Open Thread

Here is the basic idea of an open thread. This is where a comment, idea, link, or whatever can be posted when it doesn’t necessarily fit the subject matter of any available post. This also can be where people can lodge their complaints or make suggestions, including possibilities for future posts.

Plus, this would be a good place for rants, as I’ll be less discerning in my moderation of comments here. I encourage open discussion. But there are limits. If your comment creates a negative atmosphere or simply lessens my happiness, then it will not be approved. I will use my discretion. Make sure your comment is worthy of your time and my own.

5,203 thoughts on “Open Thread

      • I wouldn’t be surprised if Russia was in US news media more than the US in Russian news media. I’m thinking the Russians aren’t feeling particularly impressed by the US at the moment. Most Russians probably have more important things to worry about than Trump.

    • The Pentagon has been warning about existential threats to the US for a long time. Pentagon officials tend to take threats more seriously than politicians who only worry about wealthy donors, corporate lobbyists, and winning elections

  1. The greatest threat to Western liberal democracies in the future is more likely to come from extreme inequality than from Islamic extremism. This is because inequality erodes two foundation stones of modern society — openness to new ideas and opportunities, and a conviction that all citizens are morally equal.

    For the first three decades after World War II, openness and equality constituted a virtuous circle. Openness generated unprecedented levels of prosperity. That prosperity allowed America and the citizens of other modern nations to invest in excellent schools and universities, basic research, modern infrastructure and social insurance. These investments, in turn, made it easier for people to adapt to change, and fostered ever greater equalities of income and opportunity. The result was a high level of trust in the fairness of the political and economic system.

    But by the 1980s, the virtuous circle had stopped working. Economic and technological dynamism was upending jobs, convulsing communities and splintering families. At the same time, inequalities of earnings, wealth and job security were widening. After the financial crisis of 2008, many Americans, along with the citizens of other nations affected by the crisis, began to doubt the fairness of the system. Some came to feel neglected, disadvantaged, powerless or otherwise left behind. Within the decade they became easy fodder for demagogues who rejected openness and blamed “others” — immigrants, foreign manufacturers, the news media, racial or ethnic or religious minorities — for what had happened to them.

    Enter Donald Trump, who promised to “make America great again” by erecting walls, slowing immigration, withdrawing from free-trade agreements, cutting science budgets, attacking the free press and retreating from security alliances the United States has maintained since 1945. Meanwhile, Britain has pulled out of Europe. Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s National Front, has been mounting a challenge to the French establishment. Hungary’s Viktor Orban and others of his ilk are emulating closed-society dictatorships. The result is likely to be less prosperity and widening inequality. The old virtuous circle is in danger of becoming a new vicious cycle. […]

    Viewed from either Emmott’s or Waldron’s point of departure — the necessity of preserving an open society or of respecting the moral equality of human beings — the surge toward widening inequality is endangering the West. The culprit is not economic inequality per se. It is the political inequality that economic inequality can spawn. How will the vicious cycle we are now experiencing come to an end? These two insightful books suggest that if we don’t recommit ourselves to political equality, we will become ever more closed, authoritarian societies. Economic elites should understand this. As Emmott notes, without openness, the West cannot thrive. But without equality, the West cannot last.


    Jerry, Millar and Cunningham all acknowledged that, as white men, they can fly under the radar of those who associate unauthorised immigrants with Mexico and Central America.

    Cunningham recalled local police and immigration officials not questioning his status during stops. He felt that he was given a pass because of his Irish accent. He wondered if the officers would have treated him differently if he were black or brown.

    As a whole, white and other non-Latino immigrants are targeted for arrest and detention at disproportionately lower rates, says Randy Capps of the Migration Policy Institute.

    “It’s the Latino immigrants from Mexico and Central America that are overrepresented in terms of arrests and deportations,” said Capps.

    Accusations of unequal treatment and racial profiling among immigrant communities have also sparked criticism in Boston about local media attention to Cunningham’s arrest. Carol Rose, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, said that for every one story of a white immigrant who faces deportation, there are many other stories of non-white immigrant experiences not told.

