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Comment Re:The problem is people will comment on the bad. (Score 1) 131

I guess human nature varies. If I'm not 100% satisfied at a restaurant, I'll generally chalk it up to them having an off day. I might tell the proprietor, but I'm not gonna go rant on Yelp. If I have a really nice meal, I'll go give a good review. It's sort of the YMMV approach.

I'm generally not much for bad reviews, just as I very seldom mod any comments down. I'm a believer in the carrot over the stick.

Comment Re:Not bad in principle (Score 1) 131

Anger is a much more powerful motivator than being happy with something.

Speak for yourself. I'm much more motivated to leave positive reviews than negative ones.

And if someone is actually angry at a business for bad service or bad products, why shouldn't they be able to leave an angry review.

The way you overcome negative speech is with positive speech. So do the right thing and get good reviews.

All I'm saying is that there has to be a way to counterbalance human nature to give a somewhat fair and accurate picture.

Sure, you come up with a way to "counterbalance human nature" that doesn't favor people with the money to hire reputation managers.

These online fluffing services are going to do nothing but benefit those with money. They will absolutely, positively NOT give a fair and accurate picture of anything. They'll just allow people with resources to hide their misdeeds.

Comment Re:really... (Score 1) 591

One theory is that Smith was writing a fantasy novel (tho from what else I've read, his own grasp on reality was a trifle suspect... so as to whether he believed it??) Thus:

Structurally, the Book of Mormon is in line with other fantasy manuscripts of its era: publishers didn't think readers would buy that a crazy adventure was happening to the narrator in realtime, but a secondary narrator relaying the adventure via a framing story was acceptable. Given that structure, the angel Moroni showing Smith the tablets is the framing story; the rest is the fantasy.

As an example we know for sure was meant to be fantasy, E.R. Eddings' The Worm Ouroboros also uses this framing story structure (tho the author drops it after a few chapters and tells the story directly, tho I got the feeling he'd gotten caught up in the story and flat forgot to use it).

Comment Re:really... (Score 1) 591

I come from an LDS family, so I grew up with a set of traditions surrounding Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. There are numerous Mormon sects, each with their own traditions, and not all of them in agreement with the others. In the mainstream LDS group, people generally thought that Joseph had something called the "urim and thummim," which was a kind of loupe or spectacles that the prophet would gaze through in order to divine the writing on the gold plates. He would read along in this manner, dictating to his scribe. The urim and thummim is based in old Testament lore, and Joseph claimed to have found one of these divining objects along with the gold plates, an armor breastplate, and a sword, all buried together in the Cumorah hill.

Smith got through 116 pages of manuscript and then loaned these out to a friend so that the friend could show the work to some interested parties. These 116 pages were subsequently lost, at which time Joseph Smith said that a divine messenger came to retrieve the gold plates along with the urim and thummim. The story goes that, after some time passed, Joseph again found favor with God and was reinstated as translator, only this time without the aid of the urim and thummin. Instead, Smith used his seer stone.

Whether or not this is a reasonable explanation for a religious text, it is not inconsistent with the American frontier folk magic of the early nineteenth century. Growing up with these traditions, most Latter-Day Saints have no problem with them. Because many of them didn't know about the seer stone until very recently (the church published some photos, which you can probably find online), it is a challenge for them to believe that translation via seer-stone is a "reasonable explanation," as you say. It doesn't exactly square with the urim and thummim version of the story that they had originally. I'm sure this is all absurd nonsense to most outsiders, although the LDS church is maintaining its congregation and perhaps even growing it slightly, in spite of whatever perceived absurdity exists within its history. Mormons are by no means particularly stupid or credulous, and generally the church doesn't bank on its history when looking for converts.

Reasonable or not, I find Mormon history quite fascinating. Well, that is, up until these recent times in which we now find the largest sect of Mormonism little more than a gigantic corporate franchise. Speaking of America, Eric Hoffer once said that "what starts out here as a mass movement ends up as a racket, a cult, or a corporation." Indeed. Nevertheless, you'll find the Mormons to be an excellent lot in spite of their sappy, corporate church.

Comment Re:Not bad in principle (Score 5, Interesting) 131

Well, think of this example: you run a nice little restaurant in town. Along comes Yelp and Google reviews, so people can post reviews of your restaurant online. Some customers are just assholes, and you happen to get one who is completely unreasonable, says racist stuff to one of your staff, whatever. Anyway they go away angry and write a nasty and completely false review of your restaurant on Yelp.

