Korner: Rules of Polite Conversation


Sherminator uses a smile and a light touch bringing up the subject:


[with respect to my kidding about Gallardo, Sherm kids back] I'm offended sir. A man should not be judged by his worst moments. That's why we can't judge Donald Trump by his Access Hollywood blunder... or was it the time he called Mexicans "murderers and rapists"... or when he insulted that Gold Star family... or said John McCain was a loser... or Charlottesville...


We've used a few Korners to work around the edges of relatively cool political topics in 2017.  The Denizens have been simply awesome.  We tread gingerly onto the minefield itself, encouraging all Denizens to laugh a little bit and keep it light.  Like they say, "Do Not Enter Dangerous Areas When Playing Pokemon Go."  You'd think we would already know better than to follow Pikachu into a Viet Nam mine field, but that's humans for ya.


As I've said many times, I'm no Trumpie by any stretch and my goal in an article like this is low-friction idea exchange.  In that spirit, here is one thing parallel to Sherm's comment and one thing perpendicular to it.


PARALLEL:  The Access tape, and many other things Trump has said, would have in the 1950's (probably even 1980's) been "extinction-level" political events.  It's one of the great phenomenon of my political-watching life to watch Donald Trump NOT become an ex-politician, about twice a month.

We never know what Trump is going to say next, and not in a good sense.  If we expected the next difficult statement to be merely "awkward," that would be one thing.  Our collective worry is where the next thing is going to rank, 1-10, on the catastrophe scale.

I thought it at least 80% likely that McConnell, Ryan & Co. were going to use the first possible excuse to impeach Trump, mostly on the basis of his personality.  Am dumbfounded that Trump's power, relative to theirs, is spreading like an amoeba.


PERPENDICULAR:  It's interesting that Sherm went 5-for-5, a cycle plus a walk, objecting to things Trump said.  Not that Sherminator couldn't also list two dozen things Trump did that he doesn't like, but it illustrates a syndrome:  America seems to object to Donald Trump personally much more than it objects to his policies.  With President Obama it was precisely the reverse (huge likeability ratings, including from me, even as Democrats were swept out of power).  Very, very odd.

But then again nobody wants the 1950's chivalry, modesty, and sexual taboos back, do they?  As Camille Paglia put it, Donald Trump's offenses against women are mild and few compared to Bill Clinton's.  Or your local football hero's, probably.  That doesn't excuse any of it, from anybody, but let's not forget the "shoe on the other foot" standard. 


RULES OF POLITE SOCIETY:  In my view, militant progressives often view Trump as, literally, mentally unbalanced because --- > they simply don't process the fact that he doesn't care about their approval.  We were very close to a "microagression" culture, in which the rules of polite conversation revolved around identity politics.

Those rules were measured in yards, then in feet, then in microns ... and when Donald Trump ignored those rules, transgressing the rules by miles instead of microns, they processed this as CRAZY.  Many, many people are still doing exactly this.

Not using the term lightly, it's textbook cognitive dissonance.  If you think about it from the point of view of a person who believes "hate speech" should capture incorrect pronouns, as it does in Canada ... here all of a sudden a person appears who doesn't care AT ALL what pronoun you prefer and whatcha gonna do about it?

It looks like a six-legged beagle standing in the back yard.  It does not process.  The press still does not seem to grasp the very simple idea that maybe half the country simply does not want to play by those hair-fine "microagression" rules any longer.  No more, no less, nothing much to see here.  The PC stuff got too silly; take a hike, pal.  Maybe that's really all this is about?

Sounds funny but that was the entire pivot of James' 1/17 political piece, How the Democrats Can Win Kansas.  Plot spoiler:  stop calling everybody racists for disagreeing with you.  You do that, you win, Dems.  Deal?  

It wasn't.  The comments went 10:1 against the suggestion.


ALTERNATIVES:  At BJOL they are discussing peaceful ways to split the country up into 2 or 3 nations, as opposed to having the hot shooting war that James says ALWAYS occurs at this point.  Similarly, Newt Gingrich referring to the slavery issue warned us, historically one side wins and the other side loses.

Perhaps we've got to put our faith in the moderating, calming influence of the U.S. election.  Perhaps far-right influences will be gracious in victory -- for example, the far right is very angry that Bannon's out, Kushner's in, is very angry about Trump's approach to DACA -- and perhaps far-left influences will hold up their palms and say "Okay, okay, we'll lighten up a bit on the speech codes."  

Both sides continue to win and to lose elections 51-49, and both sides have always been forced towards the middle by this.  It's just like sports.  The team down by 10 makes changes, and the team up by 10 sits laughing on the bench, and the game tightens again.  If you'd spread 100,000 votes around three battleground states, Hillary Clinton would be President and this whole conversation would be quite a bit different, wouldn't it :- )






was one of the true catalysts of the 2016 election.  Trump disdains speech codes in a way that *at least* 50% of the country simply cannot process in real time as respectful or reasonable.  It was this full-throated embrace of irreverence which energized the underweb denizens to (first built, then) jump onto the Trump Train with an incessant stream of rebellious, witty, and hilarious memes and public stunts.

It is my opinion that if Trump does *nothing* for this country except pull us back from the PC precipice, it will have been a more lasting contribution than either of his immediate predecessors achieved--and that speaks volumes to the state of affairs in American politics :-(  And I frankly believe his *stated priorities* are as he says they are: he wants to fix American industry; he wants to correct destructive trade imbalances; he wants our allies to act like allies, and our enemies to be recognized as enemies.  These are good points of substance, so I (and a sufficient number of Americans necessary to hand him the reins of power) will forgive his often shocking style.

Do what works, and if that includes unorthodox and frankly offensive utterances on a regular basis...my suggestion is that we buckle up and hang on with both hands.  If it doesn't work, as far as I can see, we're no worse off than we were under GW Obama.

