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Messages - Greg Davidson

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Hey, welcome back Seriati. Forgive me if I don't go through that long list of belated responses right now, but let's start with just one and see if you can muster a counter-argument with any validity:

.  The actual reality was laid out in about a half dozen links in our discussion.  Your appeal to authority notwithstanding, nothing about that is really on point.  The models were fine, they just couldn't anticipate a non-historic event (i.e., a significant increase in the sub-prime default rate on a national rather than regional scale).

If the models were "fine", how did they result in a catastrophic failure. How would you define the word "fine" as an expression of the quality of the model, if you hold that it extends to situations where the model says that a certain adverse outcome could not occur and literally trillions of dollars are invested under that false premise?  How bad would the model have to be for it not to be "fine"?

And what exactly do you mean by a "non-historic event"? Since the event occurred, it's pretty historic. Are you saying that the model should be forgiven its flaws because the exact same failure conditions had not occurred previously?  Not only would that premise be arguable (irrational speculation in the value of assets followed by a collapse has occurred many times in history), but even if it were true that this was unprecedented, the conservative economic model never came with a warning that it provided no protection against new dangers. Instead, it was posited to apply to all economic situations, and deregulation was broadly pushed because of a universal belief in the benefit and safety of the free market.

I completely agree: it is infinitely worse.

I believe that you undervalue the moral significance of your vote if you believe that Facebook "friendships" are vastly more important than the life and death acts that are performed by our country. If voters don't see their votes as very significant as individuals, in the aggregate then who do you believe is morally responsible for the elected government of our country?

If we were talking about those folks who insist on flying the Confederate flag then I'd probably agree with you. However the "if you believe in slavery" meme (if I may call it that) has nothing to do with being a literal Confederate and is actually about taking sides in the cultural war. Basically the gist seems to boil down to "if you're not on our side you believe in slavery." That sort of minimalist strawman is often the tack taken by alt-liberals, with the motte-bailey built in that converts into "we mean you subconsciously abet systemic racism" when pressed.

You take a twist with this argument that I believe is invalid. I was referring to literal Confederacy apologists (which may even be a smaller group than those who show a Confederate flag), and you immediately segue over to an assertion of a totally different interpretation that is "often the tack taken by alt-liberals".  I see that argument as another attempt at false equivalence by avoidance of math. There are many tens of millions of Americans who have had views supporting the Confederacy.  How many Americans do you think fit into the category of being an "alt-liberal" who often addresses any difference in policy as advocacy for slavery? And remember, part of my argument is that conservative media intentionally promotes false narratives to exaggerate that kind of opposition, because it is the best strategy to distract from the fact that millions of citizens at the core of the Republican party will actually defend the slaveholding Confederacy.

No one believes that the majority of extreme anti-Trump sentiment is due to the Russian military, that is a strawman.  However, there has been real and ongoing intervention in American politics by the Russian military - do you deny this? There has been a remarkable reluctance on the part of the Trump Administration to even spend appropriated funds on cyber protection.  And I have yet to see anyone actually provide a plausible explanation for Presidents obsequious Trump's behavior in Helsinki.

So the vast majority of my observations of alarming sentiment (ranging from violently phrased animosity directed towards "people who believe in slavery and racism", to "if you believe/voted for X unfriend me now", to the usual alt-feminist stuff like articles about how men who try to open a door for a woman are The Problem) come from individuals that now only believe these things but trumpet them.

I can't speak to those particular individuals who made those comments, but it is at least an arguable position that many supporters of the Confederacy (particularly those who make the factually false argument that the Civil War was primarily about State's Rights and not slavery) are most accurately described as being at least apologists for slavery.

I disapprove of "violently phrased animosity", but to me the sin of of those people is of lesser moral consequence than support for those who actually commit violent acts due to easy access to guns and "stand your ground" laws that essentially say that if you are scared enough, you get to kill whoever scared you.  On the other hand, both are wrong, so you have agreement with me that doing either is inappropriate.

As for your concern with those who "unfriend" people simply because they voted for President Trump, I would not do that myself, but I also believe that Americans have every right to hold others morally responsible for the actions that they commit in a way that is proportional to the adverse action. And Trump voters committed a profound act with their vote - they knew he had bragged about committing felony sexual assault, they knew he had repeatedly made comments that even senior Republican officials described as "textbook racism", and they nevertheless invested the full power of their citizenship to help make him President. It is at least arguable that "unfriending" is an act of smaller moral consequence than of voting to make Donald Trump President.


since it seems nominally to be about the same sort of thing that liberals believe it's accepted as being part of the tribe

Trump's enemies are eager to nurture the idea that everything Trump supports (and by implication, what his supporters value) rises or falls with his presidency. They eagerly feed this notion. The big irony of course is that Trump is one of the least ideological politicians to come along in recent memory.

There is a lot of speculation in these comments.  I do know some annoying people on the left who harp discuss "privilege" and "allies" in a way that I don't agree with. I also know many more of those on the left who grapple with these ideas and accept part and disregard extremes. And the majority of people I know who vote for Democrats don't really care about those kind of ideological issues, and are more concerned about gun control, healthcare, women's access to abortion and birth control, climate change, and protecting consumers from big corporations. And polling of self-proclaimed Democrats reinforces these last set of issues as what drives the vast majority of them.

