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You know, I have been at dailykos for a pretty long time and in that time I have seen a lot of nasty dust ups between people who largely agree about everything. The interpersonal drama on dailykos is, perhaps, the most interesting thing (from a social-psychological and interpersonal) that happens on dailykos. It also happens to be our greatest distraction, and, in my opinion, our biggest weakness.

Do not get me wrong, this diary is not about limiting the diversity of opinion here on the GOS. I am a believer in forming the broadest coalition possible, getting as many ideas as we can and duking it out in the intellectual arena for which one is the best fit solution for a given problem. That is what makes this community great: there is no overarching litmus test. There are people here that would qualify as republicans in earlier eras in American politics. There are people here that are very far to the left. I think that this is a good thing both for the site and for the democratic party as a whole.

I am also a big believer in coexistence, despite vast ideological or practical differences. The community that the users here have built is often vibrant, intelligent, empathetic and caring because of that diversity of opinion. That same diversity of opinion allows us to be responsive, intelligent, and witty in our political operations, making us very dangerous to our ideological rivals on the right. But the very same traits that make this community so great and such an asset in the politcal arena is also set against itself. The very same disagreements slowly rip the very fabric of the userbase here apart, and as ideological rifts turn into chasms, the community begins to drift into very different directions.

The process by which a country, society or community tears apart and reforms as multiple, non-cooperative groupings is called balkanization, and many warned that dailykos could head down a path of balkanization if we were not careful with the way in which we interact with our ideological rivals. Let me be clear: no one pie fight will rip apart the dailykos community. What is feared is that the way in which we disagree with each other and build factions and coalitions, organized or unorganized, in direct opposition to a competing faction or coalition may rip us apart if we are not careful.

My first premise is this: the way in which we disagree with each other could rip us apart in the end if we are not careful. And let me explain what I mean -- I am not saying that disagreements, even heated ones, will rip us apart. Remember, diversity of opinion is a very good thing, especially on a political forum. I completely support the idea of dailykos being an open marketplace of ideas and perspectives, where good ideas based in reason and evidence are supported, and bad ideas based in fallacy or over inflated rhetoric are rejected. But once those disagreements run into days, months, years, and those little, isolated heated debates turn into long interplays and interlocking personal dramas, forming their own cliques and factions and rules and systems of behavior, does the way in which we communicate threaten to rip the fabric of the community apart. The systems of ideological alliances that we form begin to have memories of their own, their own histories, their own standards of behavior, and their own enemies.

The second premise to my argument is related to the first: the building of factions and coalitions, if perspective is lost, can tear the community apart. People who share something in common tend to form systems of alliances, and these alliances can often be in direct opposition with another, competing alliance. The structure of dailykos version 4 supports the formation of these alliances in the form of groups: but much of the interpersonal infighting happens within unspoken alliances between users who have found trust in one another.

At one level, the discussions are about politics or tactics. I am assuming anyone who is clicking on a meta diary in the first place understands the political or tactical arguments happening. Unfortunately, that is just the first level of discussion happening. Underneath the surface is a teeming world of interpersonal transaction, people gaining and losing respect for one another, forming written agreements, and even forming extremely long lasting friendships based on having each others backs. These friendships, alliances, rivalries and histories segue into the political and tactical conversation, setting a context and tone that is oppositional, adversarial, and zero-sum.

So how do we fix this problem? I have, for some reason, devoted much of my time thinking about this problem. Don't ask why, I have no idea. I find myself attracted to these conflagrations not because they are entertaining to me (quite the contrary, I find them to be quite disappointing, personally), but because I have become obsessed with understanding the nature of these complex alliances and histories and finding a better method of discourse for all of us.

First of all, I think a little perspective is in order. The overarching community of dailykos is as strong and vibrant as it ever was. These flame wars are just a small percentage of the total discourse that happens here on a day to day basis. This is a very good thing. The purpose of the site has not been lost in a cloud of meta, like so many other websites I have been a part of over the years. The interpersonal drama has yet to overrun the site's main mission: the election of more and better democrats. This is all good news for the long-term survival of the dailykos community. There are, however, several small things that could be improved.

