My answers to questions on Quora

If median voters theorem holds then parties in two party systems should pick positions close to a median voters ideal point. What historical or current evidence can you provide to support or contradict the claim of this hypothesis?

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The whole concept of finding a political “Golden Mean” is faulty if each ‘wing’ starts from a position with significant variances from the status quo. For example: assume 0 is the status quo centerline marker on a bar between -5 and +5. If the minus side starts from marker 4 while the plus side starts from 1, the result would not end up at 0.

This is the argument Democrats have repeatedly made regarding attempts at compromise with Republicans, where Dems say their position is close to citizens preferences; but the Republican position is far to the right, so if they “meet” halfway, then Republicans ‘win’ and Democrats ‘lose’.

To those who voted for Trump, what are your opinions of his cabinet selections especially with them being mostly rich, male, and white?

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Did not vote for him, but I can still answer the question.

He has selected mostly individuals who have stated publicly they are opposed to the standards and rules of the Departments they are charged with leading in the new administration. Many have no training, experience, or proven expertise in the specific fields central to the Department.

At least four cabinet secretaries selected have previously “had run-ins” with the Department they will lead. Three have been widely criticized for deficient intelligence, scruples, or awareness of history, scientific evidence, or probity.

I consider expertise, accomplishment in the field, intelligence, leadership, integrity, and compatibility with history, tradition, and one’s peers to be much more important than sex, race, or any other consideration. Mr. Trump apparently does not agree.

 

What criteria should Trump supporters use to judge President Trumps success or failure in 2020

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The classic question and reply will suffice: “Am I better off now than I was four years ago.” Trump supporters by in large view everything from a personal perspective, as in: I, Me, Mine, and They. There are very few We and Us in their political calculus.

 

Does Hillary Clinton deserve the label Crooked Hillary that Trump has given her

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What is it with minimally equipped Republicans like sTrumpf and G.W.Bush wanting to assign pet names to people? Ensconced in their coo-coo nests do they believe that somehow this exerts some undefined power over them? A name does not necessarily hold any magical or descriptive power; however as Trump should know, his name to the British is a fart. As a carny, DT is just trying to gin up interest among his deluded followers.

Continuing the film focus, DT is what the actor Michael Clarke Duncan called a “bad man”. No one other than loons give a fig what DT says about anything – unless they are in it solely to enjoy a performance by the wigged-up carny feverishly trying to coax suckers into his tent.

And continuing the British angle – there’s a neat meme floating around that calls sTrumpf a “spoon man” – because he can’t be trusted with a fork and knife.

 

If Republicans were able to block everything Obama tried to do why is everyone so worried about Trump?

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In 1931 similar ideas were offered to support Benito Mussolini’s ‘Black Shirts” in Italy, and Adolf Hitler’s ‘Brown Shirts” in Germany. That is: “…things are bad, our great heritage is being stolen, others are taking advantage of us, destroying our industries, homes, our economy is being held hostage, thus any reasonable person knows we need him to restore our rightful place in the World, by military means if necessary.”

Everyone who has ever dealt with Pres. Obama knows him to be a thoughtful, rational, balanced, honest, and reasonable person with a strong commitment to fairness and basic human rights. None of these prerequisites of high public office are DT characteristics.

As in Italy and Germany the xenophobia, purposeful misdirection, scape-goating, bullying, and usurpation of all standards of civilized behavior which overran the pre-existing State systems there can do the same here.

Italy, Germany, and Japan were not cave dweller societies; but all their prior expertise and experience in governance, culture, and history could not prevent the national slide into disaster at the direction of Mussolini and Hitler.

Finally, even Republicans knew Obama would never have them arrested or forcibly removed from office. DT has demonstrated he would, as he says “if necessary”.

 

Why do people insist that the U.S. is not comparable to other Western democracies?

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It depends on the metric(s) used. I’d reference a simple comparison: University of Miami vs University of Florida on the success of their Football programs. UoF has an enrollment of 53,000 whereas UoM has an enrollment of 17,000. They are roughly comparable in SAT scores, Acceptance rates, but the UoM teams frequently beats UoF on the football field, at least in the past twenty years. Are the two schools comparable? The answer is also simple: yes, and no…it depends on the metric and the weight given to all elements.

 

Are there any  typical reasons for an armed revolt to succeed or fail?

