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As an Israeli-born Jew, I think a more practical perspective may be illuminating

- The Nazis killed 2 in 3 Jews in Europe and 1 in 3 Jews worldwide. The Nazis were primarily beaten by the Americans.

- In 1973, invading armies got the jump on the Israeli army. Israel is about 10 miles wide at its narrowest point, the ability to "buy time with space" is very limited. Within a couple of days of the invasion, Israel asked for help. Europe declined, America stepped up, and Israel won the war.

America isn't perfect but of course but in recent history, it has been hands down the greatest defence against humanity's worst impulses. It's proving that again in Ukraine right now. I often think that it must be hard for Americans to appreciate how important it has been; America is so strong that it must be hard to understand what it's like to be weak. I think it would be a true catastrophe if America turns away from that role. Who knows how many more Putins are waiting in the wings.

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Russia contributed far more to defeating the Nazis than America.

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Lend lease was a big deal and helped them fend off Barbarossa, yes?

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Lend-lease was incredibly important for the USSR war effort. But I am still mostly certain, that with only lend-lease, the Red Army would have gotten to Berlin without any American soldiers actually setting foot in Europe. It just might have happened in October 1947 rather than April 1945. The winter of 1941-1942 ensured the Wehrmacht was going to lose the Battle of Moscow no matter how many soldiers it had. Maybe Stalingrad turns out differently if US and British aren't fighting in Africa and Italy at the time, but once Operation Uranus happened it was only a matter of time until Berlin fell.

The US did pretty much single-handily defeat Japan though.

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I think that the eastern front could have gone either way. Stalin taking command of the military could have sunk the soviet union (since he did a horrible job), but then Hitler did the same thing (and also did a horrible job), which balanced that out...

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The Red Army had Georgy Zhukov. The Wehrmacht didn't have anyone near as great of tactician as Zhukov.

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I think that Zhukov's real super power was that he was the only Russian general with the balls to tell Stalin that he was wrong. If it weren't for that, his tactical acumen would have been wasted.

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In manpower.

They had zero shot tho without American food, weapons and equipment

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…and then promptly instigated the "rootless cosmopolitan" campaign to purge (i.e. imprison or kill) Jewish intellectuals in the Soviet Union, as well as spurring or failing to halt similar campaigns in its (soon-to-be) Warsaw pact vassals. Meanwhile, it expulsed ethnic Germans from those same vassals to help create pure ethnostates, and would later expulse ethnic Poles from the Union for much the same reason.

Yes, the USSR bled more to stop the Nazis. But it didn't then conclude that "antisemitism and ethnic cleansing are bad" the way the US did, and so it doesn't deserve credit as an actor working to domesticate "humanity's worst impulses".

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They contributed more in a sacrificial sense, but in a counterfactual sense the US was dramatically more important (US sans Russia defeats the Nazi, although middle Europe is probably a nuclear wasteland; Russia sans US loses).

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This whole section shows a poor grasp of the nature of modern war (say, since 1870 or so). I suggest reading O'Brien, Phillips Payson (2019): How the war was won. Air-sea power and Allied victory in World War II. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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While you could argue that the Nazis were primarily beaten by the Americans due to military might, let’s not forget that America didn’t enter the war a) until the US was attacked (ie out of self-interest) and b) until December 1941, more than two years after Germany invaded Poland.

Before then it was really only the UK fighting the Nazis, while America chose to stay on the sidelines. Which may have been a perfectly rational thing to do, but doesn’t exactly speak to being “the greatest defense against humanity’s worst impulses.”

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It is correct that American bullets were not being fired by American soldiers at Nazis in the year 1940, but between Lend-Lease, the gigantic growth of the uniformed services (almost a factor of ten for the US Army from 39-41!), and a frank lack of pieces of soil for American soldiers to stand and aim those guns, the notion that America was "staying on the sidelines" is ahistorical and frankly kind of lazy.

It's hard to look at this and conclude "yeah, the Yanks are staying out of it"

Year Army Navy Marines Coast Guard Total

1939 189,839 125,202 19,432 334,473

1940 269,023 160,997 28,345 458,365

1941 1,462,315 284,427 54,359 1,801,101

https://www.nationalww2museum.org/students-teachers/student-resources/research-starters/research-starters-us-military-numbers

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This is fair enough - but I felt like OP was slipping into some of the American exceptionalism that Matt called out so wanted to note it. The US is not unique as country that is or was a force for good in the world.

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I don't know how it's even controversial to say America is exceptional. You don't need a quasi-racist "Americans are superior human beings"; as Matt wrote, America was founded on wonderful ideals and while it's impossible to fully live up to them, it has still made exceptional contributions to human progress and prosperity.

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I think Americans sometimes believe too much of their own bullshit.

My understanding is that the wonderful idea that America was founded on was not wanting to pay tax.

The wonderful idea did not seem to preclude wholesale displacement of the native population.

I don’t believe and would never claim that America is uniquely bad, either then or now. But it seems pretty obvious to me that America is not uniquely good either, just very powerful.

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This is just warmed-over Charles Beard, progressive school claptrap. The American Revolution was flawed and elitist in many ways but it was about external political domination of the American taxpaying class by the British one, not about "not wanting to pay tax" as such.

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I think American exceptionalism in foreign policy (at least today) really is a post WW2 thing. Wilsonianism was pretty thoroughly rejected by the American public after WW1. Only after events roused us again from our natural isolationist tendencies did the new paradigm emerge.

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U.S. casualties in WW 2 - 407,000. Soviet Union casualties in WW 2 - 27,000,000. The Nazis were not "primarily beaten by the Americans."

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You don't win wars by dying. When the US joined the Axis were at the gates of Moscow and the Western allies had lost every meaningful land battle they'd fought.

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The USSR's war effort would have failed even to restore its 1938 borders without Western Allied (American) material support. The Soviets from 1942 to 1945 received 10% of the whole country's caloric needs, 60% of their road-borne logistics tail, 90% of their rolling stock, 60% of their aviation fuel including 90% of the high-octane fuel required for high-performance interceptors, and 50% of their ammunition and ordinance from the United States.

It's hard not to feel, with the benefit of hindsight, that we should have supplied the bare minimum to keep them from starving and then rolled right up to the 1938 Polish border even at the cost of an additional 100-200,000 American and British combat deaths. Could have saved an awful lot of Eastern Europeans 1945-1990 by doing so.

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What a different world it would be today if Russia were not a superpower at the end of WW2. Its hard to fathom, but we might have had some form of liberal governance leading all the world’s superpowers at the end of the war or soon after.

Imagine how much easier global problems like climate change might be…

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I never realized that the aid figures were that substantial. Truthfully that’s astonishingly high.

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You do win wars by killing though, and the Soviets caused nearly 80% of all German casualties. It was a true joint venture. The Soviets couldn't have won without us, but we sure couldn't have won without them. The bulk of the German army was fighting in the east when we landed at Normandy. Transfer even half those troops to the West and all five beaches look like Omaha or worse, and the fight from there to Berlin would have been almost impossible with the forces we then had in theater.

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Hard to say. The Western Allies were at no point in danger of being thrown back into the sea, and that wouldn't have been the case even had the Germans' force dispositions been considerably more tilted to the West.