I think that markos' version of community moderation, while imperfect, is just the right touch. I have been to forums that were overmoderated, and it stifles and kills conversation. Not exactly the right direction for this website, if you ask me for my (not-so-qualified) opinion. I think what needs to change is the way we moderate. First of all, the current system of hiding comments has become untenable. There are so many unspoken rules, hidden ways to interpret the system, and quite frankly, justifications for gaming the system that the hidden comments has just become an expression of what one faction or another considers unacceptable or, in some cases, unpopular discourse in the rules of their faction. This system has become so burdensome that I hardly think anyone on the outside looking in could even begin to decipher it. What system should replace it, I have no idea. I have read that markos is planning a flagging system for dailykos 5, so lets hope that throws a little water on the flame.

Secondly, I think that while community moderation should be open and transparent, and every user should be able to be an active participant in it (which is one of the high points of the TU system), I think that the conversation about what is being moderated and why should be moved offsite. The helpdesk was a very good start, IMO, but still much of the moderation goes on in the comment section itself, which can be an incredible distraction to the other conversation going on in the thread. In fact, many times meta will spread and otherwise good, on-point comments will get lost in the noise. This is not good for discourse. The conversation including the vast amounts of personal history, the comprehensive reviews of whether or not a comment should be hidden, the dissertation on whether or not User X should be banned for the grievous crime of violating an in-group norm should be moved to another site entirely.

Lastly, we should all work to remember that we are not here in opposition to on another, or, at least that shouldn't be the main goal. The goal should be to unite, use our collective influence in the political system, and change things for the better. Tearing each other down, forming rivalries, going on crusades to get this user or that user banned, has absolutely nothing to do with progressive politics. As a dailykos user I know once observed, the system is often like an MMORPG, where users have hit points and attacking and felling your foe gains you points for your faction. This is not the way that alliances work, and that is certainly not the way to concentrate our collective power to influence the political system. Of course, we will always have our disagreements, perhaps a vast ideological or practical chasm separates us, but we all share at least one common goal, or else we wouldn't be gathered here in this goofy, orange place.

Much of the meta problem is intractable. It is so entrenched and supported by our structure and has become so much of what has made us successful that it wouldn't make sense to change it. But that doesn't mean there aren't practical changes each and everyone of us can make to ensure the long term survival of this little oasis lost in the sea of the internet. We are, each of us, responsible for the long term health of discourse and community here. The community is what we make of it, and we can all make it better with little changes to our behavior. Simply remembering that another human is behind the keyboard, who is capable of having a bad day, saying the wrong thing, being unable to apologize, can go a long way to ensuring that the discourse doesn't go too far off the rails. It takes each and every one of us to step up and act as a group to ensure the community survives.

TL;DR: "Grow up and act your age" - My mom.

Edit: I posted this late last night, so it might have been missed. Would like for this diary to have a second chance, so I pulled it, cleaned it up a bit and republished it. I worked really hard on it :D

oh btw, this is a new weekly series I plan on doing...Next week Monday Morning Meta -- Toward a More Perfect Community Moderation System

Originally posted to word. on Mon Apr 21, 2014 at 12:28 PM PDT.

Also republished by Monday Morning Meta.

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Comment Preferences

    •  rexy, can you expand a little on the (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      rexymeteorite, DeadHead, linkage

      flagging system?

      Does hitting the flag button mean you find a comment so egregiously counter to the site's reputation and mission that you want an admin moderator to review it?

      If so, how would that be substantially different than the thankless job MB was doing a ways back?

      Rupert Murdoch to Fortune Magazine, 4/10/14: "I could live with Hillary as President." I don't doubt that for a second.

      by WisePiper on Mon Apr 21, 2014 at 01:07:34 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I would assume that involves (4+ / 0-)

        marking a comment as abusive, taking the comment and the discussion about whether or not it is abusive offsite. I would like for this system to be open to all TUs, but I highly doubt that will be the case.

