Conscious apocalypse: outliving our ruling institutions

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cont'd:

Because representation is constituted by a complex array of institutions and practices, no one should be surprised that the participants in this forum have identified a wide range of concerns. Several highlight deformations of the social bases of politics, underlining the deepening and often grotesque inequalities in our new Gilded Age (Trumka and Melissa Williams) as well as ugly and persistent racism (Michael Dawson). Others focus on distortions of the political process itself: the lack of electoral competition for most congressional seats and the decline of participation at the state leve*l(Mohammad Fadel); the assault on voting rights and asymmetrical ideological polarization promoted by biased media** (Rick Perlstein); the delegitimation of active government, and the doleful effects of southern politics (Schmitt); the decay of effective mass political parties (Alex Gourevitch and Kramer); and a profoundly undemocratic delegation of power to the national security state (Gourevitch).
* gerrymandered districts in PA require 3 democratic voters for a house seat to compete against 1 gop voter for the same seat. That explains the lack of participation, your vote doesn't count until the next census, a decade hence.

** restoring the fairness doctrine restores news to replace entertainment.

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douglaslee
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Jul. 31, 2007 3:01 pm

Well, I was switching back and forth between enable and disable rich text and accidently hit the save button once again, so I'll continue in a new post rather than edit my post #600.

I was going to include a comment about the other responses to Katznelson's opening essay. An interested reader will find them each linked in a column under "Responding" at the top of the Anxieties of Democracy page. I see eleven scholarly responses there, none of which could qualify as a twitter sound bite in my opinion.

Quote douglaslee:

Since the US never had parliamentary rule, and thus no democracy, the suspension was of majority rule and adoption of tyranny of the minority with SCOTUS assistance.

Well, the argument Columbia professor of political science Katzelman makes is that representative government, even here in the U.S., would qualify as a form of democracy, otherwise there would be no anxiety at its current decline. So you are making a counter claim to his. And your counterclaim would, of course, be to the ideological basis for neoconservative Francis Fukuyama's controversial claims in his "End of History" essay back in 1989. Here: Bring back ideology: Fukuyama's end of history' 25 years on, offers a 25-year after revisitation to that essay with a kind of summary of the many critiques that arose in following years, some of which I myself raised in a long discussion about the rise of Unitary Executive in our form of governance on one of Thom's now long vanished older boards.

To continue to visit douglaslee's charge about the lack of democracy in the U.S. political system, I'd raise the issue that our presidential republic system, though considered by many an antique form or representation in today's many parliamentary forms of representative governance, continues to be considered a member of that classification of democracy. Here are two Wiki condensations of the two forms in question here:

Presidential System

Parliamentary System

But personally, I tend to agree with doug's above implicit democracy definition and thus would be inclined to agree that the U.S. never has had what I would consider a fair and balanced form of representative democracy. The attempt to set up a popularly elected president who would balance a mass populace representation with the state and district representation in the two houses of Congress, has pretty much achieved some version of the worst case disadvantages of the presidential systems:

  • Tendency towards authoritarianism — some political scientists say presidentialism raises the stakes of elections, exacerbates their polarization and can lead to authoritarianism (Linz).
  • Political gridlock — the separation of powers of a presidential system establishes the presidency and the legislature as two parallel structures. Critics argue that this can create an undesirable and long-term political gridlock whenever the president and the legislative majority are from different parties, which is common because the electorate usually expects more rapid results from new policies than are possible (Linz, Mainwaring and Shugart). In addition, this reduces accountability by allowing the president and the legislature to shift blame to each other.
  • Impediments to leadership change — presidential systems often make it difficult to remove a president from office early, for example after taking actions that become unpopular.

Numerous critics, including Katznelson as I'm reading him, see the emphasis on economic aspects in the U.S. system to be one of the largest consequences of the present failure to achieve the goals of popular democratic administering of society. Probably one of the most accessible and clearest expressions I can recommend would be Sheldon Wolin's Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism (includes a link to a discussion between Hedges and Wolin worth watching).

