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Gender: Male
Hometown: New Hampshire
Home country: USA
Member since: Sun Oct 3, 2004, 03:16 PM
Number of posts: 12,874

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The Leticia James lawsuit, happy as I am to see it, does more to confirm my cynical view...

...of our so-called "justice" system than to improve it.

Look at how egregious Trump's criminality had to be before action was taken.

Look at how much Trump had to brazenly call attention to himself in order to be investigated - in James' own words, it was Michael Cohen's testimony in Congress that sparked the NYAG's investigation, despite that fact that Trump's cheating ways had been an open secret for decades.

Look at how much time and effort this took. Three years was spent putting together the case against the Trump organization. If the violations of law were so blatant and flagrant, it seems to me only the fear of failure in court, which is clearly far more acute when going against prominent people than the average citizen, would make people work so hard for so long to nail a case down so completely before daring to move forward.

Think of how much shit other rich and powerful people are getting away with if this is what it took to go after Trump. Think of how little capacity our legal system has to pursue wrongdoing among the elite when prosecutors are afraid to go after the elite without devoting an enormous portion of that capacity to each case.

Leticia James stated very clearly what she though about there being two tiers in our legal system, and how she wasn't going to let that inequality favor Trump.

That's a good and gratifying start. But it's also makes it clear that there is so much further to go.

I hate the way the media thinks it's their job to channel stupid people

Our news media should inform AND ENLIGHTEN.

It's bad enough a great deal of the media falsely confuses (and in many cases, perhaps I'm being overly generous attributing this problem to mere confusion) fairness with both-siderism. While the media should, of course, strive to be objective and neutral, a free press needs to be very partisan about being pro-democracy. Without democracy and basic liberties, their mission to inform is doomed.

On top of the both-siderism, however, the media are constantly framing political stories in terms of how a fairly ignorant, not-very-analytical, not-very-engaged public will react to the dribbles of information they receive, often misunderstand, and often forget in ridiculously short periods of time.

In this framing, politicians, their actions, and their policies, are primarily judged not on their inherent merits, but how what they do will be perceived by an ignorant, disengaged public. It's much more important, apparently, to spend the most time talking about whether people will notice or care that a policy is good for them, rather than discussing if it is good for them.

This idea that "perception is everything" becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Our press should being doing more explaining, more enlightening, should be doing their best to drag people out of their ignorance and disinterest, rather than treating the ability of politicians to hammer through or work around that ignorance and disinterest as the gold standard of good politics and good policy.

Any solid statistical analysis of the apparent huge increase in people acting like dicks?

I'm pretty certain that it's a real phenomena at some level, and that a big part of it is that Trump gave an awful lot of somewhat quietly reserved but inwardly nasty people the feeling of freedom they craved to let their asshole flags fly high and proud.

Some specific things, like unruly airline passengers, are well-documented. 2021 had a 600% increase in incidents over the previous year.

I'm not sure how well other things are tracked, on the whole spectrum from adults throwing loud and childish temper tantrums all the way up to unhinged, violent assaults triggered by petty annoyances like a fast-food employee forgetting to put pickles on a burger. It would be interesting to further to separate out non-COVID-related dickishness from the maskholes and the belligerent anti-vaxxers.

As a non-COVID example, a video someone posted earlier today on DU, where a woman was freaking out because there weren't any yachts available for her to rent. (Talk about zero-eth world problems.)

The ubiquity of cellphones both captures a lot of this bullshit, but distorts how much there is at the same time. We can all be sure, for instance, that police abuse of power has had a long and inglorious history going well back before video cameras, and then cellphones, helped reveal what had long been hiding in the shadows.

So where are we really at? 10% more dickishness? 50%, 300% more? I really have no idea. My almost certainly distorted media impression feels like 1000-1500% more. For what I encounter in real life personally, it's more like the 10% range. The truth is probably somewhere in that wide swath of uncertainty in between.

If I were caught with a couple of kilos of cocaine, the police wouldn't simply confiscate...

...the drugs and get back to me some time a year or so later after pondering long and hard about what charges, if any, to bring against me. I'd immediately be going on a little ride down to the police station -- either that, or possibly a ride to a hospital or the morgue if, you know, I twitched slightly the wrong way after the police bashed down my door, shooting first and asking questions later.