Honestly, if anyone here hasn't seen this epic compilation of Donald Trump's statements (over the last 35 years!!!!!) about China, trade, industry, leadership, and the American direction, you would do youself a solid by sitting down for a half hour and listening to the man's own words on the subject.  Reasonable people can argue that he chose less than ideal points of focus for his administration to address, but there is no reasonable argument to suggest that he does not care deeply about the issues he made the centerpieces of his campiagn.


On your last paragraph Caleb ... don't have time right now to watch the half hour, but I certainly agree with your idea expressed.  

You know I like to refer to Paglia on issues like this because I regard her -- a Jill Stein voter in 2016 and a Kamala Harris supporter for 2020 -- as centrist.  She was asked on stage what were her 'feelings' about Donald Trump and she replied tersely, My feeling is that an election happened.  She then calmly pointed out that Trump has been 'systematically' carrying out his campaign promises.  It's not clear to me how you would view Trump differently.  He shouted from the rooftops what he was going to do and he's been doing almost nothing but.

It's hard to imagine how he would have tried harder, the last 8 months, to do what he said he was going to do.  The media paints him a liar; I think their true fear is that when he says something, they know what's coming next.

If it were true that he somewhere in the darkest corner of his mind he didn't care.  Would it matter?


Well, I was listing moments where Trump revealed himself to be a repugnant, immoral man, not actual policy disagreements. Maybe I shouldn’t have even bothered with that low-hanging fruit though; even people who voted for Trump generally concede that they don’t like him as a person. Who was it who said on this site recently, “why argue that you’re better than *someone or other* when you already know you’re a better person than the president of the United States?

But, in the interest of good fun… placing Jeff “good people don’t smoke marijuana” Sessions in charge of law and order, trying to control and then firing an FBI director, calling into question the validity of an election which he won and then creating a witch hunt commission to justify it, pulling out of the Paris climate accords, creating an environment where white supremacists feel emboldened, retaining half of his family as advisors like a banana republic despot, failing to divest himself of his financial holdings, using his office to promote his (and his daughter’s) brand, spending all his time golfing after spending years saying Obama golfed too much, pushing for the repeal of the ACA without a viable backup plan to keep people from literally dying, attempting to enact a tax agenda that only furthers the unhealthy gap between the haves and the have nots, spitefully ejecting transgendered people from the military and DACA kids from the country, fomenting islamophobia, needlessly antagonizing a newly nuclearized North Korea, savaging the EPA, deregulating everything he can find that has a regulation, taking an “Israel first, second, third, and forget the Palestinians” approach to peace in the middle east, and finally, most importantly, either colluding with the Russians (highly unlikely, although it’s looking steadily more likely that someone from his campaign will go down for trying to) or simply proving unwilling to investigate their meddling in an election, which poses a true existential threat to the country. The power of elections to mollify the masses goes down dramatically if no one believes those elections were fair and free.

… that’s six short of two dozen, but I imagine you get the picture. And those are just the things I think are empirically bad for the country/world, not things that purely offend my political leanings (although I will readily cede that fans of Reaganomics probably like his tax proposal better that I do, and etc). My point is that I left off thing like the travel ban, border wall, and Gorsuch, moves that I personally dislike but would not begrudge a peer from across the aisle for supporting.


As for microaggression culture, I happen to agree that it’s a losing issue for democrats, and a bad way to structure a society. However, I think it may be a little generous to say that this is why Trump won, or why the media thinks he’s unhinged. He won for a number of reasons, one being that he’s closer to the correct side of this issue than Clinton was, but even then there’s a difference between speaking your mind and being needlessly, classlessly, mercilessly offensive and spiteful in your public comments. People seem to like his candor, but dislike what he actually says. As for why people think he’s nuts, my personal theory is that most of the country still hasn’t realized what I’ve insisted from the beginning: on most issues, Trump is a political nihilist. He has opinions on immigration, trade, taxes, and regulations, but probably not much more than that. The rest is just things he’s adopted to further his political ends, and to great success. In his heart of hearts he’s just another New York democrat, and not a very principled on at that. It’s ironic that his base is convinced he speaks for them, when in reality I’m not sure he really speaks for anyone but himself. Also he’s a compulsive liar, and doggedly refuses to ever admit a lie, which leads to all manner of circus displays as he tries to navigate his own minefields.

The media looks at all of this and thinks, he’s either an idiot or he’s diagnosably divorced from reality. I think the third option is that he doesn’t much care about reality, or care when he contradicts himself. It certainly is something to watch, kind of like Anthony Vasquez was something to watch back in 2011.


1.  Major kudos Sherm, for keeping your remarks so SCRUPULOUSLY directed towards Trump and towards substance - rather than angled obliquely at fellow readers who disagree.  MUCH appreciated.

2.  It's pretty no-holds-barred on the substance there.  Which is fine, but I'm going to step off the train tracks and avoid, for example, responding to 'Islamophobia' with a series of no-holds-barred links that hip people up to the cultural atrocities going on in Europe.  :: smile ::  I believe I've got one or two links, or ten, that would be plenty to deter most people from using the word 'Islamophobia' as freely as they do.

Point is, the temperature at SSI is a balmy 78 degrees, that in the country about 131, and I don't want us all taking out our political frustrations on one another.


Excellently detailed 18-point list though, brother, any one of which would make an interesting KK.  One point I'm in particular agreement with you on:  the power of elections to mollify the public going down.  That's why I say in the original article maybe we HAVE to put our LAST hope in any remaining power that election has.


Trump as political nihilist:  that's exactly what I thought during the campaign.  That his "inner thoughts" were undoubtedly very centrist, quite possibly only opportunistic, along the lines of Ivanka and Jared's.

I've been blown away time after time after time by the conservatism of his decisions and the price he's willing to pay for them.  You haven't?

If Trump is going to spend 4-8 years nominating extremely conservative judges, putting people like Jeff "good people don't smoke weed" Sessions in charge, savaging the EPA, privatizing health care, locking down the borders, and so forth, what is the practical difference between his "pretend" conservatism and Ronald Reagan's sincere brand?   Serious question.