My premise is that it is not a mirror image for Republicans, and polling reinforces that. While you always get some crazy responses in polling, there has been consistent evidence in polling that relatively large fractions of voters who describe themselves as Republicans really do hold extreme opinions. Trump is an ideologue and a consistent one - and his core ideological principle that goes back decades is racism. Whether it's the Central Park 5, pr that the black President isn't legitimate,  or the imaginary Muslims cheering 9/11,  or that immigrants are murderers and rapists, or the judge who can't be fair because he is Mexican, President Trump has consistently spread xenophobia and racism. And if you look at polling results, many millions of Republicans are strongly motivated by his ideology.   

The right tribe doesn't just disagree with, but despises certain vocal elements within the "left" tribe, which they see as ascendant, to the point where they see those voices as an existential threat to their way of life. As Fenring noted, these groups (eg: Antifa) are numerically small, but disproportionately influential. They are absolutely a major cause of the fear driving Trump's supporters into his arms, as surely as Nazi and white supremacist supporters of Trump drive people away from him, into the arms of whoever is leading the charge against him.

Can you consider the hypothesis that those on the right seek out and publicize (and even fictionalize) the most extreme or divisive voices on the left with the explicit intention of motivating their supporters? This is not only a basic form of propaganda, it has been revealed that this was one of the ways that the Russian military attacked the US by creating false extreme voices. I have been on the left for a long time, and yet the first time I ever heard of antifa was on Ornery. Exactly how "disproportionately influential" are they?

General Comments / Check your voter registration
« on: August 24, 2018, 12:46:23 PM »
Excellent website from Headcount, which has been a nonpartisan voter registration organization for 14 years. Check your registration, and if you have been dropped from the rolls, this enables you to re-register:

General Comments / Re: here comes the next ice age
« on: August 24, 2018, 12:37:46 PM »
One more reference to Tom Schelling, for no reason whatsoever, except I read it last night in the alumni magazine:

He put in his will that his Nobel Prize medal was to be sold and the proceeds donated to the Southern Poverty law Center, which I think is pretty cool.

General Comments / Re: The Manafort Question
« on: August 22, 2018, 02:07:03 AM »
So now that it is established that Trump's campaign chairman and personal lawyer are both convicted felons, does that provide any additional credibility to the theory that they also committed additional felonious acts in a conspiracy with Donald Trump?  Well, Cohen already testified today that Candidate Trump conspired in the commitment of a felony, but I am referring to additional felony crimes.

So it is hardly "one guy on the left" spouting off with these things. It's a whole slew of them

There were 63 millions American citizens who voted for the Democratic nominee for President. How many people do you consider a "slew"? Have you seen 1,000 people make such comments, otherwise known as 0.0016% of the people who voted for Clinton? And that does not count for the proven activity of the Russian military in creating false internet personalities to promote divisive positions.

You just keep echoing your unsubstantiated assertion of false equivalence. In contrast, I can point to a very large data sample that refutes your point: during the 2016 election campaign after Trump had wrapped up the nomination, polling indicated that 59% of Trump supporters believed that President Obama was a Muslim - if that's even roughly 59% of the 60 million that eventually voted for him, that's 35 million people.

Not equivalent.

Alternatively, assertions that both sides are similarly engaging in inappropriate behavior ("Perception is now king, for both sides") might be a false premise asserted by the right because it justifies actions that are otherwise undefendable.

Uh, have you been living under a rock where you've missed the rhetoric where the United States is less than two steps away from becoming 1930's Nazi Germany headed by Donald Trump?

Obviously the right-wing of the political spectrum doesn't have a monopoly on hyperbole.

The Deamon,

(1) Your comment appears to be a non-sequitur - I asked about if there was any test you could agree to concerning the most significant actions taken over the past decade. Is there any such test? In other words, can you agree to a fair test of your assertions?

(2) You then follow up with a string of concepts (you assert that there is rhetoric about Trump and Nazi Germans so the right wing doesn't have a monopoly on hyperbole) that when analyzed mean almost nothing. What does the "monopoly" clause mean? If in a nation of hundred of millions, there is even a single stupid thing said by one side, then that somehow balances a larger number of stupid things said by the other side? I understand your inference is that many harmful, wrong, and false assertions of the right can be justified as long as there is at least a single voice on the left also saying stupid things, but how is this different from your assertion that both sides are the same? And if that is your assertion, why won't you agree to a test more stringent than that "monopoly" theshold?

Alternatively, assertions that both sides are similarly engaging in inappropriate behavior ("Perception is now king, for both sides") might be a false premise asserted by the right because it justifies actions that are otherwise undefendable.

As a group, we don't have concensus regarding the following three hypothesis:
  • the left has committed significantly more bad actions
  • both sides are the same
  • the right has committed significantly more bad actions

I am looking for common ground in the form of tests of logic and fact that we could agree were valid.

I sense from the conservative side a lot of fear and victim-hood - they believe that the Left has done bad things to them, and so all of their bad actions are merely justified retaliations.

So let me rephrase my initial question. Could we devise any test of your basic premise that could theoretically cause you to change your views if the answers came out differently than your expectations?  If we looked in the last 40 years at the 3 most aggressive actions that Democrats took against Republican power and that Republicans took against Democrat power, would you expect that the actions matched in severity and the Democrats took their extreme actions first?

General Comments / Re: here comes the next ice age
« on: August 13, 2018, 11:48:39 PM »
Some summaries of Tom Schelling's work from wikipedia

The Strategy of Conflict (1960)
The Strategy of Conflict, which Schelling published in 1960,[16] pioneered the study of bargaining and strategic behavior in what Schelling refers to as "conflict behavior." The Times Literary Supplement in 1995 listed it as one of the hundred most influential books since 1945.[17] In this book he introduced concepts like focal point and credible commitment. Chapter headings include "A Reorientation of Game Theory," "Randomization of Promises and Threats," and "Surprise Attack: A Study of Mutual Distrust."

