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Politics Letters

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Conservatives Deny Reality

It's typical conservativism. One cannot rationally be a conservative unless you completely ignore reality.

Keynesian economics: Proven to work every time it's tried.
Obama's economy: Getting better by every single metric that exists.
Climate Change: Occurring and man-made
Evolution: exists.
Abstinence-Only Education: Proven to be ineffective
Planned Parenthood and easy access to contraceptives: Proven to lower abortion rates
Social Welfare spending: Proven to boost the economy
Tax cuts: Proven to tank the economy.
Torture: Proven that it doesn't work, and that you don't even need it to get high-profile targets like Bin Laden
Preemptive wars: Proven to be pointless money-wasting boondoggles that accomplish nothing and make the rest of the world hate you.

Thick Pols

highlight a problem with politicians. Basically, not just in North Carolina where they contemplated a bill to forbid predictions of accelerating sea-level rises, but in most elected governments, politicians are not clever enough to understand complex issues such as climate change, and resolve them.

A full reconsideration of governance is required. True leaders, of whom there are few, look to the next generation, and it is they who we need.


Mooney's article includes a phrase which to me epitomises the issue: "a greater valuing of scientific authorities". I think the issue is actually mistrust of authority, not mistrust of science.

"Authority" implies unconditional acceptance. Why should people accept on trust the words of "scientific authority"? How many scientists accept unconditionally the statements of political or financial authorities?

The best thing scientists and the media can do is to drop the over-inflated press releases, educate the public on the nature of science and lodge debates in a more balanced framework where alternative lobbies are not simply dismissed by "scientific authority". This requires a huge change of approach by the popular media. It's up to scientists to set that agenda.


Gareth Jones questions the use of unclaimed bodies for medical science, and is a perfect example of why it has become so difficult, and at times impossible, to get anything of any importance done (19 April, p 26).

One would have to look long and hard to find a more straightforward and sensible use of an unclaimed dead body, yet here we have an educated person who takes issue with this practice since, rather obviously, there has been no informed consent.

Look no further than this bit of nonsense to understand why consensus can rarely, if ever, be obtained regarding truly controversial issues.

American Inequality

It was heartening to see you highlight US president Barack Obama's "war on inequality" (14 December 2013, p 5). It is, however, crucial to recognise a significant difference between US attitudes to poverty and those in, for example, the UK

. The US was founded by individualists, often in reaction to controls and interference from Europe, and the pervading legacy is a society based on individual success. America is about competition and winning. It is recognised that competition also produces losers.

If Obama's reforms are to become successfully integrated into US law and culture, it will require such shifts of basic public perceptions that his chances of success must be remote.


Adam Corner discusses the ineffective way in which some scientists communicate the predicted effects of climate change (28 September, p 28), a problem which makes me despair.

For example, tell British people about a 2 degree C rise in temperature, and the usual reaction will be: "Oh, that'll be nice. We could do with some better weather."

But if researchers spoke about how many of the 160 million inhabitants of low-lying Bangladesh will be displaced by rising sea levels and that, as it is a member of the Commonwealth, the UK needs to prepare for millions of refugees, then I suspect the public might get serious about it.

Free Markets

From Robert Reich, on the three biggest myths blinding us to economic truth:

1. The "job creators" are CEOs, corporations, and the rich, whose taxes must be low in order to induce them to create more jobs. Rubbish. The real job creators are the vast middle class and the poor, whose spending induces businesses to create jobs. Which is why raising the minimum wage, extending overtime protection, enlarging the Earned Income Tax Credit, and reducing middle-class taxes are all necessary.

2. The critical choice is between the "free market" or "government." Baloney. The free market doesn't exist in nature. It's created and enforced by government. And all the ongoing decisions about how it's organized - what gets patent protection and for how long, who can declare bankruptcy (corporations? homeowners? student debtors?), what contracts are fraudulent (insider trading?) or coercive (predatory loans? mandatory arbitration?), and how much market power is excessive (Comcast and Time Warner?) - depend on government.

