I disagree with Hightower.

What you will find here is: a centrist's view of current events;
a collection of thoughts, arguments, and observations
that I have found appealing and/or amusing over the years;
and, if you choose, your civil contributions which will make it into a conversation.

He not busy bein' born, is busy dyin'. - Bob Dylan

Please refer to participants only by their designated identities.

suggestion for US citizens: When a form asks for your race, write in: -- American

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Everyone gets a gold star

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has scrapped its employee rating system and will now award all employees a 5 (on a scale of 1-5) on their annual performance review.  See this article:

All employees will now and in the future get the maximum merit ratings and associated raises.  The change is retroactive so employees that received a rating lower than 5 at their last review will receive a “make up” check.

There is a back story here.  The CFPB is currently undergoing a discrimination probe for alleged discrimination in the review (rating) process.  The CFPB claims the decision to scrap the rating system is NOT related to the probe.  That claim strains credibility past the breaking point.

Regardless of the CFPB’s motives the decision is a jaw dropper. 


Saturday, May 24, 2014

Voter ID 4

I have talked about this and the motivation of those who hold strong positions on it.  I have indicated a general position about such matters, but I don’t think I have indicated how that position determines how I would view a particular voter ID law.

General Position:

A.   If a person claims to have a right or an entitlement to something, they should have to demonstrate that they are eligible for that thing.   This would include welfare benefits, SS, and medicare as well as voting rights.

B.   Since voting is essential to a democracy it gets special treatment.  There is a fundamental obligation by the government to ensure there is no impediment (other than eligibility and the time it takes) to the exercise of the right to vote.  In particular (24th  amendment) there can be no financial impediment – tax, charge, or cost.  In particular, if you require a picture ID, then you must provide a way for the voter to get one cost free.

I believe that these are pretty much self evident if you keep in mind that I expect the reader to know that we are taking proof to be reasonable documentation.

So here comes a voter ID law which will revise the current law.
It will require a birth certificate at the time of registration and a picture ID at the time of voting.
Here are the questions I would ask and the answers that I would need to get my support.  Someone would point out the absence of voter fraud as evidenced by the absence of convictions for voter fraud and someone else would note that that did not prove the lack of voter fraud.  In particular who are we relying on to report voter fraud?

1.  Why do we need this revision?
            This one is pretty easy.  Times change, improvements in technology, etc.

2.   Registration:  What do you do with a current or previous voter who does not have the birth certificate and can’t get one?
            If you grandfather these people in and keep them on the rolls, then I am OK.  If you want to throw them off of the voting roles then you are trying for too much. 
The burden of proof should be on the state to prove that someone should be taken off of the rolls.  The burden of proof is on the individual to get on the rolls in the first place.

3.   Voting:       Why do you require a picture ID?
            A picture ID is more secure, technological advances have made them easier to get and they have become the norm – almost everybody has got one.
                        What about those that don’t have one?
            They can go to the Driver’s License Bureau and we’ll make them one free. "part of the bill"
                        Who pays to get them there?
            The voter does.
                        That is not good enough.
            What do I have to do?
                        Pay all costs or go to their home.
The thing is that unless it is a reasonable bill it will have the media and the Democratic party all over it: using it as "proof" that the Rs are racists.  

The public debate is not connected to reason, it is based on paranoia and propaganda and goes like this:
D     Those Rs are just trying to deny the right to vote of the old, poor, and minorities who are expected to vote Democratic. They are racists.
R.     The Ds are just trying to fix it so that when  those 10-15 million illegal aliens become legal residents then the Ds can get them to vote illegally. 

So on this one if I have to choose between those, then I think that I would go with the Rs because ff the D’s are right in their paranoia then the R’s will have their leadership doing their dirty work (making bad voter ID laws) in full public view. I think that that is impossble.  On the other hand if the Rs are right then the Ds actions (voter fraud) would be carried out by the rank and file and not see the light of day.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Race 8 - Discrimination

We have for 50 years been attempting to solve the problem of discrimination against minorities by having the government enforce discrimination in favor of minorities. 

One can argue the ethics of this approach or the results obtained by it, but doesn’t reason suggest that after half a century we should be in one or the other of the following places?

A            It was successful and we are about done with it.


B            It was not successful and we need to be done with it.

"The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race."  Chief Justice John Roberts, 2007

Friday, May 16, 2014

When does life begin?