I find it difficult to disagree. Industrial civilization and capitalism dominate the "money is speech" variety of democratic representation our elections have become. I'm inclined to mention that it's evolved with the "rule of law" aspect's help. Especially with the help of a now unitary executive/Federalist Society-packed SCOTUS (thanks to a dominance of a politically rightward (i.e. economic) emphasis in the election of an executive branch that began in earnest with the Reagan Administration). An emphasis of such intricate complexity that it took me a lot of threads and posts to reveal in much of its questionable glory back during the Bush Administration when I was discussing the rise of the unitary executive and its neocon-implementing dangers.

In his final response I find Katznelson's following revealing statement describing a basis for what I see as a failure of our current ruling institutions:

Quote Katznelson:

A healthy liberal democracy does not marginalize or exclude citizens or fail to engage the big questions of the day.

And, though in the main, Katznelson persists with hope for an equalizing democratic recovery, he follows that with this assessment, also included in douglaslee's post 601, but I want to include it as part of my own version of this discussion of the failure of democracy in our representative system so I'll repeat it here:

Quote Katznelson:

When representation fails, so does democracy. When representation loses legitimacy, or when elections, parties, and parliaments are passed over for less mediated forms, political democracy is eroded and made vulnerable to Peronist alternatives. I agree with Hélène Landemore that it is not democracy as such but its representative form, in particular, that is in trouble. About that, we should lose sleep, especially as her suggestions—returning to ancient pre-electoral models or replacing elections with lotteries—hardly seem viable options today.

For those who do not see how unequal this representative form of political/economic social complexity has become, I suggest viewing a documentary that I would consider to be from a somewhat mainstream, centrist view of our circumstances. It's put together working mainly out of the views of Robert Reich:

Inequality for All

It's a documentary that focuses primarily on the measurable decline of the economically sharing middle class since the seventies. It makes use of many of the political science instruments used for measuring the health of the economy, the sharing of wealth, while equating them with the changes also discussed in the above "Anxieties of Democracy" discussion. Many of us have been witnessing and discussing these changes in our representative political system for years, and I found this to be a good summary, though I would not call it comprehensive; few explanations are, after all. The graphs demonstrating the rise of huge disparities in wealth between the 1% and the rest of us are particularly heart wrenching to those who still have hope that our version of civilization can be saved.

Here's a Bill Moyers interview of Robert Reich about the documentary that might be worth watching.

.ren's picture
.ren
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Apr. 1, 2010 6:50 am

I agree that there are a legion of details representing the failures of achieving a fair and equal representation, and thus ultimately the failure of representative democracy in the U.S. as a working political system. Where would you go next with the discussion if we can agree on that?

Katznelson concludes with some element of hopefulness:

Quote Final Response:

I share these apprehensions, some of which I have written about at length. For example, it feels odd to be reminded by Dawson that New Deal policies generated racial inequality, as I have devoted two recent books to that subject. My goal, though, is not to create a comprehensive list of the sources of current political ill health. Rather I want to invite a conversation about the dilemmas of representation, the arena that both friends and enemies have long understood to constitute modern democracy’s heart.

Most of my remarks and those of my critics deal with the United States. But as Martin O’Neill reminds us, these issues are not confined to any single country. His response usefully, if implicitly, cautions that we not confuse the particularities of any one place with concerns that transcend national boundaries. It also directs us to recognize that causes often come in bundles rather than just one at a time.

As we imagine a better democratic future, as we craft better analyses of causes, and as we consider remedies, we would do well to recall that things can get worse. It would be good to combine sensibilities, linking the spirit of pragmatism with what John Rawls called realistic utopian thinking and what Judith Shklar designated a liberalism of fear—an orientation designed less to create more justice than to guard against human depredation.

I'm not inclined to be quite so sangine about saving civilization as these academics tend to be. After all, they are coming out of their own form or institutionalism.

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.ren
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Apr. 1, 2010 6:50 am

Very good, ren. You saw the parallel failures of institutions as the thread's title mentions and institutional biases, institution flaws from the outset, institutional rejection of change (I got mine) and more.

