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To Buy Or Not To Buy

My beloved 2005 Honda Pilot is limping toward its inevitable finish line. Although it has safely gotten my kids, my wife, and I around for the five years that I have had it, its transmission blew last year, and it seems to be struggling more than ever with the day-to-day tasks expected of it. As such, I am in the market for a new automobile.

I’ve been driving bigger vehicles for awhile now, the result of having children, but with one set to move out of the house soon, and with us already having one vehicle big enough to cart the remaining kids around in, I’m hopeful to get something smaller that will simultaneously be more economical too. This isn’t a mid-life crisis situation* so it still has to be practical. I guess what I’m saying, in a rather long-winded way, is that I’m looking for a smaller wagon/hatchback situation.

The good news is that a local car dealer here in town – the extremely casually named Larry’s Automobiles – has precisely the vehicle I am looking for: a Volkswagen Sportwagon. It’s only five years old, has low mileage for its age, and, because Volkwagen’s reputation is currently a nightmare, I think I can get it for a relatively good price. Everything is lining up.

Well.

Almost everything.

See, the problem with Larry’s Automobiles is that it has a reputation so bad that it has earned itself the moniker, “Larry’s Lemons.” The thing is, Larry sells people cars that end up being absolute junk. My father bought a car from Larry a decade ago, and within a month, he was in the shop having to have significant repairs done to keep the damned thing running. My neighbor growing up bought a car from him, and he eventually ended up suing Larry when it was discovered that the car’s odometer had been rolled back. A few months ago, a lady I work with discovered that a car she had purchased from Larry had been badly damaged in a wreck, something he had not bothered disclosing prior to the sale. If you ask around my hometown, you can very quickly find a lot of people who will report on the dubious quality of the cars that Larry sells.

This, as you might imagine, is hugely concerning. Am I really going to give this man thousands of dollars considering his reputation as a shady, dishonest dealer? He is a man who has repeatedly put his own needs ahead of his customers; is that someone I want to be doing business with?

To assuage my fears, I went to talk to Larry. I told him I was interested in the car, but I was hugely concerned about his reputation. You don’t earn a nickname like Larry’s Lemons for nothing, I told him, and I asked him to clarify the quality of the car that I wanted to buy.

“Now, now, now, son, let me explain something to you,” Larry started. “There are two things I need you to absolutely understand before you decide whether or not you want to do this incredible deal. The first of those things is that this is a good car. I am telling you that this is a good car, and you absolutely have to believe me. My word is good, and I am assuring you that the most important thing in the world right now that you understand, that you know in your heart of hearts, is that this is a good car. In fact, I absolutely insist that you understand how good a car this is. I am promising you that I mean it when I say that the thing that is most important to me is you having this good car.”

Larry took a breath and adjusted his plaid sportcoat. A wacky waving inflatable arm tube man snapped taught in the afternoon breeze. Larry continued, “The other thing you have to understand is that you do not really have a choice here. You are obliged to believe me. Polite society, and dare I say that high-falutin intellectual society, demands that you believe me, because what I am doing here right now is telling you the god’s honest truth truth. To question me is to insult me sir. To bring my reputation up in a discussion about this particular car, which I have just assured you is a good car? For you to come onto this used car lot, for you to come into my place of business, and suggest that I might be dishonest – to even mention that vindictive, horrendous, outrageous, mean-spirited, no-good, unfair, unjust, undeserved nickname of yours, an offense so offensive that I shan’t dare repeat it myself – is simply not how we do things in polite, decent society. Whatever happened with all of those other vehicles has absolutely no bearing upon the quality of this vehicle right here, and anybody telling you otherwise is contributing to not only to a slanderous attack upon my reputation, but to our coarsening world, to frankly the decline of the intellectual underpinnings of everything that we hold dear, not merely in used car selling – that most honest of pursuits – but throughout our culture!”

Larry was pretty redfaced at this point. “You have to understand that all of those other examples are completely immaterial, do you understand? They have no bearing upon my honesty at this precise moment in time, and so, yes, perhaps, it might be possible that other customers of mine have ended up with cars that were somewhat less than ideal, but that has nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing, to do with whether what I am telling you now about this particular car is an honest reflection of my understanding of it.”

