Saturday, December 10, 2011

Leaning Toward the Newt

Been perusing the political news.  Funny thing, the pundits claim that our republic yearns for an outsider to run the country.  Then they claim that Romney and the Newt are both insiders so neither has a chance.  But I think they are wrong in both cases.

Mitt is easy.  He had a lot of business experience before he got into politics.  If a voter kinda likes Mitt (or dislikes everybody who is left) and is looking for an outsider, it is easy enough to assert that Romney's experience outside of government makes him outsider enough.

Newt is tougher.  He's been tramping around DC for a VERY long time.  But he has a couple of things going for him.  First, he really did upset the status quo in his first incarnation with the Contract With America, welfare reform, and inflicting balanced budgets on Clinton.  Second, a LOT of established politicians just HATE him.  To me, that makes him an outsider.  Anybody so disliked by so many political hacks just HAS to have something going for him.

The Pundits also assert that Newt loses focus and gets disorganized.  That is also a positive for me.  If something really important comes up, he will get focused and be the smartest guy in the room.  Until then he won't get much done.  That government governs best that governs least.

Barring some major meltdown, I am leaning in Newt's direction.  Even though I too like the idea of a political outsider to shake things up.


Monday, November 21, 2011

A Part of the Case for Voter Photo ID

There has been a recent push to require photo ID before someone is allowed to vote.  I think it's a great idea.  Naturally the left is against it.  They want to continue to control vote outcomes through their city and state machines.  They disingenuously claim that it is a racist tactic to disenfranchise blacks and the poor.  They also claim that voter fraud is incredibly rare, and challenge ID supporters to find court cases where fraudulent voting has been found.  Of course those are virtually non-existent because the people who would investigate and prosecute such cases are the same people who are committing the fraud.  But every once in a while a liberal with a conscience comes along.

Democrat says Democratic Party bosses use voter fraud

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Few Thoughts on Faith and Free Will

I was recently asked if humanists have an open mind about the existence of god, and what science can do to find god.  My opinion is that the answer is yes, but that humanists haven't seen anything that they would consider evidence of the existence of an anthropomorphic god.  Scientific research into the existence of god really doesn't have any good place to start.  The existence of god will need god to provide an unambiguous signature of his presence.  Measuring wavelengths, timing events, creating compounds are the kinds of things scientists do, and do very well.  Those things aren't like to produce the answer to life, the universe, and everything any time soon.

In myth and legend gods interact with humans all the time.  But generally only in private so you have to take the word of the person who suffered the divine presence.  "You saw who?  And he said what?  And he personally gave you that magic kazoo that can heal the sick.  Oh, but you can't cure my athlete's foot right now.  Uh Huh."  God needs to be less shy to overcome natural skepticism in a scientific age.

There is a common argument that god shouldn't provide proof of existence because that would rob man of freedom of choice.  That man must prove his allegiance through faith rather than evidence.  I find that argument less than compelling.  First, of course, there is the inherent unfairness of god taking that precious gift away from so many of his messengers.  Moses, anybody who got healed by Jesus, Joseph Smith, or anybody else who became a prophet of god through divine communication just got screwed.  Hardly the actions of a just god deserving of worship.  Second, and more important, just because you KNOW god exists doesn't mean that you will choose god.  Plenty of people choose to be evil.  Just ask Judas or Lucifer.  Freedom of choice is still there, it is just a more informed decision after god gets a regular talk show on Fox News.  (The other networks probably wouldn't give him a show.)


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Obama and the Deadly Drones

One of my favorite conservative blogs is Powerline. They recently posted an article discussing President Obama's program of blowing up bad guys with drones. It raises serious constitutional and ethical questions. This particular discussion noted that there aren't really clear limits or boundaries on presidential powers in some areas, and questioned whether there should be more. Here is the article:

And my response:

One of the biggest problems I have with over regulation is that it enforces mediocrity and lowest common denominator outcomes. We see that with the public schools. Every move, every curriculum, every textbook, every teacher promotion or firing, must follow a rigid set of rules using written standards monitored by bureaucrats. While this may defend against really poor outcomes, it also reduces the chances for greatness and innovation. I believe that over regulation generally degrades outcomes, even if it does make them more consistent and predictable.

