# The Politics Forum: a Festering Pit of Inanity

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I think its generally acknowledged that the quality of the politics forum has gone to hell (a prominent user recently called it, "a waste of bandwidth."), but for those of you who don't know, recent highlights include an allegation that the women's movement was invented by communists and is therefore very bad, a rather unnuanced examination of poverty in the Muslim world, and "Why do men commit so many rape crimes?" (Apparently, women are engaged in a massive conspiracy to increase their power by withholding sex and rapists are retaliating in the only way they can. Someone on the politics forum seriously suggested this)

I would suggest that the title of the politics forum be changed to "politics-lite" and that the requirements to post there be maintained. At the same time, another "politics" forum would be created. A user would be granted the privilege of posting in "politics" by the moderators only after he has demonstrated in "politics-lite" that he is capable of intelligent political conversation and could be revoked if he later demonstrates otherwise.

Edited by bob000555

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I'd rather not create a forum dedicated to holding the festering inanity. I'd rather eliminate inanity altogether.

Unfortunately, maintaining a high bar for politics admission would bring many challenges. How would we define who should be let in? Would we end up just letting in people who agree with us? When do we revoke access?

I think the problem is not necessarily the people who post in Politics but the lack of moderation there, and the difficulty in providing good topics of discussion. I'm not sure what we can do to improve on this.

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I don't think that'll work, having a cesspit like 'politics-lite' would just result in any good contributers getting drowned in crap. better to have a probationary period (say 100 posts) and access is revoked for any and all rule breaking.

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I believe the issue with politics in general is unlike most topics in other areas politics can be, and very often is based on personal beliefs, and however much we may disagree with these often they are just as valid is our own opinions. This means that the area of politics is very difficult to moderate and will often contain discussions that include things that most people consider to be fairly radical and idiotic. So I guess in my opinion the best we can do is moderate the best we can, and except that some of the opinions and ideas said might to us be crazy.

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"Inane" political chat is in the mind of the beholder.

Edited by StringJunky

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I think bob's concern was, the content lacks substance, which if includes "thread topics", I'd agree. Most occasional posters like myself and interested in Politics or those that might follow interesting individuals (my objective) will scan "Today's Post", responding to what interest them and may or not respond to certain authors. That said and looking over recent political threads (two pages), there isn't really many threads that have interested me.

As for moderating politics, I've found the best have also been active thread authors. ParanoiA and Pangloss, the most recent. Then there are the interesting authors, as in iNow, bascule, ydoaPs, Mr. Skeptic, (in my view rigney) and I'm sure others, that seem to have lost interest or lost interest in the replies.

Elsewhere, which the administrators hate me to talk about, actual debated issues seems to draw the most attention, at least by views. Another thing I've mentioned too many times, is that many people find their way to any forum by search engines and of all the topics on any Science oriented forum, politics should be the most benign of sub forums. This requirement for 30 post or whatever (so many day's) post to someone interested in politics will not keep them around.

I've been coming around here for some time and seen many periods like this and feel in time someone interesting, drawing interest to the regulars or new posters will do their time to post, will show their stuff...

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Sure, political opinions vary, and its hard to distinguish between a reasonable opinion and an inane one. I wouldn’t suggest the moderators should engage in viewpoint discrimination. I would, however, suggest that the politics forum is rife with problems that go well beyond differences in opinion. These include bald assertions used as argument, factual claims that are flat-out wrong, arguments based on well known logical fallacies, arguments with no distinguishable logic to them at all, and versions of events that could generously be categorized as “alternate” history. I’m not sure if its appropriate to post examples here because the posters in question could be reading, but if prodded I could produce them.

I also agree with Jackson that some of the recent thread topics leave a lot to be desired.

Perhaps separating the forums in “politics” and “politics-lite” is taking it a bit far but there should definitely be some amendments to the rules including:

1. If you make a claim of fact, you should cite it.

2. If you support your argument with a factual assertion that is demonstrably false, you should get a warning the first time and be suspended from the forum the second time.