... Trump makes a deal with his friends "Chuck and Nancy." Is this a harbinger of things to come? He's forced out the Breitbart wing of the White House, and gotten thoroughly fed up with Ryan and McConnell. Or maybe it's just a leverage play, to make the GOP respect him a little more. We will see.

I chuckled along with you on dodging the Islamophobia bullet. You're right, we probably don't want to go down that rabbit hole. I think you'd be surprised where it took you though. We're probably on a very similar page with regards to Islam in the modern world... my issue with Trump is his general disinterest in acknowledging the difference between healthy and unhealthy Islam, and the atmosphere of racial/cultural tension that he obliquely condones. The real issue here is that once you let the religion cat out of the bag, I don't want to start saying things about Christianity that I can't take back. I'm a bit of a militant secularist agnostic in my heart of hearts, and I've learned that its best to keep my views on the subject well away from my religious friends. Theists are great people, but on that subject we end up talking straight past each other. I'll just leave it at that, I think.

As for the implications of Donald Trump, Pretend Conservative, they are fascinating. I try to imagine the shoe on the other foot, where the democrats have a president whose personality I detest, who gives the constant impression of corruption/despotism and whose foreign policy behavior is worryingly erratic, but who dutifully enacts all of the home-front policies I support. Now I imagine that my alternative is a republican I find as detestable as the right found Hillary (I can't even say who that would be, which really tells you something). Would I vote for the Pretend Progressive, or steel my stomach and vote for the alternative? I would like to think I would be brave and principled enough to vote across the aisle, but maybe the math would seem different then.

The one thing that always got me during election season, the same thing that got the Bush's and Mitt Romney, was how embarrassingly unpresidential Trump is. Jonezie opines that if Trump does nothing but narrow the microaggression gap, it will have been a vote well cast. Personally, I would argue that if Trump does nothing but represent America to the world with a petty, corrupt (more blatantly than usual, of course), immoral, vaguely totalitarian face, voting for him is wrong. We will survive all of his policies, whether I like them or not (well, except maybe climate change...). But will the office of president survive the damage he may do to it? We're lucky to have rebounded from Nixon like we did. I worry that Trump could do far more damage to the credibility of the Executive Branch, all while setting the precedent that we are willing to elect a reality tv star with zero public service experience. If this leads to a world where Kanye gets invited to the first annual presidential rap-battle, I'm moving to New Zealand and not looking back.

Also, serious question: does the way Trump is handling North Korea not worry everyone, at least a little. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he's just posturing to look tough in the hope that the adage "some people only respond to strength" will hold true, but damn, that's risky. At this point I'd prefer to leave them mostly alone and let them mismanage their country however they see fit. It's messed up that they've enslaved and brainwashed millions of people, but the problem looks intractable and trying to untie the Gordian knot could get a lot of people killed. I figure our chance of getting into a nuclear exchange is what, like 2% over the course of the Trump presidency? Maybe it would have still been 1% under Clinton... but personally I find any avoidable increase in the likelihood of nuclear annihilation unconscionable. I suppose people who lived through the Cold War may weigh those priorities differently.


theist vs. atheist discussions.  Jeff is no slouch when it comes to serenely describing the indisputable merits of a Christian world view, having traveled much of the 'atheist/theist' spectrum in his own life and (somewhat abnormally, if my understanding of statistics is accurate) landing on the 'theist' side of the aisle.  As a result, we're graced with his somewhat unique perspective which, when combined with his superior communication and community-building skills, leads to a truly refreshing fountain of wisdom from which we would be wise to draw nouriishment.

And I say all of that as someone who took the other path (started theist and ended up what most theists would consider an atheist, though I still think there's an immutable place for God in human affairs due, if nothing else, to the peculiar human psyche and our inherent biological/neurological limitations).

Still, religion is one of those topics generally considered taboo so it would be best to let Jeff take the lead on such a discussion.  Tolerant and engaging as this community is, even SSI's readership has its limits.


I do appreciate that if anyone could facilitate a pleasant, productive dialogue between the atheist/theist camps it would probably be Doc. I don't really know the details of his personal journey, but it sounds like an excellent background for viewing both sides of the argument. However, I think your last line is the real takeaway: just because I bet this community could handle a religious debate, doesn't mean I'm willing to go in guns a'blazing and start it. Some things are just better left alone, like North Korea or Felix on gameday.

I do find your hinting about your personal view intriguing. There's a great clip of Niel deGrasse Tyson and the devil himself Richard Dawkins. Dawkins launches into one of his patented lambastings, but then Tyson cuts him off. "Look, Richard, it's not that I don't agree with you. You know we're in complete agreement on whether God has any place in scientific discussion. But I'd like to point something out: even among the elite scientists of the world, people with multiple degrees in hard sciences, there is still a 20% religious rate. These are luminaries of their fields, extraordinarily well versed in the nature of the universe, and they still believe in God. This shows that religion is not something that can be definitively countered with knowledge. Apparently the human brain is hardwired such that there will always be religious people in society, so we just have to learn to work with them."

I'm probably badly misquoting him on the details, the substance is definitely true if not accurate. It's really stuck with me ever since I heard it.


who I greatly enjoy listening to (though, like it *seems* to me is the case with you, I think he's missing Trump by a country mile with his incessant stream of low-hanging-fruit criticisms).  I named a shuttle craft in one of my sci-fi thrillers, Ure Infectus, after Tyson.  He has his set of blind spots like anyone (myself included) but he does appear to have a better fundamental grasp of religion, as an anthropological phenomenon, than most anti-theists and theophobes who get primetime exposure (Dawkins chief among them).  Even Christopher Hitchens, in a video taken at a book signing that you can find on YouTube, said flatly and without reservation (paraphrased), "Religion's not going anywhere in human affairs; it's part of what we are, and that's what makes it the most important argument we'll ever have."