Had the USSR imploded prior to 1943, then yes, the US and UK would likely have made a separate peace and moved to crush Japan while waiting for round 3 in Europe. If they were sufficiently ruthless, building up several dozen nuclear weapons and laying waste to every industrial center in the Reich in the fall of 1946 would also have been an option. Whether they'd take it or not likely boils down to how quickly the public in the United States develops a true understanding of what kind of mass murder is taking place in Eastern Europe.

Sure, they're "just" Jews, Poles, and Russians, but the US/UK governments might see an opening to destroy the Reich before it develops its own nuclear weapons and use evidence of the German genocides to justify it to the public.

But the more likely scenario is that the USSR remains undefeated but is considerably less effective in tying down German troops, as in, for example, a minimal Lend-Lease situation. Here, chances are that the US and UK can still force an entry into the Continent by no later than summer 1945. It will just be bloodier.

We also would still have hit on the strategic bombing techniques and focus which allowed us to gut the German war economy starting from mid-1944, as well, at which point German quick-reaction forces in France become stranded assets with insufficient fuel and vulnerable to attrition from the air to prepare for a landing.

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I mean we certainly *could* have. With enough commitment there is essentially no way USA loses that war. We very likely would not have chosen to pay the much higher costs necessary to do so though that's true.

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Funny example of Putin getting high on his own propaganda, though. Not enough meat in the grinder--solution is to add more meat!

Nyet.

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This pervasive bizarre zombie idea that the best way to win a war is by your own people dying in large numbers...

Get anther million senselessly slaughtered, that'll show 'em!

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Everyone forgets that Hitler launched the largest land invasion in history against the Soviet Union with the goal of exterminating the Russian people.

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What’s interesting is that even honest-to-goodness Nazis forget this; Slavs are now accepted into their ranks, which boggles my mind.

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Modern Nazis like Nick Fuentes are play-acting for attention and to piss of the Left. They aren't some great connoisseurs of political philosophy.

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It's true, but the Slav acceptance seems to be pretty widespread. Back in the day, as a know-your-enemy exercise, I did some browsing on the storm front forum. There was some way to display your ethnic heritage, and I was surprised to see so many Slavic countries because the Nazis were very anti-Slav, and SF was very pro-Nazi.

I dug around some and eventually found a thread from a guy (who seemed like a bit of a troll --- something I approved of given the context) who basically said "IT SAYS RIGHT HERE IN MEIN KAMPF (and other places) THAT SLAVS ARE SUBHUMANS, BUT THEY'RE ACCEPTED ON THIS FORUM. WHAT GIVES?" No one really had a response. Someone replied that, sure Hitler written that, but he didn't really mean it and/or changed his mind afterwards. After all, he accepted Slavs into the army towards the end of the war. (Never mind that this was a beggars-can't-be-choosers situation.)

Just goes to show that everyone likes re-writing history.

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I would say it's the evolution of Nazism from being an "Aryan supremacist" ideology to a more generically "white supremacist" one presumably out of an effort to broaden the pool of recruits/donors.

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"Everyone"

By which you mean, "no one?"

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I was responding to this statement by Andrew: "Before then it was really only the UK fighting the Nazis..."

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The USSR was dragged into the war less than six months before the USA, he's not really wrong.

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lol... you could be AOC's speech writer.

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Perhaps the Israeli army should have been on higher alert back in 1973. After all, it was entirely forward deployed in occupied Egyptian, Syrian, and Jordanian territory, which it had occupied eagerly and opportunistically in a walkover war just six years earlier.

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May 18, 2023·edited May 18, 2023

The Israeli army should have been on higher alert, hence the Chief of Staff and Defence Minister being removed from their posts.

As a % of population, more Israeli soldiers died in six days in 1967 than the US lost in a decade in Vietnam. In the 1973 war, Israel lost about 3x the % of population that the US did in Vietnam.

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Dude it's so obviously not our fucking problem and not why we give so much.

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US is the most powerful country in the world and you're blaming a country with the GDP of Colorado for your own policy choices?

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Worse yet, a future President Trump or similar might be the one’s cruelly inflicting atrocities on weak people, foreign or domestic, using American taxpayer resources

Our nations actions in Iraq were not exactly living up to our values. But at least we punished the goons who inflicted abuses at Abu Graib, rather than reward them as Russia does to its war criminals. recall Trump was/is openly hostile to the ICC.

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May 18, 2023·edited May 18, 2023

Excuse. I guess I meant actively protect American war criminals from any punishment

https://www.militarytimes.com/news/pentagon-congress/2019/11/16/trump-grants-clemency-to-troops-in-three-controversial-war-crimes-cases/

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"Here comes the Goalpost Moving Company."

The reduced claim still proves Ed's topline thesis that "A future President Trump or similar might be the one’s [sic] cruelly inflicting atrocities on weak people, foreign or domestic, using American taxpayer resources"

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Iraq War, Afganistán War and the Vietnam War are among humanities worst impulses. The US has killed more civilians than any other country since WWII. You could argue that some other superpower might have killed more, but you should present a balanced picture here.

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Every time I see the alt-right get its panties in a twist because we're a diverse country I think "Jesus, thank god almost all the righties I know *also* think this is one of our strengths and you nutjobs are few in number."

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Or maybe they are moving because of better land use regulations and are just willing to put up with Abbot and DeSantis.

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Mostly it shows they loathe high taxes and housing costs.

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Agreed. Personally, I'll take high housing costs and taxes over living in Florida or Texas (where I lived five years).

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I’m not sure that’s a joke.

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May 18, 2023·edited May 18, 2023

The Golan Heights are 50 miles from Haifa. If enemy tanks were advancing 50 miles from Boston, I doubt Americans would regard that as no threat, especially if ammo stocks were getting thin (which was the main thing the US helped with). After the war, the Israeli Chief of Staff and Defence Minister were dismissed and the Israeli Labour Party, which up till then had never lost an election, lost every election for 15 years. People on the ground did not feel the situation had gone well. And that was *with* American help.

But in any case, my point is not "Israel good". There was a side in those wars which said it'd drive its enemy the sea if it won, and America opposed that side. Driving people into sea is bad.

It's also bad Israel has ruled over large Palestinian populations since 1967. In 1956 Israel won a war and the US made it return the lands it'd conquered. I think everyone would be better off had the lands conquered in 1967 been returned as well.

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Or at least left "unsettled" while a new boundary was agreed upon.

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Can you be more explicit about your point? If you don't think Israel should exist, fine. Subject to that constraint, Syria invaded Israel 3 times, I believe the converse is zero. Is resisting an invasion nationalist?

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Say hello to Henry 2.0.

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Israel's existence is an obsession of self-regarding American Jews who believe it's legitimate to distort the entire country's foreign policy to be substantially a tripwire to detect potential antisemites by how upset they get over noticing the tripwire. It has literally nothing to do with American foreign policy objectives and is talked about obsessively, manipulatively, out of all proportion to the actual concern of any realistic Israeli strategist with being overrun and wiped out in 2023. Israel literally spent the last twelve years and counting trying to prop up the exact same Syrian regime you're talking about because it opposes Syrian democratic freedoms because they would increase pressure on Israel to return the Golan.

Look I know you believe all this stuff but it's the most simple-minded nonsense. Diaspora Israel activism is literally just a patter that Jews think they have to do to protect Jewish integration. You don't have to be like this. No one will come to take you away just because you admit that Israel-focused foreign policy has nothing to do with justice and people who complain about it can't be dismissed with rhetorical tricks meant to prove their real motivation is opposition to Jewish integration that was essentially completed fifty years ago.