Larry went on, “And frankly, I’m not even sure I want to sell you this car, what with how egregiously you have offended me on this day. Refusing to believe me, an honest man schooled in the high arts of used car salesmanship? I’m staggered that I am forced to endure such outrageous disrespect, simply because of anything that I might have been involved in long ago, simply because you decide that you want to nitpick my history for examples that have nothing to do with the situation as it stands today. Only a monster, a true monster, would have the audacity to hold a man accountable for his actions, especially when he has already told you what his beliefs are. I am offended. Offended!”

He stomped off after this, leaving me standing there beside the Volkswagen. He seemed pretty angry about the whole thing. So I am stuck not knowing what to do. It is true that his reputation has no specific relationship to the particular Volkswagen being considered – maybe it really is a good car? – but it seems awfully difficult to separate the one from all of the others, especially when he is the only person that will definitely benefit from me choosing to be willfully ignorant of what he has voluntarily done in the past. But then, he seemed so angry about being asked to account for why his voluntary actions were so different than his claimed beliefs, and I surely do not want people to be offended.

I suppose the only reasonable, and frankly intellectual, thing to do is to blindly assume that Larry is honestly accounting for his understanding of the car. It would be so damned indecent of me to account for everything else that I know about him when considering his honesty at this particular moment, even though his very long and very established history of misleading people seems particularly relevant at this exact moment in time. After all, isn’t willfull ignorance better than the alternative? Isn’t voluntarily having less information considerably better than having much more instead? Surely it makes more sense to trust the man, his reputation be damned, rather than let what I know about him lead me the astray?

So that is it then. I am off to buy a car. And I will not dare ask any more questions of Larry, what with how offensive it is to hold a man to account for his voluntarily made decisions in regard to his insisted upon beliefs! Surely everything will go swimmingly from here!

*OR IS IT?!?


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141 thoughts on “To Buy Or Not To Buy

      • It’s everything after that line. That sounds less like a car salesman thing and more like a pastiche of the arguments we had in the past when we were arguing over hypocrisy among social conservatives.

        Anyhow, some time ago in a comment, I at least partly conceded your point. Hypocrisy does in fact undermine the principle being pushed. If the practice of morality is in part a negotiation of what the boundaries and duties are, then the demands we make on one another are normally taken to be part of good faith attempts to figure out what the rules are. However, if the people who push a rule tend to push it when it benefits them but ignore it when it hurts them, then there is less reason to think that they are negotiating in good faith.

        That said, are you really looking for a new car?

        If you are, then I’d recommend a VW. Those things are sturdy and among the oldest cars on the roads I see are VWs. That indicates that they are generally reliable. However, I wouldn’t buy one from a shady dealer. Go to someone who’s got a better reputation.

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        • I was pretty psyched for the first couple of paragraphs, thinking that this was actually a post about buying a used car and not just justifying feelings.

          Hypocrisy seems to really grind some people’s gears. I was like that when I was a kid. My mom would only let us have milk or water to drink, but she kept a not-so-secret stash of Cokes under her bed for her personal consumption. I was always outraged by this. How dare she want her kids to have better nutritional habits than she did! Didn’t she understand that if she chose to drink Coke then she lost all moral standing to make us choose healthier options? I couldn’t trust anything she told us after I made that realization. It consumed me. I would have blogged about it incessantly, but this was 1986 so I just wrote about it in my journal with big bold letters that said things like, “MOM IS PARENTING IN BAD FAITH,” and “MOM IS TROLLING ME WITH HER BEVERAGE RULES”. I seriously became so obsessed with the concept of hypocrisy and justice that my family used to call me ‘The Lawyer’. Definitely not as cool as ‘Ace’ or ‘Rambo’ which were the nicknames I really wanted, but we all need a cause. When my dad, who dropped out of college after his sophomore year, started telling me I was definitely going to college and not becoming a carpenter…well geez I flipped my lid. Didn’t he understand that his own choices invalidated what he wanted for me? Ugh.

          Eventually I became a parent though and had the same terrible realization so many of us do, which is that Do As I Say, Not As I Do is really the golden rule of parenting. I mean, you can try to be understanding and sometimes you should try to model behaviors, but also it’s okay to tell your kids you get to stay up later because you are a grown-up and you get the biggest slice of cake because you bought the friggin’ cake. But some people sort of never get over the hypocrisy=injustice thing and it haunts their adult lives. That also bums me out. Sheesh. Adulting is hard.

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            • True. Conservatives are always characterized as mean ol’ grumps, sitting around twirling their mustaches and thinking about how to rig the system in favor of white male conservatives (I added the last part because Sam is now counting white male liberals as an oppressed minority). On the flip side, conservatives sort of see a certain type of liberal as whiny children shouting, “That’s not fair,” to the rest of the world. I like to think of moderates as the sensible adults in the middle, but it seems he who whines/grumps the loudest gets the most attention.