I question the author's position that it's just as bad elsewhere. Northern Europe, Australasia, and recent success in South America of the Bolivian consensus replacing the Washington consensus thereby accommodating indigenious peoples for the first time in their desire for inclusion (black lives matter is the US version facing just as much institutional resistance and racism as the Indian population of South American countries. .economist/ political awakening

Indigenous people in South AmericaA political awakeningPoverty and a new ethnic politics have spawned radical Indian movements in the Andean countries. Are these a threat or a boost to democracy?

Feb 19th 2004 | cotacachi, la paz and lima

One perspective adopted as a positive by the author was institutional arguement rather than institutional agreement. That is what the US is now, whenever the GOP loses they dig in even more and deny the legitimacy of the majority and adopted position. They will never admit that gravity is not a two sided theory. Or that a consumer based economy requires consumers.

btw, if anyone wants to browse the Boston Review, it has a plethora of research and commentary:

https://ethicsinsociety.stanford.edu/ and these contributers:

40 Years of Boston Review

Howard Zinn
Noam Chomsky
Richard Freeman
Nancy Cott
Cornel West
Evgeny Morozov
Elaine Scarry
Deborah Meier
Elizabeth Warren
Glenn Loury
Martha Nussbaum
Susan Sontag
Lani Guinier
Philippe Van Parijs
Vivian Gornick
Sadik J. Al-Azm

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douglaslee
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Quote douglaslee:

One perspective adopted as a positive by the author was institutional arguement rather than institutional agreement. That is what the US is now, whenever the GOP loses they dig in even more and deny the legitimacy of the majority and adopted position. They will never admit that gravity is not a two sided theory. Or that a consumer based economy requires consumers.

That perspective is part of Katznelson's general position where he favors a representative system of governing democracy because it's to him the best of all the other options, given current global environment of human societies consisting of high populations and complex institutional organizations. With that perspective, he argues that 'argument' must also be institutionalized rather than 'agreement'. If agreement is institutionalized that raises the specter of the emergence of authoritarian ways of organizing society, which he also covers, with its historically inherent problems. Let me pull the paragraph from his Final Response that mentions the notion of 'institutionalizing argument':

Quote Katznelson:

Michael Gecan’s strong brief for bottom-up mobilization—among the bracing commentaries, the toughest in tone—laments that I place so much emphasis on the representative process. He is right to read my essay this way. I value democratic representation not because I lack other commitments—including to a vibrant civil society—but because, as Ian Shapiro says in The State of Democratic Theory (2003), it offers “the best available system for managing power relations among people who disagree about the nature of the common good” by “institutionalizing argument rather than agreement.”

It helps to read Michael Gecan's essay to consider the context for Katznelson's institutionalizing of argument concept. Both Katznelson's institutionalizing of argument concept and Gecan's argument that ordinary people bring an oppositional factor into the dynamics of democratic governance share a commonality in an underlying category of modern theory. I would identify that category as conflict theories that go back to Marx. These are theories that attempt to find a resolution for the tendency to revert to an authoritarian resolution where there appears to be a kind of irresolvable difference of opinion, or even deeper, an irresolvable difference in ontologies that would allow for negotiated agreement. Those types of ontologies emerge from fundamentalist types of positions where agreement is institutionalized (as in Christian or Muslim fundamentalist views) rather than argument.

When an institutionalized conflict system "operates well, it is permeable to a wide array of interests and preferences. “No one can be certain that their interests will ultimately triumph,” as Adam Przeworski has written, and no nonrepresentative force—the military, a party, a leader, or a movement—can intrude to reverse decisions even when they are strongly unfavorable to its interests." (Katznelson)

The larger atmosphere of Katznelson's "Anxiety of Democracy" opening essay is that which I deduce as: concern among a number of academic theorists today that our current system is not operating well.

When those differences are gridlocked by irreconcilable differences, such as:

Quote douglaslee:

That is what the US is now, whenever the GOP loses they dig in even more and deny the legitimacy of the majority and adopted position. They will never admit that gravity is not a two sided theory. Or that a consumer based economy requires consumers.

