Income

No, the U.S. Is Not an Oligarchy

The middle class is just as likely to get its way as are the rich, a new paper finds.

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A roll of cash
401(K) 2012 / Flickr

About this time two years ago the stories started making the rounds. "The US is an oligarchy, study concludes," read one headline. "America is an oligarchy, not a democracy or republic, university study finds," asserted another

The idea, put forward by Martin Gilens of Princeton and Benjamin I. Page of Northwestern, was that the policy preferences of the rich, and not the middle class, dominate actual political outcomes—but in a functioning democracy you would expect policy to mostly track the preferences of the latter. "Economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy," their paper found, "while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence."

Stated otherwise, "When a majority of citizens disagree with the economic elites, they generally lose," as it was summarized on The Daily Show.

Not so fast! says University of Texas at Austin Ph.D. candidate J. Alexander Branham. At a panel at the American Association of Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) conference on Friday he presented the findings of a paper suggesting that those dramatic claims are probably getting it wrong.

If the oligarchy study's results are true, "that's really worrisome for how we think about democracy in the U.S.," Branham said. "I'm going to try to convince you of two things: The first thing is that it's really, really rare for the middle class and the rich to actually disagree about the policies that we want. And the second thing is that when you get a disagreement between the middle class and the rich, it's basically a coin flip as to which group gets their way."

Indeed, the paper looked at 1,779 potential public policies that were under consideration during a 22-year period starting in 1981 (the same data set Gilens and Page use). It found that nine times out of 10, a majority of the rich—or people at the 90th income percentile or above—have the same policy preference as a majority of the middle class—or those at the 50th income percentile—according to public opinion surveys.

There were just 185 cases where the two groups took opposite positions (with the rich wanting a policy to pass and the average citizen wanting it to fail, or vice versa). And of those 185, the 50th percentile got its way 87 times, for a win rate of 47 percent. The 90th percentile won 53 percent of the time, and those numbers are not statistically differentiable from each other, Branham says.

Not exactly the stuff of oligarchy.

NEXT: Will the Metro to the Beach Ease L.A.'s Traffic Woes? Probably Not.

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  1. I think you’re conflating oligarchy and plutocracy. The US is most definitely an oligarchy, but maybe not exactly a plutocracy.

    1. Exactly.

    2. I think a lot of people do argue that it’s a plutocracy, in that rich people have more freedom and more options than poor people and that’s just not fair. Why should only rich people get to have the things that cost a lot of money? Why shouldn’t poor people have the same access to expensive stuff? What sort of world are we living in when, just because I have no money, I’m not allowed to buy whatever I want?

      1. “The first lesson of economics is scarcity: There is never enough of anything to satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics.”

        ? Thomas Sowell

        1. i posted this on facebook once. my cousin made a point to tell me how idiotic he thought it was. i love him anyway.

          1. What about air, huh? Nobody charges for air! Everyone has enough air!

            With that one example I have proven that there are enough Rolls Royce cars for everyone!

        2. “? Thomas Sowell”

          Apparently the only economist who is not aware of soft ware. I’ve been using Linux for some 10 years or more. Never have I encountered scarcity.

          1. Xenosaga episodes 2 and 3

          2. Xenosaga episodes 2 and 3

            1. What economic shibboleths were exposed in subsequent episodes?

              1. Use more big words that when strung together make absolutely no sense when read.

                1. Try reading out loud. Or even have someone else read aloud to you.

          3. As someone who’s been using Linux since the 90s, let me quote Jamie Zawinski: “Linux is only free if your time is worthless.”

            1. “Linux is only free if your time is worthless.”

              It does take a significant investment of time to get the hang of partitioning disks and installing, and an even greater investment in plumbing its depths, but once it’s running and tuned, no more than an afternoon’s work, it’s super stable and just as intuitive and easy to use as Windows. For a modest fee, I’ve converted a number of very basic users over, and they’ve been able to take to it immediately.

              1. For a modest fee

                Why did you charge people for a resource with no limitation?

                1. “Why did you charge people for a resource with no limitation?”

                  My time is limited. So is yours.

                  1. You’re getting it.

                    1. I’ve never charged anyone for the Linux ISO, or ever been charged for one. Because, being software, it’s not scarce.

          4. Good point. Server space, hardware, developers’ time, bandwidth – no scarcity to be seen. Linux is a self-perpetuating and unlimited resource.

            Stick to the 9/11 conspiracy theories, you actually sound smarter that way.

            1. Linux is software. Have you found it to be scarce?

              1. My time is scarce. I do not have time to fuck around with a product that does not meet my needs. This is why Linux remains a hobby, and Windows, and Apple succeed.

                1. “not meet my needs.”

                  You don’t need a super stable OS? Maybe not. but why tolerate anything less?

                  Linux is the basis of Android stuff, used on International space station etc. A hobby is an activity. For the 3rd time now, Linux is software.

                  1. You don’t need a super stable OS?

                    I’ll tell my weekly kernel panic that it’s just a figment of my imagination.

                    1. I suggest you stick to a more successful proprietary OS such as Windows and Apple. Shit Pyrate here should be able to help you. He sounds like he knows what he’s talking about.

          5. It’s just a quote dude. If you read Sowell’s little popular economics book he points out the distinction between scarce resources and other shit that isn’t scarce at all, in like the first sentence of the book.

            1. I should hope so. Does he discuss Linux anywhere after the first sentence? I’d be surprised if he does, in any depth at least.

          6. Your fantasies are irrelevant to the physical universe. You cannot recite all of the bytes that comprise a Linux ISO from memory, and any storage media that might contain it is made of scarce resources.

            No one needs to account for the nonexistent non-scarcity of information.

            1. “You cannot recite all of the bytes that comprise a Linux ISO from memory”

              Neither can you. Linux is not hardware. It is software.

        3. My first lesson of economics is that work is inconvenient.

      2. Well, in any society rich people are going to have more options. That’s what being rich is all about. But in a plutocracy, the very rich run the show.

        1. Then we’re not a plutocracy. Our semi-rich overlords in government have just as much say in how the rest of us get our wealth stolen as the super-rich ones. And the Koch brothers, among the wealthiest people in the country but without access to the power of government, have little to no say in policy decisions.

    3. The oligarchs are the Government Class.

  2. Even if there was an oligarchy, what the leftists steadfastly refuse to acknowledge is that this elite oligarchy would be *on their side.*

    Do poor people think it’s important that the federal government step in and force schools to let trans people use the bathroom of their choice? Do they think children in a failing school district like the Chicago Public Schools should be punished for using the wrong gender pronoun to describe a trans person? The people most supportive of gay rights were always the rich and the upper middle class. Leftists run just about every major American institution, including the media, Hollywood, all the federal bureaucracies, book publishing, colleges, and primary schools. The Silicon Valley oligarchs are mostly leftists, as evidenced by Facebook not allowing conservative news stories in their trending algorithms and Twitter creating a ‘Trust and Safety Council’ run by gibbering leftist idiots like Anita Sarkesian, a woman who, despite total incompetence, has gotten fawning, uncritical media coverage from people like Stephen Colbert and ABC news. She also spoke at the UN and has been wined and dined at the offices of Google.

    They are the oligarchs but they’re hypocritical narcissists who want to pretend they’re put-upon rebels because otherwise they’d have to realize that all the problems in the US have actually been caused by the gross stupidity and negligence of the leftists who actually run everything.

    1. all the problems in the US have actually been caused by the gross stupidity and negligence of the leftists who actually run everything

      They’re just getting warmed up. Soon, they’re really going to ‘help’ you, more than ever.

      1. What amazes me is that their heads should explode from cognitive dissonance. Leftists like to a) brag about how they’ve won the culture war and b) say that oligarchs always get what they want.

        Gee…if you won the culture war and oligarchs always get what they want…that sure makes it sound like the oligarchs are on your side, doesn’t it?

        1. You’re mistakenly assuming that consistency is important to these troglodytes. It plainly isn’t, and neither has it ever been. The incompatibility of their variant beliefs is a fatal flaw in their worldview, but the fickleness of their convictions allows them to alternate between arguments without consideration for that flaw.

          They desire what they desire, and they shall pursue it without regard for its obscene stupidity.

        2. As the Mozilla experience shows, the left has more control over a corporation* that its CEO does.

          *I’m blindly assuming Mozilla is incorporated; even if not, my point applies to private businesses and non-profits in general.

    2. Even if there was an oligarchy, what the leftists steadfastly refuse to acknowledge is that this elite oligarchy would be *on their side.*

      “Class” (intentional scare quotes) doesn’t exist in a free market. It is a political contrivance. A completely made up notion to scare people into voting for you. (see income inequality) In a free market, all transactions are voluntary, trading that of lesser value for that of greater value. There are no losers and how much wealth you’ve accumulated has no bearing on those transactions.