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    • I don’t think the analogy sucks. Though I do think that a lot of people are really not comprehending how angry and pissed Democratic voters and left-leaning Americans are right now. I can’t tell whether this lack of comprehension is intentional or not though. Probably a combination.

      Do you realize that the election of Donald Trump and his subsequent actions caused Democratic voters and left-leaning Americans to abandon the last millimeters of good faith that they had towards conservatives? We are pissed off at people like Ben Sasse and Jeff Flake who make sighs and complaints about Trump’s vulgarity and then vote for his agenda anyway. We are pissed off because the media treats words as being heroic signs and character. We are pissed off when pundits say that it is not fair to say they should go against long-standing conservative goals. We are pissed off because the standard would be the opposite if there was a Democratic Trump-like President and saying “Of course Democratic politicians in Congress should torpedo long-standing liberal goals because their President is a Vulgarian Boar.”

      I won’t even get started on the Christian Right and their open hypocrisy. Plus there are the nutso conspiracy theories like QANON and Pizzagate.

      Yet we are always supposed to give Republicans and conservatives grace and forgiveness and assume that they are people of deep and serious ideal and principles.

      In short, fuck that shit. Damn it to hell.

      I can’t tell how November is going to turn out. The Senate is a really rough map but we are doing really well polling wise despite this tough map.

      So why is it that a lot of people on this sight are so flabbergasted and/or shocked by how angry liberals are at the right-wing now? Is it because they see a rising generation that is browner, more filled with women, and more to the left as a sign of decreased power and importance? Does AOC make middle-aged white feel impotent? They are certainly scarred of the s-word*

      *Here is my theory about why so many younger Americans are attracted to “democratic socialism.” The right-wing dudes blew it. We had generations of right-wing business types and their lackeys calling every small welfare state measure as horrible and evil socialism. They gave no compromise even though libertarian economist Tyler Cowan notes that every capitalist country has a welfare state component. The American right wing and the House “Freedom” Caucus refused any compromise. So of course younger Americans said fuck this shit and embraced the socialist label. The right-wing has no one to blame but themselves for this state of affairs.

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      • I don’t think that any party is obligated to make its opposition happy. Human decency matters, and can be more important than politics, but if your success in politics makes me angry, you’re not to be blamed for it. I never accepted this way of thinking from the “angry right”, and now it sounds just as silly from the “angry left”.

        You say that you’re angry at those who don’t like the president’s behaviour but vote for his policies anyway. But why shouldn’t they? If you have standards for conduct and policy positions, shouldn’t you speak out on standards of conduct and support your policy positions? I wish there was more of that.

        That’s not to say that political compromise doesn’t have a place. Ideally, the voters wouldn’t punish politicians for B+ legislation. But that’s on us.

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      • “…Here is my theory about why so many younger Americans are attracted to “democratic socialism.”

        My theory is that it’s because they see it as the Great Leveler. One of the biggest challenges with Millennials is that they don’t think experience matters as much as education. They are frustrated that they can’t get theirs NOW. They see DS as speeding that process up by reducing the value of merit.

        As for how gosh darn angry these liberal voters are…maybe it’s just prejudice against the various groups on the Right?

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        • Another possibility that given the generally silly political debates and name calling socialism has been defined as pretty much anything D’s want. Youngsters have seen that slight tax increases or the ACA are socialism. What do they have to fear from something that is just another silly accusation people throw out or has been defined down beyond recognition. Also see nazi, fascism.

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          • I agree with this also. I think ultimately they think Sweden sounds pretty good. In some ways, I even fall into that trap from time to time. A shorter work week or more progressive ideas about vacation or a higher tax rate but more social programs…those all sound pretty good. But then I keep coming back to the belief that because we sort of consciously make things hard, that is why Americans seem to succeed so often. It’s the same notion that people from colder climates are just a little bit tougher, just a little bit better at handling adversity.

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            • But then I keep coming back to the belief that because we sort of consciously make things hard, that is why Americans seem to succeed so often.

              Being gigantic, wealthy in resources, and one of the only first world countries that didn’t get flattened by two world wars, I think, means a lot more than a plucky willingness to work 80 hour work weeks which are scientifically shown to be less productive than sending you home at 40.

