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Martin Shkreli Is Still Talking

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On a recent evening, Martin Shkreli was drinking beer at Tuttles, a bar in the Murray Hill neighborhood of Manhattan that has sticky wooden tables and sports playing on TV. He was taking a break from two activities that now consume much of his time: writing computer code for a new company he heads and meeting with his lawyers in anticipation of his upcoming criminal fraud trial.

See the rest of the story at newyorker.com

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A Big Fine, and New Questions, on Deutsche Bank’s “Mirror Trades”
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sfrazer
15 days ago
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Turing, Godel. Funny how he doesn't name companies after himself.
Chicago
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cjmcnamara
15 days ago
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shared just for the headline

How Donald Trump Hypnotized Scott Adams

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In August 2015 viewers of the first Republican primary debate could be forgiven for thinking that Donald Trump was finished. “You’ve called women you don’t like…
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sfrazer
23 days ago
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Both of these are things he says:

He sucked at his job (formula errors in basic spreadsheets)

He was passed over for promotion because of "diversity initiatives"

I think that sums up Adams pretty well.
Chicago
acdha
23 days ago
That gave me pause earlier today: how many other guys like him are in the tech industry, slowly turning into right-wing cranks because the alternative is admitting that they're not the special snowflake of their self-image?
superiphi
21 days ago
not just guys though, this one's universal. Though blaming diversity is a prerogative of white men...
acdha
21 days ago
That's the key distinction for me: people get passed over for promotions all the time, but only white men of a certain bent have the default assumption that it was unfair. Most of us figure out at some point that we don't have much in common with the white men at the top either but some are never willing to see what's clearly in front of them.
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acdha
23 days ago
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Scott Adams, totally not an MRA despite signed copies of MRA books and the girlfriend half his age: “I don’t talk about where we met. People make judgments. We met the normal way people meet.”
Washington, DC

Socialism Is Bad

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I get a worrying sense that socialism is becoming cool again. You can see it all over social media where people brag about joining the Democratic Socialists of America, and in the popularity of the socialist magazine Jacobin. If Trump fails terribly, I worry that left populism will be what replaces it and the end result will be a more socialist U.S. That’s bad because socialism is bad. Given the growing popularity of socialism, I think it’s worth talking about why socialism is bad specifically.

Matt Bruenig has written a useful piece on socialism that I think is a jumping off point. As usual with Matt, it’s written with clarity and specificity that is appreciated. Unlike a lot o vague paeans to how socialism is good and we should have it, Matt offers specific plans for how we could get to government ownership of business.

The plan calls for the gradual socialization of existing companies, and Matt tells me on twitter that this would apply only to large firms. It may be appealing to think of a massive, centralized company like Apple and assume that it wouldn’t matter whether the government slowly became the sole shareholders. After all (ignoring the importance of options in executive compensation for the moment) the shareholders aren’t doing the innovating, the employees are. What does it matter who the dividend checks go to?

One issue is that the government would not just own but control companies, and this plan doesn’t tell us what they would do with that control. And yes, Matt does see this control as a benefit and not a cost to be avoided. Would Apple be free to innovate with the government controlling it? Or would they be forced to onshore all their production? It would be a lot easier for Trump to push Ivanka’s clothing line if the government owned and controlled Nodstrom, Sears, and K-Mart. It is hard to both desire control presumably as a means to some unspecified end and also to assume this control won’t have negative consequences for productivity.

Second, even if we could easily socialize every large company in the U.S. without negatively affecting them, this does not tell us about the future large companies who don’t exist yet. If socialism was in place in 1995 would we have Google today? If we were socialist in 1975 would we have Apple today? Why would small business founders grow their businesses knowing that this would cause them to be socialized? This is especially true given that you can’t socialize the globe at once and companies on the cusp of growing large enough to be socialized would be free to locate in, say, New Zealand.

Fast growing, small companies are a very important source of new job creation and innovation. More productive firms are more likely to grow, and less productive ones more likely to exist. Telling firms to stay small or be socialized is going to give small, successful companies incentive to avoid the important growth dynamics that are essential to a productive economy. To take one recent example for how costly inefficiencies like this can be, Garicano, Lelarge, and Van Reenan examine laws in France that affect only firms with 50 or more workers. They find that this creates more small firms than would otherwise be the case, and the distortions lower GDP by 3.5% by increasing unemployment and keeping productive firms below their optimal size.