One way you can deal with that is to make sure you have lots of positive reviews to drown out the nasty ones. And you get lots of positive reviews by doing positive things, like serving great food and having great service, not by hiring a bunch of people who have never been to your restaurant to write good reviews.

But you raise a good point.

Comment Re:Not bad in principle (Score 5, Insightful) 131

Yes. Quite a few of them actually. Reputation management is something we all do to some degree. I don't know how you would exist in a complex society without some amount of effort directed towards maintaining your reputation in the community.

Yes, but most of us do our "reputation management" by, you know, behaving properly rather than going around trying to erase any record of our misdeeds.

Reputation management, the way it's practiced by the "New Media Strategies" type of outfits, is basically organized lying.

Comment Re: Well, that's embarrassing (Score 1) 591

There are some problems with your Flavian theory.

There were certainly Christians in Rome by the time Tacitus was writing (probably the late 70's or 80s). Assigning blame to them may be more political than historical. Just a thought.

I'm not that heavily invested in whether or not Joseph Atwill's theories about Titus are true. I don't believe the historicity of the Christ really makes a difference to the value of Christian teachings. It's all a matter of faith, for those that have faith.

Comment Re:Well, that's embarrassing (Score 1) 591

Matthew's gospel was written in Hebrew.

No Hebrew manuscript of Matthew has ever been found. The claim that it was written in Hebrew comes from two fragments written by second century bishops, who also said that they had never seen a Hebrew manuscript.

In fact, there is enough linguistic agreement between the gospels that most historians (and linguists) believe that all four were written in Greek. The people who say Matthew was written in Hebrew (or Aramaic) are in every case proponents of the extraordinary claims of Christianity. It's like saying that you believe Obama was born in Kenya because some Fox News blonde said so.

Comment Re:I should have thought of that (Score 1) 234

My point is that if a bank is pointing towards a particular option it's because it's the one they are going to make the most money on

I know the arguments:

"Climate scientists are all getting paid billions by fat Al Gore"
"The media is in the tank for climate change because they want to destroy the economy"
"If climate change was real, then why was there so much snow last winter? Boom!"
"The numbers that Citi came up with for climate change cannot be trusted because they're all getting paid billions by fat Al Gore and they took a bailout in 2009"
"Insurance companies projections on climate change should be ignored because they're all being mind-controlled by the Marxist/Fascist Obama. And fat Al Gore (who owns his own fleet of jets piloted by John Travolta and leaves his air conditioner running 24/7, even in the winter)."

Am I missing any?

Banking is merely legalized theft.

That is partly true. But banking itself isn't legalized theft, but it is the way Citicorp does it. However, Citicorp is a huge conglomerate with shareholders and divisions and investments in lots of industries and probably stand to lose a lot more from climate change than they stand to gain.

And how exactly is slowing climate change supposed to mean staggering new profits for Citi? The entire carbon credit industry is projected to get as big as $30 billion. This is about half as much as Citi pays in fines every few years.

Comment Re:Well, that's embarrassing (Score 1) 591

Yet we have quite a lot written about some ancient carpenter

Even the historians who support a historical Jesus don't believe he was a carpenter. Just for the record.

The original Greek word used in the passage calling Jesus a carpenter is "tekton", which means "builder". Considering how few structures in that period were made of wood, it's far more likely that a historical Jesus, if he existed, was a stonemason.

Some historians believe the "builder" story was just cover for the political activities of Jesus. The way politicians put on work clothes and go clear brush to make people believe they're just regular folks. There's also a very good argument that the Jesus of the bible was actually royalty. From what I've read, the most compelling argument is that the stories of Jesus were actually allegory describing the campaigns of Titus Flavius. And since Josephus was a known traitor in collusion with the Romans, it would make sense that he was acting as a Titus Flavius' press agent and made up the story of Jesus out of whole cloth.

This does not diminish one bit the teachings presented in the gospels, and I have great respect for Christians. The Pauline books are a bunch of hokum in my opinion. Paul is the one who turned the Jesus story into a religion, and all of his personal kinks were carried along for the ride.

Many people are unenthusiastic about their work.