  3. It’s funny how in America parents can get in trouble for unsuitable living conditions if they’re raising two kids with a one bed room apartment they all share, but my friend’s khrushchevka is literally a tiny two room flat consisting of a small kitchen and a main room with the bed behind a curtain. And entire extended families live in conditions like it all throughout former USSR


    Imprisonment in America is concentrated among young, poor—dominantly minority—men and (to a lesser extent) women who come from impoverished communities. The way these young people cycle through our system of prisons and jails, then back into the community, leaves considerable collateral damage in its wake. Families are disrupted, social networks and other forms of social support are weakened, health is endangered, labor markets are thinned, and—more important than anything else—children are put at risk of the depleted human and social capital that promotes delinquency. After a certain point, the collateral effects of these high rates of incarceration seem to contribute to more crime in these places. Crime fuels a public call for ever-tougher responses to crime. The increasing way in which the face of criminality is the face of person of color contributes to an unarticulated public sense that race and crime are closely linked. The politics of race and justice coexist malignantly, sustaining an ever-growing policy base that guarantees new supplies of penal subjects in a self-sustaining and self-justifying manner (Clear, 2007, 175).


    The Pentagon recently released a report, “At Our Own Peril: DoD Risk Assessment in a Post-Primacy World,” which details its concerns about losing access to resources and “resistance to authority” both at home and around the world as governments lose legitimacy. Faced with these changes, the United States could embrace them, become a cooperative member of the world, transition to a lower-waste lower-energy sustainable existence and draw back the military to use those resources to meet domestic needs.

    Sadly, that is not what the Pentagon has in mind. There is a saying, when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. The US is the biggest empire in the world; therefore, the Pentagon’s solutions are “more surveillance, more propaganda (‘strategic manipulation of perceptions’) and more military expansionism.”

    • I read the whole discussion thread. Rameses got all the white supremacists in a tizzy. Some of the responses were along the lines of, I like you Rameses and we’ve had some good discussions but quit complicating my white supremacy because the nuanced historical facts make my head hurt.

      As always, I’d clarify a point. Rameses wrote, “The 1924 Immigration Act halted immigration for 40 years, and allowed the new immigrants to assimilate to American culture.” Well, much of that assimilation was forced through xenophobic fear-mongering, sometimes violent oppression, and anti-ethnic laws that destroyed most of that earlier diversity that in many cases had existed since the colonial era.

      Like other minorities, some European immigrant populations experienced employment prejudice, redlining, internment camps, etc. Also, as Nixon used the war on drugs as an excuse to attack blacks and hippies, an earlier generation of social conservatives used Prohibition to attack hyphenated Americans.

      This was made clear in how the Second Klan, primarily centered in the whitest regions of the North, feared these hyphenated Americans more than they feared blacks. This is why the Second Klan were big supporters of Prohibition as a law and order tactic to maintain dominance of the WASP social order, similar to their support of universal public education as a strategy to destroy Catholic schools.

      • Now that I’m in the former Soviet Union for a few days, I’m not sure American racial ideas apply here much at all. Even in east Asia, I think “race” is still more ethnicity based. And in the case of FSU the gradient nature of human looks is really appearent.

        There are a lot of ethnic Russians here but people here can easily tell a white westerner here apart, based both on looks (western Europeans do have different facial structure despite similar skin color than Russians) and mannerisms. For me likewise, even though I Asian, both my mannerisms and looks make me instantly different from local Kazakhs and central Asians.

        • I’ve never read or thought much about issues of ‘race’, ethnicity, and diversity in the former Soviet Union. It’s not something I come across, not even in Cold War histories. That is kind of odd, actually. It would be nice to see a comparison between the capitalist United States and the previously communist Soviet Union.

      • I think you said it before but rameses is kind of pathetic the way he tries to engage so much with these people

  6. It’s funny, speaking of race, I’m in Kazakhstan right now and I’m sure racial concepts are totally different here. As it is in other parts of the world. The America white black asian just doesn’t apply in the old world.,

    Kazakhs themselves are mixed from different tribes so ethnic kazakhs span a wide range of looks, generally they are a Mongol-Caucasian mix and most have the signature North Asian huge cheekbones that many Russians have as well. It’s very common to see people with mongol facial shape but light eyes and hair, and to see families spanning the looks.

