Holiday sentiment


I’m pretty comfortable here, waiting for the kids to get up and open their presents, last night we had a pleasant evening with a vegan dinner with mead, and later today we’re getting on a plane and heading back home, so I’m too mellow right now to write something ferocious. For that, I recommend reading this article which I heartily endorse: Burn the Fucking System to the Ground.

I’m indulging in a little personal complacency today, but never forget: America is screwed up.

Comments

  1. Dick the Damned says

    America is screwed up, eh.

    It’s mostly because of religion, which helps reinforce ancient prejudices. So all we have to do is show the religious folk, by the use of logic, that there’s no evidence for mind-body dualism, so spirits & gods don’t exist, then the religious folk will all become rationalists, & America’s problems will become amenable to solution. (Wow, I just saw a herd of pigs fly by!)

    Merry Xmas, everyone.

  2. Trebuchet says

    I read this yesterday. I’m not a huge fan of Clark, who I consider some sort of paleo-conservative libertarian. (I expect he’d disagree.) And I don’t recall him suggesting any alternatives.

  3. says

    I’m no fan of libertarians ever, either, as some people know. I did find his list of outrages provocative though, and I do agree that the system is rotten.

    Yeah, a solution would be nice to have right now.

  4. jefferylanam says

    I know vegans who wouldn’t touch mead, or anything with honey. Exploiting the bees. I think that’s pretty extreme, and inconsistent unless they also avoid all the plants that are pollinated by captive bees.

  5. says

    For everyone who thinks the system is reformable: don’t forget to keep voting for “the lesser evil!” The system is counting on YOU!

    To everyone else: I’ll see you in the streets.

  6. Nathair says

    Burn the Fucking System to the Ground.

    ‘Cause living in a failed or a collapsed state is so much more fun than living in a flawed one? America, for all its serious flaws, is still a hell of an improvement over living in Sudan or Somalia or Afghanistan. I think libertarians some people need to read Pinker’s Better Angels to gain a bit of perspective on how bad Bad really gets and how Pretty Damn Good things are now.

    If you want to talk about fixing things, that’s great, there’s a lot to fix but this “burn it all down” talk is deeply and dangerously ignorant.

  7. zenlike says

    PZ:

    I did find his list of outrages provocative though, and I do agree that the system is rotten.

    Well, almost all of his outrages I agree with. The lumping in of teachers with their ‘unionised jobs’, yeah, “one thing is not like the others”, etc. It kinda spoiled it for me.

    But the general sentiment: yes, eh system is broken. Beyond fixing probably. But after the burning down, I’m afraid things will necessarily be better.

  8. zenlike says

    Damn the God of Typos, must apparently be appeased today. Read the last sentence as:

    But the general sentiment: yes, the system is broken. Beyond fixing probably. But after the burning down, I’m afraid things won’t necessarily be better.

  9. David Marjanović says

    I’m no fan of libertarians ever, either, as some people know. I did find his list of outrages provocative though, and I do agree that the system is rotten.

    I do get the impression that he tries hard to hate everyone equally (by adding hate where he fears he might have dumped too little, never by taking any away). Exhibit A: Not-much-brighter-than-a-box-of-crayolas teachers who work 180 days a year and get automatic raises. That’s a bit too fair and balanced for me.

    For everyone who thinks the system is reformable: don’t forget to keep voting for “the lesser evil!”

    Eh, you live in a safe state. You can vote for third, tenth, twentieth parties all you want, or write in Mickey Mouse who’d make a much better president than any recent candidates I can think of – it doesn’t matter. People in swing states have the power to spare the world the greater evil for four more years.

    Seconded! With my own suggestion — Beta Culture: The Necessity of Change — appended.

    Could you elaborate it beyond the three sentences you actually wrote?

  10. Trebuchet says

    As someone replying to Clark’s screed pointed out, the what you get after burning it down is Somalia.

  11. Rob Grigjanis says

    Of course the system is broken, but I don’t remember history quite the way Clark and Mitt Romney do;

    The righties note that the Obama administration rewrote bankruptcy law on the fly to loot value from GM stockholders and hand it to the unions.

    Long story short, although much more to it;

    Prioritizing workers over investors may seem strange to the co-founder of Bain Capital. That doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

  12. says

    Burn it down. Don’t replace it with anything else. Libertarian paradise.
    Sorry, this is a load of bullshit and anyone that buys it just isn’t thinking that hard.

  13. David Wilford says

    The Symbionese Liberation Army tried to burn it down back in the 1970s, but it didn’t catch as I recall. Not so good times, really.

  14. terminus says

    Sounds like a lot of ill-informed, poorly directed outrage.
    I wonder how some of my disadvantaged students would fare if Clark (et tu PZ?!!?) had his way and burnt the whole thing down. I’m sure they would be better off if we lazy, over-compensated teachers were no longer phoning it in to collect on our fabulous pensions.

  15. says

    Also, from the linked article:

    The righties note that the Obama administration rewrote bankruptcy law on the fly to loot value from GM stockholders and hand it to the unions.

    Blatant lies

    We don’t own the house we live in, not if someone of a higher social class wants it.

    Not even sure what the hell he means by this. A majority of Americans don’t own the place they live in because they fucking rent you asshole. And yes, there’s a whole lot of problems in the rental market, but you’re not going to lose your place of residence because someone of a higher social class wants to live there, you’re going to lose it because they think they can squeeze someone else harder than they’re squeezing you, or they just squeeze you to hard, then kick you out when you can’t pay the jacked-up rent.

    Next up from the regular peons are the unionized, disciplined-voting-blocks.

    Ah, some good, old fashioned union-punching, nevermind that the decline of unions is a huge part of the problems this asshole is talking about.

    From Ted Kennedy who killed a woman and yet is toasted as a “lion of liberalism”,

    For FUCK’S SAKE, will these assholes NEVER SHUT UP ABOUT TED FUCKING KENNEDY? The man was a moderate centrist all his life, not a fucking bastion of liberalism, he was one fucking person, and he’s been dead for half a fucking decade. LET IT GO ALREADY, FOR FUCK’S SAKE!!!

    to thousand of well-paid NSA employees who put the Stasi to shame in their ruthless destruction of our rights,

    Despite my remarks in the Nixon thread, this is deeply stupid, and represents a stunning ignorance regarding the activities within the Soviet Bloc. This is unsurprising, though.

  16. Anri says

    irisvanderpluym @ 6:

    Cool.
    Tell me when and where, and I’ll film your triumphant march through the streets.

    …oh, wait, you were just bullshitting?
    Never mind, then.
    Voting is cheap, but talk is way cheaper.

    . . .

    Ok, then, we’ve committed to burning It down.
    Good.

    As a political naif, I’ll ask: what’s Step One? Where do we Start The Grand Crusade?
    Clearly, it can’t be through political, or economic, or judicial means, as those are all part of It That Needs To Be Burned Down.

    So, I suppose the question What’s Step One boils down to the actual question Who Do We Kill? (…and Do We Kill Them With Bombs Or Guns, although that’s really less important, I suppose).

    I’m assuming we’ve gotten a definitive list up and running? Can anyone enlighten me?

  17. chasbo says

    While I agree with many of his conclusions, I’d rather read something a little more positive, for example David Brin (Contrary Brin).

  18. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    I don’t like people with indiscriminate hate-on for government employees.
    Teacher is not a judge is not a cop is not a firefighter is not a clerk. None of them is the same as a corrupt judge or cop or clerk.
    More often than not, governments do pretty good jobs at screwing their own employees over too. They are just a bit less successful at it than the private sector thanks to protections like collective contracts and unions. Which are good things, in case someone is confused or a libertarian.