      That we even acknowledge their (the leftist’s) premise gives it undeserved credibility.

      If there is injustice between individuals it’s the result of an initiation of force. And since there is only one entity that may legally initiate force…who exactly is to blame?

      1. “”Class” (intentional scare quotes) doesn’t exist in a free market.”

        Well, we don’t have a free market and the richest places in the US are the areas where people with political connections can suck money out of the state. Go look at the average income in the areas where all the DC bureaucrats live.

        “In a free market, all transactions are voluntary, trading that of lesser value for that of greater value.”

        How does this have anything to do with whether or not class exists? Class is an issue of wealth and power within a society, not an issue of how that wealth and power is accumulated. Class definitely exists in any society. In the US we don’t have an ossified class system where there isn’t any mobility between classes, but that doesn’t change the fact that middle class, upper class, and working class still designate real differences between people.

        1. Go look at the average income in the areas where all the DC bureaucrats live.

          this is something that cannot be repeated often enough. At least with Silicon Valley or Wall St or even Hollywood, you can make the case that goods and services are being provided for consumers willing to pay for them, that market forces dictate the prices charged for those goods and services, and that the market creates some winning companies and some who struggle. DC, not so much yet no one seems to question why it’s full of six-figure salaries on the public payroll.

        2. Well, we don’t have a free market and the richest places in the US are the areas where people with political connections can suck money out of the state.

          Didn’t say we did. Said we should. And that if we did, there would be no class and no favors. That there are, is the result of government, yet, instead of laying blame correctly and fixing the root cause by limiting government, the left lays blame and limitations upon the accumulation of wealth. Hurting everyone else in the process.

          How does this have anything to do with whether or not class exists?

          It means that the rich trading with the poor doesn’t and cannot hurt the poor (class is meaningless absent government) unless someone is given an unfair advantage by government (initiation of force).

          The point of the entire post, which I’ve apparently done a piss poor job of getting across, is that the only legal way the rich can take advantage of the poor is through the use of government. And the correct response is to limit government, not the wealth creators.

        3. Class is an issue of wealth and power within a society, not an issue of how that wealth and power is accumulated.

          Uh, i actually agree with Frankie on this point. The way you’re using the term “class” is basically inconsistent with what it has really meant throughout history. Its been diluted to meaningless the same way terms like “Middle Class” (*which really meant, “Small business-owner”, not ‘middle-income’) and “Third World” (which really meant “non-affiliated with US/Soviets; not ‘poor’) have.

          Real “class” distinction means there’s established institutions protecting each classes respective positions in society. A “lowborn” could make a lot of money and still never be “highborn” (see: Lord Baelish). You don’t shift classes though mere acquisition of a little bit of wealth and power. And unlike a proper class system, there’s nothing barring people from that process of acquisition.

          In a modern capitalist democracy, what people *mean* by ‘Class’ is just arbitrary differences in net-worth. And people are free to gain/lose that net worth with zero actual interference or protection by social-institutions. What people call the “classes” in that environment is constantly shifting populations, rising and falling in influence and wealth…. which isn’t at all what is implied by the term

      2. Class doesn’t exist in a free market? It is a political contrivance – ie it follows the creation of government rather than government following the creation of class? And honestly the notion that government is created in order to initiate force that would otherwise not exist is rather a silly anarcho dead-end. Govt is created in order to REGULATE force/violence that already exists. It may well grow beyond that and take on a life of its own – but that is not at all the same as the anarcho position.

        History also begs to differ – in large part because many of the core requirements of a free market (eg title to property – ability to monopolize property in order to rationalize investing capital in it – etc) can’t exist without government. Adam Smith speculated about how that process (including class, govt, force) began in his chapter ‘On the Expense of Justice’. And American frontier history tends to support Smith’s speculation – see Johnson County War – or Henry George.

        Class is not a political contrivance. It follows from ownership of property – or claim of ownership to property. Hell in a strict sense it predates that since class in one form at least exists in the animal world – see alpha-male lion and beta-male lion.

        1. Of course there can be property without govt. If people share a principle and defend it as a right in their society then the right exists. Think of whatever it is that makes you think otherwise, perhaps abuses you expect to occur in the absence of a strong central govt, then notice the abuses that occur in the presence of govt too. People still steal. The govt steals the most. Govt is a monopoly on law enforcement, not the only way to ever have law enforcement.

          As for lions, that looks like more of a meritocracy to me. If you’re going to call merit-based differences in status “class” as well, then the word has lost useful meaning and all negative connotation anyway. And while you’re referencing lions, note their very strong sense of ownership of their hunting grounds.

          1. Yes – lions are territorial which certainly does indicate that there is a ‘natural freedom’ to ‘claiming a monopoly over territory’ – which then becomes a ‘natural right’ when we expect government to recognize/enforce the claim. OTOH – no other species recognizes that exclusivity (birds and gazelles and bugs still wander around exercising their ‘natural freedom’ to use what they need to survive from the land – if they can avoid the lion challenging their freedom to do so). And no baby lion simply inherits a territory from even the biggest baddest alpha-male.

            All of which kind of does tend to indicate that ‘government’ is simply a social contrivance intended to ossify the distribution/claims to property at a particular point in time – in favor of whoever is strong enough to ‘successfully’ claim that territory at that time – and deny all other and all future claims via transferred force (the alpha-male lion no longer needs to use their own force). Which in turn tends to indicate that there is nothing neutral going on here – it is actually anti-competitive (the TRUE necessary feature of the free part of free market). Exactly like Adam Smith observed – Civil government, so far as it is instituted for the security of property, is in reality instituted for the defense of the rich against the poor, or of those who have some property against those who have none at all.

            1. Or we’re just vastly more sophisticated than lions and gazelles when it comes to principles, just as we are in most other ways. There’s a giant list of topics in which no other species matches human complexity. In this case we have a far more complicated idea of property ownership and think a lot harder about consistency in maintaining this principle. Speaking of nihilistic social construct arguments and animals, though, do you think murder and slavery aren’t really wrong either, just social constructs too (I mean look at lions eating their young and whatnot)? I rather doubt it. Anyway I was kinda just noting stuff about animals as a joke..

              The vast majority of “property” in the developed world is wealth that was created by skilled labor. So you can’t just dismiss the concept of property rights by pretending all property was “stolen” like hunting grounds from an indian tribe. When we talk about the market and property rights, the vast majority of transactions imply the opposite of your argument, since everyone can bring labor to trade and get wealth as a result.

              1. You really should read the chapter of Adam smith that that quote comes from. We didn’t develop our ideas and institutions of property by sitting down and contemplating first principles. It derives from self-interest that is not much more complex than a lion/gazelle – and Smith himself traces both ‘property’ and ‘class’ and ‘government’ to the earliest herders of domesticable animals. The reason I mentioned frontier history here as confirming that is because it is recent enough here in the US to be in the realm of extremely well-documented history by ancestors who we may well have personally known – not idle speculations about pre-history (the ONLY options for Europeans – like Smith or Marx or Austrians or Rand).

                We in the US don’t have to waste time masturbating with rationalized first principles. We have actual living breathing pragmatic empirical history to inform us.

              2. The vast majority of “property” in the developed world is wealth that was created by skilled labor.

                This is just such total nonsense. Honestly I don’t even know where to begin to argue here because the statement indicates that you are in complete denial of reality. There are empirical studies on how wealth IS actually distributed/owned in the US and the world – as well as empirical studies of what we perceive it to be and what Americans believe is ‘ideal’. None of those are even remotely close to some Cuban ‘complete equality’ or socialism strawman. Look at some of the actual data and make a case that anything but the ‘ideal’ has the slightest fucking thing to do with ‘skills’.

                If Fortune magazine can write an article – http://fortune.com/2014/10/31/…..income-us/ – WTF are libertarians STILL in denial about? Is Fortune now the leading edge of NK style socialism to you twits? The plutocrats themselves are now getting worried – and libertarians are still in complete denial of reality.

                1. Just as one indicator – actual wealth ‘inequality’ is ten TIMES greater than actual income ‘inequality’. So anyone who is prattling on about income inequality (from either side of the partisan spectrum) is still only pissing on the part of the iceberg that is above the water.

                  1. First of all, fuck Adam Smith. There, was my lack of interest in your appeal to authority clear enough that time?

                    Near as I can tell you seem to think my statement about wealth somehow implies the only wealth each person currently has is that created by themselves in their lifetime? Though I still don’t see why you’d expect income inequality to disprove even that. I mean some people are just gonna be more skilled than others. Whatever it is, I’d suggest you consider it again.

