the right thing to be doing.”

                That us perhaps the leftward counterpart of the rightward one you refer to.Report

              • Saul Degraw in reply to Will Truman says:

                I am just trying to think of what an appropriate form protest would be like and my thoughts and imaginations are failing me. But I am trying to think of what a reasonable protest would look like to cover the same issues but not get enough ire or pushback to change a state.

                I’m sympathetic to BLM and believe that structural racism exists. The impossibility seems to be proving to anyone who is not in the choir that structural racism exists. People seem to get really defensive at going against police officers or not wanting to wrestle with the idea that police officers can be the bad guys sometimes, or a lot of the time.Report

              • Damon in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                I don’t think smashing windows, burning cars, assaulting innocent people, and what not over a “speaker” is the proper form of protest. Nor do I think snarling traffic on the highway is proper. It IS however, acceptable if you’re going for insurrection.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Damon says:

                And I don’t think that shutting down the government, defaulting on our debt, and refusing to hold a vote on a SCOTUS nomination are acceptable forms of protest, either.

                But guess what?

                This all happened, and Mitch McConnell doesn’t seem fazed one bit by my disapproval.

                Instead, his response is along the lines of “Whatcha gonna do about it, punk?”Report

              • Damon in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                No it’s not an acceptable form of protest. But neither is it a CRIME.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Damon says:

                OK, so if BLM wants to influence policy decisions while abiding by the law, they can simply form a superPAC, distribute envelopes of cash on the floor of the House of Representatives as John Boehner did on behalf of tobacco interests.

                Then invite various Senators, Congressmen, and SCOTUS justices to Rancho Mirage for a weekend of lobbying and strategy.

                Then form a global cable news network and engage in 24/7 influencing with talk shows, news programs, and documentaries.

                The law in its majesty, allows rich and poor alike to influence policy this way.Report

              • Damon in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                Yes, they COULD do it that way. There are others. Surly you are not saying that there are only two ways to influence politics? The rich man’s way and the “street level”? The middle class seems to have some influence….sometimes it’s just some nut objecting to a zoning change…..Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Damon says:

                Yep yep yep, that’s right, there is a way for a small invisible minority to affect policy which involves grabbing the attention of the vast white middle class.

                Would us educated middle class white guys at OT be having this conversation if BLM and Ferguson had not occurred?

                For every white guy stuck on the 110 at rush hour cussing at the protesters, there are a few others who are watching the videos of cops gunning down unarmed black men and thinking, “I didn’t realize this stuff was happening”.Report

              • Troublesome Frog in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                I appreciate the sentiment and I’m not dismissing it completely, but I do have to wonder what percentage of people at those protests actually vote regularly.

                We on the left do a great job of getting people out in force to hold up signs, but we don’t have nearly the consistency when it comes to getting people out in force to poke a hole in a piece of paper. If either side could increase voter turnout by any serious amount, it would completely dominate the government without anybody’s mind changing on any issue or candidate.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Troublesome Frog says:

                Agree 100%.Report

              • LeeEsq in reply to Troublesome Frog says:

                A lot of people really into protest politics and activist work really hate electoral politics. This includes everything from showing up to vote to actually running for office. Electoral politics can get very boring, you can’t always focus on sexy social justice issues, and need to compromise a lot. Protest politics and activism allows you to remain pure and unyielding in the pursuit of social justice.Report

              • dragonfrog in reply to Damon says:

                Am I misremembering that you identify your politics as libertarian?Report

              • Stillwater in reply to dragonfrog says:

                I don’t think so. Damon cleverly splits all differences by denying a libertarian (or any other) identification and thereby being a fully general oppositional ideologue without committing himself to any particular set of principles. 🙂Report

              • Kim in reply to Stillwater says:

                I’ve got Damon on record as supporting slavery. He has principles, no doubt, but it requires a pretty close read to figure out what exactly they are. (To be fair, That particular comment revolved around the ability to choose slavery as opposed to ICE detention).Report

              • Damon in reply to Stillwater says:

                Still, you attribute too much cleverness in my direction. I’m generally in the libertarian/anarchro capitalist camps but I have significant disagreements with those camps on some topics-immigration being one. The reason being is I’ve not yet found a “worldview” that conforms to my own. Frankly I stopped bothering to try and define my political views as it wasn’t worth the time and 90 % of the people I talk politics didn’t know any of the gradations anyway. I’ve been accused of being a liberal, a conservative, “you ok for a white boy”, and many others. In the end, it does’t really matter. Odds are I’ll be disagreeing with both the left and right 🙂Report

              • Saul Degraw in reply to Damon says:


                Anarchists are not liberals and liberals are not anarchists. The Black Bloc types ar nihilists that hang out on the edges of protests to cause damage and yet liberals get the blame.

                Is it so hard to see that people could be drawn to protests because of ulterior motives or is it just convenient to ignore?Report

              • Damon in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                Let’s take a look at this from a different perspective….

                Remember all those idiots running around open carrying rifles? All the drama associated with that? There was a lot of commentary from the “pro gun” community that these guys were fools and their actions stupid and that is would only hurt the pro gun cause. Now let me apply your comments….”Is it so hard to see that people…..or is it just convenient to ignore?”

                So, in addition to BSDI, please reply back with a statement affirming that it’s not ok for your side to do the same thing and I will do so as well….with the caveat that it’s not my side but I’m just agreeing.Report

              • North in reply to Damon says:

                I’m not Saul but I am a liberal and I’ll happily affirm that to the extent that liberal protesters are doing that it’s not only not okay but also pretty foolish.Report

      • North in reply to Chip Daniels says:

        I don’t think SSM is a good example. To be frank SSM was looked at rather askance by the gay rights movement as a rather heteronormative and conformist objective until the late 90’s or so.Report

        • Chip Daniels in reply to North says:

          That’s actually why I think its instructive. I remember those fights and how splintered the various groups were.

          “Gay Rights” was not a monolithic movement with everyone marching arm in arm solidarity.

          That’s what I mean by “messy”- just as not every black person feels the same about BLM, and not all working class people feel the same about unions.

          I guess what I’m trying to argue for, is to disabuse us of the notion that political battles can be these polite exchanges of high minded ideas, with the priors clearly demarcated, rules of engagement set, and ultimate goals agreed to.Report

          • North in reply to Chip Daniels says:

            I think you may be right that they may not be able to be in practice. That said I also suspect that as soon as people stop saying those movements should strive to be nonviolent, idea focused and liberal then they begin sowing the seeds of, if not the movements’ eventual defeat, a great setback for the given movement.Report

    • Troublesome Frog in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      Who are these people? What is their proof and credentials? Did they conduct scientific polling or is it based on their feelings and sentiments?

      I thought we had all learned our lesson: As long as those people aren’t In A Bubble, their opinions matter more than any evidence.Report

  2. fillyjonk says:

    Nothing much related tot he links’ content, but I will say: were I Benevolent Dictatrix of the World? I’d BAN autoplay embedded video. Argh. I couldn’t even get through the Trump-as-Marion-Berry one because it kept hanging up and switching up video.Report

    • Michael Cain in reply to fillyjonk says:

      1) For @will-truman , dependng on how the link is invoked, it sometimes gets redirected to the Forbes front page rather than to the Ladd column. The Forbes front page is filled with video windows.

      2) @fillyjonk , if your browser doesn’t have an option to stop autoplay, or doesn’t support a plugin to do the same, you’re using the wrong browser. It’s an ongoing tech battle: the content folks (advertisers in particular), keep finding new ways to indirectly fire off the video after the page loads, the browser and plugin people keep closing those loopholes. The fascinating thing about the whole battle is this underlying truth: absent some sort of monopoly protection (eg, the local newspaper’s distribution channel in the days when everything was paper), very few content providers have content that is both unique and compelling enough that people will put up enough money to support the operation.Report

  3. Damon says:

    Disruptive Protests: Oh yes, I COMPLETELY sympathize when a group of people block a highway and keep me from getting to work. It totally sways me to their side. And when they start looting and burning cars, it increases my agreement they are correct. Not really.

    Wall: Of course walls keep things in and out. The best time to build a wall to keep people out is AFTER a economic downturn and all those illegals have left. Easier to round up the ones remaining and harder for new ones to come in during a recovery. So now the “captive” population of illegals that remains cannot leave easily, unless they go north. We can take our time and look for them organically, and when caught, we can toss em back over the border. Did yall hear about the illegals heading north into Canada?

