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Things That Happen in Silicon Valley and Also the Soviet Union (twitter.com/atroyn)
315 points by lavrov on July 6, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 236 comments

"- being told you are constructing utopia while the system crumbles around you"

This is the one that resonated with me.

Obviously "the system" as a whole isn't objectively crumbling by traditional measures like GDP, but there were things that could give that feeling: Homeless sleeping in the subway and on the main streets, the smells, crime so rampant it's basically ignored (my car was broken into > 5 times), working relationships are brief and cold and high-pressure

As a contractor for startups in SF for 6 years and now a founder for 1, I have found the opposite of what you have about business relationships.

The homeless problem is not caused by the tech industry, it is caused by the homeowners who have been blocking apartment building construction in 90% of the city for 50 years.

> As a contractor for startups in SF for 6 years and now a founder for 1, I have found the opposite of what you have about business relationships.

I'm glad not everybody had such a callous experience as mine.

> The homeless problem is not caused by the tech industry

I don't buy either tech nor housing as the root cause, but at the end of the day I didn't really care who to blame, I just wanted to be able to walk down the street without feeling like I was going to get ebola. But nobody felt safe even acknowledging the problem ("How dare you admit that a half-dressed drug-addict screaming sexual profanities at the woman in front of you makes you uncomfortable! Privilege much?"). People just wanted to blame someone or not even open that can of worms.

This is an insanely privileged thing to say though. The problem, in your mind, is that you have to see sick people, not that there are sick people who need help.

Your interpretation is not charitable.

Are these people in need of help? Yes.

Should they be out in the street while getting said help? No.

Does their presence in the street present a problem? Yes.

Here's just one example: https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/09/13/550674476...

I have to be physically threatened to be stabbed by / watch them threaten to shoot other people / watch them destroy property / watch them break down their stolen bikes.

Ironically, you're the one being judgemental here.

I agree they need help, but this goes way beyond the deep sadness of seeing really sick people and wishing you could help them.

It's the same problem. Sick people should not be laying in the streets or running around attacking people, they should be in places where they are getting help. The fact that it is not happening is the problem, and it's not a problem of "privilege" or anything like that - it's the problem of city management, because that's why city management exists in the first place - to make things like that not happen.

>> But nobody felt safe even acknowledging the problem ("How dare you admit that a half-dressed drug-addict screaming sexual profanities at the woman in front of you makes you uncomfortable! Privilege much?").

> This is an insanely privileged thing to say though.


The homeowners have much of the blame, you're right, but tech has made things worse by rapid job growth that contributed to rising rent costs.

That reminds me of the apocryphal story of the drowning man who sued his rescuer for breaking his arm during the rescue.

The tech industry is doing what it's supposed to - building their business and making money. Along the way it's created a lot of jobs for a lot of people and paid them plenty of money. These are generally considered to be good things. If anything, industry would love lower housing prices because then they could justify paying lower salaries.

That the city can't/won't build enough housing for its inhabitants is the voters' fault, and theirs alone. Every voter in every Bay Area that opposes new construction is responsible for each and every single person rendered homeless due to rising rents.

You're absolutely right! Tech has made things worse!

With that said, it might be worth discussing where the blame for the problem that has been made worse might lie. To aggravate an underlying problem, one has to already exist. So let's talk about that problem, and its causes, rather than casting aspersions on every group who contributed marginally after the fact - that's a very long list, and it's not even a useful list.

Then maybe, having identified the problem and the causes, we can see about solving it. So let's talk about zoning, prop 13, and the way construction permitting processes work and the political systems that support them!

Or we could talk about the real underlying cause of the one issue you are referencing (cost of housing) - vastly more people moving to the Bay Area than there are houses available. Since it doesn't matter how fast we can actually build homes as we will never catch up to the current demand, we should implement a new resident tax. Let's say everyone who has not been a Bay Area resident for at least 10 years contributes a little to alleviate the problems they are helping to exacerbate.

I understand why you feel that way. People are moving here so fast! They're changing everything, and there's no way we could ever keep up with how large the hordes of new migrants are.

However, I think it might actually be possible to build homes rapidly enough to meet demand. We should at least try, and if we fail we'll have a lot of new housing. That's a nice prize no matter the outcome. What's convenient about this approach is that if we get rid of the political obstacles to construction, we almost certainly can build enough housing!

Failing that, how about we tax people who have helped perpetuate this state of affairs and benefit the most to help address the problem? How about a "created this mess" tax on everyone who has been in the Bay for ten years or more? Maybe they can contribute a little to solving the problem they created, rather than inflicting pain on other people and shouting "STOP HITTING YOURSELF!".

No, that's not a serious proposal. It makes more sense than slapping people with taxes for the privilege of moving to one of the most expensive places in the world, but that is not a high bar.

My original post was sensationalist and a 'new resident tax' is ridiculous - and no, I'm not scared of the migrant hordes ;) But I do get a bit frustrated with the morally superior stance that many housing advocates take (not saying this is you). Many folks seem to believe that by repealing prop 13 and removing all barriers to development, we will magically be able to build the millions of housing units necessary to meet the current demand. There is a small but vocal minority who also feel if you have a difference of opinion on how to address housing in the Bay Area then you are a morally reprehensible "rent-seeker" who doesn't care about homelessness or diversity.

This is a multi-faceted problem and must be addressed hand in hand with transportation. What if we could house everyone but nobody could get anywhere? Higher density housing along transit lines, better public transportation, etc. are all things we should be working to improve. But we also need to consider the demand side of the equation. Is there a way to even out the demand. What if we build a ton of new high-density housing and the economy takes a major downturn or the tech industry gets distributed to other locales? Will we be left with a bunch of empty buildings that will be a drag on our regional economy and downtown areas for decades?

I feel the biggest immediate relief to the demand issue is legislating tax breaks for companies who allow some large percentage of their workforce to work full-time remote. This would immediately allow people to live in lower cost areas but still take advantage of the dynamic Bay Area tech economy. This is the quickest way to release a little pressure on both housing and transportation while working on the longer term solutions.

* Repealing prop 13 and by-right development processes would solve a lot of problems. But, as you say, not all of them. Repealing prop 13 would help with school funding, though...

* You're completely right. Transportation needs fixing. This is mostly a governance problem, I think. There are too many agencies, too much overhead, and too little accountability.

* Demand management always struck me as needlessly authoritarian. Why do it so explicitly, when prices are doing it for us? And what keeps politicos from going "Well, we convinced a bunch of the evil rich techies to leave. Now they can be replaced by worthy natives! Mission complete!". It would be dangerously politically popular, and lots of local politics tend towards populist and short-term-ist.

Have you looked at how much of SF and the Bay works in tech? Most days, it feels like the answer is absolutely everyone. Yet, in SF the actual number is something like 6% of the workforce. That's half of the number working in finance. If a sixth of the tech workers left SF tomorrow, the population would be replaced within a year or two (recent rates are around 1% yearly). The approach might get some very short-term relief, but without major reform a lot more time would be needed to get long-term changes in place. Never mind the politics of handing tax cuts to tech companies!

Your monoculture concerns are real, valid, and rooted in reasonable worries. You are absolutely right to have them! Yet, they could be better-aligned with reality.

Many good points. Also whenever I talk to "just build more" advocates, few demonstrate they thought about scaling infrastructure. Traffic is steadily getting worse, grocery lines are getting longer and classroom sizes keep growing.

I really wish these two things were bound together.

Repealing prop 13 would do a lot to bind together building housing and funding for transit and schools.

Repealing prop 13 is never going to happen for a variety of reasons, so it would probably be better to focus on areas where progress can be made. Also SF does not equal the Bay Area. I almost never consider policies from the standpoint of SF alone as it is a relatively small yet intense part of the overall region. Many issues experienced by SF residents are very different from those experienced by the rest of the Bay Area. Granted, there is certainly overlap and some things we see in SF now will be coming to other cities in the future but you have to be careful not to fall into the 'SF as the center of the universe' trap (especially on HN).

True! You're absolutely right on all counts.

