Open Thread and Link Farm, I Always Feel Like Clown Eggs Are Watching Me edition

  1. Butch lesbian opens up about ‘increasing harassment’ she faces when she uses public toilets
    “This hostility towards butch lesbians is believed to be borne out of people challenging the rights of transgender people to use single-sex toilets.”
  2. There was never a time when pink was just for boys and blue just for girls.
    Historically, either color was fine for either sex.
  3. Twitter NSFW Ban Possible Over SESTA-FOSTA Lawsuit
    “The lawsuit utilizes SESTA-FOSTA’s Section 230 exceptions and could theoretically force Twitter to purge sex workers and adult content creators, adult industry experts warn.”
  4. Q-Nuts: “It’s the Great Storm, Charlie Brown” | Boing Boing
    Brilliant Q-Anon/Peanuts mashup.
  5. 5 ways cursing can be good for you – CNN
    Fuck yeah.
  6. The Insurrection Was Put Down. The GOP Plan for Minority Rule Marches On. – Mother Jones
    “No one has benefited more from minority rule—and done more to ensure it—than Mitch McConnell. For six years, he presided over a Senate majority representing fewer people than the minority party, the longest such stretch in US history…”
  7. Life Inside a Pre-Release Center: Like Prison, But More Work
    “Months can pass where the inmate is working but has no money left from her check because it’s all going to pay for fees and expenses. Some inmates complain that their financial statements are hopelessly opaque or even flat-out wrong. ‘I don’t even know what they charge you for half the time. For breathing!’ Norman quipped.”
  8. I Regret to Inform You That My Wedding to Captain Von Trapp Has Been Canceled – McSweeney’s Internet Tendency
  9. The Democratic Party Has a Fatal Misunderstanding of the QAnon Phenomenon | The New Republic
    “Democrats should try campaigning on the truth: The Republican Party is controlled by intelligent, college-educated, and affluent elites who concoct dangerous nonsense to paper over a bigoted, plutocratic agenda and to justify attacks on the democratic process. That agenda and those attacks are supported by millions of reasonably intelligent voters…”
  10. Oregon Bill Would Enable People to Vote from Prison – The Appeal
    “The proposed bill would restore the voting rights of people incarcerated over felony convictions in Oregon—a population of at least 13,000 as of the 2020 election that is roughly 9 percent Black in a state whose Black population is just 2.5 percent.”
  11. Abigail Nussbaum — What color Big Bird is depends on where you live.
  12. The Federal Deficit is No Reason to Fear Biden’s Climate Plan – Bloomberg
  13. After Trump Failed to Overturn the 2020 Election, Republicans Are Trying to Steal the Next One – Mother Jones
    This is the sort of thing that terrifies me and makes me thing the GOP is going to win a permanent minority ruling party.
  14. There’s No Such Thing as Cancel Culture | by L.D. Burnett | Jan, 2021 | Arc Digital
    Although I think she could have used very nearly the same arguments to argue that cancel culture is everywhere and unavoidable.
  15. The Debate Link: The Antisemitic Quote That Wasn’t in California’s Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum
    “What does one do when one’s favored ogre appears to have turned over a new leaf? The answer, if a widely cited Tablet Magazine article by Emily Benedek published earlier this week is any indicator, is simply to lie about it.”
  16. Letter To President-Elect Biden on Central America Policy – The Americas Program
    “In a spirit of constructive criticism, we would like to underscore what we consider to be problematic aspects of past and current U.S. policy towards the governments and peoples of Central America. Drawing from our own observations and experiences, as well as those of our Central American partners, we also wish to offer our recommendations as to how we believe U.S. policy toward the region can be improved.”
  17. When Broadway Shows Resume, Should ‘The Book of Mormon’ Be One of Them? — OnStage Blog
    Just because it’s a comedy doesn’t mean it isn’t racist: “Yes, the show is satirical but its satire is directed at the Mormon Church while the stereotypical depictions of the Ugandan characters are just stereotypical depictions.”
  18. Does Dieting Work?
    I added my third (and final) letter to my exchange with Helen Pluckrose.
  19. Searching for Shelley Duvall: The Reclusive Icon on Fleeing Hollywood and the Scars of Making ‘The Shining’ | Hollywood Reporter
    Previous sources had given me the impression that Duvall, and actor I’ve always liked, is now miserable and completely incoherent; I’m glad that’s not (entirely) true.
  20. This Is Why Your Holiday Travel Is Awful – POLITICO
    “The long, sordid history of New York’s Penn Station shows how progressives have made it too hard for the government to do big things.”
  21. The fascinating reason why clowns paint their faces on eggs – BBC Future
    “The earliest egg registry dates to 1946, when Stan Bult – a chemist by trade, though not a clown himself – began painting the faces of prominent circus clowns on eggs as a hobby.”

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47 Responses to Open Thread and Link Farm, I Always Feel Like Clown Eggs Are Watching Me edition

  1. 1
    RonF says:

    Re: #6:

    stripping unions of collective bargaining rights—they had effectively made Wisconsin “a democracy-free zone,

    How does stripping PUBLIC unions – not private unions, and not removing all collective bargaining rights, as the above over-broad statement seems to me to imply – make Wisconsin “a democracy-free zone”? Given the context I presume that “a democracy-free zone” refers to the electoral process for public officials.

    Also, I saw Book of Mormon. I presumed that the definitely stereotypical depiction of the locals was part of the satire of the Mormon worldview. It never occurred to me to see it as an accurate depiction of Ugandans.

  2. 2
    RonF says:

    Also Re: #6:

    The situation in the Senate is an entirely predictable outcome of the fact that it is not supposed to represent people. It is supposed to represent the States as sovereign entities. The 17th Amendment changed HOW the State selected their representatives in the Senate but not the essential nature of that body. The people select Senators to represent their State as a whole, not their local section of it.

