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Messages - JoshCrow

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General Comments / Re: Trump Fires FBI Directer Comey
« on: May 12, 2017, 10:48:33 AM »
What is the threat here? Is Trump saying he'll send hitmen after Comey? No, of course not.  He's merely warning Comey that any recordings he's made, if Comey made them, will be not be taken "lying down", that Trump will fire back.  That's not a threat, it's a bit hyperbolic and Trump really needs to work on that, perhaps getting off twitter a bit.  To say this is a "threat" is more confirmation bias than anything else.

The threat is that there will be consequences. Nothing more, nothing specific, and nothing less. But a threat is a threat.

I don't understand why there is this need to apologize for him, that he should "work on that". He doesn't deserve apologetic defenses from people. He's the POTUS, not some amateur on his first night doing stand-up for a live audience. The scandal is that a person with these glaring psychological problems has been elevated to power - the only thing to do is to continue to point to unacceptable behavior from the President.

General Comments / Re: Trump Fires FBI Directer Comey
« on: May 12, 2017, 10:42:02 AM »

Can you provide a link to the threat in question? I didn't hear about it. Is it the one Crunch just posted?

Yes, Crunch has it. On the same day Trump also threatened to cancel all White House press briefings.

General Comments / Re: Trump Fires FBI Directer Comey
« on: May 12, 2017, 10:00:11 AM »
The premise seems to be that Trump is guilty, and it's only a matter of figuring out how to prove it and which thing to catch him on. The meme that he's corrupt seems to have already come and gone swiftly enough that many people no doubt assume he's probably guilty of something or other. And maybe he is, but if you want to be on the lookout for overreach of corruption it's really bad to start off by creating short circuits and assigning nefarious motives to things like personnel changes. Anything's possible, but I get the feeling that you're one of many who are actively waiting for 'the story' that finally shows Trump doing something villainous

How about him today publicly threatening Comey on Twitter?

Maybe you're better off not defending the guy, Fenring. Sometimes people really do get all the respect they deserve.


there are literally millions of stories that can be run each night.  If there is public interest in a topic, there will tend to be more reports on that topic.

"public interest" does not create a perception of crisis - the media does that.


It seems like suddenly there's an epidemic of Airlines Behaving Badly. The funny thing is, there's basically no way you can expect me to believe that this sort of thing just started happening last week. It's just that now we get to hear about every incident.

What haven't we heard about in a while? Cops shooting black people. I guess they stopped, right? Lol. The media can turn this stuff on and off like a faucet and make the everyday seem like a crisis unfolding.

General Comments / Re: Gorsuch and the nuclear option
« on: April 10, 2017, 11:47:52 PM »
Wayward forgive me if I find none of this back and forth partisan hackery compelling. Both sides are filthy on this topic - only a hopeless partisan would care one whit about rationalizing one side or the other. Have no fear, your team will get their shot. The wheel will turn.

Both sides are *not* equal in what they'll stoop to. There's no sense equivocating - the Republicans have the market cornered on shameless hypocrisy and political posturing. They have lowered the bar over and over, and what they did to Garland was the real "nuclear" option of simply pretending they didn't have a job to do. I will not defend Democratic stunts and shenanigans like sitting on the floor of Congress, but the business with Garland's nomination has left the ultimate foul taste in my mouth, and frankly I want blood to spill over it. They should not get away with it - period. I will love when the nuclear option blows up in their own stupid faces in a few years. Yes, I can be patient for that.

General Comments / Re: Syria Chemical Attack 2.0
« on: April 09, 2017, 01:59:44 PM »

As a strategic move, it would be a brilliant ploy to execute against Assad.

Except for the fact that it basically changed nothing. If this was a false flag, is it really a useful success to get a few missiles lobbed at a base that remains operational?

While strategically I can appreciate that anything one does is a gamble, the idea of having to cover up a brutal chemical attack against one's own people (with all the risk of being found out) on the off-chance that Trump would respond and respond meaningfully enough to make it worth it... well, it doesn't sound like good strategy to me. I suppose desperation is very motivating, but.. really? I've heard people question why Assad would use these weapons, but the other scenario is more far-fetched to me.

General Comments / Re: Syria Chemical Attack 2.0
« on: April 07, 2017, 02:26:30 PM »

I'm fundamentally at a loss for how you can think that the media was objective in the run-up to Iraq.  They never pointed out using anything more than footnotes or fine print the sources of the claims... and those sources were nearly always anonymous too except for public speeches, etc.  Any objections were laughed off, or literally CUT off in interviews.  The coverage was a complete joke.

Fair enough, I'll concede the point. There was too much cheerleading and not enough skepticism.

General Comments / Re: Syria Chemical Attack 2.0
« on: April 07, 2017, 02:02:51 PM »
Clearly for the shock value, but Mexican cartels are not in the same precarious position that Asad is in... in fact they enjoy the support of the CIA. But even with that, the international attention would still come if the drug gangs began using nerve gas.

Assad's position ceased being precarious - in fact nothing less than the US outright publically stating "we are no longer seeking regime change" literally just preceded this attack. So there goes that, really.

I am reminded of another similar case... why did Saddam do this, you suppose?

General Comments / Re: Syria Chemical Attack 2.0
« on: April 07, 2017, 02:00:46 PM »
Is there a difference between blasting government claims virtually unopposed all over the media 24/7 and actually claiming they are true?  And bringing in pundits and "experts" to constantly validate those same claims?

There is a fundamental difference, yes. The story was the government's claim (which was sensational and certainly deserved wide coverage). This is key, and if you look over major media reporting at the time, you will see they did their job and attributed the beliefs to their authors, and (critically) presented photographs and other bits of evidence that were interpreted incorrectly. But the point is - the evidence was there to inspect, and the claims were there "as claims" rather than "as truths".

General Comments / Re: Syria Chemical Attack 2.0
« on: April 07, 2017, 01:35:12 PM »
I still don't get it.  Why bother? Nerve agents are unreliable and lack of wide area lethality, and dissipate quickly (not to mention short shelf life).  Conventional munitions are easier to get or make, and more effective, and infinitely less likely to provoke the sort of thing that just happened.  What strategic breakthrough could he possibly be hoping to make? Conventional weapons can be as destructive as nuclear weapons.

Well, what if you really really hate your enemy and want them to fear you? Why do Mexican drug cartels bother to decapitate victims when they could just shoot them dead?

General Comments / Re: Syria Chemical Attack 2.0
« on: April 07, 2017, 01:33:11 PM »

Think about it - the headlines would go on for days that the government misinformed the media who then dutifully reported it to the public

You mean like Iraq - where we were told that the aluminum bodies could only be used for centrifuges, where a report showed that they were impossible to use for centrifuges and were almost certainly rocket bodies?  Or the report of the 'mobile bio/chemical weapons lab' that was a complete fabrication?

Having lived through that, I remember the media showing things like Colin Powell's UN presentation and presenting whatever evidence the government brought forward. I don't remember the media saying definitively "this is true" but merely presenting the government's argument as such. Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't that the media' job?

General Comments / Re: Syria Chemical Attack 2.0
« on: April 07, 2017, 01:15:03 PM »
I don't disagree that the market has brought us here, but this state of affairs would be blown up by any evidence (and I do mean any) of the WH/pentagon getting it wrong on anything important.