Indeed, a broad literature shows that the inability of small successful companies to grow is an important factor that holds back economic development. Hsieh and Klenow show that in the U.S., as manufacturing firms age they get bigger. The effect can be seen in the graph below, from Charles Jones “The Facts of Economic Growth”.  Hsieh and Klenow estimate that if U.S. firms expanded as slowly as they do in India and Mexico, total factor productivity in the U.S. would be 25% lower.

klenow

Because he is Matt Bruenig, I know exactly how he will reply to this: if reducing firm size along some margin is bad, then making firms be bigger must be good so let’s just mandate all firms be large somehow. Of course this ignores the fact that it is not arbitrary size that is good, but a system that incentivizes the most productive firms to grow and the least productive to shrink or exist. It is the productivity increasing selection mechanism of capitalism that matters, and not just the mere outcome of firm size that should be mandated by politicians like some kind of dial to turn up or down.

Socialism is bad and it is bad that socialism is becoming cool again. Nevertheless I enjoy reading Matt Bruenig and other new socialists who clearly lay out their ideas for how it all would work. I think entrepreneurship, productivity, dynamism, and reallocation are first order factors for economic growth and socialists should address these issues. There are many other reasons why socialism is bad, but I think this is an important place to start.

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sfrazer
73 days ago
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Yeah, I'm seeing a lot of "socialism is bad" without much supporting evidence.

There's a middle-ground between 100% laissez-faire capitalism and complete government ownership of all businesses.
Chicago
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dukeofwulf
71 days ago
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People are rightly unnerved by companies with too much power, because we've seen how it can go wrong. Well, the largest company in the world by revenue is Walmart with $482 billion in revenue last FY. US government revenue in FY2016 was $3270 billion. Include state and local, and that jumps to $7030 billion.

One would think that, given the recent election, progressives would be backing away from philosophies that vests undue power in the government. We've just seen how easily those reins can be taken by a malefactor. We've also seen lots of large companies step up against that malefactor.
salsabob
71 days ago
duke, the vast majority of federal spending is for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid - all that spending goes to individuals who then spend it in the private sector. Then there's Defense spending. Do you think Apple, Amazon or Google should be providing money to people instead? Do you believe they should be running our military? And at the local level, government spending goes almost entirely to schools, social services, roads, police and fire departments. You want Walmart to do that? Weird.
dukeofwulf
71 days ago
salsa, you're putting words in my mouth. I consider myself a moderate. Example: I support Dodd Frank and ACA, and think that neither went far enough. My point was that the US government is by far the largest organization on Earth, and it's fair to be skeptical of any attempt to increase its power further due to the risk of its abuse. - And yes, funds dedicated to SS, Medicare/Medicaid, schools, roads, etc are still under government discretion, and are a source of government power. I don't care if Amazon gets ripped off by their purchasing manager by giving a bid to their cousin, because I don't own Amazon; but if that happens to government, that's the people's money.
salsabob
64 days ago
dukeofwulf, your metric of government power ($'s spent) is just too simplistic particularly in regard to comparisons to the private sector. The public sector is not driven by profit motive or investors' best interest; instead, it is driven by poltical choice of the electorate - that's why most of government dollars go to safety nets and Defense spending at the federal level and schools and roads at the local level. No other entity is going to do that anywhere near the levels of the government because there is not enough PROFIT in it. What you are saying by confusing power with government spending is that you want less safety nets, less Defense, less education. less roads. If what you are concerned about is government power, you need metrics that address regulatory power. Whether you like it or not, Dodd Frank provides enormous government power and comparable at little actual government spending. The ACA is something in the middle, it has considerabe government spending in the form of subsidies to individuals buying health insurance and it provides considerable government regulatory power over the insurance sector. I'm just suggesting that if you become a tad clearer on what is actually power, you may find your government to be a tad less scary. On the other hand, if you delve into the power of information, you may find Amazon to be a tad more scary.
dukeofwulf
64 days ago
Uh... so you agree that the government has a scary amount of power, not only by the virtue of its massive budget but also due to its power to enact and enforce laws and regulations? You seem to be proving my point. Regardless, you continue to take my simple observation and expand it into a political philosophy that I simply don't hold.
kleer001
72 days ago
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Companies need to have lifespans like other living things. Different legal instars. Moultings and matings.
subbes
73 days ago
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this post is wrong :)
SF Bay Area
wreichard
73 days ago
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Having just lived in the UK, I lived to say there's absolutely nothing wrong with socialism.
Earth
acdha
72 days ago
The weirdest thing about these propaganda posts is the way they completely ignore all of the other countries available for comparison. I mean, maybe Denmark has taxes which are too high but just how bad can it be when everyone seems pretty content with it and surprised by, say, Americans pleading online for donations to cover their medical bills?