The tendency that emerges at that point is what I believe he articulates in his section of the opening argument where he talks about challenge of national legislatures to make effective policy. You'll find it about half way through where he says:

Quote Katznelson:

The challenges take two principal forms.....

....

The second challenge focuses on the character, process, and capacity of the legislative arena itself—on the “physics of consent” and “the dignity of legislation” in Jeremy Waldron’s language. The legislative arena works best, he notes, when “the representatives of the community come together to settle solemnly and explicitly on common schemes and measures that can stand in the name of them all, and they do so in a way that openly acknowledges and respects (rather than conceals) the inevitable differences of opinion and principle among them.”

This ideal is increasingly out of reach thanks to arcane rules of procedure, a cacophony of partisan argument, obsessive protection of intensely interested minorities, poor legislative craftsmanship, and delegation to courts and executive agencies. These concerns are not as serious as those of the 1920s and 1930s, when dictatorships claimed to be more democratic because more direct. But there are parallels in present worries about the baneful effects of ideological division, the absence of a unifying public interest, campaign finance arrangements that advantage privileged persons and groups, and the limited time horizons of decision-makers who fail to deal effectively with such long-range challenges as climate change.

I believe he also introduces your first point...

Quote douglaslee:

I question the author's position that it's just as bad elsewhere. Northern Europe, Australasia, and recent success in South America of the Bolivian consensus replacing the Washington consensus thereby accommodating indigenious peoples for the first time in their desire for inclusion (black lives matter is the US version facing just as much institutional resistance and racism as the Indian population of South American countries. .economist/ political awakening

...with his description of the first of those legislative challenges to make effective national policy:

First is whether citizens can effectively access and influence political life or even develop informed views about key issues. The bedrock of representative democracy is what German sociologist Claus Offe has termed “the principle of non-convertibility”: the idea that unequal social and economic assets should not convert into unequal political influence. Where wealth is not separated from political influence, representative democracy lacks a fair distribution of citizen power. The United States presently stands out for blatant contradictions of Offe’s principle, such as voter ID laws that impose hurdles on poorer citizens and the immense flow of money from the mega-rich in a post–Citizens United (2010) campaign-finance environment.

But the United States is not alone. To varying degrees, every major democracy is bedeviled by increasingly porous boundaries between vastly unequal markets and putatively egalitarian politics. Under these circumstances, citizenship weakens. Members of the polity risk becoming an audience of passive spectators rather than community of active citizens.

I'm not sure if he considers your examples to be in his category of "every major democracy" or maybe he would find those same boundaries to be porous there as well. You'd have to clarify that with him. Michael Gecan also questions him and Katzcarson does agree that democratic change has been a factor of non institutionalized public conflict. But he doggedly returns to his primary argument where he values democratic representation with its complementing feature of institutionalizing argument in order to resolve inherent differences.

I think the psychological state of mind expressed as "anxieties of democracy" was made a feature of this academic discussion, at least for Katznelson, because, with all his deeply educated analysis, his "best" solution (representative democracy) is in some serious danger of not "operating" very well right now. And he doesn't have any bright ideas about how to tweak it back.

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.ren
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This essay seems to dovetail with our collective on going Conscious apocalypse ( and mostly in my view the collective unconscious apocalypse) fairly well, in part;

"We were born on the eve of what may be the human world’s greatest catastrophe. None of us chose this, not deliberately. None of us can choose to avoid it either. Some of us will even live through it. What meaning we pass on to the future will depend on how well we remember those who have come before us, how wisely and how gently we’re able to shed the ruinous way of life that’s destroying us today, and how consciously we’re able to affirm our role as creators of our fated future.

