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Silent3

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Gender: Male
Hometown: New Hampshire
Home country: USA
Member since: Sun Oct 3, 2004, 04:16 PM
Number of posts: 10,995

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You're listing a lot of acts of aggression and greed

No matter how much you associate those things with capitalism, they aren't capitalism. They can certainly help greedy capitalists get rich, but they aren't in and of themselves capitalism. Aggression and greed have a long and colorful history from thousands of years before Adam Smith was born.

Here are the basic conditions I'm talking about:

1) A relatively broad concept of personal property. This exists in many cultures, particular anything agrarian or industrial. Less so in hunter-gatherer societies perhaps, but even those societies aren't always completely devoid of the idea.

If you started telling people it was illegal to own personal property, I think you'd find yourself very unpopular. Even ruling out certain categories of personal property like land and buildings and machines and tools would be highly unpopular.

2) A willingness and ability among the population to trade property or labor for other property or labor.

Again, try to put significant restrictions on who can buy what from whom, who can work for or hire another person, and you'll have an unpopular outcome that would require oppressive means to enforce.

Simply combine the conditions where both 1 and 2 exist, et voilà, you have markets and you have the means of production.

Capitalism of some form simply happens given these circumstances. The supercharging of capitalism takes a bit more work, like creating monetary policy, banking systems, stock markets, the concept of incorporation, etc.

What annoys me about the way so many people talk about capitalism is they talk about it not only as a system, but as an imposed system, as if a bunch of mustache-twirling fiends gathered together in smoke-filled rooms to create and impose capitalism on everyone else.

I see capitalism much more as a natural outcome of common conditions. Given those conditions, capitalism is simply what happens unless you specifically and consciously create rules that severely limit what people can own and what people can do.

This said, I am certainly in favor of many laws to curb the excesses of capitalism, but there's a whole lot that can be done to curb those excesses which is popular and fair and not gratuitously intrusive, like environmental regulation, workplace safety standards, minimum wage, etc.

"Woke", "cancel culture", and the meaning of words

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less."
"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."
"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master—that's all."

— Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass

There's been a lot of heated discussion around here about what James Carville said about "wokeness", and similarly, about "cancel culture", and if it even exists or not.

It's important to realize in such discussions that words mean different things to different people. Meanings of words and phrases shift and evolve, and, whether some people like it or not, changes happen to the general understanding of what words mean that aren't to everyone's liking. Meanings seldom completely settle down either, so the same words mean different things in different contexts.

It's one thing to insist on what you believe is the "correct" meaning for certain words. It's quite another, however, to impose your own meaning on a word or phrase and then act as if what someone else has said, no matter how they might have actually meant it, must be treated as if their words bear your preferred meaning.

Someone posted that there "Ain't no such thing as 'too woke'". Well, if you insist that the only possible meaning of "woke" is a good one, meaning being conscious of privilege, and seeking and demanding justice and fairness, you'd be right. You can't have too much of that.

But do you really imagine Carville is saying, "Too many Democrats are too concerned with fairness and justice. They need dull their awareness of privilege, and let some nasty shit slip by, if they want to win elections"?

I think it's pretty obvious that Carville is talking about issues like obnoxious levels of word policing, or insisting that everyone must admit they're a racist, or be an even worse racist for not admitting to being one at all. Let's not pretend their aren't people out there in this world who get fucking annoying about trying to one-up each other in performative wokeness.

You might still disagree with Carville, but then get to the real disagreement rather than arguing against a straw-man Carville of your own creation. Try giving Carville the benefit of the doubt about meaning something where he might, just might, have a point, and see where that takes you.

If you want to argue for what words do mean, or should mean, fine. But don't stupidly act as if other people must mean their words way you mean those same words, and then tar them with all that goes along with imposing your meanings.

My letter to Senator Joe Manchin

I am deeply frustrated by what I'm hearing about your opposition to eliminating, or even mildly reforming, the filibuster.

There is no "new era of bipartisanship" coming. It is not going to happen. You must know this. Republicans in the Senate are interested in one thing, and one thing only: retaining and regaining Republican power. Period. End of story.