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Comparing the French, American, and Russian revolutions one could say each was “a success” since the underlying basis for the revolt was addressed in a manner that was acceptable to the opposition; whereas many real and attempted revolutions in Syria, Iran, Cuba, and several countries in Africa and South America were “failures” in that the opposition was not satisfied with the results. What else is there?

 

Why are increasing numbers of people voting for right wing parties around  the World?

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The historical record of the past century does not support the idea that right-wing party preferences are primarily fueled by social or economic upheavals. Some nations went to the Left, some went to the Right. Second tier countries frequently were taken over by the military which later degenerated into dictatorships, especially in South America and Africa.

A compelling case has been made recently by Matthew MacWilliams who attributes the rise of right-wing politics to an electoral preference for authoritarian personalities. For authoritarians, a strong leader—saves them from chaos and tamps down fears and conflicts while providing an outlet for their hatred. To Hitler it was the Jews, to G.W. Bush it was “radical Islam”, or to Trump it is ‘Muslims’. Entire generations of Southern politicians were elected on the disguised notion they would protect white privileges from encroachment by Blacks.

Another element is the result of ageism and cultural dynamics in the electorate, where older voters become more conservative with age and accumulated assets, while being much more politically active than younger generations. In times of turmoil and change, elders seek the security they believe will be furnished by respected historical authority.

Finally, there is selective forgetting, and capitalized propaganda – which sees no difference between lambasting the Obama Administration for what they didn’t do, while ignoring the things the G.W. Bush Administration did; or inflaming the electorate over minor issues like emails by Sec. Clinton, but remaining acquiescent over actions by Republican House and Senate office-holders which have serious affects on the social, economic, and environmental condition of the entire Country.

It is not by accident right-wing adherents express their dislike for the U.N., for social programs that do not directly benefit them, or for what they consider favoritism of people who are different than themselves. Many see the choices made available in a dog-eat-dog world, and want to be aligned with the “stronger” dog.

 

Do you think that five years of work experience in a particular field should be equivalent to a Bachelors degree?

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Let me answer the question from a military perspective – where an enlisted Master Sergeant with fifteen years service is REQUIRED to obey the orders of a freshly minted 2nd Lieutenant with less than a year of service?

From another perspective: I have managed the operations of a commercial kitchen, hiring, supervising, training, and occasionally firing a fellow staff member. While few employees come from a Culinary School, and most have accumulated skills from OJT, there is an automatic assignment of merit given to the Culinary school grad not shared by the OJT employee, which eventually becomes subject to actual performance measurements over time.

As other commentators have noted, a lot depends on the role or position a person occupies, and their facility in that position; thus evaluating the values obtained from an employee very quickly move beyond formal education attainment and past employment performance.

As a Chef, I can fairly quickly evaluate the technical skills of a new-hire; but the intangibles take much longer to accurately determine.

Returning to the military perspective: most non-coms with small group responsibilities, especially in combat positions, try to test their assignees quickly, not by looking at their AFQT scores, but rather at how well they perform tasks.

Not many enlisted soldiers serve as FAC’s, nor many officers who become point men. A mistake by either one can get the wrong people killed.

 

Are there decent Republicans?

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It issue should not degenerate into such a limited perspective, as the real question -should- be: “are Republicans sufficiently attuned to the ‘Commons’ or have they instead settled on the philosophical orientation of “survival of the fittest”, and “it’s a dog eat dog World”.

In my experience Liberals are not guided exclusively by such notions; while many Republicans concentrate on selected elements of the “Commons”, such that they hold an Eagle in high regard, while holding disdainful considerations for turkeys, and buzzards; or that Christianity holds a preeminent position regarding spirituality; or that WASPs are inherently “better” than other races and cultures.

As others have pointed out, the real measure of a person is how they interact with all of creation, not just the part they belong to, or wish to be associated with. As David Foster Wallace detailed in his commencement address, we get to chose what we care about, and that makes all the difference.

 

Is American democracy really so much better than Chinese dictatorship?

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The assigned titles do not accurately describe either system. America’s system is better defined as a democratic republic; whereas China’s is best described as authoritarian capitalism. No other countries in the World operate like either of these global powers, and neither is “better” in absolute terms, nor suggestible as a system to be adopted by other countries.

Nial Fergusson, in his book: Civilization: The West and The Rest suggested six principles of a successful political system, and those elements are a much “better” measure of a system which can survive and prosper.

 

If the United States spends trillions of dollars to enforce democracy and human rights, why are they on such nice terms with Saudi Arabia?