    Enemies of People We Read about: I think this is rather true. I’ve lived this. But there are still lots of people that don’t care about other people’s world view and think that if you don’t agree with them, you are wrong, weird, insane, criminal, or a pervert, and I’m sure, many other things. Living in a bubble reinforces that.

    Trump / Barry: “There isn’t enough space to detail the outrages, gaffes, crimes, and threatened crimes that have accompanied Trump’s rise to power. ” Someone please provide documentation of the crimes for which Trump has been convinced? And we won’t really know if Trump is as bad as Barry until after the FBI catches Trump smoking crack with 2 Russian prostitutes who are peeing on the Lincoln bedroom mattress.

    Protest Peril: This is a better example: Love the text: “You and your family are fired. I hope you enjoyed your day off, and you can enjoy many more. Love you.” I love this dude! That’s cold.Report

    • Kim in reply to Damon says:

      So glad you’re in favor of letting Bangladesh drown.Report

    • Oscar Gordon in reply to Damon says:

      I’ve read a couple of stories about people getting fired for the protest, and in every case it was more about people who left the employer in the lurch by either not communicating with them, or doing so after being told not to. It’s great if an employer was willing to let people have the time off, but we certainly shouldn’t have expected every employer to be willing or able to accommodate.Report

    • notme in reply to Damon says:

      I like this TN bill to provide immunity if you hit a protestor in the road.

      • Mo in reply to notme says:

        I don’t how that will survive the courts on a 1A challenge since immunity is granted based on the content rather than generically granting immunity to people that are illegally blocking traffic by jaywalking or the like, i.e. no immunity if the person is just obnoxious and walking in the middle of the street illegally.Report

      • El Muneco in reply to notme says:

        Never forget – you have to assume that four years from today every law you are applauding will be enabling President Gillibrand and state and local officials swept in along with her tide.
        That’s why we’re against crap like this, not because we fear being stuck in your grill.Report

        • DensityDuck in reply to El Muneco says:

          “you have to assume that four years from today every law you are applauding will be enabling President Gillibrand and state and local officials swept in along with her tide.”

          Welcome to the Libertarian Party, here’s your complimentary gun. The heroin bar is to your left.Report

        • Chip Daniels in reply to El Muneco says:

          The purpose of bills like this isn’t to introduce a workable public policy,
          It isn’t necessarily even intended to become law, much less withstand court challenge.

          The purpose is to signal to the base their shared belief: That liberals, women, blacks, and gays are fundamentally illegitimate, not actual American citizens deserving of rights and protections, but interlopers, usurpers to the natural and rightful order of things.

          Its like when Trump says that Mexicans are rapists and Muslims are terrorists, it isn’t to make a factual statement that withstands scrutiny, its to signal and justify among the faithful their dark intent.Report

          • notme in reply to Chip Daniels says:

            The purpose of bills like this isn’t to introduce a workable public policy,
            It isn’t necessarily even intended to become law, much less withstand court challenge.

            Is your liberal sense telling you this?Report

            • Chip Daniels in reply to notme says:

              You like the bill, why?

              You really, honestly, enjoy the vision of people being run down by car, their bodies crushed under the wheels, and this thrills you somehow, their agonized screams giving you a shiver of righteous pleasure?

              I don’t believe that.

              I do believe that this is a declaration of intent, a message to convey contempt for the illegitimacy of other points of view.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                You like the bill, why?

                Cuz angry conservatives will be allowed to run-down dirty hippie liberals with impunity?Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Stillwater says:

                There’s a madness and recklessness about conservatives now, maybe was always there, but is so loud and pronounced now its inescapable.

                The way they have so singlemindedly embraced Cleek’s Law, to the point of abandoning every single possible principle they ever professed, from fiscal sobriety to patriotism to moral rectitude to just this week, lustily embracing a man who advocates pedophilia, for no other reason than he insults liberals.

                And so we have this, a guy saying he likes the idea of protesters being run down with cars, to signal how much he hates liberals.

                Its like Andrew Sullivan said in 2008, its like watching your favorite cousin shave their head, join a cult and grow increasingly mad.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                Cleek’s Law still reigns supreme in my view. And that’s the case despite Trump NOT being an actual, real, bonafide conservative. The fact that he pisses off liberals is enough. Come what may. Sad!

                And actually, the “real” conservatives I know are just as appalled by what’s happening (well, close enough for horseshoes anyway…) as you and I are about what’s transpiring re: Trump. But he’s their guy, so they’re not as publicly vocal about it. Politics makes for a strange conception of reality, ya know?Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Stillwater says:

                Its long ago stopped being about anything political, if we mean relating to public policy.

                Its a grievance now, deeply personal and emotional for them now. Its why they wail about “Merry Christmas” even as they fantasize about slaughtering protesters.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                Its long ago stopped being about anything political, if we mean relating to public policy.

                Its a grievance now

                Absolutely agree. And while you’ve got it en masse on the politically active conservative side, you got it on the liberal side as well, to some extent. Grievances are the politics of the day. Public policy be damned.

                Hell, conservative voters are banging down the doors of their CCers to make sure that the core competency of the ACA isn’t abandoned. They might also be advocating a first strike on ISIS Radical Islam at the same time, tho, so there’s that. Or threatening to bomb Jewish community centers…Report

              • notme in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                I do believe that this is a declaration of intent, a message to convey contempt for the illegitimacy of other points of view.

                I can’t speak for the author of the bill. I don’t think their views/opinions are illegitimate so much as their choice of locations. I don’t see why i should be liable for injuring someone that puts themselves at risk b/c they want to protest in the middle of a highway. If they want to protest on the sidewalk or in the town square, fine, that doesn’t impact me. Now the SJW snowflakes what to impede traffic to they can protest. Screw them.Report

              • Jesse in reply to notme says:

                So, your right to get somewhere is more important than somebodies life or well being simply because they’re in the road?Report

              • notme in reply to Jesse says:

                Their right to free speech doesn’t include a right to trap me in my car, does it? Let them stand on a street corner, bang a drum and bark at the moon.Report

          • DensityDuck in reply to Chip Daniels says:

            “The purpose is to signal to the base their shared belief: That liberals, women, blacks, and gays are fundamentally illegitimate…”

            along with the shared belief that what keeps people from blocking the road whenever they feel like it is the fact that it’s illegal to hit them under any circumstances. So if people are going to exploit that fact to block the road then the freedom to assume that you won’t be run over in the street is one of those freedoms, like the First Amendment, that we just aren’t responsible enough to have.Report

    • notme in reply to Damon says:

      There seems to be a strain of thought by folks these days that they can break the rules and either should not be punished or lightly punished b/c their actions are such a benefit to society.Report

      • Don Zeko in reply to notme says:

        So the punishment for blocking a pubic road should be death or serious injury, delivered immediately by car?Report

      • Damon in reply to notme says:

        That’s because people have seen that they CAN.

        We see cops skating on crimes a civilian would get executed for.
        We see the rioters doing what they do and the cops holding back.
        We see “protests” that looked like above and nothings done.
        We see politicians get away with all kinds of things
        We see business men and bankers as “too big to fail”.

        Shall I go on?Report

        • notme in reply to Damon says:

          Maybe so but I think this attitude comes from this younger generation being told how special they are. Take Bowe Bergdhal, he thought that he needed to tell the command what was wrong with his unit and therefore was justified in deserting his post. Or Snowden, he thought he was doing a our society a service by telling on the NSA.Report

          • gregiank in reply to notme says:

            Are you aware that there were actually lots deserters during WW2. Some fled in the US, some were drafted and essentially lived a criminal life on the fringes of the military oversees. Paris, after we took it back, was filled with awol us soldiers surviving on stealing stuff from the army. Some people found ways to avoid being drafted. There is nothing new about Bergdal. Nothing at all. Doesn’t mean it is good, but it ain’t new. The “kids these days” schtick is almost always wrong.Report

            • notme in reply to gregiank says:

              Except that Bergdal isn’t a deserter in the sense you are using it. He didn’t desert in the sense that he was totally leaving the Army. He did desert/leave leave his post without permission in the face of the enemy so he could inform the command about the things he thought was wrong with the unit.Report

              • gregiank in reply to notme says:

                So? There have always been soldiers that flaked out or deserted or cracked under pressure. Nothing new about that. In fact it’s an old story. It’s good we got him back since he is one of ours. There was never a good reason to make all the political hay about him. He is far more symbolism then substance.Report

              • notme in reply to gregiank says:

                Good that we got him back? We violated our own policy by negotiating with terrorists and Obama broke federal law by not giving congress 30 days notice of a prisoner transfer form Gitmo. We should have let the Taliban keep him.Report

              • gregiank in reply to notme says:

                We’ve always negotiated with bad guys. Nothing new there.