Hurting Biden's presidency, and damaging general public opinion of Democratic politicians, is their principal goal. Given the choice between passing legislation that helps the American people, or hurting Biden and other Democrats by stymieing progress, they will choose stymieing progress every time.

Republicans most certainly do not want to help with anything that protects voters' rights. Suppressing votes is their other main strategy for retaining and regaining power.

Again, I am certain you must be aware of this. So what good does it do to pretend you are promoting a fanciful "new era of bipartisanship"?

Our very democracy is at stake here. If Democrats don't both impress the voters of this country with tangible progress over the next two years, and ensure that Democratic votes will be properly counted two years from now, we could lose everything to Republicans who have lost all reluctance in displaying naked disrespect for, and opposition to, democracy itself. If and when such Republicans regain control, you can be certain they will have no respect for any Democratic minority which remains. Your preservation of the filibuster for use by future Democrats will be for naught.

The only reason Republicans have not already destroyed the filibuster is that they haven't needed to. The only things Mitch McConnell wanted to do for the past four years were pass tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations, and stuff the courts with extremist right-wing judges. Between using budget reconciliation, and filibuster exceptions for confirming judges, Republicans had all they needed. You can be certain that if they regain power, and want to do more, they'll again do whatever they have to do to bypass Democrats, and they will not respect your previous preservation of the filibuster in the least.

Please, wake up, and help Biden and your fellow Democrats save our country. Even at the possible cost of your own re-election in your one state, please help pave the way for Democratic victories in many other states.

A day may come when there is a "loyal opposition" party Democrats can work with and compromise with for the good of the country, a day when Democratic Party defeat can be viewed as a temporary setback, and not an existential risk. But that day is at the very least years away. The current Republican party has become completely radicalized, unprincipled, and unmoored from democratic norms. Please do not abandon the hopes of our nation to an unrealistic pipe dream of near-term bipartisanship.

I'm afraid I've also lost my faith in "decent Americans" to save us

Trump's supporters are MOTIVATED. They turn out reliably to vote in primaries, and I'm pretty sure Trumpist-crazies like MTG will continue to win primary elections.

When general elections come around, our fate is often decided by the so-called "independents" who aren't the judicious non-partisans many hope for them to be. Far too many of them are married to that stupid idea that "there's not a dime of difference" between Democrats and Republicans.

They have terrible memories for even recent political history, and vote based on rough general impressions (easily manipulated by propaganda) of the particular candidates personalities, naively believing individual character is the most important quality in a politician, blissfully unaware of how party affiliation controls which party runs the agenda in legislative bodies.

Think of how, although we managed to elect Biden, Republicans picked up seats in the House, and we won the Senate by the narrowest of margins. Why? Many Biden voters either didn't bother to fill in Senate/House votes, which Republican voters were clearly more motivated to do, or stupidly thought that splitting their votes was actually a good idea, for "balance".

We need a whole raft of amendments, and unfortunately they're almost impossible to get enacted

Where we have depended on "norms" being respected, there are now gaping holes in our system of government.

Your amendment (with an even shorted time period, like 90 days) is just a start.

My other suggestions would be, completely ignoring that they just aren't going to happen:

* Finally pass the ERA, expanded to cover all gender and racial issues.

* Give Congressional oversight of the President and the executive branch real teeth, so endless court battles to "play out the clock", or plain outright refusal to comply with subpoenas, can never again hamper oversight as Trump has done. I'd even go so far as to make the Sergeant-at-Arms someone with real enforcement power, with a small police force in his/her charge, capable of confiscating documents and arresting non-compliant subpoenaed witnesses to haul them before the House and/or Senate.

* A general "all laws must have teeth" provision. We've often passed laws that are unenforceable because there is no specified penalty for breaking these laws, and no specified remedies when these laws are broken. This is another "just expecting norms to be followed" problem. (Maybe this can be fixed by ordinary law, without Constitutional changes.)

* While not going so far as to create a fourth branch of government, establish Constitutionally-protected independence of the DoJ so it can never again be used as a President's personal legal defense for themselves, or a cudgel against the President's enemies.