    Struggles in the former Soviet Union are still quite based on lower Maslow level struggles, like poverty and corription. My friend worries because her mom may lose her job (due to curriotiom, since in Soviet Union, it’s common that if a rich guy with connections wants the job just to do something they will just suddenly “test” a current employee with actual reason to fire her to make room for rich guy)

    • It’s maybe because America has been so wealthy for so long that our society could obsess over something so meaningless, wasteful, and destructive as an oppressive racial order. Many have argued that it was no accident that the racial order by way of racialized slavery was originally created by the plutocracy to divide the poor so that they wouldn’t join forces in riot or revolution. Less wealthy countries seem more obsessed over other kinds of divisions, not Western style racial categories.

  7. To be honest, it’s a bit refreshing to get away from American social dynamics right now. Everywhere has shit but in different forms and it’s just that I’ve jumped from American BS to former Soviet Union BS. I’m not resting from BS but resting from a certain BS towards another form.

    • It at least gives you perspective. Maybe you’ll have newfound admiration for American BS. There is a certain comfort in being surrounded by the BS you were raised in. It offers reassuring familiarity. American BS is, if nothing else, predictable. You know what you’re getting with it.

  8. It’s an issue in Kazakhstan as well, and even Russia. I never walk alone here especially not at night. And being young and petite I’m the perfect candidate for bride kidnappimg.

    • That would suck. A coworker of mine had family from Mexico. She would visit there sometimes, but she couldn’t go anywhere by herself for the same fear of bride kidnapping. Mexico isn’t Islamic, of course. I wonder how such practices become tradition.

      The Scots-Irish had a practice of kidnapping brides, although it had become a symbolic act at some point. In parts of the Upper South, the symbolic act is still part of the wedding ceremony. The couple decides to get married prior to the symbolic kidnapping.

    • My WordPress page for stats shows what presumably are your views originating from Kazakhstan. I’m not sure I’ve had any views of my blog from that location before, but I do get views from a variety of countries.

  9. “I think we would agree to describe the reality that flows from this corporate power as anti-democratic, anti-community, anti-worker, anti-person and anti-planet…Given our relative consensus on this situation, what should we be asking and doing about the corporation?…To effectively begin the work of countering what amounts to global corporate tyranny, we’ll need to do two kinds of defining: what we wish to see in the future, and what we are seeing in the present…We’ll never move these corporate behemoths out of our way with the poking sticks and thin willow reeds available to us through regulatory action…Nor will we gain their everlasting mercy with pleas for social responsibility or requests to sign a corporate ‘code of conduct,’ or the pitiful pleading for side agreements on free-trade pacts…Our colonized minds make it difficult to cut through our experience and envision real democracy. We’ve got a ‘cop in our head,’ and the cop comes from corporate headquarters…What must be done?

    “When those of us who believe in an empowered citizenship see corporations spewing excrement and oppression with ever greater reach, we need to ask, ‘By what authority can corporations do that? They have no authority to do that. We never gave them authority.’ And we must work strategically to challenge their claims to authority…”

  10. “We have in this country one of the most corrupt institutions the world has ever known. I refer to the Federal Reserve Board and the Federal Reserve Banks. Some people think the Federal Reserve Banks are U.S. government institutions. They are private credit monopolies; domestic swindlers, rich and predatory money lenders which prey upon the people of the United States for the benefit of themselves and their foreign customers…The truth is the Federal Reserve Board has usurped the Government of the United States by the arrogant credit monopoly which operates the Federal Reserve Board.”
    ~Congressman Lois T. McFadden (R-PA), Chairman of the House Banking and Currency Committee, 1934


    Washington, DC

    Today at 8 a.m., the National Archives released a group of documents (the first of several expected releases), along with 17 audio files, previously withheld in accordance with the JFK Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992. The materials released today are available online only. Access to the original paper records will occur at a future date.

    Download the files online:

    Highlights of this release include 17 audio files of interviews of Yuri Nosenko, a KGB officer who defected to the United States in January 1964. Nosenko claimed to have been the officer in charge of the KGB file on Lee Harvey Oswald during Oswald’s time in the Soviet Union. The interviews were conducted in January, February, and July of 1964.

    This set of 3,810 documents is the first to be processed for release, and includes FBI and CIA records—441 documents previously withheld in full and 3,369 documents previously released with portions redacted. In some cases, only the previously redacted pages of documents will be released. The previously released portions of the file can be requested and viewed in person at the National Archives at College Park (these records are not online).


    The re-review of these documents was undertaken in accordance with the John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992, which states: “Each assassination record shall be publicly disclosed in full, and available in the Collection no later than the date that is 25 years after the date of enactment of this Act, unless the President certifies, as required by this Act, that continued postponement is made necessary” by specific identifiable harm.