    When you think about it, nearly the entire Federal government is chosen by and represents the interests of the States as sovereign entities. The Senate clearly is. The States also elect the head of the Executive branch; and should the election be thrown to the House the House delegations vote as States, not individual members. Said head of the Executive branch combines with the Senate only to choose the heads of and the other members of the Judiciary. And the Senate, without any say from the House, must ratify treaties and confirm the selection of ambassadors, cabinet members and other executive officers – and, as we are seeing, the final say in their removal.

    The bottom line is that while the people’s say in the creation and modification of legislation is closer to representational democracy, overall we are a republic made up of a federation of States, not a democracy, and no one should expect any different. The Founders had fought with their property, their blood and their lives to gain the independence of their States. When they wrote the Constitution they were quite jealous of the prerogatives of the States vs. the Federal government. They had no intention to surrender any more of that sovereignty to either the Federal government or the mass of citizens of other States.

    Face it. We are not a democracy. We have elements of democracy but in a pure democracy your individual rights and the actions of government can be given, taken away or changed at the whim of a temporary majority – or as the Founders put it, the passions of the moment. Our own recent history with the effects of “social” media has amplified that danger by orders of magnitude. The Founders, having studied history, knew that this always risked disaster and make quite sure to build safeguards against it. Thank God for that!

  3. 3
    SC says:

    As for #18, this makes me mad (in the previous letter):

    “my view that weight loss and maintenance is physically possible but psychologically hard and so the solution must be psychological. “

    No it categorically isn’t. That is a huge logic fail.

    Why is it psychologically hard? Because folks are having to will their brain to go against physiological factors! Just in the same way that is psychologically hard to refrain from going to the bathroom for a while when your bladder is full, but the solution is physical. That’s not to discount psychological factors entirely (see eating disorders) but it is screamingly obvious to me that a “solution” is in the physiological category, not psychological. Take appetite and satiety signals, for example. If those signals are screwed up, of course it will be psychologically hard to do what would have been the case were those signals not screwed up, but the solution there would be to try and fix what has gone wrong with the signalling.

    Psychological solution, my ***e.

  4. 4
    Ampersand says:

    “Why is it psychologically hard? Because folks are having to will their brain to go against physiological factors! Just in the same way that is psychologically hard to refrain from going to the bathroom for a while when your bladder is full, but the solution is physical.”

    YES! I am definitely going to be swiping this analogy and using it in the future!

  5. 5
    Jacqueline Onassis Squid says:

    The situation in the Senate is an entirely predictable outcome of the fact that it is not supposed to represent people.

    I agree with you that this is a truly egregious error on the part of the Founding Fathers.

    Face it. We are not a democracy.

    We are definitely a form of democracy, no? I don’t think that we’re a flavor of monarchy nor are we a version of a military dictatorship. And, last I checked, we are definitely not living under a theocracy. No, you are entirely wrong in your declaration. The US government is definitely a form of democracy as that term is globally understood. I know you have a really hard time with online research, so let me give you this link as a start on your journey to find the meaning of the term “democracy” as it is used in modern languages…

    https://www.moadoph.gov.au/democracy/defining-democracy/#

  6. 6
    Görkem says:

    ” we are a republic made up of a federation of States, not a democracy”

    Oh please, not this. “Republic” and “Democracy” are not incompatible. Do you think Germany, Italy, Finland etc are wrong to call themselves Republics? Or are these countries also not Democracies? Also, can you name a country that is a Democracy according to this bizarre typology?

    “Face it. We are not a democracy.”

    Do you think this is a good thing?

  7. 7
    Görkem says:

    ” nor are we a version of a military dictatorship”

    Just to prove my political semantic pedanticism is nonpartisan, strictly speaking a military dictatorship can be a republic. The classic Latin American military dictatorships were all republics.

  8. 8
    dragon_snap says:

    Also, technically the England (as a country within the U.K.) is both a democracy (of the constitutional monarchy variety) and a theocracy (having an official state religion, the Church of England, officially led by the aforementioned monarch).

  9. 9
    Kai Jones says:

    @RonF in #2: You are convincing me that we need to disestablish the individual states. Not only do states add an egregious level of tax-funded bureaucracy, they legislate at cross-purposes to each other and the federal legislature, and they introduce perverse financial incentives by that legislation. Individual states are unfair and unfit to serve the general population. And no, I’m not kidding.

  10. 10
    Regina says:

    @ SC: I would even suggest that eating disorders have physical aspects as well*. I can only really talk about binge-eating disorder, since that is the only disorder I have ever had (and the only one associated with fatness), but looking back, I think that my bingeing attacks as an adult were partially a response to food deprivation. (Regarding my bingeing attacks as a teen, I can only remember my emotions**, not my physical perceptions.)
    I don’t know about any study looking into this, but it *felt* like still being hungry after my stomach was full or even overfull. (It’s a terrible feeling, by the way.) It always occurred after several months of successful weight loss. If I would have to guess I would think that some of the hormones involved in hunger and satiety regulation were out of whack. Interestingly, one medication I took for a while caused a weaker version of the same feeling.
    I am not free of overeating, but I haven’t had a full-fledged bingeing attack in a long time, even though I never had binge-eating specific treatment. And one of the biggest factors I can name is that I have, well, not flat out stopped to restrict my food intake, but that I certainly have engaged in it in a lesser degree than in the past.

    *Psychological and physical aspects are hard to separate in any disorder since every psychological disorder just like every thought, every emotion etc. has a physical substrate, but that’s not what I want to get at in this case. Plus, a lot of physical disorders are quite strongly influenced by psychological factors.

    **There certainly was always a psychological component as well – the part I can name was overwhelming shame and guilt and an associated inability to actually enjoy food.