        Perhaps a more rigorous test is in order for a user to be able to adjudicate comments. People who have histories of being even handed in their administration of site rules, and have proven to be not major players in any of the several internecine wars that rage around here on a weekly basis.

        Whatever it is, I hope that moderation stays transparent and as democratic as possible.

        And to be honest, these are just assumptions. I heard about the flagging system off hand in a comment a couple of weeks ago. I have no idea about the details. Of course, thats all up to kos.

  •  I'm with you. (5+ / 0-)

    And against all these other fuckups.

    JUST KIDDING!

    Dick Cheney 2/14/10: "I was a big supporter of waterboarding"

    by Bob Love on Mon Apr 21, 2014 at 02:10:43 AM PDT

  •  Lots of good stuff here. But a couple of quibbles, (15+ / 0-)

    or possibly a bit more than that. My feeling is that the majority of the contested HRs and arguments about community moderation cluster in the same places as the contested HRs do. Okay, that's reasonable. But....

    I started to track HR usage a couple of months ago (see here and here)
    This, from February: Only .21% of comments ever see an HR. Only .059% ever hit the "piling on" level. Only .012% descend into an HR fight.

    At least half and possibly up to 3/4 of all HRs are effectively uncontested - for bald sexism or racism, attempts at spam, calls for violence, screamingly RW attempts to derail, etc. That would mean that the "problem" amounts to something like one tenth of one percent of the interactions going on.

    Second, although it would seem on the face of it that the arguments about moderation might be solved more easily if they had their own place, I think you're discounting the amount of sheer performance art that goes into some of the threads. Whether there would be fewer arguments without an audience is debatable, but the same people who seem to get the most pleasure out of the arguments would likely be those who were most vociferous about an attempt to silence them.

    At least half the future I've been expecting hasn't gotten here yet. Sigh.... (Yes, there's gender bias in my name; no, I wasn't thinking about it when I signed up. My apologies.)

    by serendipityisabitch on Mon Apr 21, 2014 at 02:13:37 AM PDT

  •  "gaining and losing respect" (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Joy of Fishes, poco

    Yup, that's a problem. Respect should be a constant among people committed to human and civil rights. Because rights cannot exist unless they are respected.

    We know about the politics of personal destruction, but I'm not sure personal aggrandisement, which inevitably occurs at the expense of others, isn't just as bad.

    I suspect one of the reasons the elitists' antagonism towards President Obama persists is because he is unfailingly humble and willing to admit mistakes, thereby calling into question the elitists' ambition to be exclusive and exceptional.

    The impulse to except and exclude is perhaps more difficult to resist than any other one. Shutting people out.

    It seems strange coming from a people whose call to the "huddled masses yearning to breathe free" is heard around the world.

    But then, the statue upon which this invitation is engraved was given to us by the French.

    http://hannah.smith-family.com

    by hannah on Mon Apr 21, 2014 at 02:15:31 AM PDT

  •  Hellooo - I hope you'll indulge the observations (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blackhand, poco, Catte Nappe, Agathena

    of a beginner. After posting 80+ diaries since I joined a year ago, I'd like to increase my readership and decided to pay more attention to what's popular here. Lately, I ran into some pie fights in progress and noticed recurring themes.

    When the community uses its minus ratings, it often compounds a disagreement because the rules for using an HR are disputed.  I'm pretty sure they have no resource like a list of rules, or guidelines, but I could be wrong. I haven't seen anything like that and maybe it would be too formal or restrictive. The lack of clarity leaves room for abuse. As a reader, it can be disheartening to watch.  If it's out of line for me to mention, I apologize.

    I don't usually feel inclined to participate in hostilities so I should be very low maintenance as far as moderation needs. Being personable goes a long way. And for what I'm trying to do with my writing, I want to be proud of what I post.