Let's say I accept your premise, that Trump has doubled the chance of nuclear war with his approach to N. Korea.  But what if, no matter what we did, in five years' time 1% became 2% of its own accord, and in five years after that it became 4%, then 8%, 16%, etc..  Unreasonable suggestion?  Seems perfectly in line with the way humans conduct themselves; we only ever embolden in the absence of resistance or conflict.  We're predators, after all.

So what if DJT's approach did indeed increase the chance of nuclear war from 1% to 2%, but in so doing he cut the rate of future growth significantly (again, this appears to be in line with what I understand of human nature and the history of war)?  What if his goal has always been to bluster and saber-rattle in the hope that doing so brings the issue to greater international attention, thereby bringing extra pressure on N. Korea--pressure which would slow that would-be rogue nation's aggression, like a bishop parked such a way as to prevent the enemy king from castling?

To my mind, this does indeed appear to be Trump's goal.  He clearly wants to cultivate international pressure on N. Korea, going first to China(his number one campaigned-against nation!) and asking their help to solve the Lil Kim problem.  That act alone communicated a plethora of meaningful messages, including that he is unpredictable and willing to work with anyone whose interests align with the USA's on a given issue--even if that nation's interests are opposed to the USA's in other arenas.  He did the same thing with Russia vis-a-vis ISIS, attempting to work with them to solve the issue rather than acting unilaterally.  Was he successful in those endeavors?  Like a lost pawn in the early game, it certainly doesn't appear that he was, but the proof of the pudding is in the tasting--and the quality of a chess game is determined by who gets checkmated.

But to your question: 'does the way Trump is handling North Korea not worry everyone, at least a little?'  The answer is an emphatic 'yes' from this commenter.  My caveat is that, as far as I'm concerned, the past thirty years of American foreign policy has failed *almost* as spectacularly vis-a-vis N. Korea is it did with the Middle East.  We have sat by and done nothing while a dictator acquired nuclear weapons and refined delivery systems for them.  So yeah, Trump's handling of it worries me--but he's being active, which is a change from the course which gave Lil Kim one of the most dangerous weapons ever devised by humans.  And for me, staying the course on N. Korea is unacceptable, so as much as I dislike Trump's approach to the matter I dislike passivity in the face of tyrants even less.


I suppose you're right about the human tendency to embolden during periods of relative peace. WWI was basically the result of everyone getting too cocky during the 100-year Pax Britannica. Still, I would like to push back on two fronts:

  • North Korea has been feeling the pressure for a long time. I'm not sure if they consider the last 30 years a period of "relative absence of resistance." Relative to when we were fighting a land war for control of their country? Okay, sure. But we've been sanctioning them, blacklisting them in the international community, arming the South Koreans, and performing military drills on their borders for decades. They seem pretty sketched out by it, to my mind. So while Trump's saber rattling is certainly louder than previous administrations, I don't know if the margin between his actions and those of his predecessors is great enough to really make a difference. North Korea has always known that if they got nukes and used them on a US territory or ally, they'd get blown off the map in retribution. Their goal as rational actors seeking to defend their sovereignty has been to establish something approaching mutually assured destruction, and then use it as a deterrent to keep the outside world from meddling in their bizarre little kingdom. It seems to me that now that they have accomplished this aim, we should accept that we don't really have any military leverage on them. Trump keeps insisting that military options are on the table, but they're all so bad that I doubt anyone in the Kim regime is buying it. All he's doing is needlessly antagonizing them, when the best course of action would be to move to diffuse the situation.

           TLDR: not sure the chance of nuclear exchange was really on an upward trend like you suggest. You see a graph going 1-2-4-8-16%, driven by human nature. I see a plot whose natural baseline is 1%, which will only rise when someone like Trump throws fuel on the fire and jacks it up to 2%. Of course I could be wrong, and you could be right.

  • Also, I really have very little faith that Trump's rationale is nearly as well thought out as yours. He does not strike me as a very nuanced thinker as far as foreign policy goes. You may argue for human nature and the value of threats as deterrents, but I worry that The Donald is merely interested in out-bullying another man with delusions of grandeur, an authoritarian streak, and weird hair. I hope for all our sakes that this isn't just a phallus-measuring competition for our president, but that seems far more in-character than does an intricate weighing of human tendencies and foreign policy implications. Much like with the Mariners’ demise, I would love love love to be wrong, but I’m pretty confident that I’m not.



is a blowhard, shallow-thinking, park-level checkers player who finds himself at a world championship chess tournament.  Honestly, I'm not trying to straw man your position here; I'm saying that I can comprehend how people could lean in that direction with their view of the man.  To me, however, such views badly misunderstand the phenomenon of the man.

(And please, understand that none of what follows here is aimed at you personally.  You're *clearly* open-minded about the most difficult of subjects, which is why you fit in so well here :-) I'm greatly enjoying this exchange; none of this is transmitted in an offensive or contentious tone)

A lot of people see 'reality TV star' when they see DJT.  This is understandable because, for most of us, that's how we came to know of him.  But here's the thing: he was on The Apprentice because he had already become a billionaire based on his own shrewd business sense.  The Apprentice wasn't what made DJT, unlike most TV personalities for whom the GOAL is to get on a primetime slot somewhere--it simply enhanced his brand and profile.  Again, I'm not trying to straw man you; I'm trying to elucidate that I think I understand *how* people can support the narrative that he's a blundering blowhard who's mostly interested in stroking his own ego.

Trump made a comment during the campaign where he described himself as one of the smartest people in the world (he might have even put a number to it, somewhere between 150-160 IQ?).  His detractors instantly cried foul, and Snopes even attempted to undertake the task of disproving this (to them) self-evidently absurd claim.   They got a hold of some of his official test scores from his college days, crunched the numbers, and triumphantly declared!...that his IQ is probably between 145-150, based on the best available information.  Not a generational intellect, to be certain, but also a trait of his character that doesn't get enough press in my opinion ('Bill Clinton the Rhodes Scholar' was pounded into our heads ad infinitum, no?).  He's a legitimately smart-bordering-on-brilliant human being who took $10million of his dad's money and turned it into billions--and he did it WITHOUT authoring some world-changing innovation, like a touchscreen phone, a new refining process for crude oil, a better mousetrap, etc..  He did it by out-playing the best and the brightest in the arenas of real estate development, government bureaucracies specifically designed to stop people from doing what he did, and shrugged off enough potentially-career-ending lawsuits to kill a small country.

