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  • 1

    posted a message on Fourth annual Pi Day thread!
    Yes, it has been a long and busy year, with a lot of changes both here on MTGS and elsewhere in the world. But not so many changes that the world has not completed its circuit around the sun once again, and so we are gathered here to celebrate that achievement on this day of the circle constant, 3/14, Pi Day!

    ...except the earth's orbit is not a circle. It is an ellipse, and as such the earth varies in its distance from the sun. So are we celebrating on the wrong day? The ratio of half the orbital perimeter to the distance at aphelion (a calculation which, on a circle, would produce pi) says we should celebrate on March 9th, and at perihelion, March 19th. However, I am pleased to report that if we base our calculation on the earth's average distance from the sun -- the orbit's semi-major axis -- we get a value of 3.1417 and change. In short: pi may be irrational, but our orbit isn't very eccentric. Which means that today, March 14th, we can with three significant digits and a clear conscience commemorate both a remarkable number and the remarkable yearly journey of this great big rock we call home.

    So put your pastries in the oven and break out your Just Desserts decks, for today we party for pi!
    Posted in: Talk and Entertainment
  • 9

    posted a message on Some final thoughts
    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, as they say, but the aphorism is not usually understood as it ought to be: how miraculous must be this eye of the beholder, to serve as source for all the beauty in the universe! Beauty is not a physical phenomenon. No "beauty particle" flies through space to strike the retina. A goldfish or a GoPro could look up at the stars, process the visual image just as well as we, and yet remain unmoved by the sight. Only human beings wonder what they are -- and that wonder is such a deep part of our nature that our youngest children sing about it in nursery rhymes. Immeasurably tiny as we are beneath the cosmos, we have the ultimate power over it, that of appreciation. The laws of physics wrought the stars as blind, dead things hanging in emptiness; it is only in our eyes that they become sublime.

    And it gets better. We are not merely beholders of stars. When we turn to behold each other, then the magic really begins. Every single human being has their own vision of the universe reflected in their eyes. We all see the same universe, but we all see it differently. Seven billion universes, each one similar enough to our own that communication is possible between them, but utterly unique in its majesty. As if one cosmos were not vast enough to give us endless marvels, we will never run out of new ones to explore. With friends!

    We have got to be the luckiest damn creatures in existence.

    So don't waste these opportunities. Don't waste this power of appreciation. If you don't see the beauty in stars and rocks and beetles and humans, then nothing else in the universe will.

    Don't be so proud as to think that you have nothing to gain from listening to other perspectives. You're missing out on entire universes. And the craziest ones are often the most fascinating.

    And don't be so humble as to think that you have nothing to offer others in your perspective. You, too, contain an entire universe, and nobody else can see it unless you let them.
    Posted in: Debate
  • 1

    posted a message on Debate is Closing 05/05/17
    Quote from Jay13x »
    Quote from Kryptnyt »
    Was this a decision made by the Debate moderators then?
    The ultimate decision was made by senior staff (Globals and Admins) on the site, which includes me.
    I should stress, though, that the Debate moderators were a part of the discussion and support the final decision.
    Posted in: Debate
  • 1

    posted a message on North Korea
    Quote from Highroller »
    Is maintaining the status quo truly the most beneficial stance?

    Would an escalation of conflict truly result in nuclear armageddon?
    The problem is that, as in Russian roulette, the only way to find out is to pull that trigger.

    If Trump escalates and North Korea starts shooting, clearly Trump is a reckless and irresponsible leader.
    But if Trump escalates and North Korea backs down, does that make Trump a foreign policy genius, or just a reckless and irresponsible leader who got lucky this time?
    Posted in: Debate
  • 1

    posted a message on North Korea
    North Korea's antics are North Korea's fault. Always.

    But it's the responsibility of the US President and other world leaders to respond to those antics and keep them from boiling over into a shooting war. Trump is very capable of screwing that part up.
    Posted in: Debate
  • 1

    posted a message on Is radical skepticism good to follow?
    Quote from AzureDuality »
    Your probability doesn't speak to those small chances though. Sure you could conclude that it's an unfair coin but you cannot really do that. You could be caught in the rare chance that it's all heads. There is no reason to treat it as unfair, you have no confidence to treat it so because you are stuck in that small probability event.
    If you think this is the case, I would like to invite you to come gambling with me. We can bet on coin flips. I'll provide the coin. And I'll always bet on heads. But I'll let you go double or nothing for as long as you like. Hell, not even double or nothing -- I will wager my entire winnings on every flip no matter what you put up on your side. If you think there's no reason to treat the coin we flip as unfair, if you think there's always a chance you might win all your money back, surely this must sound like a great deal, right?