Facebook passwords are case insensitive

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sfrazer
98 days ago
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This is not nearly as bad as Amazon's old method. The headline is inaccurate as well: case isn't ignored, the entered password is retried with the case of all characters inverted.

There are 2 other transformations as well: invert only the first character, remove the last character.
Chicago
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fxer
98 days ago
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Reminds me of when Amazon truncated passwords to 8 chars and were case-insensitive due to the use of crypt()
http://www.techspot.com/news/42209-amazon-security-flaw-lets-you-log-in-with-wrong-password.html
Bend, Oregon
freeAgent
98 days ago
Fake news? I hope.

The Actual Reason Markets Do Not Work In Healthcare is... Pain!

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Today, David Brooks asks whether or not markets function well in the American health care system and he seems to think that, when it doesn't, it's largely because health care providers know so much more about health and wellbeing than health care consumers:

As you know, the American health care system is not like a normal market. When you make most health care decisions you don’t get much information on comparative cost and quality; the personal bill you get is only vaguely related to the services; the expense is often determined by how many procedures are done, not whether the problem is fixed.

You wouldn’t buy a phone this way.

The real issue is that you don't buy a phone because you are experiencing intense pain and discomfort and believe that the purchase of a phone would make the pain go away.  Buying a phone would be like buying health care if and only if somebody twisted your arm out of your socket and agreed to let go and reset you if and only if you present your credit card to the AT&T store.

Health care transactions are almost all performed under duress. Now, later on, Brooks says, "Patients on a gurney can’t really make normal choices..." but that's about it, and it's not even clear that he's talking about pain and discomfort here, he may mean that the patient has been anesthetized.

Maybe I'm weird, but I don't go to the doctor for every scrape, bruise or headache. I go once a year for a physical because it's the right thing to do and for a follow up if I am directed.  If I show up sick or hurt, I am really sick or hurt.  A limb has been damaged.  The flu is so bad I had a hard time even making it to his office.  Okay, I'll go in for a flu shot, but that's to prevent the pain that I know is coming if I don't.What I pay for such services is the functional equivalent of protection money.

When does the stock market not work?  When people are forced to sell stocks against their will.  A lot of the health care market functions as a market in crisis.  In the stock market, it's sellers forced out.  In the health care market, it's sufferers forced in.

Says Brooks:

Laser eye surgery produces more patient satisfaction than any other surgery. But it’s generally not covered by insurance, so it’s a free market. Twenty years ago it cost about $2,200 per eye. Now I see ads starting at $250 an eye.

Well, okay.  The market functions, over time, for elective procedures.  But let's not expect people to negotiate over serious, sometimes chronic conditions. Every time somebody suggests a market-driven health care solution, they are suggesting that patients negotiate with providers while under considerable duress. YIf you ever buy a phone that way, you're buying it from the mob.

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sfrazer
100 days ago
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"Twenty years ago it cost about $2,200 per eye. Now I see ads starting at $250 an eye" I'm 100% sure this model will work with cardiac arrest.
Chicago
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Fighting With Words | According To Hoyt

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Yesterday one of my sons came to me about an argument (religious) two friends had got into.  He was furious at both of them, because both were “arguing” in the terms and from within their rather deep belief systems, and getting increasingly mad at how “stupid” the other was, when there was no intelligence involved on either side.  Or rather, whatever reasoning there was was coming out in terms that the other side either could not decode or would interpret as fighting words. (My son mostly just wanted to vent so he did that, and then he was fine.)

I have banned a total of about 8 people (if you count ten or so of them as being one very notorious troll) from this blog.  A couple I banned were for religious nonsense, and one was of my religion.  But when you come in quoting the Bible as though it “proves” something about a current political situation, you’re not arguing in terms people can discuss.  You’re shutting down the discussion with something you think is irrefutable, because it goes beyond logic.  This might be very convincing in a group of like believers (not always.  Doesn’t convince me.)  BUT in an open group, where people of all religions and none gather, this is just annoying and the equivalent of shouting insults, or reciting meaningless mantras.  UNDERSTAND this is not saying “oh, the situation reminds me of this” as we’ve all quoted the Bible, Kipling, or even songs or movies in that manner.  I mean giving a quote from the Bible and saying “And this ends the discussion” because if everyone believed in the quote and interpreted it as the quoter it would, only people of course don’t.  So such a tactic just drives other people insane and ends meaningful discussion.

What brings this up is not religion, per se, except in the sense that some political movements seem to have acquired religious overtones.

I have long ago realized that when the left says “check your privilege” they are doing exactly the same as people quoting the Bible in a discussion-ending way.  They are saying something that from within the deep halls of their religious belief is meaningful and discussion-ending.  But to the rest of us, it’s mumbo-jumbo and annoyingashell.

