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"Romney boasts about Bain's slave labor profits"

Races for the Senate, U.S. House, etc. and other issues of national importance.

Re: "Romney boasts about Bain's slave labor profits"

Postby Bland » Wed Sep 12, 2012 10:45 am

ArturoBandini wrote:Which past presidents, do you think, had this qualification (I called it "Great Capacity for Human Empathy")?
How is that relevant to a discussion of what qualities we want in future presidents? Some percentage of past presidents were slaveholders, after all. So what?

Empathy is a qualification for being a decent human being. People who lack it are called psychopaths. Shouldn't not being a psychopath be on your short-list of what to look for in a candidate?
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Re: "Romney boasts about Bain's slave labor profits"

Postby ArturoBandini » Wed Sep 12, 2012 10:53 am

Bland wrote:Empathy is a qualification for being a decent human being. People who lack it are called psychopaths. Shouldn't not being a psychopath be on your short-list of what to look for in a candidate?
Maybe so. But by your definition, I'm not sure there are any non-psychopaths running.

I think it's reasonable to look at past Presidents, especially those that, outside the context of this discussion, many people would hold in high esteem. I think there is a reasonable argument that many or most of them would qualify as psychopaths. It might even be a (regrettably) necessary condition to execute the job as it is currently defined.
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Re: "Romney boasts about Bain's slave labor profits"

Postby ArturoBandini » Wed Sep 12, 2012 10:58 am

ArturoBandini wrote:I think it's reasonable to look at past Presidents, especially those that, outside the context of this discussion, many people would hold in high esteem. I think there is a reasonable argument that many or most of them would qualify as psychopaths. It might even be a (regrettably) necessary condition to execute the job as it is currently defined.
By the way, this concept is not my original idea. Here are some recent links that cover the President=Psychopath correlation.
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Re: "Romney boasts about Bain's slave labor profits"

Postby snoqueen » Wed Sep 12, 2012 11:06 am

ArturoBandini wrote:
snoqueen wrote:I totally disagree here. Empathy is most certainly on my list.
It is now, now that we're talking specifically about it. I asked if it would have been on your list had you started with a blank slate, outside of this discussion. You can answer that however you like.


Empathy was always on my list, high on my list. I think this may be a individualized instance of the gap between women voters and men voters.

As always, I disagree that the government should do as little as possible. The government is one of the perfectly-valid tools we have at hand for running a society, it is set up to be more responsive to deal with certain social requests than corporations are set up to be, and in this particular instance it is the only implement we have to balance the oversized power of large banks.

It has not done well with this task under past administrations but, since it does remain our only lever of influence, we continue to hope we can elect a more responsive and competent government to help us out in the future. What else should those with student loans do? Turn back the clock and not take out those debts? Default and live by barter for the rest of their lives? Ask their parents to help, as Mitt Romney, son of George Romney of GM, suggested?

Get the government to rewrite that part of the bankruptcy code? Not an all-bad idea, just for example. It does involve not pretending the government doesn't exist and/or will soon go away, though.
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Re: "Romney boasts about Bain's slave labor profits"

Postby ArturoBandini » Wed Sep 12, 2012 11:19 am

snoqueen wrote:Get the government to rewrite that part of the bankruptcy code? Not an all-bad idea, just for example. It does involve not pretending the government doesn't exist and/or will soon go away, though.
I will concede that the government should actively stop treating student loans differently from other debt in bankruptcy law. You win on that matter. Of course, this sad situation is the result of an earlier activist government intervention into student loans that failed to account for unexpected consequences, so I don't feel totally defeated here.
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Re: "Romney boasts about Bain's slave labor profits"

Postby ArturoBandini » Wed Sep 12, 2012 11:28 am

snoqueen wrote:The government is one of the perfectly-valid tools we have at hand for running a society...

...it does remain our only lever of influence,
Which is it? Or does the second statement only refer to controlling banks?

I agree with the first statement that government is one of society's tools for dealing with problems, although I wouldn't say "perfectly-valid". I would go with "plausibly-valid" at best. From this it does not necessarily follow that empathy-driven action is a good strategy for a sitting executive, within the current structure of the USG.
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Re: "Romney boasts about Bain's slave labor profits"

Postby jman111 » Wed Sep 12, 2012 11:30 am

ArturoBandini wrote:
jman111 wrote:
ArturoBandini wrote:But for me, it doesn't matter much whether a President has some idea of what it's like to stand in line at a food kitchen, for instance. How will this prove useful in executing the duties of the Presidency?

This is disturbing. Truly disturbing.
For brevity, I will only add that sno's response was spot-on.
Which past presidents, do you think, had this qualification (I called it "Great Capacity for Human Empathy")? All, most, a few or none?