                    As for principles, masturbation is own reward of course. We certainly aren’t in a rush to reach a conclusion are we? So let’s go back to my question about murder. Is it a social construct? And for that matter slavery and rape. Did you cover these topics in your studies of lions, or perhaps the wild west? I’ve personally never felt the study of cowboys was the path to enlightenment, but I’m curious what happens when you’re consistent about it.

        2. Class doesn’t exist in a free market?

          In the way the term is used (to promote class warfare), correct. I’ll give you my term “does not exist” should probably be replaced with “is meaningless” to be more precise. Point being, there is no legal way for the rich to exploit the poor, in a free market, without government force.

          ie it follows the creation of government rather than government following the creation of class?

          A free market cannot exist without a way to enforce contracts (governance).

          Govt is created in order to REGULATE force/violence that already exists.

          If you mean to enforce contracts (protect the rights of individuals), yes.

          It may well grow beyond that and take on a life of its own

          And that IS what I’m talking about. A government that has exceeded its mandate to protect the rights of the individual. But the fact remains that the only way the rich can hurt the poor (without breaking their contracts) is with the purchased force of a government that’s exceeded its mandate.

          I’m not arguing for no government. I’m arguing for a very limited government. One whose only legitimate purpose is to protect individual rights.

          1. “But the fact remains that the only way the rich can hurt the poor (without breaking their contracts) is with the purchased force of a government that’s exceeded its mandate.”

            That’s a very questionable argument, at least on historical grounds. Theoretically, it makes sense; assuming the rich and poor have contracts established under a “free market”.

            However, the past 200 years or so of American history tends to offer a more complicated picture. During the strike wave of the 1870s, the rich tended to employ both hired guns and state/federal troops to crush strikes and other attempts for workers to organize, yet in doing so they did not violate a single word in their contracts. Hell, if anything it was the workers who violated their “contracts” by violating the yellow-dog clauses and going on strike, which was an illegal activity at the time.

            “I’m not arguing for no government. I’m arguing for a very limited government. One whose only legitimate purpose is to protect individual rights.”

            By most standards, the federal government in 1876 was far more limited in terms of its constitutional powers (as well as its share of the economy), and yet it did a very good job of fucking over poor and working-class folks.

          2. A free market cannot exist without a way to enforce contracts (governance).

            Contracts are a legal concept not an economic concept. So yes they obviously require government to enforce. But they aren’t really necessary in any meaningful sense for a ‘free market’ (see the potlatch). They are only really necessary for big or long-duration investments of capital. ie ‘capitalism’ may well require contracts – but ‘free markets’ aren’t necessarily ‘capitalism’.

    3. “They are the oligarchs but they’re hypocritical narcissists who want to pretend they’re put-upon rebels because otherwise they’d have to realize that all the problems in the US have actually been caused by the gross stupidity and negligence of the leftists who actually run everything.”

      Not sure who you’re talking about when you say “leftists run everything?” What kind of leftists are we talking about: the Old Left (Marxists, social democrats, anarchists, etc), or the postmodern Left (postmodern professors, “culturally-informed consumers”, etc). The former have almost no influence: when was the last time a communist managed to take down a major U.S. corporation? The latter probably have more power, but I don’t think they control everything (I doubt the CIA or the NSA are run by a bunch of bleeding-heart liberals).

  3. The middle class is just as likely to get its way as are the rich, a new paper finds

    Umm, no. Because of political connections which the middle class do not have, this is not true. And voting is useless now since there are no realistic options. No matter who wins, they immediately jump into bed with their favored cronies. They get what they want, but the middle class certainly do not in most cases. I don’t think most of the middle class want to spend trillions of dollars on stuff they don’t even know about.

    1. I’d say it’s true, to a point. If anything, a good chunk of the middle class likes the status quo of trillions going to welfare/warfare, and very much favors a “DO SOMETHING!” approach to every perceived problem. Hence the finding that the rich and the middle class, more often than not, favor the same policies.

    2. Cronies aren’t a class: they compete with one another for patronage, often beggaring downstream producers in the process (think steel tariffs and auto manufacturers). And cronyism doesn’t benefit only the uppermost echelon in the process. Benefits redound to their employees by virtue of expanding business. So political connections are certainly oligarchic in form but their consequences are much more vertical in scope than horizontal.

    3. The argument boils down to how you define “the rich”. Apparently they are using the top ten percent (citing the Gilens report who also did so). Most if this group are just highly-paid professionals who would have zero political connections, and are being bent over by the tax system.

  4. Not convincing. If there’s not a policy difference, then it’s not really subject to the question.
    For where there is policy difference, I’d be most curious as to the importance of the economic impact of the policies, where the ultra-rich are most likely to allocate resources for political influence. More so, if 10% are getting their way more than 50% of the time on any issue of difference, that alone speaks volumes.
    Also, these papers did not pit just the RICH against the middle class in making it’s claims. It pitted Gov’t policy, the actual rules voted upon (influenced by the rich by voted upon by the politically powerful), to that of public opinion.
    Anyway, Statism is shit. Just another superstitious belief of authority… a religion.

    1. (influenced by the rich BUT voted upon by the politically powerful)

    2. “More so, if 10% are getting their way more than 50% of the time on any issue of difference, that alone speaks volumes”

      Exactly. That stat basically disproves the premise of the article.

      1. That assumes the 50% who want something want it strongly with an overwhelming majority (and the same with the 10%). If both sides are mixed, then which option wins could go either way 50/50, which is what we see.

      2. How can it? The article said the difference between what they got & 50% was statistically insignificant.

        1. It there are 10 people and 1 person has 50% of the power and the other 9 have the other 50% you can’t say that all 10 have the same amount of power. If the 1 person got his way 10% of the time when he disagreed with the other 9 then you could make that claim.

          1. I never thought of it that way, thanks, and probably the makers of the study didn’t either. You should point it out to them. It wouldn’t be 9 of 10, because the poor aren’t considered, but it could well be a ratio of several to 1.

  5. I’m back, baby.

    Very pleasant fly fishing trip in Northern NM at one of Ted Turner’s ranches:

    http://vermejoparkranch.com/

    For a lefty nitwit, he sure runs a nice ranch. They’re in the middle of spending a ton of money to renovate some of the buildings. They are in the middle of a very interesting transition from a sort of old guy’s hook and bullet joint to more of a comprehensive resort-ish thing. Naturally, we old guys bitched and moaned, but I actually think its a good plan. If they can pull it off.

    1. That’s where I bagged my cow elk a few years ago. Beautiful spot.

      … Hobbit

      1. My turkey hunting buddy and I did their turkey hunt a few years ago. Un-frickin-believable. We drove all over the ranch (the birds were just not gobbling, so it was spot and stalk, which at 8,000 feet elevation damn near killed me). Saw thousands of elk, dozens of mulies, several bears, a few coyotes, a mountain lion, and bagged our birds. The last one required the turkey hunting equivalent of a bayonet charge. Also picked up nearly a pickup load of elk sheds (which the guides sell as a sideline).

    2. You won’t have money (or time) for frivolous bullshit like vacations when Hillary introduces the Inessential Expenditures Tax at 90%. As for me, my car project won’t be going anywhere when the EPA bans internal combustion engines. Enjoy it while it lasts.

      1. Your internal combustion car is OK so long as only Google takes the wheel.

    3. Pretty.

      One of the first things i saw was that “Vermejo Park Ranch is a Smoke Free Environment

      Which was weird, because the first thing i thought looking at the joint was, “That looks like a nice place to smoke a cigar”

      1. Anti-tobacco moralism is pervasive nowadays.

      2. Smoke Free Environment is the ranch slyly saying they keep African-Americans away from their business.

        You can smoke as many cigars as you want there.

      3. I didn’t even notice the smoke-free thing.

        Probably obscured by the clouds of cigar smoke while I was fishing. True fact: blowing cigar smoke on a dry fly seems to make it more attractive to the fish.

        Maybe in the lodge area you can’t smoke now. Part of their pitch to a new demographic, I suppose.

        1. blowing cigar smoke on a dry fly seems to make it more attractive to the fish.

          Hypothesis: during forest fires, flying bugs are driving from shelter, get smoked up, die and fall in the water to be eaten. fish associate smoky bugs with feast time, resulting in enhanced feeding response.

          1. Aquatic insects are hatched in and lay their eggs in water. The vast majority of them are eaten when hatching and when they return to lay their eggs.

            More likely, blowing smoke on them dries the fly so it floats a little higher in the water, making it a more attractive mark for a hungry trout.

            1. Could also just be the scent. Cigar smoke is a pretty powerful smell, so it works like the fly fishing equivalent of stink bait. The specific smell isn’t as important as the fact that it has one, which help the trout to find it.