With that said, prop 13 has wreaked havoc on budgets all across California. School funding is a state-wide problem. And I would go so far as to say that the whole of the Bay Area experiences a housing shortage for what is mostly the same set of reasons.

So while you're right, there may be some commonalities to be found.

Build a wall around the Bay Area?

job growth is supposed to be a good thing...

Job growth is a good thing only if it benefits the people who live in a place before said growth occurs. Otherwise, you're incentivized to just keep shifting high-paid populations around and calling it success.

> Job growth is a good thing only if it benefits the people who live in a place before said growth occurs

Why so? Even if high-paid populations are being shifted around, it's better for the region as a whole to have more highly-paid people. They'll spend more and pay more in taxes (sales, property, income). The pre-existing population presumably owns property, whose value has increased now because it's close to high-paying jobs so they too benefit. This is exactly what has happened in the Bay Area btw.

It's not objectively good to have more highly-paid people, those benefits they bring all carry significant downsides to any regular people in the area.

Yes, rich people will spend more. But this is bad for all the regular people, who can't spend that much, and will be outbid on housing+rent, schooling, childcare, entertainment, etc. Yes, rich people will pay more in taxes, but this is generally bad for all the regular people, because taxes are calculated by averages, so rich people increasing property values also makes property more expensive for everyone else. Yes, more rich people help other rich people demand higher salaries, but literally none of this money trickles down into regular people's salaries, which stay roughly locked to the same dollar figure, regardless. (See how San Francisco has some of the highest salaries in the entire US, but their regular people still had to fight just to get $15/hr wages, which in SF is insultingly low to anyone working in any line of work whatsoever).

> The pre-existing population presumably owns property, whose property has increased now because it's close to high-paying jobs

That's never a safe assumption. Lots of pre-existing populations do not own property. And even for the people who do own property, it's not like those property values actually become cash -- you can only sell out if there's somewhere cheaper to move to. Increasingly, those 'cheaper places' no longer exist anywhere.

We have people being gentrified out of their homes in my small hometown city (Grand Rapids, Mich). And they say what you've said, "who cares, they can just sell out their property, take the money and profit". But in truth, they can't do this. Where are they supposed to live? They can't afford to leave for SF, or NYC, or Seattle, or Chicago. Hell, they couldn't afford Minneapolis. They'd have to live in the literal middle of nowhere to afford something cheaper, and there's no jobs in the middle of nowhere, so it's a non-starter.

This "property owner wildcard" myth needs to die. You absolutely can (and a meaningful number of people will) economically suffer due to development, even if you/they own property in the newly developed area, and even if you/they sell that property for much more than you bought it for.

> Where are they supposed to live?

If zoning allows for building more densely (which in the US, it often does not) existing residents can trade their single-family homes for a condo in the same location + some cash. It comes down to a zoning issue in the end, not some special problem with economically developing an area.

How had growth ever been possible in the era before the last 20 years or so?

I'm no economist. But I think it has something to do with how we used to grow in ways that didn't monopolize people's needs. (better equipment, better networks, new consumer products, holiday travel, toys, fashion, etc). But now our growth is mostly in ways that do monopolize people's needs (healthcare, housing, childcare, education, transportation).

If you evaluate the last 30 years using, for example, TV's or telephones as a benchmark, it looks like we've been amazing at everything, and capitalism is awesome. But if you evaluate the last 30 years using, for example, housing or healthcare as a benchmark, we look like a country that's on the brink of total collapse


Part of being a free country, is the freedom to abstain completely. The freedom to walk away. Television sets or movie theatres, for instance, can never get too corrupt, or too expensive, because you can always just walk away. There's a limit to how exploitative a transaction can get on many products, because eventually people can just throw up their hands and say "fuck it, I'm out, I'm done with this whole mess".

But you can't walk away from healthcare. You can't opt-out of the housing market. As we transition to exploiting needs instead of wants, people can't opt out, so the potential for exploitation in those particular fields is almost limitless -- limited only by total income.

Well, I have a degree in economics. IMO housing is expensive because of an explosion of land use restrictions in recent decades, which as far as I can tell is a cultural development. Housing had always been market based prior to that.

No one has a right to keep living somewhere if they are being priced out. The only exception I can think of are unconscionable rent increases and that's largely beside the point.

Just because the previous population can no longer afford to live in SF or many parts of the Bay does not mean we have a problem or someone's rights are being violated.

"Even if high-paid populations are being shifted around, it's better for the region as a whole to have more highly-paid people."

No, that's not at all axiomatic. Consider a place like Aspen: formerly a small mountain town, now an enclave of incredibly wealthy people. People who support the area have to make a treacherous daily commute from nearby towns, because none can afford to live in the area.

Sure, some people become wealthy from owning land in Aspen before it became famous. Most residents did not.

If all you focus on is tax revenue, median income, etc., everything looks peachy, but that's a myopic view. One can easily argue the same thing is happening in San Francisco.

In SF current residents are blocking new construction and driving up the cost of housing. I assume that Aspen can't grow denser even if its rich residents wanted it, because of its location on a mountain. But that's largely not true for SF and its surrounding cities and suburbs.

Even in the case of Aspen, now that the town is an enclave of incredibly wealthy people, there are presumably more jobs in town for locals (largely in the tourism and service industry, but still). If it wasn't a world-renowned ski destination it would be a sleepy mountain town with a limited economy. Most of its young people would have to leave the area entirely to build their lives and careers. So there is still some good with the bad. Some old residents will say things were better before, others will say they're better now.

To the point you made at the end, are you thinking of "average income" rather than "median income"? If median income goes up it means most people are now making more money.

Silicon Vally collects graduates from all over the world. That doesn’t mean they were employed (or were going to be employed) locally. It’s genuine growth, not geographic shuffling, but it’s growh that benefits the employable rather than the correctly located.

Tech is a bountiful solution, not a problem. The problem is in not properly taxing the output of the hyper rich tech industry. The taxation then goes into trivially solving the homelessness problem in SF. We're talking about 5,000 people, not 50k or 500k. It is not a problem compared to the enormity of the tech riches. SF is an extremely affluent city that refuses to act.

>The taxation then goes into trivially solving the homelessness problem in SF

Homelessness is not a trivial problem that can just be solved by throwing a lot of money at it. It's certainly a start in SV though, all things considered.

You're right. Homeless is not an easy problem that can be solved with big dollops of cold, hard, cash.

Rather, tt's a trivial problem that can just be solved by throwing a lot of housing at it.

Incidentally, housing is the one thing that everywhere between Ocean Beach and Diridon are allergic to...

Homelessness is not a trivial problem, full stop. There is no way around this. It can be lessened with extra housing for those who are only homeless because of cost of living, but that doesn't get to the root causes of what causes people to lack funds for housing and such.

It comes down to equality of outcome vs. equality of opportunity. Homelessness can be solved with the former, it’s just that everyone else will suffer as well.

Aren't people in the tech industry numerous and powerful enough to lobby for humane conditions for their fellow citizens?

The tech industry does overwhelmingly vote for more housing, but many people in tech are young, newly arrived, and very busy. In California’s Byzantine political system, whoever can sit in the right meetings for longest and file the right paperwork at the right time has political power. This ends up being elderly homeowners, and the nonprofits that earn their money servicing the homeless (SF spends more money on this than they do on streets and parks).

Frankly, I find the notion that people are too busy to fight for causes they believe in laughable. Either make the effort to effect change or accept that you are part of the problem. Face the truth.

I don't understand how someone can believe in something, but only when it's convenient.

Lech Walesa is currently available.

That reasoning is a good display of the underlying problem. It’s nobody’s fault so nobody takes care of it.

Collectivism also results in distribution of responsibility. Perhaps it is this distributed responsibility state that could be at the root of many issues.

yeah, of course you can't blame tech itself, but the whole social democracy project is crumbling down. As an european visiting SF it was heart breaking, the disparity of living conditions. spending the first few days commuting from russian hill to the financial district vs visiting the tenderloin in my last few days. I simply can't understand how a city so socially minded accepts such a wealth gap. I mean, it was like visiting some parts of Brazil. I've found that everyone leaves SF a notch to the left of the political spectrum.