3. We should worry most about the size of government. Wrong. We should worry about who government is for. When big money from giant corporations and Wall Street inundate our politics, all decisions relating to #1 and #2 above become rigged against average working Americans.


When it comes to things like this, nothing has ever happened without the "free market" being forced to change things. Whether it's an 8 hour work day, 40 hour work week, minimum wage, safety and health standards right on down the line, nothing has ever changed without force being applied by law or regulation. The free market says "if I can get x out of a worker for 8 hours, I could just get 2x by making him work twice as long" and has no problem with it. This is the truth that conveniently gets left out of these discussions.


Ever seen crabs in a bucket? When one tries to climb out, the others cling to it and pull it back in.

You'll notice a lot of people who want the government stripped also receive government benefits. "i deserve my medicare, you're a moocher. You probably cheat the system."

A hell of a lot of people hate the idea of the next guy in the next house doing slightly better than them. They also want the poorer to stay where they are.

Cut Taxes For The Rich

Cutting taxes does not create wealth out of thin air.

Whenever someone suggests cutting taxes without also including a list of government services they would be willing to personally forgo, then there's a non-zero chance that that Poussin is lying to you.

Voting Age

Steinberg says that because the "cold cognition" of adolescents is, by 16, likely to be as mature as that of adults, they should be allowed to vote. I would argue, though, that democracy has less to do with sampling the collective wisdom of the populace and more to do with ensuring the continued diversification of power.

The reason that democracies have evolved to give each citizen one vote is because this decision-making process is the hardest one for a powerful elite to control. The question of lowering the voting age should thus be answered not by considering whether young people are capable of reasoning logically, but by how easily they can be manipulated. The fact that they attend state-controlled schools is a bad start.

Considerations around setting appropriate voting ages need to include the role of voting in creating democratic societies, as well as young people's decision-making faculties. Voting may increase young people's stake in the system, stimulating their further involvement, as well as encouraging politicians to prioritise young people's views and needs in policy-making.

(Fark thread on Obamacare)

Human reproduction dumbfounds Republicans.

Basic scientific principles dumbfound Republicans.

The correct function of economics, government, and civilization itself dumbfounds Republicans.

Dumbfounding Republicans is not a terribly high threshold to cross.

And they don't have the opportunity to dumbfound some Republicans, as they come pre-dumbfounded and the trait of dumbfoundedness doesn't stack. (Any dumbfounding after the first application carries over instead to highlight dumbfarkery.)

Ted Cruz

Misspoke is getting the date of the Maastricht Treaty wrong, lying is saying you did something you never did.

Cruz can't even make it to work as a senator. He ranks 97 out of 100 in missed votes. How is he gonna be able to stand the workload as Prez?

It'd be nice if the GOP held their own people to the same standards as they do the Dems.


As for Elton John and the boycotters, I wish people would calm down and not turn every disagreement into a political and economic battle. John Stuart Mill warned of the “tyranny of prevailing opinion,” which can be a restrictive, conformist force that isn’t officially censorship, but which can be just as damaging. Too often these fights move beyond the perfectly valid countervailing speech of “I disagree,” into efforts to drive people out of business for saying the wrong thing. There’s a whiff of the mob in these Twitter storms, and I don’t think many of the participants grasp that their actions are legitimizing countervailing mobs who might use the same tactics to go after the livelihoods of people they agree with.

Racial Prejudice

Like Ruth Leveson and others in the article “The Promised Land” (Magazine, last week), I too find the surge in antisemitism in Europe very ugly and disturbing, and I do not justify it in any way. However, I remember a conversation I had some years back in St Petersburg with a Russian Jew who had emigrated to Israel, and who when I asked him how life there compared with life in Russia replied: “In Russia we were the ‘bloody Jews’, while in Israel we’re the ‘bloody Russians’.” We’ve also seen the recent incident in Israel of the Ethiopian Jewish soldier who was beaten up by police despite wearing his Israeli army uniform. I’ve travelled widely and have seen prejudice everywhere.

Your interesting article skirted around some issues. The anti-Israeli feelings of many are caused by the treatment of Palestinians, including the illegal occupation of parts of their territory.


