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A belated Fourth of July antivaccine rant about “zero tolerance vaccine laws,” courtesy of Barbara Loe Fisher

It may be two days after the 4th of July, but it’s never too late to deconstruct a holiday-inspired antivaccine rant about “zero tolerance vaccine laws” by the grand dame of the antivaccine movement.

This week was a bit of an odd week, with the 4th of July holiday falling on Wednesday, thus leaving either an incredible five day weekend for the lucky few who can take such a weekend or just a confusing, albeit welcome, day off in the middle of the week. Still it was a good week, as depressing as two of my posts were to write. One thing that surprised me, though, is that I didn’t come across posts that misuse the holiday to lobby for a quack cause. Usually this sort of misuse comes in the form of appeals to “freedom,” as in “health freedom.” Leave it to the grand dame of the antivaccine movement, someone who’s been at it since the 1980s, to take advantage of the holiday to attack “zero tolerance vaccine laws.” Yes, it’s the founder of the Orwellian-named National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) Barbara Loe Fisher, pulling her same routine, trying to paint school vaccine mandates as an unacceptable assault on “freedom.” She posted it on July 1, and somehow I missed it. Such is life. I’ve seen it now.

So here’s Barbara Loe Fisher, in all her “freedom-loving” antivax “glory”:

Even though Fisher doesn’t mention him in the video, I have to wonder if the recent disciplining of antivaccine pediatrician and icon Dr. Robert (“Dr. Bob”) Sears is partially behind this. Basically, ever since it was revealed a week ago that Dr. Bob’s medical license had been conditionally revoked and that he had been put on probation for three years, antivaxers, led, of course, by Dr. Bob himself, have been beside themselves trying to portray the California Board of Medicine as jack-booted fascist thugs assaulting medical “freedom,” all because its members are in the thrall of big pharma. I’m guessing that Fisher had planned this video and maybe even had it in the can when the news about Dr. Bob hit the media, but the timing remains fortuitous for antivaxers anyway. On the other hand, one of her references is this article about Dr. Bob’s disciplinary action from two days before the video posted.

So what’s chapping Ms. Fisher’s posterior is, as I mentioned above, something she calls “zero tolerance vaccine laws.” I can’t help but wonder how long it took her and her fellow antivaxers to come up with a term designed to demonize laws, like California SB 277, which eliminate nonmedical exemptions to school vaccine mandates by characterizing them as “zero tolerance vaccine laws,” thus linking them to ill-advised “zero tolerance” policies, of which ridiculous examples of enforcement not infrequently appear in the media For one thing, there are only three states with “zero tolerance vaccine laws” that don’t permit so-called “personal belief exemptions” to school vaccine mandates (Mississippi, West Virginia, and now California), and with the antivaccine movement politically ascendant in many states after having teamed up with anti-regulation, pro-“freedom” conservative groups in many states (e.g., Texas, where Texans for Vaccine Choice is aligned tightly with conservative activists), it doesn’t look as though it’s very likely that any other states will be passing SB 277-like laws any time soon. Of course, part of what got Dr. Bob into trouble was writing a dubious medical exemption letter (among other things), and Dr. Bob has been using SB 277 as a profit opportunity, having started to give seminars on how to avoid SB 277 requirements almost the same day that the governor signed the bill into law.

Which brings us to…FREEDOM!!! Fisher tells us so:

Every July Americans celebrate the day in 1776 when we declared our independence from a monarchy and began to create a Constitutional Democratic Republic to secure liberty and justice for all. 1

Today, we are witnessing the erosion of core values that our constitutional democracy was founded upon.

One example is a public campaign led by the medical establishment to demonize and discriminate against anyone opposing zero tolerance vaccine laws that violate human rights in the name of public health.

This is a reason why antivaccine activism, which used to be more associated with hippy-dippy, Granola-crunching lefties, has now become much more the province of gun-toting, anti-government, anti-regulation, “don’t tread on me” conservatives. Of course, the stereotype that it was hippy-dippy, Granola-crunching lefties who predominated in the antivaccine movement was always dubious. In reality, antivaccine beliefs are the beliefs that cross all political boundaries. That being said, it is undeniable that, right now, in 2018, the loudest and most influential antivaccine voices tend to come from the right, so much so that Republicans in the 2016 election pandered to them.

Sometimes, antivaxers go a bit overboard with the “freedom” rhetoric, too. Remember that time when Del Bigtree gave a talk in Michigan in which he basically said he was willing to fight and die for “freedom” not to vaccinate? Fisher’s entry sounds as though that’s where it’s going. She’s not as histrionic, but she’s wrapping herself in the Declaration of Independence, the flag, and the American revolution, just as much as Del Bigtree was. As for that last part in her introduction, she’s referring to an article she wrote last fall in which she basically said that laws requiring vaccination were a human rights violation because they violate the Nuremberg Code because they are unethical human experimentation. They aren’t.

Let’s see what else Fisher had up her sleeve for our nation’s founding holiday:

A constitutional democracy promotes fair and equal justice for all. So the authors of the Declaration of Independence rejected rule by an elitist ruling class of citizens who are considered to be more important and qualified to govern without the consent of those being governed. The Bill of Rights in the US Constitution makes it clear that respect for the natural rights of individuals limits the power of the state. As Thomas Jefferson put it: “the minority possess their equal rights, which equal laws must protect, and to violate would be oppression.”

Why, then, are we allowing an elite aristocracy of doctors and professors to bully people who disagree with them about laws that disempower parents and place an unequal vaccine risk burden on vulnerable children in the name of the public health?

Here we go again with another right wing antivaccine dog whistle. (There are, of course, left wing antivaccine dog whistles, too.) Fisher’s talking about freedom, fair and equal justice, and rule not by the elite but by the people, but what she really means is to demonize vaccines and support antivaxers’ “right” to spread misinformation about vaccines and refuse them. Also notice who’s left out of this equation. As always, it’s the children. Rand Paul, who is without a doubt an antivaxer, once said, “The state doesn’t own the children. Parents own the children, and it is an issue of freedom.” This is a very common sentiment among antivaxers, namely that the child is an appendage or the property of his parents. No consideration whatsoever is given to what is in the child’s best interest, only to what the parent thinks to be in the child’s best interest, whether it is or not. In other words, it’s all about the parents. Always. It’s parental “freedom,” “autonomy,” and “rights” without consideration for the actual freedom, autonomy, and rights of the child.

Fisher’s only getting started, though:

There are only two laws that require American citizens to risk their lives. The first is a federal law, the military draft, which requires all healthy male adults to risk their lives in a war declared by the government to protect national security. Adults objecting to a war for religious beliefs or conscience can obtain a conscientious objection exemption without being punished.

The second is a state law requiring all healthy children to risk their lives in a war that doctors declared on microbes two centuries ago. However, unlike adults who are not punished for following their conscience and refusing to fight in a war to protect national security, parents can be punished for following their conscience and refusing to risk their children’s lives in a war to theoretically protect the public health. State sanctions include segregation and loss of the unvaccinated child’s right to a school education or permitting pediatricians to deny medical care to children if their parents refuse one or more government recommended vaccinations.

Two different laws that require healthy Americans to risk injury or death: one conscripting adults in what government clearly defines as an emergency military action; and the other conscripting children in a mandatory vaccination program that is not defined as an emergency military action but is operated like one.

Get it? School vaccine mandates like SB 277 are the equivalent of laws that give the government the power to draft young men (and someday in my lifetime, I’m guessing, young women too) to go off and fight and die in our nation’s wars! (Subtle is not a word that should ever be used to describe Ms. Fisher.) I’m also confused how the vaccination program is operated like an “emergency military action.” School vaccine mandates have been around a long time, and in the past had broad bipartisan support, being the sorts of laws that were as close to nonpartisan as we could ever get in this country. They’re ongoing and routine. There’s nothing “urgent” or “emergent” about them except when we have an actual outbreak of vaccine-preventable disease, such as the Disneyland measles outbreak or the outbreak of measles among the Somali immigrant community in Minnesota, the latter of which was fueled by actual antivaxers, including Andrew Wakefield and Mark Blaxill, stirring up antivaccine sentiments in the community.

Oh, and Fisher has a beef against the U.S. Public Health Service (of which the CDC is a component):

The medical establishment’s war on microbes, which has no end in sight, has always been conducted like a military campaign. The Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) traces its history back to the US Marine Hospital Service, whose doctors had the power to segregate by quarantine and prevent immigrants sick with infectious diseases from disembarking from ships entering U.S. ports.

Today, doctors employed by the U.S. Public Health Service wear military style uniforms, are expected to follow orders, and are promoted through a rank system similar to that of the U.S. Navy. Supervised by a Surgeon General, who is technically a three star Admiral reporting to a four star Assistant Secretary of Health, the US Public Health Service is described as “an elite team of more than 6,700 full time, well trained, highly qualified public health professionals.” These health soldiers, along with other federal and state government health officials, work to maintain the public health.

Gee, Fisher says that as though it were a bad thing. Yes, USPHS officers are considered active duty military “purposes of all rights, privileges, immunities, and benefits now or hereafter provided under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.” It’s a quirk of history. There are, however, advantages to this system. For one thing, when aid is needed after disasters or during epidemics, it’s a faster, more limber system. The stated mission of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps is to “protect, promote, and advance the health and safety of our Nation,” and it achieves this through “rapid and effective response to public health needs, leadership and excellence in health practices, and advancement of public health science.”

As for our “war on microbes” having no end in sight, well, technically that’s true, but that doesn’t mean progress hasn’t been made. Smallpox is gone. Polio is almost gone. These achievements were the result of worldwide efforts that involve dreaded (to antivaxers) mass immunization programs. One also can’t help but note that, as long as there are antivaxers like Barbara Loe Fisher trying to frighten parents out of vaccinating, the “war on microbes” (if war it is) will never truly end because people like Fisher will guarantee it.

So Fisher has spend a while crying “freedom!” All that’s left is to cry “persecution,” or, as I like to call it, “Help! Help! I’m being repressed!”

Here we go:

Now the conversation about vaccination has taken an ugly turn. 14 Prominent medical doctors and professors at leading universities are publishing articles in academic journals and are being quoted in media reports attacking the intelligence, emotional and psychological stability, and moral values of anyone who dares to question vaccine safety or vaccine laws. 15 16 17 18 19

Men and women who become doctors are no more equal than anyone else in society and, yet, they are being given a free pass to track, profile, marginalize, coerce and call for segregation and criminal prosecution of fellow, citizens who disagree with them about vaccination. 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27

It’s funny some of the references that Fisher cites to demonstrate her point. The vast majority of them resemble what she’s saying about them only by coincidence at best. For instance, Gregory Poland’s article (which was cited) does point out the scientific ignorance of many antivaxers, but it hardly “demonizes” them. Of course, it’s not surprising that Fisher would not like the American Psychological Association’s study showing that belief in conspiracy theories is associated with antivaccine views, but what’s surprising about that finding? Absolutely nothing to anyone who actually pays attention to the antivaccine movement. She also cites an unsurprising (and not demonizing) article on where unvaccinated children live that noted that unvaccinated children “tended to be white, to have a mother who was married and had a college degree, to live in a household with an annual income exceeding $75 000, and to have parents who expressed concerns regarding the safety of vaccines and indicated that medical doctors have little influence over vaccination decisions for their childre”. Then, of course, Fisher cites article speculating over whether parents of unvaccinated children could be sued, which, whether she likes it or not is a legitimate question. She also cites Peter Hotez’s article about antivaxers, which antivaxers tried to characterize as “bullying.” It’s not.

About the closest Fisher could find to an article that fit her description of all these horrible articles about antivaxers is an op-ed by Alex Berezow in USA TODAY from around the time of the Disneyland measles outbreak proposing jailing antivaccine parents. Berezow, you might recall, is now the Senior Fellow in Biomedical Science for the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) and the co-author with Hank Campbell of the hilariously off-base book, Science Left Behind: Feel-Good Fallacies and the Rise of the Anti-Scientific Left published in 2012, in which he tried to argue that the “left” was just as antiscience as the right based on some rather hilarious examples. There’s no time to discuss them here, but there was a discussion in the comments after this review of the book. ACSH, of course, appears to me to be very much an astroturf group devoted to defending the interests of the chemical, pesticide, and agricultural industries, but it’s correct on vaccines mainly because big pharma supports vaccines. Let’s just put it this way. Hank Campbell, Berezow’s co-author and current president of the ACSH, fully approved of all of Donald Trump’s science picks, including Scott Pruitt Rick Perry, all while proclaiming himself apolitical. I can’t help but suspect that Berezow wouldn’t have been so hot to jail antivaxers if he didn’t think they were lefties. I also can’t help but think that Fisher exaggerates the vitriol directed against antivaxers if these are the best examples she can come up with of it.

Fisher concludes:

The forced vaccination lobby backed by industry and medical trade is already making plans to double down and target multiple states in 2019 for removal of religious and conscientious belief exemptions, while also placing further restrictions on medical exemptions to vaccination.

Will you stand up and defend vaccine freedom in America?

No, I’ll be on the side of science and the health of children.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

205 replies on “A belated Fourth of July antivaccine rant about “zero tolerance vaccine laws,” courtesy of Barbara Loe Fisher”

A. There isn’t a human right not to vaccinate a child and protect the child against disease. There certainly isn’t a human right to send an unvaccinated child to school and risk others. (I know you know. Just a personal beef).

B.Ron Paul had a video even more explicitly referencing Dr. Sears’ case in this context.

C. Just this week, a court of Appeals in California upheld SB277 as constitutional, because it protects children’s health and the community. Maybe Ms. Fisher should read the decision.

Fascinating that some parents feel like they “own” a child. Frightful.


Upon reading this, there will be a very small group of a select few at the very top of The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services; who will be wildly waving their arms around at you & hissing: “SHHHH!!”

Julian Frost: Sorry, In retrospect; that comment would make zero sense unless you happen to be just like me & have to contemplate this “ownership” issue on a daily basis:

“What will happen to us when I’m too old to do this anymore?” “What will I do in 10 more years when I am 60 years old & have not been able to work for 22 years?” “What will happen to him when I’m gone?”

Hey; I know the answer to question #3:

What will happen is that Medicare/Medicaid won’t have me to exploit anymore & they will shell out $6,000/month for this beautiful child of mine to get substandard care by underpaid workers.

I’m thinking that it’s best for the taxpayers that those like me be left alone & allowed our delusions of “child ownership”. See; he IS my child. I alone take care of him. I alone would give my life for him & in a sense; I already have. He will never have free agency. Autonomy. Inalienable rights.

I haven’t seen not hide nor hair of that damn herd since he regressed into severe autism 12 years ago.

Again, sorry for the comment. I found dark humor & minimal relief in the visual.

christine, have you contacted your local ARC yet:

Have you created special needs trusts for your child, plus made a will that will assign guardian for later? One thing you can do is designate a trustee protector.

One thing you can do with your “ownership” is to find some good disability lawyers and plan for his future.

Chris, Thank you for your reply! I will look at some of your suggestions closer but yes; on the trust: I am working with my dad (Grandpa to the rescue) on the best way to do this. It’s complicated & has to be done carefully as we don’t want it tapped into by any extenuating circumstances.

My dad has money set aside for each grandchild & Luke will be gifted the amount that had been set aside for my little girl who passed away (before Luke was even born). I am so grateful for this yet devastated that I can’t be the one to contribute.