When I think of this guy in those terms, which terms I think are *accurate* representations of the man and his achievements, I can't help but think he's playing four moves ahead while everyone else is playing 2-3 moves ahead.  He defeated the RNC single-handedly; he defeated the DNC single-handedly; he defeated the media single-handedly.  Any one of those could reasonably be viewed as a fluke, but in combination they paint the picture of a hyper-capable competitor who understands better than most of his enemies OR allies how to win the game at the highest levels.

All of that said, I lean in the direction you describe when it comes to worrying about his approach and how it will play out with someone like Lil Kim--who I think deserves most of the generally-spurious claims made of DJT's character--on the world stage with nuclear weapons involved.

And personally, I've always thought that N. Korea was part of a 'protection racket' on China's part.  "Oh, we'll do what we can to keep those crazies in line up there, but we're going to need some trade concessions in order to make it happen..." (lather, rinse, repeat ad nauseum for the last forty years).  So unless a country is willing to sanction China in addition to N. Korea, what's the point?  China, knowingly or not, has been leveraging the N. Korea situation to Chinese benefit for decades--why would they willingly give up that kind of leverage?

And I'll say it again: I didn't vote for the guy.

rb84's picture

Respectfully, I think a converstation around PC Culture and microagressions is incomplete without acknowledging privilege and white privilege specifically.  If I might share a quick anecdote...  

One of my best friends (we are both white guys) recently became a police officer.  It was his lifelong dream and obviously a great achievement.  I was and am extremely proud of my friend.  However, after he started the job I started to notice a few more off-color comments he made when we hung out.  Some mildly offensive jokes toward minorities and women, that sort of thing.  I guess what lots of people would call microagressions or just being politically incorrect.  But sometimes I would hear one and say "hey man, that's not cool!" or something like that, and he'd just laugh and tell me he didn't really mean it and don't be so sensitive.  "All cops have an inappropriate sense of humor, deal with it snowflake!"

But then I see reports and video of Michael Bennett being threatened with a gun to his head and harassed by police in Las Vegas just for being a black man in the vacinity of a reported shooting.  And I think back to my friend, and his friends on the police force, and their jokes, and how all these little comments might just slowly start to change the way they view the citizens they are supposed to protect, especially people of color.  Microagressions that very slowly and subconsciously manifest into physical agressions. 

I guess what I'm saying is your "microagression" or silly joke or "don't be senstitive buttercup" comment might feel like or even become a real agression to someone who looks different than you, prays differently than you, even uses a different bathroom than you do.

And so I'm curious to know if those who have a problem with our alleged microagression culture stop to consider their own privilege, or consider an alternative society where the rules of polite society were made by people who don't look like you?  Do you wonder what it would feel like if you heard a co-worker laugh about the words you use or your hairstyle or even the birthplace of the first president of your race, and then found yourself in handcuffs later that night b/c you "fit the description"?  As a white male I will never know how this really feels, but I bet I'd be pretty resentful if I was just told to not be so sensitive about it.


I've got several friends who are/were police.  On each one of them -- not all police, but these several men that I personally know -- my absolute number one complaint is that becoming police officers turned them into horrible bullies.  Their police training resulted in their savoring every chance to dominate a helpless citizen and they were trained systematically to become the most racist people I know - virtually the only racist people I know.  And we're talking about GOOD men here.

I personally have a look about me that makes police respond to me very aggressively also.  Me personally, I have absolutely no privilege as it pertains to my interactions with the police.  I'm in at least the 90th percentile (not 99th, but 90th) for hostile police response, inner-city blacks included, and it isn't because I'm hostile to government authorities.  TSA, police, DOL, doesn't matter.  They still pick fights with me every single time.  

A small Asian woman is extremely likely to be treated more courteously by a cop than I am.  ?So is she punching up or down when she talks with me?


Generalizing that problem to then logically conclude that --- > any time the petite Asian woman disagrees with me the cop-bullied bearded guy, that makes her the insensitive one?, that's the kind of logic that the country doesn't seem to want to tolerate any more.  Whichever one of us lives the easier and happier life, when it comes to idea exchange, we still both get to talk.

Put another way:  whether I've got leukemia or not, friend, I've still got to win debates with you on the merits.  Not because our sensitivies rule your ideas out of bounds.

rb84's picture

But the question remains; do you think white privilege plays a role in the so-called PC Culture debate?  And if so, does that shape how you feel about those who are the targets of the microagressions?  

Also not sure where you're getting the argument that if a petite Asian woman disagrees with you then she's a Nazi?!  Certainly nothing I said is remotely close to that.  

But one thing I did want to point out is that the article referenced "militant progressives". I don't know what group this refers to.  I'll say that I've not seen any BLM activists open carrying assault rifles at political rallys, but I HAVE seen neo-Nazis doing that.  Check me on that if you've seen differently.  


[sorry for the edit RB.  one of the unfair privileges of running a blog - I get to go back and wordsmith stuff when I don't like the words I chose the first time!  In this case you appropriately quoted my first draft.]

Sure, white privilege plays a role, as does black privilege, and Asian privilege, and feminine privilege.  Not trying to be coy, but I'd need you to be more specific, in order to respond.  You mean "should it play a role" or you mean "does it affect our biases" or ?


Your last paragraph:  if I were dictator of the USA, neo-Nazis would be running very scared.  I don't think millenials have yet figured out what Nazi human experimentation labs were all about.  It trivializes the 1942 Polish mother *so badly* for people to even mention the word Nazi today, much less join a "Nazi" group.

But as to which side is propagating more actual violence, that's another question in my opinion.  Thanks RB.