In other words, the social media-fueled swell of #droughtshaming we’re now bearing witness to has a decidedly class-conscious caliber to it. That shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. Water, The Guardian reports, is tied up with money in California to the point where a person’s wealth can essentially be judged by the color of his lawn

In case anyone cares to actually UNDERSTAND the issue, residential water usage is a tiny part of a much larger problem. Focusing on the insignificant stuff is exactly what shifts attention from the real problem. California agriculture uses the vast majority of the water, 80%. Residential uses just 20%. Of that, only 9% is used for exterior landscaping. That is less than 2% overall. Focus on the wasteful agricultural use and pressure for reform. Reducing agricultural use by just 1% will be about the same as reducing lawn care by 50%. 1% can happen, 50% will not.

It’s true that the residential usage of water is a minority of the problem. But the counter argument is that the water spent on agriculture is useful. People eat that food (or in some cases animals eat that food and then people eat the animals). Which isn’t to say that there’s not a lot that could be done to reduce agricultural water use, such as moving to more efficient irrigation techniques, and away from some water intensive crops. But the residential use of water that people get up in arms with is mostly unproductive uses of water such as washing ones car or, most obviously, having a beautiful green lawn. Say what you will about the almond farmers, but they’re at least growing food which is going to sustain someone somewhere. The rich guys with the beautiful green lawns aren’t doing anything but adhering to a cultural standard of suburbia which was formed in the water rich Northeast even though they live in the semi-arid climate of Southern California.

It’s similar to shaming food stamp recipients for accepting a “handout” while the corporate suits walk away with the vast majority of the welfare.

The thing is the very rich wasting water is literally a drop in the bucket, because there is not that many very rich people. That does not change the fact that ‘Do what I say, not what I do’ is lame, but the not so wealthy, agriculture and industry is where water can be effectively saved.

The solution to that is progressive water rates. Just add more tiers and build desalinization plants with the money.

Driest state of driest continent of Australia here - droughts are just a way of summer life here.

If you want to be smart with verge garden, drip sprinklers and mulch reduces water considerably. Do it overnight to avoid evaporation.

Also, use grey water (laundry, if possible, kitchen sink) for general plant watering. Make sure to use a green/biodegradable detergent. When warming up your shower, keep a bucket in there to collect the water that drains away before you get in. Also, we have bucketed out water from the kids baths to the garden. We have pretty intense water restrictions when we have them, like week on week off one day assigned for watering and that is a limited amount.

Oh, if it's yellow, let mellow, if it's brown, flush it down. You can use the bathroom bath/shower water to flush too. Circular system.

Unfortunately, politics does not help the situation, the blame game does nothing to create snow in the mountains.

But people are blogging as hard as they can! Doesn't that count for something??

Trickle Down Economics

Herbert Hoover, US Republican president from 1929 to 1933, cut taxes for the wealthy. In 1931, after the 1929 stock market crash, he embarked on major programmes to stimulate the economy, such as the Hoover dam. To help pay for them he reversed the tax cuts.

Against the background of the Great Depression, he lost the 1932 election to Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt. American humorist Will Rogers commented that this election "was lost four and five and six years ago, not this year. They didn't start thinking of the old common fellow till just as they started out on the election tour. The money was all appropriated for the top in the hopes that it would trickle down to the needy. Mr Hoover was an engineer. He knew that water trickled down. Put it uphill and let it go and it will reach the driest little spot. But he didn't know that money trickled up. Give it to the people at the bottom and the people at the top will have it before night anyhow. But it will at least have passed through the poor fellow's hands."

Does Bad Publicity Matter?

("Adidas, proudly supporting the human rights violations in Qatar.")

I wonder if there are some PR dicks at Adidas or Coke that are reading this comment right now. Obviously they have PR people that are well aware of the Qatar situation but I mean I wonder if being the top post on reddit even registers on their radar. "Damnit Richard look! That post making us look bad just passed the reaction gif about feminists and Game of Thrones! We're fuuuucked."