3. Arguments should never be biased on bald assertion.

4. Users should be required to pass a test on basic logic before they can post in the politics forum.

I’m not sure how to address the problem of the thread topics, but there is an obvious difference between threads like DJBruce’s “Prop 2: Affirmative Action in College” and Mr.Rayon’s “Why do men commit so many rape crimes?” or between my “repeal the Seventeenth Amendment” and Reality check’s “Fast and Furious.” One type of thread seems to attract serious debate, and the other…well, not so much. My suggestion would be that the ability to open new threads in the politics forum be restricted to those who have demonstrated the ability for reasoned discourse.

Edited by bob000555

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Sure, political opinions vary, and its hard to distinguish between a reasonable opinion and an inane one. I wouldn't suggest the moderators should engage in viewpoint discrimination. I would, however, suggest that the politics forum is rife with problems that go well beyond differences in opinion. These include bald assertions used as argument, factual claims that are flat-out wrong, arguments based on well known logical fallacies, arguments with no distinguishable logic to them at all, and versions of events that could generously be categorized as "alternate" history. I'm not sure if its appropriate to post examples here because the posters in question could be reading, but if prodded I could produce them.

I agree completely when people break the rules by committing any of the things you say they should be punished in some way, and maybe slightly tighter moderation would help with stoping these things. Just out of curiosity is there currently any moderators specifically designated to work in the politics sections? I know Pangloss was very actively moderating the politics section, but I have not seen him around lately.

My suggestion would be that the ability to open new threads in the politics forum be restricted to those who have demonstrated the ability for reasoned discourse.

I like this suggestion a lot, however, I wonder if it would just result in post political threads in other forums like the Lounge or something else.

Edited by DJBruce

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I like this suggestion a lot, however, I wonder if it would just result in post political threads in other forums like the Lounge or something else.

Possibly, but the consequences shouldn't be much more than the 30 post rule and even if it happens the moderators of those forums would just lock or delete the threads. No matter what policy change is made, there will be some negative repercussions, but at this point the problem has simply gotten too bad for inaction. The optimal solution may not be ideal, but that does not justify holding to a non-optimal solution.

Edited by bob000555

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As for moderating politics, I've found the best have also been active thread authors. ParanoiA and Pangloss, the most recent. Then there are the interesting authors, as in iNow, bascule, ydoaPs, Mr. Skeptic, (in my view rigney) and I'm sure others, that seem to have lost interest or lost interest in the replies.

In addition to thinking the quality of posts here has basically gone to shit, don't forget that I was banned from the Politics forum shortly after I made a personal decision to no longer suffer fools gladly, refused to accept the copious usage of logical fallacies, and got fed up with the disregard for clear robust evidence which was demonstrated so often by that subforums moderator. Bascule left right around the same time I did, and he made it quite clear why. We both basically just said, "fuck you guys... this is ridiculous and I refuse to continue participating here."

Nice overall post, though, Jackson, and thanks for the kind words. Through the years I've found that I quite appreciate those few times where we manage to agree in such an overwhelming manner.

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I agree completely when people break the rules by committing any of the things you say they should be punished in some way, and maybe slightly tighter moderation would help with stoping these things. Just out of curiosity is there currently any moderators specifically designated to work in the politics sections? I know Pangloss was very actively moderating the politics section, but I have not seen him around lately.

I feel compelled to point out that "active in politics" and "moderating politics" are two separate actions, and in any thread mods are supposed to do one or the other. Politics is where this has the greatest effect, IMO, because an active participant is in the best position to clamp down on substandard behavior, but it's also where the mixture of the two potentially can be abused (or a perception that it is) to a great extent.

I also feel compelled to point out that for all of these comments, I don't recall seeing many reported threads bringing these egregious actions to the staff's attention. I don't get a chance to read every single thread. If I don't know about it, I can't do anything about it. I suspect that's an issue with the other members of the staff as well.

I like this suggestion a lot, however, I wonder if it would just result in post political threads in other forums like the Lounge or something else.

I hope not. I am currently peeved at users who are doing this already.