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I admit that, today, "Israel-focused foreign policy Israel has nothing do do with justice". You making sweeping generalisations about self-regarding Jews manipulating others does seem pretty anti-semitic though.

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"Israel's existence is an obsession of self-regarding American Jews…and [consequently] is talked about obsessively, manipulatively, out of all proportion....Diaspora Israel activism is literally just a patter that Jews think they have to do to protect Jewish integration."

No. American foreign-policy support for Israel is primarily driven by fundamentalist evangelical Christians, who believe that locating all Jews in the "Holy Land" will help accelerate the Rapture.[1] In this project, a small number of Jewish activists, particularly those with close ties or funding to Israel, serve as useful idiots.[2] You can protest that mainstream Jewry doesn't actively disavow those activists, but position-taking on Israel is extremely hard. Oppression is bad, but both sides seem willing to oppress the other (if not worse). Can you blame us for choosing to dodge the question whenever we have the chance?

[1]: https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2021/05/26/as-israel-increasingly-relies-on-us-evangelicals-for-support-younger-ones-are-walking-away-what-polls-show/ and https://www.rand.org/blog/2014/03/the-foreign-policy-essay-evangelicals-israel-and-us.html and https://www.npr.org/2016/03/22/471474815/republican-support-for-israel-linked-to-evangelical-ties

[2]: https://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/14/washington/14israel.html

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Wasn't Elon Time's Man of the Year like a year ago?

I can't think of anyone who had burning their reputation to the ground day by day since then.

The highlights I remember:

- That "Pedo guy" incident

- Taking Putin's side in Ukraine

- Laying off so many people at Twitter so quickly that they locked themselves out of the building

- Claiming he was taking over Twitter in defense of free speech, then choosing who gets to come back with a poll

- Caving into to Turkey's demand for censorship because "Twitter would be throttled otherwise"

- Spreading crazed conspiracy theories about Paul Pelosi

- Naming his kids nonsense

- Talking up crypto like an idiot

- Becoming such a right-wing hack that most people I know will no longer buy Telsas

- Tweeting like a 16-year old school shooter before his rampage

Really an amazing performance. MVP of fucking up.

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I didn't even care that he laid people off at twitter, it's that he did it in a maximally shitty way mocking and seeming to delight in turning lives upside-down. Using his massive public microphone trashing them on the way out while I'm sure they all have their severance (which he fought like hell against paying what he'd agreed to... not even sure where that landed legally) tied to NDAs (standard) and can't defend themselves.

He can go on twitter and post "make you think" type posts accusing them of being pedophiles to a 100 million people for no reason though and it's just fine.

Just an awful person... and so many people love it! WTF is wrong with people? Just because you want lower taxes and less regulation (or more guns or less abortion whatever right wing view) do you HAVE to be complete fawning fanboys for such incredibly awful people like Musk and Trump?

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Answering hypothetically (not being a fawning fanboy), I think this just goes to show that we have to take seriously that politics is, and always has been, 10% “issues” and 90% lizard-brain appeal. Being in the business of writing about politics in an academic sense, it continues to blow me away that during the Trump era a lot of academics were treating cults of personalities, vapid populism and demagoguery as totally unprecedented elements of politics when they have all existed since, like, forever. The scale and salience of these are probably higher than in the past (thanks to algorithmic-driven polarization), but they’re all older than dirt otherwise.

So the answer to your question is, yes, they have to be fawning fanboys and devote a great deal of their time and energy towards owning whomever their idols identify as “the libs” this week.

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founding

He was the same guy before all the things you mention. That he was revered then and reviled now says a lot about him, but also about those who were enthralled by him.

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I think mostly it says the folks that were enthralled by him before knew a lot less about his beliefs when he wasn't blasting them unfiltered to millions a dozen times a day.

I'm sure millions were like me... had a mildly positive opinion based on occasional soft interviews and thought he did a lot to build Telsa/SpaceX. It was nice to see someone get rich building something besides a new SW app

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Yeah, it’s exactly this.

I remember thinking he was great 15 years ago, watching him spiral out of control more recently, then seeing everyone come out of the woodwork to talk about how he’s an egomaniacal asshole. (And that, for good measure, basically everyone connected to PayPal is like that.)

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I've got some colleagues who worked at SpaceX back into the late 2000s, and yep, this is just who he is.

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I disagree, my perception of him is that he has been degenerating over the past few years. I was firmly a fan of him before the Thai soccer team incident, but he has become more unhinged since then. Even looking at the tweets about calling the British rescuer a "pedo guy" he offered a full apology on twitter and said "the fault is mine and mine alone", which seems wholly different than any of those other things on the list.

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Everyone becomes unhinged with sufficient exposure to Twitter, and he owns it, lol.

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Musk was always an ass. For a while, he was an ass who did interesting and exciting things like starting Tesla and SpaceX, but at this point his obnoxiousness has metastasized to the point that he's giving his own best achievements a bad name.

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I think most of these items are pretty valid, but both you and Matt suggest he is backing Putin and I don't get how you can look at what Starlink has done and come to that conclusion. As I understand it, Starlink has been the single most transformative technology in the Ukraine conflict, and they have been subsidizing Ukraine use of it pretty significantly.** I know there was a big thing where Elon said they wanted to get paid for it but then he backed down and said they would continue to subsidize Ukraine's usage. Is there another company out there that has provided anything like that to Ukraine? Are there artillery companies in the US that are delivering rounds to Ukraine that the US government is not paying for? Is Apple sending Ukraine military free iphones with secure messaging? Maybe I'm missing something else?

**I think there is an even chance that Starlink is sufficiently important that it is nationalized in the next decade or so.

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People think Musk is pro-Putin because of his tweets saying that Ukraine should stop fighting, that Zelensky (but not Putin, I guess?) is risking nuclear war, that US officials (but not Russian ones, I guess?) are to blame for the continued prosecution of the war.

The narrative around the war is obnoxiously black-and-white (personally, I think all of the points above have at least some merit), and Musk's sympathies are probably more complex than simply "backing Putin." But Musk also loves feeding and participating in black-and-white narratives, so whatever: his public statements seem to put him in the pro-Russia camp, if you had to pick one.

Still, I agree -- Starlink is hugely important to Ukraine and makes much more of a difference than anything Musk does or says. But I kinda doubt Musk is providing it out of the kindness of his heart or sympathy to the Ukrainian cause. More a combination of PR considerations and political pressure, I'd guess?

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"More a combination of PR considerations and political pressure, I'd guess?"

I think the evidence that Musk does things for PR is mixed at best. My perception is the guy has lost his filter between stray thoughts and tweets, which has evolved into a terrible feedback loop.

Regarding political pressure - what pressure would you suggest is being placed on SpaceX to provide SL terminals and service with limited compensation? Should we be placing this pressure on them? Why aren't we placing this pressure on other companies?

More to the point, for all the people bashing Musk about Russia - what have you done to support Ukraine? Matt has proudly stated that he donates to various groups, but hasn't said that he is donating to the defense of Ukraine. Between words and actions, one speaks louder than the other.

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I admit, I have not deployed a breakthrough technology to deliver satellite based internet to millions of people, so I have not been doing as much to assist Ukraine as Elon Musk! But, um, I think the question you posed was "why do people think Musk is on Putin's side," which is what I was responding to.

