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Messages - superlurker

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Debate / Re: Will Ted Cruz lose to Beto O'Rourke?
« on: September 20, 2018, 03:56:29 PM »
Ted Cruz is more likely to win. O'Rourke has a realistic chance of winning, though. I don't have a strong gut feeling about the race, though O'Rourke seems more energetic and focused. Cruz so far seems like he's sort of been on cruise control and then gone towards panic mode.


If Cruz loses, no one would miss him. As Lindsey Graham put it:
“If you killed Ted Cruz on the floor of the Senate, and the trial was in the Senate, nobody would convict you.”

I'd like to see Lyin' Ted turned into Cryin' Ted, crawling around on all fours desperately trying to avoid getting thrown out of the Senate WWE-style. His face would really sell it.

Debate / Re: Will Trump go down as the worst president ever?
« on: September 13, 2018, 05:48:17 PM »

Just don't look at the debt, deficit, inflation, average wages over time, the failing wars, the failing mass surveillance, or the endless corruption and investigations.

Controversial opinion time: The tax cuts are a good idea ONLY in conjunction with cutting spending. Otherwise, tax cuts are stupid. Example, imagine a household making 100,000 a year. They open a credit card and spend 300,000 a year. They APPEAR to be doing well, but are they? In reality, they are screwing their future for the short-term.

Well, Trump is on it! He declared that federal wages would be frozen and changed to be performance-based, arguing that it would be necessary to do so to balance the budget.


Debate / Re: Lindsey Graham...
« on: September 09, 2018, 04:31:51 PM »
By that logic, wouldn't the Steele dossier, researched by a brit with sources from russian intelligence also be russian collusion?

Steele wasn't running for any elected post anywhere, and he wasn't using that info to that effect. He had been retained to find dirt on Trump at one point, which he clearly did.

By contrast, the Trump campaign was sought out by agents of the Russian government that sought to influence the election, and at minimum agreed to meet them in secret to see what they could offer.

One is normal research by an apparently competent researcher. The other is secretly receiving aid from a foreign government to influence the election. If all that took place was the meeting that's been known (and that Trump has been trying to mislead investigators about) it's not exactly a grand conspiracy, but it's still a form of collusion.

In the best case scenario for Trump, that meeting may just have been a case of them gleefully thinking they'd do politics just the way it's done on TV, like some kind of Donald Underwood. In a worse case, there may be other elements to it, like the question of Trump's financial ties to Russia, or even what's up with the  Trump Tower server business.

I feel like this thread is judging him awfully hard. I can't really think of any Republican senators that I think wouldn't be a better casualty.

Even though he was clearly in the wrong on some issues, he always seemed refreshingly honest as politicians go, and he clearly had a strong sense of honor and duty.

I prefer to remember him for moments like this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JIjenjANqAk I strongly preferred his campaign of 2000 to the one in 2008, though. The 2008 campaign seemed like he was being forced to pander to an increasingly loony Republican base.

The one thing that stood out the most to me in all of this was seeing his 106-year old mother attend when he was lying in state, though. And how his sons looked like parts of their faces were cloned.

Debate / Re: Don't "Monkey It Up" says Trumpanzee candidate in Florida
« on: September 05, 2018, 11:44:26 AM »
To "monkey it up" is definitely a term I've heard before.

But putting it in this context is indicative of either mindless stupidity or a brand of rather unsubtle dog-whistling. Considering the political climate, the latter seems likely. Because it's an existing expression, there's plausible deniability, but it would still attract accusations, which would also help energize a certain anti-PC crowd of voters. He likely wasn't going to score with the voters who care anyway, but creating a controversy like this will help with mobilization of the deplorable ones that don't appreciate being told what they can't say about simians.

So it's either stupid or evil.

Debate / Re: Will Trump go down as the worst president ever?
« on: September 05, 2018, 11:32:38 AM »
“We must maintain efforts to put our nation on a fiscally sustainable course, and federal agency budgets cannot sustain such increases,” the president wrote in a letter to congressional leaders.


I thought this story was hilarious. First, hooj massive tax cuts, tremendous, going to get the economy going. But now it's time to balance the budget, because there's this massive fiscal hole in it.