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I also feel compelled to point out that for all of these comments, I don't recall seeing many reported threads bringing these egregious actions to the staff's attention. I don't get a chance to read every single thread. If I don't know about it, I can't do anything about it. I suspect that's an issue with the other members of the staff as well.

Are you saying that the things I mentioned here:

bald assertions used as argument, factual claims that are flat-out wrong, arguments based on well known logical fallacies, arguments with no distinguishable logic to them at all, and versions of events that could generously be categorized as “alternate” history

are violations of existing rules?

If so,I respectful suggest you bring this fact to the moderators' attention - Here is a thread in which another poster committed virtually all of these offenses, and I was chided for being "hostile" by confronting him/her about this, but nothing was said to the other poster. If not, why would we report these things, and will you consider changing the rules?

Edited by bob000555

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Rule 4 explicitly bans the use of logical fallacies; however, simply being wrong is not against the rules.

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Are you saying that the things I mentioned here:

are violations of existing rules?

If so,I respectful suggest you bring this fact to the moderators' attention - Here is a thread in which another poster committed virtually all of these offenses, and I was chided for being "hostile" by confronting him/her about this, but nothing was said to the other poster. If not, why would we report these things, and will you consider changing the rules?

At the bottom left of each post is a triangle with "report post" next to it. That's how you bring a post to the staff's attention. You get to type in a comment explaining what rule you think is being violated; in this case you could list the logical fallacy being presented. As far as the thread in question goes , the OP was not reported, and the post about not being hostile was not specifically addressed to you, meaning it was probably meant for multiple participants. That's how I interpret — there was an escalation of tone, IMO.

As Cap'n has noted, logical fallacies are against the rules, but being wrong isn't. However, I am a big fan of asking for citations when an assertion has been made and providing them is one of the items mentioned in the etiquette guide. It's a habit that everyone should develop. You aren't going to be faulted for asking unless it's clear that you are doing so to be obtuse. (Such as asking for a reference to the word obtuse.)

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I think its generally acknowledged that the quality of the politics forum has gone to hell (a prominent user recently called it, "a waste of bandwidth."), [...]

I am ashamed to say that I think our politics forum reflect the real politics pretty well. Real politics has also gone to hell... and the political news is in general a waste of bandwidth.

I will illustrate this by real examples from Dutch politics.

[...] women's movement was invented by communists and is therefore very bad, [...]

Women's rights? We still have a political party, the SGP, (with seats in parliament) that "opposes feminism, and concludes, on Biblical grounds, that men and women are of equal value (gelijkwaardig) but not equal (gelijk). Men and women, so the party claims, have different places in society".

Whether they link women's rights to the commies, I don't know.

[...] a rather unnuanced examination of poverty in the Muslim world, [...]

We do have a right wing (I would say 'racist') politician who would no-doubt jump the opportunity to link poverty to Islam directly. He is famous for twisting the truth to make Islam sound like a threat.

[...] and "Why do men commit so many rape crimes?" (Apparently, women are engaged in a massive conspiracy to increase their power by withholding sex and rapists are retaliating in the only way they can. Someone on the politics forum seriously suggested this)

For a short while we have had a pedophiles party (really!), although luckily they never collected enough signatures to be allowed to participate in elections.

I would suggest that the title of the politics forum be changed to "politics-lite" and that the requirements to post there be maintained. At the same time, another "politics" forum would be created. A user would be granted the privilege of posting in "politics" by the moderators only after he has demonstrated in "politics-lite" that he is capable of intelligent political conversation and could be revoked if he later demonstrates otherwise.

I can only conclude that the real politics is just as sick as our forum... and since the forum is supposed to reflect the real politics, I would suggest we keep it as it is - even though it sometimes really makes me angry to read the stuff that some people write.

One suggestion: apart from a minimum post count (30?), would it also be a good idea that nobody is allowed to have more than a certain percentage of their posts in the politics forum? Like, overall 2 out of 3 posts must be in a scientific forum, and only 1 out of 3 a non-scientific forum (possibly with the exception of the Lounge)?

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I don't know about it, I can't do anything about it. I suspect that's an issue with the other members of the staff as well.