              1. Maybe. But dry flies are floating on the top of the water and the presentation is only on the water for a short period of time (maybe 15 seconds tops, in a running stream). Not sure how many of it’s molecules would ever reach the fish through the surface tension of the water?

    4. You missed out on American (Racist, Xenophobe, Whatever) suggesting that U.S. nationals murder every illegal immigrant, and that such a suggestion was libertarian. Good stuff.

      1. I think his idea was that “if you got the lawmen out of the way” ‘natives’ would stand up for their own interests.

        (by what? burning down the barns of the people who hired immigrant labor? Lynching the scab-workers? etc.)

        Its a cute fantasy, but i think the reality is that the reason we HAVE so many illegal aliens living among us…? is that 90% don’t just ‘Not Care’, they actively benefit from cheap manual labor. And 99% benefit from low-prices associated with that cheap manual labor.

        Meaning, if he got his wish, the end result would be ‘more of the same’, rather than some kind of Yokel-purge of the Other.

        I frequently moan about the fact that so few kids work these days; a lot of that is actually probably due to the fact that a lot of those ‘summer jobs’ doing grunt-work are filled by immigrants.

        (*not sure why, but its interesting that the peak of teenage labor-participation was in the 1980s?)

        1. I wonder, and maybe this is just an academic exercise, if what we see on college campuses these days is a second-order effect of young people not working nearly as much as their parents did. Not having a job and not having some realization of how any enterprise works – be it construction or grocery-bagging or construction – is a sort of disconnect from reality.

          I worked the standard students jobs and, obviously, my co-workers included adults for whom this was not about pocket money; it was their bread and butter. Even if you’re 16 or 17 years old, some of the reality of how an enterprise operates seeps into your head. But the typical college student has none of that to potentially counter-act the nonsense fed into his/her brain.

          1. what we see on college campuses these days is a second-order effect of young people not working nearly as much as their parents did

            I think it plays a huge role. But that’s just my “1980s teenager”-brain talking.

            They also tend to have a wildly inflated impression of the importance of academic achievement. They really don’t seem to grasp how 95% of schooling is really just ‘information’ and that the skill sets and socialization they develop along the way often has little to do with their ‘grades’.

        2. a lot of that is actually probably due to the fact that a lot of those ‘summer jobs’ doing grunt-work are filled by immigrants.

          Couple thoughts:

          1. Could be that our standard of living has improved to the point that they don’t need to.

          2. Helicopter parents? When I was a kid, the old man insisted I work, not because I needed to, but because it built work ethic and educated me about the work force (as wareagle points out). I don’t think parents care about or believe that anymore.

          3. Has the regulatory state inhibited employment to the point where adults are forced to take those menial jobs, forcing the kids out?

          1. not to repeat SIV, but

            1. Could be that our standard of living has improved to the point that they don’t need to.

            No.

            Average household income (adjusted) hasn’t improved much over that period between the 1980s and 2000s when the labor participation of young people dropped off a cliff. Marginally, yes, but it doesn’t track well at all.

            I think there are other things which are probably more significant – like “fewer kids per household”, but not that we’ve gotten much wealthier.

            2. Helicopter parents?

            Yes. As per above, i think smaller households means parents put way more attention on fewer kids and freak out about how they’re ‘competing’ with the other kids in everything from school, extra-curriculars, etc. Letting kids work isn’t a priority that provides any comparative advantage.

            3. Has the regulatory state inhibited employment to the point where adults are forced to take those menial jobs, forcing the kids out?

            I disagree with SIV. I think yes. The min-wage argument doesn’t by itself isn’t compelling (its basically flat); but the regulatory environment is huge, mainly on mandated benfits, workman’s comp insurance, and so on, where there’s little advantage to hiring some ‘kid’ for a little less and training him up, versus hiring someone older, who will be guaranteed to *stay* for longer and have more motivation.

            1. re: #3

              I think there may be 2 ways to understand your point.

              My view is not that the regulatory environment has “put adults out of work” and forced them to grab all the kiddies jobs.

              Its that regulations have increased employer’s costs to the point where there’s little advantage to hiring temporary youth labor versus temporary adult-labor. They spend a little more on the temp adult labor, but get better results and less ‘risk’. I remember myself that in the 80s, all i needed was a W4 and i could get a paycheck by the end of the week. In the 1990s, i had to fill out 6 forms to make sure the employer was able to waive all kinds of requirements so that he could hire someone without X and Y benefits attached. In some cases things went under the table because it was easier for everyone, but i imagine now that the risks of that are prohibitive; why bother? you can hire some mexicans and the worker ends up carrying most of the burden of being ‘caught’

            2. Average household income (adjusted) hasn’t improved much over that period between the 1980s and 2000s when the labor participation of young people dropped off a cliff.

              Yes, but income is not wealth and therefore is not standard of living. You can’t argue that someone making the same adjusted income as they did in 1985 isn’t more wealthy than he was in 1985. Computers, cellphones, internet, better appliances, tools, robotics, improved products, improved efficiencies. The average Joe probably works fewer hours (less hard) than he did in 1985 for that same income.

              And I wouldn’t say it dropped off a cliff. That chart you provided was scaled. It dropped ~14%.

              But, to your point, this may not be the main contributor, but I suspect that families aren’t living as close to the bone as they used to.

              I think there may be 2 ways to understand your point.

              I think it’s both. When you make it harder to obtain labor, employers will find other ways to get their work done (innovation, belt tightening…etc…). That means fewer jobs. Man’s gotta eat so he takes what he can get which cuts into the market previously reserved for the kiddies.

              1. And I wouldn’t say it dropped off a cliff. That chart you provided was scaled. It dropped ~14%

                look at other sources showing youth employment changes between 1990 and now (particularly the 16-19 group). Its been cut in half, from ~60% participation to ~30%

                There’s like 100 different ways this issue has been measured. All pretty much show the same thing = a precipitous decline in youth labor participation starting in the late 1990s.

                re: niggling about standard of living.

                Show me the data indicating that people have gotten significantly richer and that’s why kids aren’t working.

                The data i’ve seen on youth employment tends to indicate that household income has little/no real relationship to whether kids work or not. In fact in the past there’s been a weird gap between Poorest and upper-middle class… where poorer kids were more likely to work, AND richer families were more likely to have kids work, but people “in between” were less likely. e.g. Aggregate data on minimum wage earners shows they tend to come from *higher* than median-wage-income households (in 2013 the median was ~$52K; minimum wage earners came from $65K households), which reflects this “high/low” influence. Kids who work often come from “rich” households.

                1. Show me the data indicating that people have gotten significantly richer and that’s why kids aren’t working.

                  I can’t. With the innovation of time saving devices and methods, I’m not sure how one would measure the increase in wealth between 1985 and now. Yet, I’m quite sure I’m much better off. I certainly wouldn’t want to take my current salary, adjust it for inflation and go back and live in 1985. My value would be less because of the wealth that doesn’t yet exist. (Except the music was better)

                  Just saying, when you have more, you may not be so inclined to to work as much.

                  And this may have something to do with it?

                  More disposable income means Jr can get more shit without needing to work.

                  1. That’s all nice theory, but there’s plenty of data suggesting it doesn’t really fly.

                    first thing i could find *(but which a little effort could get more)

                    Basically shows that the largest drop in # of hours worked on average occurred 1960-1980

                    1990-2010 shows little-no real change (*tiny drop after upward drift in the 1990s).

                    Definitely nothing which would precipitate 50% drop in labor participation in ~15 years

                    you can try and find average disposable, etc. you’ll find no support there either.

                    Basically the best case (i’ve seen) made so far is not “wealth” related but more family-size & social-culture related. Youth Labor is not seen the same way as it was when I (or maybe you) were kids.

                  2. Police Assholery wasn’t so strong then, either. If they weren’t hurting anyone the cops generally left kids alone.

    5. Is the renovation going to be just dripping with tremendously classy, world-class classiness and luxurious luxury? Will it be the most elegant and refined and tastefully done extravagant opulence? Will it feature a 40-foot revolving golden “TT” for Ted Turner atop the on-site Waffle House?

      1. Check the website – the picture on the front page is the living room of the big house. Very much a period restoration, right down to the stuffed lion.

        Say what you will about Ted, he is doing an excellent job of maintaining that ranch as a working, pay-its-own-way location.

    6. How many trout you catch and what were they eating?

      1. I, personally, am by far the worst fly fishermen of the lot. I caught around a dozen a day, mostly in the 18 inch range. No real monsters by anyone in the group (family and friends), but the others caught 20 or more a day, and one day the real fishermen caught probably 30 or more each.

        No dry flies this early – there was a small mayfly hatch each day, but the trout just weren’t rising. We were catching on wets. Nearly anything with red or green in it seemed to work, but depth was the main variable – they were feeding pretty shallow, and where they were biting the water was pretty shallow as well.