              But we do it anyways, even though it actually results in more wasted time, because nothing causes success like shooting yourself in the foot until you learn your lesson or something.

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          • Lesson to be learnt from the past 3 decades:

            Throw around words like socialism and fascism enough and you will get actual socialists and fascists eventually. Its sort of like people playing at saying bloody mary at midnight really end up summoning her.

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            • I disagree. Calling people “racist” doesn’t make them racist. That’s absurd. What over-use of the term does do is desensitize people to the negative cultural consequences of being so called, and thereby *reveal* that those people are, as a matter of fact, racists. Same with socialists* and so on.

              *Tho the term “socialist” has been so consistently corrupted in our political culture that (eg) Rick Scott (R-Florida) can argue – apparently without ridicule or contradiction – that his desire to preserve Medicare *isn’t* socialist even while he criticizes people who want to expand Medicare to all for *being* socialist. Or, perhaps more pointedly, Trump can say that Democrats want to “raid Medicare to pay for their socialism” without everyone in the country tearing gut muscles by laughing so hard.

              America is a crazy place, yo.

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              • The problem is of course, there’s no evidence that the phrase racist is being overused in America. If anything, I’d argue an actual correct usage of racist and racism when it comes to American society and all that it entails would be so overwhelming, that basically nobody outside of black Marxists would be comfortable.

                I mean, let’s be blunt here – I don’t think it’s a shocker there’s been a huge increase in stories about racism in America as blogging, social media, and less gatekeeping when it comes to writing and creating stories has all happened.

                Twenty five years ago, if a black guy wanted to talk about the daily racism they encounter, at best, they had to write a letter to the editor to a almost completely white newspaper or sell the idea of a story like that that to an overwhelmingly white editorial staff at a magazine.

                Now, he can just post it on Twitter, Facebook, or Medium and millions of people can read it.

                The truth is, more people aren’t talking about racism. It’s that your average right-leaning white person has to hear it for the first time in their life.

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                • Why would black marxists be the only ones who are comfortable? The assumption seems to be that not being marxist makes you racist. But that seems far from obvious to me. Sure, marxists would like that to be true. Or at least it wold be awfully convenient for them if they could paint capitalism as inherently racist, but that doesn’t make it true.

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                  • What Jesse might mean is that the honest conclusion is that racism against people of color in general and Black people in particular is built into the American DNA. It was there from the first interactions of English settlers and the Native American tribes. That this racism is so imbedded in American life, it was what Marxists like to refer to systematic racism. The only conclusion is that American is rotten to the core and beyond redemption. The only people who will like this are Black Marxists because they have little love of anything about the United States.

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                    • The only conclusion is that American is rotten to the core and beyond redemption. The only people who will like this are Black Marxists because they have little love of anything about the United States.

                      I’m not a black marxist and *I* like that conclusion. In my view, American is beyond redemption. The original sin can’t be expiated. America *is* rotten to the core. I’m not sure I “like this” view of my own country, as you say above, but I’m in agreement with black folk who think it’s a true and perhaps irredeemable fact about life in America.

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              • I think your model of the world is one where people have racist thoughts and feelings but do not express them because of fear of social opprobrium. When the social opprobrium is used indiscriminately, the specific incentive effect to keep your racist thoughts private disappears.

                I’m not denying that this happens. I think that there is also another layer where people do not let themselves think racist thoughts because they are afraid of social opprobrium. To the degree that the norm is indiscriminately enforced, people may begin to let themselves think racist thoughts since “hey, everyone is racist anyway”

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                  • I agree with Jaybird on this point. ‘Thought-terminating’ is exactly what the word does and honestly, it’s just intellectually lazy. What it symbolizes the inability of someone to understand how people can hold cultural prejudices and not link them directly to race in the biological sense. If we could get beyond this, I actually think we would make some progress. For example, I think 20 years ago The Gays were considered a monolithic group and if someone was prejudiced against the most stereotypical cultural aspects of that group, it was also considered a hatred of all The Gays. 20 years later, I think most of us realize that there are a lot of sub-cultures within that group and that while someone might be less accepting of some aspects, they are more accepting of others.

                    All of that is to say though, it’s not as though the majority gets to dictate to the minority which aspects of their culture are problematic (and the subtext is that if only they would change that behavior things would be different) but it does help the two sides actually talk about the points of friction. Maybe some understanding comes from that.

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                    • The term “thought terminating” doesn’t get us anywhere tho since it’s a purely political concept. Anything – literally anything – can be a “thought terminating” expression by that measure. (Were you persuaded by the arguments in 1984?)