Define important?  Because there is evidence that a lot of things have been misrepresented about Syria.

I believe you think that - but I doubt there's anything that rises to the level of "proof of government deception of the public" or it would be everywhere.

I'm curious what stands out in your mind as misrepresentation. I'm quite sure I can explain it to you, whatever it is, as either correct or at least logical based on available information at the time.

General Comments / Re: Syria Chemical Attack 2.0
« on: April 07, 2017, 01:01:35 PM »

The fact that most major "news" agencies get their information in this way is a result of laziness, budgetary limitations, and also the fact of having a free gravy train of updates being fed to them 'for free'. Why spend lots of money for on-site reporting, equipment, and risk your reporters' lives when you can just get your 24 hour cycle filled by funnel-down from the Pentagon? This is not corruption speaking, but capitalism. The market has led us to this.

I don't disagree that the market has brought us here, but this state of affairs would be blown up by any evidence (and I do mean any) of the WH/pentagon getting it wrong on anything important. Think about it - the headlines would go on for days that the government misinformed the media who then dutifully reported it to the public - there might even be criminal charges. The media (the serious part of it, anyways) would not be in the risky business of reporting nonsense that could be disproven and would thoroughly discredit both them and the government. It's just too risky - unless, of course, the information had a proven track record of being accurate. And capitalism has given us multiple media outlets that compete for dollars and ad revenue - a great incentive for one of them to try to scoop the others with evidence that the lot of them were wrong.

So yes, they do it because it's lazy and cheap, but they couldn't do it if it wasn't good information because of the risks involved to their bottom line.

General Comments / Re: Syria Chemical Attack 2.0
« on: April 06, 2017, 07:01:50 PM »
I am embarrassed by the ease with which state-run media outfits like in Russia and China are given credibility while the work of hard-working journalists from multiple media outfits in a country with free press is casually dismissed. I don't know who to blame for the deterioration of our collective respect for journalists, but if I were a conspiratorial person (and I am not) I would say that it almost seems organized so as to undermine any thought that a person might feel they know anything about what's happening out there. All the better to keep a population distrustful of its own journalists so as to make mischief possible.
In a way, it's like we're all living in China now. Instead of democracy and freedom radiating outward from the West as GWB might have naively imagined it, the paranoia and helplessness of autocracies has permeated everywhere.

I'll have none of it. There is no serious reason to have significant doubt about what all the major networks are reporting here - especially with a president that they all openly detest essentially in agreement about the events and the cause. There's basically zero chance the Trump WH and media would be 'colluding' on a thing like this, and zero chance of such a huge story being reported incorrectly without consequences to the reporting bodies.

General Comments / Re: Obamacare Repeal and Replacement
« on: March 28, 2017, 08:22:03 PM »
Well, I admittedly don't know where that number is from, but $2.5B works out to about $9 per person in the US. Is that an unreasonable imposition to support the public good of having people judge health risks better?

$9 per person, per approved drug.  How many approved drugs are there?  And almost none of them are used by "every American".  That costs is 350x higher if only one million people need a drug.  It's 100x higher if just 100 drugs get approved in a year.  For a family of 4 its 4x higher.

It's disingenuous to pretend that it's $9 one time.

I wasn't being disingenuous, I just didn't even know where that $2.5B number was from or what it meant. Technically, I still don't, so I'm happy for a link.

General Comments / Re: Obamacare Repeal and Replacement
« on: March 28, 2017, 02:16:57 PM »

$2.5 billion, important?  More important that letting people choose to accept the risks rationally?  I can't see any reasonable cause not to let the fatally ill take a chance if they want to do so.  Honestly, the only issue here is one of whether people can really judge risks, and I don't see it as a $2.5 billion benefit to help people judge those risks (particularly when the process still lets massive side effects through regularly). 

Regulations are supposed to exist to make our lives better.  They should always be weighed against commercial reasonableness.

Personally, I think every regulation that is not affirmed by Congress and the President - and thus granted similar standing to law going forward - should be revocable by a majority of Congress without the President's involvement.

Well, I admittedly don't know where that number is from, but $2.5B works out to about $9 per person in the US. Is that an unreasonable imposition to support the public good of having people judge health risks better? It doesn't seem so to me, on the face of it. I suspect it makes a significant difference in actual health outcomes. And I'm a guy who thinks people should have the right to kill themselves as they see fit (my positions on many hot-button issues can be charmingly summed up as "pro-death")! But I view the common good as a high-value commodity that suffers heavy neglect under the "everyone-is-an-island-of-liberty" ideology. Profit-taking is essentially more like profit-scrounging for me - you make money where you can without impinging on the common good.

General Comments / Re: Obamacare Repeal and Replacement
« on: March 28, 2017, 10:37:31 AM »
Even in first world countries there are no doubt some kinds of corruption that Americans would think of as third world crap.
What, like civil asset forfeiture, or threatening people who owe fines with prison?  Yes, that is a real problem in the USA.
Wait... I'm not clear on why prison is a) inappropriate and b) "corruption" for people who refuse to obey the law.

General Comments / Re: Obamacare Repeal and Replacement
« on: March 27, 2017, 07:57:31 PM »
JoshCrow, when I read people complaining about "profits" as if they are evil it always gets me a little worked up.  Profits are not evil.  Pursuing profits in ways that harm people can be, but the left is filled with people who overestimate how much profit is in a product.

I hope you award me enough courtesy to recognize that I'm not some version of that "left" person you have described. I, too, believe capitalism is important. That being said, if the world were my plaything, I could see myself having market-based systems in some areas of life and state-managed efforts in others where I think the profit-motive inherently corrupts the proper function of the system (health care, for one... and I'm seriously considering adding "journalism" to that list given the essential role it fills). I do believe, as you do, that pursuing profits in ways that harm people can be evil - and I include "making life-giving services prohibitively costly to access" to that list.


Take a look at the research on the cost to bring a drug to market in the US, and to get the required FDA approval.  There are recent estimates that put the costs at about $2.5 billion per drug.  That is an absolutely insane governmentally added cost.  Costs can be that high even where a drug has been on the market for years or even decades in Europe.  I don't get why you're worked up about out of control profits, but not out of control regulatory add ins?

I'll be perfectly honest in answering that - it's a lot easier for me to smell injustice in pursuit of profits than to identify a regulation that I disagree with. "Regulation" isn't a very good motivator for me simply because I imagine those regulations being there for a valid reason. I usually challenge people to point out a (specific) bad regulation, because I can then sometimes agree and say "yes, that's a bad/meaningless/inane one and should be removed". But in general I can't see them as a boogeyman simply because I think regulations in general are important.

General Comments / Re: Obamacare Repeal and Replacement
« on: March 27, 2017, 06:32:04 PM »

when you devolve decision making with government funds to hundreds and thousands of low level employees the history of the government is to always have run away corruption.  The Housing authorities are infamous for their corrupt deals, as are government appropriations, military spending, pretty much every source of government cash has known issues with corruption and sweet heart deals. 

A policy that says to pay the doctors a fair local rate?  What do you get, thousands of decisions that are fair, and what hundreds that let in corruption?  When the decision makers are locale, do you think the price the government pays tends to go up or down?  You don't have to speculate, the history is not downward.