Look, I have a liberal arts degree, and I learned in a country that was at the time (probably still is) nuts for Marx.  I understand what they were taught about institutional racism, privilege and all that.  I just happen to think they’re wrong, because individuals are individuals and should be treated as such, not as broad classes.  I refuse to believe Obama’s daughters have fewer opportunities than my sons because they’re female and a little darker.

So to me when a Marxist screams “check your privilege” what I really hear is “I’m a brain washed idiot.”

This is worse if it comes in the middle of a comment or rant that makes sense otherwise, say something about the culture of recent immigrants can hold their kids back.  I’ll be reading along going “Okay, I see you’re coming from the left, but there’s common groun–” and then we hit the “magic words” and my brain goes into instant “these are my middle fingers.”

Recently we’ve started getting the same from the soi-disant right.  It’s an “European right” that treats races and classes as groups, not as aggregations of individuals with wild variation.  Look, they’re mostly young, and mostly rather stupid.  I’m not saying some of them aren’t individually smart, because some of the ways they’re stupid are ways in which only smart people can be that dumb.  Like believing the melanin content of the skin correlates with IQ, or that culture is hereditary.

Mostly they’re kids who realize that they’ve been lied to all their lives, and think that by turning the lies completely around they’ll find the truth.  The world is never that simple.

The problem though, is that their lingo has acquired the same properties as the left.  It has spread to older people who should know better, and who use it because they can and because they think it’s a thumb in the eye of political correctness.  But what it actually does is argue from “deep cult” and shut down discussion for anyone not already along for the ride.

I was reminded of this, recently, while reading a comment to one of my posts at Instapundit.  I don’t often do it, because lately there’s been a lot of crazy.  But the comments were interesting, and this particular one was very good (and no, I can’t remember about what) and made perfect sense/explained things beyond where my post was.  All except the last line who referred to the Halfrican Queen.

It took me a moment to realize from context it was talking about Valerie Jarret.  But beyond making the comment more opaque and signaling a brain-shutting cultish type of thinking, it did more than that.

It introduced completely irrelevant emotional distractions.  Halfrican, and all the other stupid epithets of that ilk is not an argument.  If it were an argument, you’d have to explain why the fact that Valerie Jarret is half African (is she even?  I thought she was mostly Arab) has anything to do with the fact that she works for the Muslim brotherhood or is a red diaper baby.  I mean, sure, there’s some covalence there, but that’s cultural, and part of her being indoctrinated to believe she was hard-done-by due to her skin color.  But there are many people who fill the same role without the genetic heritage.  Obama’s lily-white mother was a red diaper baby and so are half of the lily white, upper class darlings of science fiction.

The term, besides not sounding nearly as clever as it does inside the cult IS anti-pc, but it is anti-pc in a way that not only brings irrelevant arguments to the discussion but that like “check your privilege” proclaims “I come from so deep within an echo chamber that I consider this a clinching argument.”

I’ve gotten to the point that my middle fingers come up automatically when I hear one of these words.  Cuck, for instance, means “I don’t understand parliamentary procedure or governmental structure in the US and I want to impress it with how angry I am.”  Halfrican means “I have no clue how human intelligence/DNA/culture works, but I want to be superior to someone.”  The rest of the vile lot means a bunch of other things such as “I believe in an international Zionist conspiracy, just like Marxists and Palestinians, because I think those two are beacons of sanity.”  Or “I believe in magic dirt, because if you’re born on the land for x generations you’ll have the right culture/beliefs, even if the schools and society are no longer teaching them.  And I’ll ridicule others for believing in “magic dirt” when people do their best to BECOME part of the nation.”

In fact, all of these terms aren’t cute, aren’t funny.  They’re creepy eructations that mean “I joined a cult.”

They have the added “benefit” of making people who don’t fully agree with you and don’t come from the deep cult shut down on you.  And of making people on the other side FURTHER believe they were justified, are victims and should hold on hammer and tongues to their victimhood instead of actually listening to what they’ve been doing wrong.

In fact, these thought-stopping and substitute for thought words do the very opposite of shattering the PC bubble and making people think.

We have to fight with words, or surely we’ll fight with actions. But fighting with words that stop thought and discussion will only make things worse.

And yes, I know, because I’ve seen this in posts by Stephen Green or other of my friends, some *sshole will come along and say because I don’t like these cutesy words that mean nothing I’m a “closet democrat” or a “communist.”  Being called a communist is one of my new and favorite pastimes, considering I’ve broken more communist heads than anyone not a veteran of the armed forces and that even before I had a political philosophy I knew I was anti-communist.