>I simply can't understand how a city so socially minded accepts such a wealth gap.

Because “social-mindedness” without at least some opposition to Capitalism is meaningless given the scale of problem that Capitalism creates when things like healthcare and housing are surrendered to it.

Surely the abundant usage of crack has something to do with it too...

It's not caused by the tech industry, but I'd say the tech industry exacerbates it.

whats important is that there is somebody else to blame.

The one thing that you didn’t get in the Soviet Union was everyday crime, well, what we understand as crime. Sure they could and did send people off to the camps for weird [political and crimes against the state] offenses, but property crimes and such were close to non existent.

This is one of the myths that a lot of former Soviet Union citizens believe themselves. Unfortunately, crime levels isn't a thing that can be accurately reported from your own experience - you have to rely on some objective outside measure. And while any crime-related news (or any bad news, for that matter) were heavily suppressed, soviet police was equally reluctant to open investigations, because of statistic-based reward system in place.

Independent investigations now show that there was actually a lot of everyday crime. Even serial killers were just as common in USSR as they were in US, I've read a whole book about the notorious cases - but while in US media elevated them to celebrity status, in USSR the whole thing was heavily suppressed, and most people only heard rumours.

Please, don't perpetuate soviet propaganda.

Thanks for the insight. It gives a more balanced perspective into the SU.

Sure, you could in Soviet Union meet some nice guys under the bridge or in the park selling you a brick for 50 rubles when you salary was like 160 rubles a month. I heard of nobody refusing to buy it. Is it a crime? Drinking in a bar in foreign city with some stranger would end with clonidine poisoning. Stealing from workplace was that common, that it wasn’t defined as crime anymore. People were so poor in general, that there was nothing to steal from each other.

> Sure, you could in Soviet Union meet some nice guys under the bridge or in the park selling you a brick for 50 rubles when you salary was like 160 rubles a month.

That sounds utterly horrifying. It’s amazing how people were able to survive in those conditions.

Domestic violence was so absolute norm that there was a saying "Бьёт – значит любит", "he beats, means he loves". Rapes, domestic and not. So many of them. Corruption related crimes. Everywhere. Education, Health, Finance, you name it. There was not a single sector in the country that was not affected by corruption.

Also, don't forget that USSR is not only Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kiev and few other big cities. Rural USSR was very poor, and full of all sorts of crimes. Life in SU was not rosy as they might have tried to describe.

Edit: Formatting.

Property crimes cannot really exist if everyone is very poor and everything is state owned. Risk and effort required needs to be appropriately rewarded for people to consider it.

If someone breaks into my government supplied house and takes my government supplied mattress, leaving me with no mattress, isn't that still property crime? Just because I was supplied that mattress for "free" doesn't mean that I'll get another one any time soon.

Meanwhile the criminal that took my mattress is sleeping in luxurious comfort on two mattresses, so he got his reward.

On what basis do you think there was no everyday crime in Soviet Union?

Having lived in SU there absolutely was normal crime - violent and nonviolent. Levels of crime were presumably like everywhere else.

Why wouldn't there be property crime?

There absolutely was everyday crime:

Burglary Stealing (personal and state property) Hooliganism (always a favorite in the news) Frauds / Confidence Games Firearms and Narcotics related offenses were less prevalent than in the US Rapes (not mentioned loudly) Sex related crimes in general were suppressed in the news Murders (also rarely heard at the time but they were there)

only one I cant find is Carjacking.

There were also economic crimes which even had a special KGB section to deal with them in addition to police.

-Meaning large scale stealing within state enterprises(ie stealing from the corporation that you work for) by higher up directors -Various black markets / money exchanges -Illegal enterprises down to midnight video services

In fact during that time official newspapers did not cover the murders as much as they did cover the lesser property crimes and performed various awareness rising functions.

Now with the opening of police archives a lot of more brutal crimes have been brought up.

>property crimes and such were close to non existent.

Whaaaaaaaat? Well, according to official statistics.

From my father's side, we had relatives living in a closed down military city, but they were totally paranoid about break-ins during "Peak Brezhnev." Break ins were 50/50 annual events.

Street poverty existed as well, just not in big cities, where classless were either branded as substance abusers and locked away in jail, or being labeled as mentally ill and locked away in jail.

The regime tried really, really hard to make it appear that there were something wrong with the classless people, and "you keep your head low and everything be alright"

> Break ins were 50/50 annual events.

It really depends on the city and region. For example some of the people I went to school with ended up as serial burglars and pickpocket. Most came from broken homes with alcoholic or otherwise absent parents. Many were caught, sent to prison, then back out again presumably becoming even more hardened criminals. Others from the same school though ended up as software devs in the West, accountants and CEOs.

Going by personal narratives you can basically support either point of view. I've lived in more dangerous places in US in general, yet I've experience more personal harassment and bullying in the Soviet Union in the 80's than here in US. It's just hard to compare overall without good statistics.

Huh. Interesting. Maybe it depended on where you lived. The people I’ve talked to from the former USSR were all city folk, West of the Urals

Ukraine had plenty of crime under the USSR as well. My mom was shocked when arriving in Canada that people kept their doors unlocked or even open for most of the day in the suburbs.

> The one thing that you didn’t get in the Soviet Union was everyday crime, well, what we understand as crime....but property crimes and such were close to non existent.

This isn't about the Soviet Union, but another Communist country. I recently visited China, and was surprised to see that literally every apartment window had aftermarket bars installed (and every enclosed balcony was surrounded by a cage), even 20 stories up. Apparently there are buglers that will repel down from the top of a tall apartment building, so no apartment was safe from them. On buses and public places, the locals I was with were constantly warning to be on the lookout for pickpockets and thieves on public transit.

I don't know what the official crime statistics say there, but the perception of property crime risk was certainly very high.

True that, for China. When I visited China, Beijing / Shanghai felt safer than San Francisco, especially when walking at the night.

I agree it may “feel” safer, but a lot of that, in my experience, comes down to not knowing what you don’t know about a place. For example, I would say, “oh, yeah, such and such place seems alright, not bad, I walked around and felt fine.” Locals would say something like, what, that’s nuts, we don’t go there unless we’re looking to get knifed, stay away from that area, it’s trouble”. Now, I also know that locals are prone to exaggeration too, but just goes to show that as an outsider we may enjoy naive safety.

What you are saying is true in general, but I experienced both sets of places as a tourist. So for me, "not knowing what you don't know" applied to both sets of places.

The situation in the Bay Area is the default for cities with high inequality. You can go to Hong Kong, Bangkok or Cape Town and find a variation of the same. Even Zurich at one point.

> This is the one that resonated with me.

I grew up in the Eastern Bloc, now I live and work in the Silicon Valley, and the whole thread resonated with me.

Except that one was driven by actual scarcity, and the other is driven simply by people who think eating the cheapest calories ever produced in history is simply gross.

"I am unprepared for people who don't understand jokes" -- Anton Troynikov

I don't know who he is but I really like this quote. That's consistently my biggest surprise on the internet. The #1 question I get for my posts is "Is that sarcasm?"

I never answer.

Sarcasm doesn't always carry clearly through text-based media.

I wouldn't be so sure that the reader is always at fault.

Are you kidding?

I can't imagine why that would be intended to be humuoruos. The content of the post seems like a genuine attempt at trying to point out the potential flaws in purely text based communication via internet.

To expand on such, text doesn't carry any of the social cues that human beings learn during their development. There's no facial expressions, tone of voice, any form of body language such as posture or hand gestures. Communicating and being understood via text is very difficult, especially when one is attempting to be succinct. "Brevity is the soul of wit" does not only mean that one should strive to be brief but also that it takes great ability to accomplish such a feat aswell.

I think the "Are you kidding?" post was sarcastic and because either you or I are wrong in that interpretation, it proves the point of the comment it was replying to.

Are you kidding?

I agree with that statement. Even face to face, sometimes sarcasm is not presented well enough for others to catch.

