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Oct 11 thelyamhound commented on Forbes Says Piketty Is Wrong: American Billionaires Are Self-Made.
@126 - But does that suggest a problem with the theory, or with your grasp on it? I don't mean that as an insult; my low opinion of you, personally, which you've earned through your behavior on this site, does not extend to all conservatives, all Christians, or even all doubters of evolution, Young Earth Creationists, etc. I can find someone's position profoundly misguided without imagining them to be either fundamentally stupid, immature, or malicious.

So really, I'm just asking whether you honestly believe that your limited exposure to an idea in college gives you an understanding comparable to an expert in the field, and whether a scientific subset that studies only one very, very small part of the broader evolutionary puzzle gives you enough information to reject the whole theory as being untrue. Are you so lacking in humility as to imagine that maybe you just don't get it?

Another thought on evolution: First, the contention was that we don't observe evolution at all. Then radical speciation in single-celled organisms was observed in a laboratory setting, followed soon thereafter by observations of radical adaptation that fit the bill for "microevolution" were observed among wild populations of organisms under intense environmental pressure. Then the goalposts were moved--microeolution, sure, but not macroevolution! Then speciation events, measured by profound allele changes in wild mammalian populations subjected to changes in environment were recorded. Now the hurtle seems to be the observation of mesoevolution. At what point will skepticism be satisfied?

I only have a layperson's understanding of any of this, but that's kind of the point. I trust in the experts and peer review, except where it blatantly contradicts my own firsthand observation ... and even then, I allow that my observation may be wrong. I'm just curious as to why you, another layperson, don't seem to experience a rational level of layperson's doubt.
Oct 11 thelyamhound commented on Forbes Says Piketty Is Wrong: American Billionaires Are Self-Made.
A few interesting observation, Seattleblues (for those of us who find observations interesting; for those like you who appear to be interested solely in giving voice to your contempt for the opposition, they're likely to fall a little flat): The founders so often cited when advancing a[n] (more or less) originalist view of the Constitution had little certainty regarding the character of their document; many even advocated scrapping it entirely every generation. Not, I imagine, a great idea, but one that suggests a possibility of faster, more radical change than the amendment process proper allows.

I don't know that I agree or disagree, confidently, with the precept; I just think that the desire for a "government of laws and not of men" assumes that law is somehow less ephemeral, less subject to whim, than men. But as a social animal, we change from generation to generation; indeed, our mode of evolution has been largely behavioral, partially because of our relatively short time, as a species, on the planet, and partially because we are so far flung, and capable of such profound manipulations of our immediate environments (or at least of convincing our senses of the profundity of those manipulations), that we are all but required to adapt more quickly than biology would allow for our bodies; being a behaviorally complex beast, then, we do this by shuffling the deck of our various social contracts to determine what will best serve any given society.

Constitutional limits are tricky. In point of fact, the language of the First Amendment--"Congress shall make no law"--arguably forbids only the federal government from establishing religion or restricting speech, and allows the states to pass such laws. And indeed, many states interpreted the statute that way right up until the 14th Amendment; at the time the Constitution was ratified, nearly all extant states HAD state religions and speech codes, and were not required to rescind them.

So yes, our rights of free expression lie on shaky ground; all of our rights do, even those of life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness. Locke and Hobbes were as brilliant as their time and their metaphysical presuppositions would allow them to be, but there being no evidence of an anthropomorphic deity or a comforting plan in the universe, Natural Rights were a comforting, crypto-theistic fiction that amounted to a denial of the sneaky suspicion that we lived, and live still, in a chaotic universe where the thin veneer of this evolutionary adaptation we call civilization is all that keeps us from eating each other.

Given that ... Yes, I believe we should proceed cautiously when making changes. I also think that caution is satisfied when we're clear what root goals we intend to accomplish. A healthy populace where individuals are at liberty to assign or create value as they see fit, through labor that best suits their aptitudes and temperaments, would seem a non-controversial fit. It seems to me that a plurality of Americans--or at least of active voters--more or less agrees.
... an education isn't about learning a discipline, scientific or otherwise.

It should be about comprehension of how science and literature and mathematics and even the silliness of sociology work together to aid in understanding the world.
That's debatable, but I don't have a problem with your definition of education, really. It seems Socratic enough.