So yes, there are times that ambiguity of law, and the executive reaching in ways that were not considered by laws (Or that would never have gotten approval if publicly proposed.) is probably a good thing. We may not like it when that executive belongs to a party we don't approve, or if we don't like the particular action. But overall, on the balance, I believe that most Presidents of the United States make the right decision most of the time. Particularly on hard calls like whether to target a terrorist, citizen or not, with a drone.

I don't like Obama. Not as a person. Not as a politician. Not as our President. But I would not take the power to act independently away from him. Because if we take away some of his ability away to do bad things, we also take away part of his ability to achieve great things.


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A Discussion on Charity

A friend of mine recently posted on his Facebook page:

I remember once upon a time, conservatives talked about a kinder, gentler society, lit by a thousand points of light. Can we no longer afford compassion? We're becoming a meaner, harder, sharper-edged society, and those thousand points of light are dimming because we're told that we can't afford the candles.

I responded:
The question is how best to show compassion. Government handouts have proven to make people more poor and more dependent. It is a false compassion to ask for more money to hand out. Our world has become softer, not harder. The people who claim to be helping the disadvantaged are more likely to be harming them. Nationalizing charity was a bad idea.

Just because someone thinks government handouts have grown too big does not mean that person lacks compassion. Demeaning those who disagree with you detracts from the debate.

He responded, also talking to another commenter:
I don't think that I was demeaning anyone in particular. We seem to be on a trend of blaming the poor for poverty, though. I don't think that that's very constructive either. Private assistance, like food banks, only goes so far, and when there's hard times there's a lot more going out than there is coming in.

Kat - you know as well as anyone, that there's lots of people out there who want to work hard, and can work hard, but just can't find work. Gov Snyder just signed the bill limiting lifetime welfare assistance to 48 months. What happens to the 12,000 families who get kicked off the rolls in October?

And I replied:
Actually, your post was an attack on conservatives. It would be impossible to read your post without concluding that you think conservatives are meaner, harder, sharper edged, and lacking compassion. Read it again and think about how much you would like it if you were conservative and had dedicated your life to helping others, as I am and have.

As to the 12,000 people who have been on welfare for 4 years, yes they have had plenty of time to find work, move to where more jobs are available, start businesses, get help from their family, or find other means of supporting themselves. While there will always be a very few who need that kind of long term aid, 12,000? I don't think so.

Your comment on soup kitchens and private assistance was also interesting. Before The Great Society our country was filled with charitable groups working in the community. Rotary clubs, Elks, Eagles, Shriners. They have been devastated by the nationalization of charity. To the detriment of the poor. These private organizations could look at each distressed person or family individually and give them the help they needed, not letting them get away with bullshit as easily. Today it is a bureaucrat checking off boxes on a form, with the "less motivated" learning the right answers to give to maintain a low, but very easy, standard of living. Not good for them or our society.

Back to Hairy Thoughts.
I find myself in this kind of discussion fairly often. It is very frustrating to see public statements of moral superiority based on a policy disagreement. In effect, people saying that because they have a different way of solving a problem that they are a better person than I am. They might be, but not for the reasons they assert.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Tip of the Hat to Justice Thomas.

Supreme Court Justice Thomas is one of the most maligned public figures of our day. Because he is black and conservative, far too many on the left assume that he must be an intellectual lightweight. I've seen many articles and facebook comments making this assertion. So it was refreshing to see this article by Jeffrey Toobin.

Jeffrey Toobin , one of the left's leading legal reporters, acknowledging Thomas's impressive intellectual credentials. Toobin may not agree with, or even like, Thomas, but his description of Thomas as a brilliant leader of the court is fascinating.

The above article is quite long. Michael Barone summarizes it very nicely. Both articles are well worth your time.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Dominionism, another Conspiracy Theory.

Today I saw a post on Powerline about Dominionism.

I thought I knew what it meant just from context, and it turns out I was right. The wiki game me some general background.