It's not that the threads are violating the rules. I suspect this is why I and many other users aren't reporting them. It feels like an abuse of the report feature. It's just that the threads are moronic. I again point to the thread about rape and the "communist women's movement". They are absolutely ridiculous. I mean, unless we're allowed to report a thread for "blatant idiocy". If so, I have a lot of reporting I need to do.

Like, overall 2 out of 3 posts must be in a scientific forum, and only 1 out of 3 a non-scientific forum (possibly with the exception of the Lounge)?

I don't agree with this. Most of my posts are in the religion and politics forums, because I'm a theist and feel that I have enough common sense to post, respectively.

I know some physics, as it is my area of study, but nowhere near as much as the actual physics and mathematics experts here do. So, I do not feel qualified to answer questions about QED or correct misconceptions of what QM says. I do not think I should have access to the politics forums restricted because I do not post much in the actual science forums.

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Politics arises from the free discussion in the pub, in the agora, on the internet forum - to attempt to constrain politics to a sensible, non-emotive, and purely rational discussion is reductive and futile. Politics does not admit to the same reasoning processes and testing that science and maths do - the only judge of inanity, of self-contradiction, of arrant nonsense is history. That being said though, Bob does have a point that the politics/religion/philosophy sub-fora have had a particularly poor slew of threads recently. Personally, i think it is a passing phase which will in the fullness of time be reversed. Another major problem is that many of the posters in those sub-fora (there are exceptions - most of whom have posted in this thread above) reply without reading or understanding the fore-going thread.

Maybe a bit more calling for citations, fewer knee-jerk reactions, and a tiny bit more moderation/guidance will help to improve matters.

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It's not that the threads are violating the rules. I suspect this is why I and many other users aren't reporting them. It feels like an abuse of the report feature. It's just that the threads are moronic. I again point to the thread about rape and the "communist women's movement". They are absolutely ridiculous. I mean, unless we're allowed to report a thread for "blatant idiocy". If so, I have a lot of reporting I need to do.

Probably not, though it depends on the source of the idiocy (i.e. it could be based on a fallacy). But you are able to challenge an unreasonable premise or erroneous information, and you do have a reasonable expectation that anyone making a factual point can back up their position.

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One thing that is missed in discussions about the "Politics" forum is the fact that "Politics is perception" and as such doesn't lend itself to the same rigour as a science. If it did, we would all be on the same side.

To use the concept of "bail outs" and government spending as an example. The fact would be that the gov spent some (a lot) of money, this is verifiable. However a Keynesian economist will see this as a neccessary step to avoid economic collapse and vital to keep the economy turning while a follower of Hayek will see it a meddling with, and the obstruction of, natural market forces. Each is correct from their own POV.

This is doubly true in the political arena. I've strenously supported the concept of UHC in the US and argued for it as best I can. From my POV it is nothing more than a basic benefit of living in an advanced society, like having honest cops and courts, and roads and schools, but to those opposed to the idea it is some form of socialism. It would be hard to find a cite to disprove the idea, but I also find it hard to think of Australia as a socialist country.

Similarly (from what I've seen of American political debate) if the Republicans reduce spending on science then it is because they are "anti science" but when Democrats do it it's because of "economic neccessity".

Proof and cites can be provided for actions, but politics is about perceptions and motivations, which don't lend themselves to self evident factual proof. Because we each view evidence through our own personal perceptive political lens, we can't see why another, when looking at exactly the same evidence doesn't see what we see. We assume that they are "ignoring the facts", or some such.

The bottom line is that requiring cites or restricting access more won't improve a political forum. Political views follow on from personal political philosophy (hey, it's "Alliteration thursday") and if people want the level of discussion to rise above the "inane", then I suggest they start some deeper topics and be ready to defend their political philosophy with vigour and courtesy. All the while remembering that although we may see the same facts, our interpretations of those facts can differ and still be valid.

My 2 cents, anyway.

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As for moderating politics, I've found the best have also been active thread authors. ParanoiA and Pangloss, the most recent. Then there are the interesting authors, as in iNow, bascule, ydoaPs, Mr. Skeptic, (in my view rigney) and I'm sure others, that seem to have lost interest or lost interest in the replies.

