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  #31  
Old Jan 10th 2010, 12:00 PM
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Default Re: Best Post of the Week

Quote:
Originally Posted by Evangeline in "85,000 Jobs Lost in December" thread
No, the Senate was Republican controlled for most of the Reagan years. Reagan was President from 1980 to 1988.

97th Congress (1981-1983)
Majority Party: Republican (53 seats)
Minority Party: Democrat (46 seats)
Other Parties: 1 Independent
Total Seats: 100
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
98th Congress (1983-1985)
Majority Party: Republican (54 seats)
Minority Party: Democrat (46 seats)
Other Parties: 0
Total Seats: 100
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
99th Congress (1985-1987)
Majority Party: Republican (53 seats)
Minority Party: Democrat (47 seats)
Other Parties: 0
Total Seats: 100
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
100th Congress (1987-1989)
Majority Party: Democrat (55 seats)
Minority Party: Republican (45 seats)
Other Parties: 0
Total Seats: 100

http://www.senate.gov/pagelayout/his...s/partydiv.htm

And Reagan and the Senate Republicans DOUBLED almost TRIPLED the national debt.

09/30/1988 2,602,337,712,041.160
9/30/1987 2,350,276,890,953.000
9/30/1986 2,125,302,616,658.420
9/30/1985* 1,823,103,000,000.000
9/30/1984* 1,572,266,000,000.000
9/30/1983* 1,377,210,000,000.000
9/30/1982* 1,142,034,000,000.000
9/30/1981* 997,855,000,000.000
9/30/1980* 907,701,000,000.00

http://www.treasurydirect.gov/govt/r...ebt_histo4.htm

Yes, the Democrats controlled the House, but the Senate was Republican majority, so Repubs exec and senate. You can't go blaming the Dems for that almost tripling of the deficit.

Republicans need to stop claiming fiscal responsibility. They obviously don't have it.
http://www.discussionworldforum.com/...9&postcount=14

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  #32  
Old Jan 17th 2010, 09:17 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dilettante in the "What are you reading?" thread
I'm in the midst of reading a large collection of books on the American Revolution, the Confederation, and the Early Republic.

This morning's reading was particularly good, so I thought I'd recommend it and share my brief write-up of the book (I try to crank these out for each book I read so I can quickly remind myself what it's about later). If you're interested in an enjoyable and clever analysis of the origins of the American Constitution that steers a course between the idealists and the economic-determinists, this is a good candidate.


Holton, Woody. Unruly Americans and the Origins of the Constitution. New York: Hill & Wang, 2007.

Holton explores the makings of the Constitution, particularly the motives of the Framers and the ways in which the protestations of 'unruly' lower order Americans (e.g. small farmers and debtors) forced the Framers to alter their original plans, most notably by accepting the addition of the Bill of Rights. Thus, Holton argues, it was the unruly Americans who opposed the Constitution, not the Framers in Philadelphia, who were responsible for some of the nation's most cherished liberties.

Holton frames the debate between two perspectives of the "critical period" between Confederation and Constitution, both of which saw the Articles of Confederation as failing. On the one hand were the elite Framers (such as Madison), who bewailed the "excesses of democracy" that made the state assemblies too responsive to the popular will. They lamented the willingness of the states to hand out tax relief, suspend courts, print paper money, and drag their feet in raising continental funds. On the other hand were the debtors themselves, men like Daniel Shays, who perceived the burden of taxation as crushing and found tremendous difficulties in obtaining any sort of currency with which to pay their debts. They believed the state legislatures were not sufficiently responsive to the people and that the troubles in the land stemmed from the misrule of the elite.

When the debtors and farmers could not obtain their ends through the state legislatures, they escalated the confrontation through 'rebellion', refusing to pay taxes, shutting down courts, and assaulting officials. When Madison and the Framers were unable to achieve their objectives under the existing system, they took the fight to the national level and sought to create a Constitution that could do what the state assemblies would not, a federal government that would be more insulated from popular opinion and less democratic.

In seeking out the motivations of the Framers, Holton acknowledges but rejects Charles Beard's argument (The Economic Origins of the Constitution of the United States) that they were driven primarily by their own self-interest as creditors and the holders of government bonds. While some of the supporters of the Constitution certainly fit that category, other prominent figures (such as Madison and Hamilton) do not. Holton also acknowledges the competing ideological claim (Gordon Wood, The Creation of the American Republic), that the Framers were holding to their revolutionary Republican views that called for a virtuous populace willing to sacrifice for the good of the many, and feared that self-interested demagogues had taken over the state governments and would destroy the nation. In looking at the context of the debate and the writings of the Framers, however, Holton finds "a still more pressing motive": the fear that "unless the federal government was thoroughly overhauled, the American economy would never be able to attract capital." (23) Their overriding goal was to make the new nation economically viable: by empowering the federal government to pay its debts (both foreign and domestic), to secure the sanctity of contracts, to remove native Americans from Western land which could then be surveyed and sold, to enforce treaty agreements that the various states were violating, and to collect taxes on imported and exported goods. These methods, it was believed would decrease the tax burden on small farmers and encouraged capital investment. And indeed the Constitution did achieve these goals.

