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PostPosted: Sat Jul 04, 2020 12:38 pm 
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Philosophy aside, people outside the US might not appreciate how odd the US political system is. It's pretty grossly undemocratic by design. For example, the Senate: each state gets two Senators, so Wyoming and Vermont, which have fewer people than my county of about four square miles, have the same representation in the Senate. Here's a map of states that have a smaller population than just Los Angeles County:

Image

So Californians are grossly under-represented. The city of Washington DC is larger than Wyoming and Vermont, in terms of population, but it has no senators and no voting congressperson. Puerto Ricans are US citizens, but have no senators of congresspeople. Puerto Rico has more people than more than twenty states

Then gerrymandering--multiple states have rigged the electoral districts so that one party casts far more votes, but ends up with fewer representatives. Wisconsin is the most notorious example.

Finally the "electoral college," which few actually understand but which means that a candidate for president can lose the total popular vote by, say, 5 million votes and still win the white house.

So yes, there are good reasons why we look like idiots


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PostPosted: Sat Jul 04, 2020 1:02 pm 
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Mr.Gumby wrote:
Do you have trailing 'zucchini' over there? They don't go 'octopus' here.

TBH, I didn't know there was any other kind. Novice gardeners over here soon find out that zucchini plants are so fecund (and sprawling) that one plant alone will usually provide you with plenty, and often many more than you'll ever use on your own if you're not into canning. It's one of the memes of summer, here: There's always some gardener in a crisis of zucchini overabundance, desperately giving the stuff away to the neighbors. Delicious as it is, zucchini bread is often associated with last resorts, because people give that away, too.

bwat wrote:
The USA doesn't need me to defend it. As a country they've chosen a nobler path than most.

As to its inception, I would agree. But injustice, complacency and decay are inevitable in the human realm (as the poet said, "The best laid schemes o' mice an' men / Gang aft a-gley"), and we now find ourselves in the midst of a Great Debate - not about whether this is indeed the case, but whether it matters. That's it in a nutshell. Taking only one mundane example of things gone a-gley, we all witness how there has been a popular slipping-away from the founding original intent of the word "freedom"; now, it is instead fetishized in service of rejecting the slightest inconvenience. If anyone wonders at the American rationale behind refusing to wear masks in the midst of a pandemic, that's it. This isn't even political talk; it's a simple fact, for no one on either side would dispute it.

If the US was founded on a philosophy, we're about to see if we're mature enough to be up to it.

If I've violated the No Politics principle with the above, I apologize and am ready to delete it. I'm afraid it's just too close to home for me to be assured of my impartial perspective, although I've practically given myself a hernia in trying.

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PostPosted: Sat Jul 04, 2020 2:24 pm 
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Bling in pandemic India:

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A facemask made of gold. Yours for only ₹289,000 (or £3099.88, €3441.42, $3869.87 USD, $5245.22 CAD, or ₮10,955,879.18).

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PostPosted: Sat Jul 04, 2020 3:27 pm 
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Is that your final offer? :poke:


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PostPosted: Sat Jul 04, 2020 3:30 pm 
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david_h wrote:
Is that your final offer? :poke:

Get it while it's hot; who knows where the exchange rates will go. If you just want bragging rights, I suggest shelling out in Tugriks.

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 05, 2020 12:16 pm 
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Nanohedron wrote:
We're not all braying idiots, if it's any consolation. We're just not the ones running things, if "running things" is even the right word for it.

I have absolutely no doubt that the majority are as sane as the majority anywhere. I am all too aware of how it could feel to live in a country led by people who seem to live on another planet. 'nuff said.
My original, misspelled, quote was aimed with irony at a small portion of the population, not intended to denigrate the country as a whole, and I hope it did not come across as such.

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 05, 2020 2:19 pm 
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I've got a lot to say on this thread. Excellent thread. Well, others will have their say.

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 05, 2020 3:04 pm 
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PB+J wrote:
Philosophy aside, people outside the US might not appreciate how odd the US political system is. It's pretty grossly undemocratic by design.

Look, we are all allowed a bit of exageration but if you seriously believe that then you have never met and spoke to people who have experienced totalitarian government?

PB+J wrote:
So yes, there are good reasons why we look like idiots

Idiots don't give the world
  • the blues,
  • the transistor,
  • the arpanet/internet, and
  • put men on the moon.


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PostPosted: Sun Jul 05, 2020 3:15 pm 
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Nanohedron wrote:
bwat wrote:
The USA doesn't need me to defend it. As a country they've chosen a nobler path than most.

As to its inception, I would agree. But injustice, complacency and decay are inevitable in the human realm (as the poet said, "The best laid schemes o' mice an' men / Gang aft a-gley"), and we now find ourselves in the midst of a Great Debate - not about whether this is indeed the case, but whether it matters. That's it in a nutshell. Taking only one mundane example of things gone a-gley, we all witness how there has been a popular slipping-away from the founding original intent of the word "freedom"; now, it is instead fetishized in service of rejecting the slightest inconvenience. If anyone wonders at the American rationale behind refusing to wear masks in the midst of a pandemic, that's it.


Exactly! Where I am (Sweden) you don't see face masks for a completely different reason.


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PostPosted: Sun Jul 05, 2020 5:39 pm 
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bwat wrote:
PB+J wrote:
Philosophy aside, people outside the US might not appreciate how odd the US political system is. It's pretty grossly undemocratic by design.

Look, we are all allowed a bit of exageration but if you seriously believe that then you have never met and spoke to people who have experienced totalitarian government?