*edit. Maybe that was sarcasm....

it doesn't have to be even on sarcasm level, sometimes i get misunderstanding on elementary level, ie when texting my fiancee, meaning somebody who is the closest person to me for years.

once you don't see face of the other person clearly, misunderstandings will happen, better learn how minimize them or you and people around you will suffer from unnecessary conflicts

This is one of many reasons that McLuhan attributed text-based media to symptoms of civilizations already in decline.

Has there ever been society without text based media?

Asia, those are ideograms

Technically, but by media I think they mean books vs art or video.

That's why they invented emoji

That sentence pretty well summarizes why I don't really like using Twitter.

Sarcasm and humor are a big deal. They are active attempts to identify resonance with a crowd and common ground, and can be used to assess if there is a strong cultural basis in a community. In the internet it's become very hard to have cohesive communities, so sarcasm has to be labeled (perhaps hoping that it will help people learn to identify it without labels in the future - in vain, i think).

"Sarcasm and humor are a big deal" - I would say practically a way of life here in the UK....

[Edit: I got a severe telling off once from an Intel lawyer for using very mild humour in a conference call.... I learned my lesson. I think in the middle of a multi hour conference call of mind numbing tedium I said 'I'm not sure what a Quad Pump AGP Port is but I want one...' - I got a bollocking for a good 15 minutes].

That's the man trying to keep you down. You should have made it a point in every subsequent meeting with that lawyer to ask about the progress on getting you that Quad Pump AGP Port.

In the internet it's become very hard to have cohesive communities, so sarcasm has to be labeled

Sarcasm can be culturally dependent. As a child and high schooler, I thought that my parents didn't understand sarcasm. I remember when I realized that my immigrant parents just had a different form of it than I did in grade school and high school.

"I am unprepared for people who don't understand jokes" -- Anton Troynikov

No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!

> I never answer.

That might cause you to be declared a "class enemy". The downfall will be swift.

Jokes? The tweetstorm is funny because it's true.

Yeah, like how you're not allowed to deviate from the views espoused by the ruling political party's policy in public. That one really was super insightful and true.

Damore's anti-feminist routine lines up with the general philosophy of the American political party that controls the house, sentate, and a growing majority on the supreme court. We're literally contemplating how soon before Roe v. Wade will be nullified over here.

Damore's poorly constructed arguments also line up with the suggestions of so-called rationalist personalities online and in print, who have major media distribution and significant representation in media that the American government favors (by not relentlessly attacking).

Tell me again how the ruling party controls everything around you, comrade. But while you're at it, we could maybe talk about how it's not okay to fire Damore for saying women should be paired up to code because they're genetically predisposed to be less good at it, but it's evidently extremely good that Tesla uses at-will employment to fire potential union organizers. We can find out how deep the rabbit hole of his victim complex is together. I brought rope and torches!

>We're literally contemplating how soon before Roe v. Wade will be nullified over here.

There's currently 1 vote for that (Clarence Thomas). If Trump's pick joins that bandwagon there will be a whopping 2. None of this hysteria is good for America.

> I never answer

Is that because you are trolling ?

Ironic that this is getting so much traction on HN, where humor is actively crushed with downvotes and flags most of the time. I’m not even disagreeing with the rationale of keeping the site for intellectual inquiry rather than endlessly nested references and jokes. A lot of what people think of as humorous is inherently off topic or frankly not very funny or relevant. Sadly though, I’ve seen some genuinely funny and original comments die hard because of an institutional stance against humor.

It probably doesn’t help that there are some inveterate literalists about...

> there are some inveterate literalists about...

Better inveterate literalists than invertebrate figurativists.

Your dissent is quickly being crushed into oblivion.

> It probably doesn’t help that there are some inveterate literalists about...

about what?

OP here. It's tongue-in cheek, in the same way that Mike Judge's "Silicon Valley" is tongue-in-cheek. Please don't hurt me.

Silicon Valley is tongue-in-cheek?

I thought it was a documentary!

> The truth is funny. Honest discovery, observation, and reaction is better than contrived invention.

I don't think it is all tongue-in-cheek, but it is brilliant.

HyperNormalization looms large.

"everyone knew the system was failing, but as no one could imagine any alternative to the status quo, politicians and citizens were resigned to maintaining a pretense of a functioning society... Over time, this delusion became a self-fulfilling prophecy and the "fakeness" was accepted by everyone as real"


Most of society is built on shared fictions.

Corporations, The UN, Governments, borders, the value of the $20 bill in your wallet, only exist because everybody accepts it's real.

That's from Sapiens, right?


> So, soon they'll invade Afghanistan and get monthly limits for buying sugar and socks?

> I don't want to alarm u but they've been in afghan for 17 years

> living five adults to a two room apartment

This one has become terrifyingly normalized - even within the industry, people who don’t live this way are decadent irresponsible pigs. People who resent living this way are entitled redneck whiners. And despite all that, don’t you dare suggest you’re not really a member of the evil elite 1%.

See also the “dense urban apartments are the only morally acceptable housing solution” trope that emerges from every Bay Area Housing thread.

They’re all interrelated. Irrigating your lawn isn’t necessarily wrong, either, until there’s a drought. And we could probably have all maintained our moderate water consumption through the drought if it weren’t for a few truly excessive users. The same applies to land and the housing shortage. If a few areas didn’t insist on being rural, maybe we could all have the suburban dream. But they did, so now even suburbia is egregiously wasteful.

Where is that? I work for a startup in the peninsula, and most of our employees over the age of 25 live by themselves (or with a romantic partner). And I don't know of any that live more than one to a bedroom.

Many of the younger employees do live in shared housing, but then, so did I when I moved to SF and that was nearly 3 decades ago.

I don’t know of anyone else living alone at my household-name employer in SF. (I do, which means I save and travel less than most of them, but I get weird looks whenever it comes up).

One interesting thing is that this seems to be on the cusp of spawning an "In Silicon Valley ..." joke cycle.

* https://twitter.com/MarcLucke/status/1015211522111496193

* https://twitter.com/Vietpdx/status/1015253367285673984

"[T]he economy is centrally planned, using opaque algorithms not fully understood by their users"

Loved this thread, but I think this one lost me. Does anyone know to what this is referring and mind explaining? Is this a comment on news feeds in apps, or is it a comment on the odd housing supply / zoning decisions? Or neither?

perhaps the fads and trends that drive huge amounts of VC investment and disappear a year or two later? Currently it's blockchains and AI, but previous iterations have been IoT, social, local, chatbots, and so on. Often these technologies are hyped way beyond their actual practical applications.

Possibly because large corporation do internally have a form of central planning - usually using Oracle Hyperion (which Google appears to use).... :-)

Edit: I based my guess about Google using Hyperion for their financial planning based on the job adverts....

I’ve always found it ironic that the purest examples of communist style central economic planning are found within capitalist corporations. Raise your hand if your company’s budget, hiring, and other resource deployment is done democratically, through a vote.

Big corporations are basically communist empires in this regard. I think the reason why capitalism won over communism is that capitalism has a large number of centrally-planned enterprises where natural selection can take place internally and the failure of any single enterprise does not hurt (and even benefits) the others. In communism, however, there's only one big plan that's "too big to fail".

With the added irony that Marx envisioned the fall of capitalism to start with workers taking over control of the factories they worked in, not by some vanguard taking over government by force.

I don't think it's a secret that Soviet Union "borrowed" a lot of ideas from large capitalist corporations. Of course they are similar.

> - living five adults to a two room apartment

> - 'totally not illegal taxi' taxis by private citizens moonlighting to make ends meet

> - the plight of the working class is discussed mainly by people who do no work

> - the currency most people are talking about is fake and worthless

So true it hurts.

> - mandatory workplace political education

Is it really a thing?

Yup. Read about James Damore. Don't take people's words for his essay though. You can find copies online to read yourself to see if it's as bad as others would want you to believe.

i think it's referring to things like "diversity and inclusion" trainings.

> - the currency most people are talking about is fake and worthless

Not quite sure what that is a dig at. Unless you are dealing in fresh produce or something, everything can be considered fake and worthless...