The strategic view toward conflict that Schelling encourages in this work is equally "rational" and "successful."[16] That said, it cannot merely be based one's intelligence alone, but must also address the "advantages" associated with a course of action; though even the advantages gleaned, he says, should be firmly fixed in a value system that is both "explicit" and "consistent."[16]

Conflict too has a distinct meaning. In Schelling's approach, it is no longer enough to beat your opponent. Instead, one must seize opportunities to cooperate. And in most cases, there are many. Only on the rarest of occasions, in what is known as "pure conflict," he points out, will the interests of participants be implacably opposed.[16] He uses the example of "a war of complete extermination" to illustrate this phenomenon.[16]

Cooperation, where available, may take many forms, and thus could potentially involve everything from "deterrence, limited war, and disarmament" to "negotiation."[16] Indeed, it is through such actions that participants are left with less of a conflict and more of a “bargaining situation.”[16] The bargaining itself is best thought of in terms of the other participant's actions, as any gains one might realize are highly dependent upon the "choices or decisions" of their opponent.[16]

Communication between parties, though, is another matter entirely. Verbal or written communication is known as “explicit,” and involves such activities as "offering concessions."[16] What happens, though, when this type of communication becomes impossible or improbable? This is when something called "tacit maneuvers" become important.[16] Think of this as action-based communication. Schelling uses the example of one's occupation or evacuation of strategic territory to illustrate this latter communication method.

In an article celebrating Schelling's Nobel Memorial Prize for Economics,[18] Michael Kinsley, Washington Post op‑ed columnist and one of Schelling's former students, anecdotally summarizes Schelling's reorientation of game theory thus: "[Y]ou're standing at the edge of a cliff, chained by the ankle to someone else. You'll be released, and one of you will get a large prize, as soon as the other gives in. How do you persuade the other guy to give in, when the only method at your disposal—threatening to push him off the cliff—would doom you both? Answer: You start dancing, closer and closer to the edge. That way, you don't have to convince him that you would do something totally irrational: plunge him and yourself off the cliff. You just have to convince him that you are prepared to take a higher risk than he is of accidentally falling off the cliff. If you can do that, you win."

Arms and Influence (1966)
Schelling's theories about war were extended in Arms and Influence, published in 1966.[19] The blurb states that it "carries forward the analysis so brilliantly begun in his earlier The Strategy of Conflict (1960) and Strategy and Arms Control (with Morton Halperin, 1961), and makes a significant contribution to the growing literature on modern war and diplomacy." Chapter headings include The Diplomacy of Violence, The Diplomacy of Ultimate Survival and The Dynamics of Mutual Alarm.

Micromotives and Macrobehavior (1978)
In 1969 and 1971, Schelling published widely cited articles dealing with racial dynamics and what he termed "a general theory of tipping."[20] In these papers he showed that a preference that one's neighbors be of the same color, or even a preference for a mixture "up to some limit," could lead to total segregation, thus arguing that motives, malicious or not, were indistinguishable as to explaining the phenomenon of complete local separation of distinct groups. He used coins on graph paper to demonstrate his theory by placing pennies and dimes in different patterns on the "board" and then moving them one by one if they were in an "unhappy" situation.

Schelling's dynamics has been cited as a way of explaining variations that are found in what are regarded as meaningful differences – gender, age, race, ethnicity, language, sexual preference, and religion. Once a cycle of such change has begun, it may have a self-sustaining momentum. His 1978 book Micromotives and Macrobehavior expanded on and generalized these themes[21][22] and is often cited in the literature of agent-based computational economics.

General Comments / Re: here comes the next ice age
« on: August 12, 2018, 10:41:42 AM »
Never mind that in any other scientific field, if your model failed to accurately predict things, you'd be told to go back to the drawing board.

Is your argument that you have debunked global warming by refuting predictions of (a) global anarchy, and (b) teens living in Great Britain in the year 2018 would never see snow fall in Great Britain? Is your argument that on balance the predictions of climate science have been less accurate that most other fields of science that you do not question?  I have worked with the actual scientists doing this research, and I hate to spoil it for you, but Al Gore is not one of them.

In 1985 I heard Tom Schelling give a talk about climate change (he was a cold warrior who later won a Nobel Prize for aspects of game theory that were used to set US-nuclear weapons doctrine in the 1950s, not your stereotypical liberal by any means). He showed data on the growth of atmospheric carbon from the prior 20 years, and extrapolated forwards to 2050. Using a game theory perspective, he talked about what the likely response of Corporations would be to a potential devaluation of trillions of dollars of their assets buried in the ground in the form of fossil fuels. His prediction was that the response to climate change would be the biggest threat to human life over the next 65 years, and yet financial incentives would drive Corporations to mount the most fierce resistance using all means within their powers to fight against protective measures.

A pretty sound prediction.

General Comments / Re: here comes the next ice age
« on: August 12, 2018, 01:41:54 AM »
The Deamon,

My point was different - there are some cranks on just about any issue that you can name. But climate change skepticism is different. For many decades, the same groups that were producing fraudulent research to argue that smoking didn't cause cancer were also fighting against evidence of climate change And this is not a liberal-conservative difference - because almost everywhere else in the world both liberals and conservatives agree that the fundamental debate is over. Only in the United States and in particular with the Republican Party (and their corporate sponsors) is there the pretense of a debate as to whether or not there is climate change due to human causes.