And yet, generally speaking, US corruption is historically quite unremarkable, perceived as being in the middle of the first-world pack...

Without excusing the existence of corruption (since it obviously is part and parcel with governance), why is this more undesirable than the situation we have now, where we KNOW price fixing is taking place in order to line the pockets of private industry? It seems to me that one picks one's poison according to one's relationship with authority... the folks to dislike authority will claim that market forces will reduce unscrupulous private practices, and those (lefties) who prefer their bad guys to be corporate-flavored will claim that democracy/elections at least create a public accountability for corrupted government officials, who can be removed from office.

I know I am from the latter camp there and you the former... I still think government corruption in the US is more easily combated than it is in private industry. The existence of lobbying muddies the waters between these camps, though.

Fair criticism.  There's nothing about the American prices that is reasonable, that doesn't mean that prices in other countries with a single payer are not.  Honestly, what is the "price" for a doctor's time?  A bunch of these costs are just tied into what we think a doctor should earn.  If the doctors in a country are happy with their compensation and work load that seems like a good result.

I think its a different issue when we're talking about the advancement of medicine rather than the availability of treatment, and the US's insistence on mixing the two causes a lot of the good and the bad here.  I think you're ignoring the issue that the single payer government systems remove a lot of the incentive to innovate and slow the rate of medical advancement.

I think you raise a good point here about innovation. I understand that recouping R & D costs is driving a lot of pricing, and that R&D itself is a very risky venture where the number of failures vastly outstrips successes. That being said, I've lately become personally rather dismissive of innovation efforts (and this as an engineer) because I am skeptical of (wait for it) how money is being appropriated and managed. For example, if a treatment for disease were developed that cost only $0.10 to produce you can bet it would go ignored over one that Martin Shkreli could jack up the price on. In this way, R&D in pharma has been corrupted away from cheap solutions that could help people.
Because of all the BS that results from profit-taking in medical R&D, I tend to think that it is more important to make efforts to affordably distribute current treatments than it is to develop new ones. That might just be me, though.

General Comments / Re: Day without a woman - wut?
« on: March 26, 2017, 08:29:36 PM »
Fenring for academic feminist writings I subscribe to the Donald Trump rule: YES they did really say that and NO it wasn't taken out of context.

Jason, that article was clickbait, I suggest it not be taken seriously.

General Comments / Re: Obamacare Repeal and Replacement
« on: March 26, 2017, 04:22:09 PM »

Why would it cause the same effect in a single payer scenario?  In a single payer scenario you don't have the multiple and independent lines of bill payers (ie government, collective an individual).  You have a single-payer and they pick the price they will pay (again, often without regard to the actual costs of the service). 

Our formula is related to the prevailing price of a service (what is supposed to be the market price).  The government finds it convenient to lower the rate of reimbursement when it needs to control costs, without regard to whether this results in fair compensation.  That's what causes an incentive to force the prevailing price ever higher (so that this declining reimbursement percentage results in a similar sized payment).  Keep in mind this is a problem with central government, they can not effectively monitor whether a fair price is being paid for every service at every location in the country so they have to pass one size fits all prescriptive rules to try and limit the ability of locals to manipulate them.  A problem that is completely fixed by having the consumer make the pricing decisions.

Wait... what? You're telling me it's beyond the ability of government to monitor fair prices at a local level? That doesn't sound like a particularly challenging task for a team of researchers. I think you're overstating the difficulty there.

I also would challenge your assertion that government picks prices without regard to compensation. Negotiating prices that are fair and provide ample margins to vendors and providers is *exactly* how other countries have done it successfully for generations now. I think that you're really fixated on the ineptitude of (specifically) American government. If so, then so be it, but this isn't really a problem in peer countries. Your argument may well rest on simply a skepticism that the US can have a capable government operation.

General Comments / Re: Obamacare Repeal and Replacement
« on: March 25, 2017, 06:58:50 PM »
We don't see that price because of the way that medicare/Medicaid reimbursement works.  The government pays a percentage of the going rate, which is set by complicated formulas, that are not subject to adjustment based on inconvenient facts like (what people would actually pay) but rather by the complex web of what that initial market price and other adjustments.  Many of those services end up being below cost after the formula works its way out.   

Medical service providers have learned that the only way they can get those prices up is by establishing absurd prices for their products up front.  What the insurance companies end up getting is not materially off from what the market price would be if people were asked to pay their own expenses and got a benefit from keeping their costs down.  You can expect that such prices would drop dramatically thereafter the exact same way they do for any for non-insured medical product you can buy.  Fear of the "free market" and life or death situations keeps us in the manipulation game and keeps all those prices artificially high.

It's an interesting explanation, but why does this not occur in other countries with more intrusive government (single-payer scenarios)? Do they not use their own "complicated formulas"? I really think this is insurance company shenanigans, and that they are really the ones with the formulas that drive price discrepancies between chargemaster prices and billed amounts. I was just looking at a bill for a urine drug test where the charge was $7500 and I just stood there laughing at it for a minute (insurance paid $247 and I got billed for $125... incidentally it was supposed to be covered but the lab my physician used subcontracted out to this other lab and... well, it's a damned mess but I'm making phone calls).

My wife just underwent a C-section and I'll also state for the record how absurdly overcosted that is on paper compared to other countries that do the procedure just as well. In the end I'm bracing for $4k or so out of pocket after my insurance does its part, whereas that would be the uninsured total in some countries.

General Comments / Re: Day without a woman - wut?
« on: March 09, 2017, 08:31:11 AM »
Collective outrage and tribalism are fun and "empowering"?

I'm still trying to figure out where the Tea Party went, since their stated raison d'etre is as relevant as ever. Lot of movements these days don't seem to actually be about the thing they claim to be about.

General Comments / Re: Obama: Initial Final Grade
« on: February 09, 2017, 02:49:43 PM »

Recall that my comment was in response to Kasandra listing the Libya affair as being "unforeseen and unpredictable", whereas in fact the allied attack was foreseen, and planned. Even arguing that the aftermath was the unforeseen part would in my view be an utterly spurious position to take since knocking off a government and leaving the bones to the wolves in the area will itself have a more or less entirely predictable result.

Kasandra's reference to the "Libya affair" seems to me to clearly be referencing the uprising, not the allied response (which was obviously planned in response to the unplanned events unfoldingon the ground).

Incidentally, I think your assertion hinges on a portrait of HRC as an actual psychopath, willing to mow down children and families for some economic benefit. I'd call this a gross mischaracterization of her, made possible only because she is not a particularly warm person. Nothing in her life would seem to point to her embracing genocide.

I would like to know how you believe you know enough about her to say she is not one? But you are correct that if she's done some of the things I believe she's done then that would suggest that she is - if not literally a psychopath - then at any rate some kind of villain.

I feel I "know enough about her" because she has been scrutinized more closely and been in the public eye for longer than nearly any other politician of her ilk. Her biography and actions are among the most well-known moves played out by any public figure alive today. And the scrutiny she has been under is anything but friendly - there were teams round-the-clock wanting to tear her to shreds. You are suggesting that despite all this, deep down she is a mass-murderer who would butcher families for her personal gain. I can't prove you wrong, of course, but I can say that arriving at that conclusion about one of the most publicly vetted persons on earth is basically crazytown. It's the school of thought that literally anyone could suddenly turn out to have secretly been Hitler all along. I don't even know how you would hire a babysitter if that's how little faith you have in people.