When I say militant progressives, I'm referring broadly (and respectfully) to the no-compromise ID politics / socialist economics group that is liable to cost the Democrats the next several elections, and less respectfully to the much smaller subset group of Antifa-style rioters and campus fanatic "take it to the streets" types.  

That's not what everybody means by it; it's what I mean by the term.  The essence of it is the ZERO-compromise "must absolutely be pro-choice to run for office" spirit.  I don't mean "militant progressive" as a slur; I mean it descriptively.

rb84's picture

And yes it is your blog so you do get edit rights, good on you! :)  And lest you think I am trolling, I do think this is a great site for your coverage of the Mariners.  Probably THE BEST.  I read it everyday.  I do try to avoid the political talk b/c I think I'm pretty far adrift of most here but maybe I'm wrong about that.  

And I did mean "does it play a role" but I can leave it here.  Thank you for engaging and keep up the good work! Sincerely. 


My own privileges as a white American are vast and they affect my thinking of course.  

For that matter, simply being an American ... how much does THAT affect my thinking, as opposed to what my thinking would be if I'd been born in Cambodia?  much less being a white guy.  Yep, if that's what you're getting at I cheerfully agree that I have a very hard time seeing things from a 9-year-old black girl's point of view.  I can't even see things from my wife's point of view :- )

My paradigm however is that the Burmese monk has the same responsibility to seek truth, that I have, that a Venezuelan does.  Comes time to debate, it's what you say, not who says it.


Thanks for the well wishes RB.  Back atcha.  Hope you can chime in more.


on the concept most people attempt to describe when they invoke the term 'privilege.'

I'm a thirty five year old, dad-bodied white guy with no apparent superior phyiscal characteristics (possibly apart from being 6'2"), and in this country I get regarded by people (young women especially) precisely as I imagine pro athletes are regarded when they walk the mall.  Every pair of eyes lingers a few extra seconds on me, playful giggles as I pass are a common occurrence, and pretty much every other example of arms-length flirtation you can think of are commonplace during a twenty minute walk through the mall.  Any American man who has visited a country like this one knows that I'm not exaggerating in the slightest.  There are facets of this which could *obviously* be beneficial to me, but there are facets which are decidedly not.

Once one subset of people begins to behave favorably toward a person, other subsets (say, the local men who vie for these young ladies' attentions) chafe at such favorability and they seek to 'even the score' as it were.  In this country that could be anything from gouging me an extra $0.50-1.00/kilo for fruits/meat at the market, to taxi drivers trying to take me for another $4-5/trip, to local bureaucrats adding zeroes(!) onto the price tags for standard government services (like fencing permits and the like).  I'm a MUCH fatter-looking target for petty thieves and other criminals to come take a swipe at, and yes I've had to deal with that in this country as a result of my 'privilege.'  So yeah, while I get preferential treatment from young, single filipinas I get at least that much negative treatment from the rest of the people I encounter--and frankly, I don't leverage the positive aspects of this condition but I most certainly do receive the detriments associated with it. 

I see it pretty similarly in the USA.  It seems to me that once the concept generally referred to as 'privilege' is acknowledged by a person, little-or nothing!-else need be done by that person.  The world is full of independent actors doing as they think is best for themselves and their agendas; if some group is indeed inordinately advantaged in a given arena, people don't need state force to level the field--we're pretty capable of doing that ourselves.

In fact, it seems to me that the most horrifying example of human suffering (slavery) is only made possible via state support.  Why should it be any different for lesser variants on the spectrum of advantage vs. disadvantage?  Serious question.  And if you intend to couch an answer in the standard rhetoric of 'institutionalized advantages' then I would ask that you lay the case out precisely as you see it, in your own words.  I'm not saying institutional advantages don't exist; I'm saying that in my experience they are usually inappropriately invoked.

So while I think that acknowledging the differences each of us might have with our fellow humans is a GREAT thing, I disapprove of the concept of 'privilege' being invoked since it paints a picture of categorical advantages (which do indeed seem mythical to me; as I elucidated above, it seems to me that everything in life is trade-offs).  How's 'white privilege' working out for students riding the bubble in terms of SAT scores, which have to be markedly higher for whites/Asians than many ethnic minorities due to (laudable, but ultimately self-defeating in my considered opinion) attempts to 'level the field' as it were by the imposition of state force?  I doubt a kid whose SAT scores were a hundred points higher than a competitors, but failed to get academic footing while the lower-scoring youth passed said kid by, much cares about the concept of 'social justice' being made manifest at his/her expense.

And ultimately my primary issue with the concept of privilege is simple: what's the inverse of privilege?   Think about it for a second.  If you're accepting of the notion that some people are inherently advantaged over others, and that this must be corrected for by the application of outside force, you're necessarily declaring that some people will require the application of outside force to overcome their disadvantages.  That, to me, is a truly insidious and destructive idea to promulgate--especially when it comes to the impressionable and fertile minds of our youths.

rb84's picture

For example, I don't think the experience of black and brown men in America very closely resembles the situation you are describing for yourself in the Philippines, and I'll just leave it at that.  

Also, I'm not sure what you mean that slavery was only possible b/c of State support?  Certainly the abolishment of slavery was only possible b/c of the 13th Amendment, but maybe I'm missing something about your point. 

Finally, I would encourage you to do some research on the inherent racial and gender bias found in the SAT and other standardized tests which partially led to the necessity of affirmative action policies.  And as far as suggesting that if we acknowledge that some people are more privileged than others in a society, then that means we must acknowledge that some people will need outside (or "state") assitance to help balance the playing field, THEN YES, I agree with you 100%!  Where we part ways however is that I think that is a terrific and noble goal for a society to strive for. 


in purely logistical terms.  How is one supposed to enforce property rights (which slaves were most certainly considered property under any framework which might conceivably be referred to as permitting 'slavery') if not via government assistance?  By local fiat in contradiction to national/federal law?