  19. keri says

    I agree that the hate-on for teachers and unions pretty much ruined any sympathy I may have had for the rant – even if I do agree with other elements.

    He makes a remark about teachers retiring on 80% of their salary, as though that’s something absolutely despicable. It’s not like they’re going to be getting $80k/year in those pensions – maybe some administrators might, but not the bulk of teachers. I might not think very highly of individual teachers I’m related to or teachers-in-training who are currently my co-workers, but I know how hard they work, the amount of emotional involvement they have, and even the time and personal money they devote to their classrooms – even when they’re not in the schoolhouse. Even if I think the individuals I know are unpleasant people, I recognize how much they care and work for their kids. I don’t understand the massive hate-on people have for the profession, or why they’re begrudged every little thing they (or the unions) do to try to make it worthwhile and to keep people training to become teachers. I think I’ve seen that there is a problem with newly minted teachers not lasting beyond a year or two at best?

  20. screechymonkey says

    I admit it is tempting to “burn the system to the ground” just to see how well a macho-posturing blowhard like Clark at Popehat would actually fare in the brave new world he so yearns for. But that’s a pretty high price to pay even for high quality schadenfreude.

  21. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    It’s really funny how Clark never answers the question: And then what?
    A pretty important thing to forget.

  22. says

    @David Marjanović:

    Eh, you live in a safe state.

    Safe for whom? Not the 14,000 New Yorkers expected to die prematurely over the next decade for lack of health insurance. Not the 54,000 inmates in New York State prisons, the overwhelming majority for non-violent crimes and extremely disproportionally non-white. Not 70,000 homeless and 3,000,000+ New Yorkers living in poverty—and those rates are increasing. I could go on (child hunger, unemployment, asthma rates, solitary confinement, police brutality, education, infrastructure) but I don’t want the links to get me sentenced to PZ’s moderation prison.

    My point is that this is your blue state—on Democrats.

    You can vote for third, tenth, twentieth parties all you want, or write in Mickey Mouse who’d make a much better president than any recent candidates I can think of – it doesn’t matter. People in swing states have the power to spare the world the greater evil for four more years.

    By electing people like Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton? Please. Unless they all vote Green Party (as if), people in swing states have exactly zero power to spare the world the greatest evils perpetuated by the U.S. government: lawless, imperialist wars on behalf of America’s Owners, which will almost certainly continue unabated for at least my lifetime. And that’s to say nothing of the toxic cultural byproducts that invariably emerge in a nation in a state of perpetual war. I’ll take my chances with the revolution, thanks.

    For those who think this is “dangerously ignorant,” or believe that those of us who think the system is irredeemably broken are just not thinking hard enough, it’s usually a pretty safe bet in my experience to assume that you’re happy enough with the status quo, as long as the “right” people are the ones suffering and dying en mass at the hands of your government—i.e., not you.

    Just FYI: I generally write in Edward Snowden or Chelsea Manning, not Mickey Mouse. YMMV.

  23. brucegee1962 says

    Study more history. Study more history. Study more history.

    Go back to the dawn of civilization, when most people were little better than slaves for the handful of kings and priests. Go back to the Renaissance, when there was no social safety net, and beggars were more likely to starve with their entire family than not. Go back to the seventeenth century, when religion practically destroyed Europe with wars over whether the bread turned into Jesus’ body or not. Go back to the 19th century, when “London Fog” meant coal smoke so thick you couldn’t see across the street.

    And at every stage along the way, there were people sacrificing their whole lives to make one little corner of their dark world brighter.

    And now you, in your cushy, police-protected, road-connected, internet-connected home, want to complain about things with no fear of getting arrested for doing so? You want to toboggan back down to the bottom of the mountain and try a different route?

    Feh.

  24. stevem says

    I think he is right, but misses Churchill’s cliché: “Democracy is a terrible form of government, but all the other forms are worse.”
    Clark seems to be taking the Engineering mantra of “If it ain’t perfect, start over (redesign it).” It is indeed somewhat harder to fix just the few things that are broken (and get the fixes to work with the rest of it), than to just start all over from scratch and get it all working together. Yes, the system is broken, with multiple flaws all over, and to fix each one individually is a monumental task and it MIGHT be easier to just start over from scratch. But both paths are so complicated and forbidding that it is virtually impossible to decide between them beforehand. BUT, we must pick one, and not just try to cope with the existing mess. DO SOMETHING, anything, don’t just write about what other people SHOULD be doing. Typing the keyboard is so much easier. Do what I SAY, not what I do [Mea Culpa]. My only criticism of Clark is that he provides a long list of things that a wrong with the system, but few suggestions of how to fix them. “Burn it down”, is not enough advise to do any good. At least some people (i.e. Clark) are speaking out.

  25. says

    brucegee1962:

    And now you, in your cushy, police-protected, road-connected, internet-connected home, want to complain about things with no fear of getting arrested for doing so? You want to toboggan back down to the bottom of the mountain and try a different route?

    Do you favor trying to fix the system then?

  26. says

    brucegee1962:

    And now you, in your cushy, police-protected, road-connected, internet-connected home, want to complain about things with no fear of getting arrested for doing so?

    You may wish to speak for yourself here, as it would be a serious mistake to assume everyone in the U.S. (or even in this thread) has a cushy, police-protected, road-connected, internet-connected home.

  27. Stacy says

    I shudder to think what Clark’s notion of a brave new world would be like.

    brucegee1962, thanks.

  28. says

    Chigau:

    Anyone who uses the phrase “the dawn of civilization” needs to study more history.

    Anyone shouldn’t toss around the phrase “police-protected”, either. Apparently, anyone hasn’t lived in some of the places I have.

  29. says

    @ 19 Anri:

    Cool.
    Tell me when and where, and I’ll film your triumphant march through the streets.

    No one can predict with any precision what will spark a revolution; it’s usually something seemingly small when considered alone, but taken in context it’s the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back. Actually, a better metaphor would incorporate a small spark and a fuse something something.

    I can only sincerely hope you are (a) around and (b) able to film (c) a triumphant march through the streets, if not by me then by other democratic socialists.

    …oh, wait, you were just bullshitting?

    I wish.

    Look, there are many smart, informed and well-intentioned people (including David M in this very thread) who disagree with me when I posit that the U.S. system of government is irredeemably broken. They believe that the system’s most fundamental problems can be solved, not to the point of perfection of course—no one sensible thinks that—but essentially and fundamentally improved. I don’t personally believe that. I think if that were ever the case, we are looooong past the tipping point where ordinary citizens can effect the kind of essential change required to retake and remake our democracy by working within the system. Think of what would be required to meaningfully address just one truly evil part of it: for-profit prisons, say. Or for-profit health care—especially post-Obamacare.

    I’m not saying I want a revolution; I’m one of those people who benefits in many ways from a status quo I find morally repugnant. I’m saying a revolution is inevitable, because the current political system is unjust, deadly, hopelessly corrupt and utterly unsustainable. I could be wrong. I actually hope I’m wrong, and to that end I still do what I can working within the system by, for example, supporting Alan Grayson with a monthly contribution. (Incidentally, I give an equal amount to the BDS Movement.)

    In case I am right, though, I am doing everything I can to ensure the revolution will be remembered more for dancing than for bullets and bombs. To that end, in my activism I work to foster non-violent, intersectional political resistance. The kind where anti-mass incarceration activists show up at abortion rights rallies—and vice versa.