General Comments / Re: Obama: Initial Final Grade
« on: February 09, 2017, 02:38:29 PM »
I'm not sure how your comment is a reply to mine. It sounds like a non sequitor, unless you can let me know why you think they're comparable?

I believe it is a criticism of your evidentiary standards placing undue weight on a lone hacked private e-mail (among an untold number of benign communications) while being dismissive of publicly announced conclusions that have hundreds-to-thousands of professional experts standing behind them. When one has so little faith in humans who work in government (or major media sources, for that matter), one becomes hopelessly mired in one's own confirmation biases. We are just now starting to see in the US the consequences of the loss of trust in major sources of information.

General Comments / Re: Obama: Initial Final Grade
« on: February 09, 2017, 12:28:13 PM »
My tendency is to lean towards what is more plausible given the available information,

Motte and bailey maneuvering - you were more than "leaning towards" your claims a few posts ago.

Incidentally, I think your assertion hinges on a portrait of HRC as an actual psychopath, willing to mow down children and families for some economic benefit. I'd call this a gross mischaracterization of her, made possible only because she is not a particularly warm person. Nothing in her life would seem to point to her embracing genocide.

General Comments / Re: Obama: Initial Final Grade
« on: February 09, 2017, 11:32:06 AM »
I was merely contesting the idea that Libya was some unpredictable random event that occurred. False.

The idea that the local uprising against Gaddhafi's rule was generated by Western elites calls to mind that Onion article...

It's essentially an utterly unproven assertion that you are endorsing with certainty based on slim "evidence". It's not even the possibility that you are correct that's alarming to me, it's your unwarranted certainty about it and your penchant for making bold claims. At least I'm willing to entertain the idea if the evidence were more than some smoke-blowing - but alas, that's all it is.

General Comments / Re: Obama: Initial Final Grade
« on: February 09, 2017, 09:52:55 AM »
Libya was a black swan, unforseen and unpredictable in its outcome.

Oh really?  :o

I guess that would be true, except that it was premeditated, planned, deliberate, unnecessary, and went exactly according to plan, which was to ruin the country. But other than that, what you said  :-\

Not everyone has swallowed whole the concept that Western powers orchestrated wholesale slaughter to prevent a Pan-African currency. The "evidence" I've seen for this is paltry (an official e-mail musing about a potential benefit to removing Gaddhafi sounds more like someone noticing a bonus than hatching a plan) - it sounds more like a fever dream of truthiness. Moreover, in keeping with the thread topic, I would find the suggestion of Obama's involvement or complicity in any of those notions laughable.

General Comments / Re: America Under a Supreme Leader
« on: February 02, 2017, 09:28:11 AM »
I wonder if the second casualty gets a gift basket, or something.

General Comments / Re: This is America.
« on: February 02, 2017, 09:26:45 AM »


I think I would pay to see that in feature length, like Team America.

General Comments / Re: The Obama Lovefest
« on: January 18, 2017, 06:15:47 PM »
Class. Intelligence. Dignity. The man was presidential. Whether or not one agrees with him, at the very least he seemed a person who would consider things carefully and who might even listen to your position. He might do something differently than you'd want, but it isn't because he hasn't thought about it or about the other side of things.

Also, as scifi rightly pointed out, there's nothing quite like seeing the alternatives to put things in perspective.

He'll be remembered as the Jackie Robinson of politics and will be for Democrats the kind of figure Reagan was for Republicans. I can only hope that 30 years on people won't distort him the way Reagan has been distorted by the current crop... revered only in nostalgia rather than in policy.

General Comments / Re: Hope for Merkel and Germany
« on: January 10, 2017, 09:51:02 AM »
I went off unfairly on JoshCrow because I thought he was advancing the idiocy that some others have, that because some tweakers have made bad arguments in the name of religion that religious freedom must bexsuppressed for everyone else.  But JoshCrow does not have a pattern of misrepresenting a question to insert something offensive and provocative, and like he said, this really is a great piece of writing and research worth reading in its own right.  So apologies again, JoshCrow.

No worries - you were right in the sense that I didn't present court cases, merely arguments from that era. I was more interesting in defending DJQ's statements (which didn't seem to be about the courts, specifically).

I did a little more digging and did find something that might qualify as interesting. It isn't exactly "religious liberty" being invoked by a defendant as we see it today (indeed I don't see that happening until the 1980's) but it does seem to be an instance of a 19th century court case in which the "divine" is invoked to defend segregation and anti-miscegenation policies.

As early as 1867, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld segregated railway cars on the grounds that “[t]he natural law which forbids [racial intermarriage] and that social amalgamation which leads to a corruption of races, is as clearly divine as that which imparted to [the races] different natures.” This same rationale was later adopted by state supreme courts in Alabama, Indiana and Virginia to justify bans on interracial marriage, and by justices in Kentucky to support residential segregation and segregated colleges.
In 1901, Georgia Gov. Allen Candler defended unequal public schooling for African Americans on the grounds that “God made them negroes and we cannot by education make them white folks.” After the Supreme Court ordered public schools integrated in Brown v. Board of Education, many segregationists cited their own faith as justification for official racism. Ross Barnett won Mississippi’s governorship in a landslide in 1960 after claiming that “the good Lord was the original segregationist.” Senator Harry Byrd of Virginia relied on passages from Genesis, Leviticus and Matthew when he spoke out against the civil rights law banning employment discrimination and whites-only lunch counters on the Senate floor.

Anyhow, I merely took an interest in your claim. FWIW I didn't find much "religious liberty" arguments. In point of fact I found one where a reverend who incited a slave rebellion actually used religious freedom as a defense, so there's a point to be made there if you will.

General Comments / Re: Hope for Merkel and Germany
« on: January 09, 2017, 11:16:17 PM »
Leftward revisionism ahoy!

If fact, most of the white supremacy stuff was NOT religious, but based on distorted biology. Darwin fell into it a little. Phrenoloflgy and other non religious pseudoscience and philosophy had more to do with it.

I defy DJQ to show me any anti black civil rights case from the 19th century where the artist's main argument was religious liberty.

It isn't bloody there.

You asked. Look for the highlighted portions, particularly as regard the descendents of Canaan (Africans). I'll just quote the beginning, but it's 15 pages and actually a fairly interesting and well-referenced read...
The foundation upon which the slaveholding ethic and the
proslavery argument was built was the scriptural defense of slavery.
Nearly every proslavery pamphlet, or article, or speaker made at least some
reference to a biblical sanction of slavery. The reason for such a position should
be clear. From the very beginning much of the attack upon slaveholding had
always been upon moral grounds. Opponents of slavery claimed that it was a sin
to hold slaves; the principle of right and wrong involved with slavery became
fundamental to the argument. The South's use of the Bible to defend slavery and
the master-slave relationship was thus an attempt to erect a moral defense of
slavery. The emphasis from proslavery defenders was always upon a literal
reading of the Bible which represented the mind and will of God himself.
Slaveholding was not only justified but also moral because it was recognized as
such in Holy Scripture.