Seriously, think about this from the standpoint of being a local farmer who doesn't own any slaves.  Would it behoove you to assist the plantation master's slaves in fleeing their bondage, thereby raising the cost of labor (and your own daily wages along with it)?  Of course it would.  So how could the wealthy slave owners prevent this from taking place en masse?  Any answer you can logically conceive of inevitably leads you to the conclusion that slavery requres state force in order to exist.

Non-slave-owners were often required to form posses to round up escaped slaves as part of their civic obligation under law, and that requirement was handed down by local government--not the plantation owners individually.  If the plantation owners were indeed the sole authors and providers of the framework under which escaped slaves would be returned, it would be in the direct opposite interests of non-slave-owners to participate in such returns. 

There is a wealth of information available on slavery in America that I encourage you to read.  YouTube abounds with historians (both amateur and professional) who describe contemporaneous ordinances and legal frameworks required in slavery-tolerating jurisdictions.  It is absolutely fascinating to see just how much the state and federal governments were 'in the slavery business' from day one.  Again, if slaves are considered property, one of the government's primary obligations is to secure the property of its citizenry.

As for wanting to help others, that is indeed a laudable directive :-)  Where you and I differ, I surmise, is that I think helping others should be largely confined to charitable works directly sponsored and undertaken by the people wishing to contribute such help, and that it be delivered directly to the recipients desired by the generous and charitable benefactors.  Otherwise you end up with situations like in Haiti, where the Red Cross built a handful of houses after receiving hundreds of millions of dollars in disaster relief donations following that devastating earthquake.  Not only that, but as Jeff correctly suggests, once 'charity' is no longer voluntary but is coerced at gunpoint (how else does one describe the collection of taxes in any society?) we have fundamentally changeed the act of 'giving' into one that is no longer pure and good, but one which is instantly and irrevocably tainted by the act of coercing support instead of graciously accepting the support that is offered.

We were discussing privilege, no?  Generally speaking, the group of people who gets accused of possessing the most privilege are white Europeans/Americans, so my example of the Philippines was simply to describe how this concept of 'privilege' can appear when cranked up a few notches on the dial--which has downstream effects both positive and negative, as I described.  I was not suggesting that this experience was analogous to that of any ethnic subset living in the USA; I was simply demonstrating that I understand pretty clearly what the concept of 'privilege' is by providing a fairly extreme example of it.

And I still think it's bonkers, regressive, subversive and self-destructive for a society to adopt a Proletariat/Bourgeoisie framework by which people are encouraged to conduct themselves.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.

To my mind, that statement stands in direct opposition to the notion that some of us require, and will always require based on some arbitrary dint of birth, state force in order to succeed while others must be actively held back to permit that occurrence.


An application I'd never considered at all, since the only strange place I've ever been as a white American guy was deep Mexico and the experience was a different one.

Though nobody (here) is denying the general benefits of being a white American  -- or of being 6'2" or a pretty girl or having a high IQ! -- the interest groups pressing for their concerns only would actually be more persuasive if they would acknowledge two sides of a balance sheet.


Judeo-Christian philosophy is all about helping those who can't help themselves.  The Gospels are a virtual bill of rights for women, foreigners and the poor, especially time-adjusted. The problem is that this "shield" of "A little help here, please" has been turned into a "sword" of conflict where "punching up" is deemed a moral virtue.


zero nuance like that which I describe above (positive vs. negative facets of the phenomenon).

One of my first 'sniff tests' for any advocated position or issue is simple: is there nuance to this position, and does the advocate at least attempt to describe the position globally or are they simply interested in advancing it rather than educating people about it?

I really wish I had my browser bookmarks from a few years ago; in them was a beautiful Thomas Jefferson quote, hosted somewhere in Monticello.org, where he denounces advocacy as, essentially, invariably leading to evil.  Truth-seeking, on the other hand, only advances our common causes.

In my experience (and in Jefferson's, if I'm remembering correctly) truth-seeking and advocacy rarely, if ever, intersect.

rb84's picture

Certainly something I try to remember often w/r/t issues I feel strongly about (union rights, health care) vs. issues people in other parts of the world face like "where will I find food and clean water today".  All just b/c I won the birth lottery.  Helps put it in perspective when the rage meter starts to go up a bit. :)  

Thanks Jemanji.  


I'm stepping way out of my comfort zone here, because I know I am not a political animal who lives and breathes it. That, and I know my limitations. I'm not the sharpest crayola in the box when it comes to this stuff. And in truth, this will not address politics at all, but something that occurs to me while listening to folks talk about stuff. The only mention of our current president is this; please, please, please if there is a God, take away his phone or shut down his Twitter account. 

I'm not going to mention party affiliation or liberal or conservative, because it spans the spectrum - although I do think the vast majority of what I'll be mentioning resides on one end.

I was raised to believe that even though I may absolutely disagree with what you say, I will defend to the death your right to say it. I was also taught that your rights end where the other guy's nose begins. Meaning the exercising of your rights goes right up until it denies the rights of others; you, as an individual, don't have the right to do that. There is a very vocal segmant of the population who will say any dang thing they want to and wrap it up in freedom of speech, and if you don't like it, too bad. Which is fine. That's what Freedom of Speech is. BUT... In the very same breath, those same people will screech at max volume if I say something with which they disagree, and I get shouted down, threatened, and my rights denied. You can't have it both ways. If you want to have the freedom to say what you want, then that same applies to others; you don't get to shut them down just because you disagree with them. They have to put up with you, you have to put up with them. The media is no help here, and in fact makes it worse. Remember, "if it bleeds, it leads." They like confrontation; it means ratings.

The 80% of us in the middle of things have allowed the screaming 10% on each end to monopolize things for far too long. Until we can get to the point where people are actually talking and reasoning like adults instead of shouting like little children who think their favorite toy has been taken from them, until we are having substanive, constructive conversations about things instead of screaming at each other and demanding the other must be silenced, until we come to the table wanting to get things done instead of wanting to hear our own voice and our agenda be the only thing heard, we'll get nowhere. 


All opinions are welcome here when they're presented as yours are.