Debate / Re: Will Trump go down as the worst president ever?
« on: September 05, 2018, 11:26:33 AM »

I don't know if this is illegal but it is certainly hilarious.

It's probably illegal, but he probably just stole the letters where Trump ordered an investigation of the mail theft in his office too.

Debate / Re: Is the USA Different? Why do Americans need guns?
« on: August 12, 2018, 12:13:13 PM »
Clearly culture can matter, which is not to say I'm 100% certain how different the USA is from Europe. But look at Switzerland. Easier access to guns than the USA, but way less gun crime.

For Switzerland, there's some interesting history to look at there as a contrast to the U.S. Switzerland once had a very strong martial culture and was a major source of mercenaries (hence the Pope's Swiss Guard). However, while Switzerland has had its share of political turmoil and conflicts, it's never had an institutionalized slave caste. On the contrary, Switzerland has been fairly egalitarian by European standards. It is also similar to the U.S. in being a federation of smaller states, and in being of a multicultural nature, albeit on a much smaller scale.

I'm with lurker in that I think this is a multi-factor issue. I have a hunch that ethnic and cultural diversity has something to do with it. Homogeneous countries tend to have more social trust and less crime than those that are less so, which is not to say diversity doesn't have advantages.

This also ties in with the problems related to migration to Europe. European countries are overall becoming more diverse, but this also leads to problems with loss of social trust and coherence. Social programs that are fine and economically productive are becoming suspect and made more restrictive out of fear that immigrants will abuse them, for example. A lot of the European political elites ignored the potential problems and conflicts until it was too late.

Lurker, if say a Constitutional amendment were passed somehow, and guns became as illegal as in the most restrictive European countries, combined with a super-well-funded and aggressive gun buyback program, what effect do you think this would have on gun crime in the USA?

Obviously, the number of shootings and killings would go down. People would still be getting killed, and there'd still be massive social problems, but the most efficient weapons would not be as easily available.

Debate / Re: Is the USA Different? Why do Americans need guns?
« on: August 12, 2018, 11:52:51 AM »
No. Just, no. 92% of Americans want gun-control. There isn't a "gun culture" in America. There is gun-manufacturer control over our politicians, leading to the greater prevalence of guns and gun-violence. Quite trying to come up with a cultural explanation when the reality is all about the money.

“Gun control” is a nebulous term and using it in polls will lead to useless data. A poll that asks “Would you rather have common sense gun control, or completely unrestricted access to all types of firearms?” will get you a majority of people choosing the former, but when you ask them what type of gun control they want, things break down. America already has gun control, the level of which varies from state to state.

Yes. If asked a question from the opposite direction, like "should gun ownership be a constitutional right?" or some variation thereof I think you'd get more illuminating replies. And you'd get a different set of responses again if you ask things like "would you feel safer if your crazy neighbor owned a self-defense railgun?" When asking people about common sense measures like background checks, they'll obviously be cool with it, because no one thinks of themselves as actually being the nutcase that won't be able to buy a gun. That's everyone else.

Debate / Re: Is the USA Different? Why do Americans need guns?
« on: August 12, 2018, 11:44:43 AM »
Are you saying the slave trades did not exist for a long period of time?  We are talking about the beginning of European civilization all the way to the early to mid 1800’s.  That is not even counting European imperialism which, some argue, is still in effect.

How do you think the non-white population came to Europe first?

What context?  You are downplaying European atrocities as minor and insignifant while presenting racism as something exclusive to America.

At this point, I get the feeling you've completely unraveled the thread and are playing with loose ends here. I will try to take it step by step. We're not talking about issues of guilt or atrocities, but the aftereffects of historical institutions and structures. Slavery was an established and institutionalized practice of Americans, in America, it was part of the nation as it was founded.

European nations did not have any plantations manned by black people, and European countries did not import massive numbers of slaves as labor during the period when nationalism began to be a motivating political force. The main "foreign" minority of any significant size in most European nations was Jews (besides the fact that most European states at the time tended to be multi-ethnic, multinational affairs).

In Europe, the main conflict when coming into the period of industrialization and nationalism tended to be economical, between the farmers and landowners, laborers and capitalists. The lower classes generally had shared interests. At the same time, the national narratives that were created acted as a unifying force within each nation; the national enemies were other nations (and maybe the Jews).