Then again, learning a discipline is also education. I'm not convinced the definition couldn't include both.
If I need a technician he or she doesn't need this, of course.
That ... may or may not be true. But he or she will likely be a better citizen, or live a more fulfilling life, if he or she has that background.
Certainly my faith informs the values based on which I vote or assess policy. But I intentionally don't use explicitly a faith other citizens may not share in discussing either candidates or policy issues.
Not true, really, but it would be a worthy position for you to adopt. That said, it brings us to the primary disagreement which we've never resolved (essentially because you've never mounted a coherent rebuttal to my posit). I believe that there is no free exercise of religion worth the label if we do not have absolute moral self-determination, and if law is not limited to basic bones of civic utility that would allow morals to be exercised according to such determination--that the number one constraint on all levels of government is barring it from legislating on matters of morality where that morality does not pass a utilitarian (or, if you prefer language already enshrined in precedent, rational basis) test.
@skepticism of science fads
The suggestion that evolutionary theor[y/ies] constitute[s] a "fad" says more about you than I could, but I do love to highlight what I can. Let's continue, in your own words:
I've been around a generation longer than you, and like you was intense about politics as a young man. So I've seen the coming ice age become global warming become climate change. Sometimes the same damn fools with flashy degrees espoused BOTH ice age and then global warming. So pardon my calm as you and your peers run around clucking about the sky falling.
It seems to me that the common thread in all of these is that the climate is changing, and that we can show and measure a human contribution to the phenomenon.
For what it's worth as well, I took physical anthropology in college. And the faith it takes to make enormous leaps from a vertebra or finger bone to the fantastical story of human evolution? Any witch doctor in deep jungles would stand in awe at the faith your ilk display in your little stories, little fella.
It's foolish beyond measure to imagine that a class or two or five in a discipline which studies variations of humans and primates would give you a sound and rational basis on which to evaluate the veracity of the most prevalent working theory regarding diversity of all life.
Oct 11 thelyamhound commented on Forbes Says Piketty Is Wrong: American Billionaires Are Self-Made.
Why would growing levels of economic inequality be unsustainable? Places like Mexico have sustained higher levels of economic inequality for a very long time.
You ask an interesting question. I'm not sure that economic inequality is unsustainable. I suspect it would be, if only in that have-nots have a tendency to, eventually, seize what the haves have. But the anomaly of Mexico leads me to ask a few questions: Do the haves have enough that the have-nots have reasonable basis to believe that it could significantly change the quality of life for the populace overall? Does Mexican culture have any global influence? How disenfranchised are the poor from the lifestyles and amenities of the rich? from the lifestyles and amenities of the middle-class? Is the behavior of the discontented masses regulated through aggressive policing? What effect does living next to so wealthy a neighbor, with so fundamentally ambivalent an immigration policy, have on people's sense of their options?
Oct 10 thelyamhound commented on Antonio Banderas Almost Fucks a Robot in Automata.
Of course capitalism would survive such a catastrophe. We like to think of capitalism as an organized system, which it can be, but first and foremost, it's a way people behave, a way of keeping the barter system alive in light of goods and services being traded through the intermediary of currency. I suppose we can imagine that we wouldn't, in any given future, try to organize ourselves around that principle (though even that is a stretch; socialism is really just capitalism with the state standing in for the private owner), but even in, say, a horticultural system or a hunter/gatherer system (neither of which are likely to crop up in a plantless world), some people will have more of something than they need, and will try to trade it for something else of which they're short. And so begins a market.
Oct 10 thelyamhound commented on Forbes Says Piketty Is Wrong: American Billionaires Are Self-Made.
Funding of the arts is a separate discussion. As a working artist, I don't give a fuck if my money comes from the government, Bill Gates, regional meth labs or the fucking Yakuza; the world with my art is a better place than the world without it, and I will take what's on offer from any one who has the decency not to tell me what sort of art I'm to offer.

Some forms, like theater, cannot exist and have never existed except by (at least partial) subsidy. That doesn't mean that any given playwright or director or producer or actor shouldn't have to prove "value" in the sense of being able to attract an audience (though the measure of what constitutes "an audience"--sheer numbers? quality of reception?); it just means that some forms require an infrastructure. That infrastructure, though, can be as simple as space set aside for arts use at little or no expense and a cooperative system of adjudicating who gets to use it, like your medical co-op, and universal access to transit and health care that can benefit artists and non-artists alike.

Of course, you assume that the valuation of art or culture or plastic tubes for ferrets are clearly subjective while the value of transit and health care are somehow objective. But objectivity is simply the triangulation of the shared space between multiple subjective interests and observations; experimentation and testability are simply modes for repeating anecdotes enough times and through enough lenses that one disagrees at the peril of separating oneself from the tribe at a fundamental level. Transit and health care have empirically measurable real world benefits, but these are meaningless to those with personal physicians and chauffeurs in the same way art is meaningless to you and plastic tubes for ferrets are (for the time being; I have no pets, but I don't object to pets, per se) to me. I'd say even clean water and roads have debatable value to those who can opt out of the public supply.

You miss, though, the way I'm using value in the context of the argument. I'm not particularly interested in the state offering value; I'm interested in the state offering a baseline of material stability so that ALL work can be used towards the creation of value, however the individual defines it.
Oct 10 thelyamhound commented on Forbes Says Piketty Is Wrong: American Billionaires Are Self-Made.
@64 - Obamacare is better than what I had before. We're paying less for slightly better insurance. But yes, I would prefer a proper single-payer system.