I tend to disagree when the author also participates in the discussion. IMO, the best moderation comes from someone who is not a participant in the debate and debate is really what most political discussion is. Could you really imagine a genuine debate between Obama and Bush with either of them being the moderator of the debate as well?

P.S. Hello everyone. Glad to see the place is still here.

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One thing that is missed in discussions about the "Politics" forum is the fact that "Politics is perception" and as such doesn't lend itself to the same rigour as a science. If it did, we would all be on the same side.

To use the concept of "bail outs" and government spending as an example. The fact would be that the gov spent some (a lot) of money, this is verifiable. However a Keynesian economist will see this as a neccessary step to avoid economic collapse and vital to keep the economy turning while a follower of Hayek will see it a meddling with, and the obstruction of, natural market forces. Each is correct from their own POV.

This is doubly true in the political arena. I've strenously supported the concept of UHC in the US and argued for it as vest I can. From my POV it is nothing more than a basic benefit of living in an advanced society, like having honest cops and courts, and roads and schools, but to those opposed to the idea it is some form of socialism. It would be hard to find a cite to disprove the idea, but I also find it hard to think of Australia as a socialist country.

Similarly (from what I've seen of American political debate) if the Republicans reduce spending on science then it is because they are "anti science" but when Democrats do it it's because of "economic neccessity".

Proof and cites can be provided for actions, but politics is about perceptions and motivations, which don't lend themselves to self evident factual proof. Because we each view evidence through our own personal perceptive political lens, we can't see why another, when looking at exactly the same evidence doesn't see what we see. We assume that they are "ignoring the facts", or some such.

The bottom line is that requiring cites or restricting access more won't improve a political forum. Political views follow on from personal political philosophy (hey, it's "Alliteration thursday") and if people want the level of discussion to rise above the "inane", then I suggest they start some deeper topics and be ready to defend their political philosophy with vigour and courtesy. All the while remembering that although we may see the same facts, our interpretations of those facts can differ and still be valid.

My 2 cents, anyway.

I agree. For example, here in the states there is currently a huge debate over whether we should raise taxes or cut entitlement programs. I say, what the hell is stopping us from doing both!? False dichotomies are evidently part for the course in political arguments.

Edited by mississippichem

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One thing that is missed in discussions about the "Politics" forum is the fact that "Politics is perception" and as such doesn't lend itself to the same rigour as a science. If it did, we would all be on the same side.

I disagree, on a few different levels.

While "politics is perception" is undoubtedly true, nobody here is running for office and nobody is making political speeches (we have a rule against that). IMO the politics forum is a place for discussions about political topics, and as such we can apply some rigor and strip out the posturing and appeals to emotion and try to discuss our opinions and the facts that form them. We can have our own opinion and disagree on the importance of a piece of legislation, but what we can avoid is asserting that opinion as fact, avoid creating strawmen and appealing to ridicule in making our points and explain the reasons behind our opinion without fabrications and lies. We can cite sources for the facts that we present. In those ways we can apply a scientific level of rigor to the discussion.

Your example of UHC being called socialism is a good example. That works with the masses, but it's simply an appeal to emotion (because socialism = bad), so a discussion here should have some substance to it. A politician might raise the spectre of death panels, but in a discussion here that would be an inappropriate fabrication, unless one could cite the actual legislation to show that it was true.

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Your example of UHC being called socialism is a good example. That works with the masses, but it's simply an appeal to emotion (because socialism = bad), so a discussion here should have some substance to it. A politician might raise the spectre of death panels, but in a discussion here that would be an inappropriate fabrication, unless one could cite the actual legislation to show that it was true.

I think the main point of this thread (and the problem, if there is one, that the politics forum is experiencing) is that there is a woefully low amount of people here who would be able to contribute to a politics thread in such a manner. Pretty much anyone that can has already posted in this thread.

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Thanks. You, as well (on both counts).

