Archive for the 'Politics – National' Category

Why 2008 did not go to the “moral majority”

Monday, December 13th, 2010

I was listening to an interview on Catholic radio this morning from a very insightful guy (sorry, I didn’t catch his name). He was talking about how if we frame the conversation correctly, a lot more people agree with Catholic positions than we think. By the way of example, he mentioned how, while about 50% of people are pro-choice and vote that way, when you ask them detailed questions on what they’d like to limit abortion to, most of them favor policies that could only be the case if Roe v. Wade is thrown out. Yet those same people will protect Roe v. Wade. About this, I completely agree. Getting the information out there and framing the conversation in a positive light can do wonders for political clout and progress.

But where he went amazingly wrong was when the host asked him about why so many people voted for politicians who held moral positions they didn’t back in 2008 and there he went tremendously wrong.

He tried to pin it to the above issues of awareness and conversation framing. He couldn’t be more wrong.

The reality is that 2008 was all about both the ineffectiveness of the Bush administration to deliver on their stated goals and going into areas that made people concerned. Bush claimed to be all about fiscal responsibility… he didn’t act like it. Bush claimed to be about moral rectitude… but it doesn’t help when you’re torturing people, and continuing the loss of life in two very unpopular wars that one wonders while we’re there in the first place.

There’s a reason all Obama had to do was say the word “Change” repeatedly for 10 months to win the election. It’s also the same reason that Obama has been somewhat surprised by the lack of positive reception to his actions. The reality is his campaign was so tepid about laying out his agenda (they didn’t have to do more), that lots of people voted for him less because of the actual agenda but more because he didn’t reflect the problems that the Bush administration was doing. Once the rubber started hitting the road, it wasn’t exactly what people thought.

The other side of the same coin is that people don’t want to talk morals in down economic times. People have a hard time getting worked up about embryonic stem cell research when they’re out of work. At that point they just want things changed so they can get back to work.

But make no mistake, the 2008 election wasn’t about a rejection of the moral principles that Republicans used to stand for. And part of framing the conversation for the future, is to not tie those moral issues to one party, so that when that party messes everything else up, the moral issues don’t take a beating with the economic ones.

Quick hitters – Taxes, the DMV and hell

Friday, December 10th, 2010

Today’s quick hitters:

  • This whole brouhaha about the Bush tax cuts is fascinating to me. I never thought I’d see the Democratic base turn so quickly on Obama like they have over this. He’s even had to call in former President Clinton to his defense. For what it’s worth, this is an area where I see both sides. I see our deficit and wonder if we can afford to keep taxes so low (and the wealthy are more able to take that hit). On the other hand, the income tax code is already HORRIFICALLY biased towards taking taxes from the wealthy. What I pay in taxes now with 3 kids a big mortgage an only 1 income is less than a tenth, yes you read that right, 10%, of what I paid 10 years ago without the kids and two incomes that was only 50% more than I make today. Heck, I’ll give you round number specifics: I paid around $2k in taxes for 2009 on about $50k of post deduction income ($80k pre-deductions). In 2001, I paid around $30k in taxes on $120k of income (and we had no deductions). An additional $28k in taxes for $40k in increased income!?! Something’s not right with that.
  • There’s a story in today’s Chronicle about a transgender person who’s ticked off because the DMV person who took their gender re-assignment paperwork, took their address and started soliciting them with religious material. Let me go on record as saying it was highly inappropriate of the DMV worker to do that. When it’s your job to preserve someone’s private information for the government (and anyone who takes an address down is), you’ve got to do their job, no matter how deplorable the actions of the person are. The transgender person is absolutely right to object to that.
  • That said, it’s just baffling to me that our society allows people to “change their gender”. What does that even mean? We define sex by our chromosomes… and those can’t be changed. Sure, you can slice off the penis, drill a hole in their pelvis, put breast implants in their chest, and give them hormone injections, but the chromosomes don’t change. At some level I understand why because of our noble insistence on liberty in the US we allow the surgery to go forward (although I can make a compelling argument why our liberties end before that). But there’s no reason why someone’s birth certificate/driver’s license should be able to be changed. Those surgeries didn’t change their fundamentals. While it wasn’t right for the DMV worker to take advantage of their role to notify this person of their perversion, the perversion of the nature of our humanity is quite real, as is the associated risk of hell that goes along with it.