"Actually that's called free marketing jim, we get our name on top and whatever drama it is will be forgotten next week. How the fuck do you manage to get paid asking questions like that anyway?"

Qatar: "We double England Bid $200M"
"You live in a how did you even get in here"
Qatar: "We double Qatar's previous bid to $400M"
"Listen, your country cannot grow grass, you aren't even good. Even Ethopia is better than you, and they don't even have Football balls there"
Qatar: "500M"
Qatar: "Oooh I see you're playing hard to get... Here $600M, and I throw in Lamborghini to sweeten deal."
"...Uh...FIFA will take that into account"
migrant worker bursts into the room
Migrant Worker: Please, Please sir… Let me go home, my son is sick.

The reality is this meme will be forgotten in a week. You will NEVER convince corporations to not sponsor the World Cup, the last one had a cumulative audience of 26.4 billion viewers, including over 3 billion unique viewers. The final game had 909 million viewers.

A few thousand angry neckbeards with e-pitchfoks on the Internet is beyond irrelevant compared the exposure of the most watched repeating event of any kind, not just sports. If there is one thing FIFA will never lack its corporate sponsors. The only way to hurt FIFA is to get the players to boycott. FIFA can always get sponsors, and even if you convinced one corporation to denounce the WC a hundred others would gladly step in. But there is no replacing a Messi or Ronaldo. A Wold Cup without elite players is not a World Cup. It becomes like the Olympic tournament, none of the passion and global mania if the best players arent thee.

To be fair, it's more effective to shame and humiliate the sponsors than it is FIFA. FIFA doesn't care what happens as long as money. I don't know how effective these will be but I'm sure Coke and Adidas will at least give it some thought once the brand is becoming synonymous with slavery.

See everyone already knows FIFA are shit and they are used to getting bad press. Going after them through their major sources of income would be the only real way for change to happen.

When was the last time a boycott worked for anything other than a local shop? I remember the attempted Target and Chick Fil A boycotts

These companies have BILLIONS of customers, people are seriously deluded if they think you can actually "boycott" them this easily.

Not just the corporations. Let's start doxxing everyone who owns a Visa card. Right!? I mean if passing the blame 3 levels down is good, passing down 4 must also be good.

It's less about passing blame than it is about finding leverage. The rest of the world's population has only limited influence over Qatar itself or their policies, and FIFA won't change anything unless it hurts their bottom line, which is primarily advertising money. The general population has huge leverage over those companies that rely on brand recognition.

And make their logos as dark and edgy as possible, because we are dark and edgy and we are saving poor middle eastern children by posting on the internet.

The truth is that the major difference between this and other major sporting events it that the construction is all happening at once and there is a world wide audience of internet activists to get hyped about it. Any country that has taken on massive infrastructure projects has collateral damages. Brazil did. Russia did. Even the CCC in the USA had at least 5500 and as many as 7000 deaths in their 9 year operation.
Qatar is doing mind boggling amounts of construction and neither the labor pool nor the people paying them are from cultures that respect human life the way western civilization does.
Are the conditions bad? Yes. Are they significantly worse than the conditions in western run factories all over the third world? Probably not.

I think the biggest factor at play are FIFA's longstanding corruption problems. This allows people to pile onto an obvious problem instead of admitting that a massive amount of the first worlds clothes, tech products, and consumer goods in general are produced in similar environments.

The second biggest problem is in Qatar's (and much the Arab world's) unfamiliarity with the idea of public responsibility. For thousands of years the leaders in these cultures have been able to do essentially whatever they wanted. Look at the history of western clothing companies using sweatshops and you will see that the sweatshops haven't gone away. The companies just got better at distancing themselves from the evidence. The Arab world is still pretty open about their corruption and violence; again making them an obvious target for internet activism.

Confederate Flag

Except for continuing to fly the flag, murder thousands of innocent black people, send armed men to stop black people from going to school, and building monuments to traitors, you're absolutely right. They've totally worked in good faith to preserve the reunited nation.

Why is it this seems to be more newsworthy than the black churches that keep burning down over night?

