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GeorgiaDon last won the day on January 15

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  1. I'm aware that the 3/5ths compromise and the EC were enacted in order to entice the southern colonies to join the union. I thought my post was already long without getting into all that.
  2. When the EC was first set up electors could "vote their conscience" and were not tied to the popular vote. If they felt the "unwashed masses" got it wrong, they could cast their vote for the other guy. Since then, laws were passed to compel electors to vote according to their state's popular vote. Since they can no longer "correct" bad choices by the general populace, and there are no slave-holding states, none of the original functions of the EC remain. All the more reason to get rid of it IMHO.
  3. I agree that that is one of the functions of the electoral college, but not the only one, at least at the start of the country. The 3/5ths compromise was put forward to address concerns of the southern colonies that they would be dominated by non-slave states because they would only count votes of white males, making their population much smaller than it actually was. For non-American readers, the 3/5ths compromise was an agreement to count slaves as 3/5ths of a person. Of course slaves still could not vote, so 3/5ths of nothing is still nothing. To go along with the 3/5ths arrangement, some mechanism had to be invented to turn that 3/5ths into presidential votes. The electoral college filled that role. Each state would be allocated some number of electoral college votes in proportion to their population, which in the case of slave-holding states was all the non-slave population plus 3/5ths of the total number of adult slaves. The electoral college allowed slave states to derive political power in proportion to the number of slaves, without actually allowing the slaves themselves any power. So I would say the electoral college had two functions: to keep power in the hands of the wealthy elite, and to allow southern slave owners to profit politically as well as financially from their slaves. Today the system may not favor slave owners, but it ensures that residents of some states have a disproportionally large voice in presidential elections, and other states have their voice diminished. For example, voters in Kansas have 3 electors, or about 1 for every 180,000 people. On the other hand, Texas has 1 elector for every 763,000 people. Are people who happen to live in Kansas really worth 4 times as much as people who happen to live in Texas? Texas has about the same population as Alaska, Colorado, North and South Dakota, Idaho, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Montana, Wyoming, and Utah combined. Texas has 38 electoral votes, and all those states combined have 63. You could make similar comparisons if you substituted California for Texas. So much for one person/one vote! The electoral college serves no useful purpose, it was conceived in order to support evil and it is deeply undemocratic. It's past time for it to be abolished.
  4. At the time the Constitution was written there were no political parties (although they appeared soon after) and several of the "Founding Fathers" wrote against political parties in the Federalist Papers (although some of them later became founders/leaders of early parties). They hoped that those elected to public office would act as well-meaning individuals, concerned about good government and not about personal power. They hoped that ideas would be presented and debated, and legislators would then vote on positions that they believed were in the best interest of the country. I don't know if they were really so naive, or if they really believed that could become reality. At any rate I think they would be horrified to discover that one of the two biggest parties in the country has given itself over to grabbing power for itself, to the extent that they are quite willing to dump the spirit of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, just to install themselves and their pathologically narcissistic dictatorial leader into a permanent position of power. As far as the SCOTUS is concerned it's power has grown far beyond what the Founders imagined, or intended. Today most of the Justices are products of the Federalist Society, dedicated to (or at least strongly influenced by) ideas that favor putting political control in the hands of a few wealthy people. After all if they are rich it must be because they more qualified to govern than the unwashed masses! The judiciary may not write laws directly, but they can strike down anything that doesn't conform to their political leaning.
  5. I miss them both. I didn't always agree with them, especially Lawrocket, but they both always made me think about my position on things.