Yet, Holton notes in concluding, however much the Constitution may have benefited (and been meant to benefit) the general populace, "what [the Framers] meant to give the ordinary citizen was prosperity, not power." (277) Holton's analysis strongly implies that the Constitutional approach was one solution to the Confederation's economic and social troubles; but it may not have been the only one. The state's strenuous efforts to collect taxes and enforce contracts ended up creating some of the very problems the Constitution was created to solve (rebellion, inflation, and debt relief); the alternative approach, lessening taxation and increasing the money supply in order to increase the prosperity of the middle and lower orders, was not truly attempted. In his final pages, Holton again reflects on the irony that the Constitution's most cherished liberties (enshrined in the Bill of Rights) are primarily attributable to the men who opposed the Constitution itself.

An example of Holton's nuanced approach to economic causes:
Holton suggests that, pace Beard, elite securities speculators did not directly bring about the Constitution's clauses on taxation in order to secure repayment; they lacked the influence for this. Rather, they put pressure on the state governments, which in turned put pressure on their tax base, which in turn demanded relief. The states responded to these demands by issuing paper money and interfering with the collection of debts, and it was this, as much as anything, that encouraged men like Hamilton and Madison (who were not speculators themselves) to take steps to terminate such relief in order to secure America's good credit.
http://www.discussionworldforum.com/...&postcount=170

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  #33  
Old Jan 17th 2010, 02:12 PM
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Default Re: Best Post of the Week

Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael View Post
http://www.discussionworldforum.com/...9&postcount=14

I doff my cap in honor of such a fine rebuttal!
Wow I made the list Thanks Michael.
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  #34  
Old Feb 14th 2010, 07:41 PM
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Default Re: Best Post of the Week

Quote:
Originally Posted by Non Sequitur in the "Labor Unions: Pro or Con" thread
Pro's

1. Liberty without equality results in oppression

While Liberty is an admirable goal, liberty without some semblance of equality results in oppression by the minority. While societies naturally form aristocracies of some sort, a society that solely focuses on liberty will exaggerate the stratification of society. Liberty naturally allows some citizens to prosper more than others (as Alexis de Tocqueville noted). With prosperity often comes power and those with power will always use all available means to keep said power. So while liberty is a good goal for Western society, we must also add in equality to make sure the minority does not control the majority. Unions provide a valuable service in restraining the minority and keeping a balance between those with power and those without. Liberty does not exist in a vacuum.

2. Almost everything is an artificial construct

Short of God, creation, and perhaps an eschatological view of the church all things are artificial. The Corporation is just as much an artificial construct as the union is. In fact, the corporation is even more of a construct considering it is consistently given the rights of an actual human being. Governments, nations, and all institutions function under artificially created premises. The actions undertaken by a union derive from the rights that we as a society have agreed upon (most notably the right to the pursuit of happiness)

3. Wealth is the goal

While management styles may very, but the all consuming goal of profit is a constant. Wealth corrupts and "is the root of all kinds of evil" (1 Timothy 6:10). To argue that management will willingly take a hit to profit just because it is proper to give people a fair wage fails to take into account human nature.

Furthermore, one cannot rely on the courts, legislative bodies, or government executives to protect the rights of the worker. History has consistently shown that these bodies are often the easiest to corrupt with the wealth of the minority. Given this reality, it is the right (and duty toward democracy) of the people to safeguard their own livelihood by whatever means necessary. Unions happen to be the most peaceful means.

Now i am going to make sure I am not struck by lightning...
http://www.discussionworldforum.com/...34&postcount=2

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  #35  
Old Mar 14th 2010, 09:56 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Greendruid in the "Creationism, Evolution and the Theology" thread
Well, I teach a course that basically goes over some very similar ground here. While it is admittedly a philosophy of science course more than anything else, I am always adamant to point out that my goal in the discussion is never to prove faith or religion wrong to the deference of evolutionary theory.