* States now have enormous Constitutionally-granted freedom in how they run elections. It might only be by Constitutional amendment that we can enact solid federally-mandated minimum standards to ensure free and fair elections.

* Judicial term limits, including the Supreme Court.

* Abolish the Electoral College, and apportion the Senate by population too.

* Ban gerrymandering. Voters must choose politicians, not politicians choosing their own voters. This one change could greatly relieve the polarization of American politics which has so poisoned our system.

* Explicitly end corporate personhood, and make corporations, in exchange for the benefit of limited liability they receive, have a much stronger legal commitment to serving the public good, and upholding for their employees many of the same rights government grants citizens. (Businesses could still have much greater freedom than this, but they wouldn't get limited liability either if they want all of that freedom.)

* Reverse Citizens United by making an explicit legal distinction between campaign spending and free speech.

* (Very carefully!) create a legal distinction between "freedom of speech" and "freedom of reach", so that we can legally require large media platforms to minimize the spread of disinformation.

* Limit the pardon power of the President (and state governors too) in ways that clearly prevent outright abuse of that power.

* While still respecting state's rights to some extent, grant a little more power to the federal government that the Founders did. We live in a totally different reality now, where people much more identify with the United States than they do with their individual states. We're already playing stupid games to get this end result in many cases, like denying federal highway funds to states that won't go along with certain terms of federal laws.

* I could go on if I keep thinking about this!

It's a good thing, actually, for the Constitution not to be too big or too explicit, giving judges some flexibility of interpretation as times change. But even with current amendments added on, the whole Constitution is shorter than a lot of stupid click-through agreements on apps and web sites. While being careful to not overdo amendments, "norms" just don't cut it.

Automatic Gain Control -- What I expect regarding Trump vs Biden in the media

Automatic Gain Control (AGC) is a pretty old concept in electronics: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Automatic_gain_control

The basic idea is that you boost a weak signal, or attenuate a strong signal, to produce a relatively constant output level. This is why an AM radio station doesn't blare loudly when you drive by a radio station's antenna, or fade to a whisper many miles away. It's also why you can use your cell phone's speaker phone, or talk on a Zoom call, without big changes in how loud you sound to other people just because (within limits) your head moves closer or further from the mic.

As far as media coverage has been concerned, Trump has been putting out an enormously powerful signal. It has been beyond the limit of the media's AGC to fully attenuate, so Trump's signal has pushed passed normal limits by crowding out many other stories we might have been hearing. But the media still has an output limit, it can only get so "loud", and that's where the fatigue factor kicks in, the ridiculous normalization of Trump and his acolytes, and the media's inability to stick with stories that should be big stories before moving on to the latest bombshell.

Soon, however, we'll have Biden in office. The Trump drama won't abruptly stop on January 20th, of course. Trump will be making media noise for some time to come. Eventually, however, more and more focus will be on Biden.

But Biden won't generate scandal after scandal, outrage upon outrage. He'll do normal presidential things, many of those things quietly and behind the scenes, for the good of the country. That's great news for the country, but a "weak signal" for the news media.

I expect an automatic signal boost.

A 30 year-old DUI charge discovered for an obscure member of the Biden administration will receive all the attention (or more) of a 3 year-old domestic violence charge in Trump's inner circle. One badly handled immigration case will be scrutinized at the same level as hundreds of children in cages. One bit of slightly insensitive wording on Biden's part (almost certainly followed by a swift apology) will be held up as the equal of Trump's "very fine people".

Our "main stream" media isn't the crazy "fake news" cabal the right wing claims it to be. The basic info provided (especially after a little time passes) comes close to factual truth. The media's problems are sensationalism, over-simplification, both-siderism, the stories that aren't covered that deserve more attention -- and also what I'm calling the "automatic gain control".

Bask in the relief for a bit, but be prepared for a lot of hard work to prevent the next Trump

Make no mistake: The attempt to harness Trumpism—without Trump, but with calculated, refined, and smarter political talent—is coming. And it won’t be easy to make the next Trumpist a one-term president. He will not be so clumsy or vulnerable. He will get into office less by luck than by skill.