We need to recast the civil war as that time rich white people conned poor white people into fighting for the right to own poor black people.

I wonder why the descendants of those honorable, slavery-opposing southern whites all ran around forming lynch mobs and voting for segregation 100 years after the civil war.

Questioning Stereotypes

(Reddit thread asking what people misunderstood about your country)

As a New Zealander I would like to say that sheep are not THAT hot. tbh, I'm really sick of the joke that we're sheep-fuckers. It's just so rude, and derogatory to the sheep. We make sweet, gentle love in a beautiful communion of man and she-beast. It's holy.

Australians don't just call everyone cunts, we only say it to our closest friends, or sometimes the prime minister. You only call your mates cunt. For every other cunt, you call them mate. Except for Tony Abbott. He's so cunty that he passes through mate and comes right back to cunt. Fuck that cunt.

If a cunt is being a cunt he's called mate, when mates are being cunts they are cunts but good cunts. If a mate is being a mate he's a cunt but if a cunt is being a cunt I'll say "listen mate" then bash that cunt.

Indian here. We don't all have cows walking around the streets. My cow's parked in the shed.

We Belgians don't all keep juvenile sex slaves in our cellars. In fact, I have at least 2 close friends who no longer partake in this ancient tradition.

Finland. We DO NOT have polar bears!
That's exactly what someone hoarding polar bears would say...

It doesn't always rain here in England.

Wales. Where the men are men, and the sheep are scared. And the valleys keep a thousand muttony secrets.

We don't have any goddamn kangaroos, no wallabies, no drop bears, and less than 1% of the animal population here is out to kill you. And our country code is not AU.
Austria, eh? Put another shrimp on the Barbie!

We don't "throw another shrimp on the barbie". We call them prawns. But we primarily barbecue red meat - sausages and steaks. Side note: in Australia prawns and shrimp are two different things, but what Americans call shrimp are actually prawns. Shrimp = tiny cunts Prawns = bigger cunts King prawns = big cunts Lobster = big cunty prawn with claws.

No, we're not part of Spain. And just because we were among the first to decriminalize all drugs, it doesn't mean we are all junkies.
Portugal I assume? I was only able to surmise this because Portugal is part of Spain. The Spain expansion pack.

The "85% Catholic" stat for Ireland isn't an accurate portrayal of how religious the country is. Leaving the Church is nigh impossible so most Irish people are merely "technically Catholic". I haven't been to church in nearly two decades but am still listed as a Catholic in church records. "Culturally Catholic" is how my father describes it. I wouldn't say many are really very religious and I certainly never felt like Catholicism was pushed on me as a child or anything like that. I haven't been to mass in a long, long time and don't have any religious beliefs, yet I still do get the "cultural Catholic" stuff. I believe there may be something similar in Judaism? Like, not really identifying too much with Judaism as a religion, but understanding and relating to the culture surrounding it? (although I get that being Jewish has always been about more than just faith)

Not all Mexican women have dark mustaches! Some of us bleach them.

We're fucking Danish, not Dutch.

You just described my country in 1 sentence. The Netherlands: flat with people bicycling.

Not all Americans are fat. just like 60%

Sweden here. Not all our women are blonde bombshells. We also have redheaded, black haired and brunette bombshells.

I once talked to a Swedish man about how I would love to live in Sweden, get a job, have a nice little place. He in not exact words basically told me I was not attractive enough to get a job in Sweden :(
Damn dude. Was going to give you a pity upvote, but you're just not hot enough.

In Ireland we drink a lot. Just in case you heard any different.

I welcome you to Finland with folded arms.

Malaysia isn't a third world, ratchet country that can't stop losing their planes. Another Malaysian here. We're a pretty shit country. Sure, the living costs are lower compared to some other countries but you know what else is low? Our minimum wage, literacy rate, and Internet speeds. Fucking Internet speeds, man. Our education system is constantly flip-flopping between the English medium and Malay medium. Concerts are constantly getting banned because "young people might get steered away by negative influences." I could go on, really. But my point has been made. we're a third world country, enough said.