It seems to me that both sides of the abortion argument proffer unsupportable arguments.

If a live human sperm fertilizes a live human ovum resulting in a live human embryo which will become a live human adult (in 21 years and 9 months) at what point in this scenario was it ever NOT alive and/or NOT human.
The question is neither when life begins nor when it becomes human.  The only question is at what point society grants protection of human life

Monday, May 12, 2014

More Voter ID Thoughts

Our last discussion regarding voter ID requirements in which 2 lefties agreed that  "If you are entitled to or have a right to something from the government you should be required to prove your eligibility for that entitlement or right."

 However, Wayne's last words of that discussion left a little bit of a bad taste in my mouth.  "Why do we know or think we know how much voter fraud there is? Do we take exit polls? 'Excuse me sir. Who did you vote for for Senator? Were you eligible to vote in this election?'"

This reasoning, it seems to me,  could be used to justify pretty much any action whatsoever.  We don't know for sure that people aren't doing something and therefor we should assume they are and make the laws more intrusive and demanding just in case? 

Here is the part that leaves a bad taste in my mouth.  What level of certainty do we require and how far do we go to get it?  Today it's a picture voter ID.  OK, fine.  But who among us thinks that will provide 100% certainty that there is no voter fraud?  If we base our answer on our inability to see how much fraud is NOT going on then I can't see how a picture ID adds any material level of confidence.  Picture IDs can be faked by those motivated to do so and therefor we should, under Wayne's reasoning, assume that a large number of people are acquiring fake IDs in order to vote illegally.  So then what's the next level of certainty that we will require? And more importantly how aggressive and intrusive will the next level be?  I don't know.  It may be argued that I'm just being paranoid.  But I think that is a lousy argument and flies in the face of history.    

So, what do I believe we should do?  I have no reason to be unhappy with the current system in spite of the fact that it put a Republican majority in the House.  It's a two way street.  Does that mean that I am in favor of voter fraud?  No, it does not mean that.  It means that I fear the trade-offs if we take action to push for 100% certainty that there will be no voter fraud.  It means that I think that the current system, while not perfect by any means, more times than not gets it right.

So, I must change my pledge to Wayne that I made in the last round of this discussion and say,  "If you are entitled to or have a right to something from the government you should be required to prove your eligibility for that entitlement or right, but only to the extent that the proof does not allow additional intrusion by the government in to the lives of law abiding citizens."  

However if the only argument Wayne is putting forth is that voters should be required to show a picture ID in order to vote, then OK.  If that would satisfy everyone then I would gladly join him in being in favor of it. And my arguments outside of the picture ID realm are irrelevant to the discussion.

Alaan Hirsi Ali

I am somewhat disabled right now and can only say google her and Brandeis University.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Animal Farm revisited

In http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2014/05/07/msnbcs_krystal_ball_doubles_down_animal_farm_really_is_about_capitalism_you_guys.html
 Animal Farm Ms. Ball has proposed that Animal Farm is not a warning against communism, but rather against capitalism.

It has been awhile since I read it, but I suppose it could be a complaint against any kind  of tyranny from Nazis to Communists.

Of course those pesky elections and the people's continued use of  them  to  file off the harder edges of the system keep undermining the left's view of capitalism as tyranny.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

It wasn’t in the text books

Researchers at the University of Amsterdam have discovered that sleds will pull easier across wet sand that across dry sand.  Their conclusion is then that the ancient Egyptians could have poured water on the sand and, thus been able to move the enormous blocks to build the pyramids.   Here is the article http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/05/02/the-surprisingly-simple-way-egyptians-moved-massive-pyramid-stones-without-modern-technology/?tid=pm_pop .

I am embarrassed for them.  Anyone who has walked along a wet beach and then walked across the dunes a few feet away has discovered the different properties of wet sand vs. dry sand.  I do not know the credentials of the Amsterdam researchers, but perhaps part of an education should be about things that do not come out of a book.  Spend a summer on a farm or go barefooted for a few days.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Republican's REAL Problem with the ACA

Having gone through April 15 with my clients my eyes have been opened as to why the Republicans want to repeal the ACA rather than "fix".  The new taxes on higher income individuals that are included in the law hit my clients pretty hard.  So it's not necessarily the healthcare part that they are obsessing about, but the increased taxes.  And they know it's hard to get a large portion of the voters stirred up very much about higher taxes on the "rich".  So they bang away on the misleading "government-controlled health care" idea because not much scares Americans more than things that are "government-controlled".