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Imagine a World that has migrated away from fossil fuels and most nations in the World use plystoplasm as the primary fuel source. Plystoplasm is made from seawater, CO2, and algae which most industrialized countries can manufacture themselves. Of what geopolitical use then is Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, Iran, Iraq, Venezuela, or Russia to America or China’s strategic plans? Israel is exempted from this because of Bethlehem. Were oil not in the picture, America’s financial support would most likely be directed toward South America with its plentiful raw materials and agricultural capacity plus its proximity to American transportation facilities.

We are “friendly” with countries that supply energy, consumers, and raw material for American and World commercial interests. Any country that does not provide these does not enter into favored nation status with us, China, or the EU.

 

How long will it take for sharks to go extinct under current conditions?

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“Under current conditions” = never; however, based on current projections for climate change affects on the oceans over the next hundred years indicates sharks will still be around, as will wolves, bears, hyenas, buzzards, opossum, and other life forms that feed on injured or weak prey, including members of their own species.

The acidification of the world’s oceans will first decimate the shellfish, coral, and soft bodied creatures, which will migrate up through the life forms since their food stocks will decline precipitously, so there will be less and less species that will be able to find food. However, sharks are at the top of the ocean food chain, just as humans are on land – both will be able to survive, in some form, into the distant future.

 

What if 65 million years ago the asteroid didn’t hit Earth, and the dinosaur extinction didn’t happen?

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What many commentators who support the notion that dinosaurs would have remained the dominant life form on Earth were it not for the proposed results from a comet impact tend to ignore is the “ice ages” and what impact those would have on these creatures. Most land dwelling vertebrae and large herbivores could not have survived in most regions of the globe during at least two of Earth’s Ice Ages during the past 50 million years.

Even if there were no comet, there still were many geologic transitions that converted fertile savannahs into deserts, volcanoes that filled the skies with ash and dust for years, and upwellings which created huge mountain ranges wholly inhospitable to dinosaurs; but conducive to mammals, bacteria, and species that could adapt to their environment.

Which leads me to the conclusion that hominids would have ascended to primacy regardless of comet impacts or other proposed special cases. A quote incorrectly ascribed to Charles Darwin says it best: ” it is not the most intellectual of the species that survives; it is not the strongest that survives; but the species that survives is the one that is able best to adapt and adjust to the changing environment in which it finds itself.” Dinosaurs did not fit this description, hominids did.

 

What percentage of people living in the year 1600 have descendants who are alive today?

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Since the year 1600 was a typical year without major wars or catastrophic mass extinctions as occurred 250 years earlier in the “Black Death” the 85% figure referenced by Beau seems “reasonable” if one accepts descendants to include all family relatives, such as aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, etc, and not just ‘blood relatives’.  But “blood relative” presents a problem when considering the wife/husband of an uncle/aunt. If instead we only count descendants of common parents than the percentage will have to be lowered substantially.

 

If a meteor was to destroy Earth and we were able to flee the planet would our race still be able to survive? If so how, and where should we go?

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Simple…yes…and we’d stay here. A single meteor would not be able to make the planet incapable of supporting life. Not even a few dozen meteors and a few dozen asteroids would destroy the planet. Our planet is a rather large physical structure, and would survive any impact with these small bodies of matter. It’s possible that our species, (not race), could decrease to a few million people spread over the globe instead of 8 billion; but there is nowhere else in space that is currently capable of supporting human life for an extended period of time. So humans need to plan on staying here, at least for a few hundred years more.

 

What would happen if the United States Federal Government and the corresponding State Governments decided to pay the tuition for all the students studying in public institutions?

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Short answer: Without a potent front-loaded test for suitability, we’d end up with a lot of people in these institutions who are wholly incapable of meeting minimal performance standards. We currently have about a quarter of the student population enrolled in state colleges/universities in that classification already. Check out the graduation rates – check out the academic performance distributions – see how many 5th/6th/7th/xth year Seniors there are enrolled – especially in Florida and Texas.

 

How is life in the U.S. in general?

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Most Americans have no familiarity with life in other countries. Even those few who have travelled internationally never learned the language, never experienced life as a native does, nor had any familiarity with “alien” cultures beyond the Western Hotels they stay at in their travels. The “ugly American” is not a epithet from a Left Bank Parisian, but points to how jingoistic most Americans are.