    This is getting long and I’m sorry for rambling; anyway I have to go do some obligatory xmas shite. For more on where I’m coming from see here.

  30. says

    And now you, in your cushy, police-protected, road-connected, internet-connected home, want to complain about things with no fear of getting arrested for doing so?

    Hahaha. Awesome. Another status quo fan, with no access to Google. The good ole U. S. of A., where no one lives in perpetual and well-justified fear of the police, and no one ever gets arrested or murdered for engaging in First Amendment protected political protest. OMFG hilarious.

    Merry Wednesday!

  31. freemage says

    The problem is that any proposed alternative that I’ve seen (and that includes democratic socialism) requires a supermajority of supporters to actually work–that is, you need to get the populace to the point where most folks are already on the same page about how things should function, and what role the government should play, and how it should be answerable to the people.

    And if we had that supermajority, we’d never need to revolt in the first place. I was linked to a third-party website from here not long ago, and checked it out. They had no operations actually going on in my state, no candidates I should vote for, nothing–just a bunch of news stories to get me riled up.

    Demonstrations, marches, protests and other forms of activism DO serve a purpose. Online temper tantrums about burning it all down, not so much.

  32. unclefrogy says

    while I am sympathetic with the idea of “burn it to the ground ”
    I heard thing remarkably similar back in the 60’s from very different people, that sentiment is in the end self-distructive. as I remember Samson died when he pulled the temple down.
    The problem is that there is no way we can just pull over to the side of this road and rebuild this bus we are riding on. We did not build it this way deliberately it developed out of our needs and personalities. Our needs can not just be put on hold while we re-design a more rational and benevolent system.
    The system is made of people after all and unless the suggestion is a complete collapse with the resulting massive die-off of humanity we are stuck with having to repair this ship of state while we are at sea.
    many of the problems are associated with poverty. The current conservative push is two sided eliminate debt and spending on those in the lower classes. You can’t tax those 2% for the money because then they wont be motivated to strive is how I understand the argument. Do they think that they are indispensable and can not be replaced? If they are so fucking smart why do we continue to have these bubble economic collapses. There is enough wealth to go around.. I see no reason that someone should obtain the wealth that eclipses the wealth of an ancient God King for making a system that tracks what you do just to learn what you like so it can sell you crap . While people all over the modern world are forced by poverty to live in the streets.
    uncle frogy

  33. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    Brucegee1962: “Go back to the dawn of civilization, when most people were little better than slaves for the handful of kings and priests. Go back to the Renaissance, when there was no social safety net, and beggars were more likely to starve with their entire family than not. Go back to the seventeenth century, when religion practically destroyed Europe with wars over whether the bread turned into Jesus’ body or not. Go back to the 19th century, when “London Fog” meant coal smoke so thick you couldn’t see across the street.”

    Dude, the Koch brothers are trying to take you up on your suggestions. They’d like to take us back as far as possible. There are plenty of others who would be quite happy to establish a theocracy–even a network of warring theocracies. It is precisely because we wish to avert the rolling back of the Enlightenment that we need to take action to preserve the democracy to which that era gave birth.

  34. mirror says

    Didn’t go for that rant PJ.

    Obama is the left? Teacher’s unions are why the courts are two tiered? The uber-elite love rants like this, encouraging all-direction outrage.

  35. Anri says

    irisvanderpluym @ 6:

    To everyone else: I’ll see you in the streets.

    irisvanderpluym @ 33:

    No one can predict with any precision what will spark a revolution; it’s usually something seemingly small when considered alone, but taken in context it’s the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back. Actually, a better metaphor would incorporate a small spark and a fuse something something.

    Right.
    “Don’t look at me, brother, to start anything, it’s takes, like, a spark, man, but I’ll be sure to get on board once someone else has actually started stuff! Totes I will!”.

    Like I said, bullshitting.

    I’ll see you on the internet, apparently.

  36. nutella says

    The story of the drug court judge that set the shrieking libertarian off is actually a good example of someone trying to reform the system rather than burning it down. The judge with the apparent drug problem, Gisele Pollack, set up a court program to get people arrested for drug possession out of the legal system without a record. She’s doing something useful in her own area to mitigate the terrible effects of the drug war.

    What had Clark done?

  37. David Marjanović says

    My point is that this is your blue state—on Democrats.

    I know. My points are that New York always goes for the Democrats in the electoral college, and that in the foreseeable future nothing can be done about this – de facto, New Yorkers cannot vote for president.

    People in swing states have the power to spare the world the greater evil for four more years.

    By electing people like Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton? Please. Unless they all vote Green Party (as if), people in swing states have exactly zero power to spare the world the greatest evils perpetuated by the U.S. government:

    I specified “the greater evil”. What you list is horrible indeed, but it could always be worse. Romney & Paul outright promised to make it worse. There is no bottom to it!

    As long as you’re stuck with the two-party system that the Constitution makes impossible to avoid, I hope Elizabeth Warren will run next time. :-|

    I generally write in Edward Snowden or Chelsea Manning, not Mickey Mouse.

    That’s fine, too!

    Go back to the dawn of civilization, when most people were little better than slaves for the handful of kings and priests.

    That’s not what a neolithic society looks like.

    Look, there are many smart, informed and well-intentioned people (including David M in this very thread) who disagree with me when I posit that the U.S. system of government is irredeemably broken.

    Depends on the definition of “irredeemable”. :-|

    The break runs very deep, it’s inbuilt in the Constitution which has a separation of president and parliament instead of separating the head of state from the head of government. As it so happens, the US constitution is the most difficult one to amend in the world, perhaps difficult enough to qualify for “irredeemable”…

    In the 18th century people wrote political pamphlets, now people have blogs.

    Exactly.

  38. says

    Anri:

    Right.
    “Don’t look at me, brother, to start anything, it’s takes, like, a spark, man, but I’ll be sure to get on board once someone else has actually started stuff! Totes I will!”.

    Like I said, bullshitting.

    I’ll see you on the internet, apparently.

    How does this:

    To that end, in my activism I work to foster non-violent, intersectional political resistance. The kind where anti-mass incarceration activists show up at abortion rights rallies—and vice versa.

    equal bullshit? It might not be the manner your preference, but it is activism on the part of irisvanderpluym. How do you know hir activism isn’t in service of helping create a grassroots political resistance?

  39. says

    David Wilford:
    Of course you’d prefer a nice accommodating message…
    If the Pope wants to give a nice holiday message to the world, a better start would be:

    “Here’s the names and locations of a metric fuckton of child rapists the RCC has been shielding from justice.”

  40. David Wilford says

    I have to differ, given the previous remarks made by Pope Francis to atheists. Respectful dialogue may not be much for starters, but the gesture to join together to do good works is to me a welcome development.

  41. sigurd jorsalfar says

    Yeah he used to be a libertarian who thought the system could be reformed (that’s why he voted for Bush). But now it’s just ‘burn the fucking system to the ground’ because teachers and firefighters have it too good and because ‘both sides’ are to blame.

    PZ I am thoroughly unimpressed with your choice of Christmas reading material.

  42. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Respectful dialogue may not be much for starters, but the gesture to join together to do good works is to me a welcome development.

    Unless it is the start of real reform, such as the local prosecutions of pedophile priesst, it is nothing but meaningless noise. That you think otherwise says a lot about why you aren’t considered anything by noise here either.