General Comments / Re: Hope for Merkel and Germany
« on: January 09, 2017, 02:19:35 PM »
One more thing I would add - if you're selling it, and it is physically (or digitally, I would add) exchanged for money, it is a product. Whether or not artistic expression went into its creation does not take away from the fact, nor does "how hard I worked on it". A thing can be both an artistic endeavor and a commercial good - that is not a contradiction.

General Comments / Re: Hope for Merkel and Germany
« on: January 09, 2017, 01:55:19 PM »
Ser, you've admitted that religious practices can be deemed "illegal", which is more or less what I'm going for here. My position is not that one's beliefs or values should be put to question or made illegal, but rather, if in implementing them one can/should be found in violation of the law. Just as it would be a farce for a court to tell a baker "you can't believe this thing", it would be well within reason for a court to tell a baker "you cannot practice this belief in the public marketplace". It is the specific practice, not the belief, being held to the legal standard.

General Comments / Re: Hope for Merkel and Germany
« on: January 09, 2017, 01:26:27 PM »
So here’s a question: should a bake shop be forced to bake a cake for a same sex couple that states: “long live same sex marriage!”. Or how about this: should a gay cake maker be forced to bake a cake for a Christian couple decrying same sex marriage?
Incidentally, I believe I saw a reference (maybe on the aclu’s website) to another case where indeed a gay wedding cake maker was not obliged to bake a wedding cake with an explicitly anti ssm message! Interesting, wouldn’t you say?

There is also a reference to a case involving a wedding photographer being forced to service a same sex wedding. What do you think about that? I’m genuinely curious.

To be fair, Jason, I do hesitate when you get down to compelled speech. When one's job is "signmaker", then to use my own "reasonable person" standard, the question is "does a reasonable person feel that to write someone else's words for presentation constitute an endorsement of the written content." This is a real corner case for me, since speech is traditionally associated with a speaker, and here we have a person whose profession is essentially to be a medium through which speech is conveyed. I'll admit I don't have a firm answer for you here.

Similarly, the wedding photographer is physically compelled (by the nature of their work) to not only be present but to create something that promotes/endorses the couple. I'll admit I'm also not as certain about my own objections here, since it would seem to me that it is easier to connect photography with endorsement.

I guess in an ideal world people would be able to conduct themselves professionally regardless of their personal feelings on the subject. FWIW, I am unhappy with the boycotts of the Trump inauguration for the same reasons, so at least I am consistent. I think people should "do their damn jobs".

It is also plainly evident that I don't afford any legal special protections to a personal belief just because it is packaged as part of a "religion". We've had that discussion before and I don't think anything has changed.

General Comments / Re: Hope for Merkel and Germany
« on: January 09, 2017, 01:12:49 PM »
It's true there is nothing gay or straight about a cake, cakes don't have sexual preferences, no matter how they are decorated.  However, that totally dodges the question of why you think its okay to require the cake baker to spend hours of their time custom making a product to be used in a way that violates their religion?

Well, we are still talking about the production of a good here. A worthwhile question that we haven't asked is "how much responsibility does a maker have for the use of their goods"? I scoff at suing a gun maker for a tragedy in which people have been shot with their weapons - to me such a suit is ridiculous on its face. I would support a suit in which a product harmed someone because it was defective (i.e. an exploding smartphone). When you get down to the cake issue, we are proceeding under the premise that the cake will be "used" in a manner offensive to the baker (i.e. to endorse gay marriage). Cakes are typically presented, and then eaten. In this sense we could say there is a dual-purpose being served - a symbolic one, and a practical one. The objection is surely to the symbolic one (i.e. the presentation) rather than the eating. But what does the presentation of a cake actually "mean"? There can be literal meaning, with words written on the cake (I'll get to that later), but otherwise it is really about the beauty of the cake pleasing the audience.

So where does this leave the baker? The baker's objection is "gay weddings are a sin I should not be complicit in". The baker takes an act of beautifying the wedding to be an endorsement of a sinful act. Can the baker "be wrong" about this? If one takes the view that this is merely an opinion, then the important thing is only "what the baker believes", and all other claims to truth are irrelevant. Here is where I feel it gets dangerous - because if the law can be so subjected to a belief such as "the presentation of this cake is an endorsement", then the law becomes a kind of putty whereby people's beliefs must be honored, no matter how outlandish they are, because it is "how they interpret things" that matters. I hold this to be a poor standard. A much preferable one that does get used in court is the "reasonable person" standard - simply put, "would a reasonable person in this situation be expected to believe such"?

I would argue that a "reasonable person" would not argue that the maker of a good is "endorsing" a specific use of that good and is therefore not responsible for how it is used once it leaves the store. Ergo, that the baker's claim to be participating in a sinful thing is actually wrong by the reasonable person standard. It's an approach I think could be successful, at least as far as the law is concerned. I am rather unhappy with "well if you feel/believe this, we have to honor you in the court" - because that way really does have a lot of madness to it. I'm pretty sure you could easily end up agreeing with me, perhaps in different circumstances where the plaintiff is a conservative, that this is not a good basis for law.

That's another punt, the woman didn't ask for a woman's cut, there's nothing objectively different about the shape of a woman's head that would give any legs to your idea that a barber couldn't cut it with their "man's haircutting skills". 

I would actually argue that the context of the haircut being on a woman's head is in fact a legitimate difference, since haircuts are assessed for their aesthetic in the context of being viewed on a person. In fact, I would even say that a person asking for "a terrible haircut" could also be (ethically, and perhaps legally) refused on the grounds of both "I'm not trained for that" and "I have a reputation to protect".

A better question, if you really want to get into signs, would be whether a baker who serves all customers, can be forced to take down a sign that says "homosexuality is a sin."

If it's a place of business open to the public, I believe it would be ethically justified to take that down by force of law as discriminatory. I do admit that it gets hazier if the sign said "gay sex is a sin" because then one is referring to an act, however I can also see an argument that sexuality cannot be construed to be a choice (as I have argued before).

General Comments / Re: Hope for Merkel and Germany
« on: January 09, 2017, 12:47:32 PM »
I'll answer some of JoshCrow's points when I have time a little later, but I should first offer a brief correction to something I wrote above. I can't speak for all Christian sects, but when I mentioned above homosexuality being regarded by some as a sin, I should properly have said that homosexual acts (and by corollary, marriage) are seen as sinful. It's a major distinction, although one that will invariably be lost in conversations on this topic.

FWIW I noticed that and proceeded as if "homosexual acts" was what you meant.

General Comments / Re: Hope for Merkel and Germany
« on: January 09, 2017, 11:03:51 AM »
In general it seems to me the Act is about barring double standards, which seems more or less off-topic in regards to the baker example we keep examining. The Christian baker in question was not employing a double standard, but simply a standard that upset some people.

I'd like you to explain how a baker who refuses to prepare a cake for a black person's wedding (but would do so for a white person's wedding) is employing a double standard whereas a baker who will not prepare a cake for a gay wedding but will prepare one for a straight wedding is just a "standard". You must of necessity make the argument that the difference is that being gay has moral implications, whereas being black does not. I wonder if you're really comfortable thinking that.

What is a 'gay' cake?

One whose decoration or use would endorse activity the baker believes is sinful?

How does decoration 'endorse' something? If I decorate a cake for a Republican party event, have I endorsed the Republican party? Or am I just being a professional?

Are you basing your reply on some counterfactual example that isn't being argued? We're talking about designing a cake for a specific purpose, and designed in such a way as to connote that purpose.