    The act mandated that all assassination-related material be housed in a single collection in the National Archives and defined five categories of information that could be withheld from release. The act also established the Assassination Records Review Board to weigh agency decisions to postpone the release of records.

    The National Archives established the John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection in November 1992, and it consists of approximately five million pages of records. The vast majority of the collection (88 percent) has been open in full and released to the public since the late 1990s. The records at issue are documents previously identified as assassination records but withheld in part or in full. Federal agencies have been re-reviewing their previously withheld records for release, and will appeal to the President if they determine that records require further postponement.

  12. Here is a quote claiming no one predicted fascism. Giuseppe Borgese writes that (“The Intellectual Origins of Fascism”):

    “Not a single prophet, during more than a century of prophecies, analyzing the degradation of the romantic culture, or planning the split of the romantic atom, ever imagined anything like fascism. There was, in the lap of the future, communism and syndicalism and whatnot; there was anarchism, and legitimism, and even all-papacy; war, peace, pan-Germanism, pan-Slavism, Yellow Peril, signals to the planet Mars; there was no fascism. It came as a surprise to all, and to themselves, too.”

    Is that true? It sounds improbable.

    There was nothing about fascism that didn’t originate from old strains of European thought, tradition, and practice. Fascism contains elements of imperialism, nationalism, corporatism, authoritarianism, ethnocentrism, xenophobia, folk religiosity, etc.

    Corporatism aligning business and labor to government, for example, had been developing for many centuries at that point and had been central to colonial imperialism. Also, racism and eugenics had been powerfully taking hold for centuries. And it’s not like there hadn’t been demagoguery and cult of personality prior to Hitler.

    If communism and syndicalism were predictable, why not fascism? The latter was a reactionary ideology that built on elements from these other ideologies. It seems to me that, if fascism wasn’t predictable, then the New Deal as a response to fascism also couldn’t have been predicted. But the New Deal took part of its inspiration from the Populist movement that began in the last decades of the 19th century.

    What about fascism was new and unique, unpredictable according to anything that came before?


    WASHINGTON—Telling the Senate Intelligence Committee that he had no choice because saying anything else would be incredibly stupid, Senior Advisor to the President Jared Kushner testified Monday that he did not collude with Russia during the campaign, but pretty much had to say that. “I did not in any way conspire or collaborate with any foreign government, but even if I did, I wouldn’t tell you because I would likely go to jail,” said Kushner, adding that if he had to choose between lying to a panel of legislators—plenty of whom were happy to take his excuses at face value—or openly admitting to being a criminal, he’d lie every single time. “At this point, with no real pressure to admit I committed a felony or participated in any illegal activity whatsoever, I suppose I’ll just keep saying I did nothing wrong. Honestly, the only smart move here is to stand up and say the one thing that doesn’t destroy my life, so I’ll be sticking with that for the time being.” Kushner went on to say that he had no knowledge of collusion on the part of anyone else involved with the Trump campaign because, come on, what would you say if you were him?

  14. You described rural crime being greater than urban, but it seems that has been true outside the USA for a while. Here in KZ crime, including kidnappijgs robberies and such are much more problematic in rural and suburbs. The safest areas are the denser and more urban areas. Bride kidnappijgs are also more prominent in rural areas worldwide

    • There is one pattern of demographic change.

      Urban areas have increased social problems, including violent crime, when there is a large influx of rural populations. In the 19th century, rural areas were violent. Even the first lead-toxicity rise of violent crime began in rural areas, because of lead paint used on barns. So there were reasons rural areas were violent back then. That isn’t always the case. During periods of stable economies and communities, rural areas would have been non-violent places. But any kind of disruption leads to social problems.

      That is what happens when there is a population shift, whether farm families moving to cities for factory work or drought-caused refugee crises. European countries saw this early on with urbanization. Mass urbanization in England became a major factor in the 17th and 18th centuries, because of sheep herding destroyed feudal agriculture and caused privatization of the commons. A large-scale influx of people into the cities was destabilizing. It involved not just violence and crime but also food riots and labor conflict.

