Saturday, May 30, 2015

Prison Paradigms

I'm reminded of a story.

Jesse Jackson had been arrested at a protest, and as he sat in the local jail, he looked around and noticed all of the other "guests" were young men. He rose up, and got their attention. "Do you young men want to shut this jail down?"  They all rallied behind Reverend Jackson and shouted "Yes"!  He then calmly told them, "then don't come back here any more".

The jail system in this country is not bursting at the seams because of racism, police brutality, or income inequality.  Jails are full of people who committed crimes in a culture that celebrates criminal activity.

What culture celebrates crime? Are you talking about "Ocean's 11" where George Clooney leads a band of criminal masterminds to steal large sums of money?

Currently, one of the most popular and successful movie franchises (as well as the video game) deals with stealing cars, and all of the violence that goes along with that. I don't think they even have plots anymore, just violent crime and car chases, and young people pay a great deal of money to watch it on screen, and participate on-line.

You don't believe that racism has anything to do with the racial imbalance in prisons? Don't you think that there are far more poor people in prison than rich people?

This is systemic racism. White-collar crime rarely results in jail time.  On the other hand carrying a couple of marijuana cigarettes can result in years in prison.

You've touched on a great many issues with very few words, there. 

There is a racial imbalance in prisons. And I do believe for petty crimes, you are more likely to be arrested if you are a minority. But you only go to jail if you are found guilty of a crime. However, African-Americans make up around 12% of the general population, but are responsible for half of murders in this country ( statistics).  There is a racial imbalance of violent crime, and prisons reflect that. It's not a statistic you can walk away from.

White-collar crime is not a racial term. If a black man commits a white-collar crime, he's as likely to walk as a white person. And that is the one thing you said that is absolutely true: money talks. If you can afford a high-priced private attorney, you have a much better chance of avoiding a guilty verdict, and jail time. (Remember O.J.Simpson?) Justice is slanted against poor people. I think this is why many feel that there is no true justice, just a gamed system. The only place race comes in, is minorities are disproportionately represented among the poor, but that's a discussion for another blog(s).

The drug wars may be another topic for later discussion, but clearly, making marijuana possession a felony was a terrible idea.

But again, you get arrested when you commit a crime. As Reverend Jackson says, if you don't want to get caught up in the justice system, then stay out of the justice system.

In your worldview then, there is no system, just individuals deciding to be good or bad? If only it were that simple. The system is full of racism, and you are really going to hate it when you are on the other side in the system. But as long as you can imagine what it will be like, you can have some empathy now.

Do me a favor: go take the test on race here: and then let's talk. It will take about 10 minutes, but you need to be able to focus on the questions (quiet space, no distractions).

Unfortunately, the program couldn't be completed on my Mac due a computer error. From the portion I completed, it appears the questions are supposed to see how you weigh the inherent contradictions within the questions (showing disdain / support for the government AND the church (as though they are the same), "crushing" opposition, or taking care of "troublemakers").

I'll admit my own bias towards "soft" sciences, like social science or psychology, because I believe the "data" is too easily manipulated. Changing a word or the phrasing of a question can have a huge impact on how a person might answer. And the interpretation of the answer is biased by the examiner. Too often the paradigm of the tester determines the outcome of the study. This looks just like another one of those tests.

Wow, I find your dismissal of this science to be shocking. Science isn't "soft" or "hard" because of the topic... science is science. It is the analysis of an experiment or hypothesis, testing exactly what variables are at play, and retesting to see if the results hold up. There is "good" science and "bad" science, and science has a built-in method of differentiating between those: more science. If a study doesn't hold up to peer-review and replication, then it gets revised (or retracted).

If you can make it through those tests, you'll find the results. The short of it is that almost all of us are all biased, and in the way that the majority leans. As the website says: " may believe that women and men should be equally associated with science, but your automatic associations could show that you (like many others) associate men with science more than you associate women with science." That means that even the most ardent, feminist, woman still associates men with science. Similar results for race, age, and weight. These "implicit biases" surely have implications on decisions that we make everyday. This is a glimpse into systemic biases.