By contrast, in the U.S., there was another dimension to it throughout large swathes of the country. In addition to the class dimension, there was a racial dimension; even the poorest white man was still better than a black slave. This means that the lower classes did not experience their interests as universally shared, because the lower-class whites did not want to be put in the same group as the black slaves. And on a national level, that tension between slave-owning and free states eventually led to a civil war, which was followed by long-lasting resentment. It also led to a regime in the formerly slave-owning areas where blacks were second-rate citizens, which maintained the lower-class whites' ability to feel like they weren't at the bottom of the world, and impeded the growth of class-based politics of the same kind as in Europe.

The social and cultural inheritance of that historical experience still persists today. The blacks are still economically worse off, there has been systematic discrimination of all sorts throughout the years.

Meanwhile, those who have historically been able to sit at the front of the bus or get the good seats in the cinemas and whatnot -- they feel threatened whenever some of their privilege is seemingly targeted. That inspires a form of siege mentality or persistent uncertainty, that the world is an unsafe place, and that the government is probably plotting to make you worse off to make someone else (blacks/immigrants) better off. (A worldview that makes sense if you're part of a culture steeped in a tradition of difference, where your kind is treated a bit better than some other kind, even if you're not materially much better off.) And if you feel that way, you'll end up feeling strongly about guns as a last line of defense.

The type of reasoning offered by the most persistent gun rights advocates I've seen tends to reflect this deep mistrust of society, of the government, and that is borne out of historical experience; a sense of former privileges slipping away at the favor of someone else. That's today's experience; historically, the institution of slavery and more institutionalized systematic racism provided strong reasons for guns to be prevalent, because there was a need to suppress blacks through the threat of force.

By contrast, in Europe, laborers and farmers were the ones at the bottom of the social hierarchy. They didn't have another significant group beneath them that they could feel simultaneously superior to and threatened by. (Of course, the American structure was a result of European decisions, but the slaves were going to plantations in the Americas; Europe had more than enough poor farmers and workers anyway.)

The point of all this is that the historical structure of slavery in the U.S. created a prevalent and persistent racial division and a culture of social mistrust that makes gun ownership seem very important to some Americans as a defensive measure. The fact that it has become such a prominent issue today is also tied to the social development where those groups feel increasingly marginalized and threatened.

There are obviously other strong reasons for a gun culture, like living in remote or rural areas where hunting is part of life, or defense against bears and burglars possibly necessary. That type of gun culture is present in parts of Europe as well.

Debate / Re: Is the USA Different? Why do Americans need guns?
« on: August 12, 2018, 08:49:24 AM »
No. Just, no. 92% of Americans want gun-control. There isn't a "gun culture" in America. There is gun-manufacturer control over our politicians, leading to the greater prevalence of guns and gun-violence. Quite trying to come up with a cultural explanation when the reality is all about the money.

The very large majority of Americans are in favor of common-sense restrictions like background checks and not letting psychos have guns, yes. But there's much more to guns in the political discourse than that. And for something that supposedly doesn't exist, there's sure a lot being written about American "gun culture." Some quick Google hits:


And while I understand quite well that there's a strong economic element to explain American gun culture, it's hardly, as you claim, 100% of the reason for it. The question that PB asked initially was about how America differed from Europe in terms of attitudes towards guns. A very large part of that is bound to be cultural and historical.

While a strictly materialist Marxist-style analysis of a social issue can reveal some interesting structures, it tends to miss important elements that aren't always strictly economic in a material sense, because people are emotional, not rational actors.

Also, part of my point here is that the American gun debate serves as a proxy for other issues that can't be openly stated and likely aren't even consciously understood by most of those that hold strong pro-gun attitudes. Fundamentally, it's an issue of feeling safe in a society that feels unsafe. That can be due to living in a remote location, where you have to shoot at least three bears every day, or it can be more due to a vague sense that your position in society is threatened and guns is a source of safety -- or, perhaps rather that the idea of someone taking your guns is suspect, because what will they do next?