Again, this is false - I can show you images of cakes from gay weddings that you would not be able to distinguish from straight wedding cakes, and I would argue these are the rules rather than the exceptions.


 This isn't about lewdness or aesthetic preferences, it's about a moral position. Not sure why you're stuck on the phrase "gay cake", it's just shorthand for 'cake design purposed for a gay wedding'. The case would be a little bit different if the cake design was literally identical to the cakes created for 'straight weddings', although there would still be the issue of the cake's delivery and other mechanical issues.

I'm glad to hear it, since now all I have to do is convince you that gay people enjoy basically the same cake aesthetics as straight people at their weddings.

I do find it interesting, though, that you find a more compelling case when the aesthetic sensibility of the baker is offended compared to when the morals of the baker are offended. Since when is 'decency and reputation' more important than virtue and honesty?

Actually in both cases morals are "offended", and surely someone who wants to be known as a family-friendly baker would not also want children in their store to see him/her baking a dildo-themed cake. In this way one could say it is connected to one's reputation for propriety. A dildo-themed cake is a choice by the client. Being gay, on the other hand, is NOT a choice but is an immutable aspect of a persons being. Religions that do not take that to be "reality" do not get to emit their "reality-distortion field" (to borrow a term Jason likes) and repudiate the "moral choices" of their clients.

The only difference to me seems to be the menu itself, which is a complete enumeration of every service/good offered. Is that the standard you want? That every person offering private services should have to enumerate literally everything they will and will not do? It sounds kind of awful to me. But the worst part is if they did exactly that I don't think you'd be satisfied in such a way as to say the Christian baker is now honorably holding up his end of being upfront about things.

Of course I wouldn't. At issue here is the very thing I just mentioned - that this "discrimination" is based on a sexual act, and that one's sexuality is not really one's choice insofar as humans beings are born with their sexual orientations and cannot reasonably be expected to simply "not have gay sex".

Bottom line, I think Jason is right that this amounts to little more than that the viewpoint that homosexuality being a sin is unacceptable to some people. That is a reasonable position to take, but I don't think the issue of whether the baker is being consistent or rational is really what's on the table. The real issue is whether it is tolerable for anyone to hold the view that homosexuality is a sin, and to claim that it is more than just a personal opinion but rather is factually true. If it's just an opinion then you can call the person a bigot; if they claim it's based in truth then the conversation is over and you can only oppose them, and in the case of the Christian baker I think the only real objective there was to oppose them. It wasn't about the law, it was about pursuing a larger social objective of winning the fight against the wrong-thinkers. There is something commendable about taking that cause seriously in this sense, but part of why this is hard to discuss is that the one side tends to couch its terminology is double-speak to avoid saying what's really going on. "We're just trying to avoid illegal discrimination" is a painted-over way of saying "we want to utterly defeat people who believe this thing." I wouldn't even have a problem with the latter version being stated outright - it would make things a lot easier to discuss.

I can agree here.

The difficulty is when the heart of the matter is being danced around, and where the solution is to use force to require dissenters to submit. And yes; requiring someone to bake a cake that goes against their beliefs is an act of violence against them. In my view you'd better really, really know you're right when deciding to threaten people if they don't do what you want.

The essential question is whether one's "beliefs" about the world need to be afforded special protection that would not be given under circumstances where it is a mere opinion (e.g. I won't serve Democrats). I maintain that they should not.

General Comments / Re: Hope for Merkel and Germany
« on: January 08, 2017, 11:31:50 PM »
The Civil Rights Act comes to mind. I'll ask what you think of it.

I'll be honest - I don't really know what you're asking me. Is there any aspect of the Act you're thinking of in particular? Offhand I would guess you might mean...

Are you really stumped in good faith? I feel almost silly explaining myself here. You were going on about how the government never does such things as to mandate behavior, and here I offered you an example of a government doing such a thing, and you're not even sure why I brought it up?

...the parts about not being able to discriminate based on race, color or religion in public businesses like hotels and restaurants. To whit this was about preventing a double standard from being applied, where some people could go to these places as customers, while others who wanted exactly the same services were denied. In regards to this kind of law I don't think you'll see anyone on Ornery arguing that a baker would be justified in refusing to bake a 'gay' cake for a gay couple while agreeing to make exactly the same cake for a straight person (perhaps to subsequently hand off for a gay wedding). That would be truly discriminatory.

What is a 'gay' cake?

There might be a pure libertarian around who thinks anyone should be able to refuse anyone for any reason, but such a view stands aside from the issue of religious freedom; they would be arguing for even more freedom than that, and so in a sense the religious argument on this is far more restricted and narrow than the pure libertarian one would be. But since you seem to be focused on consistency, for instance your example of "it's not on the menu!" I don't see why you're not already working under the assumption that for a Christian baker "gay cakes" are not on the menu.

Because there is no such thing as a "gay cake". There are wedding cakes, and clients. Mind you, if a gay couple asked a baker to make a cake with two huge phalluses on it or something  vulgar I would say the baker would have a right to refuse to comply based on nothing stronger than to preserve their decency and reputation. But I suspect that but for the topper (bought separately, usually not made by a baker) you would in fact be utterly unable to tell apart a cake for a gay wedding from one for a straight wedding. If you'd like I can send you 10 photos and we'll see how many you'd get right :) It'd be a fun sport.

What, do you want them to have to post a sign outside saying it? Now that would be truly inflammatory. And yet based on what you say it sounds like you'd prefer Christian bakers to preemptively state what they will not bake (e.g. cakes with two grooms on them) so that they can't subsequently be accused of making it up on the stop in order to discriminate against gay customers. "It's not on the menu! Read the sign." And yet this surely would not quell the objection being made against the gay baker - indeed, it would likely agitate the objectors even more. So I don't think you're on the mark with the 'on the menu' line of reasoning.

Of course it would agitate - in fact because it makes explicit their discriminatory policy. However jason brought in "dogs and jews" signs and seemed to have found within him a reasoning why that is unacceptable. I thought it prudent to lead him to the conclusion that he condones a thing that, were it simply stated as actual policy right on the window, he would suddenly realize is objectionable.

General Comments / Re: Hope for Merkel and Germany
« on: January 08, 2017, 08:24:43 PM »

Well first off, for the record, I know of no religion that actually forbids interracial marriage. But if such a religion did exist, and the baker was selling a service, or a customized product (such as a personalized cake with a black groom and a white bride on it) then I think he should be able to refuse because forcing a person to violate the tenets of his religion is more offensive to me than a religious person refusing to provide a service on the grounds of race. But since this is a fictional example that would never come up, I don't really struggle much with it.

Well, the Christian bible has been used to defend anti-miscegenation laws. Here, for example, are the relevant verses:

So while of course this depends on an interpretation, it is something that actually did happen. You should in fact "struggle with it" because your logic should be able to handle the conclusion of your way of thinking. You've already provided an answer, incidentally. I just think your answer should make you more uncomfortable than you seem to be.


Let me put it to you in terms that I would call reasonable. When you're going to pass a law forcing someone to provide a service to someone, particularly a service with a personalized or artistic element, where the provider is doing more than just selling a commodity product, I think it's reasonable to say that a bona fide religious objection merits greater deference.