Disgusted with politics after the election

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

I’ve always thought that politics was a nasty business, but I never thought it could be as bad as it was this year. I’ve never seen so many attack ads. I’ve never seen so many distortions of the truth. Wait a minute, not just distortions, completely disingenuous crud. Pro-choice candidates sending me mailers telling me not to vote for the other guy because he’s pro-choice. Candidates criticizing other candidates for votes for which they also made. Criticizing both the cuts to services and that they voted for new taxes, not recognizing that you have to do one or the other, or both, when there’s a deficit.

Just absolutely ridiculous stuff.

And here’s the worst part: It’s merely a reflection of where our electorate has gone. When reading message boards amongst voters, the shear nastiness of the attacks is SO disheartening. The “you can leave California” gloating (which is just a response to Republicans who did it in previous cycles). The treating other voters as if they’re stupid.

The worst part is there seems to be no attempt to understand the other sides motivations and attitudes. I mean, I get why someone would want single-payer health care. I disagree, but I can see why someone might feel that way. I understand why people are for gay marriage, legalization of marijuana, and legal abortion… I completely disagree, but I understand their perspective. And while I’m sure there are people out there who look at my views with a similar amount of understanding, that’s not the feeling one gets when the publicly state those views (and in fairness, I’m sure it feels the same on the other side).

And it’s just really distressing to me. I’m not sure a republic can withstand this sort of hate-filled division. There has to be a way out of this sort of divisive politics.

Sports and faith

Monday, April 23rd, 2007

Today, the combination of two different blog posts (one from Mark Shea about a new documentary and one varia post on TBIOOTF that ends with the following video that you must see) helped me to find the words to comment on the Virginia Tech tragedy in a way that could sound crass but I believe is meaningful.

One of the reasons I love college football over pro football is because college football is about more than an owner and his team.  The NFL tries to deceive people into thinking they are there for the community just like corporations try to fool people into thinking their motives are bigger than the bottom line, but it’s all a joke.  The reality is that the job of the NFL is to make the 32 owners money just like it is the job of corporations to make money for their owners/shareholders.  Sometimes the best way to do that is by being a “good citizen” but in the end, they exist for one and one reason only.

Not so with college sports.

There are many out there that think college football is just as comercial as pro football.  While it may seem that way, and while there are definitely comercial aspects of college football, the reality is there is far more there.  To make my case I give you two proofs:

  1. Name me a pro-football team that has “boosters” who are willing to donate money to the cause?
  2. There was no talk of the New Orleans colleges and University leaving for a new town like there was with the Saints after Katrina.

At it’s heart, college sports are about people.  It’s about students at a college and the alumni who used to go there.  It’s about the hope and pride of those individuals.  No matter what happens, those people have a link to that college.  The college can’t just move and no longer be the Houston Oilers and now is the Tennessee Titans.  Nope.  My diploma will always have the same name on it.  I will always be bound to that school.  While in good times it will be easy for me to show my pride, it is just as true that in bad times I can not deny my ties to them.

That’s why when I watch the video I linked above, it gives me chills and makes my eyes water.  Because it’s the same people who filled that stadium with hope and joy who were struck down by fear and sadness last week.

May God give peace to those affected by the tragedy so that they may again find hope and joy. 

Ranting about depressing news coverage

Thursday, April 19th, 2007

This morning I read my normal assortment of news sites and it was all very depressing.  Of course some of it was depressing because of the news itself, but what stuck me this morning was how much of it was depressing because of the attitudes of those covering it  or those commenting on it.  I don’t have the strength/determination to fully quote and rebutt everything, however, for my own sake forgive me these rants:

  1. Part of the governments job is to regulate the medical industry.  There are thousands of medical proceedures that have been banned that one can find doctors who will complain about their being banned.
  2. I’m sorry but the headline “Abortion Ruling Ripped” is amazingly biased.  One could have just as easily used the headline “Abortion Ruling Praised”.
  3. There is a vast difference between the supreme court striking down legislation and refusing to strike down legislation.  If you’ve got complaints about a law that falls within the constitution, don’t blame the courts, blame your elected officials.
  4. The only way NBC would have not released the killers videos they received is if it hurt their ratings.  We get the news we watch.  If you don’t like it, don’t watch it.
  5. If you decide you’re going to release content from a murderer, you’ve got only two choices in my mind: Refuse to air any of it or air it ALL (with the possible caveat of up to 5% which is “pornographic” (speaking more broadly than sexually) which should still be fully described including why it was too “pornographic” to show).  There is nothing I despise more than the possibility that a news outlet can be manipulating content to get the story they want.  Nope.  No dice.  You give me the content, I decide what to make of it.  Deal?

That is all… for now.

Great immigration interview with Archbishop Chaput

Thursday, March 1st, 2007

Archbishop Chaput has always been an impressive Church leader in my opinion because of his balanced and practical approach.  This interview with him about immigration reform is another example of this.  Some great quotes that show his balance:

“We want a strong economy and a good standard of living, but we also don’t want to do a lot of the unpleasant jobs that help sustain that standard. So we live with a curious kind of schizophrenia. We need the “illegals,” but we also want to complain about them.”

“If Americans are angry about the immigration issue, it’s not because they’re instinctively bigoted. They’re frustrated and afraid, and too many of our public servants have failed us by not really leading with vision — in other words, by following their polls and ambitions, instead of their brains and consciences, to find a solution.”

“In Denver, we want to build a Church community that it is truly multiethnic and multiracial. That strikes me as a demand of discipleship. But unless we get serious national immigration reform soon, a sense of grievance will continue to grow among both Hispanics and non-Hispanics. In the long run, that could gravely wound the whole country.”

Please read the whole thing.

Failures of the women’s movement

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2007

In my post about marital names the subject of the women’s movement and feminists came up.  Since it was a topic that was quickly diverging from the topic being discussed I decided to make a new post on the subject.  Here are the relevent comments:

Me: “There is plenty that is good about the women’s movement. Unfortunately there was one unintended consequences: a general negativity towards men, marriage and children. … Both the groom and bride need to be able to answer yes to all of those questions (not quoted) to give a marriage a fighting chance. What the women’s movement failed to realize is that it should be fighting to ensure that men answered yes to those questions, not that women should answer no.”

Sarah: “As far as the women’s movement being anti-children, marriage and men, nothing could be further from the truth. At the heart of feminism is the simply belief that men and women should be treated as equals in our society. And despite some radical ideas, this is what most feminists believe.”

For starters this is yet another case where Sarah completely mis-understands my point.  She’s right about the heart of feminism and what most feminists believe.  That’s why I used the critically important phrase “unintended consequences”.

Unintended as in that’s not what was in their heart and not what they believe.

Unintended or otherwise, I think the case is pretty convincing that is indeed what has happened:

  1. One of the first significant points of the women’s movement was that being pregnant keeps women from being successful in their careers.  If that’s not anti-children I don’t know what is.  What they should have done instead (and in fairness started fighting for about a decade too late) was fight for better maternity benefits and career environments that were supportive of raising children.
  2. Along the same lines, a big part of the women’s movement was abortion rights.  Even putting aside the murder of unborn children, which I view as scientific fact, abortion has still fostered the mindset that children aren’t a gift but a burden.
  3. The other early significant portion of the women’s right movement was no-fault divorce.  I’m sorry, nothing says anti-marriage than making it easier to end them.  What they should have been doing is making the consequences of men who abuse their wives much more stringent.  Instead they created an environment where not only is marriage denigrated, but the same asshole men that were emotionally abusing their wives before can now do it until something better comes along and bolt “without fault”.  At least before the women in those cases got 100% of the assets not 50%.
  4. Finally, the body of work of women who have called all men pigs in the name of feminism is so comprehensive that anyone who would doubt it is just being foolish.  While I don’t think most women buy into it, thankfully, I do think that it’s pervasive enough it creeps into the subconscious of too many women and makes them very wary of men, even very good men.