Sure sure actions speak louder than words and all, but Musk is a confusing guy. The growth of his company depends on the growth of EV technology, and in this particular moment one political party is enacting policy to build that technology and the other is trying to block that policy, and yet Musk loudly and publicly declares his support for the latter group. If you're judging Elon Musk the man by the actions of Tesla, he seems an awful lot like a Democrat. But I'd choose to take him at his word that he's a Republican and assume the business has different political considerations at play.

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It’s also completely legitimate from a business standpoint to pressure the US and NATO governments to pay for Ukraine’s access to Starlink

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You wouldn’t rank the Javelin as the most transformative technology?

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May 18, 2023·edited May 18, 2023

Two things with that:

1) Versions of the Javelin has been around for a while and so has been used to some extent in other combats, so its not really a novel technology the way that Starlink (SL) has been here.

2) Even with that, I think SL has been more important. From my reading/listening safely here in the US, it appears that SL has allowed the Ukraine military to have far greater flexibility, mobility, and cohesion than the Russians, despite having equal or inferior equipment communications equipment otherwise. Especially in the middle of last year when Russia was trying to overwhelm with its equipment advantages, the Ukrainians were able to defend and move much more effectively because of SL. Apparently, the Ukrainians find it incredibly useful and their biggest complaint is that they can't use it more on drones and other things like that. Reports are that SL has blocked it from being used over Russia and parts of Russian controlled territory like Crimea with SpaceX saying they don't intend for SL to be used for offensive purposes. Which candidly seems like they are trying to thread the needle a bit, because if it becomes too overtly useful, then Russia might actually start targeting their satellites.

edit - Don't want to diminish the value of the Javelin though. Incredible weapon and fantastic value. Just think that SL has been more important overall.

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In honesty the Javelin's role was somewhat overstated, the reality is that artillery was the big killer almost from day one.

Starlink and platoon-level drone deployment (and a whole freaking tactical doctrine therefore) have allowed the Ukrainians to devastate Russian armor and infantry alike with artillery with an effectiveness that wasn't possible for anyone except the United States before, and possibly not even for us.

The US is very likely taking notes, and I would be unsurprised if we weren't helping them formulate their new FO doctrine. It's much more flexible, forward-led, and "democratized" than what even the US/NATO doctrine specified in 2020, let alone ex-Soviet. The Russians have blown through ordinance stocks at 10-20X the speed that the Ukrainians have with fuck-all to show for it aside from pockmarks all over the landscape, precisely because their doctrine sucks.

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I think the Javelin has a very positive monetary trade off in that its 200k and destroying a multi-million dollar vehicle. But I agree with your broader point that both Russia and Ukraine are artillery based militaries and its the single largest component of their war. SL has enable Ukraine to embrace a more western tactical deployment that is very impressive - but also has been difficult for their broader military complex to embrace given so much of its soviet roots.

To your last point, that Russia has blown through ordinance stocks with little to show for it, I disagree. Very possibly Biden's most significant act during the entire Presidency so far has been providing large amounts of aid to the Ukrainians in 2022. It is extremely likely that without that aid, Ukraine is forced to surrender and Russia wins the war in the summer of last year. It would have been a repeat of the Winter war where Russia wins simply because it can overwhelm its adversary because no one comes to their aid.

I have a host of disagreements with the Biden administration, but if for no other reason, that alone would make me proud to say that I'm an American, he's my president, and Donald Trump who would have scurried away can go jump in a well.

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The Javelin is an effective weapon, yes, but its main role in this conflict has been to tie armor formations into knots and paralyze them because they lack infantry support and their tankers are badly trained to skirmish with anti-tank weapons. That paralysis then allows artillery a "clear shot," so to speak. My understanding is that an outright majority of Russia's tank losses have been to artillery, vs. other tanks, anti-tank weapons, or tactical air strikes combined.

Ukraine is going through the same rapid evolutionary process that the United States did in the early days of WWII, where staff officers are being sidelined by people who can fight. They don't have as much time and it won't be complete by the time the war is over, but chances are that most field-grade officers, the next generation of senior commanders and doctrine formulators, will have come up through this crucible and done well in it.

As for the last point, I am not claiming US aid was unnecessary, nor positing a counterfactual, I am simply saying that Russia has expended vastly greater amounts of artillery ordinance than Ukraine with far fewer results, because its doctrine sucks.

That might have been sufficient to plow under an unsupported Ukraine last year, likely would have been, I agree, but since the opening days the differential in effectiveness has become truly vast. The Russians have a materiel advantage nearly as pronounced as the gap between the United States and Iraq in the First Gulf War and they have fucked it up by the numbers.

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Javelins are pretty cool and really effective, but they’re best thought of as an incremental-but-meaningful improvement over existing anti-tank guided missiles. Ukraine has its own, home-grown ATGMs (e.g. [1]), and while javelins have important advantages over them, the home-grown missiles probably destroyed more Russian vehicles than javelins have (and tend to produce better videos since they have a display to record).

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skif_(anti-tank_guided_missile)

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Relatively minor compared to all this insanity, but “replaced the Twitter logo with the Doge dog for a few days for the lolz” took it to another level of brain-deadness for me, not sure why, given the track record...

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Add "responding to journalists and news outlets' emails with just a poop emoji" to that list for me.

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"Becoming such a right-wing hack that most people I know will no longer buy Teslas"

If "buying Teslas to own the libs" becomes a thing, though...

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The correct move will be to buy the big honkin' F-150 EV to own the libs.

Musk might have done that with the Tesla Cybertruck but I guess he was too busy being distracted by other things to make sure it actually appeared.

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My read has always been the Cybertruck was a fun, marketing thing. The SUV in Master Plan 3 will be the real growth driver. My sense is they're going to secede the EV truck market to Ford and GM.

Page 23 here: https://www.tesla.com/ns_videos/Tesla-Master-Plan-Part-3.pdf

Also direct link here: https://cleantechnica.com/files/2023/04/Tesla-MP-III-table-2.jpg

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Gotta lower the damn hoods on those big honkin' trucks though, EV or not.

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Buying an electric car to “own the libs” might be problematic, mainly because one of the big priorities of “the libs” is replacing ICE cars with electric--even if the purchase is made to show ideological agreement with Elon, it furthers the goal of reducing global warming.

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I keep thinking and hoping, maybe some of the truly ghoulish behavior of Musk is in order to make buying electric vehicles equally appealing to the right and the left.

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This is nothing new. Musk has long been erratic and irresponsible. Notably, committing security fraud via tweets in 2018. https://www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-219

> The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged Elon Musk, CEO and Chairman of Silicon Valley-based Tesla Inc., with securities fraud for a series of false and misleading tweets about a potential transaction to take Tesla private.

> On August 7, 2018, Musk tweeted to his 22 million Twitter followers that he could take Tesla private at $420 per share (a substantial premium to its trading price at the time), that funding for the transaction had been secured, and that the only remaining uncertainty was a shareholder vote. The SEC’s complaint alleges that, in truth, Musk had not discussed specific deal terms with any potential financing partners, and he allegedly knew that the potential transaction was uncertain and subject to numerous contingencies. According to the SEC’s complaint, Musk’s tweets caused Tesla’s stock price to jump by over six percent on August 7, and led to significant market disruption.