  11. 11
    Regina says:

    @ Görkem #6: There actually was a “German Democratic Republic” not too long ago. If republics cannot be democratic, the people that named it did not get the memo. (Then, of course, it actually wasn’t a democracy…)

  12. 12
    Regina says:

    Concerning #5: I know this is a fluff piece… but still… being a pedantic person I cannot get over the fact how bad the science reporting is here. First of all, they actually only name one reason why cursing is allegedly good for you, namely that it improves pain tolerance. I am pretty sure I have read in the past, however, that not just cursing improves pain tolerance, but all kinds of vocalizations (screaming etc.). So even that one is… iffy. The other four are simply things that have some relationship with cursing, but clearly not in the way that cursing improves some kind of good outcome for the person who curses (or decreases some kind of bad outcome):
    The first one is actually kind of trivial. Intelligence is related to higher verbal fluency; the specific type of words really doesn’t matter. But they certainly didn’t show that cursing improves intelligence, nor do you necessarily curse more just because you can list more curse words in a specific time period – so you cannot even infer a person’s intelligence from the frequency in which they curse.
    The second point concerns something that might be good for the people around you, but not necessarily for yourself: It is not necessarily to your own advantage to be honest.
    The fourth one is just incredibly trivial. If you take away the neural substrate for cursing you cannot curse anymore. And the right hemisphere of the brain does a lot more than just creative work. Plus, I do not see how their last two paragraphs are related to their point – other than maybe that “normal” language use is usually located in the left hemisphere. But still… what kind of specific brain damage did these patients have? There are different kinds of “not being able to speak”.
    And the fifths one… animals do not usually attack without warning, either. Has the author ever seen an angry (or in fact) scared cat or dog? They generally do send signals before they attack – at not really in a way that is less quick and clear than language. Plus, just as dogs who bark sometimes do bite, I am pretty sure that people who insult others sometimes do attack them.
    It’s really too bad that the article is so superficial, because I would bet that cursing can be used as a way to regulate emotions… and that actually would have been an interesting topic.

  13. 13
    Grace Annam says:

    Right there with you, Regina. I got to the end of that one and regretted spending the scant time on it that I did.

    Grace

  14. 14
    RonF says:

    Quite true – we are not in fact devoid of democracy in the U.S. What I meant to say – but admittedly did NOT make clear – was that we are not a pure democracy, wherein the law is whatever a majority of the people or its representatives decide it is at a given moment. Mea culpa on that one.

    But my main point stands, I think. The idea is that our government basically gives representation of the States as sovereign entities equal status to proportional representation of the population in the passage of legislation and superior status over the proportional representation of the population in most other aspects. This was no accident. The Founders wanted to place limits on what the population as a whole could do without the consent of the States, as they feared that passions could sweep though the population in such a case and lead to disaster. Certainly we have seen how social media has amplified this.

  15. 15
    Ampersand says:

    Ron, I’d argue that January 6th showed us the problem of one of the two major parties being able to remain viable without ever having to win a majority of the voters approval. That a huge portion of the Republican party – including its most recent president – is made up of violent extremists and conspiracy theorists who have contempt for the idea of democracy isn’t a coincidence; extremists are more likely to take over when there’s no need to get most voters on your side. Essentially, the Republican party has freed itself from accountability to the general public.

    Nor did the founders envision a Senate where states representing a large majority of the population would be entirely shut out of legislating much of the time, both because they didn’t have the same scale of difference between state populations that we do (California has almost 70 times Wisconsin’s population – in contrast, the biggest colony in 1776, Virginia, had only about 12 times the smallest colony’s (Delaware’s) population), and because they didn’t have the partisan urban/rural divide we do. Although parties formed within the founders’ lifetimes, the parties didn’t have the urban/rural divide we see today, which makes the effects of the Senate set-up radically different than it is today.

    And they certainly didn’t intend gerrymandering, another basis of Republican power because Republicans are incapable of winning power fairly. The idea that our present system is what the founders envisioned is just ridiculous, Ron.

    If current trends continue, in about 20 years 70% of the US population will live in the eight largest states. Which means that Senators representing just 30% of the population will get to control the Senate.

    Does that seem fair to you, Ron? And if so, at what point would you say minority rule becomes unfair? Would 20% be unfair? 10%? 5%?

    Is there any point at which you think the legitimacy of a government depends on the consent of the governed?

  16. 16
    Görkem says:

    “There actually was a “German Democratic Republic” not too long ago. If republics cannot be democratic, the people that named it did not get the memo.”

    The joke in comparative politics classes is that usually if a country feels the need to state that it is “democratic” in its official name, it isn’t.

    ” we are not a pure democracy, wherein the law is whatever a majority of the people or its representatives decide it is at a given moment.”

    No, you are right, the USA is not. But really, at a state level, nobody is a “pure democracy”. Even very small states rely on some layer of representation. The closest thing to a “pure democracy” probably comes in some of the little Swiss cantons where a public assembly of citizens is the highest legislative authority, but even in these small, sub-national units, the public assembly is only temporary and in practice limits itself to certain matters, and for most of the time, and most matters, governance is still done through representatives.

    But the thing is, a discussion about “pure democracy” may be interesting on a philosophical level, but if people are complaining about a government being insufficiently democratic, saying “but we are not a pure democracy” is at best an irrelevant interjection and at worse a malicious attempt to muddy the issue. People want democracy, people are concerned when they see less democracy than they want, and none of this is changed by pointing out that they don’t live in a “pure democracy”, especially when a “pure democracy” is just an abstract concept that nobody can live in, at least not on the national (or even regional) level.

    A similar analogy would be health. Nobody can really be 100% healthy because everybody has some minor flaw in their body. But if a patient goes to a doctor complaining that he is unhealthy, for the doctor to dismiss their concerns because, well, nobody is really 100% healthy, would be ridiculous. This “America is not a democracy” rhetoric is the same thing. It’s annoying enough on a political terminology level, but when used as a rejoinder to people complaining about democratic deficits in the system they live in, it’s well beyond annoying.

    ” The Founders wanted to place limits on what the population as a whole could do without the consent of the States”

    I realise this is a kind of civic heresy, but I am not American, and you seem like the kind of guy who thinks non-Muslims should be able to draw Mohammed, so let me propose a concept that you, as a civic nationalist, may find triggering – maybe The Founders fucked up, and their mistake should be corrected.