So why doesn't it work that way when you're in illegal possession of stolen government documents, some of which are apparently classified?

People should be deliriously happy for just the simple fact that Biden isn't Trump

I don't understand the low poll numbers for Biden. Or perhaps I do understand, in a way, but that just makes me angrier.

We collectively dodged a fucking bullet when Trump lost, but the stupid, ignorant masses don't on the whole realize this. They don't care how so many of the problems we currently face, including inflation and ongoing COVID strife, are the aftermath of the mess Trump created, and that Biden has done very well given the hand he was dealt. They further ignore all the good news in the economy.

Instead of appreciating what Biden has accomplished with the slimmest of margins in Congress, and seeing that the answer to getting more out of Congress is adding MORE Democrats, they're quite willing to blindly hand control right back to Republicans again, no matter how much they've lied about the last election, no matter how unprincipled Republicans have proven themselves to be, no matter how cravenly they've debased themselves to curry favor from their ignorant, sniveling narcissist king, no matter how brazenly they work to rig the next election in their favor.

The public certainly doesn't appreciate enough the basic decency of Biden, even when held up against the so-recent example of the childish, petulant, empathy-lacking, constantly-gaslighting inhumanity of Trump.

How is it that we even have to use the expression "memory hole" to describe what happens all the time in our politics, when voters either literally forget things that happened mere months ago, or at least forget they might have cared, and then vote as if a dull, uninformed, and probably distorted impression of current circumstances, all credited or blamed on the party of the current President, is all that matters.

I fully understand what Churchill meant when he said democracy is the worst possible system of government... except compared to all of the others we've tried.

I'd never make it in politics or punditry because I have very little respect for voters in general. At best they are a notch above dictators, not a leap above, and sometimes they're so stupid they'll gladly vote to put dictators in power, giving their own power and freedom away.

Messaging? Democrats aren't good enough at messaging? Do you know what messaging is?

It's the process of treating voters like stupid, ignorant children while praising their non-existent wisdom at the same time. It's fighting to turn complex, nuanced policy into bumper-sticker slogans digestible by tiny, distracted minds. It's sometime sacrificing good policy for mediocre policy because the mediocre policy is easier to package and sell.

I'm sick of it. I want to live in a country, or on a planet, where we can expect and demand more out of the voters themselves instead of constantly blaming politicians for not meeting voters on their simplistic, ignorant, short-sighted level.

While I would still strongly disagree with "pro-life" people, it would be with a bit more sympathy..

...if there were any consistency in their so-called "pro-life" position.

With rare exceptions, however, most of the same people who like to claim a fetus or an embryo is "sacred", are:

* Pro-death penalty
* Just loves 'em some wildly unregulated firearms. (Many clearly fantasize about the day they finally get to shoot an intruder. Yee hah!)
* Are very casual about "collateral damage" when eager to carpet bomb a perceived enemy.
* Don't care much when cops kill people, especially white cops killing black people (a black cop killing a white person -- that might get them riled up).
* Are against free universal healthcare.
* Don't want to pay a dime in taxes for the well-being of a baby after it's born - you're on your own, kid!
* In the age of COVID are vehemently anti-vax and even anti-mask, as if even a piece of cloth on your face is way too much of a burden for protecting other people's lives.

Find me that rare pro-life person who is against the death penalty, pro gun control, pacifist, pro police reform, pro universal healthcare, is willing to use public funds to make life for a child better after being born, gets vaxxed, and will wear a mask... I'll still disagree with them, but, as I said, with a bit more sympathy for their point of view.

Why am I pro-choice? It's not that I'm an absolutist about "a woman's right to choose", which is the formulaic response for a lot of people here on DU.

Like all rights, no right is absolute when it bumps up against other rights. If (and only if) a freshly-fertilized human egg cell had the same right to live that a post-natal person has, it would not be a slam-dunk that "a woman's right to choose" always exceeds an embryo's or a fetus's supposed right to live.

I'm pro-choice because I don't believe a fertilized human egg cell should be granted full equivalency to a born human being. I believe it has a developing, growing value as birth approaches and viability outside the womb increases.

If my only criteria for my pro-choice position were "a woman's right to choose", I couldn't be self-consistent and support, as I do, vaccination mandates. I clearly think there's a point where a person's choices, be they female or male, about what they do with their own bodies, run up against countervailing public health concerns.

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".
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