Although, in fairness, a jury did clear him of civil liability in shareholder lawsuit. https://www.reuters.com/legal/securities-fraud-trial-over-elon-musks-2018-tweets-draws-close-2023-02-03/

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Also in fairness, Tesla's market cap is up 1000%.

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Tell enough fantastical lies about non-existent full-self driving technology and you can get hopeless nerds to make some very foolish financial bets!

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May 18, 2023·edited May 18, 2023

Interestingly ... Tesla stock has 45% institutional ownership vs. 25% for Ford and Toyota and just 17% for VW. It's not the wallsteetbets crew running this thing up.

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"Becoming such a right-wing hack that most people I know will no longer buy Telsas"

Worth noting that Telsa Q1 2023 sales were up 25% YoY and in California - using as a proxy for the max-Dem state - the Model 3 was the top selling passenger vehicle and the Model Y was the top selling light duty truck. Tesla's dominate EV market share will certainly decline with increased competition but it hasn't started yet.

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I love the recent trend of people who do not own a Tesla reverse engineering a moral stance from that fact. Not me, though, I am morally reprehensible because I own a Model Y that I bought with Bitcoin. Surprisingly, Musk's reprehensible views do not affect how it drives (which is amazing and mostly by itself). Nor do his tweets seem to have any effect on the $30 a month it costs to charge it.

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The 'pedo guy' thing was from 2018. In the defamation case, the lawyer of the guy who brought it was named Lin Wood - the same Lin Wood who clowned himself after the 2020 election.

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> - Becoming such a right-wing hack that most people I know will no longer buy Telsas

The only way to reconcile this take with publicly-available sales data is that most people you know are a self-selecting group of too-online weirdos.

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This is just so perfectly put that it should be hung in the Louvre.

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It’s hard to know for sure, but reading employee forums on what it’s like to work at his “successful” companies (none of which have really achieved their original stated goals), he is not an inventor or successful businessman. He’s a salesman who’s made a cottage industry of selling business ideas to capitalists who don’t have the chops to be entrepreneurs. That’s only one function of an actually useful ceo/founder. All the mythos around him is exactly the kind of puffery every salesman uses to establish the credibility of their “consulting”.

Point being: imo, call Elon an extremely successful salesman, not business leader.

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"He’s a salesman who’s made a cottage industry of selling business ideas to capitalists who don’t have the chops to be entrepreneurs."

This is literally the definition of a CEO: someone who assembles a collection of complementary talents and then sells the conjunction to capital markets. What more do you expect?

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Even *if* this were all true, it's still a stunning accomplishment that he had the vision and salesmanship, as you say, to pull it all together and succeed where so many others have not.

Can't we just accept that people are complicated and not all good nor all bad? And indeed, you can even have a mix of qualities of enormous extremes.

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What kind of political blinders does one need to wear to watch rockets land themselves one hundred times in a row and then put scare quotes around "successful"?

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You forgot Taiwan-should-be-ruled-by-China-gate.

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/elon-musk-taiwan-china-ukraine-russia/

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With zingers like that you could write for the Daily Show. They need scabs, too, especially if they don't mind name calling to make their jokes. Those are the best kind.

Keep picking those nuts, just save a few for the union.

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Great article, except "100-proof cosmopolitan idealism" is only 50% cosmopolitan idealism.

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Came here to make this comment. If Milan could legally drink he would have caught this.

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Who says I can't?

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US Federal govt I reckon!

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Sure, but the other 50% is water, and it's important not to get too dehydrated.

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founding

100-proof rum is high enough alcohol concentration that you can ignite gunpowder that is soaked in it. That’s the level of alcohol that was measured for taxation, and considered high enough to pay sailors in.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alcohol_proof#History

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That’s right! Drinks on me at Smuggler’s Cove for knowing this if you’re ever in SF. Though really a first drink on me offer applies to any SB commenter who visits.

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Smuggler's is great, though I prefer Whitechapel slightly more.

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Great place! Sad to hear it’s likely closing for good :(

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Wait, what?! Oh no. I knew they were going event-only for a while, but I thought they were going to reopen. :(

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May 19, 2023·edited May 19, 2023

It looks like there's a chance but not looking great. Fingers crossed:

https://sf.eater.com/2023/1/6/23542382/whitechaple-bar-san-francisco-closed

Instagram: "Now open only for private events."

I feel SF needs more rich people to buy/invest in their beloved restaurants to keep them open. Alla Zuckerberg during COVID (he gave 100k each to a bunch of places). I feel similarly about a few rich peninsula cities that had 30%+ retail vacancies post-COVID - feels like the city doing something to help would've helped those downtowns a fair bit.

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You are 100 basis points correct!

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founding

Elon Musk is today's Henry Ford. He is a brilliant and maniacal industrialist. Teslas are amazing cars; SpaceX has supplanted NASA in important ways and proven a better way to deliver payloads to orbit. Amazing stuff. He deserves a lot of credit for helping change the world.

He is also a normal man with a big ego, flaws and excesses. The same can be said of Soros, Gates, Buffet, etc. Thiel, too, in some ways, though I would argue his business acumen is of a much lower level.

In their realm of expertise, we should take their views seriously and give them a lot of weight. In all other areas, they are no more worthy of respect than any other person. Anyone who elevates a successful businessperson, actor or celebrity into some all-knowing sage is making a mistake.

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Agreed. This is why the best heroes are dead ones. Dead heroes can’t live tweet something dubiously fascist after you spent the afternoon drawing inspiration from their accomplishments. Always better to have a heroes flaws written in stone than constantly getting e-faxed new ones to consider.

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I actually suspect that Musk’s most impressive business talent is hyping his businesses in ways that keep his cost of capital low and allows him to underpay talented people who are excited to work for him. This is a genuine business talent that’s been critical to the early success of his enterprises, but it’s a salesmanship skill rather than a management or engineering skill, and it’s not clear that its value will survive significant business setbacks, increasingly bad reputational self-sabotage, or even the end of the low interest rate era.

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His two great skills, and they are skills, are world-class lying/bullshitting and an astonishing appetite for risk. Both, as you say, allow him to create clusters of brilliance on the cheap.

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May 18, 2023·edited May 18, 2023

His best historical counterpart isn’t Henry Ford, but Masayoshi Son (the SoftBank president who became the richest man in the world by betting big on the dot com bubble, lost most of it during the 2000 crash, and then turned around and did exactly the same thing in the low rate era).

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founding

Masayoshi Son didn't build anything. There are real cars, rockets and satellites as a result of Musk's genius. To downplay his successes because of his actions in a different area is pretty motivated reasoning.

Give him credit where it is due. But I grant him no special knowledge or understanding of the world outside his demonstrated areas of success.

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There are real cars, rockets, and satellites as a result of Musk's bringing together and inspiring the hard work of a lot of smart, talented people. That's perfectly valuable and correct, you don't need to project any special technical brilliance on the man (he has none).

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founding

Earlier you said his two skills were "lying/bullshitting and an astonishing appetite for risk." (both negative things, by the way).

Now he brings people together and inspires them.

My original comment compared him to Henry Ford, which I stand by as Ford wasn't technically brilliant (or maybe he was, I don't know), but he did radically transform the automobile industry and build a great company.

It is OK to say: "He has built amazing companies and I like what he has done with Tesla, SpaceX and Starlink. Beyond that, not so much."

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Exactly!

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Musk put his talents to a different and worthier use than Son did (I like spaceships and electric cars), but it’s fundamentally the same skillset— using hype-charged and often empty sales pitches to lower your capital costs and taking enormous risks with the capital you already have to get more.