  17. 17
    Jacqueline Onassis Squid says:

    What I meant to say – but admittedly did NOT make clear – was that we are not a pure democracy …

    I agree with Görkem that “pure democracy” probably doesn’t exist in any recognized government, and certainly not at a national level. Further, nobody argues that the US is a “pure democracy”, so that seems like an unnecessary point to make.

  18. 18
    SC says:

    Please do, Ampersand (re: Comment 4). Delighted if you take that and run with it!

  19. 19
    RonF says:

    Kai Jones @9:

    You are convincing me that we need to disestablish the individual states. Not only do states add an egregious level of tax-funded bureaucracy, they legislate at cross-purposes to each other and the federal legislature, and they introduce perverse financial incentives by that legislation. Individual states are unfair and unfit to serve the general population. And no, I’m not kidding.

    Individual States are not supposed to serve the general population. They are supposed to serve their own residents. Yes, they do add a level of bureaucracy, and living in Illinois as I do I am bound to agree with the word “egregious” – at least in my case. But having one national government that could effectively serve the general population in all aspects of government power is at complete odds with the basis of American government and (in my view) for a nation as diverse and as big as the United States is pretty much impossible. It seems to me that there are many aspects of the proper governance of a region that are not the concern of the nation as a whole. The life of and needs of farmers in South Dakota is a lot different than someone living in Manhattan. For that matter, the life of and the needs of people living in my town are different than those of people living in Chicago – and I’m within an hour’s drive. Government that is as remote as Washington D.C. is from me should only handle those aspects of governance that require such broad-based and remote power, such as national defense. The rest should devolve to lower levels of government that are closer to and thus more responsive to the people they govern for.

  20. 20
    RonF says:

    Amp, @15:

    That a huge portion of the Republican party – including its most recent president – is made up of violent extremists and conspiracy theorists ….

    As far as I can see this is a false premise. I certainly don’t think that Jan. 6th demonstrated anything of the kind. Hell, we had riots across the United States this last summer – some of which still occur in your city – involving far more people for longer periods of time exhibiting violence and doing far more damage and I don’t think it demonstrates that a huge portion of either the people backing the BLM movement or the Democratic party is made up of violent extremists and conspiracy theorists.

  21. 21
    Jacqueline Onassis Squid says:

    Hell, we had riots across the United States this last summer – some of which still occur in your city – involving far more people for longer periods of time exhibiting violence and doing far more damage and I don’t think it demonstrates that a huge portion of either the people backing the BLM movement or the Democratic party is made up of violent extremists and conspiracy theorists.

    How many cops did those millions of protestors kill at the BLM rallies, RonF? What democratic elections were those BLM protestors trying to overturn, violently? What conspiracy theories were at the heart of those protests?

    That’s one hell of a false equivalence you’ve got going and it’s really not convincing at all.

  22. 22
    RonF says:

    Görkem :

    But really, at a state level, nobody is a “pure democracy”. Even very small states rely on some layer of representation.

    Which is why I said “a majority of the people or its representatives” (emphasis added).

    People want democracy,

    Indeed they do. But how do you form a democratic government without giving its representative body the power to overrule essential individual or collective rights? Do you even recognize that there ARE essential individual or collective rights that its representative body should not be able to change unless there is some fashion of difficult-to-accomplish mechanism for doing so?

    I am not American,

    Ah. Fair enough, and that explains and excuses some unfamiliarity with how and why we are governed the way we are. Thanks for getting involved in such a discussion.

    you seem like the kind of guy who thinks non-Muslims should be able to draw Mohammed

    Of course! Actually, I think even the concept that there should be any kind of authority that could regulate – through either legal or extra-legal means – the right for anyone to draw anything they please to be anathema. Here in the U.S. I’m pretty close to being a First Amendment absolutist. As has been expressed in more than one Supreme Court decision, if the First Amendment is not interpreted to permit people to say or print (or, one would presume, draw or sing) something that is broadly and deeply offensive, it is meaningless.

    let me propose a concept that you, as a civic nationalist, may find triggering – maybe The Founders fucked up, and their mistake should be corrected.

    I don’t get “triggered”, and I find the concept that I should avoid saying something or use a particular term because it is “triggering” (or be able to force someone else through such means from saying or using a particular term) dangerous and a great way to manipulate people so as to keep certain concepts from being even expressed. If you are unfamiliar with George Orwell’s novel 1984 I would suggest you read it – understanding that he meant it as a warning, not an instruction manual. That is, of course, if in whatever country you live in you are permitted to do so.

    I quite agree that the Founders may well have fucked up. I have my list of changes I’d make, certainly. In fact, the Founders themselves were aware that they might have fucked up. Or, that changing circumstances might require changes in the Constitution. That’s why they put Article V into the Constitution, which provides for fixing fuckups (except, interestingly germane to this discussion, that it forbids changing a State’s representation in the Senate without its approval). And I must say I am curious as to why you would think that believing that the Founders made mistakes would be “triggering” to me.

    What do you mean by a “civic nationalist”, anyway?

  23. 23
    Jacqueline Onassis Squid says:

    If you are unfamiliar with George Orwell’s novel 1984 I would suggest you read it – understanding that he meant it as a warning, not an instruction manual.

    Huh. So you’re making the claim that George Orwell was anti-authoritarian? I’ve never heard that before.

    /sarcasm

  24. 24
    Ampersand says:

    Your point about “involving far more people for longer periods of time” goes against your case, not for it.

    For example: About 900 people have died at baseball games – fans hit by foul balls, fans falling out of stands, killed by lightning, and so on. In comparison, five died at the January 6 insurrection. Does that mean that baseball games are on average far deadlier than January 6 was? No, it means that baseball has involved far more people for longer periods of time. Average deaths per baseball game would be the relevant comparison – and that’s a tiny fraction above zero.