  6. The "scientific" idea that Adam and Eve were real people came up back in the 1980s out of early studies of mitochondrial haplotypes. Basically the idea was to sequence the mitochondrial genome of a large sample of people from all over the world, then use mathematical tools to arrange these sequences to look for commonalities and arrange them in a phylogenetic tree (somewhat like a family tree). The sequences closest to the base of the tree would be presumed to be the closest to the original ancestral sequence, and the geographic source of the sample that gave that sequence would be presumed to be the geographic source where humans originated. When the analysis was first run, it generated a phylogenetic tree that had at its base a single ancestral sequence that came from Africa. This was interpreted as "mitochondrial Eve". It was "Eve" because we inherit our mitochondria from our mother as there are mitochondria in the egg but not in sperm. The study generated a huge controversy when it was published. It was quickly determined that the analysis that was used is highly sensitive to the order in which the sequences are loaded into the calculation. Basically the analysis takes the first sample, compares it to the next, then compares the "sum" of those two to the next sequence, and so on. It was just chance that an African sample came out as the lowest on the tree and so "ancestral" to all the rest. When the order of the sequences was changed, the analysis gave a different "mitochondrial Eve", sometimes from Asia, sometimes from South America, etc. That it always resolved down to a single "Eve" was also an artifact of how the analysis ran. In the end this approach can only generate a fairly large number of phylogenies, each as likely as any of the others. The idea that there could have been a single female and a single ancestor of the human species is biologically nonsensical. There is no evidence that species ever evolve that way, and plenty of evidence that too small of a population size will cause the population to completely crash (leading to extinction) due to lack of genetic diversity. There are many examples of the adverse effects of excessive inbreeding.
  7. The Catholic church has been somewhat accepting of evolution for quite a while, albeit with an "intelligent design" slant. Many years ago I spent a couple of years in a Catholic high school taught by Jesuit Brothers and our science classes included straight-up evolution without a whiff of Book of Genesis creationism. By "intelligent design" I mean that evolution was presented as a process, a mechanism that was presumed to inevitably result in some sort of intelligent species although not necessarily of the anthropoid ape flavor, as God was an intelligent mind without physical being (much less an elderly northern European male). Pope Francis is really just stating a long-standing view within the church. That being said, there are some interesting twists or conflicts between Judeo-Christian theology and straightforward acceptance of evolution. At the simplest level, there is an obvious conflict between believing that the Bible is literally true in every word, and believing in evolution. Catholic theology has long been comfortable with "interpreting" the Bible, not reading everything (especially the old testament) literally but rather looking for the "deeper meaning". Other more fundamentalist variants of Christianity have more of a problem because they think every word of the old and new testament are true exactly as written, or rather as translated in the King James version. There is a deeper problem though, as I learned while discussing the subject with a student who happened to be an orthodox Jew as I recall. Bear with me as I try to explain this. The problem is that the "big picture" of Genesis is that God created humans as just a step below gods themselves, for example in being immortal (no death in Eden!). Humans rejected God though (Adam and Eve eating the apple) which led to the "Fall" (fall from God's grace) and expulsion from Eden. In this view it is the Fall that brought death and disease and suffering into the world. After the Fall, it is the mission of humanity to struggle to return to the position they enjoyed before the Fall, by choosing to put God ahead of everything else. From this perspective, the theological problem with evolution is that it eliminates the Fall, and with it the whole nature of the relationship between God and humanity. We have been gradually (very gradually) becoming more "in the likeness of God" by a slow step-by-step process of evolution,instead of starting out god-like and taking a giant step backwards, then having to "earn" our way back to where we used to be before we decided that apples were tasty. Of course all this seems like nonsense to me, but then again I am an evolutionary biologist by profession. The discussion with the student did highlight an interesting difference in world views though. I believe that the world we can see and touch, manipulate through experiments, and derive logical conclusions about, is the real world. He believed that everything we can experience (see, touch, manipulate) is the illusion, and the "spiritual world" is what is actually real. He could never accept evolution because that would negate the entire message of the old testament about the fundamental relationship between humanity and God. In the end I told him he could believe whatever he wanted but he still needed to understand evolution well enough to explain it in an exam, even if he didn't believe it was true.
  8. As far as the president (any president) is concerned, they can only pardon federal crimes. Civil lawsuits are beyond their legal reach. Although if Trump manages to get back in office, I doubt he would be constrained by any reading of the law or the constitution, so it's impossible to predict just what he might try to do. At least it is for me, one thing I learned from his four years in office is that I do not have the ability to scheme in such an evil or nefarious manner as his circle of sycophants.