Notice that in all cases besides #4 the motives of the ones pursuing the goals was noble but the results were disasterous.  Personally I think women are in a worse situation as a whole today than they were 50 years ago.  More women are being raped.  More women are being abandoned by their spouse and just as frequently with children.  More women are being treated as sex objects through pornography and other sexual deviencies.  More women are being asked to not only do housework and raise children but at the same time are asked to have a full-time career.  More women are being pushed to the brink resulting in higher suicide rates for women than ever before.

In fact, the only area in which the women’s movement was a success was in getting access to more professional career and educational opportunities.  Heck, even that hasn’t been the success that the women’s movement was hoping.

Overall, while I think the original goals were noble, the result has been a disaster for women.  Women deserve better.

Meeting 95% of 95% of buyers needs doesn’t cut it.

Sunday, January 7th, 2007

Last night I watched the “documentary” Who Killed the Electric Car with by brother and mom.  I put documentary in quotes because it is your standard highly biased account which invalidates it as a true documentary in my opinion.  But that’s neither here nor there.

The point of this post is to point out some of the most overlooked reasons why alternative vehicles have failed in the last 20 years.

  1. 95% of consumers buy their vehicles not based on what they need the vehicle on a day-to-day basis, or said another way what they use it for 95% of the time, but based on all of the capabilities they would like.  The most obvious example of this is 4-wheel drive on SUVs in California.  Most Californians see conditions where 4-wheel drive is valuable about 3-4 times a year.  But those same consumers when they are buying the vehicle say to themselves, “I want 4-wheel drive because I like to go skiing”.  The same principle applies to towing, people capacity, storage capacity and most importantly for electric vehicles, range.  Even though on 350 days a year most consumers don’t drive more than 150 miles a day, it is very important to most consumers that on the remaining 15 days a year they can drive 600 miles if they want.
  2. The low gas prices of the last 20 years.  Everyone forgets that in the mid-eightes gas prices dropped dramatically.  While there was a full head of steam on alternative vehicles but it faultered when gas prices dropped.  Now that gas prices are back up, there is a new sense of urgency and it will last as long as gas prices are high.  However, many people overlook this factor.
  3. Safety regulations.  The car market has a “high barrier to entry”.  In other words, the amount of investment required to become a new car maker is so high that very few companies are even capable of considering it, much less being interested in doing it.  There are numerous reasons for the investment being so high but a big part of it is all of the regulations required to be met including the destruction of a large number of cars for safety tests.  What this means is that Detroit can safely make the same thing year after year because no new car makers are going to be able to come in and steal market share.  As the hybrids have shown, one Detroit is pressured, they will quickly respond.  Figuring out how to allow new car makers into the market would increase the options available to the consumer and force Detriot to be more innovative.
  4. Technology based regulatory requirements.  California and and a few other governments had passed laws requiring electric vehicles be made and sold at certain rates.  That’s the wrong way to regulate because it actually restricts innovation.  The reason is two-fold: one, it gives automakers an excuse for failing.  “You said we had to go all-electric and the technology isn’t available.”  If you instead say “the average emissions of all your car must be less than X” where X is a number that traditional internal combustion engines can’t meet but only slightly so, the car makers are forced to look at other technologies yet bear the burden of justifying their technology decisions.  Which leads to reason number two: By allowing experiementation, excellent solutions that aren’t being considered are given a chance to be vetted out.

There are of course other reasons, but in my opinion, these are the most important yet overlooked ones.

Another feather for your global-warming hat

Friday, August 25th, 2006

OK, we all remember Hurricane Katrina last year.  And many of us remember the talk about how global warming was to blame for all of these horrible hurricanes.  So as the anniversary of Katrina comes, one should ask, how many hurricanes have their been this year?

Answer: 4.

That’s as compared to Katrina being #11 of last year.

This is what bugs me about the global warming crowd.  They pick on one item as an indicator of global warming and use it to make their case.  Not only is the one indicator not necessarily fool-proof, there is also no counter articles written when that SAME indicator no longer helps them.  They just move onto something new.

So, this year it’s all about the heat wave that ran across America.  What you don’t hear is that high pressure systems (aka heat waves) actually have the effect of reducing hurricanes.  So, while this year we’ve been boiling (global warming!) the last couple years have been relatively cool which had the affect of allowing more hurricanes in the Atlantic (global warming!).