The increasing polarization of the USA is more than troubling--it's approaching calamity like only seen once before in the USA's young history.  That gives no pleasure to say, but I think it's the most accurate statement that can be said on the matter.

As to DJT's penchant for direct-to-the-masses communication via social media, I've got to take the other side.  I flat out love reading his twitter storms, because most of the time they demonstrate (via the comments, replies, and retweets) just how out of touch the 'two halves' of America have become.  Want to see people shout past each other?  Go through his Twitter feed a few times a week.  It's *exactly* what you describe: everyone just wants to scream as loudly and frequently as possible to ensure theirs is the first voice heard on the subject.

Personally, I think his Twitter serves as (among other things) a lightning rod of sorts for political discussion.  I'm frankly shocked that Obama didn't mine this medium similarly before him; he had all the charisma and media support, and could have spun any narrative however he wanted with 80% of the media getting his back.

Places like SSI are among the precious few bastions of reasoned debate that I've been able to find.  It's a precious community that Jeff's built here; never hesitate to pop up and chime in.  It makes it better for all of us when you do :-)


Great discussion guys!

1.  America's pending collapse, due to the polarization of politics and screechy level of dissent, is overstated. It isn't happening!  This is worse than 1968?  Really?  Yet by '76 we were a calm cultured nation celebrating a nice bicentennia, without riot or rancor.  I was in Eugene in '76, even it was calm!  Two years before we had nearly impeached a president!  It seems worse now due to the 24/7 nature of broadcast news and internet stupidity, but it really isn't.  AntiFa?  Neo-Nazis?  Mostly idiot 24 year old boys with too much time and attention!  A calm voice would help.  Where is Walter Cronkite when we need him?  

2.  Trump has essentially followed his campaign pledges.  He is neither an immoral man nor evil!  His tweeting is silly and does his presidency little good, but that makes him about like the rest of the tweet/Facebook addicts in the nation.  Ending DACA is not immoral and likely to the letter of the Constitution.  The ACA is collapsing at warp speed.  Don't blame him for that or for congressional Republican's failure to act.  His tax proposals for a flatter simpler system are supported by a majority of the American people.  His "Islamophobic" policies (travel ban) were not bans on Muslims (Indonesian Muslims, the most numerous in the world, had no problem traveling to the US)  nor destructive.  The Paris Accords produced no climatic result for decades, yetbthe US paid the huge price relatively quickly.  How does he "antagonize" a rogue loony toon country testing nukes Willy Nilly and firing ballistic missiles over our allies' air space?  And that's Trump's fault?  Hey, I didn't bore for him,  and goodness knows I recognize his multitude of faults, but his policies are generally well within mainstream view.  Remembering, if you will, that Bernie, Nancy Pelosi, and the antifa thugs are no more mainstream than he is. 

3.  There is a political discourse that works in this nation, look at the states. It works generally well there.   The national problem is that congress won't legislate in a manner that seeks other-side-of-the-aisle support.  This president and the last one give lip service to the idea, but really aren't inclined to do the hard legislative word to get folks on board.  But mostly the problem lies with a "continuing resolution" congressional attitude.  

4.  I am a lifelong Republican.  Yet recently I  have written a letter of support, for a group of governmental entities, to our state representative, a democrat.  The idea was mine.  I have emceed an event, on the stage with one of Oregon's US Senators, a democrat and a friend of mine.  I recently met with our governor, a democrat and friend, about a timber plan that I thought made little sense.  I am now cautiously supportiive, becUse of that discourse.  I even took our US Representative fly fishing, he too is a democrat and a friend.  I am not a lone wolf folks.  People ARE willing to work with the other party, to shake hands, even to agree to disagree and move on.  A lillte statesmanship in congress and less infantile tweeting from the White House would help!  But if we want a polite, rational, reasoned discourse (antifa does not) then we should exhibit it ourselves.  We do here, of course, thanks to the good Doc!  SSI should bequired reading around the nation.  Not that we would change minds, but we might set an example.

I oppose unlimited undocumented(illegal) immigration.  I am the furthest thing from a racist, stop calling me one.

if you don't like the speaker on campus, don't go.  Simple enough.

Name calling is no strategy.  It is 7th grade stuff.

But you guys know all that! 

Remnd the others, will you please. 


Not *sure* you are right about our peril being overstated, but you very well may be.  Coming from you it's awfully nice to hear.


I'm hilariously conflicted about the President of the US tweeting the way he does.  It's jello wrestling with eye gouging and biting, and we know how George Washington would respond to it.  But we've been jello wrestling since Lewinsky and long before, and if CNN et al are going to host a 24/7 anti-Trump telethon then everybody might as well fling their best shots around and keep it even.  

Scott Adams says that social media now functions as the conscience of the country, and often a conscience that jells one way or the other (on, say, Access, or on CNN's doxxing of a meme writer) in a matter of hours rather than years.  I wonder to what extent he's right.


have been talking for years about 'hive minds' phenomena once separate minds (yours, mine, Larry The Cable Guy's, etc..) all get interconnected.  So much theorization went into predicting what this 'hive mind' would look like, how it would behave, and what its products would be.

Look no further than Twitter, 4Chan, Reddit, and sites like this one for your answer.

Twitter is indeed something like the conscience of our society, though it hardly fits the notion most of us grew up thinking of as Jiminy Cricket or angels & demons sitting on our shoulders reminding us of our base and higher natures.  Still, it is a real-time, honest expression of how we think and conduct ourselves when our personae are largely removed from the equation.  How does a mind process information and events when it's largely unencumbered by the trappings and restrictions of civilization and society?

Twitter, Reddit, 4Chan, and places like this represent facets of that process in action.  And the truly beautiful thing about the internet is that it is more of a meritocracy than most spheres we travel in our lives.  If an idea put forth online is demonstrably weak, that weakness will be demonstrated.  And if an idea is strong and resonant, it will make the rounds and go viral.

Fascinating 'put c/o Scott Adams, Jeff.  Nice :-)

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