  •  Newspapers fail moderating climate comments (16+ / 0-)

    The level of noise here is far less than you see at newspaper sites where small groups of disruptive individuals are able to hijack intelligent discussion with insults, lies and untruths. Moderation here is actually pretty damn good compared to most of the web. It's a total waste of time to read most newspaper web site comment sections on a story about climate. It generally devolves quickly into insults about Al Gore.

    The battles in this community are over key issues about what it means to be a Democrat. Sometimes the discussion goes foul, but it's an important discussion of critical issues. Banning meta discussion is a bad idea because it disempowers this community if the management does something unpopular. Comment threads will always have gems mixed with dross.

    “Industry does everything they can and gets away with it almost all the time, whether it’s the coal industry, not the subject of this hearing, or water or whatever. They will cut corners, and they will get away with it. " Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D, WVa

    by FishOutofWater on Mon Apr 21, 2014 at 05:14:33 AM PDT

  •  How wild. I never realized we have RW kossacks (7+ / 0-)

    here whose aim is t derail important diary comment threads. It makes a lot of sense. I doubt and hope it's not that common and the guilty would soon be called out, but even calling them out derails the diary. Now I get why some diaries go awry with a couple of negative comments right off the bat. It's very frustrating for the diarist to see happen, after putting in hours writing and it surely does affect the ultimate success and exposure of the diaries' message.

    Awareness is key. Thanks for the great diary. It's a good source of information.

    "In this world, hate has never yet dispelled hate. Only love can dispel hate." ~ Buddha

    by Leslie Salzillo on Mon Apr 21, 2014 at 05:29:10 AM PDT

  •  Nice diary, rexy... (6+ / 0-)

    It must be difficult for a newly participating user to comprehend just how/why comments can head so quickly and so heatedly to the right margin. Heck, there are plenty of interpersonal conflicts from before my registration-date that still inform diaries, comments and even HelpDesk threads.

    I appreciate your thoughts on balkanization and the introduction of Groups with DK4. There's no doubt that the concept of Groups as discrete sub-communities of interest is a good one: building "community" is important. Yet the introduction of Groups (and Followers and Streams, for that matter) also came with the real risk of creating discursive sub-communities that are, in effect, insular to the point of being closed. They have their own style, their own patois, their own dynamics.  

    Group-membership has also become a reductive structure in all sorts of meta, providing simplistic classes of "us" and "them" with which users may beat and insult one another.

    All of this is opaque to the genuine (non-zombie) new user.

    For myself, I restructured how I participate on-site a few months ago and withdrew from the half-dozen Groups of which I was a member. It's a different experience of the site now, and one that works better for me.

    Real stupidity beats artificial intelligence every time. (Terry Pratchett)

    by angry marmot on Mon Apr 21, 2014 at 05:33:20 AM PDT

    •  That aspect of groups -- the subcommunities -- (5+ / 0-)

      was already present. Introducing formal Groups was seen as a way to keep it under control, more or less.

      (And IIRC, the followers/streams business was borrowed from social media.)

      I know that you who hear my singing make those freedom bells go ringing. And so we keep on while we live, until we have no more to give... Don't you know it's darkest before the dawn. This thought keeps me moving on. Pete Seeger bit.ly/1bwCmhK

      by TiaRachel on Mon Apr 21, 2014 at 12:43:16 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Balkanization and "factions" (0+ / 0-)

    Not to throw cold water on this, rexy, but you sound like James Madison in Federalist #10 talking about the danger of factions, i.e. political parties. I know that I might be the absolute wrong person to address this, seeing how I'm probably one of the main "offenders" here, but some of the discursive sub-communities are here because the default "non-" community here at DKos can be, well, dense about some of the issues that those of us who are not-default because of gender or race or disability or sexual orientation in all its varieties present.

    I'm also surprised you made the statement in light of this diary, one of my meta essays for Top Comments, that I based on a set of comments in which a Kossack blamed an increase in "trolls" on the Group function in DK4 and took a swipe at YOU in the process.