As for the political education thing: I don't think they would be overt (or perhaps even conscious) but they do have various team building exercises, no?

I guess fake currency most people are talking about in the Silicon Valley could be the Bitcoin et al.

Yeah i guess. Just too used to seeing people riff on the dollar being fake and so on...

It’s a dig at startup equity.

I might add "- the government tries very hard to depict other places as deprived, backward wastelands so nobody wants to leave"

and thus nobody wants to work in somewhere more affordable than SF, e.g. Charlotte, where a roving pack of bloodthirsty rednecks will surely swarm out of the woods and tear them to pieces.

- Anyone who sounds like a wrecker must be reeducated. (q.e.d. https://twitter.com/DanielDoWrite/status/1015263695558135808)

The fuck???

"He writes code for @google and puns for fun." The layers of comparison are increasing!

Despite all the other meta comments in this thread it is an interesting commentary on public discourse in the U.S. that the messages like the OP are simultaneously interpreted as a satirical joke by some and as a straight literal comparison by others.

A U.S. hating defeatist will point to this list as proof that the U.S. is just as bad as Russia while giving no room for evidence to the contrary.

A loyalist can laugh all this off as hilarious while ignoring the reality of Trump's autocratic leanings.

In polls most voters are crying for moderate representatives and they just want people to reach across the aisle and get things done. But then come election day the polarizing extremist candidates end up getting the votes. As a population, the U.S. is in this self-torturous cycle where they cry for movement and change but in action they only perpetuate the gridlock and partisanship.

This climate really gives me respect for Sam Harris's approach: he really tries to interview others that have just enough of a different opinion so as to give rise to alternative viewpoints and interesting conversation while simultaneously striving to maintain an open, honest, and dispassionate discourse on emotional topics.

- all important decisions are made in Kremlin.

> - the United States as a whole is depicted as evil by default

That's my pick of the bunch


> the United States as a whole is depicted as evil by default

So true. The USA is viewed worse than China, Russia or Saudi Arabia.

I also see a lot of it on HN.

I think the argument is that the USA is a democracy (at least more so than the others), and therefore it's fair to criticise the USA as a whole (i.e. the citizens of the USA) for the failures of the US Government.

A friend of mine made the same comment recently in regards to condemning human rights abuses in Israel. You can condemn until your face is blue the human rights violations in Iran, but there's not a lot the Iranian population can do about it. Israel is a democracy, and therefore (at least in theory) the government represents the people.

Another point to note is that HN is US-centric. Most people here will have first-hand experience of the USA, but not necessarily of China, Russia, or Saudi Arabia.

I find it hard to argue that the USA is more of a democracy than Iran, though admittedly, that's because Iran has a very "American" system where anyone can run in elections, provided the ruling elite approves them as within-bounds for the system as a whole. Both could perhaps be characterized as "managed democracies" with highly authoritarian law-enforcement systems more than either is a full-blown dictatorship.

Israel has a different problem: its political spectrum is defined as doves on the Left, hawks on the Right, and real dovishness became a causalty of the Second Intifada. Coupled to extensive corruption, the Israeli system has become considerably less democratic than it used to be, but it still has the problem that nobody is willing to run against the current government on a winning platform more than that legions of candidates or parties aren't allowed to stand for election.

You make some weird, intellectual oh-so-clever-with-italics comment, and no one can follow it.

Israel is a democracy. On level with USA, England, etc. It also has many of the same problems.

Multi parties are encouraged. Courts are independent and respect and very powerful. Freedom of speech is respected. Property rights are strong. Business is free. Work force is protected.

If you want a change - please fight for it. But don't start by making horrible comments about your country.

It is a long, long, long way from Indian corruption, east European dictatorship, or Arab social breakdown.

Oh shut up, Mr. Misrad haChutz. If you actually read what I said, you'd notice that I actually labeled Israel the sanest and most democratic of the bunch I'm criticizing: it has a multi-party framework, albeit one in which major media are explicitly allied to the ruling party and the PM smears journalists. But, as I said, Israel's chief problem is that the center and the left don't seem to know how to stop condescending to Mizrahim and the Periferiyah and actually stand for election on a platform that addresses the facts of Israeli life today.

> A friend of mine made the same comment recently in regards to condemning human rights abuses in Israel. You can condemn until your face is blue the human rights violations in Iran, but there's not a lot the Iranian population can do about it. Israel is a democracy, and therefore (at least in theory) the government represents the people.

The problem with that line of thinking is that it twists perceptions, which can and does lead people to believe falsehoods. Harm can come when those falsehoods are acted upon (for voting, policy, activism, etc.).

To use a little hyperbole: if you focus on condemning democracies for human rights abuses and ignore (to various degrees) the worse abuses of non-democracies, you may end up just delegitimizing democracy in the eyes of many, because you've created the impression that democracies are the bad guys and are the main human rights violators.

> Israel is a democracy, and therefore (at least in theory) the government represents the people.

Netanyahu says the West Bank is Israel, and within Israel de facto and de jure it is. Yet Palestinians in the West Bank can not vote, and there is talk in the Knesset of disenfranchising Palestinians outside of the West Bank. Yet a Jew from Brooklyn can move to the West Bank, seize a Palestinian's land, and vote in elections.

Yet this is termed a democracy in comparison to Iran.

Not necessarily for the Palestinians, but the Israelis definitely have a say in what their government allows. If they wanted to, they could stop that practice, and restore the Palestinians. As such, all Israelis are partially to blame for what's happened.

> Netanyahu says the West Bank is Israel, and within Israel de facto and de jure it is

It's funny, because I never saw huge red signs warning me "if you're israeli, don't come here, you're gonna get killed" around Petakh Tikva.

> Yet Palestinians in the West Bank can not vote

They can vote in PA elections - if they finally to end their political clusterfuck and do something, of course.

> They can vote in PA elections

I can vote in my local Elks Club elections as well.

People in the West Bank live in Israel but can not vote in Israeli elections.

Actually - Palestinians living in Israel in the West Bank can't vote. A haredi Jew from Brooklyn who arrived in the West Bank yesterday and stole land from a Palestinian family who has been there for centuries, he has a right to vote in the elections of the country he is living in.

Iranians can revolt, most huge social changes requires revolt. Government is a result of the people, if the majority were not ok with it I think it would not last long.

To me this implies on some level that the people of the country like their government.

Except not that long ago the Iranians DID revolt, following a sham election where the reformists/progressives should have won. They got into the streets. And then they got shot.

You seem to be living in a phantasy world where subjects of a dictature are just "asking for it", and a 50%-or-more majority should magically change everything. That's not how power works. Money and bullets, you see, matter more than ballots.

The US did the same, revolted against a well armed adversary.

The people are the power, paper money is no match.

The revolting side was well armed as well. It's not the case in Saudi Arabia.

Can you cite something for this? Everything I read is to the contrary, that they are well armed.

I find it surprising, but indeed, firearms per capita amount is pretty high for Saudi Arabia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Estimated_number_of_guns_per_c... .

How well is that working out for Syria and Libya at the moment?

The whole concept of a dictatorship is that the ruling party has more power and can keep the people subjugated. The civilian populace don't have tanks and helicopters.

Guerrilla warfare is an extremely effective form of revolt. A bunch of people taking on a tank head on, a death sentence. But that's where sabotage should come into play.

> So true. The USA is viewed worse than China, Russia or Saudi Arabia.

I think this is a reaction to the perceived hypocrisy of the US. Like any country, the US has a complex history as well as a variety of cultural and political issues that need addressing. However the US also consistently and loudly bills itself as "The Greatest Country on Earth". I think this contradiction fuels a lot of hyperbole about how bad the US is when it fails to live up to its own marketing.

All of this is exacerbated because US cultural exports (Movies and Television) have such huge global reach. When you're a kid - whether in the US or not - and you see the pro-American messaging in many popular films you definitely believe it. The disillusionment can hit hard.

But the greater irony is that Silicon Valley is just as hypocritical in its self-promotion.