Americans can understand and use the metric system, we just don't. An inch is 2.54cm, a kg is 2.2 pounds, Celsius times 9/5 +32 = Fahrenheit, a liter is a quart plus a little for the cat.

On a related note, Americans seem to think the UK uses the metric system. We measure distance in miles, height in feet and inches, weight in stone and pounds, milk and beer in pints and switch between Fahrenheit and Celsius depending which makes the temperature seem more extreme. Younger generation are more used to metric since it's what's used in maths and physics lessons but generally every day stuff it's imperial. When I was a butcher I'd be constantly sick of the older generation ordering things in pounds and ounces- which is fine, I understand and can switch between both easily- but then they'd say "Oh, I just can't get used to this new system". "IT'S BEEN HERE FOR THIRTY YEARS!!! GET ON THE FUCKING BOAT!"

Am Australian, can confirm that the older generation does this. One of my grandparents in particular says he can't get used to the 'new' metric system, and refuses to use it, even when talking to people never raised with the imperial system. We've used the metric system since the late 1960s.

People in sport use metric more. I've entered 10k races but I've never done a 6.something mile race. I weigh myself in kg, I use cm for height, but people understand 5'6" better than 167cm.

Not everybody likes vodka in Russia. Sometimes you drink something non-alcoholic, like beer.
No, in Russia, vodka likes you.

Argentine here. I've never heard of or seen any might-be-escaped-nazi anywhere. Schultz here tells me he got here around '46 but just because he thought it would be a nice place to live and he bought that medal at an auction, so, there you go.

No, we're not Hungry. In fact, most of us are pretty well fed. And if someone asks me one more time if everyone is "Hungry" there, I'm going to ostorozni their face off.

As a Southerner (Alabamian) I do not find my cousin attractive. At all. But your sister on the other hand.

Mexican here, None of us live using sombreros sitting by the shade of a nopal. And we are not as lazy as everyone think we are. On the other hand, we do love tacos. Except they're not at all as the nasty crunchy shit they sell at Taco Bell.

We are actually the most violent friendly people you will ever meet. Happy to stab you between the ribs, and wait till the ambulance arrives if we don't take you to the hospital ourselves.
In the same week Glasgow was voted Europe's murder capital and also the UK's friendliest city so it's quite likely.

Not all Americans are fat and lazy. I mean, I am, and all my friends are, but surely, somewhere, there's a fit, industrious fellow. Just the one, though.

No we do not ride camels, nor do we fuck them. We don't even have camels in my country. There are no deserts either. And most importantly we are NOT terrorists.
This is a hard one. I'm 90% sure this is Iceland.

We have won more wars than we lost/surrendered. We are not the white flag champs and we don't always wear berets, while carrying wine and our baguette bread.

We don't have KGB, malnourishment is definitely not a problem and we have one of the highest potato yields per capita in the World.
That just what kgb want you to think.

I'm from Canada and I'm not sorry.

Carnival and football are not that big of a deal. Carnival only happens a few cities - in a big scale, I mean, the rest are small street partys and they are way more fun than the mainstream carnival everybody knows. Also almost nobody knows how to dance samba, Rio de janeiro is not the capital, we speak portuguese (not spanish) and I've never ever been to a rainforest my whole life (most people haven't).

American malls actually perplex me - to get from one end to the other involves so much walking and yet obesity is a problem.
Because when you walk from one end of the mall to the other you have the opportunity to pass at least 3 Cinnabons.

They say one in four Americans live next to a pedophile. I think this is bullshit--I don't live anywhere near a pedophile. Just two gorgeous little boys.

Japan. We do not sell panties in vending machines.

US - We're not all dumbfuck gun toting maniacs. Some of us are smartass gun toting maniacs.

Filipino here. Filipino people are NOT PACIFIC ISLANDERS, we're Southeast Asians. Thank you.

Ukraine really has been invaded by Russia.

Not everyone in Canada is polite and nice. We have some jerks and for that i apologize.

I'm from Pakistan. And we don't ALL go kaboom.

Not ALL Americans are fatasses. True, some are massive fatasses.