My list would look something like this:
1a. Ability to understand and respect Constitutional limits on executive power.
1b. Ability to understand and respect Constitutional limits on federal government power in general.
2. Ability to stand up to a war-hawk Congress (which presupposes a dovish President).
3. Willingness to unrepentantly veto legislation that doesn't deal with explicitly Constitutional powers.
4. Ability to conduct peaceful diplomacy with foreign officials, allies and enemies alike.
5. Ability to defer executive decision-making to state governors, or going further, city and local leaders.
6. Ability to perceive risk of unintended consequences of government actions, and willingness to abstain from action when that risk is too large. Willingness to admit fault for unintended consequences when they occur.
7. During campaign, hesitancy to make promises.

How one uses one's "abilities" in office matters to me. A person could possess the greatest ability to successfully accomplish an agenda in office, but without the proper motivation and direction (aided or directed by empathy), those efforts will likely be misguided.

A government not only of and by the people, but also FOR the people.
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Re: "Romney boasts about Bain's slave labor profits"

Postby snoqueen » Wed Sep 12, 2012 11:44 am

Or does the second statement only refer to controlling banks?


I was thinking the second statement refers to controlling banks, the first statement was more general.

Of course you're going to point out another way to control banks is not to take loans from them, but that's pretty idealistic when it comes to both home ownership and paying for one's higher education. I wish it wasn't so, but we're hopelessly in bed with the global banking system and I believe we need some entity on our side, the side of the so-called "little guy."

We may eventually move to some two-tiered system where the "little guys" are using various kinds of scrip, barter, and other implementations of an underground economy or even a black market, but how desirable is that? Isn't it the kind of devolution that moves us more toward a dystopian feudal system with the peasantry lacking access to the most basic advantages of organized education, health care, safety and security, and much more?

The function of empathy in a head of state is to ensure that very basic distinction doesn't have to be explained over and over, and doesn't have to meet profitability tests before it's prioritized.
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Re: "Romney boasts about Bain's slave labor profits"

Postby ArturoBandini » Wed Sep 12, 2012 1:27 pm

snoqueen wrote:Of course you're going to point out another way to control banks is not to take loans from them, but that's pretty idealistic when it comes to both home ownership and paying for one's higher education. I wish it wasn't so, but we're hopelessly in bed with the global banking system and I believe we need some entity on our side, the side of the so-called "little guy."
It seems more likely that each successive advocate of "the little guy" will be captured by the entities he/she is supposed to be controlling - the incentives are too large. Regarding home ownership and education - I sense that public opinion on what constitutes "common sense" about these behaviors is changing.
snoqueen wrote:We may eventually move to some two-tiered system where the "little guys" are using various kinds of scrip, barter, and other implementations of an underground economy or even a black market, but how desirable is that?

I have no problem with black markets or cash-based transactions. People should be free to conduct business with whatever medium of exchange they choose. Whether those media are socially optimal or not is, well, not my business.
snoqueen wrote:Isn't it the kind of devolution that moves us more toward a dystopian feudal system with the peasantry lacking access to the most basic advantages of organized education, health care, safety and security, and much more?
It's kind of a long leap from "economy with reduced dependence on commercial bank debt" to "feudal society without any working social institutions". And there are varying sorts of dytopias - we might be heading slightly toward the one you've described but directly and more urgently away from another (bureaucratically-enforced debt slavery).
snoqueen wrote:The function of empathy in a head of state is to ensure that very basic distinction doesn't have to be explained over and over, and doesn't have to meet profitability tests before it's prioritized.
What very basic distinction? I didn't follow this part.
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Re: "Romney boasts about Bain's slave labor profits"

Postby rabble » Wed Sep 12, 2012 1:33 pm

ArturoBandini wrote:Whether those media are socially optimal or not is, well, not my business.

And there's another look at the root of the problem. "Who cares about society? Not me!"

Arturo gives a pretty good example of why we need government, regulations, and laws. He literally doesn't give a flying fuck about those who come after.
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Re: "Romney boasts about Bain's slave labor profits"

Postby ArturoBandini » Wed Sep 12, 2012 1:47 pm

rabble wrote:
ArturoBandini wrote:Whether those media are socially optimal or not is, well, not my business.

And there's another look at the root of the problem. "Who cares about society? Not me!"

Arturo gives a pretty good example of why we need government, regulations, and laws. He literally doesn't give a flying fuck about those who come after.
I considered adding a qualifier to the statement you quoted, and I guess I should have. By, "not my business", I mean that I'm not going to interfere or meddle in other people's choices or behaviors. I might have an opinion on what the socially optimal strategy might be, but I'm not about to force my views on others, or hire others to do the forcing on my behalf. Vocal advocacy toward voluntary action is just fine. Your claim that I don't "give a flying fuck" is simply not true.
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Re: "Romney boasts about Bain's slave labor profits"

Postby rabble » Wed Sep 12, 2012 2:23 pm

Yeah. You care. Unless it means forcing anyone to quit fucking it up.