You’ll have to forgive me. I was participating on a discussion on another forum about Sears & herd immunity, schedules & bleh. It’s a large, active & multi-topic forum & people are talking about everything. Food, travel, finances, shopping, etc.

I just can’t help but think”There goes the herd …” I know I shouldn’t. It’s not productive but I’m in a daily duel of puberty hormones + developmental delay & it’s a frightening combo. He thought he was getting a small vacation this summer to a theme park & I don’t think it’s going to happen. Sorry for “my av-rant” & thank you, again for your reply.

This morning I was looking on the internet for the Virginians (a part of the Paul Whiteman Orchestra) and I got the suggestion Virginians for health freedom from Google. Of course when I looked for that I got some antivax sites and Facebook accounts.

Poor Barbara Loe is quite ignorant about history. Quoting Thomas Jefferson about minority rights ignores the central role he (and other Founding Fathers) had in promoting vaccination. From a letter by Thomas Jefferson to Edward Jenner:

“Having been among the early converts, in this part of the globe, to (smallpox vaccination’s) efficiency, I took an early part in recommending it to my countrymen. I avail myself of this occasion of rendering you a portion of the tribute of gratitude due to you from the whole human family. Medicine has never before produced any single improvement of such utility…You have erased from the calendar of human afflictions one of its greatest. Yours is the comfortable reflection that mankind can never forget that you have lived. Future nations will know by history only that the loathsome small-pox has existed and by you has been extirpated.”

Loe would’ve been better off quoting Tom Jefferson (of the Cochrane Group) on flu vaccine. 🙂

Today the malevolent morons over at NN are asking which has killed more people, measles or measles vaccine. I couldn’t bring myself to read the article.

BLF should be grateful the NVIC and other anti-vax groups have the “freedom” from criticism of their activities by any large-scale medical group in the US (such as the AMA, AAFP or AAP), all of whom refuse to engage anti-vaccine groups. If the NVIC were in Australia, they would find their freedoms of speech and activity severely curtailed from opposition by Australian Medical Association, politicians and a lot more outspokenly pro-vaccine physicians than in the US.

BLF’s rant is a bag of fetid hot air.

You totes know that Dr, Bob’s disciplinary letter was delivered by a black helicopter.o

In Australia, the AVN (“Australian Vaccination Network”, but often referred to as the “Anti Vaccination Network”) was forced to change their name to better reflect their goals, which was not to provide information about vaccines but to lobby against vaccines. It has virtually no influence anymore, and the media in general has become pro-vaccine and no longer provides equal time to those who are anti-vaccine.

Fisher would complain about an article that stated basketball players tend to be taller than average.

I love the libertarian/Tea Party factions, especially the US Congress’ “Freedom Caucus” talk about “FREEDOM!” without any real context. Because these are the same bunch who would leave children vulnerable to infectious diseases and restrict relevant healthcare services to women:

Oh, what is lovely about that ruling is some of the wording. From: ….

…. there is this quote from the ruling: “Autonomy and dominion over one’s body go to the very heart of what it means to be free. At stake in this case is the right to shape, for oneself, without unwarranted governmental intrusion, one’s own identity, destiny, and place in the world. Nothing could be more fundamental to the notion of liberty.”

Taken to its next logical step, Barbara Loe Fisher wants to take away children’s freedom to live a life without dangerous diseases.

And yet, the Libertarian candidate for POTUS in 2016, Gary Johnson, came out in favor of mandatory vaccination carried out at the local level, for reasons of herd immunity.
http://digital . vpr . net/post/reversal-gov-gary-johnson-now-supports-mandatory-vaccination#stream/0

She’s probably just making the point that not all libertarians are anti-vax.

Overall Gary Johnson is a lot more pragmatic than many libertarians (or Republicans). He has supported legalizing marijuana for a while, for instance. I voted for him for governor but not for president.

He was more honest than Bill Richardson and would definitely be a better president than Donald Trump, although I was disappointed he didn’t learn more about international affairs between 2012 and 2016.

But that’s water under the bridge at this point.

There is another reason why USPHS and NOAA have commissioned officer corps. They can be militarized in time of war, to serve in their roles under the command structure of the armed forces. As commissioned officers, if captured, they are considered as POWs. If a NOAA officer is captured while doing weather recon or terrain surveying, s/he has that much protection from being treated like a spy

Thanks for the sympathy. My brother said something along the line of “that’s what you get,” but my sister-in-law just brought over an order of Pad Thai. (I texted her to ask if she could bring something over when they had dinner, as it turns out to be a real b!tch trying to navigate the kitchen on crutches; she said that Jason didn’t cook even though he was home and she was working all day, so she was getting herself takeout and asked what I wanted. 😉 )


Been there, done that. The foot break is annoying. Hopefully after the swelling goes down you can get a walking cast. It makes it much easier to get around. Back then in the mid-1980s it was a plaster cast, so the day after I got it I used a sick day to lie on a couch reading a book with a heated fan blowing on it to make it dry.

I recently cracked a rib due to coughing from a nasty chest cold. No cast, but I do own a short corset. That was very helpful. Though I needed hubby’s help with the ties in the back.

Some years ago I sprained my ankle really bad which is actually part of why I’m messed up right now. (My foot has ever since had a tendency to sort of roll underneath me, which happened, and I fell pretty hard and, welp.) I didn’t get a cast (I don’t think you do with a sprain) but I was on crutches for a week and I had this “boot” thing that I would wear around that helped. I might see about getting one of those again.

But yeah, right now I can’t put weight on it. I mean, I tentatively tried at first, but I’m pretty sure an actual attempt to walk on the foot would result in screaming and falling down.

I got a stress fracture from Tae Kwon Do a few years back. Could not weight bear at all on it. The walking boot worked wonders. It took a good eight weeks to heal enough to get out of the boot, and it was three months before I could return to TKD.

Quoting Orac above who quotes Babs Low Fisher as saying:
“State sanctions include segregation and loss of the unvaccinated child’s right to a school education or permitting pediatricians to deny medical care to children if their parents refuse one or more government recommended vaccinations.
“permitting pediatricians”
Is Babs complaining that the ebil gubmint has a “hands off” policy as far as how pediatricians interact with their clients?
Is Babs advocating for more gubmint regulation in the healthcare field?
I’m confuzzled, Barb. Please explain how a “health freedumb” advocate such as you can be promoting more gubmint regulation of healthcare.
I’m a-thinkin’ Babs ain’t the brightest bulb on the tree.

I always laugh when conservatives bring up the founding fathers as being conservatives. The founding fathers of the US were among the most liberal people of their time. Look at what they wrote.

It is only when you take them out of the context of their time and put their views in our modern world that they seem to be conservatives.

Since I’ve been laid up, I’ve been even more Extremely Online than usual, and I came across this quote on Twitter, from Englishman Thomas Day in 1776:

“If there be an object truly ridiculous in nature it is an American patriot signing resolutions of independency with the one hand and with the other brandishing a whip over his affrighted slaves.”

That’s about my opinion of the founding fathers for the most part, and it turns out it’s not even anachronistic, plenty of people thought the same thing back then.

Thomas Paine was pretty cool, though.

Of course, this was when Britain still had slavery at home, and many decades before the British stopped exploiting and degrading people browner then the average Yorkshireman. To their credit, once they abolished slavery at home, the Royal Navy’s West Africa squadron put great effort into suppressing the Atlantic slave trade.
As to the Founding Fathers, yes, there were hypocrisies, but what they built provided the framework for every extension of rights that followed, for women, racial minorities, religious minorities and atheists, LGBTQ+, and who knows who next.
Great things can come from flawed people; in fact, I can’t think of any great thing that didn’t come from someone flawed.

Britain sucked too, royally. Don’t get me wrong. But I’d say “all men created equal” coming from the pens of rich white guys who owned human beings as chattel and at least one of whom constantly raped his property is more than just a little hypocritical.

And women, LGBTQ people, and in and on, weren’t somehow “granted” their rights by this country. They fought and died for them. Sh!t, people fought and rioted and died and were arrested for the weekend.

Anyway, my point wasn’t that England was somehow better, it’s that the whole “he was a man of his times” platitude doesn’t hold up when another person who happened to be a man of the same times could pretty easily look at the situation and say “what a crock.”

Re: Thomas Paine, a Twitter friend (@ExistentialEnso) was on a bit of a tear for a while. One of my favorites:

“The Story of the Constitution

Rich: let’s revolt!

Poor: meh

Paine: let’s get rid of the aristocracy and have democracy

Poor: oooooh


Poor: so what are your other ideas?

Paine: free the slaves, cooperate with the Iroquois, tax the rich

Rich: FxCK FxCK FxCK FxCK”

I didn’t say anyone not originally included was “granted” their rights. But reading the words “all men are created equal” and the provisions of the Bill of Rights set up a condition where people seeking inclusion could demand that it be applied to them. How hard they had to fight to make their country live up to its words was a different matter.
I assume when you talk about a man who raped his slave that you mean Thomas Jefferson. There is room for uncertainty as to what his exact relationship to Sally Hemings entailed. Though a slave, she was also his late wife’s half sister, due to the bad luck to have had one fewer white grandparent than her sister. He might have made any kind of approach to her from rape to consent. No one today knows. Beyond that, when he took her to France, she was free the moment she stepped off the gangplank, so the possibility exists that she chose to return to Virginia with Jefferson. Once there she reverted to slave status. I think it’s unlikely in the extreme that she chose it, but there is only presumption and no direct evidence. We can guess, presume, be morally certain, but we can’t know for sure.

Sorry, ORD, there’s no question of how Jefferson “approached her”; a 14 year old chattel slave “approached” in any manner isn’t capable of consent in any meaningful way. Jefferson wasn’t “a flawed man,” he was absolute garbage. The conditions of his hundreds of slaves, including many children, were recognized as awful even then.

And honestly, I don’t even buy the “flawed (ugh) men created a great thing” platitude. They created a white supremacist, genocidal, settler-colonial state, and it still is that. From slavery through the Trail of Tears up to Japanese internment camps and Indian boarding schools, and up to now, when we’re ripping children away from their parents at the border (and these people are basically all fleeing situations that we created with our psychopathic imperialism) and putting them in frankly grossly abusive internment camps.

Look, when something is founded on rot, there ain’t no words pretty enough to paper over the truth.

“They created a white supremacist, genocidal, settler-colonial state, and it still is that”. Yes, it is, and more. It’s also a model of freedom, democracy, human rights, and honesty for much of the rest of the world, present fake president and all. There is no reason that a country can’t present more than one valid face to the world at the same time.
It’s not perfect, but it’s the best around. While I agree with you up to a point, the US has done more good of more kinds for more people in more places over a longer time with greater generosity than any other state in history. If you disagree, you are free to name another. Rome? Britain? France? Russia? China? Persia?
One of the most patriotic Americans I have ever known was a Japanese-American who had been interned in Manzanar. She had faith that, in time, every injustice would be recognized and addressed, and she never saw a reason to lose that faith. She would have responded to you much as I do now.


I disagree that the United States is somehow the best country in the world, and I know a hell of a lot of people outside the USA who agree with me.

I reject the State outright. I’m an anarcho-communist. It’s a position one can take. Uncle Smut also happens to be an anarchist.

(Anarchism in Korea has a fascinating, albeit tragic, history that I’ve been reading about.)

“I disagree that the United States is somehow the best country in the world, and I know a hell of a lot of people outside the USA who agree with me.”
For every one you know outside the US who agrees with you, I will bet I know one who doesn’t.
“I reject the State outright. I’m an anarcho-communist. It’s a position one can take.”
Of course it’s a position one can take. One can take the anarcho-syndicalist position, the lotus position, or the missionary position. Why do you need a label? On second thought, who cares what label you choose?
You can reject the State outright, but if you seek a society without leaders and a social order that depends entirely on everyone’s willing cooperation you want something that has never been and can never be.

ORD, simply claiming something as though it is obvious and simple “common sense” doesn’t make it true, it’s really just lazy and trite.

“Of course you can take the position of feminism; you can take the lotus position. A society where women are the equals of men has never been and can never be.”

So, then JP, after your strawman paraphrase, let’s get to details. How do you envision your utopia coming into being, and how will it work once it does?
Anarchism of course means “without rulers”; it doesn’t mean “without laws.” So how will those laws be instituted, and how will they be enforced? Without a constituted government, how will you avoid the tragedy of the commons? How will you motivate the people who don’t care about the philosophy, or the issues, or the operations of the community to take part? What will you do about those who have a desire or a talent for leadership to stop them from dominating the issues without alienating them? How big will your ideal communities be? Who will convene the town halls, if you have them? How will the individual communities relate to each other? In what way will the exceptional be compensated?
I suspect the answers will be as vague as the libertarians’ answers on how to guarantee everyone will play fair, or like the Soviet promise that all problems and contradictions would disappear “once we have achieved true socialism”. I look forward to your answers.

JP, how is your foot doing? My son got drunk and broke his foot a few years ago in a slightly different way. The metal has been removed now and he’s working back into shape.

I agree that the signers of the Declaration of Independence were flawed, but they were probably paragons of virtue compared to the signers of the Magna Carta. Nevertheless those men established a principle that no man, even the King, is above the law. And that principle undergirds the Declaration and the Constitution which was our effort to make a more perfect (not totally perfect) union. It probably influenced Thomas Paine and his writing certainly influenced the constitution.

And that principle gives me hope that our legal system will eventually overcome the machinations and depradations of our current president, even if the Federalist Society seems determined to find judges who will overturn the legal protections we have managed to institute.


I actually got a call from the doctor yesterday saying he’d talked to the doctor who saw me at my walk-in appointment, and that they think O actually need to stay totally off my foot for at least six weeks, no weight bearing at all. It sucks.

There is a line which I love about the differences between Australia and the USA; it goes like this:
“When the pilgrim fathers landed in the United States the first thing they did was hold a prayer meeting. When the first fleet landed in Botany Bay the first thing they did was have an orgy.” And yes we have a horrible track record with how we have treated our first people, so not saying one country or another is better just different.

“They grasped not only the whole race of man then living, but they reached forward and seized upon the farthest posterity. The erected a beacon to guide their children and their children’s children, and the countless myriads who should inhabit the earth in other ages.
“Wise statesmen as they were, they knew the tendency of prosperity to breed tyrants, and so they established these great self-evident truths, that when in the distant future some man, some faction, some interest, should set up the doctrine that none but rich men, or none but white men, were entitled to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, their posterity might look up again to the Declaration of Independence and take courage to renew the battle which their fathers began — so that truth, and justice, and mercy, and all the humane and Christian virtues might not be extinguished from the land; so that no man would hereafter dare to limit and circumscribe the great principles on which the temple of liberty was being built.”
– Abraham Lincoln, 1858

Yep, Barbara Loe Fisher, the Grand Dame of antivaccinationists is definitely someone people should listen to. Take, for instance, her claim:

“Using religious symbols and crusading language, medical scientists describe vaccination as the Holy Grail. Vaccines, they say, are going to eradicate all causes of sickness and death from the earth and anyone who doubts that is an ignorant fool (Fisher, 2014 at:–Defending-Your-Right-to-Know-and-Free.aspx).

“Eliminate all causes of sickness and death,” yep, Fisher’s rationality goes without question???