                Cripes…..We get out guys back!!!!! Good for us, That’s what we are supposed to do. If you remember conservatives were all about getting him back until Obama did so. He’s one of our soldiers. He shouldn’t be a political chip in pissy partisan fights. Get him back and let the justice system do what it will.Report

              • Don Zeko in reply to gregiank says:

                He should have done things the old-fashioned way and just fragged the officers that he thought were screwing things up, I guess.Report

            • Chip Daniels in reply to gregiank says:

              Yeah, but if those meddling kids and their dog hadn’t have ruined things, my plan to scare people away from this deserted amusement park totally would have worked.

              *shakes fist vigorously*Report

  4. Oscar Gordon says:

    But arguing with my strawmen is much more satisfying than acknowledging your intellectual existence.

    Seriously though, I wonder how many people are less willing to have such discussions face to face precisely because they know this to be true.Report

  5. LeeEsq says:

    1) and 2) are related in many ways. The protestors and the people who want overly politicized comic books believe that the privileged groups varyingly defined had their way for a long time and now its their turn. Telling them to turn things down at protests or maybe that having completely politicized comic books seems to much like an order from above for them. They want to go against injustice however they see fit without have listen to suggestions.

    Trump’s incompetence, lack of discipline, and greed are going to be the main things that prevent his administration from being as damaging as possible. Its still going to be pretty damn damaging for a lot of people.

    Speaking of Trump and his audience, there was an article last week on 4chan and the rise of Trump. I’m not sure if I’m entirely buying the comparison between Trump and Barry. Barry was more like an old school machine politician that got votes by providing government jobs and patronage to the electorate. 19th century go-goos railed against the machines that ran the big cities but tended to get voted out of office quickly because they might not have been corrupt but they were definitely incompetent in everyday retail politics for the most part. The anecdote about the cornflakes reminds me of Saul’s observation on how anti-corruption spiels can come across as FYIGM to a lot of people who haven’t made it yet.Report

    • Kim in reply to LeeEsq says:

      4chan is dead.Report

    • PD Shaw in reply to LeeEsq says:

      I don’t think that is the comic book dynamic at all. The comic book store owner quoted is the consumer; he purchases the product sight unseen with the hope that they can resell it at their stores. These are non-returnable. If the book arrives in a few months and nobody buys it, he/she is stuck with unsold backstock. He is saying that he is losing customers, and over time he will correct for this by ordering less of it.

      We’re talking about superhero comics, not all comics, but juvenile fiction aimed at the broadest popularity. The superhero readers may age into other genres, but if they stop buying ‘Super Captain’ every month at age 16 because “its boring” then the store owner might have lost a customer for life. He’s upset that the entry product, at a time when superhero movies are raking in fortunes, the major publishers are targeting a narrower subset of people who like politics all of the time.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to PD Shaw says:

        The people who want comic books not to have any politics remind me a bit of the people arguing that science fiction should be all about two-fisted tales of adventures and gee wiz gadgets and science rather than something more political and literary in its language.Report

        • Kim in reply to LeeEsq says:

          Gibson is dense, dense reading. I can see people saying “um. yeah. Give me more of Anything Else, Please!”

          I think people who want literary language don’t much care for Steinbeck. (And we’re not even getting into some of the weirder nobelprizewinners….)Report

        • DensityDuck in reply to LeeEsq says:

          I think there’s plenty of room for science fiction (and comics) are are political and literary in their language.

          I also think it’s not a moral failure for people to not want these things to be the only sort of science fiction and comics available.Report

        • Morat20 in reply to LeeEsq says:

          I’ve often found that they’re the people who can’t recognize it when their own politics are all over the book.

          “Look, this book is apolitical!”.

          “No, that book just agrees with your ideology. You’re missing the politics the same way fish don’t notice the water”.Report

        • Oscar Gordon in reply to LeeEsq says:

          Well, unless those people are 12 years old, which is the point @pd-shaw is making.

          You need a gradient of comics. If all your titles have deep, political messaging, then you are going to fail to capture those younger readers who are not interested in deep, political messaging, and they won’t be in the habit of buying comics when they age into the gradient where deep political messaging is interesting.Report

          • El Muneco in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

            Or they’ve just gotten worse at hiding it. Captain America and Iron Man have been political as hell all through history – and for the most part you have to link to actual issues to prove it to a lot of people. An allegory has to be on the level of X-Men to even get noticed.Report

            • LeeEsq in reply to El Muneco says:

              I’m going to go along with the “just gotten worse at hiding it.” During the 1960s and 1970s, DC and Marvel were operating under the strict control of the Comics Code and also with a majority adolescent audience. This required a certain amount of subtlety when it came to political themes or other non-child friendly themes. As the age of the audience increased, diversified, and the Comics Code fell into memory than subtlety became lost.Report

          • Often, it’s not that the political messaging is deep. Rather, it’s quite shallow and as subtle as a freight train. Which is a side-question to political plots: Can people who disagree with the perspective enjoy it? Or, if they don’t, will it broaden their mind? I haven’t collected comics in a while, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the response to these questions weren’t “Who cares?”

            Gets them press, at any rate.

            Other times they don’t even necessarily think they’re being political. There was a Batman one-shot called Seduction of the Gun that was more-or-less a standard plot with some anti-gun lectures in there. The kicker, for some folks, was at the end when they announced the proceeds from the book were going to a gun control group. As you can imagine, some people had a real problem with this. The editors’ response was somewhere in between F’U and a general sense that this wasn’t even political, really, but a public service thing. Like donating to proceeds to anti-cancer.

            Of course, sometimes authors can be too subtle. There was an issue of Young Justice that featured a reckless, drunken hunter. On Usenet, a discussion erupted on whether it was an anti-hunting smear. Some took exception, but others said “Look, I like hunting and I don’t think it should be taken personally. There are bad apples in every barrell.”

            The writer, Peter David, chimed in to say something to the effect of “Of course hunters should take it personally. They’re disgusting.” (OTOH, David thought he was being subtle in an issue of Supergirl involving free speech. Or rather, he thought he was being even-handed when everyone else’s takeaway was that he was taking the ACLU Skokie position.

            I have no idea where I’m going with this. I agree with the general point that political is fine (including “Who Cares?” political here and there), but approached with the knowledge that there are limits to the whens, wheres, and hows.Report

            • Oscar Gordon in reply to Will Truman says:

              Yep, my mistake, I should have said shallow. Deep political messaging would fly under the radar for the younger set, much in the way Looney Tunes had lots of jokes for the adults embedded.Report

            • PD Shaw in reply to Will Truman says:

              Back before the direct market, superhero print runs were around 300,000 to 500,000 and whatever politics in them was quite banal, and now that sales are more like 30,000 to 50,000 things are more idiosyncratic. Back then Captain America would fight NAZIs; today he is a NAZI and oddly some retailers fear this type of “important” work might damage long-term sales.Report

      • Jesse in reply to PD Shaw says:

        Except that superhero comics main audience in 2017 aren’t 16 year old boys. It’s adults in their late 20’s to early 30’s.Report

  6. Richard Hershberger says:

    From the Foreign Policy piece, this bit is interesting:

    With Trump in the White House, moreover, Putin has lost his monopoly over geopolitical unpredictability. The Kremlin’s ability to shock the world by taking the initiative and trashing ordinary international rules and customs has allowed Russia to play an oversized international role and to punch above its weight.

    There is a sort of dysfunctional relationship where one party takes the role of crazy person, forcing the other to take the role of sane person to keep things from falling apart. In the case of a marriage, the sane person can eventually conclude that it isn’t worth it, and file for divorce. This isn’t really an option when the relationship is between two great powers.

    Putin has been able to get away with a lot because the US took the role of the sane person. Trump clearly isn’t going to take that role. He so far as taken the role of Putin’s patsy, but who is to say that he will stay there? Russia as the bad guys is pretty deeply embedded in American culture, and in the demographics that are Trump’s base in particular. It would be easy for Putin to overreach, with Trump reacting to polling in his base by flipping and turning against him. And who knows what Trump would do, then?Report

  7. DensityDuck says:

    I sure am glad we’ve normalized the idea that punching and burning and rioting is an appropriate response to people who have bad philosophies. I’m sure that the world will be a lot better off now that we’ve all agreed that it’s cool to punch stupid evil people right in their dumb fat faces and then laugh when they cry.