You admit there are bad people, and they do bad things, and they shouldn't. But it pretty much stops right there.

Yup. That's bad all right. Ain't none o my business, though.

That's pretty much the same as not giving a flying fuck.
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Re: "Romney boasts about Bain's slave labor profits"

Postby ArturoBandini » Wed Sep 12, 2012 3:28 pm

rabble wrote:Unless it means forcing anyone to quit fucking it up.
"Fucking up" what? Be more precise.
rabble wrote:You admit there are bad people, and they do bad things, and they shouldn't. But it pretty much stops right there.
It sure as hell does. What comes next is extremely important from an ethical standpoint, so it's worthwhile to stop and think pretty hard about it. What, should we just round up the "bad people" (a subjective distinction) and imprison them? Seriously, what happens next in your uncomplicated world of easily-identified good and bad people?
rabble wrote:That's pretty much the same as not giving a flying fuck.
Earlier you said:
He literally doesn't give a flying fuck about those who come after
Pretty much the same, or literally?

Keeping with the conclusions reached early-on in this thread, why is inaction a problem? When Mitt Romney toured that factory and 'immorally' purchased it, it seems reasonable (no one has contested this idea) that the correct course of action would have been to walk away from the bad labor situation that already existed upon his arrival on the scene. The situation came about through no particular fault of Mr. Romney, other than the generalized social blame that you (rabble) are convinced doesn't really apply. But in your crass characterization of my inactivist positions on federal banking and loan regulations, you seem to be saying that inaction is not a socially-acceptable choice? If this principle (that inaction is not legitimate) can be applied generally, what should Mitt Romney have done in the Chinese factory case?
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Re: "Romney boasts about Bain's slave labor profits"

Postby rabble » Wed Sep 12, 2012 3:40 pm

ArturoBandini wrote:
rabble wrote:That's pretty much the same as not giving a flying fuck.
Earlier you said:
He literally doesn't give a flying fuck about those who come after
Pretty much the same, or literally?

You don't give a flying fuck, but you feel bad about it.

I guess I'd have to go with literally. Feeling bad about shirking your responsibilities is really goddamned low.

Thanks for helping me explain it.
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Re: "Romney boasts about Bain's slave labor profits"

Postby snoqueen » Wed Sep 12, 2012 3:47 pm

I will concede that the government should actively stop treating student loans differently from other debt in bankruptcy law. You win on that matter. Of course, this sad situation is the result of an earlier activist government intervention into student loans that failed to account for unexpected consequences, so I don't feel totally defeated here.


The law of unintended (unexpected) consequences as it applies to legislation is hardly a good reason to refrain from future legislation.

The whole thing -- the whole world, really -- is a work in progress. Unbuilding what we've built already seems much less economical (in the human sense as well as the financial) than continuing to thoughtfully tinker, while leaving open the possibility for making occasional big changes as needed.

There should be zero federal involvement in student loans. Same goes for mortgages and other sorts of debt that the USG has become entangled with.


This position would be tenable if the banks hadn't run completely amok in the last 30 years. Before that, a person could imaginably get through college with scholarships, private loans (not that frequent, either), work, and family support. The market distortions visible since about 1980 (always my milepost, for no really good single reason) have made wages smaller, school costs higher, employment harder to find, and family support less possible. The government stepped in with the idea to leverage bankers' support for student loans, the legislation was written to benefit the banks (can't imagine how that happened), and here we are.

Under earlier banking regulations and market conditions, you'd expect loans to have become available at affordable rates and with tenable terms. Those conditions are long gone.

Sometimes I wonder if you aren't just living in 1975. The world has become so much nastier and lopsided since those days that the general public, the average person, is more and more at the mercy of institutional forces far more pervasive and powerful than s/he can resist alone. I don't think this is a benign or neutral condition. It's malign. The government, which supposedly is us, is being called on to help us. I can't imagine what real-world solution you suggest instead.

I have no problem with an alternative economy developing. In fact, that is what the regional cooperative movement is trying to do with the regional food economy right now. The more we do with this principle, the better. Regional energy would be the next priority, in my opinion.

But without thoughtfully elected, empathetic representation (and maybe even with it) the government will hinder, rather than help, those new developments. We need to participate in and influence our government, not just wish it would stop and go away because at the moment it's messed up. Along with all the wrongheaded things it does, it also does helpful and necessary tasks on a scale not available to little regional cooperative movements and people paying for things in scrip.

If you could point out historical and current real-life examples where persuading or forcing the government to go away greatly bettered living conditions for the citizens, I'd be more receptive to your arguments.
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