  43. cubist says

    sez dalillama schmott guy:

    We don’t own the house we live in, not if someone of a higher social class wants it.

    Not even sure what the hell he means by this. A majority of Americans don’t own the place they live in because they fucking rent you asshole.

    I’m pretty sure Clark was referring to the interesting power of ‘eminent domain’, by which the government can just outright take private property. This power is, of course, greatly abusable, and has been abused greatly. Most implementations of eminent domain do have some safeguards built-in, the intent being to prevent it from being abused, but the degree to which said safeguards actually do prevent abuse of the power of eminent domain… is far from clear.

  44. Trebuchet says

    @50:

    I’m pretty sure Clark was referring to the interesting power of ‘eminent domain’, by which the government can just outright take private property.

    Yes, he was. In fact, that quote was right after a citation of peoples’ homes being seized via eminent domain so the property could be turned over to a large corporation.

  45. David Wilford says

    cubist, the government can’t just take property, it must pay the owner a fair price for what is taken. For example, when a highway is widened, the state does pay for it and doesn’t get it for free. The state must also show there is a public need for taking it, which is what taxpayers should also expect for their money.

  46. David Wilford says

    Nerd @ 49:

    In the Twin Cities the archdiocese has turned over a list of suspected priests to the police and there is an active investigation being pursued by the St. Paul police department. So far, so good, but it’s far from over of course.

    As for Pope Francis and his address today, for now I’m willing to take it on good faith and see where it leads. Rejecting it outright may miss an opportunity for unbelievers to score some good will politically with believers, and show that atheists are actually nice people.

  47. David Wilford says

    Chigau @ 53:

    Sure, I believe in the spirit of Santa Claus. The present my wife got from Santa made her very happy because she had really wished for it and Santa fulfills wishes that make others happy. Just because Santa isn’t real doesn’t mean he can’t believed in.

  48. chigau (違う) says

    David Wilford
    My question about Santa was sarcasm in response to your

    the government can’t just take property, it must pay the owner a fair price for what is taken

    I think I am beginning to understand you.

  49. says

    Cubist #50

    I’m pretty sure Clark was referring to the interesting power of ‘eminent domain’,

    Then he was doing a piss-poor job of it with that particular analogy, not to mention that that’s still an awfully fucking privileged thing to complain about, given how easily the rest of us can be kicked to the curb without any compensation whatsoever.

    This power is, of course, greatly abusable, and has been abused greatly

    It is, however, one which exists for a good reason, and is an essential component of installing infrastructure; railroad and highway right-of-ways, electrical, phone, and fiber-optic cable, and similar things need to go certain places to be effective, and without eminent domain, the current owners (not the same thing as occupants, btw) can and will demand arbitrarily high amounts for the use of same, impeding the construction of necessary infrastructure.

  50. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Chigau, you’d be surprised how much right-of-way costs to acquire in cities.

    And how much the space is needed for public use….

  51. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    Revolutions are usually not kind to minorities, and they have a tendency to devour their young. I also believe that there are things we can do well short of tearing down our society. For starters, we could look at the tactics that have given our opponents so much success–selective disenfranchisement, introduction of wedge issues, dog whistles, etc. We need to realize that the Rethuglicans are conservative only in the sense of maintaining the power of patriarchy, so whatever we can do that weakens the patriarchy weakens them. They are inherently anti-democratic, so making the system more democratic favors progress (e.g. improved voting systems that favor a more democratic outcome). You will accomplish a whole lot more by empowering the currently disenfranchised than by marching in the streets, and certainly more than making the streets run with blood.

  52. says

    Anri:

    irisvanderpluym @ 33:

    No one can predict with any precision what will spark a revolution; it’s usually something seemingly small when considered alone, but taken in context it’s the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back. Actually, a better metaphor would incorporate a small spark and a fuse something something.

    Right.
    “Don’t look at me, brother, to start anything, it’s takes, like, a spark, man, but I’ll be sure to get on board once someone else has actually started stuff! Totes I will!”.

    Like I said, bullshitting.

    Wow, you’re an unusually ignorant asshole for a regular ’round here. Why don’t you enlighten us with your knowledge of the history of revolutions? I especially look forward to your treatise on how their beginnings are ever so predictable. Someone has to first announce and then deliberately set out to start one, or else it never happens amirite? Just like Egypt! Or Tunisia. Otherwise, how would we cowardly Internet revolutionaries know when it’s time for us to finally jump on board?

    a_ray 62:

    You will accomplish a whole lot more by empowering the currently disenfranchised than by marching in the streets,

    These things are not mutually exclusive, in fact they are synergistic.

    and certainly more than making the streets run with blood.

    The streets are already running with blood.

  53. Nathair says

    The streets are already running with blood.

    Once again we are confronted with the incredible lack of perspective which ignorance spawns. The streets of America are not “running with blood” even metaphorically. Study history. Look beyond the borders of the “first world.” Find out what you’re advocating a return to. Burning the system down would lead to actual blood actually running in the actual streets and you with no plan at all to staunch it.

  54. brucegee1962 says

    I’m not sure how so many of the “burn it down” crowd managed to take my earlier post as saying that everything about this country right now is all fine and dandy. But the point of studying the past is that you start realizing how many, many people in the past found themselves staring at systems that were far, far shittier than ours. They had three choices: follow along like sheep, or try to burn the whole place down, or start working to make one tiny corner of their world better.

    Obviously the sheep don’t do anybody any good. But looking back, I’d far rather align myself with the builders than the burners. Given a choice, I’d way rather be on the side of Rosa Parks, Thoreau, John Muir, William Wilberforce — than on the side of the burners like Robespierre, Lenin, Mao, Gavrilo Princip, and Leon Czolgosz. I’m just not too impressed with their results.

  55. PatrickG says

    I’m surprised no one has noted that the article Clark (over at Popehat) links is from that bastion of renowned journalism, that stalwart defender of truth and justice, that not-at-all-odious piece of trash posing as a newspaper known as The Daily Mail.

    Let me repeat that: the freakin’ Daily Mail! At the time of writing, their top stories include “Elliot Spitzer meets the parents!”, “UPS Ruined My Christmas! Thousands of families left without parents!”, “Mom threw out our tree before Christmas because it was too messy”, and “High school baseball star, 17, ‘beat his mother with a bat then fatally slashed her throat and stabbed her in the eye after Christmas Eve argument'”.

    Yeah. The Daily Mail. Anybody who cites this source automatically gets a raised eyebrow from me.

    But here I am advancing an argument from bad sourcing. Let’s look at this further. Clark, over at Popehat, says this:

    “I’m a good judge” … said by government employee and judge Gisele Pollack who, it seems, sentenced people to jail because of their drug use…while she, herself, was high on drugs.

    But, in her defense, “she’s had some severe personal tragedy in her life”.

    And that’s why, it seems, she’s being allowed to check herself into rehab instead of being thrown in jail.

    Yeah, I read that and it infuriated me. That’s just completely awful. I mean, this judge must have been sentencing people to maximum penalty sentences while high on meth or something, right?

    But if you click through, you’ll actually see that even the fucking Daily Mail isn’t as unfair to this judge as Clark is!! The full quote:

    ‘I have some health issues,’ she said. ‘I’m going into treatment for them. I have two weeks off starting [Friday]. I’m going to be in an intense outpatient program.’

    ‘I’m a good judge and I’m going to ask you to please work with me,’ she said.

    Pollack, who has never made a secret of her past alcohol and drug abuse problems, was elected to the bench in 2004.

    A year later, she established the misdemeanor drug court.