Both carmaking and space exploration are very capital-intensive, so Musk’s promotional skills made both Tesla and SpaceX much more financially viable and able to scale quickly than they would have been without him. He was able to take controlling ownership stakes in those firms and bring his promotional powers to bear supporting them by taking out huge margin loans on his existing assets. (Bloomberg has done some good retrospective reporting on this.)

But based on what I’ve heard from employees at both firms— and his highly publicized behavior at Twitter— his actual interventions in day-to-day management, engineering, and operations at his portfolio companies are superfluous at best and counterproductive at worst— he’s probably not particularly brilliant at engineering or administration. He has a kind of genuine genius that he’s used for some good things, but it’s not the kind of genius that he or his most rabid fans think that he has.

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founding

I will never understand the impulse to discount other people's accomplishments with armchair quarterbacking. What Musk has done with Tesla and SpaceX is miraculous. As JPMorgan did with banking, Rockefeller with oil, Gates with Microsoft, Ford with automobiles. It is good to celebrate those who advance our society. Doesn't mean they have any special insights into other areas, but it is weird to downplay the best of a person while emphasizing the worst.

(Another commenter in this thread is describing Lincoln as a tyrant, for God's sake, so I might be a bit sensitive on this topic.)

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Seems odd to call SoftBank a historical counterpart, no?

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Masa is still alive and SoftBank still exists, but he never got anywhere close to being the richest man in the world again. Musk is currently going through an arc very similar to what Son went through twenty years ago (become richest man in the world by taking huge risks and hyping up a speculative bubble —> bubble bursts and you also make some bad business decisions —> lose more money than any human who has ever lived.)

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Whoa. On the nose.

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A bit of an unfortunate comparison given Ford's blatant anti-Semitism later in life.

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Had he been less of a brilliant dilettante he might have been another Henry Ford who single-handedly built one of the world's great corporations that just keeps on going. Instead, he got distracted, took his eye off the ball, and Tesla will pay the price of that as its competitors will come in and wipe it off the field.

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founding

Fun fact - Henry Ford never got in Twitter wars with Holocaust survivors!

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This is really a fantastic article but I do think you are giving Musk too much credit here. I don’t think his comparison is really based on any deep thinking beyond, “Soros was mean to me. He is a bad man”.

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May 18, 2023·edited May 18, 2023

I think Matt has the wrong criticism of the “rich, successful businessmen are actually dumb” liberal cope. Musk is dumb. Peter Thiel is dumb. Zuckerberg is dumb. They hold incredibly simplistic political views that betray childlike, almost shocking levels of ignorance of history and political economy.

The correct critique is that a person can be genuinely great in particular endeavors but still be a dumdum. Businesspeople are great at business, but that doesn’t generalize to other fields of human activity. In the same way, journalists or professors or scientists or whatever can be extremely good at their jobs and still not someone whose opinions in any other field should be taken seriously.

The next-level meta-critique is that being “smart” doesn’t even mean that much when it comes to getting the right thing done. Knowing the answer is great, but unless it’s a problem small enough for one person to solve single-handedly, being the smartest person in the room can actually be counterproductive when it comes to convincing, cajoling, leading, inspiring, coordinating, empathizing people to an acceptable solution.

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"Musk is dumb. Peter Thiel is dumb. Zuckerberg is dumb."

You must be using a nonstandard version of dumb. These people all, obviously, have high IQs whatever their other faults.

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Yes, people with high IQs can indeed be dumb. I can't find exactly where he says it, but I remember Tyler Cowen saying that the reason he's bullish on crypto is that so many smart people are working on it. Well, crypto is dumb, and anyone dedicating their life to working on it in order to free the world from the tyranny of fiat currency deserves to be called dumb, too, no matter what their IQ is. That person obviously hasn't thought too deeply about macroeconomics, the history of central banking and the gold standard, or the role of trust in modern economies.

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Einstein was a theist, for instance!

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Smart people are capable of believing dumb things != these smart people are secretly dumb.

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Also are Zuckerberg’s politics regressive or even public to the extent of these others? To the point of this article, he is also a Jew.

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Zuckerberg is pretty quiet about his politics and my guess is that he’s basically an Obama era liberal, based on lots of different small data points. He definitely doesn’t belong with those other two. His foundation has a focus on “science, education, immigration reform, housing, criminal justice, and other local issues” and my understanding of their work shows roughly the same. I think some on the left were upset by his keeping Trump on FB and generally being pro free speech there. Trying to manage the content rules for a global platform like Facebook is awfully hard.

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May 18, 2023·edited May 18, 2023

I included Mark Zuckerberg due to such follies as his $100m donation to the Newark public school system that went straight into the pockets of consultants.

To Edward's and Can's points, what this shows about Zuckerberg---that he shares with Musk and Thiel---is what I described in the original comment, viz. a deep ignorance of political economy and history. The $100m is the naïveté of someone who apparently never asked why we don't just throw money at tough social problems.

Likewise, Thiel's observation that democracy doesn't produce optimal outcomes and his conclusion that we should thus do away with democracy is dumb. It's not an original thought and he doesn't show much sign of grappling with an argument that has been going on now for hundreds of years.

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Lmao “I included him with two right wing whack jobs because he gave a hundred million dollars to a poor black school system that wasn’t as effective as it should have been”

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Correct, because "dumb" isn't the same as "bad person"; that's one of the themes of the discussion. E.g., wasting time arguing with strangers on the internet is dumb, regardless of your intentions.

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May 18, 2023·edited May 18, 2023

Ben Carson was a dumb person. He was a world renowned neurosurgeon who thought that the theory of evolution was taught to Darwin by the devil and the pyramids were built to store grain. People can be incredibly talented and complete morons.

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Phil’s definition of dumb seems to be people who disagree with him politically. I think that’s dumb.

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I think most people would consider someone who is very clever but nonetheless, say, a flat earther to be dumb.

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I do think Elon has become kind of soft, I would agree the Zuck is oblivious, and I think both are cases of money spoiling otherwise capable people by ensconcing them in a fantasy constructed by the people pleasers who inevitably surround that kind of money.

Thiel is different. My read on him: Thiel has a chip on his shoulder because, he knows that no matter how much money he has, the approval he craves comes from attaining direct power. It truly is remarkable that he tells his story of losing out on a SC clerkship as vividly as he does. He wanted the respect of the powerful, but they will only ever see him as a useful donor now. He knows this and he wants to destroy them for it. “If I can’t be in the club, I’ll buy the club and close it down”.

The verboten Frank Underwood has a good line about this in the opening of House of Cards, that I think Thiel agrees with.

“Money is the McMansion... that falls apart after ten years; power is the old stone building that stands for centuries. I cannot respect someone that does not see the difference.”

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No, it really isn’t generalizable and you don’t have to be good at any of those things.

Look at Elon Musk, who is terrible at all of that. The only thing he was objectively good at was having money from being an early part of PayPal! In fact, being good at already having money from some other source is the main way people are “good at business” in the US.