As for the Declaration of Independence, just a reminder that many of the signers owned slaves who could be beaten, raped (sex with a slave could NOT be consensual), mutilated, and killed with impunity. And, yep, children belonged to their parents. They could be sold at an early age as indentured servants where they often were abused and worked to death. They could be beaten, even to death with impunity. And women had no rights and could be beaten by their husbands.

And our beloved Constitution was called by some a “pact with the Devil” because of the 3/5th’s clause that gave slave-holding states additional representation in Congress by counting slaves. And it is such a great document that it only cost 650,000 lives and an equal number of cripples just to amend it. Wow!

The counting of slaves for representation was actually a compromise. In a half-assed attempt to counter it, slaves were counted as three people for every five counted by the census.
The proximal cause of the Civil War, or, as I think of it, the War of Southern Sedition, wasn’t that Lincoln was necessarily in favor of abolition, but that he was part of the Free Soil movement. Free Soil opposed the introduction of slavery to any new states. With large western territories yet to be populated and admitted as states, the prospect of having their Congressional and Electoral College voting power diluted to the point where slavery could be simply voted out of existence was patently unacceptable.

Yep, the 3/5th was a compromise, so what? It was a Pact with the Devil. “All Men are created equal?” And, yes, Lincoln said if he could preserve the union while maintaining slavery he would; but early on Lincoln opposed slavery, though he believed blacks were inferior, he believed they deserved the rewards for the sweat of their brow. He views changed over time thanks to Frederick Douglass and the heroism of blacks serving in the Union army. However, all this is irrelevant as what I said stands, namely, it required, regardless of the initial reasons, 650,000 dead and an equal crippled to end the Pact with the Devil, to amend the Constitution.

What galls me most is people like Fisher who refer to documents that are highly flawed, and, at the same time, misuse them. And as another commenter wrote, despite Jefferson’s hypocrisies, he was a strong supporter of vaccinations, getting variolated himself. While in France, Jefferson’s slaves could have stayed, slavery was abolished in France. Jefferson promised if they returned with him, he would free them, which he did several decades later.

Correct, but we have to remember the seeds of the Civil War were sown with the signing of the US Constitution. Lincoln was the trigger, not the cause, of the Civil War and the bad feelings had been building for decades.

Calling the Constitution a “Pact with the Devil” is pure hyperbole. Saying our Constitutional system is “built on rot” is as well. If all men were angels, we wouldn’t need laws or systems of governance. Human beings have a unique talent for abusing their own, and that’s been true all over the world for the length of human history.

What the Constitution represents was a grand experiment to improve the condition of human governance, and it has been amazingly successful given that for most of our history, authoritarianism in one form or another has been the norm. Our Constitution has evolved and grown, and with it a greater respect and application of the equal rights it grants everyone to all.

That evolution came with a cost in blood, destruction, and suffering. Demonizing the imperfect men who wrote it is not productive. Nor is placing them on a pedestal. Understanding them as the human beings they were, with dark sides, and occasionally noble achievements is how we reconcile the ills with the goods they created.

The idea that no one is a hero unless they are in accord with all of our views of what they should have been is an unrealistic one. Many of the Signers owned slaves. Hamilton, hero of the musical, wanted the USA to be an aristocracy. Jackson was behind the Trail of Tears and was also a champion of a far less aristocratic view of the republic. Wilson tried to give us the League of Nations and was no friend to brown people here or abroad. FDR was an anti-Semite. JFK was a vacillator much of the time, and his attitudes toward women was out of the Stone Age. He was first drawn to support the civil rights movement because Nixon, not yet going as low as he eventually did, was the one who got Dr. King out of jail.
Gandhi was occasionally clueless, and when he was in South Africa fighting for Indian rights he had little concern for black rights.
Winston Churchill’s views on race embarrassed even his contemporaries, but I doubt there was a less replaceable figure in 20th Century history. There was certainly no one else who could both have stepped into No. 10 and inspired the resistance to the Nazis as he did. I am not superstitious or a believer in fate, but if I were, he would be a good case. His entire life history, going back to his ancestor, Sir John Churchill, seems to point him toward June of 1940.

“The idea that no one is a hero unless they are in accord with all of our views of what they should have been is an unrealistic one.” Yes, and no-one in this thread expressed it. Anyway, those other examples are off-topic. The point is that the U.S. Constitution really was not the super-liberal document many people make it out to be. It is largely you who decided to make this an argument about individuals.

On the other hand, I think it is wise to have few heroes, since very few people are really that heroic.

RJ: compared to Europe, even our most ardent conservative is a liberal.

Conservatives prefer the stability of autocratic or monarchical rule. That we created a representative democracy was practically anarchy in the minds of the British at the time.

The US Constitution is indeed a very liberal document. It doesn’t look that way now because liberal thought has drifted even more to the left than it was over 200 years ago.

“The King began to talk abt. America. He asked West what would Washington do were America to be declared independant. West said He believed He would retire to a private situation. — The King said if He did He would be the greatest man in the world.”
That king was King George III. And Washington did retire to his farm, not being called to the Presidency for another six years, and refusing to serve more than two terms.
Remember too, that the Founders “Mutually Pledge To Each Other Our Lives, Our Fortunes And Our Sacred Honor”, they meant it. To lose would have meant hanging, confiscation, and opprobrium attached to their names and their families’ for generations. To condemn them simply as bad people in spite of the good they did is to be blind, willfully or not.
Now I am going to contradict myself somewhat. There is a danger in cherrypicking the good while dismissing the evil. As I have said here before, it can be like a sparrow picking the edible seeds from a pile of horse manure.
“Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.”

That we created a representative democracy was practically anarchy in the minds of the British at the time.

No, this isn’t historically accurate. Britain had had a parliament for a long time; granted, very few people actually had voting rights (but then very few people had voting rights when the United States was founded as well.) I’ve been looking into the English Civil War recently; fascinating stuff. As a matter of fact, right after Cromwell’s army killed the king, there were all kinds of cool ideas about how to run a society; you had the Diggers, for instance, who came up with a form of anarchist socialism hundreds of years before Marx was even born. But then Cromwell was like, “Hey, instead of all that freedom stuff, how about fxck you,” and he created the government of rich white guys who want to be filthy rich white guys, and they ramped up slavery a lot and also capitalism (intertwined!) and also did some atrocities in Northern Ireland. (Fun fact, Cromwell’s still still stands outside of Parliament.)

And then the king was the king again, I guess? I mean, not the dead king, his son. But Parliament kept all their news powers. Weird stuff.

Here’s an awesome song about the Diggers by Dick Guaghan (a personal fave):

Speaking of self-contradiction and Winston Churchill, I offer two quotes from that worthy:

“Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.”

“The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.”

She ought to be pleased that unvaccinated children tend to be the ones whose parents have doubts about the safety of vaccines and say doctors had little input into their decisions about vaccination: it means that her “movement” is influential, and that parents are making the decisions. Would she be happier if parents who agreed with her were getting their children vaccinated anyway, and children whose parents wanted to vaccinate them but couldn’t afford the time to take their children to the doctor or clinic weren’t?

If someone actually believes that this is an issue of patient, or parent, freedom of choice, they should be entirely in favor of my getting every relevant vaccine for myself, of the HPV vaccine for any young person who wants it, and any child or teen whose parent agrees it’s a good idea. And free vaccine clinics, seven days a week, in poor neighborhoods to make it as easy as possible for working parents to make the choice to have their children vaccinated.

@ JP July 6, 2018 at 9:29 pm
In other breaking news on measles, epidemic in totally unprotected group in Brazil

CBC Radio this morning reported hundreds of health workers with 10’s of thousands of doses of measles vaccine heading north but noted that it is hard to vaccinate someone who only wants to avoid you.

Best of luck with the foot. It sounds just a bit unpleasant. I did a bad sprain one time and it was hellish so I imagine a broken one will be really nasty.

I’m in support of true zero-tolerance for vaccine preventable disease. It could have been done by now. Why hasn’t it?

I think it should be done in a calculated fashion using citizen demographics; starting with the populations that have the highest amount of potential exposure contacts. This would likely be the employed, 20-55 year old child-free. Surely, those with active work & unmitigated social lives engage in face to face interactions numbering 50-100+ per day?

It would make no sense to start with the infants of a stay-at-home-parent or elderly shut-in’s; they have less than 10 interactions per day. Not a huge benefit to the herd.

EBM behind the recommended schedule, is, after all; based on the known evidence of children exposed to an inconsistently vaccinated larger population. That problem will be eliminated via zero-tolerance.

Next would be 20-55 year old, employed parents. Possibly the homeless populations? And then; toddlers in child-care, school-agers & active retirees. Lastly; at home infants & elderly shut-ins.

I haven’t quite thought through the college students, though. Surely they have the same amount of potential exposures as the employed child-free-ers but … they are also potentially on the their parents managed health care plans so there is a question of “ownership”?

Meh. Zero tolerance means ZERO tolerance. High interaction = high risk for the Death-Pox. Immunize them immediately. I’m sure managed care organizations would delight in this zero tolerance policy, although for this demographic in particular; they would do better to find a way to zero tolerance “unintentional injury”. That will be hard.

Prevention of vaccine-preventable disease is by definition: Easy. What are we waiting for?

No, Absolutely not.

Vaccination is still a medical procedure, and ethically that requires informed consent. I’m fine with school mandates. Don’t want to vaccinate? Home school your kid.

But going into people’s homes and forcing vaccines on them? Absolutely not. Unless there is an actual epidemic, and real reason to force vaccinations ( as happened in Philadelphia during a measles outbreak), I cannot support this kind of mandate.

Definition of terms might be helpful.
Mass vaccination is not so much a medical procedure as a public health (i.e. public safety) procedure. Going into people’s homes to force evacuation on them in the face of a flood or a forest fire has, if I recall, never been successfully challenged in American law. Someone who lives alone in isolation is still compelled to follow building, fire, and sanitary codes, even if it doesn’t seem like there is risk of harm to anyone else.
You might be content to sit in your burning house asserting your right to do so. The fire company, ignorant of your wishes and your assertions, doesn’t have the right to refuse to risk themselves saving you. Your right in this situation is outweighed by their obligation.
An elderly shut-in might not be at high risk for catching and spreading vaccine preventable disease…until the visiting nurse, the meals-on-wheels volunteer, the letter carrier, or the EMT comes to their door.

That’s apples vs oranges. Absent an actual emergency vaccination is not like a burning house.

True, vaccination is not like a house fire, but in either case there is no right to ask for selective enforcement or action because you don’t feel like complying, and there is no right to put your wishes and tastes above public safety. If you’re stricken by a vaccine-preventable disease, first responders and medical personnel are obligated to assist and treat, no matter the risk or the cost. Further, just like ignoring the fire codes or refusing to allow firefighters to put out your burning house, it puts third parties at risk.
Forcing the way into someone’s house to vaccinate is extreme in normal circumstances, but in principle it’s not and should not be beyond the power of the state to compel you not to put others at risk.
During my years of practice, one of the most sobering sights occurred on a visit to Portugal. Behind the reception desk of a hospital there were plaques with names on them. Using my bits of French and Spanish, I was able to make out that they were the names of hospital staff who had died treating epidemic victims. At that time I worked with patients who had the most feared infectious disease of the day, HIV/AIDS. I took those names as a challenge to serve patients in the face of risk. I felt it was my duty to treat my patients “without fear or favor”. I also believed I had the right to not be put to unnecessary risk by the witting actions of others.

“It would make no sense to start with the infants of a stay-at-home-parent or elderly shut-in’s; they have less than 10 interactions per day.”

Citation required. Does the stay-at-home-parent or the elderly all live alone?

Does the infant actually one or two parents? Or siblings? Think about that.

To help you: I had to take care of a six month baby with chicken pox. It was brought home by an older sibling who caught it in preschool. Like most diseases, chicken pox is infectious before there are symptoms.

Stick to the ACIP recommended schedule. Stop making silly assumptions. And next time instead of random speculations support them with some actual citations, essentially PubMed indexed studies by reputable qualified researchers.

I’m not sure what sense it makes to concentrate immunization efforts on populations that are at lower risk for vaccine-preventable diseases. When infants and young children can be effectively vaccinated against a disease which historically rarely affects working-age adults, why would you exclude young kids on the presumed basis of “fewer interactions” (pertussis might be one disease for which expanded vaccination efforts in adults would be worthwhile)?

Perhaps Ms. Kincaid is just asking questions here, as happened last year in an RI thread when one of her “questions” dealt with alleged genetic suseptibility to toxicity from the MMR among Somalis.

Aaa! Aaa! OT except for the some of the tangents here, but I just discovered PhilosophyTube (by Olly) on YouTube and he has this four part series on liberalism where he says almost exactly what I’ve been trying to articulate for months and I find it really exciting and relieving.

Part 1:

(On the off chance that somebody is interested, one should be able to find the other parts from there.)

Sorry. Carry on.

Crap, that’s the wrong video, it’s linking to the whole series of videos. Proper link:

Attention freedom-lovers: we must go on the march (shut down I-95 in protest?) over mainstream media attacks on Darla Shine, wife of Trump’s new deputy chief of communications.

Poor Darla is getting raked over the coals for defending the Confederate battle flag, saying it’s unfair for whites to be targeted for using the n-word while blacks get away with it, and other non-politically correct stands:

“On Facebook, she talked disparagingly of transgender people, writing that “Manmade vagina is still not as good as the real thing!” in a comment beneath an article on a reality show, HuffPost reported.

She also shared an article with the headline, “Russian president Vladimir Putin says that Western governments are enslaving humanity through vaccines,” HuffPost reported.”

Ms. Shine believes autism is our greatest security threat, which of course means vaccines.

Naturally Twitter is suppressing her, the fate of all brave mavericks who threaten the Established Order.

She also shared an article with the headline, “Russian president Vladimir Putin says that Western governments are enslaving humanity through vaccines,” HuffPost reported.

What you have there is a multilevel Black Forest Gateau of Stupidity. I remember when someone in the Antivax / Truther intersection invented the “Putin says: Vaccines, Western Slavery!” story (as part of a larger program of pro-Russia propaganda designed to recruit the Moron Vote), and of course it circulated like a marker of gullibility and mendacity.

“What you have there is a multilevel Black Forest Gateau of Stupidity. ”

You may have won the Internet today with that sentence.

Ms. Shine believes autism is our greatest security threat…

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry but after having up close and personnal encounter to some psychopathes ressembling this one:

I’d be halfway tempted to train like this autistic:

Then, she might be right.


p.s. tongue in cheek, metric ton of sarcasm and I marvel at the irony of the situation.

@ Panacea

Most European nations have a much higher voter turnout than we do. Many have multiple party systems based on proportional representation, allowing a wider range of politics. We have a two-party system where primaries, with even lower voter turn-outs, determine who will represent party in general election, thus, often, for instance, Republicans get a libertarian or Christian fundamentalist, not representative of the party’s entire membership; but they still vote for. In many other nations, voting for a libertarian, Christian fundamentalist, etc. from the distinct party has a reasonable chance of achieving representation for ones actual politics. And no country comes near spending the amounts of money for 30 second soundbites, etc. that we do. In the beginning, our Constitution only allowed propertied white males. By the mid-19th Century, several European nations had developed much more liberal democracies. And on and on it goes.

You literally don’t know what you are talking about.

