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News: Don't forget to get your 2013 Gubernatorial Endorsements and Predictions in!

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1  General Discussion / Religion & Philosophy / Re: Pope Francis accepts evolution and Big Bang theory, says God isn't a magician on: October 30, 2014, 01:17:07 pm
Is the Pope endorsing Monseigneur Georges Lemaître's Big Bang theory, the theory of universal creation postulated by a Catholic Priest at least partially in an attempt to harmonize science with the Christian view of Creation, really newsworthy?  The Big Bang is as Catholic an idea as transubstantiation.
2  Other Elections - Analysis and Discussion / Congressional Elections / Re: Millennials Prefer Republican Congress 51 to 47 on: October 30, 2014, 11:59:19 am
Wait, are people who are 18 this year still millennials?  I thought the cutoff for that generation was born in 1995.
3  Presidential Elections - Analysis and Discussion / 2016 U.S. Presidential Election / Re: The two-years and one week out prediction. on: October 28, 2014, 04:20:22 pm
I'll make the only safe prediction there is:

The GOP Primary will be the only part of this election cycle that's remotely interesting.  The General Election will be dull and obnoxious and the Democratic Primary basically nonexistent.
4  General Politics / Individual Politics / Re: Which European Empire was the most powerful on: October 28, 2014, 10:52:18 am
What kind of question is this?

What are you asking to compare?  Military power?  Scope of successful taxation (which directly results in the latter)?  State infrastructure?  Stability?  Ability to have government actually affect the lives of its citizens in a real sense? What time period are we looking at?  Spain's going to fare significantly better in 1600 than 1800, and England significantly worse in 1600 than 1800.
5  Presidential Elections - Analysis and Discussion / 2016 U.S. Presidential Election / Re: CBS/NYT poll: voters aren't excited about anyone for 2016 on: October 27, 2014, 11:03:40 am
To paraphrase John Oliver, why are we getting a new president when we haven't finished playing with the one we just bought yet?

No wonder people are unenthusiastic.  Could we try this again in March or so?
6  General Politics / U.S. General Discussion / Re: Our President continues to be the best on: October 23, 2014, 03:24:16 pm
For Snowstalker:


Read this.  Pay careful attention to the grumpy old Communist who was born in November 1917 and constantly mentions how he's just as old as the Bolshevik revolution and how he grows increasingly despondent and hopeless that anyone else in the younger generation takes his ideals seriously and then promptly dies at the same time as the USSR.  Do you want to be that lonely old man?

EDIT: for theater fans, that play is indeed written by Tom Stoppard, author of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, and it is fantastic.
7  General Politics / Political Debate / Re: What is an act of Terrorism? on: October 23, 2014, 01:40:32 pm
The definition nowadays seems to be something like "violence by a non-state actor using out-of-uniform combatants aimed at civilians."  I'm not really comfortable with ISIS as a terrorist group because they are only nominally a non-state actor and they have uniformed (of a kind) soldiers.  They are a rebel army a la FARC or other insurgencies.
8  General Politics / Individual Politics / Re: Opinion of Cultural Marxism on: October 23, 2014, 01:34:06 pm
Sometimes I think that Antonio Gramsci is more famous amongst right-wing conspiracy theorists than in any other group, including liberal-arts academics. 

Of course, I did know this one woman in one of my classes who had an Antonio Gramsci coffee mug. 

He's a surprisingly cool figure, as long as you take him with a massive grain of salt.
9  Presidential Elections - Analysis and Discussion / 2016 U.S. Presidential Election / Re: Electoral College problems for Republicans on: October 23, 2014, 10:07:45 am
I think there's a lot to the conventional wisdom that with the current map the Republicans need to win the popular vote by 1-2% in order to reliably win the electoral college.  That's not a major handicap, but it could be a critical factor in the next extremely close race.
10  General Politics / Individual Politics / Re: Opinion of this political cartoon on: October 23, 2014, 01:56:00 am
It reminds me of a political cartoon I can't find right now from a different era, with Chancellor Otto von Bismarck with his back against the door trying to prevent the SPD and the Zentrum parties from breaking in on the grounds that Catholic and social-democratic ideology would be poisonous to the political culture of Imperial Germany.  When you start banning organized political parties, you rapidly begin to lose the ability to choose which parties are to be banned.
11  General Politics / Political Geography & Demographics / Re: Is America A Natural GOP Gerrymander? on: October 16, 2014, 09:13:31 pm