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Then why the comparison to Magneto, of all possible villains? Its not as if magneto is know in the comics as a rich mega donor, is he? What’s going on here is rather obvious:

Soros isn’t just Jewish, he’s a Holocaust survivor. Magneto isn’t just canonically Jewish in the comics, he is portrayed as a Holocaust survivor in many iterations, including-very prominently- in the most successful movie franchise that musk is certainly familiar with. Of all villains in the world he chooses to compare Soros to magneto. It’s a bit much to consider this a coincidence. Why is it that accusations of anti semitism seem generate a burden of proof so much higher than hate speech agaisnt any other group? Call it like it is- that was quite obviously an antisemitic comment.

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May 18, 2023·edited May 18, 2023

I read that run of X-Men comics as they came out, saw all the movies, and ... Forgot that Magneto was Jewish, much less a Holocaust survivor.

I'm a little embarrassed about that, but I have a ready cope! I'd like to blame the forgettable way superhero comics engage serious themes.

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I believe it’s the opening scene of the first x men movie of the early 2000s if memory serves? Musk is of the generation to remember it well.

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May 18, 2023·edited May 18, 2023

It's also a major part of X-Men First Class.

https://youtu.be/8WKgMgjfues

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I'm not disputing the first sentence (though I still don't recall the details). I'm suggesting you should turn down your confidence dial when it comes to guessing what others notice and retain from pop culture.

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May 18, 2023·edited May 18, 2023

That’s fair enough generally. The problem is *he* chose to bring up magneto. Why? What other explanation is there to the choice? As I said in my op, there doesn’t appear to be any obvious reason for this particular choice , other than the common Jewishness and background as Holocaust survivors. Two well known facts as far as these things go. Coincidence? Allow me to put on my scepticles.

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Well, I'm disputing that they're both well-known facts: I'm saying that outside of actual X-Men fans, that fact about Magneto's story may be forgotten.

As for an alternative explanation, how about this? Prior to this morning, if you'd asked me what kind of a villain magneto was, I would have said "someone that thought they were doing good, but went horribly wrong." If you have a negative opinion of Soros, that might fit pretty well.

I don't want to push too hard on that, though: confidence in either interpretation is unwarranted.

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Accusations of racism are thrown out more often. Scrutiny is fine but should be applied equally. In this case it’s pretty obvious what’s going on.

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I think we have greatly over-corrected as far as giving credence to anti-Semitism claims.

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In general, too little, at least among the circles I'm most familiar with.

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As I understand it, modern antisemitism is a political conspiracy theory saying that Jewish clannishness, which is a special flaw of Jews conceived as something other than everyone else, is the hidden explanation behind huge swathes of negative features about the modern world as seen from the perspective of simple country people, at a time when European society was undergoing a frenetic pace of changes that ultimately amounted to an incredibly violent, near-terminal breakdown. Modern *modern* antisemitism, like post-war antisemitism, is overwhelmingly just derived from Soviet propaganda, which was VASTLY more influential during the Cold War than it's now fashionable to admit. It was just the old antisemitism incorporated into a version of Marxism, where Jews are all mixed up with whomever else the oppressor of the day being presented to you by the Party is.

That being said, obviously Jewish clannishness is real because everybody is clannish. And the Iraq war, for example, really was driven in large part by a clannish clique of Jewish intellectuals known as neoconservative. This was a vague term eventually adopted by a fair number of non-Jews, and indeed briefly by like a third of the country.

Oddly, many of the core Jewish intellectual neoconservatives, like Bill Kristol, actually seem completely sound to me now, even though there is no overt sign they are more or less clannish or more or less Jewish, and we would probably start yelling at each other if it came to the Palestinians, although really I'm not sure and don't care. This suggests either that I am obviously not an antisemite, or that I am a particularily insidious type of antisemite who "divides between good Jews and bad Jews" according to ancient stereotypes.

The more important point is just that in a liberal democracy, obviously you are going to have various forms of attachments between people, including ethnic and simple family attachments, and it is possible for people to act in self-interested ways while being genuinely convinced they are acting in the legitimate service of the state.

And you have to be able to talk about it.

Which means you have to be able to listen to liberal Jews whine and tell them to shut up because they are just enforcing political correctness through rhetorical tricks, but that actually basic issues such as the need for members of any culture or clique whatsoever to act as neutral guardians of the public interest when exercising state power, need to be discussed in ways that can make people upset about imaginary racists.

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Kind of a l’auteur est mort take from Matt

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Matt did not go directly into this, but the Superman All-American thing struck a nerve for me.

In the last decade or two the American left has increasingly become openly Anti-American. Among liberals it’s in vogue, almost obligatory, to idealize Europe and trash the US, and to caveat every positive mention of the US with some apology.

I don’t think the lefty elites understand how much this deeply undermines them politically. Most Americans are “patriotic,” in particular including most immigrants who worked hard to get to be here.

If the cosmopolitans want to win over the normies, the way to do it is to compete to show the left’s ideas are *more* American than the right’s.

This was one of the pillars of effectiveness of the mid-century civil rights movement, leaders like MLK pointing out correctly that we were not living up to our own standards and had to do better.

I wish very much that the democrats would not cede “patriotism” to the republicans.

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What was missing from almost every BLM protest? Lots and lots of American flags. There's nothing more un American than tyranny, and that should have been part of the core message. It's much more salient if everybody at home thinks hey "that's us" out in the street rather than "that's them."

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Darn straight.

I'm a foreign-born American and a liberal. I certainly acknowledge that America has done horrible things, but I consider myself a patriot, in the sense that I care about America and believe that America is good on net. I think it's terribly sad the way patriotism has become a marker for the right wing - you know, the people who support a former president who *incited a violent mob to try to stop the peaceful transition of power.* Jesus F Christ. The mind boggles.

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As soon as the needle ticks over to about 52.5%, White progressive ideologues in the liberal coalition immediately get antsy and start hysterically attacking American symbolism and general middle-class respectability in a bid to maintain their power over the overall coalition. As far as I can tell it's almost literally that crude and simple. The most racially charged attacks on Obama all came from the right, of course, but the White left was close behind, and it was bizarre. A white-led movement attacking a black president as a traitor to black people so as to force him to conform to the opinions of the white movement more closely than to those of the black population. Just total insanity.

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A sign of this that I see on Twitter that annoys me is that users with American flags in their screen names overwhelmingly lean to the right.

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I agree that worsening left wing attitudes about the USA are really horrible for our culture and a poison that accelerates the unraveling of our free society. We need more JFK energy. Like this:

https://radmod.substack.com/p/i-love-this-place-ethos-is-the-cure?utm_source=profile&utm_medium=reader2

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It would be disingenuous for democrats to act or speak patriotically. They have open and explicit disdain for much of the US Constitution. This is the ideology of universities, journalist types, and most dem politicians. They take an oath of office swearing to uphold and defend the Constitution, knowing damn well they intend to hopefully curtail or bulldoze the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 9th, 10th, and 12th amendments.

Conservatives are the party of patriotic people bc the galvanizing mythos of the Democrat base is “America Bad” and they hate the heritage and symbols of the nation, as well as many of The People within it.

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But open borders is complicated because there's a strong philosophical case, and a decent political case, that society as a whole should place increased priority on international freedom of movement. It's just tied up in an absolutist, moralist, overly rights-based political discourse where even to acknowledge that immigration policy involves trading off values legitimately in the light of democratic public opinion, such that some people are going to have legitimate justice complaints that are simply not addressed because it's not "our" problem, is stigmatized as overtly racist. As if somehow leftists and liberals are obligated to first idealize the public by removing all traces of selfishness, and then pitch the resultant policy proposals to the actual public that exists. Triple the gax tax and give it all to foreign aid! And if you don't you're just an evil Republican. Mind-boggling stuff.