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                        • I agree it’s better, but even then, the concept in play is that the interlocutor finds some accusation so far beyond the pale that he or she can’t respond to it. Which strikes me as nonsense. If a person is falsely accused of racism then they should explain why that description is incorrect. The fact that *conservatives* view the accusation as a conversation-terminating claim reveals something, don’t you think? At a minimum, an unwillingness to to hash out what the current politically fashionable concept of “racism” actually is, and how it doesn’t apply to them and like-minded individuals?

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                          • ETA: I just moved this comment from below.

                            Let’s test this out. You said “Well, us white people have a lot to account for. Seriously.” That is racist, or racially prejudiced. If I point that out, where can the conversation go? If I engaged in a discussion about how different white people have had different effects on society, wouldn’t the conversation have more potential?

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                            • That is racist, or racially prejudiced. If I point that out, where can the conversation go?

                              To the facts. Slavery, Jim Crow, segregation, differential sentencing, etc and so on …

                              I’m not sure why you think this is a difficult conversation to have.

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                      • “Thought terminating” seems to mean “Makes me uncomfortable”.

                        Black people get mistreated in a million different ways, but calling this racism is terminating thought?

                        Its like I mentioned on a couple other threads, millions of black people tell variations of the same story, of being treated with disdain and disrespect by white people and white people respond by wanting to litigate every story down to frame by frame Zapruder-film analysis.

                        The idea of taking black folks at their word, and believing their story seems un-possible, simply not within the realm of possibility.

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                        • “Thought terminating” seems to mean “Makes me uncomfortable”.

                          Racism means just that…race. As though whatever you are prejudiced against is linked to biology. That is pretty hard to intellectually fathom in 2018, so it basically makes the other person sound crazy…right?

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                            • Correct. It’s a construct, which means it’s cultural, which is exactly why ‘racism’ is intellectually lazy. Look, at some point we figured out that there were a bunch of cultural sub-groups of whites and started talking about them as cultures and not races. Things de-escalated from there. Now I make jokes about my midwestern mother-in-law starting every recipe with a 9×13 and a pound of hamburger and my friends in New Hampshire make jokes about me being a redneck.

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                              • I go the other way on that. If race is a social construct, then accusations of racism aren’t intellectually lazy but the opposite. The accusation is then that since no “lazy” biological properties justify the way minorities are treated by a dominant culture, it’s *entirely* a property of the ruling ethnicity’s penchant for spinning racially-based yarns. And selling them to the public. And that makes teasing out why blacks (for example) are so consistently mistreated in the US into a cultural, rather than biological, issue. Seems to me the racist contingent is worse-off in that event. They look like the craven fools that they are.

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                                • But if it’s a cultural construct, isn’t it also a lot easier to dispel stereotypes, myths, etc by talking through issues? So there’s more potential for progress there…right? And even beyond that, what if we called those culture-based prejudices stereotyping and moved from there? See how things are already de-escalating?

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                                  • But if it’s a cultural construct, isn’t it also a lot easier to dispel stereotypes, myths,

                                    Apparently not. Here’s an example: Conservatives won’t admit that anthropogenic global warming is happening. If they won’t admit that why would you think that they’ll admit racism, on their view, is a silly social construct? I mean, the argument from your side against AGW is that *it’s a silly social construct*. !!!!!

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                                    • I’m not saying it’s now okay to call it racism because it’s a social construct. i’m saying if it’s a social construct, use a different word that is less likely to make people lose their shit. If we admit it’s a social construct, then why can’t we see the subcultural behaviors on both sides that cause so much friction?

                                      Gun guys get a lot of grief from the Left because we insist they get their terminology correct before they are given permission to talk about guns. I guess my question is, why is it so important to you all to use that word?

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                                      • i’m saying if it’s a social construct, use a different word that is less likely to make people lose their shit.

                                        So anti-racists should choose their terms with an intention of inciting the least offense to the perps? I don’t understand this. If the term “racism” is perfectly appropriate in a context then why should “liberals”or “anti-racists” use a different word? Because racists find it offensive?

                                        That makes no sense.

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                                        • Let me ask you this; which of these two is a more accurate description of what you see?

                                          Prejudice – The belief or perception that people of different cultures are inferior or have negative characteristics because of their skin color, religious beliefs, or cultural background.