    But if, over the course of this little game, you begin to feel a growing suspicion that you are being cheated -- that's your confidence in the coin's fairness falling. That's the result of all the empirical evidence you're observing. And it's a good thing. It's the rational thing. Nobody is going to look at a guy who lost all his money betting against a two-headed coin and think, "Oh, this is a wise fellow, I should listen to what he has to say concerning the deepest mysteries of life and existence."
    Posted in: Philosophy
  • 2

    posted a message on Supreme Court Justice Nominees Gorsuch and Garland
    Quote from joandeMRA »
    Like the Revolutionary War...
    The leaders of the American Revolution wrote the Supreme Court appointment process. They had an outright fetish for governmental procedure and the rule of law. The election of 1800 was the first time in modern history an elected head of state had been voted out of office, and despite the bitter partisan rivalry between Adams and Jefferson it went off without a hitch. So don't try to tell me that they'd be down with hijacking a Court seat.

    Quote from joandeMRA »
    ...or the Democrats refusing to impeach Bill Clinton despite his guilt and their constitutional responsibility.
    ...what? Whatever you think about that, it had nothing to do with an acquisition of political office. Are you just throwing out random grievances?

    Quote from joandeMRA »
    No, I wouldn't support that. It's more complicated then this and I have no interest in purity pissing contests.
    The name of the forum is "Debate". If you're not willing to explain your reasoning, what are you doing here?

    Quote from joandeMRA »
    OK, I'm curious what you would have to say about sanctuary cities and the rule of law then.
    It's not the job of local police officers to enforce federal laws.

    Quote from joandeMRA »
    Impeach him for what, it's not something stupid like "being a facist" is it?
    If being a left-wing judge is bad enough to violate the Constitution over, why shouldn't being fascist be bad enough to impeach over? You were the one who introduced this notion that political ideology is a valid test for holding an office.
    Posted in: Debate
  • 1

    posted a message on Supreme Court Justice Nominees Gorsuch and Garland
    Quote from zoboso »
    in sum the republican senators were not stealing the nomination, the senate controls the nomination.
    The Senate's constitutional duty is to provide "advice and consent" for presidential appointments. In not holding hearings or a vote for Garland the Senate failed to do this, and left one of the most important offices in the federal government empty for a year. This is unconscionable.

    Quote from zoboso »
    They did their job for their constituents, If the democrats were in the same position they'ds do the same thing
    Even if this is true, that doesn't make it right.
    Posted in: Debate
  • 3

    posted a message on Supreme Court Justice Nominees Gorsuch and Garland
    Quote from Koopa »
    Did Republicans steal the nomination?
    Yes. It was a reprehensible failure of the Senate to do its constitutional job.

    Quote from Koopa »
    Should Democrats try to block Garland?
    (Assuming you mean "Gorsuch")

    In less crazy times, Gorsuch would have been confirmed easily. (In 1986, Scalia was confirmed 98-0.) He is from everything I've seen an excellent judge and near-ideal candidate for the position in terms of qualifications, intelligence, and temperament -- honestly not the sort of person I expected Trump to nominate. Does he hold conservative political views? Yes. Of course. But that's how our democracy works. The American people decided that they wanted a conservative to be the guy picking the judges. So if the Democrats were trying to block Gorsuch simply on ideological grounds, I'd be... well, filled with a frustration of a weary and familiar sort, because it's the same thing that they tried to do to Roberts and Alito, and that the GOP tried to do to Sotomayor and Kagan, in this increasingly dysfunctional government of ours.