    The Marduk show that was scheduled for February 18 at the Oakland Metro Operahouse in Oakland, CA has been canceled by the venue. The cancellation came after the venue received threats in regards to hosting the band. Claims were made accusing the band of profiting off of glorifying Nazi imagery and songs about Nazi SS officers and antisemitism. In a response to these claims and threats, the venue released a statement explaining that they have read “interiew after interview” with Marduk over a 20 year span and could not find any sort of evidence to support these claims. The Oakland Metro Operahouse would then go on to state that they had to reluctantly cancel the show in regards to the safety of their security staff and concert goers. “We just cant risk it…We apologize for the inconvenience,” they would go on to explain.

    The Oakland Police Department also had a pretty substantial nudge in the shows cancellation. Andy McNeal, the Sargent of Police, would then go on the release a public statement, which can be seen below. Essentially touching on the threats received but also mentioning the riots that occurred due to Milo Yiannopoulos’ remarks during a speech at Berkeley.


  8. Brit says:

    So, Milo has been disinvited from CPAC – it seems paedophilia is a bridge too far, even for the ACU.

    I think this shows two things:
    1. For anyone in any doubt, the invite was never about “free speech”. If it was, then it wouldn’t be affected by milo saying other things.
    2. At least a significant proportion of tge conservstive estsblishment is AOK with the racism et al Milo espouses – when he says stuff they actuslky disagree with, they disinvite him.Report

  9. Stillwater says:

    Here’s why no one takes libertarians seriously.

    If abolition of the welfare state is extremely unlikely and the UBI is worse than the status quo, does this mean libertarians should accept the welfare state as it is? Not at all. There’s a straightforward moderate path to a freer world: AUSTERITY.

    They just can’t make up their fucking minds. Balancing all the counterfactual historical analyses against future unintended consequences and an overarching hatred of the state have reduced them to inefficacious and incoherent political blabberers.Report

    • greginak in reply to Stillwater says:

      But voluntary charity will take care of the “truly” needy. Come on now, that is so massively proven over and over again with no obvious problems that thoughtful people can’t disagree.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to greginak says:

        Exactly. Charles Dickens writes about that extensively in his series “Reducing Poverty: London in the age of Optimal Market Efficiency”.Report

      • Damon in reply to greginak says:

        Indeed…but how much do we spend for the “truly” needy vs those who have the political muscle to keep them / their organizations on the gravy train?

        Bud I digress….The underlying assumption is that “we” (society I guess) “owes it” to the truly needy. Please proof this out….and don’t use “feelz”.Report

        • Road Scholar in reply to Damon says:

          Dude, it’s all “feelz”. Including your feelz to the opposite.Report

        • greginak in reply to Damon says:

          Yeah the really poor people have tons of political muscle to bulldozer over rich folk and businesses to get what they want.

          What Road said about the “feelz” is true. Also i do wonder if any philospher or religion has ever covered your question. I’ll have to check. Maybe Rawls.

          Big question lots of answers that i’m sure you’ve heard before.Report

          • Stillwater in reply to greginak says:

            Also i do wonder if any philospher or religion has ever covered your question. I’ll have to check.

            The question being: how much graft layers onto the provision of welfare and servicing basic needs?

            That’s not really a question for philosophers I wouldn’t think. Game theorists maybe. But it’s also ancillary to the point. If the grift is the worry, then minimize it. But don’t confuse the grift with the actual provision of welfare services.

            {{Personally, I don’t think Damon is confused about those two things: his views against welfare are, as they say, overdetermined.}}Report

        • Don Zeko in reply to Damon says:

          I can’t decide if I prefer just-so stories about how not doing anything for the poor is really good for them or Damon’s outright denial of the existence of any mutual ethical obligations at all.Report

          • Damon in reply to Don Zeko says:

            I didn’t say I deny the existence of any mutual ethical obligation. I just asked someone to give me a rational, logical, justification for doing so other than “we should”. The closest I got was “they will rise up and take our stuff”, aka bribery. That’s not really a moral justification.Report

            • Don Zeko in reply to Damon says:

              You got the enlightened self-interest/insurance policy argument, too.Report

            • Kim in reply to Damon says:

              Sure it is. It’s about as moral as “The Strong will Triumph Over the Weak”.
              There are checks and balances.

              Besides, if you don’t give them stuff, they may contract contagious diseases. It’s not bribery to make sure the sewers are running right.Report

            • Stillwater in reply to Damon says:

              There are economic justifications (incarcerating the poor comes right outa your tax dollars Damon!! Is it cheaper to just give them stuff than run them thru the criminal justice system?)

              There are pragmatic reasons (if poor folk are left destitute they could disrupt the entire political economic system we’ve all come to know and love so well!!)

              There are biological reasons (if winning the economic lottery relies to a significant extent on choosing your parents correctly, and we value the economic lottery (free market, greed-based, competition and all that!) then maybe all of us rational individuals ought to level the playing field a bit to allow for folks who chose their parents unwisely to not be overly punished).

              There are ideological reasons (if the greatness of America derives from our culture encouraging the best and brightest to Keep America Great, and the best and brightest shouldn’t be determined by being born on third base, then we should create the conditions where that talent can manifest itself for the betterment of us all).Report

            • Stillwater in reply to Damon says:

              justification for doing so other than “we should”.

              Actually, thinking about that some more I think I missed the target. What you really want to know isn’t why “we” should, but why you – personally, given all your subjectively held thoughts and feelings – should.

              That I can’t help you on. You’re on your own, I guess.Report

              • Don Zeko in reply to Stillwater says:

                If you’re not careful we’re about to be talking about children drowning in shallow ponds any minute now.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Don Zeko says:

                Good point.

                And it isn’t even as serious as you say in the example. The pivot point is getting a new suit dirty. Sheesh. Slippery slopes, ideological inconsistencies, camel’s noses…. ??? Hell, it’s a lot to take in. For a minute there I deluded myself into thinking we were just talking about helping the poor.Report

              • Damon in reply to Don Zeko says:

                Nah…wasn’t it Swift that said we should just eat em?Report

              • Don Zeko in reply to Damon says:

                Only if they’re poor and/or Irish.Report

              • Kim in reply to Don Zeko says:

                Yeah, you SAY you don’t support parents paying people to drown their kids in small ponds, but what have you done to STOP it?Report

              • J_A in reply to Kim says:

                But I do support paying parents to drown their kids. It can’t be more than what I pay in school taxes.

                Perhaps Rod Dreher is right, that I don’t understand the concept of morality.Report

              • Damon in reply to Stillwater says:

                “What you really want to know isn’t why “we” should, but why you – personally, given all your subjectively held thoughts and feelings – should.”

                Nope. I was asking for a moral reason for society to help the poor, not as to why I should. I know why I do. I’m looking for the moral argument that we as a group should do it vs leaving it up to individuals to do so on their own accord.Report

              • J_A in reply to Damon says:


                Nope. I was asking for a moral reason for society to help the poor

                So the crux of the game is that it has to be a “moral” reason, not a practical reason, a political reason, a self interest reason, a justice reason, but a “moral” one.

                Well, since Rod Dreher has told me more than once I don’t understand what morality is (since I don’t find gays or transgender immoral), I guess I’m disqualified for this game. Good luck with the other players.Report

              • Damon in reply to J_A says:

                Should I have rephrased my statement above to “answer the question I asked vs give me all the other reasons? I’ve heard all the other answers, I’ve never heard a moral argument.

                One would think there would be a better “best” answer than “we don’t want them coming to steal our stuff”.Report

              • J_A in reply to Damon says:


                One would think there would be a better “best” answer than “we don’t want them coming to steal our stuff”.

                Better, and best, only mean something when we are comparing along a single criteria. Paraphrasing a saying from the land of my forefathers “what’s best, bacon, or speed?”

                The justice reason, the social insurance reason, the “ways to disincentivize them stealing my stuff” reason, are all good enough reasons. Saying “I want to hear the “best” reason” is just weaseling out of something you personally would rather not do, because, as you said, you don’t owe these people anything, and feelz give you the laughsReport

              • Damon in reply to J_A says:

                Yes, they are all good answers. But again…they are answers to questions I didn’t ask.

                Can a guy get an answer to the question he asked? Apparently not.Report

              • J_A in reply to Damon says:

                Define “best” and “moral”, and how will you accept it is indeed the “best”, or the “moral”Report

              • Damon in reply to J_A says:

                Oh dear jebus. I’m just going to chalk this up to “I can’t answer the question”. Really, how hard is it to provide a moral rationale? Apparently very hard.Report

              • Kim in reply to Damon says:

                Everyone who is capable of adhering to a minimal social contract (is capable of speaking, say) deserves to have a minimal level of comfort. This is Decency, the idea that you do not let someone starve to death if you can help it.