And when August 11, 2028 comes around, and then August 11, 2038, and it is so completely obvious that the Republican position was as disingenuous as the decades-long argument about smoking and cancer, all those who believed in those fantastical myths should own up to your own responsibility through your votes for the harm that you have caused.

General Comments / Re: here comes the next ice age
« on: August 11, 2018, 06:24:54 PM »
My hypothesis is that almost all opposition to climate change science is based on political loyalties and not on actual judgement about the level of empirical evidence. If I am right, we would also observe that those who reject climate science are willing to trust medical science that is no more well-established, even to the degree that they will bet their lives on some procedures over others, based on less conclusive evidence than that supporting many of the findings of climate science.

General Comments / Re: whats up with all the rallies
« on: August 11, 2018, 12:18:20 PM »
There are other potential root causes that should be investigated. Right now, our current system has Members of Congress spending about half of all their working hours fundraising for their next election - double the number of representatives but don't change the financial dynamics and you may get the same outcome.

General Comments / Re: career politicians
« on: August 09, 2018, 09:17:18 PM »
I like the skill set a general has better, though you'll personally like the ex-politician more if you meet them.  If you've ever worked with any ex-military officers you probably have some sense of the skills it requires to advance.

I work all the time with ex-military (general officers, mostly air force, navy and marines). As you said, people at a senior level generally have some strong skills, but in my experience they also have the normal range of human flaws.   

The saving 10 million lives is what the Clinton Foundation actually does - the focus was to come up with ways to make HIV medication affordable for people in third world countries primarily in Africa, and it has worked in providing access for roughly 10 million people.  So, Seriati, would you see this action of Bill Clinton as being "great", or does the Clinton involvement tarnish for you the moral importance of what was accomplished?

General Comments / Re: career politicians
« on: August 07, 2018, 12:14:20 AM »
I am skeptical of these broad generalizations (all politicians are bad, all military officers are good, etc.). There are good and bad human beings in almost all roles. 

As with virtually everything in this world, I would like to see consistent standards applied to making value judgments. Because I see the judgment comes first ("I have bad feelings about X, so X must be bad")

What if a retired politician performed a task in retirement that saved the lives of 10 million human beings? Not hypothetically, not in an "Al Gore promotes concern about global warning that eventually will shift policy to change lives", but rather in direct and concrete way: if this former politician had not taken action after he was in office, there would be ten million more corpses from men, women, and children dying an early death. Even if the retired politician had lived an imperfect life, saving ten lives let alone 10 million is a moral good that exceeds any of the accomplishments of my life or any of yours.

And of course there is such a politician, and of course, the beneficial effect is well documented. And of course, if I were to state the case, it would be immediately discarded because this is one such case where feelings out trump values



General Comments / Re: whats up with all the rallies
« on: August 01, 2018, 10:08:11 PM »
CNN has a story about what's up with all the rallies

People inside the White House said the burst of tweets reflected the anger Trump has aired privately for months, including about Sessions. Trump has been more frustrated since headlines about his former attorney Michael Cohen emerged last week. Aides say they're working to schedule more political rallies, partly to boost Trump's mood and distract him from the headlines about Russia.

General Comments / Re: Air Force One Kerfuffle
« on: July 30, 2018, 11:39:51 PM »
I looked back on Obama and his experiences estimating things - like Health Savings. He claimed his plan would save $120 billion a year. Even fact check blew him up on that.

TheDrake, the Fact check article was a June 2008 prediction about Obama's campaign plan for healthcare, and merely concluded "there’s a lot of room for [Rand's] estimates, and those of the Obama campaign, to be wrong"

However, there are far superior fact checks on the accuracy of Obama claims and healthcare costs.  The Affordable Care Act that was actually put into law was not the same as the plan Obama had in his campaign, but when the compromise bill was signed the Obama Administration made a prediction about its overall costs. We at Ornery had a giant debate on what would happen with Obamacare, and then I went back and gathered data and checked everyone's predictions. Here's one particularly salient quote (from the Wall Street Journal, so no one can shout "Fake News"):

“the health-care law will now cost 29% less for the 2015-19 period than was first forecast by the CBO when the law was signed in March 2010”

The link to the WSJ quote is embedded in the discussion one page 46 on the Obamacare predictions thread at

Now, we don't have evidence to support the premise that every prediction that Obama said about healthcare costs in 2008 was accurate. The 2008 claim of $2,500 in lower premiums for a typical family seems hard to justify, unless the typical family was getting a subsidy, but at the same time the compromises in the ACA (and the outright Republican sabotage trying to fight Obamacare) also never achieved the goal of 100% health insurance coverage that was associated with Obama's prediction..   
But in terms of the larger question about the accuracy of the predictions of Obama and the Democrats about the effect on healthcare costs, it is absolutely true that the predictions of the Democrats were more accurate than every overall prediction made by every Republican in the country and every single conservative who posted a prediction on Ornery.  If you doubt me, go read the thread.

General Comments / Re: Air Force One Kerfuffle
« on: July 30, 2018, 11:09:04 PM »
It seems like the burden of proof in this thread is to demonstrate that Trump's statements cannot be reconciled with reality.

Since Trump made the claim first, without evidence, the burden should be on him

General Comments / Re: Air Force One Kerfuffle
« on: July 30, 2018, 10:10:37 AM »
But I would say that the burden on someone who makes a claim is to provide some proof or independent backup, and here we have none.

Are you saying that the burden of proof is on President Trump, or on someone who questions President Trump?