    ‘Defendants prepared to go through a treatment program and six months worth of testing, supervision and staying clean would have the charges against them dismissed,‘ Pollack has said of the program.

    Now, maybe the program didn’t work out quite that way. Maybe she’s being far too generous in her description. Maybe she’s even lying through her teeth.

    But you’d never know that by reading Clark. Since he completely elides that section. Does he think people won’t click through? Shit’s fucked up, no argument. But PZ, if you find yourself endorsing people who have to distort what the fucking Daily Mail says in order to make an argument, I heartily endorse maybe thinking about this just a little bit more.

    [This comment is long enough, and other people have already commented on the union-bashing, the hate for teachers, the assumption that public employees are lording it over the rest of us with their pensions and their benefits, etc., etc., etc. Clark’s got a record of this kind of shit, no surprise there, but seriously, PZ, what the fuck?]

  56. Anri says

    irisvanderpluym @ 63:

    Wow, you’re an unusually ignorant asshole for a regular ’round here. Why don’t you enlighten us with your knowledge of the history of revolutions? I especially look forward to your treatise on how their beginnings are ever so predictable. Someone has to first announce and then deliberately set out to start one, or else it never happens amirite? Just like Egypt! Or Tunisia. Otherwise, how would we cowardly Internet revolutionaries know when it’s time for us to finally jump on board?

    I get it – you’re waiting for someone else to come along and start your awesome In The Streets bit. That’s fine, that’s great. I don’t blame you. I’m not being proactive about any potential revolution myself.

    The difference is, I just wrote that last sentence.
    Neither of us is doing anything more here than chatting on a blog. I’m simply admitting that. So long as you’re chatting here, you’re not out in the streets.

  57. adobo says

    Yuck, yuck and yuck!!

    Gawd, PZ! Is it icy and slippy where you are? Have you fallen and hit your head on the sidewalk? I mean please. This Clark guy is another ranting attention seeking liberturd! Typical fucking anarchist! Notice how he focuses on teachers and their “unionized lazy asses. I bet you this guy had issues with authority figures even from his kindegarten days. Or perhaps he hasnt grown up yet???

  58. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    I get it. It’s like those survivalists, only more narcissistic. They just want a chance to go around murdering who they consider to be the bad guys, you want to be the ones to start the whole situation and get the mobs not to kill who they consider to be the bad guys. Ambitious.

  59. PatrickG says

    @ Beatrice:

    Clark’s <a href="http://www.popehat.com/2013/12/21/clarks-favorite-books-part-1-science-fiction/"previous post is on his favorite sci-fi books. At the top of the list is Larry Niven’s Lucifer’s Hammer, which, in case you’re not familiar, features a nuclear power plant not only preserving the hope of the human race, but actually withstands siege from motorcycle-riding cannibals. Also has an authoritarian U.S. Senator who assumes the mantle of dictator and assigns his daughter as consort to an astronaut, in the name of the preserving the country that was.

    It’s basically a purge novel. Once you get rid of the undesirables…

    P.S. I still enjoy reading Niven occasionally, but sometimes he’s just … a bit over the top.

  60. says

    Anri 68:

    I get it – you’re waiting for someone else to come along and start your awesome In The Streets bit.

    No, you don’t get it. I am not eagerly awaiting it, as there’s a very good chance it will be the exact opposite of “awesome.” I am expecting it: as the socioeconomic fabric of the U.S. continues to unravel, I expect there will come a breaking point. That is why I am working with allies in various movements (e.g. this one) who do get it.

    Neither of us is doing anything more here than chatting on a blog. I’m simply admitting that. So long as you’re chatting here, you’re not out in the streets.

    Right, because activists should never comment on blog posts about issues they’re involved in and actually know something about. Jeezus.

    You seem to want to make this about me personally for some reason I don’t understand. I say “I observe this, I expect that, I hope I’m wrong, but in case I’m not wrong, in the meantime I’ll keep working to help broker trust and solidarity between seemingly disparate movements, because at root they are fighting the same thing: a hopelessly broken system that is racist, patriarchal, militaristic, violently imperialist and corrupt beyond redemption.” As I noted above, I also do what I can to work within the system, including fundraising and direct support to lefty candidates. You want to belittle and mock my activism, and snidely insinuate that I’m delusional, naive and/or a coward? Whatever. That’s fine. I trust most readers here will see through it, because Lard knows we’ve all seen it before in other contexts.

  61. says

    Nathair 64:

    Once again we are confronted with the incredible lack of perspective which ignorance spawns.

    Hahaha. That is some sweet, sweet irony right there.

    The streets of America are not “running with blood” even metaphorically.

    You really need to get out more. A nice long vacation in Detroit might help clarify things for you. And I wasn’t just talking about American streets: believe it or not, there are other streets in the world that are literally running with blood as a direct result of U.S. policies and weaponry. It’s true!

    Study history. Look beyond the borders of the “first world.”

    Why, I had never even thought of that! Thank you so much for that helpful suggestion. I am forever in your debt.

    Find out what you’re advocating a return to.

    Perhaps you might consider what I am seeing a return to. HINT: it looks an awful lot like those places beyond the borders of the “first world” that you mentioned.

    Burning the system down would lead to actual blood actually running in the actual streets and you with no plan at all to staunch it.

    The system is going down. As time goes by those who benefit from it are more and more outnumbered by those whose lives are utterly destroyed by it. It isn’t sustainable.

    During mass social unrest and upheaval, leaders emerge. For better or worse, that is what happens. Influencing the options they will have and the courses of action they can take seems like a really good idea to me, so that’s something I work on.

    What are you doing about it? Or are you another one satisfied with the status quo, because the “right” people are suffering and dying en mass at the hands of your government—i.e., not you?

  62. witlesschum says

    But you’d never know that by reading Clark. Since he completely elides that section. Does he think people won’t click through? Shit’s fucked up, no argument. But PZ, if you find yourself endorsing people who have to distort what the fucking Daily Mail says in order to make an argument, I heartily endorse maybe thinking about this just a little bit more.

    Quoted for truth. At least for the purposes of that rant, dude is just too angry to see the forest for the trees, I guess. The outrages are outrageous and he doesn’t even get on my pet outrages much like the continual scamming of the financial industry and the U.S. maintaining a military empire around the world.

  63. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    No, Iris, the streets in the US are not running with blood. Not even in Detroit, where the homicide rate is just above that for the entire nation of Venezuela. You really do need to get out more. And in any case, Detroit provides an excellent example of what happens when they do tear the whole thing down–albeit due to lack of tax base, rather than out of anger. What Detroit needs is something for the people who still live there to do.

    What is needed is to understand the anti-democratic forces currently acting in the US. And yes, this includes the two main-stream political parties. However, there are ways to do this that well short of revolution. There are several voting schemes which are much more likely to produce a democratic outcome than simple majority voting–and they also have the benefit of encouraging third parties catering to the mainstream rather than fringes of the two main parties. And failing that, the constitution provides for a constitutional convention to carry out reform. Any of these efforts will be far more likely to accomplish productive change than all the marching you can manage–and certainly much more than violence.

    Read up on revolution, Iris. It rarely if ever leaves a population better off than it started.