The reality is that we really don’t know what effect the VERY small changes in temperature we’re experiencing would cause.  We also don’t know with any confidence whether the small up-tick in weather we’re seeing is the beginning of a long trend or just a small up-tick.  The first half of the 20th century saw a small down-tick.  Furthermore, we don’t really know what causes these fluctuations.  People can point all they want to CO2 emissions, but we put out plenty of those in the first half of the 20th century (coal plants anyone?).  Similarly, we haven’t been able to track as accurately as we’d like other factors that could have just as large of an effect.  For example, some believe the sun in burning hotter these days than in the past and the various flare-ups (remember those fears a few years ago about a flare-up that was going to take down the communications industry someday) are a sign of that.

So what do we know?  The answer, despite what Al Gore wants you to believe while you put $10 in his pocket is: Not much.

My thoughts on immigration reform

Wednesday, April 12th, 2006

Well considering how much political commentary there is on immigration reform I thought I’d add my two cents.

First of all it is my belief that no matter what we do, the #1 important thing that must happen as a result of this is enforcement of the new laws.  Unless laws are complied with, laws are meaningless.  Laws are only complied with when the combination of the risk of getting caught and the penalty for being caught encourages most people to comply with the law.  In the case of immigration, with so many of those seeking to live in the US having very little to lose, there isn’t a strong enough penalty you can give that would deter illegal immigration on it’s own (or said differently with a low risk of being caught).  As a result, the only way to ensure compliance with the law to make the likelihood of being caught very high.

So whatever we do, enforcement of the new law MUST be our top priority.  If it isn’t, whatever our plan is will be meaningless.

Beyond that, my feelings are driven by two factors: respecting the lives of those who want to immigrate legally and relative stability of the US economy.

First, let me state what I think the biggest overlooked aspect of this debate is: employers abusing illegal immigrants.  When the debate is talked about, most speak as if the companies employing illegal immigrants and the immigrants who are illegally employed are perfectly happy with one another and would be content to just see the government leave them alone.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The reality is that although the alternative back home may be worse, most illegal immigrants face a world where they are routinely abused by not being paid for their work (in addition to the low wages to begin with), working in unsafe conditions, and rampant racism.

Why does this occur?  Because the illegal immigrants have no recourse.  They can’t go to law enforcement because they’re illegal.  And that’s the crux of the matter.  Many argue that by letting illegal immigrants into the country we are being humane to them.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  By letting them in illegally we are creating an environment where we are allowing them to be abused and we can turn our back in ignorance.  That is morally unacceptable to me.  We must ensure that our borders are enforced not only for “America’s” sake but to ensure the fair treatment of all who live in this country.

Next, I’ll attack another overlooked aspect: subverting minimum wage.  When politicians talk about a “guest worker program” what they’re talking about is a way for US employers to pay below minimum wage to immigrants.  Why should they be able to do that?  What makes these individuals less deserving of minimum wage than the rest of us?  I think that the “guest worker programs” as currently proposed are barbaric and de-humanizing.

I’m perfectly fine with allowing vast numbers of immigrants into our country.  However, that does not give us the right to treat them in sub-human fashion.  If they’re allowed to live here then they deserve the rights that everyone who lives here has.

Finally, what should we do with the illegal immigrants who currently live in the US?  This is the most difficult problem to address particularly considering that the US’s lack of enforcement in the past has been a de facto endorsement of their arrival.  Additionally, I heavily believe in the principle of forgiveness.

So where does that leave us?  It leaves us where the right solution is to do the following:

  1. Dramatically step up enforcement on the border
  2. Create a temporary residency program that has a path to permanent residency and citizenship for all immigrants and gives those immigrants the full set of rights of current legal immigrants, including minimum wage.
  3. Allow those who are already living in the country to join the above program with some credit based on the length of their stay although never so much that they immediately become permanent residents.  Despite the fact that they deserve forgiveness, there must be some requirement that they go through a immigration process.  Residents who have arrived in the last year(?) would have to apply similar to non-residents and would not get any time based credit.
  4. Set target number for these programs that are realistic and are “front loaded” to accept the reality that millions are already living here and will be joining the program “mid-stream”

Now, is that so hard?