                                          Racism – a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race

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                                              • It was common (for instance) to justify racial discrimination on the grounds that members of one race were (for contingent reasons of culture and history) less developed than others, and suggest that maybe at one point in the future legal and cultural equality would be OK, but not yet.

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                                                  • I don’t see why. It’s not a biological difference. You can justify an extremely wide range of racially discriminatory practices and policies by appealing to race as a mere statistical proxy for (say) cultural values as you can by arguing for it being a biological determinant of worthy.

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                                                    • Historical racism was justified on biological grounds. Slavery and bad treatment of many other peoples was justified based on perceived biological/racial/species superiority. My point remains, that there is a difference between that historical, biological racism and the contemporary cultural prejudice that we see. When there is ‘racial’ friction in the United States it’s almost always a cultural thing.

                                                      For example, I had some neighbors from Columbia. Well-educated (husband was a doctor), spoke flawless English, fully included in our neighborhood social atmosphere and I never heard a bad thing about them. At the same time, I heard another neighbor, who I know was close to the Columbian family, say horrible things about some Mexican workers we had in the neighborhood. IMO that isn’t a racial thing. It is a cultural thing.

                                                      Another example, I had a coworker tell me recently that he had ZERO problems with Mexican migrant workers but was deeply distrustful of Muslim immigrants. When I asked him why, he said it was because most Mexicans were Christian. IMO that isn’t a racial thing. It is a cultural thing.

                                                      I can address the cultural prejudices that led to both of those examples (and did both times with the person that said them). If they had just simply told me that one race was superior to the other, I probably would have walked away because it is like saying the earth is flat to me. It just doesn’t compute.

                                                      So my point here (again) is that it’s useful to look at things from a cultural prejudice perspective rather than racist, because it gets more closely to the root cause. And I get that as a trained anthropologist, it’s hard for me to see past culture, but that’s the angle I come from on this.

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                              • Like Stillwater, I’m not sure why this has to be so mysterious or complicated.

                                But it goes this way every time, it seems, where a simple statement is made:

                                “For centuries, the white majority has treated the black minority badly”

                                And it gets endlessly litigated, with endless evasions, red herrings, whataboutisms, all to support, what, a counterclaim that white people have in fact treated black people pretty well?
                                Or that it no longer happens?
                                Or that it happens, but not so much?
                                Or if it happens, but we shouldn’t talk about it because it pisses off white people and makes them dig in their heels?

                                Why is it so bloody hard for people to just accept this simple truth and move on?

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                          • You seem to be arguing against a proposition that is not mine. So I’ll bow out at this point.

                            Easy big fella. He was responding to a comment I made which didn’t have anything to do with you. You still have lots to contribute to this conversation, even tho I’ll disagree with all of it. :)

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                • I think your model of the world is one where people have racist thoughts and feelings but do not express them because of fear of social opprobrium.

                  Well, it’s not *my* view of the world. It’s the view promulgated and reinforced by libertarians, social conservatives, liberals, social scientists, leaders of various religions … It’s pretty much a baseline view of how social interaction happens and how those interactions can be shaped. For my part, I’ve *always* been an opponent of PCism precisely for the reasons outlined above: it confuses intentions and signals. Once the opprobrium for a specific racist signal is overcome, we’re left with the substance – the intent – of the expression. We’re seeing a tolerance for that laid bare right now, not just in the US but all around the world.

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                  • You’re focusing on the wrong part of my comment. You see it as merely a matter of people’s thoughts being revealed, where thoughts are fixed/driven by entirely different set of rules. I am arguing that whether or not we have racist thoughts itself is a matter of whether the accusation of racism has sting or not.

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                • So what do you think happens when people see flagrant racists (Donald Trump, Charles Murray) defended as “not racist”?

                  Aren’t we likely to conclude that defenses and dismissals of racism are more motivated by tribal affiliation or a desire to excuse and even promote racism than they are any evaluation of the merits?

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            • Who are you blaming here the Republicans or the Democratic Party?

              As we noted above, the Republican Party and the right-wing have screamed and cried that everything Ds want is evil and horrible socialism. They just can’t help themselves.

              Yet the response from a lot of middle aged guys is to complain about those younger generations and get off the lawn.

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                • Well the go to the that is ‘Obama is a Kenyan socialist Muslim” which is a real thing that got said by a real person.

                  I mean calling Jeff sessions a racist when he’s clearly clearly a racist doesn’t seem to meet the same standard of factual improbability

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      • Funny, cause I can saw the complete opposite. It’s “deplorable” this and “deplorable” that. Criticizing every one living between the coasts as “retrogrades”. Comparing work place challenges as being the same as “what’s happening in washington”. Trump Derangement Syndrome IS real. I’ve seen it. And I work in a comparatively conservative industry but in a very liberal state.