Well, the objectives usually listed for a non-gerrymandered USA aren't all in alignment.  "Compact districts that preserve communities of interest" doesn't necessarily jive too well with "Maximize number of competitive districts."
12  General Politics / Political Geography & Demographics / Re: Is America A Natural GOP Gerrymander? on: October 16, 2014, 10:54:34 am
Getting back to the original thread question, a "fair" map is an impossibility, but I think we're seeing that a hypothetical fair map would probably still return a GOP congress in a D+2 or D+3 year.  The current gerrymander, though, leads me to suspect that Congress wouldn't flip unless the election were something like D+6 (not entirely random guess, but guess not supported by numbers).
13  General Discussion / Religion & Philosophy / Re: Christianity on: October 15, 2014, 11:42:29 pm
Clark: by the Noble Eightfold Path, I was referring to the eight steps that the Buddha claimed that one needed to follow to achieve enlightenment, not a documentary.  Buddhism is a remarkably strict doctrine coupled with the recognition that very few people in this lifetime are ready to attempt to achieve Nirvana.  That's not a disapproving statement, mind: I don't dislike Buddhism.  It's just stunning to see someone not grasping that it is a far more demanding belief system in terms of its code of conduct than Christianity, a faith whose doctrinal commitments pretty much begin and end at having water sprinkled on one's head and eating a wafer at Church.

Then you mentioned Hinduism, which is frankly baffling because Hinduism is right up there with Judaism on the top tier of doctrinally-demanding religions.  Arguably more so because Judaism never advocated vegetarianism when that, of course, is one of the most radical commitments in terms of shaping a person's lifestyle that a religion could come up with (and a big reason why the Manichean faith isn't around today).  You mention the Abrahamic faiths micromanaging your life when the entire concept of dharma is that there is a divinely-ordained set of actions and behaviors given to you based on the position to which you're born into life.  I don't see how a religion could be more micromanaging in terms of setting out a right way to live than the Hindu faith. 
14  General Discussion / Religion & Philosophy / Re: Christianity on: October 15, 2014, 08:26:51 pm
I have a very negative view of Christianity (like most religions that have stricter doctrines).

Christianity is pretty much the loosest religion in terms of requirements you're ever going to find, which goes a long way to explaining its success.  I don't see how you could possibly interpret it as a strict faith.
Compared to other religions (especially Islam), yeah it's looser. But I feel that most Abrahamic religions suck for a variety of reasons, but here I mean that they tend to not take into account an individual's experiences in life, they dictate moral rights and wrongs, and that unlike Hinduism, Baha'i faith, and Buddhism, there is less room to move around when considering that there may be more than one way to know God (e.g. "you either believe this or you go to hell forever") and concerning moral gray areas. 

On a related note, I think it's a sad testament to the Christian-centric nature of this forum that Christianity has a ~70% FF rating and Buddhism has a ~55% negative rating.


Have you seen the Noble Eightfold Path?  If you actually want to break the cycle of reincarnation and live the life that will allow you to break out, your Buddhist is going to live a life far rougher than all but the most ascetic brands of Christianity.  Of course, few choose to actually pursue such a lifestyle and commit themselves to the monastic lifestyle, but if you read the Dhammapada and look at Theravada Buddhism as it's actually practiced in Southeast Asia it's not a particularly easygoing religion.  Christianity's pretty much total lack of rules governing social behavior beyond all the most obvious ends up contrasting quite dramatically.