    That said, I know there's one particular group you mean but you pretty much have to indicate that. It's okay if you don't name it, I don't think anyone will miss who I meant there.

    Seneca Falls, Selma, Stonewall

    by Dave in Northridge on Mon Apr 21, 2014 at 06:09:04 AM PDT

  •  Yogi Berra explained how it works (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    grover, Lady Libertine

    Everybody gets dragged into a negative commenting style that nobody likes, because everybody else does it.

  •  Just my own observation as an outsider... (4+ / 0-)

    and looking at my own reactions to this site and involvement in it.

    This is supposedly a reality based online community, right?

    I believe without being able to use all your six senses in an online community, there is little reality in that community.

    Reality is happening on the ground, in "meat-space", understanding of where someone stands, where he/she is coming from, can realistically only happen in meat-space in conversations face to face, in marching side-by-side, in having the opportunity to explain to someone you know from his online appearances only, to explain in person, why and about what you feel differently than your conversation partner in front of you, whose pov you knew so far only from his online comment and diary posts.

    I think the Connect! Unite! Act! efforts reflect what is happening. Lots of Connects! online, balkanization in the Unite! section online, Act! n form of writing online in abundance.

    All of it doesn't happen in the "meat-space" (if anyone could offer a better word than "meat-space" I take it iin a minute - I hate the word "meat-space".)

    The need for online group balkanization reflects the real life need for forming "tribes" among people, who can trust each other and think alike. It's a human need, ingrained in us genetically, because people need "trusted" friendships.

    It is reflective in that we have a "trusted user - TU" category, as that would be exactly what you look out for in real life.

    For a person to decide, if he trusts a person, is done within unconsciously and easily, when you connect in "meat-space", and you know how fast you make up your mind in real life to say "I don't trust this guy/gal".

    This evaluation comes to each person on a personal level based on his own life experiences he/she carries around.

    And we can only evaluate and understand this "baggabe", if we hear the person carrying that burden, in real life talking about it. A well written diary about that personal baggage might help us online and in theory, but the real trust forms only, when we see and hear that person talking to us in real life.

    What seems to be a homophobic comment online, can get another evaluation, if that comment were made in a real life converstaion between two former "online friends/foes". All of the sudden you might just understand, what seemed to you a racist, insensitive, disrespectful comment in an online conversation, had its own different justification based on that person's life experiences.

    The comment threads online can be a real tool to incite depression and dependency in readers.  

    We wouldn't be depressed about someone's comment in real life, because we would "get that person" through clues you only can get in "meat space".

    Lastly, I think, what still is relevant in all of it, is summarized by Benjamin Franlin's quote:

    We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.
    You know, hanging separately is not that good for your mental and physical health. We are designed to not be alone and need a community of trusted people around us in real life. Connecting, uniting and acting needs all to be done TOGETHER on the ground, not just online.
    •  I suppose this is just tangential, but (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mimi, BMScott, LoreleiHI

      that's a very neurotypical comment ;)

      I know that you who hear my singing make those freedom bells go ringing. And so we keep on while we live, until we have no more to give... Don't you know it's darkest before the dawn. This thought keeps me moving on. Pete Seeger bit.ly/1bwCmhK

      by TiaRachel on Mon Apr 21, 2014 at 12:46:11 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  boy, even with reading the Wikipedia (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        BMScott

        entry for the meaning of "neurotypical" I don't get what it's supposed to mean, well may be a little, but it's too crazy of a word for people, who are outside of the " autism spectrum".  

        Well, now I know I am outside of the "autism spectrum", I guess. Is that something I need to be concerned off?

        Thanks for teaching me a new (unnecessary) word to enhance my vocabulary. Next time you do that, can you start with some more basic words, I often also don't get? :)

        I can't believe that I have spend my whole working day goofing off on dailykos. No wonder I get myself fired.