General Comments / Re: Air Force One Kerfuffle
« on: July 29, 2018, 11:39:45 PM »
If the government could convert a $4B cost-plus contract into a $B fixed-price contract with identical requirements (and those requirements were going to stay firm), then that could provide a substantial financial benefit to the government and all of us taxpayers. Alternatively, if the fixed-price contract had different requirements or a high likelihood of requirements change, that could be of enormous financial benefit to Boeing. In the aerospace industry, fixed price contracts have historically had higher profit margins than cost-plus contracts, and surprisingly often have had higher growth in government costs than comparable cost plus contracts.

However, the theory that President Trump is working from inside knowledge and insight of military acquisition, let alone insight into any government program that he tweets about is remarkably barren of substantiating evidence.  I am afraid that he has already consumed his entire portion of "benefit of the doubt" for the next decade, I think perhaps the last of it was lost when he explained his understanding of health insurance over a year ago:

Trump told the Times that health insurance costs about $1 per month when you’re young. “Because you are basically saying from the moment the insurance, you’re 21 years old, you start working and you’re paying $12 a year for insurance, and by the time you’re 70, you get a nice plan,” he said.

This is the guy that you think understands the implications of the potential future evolution of requirements like cyber security on aircraft design and development?

Conservatives like to point to the failures whilst employing the True Scotsman against the successes. Liberals tend to do the same, just in the opposite direction, discounting Venezuela as an example of how it can go wrong.

Except we don't. Maybe socialists do that, but liberals in the modern age tend to be more pragmatic than conservatives. You will find very few liberals in real life who believe that every government program is good - even dumb liberals who hate every corporation also tend to be skeptical of government institutions as well.

For me, I don't believe in the fantasy that everyone running a corporation is good and that everyone running a union is bad, or the reverse. The same goes for Democrats and Republicans, men and women, Christians/Muslims/Jews, etc. You will have good and bad people in most groups. That's not to say that there are good terrorists and bad terrorists - people are morally responsible for their actions. But when examining groups with a generally valid purpose, it takes extraordinary evidence to substantiate the extraordinary claim that some groups are composed by people who are all good or all bad.

The primary goal of a corporation is the maximize the financial returns to the investors who have contributed the financing to the corporation (and they could and do have secondary goals of being good to their customers, their workers, and to social causes such as the environment). The primary goal of a union is to maximize the compensation paid for the labor contributions to sales of the corporations they work for (with secondary goals including aspects of employee well-being that include promoting employee safety, protection from abuses from individual managers, etc.).

There are good and bad people both on the Corporate and Union side. As a liberal, I am concerned about balance, and I believe that conservative forces have dramatically shifted the balance towards Corporations and the wealthy in my lifetime

Lack of access is not the same as prohibition, I agree. But you create a false dichotomy by defining the choice as either making abortion illegal or supporting "the right of doctors, and the organization they operate under, to decline to render said services".  American conservatives have fought against abortion by a barrage of moves that have ranged from
  • legal harassment (coming up with zoning regulations under the guise of women's safety that have nothing to do with safety)
  • forbidding government funding to be spent on abortions via the Hyde Amendment (even though the majority of the population are pro-choice)
  • attacking private organizations in public legislation (Planned Parenthood), including trying to preclude them from receiving government funding for non-abortion services that similar organizations receive simply because they also provider abortion services
  • forbidding doctors to mention abortion
  • mandating disturbing and humiliating procedures that are not medically necessary to dissuade or make it more difficult for women to get an abortion
  • harassing women entering medical facilities that provide abortion services and in some instances targeted assassination of abortion providers

These are some of the most significant ways that conservatives have fought against the pro-choice position - do you think that your point about forcing doctors to perform abortions is anywhere close to any of these other items in terms of impact?

Unions use force. They compel. Companies do not.

Force by workers and companies are both intrinsic to human behavior, wherever there is a conflict over interests. And companies generally have more power, including the power to create the impression that they are innocent and it is only those greedy workers who are engaged in struggles over income.  Read these words by Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations from 1776 and tell me if you don't feel that they are just as true today:

We rarely hear, it has been said, of the combinations of masters, though frequently of those of workmen. But whoever imagines, upon this account, that masters rarely combine, is as ignorant of the world as of the subject. Masters are always and everywhere in a sort of tacit, but constant and uniform combination, not to raise the wages of labour above their actual rate. To violate this combination is everywhere a most unpopular action, and a sort of reproach to a master among his neighbours and equals. We seldom, indeed, hear of this combination, because it is the usual, and one may say, the natural state of things, which nobody ever hears of. Masters, too, sometimes enter into particular combinations to sink the wages of labour even below this rate. These are always conducted with the utmost silence and secrecy, till the moment of execution, and when the workmen yield, as they sometimes do, without resistance, though severely felt by them, they are never heard of by other people. Such combinations, however, are frequently resisted by a contrary defensive combination of the workmen; who sometimes too, without any provocation of this kind, combine of their own accord to raise the price of their labour. Their usual pretences are, sometimes the high price of provisions; sometimes the great profit which their masters make by their work. But whether their combinations be offensive or defensive, they are always abundantly heard of.

One of the remarkable accomplishments of American civilization is that we recognized this conflict and put legislation in place that eliminated much of the abuses of corporate power. It is the policy of the Republican Party to gut as much of that legislation as they can, and let corporate power rule.