  9. Testing can be a useful tool, but only if people follow through if they test positive. I anticipate that easy availability of tests will just further exacerbate the divide we have in the US. Some people will test, and if they test positive they will stay home and avoid contact with others until they are no longer infectious. These would be the people who already have an appreciation for science and have a sense of social responsibility, and they are almost certainly already vaccinated and boosted. On the other hand there will be a large number of people who don't take the virus seriously, or see it as a badge of patriotism to deny the seriousness of the pandemic, blame it on an anti-Trump conspiracy, believe anonymous hacks from Facebook over their own doctor, etc. These people will not test, are anti-vaccine, and do not give two shits if they infect other people. They love to chant about freedom while demanding that hospitals use unproven or disproven "remedies" such as hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin. Testing half the population while leaving the other half to spread the virus will not accomplish anything that hasn't already been accomplished by making vaccines readily available and free. People who haven't been vaccinated at this point certainly won't test. For half the population, "Give me freedom or give me death" has mutated into "Give me the freedom to cause your death".
  10. I think it's just naked tribalism. Some time ago I was reading about religious (=tribal) rules. The point of these rules is to distinguish members of "your" tribe (or religion) from others, so the rules have to be unusual (or weird) enough that no other tribe would accidentally come up with the same rule. For this reason rules about how you wear your hair, or clothing, or what foods you can/cannot eat often don't make sense, as their only real function is to make it obvious to everyone that you belong to tribe "X". Often the rules are burdensome to follow, for example banning perfectly good foods, so you really have to work to prove you belong to that tribe. I think in 2021 Republicans are a tribe, and to prove you belong you have to forego logic, common sense, and science, and instead commit to lies, nonsense, and Trump.
  11. In Tennessee it seems all childhood immunizations will now be treated as liberal conspiracies.
  12. To be a decent surgeon you need good eyes, excellent dexterity, and a good memory for anatomy. Many excellent surgeons are skilled technicians, not scientists. Anyway, why would a retired neurosurgeon/political hack be more qualified to discuss an infectious disease than practicing specialists in immunology/virology/infectious disease? Would anyone who gives this hack any credibility also choose their podiatrist to do brain surgery?
  13. My understanding is that the Constitution was intended to limit the power of the government, not to provide an explicit list of "rights" that the people are entitled to. The 9th amendment to the Constitution states: "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." I think Kavanaugh is wrong, indeed shockingly ignorant, to argue that the Constitution is "neutral" on the issue of abortion (it does not mention abortion anywhere), and therefore the right does not exist. If the Constitution does not explicitly mention abortion, that means the government has no business banning it. To argue otherwise is to argue that the 9th amendment is meaningless. This was actually the position taken by Robert Bork, and it was one of several reasons why he was so strongly opposed when he was nominated to the Supreme Court.
  14. The whole point of "make America great again" was to turn the clock back to the 1940s and 1950s (which King Trump personally identified as the time when America was great). IOW, back to when everyone except white uneducated males knew their place, which was at the back of the bus.
  15. If that happens it will because conservatives and many politicians within the Republican party have vigorously pushed an anti-vaccine campaign of disinformation. They have somehow managed to generate a mindset within a large segment of the population that holds that putting yourself, your family, your neighbors, and your co-workers at risk of a miserable death or chronic disability is an act of freedom. You can lead Republicans to facts, but you can't make they think. As always with the Republican Party nothing matters except power. If hundreds of thousands of people die or are disabled, that is an acceptable cost of doing business. Doing business is, of course, ensuring that Biden and the Democrats are blocked from achieving any success in anything they try to do. As far as the "Brandon" thing is concerned, I distinctly remember conservative SC participants in the past getting their panties in a wad over perceived insults to Republican presidents. Their argument was "even if you don't like the President you have to respect the office". Now we see Republicans in Congress openly wearing "Fuck Joe Biden" logos, even within the halls of Congress. As always, you can tell who is a Republican because they reek of hypocrisy.