• Announcements

    • Editor

      Civil Discourse is Back!

      Civil Discourse, established in 2000, is up and running again after a hiatus. Ours is a boutique web site with a tight group of enthusiasts dedicated to substantive, amicable discussion. We are always happy to welcome like-minded contributors to the forum, regardless of their political, religious or philosophical leanings. Please join our effort to bring civility to online conversation. Click here to learn what CD is all about, here to see our master forum page and here for tips on starting or joining discussions. Register as yourself or under a pseudonym, and you'll soon be eligible to start new conversations, plunge into current debates, and jump-start dormant topics on which you have fresh ideas. If you're not receiving our weekly updates, click your name at the top of any page and be sure you've entered your e-mail address correctly. Send questions and suggestions to EditorCivilDiscourse@yahoo.com. Tell your friends about us, and let's all get Civilized.


  • Content count

  • Joined

  • Last visited

About Phebe

  • Rank

Profile Information

  • Gender Female
  • Location Maryland
  1. Effect Of Paul Ryan

    I suppose you are entitled to an answer? Because this is an interrogation? Hmmmmmm. I had some idea it was a voluntary discussion. September 11 is not a good day for me to be discussing how perfectly fine some people think it would be to have a Muslim take over the United States presidency. Perhaps Obama is already Muslim; certainly his father was and he went to an Islamic school, so the Muslims think he is, by their law. So if he wins, you and Joe will be happier than I am. On the other hand, I don't like either of them, so it hardly matters. Anon ----
  2. Effect Of Paul Ryan

    It's September 11 today........ So far, two people here seem to be fine with the idea of a Muslim president, and one against. Eleven years ago I doubt that ratio would have pertained.
  3. I don't think it's a meaningless exercise if you give it meaning. I think it is usually futile, since so much of our behavior is hard-wired. There is a struggle going on in every individual, perhaps, to preserve himself from the Selfish Gene's determination to force him to reproduce the genes regardless of the cost to what he actually wants to do in life, and between the individual and the group, which wants to sacrifice him for whatever goals those in power have at the time. It's an expression of control and power by whomever is controlling the group at the time rather than a direct survival mechanism: that is, the Catholic Church burned a lot of people at the stake in the 1500s when Mary came in, and the opposite side executed nearly as many during Protestant Elizabeth's reign. All that was presented as a morality issue, but obviously it wasn't: it was about control. No, I don't think so. As far as I can see, the higher people rise, the more mayhem and deaths and takings they are able to do, and then they do that. You can see that in the Tudors, but also in our modern bankers and hedge fund managers. Is "noblesse oblige" anything more than a strategy to keep power in the upper classes by taking care not to casually alienate the lower classes? That's probably it, I'd say. I have for decades been deeply impressed by the sociobiologists, their concept that we are "bottles for our genes" and mostly a collection of habits and hard-wired instincts. It certainly explains a great deal about the failure of "nobility" in people who are in a position historically considered noble.
  4. No, indeed: "Thou SHALT kill" is of course the actual imperative both on the genetic (self-defense, dominance) and the group levels (war for the group to take over resources of other groups). Our history is full of war and our bookshelves and movies are full of solid murder: to say that humans value not killing each other would fly in the face of quite a lot of the human experience! There is a complicated dance between the body's genes and the social group's need to stay intact and promote increase and success on that level, and so we hear a lot of control talk about not procreating wildly, not killing just everyone, not stealing, etc., but that is commonly ignored, as a glance at the headlines today would show, with all the murders of children and so on, or the headlines any day.
  5. Right. We are merely bottles for our genes: the individual is not the level of importance in the existence of this species. That is why we as individuals are so manipulated by hard-wired instincts, so that we have improbable romances, baby hunger, and mid-life crises when men run off from established families so they can have a last fling at further gene-spreading. It presumably behooves the individual to frustrate this attempt by genes and breeding in-group levels to use the individual as a sort of genetic container, but it proves difficult for everyone, as the interests of the individual are usually at odds with the interests of the genes and the group, and we are designed to find it very difficult to disobey these instincts, however harmful to the individual life.
  6. I shouldn't have said the individual doesn't matter on ANY level. I mean that on an evolutionary level individuals are not important: the action happens either on a finer level at the gene, or a broader level with kingroups and affinity groups. Certainly you are right that history is conventionally organized around "great men." Kings, usually, but other types also, such as Gutenberg or Jeff Bezos (those two did or are doing the same thing, revolutionizing written communication).
  7. It depends on what level one thinks evolution operates at. Certainly not on the level of the individual! We evolve at the level of the Selfish Gene, or we evolve at the level of the local in-breeding group. In neither case does the current human being matter. The gene sacrifices him or her to reproduction and the group sacrifices him to warfare against the next group over, to take their resources and increase the population. In both cases, increase of population is the goal; the individual has never mattered on any level, I'd say.
  8. Smarts. Smarts are the summum bonum, I'd say. Because that's what humans do, it's our thing. Sheep or wasps, not so much. I'm not perfectly clear if that is what Quiet Rain is saying, as I was somewhat confused by the wanking..... [:-) As for human life not being the greatest good, how the Muslims would agree: they have revolutionized warfare with their use of suicide fighters and are defeating American forces pretty much everywhere by use of this tactic -- they even bombed New York, which no one has managed to do before. I expect we'll be using suicide fighting soon, though it would be deeply anti-cultural. Jason Bourne-trained soldiers. The Muslim suiciders make rather stupid soldiers, but very smart bombs, and that's all they need to make.
  9. Will 2013 Be Another Crisis Year?