                Am I arguing that it is virtuous to do this? Yes, and I’m not making a particularly utilitarian argument.

                But when I do, I expect you to understand that it is a moral rationale.Report

              • Damon in reply to Kim says:

                Now we are getting somewhere……Report

              • Don Zeko in reply to Kim says:

                Everyone who is capable of adhering to a minimal social contract (is capable of speaking, say) deserves to have a minimal level of comfort. This is Decency, the idea that you do not let someone starve to death if you can help it.

                Just for the record, your weird affinity for eugenics is appalling, Kim.Report

              • Kim in reply to Don Zeko says:

                Your refusal to do something about the snuff pornography makers is far more appalling, I assure you.

                (and if I was actually pro-eugenics, I’d be supporting them. So quit with the bleedin’ strawman).

                In case anyone actually thought i was talking about people who were mute? I’m not. Capability to construct speech does not mean capability to deliver it.Report

              • Don Zeko in reply to Kim says:

                Did you not mean what I quoted you as saying? What can that possibly mean other than that the severely cognitively disabled aren’t fully human and don’t deserve to be kept from starving?Report

              • Kim in reply to Don Zeko says:

                I hold that they do not have Rights. That means that they occupy a place where we “should” and “ought” to not let them die, but that this is not compulsory. (I hold a rather Kantian position on torture, so I’m going to specifically exempt “letting them starve to death” as torture.)

                I say this in the same fashion that I say it is morally acceptable to kill children up to the age of two — it is something to turn to only in the most direst of circumstances.
                [Which is a handy way of saying: if we have too many three year olds, we really ought to kill everyone rather than murder a few kids. You probably don’t believe this, not really. But I believe that one ought to have lines in the sand, even when they’re really fucking unpleasant]

                Give us 20 years, we’ll be there.Report

              • Kim in reply to Damon says:

                I think J_A is merely convinced that you’re going to try and argue him out of his implicit premises.

                Me? I’ll take implicit premises that I can prove, even if they don’t look so good.Report

              • Damon in reply to Kim says:

                I’ll take his implicit premises. They aren’t as good as “plicit” ones, but better than nothing 🙂Report

              • J_A in reply to Damon says:

                My implicit premises are

                1- Whatever works best -after defining a metric so we know what “best” isfor society in the real world is preferable to idiotic consistency to First Principles

                2- Maximize the freedom of people, subject to the reasonable constraints of #1 above

                @joe-sal keeps saying that I want to go solve issues from top to bottom. My response is that you can’t be any more topdown than when you start with unproved First Principles and build castles in Spain from there.Report

              • Troublesome Frog in reply to Damon says:

                Doesn’t it depend on whose moral framework you’re using? For example, if your morals are 100% dictated by a god who thinks the suffering of the poor is the highest moral good, you probably won’t find a very good argument for helping the poor. In fact, you might find a very good argument for making more of them and ensuring that they suffer as well.

                If your moral framework is something more utilitarian based on minimizing total suffering, I could see some pretty good arguments. If your morals come from stuff that Jesus said, there are probably some pretty good arguments. If all that matters is that humanity maximizes its production of Beanie Babies, the arguments could probably go for or against.Report

              • Damon in reply to Troublesome Frog says:

                I asked for a moral argument. I could be religious (any) or not. I can’t say since my religious education is rather poor. One tends not to learn about something one has no faith in. So those points you made, while correct, aren’t really relevant, because I was looking for something higher up. And I don’t see how having a starting point of “if your morals are 100% dictated by a god who thinks the suffering of the poor is the highest moral good, ” would be a good place to start, but if someone wants to give it a try….Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Damon says:

                This is why finding moral reasons for government action is a bad idea, because morals are very personal, very individualized. One person may have a moral position that helping the poor through cash transfers is best, while another thinks cash transfers only lead to evil, and the poor should be helped through non-fungible services. The number of moral arguments for X that even a simple majority would agree with are few and far between.

                This is government, avoid the moral arguments, stick to the pragmatic. The moral reason is why you do it, the pragmatic reason is why we instruct government to do it.Report

              • Damon in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                You’re assuming I’m saying that the moral argument should involve gov’t. I’m not. It can, but doesn’t have to. My question was “The underlying assumption is that “we” (society I guess) “owes it” to the truly needy. Please proof this out….” Perhaps that is part of the problem. They figure gov’t should do this. But I’m not asking for a moral justification for gov’t action. I’m asking for a moral justification for ANY action–Charities, individuals, groups, gov’t, etc.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Damon says:

                I am reluctant to really engage here, because the moral foundations of the social obligation to the poor are so well documented that when a guy asks for them, its like some trick question.

                Especially a guy who has spent copious amounts of time declaring himself to be set apart from society and community solidarity in general.

                But the key word is here “proof”; its like demanding a proof of God or something, there isn’t one.

                I might as well demand you “prove” the moral foundations of private property; it doesn’t exist except as a shared moral intuition and reasoned consensus.Report

              • Damon in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                You are not familiar with the concept of the mathematical proof?

                My personal beliefs have nothing to do with my original question. “because the moral foundations of the social obligation to the poor are so well documented that when a guy asks for them, its like some trick question.” Color me ignorant, throw me a bone, and provide a link.Report

              • Joe Sal in reply to Damon says:

                Damon, I think this goes back to the two different types of freedom.

                The one I think you and myself work on is that individual freedom is the most important, and order is derived from there.

                The other one is order is the most important and freedom is derived from there.

                From my fruitful discussions with Lee, he holds the position that if a man is in a state of want/need for basic life provisions that he is not free, and to maintain the order in which freedom comes from that, those provisions must be provided.Report

              • Kim in reply to Joe Sal says:

                I’ll deny that, myself. I find it reprehensible and something that we ought to stop if people are deliberately putting others into desperate situations without a position to bargain from.Report

              • Joe Sal in reply to Joe Sal says:

                This really has a disparity with the anarcho-capitalism outlook, because food, shelter and water are by default supplied socially.

                It starts out with a non-free market outlook, because the demand is socially defined outside of subjective value, and often regulated which distorts the triangle before it is even able to work freely.Report

              • Damon in reply to Joe Sal says:

                I’m cool if someone wants to start from that origin point. I’m simply looking for a better answer than “they’ll take our stuff” or such. Hell, I’d be good with someone quoting the Christian Bible saying “book x, verse y”.Report

              • Kim in reply to Damon says:

                May I start from the perspective of the hedonist, then?
                We humans are social creatures, after all. It is a good thing to make sure that even the poor can make merry, for we humans do like a good fuck, and you’re a lot more likely to get some if everyone else is.Report

              • Road Scholar in reply to Joe Sal says:

                Joe Sal,

                You’re close. Consider three primary virtues or values: Freedom, Equality, and Order.

                These are all genuine positive values. But the thing is, in order to maximize any one of them requires that the other two be minimized. Happily, most of us find some value in all of them and therefore are willing to forego a bit of our favorite in order to achieve a decent amount of the others.Report

              • Joe Sal in reply to Road Scholar says:

                I have found freedom means different things to different people, and those meanings can and do conflict.

                Equality has the same polar problem. Equality for some means defining groups and making those groups equal. For others it means that any particular individual is equal to any other individual by rule of law. There can be considerable disparity and contention there.

                Desire for order varies. I am a individual anarchist, or some may say a ultra anarchist, so my my subjective value of order is very different from someone who has a very high value of social order.

                As long as we are able to maintain these things as individual constructs we do pretty good in getting along.

                Kim gives Decency and Virtue as examples of her morally perceived individual constructs.

                Still all is good until we go to build social constructs and open the Pandoras box. Then it starts to matter what is meant by freedom, equality, order, decency and virtue.

                Then people start reaching for the social objectivity that fits their preferences the most. It becomes the war of all against all, built on the universal truths of the majority factions.Report

              • Road Scholar in reply to Damon says:


                The real reason that folks are having a hard time with your question is because it literally makes no sense. Moral reasoning is explicitly and exclusively about what we should do. So asking for a moral reason for why we should do or should not do something is just asking why we should should do or should should not do that thing. It’s like when people say “ATM machine.” Since the M in ATM stands for “machine,” they are literally saying Automatic Teller Machine machine.