    The average BLM protest has been FAR less deadly than the January 6 insurrection was. 25 people have died at BLM protests (including some who were killed by anti-BLM right-wingers). There have been over 9000 BLM protests. That’s an average of under 0.003 deaths per protest. (I wrote a thread about this on Twitter last month.)

    Put another way, over a thousand times as many deaths occurred at the January 6 insurrection as at the average BLM protest.

    There are people in the BLM movement – as in any large movement – who believe in objectively false conspiracy theories and are disconnected from reality. But none of those people have been elected President. The relevant comparison to Donald Trump isn’t some unnamed BLM person; it’s Joe Biden. Donald Trump, a racist pro-violence conspiracy theorist, is who Republicans chose; Joe Biden is who Democrats chose.

    It’s not fair to demand that any large political party be completely free of ridiculous people, because statistically any large group of humans will include some. But when a party elects a ridiculous conspiracy theorist – and not a secret one, but one who has been very overt – to be their leader, then it’s fair to judge the party for that. That’s what a plurality of Republicans want.

    Trump and other high-up conservative leaders pushed a conspiracy theory about millions of fake votes and millions of discarded real votes. Over 70 percent of Republicans said they agreed with President Trump’s contention that he received more votes than Joe Biden. That belief led directly to a violent riot, intended to prevent the election from being certified, at which five people died.

    There is nothing even remotely comparable to that in the Democratic party.

  25. 25
    Görkem says:

    A “civic nationalist” is in differentiation to an ethnic nationalist, e.g. somebody whose allegiance to their nation of choice is based on what they feel to be its civic virtues, rather than its ethnic composition. Civic nationalism views people as nationals as long as they abide with a set of civic values. The values may be contested but there is no ethnic prerequisite or preference for nationality. You can read more here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civic_nationalism or if you really want to dive in, you can read Rogers Brubaker’s “Citizenship and Nationhood in France and Germany” for a classic case study of the two models of civic and ethnic nationalism.

    I hope you enjoyed expounding your views on drawing Mohammed triggering and 1984. But, getting to the subjects people here are discussing – is it possible that, when the Founding Fathers, as you have pointed out, set the USA up as a country whose governance is regulated by the needs of a group of states, rather than a group of citizens, it might have been one of these fuck ups? You are unquestionably right that is what they did do, and that decision has largely held up until the present day. But that doesn’t mean it should continue. And if you think it should continue, you really need a reason better than “that’s the way it is now” or “that is the way the Founding Fathers decided it”. Why do you think the best system for the USA right now is to have supreme executive power decided based on arbitrating the needs of its states as discrete entities with individual interests, rather than its citizens as discrete entities with individual interests? What’s the advantage that this system enjoys over the proposed alternative?

    As for how to ensure democracy without a system of the sort America has – look at pretty much any other western democracy. France, Finland, Ireland, Japan, whatever you prefer. Seems it is quite possible to be democratic without having an American style system.

    Also, a quick request, please cut the patronising bullshit about me being non-American and therefore unable to read 1984 or not able to understand the US governmental system. I don’t need you to speak down to me and I won’t thank you for it.

  26. 26
    RonF says:

    Görkem:

    Thanks for the definition. I had not encountered the term before and I wanted to ensure I knew what you meant by it.

    I hope you enjoyed expounding your views on drawing Mohammed triggering

    You’re the one who brought it up, not me. Since you were attempting to characterize me in some fashion but seemed not entirely clear on my views on the subject it seemed appropriate to clarify them. And as long as you brought it up I’m curious to know what your views are on the subject.

    Why do you think the best system for the USA right now is to have supreme executive power decided based on arbitrating the needs of its states as discrete entities with individual interests, rather than its citizens as discrete entities with individual interests? What’s the advantage that this system enjoys over the proposed alternative?

    Actually, I prefer that there be no “supreme” executive power in the U.S. at all. I prefer that the executive power for the Federal government be confined to those areas defined as within the ambit of the Federal government in general and the Executive branch in particular, and that other executive power reside within the States, and within other executive bodies within those States as their own Constitutions provide. But between the Supreme Court’s rather expansive interpretation of the Commerce Clause and other provisions of the Constitution, as well as the tendency of Congress to grant quasi-legislative powers to Executive regulatory departments, the power of the President is far broader than the Founders envisioned and far broader than I think it should be.

    The U.S. is not homogeneous. As one Scouter from Europe so eloquently put it to me a couple of summers ago, “It’s fucking huge.” The variety of climate, environments, cultures, etc. astounded them. The ability of a minority of people to be able to be represented in government by the States in disproportion to their population enables the representation of those regions to put what I see as a very necessary check on the Executive branch that ensures that an interest represented by a simple majority cannot dominate the minority to the former’s profit and the latter’s submergence.

    As for how to ensure democracy without a system of the sort America has, ….

    I think that inadequately summarizes the questions I asked. The specific questions I asked were “But how do you form a democratic government without giving its representative body the power to overrule essential individual or collective rights? Do you even recognize that there ARE essential individual or collective rights that its representative body should not be able to change unless there is some fashion of difficult-to-accomplish mechanism for doing so?” Would you respond to these questions?

    Also, a quick request, please cut the patronising bullshit about me being non-American and therefore unable to read 1984 or not able to understand the US governmental system.

    I did not mean to be patronizing. I’m sorry you saw my comments in that light – they were not intended as such. As I’m sure you well know there’s plenty of countries that ban various kinds of politically oriented books and publications. I didn’t say that I knew you couldn’t. But since you’re not American and since I have no idea what your home country is and where you currently reside it’s entirely possible that you might not be able to. And I never said you were not able to understand the U.S. governmental system. I just figured it was possible that you might not be as familiar with it as someone born here. After all, I can’t say I’m familiar with many other countries’ governmental systems to the detail that I am familiar with America’s. But I should think anyone who is as obviously familiar with the English language as yourself should have no problem becoming familiar with it should you care to (familiarity with the English language being necessary to read our documents and laws as they were written for yourself and not as what some translator or political essayist thinks they say).