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Goddamn, Lincoln really put out some absolute bangers.

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I've seen a lotta people say "sure Soros deserves criticism but the way it comes off is antisemitic."

I'm gonna just come out and say it. George Soros is good. Also the Koch brothers arguably made the GOP take better positions. It's politically incorrect to say it but billionaires generally have better politics than normie voters.

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May 18, 2023·edited May 18, 2023

I don't know anything about what Soros is currently doing with one exception. He (or his foundation) really is pouring millions of dollars into campaigns to get "progressive prosecutors" elected. I just voted in a local primary where the new D nominee was baked by $700,00 from Soros.

I guess it's a whole other can of worms, but personally I believe getting the Boudins, Krasners, Gascons and Braggs into office is bad politics and just flat-out bad.

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Wait until you learn about Peter Thiel, the Koch Brothers, and the Federalist Society.

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A good argument can be made that the Koch brothers made the GOP better. Like, I would much rather have Koch-supported Mitt Romney as president than a Republican the Kochs didn't like, like Donald Trump. Would you?

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May 18, 2023·edited May 18, 2023

This is pretty anachronistic. Like literally reverse order of the actual timeline.

The Kochs promoted the Tea Party and Brooks Brother Riot, and key figures out of them, then Donny came along.

(But sure, the lowest of low hanging fruit, yes, Romney is a good guy at heart.)

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But did the Koch brothers shape and mold Romney's politics or did they just support him because he's another rich guy who will cut their taxes ? Would any "Romney Republican" have acted any differently with or without the Kochs influence ?

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I think the answer to that question is always the latter. People donate to those they already agree with.

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There's a lot to be said about how donations are not just a vote of confidence for agreeing on policy. At the level of the PAC and SuperPAC, these politicians are getting donations and "support" as a form of being "on the payroll." Romney, just so happens to be the top GOP senator funded by the NRA, because the NRA knows they need to always be able to schedule a meeting with him, and keep his policies (and ~51st vote) from ever changing. Romney (famously, not a stupid man) knows, by inference, that if he ever does change any positions on guns, all of that money will instantly dry up and a primary challenger will receive it.

This also explains why big corps will donate to both candidates, regardless of politics. They want access, regardless of who wins, and they want to send the message the money could always dry up.

You're often cynical about politics, but it's strange when it doesn't reach the levels of this very obvious pessimism.

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Unlike our host, I don't enjoy counterfactuals and alternative histories particularly, and it seems obvious to me that the answer to your question is 'I don't know'.

But to play devil's advocate a bit, here are some reasons to say 'no, I wouldn't':

-Maybe I think Democrats generally produce better governance, but perhaps a President Romney would have been more popular than Trump, leading to an 8-year Republican term.

-While nowadays there seems to have been a more war-skeptical, America-first, transactional turn in Republican foreign policy positions (embodied by Trump), Romney was (presumably still is) and campaigned as a generic Republican neoconservative whose only critique of the Bush administration was based on competence. It is not hard for me, as a citizen of the rest of the world, to see how a Romney foreign policy could have led to a lot more war, destruction and suffering than the Trump one did.

-A Romney win in 2012 would have presumably led to much more austerity, choking off America's slow economic recovery, leading to much greater unemployment and hardship than Trump's turn in office produced. A glance at the consequences of austerity in the UK from 2010-2019 (but especially 2010-2016) should show how harmful that could have been.

The echt-liberal view is that Romney is a more virtuous person than Trump. I suppose he is (it would be hard to be less so, after all!). But the leader's personal virtues and vices are only ever a small part of the picture in assessing their legacies.

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The country would be in such wildly better shape if the Koch's had even a quarter of the influence ascribed to them.

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founding

It isn't politically incorrect, but just incorrect.

Billionaires have the same flaws, blind spots, petty grievances and dumb ideas as any other person (of similar education and intelligence). In their field of expertise, defer to them all you want. But outside of those specific areas, treat their opinions as you would those of your doctor, lawyer or the owner of your local McDonald's franchise.

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It’s hard to treat billionaires opinions the same as my local fast food chain owners opinions because Steve of Jack in the Box can’t spend millions on various crazy political and social projects without batting an eye. A billionaires ability to influence society through a flood of money is what gets everyone agitated. It feels unfair to many that someone who was born rich, became richer still (like Musk) gets to play at politics and cultural influence like it is a doll house set in his marble floored play room.

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founding

Then you should be even more agitated at the Sulzberger family, owners of the NY Times. They exercise more political and cultural influence than Musk ever will.

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I agree broadly that the game of constantly being upset with rich people because of their outsized cultural and political influence is a pointlessly exhausting exercise. It’s one that I generally choose to not engage with if I can help it. It’s always better to focus on the positive things you can do rather than the negative things someone else is doing.

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I don't ascribe better politics to them because they're rich, I'm just saying they, on average, have better politics than joe sixpack median voter. Especially on topics like climate change.

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I'm one of those things and married to another so I know lots of both, and I can say with certainty you'd be foolish to give them that deference. They are smarter in their fields than you are, but they are no wiser in any meaningful way than the average voter. They have the same level of foolish biases and preconceptions as the norm, and their ability to analyze and conclude what is right, or just, or fair, or wise is absolutely no better than that of any other group you could identify.

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founding

I’m surprised Matt didn’t mention what I always took to be the biggest good Soros did, and which I think is the main thing that his opponents don’t like, which is the way he supported liberal anti-communist democratic groups across Eastern Europe in the 1980s and 1990s.

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To be fair, isn't there an overlap between what Soros considers "liberal anti-communist democratic groups" and what much of the East European population considers, equally plausibly, to be just Western-facing post-communist cliques?

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Yes George Soros does good work. I chose to stop reading after that point. ;)

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The worst thing I can say for the Koch brothers is their relentless opposition to mass transit, thanks to the automotive sectors of Koch Industries.

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But... NOVA!

"Major funding for NOVA is provided by the David H. Koch Fund for Science, the NOVA Science Trust, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and PBS viewers."

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I mean, personally, I'm wondering which other billionaires are going to condemn this kind of conspiracy theory fear mongering. If any of them can be bothered take a political stance like that. And which ones will decidedly not want to denounce the bigotry.

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Dude, totally agree.

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May 18, 2023·edited May 18, 2023

It’s important to remember that america is structurally and fundamentally exceptional compared to the great majority of the worlds nations, and the reality of the greater the majority of humanity in one fundamental fact: its native population(s) were almost completely wiped out, and whoever remains is completely negligible as a political force on all but a handful of districts. This is radically different from most nations that are based on a large native element. This means that America’s immigration based, non ethnic nationalism is weird. It works well for America, but it’s just an idiosyncrasy that cannot be used to model the questions and debates about nationalism generally. I do wish Americans will be better aware of that.

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May 18, 2023·edited May 18, 2023

Forgive me, but you appear quite ignorant about the history of nationalism. Your point about pre-historic conquests is totally irrelevant. Nationalism is about a shared story and identity. The point is an idea of nativism, not the historic realities which are inevitably more complex. And the history of nationalism in Europe is strongly connected to the French Revolution and the uprisings of 1848. “The strong conquering the weak” is vacuous cliche about human history generally that has little to do with Nationalism - a specific 19th century historical development.

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