To use the concept of "bail outs" and government spending as an example. The fact would be that the gov spent some (a lot) of money, this is verifiable. However a Keynesian economist will see this as a neccessary step to avoid economic collapse and vital to keep the economy turning while a follower of Hayek will see it a meddling with, and the obstruction of, natural market forces. Each is correct from their own POV.

Just to be pedantic, in this particular example, most Keynesians would say that we really never even tried an actual stimulus. Yes, the government spent a bunch of money, but most of it went to safety net programs, temporary aid, and tax cuts. Only a tiny percentage went to actual stimulus, so we really can't say that's what we did if we hope to remain speaking accurately. Also, the spending was all short term, and ran out so fast that it did little more than stop us from going over the edge, but not enough to pull us back away from it.

http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/07/10/where-the-money-went/

at annual rates (in other words, actual numbers in the quarter were only 1/4 as large), the total budget impact was $357 billion. Of that, we had: Tax cuts and refundable tax credits:$151 billion

Aid to individuals (mainly unemployment insurance and food stamps): $70 billion Aid to state and local governments:$103 billion

Everything else: \$33 billion

Note that the aid to individuals was basically safety net, and the aid to state and local was about mitigating spending cuts rather than spending expansion. Basically, this was at best an attempt to beef up automatic stabilizers.

So much for “we tried Keynesian policies and they didn’t work.”

Sorry. It's clearly OT for this thread, but I couldn't help myself. Also, I always felt that posts like this were exactly what we should be doing in the Politics forum, so maybe it can serve as an example. I dunno. Maybe the inanity is preferred, and that's why it has become so prevalent. We'd rather police tone than content. Whatever. I'm just passing through. Like an old girlfriend. Sometimes you might think, "what the hell... I'm horny, why not?" ... and then you soon remember why you broke up in the first place.

I think the main point of this thread (and the problem, if there is one, that the politics forum is experiencing) is that there is a woefully low amount of people here who would be able to contribute to a politics thread in such a manner. Pretty much anyone that can has already posted in this thread.

Unfortunately, not everyone who has posted in this thread is allowed any longer to post in Politics. Dilly of a pickle, that, eh?

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Hi doG, it has been awhile;

Not many years ago, moderators here did both moderate and discuss within a thread, however recently have not been doing both. We've had several threads on this sub forum and unlike on other forums the internal politics seemed to favor the posters.

My point however was the formation of threads with substance and I've found experienced posters, many times moderators or long time member/posters have done the best job, not to say first time posters are incapable.

Actually I can't imagine the viewer ship of an Obama/Bush debate, it would shatter any records, but I've seen many threads produced and argued, basically with two posters with ideologically different viewpoints, moderators or not, draw huge viewer ships. It has always seemed to me, that should be a motive or the motive for any forum. This leads to poster interest and of course ratings for potential advertising revenue...

Sorry. It's clearly OT for this thread, but I couldn't help myself. Also, I always felt that posts like this were exactly what we should be doing in the Politics forum, so maybe it can serve as an example. I dunno. Maybe the inanity is preferred, and that's why it has become so prevalent. We'd rather police tone than content. [/Quote]

iNow; No doubt, threads started with a link and a paragraph or two, that may be more understandable than the authors comments or questions IS advisable, which had been the practice. Noting it took me a couple years to figure out "copy and paste", many posters seemingly do not know how, are too lazy or might be using something it's not available on, whatever they are using.

Might I suggest, you PM and I'd suggest CR, since you really got out of line with him and simply ask for a reconsideration. If granted, what you do with it will be up to you, but I doubt any member would think a person posting 10k plus post and apparently still interested in the forums perception, should be denied a second change, internal forum politics disregarded.

We can cite sources for the facts that we present. In those ways we can apply a scientific level of rigor to the discussion.[/Quote]

swansont, using iNow's hypothetical thread above, it would be easy to offer hundreds of threads pro/con Krugman or Keynesian Economics. The issue itself is subjective to a person and that person's ideology determines the validity, the various approaches to solutions have thousands of arguable variables to be considered. Said another way, iNow simply believes the way Krugman explains Keynesian Policy is a viable, practical means to reach some result.

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