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    • I clicked on this article right away. I don’t like Sam’s articles typically, both because they tend to be about the same thing and because his writing style puts me off, but I was happy to offer advice about cars because I’m not petty.

      One might say that this article is about this article, the sense that you may be getting something different and better, only to find out that someone is up to his old, less-than-direct tricks.

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  1. Dunno. Is Larry’s Lemons the only game in town?

    If there’s another dealer, is there reason to believe that he (or she) is an even worse hypocrite?

    If so, I’d suggest finding a third party to buy a car from. Or, at least, I’d understand why someone wouldn’t want to buy cars from either of the two main dealers.

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    • There are always other used car dealers. I am unaware of an honest one though, so the challenge is almost certainly going to be the same, no matter where I go. (I should have clarified two things in the post: Larry is obviously not ACTUALLY Larry, and I’m considering this car lot because it has the car I’m looking for.)

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      • If he’s the only game in town, you’re stuck with either going the professional route and just buying it and getting in and out in a hurry (maybe bring someone with you who is used to buying cars and have him or her do the talking on your behalf and all you have to do is sign the paperwork) or changing society so that everybody has to ride a bike or take public transit.

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      • My dad was in the auto business, albeit the white-collar side. (He headed up financing regionally for Ford Motor Credit.) He had a rule that has served me well over the years: If you are going to buy a used car, buy it from a new car dealership.

        New car dealers don’t have everything hanging on used car inventory (your biggest risk is they talk you into going across the lot and buying new), and in fact if a car sucks so badly people won’t buy it right away they sell them to used car dealers. (Most cars on used lots are from new dealerships, not people selling to the used lot.)

        New dealerships are more reliant on repeat business than used (because people usually go to new dealerships for the dealership & used car lots for a particular advertised car), so they have a more vested interest in not pissing you off.

        And a new dealership will usually offer service guarantees for things that go wrong for a time/mileage period, so your car breaking down in a week will cost them money. And if they don’t have a guarantee/warranty, they are required to give you a written list of the issues that made them decide not to, and you can decide if it’s worth the risk. (And if something happens that they clearly should have known about and they didn’t list it, it can be actionable.)

        Doesn’t really help you with your conservative problem, though.

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  2. Larry must sell some good cars to stay in business despite the “Larry’s Lemons” moniker. When someone buys a used car and has to take it in for major mechanical work within a month, they tell everyone. When someone buys a fine used car at a fair price, they don’t go out of their way to tell anyone. I used to have an acquaintance who was a retired mechanic who would, for a reasonable fee, go over a used car for people considering a purchase — unlike most of us, he knew the things to look for that identified certain kinds of problems.

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    • Depends on the population turnover in your area. The first car I bought in coventry was from a dealership who I only later realised had a bad reputation. The car gave out within two weeks. And they sat on it for months without fixing it. On top of that, it had been illegally modified. I had to take them to small claims court to recoup at least some of my money. They even moved premises last year. If you live in a university town or some other place where people are moving in and out all the time, then the extent to which a bad reputation hurts your business is a lot less.

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  3. I assume there are other car dealerships someone could go to if they had distrust of Larry’s. I think some people would also be disappointed if every car dealership was run honestly. What would they have to complain about then? I guess there is always sports…

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  4. Let us take both the text and the subtext together. That Larry is willing to sell lemons does not mean that all he sells is lemons. So take the car to your trusted mechanic and ask for a particularly thorough check. If Larry balks at this, you have all the information you need and have saved yourself and your mechanic the trouble. If you don’t have a trusted mechanic, then any purchase would be a roll of the dice. Larry’s reputation is, at that point, the most salient information you have, but you might want to take a chance anyway. In any case, anything Larry says that qualifies as puffery is irrelevant and should be disregarded. But that is true of dealers with better reputations, too.

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  5. Buying used cars no matter who you get them from, is a dicey proposition. Even when the seller is the very soul of honesty it can be hard for a mechanic know about less obvious problems (as anyone who’s ever taken their car in to a mechanic only to hear “well we can’t recreate the problem” will attest) and it doesn’t even mean it’s necessarily a bad car in the long run. Other times a car can run with a problem for years before it goes bad. Still other times user error may come into play. So a car being a lemon isn’t necessarily the sign of bad faith one might think.