  27. 27
    Görkem says:

    “The U.S. is not homogeneous.”

    No country is homogenous. The non-American countries who manage to combine democracy with a popular electoral vote are not as homogenous as you think they are. This is just special pleading – the USA can’t be held to the same standards as other countries, because it’s big, or it’s diverse, or it’s new (to your credit you didn’t try that one). Every country in the world is unique in some way, but this doesn’t mean countries cannot learn from one another. And I think the fact that no other democratic country in the world sees the electoral college as worth emulating – even strongly federalised countries like Germany or Belgium – is quite a strong learning.

    I mean, Canada is bigger than the USA and just as diverse. The needs of people in Yukon and people in Ontario are just as different as the needs of people in Wyoming and people in New York State. And yet, Canada doesn’t have a US-style system for selecting its executive. And it doesn’t seem to be struggling under the kind of problems you think the USA would encounter if it changed systems.

    I have zero interest in discussing the ethics of drawing Mohammed with you, sorry.

  28. 28
    Ampersand says:

    The life of and needs of farmers in South Dakota is a lot different than someone living in Manhattan.

    There are 29,600 farms in South Dakota, several thousand less than the 33,400 farms in New York State (and it’s the state, not “Manhattan,” that has Senators). My guess is that the life and needs of farmers in SD and NY aren’t identical, but have significant overlap.

    The ability of a minority of people to be able to be represented in government by the States in disproportion to their population enables the representation of those regions to put what I see as a very necessary check on the Executive branch that ensures that an interest represented by a simple majority cannot dominate the minority to the former’s profit and the latter’s submergence.

    The entire population of South Dakota is less than half of just the African American population of NYC. I’m not sure why farmers in SD deserve special representation in the Senate, making them vastly more powerful than their numbers, but other minorities (such as Black people) do not.

    Of course there should be basic rights that should be protected – by law. By a bill of rights.

    But one of those rights that should be – but unfortunately is not – protected, is the right to a fair democracy. A millionaire’s vote shouldn’t be worth more than a fast food worker’s vote, and a Rhode Islander’s vote shouldn’t be more powerful and get more representation than a Texan’s vote.

    I’m all for protecting minority rights – but you want to do that by taking rights away from the majority of Americans. The policies you favor mean that the minority of Americans who live in rural states get extra rights and power over the people in urban states. That’s not right. Saying “I don’t want A to dominate B, so let’s have a system where B dominates A instead” isn’t the way to avoid unfair domination.

  29. 29
    Mookie says:

    Saying “I don’t want A to dominate B, so let’s have a system where B dominates A instead” isn’t the way to avoid unfair domination.

    The obvious rejoinder is that A isn’t “dominating” B in this instance. The one just outnumbers the other, an empirical fact, but is worth less in the currency of our present-day Republic-not-Democrat nation, where we simultaneously resist adding new states but are Very Concerned About Federal Overreach. Since we’re invoking the unvarnished truth of what 2 plus 2 equals.

    I find this sudden enthusiasm for multiculturalism that dare not speak its name (sanitized as heterogeneity, where romanticized white agriculturalists heavily subsidized with urban taxes are at risk of “submergence” under bureaucracy, as if there is anything more bureaucratic and centralized than our electoral system, as if bureaucracy weren’t the precise spanner the hand of red state voter suppression wields) vurry interestin’. As ever, the chaos and misdirections are the point.

  30. 30
    Mookie says:

    The plain fact of the matter is that the results of the last dozen EC results have gotten better at grotesquely highlighting the failure of one of our two primary political parties at making itself competitive on policy (rather than pandering to increasingly abstract reactionary symbolism), appealing to a broad spectrum of Americans, and governing well when it does win fairly (rather than just try to shore up more power, embed itself in nonelected positions, and undercut its successors as counterweights to its poor administration and hostile stewardship). Not only are these people terrible at federal government, the malpractice they force their own constituents to endure (many of whom belong to the other party, but this minority should be dominated by the majority for reasons) is criminal. It brings to mind that participation trophy cliche, the idea that minority rule is good medicine, a “check” on the excesses of the more moderate party, something the uppity usurpers owe to the ruling class for having the temerity of winning more votes everywhere. Meanwhile, the opposition is on a cancellation spree of RINOs insufficient in their extremism. This is very normal. Comity, eh?

    It’s actually kind of insulting to one’s intelligence to pretend this comparatively young country is working as designed, or that its baby institutions n outdated norms are somehow sacrosanct. Until it’s convenient for them not to be.

  31. 31
    Mookie says:

    The ability of a minority of people to be able to be represented in government by the States in disproportion to their population enables the representation of those regions to put what I see as a very necessary check on the Executive branch that ensures that an interest represented by a simple majority cannot dominate the minority to the former’s profit and the latter’s submergence.

    Stick this sentence next to, say, a representation of any one of our top ten most gerrymandered districts. This is absurd. This is a partisan argument, not one about representation of actual voters at all, just cataloguing them according to a party’s explicit electoral needs, in the sense of needing to find that elusive 11,780. You’re just advocating for a quota, a headstart, a certain minimum number of GOP controlled districts and states. Democrats gerrymander, sure. Democrats also win the popular vote of their elections in order to actually occupy their seat, local elections on up. Why does one party, not even its voters but the actual party, get all this unearned welfare? Why shouldn’t failing to use it responsibly, to actually increase the happiness and liberty of the people they represent, be reason enough to stop giving them these handouts? Where is the personal responsibility?

    It’s a bit rich to pretend certain “regions” can only be adequately “represented” through employment of the EC to one party’s explicit favor when said “regions” themselves are richly multifarious but gerrymandered to the hilt to get the outcome the GOP wants. What you mean is, those regions are possibly more likely to have Republican voters than Democrats, forgetting for a moment that California has more Republican voters than any red state. Erasing the liberal and left minority in red states is just fine. The question of their representation, their interests and how they may actually align with that of their neighbors, is neither asked nor acknowledged. Their minority status is a fact. We return to the concept of an in group unbound but protected in all instances, and an out group bound and left unprotected. Sounds kinda snowflake-y to me, I must say, this system where no matter what state of play you consider, the order of the day is conservative welfare and unchecked, disproportionate, and abusive conservative control (the bit about who profits under GOP rule is a good one, but it’s certainly not the vast majority of its voters, wherever they reside) because anything else is obviously tyranny of unconstrained choice.