My position is always that science and religion, specifically where the two come into contact on the issue of creation and evolution, cannot speak to each other. Science is always about making observations about phenomena in the universe and then creating theories to explain said phenomena. These theories must be testable with hypotheses, preferably falsifiable hypotheses in the tradition of Karl Popper. Because religion, including a stance that holds human beings were created, is based entirely on faith, not on observations of phenomena that lead to testable hypotheses, then we have to conclude that religious subjects cannot be submitted to scientific testing. Likewise, scientific testing cannot be subjected to scrutinising with articles of faith.

The two approaches are two ways of understanding the universe. I am definitely not a post-modernist and I believe that there is a "true" universe with "true" phenomena that can be observed. However, I'm not so arrogant to believe that human beings are capable, or ever will be capable, of observing ALL phenomena in the universe. We are a very limited but fascinating bunch of intelligent apes. There is one universe out there (let's not get into multiple time-lines for the sake of argument here) and there are many ways to explain that universe. Science goes about it one way, religion another. Neither are right, neither are wrong. Both set up the terms by which to explain the universe at the outset and both satisfy those terms with their own types of "answers" about the universe.

Where evolution and creation are concerned, we have irreconcilable differences to answer that age-old question, "Where did we come from?" Evolutionary theory sets forth to explain this with a model of mechanisms that are testable and observable in the world. None of these mechanisms has been shown to be wrong in 150 years or so. I suspect that we will have to find a different planet with completely different players (chemical and biological) to really see if this model holds water. Creationism is not a model with testable hypotheses. It supposes that a supreme god created humanity. God is presented as unknowable and untestable. There are so many interpretations of Genesis 1 and literalism is one scale by which these interpretations can be measured. Michael is quite correct to assert the Catholic position as being one most removed from the literalist camp or end of the scale. Jehovah's Witnesses would be at that end of the scale. Regardless of this, all the Abrahamic traditions hold that God is unknowable and untestable by his/her/its very nature. The terms of explanation of the universe from this position make the outcome (creationism) irreconcilable with a scientific explanation (evolutionary theory).

I would finally like to note that evolutionary theory NEVER proposes a mechanism, reason or impetus for the start of evolutionary theory. It does not seek to explain why these mechanisms exist or came into being. It only seeks to present them as existing. The reasons for that are rightly the property of philosophy and religious studies. They are untestable questions that science cannot address and so it doesn't seek to address them. Both camps (science and religion) have their share of idiots that make this an evolution VS. creationism debate. Unfortunately, the real explanations presented by both aren't even showing up to the same debate hall, let alone talking about the same thing. Religious explanations are more interested in "why are we here?" questions. Science explanations are more interested in "how are we here?" questions.
http://www.discussionworldforum.com/...60&postcount=7

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  #36  
Old Mar 21st 2010, 02:21 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dilettante's "Why the American Civil War?" thread
What caused the American Civil War?

It's an old and well worn historical question, but since there's almost always someone interested in discussing it and I'm in the midst of reading multiple books on the topic anyway, I thought I'd throw it out there again. Since I also put a version of this on USPO, I'll be interested in comparing responses (if any) based on forum.

I'll mostly just leave it open to anyone who wants to get things started. That said, however, here's a bit of a framework to build off of:

There are, for the most part, two broad interpretations that divide the professional historiography on the war:

One, the fundamental or "irrepressible conflict" interpretation views the war as the almost inevitable result of a long process of differentiation between the North and the South. In short, the two sections developed so differently (culturally, economically, socially, politically...etc) that perpetual union was not possible without the norms of one side establishments dominance over the norms of the other. If the war hadn't happened in the 1860s, it would have happened eventually.

The alternative, or revisionist, view is often called the "blundering generation" interpretation. This approach tends to focus on the politics of the 1850s and 1860, holding that the war was in no way inevitable but resulted from the poorly conceived (and often self-serving) efforts of politicians who risked national disintegration in order to be elected. According to this interpretation, the differences between the sections could have been peacefully reconciled (or simply ignored), had politicians and extremists not fanned the flames of partisanship, sectionalism and paranoia in order to achieve personal power.

There is, of course, plenty of room for overlap here, and most serious interpretations incorporate both schools of thought.

Regarding the ever contentious issue of slavery, in his second inaugural address Lincoln said that slavery "was, somehow, the cause of the war." And personally I find that impossible to disagree with, though that "somehow" masks immense complexity.
http://www.discussionworldforum.com/...97&postcount=1

I doff my cap in honor of such a fine post!

(btw, it looks like a bit of healthy competiton between Greendruid and dilettante here!)
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  #37  
Old May 2nd 2010, 08:38 AM
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Default Re: Best Post of the Week

At risk of turning this into the "Best Snark of the Week Post", here are two excellent posts with some humor.