But "The Greatest Country on Earth" does not mean "no flaws" or even "no hypocrisy". It may even mean "the flaws are more openly acknowledged" - that can be part of greatness, in fact.

Now, if you want to argue that somewhere else is in fact better, that could be valid, but it's a different argument.

The whole idea that one country is the best is already ridiculous. There are plenty of countries that are well run and all have positives and negatives. I don't think to makes sense to pick a "best" country between the US, Canada and most European countries. They all can be good places to live.

Living in the US I definitely don't like that a lot of people here think that the US is the greatest nation on Earth. It's a mindset that blocks the country from learning from others and I think is doing a lot of damage (see health care and conditions for the poor). Interestingly people who have that mindset often never have been in another country for an extended time. The only thing they know is the US.

I'll go ahead and say the United States is the greatest country the world has ever seen. It's not perfect, but once you live in other countries for a bit, even if you enjoy the experience, you appreciate the U.S. a lot more.

This claim sticks in the throat of a lot of Europeans, because of the visible level of inequality in the US. We see many of your citizens suffering in ways that simply wouldn't happen in our countries; we struggle to find a charitable way of reconciling that with the claim that America is the best country.

If you're the richest and most powerful nation in history, why do you have the highest incarceration rate in the world? Why do so many sick and injured Americans end up bankrupt or die prematurely? Why do parts of Michigan look post-apocalyptic? Why are many of your schools still de-facto segregated? Why is there a Wikipedia article titled "List of tent cities in the United States"?

We could understand a claim like "America is really weird - we're ridiculously wealthy, but our government is profoundly dysfunctional in ways that are hard to fix, which causes a great deal of avoidable suffering". That makes sense to us. A claim like "America is the greatest country the world has ever seen" sounds obscenely callous without some very strong caveats attached.

If there was a European nation of comparable size and diversity (class, race, history, etc) as America then these Europeans would have a point. I just roll my eyes when I read points like infant mortality, gun violence, literacy, etc are better in some European countries than the US (and thus, by proxy, said European country is better than the US) because we're comparing apples and oranges.

I'll echo GP's statement. America isn't perfect, but from the many countries I've visited (and with the many challenges that the US has to face), it's "The Greatest Country In the World".

Aggregate statistics for the EU is pretty much the same as for any single member state. You don't get any more complicated history than that, also half bigger than US. I don't see how you're so exceptional an orange. But then I don't roll my eyes as a proxy for thinking.

Let's take infant mortality. The EU average (4 per 1000) is lower than the US average (5.8 per 1000). The EU has a population of 508 million, versus 325 million Americans.

Four of the 28 EU member states have a higher rate of infant mortality than the US average - Croatia (9.3), Romania (9.4), Bulgaria (8.4) and Cyprus (7.9). The first three are ex-communist countries and have only been democracies since the early 1990s.

25% of the Croatian economy was destroyed in the Croatian War of Independence of 1991 to 1995; it still has a number of active minefields. Romania was utterly brutalised by the Ceaușescu regime until 1989; you may dimly remember the horror of Ceaușescu's orphanages. If you don't, I suggest you steel yourself and have a stiff drink before Googling it. Bulgaria has a GDP per capita of just over $8,000 - a quarter of the GDP per capita of the poorest US state.

Cyprus suffered a coup d'etat by Greece and an invasion by Turkey in 1974, creating a lasting political division. There was a wall separating the Greek and Turkish sides of the island until 2007 and UN peacekeepers still maintain a demilitarized buffer zone.

That's what we're dealing with in the EU. Those are our excuses. What are yours?


Even when Europeans critique the United States, they're critiquing the US from the US liberal perspective.

> Why do so many sick and injured Americans end up bankrupt or die prematurely?

Because we don't have a national healthcare system. Why? Because people vote against it. The party in charge of the entire country would cut the government by half if it had the power to do so, and they keep getting elected because a large portion of the country agrees with them. Even within the Democratic party, large portions don't want a national healthcare system (though polling on this has changed in recent years). Why? Because if you have a job you probably have a healthcare plan, and a good portion of the country doesn't want their taxes raised to pay for healthcare ran by the government. Even liberals in the US have trouble understanding this.

> Why do parts of Michigan look post-apocalyptic?

Michigan is a gorgeous state (you'd know this if you were at all familiar with it) with one of the best universities in the world, and a GDP higher than most EU countries. If Michigan is post-apocalyptic, then most EU countries are favelas in Rio after a nuclear holocaust.

> Why are many of your schools still de-facto segregated? Why is there a Wikipedia article titled "List of tent cities in the United States"?

We have income inequality. We don't have a consensus on what to do about it.

> We could understand a claim like "America is really weird - we're ridiculously wealthy, but our government is profoundly dysfunctional in ways that are hard to fix, which causes a great deal of avoidable suffering". That makes sense to us. A claim like "America is the greatest country the world has ever seen" sounds obscenely callous without some very strong caveats attached.

Sure, but many Americans don't understand why you guys are so reliant and on your government and refuse to take ownership of your own lives. Many would argue that your constant need for government to provide for you is why the EU, for being almost twice the size of the US, lacks the cultural and political influence, and innovation that the US has.

The US, for better or worse, is a "get mine and don't worry about anyone else" country. Even the "left" in the US gets upset when something of "theirs" is threatened to be taken for the better good - just look at the housing situation in liberal San Francisco.

> Because we don't have a national healthcare system. Why? Because people vote against it.

Most Americans have supported some form of public healthcare for most (but not all) years for about two decades (scroll to end of article for stat): http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/06/23/public-suppo...

So in fact you want the same thing as Europeans, you just don't live up to your own standards.

As for your comment on "favelas after a nuke" in Europe, I'll just remind you you're not on Reddit, you're supposed to come up with real arguments.

> Even when Europeans critique the United States, they're critiquing the US from the US liberal perspective.

You probably know this, but "US liberal perspective" is center-right to the rest of the world (not only Europe). I'd argue they're critiquing from the political center.

My system one thinking has the impression the USA is better than Russia or Saudi Arabia but kinda swings and roundabouts with China.

My system two thinking, given what people say about things rather than personal experience, puts a lot of caveats on top of the China comparison.

However, basing my judgement purely on direct personal experience: regarding “greatest the world has ever seen”… I’d rather have been born a random citizen of France, Netherlands, (west) Germany, Switzerland, or the UK, than a random citizen of the USA — and again, that’s just out of the places I’ve actually visited or lived in.

Going back to second hand impressions: Canada, Ireland, and most of Scandinavia seems better than the impression I have of the USA from three visits of one month each.

Meh. I've spent enough time in the Netherlands and Israel to know that the quality of life in both countries is, in many ways, way better than here. Socialized medicine and cheap education go a really long way toward making people happy (even if they have less disposable income).

Where do you live now? Why?

I currently live split between NY and Miami but am starting to look at jobs outside the US.

>> [T]he greatest country the world has ever seen

Something tells me you have not seen (let alone lived in) that many countries.

If you had, you'd know different societies have different ups and downs. Some countries have more taxes, they also have more perks (e.g. schools and healthcare are not a lottery); some have less money, but also less problems (lower crime rate, low pollution). "Greatest" is meaningless.

It might be the greatest if you have a decent amount of money. My experiences with poorer rural communities really changed my perspective on the US (and I assume inner cities communities would also have the same effect).

>I'll go ahead and say the United States is the greatest country the world has ever seen.

How the bloody heck can you quantify this, and provided you can, why not just throw out the blindly nationalistic rhetoric and use the measurements?

People who say stuff like this are usually people who have never set foot outside the US.

I lived in Germany for ten years. I like the US even less now.

What makes you believe that what you say is true?

>I'll go ahead and say the United States is the greatest country the world has ever seen. It's not perfect, but once you live in other countries for a bit, even if you enjoy the experience, you appreciate the U.S. a lot more.

Depends on whether you have lived in an advanced Western European country.

It also depends of your tolerance of rednecks, prudes, puritans, and ignorant people (which exist everywhere in the world, but have particularly large concentrations there).