                Like any other philosophical system, moral philosophies are logical structures built upon a foundation of postulates, like a mathematical algebra (but with fuzzier concepts). But unlike mathematics where you can just arbitrarily choose postulates and work from there (e.g. how parallel lines behave), or science where you are grounded in positive observations of reality, moral philosophy really has no objective grounding apart from moral intuitions. And sadly, while we may share many of those intuitions we don’t share them all or feel them as strongly. Because in the end these moral intuitions are really emotional reactions to situations and events and moral philosophies are just a lot of words we layer on top to tell ourselves a story about it all.Report

              • Kim in reply to Road Scholar says:

                which is exactly why I assumed the moral philosophy of the hedonist, above. You can come up with all the grandest and most self-serving ideas.

                Or you can simply pare things down to basics, and say, “Help the Poor. It’s more fun that way — for you and them.”Report

              • Joe Sal in reply to Road Scholar says:

                Huh, it sounds a lot like you are saying there is no true moral objectivity.

                Would you extend that to say there is no true social objectivity?Report

              • Road Scholar in reply to Joe Sal says:

                Yes. It’s a balancing act.Report

              • Damon in reply to Road Scholar says:

                Thank you for your clarifying post. Perhaps I shouldn’t have said “feelz” in my original post. I’ve been accused of being an unsympathetic and having no empathy (via an argument with the girlfriend), and I can at times, so I’m trying to understand positions coming from places I don’t inhabit that are apparently held by lots of folks. In the context of this conversation, I understand and can appreciate arguments along the political and economic lines, and I’m even aware of some musings about charity, etc. in the Christian Bible (and perhaps all religions–I don’t know, I’m not Christian or religious), but excluding the political and economic, the argument seems to be “we should do this because”. Well, what’s the because? To date, only Kim, I repeat, KIM, has come back with something I understand.

                Is it just me?Report

              • Don Zeko in reply to Damon says:

                I don’t think it’s true that nobody else has made an argument, partially because it really isn’t an argument; it’s a postulate, an assertion. I think it’s profoundly wrong to refuse to help our fellow human beings if they are suffering and we can alleviate that suffering at minor cost to ourselves. The only argument for this is that people all have moral value and suffering is bad. I can’t prove that, since I’m not religious and, like @road-scholar , I don’t think there’s any kind of external proof to our moral intuitions.Report

              • Kim in reply to Don Zeko says:

                Oh, and now we have you getting into the eugenics argument.

                There are people who hate change, who rage and punch walls and really, really hate when things aren’t Exactly as they expect them to be. Imagine how much these people suffer when they go through adolescence?

                (Now, you might say that murder is a minor cost to yourself… but what if you’re paid? The going rate is around a year’s salary…)

                [I continue to maintain that if we have a system where parents are paying people to murder their children, our system is monumentally fucked in the head.]Report

              • Kim in reply to Damon says:

                In Judaism, the highest form of charity is teaching someone to help themselves. I think putting a goal of “everyone is able to support themselves” is a decent goal for society at large. We probably aren’t going to get there, sure… But we’re a better society if we’re trying.

                (And I lack a lot of empathy too — but I’m at least willing to take you at your word that you want to see other people’s thought processes.) ;-PReport

              • Road Scholar in reply to Damon says:

                No, it’s not just you. Have you read Jonathon Haidt’s book? At one point in their research they went beyond just recording people’s answers to moral questions, but actually started challenging them, much as you are doing here. And what they found was that the deeper they probed into the Why, their subjects would almost universally just get frustrated at some point and break down into, “It’s just wrong because… because… it just is.”

                Moral sentiments are emotions and there really is no Why underlying emotions. I love my wife and kids to pieces but I can’t give you a logical reason why I should. From a purely pragmatic standpoint my life would be a lot easier without them. But I wouldn’t give them up for the world. There is no Why, it just is.Report

              • Don Zeko in reply to Road Scholar says:

                And of course the trouble is that this problem doesn’t just apply to whether or not we owe charity to the poor; it applies to absolutely everything. There’s no objective proof that murder is wrong that won’t wind up begging the question in the exact same way if you drill down into it.Report

              • Kim in reply to Road Scholar says:

                That’s not true at all. We’ve got millions of years of breeding that underlie emotions.

                You know that you can trick a dog into getting scared just by acting? Emotions are hardwired into us because we’re very social critters.Report

              • Don Zeko in reply to Kim says:

                The fact that we think a thing because thinking that thing provided an evolutionary advantage to our ancestors isn’t proof that the thing is true, though.Report

              • Kim in reply to Don Zeko says:

                True. But if you want to talk to an AI, go talk to a freaking AI.
                I’m willing to point to the evolutionary advantage in taking care of group members. And I can prove that is true.Report

              • Don Zeko in reply to Kim says:

                Sure. I’m just saying that evolutionary advantage has nothing to do with moral truth. There are plenty of behaviors (e.g. rape, infanticide), both in humans and non-human animals, that provide evolutionary advantage but that virtually all people consider immoral.Report

              • Road Scholar in reply to Don Zeko says:

                You need to give up the notion of objective moral truth. Morality is subjective and contingent.

                Our fundamental political problem is that we’re adapted by evolution to a life of scattered nomadic groups of maybe a few dozen individuals at most. But now we are faced with adapting to life in cities of millions and states that span a continent. We, as a species, are simply maladapted to our current environment.Report

              • Kim in reply to Road Scholar says:

                I’m sorry, but thousands of years of selective breeding have modified humans just as much as they’ve changed dogs.

                We are quantitatively and qualitatively bred to work in cities of thousands (specifically this has expressed itself in higher levels of homosexuality, which tends to diffuse conflicts among men and make it easier to get shit done. Mr. Paleo Alpha got into fights too much to actually organize more than around 100 individuals.).Report

              • J_A in reply to Kim says:

                specifically this has expressed itself in higher levels of homosexuality, which tends to diffuse conflicts among men and make it easier to get shit done. Mr. Paleo Alpha got into fights too much to actually organize more than around 100 individuals.).

                I guess this would also apply to penguinsReport

              • Kim in reply to J_A says:

                J-A, less deliberate selective breeding, though.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Don Zeko says:

                I’m just saying that evolutionary advantage has nothing to do with moral truth.

                Well, I agree as far as it goes. Morality and evolutionary biology are two different domains and all that. But there is an effort to analyze our common-sense notions of morality in evolutionary terms and concepts. Personally, I don’t think that project will succeed (and frankly, I find it misguided for a bunch of reasons having little to do with the internal logic of the project itself).

                Nevertheless, and along similar lines, it IS possible that a reduction of moral terms to pragmatic concepts, cashed out in terms of survivability and other biologically oriented concepts, might succeed. The problem, of course, is that terms like “survivability” become the fulcrum the rest of the moral argument revolves around and non-question-begging definitions of that term are hard to come by. And hence, here we are!!Report

              • Kim in reply to Don Zeko says:

                True. But the instant you catch someone proclaiming that they know moral truth — look for exactly how this proclamation is going to get them laid.Report

              • Damon in reply to Road Scholar says:

                Yeah, that’s not the type of reading I generally do 🙂 But I thank your for your comments.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Damon says:

                Yeah, that’s not the type of reading I generally do 🙂

                I recall from previous discussion that you never read the fine print on the social contract you object to either. 🙂Report

              • Damon in reply to Stillwater says:

                No no no..

                I’ve never SEEN the fine print on the “social contract”. Hell, i’ve never seen the “social contract” at all. Never. Yet, somehow I’m alleged bound to its terms. 🙂 And these terms keep changing.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Damon says:

                What troubles me most about this new world order in which we find ourselves is that I don’t know what the required reading is anymore.

                I worry that there isn’t any.Report

              • aaron david in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                The problem with trying to remove moral concerns from gov’t is that gov’t s essentially a series of cost/benefit analysis. And that is the heart of moral questioning. Everything that is decided – welfare amounts, military spending, immigration, etc. is based on a personal decision writ nationally. In other words, we move these questions of national stature to our deliberating bodies to determine that equation. Which is swayed by politics, which is another word for moral reasoning.