Quote:
Originally Posted by JHC in the "For Panspermia Proponents" thread
OMG, I almost forgot to bring up Stephen Hawking's new documentary in which he warns not to look for alien life because if we find them, they will likely be as rotten as we are but much smarter.
http://www.discussionworldforum.com/...6810#post26810

Quote:
Originally Posted by Baron von Esslingen in the "Drill Baby Drill" thread
Well, it started out with Drill, Baby, Drill.

Then came Spill, Baby, Spill.

Now it's Burn, Baby, Burn.

Maybe someone will come up with Stop, Baby, Stop.
http://www.discussionworldforum.com/...5&postcount=10

I doff my cap in honor of such fine and amusing posts!
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  #38  
Old May 9th 2010, 10:34 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Greendruid in the "Oil Rig Disaster" thread
I rather think that the loftier theoretical points that we're pinpointing here have never crossed the minds of the corporate entities that make these decisions/blunders/environmental catastrophes/whatever. I think it is much simpler than that. Greed for money and the things that money buys in their immediate lifetimes, and maybe enough to send their sniveling brats to university MBA programmes is their driving force. That's it - this is their life vision and it is fuelled by greed for material possessions and a life of ease. Whatever blows up, dies, starves or burns in their wake has nothing to do with them because they do not think systemically, they think about their own selfish needs. It is symptomatic of capitalism but the root causes are not considered by those who perpetuate it. In other words, the theoretical underpinnings are not articulated in the manners we're pointing out here. Capitalism breeds this kind of person and their selfishness reinforces capitalism without a need to understand the process themselves. It is internalised in their making.
I doff my cap in honor of such a fine post!

http://www.discussionworldforum.com/...7&postcount=53
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  #39  
Old May 16th 2010, 08:23 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dilettante in the "Full Circle - Revenge of the Atheists" thread
You say that the science of chemistry works "fine for our human centered purposes" and so it doesn't matter if it's "true" in some metaphysical sense. and I agree. But morality isn't about finding something that works "for our purposes", its about determining what our purposes should be. That's a fundamentally different objective.

Put another way, chemistry equations "work" because they allows us to accurately understand and predict what the material universe does and will do. You can test those equations through experimentation and scientific procedure. And if they are verified they can be useful to you in achieving your goals.
But morality isn't about what happens or what will happen, its about what should happen. It isn't useful in achieving your goals, it defines what your goals should be. There's no way to set up an experiment that addresses that.

E.G. You could certainly deploy the scientific method of discover whether or not feeding mice arsenic is detrimental to their health. If you exclude extraneous variables, have a control group, use a statically significant sample size and otherwise engage in the procedures that define good science, you will eventually come up with a solid factual conclusion: arsenic is unhealthy for mice.
But there's no way to set up an experiment to determine whether or not you should detrimentally affect the health of mice, whether its good or bad. Scientific procedures don't help you here because you can only observe what does happen, not what should have happened.


Well, suppose one scientist declared that "consuming large quantities of arsenic is beneficial to the health of a mouse." Another scientist could then demand that he verify his statement via the accepted scientific methods and procedures, and eventually they would discover whether or not he was correct.
But if instead he declares that "killing mice is morally wrong", science offers no procedures with which to evaluate that declaration. In fact, science offers no way to even engage with it because it doesn't involve any factual claims that can be addressed through scientific methods.

Now, science is useful in deriving moral codes in the sense that they often combine moral and factual claims: e.g. "Feeding mice arsenic is bad because it kills them." Science could engage with and verify the factual part ('feeding mice arsenic kills them'), but it can't engage with the moral part ('killing mice is bad'), because none of its defining methods deal with such a question.

So while we don't have to (and perhaps shouldn't) give any credence to a purveyor of morality who states that "senseless suffering is good", our basis for rejecting his claims isn't scientific: it doesn't involve any of the methods or procedures that define science.
I doff my cap in honor of such a fine rebuttal.

http://www.discussionworldforum.com/...5&postcount=95
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  #40  
Old Jun 6th 2010, 10:20 AM
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I flagged this post for BPOTW honors from two weeks ago but didn't post it, so in lieu of one for this week, I'm posting one for last week!

Quote:
Originally Posted by WFCY in the "What is Meaningful Democracy" thread
You will find some examples in past anarcho-syndicalist societies, such as Makhno's Ukraine, or CNT/FAI Spanish Republic, or existing anarcho-syndicalist-like economies, such as certain Kibbutz and Amish communities in the 60s, or the Recovered Factory Movement in Latin American post 2001, particularly in Argentine. Of course the degree of democratization varies. There are a few key elements which distinguishes anarcho-syndicalist economies from traditional capitalist ones.