A wedding cake isn't just a widget that comes in a box that gets shipped over to the recipient. It's not even like a croissant or a bagel, that however well made, is still just a standard product.

Wedding cakes are almost always customized. At a bear minimum, the maker must create a personalized message, which would frequently have the name of the recipients on it, and may also have customized decorations, such as grooms or brides or whatnot. The wedding cake maker will also, typically, be obligated to attend the party and deliver the cake.

I don't think people who don't religiously approve of gay weddings, should have to prepare a customized cake for one, let alone attend one in any capacity.

There is nothing "gay" about a wedding cake that distinguishes it from a non-gay wedding cake, which really makes the artistic part irrelevant. Maybe the topper, I guess, but those are often acquired separately and it wouldn't "be on the menu" of a Christian baker, just as a milk/meat mix would not be at a kosher place.

I also don't think Muslim barbers who run men only barbershops should have to cut the hair of women (even if she wants a "man's" cut) if the barber's religious faith precludes him from touching women not his wife or close family. (that, by the way, is a real example of a case that went to Ontario's human rights tribunal).

I can agree that giving a woman a haircut is a unique skill, and a man who was trained only to cut men's hair should not be compelled to give a woman a haircut on the grounds that they are not trained to do so by trade (regardless of being asked to "try" or "give me a men's cut").

There is no real question of offending the dignity of gay people in the same vein as "no dogs or jews" signs that used to sometimes be seen on bars, or segregated water fountains that were the norm in some parts. Those signs, by the way, were not merely offensive in terms of the service being denied (I doubt many Jews would have frequented the establishments where such signs were posted) but because of the public nature of the signs. The signs were outlawed in large part because posting them was itself a racist act that put racism in the public square. A completely different situation from a wedding cake.

Out of curiosity, Jason, what would you say if a Christian baker decided to put a sign on their window saying "no gays will be served on these premises". Ok with you?
As I see it, this is an aggressive act on the part of elements of the gay community to persecute and stamp out religious objections to homosexuality. It is not a question of law as a defence to persecution, but law as a means of forcing those who do not believe as they do to conform. I find it offensive and it leads me to lose any kind of respect for those in the gay community who get behind such laws. And if and when there's a backlash against them, I won't be particularly sympathetic or inclined to speak up in their defence.

Yes, the "gay agenda". If and when I think something is really out of line, I'll speak up. But this is not there.

General Comments / Re: Hope for Merkel and Germany
« on: January 08, 2017, 06:15:22 PM »
Say the Kosher restaurants offers cold cut meat sandwiches and cheese sandwiches. Customer wants a meat and cheese sandwich. Kosher forbids mixing the two in the same meal. Hell, some Rabbis say you need an entirely different kitchen.  So "we don't stock that" doesn't fix everything.

If a meat & cheese sandwich is not on the menu, and not offered to the paying public, then no. No restaurant is obligated to make an off-menu custom order. Some may choose to, but that is their business!

General Comments / Re: Hope for Merkel and Germany
« on: January 08, 2017, 01:33:48 PM »
This is the current mindset of many people - namely, that the government has the authority to tell anyone how to behave in any situation. [...] In sticking with the areas of regulating how private citizens interact with each other, I don't think you'll see many cases where the Federal government mandates people to conduct certain actions.

The Civil Rights Act comes to mind. I'll ask what you think of it.

What if the particulars were altered; let's see if you'd still feel this way about the baker. What if a kosher bakery run by an Orthodox Jew had a Christian come in and request a cake to be made using non-kosher ingredients? It would be a custom cake, and would be for a Christian wedding. Is the Jewish person allowed to decline on the grounds that he only makes cakes whose ingredients conform with his religion, or is he discriminating against non-Jews and should be sued for it?

The Jewish person can decline on the grounds that he does not carry non-kosher ingredients. It's like I ordered a ham sandwich in a vegan restaurant. You cannot make a vendor buy something they don't ordinarily sell.

General Comments / Re: Hope for Merkel and Germany
« on: January 07, 2017, 02:54:51 PM »
On what basis can you judge this "sense"? Surely we can expect that people who disagree with you will also say they have this same "sense". So whose is right? If you want to speak of 'closer' to the truth, closer on what basis? On what standard? These are all tough questions, but here we are addressing the position that religious people should have to adhere to certain precepts whether or not they agree with them. So we're not just speaking of some ethereal 'closer' to the truth, but rather looking at a case where these 'religious people' are being told flat-out that they are wrong, and not only so, but that they will be obliged to ignore their own sense of right and wrong. At this point feeling vaguely like you have a 'better sense' than the next guy doesn't cut it - not when you're trying to force him to conform to your view. You'd better have an iron-clad case to make when you're going to employ force to coerce someone else's cooperation.

It is much the same with all governance issues, including taxation and the sort. This one particularly "touchy" because religion is involved, however as with all things under a governing authority there is a need for some sort of social compact whereby we can, in fact, tell each other "you are compelled to behave a certain way". In the baker's case, if you want to run a bakery, you will be expected to serve all clients regardless of their inborn characteristics (neglecting, for a moment, the case of the rude customer). Nobody compels one to run a bakery, but one can assert authority over how it shall be run for the benefit of the broader society, including regulations related to public health/hygiene and such. Most of these are non-controversial items, of course.

The particulars of the bakery are interesting to me. I would not, for example, wish to compel a priest to perform a gay wedding ceremony, since the function is clearly a specialized religious one and not the producing of a simple good. With the bakery/gay wedding cake scenario, it is an instance of the public authority not only setting out the rules of the marketplace while effectively telling the baker that their religious objection is invalid. I can see why this is controversial, of course, but it is inevitable that some religious beliefs would conflict with the authority's understanding of the common good. We see this with the care of children routinely now, whereby medical emergencies can overrule a J Witness's beliefs about giving medicine to their child. It will never cease to be a controversy, but I do tend to think there is such a common good being served that is more important than any one person's beliefs.

In this context I was still speaking within the context of moral realism, in which case it would be objectively untrue that morality is a human construct.

Let me clarify - when I say "human construct" I did not mean to imply that moral truth was invented by humans. Merely that it can only be judged and evaluated by humans (well, sentient beings, to be inclusive). This is consistent with moral realism. In fact, having looked it up, my views parallel what is called "ethical non-naturalism", whereby the following can be said:
1. Ethical sentences express propositions.
2. Some such propositions are true.
3. Those propositions are made true by objective features of the world, independent of human opinion.
4. These moral features of the world are not reducible to any set of non-moral features.

... read further into that entry, particularly when Moore sets out to describe "goodness". In this system, it is essentially an irreducible idea that humans can perceive and evaluate but is not derived from natural processes.