Math, physics, and chemistry don't change with societal changes. Popular culture doesn't affect gravity. Two plus two equals four, whether gay marriage is legal or not. There is a difference between different "sciences".  Across all college campuses, essentially everyone passes introductory psychology classes, but an average 21% fail introductory physics. Not the same.

In my little world, there is a system, the legal system, and I believe it unfairly favors those with money. But to say that the system is racist based on outcomes alone fails to consider a huge plethora of variables.  Apparently, you believe the justice system is rotten to the core? Everyone involved is racist? Even in a town like Baltimore, where everyone distributing the justice is African-American?

The justice system needs to be aware of the biases and limits of humans. As I mentioned, implicit bias will affect you in the same way, regardless of your race.

If you make a choice to commit a crime, then your likelihood of entering into the justice system increases dramatically over the person who chooses not to commit a crime.

And I think this is our main point of contention: I believe that individual choice has little to do with the population of prisons. It has more to do with systemic choices and beliefs, such as "which activities are crimes?", "how much time in prison should we incarcerate you?", and "you are probably guilty of something."

Hmmm. We may actually disagree with what it is we disagree about.

I think that our main difference of opinion is one of responsibility. I say you make your choices in life, and you bear the responsibility for those decisions. It appears you believe people are trapped in a biased system, and therefore have no responsibility for what happens. It's no wonder they need an all-powerful government to save them.

But beware, because Big Government is in control of that very system…..biases or not! Where's the justice in that?

Well, I think we can agree that we need to strive to make the system as fair as we can make it.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Memorial Day

Growing up here in Indianapolis, Memorial Day has always been flavored with the roar of race car engines, and checkered flags. The Indianapolis 500 will celebrate it's 99th running on Sunday. We always spent the day listening to the race on the radio, and cheered for our favorite drivers. Mine was Al Unser, Sr.  As a kid, I wanted to grow up to be either a race car driver, or an astronaut. (Don't tell my wife, but I still harbor those dreams.)

That's funny, I grew up in Indianapolis, too! We could hear the racecars from our backyard (they are loud!) as we listened to the race on our little AM radio, and ate corn on the cob and fresh tomatoes. I was just telling your niece that I think the Indy 500 would be be more fun if they were electric cars driven by robots. It's funny how we ended up having so different dreams.

Memorial Day is full of traditions for many. Most of us will spend the holiday with family, enjoying a picnic, and relaxing on lawn chairs in the sun. But for many military families, there will be empty chairs.

I'd like to say thank you to all of our veterans for their service, and to their families for the sacrifices they make every day. And my family will say a special prayer for you, and for those who have sacrificed their lives to keep us free.

Memorial Day is a complex day full of a range of emotions here. But we can discuss those on another day. For now, you are right: we can all pause and thank our veterans who gave their lives for our country.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Will Common Core education standards leave more children behind?

Common Core (CC) is just the latest in Federal intrusion into education, but promises to be just as ineffectual as it's predecessors. Even with Jeb Bush as it's top salesman this year, its unpopularity is increasing. Common Core may be the undoing of the Bush candidacy. The big bucks supporting CC nor the cash supporting Bush can provide any salvation to this wayward over reach from the Feds.

Education is a responsibility for the states, not the Federal government.

My house is full of educators (well, there are two of us), and you won't find much love for the ways that the US educational system has been run here. But it is a complex problem.
  1. Kids can't learn if they are hungry.
  2. All kids in the US should be able to get a good education.
  3. Bad teachers should be fired; good teachers should be rewarded.
  4. Corporations should not be allowed to make money off of the educational system.
Of course, the devil is in the details. No, wait, god is in the details. In any event, the details matter. The Federal government could help in a number of ways. First, they can help spread the costs of the educational system over the entire population. It wouldn't be fair if California and New York students got a better education simply because there were more people available to pay for it. And a good educational system costs money. 

But how do you determine whether a teacher is good or bad? Using testing for this purpose is not the way. I just watched a great French movie with my 15-year old daughter called "The Chorus." The story is about a school for troubled boys, and the triumph of a teacher who uses music to bond with the students, and give them a reason to not hate their lives. But teachers can't just be passionate---they also have to be able to teach. Learning is a philosophy of life, and teachers need to be able to impart that desire and process to the students.