        1. Nice.

          The drys are doing fairly well here. March Browns are coming off and you can catch fish on them, but it’s not raging yet. The bigger fish are on the bottom and won’t come up for them yet. The big ones are taking streamers.

          Unfortunately, we got 5″ of rain the other day and everything is unfishable.

          Glad to hear you got some nice ones (18″ is nothing to sneeze at) and you had a good time.

          1. We were doing fine on wets, and really didn’t see many rises. Plus, it was pretty windy most of the time; it it had been calmer, I would have probably tried a dry or two just to see how it went – i think dries are more fun to fish.

            Usually. when we fish with wets the fish hit them really hard – basically, set the hook themselves. For some reason, they were kinda gumming the flies this time. We probably had a strike that we missed for every fish we actually caught.

            We do catch and release, and I don’t believe we killed a single fish. Certainly didn’t see any belly up while we were fishing.

            1. I’m a dry fly guy. I’ll nymph and streamer fish if nothing else is going on, but I get giddy as a schoolgirl watching them come to the surface.

              Same with the catch and release. My buddy brought a couple home for my wife last week (which I don’t have a real problem with), but I haven’t intentionally killed a trout in a very long time.

              If you ever find yourself in north central Montana, let me know and I’ll take you to my honey holes.

              1. Fish tacos.

                Otherwise, you’re just molesting nature.

          2. That’s why the make spinners.

            1. *they (Mepps, Rooster Tails, etc…)

  6. Indeed, the paper looked at 1,779 potential public policies that were under consideration during a 22-year period starting in 1981

    Can we find out what these are for the $37.50?

    1. Can we find out what these are for the $37.50?

      And that question is critical. It is inane to judge influence just by counting wins and losses on public policy issues. The elite simply don’t give a damn about many issues because they are virtually above many laws. Look at abortion and drug laws, for example?if you’re a billionaire, you’ll have access to abortion and any drug you want no matter what the official policy is, so you’re less likely to be passionate about the policy debate than someone whose freedoms will actually be restricted by such laws. On the other hand, there are many issues on which the oligarchy is absolutely not going to concede the decision to the people, such as whether and when we go to war, or how our monetary system works. The elite are happy to let the rabble fight about what they see as the little stuff, but they won’t be overruled by voters on what matters to them.

  7. “We don’t want wealthy tyranny, we want democratic tyranny!”

    The “democratic” ingredient gives the tyranny a nutty flavor, I suppose. But it still tastes like shit.

    1. You’re as ignorant and stupid as hillbillies get. We want to make the rich and privileged pay their fair share so that our nation can be made fairer and stronger. The people have decided that you need to pay more, so you’re going to pay more. Or else.

      /Facebook denizen.

      1. Step 1: Steal $ from “rich” people, an ever-expanding category;

        Step 2: Redistribute said $ based on the “public interest,” a purposely-nebulous concept;

        Step 3: ?????;

        Step 4: Utopia!

        That about cover it?

        1. It’s always worked so well! The Soviet Utopia is the envy of the modern world!

          1. Fuck the Soviet Union straight to hell. Any motherfucker who praises that Satanic construct can eat shit and die in a fire. Watching leftists exalt its virtues boils my fucking blood.

            1. The Soviet Union saved a lot of American lives in WWII by absorbing horrendous casualties. You can give Stalin credit for that.

        2. Ha ha ha, perfect.

        3. It truly is the economic version of a perpetual motion machine.

      2. Thank goodness you came here to speak for me and proclaimed upon your imaginary pillar what “we” want. Indeed, whatever “the people” decide is what dictates morality and idealism… It matters not HOW these desires are achieved. If “the people” want it, they rightfully ought steal and kill for it.

        1. It was sarcasm, but I’ve met countless progressives who sincerely believe in such things.

    2. The “democratic” ingredient gives the tyranny a nutty flavor, I suppose. But it still tastes like shit.

      *golf clap*

  8. I’m sure the wealthy love and advocate for insane corporate tax rates, capital gains taxes, retarded business-crushing regulatory states, and Bernie Sanders. Yep. The wealthy.

    We’ve seen what kind of limousine-liberal assholes advocate for Obama, Billary, and Sanders. Fuck them and their enablers. They are the threat to freedom and the gatekeepers of the status quo, not the successful businessperson.

    1. They also support anti-free-association laws, diversity quotas, moralistic regulation (e.g., soda taxes), and gun control.

      1. If Heaven literally dawned on Earth tomorrow, they’s come up with a Happiness Tax.

        1. Joy Inequality! BAN OVERT HAPPINESS! SOCIAL JUSTICE!

          http://cdn.timesofisrael.com/u…..562334.jpg

          /DERP

          1. /barf

            (apologies to barfman)

  9. I was thinking about that story from O’s first term, and that stupid tongue-rolling twat (seriously, she looked like she had tardive dyskinesia) from his administration verbally blowing Chairman Mao at a talk she was giving somewhere.

    What filth. What utter filth, to praise a man like Mao. And yet nothing was said outside the Internet’s alt press. The real enemy hides in plain sight, without fear, knowing their enablers will say nothing, and that the stupid gullible voting bloc will never hold them accountable.

    1. If you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao, you ain’t gonna make it with anyone, anyhow… except the Democrats.

  10. I think the wealthy are imposing themselves on the middle class, but that doesn’t mean the same thing it once did.

    That used to be about tax rates, capital gains taxes, corporate taxation, and other class warfare issues.

    Nowadays,. everything from ObamaCare to gay marriage and from immigration policy to Obama’s Paris Climate Change Accord Treaty can be seen as an example of the wealthy imposing themselves on the middle class.

  11. Spot the Not: Valerie Solanas

    1. It is now technically feasible to reproduce without the aid of males (or, for that matter, females) and to produce only females. We must begin immediately to do so. Retaining the male has not even the dubious purpose of reproduction.

    2. Every man, deep down, knows he’s a worthless peice of shit.

    3. To call a man an animal is to flatter him; he’s a machine, a walking dildo. It’s often said that men use women. Use them for what? Surely not pleasure.

    4. To be male is to be deficient, emotionally limited; maleness is a deficiency disease and males are emotional cripples.

    5. The only good thing men ever invented was castration.

    6. What will liberate women, therefore, from male control is the total elimination of the money-work system, not the attainment of economic equality with men within it.

    1. I’ve read The S.C.U.M Manifesto.

      I’d guess this one isn’t hers:

      “What will liberate women, therefore, from male control is the total elimination of the money-work system, not the attainment of economic equality with men within it.”

      She thought what would liberate women was literally cutting up men. Economic equality wouldn’t come from eliminating the money-work system. Eliminating the money-work system would come from cutting up men and reproducing without the aid of males.

      1. I’ve read The S.C.U.M Manifesto.

        Ok, you beat me there. but WHY?

        If i’d seen someone selling a copy on my streetcorner, i’d have bought it, but had it sitting in a pile of books for years while i kept finding excuses to never bother reading it. Owning it would be enough for me to feel like i was being ‘open minded’, but never putting myself through the punishment of actually reading it.

        *note: i’ve read lots of stuff along those lines. I just don’t have the patience for it anymore, with some exceptions.

        1. Modern Lit course in college.

          Prof read it as satire like A Modest Proposal

          I think people that read her that way are just struggling to make her legitimate. I think when Solanas condoned that interpretation, she was just willing to say anything to be seen as legitimate, to be accepted in some way.

          I think she meant all of it.

          1. Ah.

            I suspected it might have been assigned. I can’t think of anything similar on my own end, though i had one prof who did force us to read lots of Feminist Lit-Crit like Helene Cixous which i still think of as some of the most batshit-crazy stuff ever put into words.

            I read Dworkin for fun on my own years ago. But those spurts of interest are short lived. If i’m going to read “batshit crazy”, i’ll read Celine because then at least there’s some interesting sentences in there.

      2. Also = you’re probably right on the “not”

    2. I’ll take 2. Its not pretentiously-intellectual enough. Also, I think the odds are better at catching a ‘not’ in the 2-3 range.

      1. Dang. I was going with two. The tone just seemed different.

    3. 1. Bullshit. But it could be nice in a Strangelovian context.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A9ihKq34Ozc

      2. Thank you.
      3. Thanks again.
      4. I call that “Horny”.
      5. Definitely a no go.
      6. With so many women and very few men, I’d be too busy to work.

  12. The first thing is that it’s really, really rare for the middle class and the rich to actually disagree about the policies that we want….according to public opinion surveys.

    Well golly. That just says that ‘the rich’ are pretty successful at ensuring that public opinion surveys (funded by the rich donor class) perform their functional design of manufacturing consent. Which is exactly what Edward Bernays and Walter Lippman (down to the phraseology of manufacturing consent) said about 100 years ago when they invented the modern notions of public relations and public opinion.