I think you are quite right. I live in The Netherlands and we have so many different parties, it’s hard to keep track.
We have at least 2 parties considering themselves liberal, one is more right-wing, the other leans a bit more to the left.
We have 3 Christian parties, one is rather conservative, one tends to be a bit more left-wing socially and one is really conservative and really Christian, not attracting people from other religions, including Catholics.
We have at least 3 socialist parties, one is very left-wing and a bit populist, one is social-democratic and a bit more covering middle ground and one is a green party, with some liberal tendencies, which mostly attract people with a higher education.
We have an animal-rights party, which is mostly rather left-wing.
We have 2 populist parties, one is the party from Geert Wilders, who is also known in the US and the other is a bit more high brow and rather conservative.
And we have a Muslimparty.
There are even some more Muslimparties, but the others are just locally active.
And every year there are more parties trying to get elected.

Joel, your telling me I don’t know what I’m talking about when it comes to the history of the United States, and our politics is like Jake Crosby telling you that you don’t know anything about epidemiology: neither statement is true.

PLEASE go back and re-read what I wrote. I wasn’t talking about the differences between parliamentary systems in Europe, or our Federalism, nor was I talking about voter turnout or the reasons why voter turnout in the United States is so piss poor.

I was talking about what liberalism means in the US vs Europe. I was talking about what conservatism means in the US vs Europe. I’m talking about Classic Liberalism, and Constitutional Liberalism. What I said about that is neither radical or new.

Now if you think I’m incorrect in my discussion of classic liberalism, you can cite me a source and show me where you think I’m wrong, and we can have a discussion. But don’t horribly divert from what I was talking about and then tell me I don’t know what I’m talking about.


There is one thing you said that confused me, at least, and I think might be leading to some misunderstanding here:

“compared to Europe, even our most ardent conservative is a liberal.”

I think maybe you misspoke? Like, it kind of defends on what we mean by liberal. If we’re using the American sense, where liberal is on the left end of a spectrum opposite of conservative, i.e., using “liberal” and “conservative” to mean “left-wing” and “right-wing,” then the statement you made above really isn’t accurate at all, which is to say that American “liberals” are actually pretty right-wing compared to the substantial majority of politicians in Europe.

But if we’re talking about “liberal” in the sense of classical liberalism, it still doesn’t quite jive. I mean, Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair, these people are definitely classical liberals by any definition. (Individual rights and liberties (for certain categories of people, an important facet of liberalism) emphasized, support for capitalism and free markets, etc.) Angela Merkel strikes me as a liberal as well, and the EU broadly definitely seems to fall into a “classical liberal” paradigm.

Hi, JP,

Your confusion is understandable. Many people confuse the American usage of liberal and conservative to mean the political spectrum as we typically see it, with Democrats to the left, Republicans to the right, communism at the extreme left, and fascism to the extreme right.

Classical Liberalism is about what government is supposed to do. The big thinkers in classical liberalism are John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, and John Stuart Mill. Hobbes came up with the concept of the social contract; that governments are a social contract between the governed and the governors. Locke posited the idea that we could change that contract when it no longer served the needs of the people, or when the rulers abrogated their duties under it. Hobbes believed in a strong central authority. Locke advocated individual freedoms.

Thomas Jefferson drew extensively from these ideas when he wrote the Declaration of Independence.

Mill was a later thinker but also contributed to classic liberalism. He advocated a definition of liberty that emphasized the individual over the control by the state.

These ideas are all LIBERAL ideas; if you look more closely at them you can see threads of what many people now think of as conservative or libertarian thinking since there is emphasis on the individual rights of self determination and to property. That’s because these ideas stand in contrast to the “divine right of kings” that characterize absolute monarchies such as that of Louis XIV, who famously said, “L’tat c’est moi,” or “I am the state.”

Conservatives in Europe put the primacy of the ruling class before that of individual citizens. Toryism is a good example of this. Hierarchy, rule by the elites is considered desirable. It emphases collective good through a strong social state.

Thatcher led the Conservative Party, supported neo-liberalism (which is not what we think of as liberalism in America). She was closer to American conservatives (who are liberal compared to European conservatives). Tony Blair was also more liberal than a classical conservative. So they’re not good examples of what I’m talking about.

Winston Churchill is a much better example of a European conservative.

Bear in mind that there is a spectrum of European thought just as there is here. Communism, in spite of its potential for abuse by populist or authoritarians, is still liberal in its thinking but is not classic liberalism because it disdains individual property rights.

Yeah, I’m familiar with the idea of Classical Liberalism. I think certain liberal ideals are very good (individual liberties and so on), but in practice, liberalism of any sort excludes certain groups of people from the “all” of “liberty for all.” (Black people, colonized peoples, women, historically; currently “illegal” immigrants, prisoners of the War on Drugs, and so on.)

It’s a muddled and confusing word and means really different things all over the Anglosphere.

I utterly reject Hobbes, for one, and his whole “State of Nature” concept. I also fundamentally oppose capitalism, which is key to any form of liberalism.

One could certainly say that communism is a continuation of certain Enlightenment values, but you can’t really call it liberal in terms of what the word means pretty much anywhere in the world at this point, since it’s opposed to capitalism.

I could also point out that the term “libertarian” has been weirdly co-opted by right wingers in the US; “libertarian” was originally a left wing term, basically a euphemism for anarchism.

Anyway, if “liberal” is a muddled and confused word, “conservative” is even more so. And I have to say that I’ve certainly met lots and lots of liberals who essentially believe in rule by elites of one sort or another.

Churchill actually started out as a conservative, crossed over to the Liberal side because of his ideas on trade, and ended up a conservative again later in life.

To make things even more confusing, the Liberal Party in Australia is somewhere slightly right of Reagan, at least from what I’ve heard.

Hi, JP,

I would never include communism as an continuation of the Enlightenment. Marx and Engler were economic theorists. The Enlightenment focused on social theory and the advancement of empiricism. Communism is wishful thinking about human nature; it contains primarily economic ideas with a veneer of political philosophy that has never worked in practice anywhere its been tried.

I’ll take capitalism over mercantilism any day. The problem we’re having with capitalism in the US today is that we don’t actually apply a light regulatory hand to produce an even playing field for competition, which is an essential element of what Adam Smith described in Wealth of Nations. Instead we have laissez faire capitalism, which emphases little to no intervention in how systems work out. It’s a recipe for pollution and monopoly.

But mercantilism, which is what we had until Smith’s ideas started taking hold, was the idea that the state should always come out on top in all trade with foreign entities. It’s protectionism, and it’s what we’re hearing from the Trump administration when he talks about “terrible trade deals.” It’s the antithesis of free trade policies. Problem is, when you slap a tariff on something to protect domestic industries, those domestic industries immediately raise their prices. That’s what happening right now with the new steel tariffs. American steelmakers are raising prices for what manufacturers often consider inferior products to what they were getting from foreign sources. The other problem is other countries retaliate with their own tariffs. It’s why Harley Davidson is moving some of its production to Europe.

The Smoot Hawley Tariff is what locked us into the Great Depression. My fear is when the next recession comes, the fact we’ve dismantled our free trade agreements and set these tariffs will throw us into a prolonged depression. Because the problem is, we rarely repeal tariffs once we set them. Ford Motors is still coming up with creative ways to deal with the “chicken tariff” that dragged the auto industry into a protectionist war during the mid 60’s.

I can understand your confusion on libertarianism. There are a wide variety of schools of thought, and some are left leaning. But I agree; whereas conservatives talk about limited government, libertarians want practically no government at all.

I disagree that liberals advocate rule by elites. They do, however, believe in empiricism. The Enlightenment also gave us the scientific method; so a part of liberal thought often has been to follow evidence and base policy on that.

The Founders did believe in hierarchies to some extent, but where that went depending a lot on who you were talking to. Alexander Hamilton wanted to establish a new aristocracy. John Adams believed public service was the duty of all gentlemen, but which I mean men of education and means. Neither could be considered what we’d link of today as liberal; they were Federalists. Voting was restricted to white, male property owners because the Founders didn’t trust the common man, women, or other races to make responsible political decisions.

I don’t see today’s liberals as being elitist. I know they’re often accused of that, but really, I don’t see them advocating a position that says only certain people should be participating in the political process or have equal rights. So I’d have to ask for an example of a liberal you think advocates that position, and some examples of why you think that.

I’m not confused on libertarianism, I was pointing out the way in which it’s been co-opted by right wingers. It was originally a left wing term, and is understood as so in most of the rest of the world.

First of all, not all communism is Marxism; there were and all all sorts of different sorts of thought and theorists under the label. Marx is definitely an important thinker, though, although I have some problems with some of his ideas. Most of his writing, in any case, is mostly a critique of capitalism, and he made a lot of good points.

Capitalism is basically a system of theft and exploitation at it’s core. Let’s say I have some wealth – capital – that I inherited or stole or whatever. I use it to buy a bunch of wood, and then I hire a bunch of people to make it into chairs or tables or whatever, which increases the value of the wood I bought. The I sell the products for a profit and pay the workers a wage. I’m not paying the workers the actual value of their work, or else I wouldn’t get any return on my investment.

The whole system favors people who start out with wealth and invariably funnels wealth upwards to a greater and greater degree. It’s not a big, it’s a feature. Inequality and poverty aren’t a sign that capitalism is broken on its own terms; it’s precisely the way it’s set up to work.

Communism is deflinitely a continuation of Enlightenment values, at least if you consider “liberty and equality” to be Enlightenment values.

Personally I’m a “pursuit of individual happiness” person, and capitalism totally fails to foster that.

Capitalism with Social Democratic bandaids is better than unfettered capitalism, but you’ve still got a capitalist class that throws their money and power around and does their best to erode any sort of social safety nets or regulations. You can see it happening all over the world.


With regards to elitism among liberals, I could go look up a bunch of articles by liberals about how elites ought to be governing – “trained pilots should be flying the plane” – and I will if you want. But for now, and for all of Jacobin’s flaws as a publication (though I actually criticize it from the Left), here’s a pretty good article about what I meant:

As regards to individual liberals I’ve known who are openly elitist, I could start with my advisor, who said more than once that he hated the whole idea of anti-elitism (“we’re all at an elite university; we are the elites.”) I could go into why this is ironic given his personal background, but my personal take is that he sort of got Stockholm Syndrome’d by the upper class “elites” at Harvard.

Hell, I’ve met liberals who think that people should have to be pass political literacy tests in order to be able to vote. I mean, I’m all for greater political literacy and education, but that outright smacks of, uh, certain unsavory practices in America’s recent past.

The “most ardent conservative[s]” in the United States today are taking refugee children away from their parents, locking some of them in cages, and defending that on the grounds that the parents broke the law. They are saying there are “good people on both sides” when one side is peaceful protesters and the other is armed Nazis, one of whom just murdered an unarmed protester. They may talk about a smaller government, but what they mean is endless money for armies and police, none for health care, and imprisonment of the poor without trial for trivial things, because they can’t afford to pay cash bail.

That is not liberalism by any definition except Humpty Dumpty’s.

Hi, JP

I still don’t agree that communism is a continuation of the Enlightenment. Communism was conceived of by Marx and Engels in the late 19th century. While other thinkers have refined it from their original ideas, we are still way past the Enlightenment, and communism at its core is not compatible with the philosophies produced by Enlightenment thinkers, particularly when it comes to property.

I do think Socialism can blunt the edge of capitalism in its purest forms. That’s why Social Security and Medicare are such important programs.

But what you’re talking about in regards to capitalism with your example of wood is not capitalism per se. It’s banking. It’s lending, and that type of lending has been around for a very long time–so long that even the Bible warns against setting interest rates too high. I see nothing wrong with taking something of value and making it work for you. You can still make a profit paying fair value for labor; Henry Ford did just that, and the effect was to start a solid middle class. The problem we have now is the focus on short term gains makes executive focus on stock prices and not the long term health of their companies. It’s depressing wages to keep prices low.

But communism is not a cure for the ills of capitalism. People want the freedom to innovate; central planning inhibits that. There is not respect for property; in the purest form the state owns everything. If the state owns the fruits of your labor, there is no incentive to create. That’s why it always fails.

Hi Vickie,

I can see you have not been reading carefully. Please go back and re-read my response to Joel, because you just made the same mistake he did. I am not talking about liberal vs conservative as in the difference between Democrats and Republicans. I’m talking about what classic liberalism is, and it’s a completely different subject.

There is not respect for property; in the purest form the state owns everything. If the state owns the fruits of your labor, there is no incentive to create. That’s why it always fails.

“Socialism is when the government does stuff, and the more stuff it does, the socialister it is.”

Cultural Mark and Freddy Angel

Sorry, I couldn’t help myself. The conception of communism in the above quote is totally wrong. In communism’s purest form, there is no state, and not only no wage labor, no money. The ideal communist society is the same thing, actually, as the ideal (left, which I shouldn’t have to specify, but I do), which is why communists and anarchists (and actual socialists) tend to run in the same circles. The disagreements are more about how to get there.

(Marxist-Leninists and anarchists often don’t get along, though, and Marxism-Leninism is what people are actually thinking of when they say “capital C Communism.” It’s not the capital C that makes Marxism-Leninism what it is, it was Stalin, actually.)

(I just chuckled at the memory of a particularly weird and awful ML ranting on Twitter about “weird sex anarchists,” which might possibly say something about the personality type attracted to Marxism-Leninism, I don’t know.)

As far as central planning goes, there was this whole argument about it early on in the Russian Revolution that didn’t end very well.

Also, “Henry Ford created the American middle class” is a really wrong statement, which I’ll go into later.

Although, Panacea, I don’t blame you for that conception of what communism is, given the abysmal definition in dictionaries. I recently looked up “socialism” in the dictionary, and I was like, “What the hell? Why is a leftist in-joke about bad definitions of socialism literally the definition in the dictionary?”

@ JP

I stand corrected on the definition of pure communism; you’re right. However, mankind doesn’t really seem able to live without the concept of a state. There are always people who lead or take leadership, and other people who follow. A good example of this is the history of the early Christian church. Initially, members lived in communal societies, giving everything they owned to the community. These communities quickly developed the leadership structures that led to the modern Catholic and Orthodox Churches as we know them.

As for Ford–I didn’t say Ford created the middle class. But he set in motion conditions that led to it. When he raised his workers wages so they could afford to buy his cars, it was one factor in the early labor movement that led to better wages and working conditions that DID result in a solid middle class.


What you’re engaging in right now is basically the “argument from human nature,” which I’m well familiar with, and is in fact, among other things, an example of the naturalistic fallacy.

Humanity existed without anything resembling a state for the vast majority of our existence on Earth, let alone the type of state that we have today.

Any sort of argument against communism/anarchism/socialism from “human nature” (there is no such thing; if you can find a scientific description of it, interesting, but I haven’t come across one) inevitably, if you take it far enough, veers into Jordan Peterson type “well, lobsters have hierarchies” silliness. I might as well say that in many societies it can be observed that men dominate women, therefore the domination of women by men is simply human nature and cannot be changed and that is that. Not a very convincing argument, is it?


I’m not arguing a naturalistic fallacy. Anytime you have a community structure with leaders and followers, you have a state. It may be primitive, but it’s still a state.

That’s why pure communism cannot exist and has never been found to exist anywhere I’ve ever heard of. Someone invariably takes charge. If you can cite me an example of a pure communism ever existing, please let me know.

It may be primitive, but it’s still a state.