At the moment, the Democratic Party risks celebrating Trump’s loss and moving on—an acute danger, especially because many of its constituencies, the ones that drove Trump’s loss, are understandably tired. A political nap for a few years probably looks appealing to many who opposed Trump, but the real message of this election is not that Trump lost and Democrats triumphed. It’s that a weak and untalented politician lost, while the rest of his party has completely entrenched its power over every other branch of government: the perfect setup for a talented right-wing populist to sweep into office in 2024. And make no mistake: They’re all thinking about it.


https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/11/trump-proved-authoritarians-can-get-elected-america/617023/

Size of Biden's Electoral Vote tally, after all the dust has settled

I'm not gonna even bother with a choice below 270!

Understanding margins of error

I was listening to Lawrence O'Donnell earlier this week discussing some polls, and talking about what the polls said when you take into account their margins of error.

What he said was roughly correct, in a non-mathy sort of way, but also off enough to be a bit misleading.

First of all, margins of errors don't say anything about how good a polling model is, so it's not an expression of faith in the model. What the margin of error tells you is, if the model is good, how much would random variation in the particular people who get sampled typically throw off how well the model reflects reality.

Also, if a poll says, say, Biden is likely to get 52% of the vote, with a margin of error of ±3%, that does NOT mean Biden is just as likely to get 49% as he is to get 52% -- it's a "bell shaped curve" -- and values near the middle are favored over values near the edges of the given range.



Margins of error are typically stated for a 95% confidence interval. So this example 52±3% will be in the range 49-55 95% of the time. 5% of the time the real result could even be higher or lower than that ±3%. Only 2.5% of the time would Biden be at 49% or lower, Only 2.5% of the time would Biden be at 55% or higher. Typical results will cluster more towards the middle of the range.

Say that Trump is polling at 48% in the same poll. As O'Donnell explained it, he correctly pointed out that you have to apply the margin of error to both numbers, so even though 48% and 52% are 4% apart, the results overlap, with Trump possibly going as high as 51%, and Biden possibly going as low as 49%.

What O'Donnell got wrong, however, is speaking about this situation as if, "Hey, this essentially is a tie", since the margins of error overlap. Nope! This would still be a poll that looks much better for Biden than it does for Trump.

Without getting into the exact math, for Trump to actually be ahead in a poll like that requires that Trump pushes well into the more unlikely upper end of his range at the same time Biden happens to fall into the more unlikely lower end of his range. The sampling errors aren't very likely, however, to line up in just that way very often.

I had this thought of Trump viewing other people the way most of us view vending machines

This is just a bit of very amateur psychological speculation, so take it for what it's worth.

It's a given that Trump is a narcissist, and almost certainly a psychopath too. He's completely transactional in his behaviors, and people only have value to Trump insofar as they provide for Trump's needs.

So I'm imagining people to Trump as vending machines, and the words he says -- be they true or false -- are the coins he drops into these vending machines, and the buttons he pushes.

Particular coins and particular buttons are supposed to result in particular items being dispensed. "Truth" isn't a consideration, nor is consistency. If something doesn't work, try something else.

Saying "I will protect Social Security, and Biden will destroy it" is the input that's supposed to produce senior votes for Trump as an output. "I'm the least racist person in the room, and Biden backed that terrible crime bill" is the input that is supposed to produce more black votes, or at least more white votes from white people who want to believe they aren't racists.

And just like you or I might get annoyed or angry when a machine eats our coins, but doesn't drop the candy bar we wanted, or the bag of chips gets stuck behind the glass, or the cup lands upside down and our drink pours around it and down the drain, Trump is genuinely angry when his words and gestures don't produce the results he wants.

It's not our job to worry or care about the truth or consistency of what Trump says. As far as he sees it, he's saying what he's supposed to say for us to do what we're supposed to do for him. If we don't respond correctly, he'll get angry, he'll shake us, he'll pound on us, he'll kick us, and he'll wonder out loud what's the matter with us.

If we don't "work", we're useless junk.
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