PB+J wrote:
So yes, there are good reasons why we look like idiots

Idiots don't give the world
  • the blues,
  • the transistor,
  • the arpanet/internet, and
  • put men on the moon.

Much fodder for discussion. I haven't lived in a totalitarian regime, but I've lived abroad, and that was enough to awaken in me a love of my country that I didn't know I had.

But don't think that PB+J isn't cognizant of the points you bring up; he is a professional historian, after all. And as an American, I recognize that while it's very nice of you to point out the good things, now is especially not the time for us to rest on our laurels. These days I look around me and often wonder if we haven't caught the disease of idiocy regardless of creed. Yes, there's plenty good, but ... damn.

The thing about America is that it was founded on the ideal of self-governance by the people, and to this day there are observers still watching and waiting for our experiment to fail. No matter what good we may have accomplished and given the world, there is much to counterbalance it, and it is the bad that we are being forced to confront as never before, because it is shaking us up but good. Much of it has to do with how we are to deal, if at all, with what has already been done. Let's take monuments: Mount Rushmore, for example, swells many an American heart, but it is also just one of many treaty violations, and a most visible fait accompli. The Sioux recognize this; they've had over 200 years of having to learn to live with such things, and they've been pretty pragmatic about it because, well, they haven't had much choice. But while some tribal members would like to see the Mount Rushmore monument removed in its entirety, plenty of others will see such an act as pointless overkill: Tunkáśila Śákpe is already wounded, and wounding it further won't help anything. But the facts behind it are the enduring issue. Holy man John Lame Deer planted a prayer staff atop Mount Rushmore and declared that the the Presidents' faces "shall remain dirty until the treaties concerning the Black Hills are fulfilled." So you see, he wasn't calling for the monument's removal, nor did he curse it; as an American himself, he was showing the way forward by saying that history and obligations must be squarely acknowledged, and addressed in a way that is satisfactory if this national symbol, graven illegally on stolen land, is to be healed and legitimized for all Americans. Given so much spilt milk, these days righting things will have to simply be in the best way possible (not out of mere convenience, but nevertheless in good faith), but until those treaties are honored, the honor of those images is indeed besmirched, no matter how much you wish to ignore it. Lame Deer simply pointed out the obvious. And that is the question: Are all Americans truly equal under the law, or not? We have to decide once and for all, or stop kidding ourselves about it.

This is just one simplified example of the issues we're being forced to confront, and IMO confront them we must. I see tackling justice as a most properly American thing to do, but of course others think otherwise and are content with things as they have been and are, staking their hopes on that vision of America. And the world is watching us on that front too, isn't it. After all, we all think we're right.

I don't want to get too far into my own beliefs, because it's going to be unnecessary in any case. But I think it's entirely fair for me to suggest that if any nation touts lofty ideals, they should remember that the more you sweep under the rug, the lumpier that rug gets, and eventually no one's fooled anymore about where the dirt is.

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 05, 2020 7:44 pm 
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I must second most of what Nano has said. And would add that now is a time for all Americans to reflect on these words: I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ¨We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.¨
No matter how much dross some would heap on those words, they will always strive to shine through as words to live by, fight for, and as some have been called to do, die for.

Bob

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 06, 2020 2:34 am 
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Quote:
¨We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.¨


That's the sort of thing spouted by rich people - just go & ask the poor if they were born equal. :lol:

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 06, 2020 2:01 pm 
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fatmac wrote:
Quote:
¨We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.¨

That's the sort of thing spouted by rich people - just go & ask the poor if they were born equal. :lol:

Spouted by rich people? Maybe so, for the founders and framers of the US were for the greatest part well-to-do white men. More to the point is that because of their circumstances, they were in a position to fund, engage in diplomatic relations, publish, and whatever else their leverage gave in getting things done. But the meaning of those words is not one of social equality. Far from it; so long as there is such a thing as human society, despite our best efforts social equality will always be impossible whatever the institution, and I have no doubt that these men understood all too keenly the bitter irony of those words coming from the many slaveholders among them. Rather, the ultimate meaning of those words is one of equality under the law. That, at least, is attainable (although America has yet to make good on it, and that's a huge part of what we're fighting each other over). I also believe that there were not just a few framers who foresaw that those very words, "created equal", would have a keystone part to play in the eventual dismantling, once and for all, of the US institution of slavery (only not in their own time, I'm sure many hoped).

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 06, 2020 2:35 pm 
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There's a famous question Samuel Johnson asked about the American revolution: "How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes?" The big slaveholders, the ones who own more than 300 people, are always cracking on about liberty: "give me liberty of give me death!" says Patrick Henry, who died owning 67 people. There's the problem of the US in a nutshell: the idea of liberty emerges in a context of racial slavery. In fact you could argue very easily that who could better articulate the meaning of freedom better than a man who owned 300 people? He understood the advantages of freedom very well indeed.

When slavery was abolished, at enormous cost, and the franchise expanded (and then contracted, and then expanded again) we never had any serious debate about what freedom meant. It was again easy for Jefferson to know what freedom meant: all he had to do was look outside and see the un-free people: the meaning of freedom was clear. Now no one is "unfree:" everyone is free and so freedom is ill-defined. It comes to mean ridiculous things like never ever wearing a mask, or the right to carry any kind of gun anywhere any time.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 06, 2020 2:44 pm 
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an seanduine wrote:
I must second most of what Nano has said. And would add that now is a time for all Americans to reflect on these words: I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ¨We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.¨
No matter how much dross some would heap on those words, they will always strive to shine through as words to live by, fight for, and as some have been called to do, die for.

Bob


Martin Luther King was not rich. He had the temerity to ask that our creed actually be lived out. His dream is still alive.

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