Texas - we're not all conceited, bigoted, conservative oilmen. I am, but not all of us are.

The US is not full of assholes. It's actually a very large, sparsely populated country with lots of room between us, into which many more assholes could fit comfortably.


How to solve the Middle East in three steps:

1. Relocate all of Israel into the interior of the United States. Most are skilled, educated and industrious -- they'll fit rightful.
2. Last one out turns over the keys to Hamas and Fatah. "She's all yours, boys!"
3. Let the remaining indigenous populations sort out their differences.

Is The Tea Party Crippling The GOP?

This is about the 9th time I have read this same essay -- all about the crack up between Country-Club and Religious Republicans. I think the first one was when Clinton won a second term and the rest spread evenly over the years between then and now. The theory rests on the idea that the two kinds of Republicans have nothing in common but that is not actually true. What they all hate is the idea of taxes that take all their hard-earned money and gives it to people who are not them or look like them. That is the basis of modern conservatism that transcends everything else -- guns, climate change, abortion or national security. That hasn't changed and I don't think it will ever change.

It doesn't have to actually be happening, the GoP just has to convince people that it is.

Correct. Nobody likes the idea of having what is "theirs" taken away by force. I have never met a 2 year old that wasn't clear on the concept.

However the GOP inflames this natural dislike using racial tension and whips it into outright hatred so pervasive and consuming its victims cannot distinguish between a reasonable social contract (Social Security or Obamacare for example) from the depredations of ISIS. Literally. Facts no longer matter and all they can see is "our side" and everyone else and that's how the GOP succeeds.

Freedom of Speech

Dear Sillimanders: Nicholas and I have heard from a number of students who were frustrated by the mass email sent to the student body about appropriate Halloween­wear. I’ve always found Halloween an interesting embodiment of more general adult worries about young people. As some of you may be aware, I teach a class on “The Concept of the Problem Child,” and I was speaking with some of my students yesterday about the ways in which Halloween – traditionally a day of subversion for children and young people – is also an occasion for adults to exert their control.

When I was young, adults were freaked out by the specter of Halloween candy poisoned by lunatics, or spiked with razor blades (despite the absence of a single recorded case of such an event). Now, we’ve grown to fear the sugary candy itself. And this year, we seem afraid that college students are unable to decide how to dress themselves on Halloween.

I don’t wish to trivialize genuine concerns about cultural and personal representation, and other challenges to our lived experience in a plural community. I know that many decent people have proposed guidelines on Halloween costumes from a spirit of avoiding hurt and offense. I laud those goals, in theory, as most of us do. But in practice, I wonder if we should reflect more transparently, as a community, on the consequences of an institutional (which is to say: bureaucratic and administrative) exercise of implied control over college students.

It seems to me that we can have this discussion of costumes on many levels: we can talk about complex issues of identify, free speech, cultural appropriation, and virtue “signalling.” But I wanted to share my thoughts with you from a totally different angle, as an educator concerned with the developmental stages of childhood and young adulthood.

As a former preschool teacher, for example, it is hard for me to give credence to a claim that there is something objectionably “appropriative” about a blonde­haired child’s wanting to be Mulan for a day. Pretend play is the foundation of most cognitive tasks, and it seems to me that we want to be in the business of encouraging the exercise of imagination, not constraining it. I suppose we could agree that there is a difference between fantasizing about an individual character vs. appropriating a culture, wholesale, the latter of which could be seen as (tacky)(offensive)(jejeune)(hurtful), take your pick. But, then, I wonder what is the statute of limitations on dreaming of dressing as Tiana the Frog Princess if you aren’t a black girl from New Orleans? Is it okay if you are eight, but not 18? I don’t know the answer to these questions; they seem unanswerable. Or at the least, they put us on slippery terrain that I, for one, prefer not to cross.