    1. This. It would be downright miraculous for two distinct groups with two different revenue streams (salary vs investment) to come down on the same exact policies, given that the members of both groups will be self-interested and prefer the economic well-being of themselves and their families/friends over that of strangers who most likely belong to the other group.

      More likely, “the rich” per this survey is actually capturing upper-middle class opinions on their interests (which is similar to regular middle class interests with some additional social signalling consumption and politics for good measure), plus the interests of “1%” types.

  13. Are you single tonight? A lot of beautiful girls waiting for you to http://goo.gl/pI9ucn
    The best adult dating site!

    1. I’m single tonight. Could you bring a few hundred airline bottles of liquor?

  14. Here’s the thing about this fear of the “Oligarchy” (or Plutocracy)

    Its all based in these assumptions that “classes” don’t have shared interests and must necessarily be at-odds with one another.

    And that if one arbitrarily-defined class has disprortionate weight in a democracy, that is somehow necessarily “Worse” in outcomes than if there were a perfectly evenly distributed weight of influence.

    Even if the data showed that “everyone was better off” with certain Elites wielding greater influence… they’d still insist that this was de-facto a Bad Thing. Because why? because “Equality”.

    There’s always these loaded assumptions underlying these arguments – that we should strive for some mathematical state of “equality” in all things. As though that were self-evidently a ‘good thing’.

    I find the whole approach tedious and stupid. Especially when you start getting into where the boundaries between the so-called classes actually lie. It ends up being some bullshit line-drawing exercise between households that earn $100,000 and households earning $250,000 with no apparent justification other than it just ‘feels right’ to whomever is slicing and dicing the data. And it ignores the rate of transfer between these classes over time. and on and on and on until you begin to wonder if the entire purpose of the thing is just to provide window-dressing for some preconceived conclusion.

    1. Anyone who is rich has not paid their fair share. If they had then they wouldn’t be rich. That means they’re stealing from the poor, because not giving is taking. Duh.

      1. You know – this sort of strawman BS is a big reason why American libertarians are so useless at effecting actual change for the better.

        Switzerland has more knowledge of what drives prosperity than the US and a tax system that does gather a ‘fair share’ from everyone. Precisely because they understand that ‘income’ is only ONE measure – that becomes meaningless at either extreme. Those at the bottom who face fixed costs merely to survive – and those at the top (like Buffett) for whom ‘annual income’ is itself a purely arbitrary choice. So they base their tax system to finance govt on all three tax bases (consumption, income and wealth). The result is low rates that don’t distort behavior and are low enough to make Switzerland a tax haven.

        Could also use Taiwan/Singapore/HongKong as examples that used other tweaks to move from poor monopolized aristo/serf economies to post-industrial ‘Tigers’ in the course of a few decades. Or Estonia – from a Soviet backwater wasteland to ‘freer than the US’ in 20 years. There are plenty of others too. That are BEATING us because they are now sustainably FREER than us.

        ‘Small government’ America OTOH is now full of Randian dingleberry-munching tools who believe the rich shit strawberries-and-cream so that trickle-down can actually work. A country founded on ideas – made great by ideas – is now devoid of them.

        1. A country founded on ideas – made great by ideas – is now devoid of them.

          Pretty much.

        2. Taiwan’s “miracle started with martial law, a couple of massacres and land redistribution. I don’t think that would go over so well in the USA.

        3. “‘Small government’ America OTOH is now full of Randian dingleberry-munching tools who believe the rich shit strawberries-and-cream so that trickle-down can actually work.”

          Can you provide an instance of any free market advocates actually using the term “trickle-down” to describe their ideas?

        4. ‘Small government’ America OTOH is now full of Randian dingleberry-munching tools who believe the rich shit strawberries-and-cream so that trickle-down can actually work. A country founded on ideas – made great by ideas – is now devoid of them.

          Yes, our government is run by Randians. That’s why the two biggest Federal expenditures are transfer payments. Because if there’s one thing Objectivists believe in above all else, it’s taking from the productive to pay for the unproductive.

          Our government is run as a compromise. It is a grand bargain between thieves and charlatans on the one hand and the intelligent and productive on the other hand. The rich are ultimately powerless; their votes are statistical noise. A well timed mob can deprive them of everything.

          Our alternative is not Switzerland. That sort of outcome requires a committed populace. Not that the Swiss are so laudable, anyway. Their perspective on guns, while somewhat different than other Western European nations, is still basically opposed to individual freedom.

          No, our alternative is Greece, or Venezuela, or Zimbabwe. People who would so readily vote themselves the property of others are not going to create a country “founded on ideas” because they have none.

    2. There are so many gaping holes in the “income inequality” philosophy that it’s not funny.

      Age. Young people almost always have low-paying jobs due to their lack of experience and education; older people tend to have better paying jobs.

      Job type. Why should a 15-year old burger flipper at McDonalds get paid the same as the executive who has to decide the company’s strategy over the next few decades? Why shouldn’t a brain surgeon get paid more than the janitor who mops up the operating room after he’s done?

      Hours worked. Let’s say that two factory workers make the same exact wage, then one of them decides that he wants to buy a new boat and starts working overtime every week. There is now a situation of income inequality. If income inequality is wrong, isn’t this situation wrong? Should the non-overtime worker be given a raise so that there’s no inequality?

      Quality or quantity produced. If I write a few books and they don’t sell because I suck at writing a story, should I be entitled to some checks from J.K. Rowling or Stephen King?

  15. Chris Hedges remains the world’s leading derp exporter:

    We use our drones, warplanes, missiles and artillery to rip apart walls and ceilings, blow out windows and kill or wound those inside. Our enemies pack peroxide-based explosives in suitcases or suicide vests and walk into airport terminals, concert halls, cafes or subways and blow us up, often along with themselves. If they had our technology of death they would do it more efficiently. But they do not. Their tactics are cruder, but morally they are the same as us.

    1876 Chris Hedges: “If the Lakota had the same technology of death they would do it more efficiently. But they do not. Their tactics are cruder, but morally they are the same as us.”

    Who are we to condemn the indiscriminate murder of civilians? Have we forgotten our bombing of German and Japanese cities in World War II that left 800,000 civilian women, children and men dead? What about those families we obliterated in Dresden (135,000 dead), Tokyo (97,000 dead), Hiroshima (80,000 dead) and Nagasaki (66,000 dead)? What about the 3 million civilian dead we left behind in Vietnam?

    Ooh, a straight-up what-about-ism! Because for morons, 2 wrongs DO make a right!

    1. SF’d the link

      morally they are the same as us

      I got into a pretty heated argument with some dude once (*who i already disliked because he was fiancee to a girl I had been smitten with) over him making the same point. I basically slowly cornered him by pointing out that equivalence of ‘effect’ does not backtrack to some moral-equivalence of ‘intent’.

      (* and there was no equivalence of effect in any case; in Iraq – the circumstances of the debate we were having – the ‘tens of thousands of civilian deaths’ he kept citing were 90% caused by Iraqis fighting Iraqis)

      But as for Hedges – there is no moral equivalence between suicide bombers who pack ball-bearings into vests in order to kill the largest number of civilians possible….and a US “smart-bomb”, 1 out of every 100 of which errs and falls onto a building full of orphans. Yes, innocents are killed in any conflict. the fact that one side struggles mightily to avoid that result, while the other struggles mightily to ACHIEVE that result is not something that can be handwoven away as irrelevant.

      If ISIS had warplanes and nukes, by no means would they use them to kill “more efficiently”. They’d re-introduce people to the way war was always fought in the past = indiscriminately and mercilessly.

        1. Naturally, the comments seem to berate hedges for daring to consider the US “equivilent” to ISIS = Clearly it is the moral inferior for being the engine of Capitalist Imperialist Hegemony.

      1. morally they are the same as us

        First, you need to explain how morally, someone who kills an armed robber in self-defense is morally the same as an armed robber who kills someone while stealing their stuff.

        1. First, you need to explain how morally, someone who kills an armed robber in self-defense is morally the same as an armed robber who kills someone while stealing their stuff.

          Well, they’d turn that “aggressor” argument back on you by suggesting that the US is always the aggressor by mere means of its ‘excess influence’ in all world affairs.

          e.g. “”even if the 9/11 hijackers “attacked” the US, it was only because it was ‘their only means of retaliation’ against the depredations of Israel *(which is just a proxy of the US) and Halliburton (*because Arabs actually HATE oil and dream of returning to camel-trains) and the World Bank which evilly loaned lots of money to these Arab dictators which was used to oppress the masses, etc.””