There is a general anti-intellectual mood in this country today. We don't value teachers, and we don't value education.

Although some money is needed for a quality educational system, the question is how much. When the recession was just getting started, Mitch Daniels, who was then governor of Indiana, cut the education budget. This was based on necessity, not politics. However, during the next two years, all of the markers used to score the quality of education improved in the state. Higher test scores, more kids graduating, better satisfaction from parents, and every other measure you might look at; They all improved. Less money in education equaled a better educational system. In other words, more spending does not equal better outcomes, smart spending does.

Necessity not politics? That sounds like a false dichotomy. Couldn't they raise taxes, and then there would be enough money?

I'd like to see a study suggesting that spending less money on education improved anything. I don't believe any causal effect could be possible.

You can't raise taxes when the economy is crashing around you. It was the loss of jobs and the loss of tax revenue that forces these decisions. Illinois raised their taxes to cover their losses, instead of cutting expenditures, and now they're on the verge of financial collapse.

Cutting spending doesn't necessarily improve education, but it is true that education can improve even if spending is cut. Spending does not equal education improvements. Some of the biggest spending districts in the country (per student) have the worst educational outcomes.

At the same time we cut spending, Indiana instigated the largest charter program in the country. By encouraging competition, and providing parents some choices, quality improved.

As to good and bad teachers, there are some who are more capable in every field and every job market.

I think a lot of "bad" teachers would be better if they only had 10 - 12 kids in their classrooms, rather than 30 - 40. Hiring more teachers does cost more money. If there is to be an increase in spending, that is where I feel the money needs to go.

I agree that smaller class size can help.

But I'm not too keen on spending Hoosier dollars for failed educational programs in other states. Every state has the duty to provide education to its own students in their own Constitutions. No where in the US Constitution is education in any form listed as a prerogative of the Federal government. It is helpful for the DOE to collect data and pass it on, so states know how they compare to other states, and to the rest of the world, but nothing else.  The problem is they have tied this information to money. Any teacher will tell you they hate "teaching to the test", and yet when finances are tied to testing, that is what you get. All states would be better off funding their own educational policies, and leave the Feds out. It would save us all a ton of tax dollars, too, if the DOE ceased it current over reach.

Would your opinion change if you lived in a state that couldn't afford to educate its own kids? I want every child in the country to have a good education. Actually, I'd like every child in the world to have a good education.

I'd move.

I would assume your answer should be for those states that need more money to tax their citizens to pay for their own children's educations. Why rely on the federal government to take money from citizens in one state, and distribute it to a state that is failing it's citizens. Then, people can choose where they want to live. Again, Illinois and California are examples. Bad spending policies have put them into devastating debt, despite having more resources than other states. They've raised taxes, and people and businesses are leaving.

Common Core is only the most recent attempt for the Federal government to completely take over American Education. And it's a mistake.

If the Federal government can help raise the bar in education, I'm all for it. The problem is that the Common Core doesn't. I'd be in favor of a national program to actually help.

Then we agree. There should be no national programs that aren't proven to help the problems they are addressing. And we should eliminate all of the ones that don't.

Whew, it's about time you came around…..

Saturday, May 9, 2015



What misperceptions about people like yourself make you the most upset?

"The tea party is racist".

This myth was started by the media, who just couldn't understand how anyone could oppose the agenda set out by the first black president. The tea party actually predates President Obama by a few months,  with a record-breaking campaign money-bomb by Republican Congressman Dr. Ron Paul.

This event occurred December 16, 2007, which was the anniversary of the Boston Tea Party. The tea party movement really got its national kickoff on Feb. 19th, 2009, when CNN reporter Rick Santelli went on an on-the-air rant calling for a modern day tea party to protest government spending. This spark set the kindling on fire; kindling that had been set up by Bush's and Obama's spending. Within a matter of a few months, the two of them had spent trillions of dollars in the 2008 Economic Stabilization Act, TARP, The Stimulus bill (ARRA), and the banking and auto-industry bailouts.