The part of me that has no stake in society whatsoever might feel like participation in social programs should be voluntary. It would even prefer that subsidizing the military, police forces, and roads be voluntary. Actually, that same part would prefer that speed limits and laws prohibiting assault be voluntary; it would certainly make it easy to drive fast and beat up peckerwoods at will.

There are no working examples of broad, successful voluntary taxation systems that successfully fund large-scale infrastructure.

As for the wage argument, again, if other folks who actually want to spend some time creating anything of value in this world--something you clearly have no use for under your sad little rock--are to function without an infrastructure that provides transit and health care, they require adequate wages to ensure that those baseline needs are accounted for; if, conversely, their wages are to remain as low as the employer is able to keep them, it will remain necessary that civilization, through one collective endeavor or another--and I don't see why government is worse, or particularly different, than any other--will have to provide those baseline needs universally.
Oct 10 thelyamhound commented on Forbes Says Piketty Is Wrong: American Billionaires Are Self-Made.
@61 -
Yes, poor in Denmark have it better than poor in the US.
If we all agree that the poor in Denmark are better off than the poor in the U.S., I have to ask--is this or is this not a worthy aspiration? That is, would we or wouldn't want our poor to have better access to health care, transportation, food, and shelter, any of which might give them a better platform for industry and value creation?
Fine for you, take a vow of poverty. I don't give a fuck. Your life. But don't impose your own morality and lifestyle on other people.
I'm not sure who's suggesting that such morality and lifestyle be imposed on anyone else. It seems to me what most of us are arguing is that what we value should be available to more people; that spending one's time creating or pursuing value--however lofty or prosaic their definitions of such--amounts to a greater calling for a member of society than spending one's labors alleviating existential anxieties like "how will I pay for my next doctor's visit"; that concentration of wealth above mixed with poor compensation for those below seems like a failing recipe for allowing this, until and unless there is an infrastructure in place ensuring that basic needs are met in ways comparable to the way they're met in, say, Sweden or Denmark.

Oct 10 thelyamhound commented on Forbes Says Piketty Is Wrong: American Billionaires Are Self-Made.
@55 -
They are actually MORE capitalist then the US, with lower corporate taxes, less regulations on businesses and no minimum wage.

... and universal healthcare, extensive subsidized public transit, and so on.

Again, I'm all for people having incentives to earn greater wealth or, even better, creating actual value for society, whatever that happens to mean to any given individual or collective. But it's clear to me that the most successful examples you can find of less regulated markets than our own tend to involve significant subsidy of certain baseline civic utilities that are left entirely to the whims of plutocrats in our system.
Oct 10 thelyamhound commented on Forbes Says Piketty Is Wrong: American Billionaires Are Self-Made.
@43 - But they don't have their basic needs taken care of--not the way they would under, say, the socialized health care systems of Europe.

In principle, I agree that one should have something to aspire to. I find it sad and fundamentally crustacean that you would limit that aspiration to creature comforts; a mansion on a hill is ... nice and all, but a hermit crab in a bigger shell is still just a hermit crab. As far as any objective principle is concerned, we're no more than the third chimpanzee, barely more than a virus, but our great evolutionary adaptation is that we invent meaning for the otherwise random phenomenon that is life, whether through our fictional deities or the mutually agreed upon fictions (life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness; liberte, egalite, fraternite; from each according to his ability ...; etc.) on which we found our societies.

I'm driven to negotiate between my creature comforts in order to facilitate spiritual and creative pursuits that will ensure that I do more for humanity in an week of my life than you will have done by the time they lower your broken, sad body into the ground and leave you without marker or mourners in the cold ground (presumably somewhere outside of Houston, TX). When my "day job" was a thankless 40 hours at a desk, I imagine I'd have given it up had I no worry about basic food, shelter, health care; now that I do with time precisely what I want to, I'd probably keep doing what I do because it makes my life better AND, more importantly, the lives of my clients and my audience better. It give my life meaning, and it makes them better able (one hopes) to find meaning in their own. I create value because value does not exist in nature; quantity does, but until it is valued, offered, transformed, it is mere quantity. The notion that anyone should be expected to create value to live with the assurance that, whatever else happens, a baseline that includes food, shelter, clothing, healthcare, and some access, however limited, to the cultural history of one's society seems to miss the point of what value creation is for.

I've never even been on unemployment, and have rarely worked fewer than three jobs in my adult life. The kind of busy I am right now is the kind of busy I'd like to stay; if I were assured that failure would not cost me my wife's and my apartment, our health care, our transportation, etc., I would not only continue to work as I do, but I would focus considerably more energy on exactly what you seem to advocate for: value creation. I would be at liberty to do so because there would be no need to waste my energies on anything so banal as mere survival.
Oct 8 thelyamhound commented on Who Does Marriage Equality Hurt? Janna Darnelle, That's Who..
@81 - Perhaps just debates with a chance of ending in stalemate (at best)? Or maybe you just don't attend to your arguments. In any case, you've left every disagreement we've ever had dangling. The last word's no fun without some kind of acknowledgment. :)

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