                The absence of this, what seems to be called technocratic governance currently, sounds good in theory, but needs to be informed by politics, or morals so to speak. You can say that the obvious solution to problem “X” is solution “Y”, but that presupposes that everyone already agrees with you and your moral deductions. Which, as we are seeing right now in our national politics, isn’t the case. From military actions to immigration we have seen an insurgence of opinions that differ.Report

              • Don Zeko in reply to aaron david says:

                I agree with this 100%. One can’t make a normative decision of any kind without some kind of conception of what the good is.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Don Zeko says:

                My caution is that a lot of our morals are really just highly regarded personal preferences. I mean, once upon a time it was a moral good that women never wear trousers or show their ankles, and the law reflected that in many places.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                “This is my personal preference.”
                “So what?”
                “Um… this is God’s personal preference?”
                “Whoa! I’d better get on board.”Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

                “No. Wait! God cares about the length of a women’s hem? That’s f***ing crazy!”

                “Is that a bet you wanna make with your afterlife?”

                I think it’s time you started championing the view you actually support rather than catering to the view you oppose, Jaybird. If you wanna see some positive change, anyway. 🙂Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:



              • aaron david in reply to Stillwater says:

                Wait, Bob Fosse is God?Report

              • He was played by the same guy who played Scylla, who came back from the dead (in one of the worst sequels ever written.)Report

              • Stillwater in reply to aaron david says:

                Fosse is the instrument.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Stillwater says:

                How in the hell do you sell Virtue Ethics in 2017?Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

                I’m not. I’m critiquing your criticism of (or alternatively, your tacit support for) “religious political morality”, one that you seem to have a hard time making up your mind about. Pick a side, be consistent.

                Or continue to play a game which is “rational” enough for jazz, I guess. But at that point you dont’ have a right to criticize anyone else’s tune.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Stillwater says:

                Consistency is *NOT* one of the virtues.

                It’s a handmaiden of the virtues, but it is not a virtue in and of itself.

                A system that abandons the virtues quickly finds itself embracing the handmaidens then wondering why even vulgar utilitarianism can’t pick out what makes for a “good” “outcome” anymore.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

                Which sounds to me like a reductio on abandoning consistency as a virtue.

                Look, even pure cynical instrumentality requires consistency to be a virtue. See, for example, how things turned out for Milo.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Stillwater says:

                Consistency is *NOT* a virtue. If (awful person) was not a hypocrite, does that make zhem a better person than an inconsistent awful person?

                I don’t know about you, but I *PREFER* my awful people to be inconsistent! Let’s get a ray of !awful out there from time to time.

                It’s when someone is virtuous that you find you want them to be consistent. (See also: honesty, bravery, perseverance…)

                Which is not to say that we want virtuous people without these traits! It’s that virtuous people will have these traits show up, as handmaidens to the virtues.

                But if you have just the handmaidens without the virtues, you find yourself with a brutally honest, fearless, undeterrable monster.

                (“But at least he’s consistent!”)Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

                Consistency is *NOT* a virtue.

                Jaybird, I’m not talking consistency as it applies to the reactions of the unwashed masses moved hither and yon by the currents of the moment. I’m talking about you. You specifically. You’ve said that political beliefs are equivalent to religious beliefs in that they’re beyong reason or critique. Yet you ALSO critique those views as being irrational and subject to analysis (granted, on the meta level, but that doesn’t seem like a legitimate defense at this point).

                So I’m not talking about how “other people” think about politics, I’m talking about how YOU do. And you’re inconsistent. Not necessarily in the overall goals you advocate, but in the way you critique others’ view. Sometimes you argue that “religious political belief” is an irrefutable foundational grounding. Sometimes you argue that a “religious political belief” is just a bunch of partisan bullshit.

                You can’t have it both ways.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

                Well, of course you CAN have it both ways. But at that point I think you need to concede that you have an ideological agenda, one that permits you to view some religious ideological beliefs as foundational and others as potpourri.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Stillwater says:

                one that permits you to view some religious ideological beliefs as foundational and others as potpourri.

                But some religious ideological beliefs *ARE* foundational.
                Others *ARE* potpourri.

                And, get this, sometimes they can present identically to each other.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

                Then come clean on what you think the difference is at the first order level and don’t say that political beliefs are equivalent to religious beliefs.


              • Jaybird in reply to Stillwater says:

                They’re uniquely tailored, on an individual level, for each person using similar tools, patterns, and fabric. It’s a mess of culture, individual potential, and blind luck. Unless there is a deity in which case there’s probably some teleology in there as well.

                But that’s just off the top of my head.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

                And yet!!, you think a whole bunch of em are bullshit. Just say so.

                Say: Even tho political beliefs are like religion, a whole bunch of people’s political religious beliefs are bullshit.

                Try it. It might be liberating for you!Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Stillwater says:

                Yeah, but the fact that I think that a whole bunch of them are bullshit are beside the point.

                I don’t think that a deity exists. This pretty much makes a whole mess of religions into “bullshit”.

                And how interesting is it, at the end of the day, that I don’t think that the Archangel Gabriel *REALLY* gave the Koran to some guy in the desert 1400 years ago?

                Because there’s a lot of really, really interesting stuff about Islam in the year 2017 that has nothing to do with whether or not it’s “true”.

                Same for Democracy.

                (As for whether it’s “good”… well, now we’re back to post-modernism.)Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

                You reject religion as Luther rejected the Pope. Remember?

                Belief in a deity seems like a superfluous objection to me since you were the one who equated contemporary political beliefs with religion in a previous thread.

                Maybe you wanna walk that back. Maybe your views aren’t actually rational enough for jazz. Maybe I’m a dick for pushing on it this hard. All that could be true. Especially the last part. I’ll back off. Say something once why say it again?

                Add: and I mean that without antagonism, btw. Maybe I HAVE been a dick to push on this. If so, I apologize.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Stillwater says:

                You reject religion as Luther rejected the Pope. Remember?

                This might be one of things things where I was making a much subtler joke than I thought I was.

                We might need to get Marchmaine in here to make a ruling on that one.

                Belief in a deity seems like a superfluous objection to me since you were the one who equated contemporary political beliefs with religion in a previous thread.

                Yes. But in rejecting religion, it was in an attempt to affirm what Religion is actually representing (poorly).

                As Luther saw the Pope represent Christianity.

                As for “rational enough for jazz”, well. That might be another one of those jokes that I ought know better than to make.Report

              • J_A in reply to Jaybird says:

                May Quetzalcoatl forgive me, apparently I’m agreeing with Jaybird

                Religions ARE real, even if God(S) is/are or are not a figment of some goat herder’s imagination.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Stillwater says:

                (Oh, also, antagonism is cool. That allows me to see which thoughts are robust and which wither. I feel bad if it ends up being boring, though. Which I usually suspect it does.)Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

                Well, antagonism is only cool when it’s actually challenging the content of a view. I thought that was what I was doing, but maybe not so much. But even more to the point about my behavior, I’m pissed off about a certain type of intellectual thought that is beginning to predominate, one where subjective thoughts (what we used to call “beliefs”) are increasingly viewed as facts on the premise that there simply isn’t a way to determine truth and falsity anymore. That’s dangerous for a bunch of reasons, but the one that troubles me the most is that the mechanism by which radically false beliefs used be reined in – appeal to non-subjetive (what we used to call “objective”) reality – is no longer a viable strategy. Debates about alternative facts and fake news dominate the ideological debate. Metabating.

                So when I see someone who I know knows better effectively granting that the distinction is no longer relevant – not as a prescription, mind you , but as a tacit acceptance of the description – I get my feathers ruffled a bit. Even if it IS the proper description of our new political reality we shouldn’t therefore adopt it as the new paradigm from which to move forward. Seems to me, anyway.

                So I probably directed a bunch of anger about our current state of affairs at you for – perhaps mistakenly – thinking you were tacitly endorsing it.

                Christ I need a drink.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

                Weirdly, you’re making my point. The fact that you recognize a distinction is what matters.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Stillwater says:

                Sometimes you argue that “religious political belief” is an irrefutable foundational grounding.

                I must have communicated poorly. It seems to me that my recent insights is that “political” is a lot more likely to be an effective synonym for “religious”.

                And when it comes to “irrefutable”, I think that we might be using the word differently. It’s refutable in a similar way that “infatuation” is refutable. That is to say, it ain’t always going to be there but it’s not reason that will be the driver behind the change.

                As for “foundational”, that seems to me to be another way to say “somebody picked something other than nihilism” and I’m trying to hammer out how, even if the foundation of the foundation doesn’t have a foundation, can there be enough mass to make the question kind of moot.

                But, with that said, there sure do seem to be a lot of political (and/or religious, for that matter) beliefs out there that are just bunches of partisan bullshit. (Might be irrefutable, though. Depends on the bullshit. Depends on the foundation.)Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to aaron david says:

                Why government does something should be informed by morals, but if a moral compass is the only rationale to a government policy, you’ll have a hard time selling it long term.