The first thing is that there is no ownership of the means of production. A factory plant is "owned" by the people who work in the factory, a land is "owned" by those who til it, and so on. If a person stops working at a workplace, then his say over the workplace's decision is also nullified, that he would cease to "own" it with his former colleagues. But then when he enters a new workplace (get a new job), he resumes his say over the decisions made by the new workplace.

Second thing is there are no hierarchies of power based on division of labor- there are divisions of labor, just no managers giving orders to workers and executives giving orders to managers. Decisions are collectively made by worker's councils, which everybody in the workplace participates. These institutions also tend to pay everyone similar amounts of salary for the same duration of work. Not all examples I mentioned conform 100% to this second point, however, they generally strive to reduce disparity of income and break down top-down power structures that you find in corporate boardrooms of feudal societies.

Of course there are different decisions which affect different people on different levels. Therefore the workers council has a kind of bottom-up structure that is based on granularity of issues concerned and how directly/or abstractly it effect the participants of the workplace.

For example, suppose the workplace is a publishing house, we publish monthly magazines about current affairs, politics, and issues and so on, and books related to those topics. Suppose I work in a team of 6, and our job is to design the cover of the magazine, and arrange the layout inside of the magazine so that contributions from other workplaces in the publishing house- photographers, journalists, columnists, advertizers, are all happily fit into the pages we are confined to every month.

Okay, there are several decisions which affect different groups in the tasks liable to me and my team. Who decides what goes on the cover of the magazine? Since it affects us very much as it's one of our primary responsibilities that will take up most of our work time, we have a lot of say about what should be on the cover- but within certain constraints, insofar as it does not affect other people negatively, or affect them to a sheer extent- so for example we are not allowed to put pornographic pictures on the cover of a political magazine, because the consequences will affect everyone strongly and negatively- we ought to get permission from them for such radical moves. Or if we want to put religious or racially controversial contents, we ought to discuss with other work councils who are effected by this decision. The key difference with a capitalist publishing house is, you don't get orders from an editor, or an executive, about what to place on the cover. The power to decide is largely rested on the people doing the work, and when the decision affects others, then other workers council will have the right to take part in the decisions.

Same thing goes to allocation of space for different contents in the magazine. A lot of negotiations must be had to reach a consensus who gets the front page, who gets how many pages, etc. You may be asking "how does this all work together? Seems awfully complicated". Well, there is a bottom-up structure of worker's councils based on granularity of the issues concerned and how directly it effect the participants of the workplace. Picture a pyrimid with me and my team being one of the councils on the bottom. When our decision only affects us, then it stays there. When decisions affect more than just me and my team, it gets passed up to the next level- let's say a collective editing worker's council- I will represent my team, and discuss with representatives from other lower worker's councils, such as the photographer's council, the journalist's council, the marketing council, and so on. The decisions can be reached via consensus, or by majority votes, these are strategies, not principles- the principle is your decision making power is proportional to how much that decision shall affect you, and different strategies are adopted to accomplish that principle. The difference of this pyrimid structure from the capitalist structure is that decisions are first made on the lower levels, and negotiated further up. In a capitalist structure, the decisions are made on the top and passed all the way down.

There are bigger decisions which affect a much broader spectrum of people beyond the publishing house- like what kind of paper to use, how many pages to include, and so on. The whole publishing industry has to come up with representatives to discuss with other industry's representatives- like the waste disposal industry and the paper producers, and they negotiate the social cost, opportunity costs, and the externalities of printing such a magazine, they will also determine the kind of price (called indicative price, which is brought to the consumer's councils, another new concept I have not explained) which is reasonable to cover those social costs, and so on. With this kind of council system, the market is basically elimnated. The virtue of it is that there are minimal externalities in the economy, and it's highly democratic.

I've written a lot but only touched the surface. There's a couple of books on anarcho-syndicalism, in theory and in practice, by Rudolf Rocker, and a more modern version, very well elaborated in Michael Albert's Parecon: Life After Capitalism, and Looking Forward: Participatory Economics in the 21st Century. If you wanna know how exactly it works, and make some criticisms about the system, I recommand reading these books first. I mean, it's very easy to present the capitalist market system, but in practice, markets are extremely complex, and it's only easy to present the concept behind the market because people are familiar with it already. It's the same with councils- in theory it's not so complicated, but it appears to be complex because we are not used to it. However, in practice, councils are just as complicated as markets. Except that councils are intrinsically democratic, and I mean, meaningfully democratic.
http://www.discussionworldforum.com/...3&postcount=30

I doff my cap in honor of such a fine post.
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