    The stolen seat complicates matters, though. I have a lot more sympathy for Dems blocking a nominee who -- whatever his qualifications -- should never have been appointed. You never want to just let your opponent get away with a dirty trick like that. But on the other hand, that dirty trick represents yet another escalation in the dysfunction, and responding in kind makes it the new normal. I want that even less. And on practical grounds this does not seem like a smart battle to fight. What outcome do the Democrats expect here if they block Gorsuch? To see Trump re-nominate Garland, or nominate a pro-choice judge? That's never going to happen. It'd be hard for any plausible future nominee to be any better than Gorsuch, and they could easily be a lot worse. To keep the seat empty for another four years until a Democrat is in the White House? One year was outrageous enough; four would be a frank admission that the system is broken (and, of course, the Republicans could just do it back to them again). So in the end, galling as it is under the circumstances to give the Republicans what they wanted, I think the best move here is to confirm Gorsuch, take a baby step towards returning the judicial confirmation process to business as usual, and look for some less self-destructive way to make the GOP pay for their stunt.

    Quote from Koopa »
    Should there be a formal rule that Supreme Court seats NOT be filled on election years?
    Absolutely not. The President is the President until 12:00 PM ET on January 20th. He has all the powers of his office, including the power to appoint Supreme Court justices, and the Senate has the responsibility to review and vote on those appointments. What next? The President can't issue vetos during the last six months of a term? No executive orders in the last thirty days? No pardons for the last year and a half? If we say the President can't do something because at some point in the future there might be some other President who would do it differently, why even have a President at all?
    Posted in: Debate
  • 2

    posted a message on Voting System in the US
    Quote from Mockingbird »
    Our broken electoral system put us in this position, and the drawbacks of first past the post voting positioned Donald Trump to win through that broken electoral process. Only 45% of Republican Primary voters voted for Donald Trump to be the nominee of the Republican Party. The other 55% split the vote between sixteen other competitors. However, all those competitors lost because they ran against each other, and instead of that 55% settling on a candidate a large minority (still a minority) gamed the Party and put the least qualified man in charge of their movement because he was the loudest.

    So while I appreciate that you have all-caps passion defending our current system, the voting system you are defending as necessary has put a fringe candidate with no qualifications into the White House. I despise the outcome First Past the Post has given us, the majority of Americans are not happy with what first past the post voting spat out of the Republican Primary, and while some others may think we should just put better people into that system, I feel that's a good reason to examine a new system.
    I'm confused as to why you're condemning our system for this result and advocating a multiparty system instead when it is routine for presidents/prime ministers in multiparty systems to enter office with much smaller percentages of the vote than that. Yes, first-past-the-post elected a demagogue this time around, but there is nothing in first-past-the-post that makes it more vulnerable to demagogues and nothing in a multiparty system that insulates it from them. A multiparty system elected Hitler, after all, and with just 33% of the vote. If you had been a German in 1934, would you be condemning the multiparty system for the result and advocating for a switch to first-past-the-post? But fast-forward to today: the Federal Republic of Germany still uses a multiparty system, but instead of Hitler they've got the humane and highly competent Angela Merkel (who took office with 35% of the vote, by the way). And looking back at our own system, out of forty-five presidents, we've only elected one Trump. Empirically, both systems seem to have pretty good track records, but nevertheless are still capable of occasionally failing in the face of demagoguery and a populace willing to fall for it.

    So maybe take a step back and take an examination of your own reasoning here. Because, bluntly, all I see is sour grapes.

    Quote from Mockingbird »
    This is actually a little off topic from ranked choice voting, but funneling Greens (and other left political positions) into the Democrat Party while the Republicans funnel Libertarians, Constitution Party, and other definitely at best adjacent right wing issues (and at worst extremist) is it amplifies societal echo chambers/political polarization/split.
    Walk me through the logic behind saying that big tent parties are worse echo chambers than small special-interest parties. Certainly the Communists I know who are willing to work with the Democrats are not nearly as batty as the Communists who only hang out with other Communists. Ditto Libertarians et al.

    Quote from Mockingbird »
    Multi-party generally makes it a requirement for political parties to cooperate in order to operate the government, which requires politicans to run on willingness to cross party lines before entering office. The thought of doing that in the United States right now is a liability for being kicked out of office by a primary challenger.
    Yes, small parties have to form coalitions. Big parties are coalitions. And lest you complain that the coalitions are calcified by the two-party system, remember that Trump won by flipping traditionally Democratic states and demographics. It is as if, in a multiparty system, the Blue Collar White Guy Party defected from their traditional left-leaning coalition to form a government with the rightists. Only the decision was made at the individual level rather than the party level. Which actually seems more democratic to me.
    Posted in: Debate
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