In such a system, let us suppose there was only one being in all of existence. Could this last remaining person (let us assume such) still comprehend "goodness"? I would suggest that they could, although there would be no context in which to apply it since there is no relational context with anybody else by which to explore it. My perception of "the good" is as a sort of universally understood concept but one that is only relevant in a world where beings must relate to each other. I misspoke when I said "human construct" - I meant to say "only matters among humans/sentients".
I don't have any reason to believe that moral knowledge is improving significantly, or at least that it has lately. I do think, though, that our understanding of structure and systems is improving, which in turn helps to unravel conflicts of interest. This is a problem with function, not with morals. If a person believes a true thing but is incentivized to do the opposite, you've got an unhealthy situation. When an institution dedicated to love and peace, for instance, is also in the position of having to maintain national defense, law, and order, you have a conflict of interest there where violence and peace must reside under the same roof. I do agree, therefore, that there is progress, most notably in disentangling things that ought not to be bound up together. For instance, once politics and money are completely disentangled things will be very different. That doesn't mean we currently lack a knowledge of what would be good, but in any case we are unable to realize that knowledge at present because the system doesn't allow for it. I would say, then, that what we are getting better at is making room for moral decisions, but that is an entirely different matter from suggesting we are also becoming wiser in the moral realm. On the contrary, I think people at present are probably far less wise morally than their ancestors were.

I can appreciate this distinction and see it as a helpful clarification - thanks.

General Comments / Re: Hope for Merkel and Germany
« on: January 07, 2017, 11:02:02 AM »
I'll make one other small note on this matter: you seem to base your position of the 'anti-gay' sentiments on "Doesn't seem right to me." This is interesting because on the one hand we do want to listen to our instincts about what's right and wrong, but on the other hand what is "right to me" sounds a lot of like placing oneself as an ultimate moral authority on what others should adhere to.

There's no reason to presume that "one's self" is the ultimate moral authority. It is just as plausible to believe that one has at best a "sense" of what should be the best moral  practice. To want others to follow along with that practice is not a contradiction - even though other people can be understood to have their own "senses", it is not in any way to make one's self the "ultimate" moral authority to want them to conform to yours. One need only believe that one is closer to understanding the best moral practice than the other guy. One can also remain open to believing that someone else may come along with a superior (i.e. closer to the best moral practice) position.

But if there is such a thing as moral authority then it must be based on something other than what seems right or wrong to you,

I would dispute this, since morality can be conceived as entirely a human construct and that humans have an innate "sense" of right/wrong (the Golden Rule) that can be subverted and perturbed by other factors in people whose morality is "compromised".

in which case your own feeling must only be subservient to that greater truth. And once we get into that territory we must begin to wonder whether that truth accords with popular social sentiments at this moment in history. The fact that many people believe a thing now in no way relates to whether they are speaking truth or not; the truth doesn't change even though popular notions do.

Well, it may be that people develop a deeper understanding of the moral truth over the course of history, much like our scientific understanding has evolved. In which case it could be said that the arc of history bends slowly towards a more morally "knowledgeable" people under the right conditions. It is plausible that this doesn't happen equally everywhere at once, but that uncovering higher moral truths is only possible under certain external conditions (a wealth of resources, for example, reducing needs-based conflict).

So even that 'many people agree on this' doesn't particularly speak to its veracity in that sense, and even 'many people would be upset if this were true' doesn't have any relation to the likelihood that it's false. However if we eschew moral realism altogether we are then left with your own moral authority stopping with you alone. "This doesn't seem right to me, but their beliefs are equally valid" would have to be the strongest claim possible.

Well, here is the relativist position indeed, and why it's such a cosmically wimpy one. It ostensibly means all actions are equally morally defensible, which is bull, I think.

General Comments / Re: Hope for Merkel and Germany
« on: January 04, 2017, 07:58:57 PM »
Fine. It's hypocritical not to adopt pitbulls on the off chance one might attack your family, if you already have a Doberman in your house. Most pitbulls are perfectly fine - how dare you discriminate against breeds merely because one breed has a nasty history and reputation.

Dogs don't have human rights. This also isn't a great analogy.

If Italian mobsters were prone to machine gunning non Italians or massacring politicians for the glory of Caesar I can guarantee you there would have been no Italian immigrants either. I think you know how false.such a comparison is.

The extent of it is similar. Look at the 20's and 30's era.
There was little talk of any anti-Italian immigration policies that I know of, but it's clear they were linked to extraordinary (and extraordinarily public) violent crimes that did include "gunning people down in the streets". I'll admit that the crimes were more targeted "hits" and less randomly shooting at civilians, but when you live down the block from this it's probably disturbing all the same.

General Comments / Re: Hope for Merkel and Germany
« on: January 04, 2017, 06:20:47 PM »
It's like saying that if your son is vilolent it is hypocritical not to invite similarly violent strangers to live with you.

False analogy, since the population invited is almost universally non-violent, and people in one's "house" is not a very good analogy for people in a nation, since inviting *anyone* into one's house is far, far more of an imposition than having them live on your block.

I think fear of significant Muslim immigration is justified. France and Belgium are exhibit A. If that makes me an Islamophobe, so be it.

I think it can be done much better, and I've already outlined how.

And by the way: the Irish and Italians weren't blowing up markets and gunning down public spaces. And while, say, Hindu Indians have at least as alien a culture as, say, Syrian Muslims (and brown skin) you don't see the same concerns over their immigration. It's almost as if naked bigotry and racism CAN'T explain why people don't want Muslims as immigrants.

Italians had the mafia. Imagine if they had simply banned all Italian immigration because of the mafia! We would be discussing today how ignorant that was, just as we look at the Japanese internment camps.

General Comments / Re: Hope for Merkel and Germany
« on: January 04, 2017, 05:37:23 PM »

You seem to be discussing citizenship as something that should be earned, and you are doing so on a consistent blanket basis. This is a reasonable bar to set for people seeking citizenship, but in the same breath you're discussing actual citizens as if they, too, need to be evaluated on some standard of merit. This is the part you don't understand; there is no measurement of whether a current citizen should be one or not. They already are, and that's the end of it. Any talk of 'deserving' or 'risk factor' in their case is completely non sequitur to talk of what standards a potential immigrant should meet. Whether the local citizens are good people, bad, middle, risk factors or non-risks, they are citizens and have the fulls set of rights and privileges afforded to a citizen. Being a 'risk factor' doesn't deny them those rights, although to some extent committing actual crimes does. On the other hand, preventing people from other places who are risk factors from becoming citizens - that is a completely different matter.

And does this not strike you as a hypocritical system, in which some are held to a high standard and others get a free pass by birth lottery?

Do note, I am arguing "ought" here, not 'is". I understand the current system, a system in which the quality of entrants is increasingly scrutinized (to the point of blanket bans being bandied about) but the quality of existing members (by something as random as being born!) is essentially non-existent. It offers no coherent defense of why one ought to employ any scrutiny when handing out citizenship, since by one channel it is literally given for the act of being born. If one was remotely serious about improving the quality of one's citizenry (or one's music collection) one would actually go through the population/collection, not merely one entry point. Note - I am not arguing for random "quality checks" on current citizens - or even against having some smart level of scrutiny of immigrants. I am saying that banning outright a population based on some statistical characteristic had at least better have some of those statistics in hand. I am also arguing that we get along fine with our current population that consists of some percentage of serial killing maniacs, so really what gives us a reasoned argument for being hypervigilant about some other group with their own rare psychos?

I think this has far more to do with Islamophobia than it does terrorism. People aren't really worried about lone-wolf refugees coming over - they are driven mostly by a tribal contempt in this instance. Despite how little respect I have for religions in general, least of all regressive ones, and how I actually think Islam is a deeply troubled religion that has not been (and perhaps cannot be) tamed like Christianity, I can agree that it is odd for me to wag my finger about Islamophobia. But there it is.

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