Look, I’m just going to quote Wikipedia here, because it’s late and I’m getting tired, but:

A state is a compulsory political organization with a centralized government that maintains a monopoly of the legitimate use of force within a certain geographical territory.[1][2]

Many human societies have been governed by states for millennia, however for most of pre-history people lived in stateless societies. The first states arose about 5,500 years ago in conjunction with rapid growth of cities, invention of writing, and codification of new forms of religion. Over time, a variety of different forms developed, employing a variety of justifications for their existence (such as divine right, the theory of the social contract, etc.). Today, however, the modern nation-state is the predominant form of state to which people are subject.

It’s also false to assume that all human societies have arranged themselves in terms of “leaders and followers.” I could come up with all kinds of indigenous societies that really weren’t set up this way, but I don’t have it in me to do it at the moment.

I’m not suggesting that we turn back the clock, but the notion that “states have always existed and must always exist, it’s human nature” is just false. Other ways of existing are possible, even if it takes work and imagination to come up with them and isn’t going to happen overnight.

As an example of a society that’s currently practicing something that resembles communism, check out Rojava. The system of government is “democratic confederalism,” actually (“google Murrary Bookchin,” as they say on Twitter) and there’s a small amount of private enterprise, but the economy is rapidly becoming more and more collectivized and cooperative.

Granted, it’s probably going to get crushed by Turkey or some other sh!tty actor, because the world sucks.

Incidentally, since a lot of people really aren’t clear on this, “private property” is not the same as “personal property.” In communist thinking, you obviously still get to keep your house and your car and your toothbrush; those things are personal property, defined by use. “Private property” is when capitalists own the means of production, like factories and huge banana plantations in Latin America or whatever, and use those things to exploit the labor of the working class. (And the “working class” is also much broader than most people think! Most of us are probably in it.)

Hi, JP,

Every state that has tried communism has taken away private property rights, as in land and houses. They become part of the collective. It happened in farm villages in the Soviet Union, and in North Korea. It happened in China.

When I’m talking about property, I’m not referring to tools, clothing, or household items. I’m referring to the big stuff: land. Homes. Factories.

You picked a really poor example with Rojava. That area has been embroiled in conflict since its “founding”, it’s a defacto autonomous state within Syria. Yes, they’re going to be crushed; by Assad if not by the Turks. Five years of nonstop civil war are not the backdrop to create a truly communist state, and I don’t get the impression that’s even their goal.

I’ll concede your argument on the definition of a state, but it’s still up to you to find me an example of a successful pure communism.


And you have failed to prove your assertion that hierarchies are somehow inevitable and have always existed, when this is in fact demonstrably untrue:

The “communist” countries you’re talking about are all based on Marxism-Leninism and the Soviet model, which isn’t socialist at all.

That’s what tends to happen anytime the word “communism” is mentioned, though; people just keep going “but the USSR! Stalin! Mao!”

Yeah, libertarian socialist attempts are often squashed by fascists or Stalinists or the good old USA. (Jesus, we couldn’t even abide Allende, a Marxist, being legally and democratically elected in Chile. No, we had to “back” Pinochet instead, and didn’t that turn out so much better than that nasty Marxist Allende?)

You’re not going to get an example of “pure communism” at this point, because it hasn’t existed. I only mentioned “pure” communism because you made the absolutely ridiculous statement that “communism in its purest state is when the state owns everything.” It’s the opposite of that. And, in fact, it’s under capitalism that the vast majority of people are denied the fruits of their labor.

Oh, come on JP! An article from 1982? Really? No one has done follow up on this? Besides, the article is a bare description of two societies and one of them is shown its members to be susceptible to outside influence causing them to react pretty much the way we would expect hierarchical systems to react. .

Not very convincing evidence. I looked at some other sources, and while hierarchical structures seem to be very weak, they also seem to be there.

What’s wrong with 1982? It’s in a reputable journal, and I could actually access it for free. Here’s another article:

I could come up with lots of stuff. The egalitarian nature of hunter-gatherer societies (generally speaking, and at the band level) is pretty much uncontroversial. I certainly find it to be worth much more than a bunch of BS about the “State of Nature” that Thomas Hobbes pulled out of his @ss.

Well, hello …

@ JP:

I am sorry to hear about your foot. As you may know, I’ve had a series of odd injuries – too complicated to explain in detail- over the past two years and thus, am not as agile as before BUT I DO get around**

I hope that you are better soon. There are lots of PT videos on the net ( see Bob and Brad of MN)

@ Joel A, Harrison, PhD, MPH:

I notice that old Jakey Boi has decided to not post your more recent comments. You must have hit a nerve.
Interesting how they call you “Mr” not “Dr” . Jake has done that to others before.

** I just returned from a hectic few days in CA- I didn’t contact anyone there despite wanting to do so.

a few observations:

if you can, take a 777- much faster flight
illegal fireworks displays can be artistic
CA fire is very prompt- saw them in action by chance on a highway in Mendocino Cy
( small fire in mountains – loads of smoke)

In liberal news…
– I was pleased to see banners/ signs on homes in a western part of SF ( route 1) in solidarity with immigrant detainees/ children.

I was shocked to see a car bedecked with Trumpy slogans and gun rights propaganda in remote Boonville.
I thought it was only rich hippies and LA movie folk visitors there. Who knew?


I drove over through the redwoods to the coast where there are lots of artsy stuff and kayaks
unusually, actually visited a Sonoma winery ( which had many dogs present) and
tres chic downtown Napa. I am not a fan of ostentatious wealth BUT sometimes these people know their stuff and have fine art/ antiques/ foodstuffs/ etc.
also surfing areas ( moderate surf) in San Mateo cy
someone from Samoa helped me at the airport.

Now I’m tired

Thanks, Denice. I’ve gotten plenty of advice and lectures on PT from my friend Sara and others, haha. (“An ounce of prevention, Jamie!”) Apparently I ought to buy this thing called a Theraband.

@ JP:

Sometimes you have to keep weight off of the foot for a while which means using a cane or crutch.
Therabands are simple, stretchy bands for resistance exercises so you can develop strength in the less used leg- I’m not sure if they want you to wait with that..
Did you get instructions about these issues?

Any way, I hope you feel better soon.

have you had someone take you to get x-rays yet? If you haven’t please please do. And if they are negative, get more followup. Insist on MRI sooner rather than later: there is a lot of connective tissue in your foot, and – oh, this sounds ridiculous! – it’s all connected.

You’re younger than I am. You will need to walk on your feet for a long time. Seek medical attention.

Signed: been there, done that, it was awful


It was my friends Sara and Sarah who were telling me to buy and use a Theraband, like more as general advice. Sara had had knee surgery and done a lot of PT, and she also has had other skeletomuscular issues; she’s huge on posture and ergonomics, and when we were seeing a lot of each other, I got some lectures about it. (It’s not for nothing that I joke that she’s my Jewish mother.)

Yeah, the instructions I got were to stay on crutches and use the boot for now. (Their were some crutches in my grandma’s basement that I’m using, and I got the boot for free at the clinic. I was kind of like, “Wait, I get to keep this?”)

@Box of Salt:

I didn’t go to the doctor right away, because, I don’t even know, I mean, I have Medicaid, so it’s free. But I did go, and she said she thinks it could well be a Jones fracture. She did send me to Providence for x-rays, and I have an appointment at the clinic today to go over the results.

Welp, it’s broken. Not a Jones fracture, though, it’s at the base of the fifth metatarsal and it’s not too bad or complicated. Three to four weeks to heal.

Hi, JP.

The Theraband will be more useful to you a bit later in the healing process, unless your doctor recommended its use now.

What it will do is provide resistance training for your foot muscles, which will weaken from disuse. However, doing active range of motion could be helpful while you’re in the boot. That means moving your toes in every direction you normally can move them, several times a day. If it hurts, stop. Talk to your doctor and get his approval first. He may want you to wait a bit to allow bone healing to start.

Heads-up: New story in The Atlantic about anti-vaxers in Australia:

Hendra primarily affects horses, but horse-to-human transmission does occur, and the virus is so dangerous it’s listed in the same category as Ebola. Public health scientists are rightly concerned about the risk of a mutation that could make it human-to-human transmissible.

There is a vaccine for horses, but there have been some cases of side effects, leading to the usual eruption of anti-vax cr@p in Australia. This has itself become rather virulent, as the article describes.

Anyone here from Australia, please let us know if there’s anything we can all do to help.

Meanwhile closer to home:

The California State Senators who authored SB 277 (Richard Pan and Ben Allen), doing away with the “belief exemptions” in California, are both up for re-election this year. In light of the recent disciplinary action against “Dr. Bob” Sears, anti-vaxers (including from out of state) are likely to be targeting them, so we need to do our share to keep them in office. Their campaign websites:

Door-to-door canvassing is the most effective way to get voters registered and get them to the polls. One of the next-most-effective methods is to send personally-written postcards to registered voters. Ten bucks keeps two canvassers fed on their rounds for one night. Ten bucks buys enough postcards to have a strong chance of getting one more voter to the voting booth.

Almost everyone who hangs out here can afford sending ten bucks to both of these campaigns. Sorry to be a persistent goad about this, but the bottom line is:

Everybody in: that’s how we win!

Door-to-door canvassing is the most effective way to get voters registered and get them to the polls.

I lasted exactly two days doing this for MSF. It’s easier with single-family homes than apartment buildings, but it’s still brutal. Memorize the rap, cover the turf, and then re-cover the turf for people who didn’t answer the first time, so that you can irritate them while they’re trying to have dinner.

Oh, I forgot:

Ten bucks keeps two canvassers fed on their rounds for one night.


@jp You should check what classical liberalism means. Gladstone was one of them. He tought that income tax is immoral, and tried to remove it from budget.
You should check social democracy, too. Sanders is social democrat, Tony Benn was democratic socialist. Difference is huge.
Lastly an example of human nature: Work ethic in former Soviet Union was piss poor. When asked, workers would say: “We pretend to work and they pretend to pay”.

Aaron, I know what the fxck the difference is between Social Democracy and Democratic Socialism. I also have a degree in Russian and Eurasian studies and most of a PhD in Slavic Studies and I don’t need yours or anybody else’s here “explanations” about Soviet history, thank you very much. I’m pretty goddamned familiar with the territory.


I am impressed.
I thought that you majored purely in lit – although that’s not a light load by any means.

As you may know, we had a Russian communist/ socialist in our family because my great uncle married a woman whose parents left the USSR because of political issues perhaps in the 1920s. She wanted to return as an adult but
my relative wanted to remain a capitalist.
She was extremely fabulous.


Yeah, as an undergrad I did “Russian and Eurasian Studies,” which entailed history, language, politics, etc., as well as literature. I also studied a fair bit of philosophy.

Yeah, I’m grad school I was focusing on literature, but for one thing, you can’t study literature without studying history among other things, and also cognate classes were required, which for me ended up being PoliSci and a Women’s Studies seminar. (Where I found out about a Marx reading group and also found out that I really don’t like Lacan.)

Commentariat of Respectful Insolence, I give you the finest example of mansplaining I have seen in a year.

Which comment? What does ‘mansplaining’ mean? In my experience, it means ‘I don’t like it and I want to pretend I have a principled reason to delegitimate it.” Much like ‘privilege’, ‘patriarchy’, etc. I’m no friend to class and gender domination but I really think we’re stuck in a magic word trench.

What comment are you criticizing, for what reason? Are you quite sure that it exemplifies an identifiable, common form of sexist apologetics? If so, why? I’m asking, not JAQing.

Oh, spare me. Mansplaining has a pretty clear definition, and it isn’t what you claim. It’s often said that three of the most dangerous words in medicine are “in my experience.” It turns out that they’re pretty dangerous in other areas too, because basically they are an excuse to represent one’s confirmation bias as if it were anything other than confirmation bias. In my experience of course.

Listen, I’m just going to come out and say it:

I’m really sick of the “explaining voice” coming from middle aged white guys on this thread when it comes to things which I know as least at much about, if not much more than they do, which is quite demonstrable in many cases.

Yeah, I’m a 30 year old person with tits and ovaries. I’ve also spent years of my goddamned life studying a lot of this stuff, and to have some (I’m sorry, but) clueless middle-aged white dude try to “explain” things to me that I’m explaining to him is frankly just ridiculous and insulting and telling.

Look, I know a lot of people’s brains shut down at the first mention of the words “communism” or “Marx” or many other things, but Jesus, if you’re telling me that condemning the ongoing rape of a 14 year old slave by a “founding father” is, holy Christ, “a flaw,” then at least admit that some of the damned ideas of pretty blameless socialist theorists from back in the day might have have some points.

And don’t talk down to me. I’m pretty goddamned smart and educated, thank you very much, and I probably know a lot more than you assume that I do.

I have no objection to tits and ovaries. And I cannot understand why somebody is wrong just because he is middle aged white man.
I was born and raised in Finland. I am quite certain that I know more about social democracy and communism that you do (Stalin purged one family member). Social democracy and communism used to be rivals. A social democrat would be revisionist, social fascist and noske. So label Marxist do not scare me.
As for Founding Fathers, we have John Jay, a federalist, and founder of New York Manumission Society.

“I cannot understand why somebody is wrong just because he is middle aged white man.”

Since you persistently fail (or not willing) to understand why you’re wrong when JP repeatedly provides clear and supported explanations why you are wrong then IMO you deserve the insult.

“Stalin purged one family member”

Victimization does not magically confer knowledge on a subject. Historians (well, the good ones) do us an important service.

Also, when you are in the general population you do not have access to the information that is being held back by the governing body. I spent a great deal of my youth in South and Central America getting my information from my US Army father who was dealing with the military of those countries.

So the information I got was filtered with a very specific bias. It was not until I got a dressing down by a professor of Latin America that I opened my eyes to what was really happening. It brought a different light to some of the things I actually witnessed.

Do you also have a PhD in Slavic studies? Or perhaps in Political Science of 20th century Eurasia?

To put it more clearly: your comments actively disrespect JP’s expertise. You have started with a position that JP is ignorant on this topic, which means you either didn’t read or ignored all of JP and Panacea’s conversation upthread.

Also, you say that you are more knowledgeable about this topic then JP, but nowhere here or in previous comment threads have you shown us that you are knowledgeable. JP has provided ample demonstration of her expertise. You have not.

And I cannot understand why somebody is wrong just because he is middle aged white man.

I wasn’t saying you’re wrong because you’re a middle aged man; I was saying you’re being condescending as all get out, and it might have something to do with that. There’s a word for that sort of thing that a lot of people here are probably familiar with.

I am quite certain that I know more about social democracy and communism that you do

You don’t, though.

(Stalin purged one family member)

That’s terrible. Stalin was a butcher and a monster. And the only reason that Lenin seems less bad by comparison is that he didn’t live long enough, in my opinion. Lenin and the “Bolsheviks” (it’s funny, because the name means “members of the majority,” and they weren’t) totally hijacked the Russian Revolution, ruined it, and turned it into something utterly anti-socialist. (Fun fact: they dissolved the freaking soviets, you know, that thing that the Soviet Union had in its name.)

Social democracy and communism used to be rivals.

I know that, you condescending twit. For example, the Social Democrats squashed the Spartakusbund uprising in Germany and killed Rosa Luxemburg. And yep, SocDems were purged as hell in Russia.

I actually think Social Democracy is good, as far as it goes. Having social safety nets and regulations on business is a lot better than not having them. I just don’t think it goes far enough, and I think it’s tragically and demonstrably vulnerable to erosion by corporations and the super-rich. That’s too bad, actually.

So label Marxist do not scare me.

OK. I’m not sure what this is supposed to signify.