Or on your tolerance of a messed up party system, a messed up legal system, a messed up prison system (and the biggest incarceration rates in the world), cops that have an open license to shoot people, and the worse and more widespread racism this side of South Africa. Or on your tolerance on very bad statistics on violence (especially gun violence).

Or on your tolerance for businesses having near feudal reign on their workers.

That said, if you have the money, and the connections, the US is a pretty good deal to spend them. Not to mention very nice landscapes, and generally good hearted and optimistic people (besides the aforementioned negatives).

Plus, for some industries (basically IT and movies), they're tops.

> It also depends of your tolerance of rednecks, prudes, puritans, and ignorant people (which exist everywhere in the world, but have particularly large concentrations there).

FYI, using "redneck" as a pejorative, as in this context, can be interpreted as pretty offensive, and maybe this is unintentional. I for one consider it offensive.

The term derives from someone who works in the sun. It's unambiguously elitist. I don't think you need to hedge here, it's quite clear.

I also enjoy the pejorative aimed at a sectarian group immediately followed by decrying "ignorant people".

>According to Chapman and Kipfer in their "Dictionary of American Slang", By 1975 the term had expanded in meaning beyond the poor Southerner to refer to "a bigoted and conventional person, a loutish ultra-conservative."[20]

If the OP was using it in this way, I don't see the issue. If he/she was using it to just describe laboring, rural whites, I agree; it's offensive and inappropriate. Given the context of the statement, I assumed the former.


On the topic, Randy Newman's song "Rednecks" is a scathing critique of Northerners and their "hidden" racism and hypocrisy on the subject.

>Yes he's free to be put in a cage In Harlem in New York City And he's free to be put in a cage On the South Side of Chicago And the West Side And he's free to be put in a cage In Hough in Cleveland And he's free to be put in a cage In East St. Louis And he's free to be put in a cage In Fillmore in San Francisco And he's free to be put in a cage In Roxbury in Boston They're gatherin' 'em up from miles around . . . (apologies for the formatting)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hTLHxpUQ_B8 (NWS)

When Jeff Foxworthy does his (incredibly unfunny) "You might be a redneck, if..." bits, the crowd is not laughing and nodding and saying "That's so true, I too am a bigoted and loutish ultra-conservative!"

To many people, redneck simply describes a particular rural lifestyle. If the OP wanted to call out bigotry, they should have called out bigots.

(This, admittedly, might have been a difficult sell given that it was immediately followed up an attack on a religious group)

As an Asian, I have been to 10+ cities each in the US and Western Europe, and have spent considerable amount of time on both continents. While being a data point of one, here are my observations:

- Residents of European cities were less welcoming to foreigners like me. (Maybe due to language issues? I speak accented German, a bit of Spanish and English, which can explain why Parisians were rude).

- Immigration to USA, along with path to its citizenship, was a hard but straightforward process (6-7 years once you get H1B). In Europe, I found that UK and Switzerland has a simpler process, but other countries (eg. France) make it very hard to be their citizen.

- Stereotypes abound on both sides of Atlantic (eg. "socialist countries stuck with horrible economies", "rednecks, puritans, prudes, ignorant" as your comment says), which seem highly exaggerated.

- both US and Western Europe offered a far better quality of life compared to my home country. And such debates (USA vs Western Europe) seem farcical from that perspective, or "first world problems" as they say.

>Depends on whether you have lived in an advanced Western European country.

All of which enjoy the shadow of nuclear security provided by the United States.

That was true briefly for a few years. The EU is itself a fairly well-armed nuclear power.

psst They're also quietly better at cybersecurity than the US government.

This isn't true at all. The EU is just now starting to think about self defense because of Trump. Trump's insurgence is putting into question the US-led world order and NATO alliances. Without the US, NATO is functionally useless.

The EU is under the security blanket of the US, whether it likes to believe it or not. Hell, most of those countries pay less than 2 percent of their budgets towards their own defense, and they get pissy when the past three US Presidents call them out on it.

It is true that the EU has worked with NATO. However, it's not clear that America needs all the military force it has since a lot of it is quite cleary force projecting on economic adversaries.

Suggesting the EU "needed" this is a bit misleading. And I say this as an American exasperated at our refusal to reduce force projection on foreign nations.

The EU definitely "needed" it. Aside from France and the UK, EU countries are pathetic militarily.

NATO was originally formed to be a defense alliance of democratic countries against communism and Russia. Russia, while a threat to the United States, poses more of a threat to Europe (for geographic reasons) than to the United States.

The US of late has caused more shit than anything. The Syrian war is a direct consequence of going into Iraq for no reason.

Let’s go back a bit. The US intervened in Afghanistan against the Soviets decades ago, training what would become Al Qaeda, which would later attack the US. In response the US invaded Afghanistan and Iraq (again) destabilizing the region and leading to the birth of ISIS, the “Arab Spring” and the Syrian civil war.

It’s just waves of blowback from bad decisions without any concept that the groundwork for more blowback is being laid.

You do know that France is a nuclear power, right?

You sound like someone who experiences America through news stories.

>Depends on whether you have lived in an advanced Western European country. Some people prefer not to sign over 3/4 of their pay to the government.

Yet, those same people are OK with handing 5/4s of their pay to billionaires.

The debt levels Americans sustain purely to avoid the “taxman” is astounding!

The "greatest country the world has ever seen" would not let people die simply because they could not afford medical care.

Of late i have noticed is u praise us or condemn other countries you get down voted.

That's been common for a long time.

I still don't get why someone has to say A is better than everything else. The second someone says A is better, there's an army of people frothing at the mouth who will (usually justifiably) say the opposite. There doesn't seem like any happy mediums anymore. One person is wrong, one person is right, but I'm pretty sure they're usually both right and both wrong.

tl;dr People are silly.

I think the reason a lot of US citizens focus on what the US has done wrong is not so sinister. It's because citizens of this country have the power to affect this country's public policy.

It's weird how a lot of people simultaneously hold a view of the US as an uncorruptible beacon of freedom but can also name heinous things the US is doing or has done that they hate. Not paying sufficient deference to the former ideal (often, dispensing with it as perfunctory performance in the vein of a daily pledge of allegiance to a flag) often makes people think that the US is regarded as especially evil.

A good test is your view on the 2nd Iraq War.

For background, as facts matter: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iraq_War

"After 9/11, the Bush Administration national security team actively debated an invasion of Iraq. On the day of the attacks, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld asked his aides for: "best info fast. Judge whether good enough hit Saddam Hussein at same time. Not only Osama bin Laden."[72] President Bush spoke with Rumsfeld on 21 November and instructed him to conduct a confidential review of OPLAN 1003, the war plan for invading Iraq.[73] Rumsfeld met with General Tommy Franks, the commander of U.S. Central Command, on 27 November to go over the plans. A record of the meeting includes the question "How start?", listing multiple possible justifications for a U.S.–Iraq War.[71][74] The rationale for invading Iraq as a response to 9/11 has been widely questioned, as there was no cooperation between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda.[75]"

Is this good, neutral, evil?

I'm not really sure how the 2nd Iraq War is a testament to American evil. It sounds to me like you're saying the invasion was unjustified?

But, is there really anyone who thought Saddam was a good guy? He was very obviously a brutal dictator. So, at the very least there's one fewer of those around.

Sure, WMD turned out to be a total fabrication and the Iraq War ended up being a misguided attempt at democracy building.

But saying that it shows America's inherent evil nature is very odd from my point of view. Even if the only outcome (as it seems to be) is getting rid of a dictator, that seems like a good thing. Though, you could argue the cost doesn't seem to have been worth it looking back now.

I guess I'm failing to imagine how it could possibly be in the evil bucket and not just neutral or good.

> Even if the only outcome (as it seems to be) is getting rid of a dictator,

Innocent people died, friend.

It's not as straight forward as this. Many innocent people died (and would have continued to die) at the hands of Saddam Hussein's regime. So, was removing a ruthless dictator a good thing to do? On the surface, probably yes, but Saddam's removal left a huge power vacuum in the region, allowing even more extreme and violent factions to set up shop. So, in the end, would it have been better to leave a known genocide practitioner in place to maintain regional stability?