        •  Pretty much means 'not autistic'/'normal'. (4+ / 0-)

          Lots of people on the spectrum find it much easier to communicate online, because we don't have the same innate body language/responses as the mainstream (it's a mutual misunderstanding). Those 'meat-space clues' you talk about are different for us, both in perception & interpretation. And for many on the spectrum, there are too many sensory issues to be able to cope well with 3D interactions, even when the other people involved are aware.

          So your central thesis:

          I believe without being able to use all your six senses in an online community, there is little reality in that community.
          Taking out the negatives, you're saying that people in meatspace use all their senses and that's what develops community. This is inaccurate for those on the autistic spectrum (something like 2-3% of the US population, IIRC), and in a way defines us out of 'community'.

          OTOH, there are times when I'd just as soon the NT community return to meatspace & let us have cyberspace back. It was a much more comfortable place before y'all came here to live ;)

          I know that you who hear my singing make those freedom bells go ringing. And so we keep on while we live, until we have no more to give... Don't you know it's darkest before the dawn. This thought keeps me moving on. Pete Seeger bit.ly/1bwCmhK

          by TiaRachel on Mon Apr 21, 2014 at 02:04:38 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Oh that helps, thank you. (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            TiaRachel, serendipityisabitch

            ... hmm, I never intened to live here. But ended up doing so, which in effect I regret...

            Thank you for explaining. I had no intention and no imagination that my comment would define some community members  "out of community".

            I am sorry that I have such narrow views and don't see all of the community member's needs as I should.

            Ok, scratch my comment, that was just a draft, the real version comes later. :)

            •  Don't beat yourself up over it. (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              serendipityisabitch, mimi

              I'm very tolerant of clueless, being so often clueless myself ;)

              I know that you who hear my singing make those freedom bells go ringing. And so we keep on while we live, until we have no more to give... Don't you know it's darkest before the dawn. This thought keeps me moving on. Pete Seeger bit.ly/1bwCmhK

              by TiaRachel on Mon Apr 21, 2014 at 02:33:52 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  I don't know about the rest of you (5+ / 0-)

    but I'm all for just rounding up the Pootie people. That's the real problem on this site - everything else is just snowflakes compared to that dark, unspeakably evil cabal.

    I'm on to you.

    Look, I tried to be reasonable...

    by campionrules on Mon Apr 21, 2014 at 01:11:48 PM PDT

  •  RE: Taking contentious meta off-site (4+ / 0-)

    First, if this were a "solution", it really needn't even go off site. It has been suggested several times that there might be a separate group with separate diaries to "litigate" these contentious issues.

    Imagine, for example, a Meta/Moderation group. Perhaps posting of a generic "Open Thread" type diary there two or three times a day. One might see an offensive comment, and note "I'm inclined to HR for racist meme - taking this discussion to Meta Open Thread [link]"  Perhaps the vision would be that all the pie-fighters would migrate there to argue back and forth to the right margin over the righteousness - or not - of somehow sanctioning that comment.

    Reality check. The purpose behind many of these debates is not to determine whether a comment (or diary) is so offensive it deserves to be hidden. It is not so poster A can insult poster B, and vice versa, until one or another of them gives up. The purpose is to influence the onlookers, and rally them to one side or another.   "Taking it outside" requires the contestants to walk away from their audience. Not gonna happen.

    “Texas is a so-called red state, but you’ve got 10 million Democrats here in Texas. And …, there are a whole lot of people here in Texas who need us, and who need us to fight for them.” President Obama

    by Catte Nappe on Mon Apr 21, 2014 at 04:48:39 PM PDT

    •  Or to influence the onlookers to make them (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Catte Nappe, poco, edrie

      less likely to publicly support (or argue with) a given point or topic. So that it takes real courage, not only an affirmative (or dissenting) viewpoint, to be willing to comment in the first place.

      Fortunately, there are a fairly large number of courageous Kossacks.

      At least half the future I've been expecting hasn't gotten here yet. Sigh.... (Yes, there's gender bias in my name; no, I wasn't thinking about it when I signed up. My apologies.)

      by serendipityisabitch on Mon Apr 21, 2014 at 04:57:58 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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