But before you do that, explain to me how using stupid made up words makes your point that communism is bad, or that the democrats are Marxists.  Make it cogent.  Show your work.

Because all I’m seeing are people coming from deep-cult and thinking that the short cuts around thought that they’ve gotten used to will work on everyone.

And that’s tragically wrong.

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sfrazer
147 days ago
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Once again I see Hoyt leads herself almost to an epiphany and then jumps off at the last moment.

"I understand privilege" she says as she proceeds to give an example that completely ignores the concept of intersectionality

"We shouldn't group people together, focus on the individual" she says as she proceeds to tell us how all liberals are exactly the same.
Chicago
sfrazer
147 days ago
"I have long ago realized that when the left says “check your privilege” they" -- because everyone on the left who has mentioned privilege is trying to shut down conversation?
sfrazer
146 days ago
Saying "this person cannot be reasoned with" when you've completely misunderstood the argument they are making (and have taken much effort to promote your misunderstanding of that argument as the argument itself) and then saying it's their fault for the conversation being shut down seems awfully lazy. And that's pretty classic Hoyt.
sfrazer
146 days ago
I don't think this rebuts my previous point. Saying people who use the term "white privilege" cannot be reasoned with is completely different than saying people who _hear_ it refuse to change their mind. I'm not even going to try to change Hoyt's mind, I know a sisyphean task when I see it. I'm merely pointing out that (again) Hoyt is wallowing in hypocrisy. Sure it's nice to see her realize that the far right can be terrible, but she's created a _very_ false equivalence between "cuck" and "white privilege."
sfrazer
146 days ago
You started off chastising me for arguing something not in her text, but now I'm supposed to make the leap to the words she didn't put in there? :-) And the stuff you've put here about "check your privilege" is your _opinion_ that you state as fact. When someone says that to me I don't assume it's meant to end the argument. It's meant to remind me that there are factors at play I may not have considered. Hoyt's children do, absolutely have privileges the Obama girls do not. The Obama girls also have many privileges Hoyt's children do not. The fact that she thinks the argument ends with the first statement and ignores the second is the source of their frustration with the term. That's not a failing of the term. It's a failing of the person.
sfrazer
146 days ago
"I refuse to believe Obama’s daughters have fewer opportunities than my sons because they’re female and a little darker" I'm not guessing anything.
sfrazer
146 days ago
As for what I'm arguing, perhaps go back to the top of this long thread. Hoyt exhorts us to focus on the individual and then paints everyone on the left with a broad and incorrect brush. That wasn't a side point, it was the point of the whole article.
sfrazer
146 days ago
Why is the privilege you're considering restricted to race? Her sons are male, they enjoy privileges females don't. My statement stands. And again what you say it means is what you are hearing and it's not the same thing I hear when it's said to me. Why is that the problem of the person saying it and not the problem of the person hearing it?
sfrazer
146 days ago
I'll add this: 'I have long ago realized that when the left says “check your privilege”' followed by 'So to me when a Marxist screams “check your privilege”' certainly seems to conflate everyone on the left with Marxism which certainly isn't the case.
sfrazer
146 days ago
Do you not see the hypocrisy you just typed? Isn't Hoyt using "Marxist" to refer to all the left her "saying something from her silo where she should be aware of how it is perceived?" Isn't it counter-productive to refer to me (someone definitely on the Left) as a Marxist? Isn't she intentionally trying to insult me and people like me?
sfrazer
146 days ago
We must have crossed posts on your initial "silo" comment, they appear to be only a minute apart. I cannot educate you on the concept of intersectionality in the comments section of Newsblur, sorry. It's not a cop-out. It's a tool for understanding how the world works. That you think it's a method of self-aggrandizement shows you suffer (or not, perhaps you are quite happy there) the same unwillingness to engage with the concept that Hoyt does. Also, I cannot agree with you that's okay to be hypocritical in your point simply because you don't believe people outside your "silo" will read it. She's talking ABOUT me, and doing so in an insulting way that flies in the face of the very point she tries to make. The fact that someone shared the post to the (not-so-)wide-world of Newsblur's General Shared stories means it's now outside that silo anyway. I guess this has been sort of entertaining, but I really feel like you've bobbed and weeved by my initial point so many times that I don't see much use in continuing.
sfrazer
146 days ago
I said nothing about being offended. I said she was being hypocritical. That's not the first time you have set up things I did not say in order to argue some tangental point to the one that started this thread.
sfrazer
146 days ago
Given the amount of reading comprehension you've displayed, I'm not really surprised you're confused. Have a good evening.
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