Debate / Re: Is the USA Different? Why do Americans need guns?
« on: August 12, 2018, 08:25:32 AM »
Actually, once America became sovereign, it stopped doing business as it had enough of a slave population to grow its own.  The slave trades had a much farther reach than the Americas.

And within a relatively short time frame, slave trade was outlawed across most of Europe.

True, the US does have a larger black population.  And I think people at both parties use racial divide for their own advantages.  I don't think slavery in and of itself is the cause of this division.

The fact that the black population was imported as slaves to begin with has had lasting consequences that aren't over with. When slavery ended, they became "free" but second-rate citizens, and still remain at a distinct socioeconomic disadvantage.

Of course there was.  You are ignoring the history of Europe.

No, you are ignoring the specific context here.

Debate / Re: Is the USA Different? Why do Americans need guns?
« on: August 12, 2018, 07:35:55 AM »
Yeah, Europe had slave trades all the way up until the 1800's.  They absolutely had people from Africa shipped over under harsh circumstances in order to be sold into slavery.  That's before we get into slave labor that existed under different European dictators which is within living memory in Europe.  White supremacy, ethnic cleansing, anti-antisemitism, and good old fashioned racism have also played a large part in European history and is still felt today.  European nations are every bit as guilty of that stuff as America.  Slavery has nothing to do with gun violence.

European slave trade mainly went to the Americas, to run colonial plantations. The point here is about the effect on culture, and has nothing to do with issues of "guilt". And there's no case in Western Europe that created such a sharp racial divide as was the case in the U.S. The influx of black people to Europe before the modern era was relatively minimal, and didn't make up a significant block of the population. Europe was a source of net emigration at the time.

The most similar case in Europe was the persistent antisemitism, but Jews tended to be relatively integrated citizens by comparison with black slaves, most weren't too visibly different from the rest of the population, and they were generally relatively well off in Western Europe. There wasn't a culture of slavery; the racist imagery was rather that they were a form of parasite that worked stealthily. It led to WW2 after Hitler made Germany great again.

And yes, there was slave labor, but not as a way of long-term life for the populace as a whole.

Debate / Re: Is the USA Different? Why do Americans need guns?
« on: August 12, 2018, 07:23:05 AM »
Yeah, I don't buy any of that. It's not in tune with the polls of what the majority of Americans actually want. If you go issue by issue, the American populace is very much in line with Europe. The reason why our laws and it's enforcement is so different isn't cultural, but rather because of flaws in the design of our Democracy, which allows corporations inordinate amounts of political power.

The Citizens United decision essentially legalized bribery. If our Democracy only had that single flaw, it would already be an oligarchy. It allows the rich to drown out candidates that would favor the working class. This means our politicians will always favor business over the working class. Business wants to sell guns, and business wants to profit off of slave-labor via for-profit prisons. And so we have virtually unregulated gun-sales and the largest prison population in the world.

Gerrymandering allows politicians to pick their voters instead of voters picking their populations. This results in many states being effectively one-party. Which in turn means that the rich only need to corrupt the leadership of that one party. This has resulted in the Republicans being utterly corrupt, and the Democrats becoming an only slightly less corrupt pro-business party. Essentially, the Republicans are the pro-rich guys who also occasionally throw a bone to evangelicals, and the Democrats are the pro-rich party who also throw a bone to feminist issues occasionally.

There is no pro-worker party in America, only a couple of pro-rich parties that disagree on abortion and a couple of other social issues.

Frankly, your argument just sounds like a fancy version of the typical European view of Americans, which is that we are just a bunch of barbarians who don't think like Europeans, and therefore vote in crazy ways. It's not that we're barbarians, it's that we don't live in a democracy. We just don't. We live in an oligarchy with limited democratic elements. We have juuuuust enough democratic elements to act as a release valve and prevent riots. Indeed, our limited democratic elements actually serve the oligarchy, providing just enough of an illusion of the people having power to prevent a revolution.

I'm pretty well aware of the shortcomings of the American political system, and the outcomes it leads to. The UK has similar problems, but with somewhat different party alignments. However, that also illustrates the difference to the U.S. -- the UK has a proper worker's party. In the U.S., there have been tendencies towards that, but the additional racial dimension has tended to hinder such movements on a national basis, because in large swathes of the U.S., you couldn't include blacks and whites in the same movement. To those white voters, both then and now, having someone beneath them hierarchically matters more than absolute material well-being. Because to them, if they are included in the same group as the blacks, they're suddenly at the bottom. It's why Trump fires them up so much -- because of the feeling that they'll be at the bottom of the hierarchy, and they definitely weren't back when America was great.