It's actually a pretty significant doctrinal point that Christianity doesn't really require much in the way of active deeds beyond baptism and (if you're Catholic) the sacraments to achieve salvation.
15  Presidential Elections - Analysis and Discussion / 2016 U.S. Presidential Election / Re: There's only one candidate that can save the Republican Party... on: October 15, 2014, 03:26:34 pm
I've said it before: Newt Gingrich is one of the most bizarrely lovable men in politics.  As strange as it is, try meeting him in person and note the tremendous magnetism he possesses.  I'd never vote for the man, but he's so...self-confident that you can't help but root for the guy.
16  General Discussion / Religion & Philosophy / Re: Christianity on: October 15, 2014, 03:12:07 pm

Furthermore, there's a significant disconnect between someone like Augustine or whomever and how most Christians actually understand themselves. Most people aren't nearly so highbrow in their views, in general. You can argue whether that is good or bad, or value-neutral, but that doesn't change the fact that most people simply don't operate like eminent theologians or philosophers.

Quote from: John Stuart Mill
But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side; if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion. The rational position for him would be suspension of judgment, and unless he contents himself with that, he is either led by authority, or adopts, like the generality of the world, the side to which he feels most inclination. Nor is it enough that he should hear the arguments of adversaries from his own teachers, presented as they state them, and accompanied by what they offer as refutations. That is not the way to do justice to the arguments, or bring them into real contact with his own mind. He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them; who defend them in earnest, and do their very utmost for them. He must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form; he must feel the whole force of the difficulty which the true view of the subject has to encounter and dispose of; else he will never really possess himself of the portion of truth which meets and removes that difficulty. Ninety-nine in a hundred of what are called educated men are in this condition; even of those who can argue fluently for their opinions. Their conclusion may be true, but it might be false for anything they know: they have never thrown themselves into the mental position of those who think differently from them, and considered what such persons may have to say; and consequently they do not, in any proper sense of the word, know the doctrine which they themselves profess. They do not know those parts of it which explain and justify the remainder; the considerations which show that a fact which seemingly conflicts with another is reconcilable with it, or that, of two apparently strong reasons, one and not the other ought to be preferred. All that part of the truth which turns the scale, and decides the judgment of a completely informed mind, they are strangers to; nor is it ever really known, but to those who have attended equally and impartially to both sides, and endeavoured to see the reasons of both in the strongest light. So essential is this discipline to a real understanding of moral and human subjects, that if opponents of all important truths do not exist, it is indispensable to imagine them, and supply them with the strongest arguments which the most skilful devil's advocate can conjure up.

One really cannot in good conscience look at an intellectual system that produced fruits as varied and wild as Augustine and Kirkegaard, then turn away and look at an asshole like Jerry Falwell and go "Yeah, they're all a bunch of bigoted morons."  When you confront one of the most venerable and influential intellectual and philosophical doctrines in human history, you'd better be prepared to go toe to toe with the shades of Aquinas and Dostoyevsky in defense of your skepticism of the fundamental bedrock of their worldviews.  None of the men I mentioned really strongly agreed on many moral or philosophical points and yet they all shared a fundamental belief in Christianity that should make you consider that, even if (like me) you don't share that belief, that there's something pretty compelling and rich intellectual soil in that direction and that you shouldn't just brush Christians off as ignorant rubes.
17  General Discussion / Religion & Philosophy / What is the significance of calling something a social construction? on: October 15, 2014, 02:53:17 pm
I've seen this with race for years now, and a few days ago a post about sin also used the phrase and it got me wondering on the subject.

People seem to use "it's a social construction" as a way of saying 'it isn't real.'  To my eyes, though, a social construction is necessarily something that was, well, look at the term.  Constructed by society.  To me that implies that it's not necessarily natural, but no less real nonetheless.  Maybe it exists via societal fiat, but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist.  Therefore, what is the point of attempting to dismiss something by calling it a social construction?  It doesn't mean that the thing is non-existent, and saying that a position is only held by societal fiat doesn't mean that the position is wrong anymore than your father's pacemaker is harmful due to its status as an "artificial" and "man-made" foreign object inside of his body.
18  General Politics / U.S. General Discussion / Re: Polls on Same-Sex Marriage State Laws on: October 15, 2014, 11:34:15 am
Half of the remaining states are southern. I wonder if any of them will have it before a massive national ruling.