Dominionism is a belief that God gave man Dominion over the earth, and that Christians should take that responsibility seriously and apply it to all aspects of their lives. The practical implications being that they should only trust other Christians, and they should try to get political control of their locality and the whole US to create Christian based government. Some liberal author decided that this was all some kind of big secret threat. As is generally the case, this is a VERY overwrought conspiracy theory.

Until reading this article I hadn't heard of "Dominionism", although in retrospect I have experienced it. I used to run an adoption agency and found a pretty clear dividing line between agencies. There were religious agencies and secular agencies. The secular agencies made it a point of not asking about a potential adoptive family's religious beliefs, outside of health of the child issues. (Christian Scientists can find it difficult to adopt as they are generally not willing to take their kids to traditional doctors.) Religious agencies often expected an affidavit of faith, sometimes a letter from the priest/pastor of a church affirming that the potential adoptive parent was Christian.

When taking general information calls from prospective adoptive parents, I would frequently be asked if I was Christian, or if ours was a Christian agency. I would respond that my personal beliefs were private, and that we were a secular organization that accepted both religious and non-religious client families. -*CLICK*- That would be that. Most religious people weren't so strong in that requirement. We had plenty of Christian clients

A lot of folks just didn't want to do business with anyone who didn't share their faith. That was fine with me. It is important to be comfortable with the adoption agency you choose. But this kind of attitude seemed to be stronger among evangelicals than any other group I encountered, with the potential exception of gay rights advocates. (They had an edge all their own.)

I suspect that this discomfort with non-Christians led to the concept of Dominionism, apparently largely created by non-religious political authors. I don't think that Dominionism is any kind of a conspiracy, it is just like minded people grouping together. That grouping then gets interpreted as a threat by people with a different opinion. So yeah, I think this is largely an invention of the liberal media, and not a big deal in a broad based political sense.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Conspiracy Theories, a minor observation.

The sheer nuttiness of so many conspiracies can be breathtaking. On a local Seattle blog one regular poster began claiming a conspiracy against Navy SEALs. Some members of the SEAL team that killed BinLaden were killed when a copter was shot down in Afghanistan. Note, while it was member of the same SEAL team, it was a different part of the team. SEAL teams consist of hundreds of SEALS. It appears that NONE of the SEALS who were killed were actually on the BinLaden raid.

Nevertheless, this whack job was convinced that the BinLaden raid didn't take place, and the helicopter shoot down was friendly fire designed to kill possible witnesses to the lack of a raid. Just nuts.

More rational commenters posted a host of logical and factual flaws with this "theory". To no avail. He just dug in his heels. I expected that.

I've long felt that conspiracy theory advocates are compensating for some sense of powerlessness in their lives. It lets them feel that they have higher powers of perception than those around them, and a secret knowledge that makes them special. No amount of facts or logic can sway those opinions, it is giving up the only part of themselves that they like.

Don't feed the trolls.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Too Many Laws.

The other day a stand up comic made a joke about unemployed guys sitting around in their underwear watching court TV shows. Guilty! Judges Judy, Milian, and Alex are my current favs. The other day Judge Alex posted a question on his facebook page.

"Have you ever said to yourself..."there outta be a law..."?
If you could make up your own law, what would it be?"

While an interesting topic for discussion, I think it points out a real problem in our society. The desire to meddle.
There are far too many conflicting, overlapping, and unenforced laws. I'd like to see a limit on the number of laws each level of government can have. If they want to pass a new one they have to remove an old unused or bad one. Perhaps each law should have a 10 year expiration period, and if no one has been charged with it, it just automatically deletes itself.

But I believe there are few things as corrosive to a society as unenforced and ignored laws. When laws are not enforced law breakers have more contempt for the rule of law generally. It leads to excuses like "everybody does it", or "it's no big deal". Breaking laws should be a big deal. For people to take them seriously, legislators need to exercise care in finding the things that are really important, and that the police are able and willing to enforce. Sure, it's only speeding, or littering, or smoking a joint. The more little laws you break and justify in ignoring, the more likely you are to break bigger ones and have less respect for yourself and those around you.

So while I enjoyed Judge Alex's conversation starter, I think a better question would be "What laws can we do without?"