      2. I don’t think ISIS is El Diablo. I think they, like all of the Islamic Fundamentalist throughout the Middle East are fucking savage sociopaths. I also think we have no business having combat troops there. Bring our boys home and let them sort there shit out for themselves. If Putin wants to play cop, let him.

        1. They are not a significant threat to the US, at least not yet. On that basis, there is no reason to go to war with them. And I don’t blame people for not wanting to fight another war there.

          I think going to war to stop genocidal religious fanatics is a just cause. I wish the US would just declare war on them and finish them off for good. I signed up and I’m ready to do my part. If I could go tomorrow, I would.

          Every day is another day ISIS has to dig more tunnels, plant more bombs, and train/recruit more fighters. All this will make the final battle with them more costly.

          1. “I think going to war to stop genocidal religious fanatics is a just cause.”

            Here’s the biggest problem I have with that though. When the Sunnis have control of an area they murder, rape, and torture the Shia. So we help the Shia take control over that same area and they murder, rape, and torture the Sunnis. There are no fucking good guys and we can’t fix this. The major middle east government powers are going to have to work this out. They are the ones stirring all this shit up to begin with. If everyone else stays out of it they eventually will.

            1. It’s like interjecting yourself in the prison gang system and trying to create parity between the Aryan Brotherhood, Black Guerrilla Family and Mexican Mafia. Whoever you help is just going to use the advantage you give them to do just as fucked up shit.

              1. That’s one way of looking at it.

                Another way of looking at it is that there are “bad guys” on both sides crowding out the “harmless” guys who would be more amenable to just pumping oil and not always demanding the Jews be driven into the ocean.

                IOW, you’re pretending its an either/or situation and that both outcomes are equally bad.

                The alternative view is that chaos is what allows the bad-actors to gain power; smashing the shit out of all of them/killing them makes theoretically ‘moderate’ factions think, “Maybe stability is better than ‘victory'”.

                I don’t mean to suggest that there’s a ‘moderate ISIS’.

                I mean that the Iraqi Shia majority do not desire an Iranian Theocracy
                and that the Syrian Sunni-majority do not desire an ISIS caliphate

                but that both majorities “tolerate” the extremists in their midst because they see them as protecting them from the Other Guy’s extremists. Ergo, smash the extremists, and the sane-people will be happy to take over.

                That’s the theory at least. I’m not sure i buy it wholesale myself, but there it is.

                1. “The alternative view is that chaos is what allows the bad-actors to gain power”

                  I think that is true but I don’t think we can fix the chaos for them. Especially when you have all of these government bad actors like Iran and the Saudi Wahhabis playing all these games and we don’t even understand the rules. Most likely it will be two or more brutal strongmen (like a Hussein or Tito) that might bring some semblance of order. But that’s never going to take place while we’re there. We cant even fix Detroit.

                  1. I don’t think we can fix the chaos for them.

                    I don’t think the theory as-described was proposing that we can “Fix” anything either. The goal is not to “fix” the status quo, but rather simply change Who are the parties controlling the dispute.

                    The entire point of intervention to destroy ‘extremists’ is to create space for more moderate factions to reconcile among themselves (or fight among themselves; at least then whomever ‘wins’ is a state-actor we can ‘do business with’)

                    In fact, i think the US would be far happier with open warfare between “Officially backed” Sunni & Shia armies. Between ‘state actors’, IOW. What no one wants is non-state actors controlling the reality on the ground.

                    1. With all of the incompetency we’ve shown so far over there, I have zero confidence that we can acheive anything. I’m not sure that our government even has a clue what it is they want to acheive. I also think the state-actors currently involved are playing us like a stratavarious. And what sort of message does that send to Russia and China. That the big bad wolf is a retarded puppy.

                    2. With all of the incompetency we’ve shown so far over there, I have zero confidence that we can acheive anything.

                      Out of curiosity, what do you think “Competence” would look like?

                    3. Good question:) Staying out if there to begin with? That aside, pretty much the opposite of everything we’ve done since we got over there. From de-Baathification after the sacking of Baghdad to being completely clueless about tribal politics in the entire region to being completely clueless about the rise of ISIS right under our noses to abandoning everyone over there who ever helped us going back to the first gulf war. I mean what have we done competently that we didn’t eventually undo?

                2. Didn’t Charles Manson have a similar plan? Except for the sane-people part.

              2. Whoever you help is just going to use the advantage you give them to do just as fucked up shit.

                Not to mention incurring the wrath of the other two groups.

                That’s why war should be an absolute last resort, to be used only in direct self-defense. It’s not a tool to impose a government’s will upon others. Doing so only creates more problems than it solves.

                1. “only creates more problems than it solves”

                  Well our government are experts at that.

          2. I do certainly think our “intelligence” agencies should be monitoring the situation and monitoring communications in and out of terrorist strongholds to whatever extent possible. I just don’t think we should be putting our troops in harms way over there. I don’t see any benefit from that.

  16. It’s been a real shitty year for the left folks. First Venezuela, then Dilma, and now this:

    Former leftist president of Argentina indicted

    But socialism’s going to work next time, for real we’re going to finally get the right people in charge. Feel the Bern!

  17. Spot the Not: ISIS execution methods

    1. beheaded via explosives

    2. buried alive

    3. frozen to death

    4. burned alive

    5. crushed by tank

    6. impaled

    1. #3

      How the @*(#&$@ would they freeze anyone? Also = too slow, painless.

        1. Well fuck me

          re: ISIS

          I think its funny that the western media loves to show them in the Black Jammies, but whenever i see any journalists firsthand photo/video of them, they’re often decked out in US-issue desert-cammies, which i presume they ganked from Iraqis (or, they ARE Iraqis)

      1. Hard to do without electricity, but maybe they could rig up a generator and chest-type freezer.

    2. The tank crushing one is a doozy. Probably best not to watch while/after eating.

    3. #6. ISIS doesn’t have any vampires.

      1. That was my guess too

  18. here’s how i look at it, and i know the article claims otherwise….

    imagine a table scale with two sides. one represent the 1% and the other everyone else. the rich use their money and influence to their advantage to stay rich. everyone else likes to complain, but can barely be bothered to vote. why would it be reasonable to think the scale would be balanced and not weighted to the 1%?

    it’s nice to think the world should just work out for you, but one of the reasons the rich are rich is because they figured out better than most that people don’t give you shit.the response would be, “but we can’t compete with all that money, so it’s unfair”. problem is if you think the point of all that money in politics is to get someone reelected, then it should occur to you that a politician needs votes most of all, and there’s a lot more of the 99% than the 1%.

    1. In a market economy, people can only get rich by selling stuff. They can only sell stuff to people who can afford to buy stuff. So it is in their best interest to enrich the poor by employing them in the production of goods and services and paying them enough to buy goods and services. Everyone gets richer. Some more than others, but unequal riches is better than equal poverty.

      1. In addition, everyone who buys the newly created products are made a little bit richer, since the only reason someone would switch to a new product is if it’s either a better product for the same price or the same product for a lower price. The investors get richer, the employers get richer, the workers get richer, and the consumers get richer.

        It’s beautiful in its simplicity, yet there are politicians everywhere doing their best to fuck it all up.

    1. silly sorority…black people don’t eat.

    2. I’ve never understood the whole watermelon racist thing. I love watermelon and eat it all the time when its in season. Same with fried chicken. It’s one of my favorite meals ever. Does anyone know how those associations became racist?

      1. I think its just a lingering code-symbol of many decades of historic depictionof african americans as silly, childlike, subhuman people.

        1. It was a class system just like existed practically everywhere else in human history, where one class thought itself superior to another. Just like male dominated societies thought females inferior through most of history, doesn’t mean they universally hated and spat on their wives and daughters as subhuman.

          Fried chicken seems like more of a modern construction of an outrage. I bet it goes over a lot more among racists outside the south if anywhere at all, because all southerners eat fried food (unless they’re smart and try to limit carbs..). If you joke about what blacks or mexicans eat, you’re a racist because that is hallowed ground. But you can make the exact same jokes about many other groups, and no one cares. The outrage itself is what drives the joke’s continued use among trolls. Not some minstrel sharing of racist codes down through the generations.

          1. But you can make the exact same jokes about many other groups, and no one cares.

            Really? Try making a joke about hotdish around here.

            1. I don’t know what that is. Is it made from cheese?

            2. Your mom’s a hotdish

        2. What perdickament? Set the watermelon down, pocket the whisky, and pick the watermelon back up.

          Don’t turn loose o’ dat chicken!

      2. McArdle on fried chicken.

        1. Huh, that’s interesting

        2. eating fried chicken showed them getting above their station–gorging on luxury foods.

          Oh Megan! The negative stereotype is that the chicken was stolen. The Reconstruction-era shiftless Black politician is symbolically gorging on chicken-fried graft.