    Very interesting, Quiet Rain -- I had not heard the corn supply in Mexico was stressed, too. The Wall Street Journal today has a story that the UN is appealing for help internationally with high food prices, because the drought is as bad in Russia and Ukraine and all those areas as it is here, and the Russians estimate that they will produce only enough grain for themselves --- but they have already contracted to send a lot to Egypt, the world's largest importer of grain, because at 80 million people and very little food production, the Egyptians will all starve if they can't buy grain. However, the last time this happened (2007-2008) Russia stopped exporting. That's what the UN is worried about. World food prices jumped 10% in July, the Journal said. Last time that happened, early 2011, there were major government overthrows in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, and protests in Bahrain. This is what the UN is afraid of, according to the article, major unrest in food-low countries around the world that do not produce enough food for their populations, often not even close, like destitute Egypt.
  10. Obama Can't Lose, Unless...

    Joe thinks the election will turn on 1) huge rich donor gifts to their favored parties --- and the GOP is expected to have the most money for advertising. 2) Voter ID laws that will disenfranchise Democratic voters who.....weren't supposed to vote anyway? Hmmmm. Reminds me of the Dem pols who voted Edgar Allen Poe right here in Baltimore at poll after poll until he fell down dead of acute alcohol poisoning on Election Day evening. 3) That Romney will do better in the debates than Obama. Wait, doesn't that imply someone will be watching the debates? I haven't watched for years. The best thing about the Nixon-Kerry debates was the little square box that did indeed show under Bush's jacket. Leading to quite a lot of speculation about whether Bush was a robot --- if we're lucky, we'll get something that good again. The debates usually turn on one meme, don't they? Nixon's five o'clock shadow; Reagan's wonderful question much repeated this election and all elections; Gore's aggressive physical threatening of Hillary in the primaries and his grimaces -- Gore didn't believe he was doing any of that till his team sat him down and made him watch the satire of him on Saturday Night Live. We'll get to hear what this year's debate meme is even if we don't watch them. I guess I think the election will turn on the economy, which is substantially worse on all measures since Obama came in. I don't happen to think that was all his fault -- it's Europe's fault -- but nobody besides us are interested in Europe.
  11. Obama Can't Lose, Unless...

    The GOP is trying to fix the problem of intransigent ignorance by requiring proof of ID at the polls; that might avoid some of those voters. I like Joe's summary of the current electoral situation, although I am not so sure that Mitt ran because he had to; the GOP has long had a practice of "last man standing," the one who has earned it by sheer stick-to-itiveness gets to run, and that was Romney. The most interesting point Joe makes, to me, is that Obama and Romney are running dead even ---- but indeed, Obama is running well ahead in the Electoral College! Which goes to show how pointless it is to vote in "sewn-up" states, I guess. Only a dozen states matter. Sooner or later the country may have to deal with that Electoral College problem. Goodness knows I'm not for more and more felons and homeless and what-not deciding our elections, I'd vote to go back to a property requirement in a heartbeat, but I don't think we can take another 2000-type election when the Electoral College hung up the whole election and returned a minority president (IIRC) after many days of national anxiety. That could happen again, this November. At least an electoral victory but a popular vote defeat.
  12. Will 2013 Be Another Crisis Year?