JP: I am not sure where this explosion of anger is coming from. I thought you and I were having a reasonable discussion, and I was enjoying it.

Just so you know, I also have a background in these subjects. In addition to my MSN, I hold a Master of Arts in History, with a minor in Literature. I spent a lot of time on the writings of John Stuart Mill in grad school.

I love a healthy academic debate on a wide variety of subjects. But if you perceive it as not being that, I’m happy to drop it altogether.


Sorry to snap a bit, it was more Aarno who set it off. But, honestly, in my first comment I wasn’t asking you for an explanation of “Classical Liberalism” – I know what it is, and I’m familiar with Locke and Hobbes and Mill, and I’ve read them and I think they’re Not That Good, Actually. I can give examples in a little bit. Ditto, I’m not “confused” about libertarianism, I was actually making an explanatory point. And, like I said, I can’t really blame you for completely misunderstanding the basic essence of what communism is, but like, it’s really common and incredibly cartoonishly wrong and it just kind of gets to a person after a while.

I’ll go up and read the other replies. I had to take a break for a couple of days because I was feeling pretty frustrated.

Oh, I left off a bit of a thought; what I was sort of nudging you to do, in my first comment, was simply to clarify your terms, because “liberal” means so many different things to so many different people and in so many different places.

Not OT: There’s an interesting article in the Wall St. Journal today about a French company being about to start phase 2 trials for a Lyme disease vaccine, and the opposition (so far mostly from Lyme “advocacy groups”) that threatens to derail it, much like LYMErix*years ago.

While the new vaccine is at least a few years away from hitting the market, expect antivaxers to band together with Lyme groups still convinced that the old vaccine caused health problems, in order to attack the new one. Some background:

*LYMErix had its share of problems, including fair but not fabulous efficacy, required multiple shots, was marketed badly and wasn’t covered by many insurance policies.

I have to laugh. All these people are so against the Lyme vaccine, but many more people are tired of getting Lyme, or tired of worrying about getting Lyme that there’s an MIT researcher who wants to CRISPR the mice of Nantucket to make them less effective carriers of Lyme bacteria.

I happen to know this researcher personally, but I have to say, when asked which thing I am more worried about the unintended consequences of; vaccines or genetically modifying wild animals, well, let’s just say I’ll roll up my arm first. (Don’t get me wrong, I think reducing the mouse reservoir would be great, but it is much harder, and it doesn’t do anything about the deer reservoir. And this childish part of me still worries about super-intelligent mice taking over Nantucket.)

“What are we going to do tonight, Brain?”

“Same thing we do every night, Pinky. Try to TAKE OVER THE WORLD!”

“They’re Pinky and the Brain,
Pinky and the Brain.
One is a genius,
the other’s insane.
To prove their mousy worth,
they’ll overthrow the Earth.
They’re Pinky, they’re Pinky and the Brain.”

All these people are so against the Lyme vaccine

Well, it could put a dent in the LLD retirement program.

I was thinking more The Rats of NIMH, but I’m glad everyone’s mind goes to the same place!
They’re laboratory mice
Their genes have been spliced
They’re dinky, they’re Pinky and the Brain!

Wow, I hadn’t thought about Pinky and the Brain since I was like eight.

My mind went more in the direction of Douglas Adams.

@justatech JP did not cite examples of slavic or Europan history. He had an example prehistory and general comments of elites and human nature. As per history, Lenin invented communism, before it there were just social democratic parties.
@Chris Army probably restricts communications more than general society. And yes, US policy in Latin America was stupid. Every idiot can now run on antiamerican platform.
@rs I do not see any clear explanations by JP.

As per history, Lenin invented communism, before it there were just social democratic parties.

Holy sh!t is this wrong. I was about to reply to your recent comment, and I probably still will, but my God, for someone who apparoaches me as though I’m ignorant about these things, you sure are an absolute ignoramus.

Aarno, your first comment was “@jp You should check what classical liberalism means”. This is after a very long (and ongoing) thread between JP and Panacea about, among other things, the definitions of classical liberalism. JP cites Hobbs (and rejected him). You haven’t cited anyone, or given anyone here any indication that you are well read on the subject.

If Lenin invented communism, then why was the word first used with the modern definition by a French philosopher almost a hundred years before Lenin was born? See, this is why I respect commenters like JP and Panacea and not you; your statements are obviously false.

Also, please don’t mis-gender people, it’s incredibly rude.

There were claim that Tony Blair is a classical liberal. This is patently absurb. Classical liberalism included laissez faire and night watch state. Banning child labor used to be unconstitutional.
All parties (loosely based) on marxism, called themselves social democrats. It was Marxist-Leninist parties that called themselves communists. In practical political sense, Lenin indeed invented communism.
I am sorry for he, it was a typo.

You seem to have “classical liberalism” confused with modern “libertarianism” of the right-wing sort. This is both common and telling, and it’s why I generally find that someone identifying as a “classical liberal” is a red flag.

As for the rest, Christ, you manage to be pedantic, condescending, and wrong at the same time.

Aarno, JP did not need to cite anything from Slavic history. It was irrelevant to the discussion she and I were having. While I did make reference to Marxist Lenin thought, the history of Russia or Slavic peoples really didn’t impact the points either of us were making.

JP does, however, have a background in the history of communism from Marx onwards and would need it as part of her field considering the impact communism has had on the Slavic world since the late 19th century. That’s why she mentioned her background and why she is qualified and knowledgeable in the subject. Just as I am perfectly capable of discussing the ideas of Enlightenment thinkers like Hobbes, Locke, and Mill (Mill’s a stretch, he was more of a Utilitarian) because I had to understand these ideas to understand the philosophical thinking of the Founding Fathers for MY (other) field of US History.

What you used was the Appeal from Authority logical fallacy. You told us that since you are a Finn, and socialism has played and still plays a big role in the history, economics, and politics of your country, that because you’ve lived it you understand it. That’s not automatically true. Lots of people in the United States don’t understand what liberalism really means. If I told my next door neighbor that America was built on classical liberal values, he’d probably get out his shotgun and shoot me (he’s as ultra uber right wingnut nutty as you can get in this country).

That’s why JP is so upset with you.

Mine was actually Appeal to Experience, which is quite differwnt thing.

Which is a subset of appeal to authority. You use your life experience as the authority without having any real expertise.

In communism, everyone provides the fruits of their labor to the state, for no pay, and everyone receives from the state that which they need.

You guys, no. That is not what communism is.

or the insomnia inducing rape culture rich Atlas Shrugged.

Haha, nice characterization. I read it when I was 14 or so and even at that age I could tell it was bad.

Oh, wait! It could be her first effort, the semi-autobiographic We the Living. I remember spending some time while reading that over thirty years ago yelling in my head “You are an idiot” to the protagonist

Sorry, Chris and JP. I was quoting Marx there.

JP: if you have a different definition please share it. Don’t just tell me I’m wrong when I’m quoting the author of the Communist Manifesto (albiet that slogan comes from another work by Marx, I’ll concede that).

I’ll concede too, because I did read it in a Ayn Rand book. (I was going through a phase over thirty years ago, I grew out of it)

When I was thinking about it, it does seem to reflect what the US Congress is doing to us now. Deciding that poor folk gotta work for their foods, and that the rich need more money, but not the poor. Just sayin’.

As I said: Who determine the needs of others?

I have to try to quote from The Hippie Trip by memory, but communism is when your neighbor’s girlfriend comes in and rinses out her homemade tampon in the tub while you’re in it.

Panacea, what you said appears nowhere in anything Marx wrote. Are you referring to this?

“From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.”

I certainly don’t see anything in that which refers to a state or to working for free. I already explained that communism entails no state, not an all-powerful state. We could get into the weeds about Marx’s ideas about the in-between phase between capitalism and communism (which he called socialism, but that’s a particular Marxian definition) but even in that, there’s nothing about “working for free for the state.” He had this whole idea of “labor notes,” which is basically money by another name.

I mean, if you want to actually read a little bit of the context of what I think you’re referring to, here (this comes after Marx introduces the idea of labor notes):

But one man is superior to another physically, or mentally, and supplies more labor in the same time, or can labor for a longer time; and labor, to serve as a measure, must be defined by its duration or intensity, otherwise it ceases to be a standard of measurement. This equal right is an unequal right for unequal labor. It recognizes no class differences, because everyone is only a worker like everyone else; but it tacitly recognizes unequal individual endowment, and thus productive capacity, as a natural privilege. It is, therefore, a right of inequality, in its content, like every right. Right, by its very nature, can consist only in the application of an equal standard; but unequal individuals (and they would not be different individuals if they were not unequal) are measurable only by an equal standard insofar as they are brought under an equal point of view, are taken from one definite side only — for instance, in the present case, are regarded only as workers and nothing more is seen in them, everything else being ignored. Further, one worker is married, another is not; one has more children than another, and so on and so forth. Thus, with an equal performance of labor, and hence an equal in the social consumption fund, one will in fact receive more than another, one will be richer than another, and so on. To avoid all these defects, right, instead of being equal, would have to be unequal.

But these defects are inevitable in the first phase of communist society as it is when it has just emerged after prolonged birth pangs from capitalist society. Right can never be higher than the economic structure of society and its cultural development conditioned thereby.

In a higher phase of communist society, after the enslaving subordination of the individual to the division of labor, and therewith also the antithesis between mental and physical labor, has vanished; after labor has become not only a means of life but life’s prime want; after the productive forces have also increased with the all-around development of the individual, and all the springs of co-operative wealth flow more abundantly — only then then can the narrow horizon of bourgeois right be crossed in its entirety and society inscribe on its banners: From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!

As I said: Who determine the needs of others?

Well, most people start with basic needs that still aren’t being met for a lot of people, like food, shelter, clean water, clothing, that kind of thing. The workers being “fed and clothed” pops up a lot in commie literature. Here’s a semi-related quote from Kropotkin (Bread Santa) from The Conquest of Bread:

It is in much the same fashion that the shrewd heads among the middle classes reason when they say, “Ah, Expropriation! I know what that means. You take all the overcoats and lay them in a heap, and every one is free to help himself and fight for the best.”

But such jests are irrelevant as well as flippant. What we want is not a redistribution of overcoats, although it must be said that even in such a case, the shivering folk would see advantage in it. Nor do we want to divide up the wealth of the Rothschilds. What we do want is so to arrange things that every human being born into the world shall be ensured the opportunity in the first instance of learning some useful occupation, and of becoming skilled in it; next, that he shall be free to work at his trade without asking leave of master or owner, and without handing over to landlord or capitalist the lion’s share of what he produces. As to the wealth held by the Rothschilds or the Vanderbilts, it will serve us to organize our system of communal production.

The day when the labourer may till the ground without paying away half of what he produces, the day when the machines necessary to prepare the soil for rich harvests are at the free disposal of the cultivators, the day when the worker in the factory produces for the community and not the monopolist — that day will see the workers clothed and fed, and there will be no more Rothschilds or other exploiters.

No one will then have to sell his working power for a wage that only represents a fraction of what he produces.

That really does not answer the question. Though it would help to know about a country where that actually worked nationally. Not just a single community, an entire industrial nation. Perhaps one that did not practice institutionalized discrimination against entire populations.

Remember, I have dealt with the process of getting my adult child approved for eligibility for the Developmental Disabilities Administration*, and other services. I doubt that a century old quote takes in those issues.

Here is a wee bit of black humor: Just a few weeks after he was approved for eligibility I got a letter saying that as an “Able Bodied Adult” he needed to be employed or working with a specified work training program or lose his food benefits. The kicker was that the DSHS program he was working with, the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, was not on the list of approved work training programs. Fortunately I was only be on hold for about a half hour to get that cleared up with DSHS.


Well, the simplest answer, I guess, to “who decides what needs are” is the people who have needs. We already live in a world that’s essentially post-scarcity; the problem is in how things are distributed and in the creation of artificial scarcity. I can tell you the things that I need, and most people can. In an actually democratic and horizontal society, I imagine that people could negotiate things amongst themselves.

As to your question about whether worker control has ever worked in an industrialized country, sure, in Revolutionary Catalonia. (The reason it ended wasn’t internal, it was external, the Stalinists and the fascists.)

Throughout Catalonia many sectors of the economy fell under the control of the anarchist CNT and the socialist UGT trade unions, where workers’ self-management was implemented. These included railways, streetcars, buses, taxicabs, shipping, electric light and power companies, gasworks and waterworks, engineering and automobile assembly plants, mines, mills, factories, food-processing plants, theaters, newspapers, bars, hotels, restaurants, department stores, and thousands of dwellings previously owned by the upper classes.[10] While the CNT was the leading organization in Catalonia, it often shared power with the UGT. For example, control of the Spanish National telephone company, was put under a joint CNT-UGT committee.[10]

( (There’s a lot more there, skim down to the section on “1936 Revolution and worker’s self management”.)

As far as the disability stuff goes, I’m awfully familiar with the topic myself, and SNAP, and Medicaid. Those are welfare programs in a capitalist society, they’re a lot better than not having them, and I need them. I’m not quite sure what you’re getting at by bringing them up, though.

The B-level of the library is a nightmare, BTW. I was looking for the book that I mentioned so that I could get the quote right, but the ‘HQ’ call numbers are scattered all over the place. I finally found it, but I was out of time and had to go to the cat shelter. And there’s no freaking reshelving cart. G-ddamn cult of academic librarians.

@jp John Stuart Mill wrote Principles of Political Economy, very much classic of classical economics. It is available online. If you read it, you notice where libertarians get their ideas. Good starting point is Book 5, Chapter 11: Of Grounds and Limits of Laissez Faire.
Karl Marx of course wrote Communist Manifesto 1848. He lead First International 1864 – 1876, but he achieved nothing. Lenin turned his ideas to reality. That’s why I called him inventor of communism.
Examples of his ideas: German Workers Party released Gotha Program, which contained familiar democratic litany, not revolutionary dictatorship of proletariat.
He defended Paris commune arsons and hostage shootings:

Aaron, I suspect that JP is thinking more of these types of communities as her ideal than the social-political system instituted by Lenin.

You can connect the dots from Thomas More to these communities or to Kim Jong-Un. But the two have about as much in common as the music of Kanye West has with that of Chuck Berry, although you can connect those as well.

On a separate note, I learned my brother is traveling to Helsinki and thought I would ask where is your favorite place to dine there?

There is a form of communism that was practiced in the USA for decades: the company town. For instance a mine would open up and everything is owned by the mining company. Hence the song “Sixteen Tons” with with poignant phrase: “I sold my soul the company store.” (hubby’s dad was an engineer for a mining/construction company, Kaiser, that created a health system for its employees… now one of the largest health maintenance organizations in the USA)

I lived in a “company town”, it was the Panama Canal Zone. The houses, stores, schools, hospital and everything were property of the Panama Canal Company, which was actually associated the US Army Corps of Engineers:

Most US Military bases are kind of communist. For most of the last century all the stores, hospitals, and homes were owned and operated by the Dept. of Defense (now there are franchises like Burger King, etc on the bases). They did not run the schools, they just owned/maintained the buildings and provided funds to pay the personnel (crossing guards were MPs in training!). Stillwell Elementary School in the former Ft. Ord, CA where I attended 2nd and 3rd grade is now part of the Defense Language School, which I believe is related to this:

I just love the irony that my dad, a retired Army officer, uses “Communist”/”Commies” as an insult. He just did not realize we spent many years living with that particular economic scheme. 😉

While I hated the misogyny of one particular English teacher in Balboa High School, I am thankful that he pointed out that the Canal Zone economics were actually communist.