          Racist Southern whites didn’t begrudge the coloreds eating fried chicken honestly acquired through animal husbandry or trade

        3. +1 Private Snowball

      3. I’m a big fan of chitlins. Taiwan style chitlins are pretty good too,. My black buddy’s mom cooked some pretty good soul food. She was always surprised at how I’d pig out. Of course, I was a broke-assed college student. I hope that’s not cultural appropriation.

      4. I don’t get the fried chicken thing either, considering that just about every culture in the world has some type of traditional breaded and fried chicken.

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  20. “Not exactly the stuff of oligarchy.”

    Academic busy work.

  21. Maybe the middle class agree with the “rich” – though top 10% is a stretched definition – because they’ve been fed the lie for their entire lives that someday they’ll also be rich and so these rich favoring policies will someday favor them…

  22. Monetarily, we are not an oligarchy.

    Politically and socially, it is very hard to describe *what*, exactly, we are. I imagine that in the future, we will be seen in the same category as Venice: a historical republic with power arranged in a manner other than what is suggested by bare legality. Much of our policy is driven by academia in a way that was never true of other times and places. The origin of most policy papers, certainly. The impetus and cultural movements of our time, most definitely. It is such that almost any other impulse or influence in government is increasingly seen as “conservative”, regardless of whether that influence would actually fit that mold or not. Perhaps one day a book will be written explaining the relationship between academia and state, much like there are books explaining the church-state relationship in medieval times. I’d guess that book will not be university published, and that academics will be the last to know about it (assuming their system is still around by the time that book is written).

    1. “Perhaps one day a book will be written explaining the relationship between academia and state”

      There probably are such books about, I imagine followers of Foucault have taken up a study like this. But you have a point. America’s pre-eminent Leftist/Libertarian thinker, Noam Chomsky, focusses on media. I don’t think he’s covered the academy, though he’s a lifelong and richly rewarded member.

  23. “Plutocracy” is the word you are looking for.

  24. Nothing says ”pant-shitting leftard” quite like when someone shrieks ”OLIGARCHS” !!!!!!

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  27. The idea that the rich always get their way as reflected in federal legislation is absurd on it’s face.

    The rich pay a substantial majority of federal income taxes. If they always got their way, why would they prefer to do that?

    There is a vast web of federal laws and regulation imposing huge compliance costs on businesses that the rich own. Do they really prefer that?

    Do the rich prefer federal and state government inheritance taxes? I don’t think so.

    The idea that the current state of federal and state government power is all according to what the rich wanted is nonsense.

    1. “The rich pay a substantial majority of federal income taxes. ”

      It’s only us poor schlubs who rely on income. The truly rich and influential have investments.

      “Do the rich prefer federal and state government inheritance taxes? I don’t think so.”

      Believe me they don’t care. They’re dead. Now the children of the rich, that’s another story.

      1. The truly rich and influential have investments.

        Which only make money if they’re put in the hands of productive “poor schlubs”.

        1. “Which only make money if they’re put in the hands of productive “poor schlubs”.”

          Never underestimate the money to be made by milking the unproductive.

          1. milking the unproductive

            … is an oxymoron

            1. Good one. While we’re on the topic of oxymoronicisms, tell me more about the scarcity of software.

    2. “The rich pay a substantial majority of federal income taxes.”

      And the amount of taxes the rich actually pay hardly varies over time, regardless of what the tax rates or tax laws are. The rich understand that since they have most of the money they have to pay for most of the public infrastructure and services. They let Congress set the official tax laws to serve their political purposes, then make their own deals for breaks and structure their compensation so that they have the same money in their pockets regardless.

      “There is a vast web of federal laws and regulation imposing huge compliance costs on businesses that the rich own. Do they really prefer that?”

      They absolutely do prefer that, because it stifles competition from the little people and secures their oligopoly. If you’ve never heard of “regulatory capture”, what are you doing here?

      “Do the rich prefer federal and state government inheritance taxes?”

      Yes, because they make it more difficult for upwardly mobile families from accumulating wealth and becoming competitors. The very rich can evade the taxes, or simply pay them without suffering.

      1. The very rich can evade the taxes, or simply pay them without suffering.

        So good of you to vouch for the value of someone else’s property.

        1. The marginal value of property absolutely does vary with wealth. If someone is making minimum wage, taking away 15% of their money has far more impact on them than taking 15% from a billionaire. There’s only so much one can spend on ones own comfort and amusement. After that, the dollars are just tokens in a game. For a poor person, every dollar is a matter of life and death. And as I said, taxing the inheritance of the upwardly mobile benefits the already rich by suppressing potential competitors.

          1. After that, the dollars are just tokens in a game.

            When you have such laughably childish views, why should anyone take you seriously? You think there’s an “oligarchy” maintained by “tokens in a game”? Just keep telling that to yourself the next time you get a loan or a paycheck, the money for which apparently fell from a tree.

      2. “And the amount of taxes the rich actually pay hardly varies over time, regardless of what the tax rates or tax laws are. ”

        Really.

        Are the rich paying exactly the same amount of taxes today that they were in the first nanosecond after James Madison’s signature dried on the Constitution?

        Do you think that it was the rich who supported and engineered the passage of the 16th Amendment that allowed the creation of the federal income tax?

        “The rich understand that since they have most of the money they have to pay for most of the public infrastructure and services.”

        I doubt that they “understand” any such thing as that is pure socialist drivel.

        “They let Congress set the official tax laws to serve their political purposes, then make their own deals for breaks and structure their compensation so that they have the same money in their pockets regardless.”

        Have the same money regardless, eh? You aren’t the least bit capable of proving that claim.

        “They absolutely do prefer that, because it stifles competition from the little people and secures their oligopoly. If you’ve never heard of “regulatory capture”, what are you doing here?”

        Because I’m the one who understands that it wasn’t “the rich” who expanded the power of government to create that regulation in the first place. It was the so-called “progressive” left who did that. And as the always does, they try to blame the consequences of their policies on somebody else.

        1. Wow, you have no idea how the world works and who runs things. In a way, I envy your faith.

          1. At the end of the day, the ultimate power in this country is wielded by a majority of votes on election night. No amount of hand-wringing about “plutocrats” or “oligarchs” is going to change that fact. Someday, there may be a genuine coup which installs a real oligarchy, but in the meantime, every political favor handed out by a corrupt politician to a rich crony is aided and abetted by the voters.

          2. Based on your comments, I understand it far better than you do.

  28. It is certainly not an oligarchy by definition. Decisions are made by Representatives elected by the people democratically. They make those decisions democratically. The rich do not make decisions. They just try to influence the decisions that are made, same as anybody else.

  29. Allison . if you think Rachel `s artlclee is exceptional… last week I bought audi after having made $5844 thiss month and just a little over 10-k this past month . without a question it is the easiest-work Ive ever done . I actually started eight months/ago and immediately started to earn at least $86 per-hour . Read Full Report…
    ? ? ? ? ? ? http://www.MaxPost30.com

  30. RE: No, the U.S. Is Not an Oligarchy

    Yes, the US is an oligarchy, but not necessarily made up by “the rich.”
    It’s made up of a select politically connected group who do their best to keep the middle and lower classes from achieving the political and economic status they enjoy. They enact legislation that impede the little guy from becoming rich (or politically powerful) as they are. Whether these people are wealthy is irrelevant. What is relevant is they are destroying the American Dream with needless rules, regulations, laws, red tape etc. to protect themselves, their positions of power and their cronies from possible emerging competition, both politically and economically. The only way to allow free competition for more people to become economically independent is to deregulate and eliminate as much as possible. Case in point, in the early 1970’s, Congress, in a fit of sanity, deregulated the airline industry, and the dinosaurs that relied on government subsidies died (like Pan Am, TWA, etc), and the smart innovators like Southwest Airlines (forgive the pun) took off. We need more elimination of protectionism (as an example) to allow businesses, large or small, that are truly prudent, innovative and have the foresight to be better than their competitors. Subsidies, protectionism, unnecessary needless bureaucracies, such as the EPA, and crony capitalism, along with the highest corporate tax in the world is killing prospective businesses in the United States.

  31. I don’t buy this. The definition of oligarchy is not “government by the rich”, it’s “government by a corrupt committee.” The US fully qualifies, and probably always has.

    1. Ever since the Civil War: when the North sold out to the bankers, and therefore used their wealth to win.

  32. First of all there is no middle class left. Corporate capitalism has schismed us to the point where there is only the rich and the poor.

    Secondly, when was the last time you asked a poor person how they felt about money? We live in a world where we should have moved passed the worthless paper money note generations ago, yet we are still enslaved by it. Because practically the entire world is run by an oligarchy spearheaded by the British Crown and Lord Rothschild. #WakeUp!

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