    We bought a used pickup that within the span of a couple weeks, had a developed problem with the 4 wheel drive. Irritating, but we fixed it and the car has run great for 10 years since. My older son and I (stupidly) bought a car for him that had apparently had the odometer cracked at some point, so who knows how many miles were on it really, and the speedometer didn’t work (we didn’t notice this in the test drive – that’s where the stupid factor comes in). Lemon, probably, but that car has run well for 8+ years. And my younger son bought a car and failed to put oil into it and blew up the engine (that the engine needed oil regularly wasn’t disclosed by the seller, but it’s simple car maintenance to check the oil and add it as needed).

    These things happen, all but the first of them were really our own fault, and the other, when I give it a charitable read, I can believe that the used car lot may not even have known about it (the 4 wheel drive problem only became apparent after having driven the car a few hundred miles.) I have witnessed firsthand enough people muddling through their lives blaming others for problems that couldn’t have been reasonably foreseen or that were really non-problems or that people should have prevented themselves that they then blame on the doctor, the mechanic, their parents, the teacher, or the mayor that I have to ask how many of the cars that people call lemons really ARE lemons? And how many of those lemons could a well-intentioned seller really be expected to know about in advance? Especially at a used car lot where the people who run the place are selling cars they don’t personally drive and may not even know all the quirks?

    And this is not to defend Larry of the House of Lemon, not at all, I’m sure he’s a shady customer. Of course the guy’s overall reputation should come into play. But the thing is, with used cars, there really is no ideal solution where you get a perfectly flawless car for a low price. You’re trading the ability to know for sure the history and background of the car like you’d have with a new car, for some money knocked off the price. That’s how it works. It’s a bit of a gamble, for sure, and sometimes the gamble doesn’t pay off (sometimes but not always the fault of the seller). Sometimes, like with my son’s cracked-odometer/no-speedometer car, it does pay off. We lucked our way into a car that had been damaged and was being sold by someone with less than perfect ethics, but has run well for us since.

    I guess my point is, sometimes lemons are in the eye of the beholder.

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  6. I just lost my 2002 Accord to a jerk who ran a red light. (Nobody hurt, thank God, but the car was totaled.) I’m thinking of replacing it with a 3 or 4 year old car of similar quality, but smaller, since I’m generally the only one in it: Civic, Corolla, etc.

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    • My 2008 Honda Fit is the most useful small car I’ve ever owned. 10 years old now, only service other than things expected to wear out was a recall to replace the electric switch for the door locks in the driver’s door handle (it wasn’t as waterproof as it was supposed to be). The only two packages then were the Basic and the Sport — no picking and choosing on individual features. The Sport package was worth the extra money for the wider wheels/tires and cruise control.

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          • Plenty of headroom — I’m 5’10” and have about five inches of clearance. Feels surprisingly roomy inside when it’s just me. (Me, regularly, when I see another Fit: “Wait, am I driving around in a car that small?”) What I notice when my wife and I are both in the car is how close together the seats are. It’s definitely an urban car, where size can matter a lot, and wins a lot of “best” awards in that category. It shines at getting around in Boulder (locally notorious for narrow lanes and small parking spaces) or downtown Denver (almost as bad). Gearing in mine is such that it is quite quick from zero to 30; from 30 to 60, not so much. Still, zippy enough and the suspension’s stiff enough to make throwing it around the canyon curves up in the foothills fun.

            Odd anecdote… I had to wait four weeks for mine to come from Japan. When I first drove it off the dealer’s lot, I was afraid I had made a terrible mistake: the automatic transmission and I were constantly at odds over what gear we should be in. It took about ten days to train the adaptive system, after which we were BFFs.

            BFF may not be an overstatement. At less than 6,000 miles per year these days, and my increasing age, there’s a reasonable chance the car will last longer than I can safely drive it.

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      • They seem to have a habit of falling apart. I know people who have skated through with few problems, but I also know people who bought brand new VWs that started falling apart quickly. They seem to be a good fit for someone who wants an “interesting” German car for less money than the luxury name plates would charge you. I don’t think it’s the right car for someone who wants inexpensive, bulletproof transportation.

        On the other hand, I do understand it’s hard to get a wagon.

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  7. For what it’s worth at this late moment, when I read the post I read as a allegory about Trump specifically, and a particular attitude that Trump would be an over-the-top parody of if it weren’t for the fact that he means it.

    Not as an allegory about conservatives in general.

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