This is a very good answer.

It puts us in the situation of weighing the suffering and death of the war against the continued Saddam rule. That's an interesting debate where it is possible that the invasion was less good.

Do you understand how bonkers it sounds to play calculus with millions of lives in the service of geopolitics?

Did you feel the invasion of Germany in 1944 was in the services of geopolitics?

It's not geopolitics to try and determine if fewer people would die with or without Saddam in power. Saddam's chemical attacks against civilians are well documented and not widely disputed. His internal security apparatus was open with their brutality in order to induce fear on the population.

I think that the 2nd Iraq War was a mistake, particularly how the government misled the people, but I find it absolutely baffling when people will not even honestly address the situation in good faith. You cannot simply argue that "many people civilians died as a result of the Iraq War therefore it's bad" without addressing the situation beforehand. Lots of people died during the Allied invasion of Germany, but I think most people would agree that it was the correct thing to do.

> I think that the 2nd Iraq War was a mistake, particularly how the government mislead the people, but I find it absolutely baffling when people will not even honestly address the situation in good faith.

The justification for the war was obviously fabricated, so I don't know what sort of good faith you are asking for. Perhaps to debate some post hoc justification for a thoughtless decision that was paid for with the lives of people who didn't have a choice in the matter? People who touch such questions are only going to injure their humanity.

By the way, when you think about the question of WW2 in terms of "when to intervene" instead of "whether to intervene at all", it becomes as murky and vicious a question as can be, and it ought to make anyone queasy to examine in close detail the decisions made throughout the period. That said, the neoconservative methodology of deciding who to bomb has no justification and people who want to debate that have more urgent issues to address.

I suspect those inside the Warsaw Ghetto may have had different views on intervention than you do.

I absolutely agree that talking about intervention is murky, which was precisely my point.

Hundreds of thousands of people. Some estimates put the number at a million.

> Even if the only outcome (as it seems to be) is getting rid of a dictator, that seems like a good thing.

It also empowered radicals and created perfect conditions for them to thrive. By radicals I mean terrorists, proponents of Islamic state and such. Guns and ammunition ended in their hands that would not ended there.

Regardless of results, calling it merely misguided honest mistake in search of democracy building is naive or a lie. The war was not motivated by altruism and so called mistakes were simply lies. There us such thing as too much of benefit of doubt.

That does not mean other countries leaders are less cynical or more altrustic through, merely they have less power.

_Active_ WMD program turned to be a total fabrication. WMDs were a-plenty in Iraq: "American troops secretly reported finding roughly 5,000 chemical warheads, shells or aviation bombs" from https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/10/14/world/middlee...

> But, is there really anyone who thought Saddam was a good guy?

Yes. The US, just 20 years prior during the Iran-Iraq war [1]. That's kind of the point. Since WWII the US engages in or supports wars (which kill lots of people) out of naked self-interest while trying to paint themselves as morally good.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iran%E2%80%93Iraq_War#Iraq_2

I think it’s very idealistic to think that the war was for helping the oppressed people of Iraq. Iraq War costed $2.4 trillion[1], figure out who pocketed it and then you will have a picture closer to reality. That picture tells me that the intentions were more corrupt than pure.

[1] https://wikipedia.org/wiki/Financial_cost_of_the_Iraq_War

I did not state my personal opinion, just asked a question.

I believe public forums are great to post facts and questions, but horrible to debate opinions.

I just was shocked to hear that anyone considered it was even possibly an evil thing and not just misguided.

So, I am actually happy to see another poster's short comment about civilian casualties, destruction, and other impacts of war.

That was kinda a perfect answer I think. You could see it as evil from a utilitarian standpoint because the suffering under Saddam was less than the suffering it took to displace him.

I have no idea how to weigh those two, but that's an area where I could see someone coming down on the side of letting the dictatorship continue is "less bad". Though I don't really agree with that position.

I don't think evil is the right term. Arrogant is a better one. I think they really believed that the people in Iraq were waiting for the the US to liberate them and would become loyal allies immediately.

I hear a lot of that, but when comparing the US to the rest of the West. To say that they are considered worse than those 3 countries might be pushing it..

It's a "with great power comes great responsibility" kind of thing, and it's not necessarily their fault. The US does a lot of things in general, so a lot of them are inevitably going to be bad.

> mandatory workplace political education

Also popular in these parts.

This is #1 why I prefer remote. #2 is I don't want the flu from compulsives who insist on hanging around the low-budget "open concept" office while sick af.

edit: Every one of these is hysterical. Can we write a pilot?

There are multiple ways to criticize something.

I think a lot of people view it worse than the propaganda image it presents (we export democracy, we put human right first etc). Russia, China and SA don't go out of their way to publicize their human right record or freedom or exporting any such values to other parts of the world. At least not in any believable way.

Another way to criticize something is to compare a place based on its history. Things are better or worse than before during the era of <X>. We were so much better then and now things are worse. Or vice versa.

And then there is comparative criticism, that is criticize like you mentioned, US vs Russia, China or SA. I have lived in Soviet Union and US, never lived in SA or China. But I would at least say US is much better place for me than the old Soviet Union was. But even then it is not black and white. For example at least hope of getting some subsidized housing, free medical care, university degrees etc was there.

Well, USSR fucked up half of Europe, but China, Russia, and Saudi Arabia didn't do much to anybody (except perhaps their immediate neighbours) in the 20th and 21st century.

The same can't be said for the US.

They might be whatever they are internally, but that's a problem for their citizens.

While the spread of Wahabism has been most acute in Saudi Arabia's neighbors, the growth in terrorism has definitely affected the whole world.

Granted though, not on the same scale that US wars do.

By Americans or non-Americans? I am an American, in SF about half time, and I don’t hear this. But, my friends are mostly American.

The people that tend to think America is awful in my experience overwhelmingly tend to be American. Most non-Americans seem to have good things to say.

It's a leftist/European critique of America. If you don't have free healthcare and free college, your nation is filled with neanderthals.

China, Russia and Saudi Arabia are three countries that have never invaded the United States, all of which were invaded by the United States.


You can just go to Wikipedia and look

Russia: American Expeditionary Force, North Russia - American Expeditionary Force, Siberia

China: Second Opium War - Eight-Nation Alliance ...I could point to dozens more for China, the latest article would probably be... Hainan Island Incident

Saudi Arabia: United States withdrawal from Saudi Arabia

All of the above invaded many other countries themselves, and their citizens do not enjoy nearly the same quality of life and liberty as those living in United States.

First: Many people read a comment. One writes it. It's kind of nice to take the time to put the links in, rather than making all your readers go to Wikipedia and search for themselves.

Second: The US withdrew from Saudi Arabia. That doesn't mean they got there by invading. They didn't.

> The US withdrew from Saudi Arabia. That doesn't mean they got there by invading. They didn't.

The US says Russia invaded Afghanistan. How did the US occupation of Saudi Arabia differ from what the US always termed as an invasion of Afghanistan?

I mean just the usage of the term "Saudi" Arabia, as if one puppet family had the divine right to rule a peninsula is itself some US/Aramco propaganda.

Also the US withdrew from Arabia because Saudi patriots fought the US military occupation - on Saudi soil and on US soil.

>bought a tesla

>thinks bitcoin is worthless

So this guy is the person that serves the programmers... right? People arent trusting him with user data at facebook... right?

Most of these are on one company. Overall the silicon valley is way better. And remember it's not a country.

Edit: I accept that I didn't get the joke.

Other than the joke about the car clearly being Tesla, they seem pretty widespread to me.

You make good points, but it seems to be meant as a joke rather than a serious attempt to suggest that SV is meaningfully similar to the USSR.

For what it's worth, I agree with you and still found the thread to be very funny.

The reason it's funny is because there's an element of truth to it. Just like with most of the politically-based comedian routines over the years.

If you go down into the replies, you’ll find the author saying “I am unprepared for people who don't understand jokes.”

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