  64. Nathair says

    Iris, I have a neighbour who is a fairly recent immigrant. She moved here after some of her neighbours slaughtered her entire extended family one night. She survived because it was still early days for the genocide and apparently one of the Hutus in the group still had qualms about hacking heavily pregnant women to death with machetes. I’m sure she would, as I do, find your assertion that the streets of Detroit are running with blood delightfully naive. You have absolutely no idea how bad Bad is. You are looking at issues of minor to moderate civil dysfunction in a system of (historically) almost unprecedented peace, civility and prosperity and clamoring to therefore return us all to chaos and carnage in the hopes that, eventually, some better system will magically arise. Grow up.

  65. Anri says

    irisvanderpluym @ various:

    Ok, it’s clear we’re talking past one another and I’m probably guilty of taking stuff personally.

    So, let me try to spell out what pissed me off about your post.

    Mostly, it’s the whole “I’ll see you in the streets” bit. That sounds like typical Internet Tough Guy crap, regardless of politics. And it seemed to me – and I have certainly been wronger about bigger stuff before – that when called out on that, you tried to have it both ways. Calling people out for working within the system while mentioning your own work within the system is hypocritical at best.

    Maybe just a knee-jerk on my part.

  66. voidhawk says

    Ugh. Burn it down.because failed collapsed states are far better than broken ones. While you’re having your revolution,I’ll be one of the ones trying to mop up the blood and brush up the broken infrastructure.

  67. lumen says

    It’s funny, as I get older I stopped being amused by the most are the hordes of internet personalities who are fast to offer pithy one-liners about atrocities and corruption, yet never seem to offer actionable solutions or be willing to do something concrete about…anything.

    And for the last time: screaming “A pox on both your houses!” doesn’t make you interesting unless you actually have a new idea. (or you’re Shakespeare). You can rant at liberals and conservatives all you want but claiming that you’re “neither” doesn’t make you unique or put you above the fray. It just makes you one of the hordes of boring bystanders who are too lazy to come up with a plan, but have no problem judging the people who are at least putting a minimum bit of effort in.

  68. twincats says

    Meh. I saw a whole bunch of hyperbolic paragraphs that needed a big fucking “CITATION NEEDED” sticker slapped on them.

  69. David Marjanović says

    Sure, I believe in the spirit of Santa Claus. The present my wife got from Santa made her very happy because she had really wished for it and Santa fulfills wishes that make others happy. Just because Santa isn’t real doesn’t mean he can’t believed in.

    Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.

  70. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Wow dude, your Santa is kind of a wierdo.

    Compared to an accommodationist bullshit? Your ideas are weird, not ours. Give it up.

  71. Nathair says

    Compared to an accommodationist bullshit? Your ideas are weird, not ours. Give it up.

    Hey there Nerd, let’s not be hasty here.His ideas aren’t weird, they’re vacuous.

  72. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Hey there Nerd, let’s not be hasty here.His ideas aren’t weird, they’re vacuous.

    Yeah, sorry, been a rough day; I almost let the pumpkin burn….

  73. says

    a_ray 78:

    No, Iris, the streets in the US are not running with blood.

    Maybe not your street? Good for you. 14,827 people were murdered last year in the United States, at a rate significantly higher than almost every other “wealthy” country. Rising maternal mortality. Suicide rates. Hundreds of thousands of Americans expected to die over the next decade for lack of health insurance. Those hidden rivers of blood are no less deadly.

    And once again, I am not talking only about U.S. streets. I am speaking of many streets running with blood all over the world as a direct result of U.S. government policies. Because *some* people are doing just peachy under the status quo doesn’t make it justifiable—or sustainable.

    Further, in the U.S. rape is endemic. We also run the world’s largest penal state: countless young black and Latino lives are destroyed for non-violent drug offenses that typically get white middle class kids a slap on the wrist—if that.

    Read up on revolution, Iris. It rarely if ever leaves a population better off than it started.

    I could just cite to the American Revolution and leave it at that, but yanno, I cannot help but wonder if my critics in this thread—Anri, a_ray and Nathair—are privileged, health-insured white men, for two reasons. First, because statements like this^ one (and “study history,” “incredible lack of perspective which ignorance spawns,” etc.) positively reek of mansplaining—to say nothing of an apparent lack of reading comprehension. I have made it as clear as I possibly can that I am not hoping and agitating for a revolution, I am expecting one, and that there’s a very good chance it will be horrible and tragic any way you look at it. I think these things precisely because I have studied and read a lot about revolutions. FFS.

    Second, the status quo—the system—is racist, patriarchal, militaristic, punitive, imperialist, corrupt beyond redemption, and in a state of perpetual, profit-driven war with all of the cultural degradation that inherently brings. With the exception of some of the more odious manifestations of patriarchy such as sexual violence, I’m someone who has generally benefited from all of that, and I strongly suspect you are too. But those benefits and privileges we enjoy often come at a grave and even fatal cost to people here and abroad who are not so privileged. It’s easy for us to suggest that all that is really needed are a few tweaks to the system, however unlikely they may be in reality. If you were looking at it from their perspective, however, the view would be quite different—and hardly less valid than your own.

  74. says

    Nathair 79:

    The terrible tragedies endured by your neighbor and her family are exactly the same as those in countries where U.S.-trained and financed dictatorships, armies, paramilitaries and death squads have operated for decades, so I’m really not sure what your point is in bringing her up.

    You have absolutely no idea how bad Bad is.

    Oh, okay now I see your point. BREAKING: Mansplainer is mansplainey. Film at 11.

    You are looking at issues of minor to moderate civil dysfunction in a system of (historically) almost unprecedented peace, civility and prosperity

    No. You are looking at issues of “minor to moderate civil dysfunction in a system of (historically) almost unprecedented peace, civility and prosperity” because you are personally insulated from the worst of it.

    I’ve already left a slew of statistics and cites so I won’t repeat those here, but d00d. We’re involved in constant, illegal wars in which we are the aggressor and which have no end in sight. We cage enormous numbers of our own citizens for non-violent offenses (while letting political elites go free for far, far worse offenses). And I’ll just add that 25% of American children live in poverty. There’s your fucking peace, civility and prosperity.

    and clamoring to therefore return us all to chaos and carnage in the hopes that, eventually, some better system will magically arise.

    [Citation needed.]

    Grow up.

    Hahaha. Fuck you. :D

  75. Rob Grigjanis says

    irisvanderpluym @89:

    I have made it as clear as I possibly can that I am not hoping and agitating for a revolution, I am expecting one, and that there’s a very good chance it will be horrible and tragic any way you look at it.

    I thought you made it quite clear, FWIW. I’m approaching agreement with you, as the obstacles to meaningful reform in the US are formidable. There’s some hope, I think, but it diminishes with each passing year. Washington is largely insulated from ordinary people’s concerns, and the revolving door between the government and K street (and Wall Street) isn’t slowing down noticeably.

  76. Nathair says

    people were murdered last year in the United States, at a rate significantly higher than almost every other “wealthy” country.

    One last chance, please try to listen to what I’m saying. The murder rate in the United States is rather high compared to other wealthy, developed nations. That is not the point. That is not an appropriate metric to use when considering your proposed solution. The point is that the current rate is almost trivial compared to that which we see in the kind of anarchic collapsed state you are proposing.

    To put this as clearly as I can; Nobody is saying that there is no problem, what is being said is that your proposed solution to the problem would magnify the problem enormously. Your histrionic “blood running in the streets” current murder rate of about 0.0047% could easily leap by ten times or more should this “burn it all down” nonsense ever take hold. We would then be ten times worse off than we are now without recourse to anything resembling a plan to fix it nor is it required to address the problems currently facing America.

    You might be too young to remember it but the murder rate in 1980 was more than double the “ZOMG blood running in the streets” rate America currently experiences but a complete collapse to anarchy was not required to address it.