There are different tools in the modern arsenal than in Adam Smith's time, but the same basic conflict occurs, and right now through the power and sophistication of money to influence media, the balance tilts far too much towards corporate power

We already had this debate, and as i recall you didn't comprehend the true causes of the financial collapse

As I recall, Alan Greenspan and the entirety of free market economic theorists cannot explain the actual events of the economic collapse of 2008 into their models, as he confessed in Congressional testimony 10/23/2008 ("I have found a flaw [referring to his economic philosophy]... I don't know how significant or permanent it is. But I have been very distressed by that fact... I made a mistake in presuming that the self-interests of organizations, specifically banks and others, were such that they were best capable of protecting their own shareholders and their equity in the firms" I missed the part where you came up with a alternative economic model that addressed Greenspan's error (and I missed your subsequent Nobel Prize as well).

As for the macho American thing bragging about how many hours you work, I can go toe-to-toe before addressing this issue - I have done 80-hour work-weeks, and I lead a group that often has some people working that long and hard (they get extra compensation for large numbers of extra hours, but I don't at my level).  So I also work 6 days a week often, but I also am a highly-compensated employee with kids out of the house and a wife who works long hours at her nonprofit religious institution.  That being said, TheDrake is right, there has been considerable backsliding in the US in the last few decades due to the precise dominance of corporate interests over unions that led to the 5-day work week as a standard. But that reinforces the point that when union power was more of a counter-point to corporate power, that drove the vast majority of American workers to a 5-day schedule. 

Your assertion that "Obama was a disaster economically" is blaming him for the economic collapse. Republicans get this amnesia about what it was like when the economy was losing 25,000 private sector jobs every day until Obama came into office. Your assertion is completely inconsistent with the facts that the US economy (with Obama's stimulus) grew faster than every other developed economy in the world. Sure, Fed policy helped a great deal, but at that point the financial system and the automotive industry were falling over a cliff. Your retelling of history is convenient, but not accurate.


I did want to get back to Seriati on unions - I agree that unions sometimes do bad things. Just like the 6 corporations that decided to make giant bets totaling most of the $54 trillion that were the primary root cause of the economic collapse in 2008.

The objective is to have balance so that the interests of both those who earn money because they own stuff and those who work for wages can be represented. Almost no one works 6-7 days a week, because the labor movement had enough power to make changes that we all enjoy to this day.  In recent US history, corporate power has disadvantaged workers both relative to past history (in some ways) as well as relative to their counterparts in developed economies that in the past generation have grown as much as the US or more (with the only caveat that under Obama, the US recovered faster than the rest of the developed world). 

Thanks, velcro, for the good advice


Is part of the freedom that you are always talking about the freedom to make up facts and then live in your own fantasy world? The largest focus of the Obama tax cuts were on people who actually worked for a living. The second focus was on tax cuts to businesses. The all-too-often focus of Republican tax cuts is on people whose trust funds come from their parents - and then Republicans generally try to cover their tracks by inciting some racism towards all those poor people who are getting too much from the government. That's your guys.

Then you claim that your sad right-wing fantasies have to be true, and that only a child would believe otherwise. I am not a child and I believe otherwise, QED.

And then you assert  this bogus argument
What makes my arguments remarkable is that they are based on the proven fact that free markets (with reasonable regulation) generate massive wealth for everyone involved in the economy, and that socialist and redistributive policies just generate misery, dependence and lack of opportunity.

The US enjoyed a significantly higher level of economic growth, and a much lower level of wealth inequality, in the 1950's and 1960's than the US has done under the less "socialist and distributive policies" since the 1980's.Your assertion that massive wealth is generated for everyone is false. Looking just at income since 1980:

Adjusted for inflation, the top 10 percent of earners in the United States made, on average, $144,418 in 1979 and $254,449 in 2012. That’s about 76 percent growth.

The bottom 90 percent of earners, on the other hand, made $33,526 in 1979 and $30,438 in 2012. That’s a decrease of about 9 percent.

Even when you make all the adjustments that politifact could find, including adding in the effect of increased government benefits, the gap is still vast:
the bottom 80 percent of earners (measured by households rather than tax units) saw income increases of about 16 percent between 1979 and 2011. The top 81-99 percent, on the other hand, saw increases of about 56 percent over the period. And the top 1 percent alone saw their household income grow 174 percent.

Obama's tax cuts were entirely aimed at buying votes.  Nothing more or less.  Nothing he did was designed as anything but buying votes. They were designed to be handouts labeled as tax cuts for marketing purposes.

It is interesting how you make stuff up with no evidence and then believe it as fact. There was considerable contemporary discussion by Republican politicians that the Trump-Ryan-McConnell tax cut was explicitly political, required by their donors in return for financial support in the 2018 midterm. Here is one example, and there are others:

“My donors are basically saying, ‘Get it done or don’t ever call me again,’ ” Collins replied.

The Obama's tax cuts occurred right after an election, and the contemporaneous discussion by legislators was all about the fact that the US economy was in the biggest collapse in 80 years. 

I also believe that deficit spending has its place - very important when the economy is in collapse, an inefficient use of stimulus when the economy has already gotten close to full employment. But what makes your counterarguments remarkable is that you apparently don't seem to care that the wealthy donors have taken our collective credit card to order themselves some pizzas, while all that most people get is a few bits of the corn meal from the bottom of a breadstick.

But in the end, the left won every single battle, completely. The fearsome Christian right in the USA, arguably the spearhead of right / conservative / religious power in the west,  failed at every battle it fought, a spent force impotent to achieve anything.

With respect to social issues, the left has won many battles, but not all - access to abortion has been significantly constrained.

However, with respect to the balance between corporations and employees, the right wing has had 40 years of victories (go back and look at laws in the mid 1970's). In terms of providing greater and greater advantages to the wealthy, the right wing has been largely successful over the past 3 decades.