Oh God nooooo, company towns are nooooot communist or socialist in any way, they’re like one of examples of the worst of capitalism (I mean, okay, there’s lots, like child sweatshops and, I mean, chattel slavery, which sure got the wheels turning.)

The army stuff, I mean, that gets back to the point that “socialism doesn’t mean when the government does stuff.” It’s actually something, though, that oddly a lot of people who don’t know very much about socialism but are trying to defend it in some way say, like, “You don’t like socialism? Well what about the police and the firefighters and roads and the military?” The only good example of socialism there is firefighters (at least the volunteer firefighters, but, I mean, firefighters in general are fxcking awesome.)

I get where you’re coming from, though. I have this older ultra-conservative @sshole relative who used to be my friend on Facebook until he finally unfriended me and I was like, “Oh wow, this much better.” (It had gotten to the point where he was just being actually personal insulting and abusive, and I don’t know why I didn’t block him first.)

I mean, he’s always ranting about “socialism” and “big government” and all that crap, but here’s the kicker: he was career military (in the Air Force, and oh how he loves to demand deference for it, God I hate that attitude) and then, after he retired from the Air Force, he worked for … the United. States. Postal. Service. I am not making this up. He definitely doesn’t seem to mind his pension and benefits.

I have a whole bunch more to say, but I was literally up all night working, and I’m supposed to go a family reunion thing in a little bit here.

(Oh, but just by the by, I find it bizarre how “libertarians” think a “night watchman state” is ideal. Like seriously, you just want to keep the parts of government that suck and get rid of the parts that do decent stuff? I mean, Jesus, if we have a government, we might as well get something not-awful out of it, like healthcare and education and social safety nets and waaay less in the way of war, border guards, police, prisons, etc. “Libertarians” looove “freedom,” riiiiight.)

I was thinking of your reaction to that. Of course, I was taking the total economic definition, not the government definition.

Actually the military base has the tax supported (from outside) form of that economic model, with the authoritative management structure. Just something to poke my dad with a bit.

My brother is also retired military. During a time a few years ago I was worrying about what medical insurance my son would have after he turned age 26. This was a bit after his open heart surgery. So when I was visiting family I did not appreciate my dad and brother talking about how happy that their Tri-Care health insurance was now free.

They loved their free healthcare, but ObamaCare was bad.

Fortunately my son got on Apple Health, and now he has SSI benefits. That took lots of work on my part, with a great deal of help from several other people (many who work for the state’s Dept. of Social and Health Services).

Forty years ago in a actual conversation with my brother he declared that the federal government is just taking money away from taxes. I just stared at him, and I knew I thought the words, but I think I was too stunned to actually utter: “But you are a federal employee as an officer of the US Army.”

My favorite place was public library in Richardinkatu, which would not help your brother, I guess. But I have been so long time away from Helsinki, that I cannot really help.


I would not characterize a company town as a form of communism in any way shape or form. Remember, in communism there is the idea of “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” In communism, everyone provides the fruits of their labor to the state, for no pay, and everyone receives from the state that which they need.

In a company town, you can only rent a home or buy items from the company store, at over inflated prices. Your paycheck is determined by the company not you. They trapped workers in a cycle of debt and poverty more reminiscent of serfdom than communism. You couldn’t quit because you couldn’t afford to pay the debt, and you didn’t dare get fired for the same reason.

The company town served two ends for the company: profit and control. The company profited by requiring employees to live in company towns and buy from company stores because of the high markups. The cycle of debt quelled labor organization. It was only when labor organization finally succeeded, and cars became readily available allowing commutes, that company towns faded away.

Your example, while less malignant than the traditional company store, is not communist either. Again, the wage structure was pre-determined, but you at least had the option to leave the base if you wanted. While there could be an argument that there is a whiff of socialism in military housing, it’s hardly communism (communism and socialism are on the same end of the political spectrum but they are not the same thing).

“In a company town, you can only rent a home or buy items from the company store, at over inflated prices. Your paycheck is determined by the company not you. They trapped workers in a cycle of debt and poverty more reminiscent of serfdom than communism.”

Exactly. That is the authoritative part of how certain areas were governed. Something that happens in many form of economic models, including ones that are nominally capitalist. Much like some of the large areas of South America that were beholden to foreign companies like the banana companies. I sometimes feel the need to separate the economic model from the governing model.

Some of these things were ingrained in the historical culture of certain societies. The racist hierarchy in South America actually gave more rights to those white folks born in Spain versus those white folk born in their American colonies. Then next in line were those who were both white and native American, all the way down to the black slaves they brought over after killing most of the native population.

This was actually explained in my 5th Spanish language “History of Venezuela” textbook! It even had illustrations of the progression for white folk in expensive clothes all the way down to the black slaves in essentially rags. It is also explained in the book 1493 by Charles Mann. There is a great part where he gives the long winded labels that are given to people to define their social status. I also enjoyed Isabel Allende’s autobiographical My Invented Country (feeling a bit of guilt since I believe my dad was involved in the installation of Pinochet, but she does give a flavor of some things that worked with having privilege, and not having privilege).

As a child of the cold war era, I had an interest in Russian history, especially with the rise of Putin. Also my brother after his Army career was a computer nerd for the State Department who has spent time in both Cuba and Russia. He is coming to visit this summer, and I hope he tell us much about what he experienced in Moscow over this past year.

We both like to recommend books to each other, like the one he told me to read about Indian culture after he spent a couple of years there (oh, boy! Did he learn several lessons of humility there!). I have sent him by email the list of my most recent reads on three biographies, two autobiographical:

Glorious Misadventures: Nikolai Rezanov and the Dream of a Russian America by Owen Matthews, the son of a Moscow based UK diplomat and Russian mother. He draw parallels between the Russian policies of Catherine the Great and modern Russia with a bit of wit.

Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking: A Memoir of Food and Longing by Anya Von Bremzen, who was born in the Soviet Union. Her dad was a chemist whose job was to keep Lenin well preserved, but she and her mother left, and she did food writing about the area. She explains the changes in the country through food from her grandparents’ stories up until she had a reunion with her family in Russia a decade or so ago.

Love and Math: The Heart of Hidden Reality by Edward Frenkel, a mathematician who was literally not allowed to attend a certain university in Russia because of his status. He managed (he snuck into classes), and this is his autobiography and love note to math.

So please forgive me if I draw parallels between the social aspects versus the economic aspects of many cultures. I see some of the same thing in my mother-in-law’s stories about living in these one-industry towns when hubby was young. Plus what I was told as a kid as a child of privilege, versus what really happened in certain countries. “To each according to their needs” brings up the question “who determines what a person needs”, especially when there is institutionalized discrimination:

“5th grade Spanish language “History of Venezuela””

By the way, the remnants of the “Gold/Silver” institutionalized racism was still active the Panama Canal Zone in the early 1970s. Which is why there is more than one blog on that subject.

I don’t know why y’all are calling company towns “reminiscent of serfdom” and Latin American capitalist dictatorships “nominally capitalist.” There’s nothing “nominal” about it. That’s capitalism. That’s exactly what capitalism would be everywhere if it hadn’t been for brave people who organized and fought against exploitation (always facing opposition from the state, too.) There’s nothing inherently free or freeing about capitalism. Sh!t, the only reason it took off so well in America is because of slavery. (Cotton being the economic equivalent of oil at the time.)

communism and socialism are on the same end of the political spectrum but they are not the same thing

I think you still don’t understand what either one is, but actually, communism is a type of socialism. All communists are socialists, but not all socialists are communists. Social Democracy, though, in its current form, is not actually socialism. It’s welfare capitalism.

Chris: Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking is one of the few food books I’ve finished and thought “dear god I don’t want to cook, eat, or smell any of that food”. (I’m not all that fond of fish, I’ve had some distressing encounters with gifelta fish, and I hate beets.)

A fascinating history, though, and helped explain a few things about my Russian-Jewish immigrant friends.

In a company town, you can only rent a home or buy items from the company store, at over inflated prices.

It seems as though any such discussion would be incomplete without a mention of <a href=”>Pullman.

Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking is one of the few food books I’ve finished and thought “dear god I don’t want to cook, eat, or smell any of that food”

I once had a Tibetan cookbook. Not going there in the kitchen. Well, if I had a kitchen, that is.


Yeah, communes are cool, they’re a nice example of one way of doing things. Sandor Katz, my fermentation idol, lived on a commune down South for much of his adult life. There’s a lot of commies down south, actually, and one of my anarcho-communist friends down in Arkansas has lately been floating the idea of a commune. (“Land’s cheap down here, comrades! Let’s do it!”)

My friend Andy co-owns a co-op video store that’s basically run along anarchist lines. (Of course, it still runs on money, we live in a capitalist world, but there are no bosses or employees and the owners split the profits with each other equally. Not that any of them are making a lot of money.) And he lives in a great big co-op that’s basically anarchist. I spent two weeks there, it was pretty great.

In terms of actual revolutions, I’d point towards places/movements like Anarchist Catalonia, the Zapatistas, Rojava, the Ukrainian Free Territory.

(Just as a random aside, lately I’ve been interested in the idea of degrowth. I think if humanity has any chance at survival, we have got to move away from productivism and extractivism.)

Ugh. A classmate of mine joined a commune in Alaska (which we kind of expected of her) and it turned out to be a nightmare and took a lot of work by another classmate who was (by then ) a lawyer to get her and her kid out of there. I think it might have been a cult-y commune.

Have any of you all seen Wild Wild Country on Netflix? About the commune/cult compound in Oregon back in the 80’s? (The movie is very favorable to the compound builders and really glosses over a few big things like the largest bioterrorism attack in US history.) That place was a really weird combination of ‘true’ communism and unbridled capitalism/consumerism.

I know a fair bit about the Rajneeshees because they were set up not too far from here, actually. They tried to take over The Dalles, which is about a 40 minute drive from my house, in the eastern part of the Gorge. They actually poisoned the salad bar at Taco Time, which was my mom’s favorite fast food restaurant. (We went to the one in Hood River though, generally, which doesn’t exist anymore.)

JP, Yup, it’s about the Rajneeshis. They poisoned salad bars all over the Dalles to try an rig a county vote. The documentary makes them sound nice, and in the right compared to the old white christian conservative ranchers, until they get to the bioterrorism, and drugging the homeless people they’d brought to the commune to vote in their favor, and attempting to poison various county officers, and attempting to shoot the DA, and the million rounds of ammo for the hundred automatic weapons , and and and.

Oh, and the ecological damage of trying to do arable farming (crop farming) in high desert only suited to ranching.

Now it’s a Christian summer camp, so as one of the original residents says “not much has changed”.

I also remember my old Zen teacher remarking that when they moved up to Oregon in the late 80s from NorCal, everyone hated them and the sangha because of the Rajneeshees. Basically the Oregonians were lumping any and all people in robes or who practiced and eastern religion together.

Anyway, I would distinguish the Rajneeshees from communism for sure; they were a weird religious cult, just because they lived communally doesn’t really make them communist in a meaningful way. (I also seem to remember something about Rajneesh having a thing for Rolls Royces).

Buddhist monasticism in China was maybe closer to communism, but it was religiously based and had pretty strict hierarchies and so on, so not really.

The Diggers, though, they were basically doing a form of anarchist socialism and trying to take back the commons from the lords. I’m a big fan. (The Diggers from the 1600s, not the Diggers from the 1960s.)


If you’re interested in wacky religious cults, you should check out the Ramtha compound. (Briefly, Ramtha is this millennia old spiritual being thingy that JZ Knight supposedly channeled, he/she appeared in “What the Bleep Do We Know” and they were actually behind the movie.)

The compound is in Yelm, WA, near where I went to college. (In fact it’s where the Amtrak station is, or used to be 10 years ago at least.) Some wiiiild sh!t goes in there, or did, I’m not sure if they’re still around.

Another one I was actually involved with for a while is the “New Kadampa” sect of Tibetan Buddhism. I went to the temple for a few months because it was right downtown and easy to find, but then I started reading up on it and extricated myself.

Then I found the Olympia Zen Center, which had a really wonderful sangha. Sadly I think zero of my friends from back in the day still go there, because Eido, who always had an authoritarian streak, started taking it to the point of abuse. Zen definitely has a problem with beating too much authority in one person, IMO. Dharma Rain in Portland has been really good at avoiding that, as has been the Ann Arbor Zen Temple for the most part.

Lenin turned his ideas to reality. That’s why I called him inventor of communism.

The first statement is wrong, and the second statement is wrong and either stupid or disingenuous.

Dude, I don’t need you to give me reading assignments. Marx was for revolution, yes, obviously, but he also thought that communism would of necessity be completely democratic (otherwise it would not be communism.) As a matter of fact, he even floated the idea that communists in “advanced” countries might be able to use the ballot system.

Also, you don’t understand what the “dictatorship of the proletariat” is. It definitely isn’t the “dictatorship of me, a guy, Lenin” or the dictatorship of a small group of guys calling themselves the vanguard, disbanding the soviets when they didn’t vote for the Bolsheviks, and taking power by force.

He defended Paris commune arsons and hostage shootings:

It takes a pretty special person to read the first paragraph of this:

But the execution by the Commune of the 64 hostages, with the Archbishop of Paris at their head! The bourgeoisie and its army, in June 1848, re-established a custom which had long disappeared from the practice of war – the shooting of their defenceless prisoners. This brutal custom has since been more or less strictly adhered to by the suppressors of all popular commotions in Europe and India; thus proving that it constitutes a real “progress of civilization”!

On the other hand, the Prussians in France, had re-established the practice of taking hostages – innocent men, who, with their lives, were to answer to them for the acts of others. When Thiers, as we have seen, from the very beginning of the conflict, enforced the human practice of shooting down the Communal prisoners, the Commune, to protect their lives, was obliged to resort to the Prussian practice of securing hostages. The lives of the hostages have been forfeited over and over again by the continued shooting of prisoners on the part of the Versaillese. How could they be spared any longer after the carnage with which MacMahon’s praetorians[G] celebrated their entrance into Paris?

and think that Marx is going “Hell yeah guys, this is awesome.” It’s a defense in a way, sure, as in trying to explain what was actually going on (and there is still contention about what exactly actually happened during the Paris Commune.) Yeah, Marx was pro-Commune. Shocking!

Jesus, I’m not even a Marxist, but 99% of the people who talk about Marx and Marxism have clearly never read a frigging word he wrote yet feel very confident in expounding upon Marxism. Most of the other 1% might have read a little, but are still fxcking full of it.