Accepting the fatality of our situation isn’t nihilism, but rather the necessary first step in forging a new way of life. Between self-destruction and giving up, between willing nothingness and not willing, there is another choice: willing our fate. Conscious self-creation. We owe it to the generations whose futures we’ve burned and wasted to build a bridge, to be a bridge, to connect the diverse human traditions of meaning-making in our past to those survivors, children of the Anthropocene, who will build a new world among our ruins."

the full essay here:

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/12/21/were-doomed-now-what/?module=BlogPost-ReadMore&version=Blog%20Main&action=Click&contentCollection=%20Stone&pgtype=Blogs&region=Body#more-158775

rs allen
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Mar. 15, 2012 4:55 pm

Surprising to find an article like that in the NYTimes. It certainly does speak to the issue of outliving our ruling institutions, all of which appear to have no intention of dealing with the issues Mr. Scranton brings out so clearly in his essay. After all, that's the nature of institutions, to be robotically self preserving in the face of utter inhumane insanity. Thanks for bringing that to our attention. I, for one, have ceased paying attention the the NYTimes. It's, after all, an hubristic institution itself, and usually so predictable when it comes to presenting something truly controversial.

For those who don't know how to make an unimbedded link work, here's the link and the title:

We’re Doomed. Now What?

The article comes from the NYTimes own blog titled: "The Stone"

Here's a description next to the article:

The Stone features the writing of contemporary philosophers and other thinkers on issues both timely and timeless. The series moderator is Simon Critchley. He teaches philosophy at The New School for Social Research in New York. To contact the editors of The Stone, send an e-mail to opinionator@nytimes.com. Please include “The Stone” in the subject field.

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.ren
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Apr. 1, 2010 6:50 am

11 countries within the euphemistically "United" states. Violent crime is the claim to fame of the south, their independence allows them to solve conflicts with weapons and state executions (an institution that will never die because of tradition)

Appalachia does not do well with their naturally beautiful Smoky Mountain range, it's just a convenient place to dump your old refrigerators, sofas, trucks and cars, bicycles, shopping carts, kitchen sinks (the "everything BUT the kitchen sink" phrase need not apply) https://img.washingtonpost.com/blogs/govbeat/files/2013/11/upinarms-map.jpg I'll post the article soon

http://uk.businessinsider.com/the-11-nations-of-the-united-states-2015-7?r=US&IR=T

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douglaslee
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Jul. 31, 2007 3:01 pm

cont'd:

The clashes between the 11 nations play out in every way, from politics to social values. Woodard notes that states with the highest rates of violent deaths are in the Deep South, Tidewater and Greater Appalachia, regions that value independence and self-sufficiency. States with lower rates of violent deaths are in Yankeedom, New Netherland and the Midlands, where government intervention is viewed with less skepticism.

States in the Deep South are much more likely to have stand-your-ground laws than states in the northern “nations.” And more than 95 percent of executions in the United States since 1976 happened in the Deep South, Greater Appalachia, Tidewater and the Far West. States in Yankeedom and New Netherland have executed a collective total of just one person.

That doesn’t bode well for gun control advocates, Woodard concludes: “With such sharp regional differences, the idea that the United States would ever reach consensus on any issue having to do with violence seems far-fetched. The cultural gulf between Appalachia and Yankeedom, Deep South and New Netherland is simply too large. But it’s conceivable that some new alliance could form to tip the balance.”

Take a look at his fascinating write-up here.

RELATED: 19 photos that make you appreciate America

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douglaslee
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Quote douglaslee:

11 countries within the euphemistically "United" states. Violent crime is the claim to fame of the south, their independence allows them to solve conflicts with weapons and state executions (an institution that will never die because of tradition)

Appalachia does not do well with their naturally beautiful Smoky Mountain range, it's just a convenient place to dump your old refrigerators, sofas, trucks and cars, bicycles, shopping carts, kitchen sinks (the "everything BUT the kitchen sink" phrase need not apply) https://img.washingtonpost.com/blogs/govbeat/files/2013/11/upinarms-map.jpg I'll post the article soon

http://uk.businessinsider.com/the-11-nations-of-the-united-states-2015-7?r=US&IR=T

Interesting find, doug. After a careful inspection of your material I see that the 11 "countries" -- or more specific to your find, nations -- are situated on the North American Euro-colonized continent, so it's an entirely Euro-centric viewpoint with no mention of the various native American nations, which, by the way, still persist in a semi-outlier fashion, though one that should not be entirely ignored now that they've discovered an antidote for the small pox-ridden blankets that so decimated their numbers early on. The disease is called gambling casino-itis.