Your whole point here with this quote depends on you coming up with a very sinister interpretation of a single quote by Obama that has many other interpretations. 

What you see is someone well-off who is disgusted that this is designed to give the vast majority of the reward to those who need it the least.  10 million households get almost all of the benefit, and they were already sitting on top of the most stilted wealth distribution in this country since the 1920's. If you are going to add another $1.5T in deficits, target the tax breaks more evenly to the other 112 million households in the country.  The Obama tax cuts as part of the stimulus package we almost entirely aimed at the middle and working class (reduced the FICA contribution for several years - that benefited everyone earning income equally).

General Comments / Re: Trump Putin Summit
« on: July 17, 2018, 11:55:52 PM »
And with respect to safeguarding our elections, President Obama wanted to go forward with a bipartisan statement on Russian interference in our election. Mitch McConnell refused, and threatened to come out against any notification of the Russian efforts with claims that they were Democratic partisan falsehoods. Does that also count as providing aid and comfort to an attack on the United States by foreign military personnel?

General Comments / Re: Trump Putin Summit
« on: July 17, 2018, 11:53:34 PM »
Results matter.

Lovely, cherry, so are you suggesting that the primary issue with someone like Benedict Arnold was that his side lost?  And treason does not matter?

General Comments / Re: Trump Putin Summit
« on: July 17, 2018, 10:29:51 AM »
When foreign military personnel have committed an attack on the United States, how much do you have to lie on their behalf before that is considered giving them "aid and comfort"?

Every so often we should take a step back and look at what has actually been done in the real world that relates to these policy arguments that we have. The largest (only) legislative accomplishment of Trump and the Republicans is the passage of a massive change in tax law that they wrote up during a lunch and passed the next day. ~$1T of this tax break went to America's ~10 million millionaires - that averages $100,000 of benefit per millionaire household. Is that how it has affected us here in the real world?

My wife and I met for our annual session with our financial planner on Friday (from one of the major companies that do financial planning).  He explained the portion of our financial gain on assets due to the Trump/Republican tax cut. Suprisingly, the tax cut has the least effect on large-cap companies, because they already are multi-national and shuffle most of their profits to low tax places like Ireland. The effect on stock prices for mid-sized companies is about 8% and for small cap it's 12% (smaller companies are less likely to have ways to shuffle profits offshore). Tax cuts benefit those who own shares of companies for the pretty straightforward reason that if you own stock because a company is profitable, and suddenly its taxes go down by 1/3rd, as a capitalist you get more profits. 

Well, my wife and I have $1.4M in our 401(k)s and another 200K of investments in a fund - that makes us some of the millionaires that this tax law was designed to help.  Based on our distributions between large cap, small cap, bonds, etc., that's ~$80K of wealth transfer to us just from increased asset values. And in addition, my guess is that we will save ~$13K in federal income taxes next year (although living in California constrains that - people with our income in many other states will get much more money).

Yes, I benefit from this, but it still strikes me as obscene. How crazy did the Republican Party have to be when looking at income distribution in the United States in December 2017 and decide that the most important problem was that millionaires did not have enough money? And this was a Republican Party that was shutting down government under Obama because they said they feared the deficit was too high - well, they increased the annual deficit by $300B/year in order to provide this massive give-away to those who need it the least.

So all of you Trump voters - how much is this helping you? More than half of all Americans have no stocks or 401(k)s  You loved this plan in the abstract, how happy are you with the reality of who gets what?

PS: I am investing most of my anticipated income tax savings in donations to Democratic candidates

General Comments / Re: Hillary Election Fraud Discovered
« on: July 14, 2018, 08:30:57 PM »

Did you follow the trial in Kansas a month ago where voting fraud advocate Kris Kobach had to meet the standards of evidence in an actual court of law? 

The trial had a significance that extends far beyond the Jayhawk state. One of the fundamental questions in the debate over alleged voter fraud—whether a substantial number of non-citizens are, in fact, registering to vote—was one of two issues to be determined in the Kansas proceedings. (The second was whether there was a less burdensome solution than what Kansas had adopted.) That made the trial a telling opportunity to remove the voter fraud claims from the charged, and largely proof-free, realms of political campaigns and cable news shout-fests and examine them under the exacting strictures of the rules of evidence.

That's precisely what occurred and according to [Judge] Robinson, an appointee of George W. Bush, the proof that voter fraud is widespread was utterly lacking. As the judge put it, "the court finds no credible evidence that a substantial number of non-citizens registered to vote" even under the previous law, which Kobach had claimed was weak.

But this isn't the first time that this issue has come up. In the Bush Administration, the Attorney General and 8 other senior justice department officials resigned because they had been firing states attorney generals who refused to fabricate false evidence of voter fraud.

Why does this matter?

As Secretary of State of Kansas, Kobach implemented some of the strictest voter ID laws in the United States, and has fought to remove nearly 20,000 registered voters from the state's voter rolls.[13] In June 2018, a Kansas Federal Judge found the voter ID law unconstitutional.[14] Despite considerable investigation and prosecution, Kobach secured only nine convictions for voter fraud. All were cases of double voting; most were older Republican men who had misunderstood their voting rights, and not one would have been prevented by his strict voter ID "SAFE" Act.

However, the political prize was to strip voting rights from 20,000 registered voters. Wealthier people tend to have better paperwork, and more time to deal with voter registration issues. Republicans have targeted groups that typically vote for for Democrats so that there is less competition in elections, and they have done this across the country for two decades. 