It took the media almost no time to pick up on Democratic talking-points that the tea party was racist. My own congressman, Andre Carson, perpetuated this storyline with reluctant help from Rep. John Lewis. Rep. Carson claimed that a crowd of tea party supporters shouted the N-word at him "at least 15 times" as he and Rep. Lewis walked to the capital building to vote on Obamacare. Unfortunately for Rep. Carson, despite dozens of media cameras and recorders, many which were at the scene and following them into the building, no one has ever been able to substantiate his story. In fact, there is a $100,000 bounty for any evidence that this ever happened. The money remains uncollected.

Rep. Carson, at a separate event, also described tea party-affiliated congressmen of wanting to see blacks "hanging on a tree". Many Democratic strategists again picked up on the line that the tea party is a racist organization, despite the lack of any evidence.

The tea party is for smaller government, and fiscal responsibility. Doesn't seem racist to me.

Well, we all have our biases, for certain. But I don't think you have to come up with a conspiracy involving the media, the Democrats, and a specific event to explain why many people think that the tea party is full of bigots. I'm sure there are some racists in any large group of people, and the tea party has to have some then right?

I'll bet you know some people that suspect that President Obama was born in Kenya. Or that he is a Muslim. Now, why would they think that? Why Kenya, of all places? Why Muslim, of all religions? Does it have something to do with his skin color?

But if someone called me a racist, I'd acknowledge that, yes, I do have biases. I'd try to figure out what I can do better.

This reminds me of the idea of a microaggression. Small biases can still hurt, and can add up, like many, many paper cuts.

I think you may be inadvertently proving my point. If enough people say something over and over again, it seeps into the collective mindset, and becomes true for many people. The "I read it on the internet" syndrome. When people in leadership positions say something, it gives it much more weight, whether it's true or not. When African-American congressmen say something happened, and the media circulates it as fact, many people will tend to believe it. Having the Democratic party claim the group is racist, and having the media circulate that as fact seals the deal. After all, the media never lies and is certainly not biased.

Having a few people who are bigots in a large group would not cause the general population to label a group as racist.

Wait, how did I prove your point? I do have biases. We all do. As my very smart 15-year old daughter says: "You can't argue that you aren't a racist, or not sexist. You can only show by your actions that you are not."

If you say someone is a Muslim from Kenya enough times, and the media repeats it as a news story,  before long you have a lot of people who believe it.

But back to the original question, what misperceptions get you upset?

The misperceptions that I find most troubling are those ideas from the right about President Obama... some are really bizarre, and have no basis in reality. For example, the idea that he is a socialist is crazy. I wish he were a socialist! The Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare if you like, is anything but a socialist system. Mandatory payments to healthcare companies?

The fact that Obamacare is not a socialist system does not preclude President Obama from being a socialist. If anything, his most recent actions have given credibility to the idea he's a dictator. I don't need Congress, "I've got a pen, and I've got a phone".

The idea of the Federal government, under the President's leadership,  expressing a desire to control healthcare in this country is the reason many people believe he has socialist tendencies.

So, he is secretly a socialist? Hey, wait... you agree that Obamacare isn't a socialist system. That's great!

But dictator? Isn't that a bit over the top? As far as I know, he follows all of the laws of the United States. (Well, we need to talk about drones.) Of course, people are free to question, and even challenge any activity by a President. If they weren't allowed to challenge actions, then that sounds like a dictator. Anything else is just sour grapes, because he does have those rights as a President. Right?

But what I find most troubling about people's reactions to President Obama is that he really isn't all that liberal, nor progressive.

I think he's a typical big-government, tax and spend liberal. We'll talk about Obamacare some other day (we may have to split it into several issues…).

My brilliant niece is correct. (Obviously gets that from the Blank side of the family.)  Look at the actions of the president. He has a total disregard for the regular workings of government. Rather than working towards solutions with Congress, he attacks Republicans in every single speech he gives. Then, he says he's going to go it alone. What does that say about him?

As far as I know, he's not broken any laws, but he certainly has pushed well beyond the constitutional limits of the executive branch. Several of his agencies' moves have been shot down by the Supreme Court  and other Federal courts for exceeding limits placed on them by law. Again, he doesn't feel he needs Congress to get things done. He's unilaterally changed laws, enforced parts of laws that he likes, and has directed the Justice Department not to enforce other laws.