Which is my point. I don’t, actually, trust myself to foist my Halloweenish standards and motives on others. I can’t defend them anymore than you could defend yours. Why do we dress up on Halloween, anyway? Should we start explaining that too? I’ve always been a good mimic and I enjoy accents. I love to travel, too, and have been to every continent but Antarctica. When I lived in Bangladesh, I bought a sari because it was beautiful, even though I looked stupid in it and never wore it once. Am I fetishizing and appropriating others’ cultural experiences? Probably. But I really, really like them too.

Even if we could agree on how to avoid offense – and I’ll note that no one around campus seems overly concerned about the offense taken by religiously conservative folks to skin­revealing costumes – I wonder, and I am not trying to be provocative: Is there no room anymore for a child or young person to be a little bit obnoxious… a little bit inappropriate or provocative or, yes, offensive? American universities were once a safe space not only for maturation but also for a certain regressive, or even transgressive, experience;increasingly, it seems, they have become places of censure and prohibition. And the censure and prohibition come from above, not from yourselves! Are we all okay with this transfer of power? Have we lost faith in young people's capacity – in your capacity ­ to exercise self­censure, through social norming, and also in your capacity to ignore or reject things that trouble you? We tend to view this shift from individual to institutional agency as a tradeoff between libertarian vs. liberal values (“liberal” in the American, not European sense of the word).

Nicholas says, if you don’t like a costume someone is wearing, look away, or tell them you are offended. Talk to each other. Free speech and the ability to tolerate offence are the hallmarks of a free and open society.

But – again, speaking as a child development specialist – I think there might be something missing in our discourse about the exercise of free speech (including how we dress ourselves) on campus, and it is this: What does this debate about Halloween costumes say about our view of young adults, of their strength and judgment? In other words: Whose business is it to control the forms of costumes of young people? It's not mine, I know that.

Happy Halloween.

Free speech laws are not needed when everyone agrees with what you said. The ONLY time free speech laws are needed are when you are saying something that other people don't want to hear or offends them. That is the entire point. We need to be able to have open discussion or we cannot grow as a society. There was a time that you would have offended a lot of people if you said slavery was wrong.

People, particularly here in the US, have the misconception that it is their right to not be offended. You have the right to walk away, you have the right to not listen and you have the right to criticize. The right to not be offended usually translates into the right to censor others... which is a bad thing for the very reason you pointed out.

Because when they were in high school or any public school there was zero tolerance. So offensive speech was punished. They have spent their life up until this point learning that offensive speech gets punished and is not allowed. This is another failure of public schools.

People need to stop being such fucking pussies. 15 years ago no one was offended by a fucking Indian costume or an Asian costume. Now a little bit of black or red makeup and everyone loses their god damn minds. It's fucking ridiculous.

What I find interesting here is the students engaging in sexism in order to further their contradictory statements on racism, sexism and injustice. They hold the husband accountable for his wife's actions as if he owns her as property. And he defends her like a good husband who loves his spouse should, and they use that against him. If he had just offered her up to the mob, everyone would be saying he was male trash who hates women because he didn't try to protect her or defend her. There's no winning with these social justice types.

Seems like a completely appropriate response. Are they really protesting this? That person is basically saying, "Imagination is good, just try not to be deliberately offensive. We shouldn't have to tell you what to do. You are adults." Why is there uproar over this?

Political correctness and "trigger warnings" are insidious methods of censoring and preventing free speech. Its not forbidden but only socially unacceptable. There is no moral imperatives to fight it, so it persists and grows to serve the needs of those who espouse it. Political correctness prevents true and accurate discourse because it emotionally driven and is used disrupt observation logical derivations. /rant

It was a discussion between comedians and Jerry Seinfeld was also talking in the article and it is pretty much what you said. They don't like to do their stand up at universities because of all the PC bullshit going on. You could tell a nice clean funny joke but that one person gets offended and flips out and ruins the show for everyone.


Who you are: A small collection of rich assholes awkwardly grafted onto a much larger collection of racist fundies that you've enlisted because you desperately need them to get your voting share anywhere near 50%

What you're about: Improving your portfolio returns at the expense of literally anyone who stands in the way, and convincing the racists to go along with you by promising to keep out all the brown people and telling them over and over that all their problems are liberals' fault.