Through small, regional rulings.  South Carolina will likely be fully onboard pretty soon, for example.
19  General Politics / Individual Politics / Re: Opinion of Christopher Columbus on: October 15, 2014, 08:46:47 am
Michel-Rolph Trouillot's Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History is a good book about how Haitian history and its absence in the global historical narrative is used to silence certain agendas.

Anyway, the last chapter of the book involves a riot in Haiti (which, of course, is on Hispanola) that grabs a statue of Christopher Colombus and tosses it into the sea.  Deeply resonant passage.
20  General Politics / Political Geography & Demographics / Re: Is America A Natural GOP Gerrymander? on: October 15, 2014, 08:41:08 am
As an aside, I wish you Americans would name your districts. Do you know how bloody annoying it is to hear TX-3 or whatever and have to look it up on a map every time? Just call it Dallas-East or something Tongue

Hearing Sam Johnson's district described as Dallas-East is just bizarre to me, given that the district is almost totally located in the suburbia north of Dallas.
21  General Politics / Political Geography & Demographics / Re: How the Town of Spadra Disappeared. on: October 15, 2014, 08:32:31 am
Your introductory paragraph needs to do a better job of conveying to the reader why he/she should continue with the article besides idle curiosity...you lay out your case pretty well in the conclusion, but I admit I was thinking "why do I care about a deserted railroad town in LA County when there are hundreds of them across the country?"

That said, well done on the actual content.
22  General Politics / U.S. General Discussion / Re: hello I am calling out wormyguy for a detailed response to this on: October 14, 2014, 04:20:45 pm
Most of the arguments I've heard, from people across the spectrum, agree that while Stalin did get a somewhat better deal than he had been hoping for with regards to the European settlement, it would've been a matter of Stalin getting 80% or so of what he wanted rather than the 95% he ended up getting.  Given the position of the Red Army, Stalin's fundamental strategic aims of A. guaranteeing the Soviet annexations of 1939-1940, B. the annexation of parts of East Prussia and Bessarabia, and C. compliant puppet states in Poland and Romania to guard the two approaches into the USSR were completely non-negotiable.  That was Stalin's base-line goal.  The eventual Communist regimes in Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Bulgaria and the East/West Germany division were extras on top, and the Czechoslovakia one especially was totally avoidable. 
23  General Discussion / Religion & Philosophy / Re: Is Homosexuality a sin? on: October 11, 2014, 10:26:07 am
If anything is socially constructed, I would say "sin" is.

Does "socially constructed" mean "nonexistent" now?
24  General Politics / Individual Politics / Re: Opinion of Oliver Cromwell on: October 11, 2014, 10:23:51 am
With regards to Ireland, it's pretty reasonable to say that the Protectorate was simply following the path that their predecessors had blazed out and their successors would continue. 
25  General Politics / Individual Politics / Re: Opinion of Oliver Cromwell on: October 09, 2014, 04:32:53 pm
It's a false choice, given that Charles I was actively moving away from the de facto tolerance of Elizabeth I's reign and even his father's in attempting a more uniform and less varied church and in trying to extend that church's reach to Scotland, where it had never held sway before.  I don't see how you can interpret the monarchy's moves in the 1630s as anything other than a move against religious tolerance and diversity of tolerated opinion within the three kingdoms.

EDIT: You do remember that Charles called Parliament into session in order to vote him the money he needed to forcibly convert Scotland at gunpoint, right?

EDIT 2: I really don't get how anyone could look at the career of Charles I and go "Here's a friend of religious diversity."  Right from the beginning he was plotting with Bishop Laud to harmonize every Anglican Church and crush the regional diversity within it as an institution and to extend its hegemony north of the border into Scotland where it had never held sway before.  That's, like, the opposite of tolerance of religious diversity.
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