  32. 32
    nobody.really says:

    Why do you think the best system for the USA right now is to have supreme executive power decided based on arbitrating the needs of its states as discrete entities with individual interests, rather than its citizens as discrete entities with individual interests?

    Actually, I prefer that there be no “supreme” executive power in the U.S. at all.

    I think this poses a false dichotomy. Rather, supreme executive power should derive from a mandate from the masses–or from some farcical aquatic ceremony. Take your pick.

  33. 33
    Görkem says:

    ” as if there is anything more bureaucratic and centralized than our electoral system”

    The right has a very conflicted notion with bureaucracy. It’s kind of a pornography/erotica distinction – when administration works against their interests (or is neutral, and thus, insufficiently favourable to their interests), it’s “bureaucracy” and needs to be trimmed back. When it is solicitious to their interests, it’s not bureaucracy, it’s effective governance.

    ” this comparatively young country is working as designed…”

    You see I think this excuse doesn’t work. It is the one excuse that Ron, to his very minimal credit, didn’t use to resist the idea that the USA can be compared to other countries. The USA is not an especially young country. I think this idea comes because the obvious referend is the UK, which is actually an extremely old country – not many countries are as old as the UK. Germany, Belgium, Norway, Canada, Australia and South Korea are all younger than the USA, and all seem to have solved the governance problem more effectively than the USA has. Youth isn’t an excuse.

  34. 34
    JaneDoh says:

    Actually I think the problem is that the US government is old (even if the country is not that old comparatively). There are no other governments running today that were operating in their current format in 1789.

    The Electoral College and representation in the Senate represent 18th century thinking about who deserves representation in government and in how to deal with regional differences in population (both total population and voting population). For example, from the 1790 census, PA and VA had about the same number of white adult males (ie voters), but VA had a considerably higher total population when including the ~300,000 slaves. The Electoral College ensured that VA and other Southern slavery dependent states would have a much larger voice in selecting the president and vice president than direct election would have given them. The REALLY long gap between electing a president (beginning of November) and the start of the new administration (mid-January) is also a side effect of 18th century technology. In the 21st century, it makes no sense, and leads to things like the Jan. 6 insurrection, since different groups spent that time pumping up their members.

    Until after the Civil War, most Americans identified more strongly with their state rather than with the national government (I am a New Yorker or a Virginian or Rhode Islander rather than I am an American), so it is unlikely most people in the voting population would have thought that a system that purported to equalize representation between states would be a problem. The increasingly unrepresentative Senate and Electoral College is a huge problem for the US that will only get worse over time. Some states with large rural-urban divides also have unrepresentative legislatures, with rural voters having a much larger say in state government than their more numerous urban counterparts.

  35. 35
    nobody.really says:

    Hell, we had riots across the United States this last summer – some of which still occur in your city – involving far more people for longer periods of time exhibiting violence and doing far more damage and I don’t think it demonstrates that a huge portion of either the people backing the BLM movement or the Democratic party is made up of violent extremists and conspiracy theorists.

    How many cops did those millions of protestors kill at the BLM rallies, RonF?

    How many cops did the 1/6 rioters kill? I don’t know.

    1. Various sources cited unnamed “law enforcement officials” for the proposition that Staff Sargent Brian Sicknick died after rioters beat him with a fire extinguisher. Yet Sicknick returned to a police station after the riots and texted his brother that he had been twice attacked with pepper spray but was “in good shape”; he did not mention fire extinguishers.

    He later died of a stroke with blood clots. Medical examiners found no evidence of blunt force trauma. However, people are still exploring whether Sicknick became ill from exposure to a chemical agent–possibly pepper spray or bear spray.

    So, as far as I can tell, we can’t yet say whether the rioters killed any police officers.

    2. Still, maybe we could say that the RIOT killed some police officers. Two officers committed suicide shortly after the riots. Also, four rioters died, and apparently some of the rioters were police officers–so there might be some overlap there. But I suspect these are not the kinds of deaths people refer to when talking about rioters killing police officers.

  36. 36
    Chris says:

    Another important distinction between the BLM protests and the Capitol insurrection is that the former was not done on behalf of a political leader–and in fact, the most vocal and extreme members of the former rejected pretty much all leaders in both parties. No one was carrying Biden flags at these things, and I’d be willing to bet the more violent and extreme members hate Biden about as much if not more than any conservative does.

    BLM was political, and had political support from most Democrats, but it emerged as a grassroots response to the very real and nonpartisan problem of police brutality. The Capitol riot was a direct result of lies told by the most powerful person in the world, and was done in service to that person, so that he could hold on to his power against the will of the majority. It is obvious that the latter is far more relevant to evaluating which party has been taken over by violent extremists.

  37. 37
    Michael says:

    @nobody.really#35- I think that if he really was pepper or bear sprayed- and he really did die relatively shortly after- it’s fair to say that he died as a result of the riots.(Similarly, if a robber points a gun at a man- and the man had a heart attack shortly thereafter- I think it’s fair to say that the man died as a result of the robbery.)

  38. 38
    Charles says:

    JaneDoh:

    Actually I think the problem is that the US government is old (even if the country is not that old comparatively). There are no other governments running today that were operating in their current format in 1789.

    I completely agree. For instance, the US system of government substantially pre-dates the invention of proportional representation. It is not that the great Founders in their Wisdom realized that proportional representation would not adequately overrepresent the power of South Dakota farmers, and therefore rejected PR, but rather that the idea hadn’t been considered or developed, so the US system of government doesn’t incorporate it. Likewise, the US system of government has a poorly conceived system for replacing the system of government, one that probably looked like it would be reasonably easy to use, in part because the Founders had just used something like it to abolish the previous system of government, but that in fact has never been invoked in the entire history of the country. Even the amendment system is poorly designed to address problems with the disproportionate power of states.