Hey Crunch, if your political views are to support a supreme leader regardless of his actions and regardless of the laws, your political beliefs are fascist. That's not an insult or an attack, that's essentially a definition*. If you don't think that fascism is an accurate description of your beliefs, don't be a snowflake, instead just tell us all what actions President Trump could take that you would not support. Also tell us all what you feel are the limits on his power to fire anyone investigating him and to pardon anyone committing any crime.

* A deeper description the early warning signs of fascism was put up many years ago at the Holocaust Museum


If you would be willing to stand behind those standards, I would love to hear you defend NRA Head Oliver North who back in the Iran-Contra Scandal days was breaking the law by "illegal gun running to drug cartels". Or explain the US soldiers left to die in Niger by a still unexplained action of the Trump Administration, or the 60 people killed in 13 Embassy attacks during the George W Bush Presidency.

But perhaps your most important and honest comment was as follows:

For the first time, we have a war time president who is fighting back and winning. The only limit I have is if he stops winning. I don't care what Trump does as long as he continues what is literally the best economy in US history, keeps our allies on edge and honest and our enemies closer. Trump can do whatever he wants as long as my side is winning. Losing is the only sin I won't forgive.

I'll skip over the historical ignorance of your assertion that this is "literally the best economy in US history" and focus on what seems to be at the heart of your support for Trump.

And thank you again for your honesty in this.

You don't care what he does, you don't care about facts, you are motivated by hating other Americans and America. Your words say that he can literally do "whatever he wants" as long as he helps what you call "my side" win. He can violate precedent, he can violate the law. And demographics are pretty clear that what you call "my side" is defined primarily by being white Americans and predominately male white Americans. When someone believes the fearless leader is more important than the law, and when their standard for success is making sure another group in society loses, that's pretty much the definition of fascism and racism.

Crunch, can you describe any meaningful way that the position that you have laid out is not fascism or racism? Except maybe the caveat that since Muslims and Jews are also in the group that you hate, it's bigotry rather than just racism.

General Comments / Re: My conflicted NATO
« on: July 13, 2018, 02:50:54 PM »
NATO was intended to be a mutual defense society. What's its become is the US defends everyone else, with largely token support from the majority of the members.

Seriati, when Osama bin Laden struck at the United States on 9/11, NATO members fought and died with Americans not only in Afghanistan (which arguably had something to do with 9/11), but many warfighters from NATO countries also joined the US in our war-of-choice against Iraq.  Is that what you mean by "largely token support"?

The Congo isn't a NATO thing.

TheDrake, I was countering your use of Kurdish fatalities as a justification by itself for the Iraq War.  Kurdish fatalities by themselves are not a NATO thing either, the Iraq War by that standard wasn't a NATO thing either.

General Comments / Re: My conflicted NATO
« on: July 13, 2018, 11:14:07 AM »
People were dying in Iraq at the hands of Hussein - a lot of them, ask the Kurds. Then we rolled in and - a lot more died. Instability set the stage for Daesh to fill the vacuum.Unless you've got a Tardis or a Wayback machine lying about, its not so easy to see repercussions of action or inaction.

So, TheDrake, are you going to stop expressing opinions on the efficacy of anything, because it is not easy to see the repercussions of your assertions?

We have 70 years of experience with NATO in place. Is your hypothesis that literally any other solution is just as likely to work? Even no solution, just eliminate NATO? Remember, you are talking about hundreds of thousands of lives lost.

And I also disagree with your "Iraq War was okay because Saddam was killing Kurds" assertion. Killing Kurds was evil. There's a lot of evil in the world.  Around the same time as we intervened in Iraq (which likely led to an additional 500K-1000K fatalities) there were about 3 million people being murdered in the Second Congo War.  If Saddam was killing thousands of Kurds each year (and I am not sure the number is that high) it is truly evil, but it does not render us incapable about making judgments concerning the advisability of the Iraq War.

General Comments / Re: My conflicted NATO
« on: July 13, 2018, 10:43:27 AM »
Sarajevo. Anyone remember the Winter Olympics in 1984? Lovely place.

And then the post-World War II order in the Soviet sphere collapsed. The former Yugoslavia was struck with small ethnic wars and genocide. To be fair, not every country behind the former Iron Curtain devolved into warfare - only some (assuming that we count Yugoslavia as the six countries it is today).

So if President Trump achieves the #1 foreign policy goal of President Putin and destroys NATO, and then only a few small wars and genocides occur in only some of the countries in Europe, who is responsible for the hundreds of thousands of people killed?

So far, it has not mattered that he has blown up the deficit, broken campaign promises (one of hundreds was universal health care for everyone at lower costs, made concessions to our enemies without anything in return (North Korea) while offending our allies, had more convictions in the first years of his Administration than President Obama had in 8...

Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh even suggested that the President should be immune from any legal consequences for his actions until he's out of office. But by that standard, a President could literally take a gun and murder any Supreme Court Justices who disagreed with him as long as he had the votes of 34 Senators. And a President with those powers does not ever have to leave office.

So what are the red lines?  I am assuming that if President Trump literally pulled a trigger to commit a murder, that would be adequate to change your view (but I am also prepared to be surprised). But go beyond that - are there any other things he could do that would stop you supporting him?

General Comments / Re: My conflicted NATO
« on: July 11, 2018, 11:17:06 PM »
War is vastly more expensive than peace. We should be careful about eliminating institutions that have been established to keep the peace. Does anyone remember that the US cut funding to the mujajadeen and madrassas because of Republican Senator Jesse Helms?  Those tens of millions of dollars of savings may have cost us trillions of dollars

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