Republicans Controlling Congress

The idea that the Republicans will keep the House and "take" the Senate seems to be building momentum.  I don't know how credible all of the talk is.  Nate Silver is calling the Republicans a slight favorite to win the Senate and I don't think anyone seriously thinks the Democrats are going to take the House.  So this got me to thinking about how I feel about that.  How would I feel about the Republicans controlling congress?

My answer?  Meh... If the people want to give the Republicans a chance then lets do this.  Maybe then we will get to see more substance in their proposals.

1. Healthcare - In keeping with the actions of the Republican controlled House I would assume the first thing they will do is vote, in both houses, to repeal Obamacare.  They may even get a few Democrat votes.  Of course as long as Obama is in the Whitehouse it still won't get repealed.  But in the course of these actions maybe, just maybe, we will get a better idea of what the replace part of "repeal and replace" is.  I don't think I will like it but I'm willing to keep an open mind.

2. The National Debt - I would absolutely love to see some real work get done on this.  The Republicans are supposedly the party that wants to do something about the national debt, even though it is my understanding that the last Republican President oversaw increasing the national debt by about 10/17 of where it stands now.  When they have both houses of  congress maybe they can make some headway on the issue like when they controlled both houses of congress when Clinton was in office.  Obama needs that legacy.

3. The economy - There is very little for me to like about anything I've heard from Republicans about how to
to "jump start" the economy.  Of course, trying to pay down the national debt AND jump starting an ailing     economy is quite a challenge  for either party.  In spite of what I said in #2 above, the economy should take
precedence over paying down the national debt in the short term.   A lot can be accomplished with a booming economy.  I am assuming that we have the wherewithal to get the economy booming.

Those are a few thoughts.  Anyone else like to comment on what the benefits/consequences of a Republican controlled congress might be?

Buying stuff or not buying stuff

In the post a few days ago about Brendan Eich we stumbled across the idea of making purchasing decisions based on issues you care about - like the many of us who choose not to eat at Chik-Fil-A based on their views on same sex marriage.

I recognize that this can be problematic. Of course, we could all probably find things lying around the house made by a company whose policies or practices would make us uneasy. Sometimes, though, I think the decision to buy or not buy a thing is very easy.

For example: I refuse to buy bottled water because the idea that water is a privatized good seems immoral and indefensible to me. This is not to say that bottled water can't serve an important function (i.e. disaster relief).

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Argument by Motivation 2

In motivation and Voter ID (April 4th) we discussed the left's opposition to voter ID laws on the grounds that the advocates' presumed  motivation was to prevent a certain class of people from voting.  I have seen people who are well aware of the invalidity of this type of ad hominem fallacy find it so appealing that they cannot resist it. It is reasonable to consider motivation in analyzing an advocate's reason's for opposing a position, that is, for the purpose  of judging the advocate.  However, it is not, in fact a valid argument against the position itself.  Consider about any martyrdom case.  The position is to eliminate the individual and thereby shut down the person's belief, program, cause ... .   But it frequently doesn't work for example the French Revolution, Nelson Mandela, or for that matter, Jesus Christ himself.  Just because X is the motive of your action does not mean that X will be a consequence of that action.

The right likes this kind of argument too.
In this situation in fact many on the right believe that the left is opposed to voter ID laws because the left is motivated by a desire to get the votes of millions of people who are in the country illegally and do not have the right to vote.  Just as the right has some who would like to suppress voting, there are some on the left who would like to stretch the access to voting to include some who would not have traditionally qualified.  If you listen to TV discussions on this you will sometimes hear "all eligible people" should be allowed to vote and sometimes they will simply say "all people".

This is at least part of the reason for the fact that we do not have an immigration bill.  Each side assumes the worst possible motives on the part of the opposition -  i. e. they seek to demonize them.

Here the fallacy allows you to oppose the law without having to deal with what the law says.  Just oppose the presumed motives of the opponent.  As usual with ad hominem arguments it involves much less thinking.

With all  of the discussion on the other point I still did not see someone on the left say that they agreed with the statement:

If you are entitled to or have a right to something from the government you should be required to prove your eligibility for that entitlement or right.