I don't think U.S. voters are "barbaric", but all political systems, political party systems and political fault lines have very long historical backgrounds. From a European perspective, for example, Protestant countries tend to have secular Conservative parties as the dominant center-right party, whereas Catholic countries tend to have Christian Democrat parties in the same role. There are several political conflict dimensions as well, which are represented in Europe with separate parties and that find different expressions in the U.S.; however, the conflict line between center and periphery is probably the one that's most strongly associated with gun rights.

My point here is that the U.S. gun culture in part stems from a mentality that is different in the U.S. than in Europe with regards to how the individual relates to society. U.S. nationhood was created with the idea that all men are created equal, unless they are not. European nations were formed from old empires, and threats were external. The U.S. didn't have much in the way of external threats, but there was a large subgroup that was considered subhuman and a potential internal threat. Even when slavery ended, that attitude didn't disappear, it just changed shape. That element also got in the way of the kind of class-based politics that Europe experienced from becoming a dominant force.

It also led the way to identity politics becoming a dominant force in American politics instead. And that just strengthens that pattern of lack of social trust which is the foundation of the strongest American gun culture -- that you can't trust other people because they're different, you can't trust the government because the government is run by those people, and so you're on your own. Ideas like those are pervasive in American culture, and the gun culture channels them very strongly.

And those trends are coming to Europe as populations diversify; you can see it in Eastern European resistance to immigration, how anti-immigrant/anti-other parties are becoming very large in many Western European countries. Brexit fits the same pattern. I don't think that will lead to a European gun culture in the same vein as the American one, because there's historical precedent against that -- but the political ideas are similar.

The historical difference I'm getting at is that the more homogeneous European countries, creating a sense of national unity was much easier. In the U.S., with the lingering racial tension in the South in particular, but across a lot of the rest of the country as well, the form of national unity is much different. And today, larger swathes of the country are experiencing it as a threat to their way of life (even though realistically, it is not).

Or, to put it yet another way; those parts of the U.S. where thinking about guns is most similar to Europe are also those parts where there was no slavery, and there's a stronger urban than rural population pattern. Those areas also tend to have higher levels of social capital and higher levels of material prosperity. However, even in parts of the U.S. that weren't slave states, there are other cultural aspects that may have been influenced indirectly.

Debate / Re: Is the USA Different? Why do Americans need guns?
« on: August 12, 2018, 02:46:56 AM »
The U.S. has always been different than Europe in that the U.S. started out as a slave-owning nation, and the aftereffects of that is still something that has a deep effect on society today

Every European country started out a slave-owning nation.

There was slavery in Europe too, obviously, but for the most part, as an institution, that far predates the modern idea of nationhood. Besides that, European slavery never saw a massive population importation of people that were very visibly different from the rest of the population. The main form of slave labor was through feudal institutions such as serfdom, which was pretty much gone from Western Europe by the time the idea of nation-states started to develop.

Conversely, the U.S. was founded at a time when the concept of nationalism and nationhood was developing, but with a slave population that were not part of the nation. I think there's a very long line from that up until Trump's calls for "making America great again" today, through the Civil War and Civil Rights Movement. Basically, the underlying idea that there are people around who are not part of the nation and thus form a potentially violent threat is a form of poison that was there from the beginning and has permeated parts of American culture since.

The other side of that was ongoing conflicts with the Native Americans, who were also not proper Americans, and likely another contributor.

There are plenty of other aspects to this as well, such as ideals of independence, the requirement of people in sparsely settled lands to be self-sufficient and a suspicion of government which may have arisen either from colonial experience or carried from immigrant homelands that all contribute to gun culture. The reasons are not the same across the U.S. But the idea of otherness within the nation -- slaves in particular -- has always been there and kept a sort of siege mentality going. European nation-building, by contrast, didn't start out with the same issue of having people considered profoundly less worth than others, or profoundly threatening.

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