  77. says

    Anri 80:

    it’s the whole “I’ll see you in the streets” bit. That sounds like typical Internet Tough Guy crap, regardless of politics.

    I apologize for triggering the Internet tough guy crap sensor. It wasn’t my intent, and I can see why it could come off that way, especially to people who are not familiar with my political writing, as opposed to Twitter/FB followers or readers of my blog. Even though there is some overlap between those groups and this one, I am occasionally prone now and then to dashing off a screed based on citations and arguments I’ve repeatedly established elsewhere. It’s not a good habit and I’m not trying to excuse it, just to recognize it, acknowledge it, and apologize for misunderstandings based on the incomplete picture I’ve unthinkingly presented.

    Hopefully I’ve clarified better where I am coming from: it’s a place of hopelessness about the system being meaningfully fixed, and the indications I see (such as soaring wealth inequality and racial justice disparities) that some kind of political revolution is more likely to happen than not in my lifetime.

    And it seemed to me – and I have certainly been wronger about bigger stuff before – that when called out on that, you tried to have it both ways. Calling people out for working within the system while mentioning your own work within the system is hypocritical at best.

    Again, I think I’ve clarified my position: I hope I’m wrong, and to that extent I do support specific candidates and causes. But I’ve come to honestly believe the system cannot be meaningfully improved without some kind of radical action(s) an upheaval, because the power centers of both parties are overwhelmingly war-promoting, American exceptionalist and neoliberal. Citizens simply cannot effectively vote against the interests of Goldman Sachs or Lockheed, and no tweaks to the system as it is currently constituted are going to change that.

    If it sounds hypocritical, maybe it is. But I think of it like this: “hey, maybe I’m wrong about the system being unfixable and/or a revolution being inevitable, I’ve been wrong before, and if I am, this [primary challenge from the left, etc.] seems like a good idea.” At least it’s harmless in any event. Supporting lawless, fiscally conservative, “less evil” Democrats (like Barack Obama)? Not so harmless.

  78. Nathair says

    Oh, okay now I see your point. BREAKING: Mansplainer is mansplainey. Film at 11.

    I appreciate the sly effort to discount my opinion but I am afraid you guessed wrong there. More importantly though you are suggesting that “lets burn it all down!” is somehow a suggestion that women have some special insight into or right to proclaim. That is unqualified bullshit. It is not a function of your gender that has made you ignorant and naive. Unwillingness to study history is an equal opportunity problem.

    [Citation needed.]

    I’m sorry, you want me to cite that you have no plan? How would that work, exactly? I’ll tell you what, if you do have a plan for how a utopia would rise from the blood soaked ashes of your revolution I would love to hear it.

  79. Rob Grigjanis says

    Nathair @94:

    you are suggesting that “lets burn it all down!” is somehow a suggestion that women have some special insight into or right to proclaim

    I thought it was a suggestion that you were being a condescending twerp. You also can’t seem to tell the difference between “I believe X is going to happen” and “I propose X as a solution”.

  80. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    OK, Iris, I’ll bite. Tell me how the average American was better off the day after Yorktown than the day before. Or the average French peasant the day after Louis head rolled into the basket than the day before. Russian? All tearing things down accomplishes is tearing things down. Most of the poor neighborhoods near me (be they urban or rural) don’t need that. Things are already torn down.

    I do not dispute that things are dire. I do dispute that 1)the system has left us with no options, and 2)that marching in the street will accomplish jack. Among the things we can do: 1)reform the redistricting process so there are fewer safe districts, 2)promote voting systems that are more likely to produce democratic outcomes than the current winner-take-all, scorched-earth, primary-driven, party-centric system; 3)if needed, a constitutional convention. These are far more radical and far more effective than simply protesting, and far, far more conducive to a good outcome than “tearing things down.”

    Tearing things down is the easy part. It may even be the fun part. Eventually, you have to have concrete suggestions for what to build in the place of the ancient regime. That’s where things usually fuck up.

  81. Nathair says

    I thought it was a suggestion that you were being a condescending twerp.

    Then “Mansplainer is mansplainey” was a completely confused way of expressing that point.

    My problem with Iris is the whole “streets running with blood” melodrama. It’s blithely (and apparently imperviously) ignorant and inflammatory. Her accusations that anyone pointing out just how almost unimaginably peaceful and safe America is compared to the rest of human history is just “personally insulated from the worst of it” is just more ignorance wrapped in yet another attempt to discredit the person and thereby sidestep the actual argument. If that somehow makes me “a twerp” then so be it.

  82. richenry says

    It’s so good to see someone like P.Z. endorsing the idea to “Burn it all down” and damn the consequences.
    After all, that worked to such good effect in Iraq, didn’t it P.Z.?

    Idiot.

  83. David Marjanović says

    The Serbian Revolution worked out fairly well. Tunisia is not in a good shape, but clearly better than before, isn’t it?

  84. chigau (違う) says

    Aren’t we supposed to believe that The American Revolution™ worked out extremely well?

  85. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Aren’t we supposed to believe that The American Revolution™ worked out extremely well?

    The Articles of Confederation proved to be a too weak system, and required revision, which the amending delegates changed to the present Constitution. Typical of revolutions. Either the resulting system is too weak to function properly, or too strong so a dictator results.
    Where the American Constitution succeeded, was that it hit a middle ground, with a limited executive branch, and a judicial branch that was strong enough to override legislation that went against the constitution. A constitution that could be amended, but not on whim of congress.

  86. Rob Grigjanis says

    a_ray_in_dilbert_space @96:

    Among the things we can do…

    No, those aren’t things you can do.Those are dreams you have. The problem isn’t a lack of better options, it’s how to implement them. All the ideas you mention require (super?) majorities in Congress or the states. Congress is inertia personified, and Big Money has them all (and most of the Supreme Court) in its back pocket. There is no short term solution to that. I’m all for the lesser of two evils, and the Democrats are still clearly preferable, but the lesser gets bigger every election cycle.

    Bottom-up is the only way to fix this, and that would take decades, even with organization. What organization does exist, is negligible right now, unless there’s something I haven’t heard about. How many decades do we have before climate change, environmental degradation, corporate theft, and the effects of all those, reach critical mass?

    BTW, the lot of French and Russian peasants didn’t improve overnight, but it did improve. The lot of the average American would probably be better if their Revolution had failed.

  87. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    Rob Grigjanis,

    I’m sorry. You thought this was going to be easy? You thought the Koch suckers would roll over and see the error of their ways? No, I’m not talking about something that will be over in a year. Yes, it will take decades–and decades of concerted effort at that. So what? So would the aftermath of a revolution, and the outcome would be a whole lot less secure. Show me just one revolution that ever worked out the way the revolutionaries envisioned in the beginning.

  88. Rob Grigjanis says

    a_ray_in_dilbert_space

    You thought this was going to be easy? You thought the Koch suckers would roll over and see the error of their ways?

    If you’re trying to read my thoughts, you’re many miles and 180 degrees off. No idea where you get this from, or what your point is. I’m not calling for revolution, or saying any change is easy. Give us an idea how to beat the Kochs and their suckers, in any number of years, and we’ll talk.

  89. lpetrich says

    First past the post is a hopelessly antiquated system. As sociologist Maurice Duverger showed half a century ago, it tends to produce two-party systems.

    A more reasonable one is proportional representation. Each party gets a number of seats in proportion to the number of votes it received. That often produces multiparty systems, though the parties often form coalitions.