Apparently he can do that, because, as you said, he hasn't broken any laws. So, you are upset that he is working the system to his advantage.

I don't find the the term "tax and spend" to be derogatory, by the way. "Tax and not spend" would be bad. Or, as many Republicans would like: "not tax and spend". That is really bad. But these are just names... let's talk about a specific policy.

He isn't working the system. He's tossed it out. He certainly isn't following the restrictions placed on him by the Constitution.

Actually, he's the reason for gridlock in Washington right now. The President has modified laws to suit his needs, but he can't create laws out of whole cloth.

Take immigration, for example. I think most people would agree for a deal to go through, the border will need secured (for Republicans to get on board) and some type of pathway to citizenship will need to be hammered out (for Democrats to sign on). But Republicans would be crazy to send that bill to the President's desk, because they know he'd enact the pathway portion, but totally ignore the border-security provisions. So, they will send him nothing. It doesn't pay to compromise to get a deal done, when your part of the settlement will be disposed of. The President does not have that right. He is trying very hard to fundamentally change the way American government works, change the balance of the three branches, and not for the better.

I don't think you can blame President Obama for the gridlock. "...Mitch McConnell said in October 2010 that his party's primary goal in the next Congress was to make Obama a one-term president..."  And in Robert Draper's book, "Do Not Ask What Good We Do: Inside the U.S. House of Representatives" it is reported that "as President Barack Obama was celebrating his inauguration at various balls, top Republican lawmakers and strategists were conjuring up ways to submarine his presidency at a private dinner in Washington."

Gridlock was their stated goal.

Putting on my cynic hat, it is fine for the Democrats if the Republicans don't send the bill, for whatever reason. As long as Republicans are seen as the problem, this will not play out well for them. The number one growing population in the US is the hispanic population. Marco Rubio had it right, before he didn't. Jeb Bush has to walk a tightrope, until the primaries are over.

Predictions: Jeb Bush will be the Republican nominee. If he becomes president, he'll tweak Obamacare slightly, and then it will be called Bushcare (not to be confused with the "Nails and Wax" salon that offers a different service by the same name), and become friends to the Latinos.

Now, there's someone we can both fight against!

I agree. Let's put these misperceptions in the past, along with Bush and the Clintons, and move forward to the future!

Thursday, May 7, 2015


When did taxes become evil? If we all want to come to together and build something big for the common good, then taxes are the only fair way we can do it. I mean, if one is proud of our army, or our national highway system, then it would follow that one should be proud of the money that one gave to create those right?

Taxes are not evil. The IRS is.
If the government was a good steward of our money, most people would not object to paying them at all. In fact, I think most people would pay more in taxes, if they had any confidence that their money were going toward the things you have mentioned, and other projects that only the Federal government can accomplish. But, that is not the case.
The last time I looked, the tax code is around 77,000 pages long.

Sounds like you would like to describe what it takes to be a "good steward" of your money. Do you mean that the government should only spend money the way that you think they should? Fortunately, you don't get to pick and choose what projects get your money and which don't. That's what elected official do for us.

Just because the tax code is 77,000 pages long doesn't make it bad. Sometimes an issue is just complex. But, like computer code, if you can make it shorter, it is easier to "debug"... that is, find the errors and fix them. I suspect a lot of the complexity, though, comes from "special interest." Some special interest seems deserving, but others, not so much.

It does seem that many of the big corporations could afford to pay their share of taxes. And they should be proud of it!

You miss my point.

I haven't even started on what the government should or shouldn't be spending our money on. I am saying the government should be a good steward of our money, but it isn't. In fact, the government's own watchdogs routinely report just how much waste exists, and yet nothing ever changes. If anything, the problem continues to worsen. Here's an example of an agency you've never heard of, wasting thousands of your dollars.

Ok, that is a summary of this article. But that doesn't really look like journalism to me. Why didn't they get someone to respond to these allegations? It is just a cherry-picked list of items that sound too expensive. How do these prices compare to the corporate expenses? Where is the follow-up? Did someone get fired? Is it easily explained away? I bet they never follow up on it. Allegations are not journalism.

Ok, you can't just say "nothing ever changes" and "the government isn't a good steward of our money". That just hyperbole.