    Hell, there was sufficiently little experience with democratic systems of government that the founders somehow thought that their system wouldn’t immediate develop political parties, even though nothing in their system obstructed the development of political parties.

    Strong presidential systems are demonstrably poor design. They are far less stable and far more unjust than parliementary systems and proportional representation. This is clear across a broad swath of countries. Even in the US, our system of government produced a bloody civil war that killed 2% of the population.

  39. 39
    Görkem says:

    I guess I should quibble that the UK system of government is largely unchanged since before 1776 – the Reform Act was a change in the way elections were administered but the basic governance structure remained the same even if incentives within it changed.

    But JaneDoh is right, the USA’s system is very old, and it is handled very conservatively – there seems to be a strong consensus that the system cannot change in any real fundamental way, it can only be tinkered with. It’s worth interrogating the biases of the writers of the constitution, but one doesn’t have to believe that they had some special deficit as individuals or a group to believe the decisions they made are no longer fit for purpose – the task of designing a governing system that can still deliver without significant change over 200+ years of demographic, economic, geographic and values-based change is basically one that nobody should ever attempt.

  40. 40
    Fibi says:

    Way up thread Amp wrote:

    The average BLM protest has been FAR less deadly than the January 6 insurrection was. 25 people have died at BLM protests (including some who were killed by anti-BLM right-wingers). There have been over 9000 BLM protests. That’s an average of under 0.003 deaths per protest. (I wrote a thread about this on Twitter last month.)

    Put another way, over a thousand times as many deaths occurred at the January 6 insurrection as at the average BLM protest

    While that is another way to put it, it’s also an apples to oranges way. There were three major “Stop the Steal” rallies in D.C. and dozens more in various State Capitols. So it might make sense to compare the most violent “Stop the Steal” rally (January 6th) to the most violent BLM rally (not sure which one). Alternatively, or in addition, it might make sense to compare average levels of violence (which probably still has the BLM rallies less violent by one order of magnitude or so). But comparing the outlier to the average isn’t a very useful way of framing things.

    Also, that parenthetical bothers me a bit. I am assuming that you use parentheses the way I do – as something noteworthy, but not essential. Still, the thrust seems to be that it’s not entirely fair to say the BLM death count was 25 since not all of deaths were bystanders/targets. But if you don’t think that’s fair than the January 6th riots only inflicted one death to a non-participant (Officer Sicknick). Again, I think we both believe that both ways of counting violence are valid and useful – total deaths and deaths to non-participants. And I recognize that a comment on a blog isn’t going to be written with the same drafting process as a scholarly article. Still, comparisons should be apples to apples or oranges to oranges.

    And that’s important because when you do apples to apples / oranges to oranges the two sets of riots don’t seem categorically different in terms of violence (they are probably within an order of magnitude, not 1000 times worse). There are still contextual reasons to treat these events differently, but comparing the amount of violence to date should serve as a caution not to overreact to the contextual differences not as further evidence that it’s totally different this time.

  41. 41
    Ampersand says:

    Fibi, Ron made the comparison of “Jan 6” specifically, not all “Stop the Steal” rallies, to BLM protests in general. I think it’s reasonable for me to respond to the comparison Ron actually made, not the comparison you think ought be made. :-)

    My parenthetical was to point out that not all deaths at BLM rallies have been caused by left-wing protesters.

  42. 42
    Ampersand says:

    Görkem, please try to dial down the hostility a bit. Thank you.

    you seem like the kind of guy who thinks non-Muslims should be able to draw Mohammed,

    I was wondering if you could clarify this a bit. Are you saying that you don’t think it should be legal?

  43. 43
    Görkem says:

    As I said to Ron I’d really rather not get into that whole can of worms. I’m sorry I brought it up. I meant it more as an analogy than a new issue to be discussed.

    Can you give some examples of me being hostile? I feel I have been perfectly civil.

  44. 44
    Ampersand says:

    Eh, I think I was reacting to “Also, a quick request, please cut the patronising bullshit about me being non-American and therefore unable to read 1984 or not able to understand the US governmental system. I don’t need you to speak down to me and I won’t thank you for it.” I agree that Ron made or implied some bad assumptions there, but I thought your reaction could have been phrased better. Looking at it again now, I’m not sure I should have even brought it up.

  45. 45
    hf says:

    It is not that the great Founders in their Wisdom realized that proportional representation would not adequately overrepresent the power of South Dakota farmers, and therefore rejected PR, but rather that the idea hadn’t been considered or developed, so the US system of government doesn’t incorporate it.

    I do think the writers of the Constitution – before we made several changes and distinct sets of amendments intended to address this very issue – wanted to limit democracy. This raises the question of which elites we should allow to hold power without democratic oversight – the ones who started an undeclared war with France, or the ones who tried and failed to conquer Canada?

  46. 46
    Görkem says:

    @Ampersand: OK, thanks for clarifying. I will try to keep that in mind in future posts.

    @hf: It’s fun to dig into the specific errors of specific founding fathers, but it is a bit of a distraction. Even if they had made 100% enlightened and admirable decisions, that still wouldn’t justify giving them unlimited power.

  47. 47
    nobody.really says:

    At various points in US history, a black man was brutalized for communicating with a white woman. Some argued that the assailants acted to defend vulnerable women. Others argued that this was an exercise in members of the dominant class reinforcing social hierarchy under the pretext of defending the vulnerable.

    Meanwhile, at Smith College a white cafeteria worker and a white security guard challenged a black student who was eating lunch in a dorm’s lounge, leaving her in a near “meltdown.” “All I did was be Black… It’s outrageous that some people question my being at Smith College, and my existence overall as a woman of color.” Is this how members of the dominant class reinforce hierarchy today?

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