      The US was late to this game. Small family farming was maintained in the US for centuries after it became uncommon in Europe. Majority of whites didn’t become urbanized until around 1900. And the majority of blacks didn’t become urbanized until around 1970. These are the two periods of increased urban violence, the earlier one primarily among whites and the latter primarily among blacks. But in the following generations, the social conditions restabilize. But with the rural areas depopulated and impoverished, the problems worsen there as they improve in the cities.

      It’s a predictable pattern. It’s not like no one noticed the development of rural problems over the 20th century. It’s just that those in power didn’t care, except when it disrupted their own plans. In the past, the ruling elite had to pay attention to rural areas such as when Appalachian miners took up arms to fight oppressive mining companies. But now these rural folk are getting blamed for Trump, despite such an accusation being ludicrous. It’s more of a sense that something has gone wrong in our society and no doubt it involves what is going on in rural areas.

      There is one universal problem of rural areas. They’ve always been difficult places to maintain order and enforce laws. People live more spread apart. So, they are more dependent on protecting themselves and taking care of their own problems. That leads to a certain kind of mentality and culture, of each to their own, of communities maintaining their own standards (maybe why sundown towns were more common among small rural towns).

      My dad knows a guy who grew up in rural Kentucky. This guy spoke of his father killing his brother who challenged his authority and then burying the body without police or any other officials getting involved. Eastern Kentucky is still a violent place, although violence in Kentucky has dropped immensely over the past century, unlike Tennessee for some reason.

      I’m not sure why people are surprised to hear that urban areas are safer than rural areas. Urban areas have higher concentration of police, public services, community organizations, churches, healthcare, etc. These are all of the things that build social capital and maintain social fabric. And I also always find it odd that Chicago gets constantly stereotyped as dangerous, even though it is one of the safer big cities in the country. Public perception as shaped by news media often has little correspondence to reality.

  15. “An oligarchy of private capital cannot be effectively checked even by a democratically organized political society because under existing conditions, private capitalists inevitably control, directly or indirectly, the main sources of information.”
    ~Albert Einstein


    It is not enough simply to set oneself up as a person who distrusts majority taste as a matter of principle or perhaps conceit; that way lies snobbery and frigidity. However, it will very often be found that people are highly attached to illusions or prejudices, and are not just the sullen victims of dogma or orthodoxy. If you have ever argued with a religious devotee, for example, you will have noticed that his self-esteem and pride are involved in the dispute and that you are asking him to give up something more than a point in argument. The same is true of visceral patriots, and admirers of Plutocrats and idiocracy. Allegiance is a powerful force in human affairs; it will not do to treat someone as a mental serf if he is convinced that his thralldom is honorable and voluntary.


    WASHINGTON—As legislators gathered Tuesday for a critical vote that would go a long way toward finally repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) was reportedly struggling to weigh the interests of her entire constituency against absolutely nothing. “Honestly, it’s a tough call—on one hand, you have opposition to the repeal from a majority of Republicans, virtually all Democrats, and the entire healthcare industry, while on the other, you have not one sound argument or credible opinion,” said Capito, admitting she was, even now, having difficulty balancing her desire to keep as many West Virginians insured as possible with there being no reason whatsoever to do otherwise. “This is an agonizing decision. Sure, there are sound justifications for voting no on ‘repeal and replace,’ but then there’s emptiness, literal emptiness, when you look for reasons to vote yes. All I know is, I have to get this right somehow.” At press time, Senator Capito had resigned herself to the fact that both sides had valid points and she would just have to go with her gut when the time came.


    New research suggests that chemicals in many household products, which enter the body via dust, can cause cells to store excess fat and lead to weight gain. What do you think?

    “I’m always open to having something new to blame on my housekeeper.”
    Kirsten Williams

    “It’s just not realistic for me to cut household dust out of my diet right now.”
    Trevor Cloyd

    “Why can’t trace amounts of toxins seeping into my body ever improve my health?”
    Jim Eakin


    As part of a plan to replace 25 percent of its officers with robots by 2030, Dubai has introduced a robotic policeman that can identify suspects and collect evidence. What do you think?

    “This is just going to lead to robot criminals getting even faster CPUs.”
    Anthony Lamarre

    “At least when a robotic police officer shoots me to death, it’ll be because of cold, hard logic instead of panic or racial bias.”
    Carl Smreker

    “The nice thing about a plan like this is that there’s absolutely no way anything could go wrong with it.”
    Denise Wilkes

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