    One can elect the House of Representatives by state-by-state proportional representation without having to amend the Constitution.

    I think that it ought to be done in state legislatures also, because they are often important players in policymaking.

    But in the absence of proportional representation, one can get involved in party primaries — there’s usually more choice there.

  90. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    Rob Grigjanis,
    The situation is somewhat tricky, since any change that favors democracy dilutes the power of the parties. However, the most important aspects of the path forward involve voter turnout and grass-roots education. The weaker of the two parties is probably the Republican–since their only core principle is favoring the wealthy and privileged. Everything else is simply appended onto the platform to cobble together something approaching a majority–gun lobby, bible thumpers, etc. By increasing voter turnout, especially in groups that undervote, we increase the pressure on the Rethuglicans. The already uncomfortable alliances between tea party nutjobs, fiscal conservatives and social conservatives are already showing strain. That is why the Rethuglicans are trying whatever measures they can to suppress voter turnout.

    The education component has to do with ensuring that those not now voting have the information they need to make intelligent decisions. This would include education on climate, the environment and the economy. Ideally, this would be done via a true social welfare organization–something like we see operating in the Middle East (e.g. Hamas). I think that this could start to turn things around on a timescale of 3 decades.

  91. Rob Grigjanis says

    a_ray_in_dilbert_space:

    By increasing voter turnout, especially in groups that undervote, we increase the pressure on the Rethuglicans.

    Agreed. I’m guessing compulsory voting wouldn’t fly in the US, because ‘freedom of speech’?

  92. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    Rob, I haven’t missed an election since I came of voting age, and I’m not sure whether I’d agree to compulsory voting until there are parties that better represent the best interests of those not currently voting.

    I don’t dispute that things are fucked. I just want to avoid the US becoming Haiti with nukes.

  93. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @Rob:

    I doubt the 1st would be the primary reason for ruling mandatory voting unconstitutional (if it ever came to that). Instead, systems like Australia’s where “voting” means submitting a ballot, but you can intentionally leave the whole ballot blank. You wouldn’t be discriminating on content of message, but on the manner in which the message is delivered. “Time, place, manner” restrictions are constitutional.

    Nonetheless, there are reasons to think most forms wouldn’t pass constitutional muster – primarily the 5th amendment and the precedent set by the income tax constitutional amendment. By commanding compulsory action, you diminish the individual liberty protected by the 5th against the federal government (and, through incorporation doctrine, by the 14th against state governments). This can be overcome, but it isn’t easy.

    The tax power is one way to increase voting: simply take the standard deduction that is given automatically to all taxpayers and make part of it conditional on 1) voting or 2) establishing incapacity (legal or otherwise) to vote. The downside is that there are real structural barriers preventing folks with lower incomes from voting that don’t apply in the same way to those with higher incomes. OTOH, getting $396 more back on your tax return when you make $500k/year isn’t nearly as big a deal as getting $150 when you make $10k/year. People buy lottery tickets just in case, maybe large numbers of non-voting poor would be motivated to vote hoping their income would top the standard deduction, even those years when it looked unlikely?

    Of course, this is assuming that you mean that the 1st amendment is a legal barrier to mandatory voting.

    If you mean it’s a political barrier – i.e., that opponents would scream that it violates free speech even if it doesn’t (hell, they’ll scream that it violates the 13th). For a good preliminary discussion, if you have access, see The Case for Compulsory Voting in the United States, 121 Harv. L. Rev. 591, 601–603 (2007).

    If you wish to have an academic discussion about the article, I could send you a copy through e-mail, but only on your solemn word not to further distribute and that we would, in fact, discuss the article; (Such discussion could be here rather than over e-mail, but I do not have rights to freely distribute. Use which furthers my education, however, is legal even if it means showing the article to someone else and getting another opinion.)

  94. Rob Grigjanis says

    Crip Dyke :

    If you mean it’s a political barrier – i.e., that opponents would scream that it violates free speech even if it doesn’t

    Yeah, that’s the one. I’ll never forget hearing a Republican argue that universal health care was an infringement on the right to be uninsured.

    I was pleasantly surprised to find that I could access the article by clicking ‘download pdf’ at http://www.harvardlawreview.org/issues/121/december07/Note_1037.php – I expected a paywall. At first glance, it looks quite readable to a non-lawyer, but the apparent lack of equations makes me nervous :-). I’ll probably read it in the next few days.

  95. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @Rob:
    It was written under the pseudonym for Harvard Law student use. It’s probably more readable (unfortunately) specifically because it was written by someone who is not (yet) an academic law specialist.

    I had previously read a bit of the article when researching something else (it wasn’t relevant, I was just curious after it came up in a search) but never finished it, b/c duh, law school. But it’s vacation. I’ll see if I can get through it tonight or tomorrow night and we can throw it around in Thunderdome or something.

  96. says

    Hey all – sorry to drop out of the discussion, if anyone was still interested. (I haz family drama.)

    Nathair 94:

    As everyone can see up there at my 90, the citation needed was for this statement of yours:

    and clamoring to therefore return us all to chaos and carnage in the hopes that, eventually, some better system will magically arise.

    Your narrow focus on U.S. murder rates as the only metric of destruction and death wrought by the current system, your repeated insistence that I am “proposing” or “clamoring” for an anarchic collapsed state as a “solution” to our problems, your arrogant insults and clueless mansplanations have all been highly amusing. Your statement that I think “lets burn it all down!” is something women have some unique insight into or right to proclaim is particularly hilarious! Unfortunately, since you cannot or will not grok what I write—e.g., that I am not hoping and agitating for a revolution, I am expecting one, and there’s a very good chance it will be horrible and tragic—I’ve grown bored and am no longer interested in discussing this with you.

    Rob Grigjanis 91 and 95: thank you.

  97. says

    a_ray 96:

    OK, Iris, I’ll bite. Tell me how the average American was better off the day after Yorktown than the day before. Or the average French peasant the day after Louis head rolled into the basket than the day before.

    Nowhere have I said or even insinuated that people will be better off in the U.S. post-revolution. There is a very good chance things will be horrible and tragic. I think coalition-building right now is a way to lower those odds.

    I do not dispute that things are dire.

    Nathair does, but I agree with you. I also think they are likely to worsen (e.g. post-TTIP and -TPP).

    I do dispute that 1)the system has left us with no options, and 2)that marching in the street will accomplish jack.

    You’re right that the options you suggest are technically possible, and would be more likely to result in a good outcome than “tearing things down.” I suspect where we disagree is how likely any of them are to be implemented in the next decades. In my view that likelihood is approaching zero, and getting closer every day.

    “Marching in the street” has accomplished much: the civil rights movement comes immediately to mind. But you are right that in and of itself mass civil disobedience is rarely sufficient to effect meaningful change. Successful* revolutions are marked by an unwillingness of state agents to quash popular dissent (e.g. the Egyptian army’s refusal to fire on protesters in Tahrir Square, the paratroopers sent by the East German regime refusing to fire on 70,000 protesters in Leipzig, the Tzar’s Cossacks sent to crush the Petrograd riots and instead mingling with the crowds, etc.). The militarization of U.S. police forces and mass surveillance of citizens present unprecedented dangers to any movement (such as Occupy) that presses for even moderate changes to the system. I don’t believe these are insurmountable obstacles, especially if broad coalitions can be built and strengthened before the powder keg blows.

    *By “successful,” I mean the result that the governing regime is ousted, not the emergence of some post-revolution utopia or even improved conditions.