I remember joking about this clever, legally derived anti-dote with fellow anthropologists when it first made its appearance. Let it be noted that not just poor white trash scattered through the various nations, but many other Euro-Americans are as vulnerable to this disease as native americans once were to small pox. Apparently all the religious innoculations in the world can't serve as an antidote to a gambling gene, though religion may have the side effect of turning those independent-minded southerners (and others) into slavish patriots willing to join the military institutions of various sorts.

By the way, the behavior you noticed that takes place with refrigerators and kitchen sinks in Appalachia is not idiosyncratic to those folks. I assure you the same behavior occurs right here on the far left cusp of the Left Coast nation, which, please note, is the coast on your left when looking at the map you linked -- The American Nations Today -- from a perspective apparently hovering high above the planet looking so down so that north is up. Oddly, the Left Coast nation does not extend into the nation of El Norte, which includes some of southern California extending up the coast to LA, and most of Mexico.

I'm thinking this American Nations scenario would be a great set up for a futuristic Cli-fi post Eco-apocalyptic novel, which apparently is all the rage right now. So if you are in a writing mood... you know, think about it. Might be a way to make a little cash for the short term while you imaginatively exercise your mind with various scenarios of surviving our ruling institutions.

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.ren
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Apr. 1, 2010 6:50 am

Thanks for the reply, ren. btw, First Nation is the native american sector, large geographic but only 300k population (mostly eskimos/Inuit).

Religion might fit in a cli-sci story line, the one institution equal to cockroaches for survival skills. The satan figure had versatilty and the Grim tv show brings Grim Bros villians to 21st century paces. I read some comments re:WI's Walker and FL's Scott forbidding the words 'climate science', kind of like a sharia decree perceived as insulting the prophets Koch.

Bill Nye, I watched your show in my youth in total trust! It hurts my heart to reach maturity and find your character not of any value to you. Do not let your legacy be spoiled over such a blatant act of deception of a most wicked plot to set in motion a catastrophic unraveling of God's natural order. The very essence that sustains life and ensures the very fabric of space-time for all of eternity to the end and back again within the 4th dimension to the dawn of creation. You know I am speaking Truth! Those ungodly mecca palm trees that are plaguing this beautiful earth are the very cause of your man-made crisis so insidiously labeled "climate change" or "global warming"! The ultimate conspiracy to deceive people into damnation unaware that their trust has been tragically misplaced! Thankfully God's timing is never too late! Dawn of the Ocean will show its face. Fact check this story plant, God's Word Bold Style Stance! I would not want a largely unexplored Ocean life totally mad and ready to fight back. Stop and think, and feel free to hit me back to chat! Yours Truly, Dawn M. Day

Twain wrote of Christian Science doctors and this gal's blindness is similar to the quacks Twain wrote of. Fearing damnation while preventable cancer eats your body is just so Sharia "Whatever happens its god's will, and therefore right" is a bit of Voltaire, too. Poisoning Flint children with lead was god's finest hour I guess.

I could see Lucifer telling stories from his old days in heaven and killing the audience (so to speak), The Satanic laughter was contagious "And guess what god did next? Not only that, he tried to take credit for...I'm not making this up, but his cult fans buy anything, especially on sunday" "God does get a kick out of Jesus on a cross. He says he overslept that day and was going to apologize or offer a small miracle but voila! People had statues all over the place praising his screw up"

@onewomanriot 2 days ago

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douglaslee
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Jul. 31, 2007 3:01 pm

I have no idea what that @onewomanriot quote is meant to mean, or if it's even meant to mean anything. It looks like it uses the English language but it reads like "colorless green ideas sleep furiously." Is that religion?

Nothing of his I ever read informed me Voltaire was a religious fatalist. How did you get that?

The oxymorons of Christian Science... yes, I've met a few.

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.ren
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We Know How Far Trump Will Go - How Far Will Republicans Go?

Thom plus logo Colonel Vindman's testimony pretty much proves that Trump was trying to shake down Ukraine for information on Biden, and that the Republicans are doing everything they can to cover up this extortion attempt.
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