                Pragmatic rationales are stickier and less likely to ebb & flow with attitudes.

                So you want to take care of the poor because it’s “the right thing to do”, but demanding government do it just because it it meets your moral needs is a tough sell unless it’s a majority held position. But develop some strong pragmatic reasoning, and you can achieve a larger base of support, morals aside.Report

              • aaron david in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Spoken like a true engineer;)

                But to even look at data in a specific way in search of a solution to a problem, or to even look at data and see a problem, takes a moral stand, one which others who don’t share your morals might look at and see something completely different. In other words, all that data that should inform our collective decision making? To even see it as such requires a moral stance. Which is where politics comes in, the attempt to sway others to your moral stance.Report

              • Joe Sal in reply to aaron david says:

                “In other words, all that data that should inform our collective decision making?”

                At some point I think it would be a good idea to parse attribute data from non-attribute data. I wanna be at that table and will have some fun exercises for pragmatic reasoning.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to aaron david says:

                From military actions to immigration we have seen an insurgence of opinions that differ.

                Fwiw, I’d be more inclined to say that the base morality shared by people isn’t all that different, but the pretension, and politically magnified distinction, that there is one drives our politics.

                IOW, it’s not so much morality that divides us as the ideologically based idea that the “opposition” is trying to get more than they deserve, and at the “other sides” expense. (Which does, in fact, have a historical precedent justifying the view… :). And THAT’S what drives the craziness.Report

              • aaron david in reply to Stillwater says:

                I am not sure about that. Not to say your wrong, but I don’t know and would need more time to think about it.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to aaron david says:

                Think of politics (cynically!) this way: it’s the magnification of distinctions to further the interests of the speaker.

                Milo for example. 🙂

                I’m not saying all politicians are cynical in that way, nor am I saying politics necessarily reduces to those distinctions. Just that it’s endemic to politics that grievances become magnified, often beyond all empirically justified proportion. (Eg, that ISIS constitutes an existential threat to the US.)Report

        • J_A in reply to Damon says:


          “Owed”, you are right, as a society we don’t “owe” them anything.

          But as a society we see these payments as an insurance policy, to cover two distinct risks

          A) There, but for the grace of Quetzalcoatl, go I.

          Most of us are but a few pay days away from real trouble. It makes sense, as a society, to buy an insurance policy that caps the risk individual members of society are exposed to.

          B) If we don’t give them something, they will take everything.

          The Revolutionary/Napoleonic wars changed everything(*). Your military forces are now composed of the same rifraff as your proletariat, and cannot be trusted to suppress popular revolutionary movements. As Bismarck realized (***) by providing welfare benefits you reduce the chance of civil unrest and uprisings, which you are not sure you will be able to suppress because you don’t trust your military will fire against their neighbors and relatives. Welfare is in this sense society’s insurance policy against social unrest.

          (*) Before 1800, military command was restricted to the nobility, and conscripted standing armies were very rare. Standing armies in peace time were mostly regiments of volunteer mercenaries, foreign or national, which were supplemented during war time by conscription, normally for the duration of the campaign season, since the men were expected to return to the fields in planting and harvesting season, and there was no campaigning in the winter (**)

          (**) One of the reasons winter is the Social Season, when the officers returned from the front to the capital.

          (***) Bismarck rediscovered the Imperial Rome political concept of panen et circensesReport

          • Brent F in reply to J_A says:

            I think its a misread of Bismarck to say he was thinking in panen et circenses terms. If you read his correspondance when coming up with the state socialism policy he saw it as a matter of “doing well by doing good.”

            i.e. that the state at a legitmate responsiblity look after the lower classes and insure them from destitution reciprocal to their duty of loyality to the state and the two reinforced each other. That it was excellent politics for him didn’t take away from Bismarck thinking it was good policy.

            This is generally the key to understanding why Bismarck was such a political giant. If you only see the cynicism you miss that he’s artfully weaving cynicism and idealism together in the same process.Report

            • J_A in reply to Brent F says:


              On Bismark, you are a hundred percent……


              In my defense, though, I tried to describe his actions from the self-interest point of view, without reference to “doing good” (because feelz, you know). What was in for Bismark in these policies, because it was not as Bismark owed the poor something, you know.Report

          • Joe Sal in reply to J_A says:

            The way I see it there is a problem in your analysis. Shays’ Rebellion was created by taxes, and government entities behaving badly. Not just government but the people who took control of government and started raising taxes.

            Government caused the civil unrest. The civilians in the militias at first didn’t fire upon the uncivil, and only did so when they started to take the armory. Militia in this country has started to disengage from the state and decentralize.

            This goes back to the price-time-quality triangle. Taxes for a welfare state distort the price. If those taxes go to any type of regulation of products, it distorts quality and can distort the time to bring the products to market. The triangle becomes less free floating and meet/respond to the demands of the market. Just by the distortions you no longer have a free market.

            Where you see the triangle free float without distortions you can see the most potential to help the poor, and the creation of wealth makes it somewhat easier to be charitable.

            There is no guarantee that pushing welfare into the state is a solution. If it is assumed it is a state responsibility, then people can ignore it and basically carry on with a “i gave at the office” mentality that in effect gets them off the hook, so to speak. It could and has led to people still suffering in the streets because state is only as competent as what it is built of.Report

            • J_A in reply to Joe Sal says:

              Taxes are not inherently good or inherently bad, so the fact that people rebelled against taxes doesn’t mean people would be the happiest if taxes were zero.

              Where you see the triangle free float without distortions you can see the most potential to help the poor, and the creation of wealth makes it somewhat easier to be charitable.

              Between the Roman Empire panen et circenses And Bismark, there were very little to no public funds directed to welfare assistance to the poor, and yet, somehow, there was also very little of wealthy charitable people taking that load unto themselves. Perhaps the French nobility of the XVII and XVIII centuries were not yet free enough (despite being free of taxes) to unleash their full charitable potential. If only the nobility had been freer, they would have taken care of all the poor people. But they didn’t, because they had a peeve with the crown, from Richelieu to Louis XV (after him, it was too late to do anything, though Louis XVI was more willing to hear the claims of nobles oppressed by his grandfather)

              Just like no argument is best enough for @damon , I’m afraid we will never be free enough for you.Report

              • Joe Sal in reply to J_A says:

                Well we are talking past each other on many levels and in many directions.

                Societies vary. Just because a society may be wealthy, doesn’t mean that that society is charitable.

                Just because a society is poor doesn’t mean it is not charitable.

                But I think if you want to make the greatest opportunity for a society to be charitable, you have to have an economy that bolsters free market to the extent that it can provide the most of what is needed.

                From what we see of societies that start manipulating and creating rigid triangles, the less productive and more scarce, and narrow the economy functions. Which tends to make even charitable society even less able to deliver charity.

                This isn’t even a parity of whether society holds any more moral agency than individual agency, because in both structures the ability of the triangle to float/deliver is the critical pivot point.Report

      • Road Scholar in reply to greginak says:

        There was a time when what we call welfare was indeed a function of charity administered by the Church. Of course, at that time the church owned 1/3 of the land and could enforce a 10% tithe as well, which was essentially an income tax.Report

        • greginak in reply to Road Scholar says:

          I imagine at the time it worked well enough for people in the church. Of course very different standards and it did require you be a good church person, not anything else at all. Outside the church you were boned.Report

          • Kim in reply to greginak says:

            not really. people still died, and we didn’t get antibiotics from the church.
            when your options were
            1) hedgewitch
            2) Priest (for last rites).
            well, those are pretty cheap ain’t they?Report

        • Chip Daniels in reply to Road Scholar says:

          …church owned 1/3 of the land and could enforce a 10% tithe as well, which was essentially an income tax.

          Weird how conservatives, for all their Burkean love of tradition and Chestertonian fences, never seem to want to return to that Pre-New Deal practice.Report

    • DensityDuck in reply to Stillwater says:

      “Here’s why no one takes libertarians seriously.”

      haw. You maybe forgot to read all the way to the end of that paragraph, where he writes “…’Welfare should be limited to genuinely poor people who can’t help themselves’ has broad appeal – and unlike the UBI, it’s a clear step in the libertarian direction.”Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to Stillwater says:

      The statement about austerity being “the straightforward moderate path to a freer
      world” is why libertarians aren’t going to win elections without massive dishonesty. BDSM might be popular in the bedroom but not in public policy.Report

    • Joe Sal in reply to Stillwater says:

      Libertarians are doomed.Report