Trying to inform most Americans of the dismal conditions the country has descended into usually meets with disdain, and reproach. Even demonstrating with solid facts and figures does not convince many of the serious short-comings of our society, in education, in health care, in quality of life, in political functioning, in sociability, or shared democracy.

However, electing to become an ex-pat is not a viable consideration for most Americans, even if considering neighboring countries like Canada, or Mexico. We are bewitched with notions of gradual migration toward progress; but are uncomfortable with change that is not of our making.

We are blessed with ready access to abundant food, shelter, legal protections covering person and property, outstanding arts, culture, and environmental beauty; but we eat more junk food than any other Nation, we tolerate civil forfeiture laws, many have not set foot in a museum or attended a symphony orchestra performance, or taken an extended trip into the wilderness. In spite of having great universities, most adults cannot pass a simple test of scientific, historical, religious, or logical knowledge systems.

As for economic and social migration, trends from the past few decades indicate we have very low levels of upward mobility, especially when compared with other “first-world”countries.

In summary, we are smack dab in the “glass half full, half empty” state based entirely on where we believe we fit on the socio-economic scale, looking up with envy but not appreciation, looking down with conceit and disdain. The ultimate “no where Man”.

 

Why did I suddenly become unintelligent?

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The last person generally acknowledged to be conversant with all the major areas of knowledge was Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who was born in 1849, and has been credited with having an IQ in the 185-190 range.

There simply is no way any person in modern times could claim that distinction. Everyone becomes less conversant with the ever expanding body of knowledge that civilization provides.

The only ones who believe they are – are the deluded. We simply must accept the fact that we know less and less about more and more. Which actually is a beneficial notion, and should make us less conceited.

 

What percentage of Republicans would vote for measures that would make the workplace safer for American workers?

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The modern Republican Party seldom comes down on the side of social or economic “uplifting” policies that are aimed at American workers. Ever since the election of Pres. Reagan in 1981, workers and the unions that spoke for them have been marginalized and maligned by the Republican Party.

When the AFL and CIO merged in 1955, Republican were aghast that the patrician AFL would join with it’s bitter rival, the CIO which was more an industrial oriented union. The administration of the NLRB amply demonstrates the animus Republicans have toward unions and labor associations in general.

Countless Republican office-seekers of the past fifty years have frequently cast unions in the most despicable terms; and for their part, unions in general during the period overwhelmingly supported Democratic candidates.

Thus a reasonable answer to the question suggests the percentage would probably be relatively small, perhaps as low as the twenties, even among Republican voters who actually are members of “the working class”.

 

Given that 1st Century Roman portraiture was well established and representational, why are there no bust of Jesus Christ?

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Equally questionable is why there are none either for “God”, Moses, Abraham, Saul, et al… dating back to BCE eras. We have the Nefertiti Bust, who was the wife of an Egyptian ruler, as a a 3,300-year-old painted representational sculpture-. Hellenic Greece in the third century BC featured sculptors such as Praxiteles who created marble representational masterpieces that seem current to modern viewers. So again, where are the busts of Jesus, the Disciples, God, or Moses? And I do not mean those created several hundred years later!

 

What percentage of the worlds land is populated by humans?

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The population density on Earth varies from almost zero per square mile in Antarctica, to over 12,000 people per square mile in Hong Kong. However, Antarctica covers 5.4 million square miles, whereas Hong Kong covers 426 square miles. Are you ready to accept that both land areas are “populated” by humans?

In other words: what is the criteria for a land area “to be populated by humans”? How many people per unit of measure?…and how are these counted? Does the measurement require permanent habitation and dwellings?

Fuzzy question, fuzzy answer.

 

What evidence can be quoted to support the assertion that America is not the greatest country in the world?

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Easiest way of seeing how far American has fallen is to see us with foreign eyes – how do people around the World see America? That helps get past the internal/external systems theory issues.

Drones, torture, surveillance, gun rampages, military aggression, high incarceration rates, dysfunctional political system, out-of-control cops, political corruption, religious fanaticism, engineers of worldwide economic distress and damage, crumbling infrastructure, un-affordable higher education, rejection of manufacturing and production in favor of services, debased arts and culture, obstructionism at the U.N. and other International organizations, national policies on abortion and end of life care, attitudes about sex, fixation on political “Wars” as a cure for social problems, jingoistic chest thumping, etc, etc.

Most of these preceding elements are dysfunctional and not characteristic of a “Great Country”. Many of our sacred ideals are no longer operational. And almost everyone can see it – otherwise this question would not have seen the light of day.

 

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