How about this. It takes a 2/3 majority to approve a law, but only a 1/3 minority to take it off the books. If 1/3 of the people don't want a law, is it REALLY a good idea?


Friday, July 1, 2011

The Hypocrisy of Limousine Liberals

One of the Hairy Urchins just graduated from High School. The commencement speaker was none other than Bill Gates Sr. Father of Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft. Bill Gates is a locally noted local progressive activist. Even though Washington State is one of the most heavily taxed states in the nation, he was the driving force behind an effort to ADD a state income tax.

His commencement speech was every bit as horrible as I expected it to be. It was little more than a long list of things that he thought had been bad about America. Yes, some progress had been made, but it was up to the graduating students to make things even better. This "Hate America First" philosophy seems to be the place from which rich, privileged liberals start their thinking. Yes, we had segregated schools and rest rooms. Yes, we had miscegenation laws. Yes we had Japanese internment camps. Yes, women were not always allowed to vote. But those injustices are not what makes America exceptional.

Just now I am watching a John Stossel special, "What's Great About America." Now that is a message for graduating students. We do more for the world, have done more for the world, have led the world to more freedom, have given the world more advancements than any other country in history. The students should have been encouraged to be proud of their past and to carry forward with our grand traditions. While America has done bad things, and while we must learn about them and acknowledge them, they are not the most important things about America. And to spend the vast majority of a commencement speech droning on about past injustices did an injustice to the class of 2011.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Why TSA Should not be Government Employees

When the Department of Homeland Security was created the D.C. left wing bureaucracy saw a great opportunity to swell the ranks of government unions and the size of government. All of the ports and airports in the country hired private security contractors to ensure the safety of travelers. That clearly wouldn't do. In a stunning takeover of private industry, the government created a new bureaucracy and an army of workers forced to join government unions.

I believe that this places travelers at much greater risk and provides a much lower level of service. Why? Accountability.

It is virtually impossible to fire government union workers, no matter how egregious their behavior. They know that once they get hired they have a sinecure for life. Plus, they know that their wages, job security, and often promotions are not based on merit. It doesn't matter if you do a good job or bad job, all that matters is seniority.

A system like this inevitably leads to a significant portion of workers who are lazy, arrogant, and have no fear of negative repercussions for providing poor customer service. In a private system if a security agent is rude to a traveler, a complaint goes to a private employer. If that private employer gets too many complaints about too many offended travelers, that airport or port is going to start looking for another security company. The same is true of passenger safety. Today if an airport worker fails a security test by allowing a fake bomb through a checkpoint, their job is not at risk. They might get a reprimand, but they aren't going to get fired or get a pay cut. With a private security firm, if somebody is doing a crappy job screening they can be shown the door much more easily.

But one of the things that pains me the most is the sheer arrogance and punitive nature of Immigration, Customs, and TSA agents. The story below is a perfect example. A cruise ship of elderly British tourists docks in LA. Everybody on the ship has been screened multiple times. One of the tourists complains about TSA officiousness. The TSA replies by hugely ramping up security checks on the old folks. Pure retribution and pettiness. Our burgeoning government is weakening our nation.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Government Regulation of Tree Pruning

One of the ways government overreaches through regulation is by licensing activities that really don't need licensing. Washington State recently created a license for interior decorators. Wow. I can sleep at night.

In Charlotte NC apparently you must get permission from the city to prune trees on your own property. Here is a link to an article that describes this requirement.

The line that gives it away for me is this:

"The state Division of Forestry recommends that anyone trimming trees should be certified by the National Horticulture Board . . ."

The state wants to prevent people from helping themselves. Anything not prohibited is mandatory. Want to defend yourself from an attack by muggers? Sorry, you're not qualified. You must call the police and wait for them. Otherwise you might violate the rights of the mugger out of your ignorance of the law. Want to pack a lunch for your kid at school? Sorry, you aren't a nutritionist. You might put in chocolate milk, a known fattening agent and carcinogen. You must have your child only eat the perfect meal provided by the school.

More government, more government employees, more regulators, less freedom. A license to prune a tree on your own property, indeed.