    Good analogy.......... They are selling all these calendars in the stores for 2013........ But none for 2014! What do they know that we don't know?
  13. Slavery and the Civil War

    You are asking, can't we all just get along? [:-) Probably not, I'd say. The hatred of one side for the other is too deep now. Since 9/11 we've lost that American feeling. Maybe since 2000 and the hung election. Huey Long was not the danger in the '30s, I'd say: it was the coup plotted using as figurehead General Butler, who testified about it to Congress. I have thought in recent years that the huge protest movement in the 1960s was a very near thing, worse than the Depression for losing the country. That busted the national myth that we fight wars to "defend" the country, as if --- I can remember clearly young male cannon fodder back then saying passionately that as soon as Vietnamese soldiers landed on the beaches of California, THEN they would defend the country! They had to stop the draft to save the nation, and so they did that. They didn't have to stop the war: that went on another couple years, IIRC, lamely, stupidly. All they had to do was stop drafting intelligent, college-educated men; the ones killed in such numbers in WWI and WWII but who realized after Korea that they were being used in a failed foreign policy and refused to cooperate any longer. The Occupy movement is not a protest movement but an anarchist attempt to overthrow the existing order -- that's what they say, anyway. Copycat from the Arab Spring. I thought that would have more effect than it has, but cities figured out they had to shut it down entirely over the winter and they have not let it start up again. I expected big city riots fomented by them, but apparently not yet.
  14. David Frum, a political writer, wrote an op-ed lately that claims 2013 will be another year of crisis like the "Arab Spring" year that started so many revolutions. http://www.cnn.com/2012/09/03/opinion/frum-food-price-crisis/index.html?hpt=hp_c2 Early on, idealists claimed the many uprisings were a sudden craving for democracy; but later analyses have concluded it was more of a craving for food. Notably, cheap food, which suddenly became very high priced because of problems with the countries of supply. This year has seen severe drought in the USA, and also drought in Russia and Australia, and since these countries supply most of the food the direly overpopulated countries eat, that could result in a problem, Frum says. There are other crisis indications for 2013: the Euro Zone problems have not worked themselves out and Europe is in active recession that is affecting the rest of the world. And of course there is that Mayan Calendar thingy about the world ending in December.......... [:-) What do you think?
  15. Slavery and the Civil War

    What I've learned from this discussion is that history has gotten a different perspective on the matter since I was taught in 6th grade that the War of Northern Aggression was fought because of slavery and the right of states to secede from the Union. It appears from what Joe says that now people who consider that war, think the secession was about slavery, and that is obvious; but the war itself was about the North objecting to the South leaving and trying to force it back via "Northern aggression." A large chunk of the country breaking off was far more important than slavery! France and Britain didn't support the South, either --- more fools them, and I'm sure they've been kicking themselves ever since, because that was their chance to break up what became the superpower and continue to control the world themselves. It is common for the perspective of historians to change as more time passes. This new way of viewing the Civil War seems very sensible to me. It reminds me of the new perspective many historians have started to take toward the World Wars --- that there were not two wars, but one war with a 20-year gap in the fighting, as happened often during the Hundred Years War. We couldn't view the World Wars that way while we were close to them, because 20 years is so long in a human lifetime, and that distracts us. But now we can see that the issues of World War I were never settled, never even came CLOSE to being settled (that is, Germany wanted to rule Europe, and they were never actually defeated or even invaded in 1918; that was the first of the two Armistices that cursed the 20th Century, the second one being Korea -- armistices don't work and never should be agreed). So just as Gen. Ludendorff himself said in the closing days of WWI, Germany would have to get an Armistice and regroup for a few years, and then do it all again. Which they did. Ludendorff was a great fan of Hitler, of course, since he could see Hitler would carry this banner for him; it took too long for Ludendorff to start the war up again himself. When people are inside a war or close to it, they can't see the forest for the trees. They think that the War of the Roses is about who has the better claim to the throne via the Plantagenet line. But all that was nonsense --- we see that the War of the Rose was about a king so weak that he became king at nine weeks of age and was never right mentally. Nor did he manage to sire an heir for eight years after marriage. And then his forces actually lost the Hundred Years war (Casillion, 1453), and then within a couple weeks the king started a 17-month episode of what everyone has agreed then and since was catatonic schizophrenia. And his extremely dangerous French wife had a baby almost no one believed was his. At that point, the War of the Roses started. So the War of the Roses was really about England not having a government for decades and wanting one. "Pity the nation whose king is a child." At the time people cited all kinds of side issues, but now we have centuries of perspective and can see the whole picture more clearly. That's probably starting to happen with the Civil War, and even with the 20th Century wars.