And for the record, as I’ve said before, not all communism is Marxist. But even when it comes to Marxist communists, the vast majority of them at the time of Lenin weren’t Leninists and they took even Marx’s statements about the Paris Commune in totally different directions:

For Marx, the history of the Paris Commune caused him to reassess the significance of some of his own earlier writings. In a later preface to the Communist Manifesto, Marx would write that “no special stress is laid on the revolutionary measures proposed at the end of Section II. That passage would, in many respects, be very differently worded today.”[6] It is the earlier passage that sought to show the process of worker seizure of state power. Following the publication of “The Civil War in France”, “One thing especially was proved by the Commune, viz., that ‘the working class cannot simply lay hold of ready-made state machinery, and wield it for its own purposes.'”[6] His writing of this passage also brings up a rift between Marxist-Leninists and Social-Democrats, who both interpret his writing differently. Libertarian Marxist currents would later draw from this work by emphasizing the ability of the working class to forge its own destiny without the need for a revolutionary party or state to mediate or aid its liberation.[7] Vladimir Lenin writes that, “Marx’s idea is that the working class must break up, smash the ‘readymade state machinery’, and not confine itself merely to laying hold of it.”[7] In contrast, Social-Democrats believe that Marx’s writing of this means he believes the revolution in Paris was a failure, and that a revolution is not necessary to meet the needs of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

( )

Bakunin said that some amount of authoritarianism was baked into Marxism and maybe he was right, I don’t know. I need to try and find a podcast that my friend Vikky (@deathpigeon on Twitter, jeez, I almost want to try to summon them here) was on. It was a discussion between Vikky (an anarchist) and a Marxist. The main part I remember was the Marxist explaining what the dictatorship of the proletariat actually meant and Vikky sort of being like, “…Oh. I see. We’re not that far off from each other, then.”

I think there is a lot of authoritarianism baked into communism, and why it’s never been successful as a political system.

And JP, you can’t get away from this. There is not a single world government based on a communist ideology that is successful. China is a dictatorship, and suffered from pervase poverty until they merged their system with a quasi capitalism (creating an oligarchy). North Korea is communist in name only. Cuba is barely hanging on. Every communist government I can think of is authoritarian.

A handful of communes that somehow manage (to outside eyes at least) to maintain a utopian sense of function does not make communism successful as a way of life.

Panacea, the regimes you’re describing all were/are Marxist-Leninist and were based on the Soviet model. (In China’s case, outright on the Stalinist model.) There’s nothing to get away from. I definitely acknowledge that they all suck and I have no interest in defending them.


Where there is a power vacuum, there is always someone who will take advantage.

Panacea, another problem with the authoritarianism is that bad ideas become policy. Millions of people starved because both the Soviets and China embraced Lysenkoism. Apparently it was dangerous to actually do real biology in Russia, as biologists were now considered enemies of the people.

Which is why an expert in breeding chickens from Russia became a professor after WWII at Washington State College (now University, which focuses on agriculture). My dad, plus many of his classmates taking advantage of the GI Bill, talked him into teaching them Russian. My dad got a degree in linguistics, this class was part of why he switched to that from physics (plus his math was not up to par).

About Cuba: my brother was there for two years where he experienced very bad limited internet service (which was by design), and a very robust black market for produce (which was very much not by design). He also recommended we watch the Cuban version of “Sean of the Dead”, “Juan de los Muertos”… it is hilarious, with actual social commentary about their government:

Where there is a power vacuum, there is always someone who will take advantage.

I mean, there was by definition a “power vacuum” for 200,000 years of human (pre)history, and people managed to survive (obviously) and actually do quite well for the most part. You might check out some of the anthropological stuff I linked to somewhere in this monster thread. (I’m not a primitivist and I’m not suggesting that we turn back the clock, just pointing out that you can’t make categorical statements about a “power vacuum.”)

another problem with the authoritarianism is that bad ideas become policy.

“Bad ideas becoming policy” is definitely something that happens a heck of a lot in checks notes the United States of America. Just sayin’. (I’m in favor of neither the USSR nor the USA government, but I also definitely don’t think they’re equivalent.)

But yeah, Stalinists have this thing about stabbing other leftists in the back and doing their best to strong-arm the entire movement. Freaks. (I’d definitely say this is due to faults in Stalinism and Leninism, though.)

“I mean, there was by definition a “power vacuum” for 200,000 years of human (pre)history, and people managed to survive (obviously) and actually do quite well for the most part.”

Ah, the joys of technology. It helped that just enough survived a couple of near extinction:

Though there is literally no written record on how they structured their societies. Though the early agricultural ones did use slaves. As did many Pacific Northwest Native Tribes.

Though there is literally no written record on how they structured their societies.

Yeah, that’s why anthropologists look at existing hunter-gatherer band societies, and also use archaeology (a branch of anthropology.) It’s pretty uncontroversial that hunter-gatherer societies on the band level (not that I’m not talking about early agricultural societies that you mentioned) were extremely egalitarian and non-hierarchical. I can go find the articles I linked to and re-post them if you want. We do actually have ways of studying this and finding out what things were like, to a greater or lesser extent. It’s a whole discipline.

Technology is great, and it’s also extremely broad. Spears are a technology, poison darts are, so is the printing press, all kinds of stuff. Actually some people argue that it might be spears and poison darts that helped turn early humanity in a egalitarian direction; sort of a mutually-assured destruction thing. That’s one idea, anyway.

Yeah, I’m not really sure where I ever suggested that technology is a bad thing.

There’s just one can’t miss restaurant in Helsinki for an authentic experience. A chain, but with a twist:

“The latest innovation we never knew we needed features a 15-person sauna, shower room, locker room and media lounge with TV and gaming facilities.
Guests can spread out on blue and red benches in the sauna, perhaps covering their modesty with a Burger King towel or robe, and watch TV or play video games while basking in the steam.
And if all that pore-flushing is making you hungry, servers from the outlet visit the sauna to take food and beverage orders.”

Thanks! I’ll pass that along.
He’s also giving a talk in Zagreb.

If some contentious person who feels that her reproductive organs give her some special authority that mine don’t (which for each of us is none at all) wanted to criticize me, she could have addressed her comments to me, but instead bravely chose to make an innuendo in a thread I wasn’t following. Someone committed to accuracy would have gotten the facts straight. Male I am, that’s a gimme. Middle-aged? Does the ‘nym OLD Rockin’ Dave convey anything? It’s not only a figure of speech. And as for white, she has never set eyes on me, and is unlikely to have drawn an accurate inference from anything I have posted as to race or melanin content of my skin. Nor will I ever now tell whether that’s correct or not. And anyone who believes that race is anything but a cloud of statistical probabilities that don’t tell anything useful about a given individual hasn’t been keeping up with the science. Until she stated so, I wasn’t aware that she was male, female, both, or neither. Assailing someone for those perceived qualities is a classic ad hominem attack, which reveals more about the character of the assailant than it does about the target.
At least that person didn’t insult me by calling me straight.
In any case, neither age nor gender nor melanin production carry authority in a discussion that is not centered around those qualities.
I wasn’t on the scene when these words were spoken, but I well remember them: “I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
By the way, what is the size scale for flaws? How big does a flaw have to be to stop being a flaw? I was taught that a boat is less than 200 ft, a ship over that, but NIST apparently hasn’t gotten around to setting a flaw standard.
Incidentally, if some person who thinks her ovaries carry moral weight knows of any human being without flaws (of course excepting her perfected self), I hope she tells us so we can see this 8th wonder for ourselves.
Both personal experience and a life of learning have taught me a few things. One of them is that plans for a utopian society rarely work out for a population larger than, say, a good sized high school. Another is that professors, economists, and philosophers can think and study and speculate deeply without producing a societal plan that actually works with human beings. Yet another is that degrees don’t automatically confer wisdom; that comes from elsewhere.
Oh, and yes, it touched a nerve, or several.

ORD, I didn’t really have you in mind, actually.

who feels that her reproductive organs give her some special authority that mine don’t (which for each of us is none at all)

Uhhhh, I never suggested that my gonads give me any special authority. I was pointing out that Aarno in particular (and to a lesser extent Panacea) was doing this thing where they explain something to me that I know a whole heck of a lot about, demonstrably more in fact. But it’s kind of gross and disappointing of you to say that I’m claiming that my reproductive organs give me some kind of special authority. It’s also a really bad misreading, especially if you read any of my replies on the subject.

bravely chose to make an innuendo in a thread I wasn’t following

The fact that it was in a thread that you weren’t following might have been a clue that I wasn’t really thinking about you. I actually missed a comment or two of yours further up because I didn’t sit down and re-read the entire thread. But go off, whatever.

And anyone who believes that race is anything but a cloud of statistical probabilities that don’t tell anything useful about a given individual hasn’t been keeping up with the science.

Race is one of those “social constructs” that I spent a considerable amount of energy trying to describe in a previous interaction with Aarno. It’s socially constructed, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t real (as a social construct) and doesn’t have very, very real effects on people and society.

Someone committed to accuracy would have gotten the facts straight. Male I am, that’s a gimme. Middle-aged? Does the ‘nym OLD Rockin’ Dave convey anything? It’s not only a figure of speech.

Like I said, I wasn’t actually really referring to you, but old guys are just as bad, if not worse, when it comes to this sort of thing as middle aged guys.

At least that person didn’t insult me by calling me straight.

Actually, I’m aware that you’re bisexual, and also autistic and Jewish. I generally pay attention to people and I remember these sorts of things, it’s just a personality quirk maybe. I mean, I’ve been interacting with people here for like five years or so, and some of this stuff has come up, so I figured some of my traits were probably common knowledge.

Assailing someone for those perceived qualities is a classic ad hominem attack, which reveals more about the character of the assailant than it does about the target.

Uhhh, I wasn’t “assailing” you or anybody else. I was pointing out a dynamic that happens a lot and is really frustrating when you’re on a particular end of it.

I wasn’t on the scene when these words were spoken, but I well remember them: “I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

Oh God, I hate when people use this MLK quote out of context to whitewash him and suggest that he advocated some kind of “colorblind” nonsense. He was talking about his dream for his society a long way in the future – after white supremacy and other systems of oppression had been dismantled – not telling people to pretend like race-based oppression doesn’t exist and to sweep it under the rug because it makes them uncomfortable. In fact, you might say that his vision was a bit … utopian.

Incidentally, if some person who thinks her ovaries carry moral weight knows of any human being without flaws (of course excepting her perfected self), I hope she tells us so we can see this 8th wonder for ourselves.

What the hell? This is getting really gross and ridiculous. And for fxck’s sake, I never friggin said I was “perfected,” but again, feel free to put words in my mouth, I guess. Actually my opinion of myself is pretty pathologically low, but that doesn’t mean I can’t have opinions or make oral judgements. I don’t have to be able to come up with some mythical “person without flaws” to say that some person or other was a pretty bad person.

Yet another is that degrees don’t automatically confer wisdom; that comes from elsewhere.

No, but they usually signify that somebody has spent years accumulating knowledge, which is worth something. I mean, look, if somebody is going to argue against socialism or communism or whatever, I mean usually it happens with Marxism, but they should at least have a basic idea of what that thing is. Argue with Marx if you want, that’s fine, but don’t argue with some cartoon in your head.

And okay, so where does wisdom come from, O Wise One? I’m sure you can tell us and I’m sure you have a whole bunch of it.

First, one small point – I have nothing against and some things in common radical socialists. And I know Dr. King was not talking about a colorless society, but one that could see past color without denying it.
Second, and far more important, I think that the more this goes on, the more we misunderstand, talk past, insult, and pointlessly find ways to disagree with each other (or at least I do those things).
I don’t want to go on like this. I don’t like myself when I get snide, like I did in my last post, and regret it. I declare a truce, or call it what you will, from my side. it costs me far too much emotionally and even physically to keep this up. I’d much rather find common ground with you.
I extend my hand to you. Take it or not, I’m done with brangling with you. No good can come out of it for me, and, I’d bet, for you too. I apologize for the hurt and and anger that I am sure that I have caused you, and I will do my best not to fail like that again.
May all good things come your way.

I just wanted to make a point that I find Jefferson’s “relationship” with Sally Hemings that I find disgusting because I have literally been raped
by a middle aged man and there’s nothing romantic or in any way okay about it. It’s a disgusting power play. Yes, I’ve also survived “softer” forms of abuse by men, but I’m not going into that. It’s “complicated” for me when it really shouldn’t be. Just, please, don’t tell me that an owner slave 14 year old girl could “consent” to things that are similar to things that I’ve experienced.

Oh, and just by the by, Dr. King was, among other things, a radical socialist.

NIST apparently hasn’t gotten around to setting a flaw standard

Do you know what leap seconds are for?

@jp There are lots of definitions of dictatorship of proletariat. Point is what kind of dictatorship Marx has in his mind. First, he added revolutionary. Secondly, Gotha program was socialistic, but democratic, too. Marx could not stomach that.
Communards burned property and shot hostages. This stupid, too: they burned their own possible spoils and enraged people everywhere. Marx should have concentrated required defensive measures. If changed his mind, please give us specific sitation.

There are lots of definitions of dictatorship of proletariat. Point is what kind of dictatorship Marx has in his mind.

As I’ve said before, the thing about Marx is he actually didn’t talk very much about communism or what it would look like or how to get there. Most of his writings were critiques of capitalism. Yeah, there are lots of different definitions of “the dictatorship of the proletariat.” The thing is that that’s pretty much all Marx said about it, and what actually matters is how other people interpret it. We can’t tell exactly what he meant by it unless you have a time machine and you can read minds.

He did definitely specify that socialism/communism had to be democratic though, otherwise it wouldn’t actually be socialist. We know that much.

And yeah, he added “revolutionary.” I already said that he was generally in favor of revolution. He was also in favor of universal suffrage, though, and thought that the working class could achieve significant things through the vote. (He never thought this was enough, though, and he certainly was for revolt when necessary.)

Secondly, Gotha program was socialistic, but democratic, too. Marx could not stomach that.

Yeah, no, I just addressed this. Marx was absolutely for democracy. What he wasn’t in favor of was reformism as an end in itself. Most Marxists today think that reformism has largely failed to bring about real change and that the reforms that have been accomplished are being rolled back. The second bit is definitely demonstrable, and the first bit is arguable. Reformism has done some good things in terms of welfare programs, but it hasn’t really changed the nature of capitalism or brought about socialism. And welfare programs are definitely being gutted.

As for your last paragraph, you can say what Marx “should have done,” but whatever. He was going off of what he read in newspapers (of differing baises), he was obviously in favor of the Commune (as were Proudhon and many others) and he was making an attempt to address and explain certain things they did.

Oh, and BTW, “dictatorship” in the mid 19th century (actually diktat in the German) didn’t mean what it does today, which can confuse people.

The key fact, which was going to bedevil the history of the term, is this: in the middle of the nineteenth century the old word ‘dictatorship’ still meant what it had meant for centuries, and in this meaning it was not a synonym for despotism, tyranny, absolutism, or autocracy, and above all it was not counterposed to democracy.


BTW, I don’t know why you’re talking about “their own possible spoils.” The Communards definitely weren’t in it for “spoils.”

I cannot agree that Marx was for democracy. Critique of Gotha program was a rant against petite bourgeoisie democracy, as Engels said in letter to Babel added.If he meant democracy, why he said dictatorship ?In Appendix, Marx opposes prohibition of child labor, because it is educational. He said, too, that free university education would just mean free education for upper class kids, but technical schools would be OK.
Reformism has not bring socialism, and that is a great thing indeed. No country has voted for socialism in free elections; thats the reason.
I said that Marx should have not extolled violence. And Marx and Bakunin were very much antagonists.
Perhaps you would like to cite Marx instead of Marx myths. “Dictator” was a Roman office. Marx was a classist, and would know that.
With spoils I meant that all this property would be theirs after victory. Burning it was kinda stupid.

You can argue that families with autism need more support – and they do – and more help from society without arguing that vaccines cause autism.

In fact, the fight against vaccines likely undermines the fight to support and help special needs families, as Matt Carey has pointed out in the past. Maybe if the people spending their time attacking vaccines would fight for what you actually need, things would be better for you and your son?

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