The IRS just collects the money due. If you don't like what money is due, change the law, but there is no need to claim that the IRS is evil. They are just men and women doing their jobs.

Corporations can spend their money however they want. It's their money. The government, on the other hand, is spending my money. That's the difference.

And there are… many agencies in the Federal bureaucracy? Actually, no one knows for certain.

Wikipedia correctly notes "Every list of federal agencies in government publications is different." And the number of agencies, which are almost all under the control of the executive branch, continues to increase. I would suggest (and the GAO concurs) that many of these agencies are redundant, or have redundant missions. That means that many of them could be eliminated, along with the office space and all of the government employees with their benefits and pensions. 

Managing any large organization is hard. Big corporations have exactly these problems. Maybe it is just inherent in large orgs.

That's true. Bureaucracy is the problem. As any organization becomes larger, it becomes less efficient at what it does. I've seen it in healthcare. Ironically, the financial pressures that Obamacare have exacerbated have led to huge consolidations in the industry. There are few, if any independent hospitals anymore. They all belong to giant networks and corporations now to streamline costs. Unfortunately, they also become less efficient. But government is the worst example. Even the individual Department Secretaries have no idea what is going on in their own departments. The IRS scandal? Lois Lerner knows nothing (although she pled the 5th).  The role-out? Katherine Sebelius was clueless there might be problems.  They need help in Benghazi? Nope, Hillary Clinton didn't know anything (And what does it matter?).  Hogan's Heros escaped again? Sergeant Schultz knew noooothing!

As to the tax code, it is a miss-mash of giveaways to special interests and corporations. This is nothing new, and dates back to the beginning of the income tax. You might be interested in reading, "Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition", for an interesting look at how the confluence of the temperance movement, the women's suffrage movement, and anti-German sentiment after WWI led to the development of the income tax. Before that, we ran the government on a consumption tax (much like the "Fair Tax" being proposed in some circles today). But, around 40% of government funding came from taxes on booze. (Yes, indeed, America had a serious alcohol problem…) Before the country could go dry, a different source of revenue had to be found. And we've never been the same. Right from the start, the big players in business and their political allies gamed the system to benefit the biggest campaign donors. I agree that simplifying the tax code would go a long way towards restoring faith that the the system is fair, and everyone, both individuals and corporations, are paying their due. (And I don't trust any politician  to decide which special interests is worthy and which isn't.)

Sorry, but you have to trust them. That is why you elect them to represent you. That is how our government works.

It's hard to trust them when the guy at the top looks you in the eye and lies. "If you like your healthcare plan, you can keep it. Period." 

I firmly believe that the one single thing that could be done, that would really shake up government spending, would be to repeal Withholding. Right now, most people don't have any idea how much the government takes from them each month, because it is taken out of their paycheck before they get the money. If everyone received their full pay, and then had to write a check on April 15th for money that was actually in their hands, so they could see just how much the government takes, heads would roll! Many more people, from the bottom to the top, would care a lot more about how the government spends their money.

That sounds like a bad idea. What do you do when they have already spent the money that they owe to the government? Fine them? Put them in prison? 

What do they do to you now, if you don't pay all of your taxes (or if you belong to the tea party)?

The government doesn't need more money. If they didn't waste so much of the money they have, we could do much more with each of us paying less.

What is the test to see if they need more or less money? I agree that there is a right size to government, but not sure how you tell. One can always claim that they aren't efficient enough. But compared to what? This may just be how it is. 

So, I say, pay your taxes, vote for good stewards, and be proud of your taxes paid. There are so many great things that we do in this country with those taxes!

1984 Today

Since 9/11, the Federal government has exploded in its ability to track, monitor, and collect data on average Americans. They have access to our emails, phone calls, finances, and now all of our health data. (They may be reading this blog as I'm typing.)
Last summer, I re-read 1984, and found a surprising number of similarities between the world of Winston Smith, the book's protagonist, and the America we are living in now. Is safety such an absolute that we should allow our own government to spy on us? Is Edward Snowden a hero for exposing the government's over reach, or a modern Benedict Arnold?

If Orwell were to write "Nineteen Eighty-Four" today, I think he would have made Big Business the Big Brother, rather than the government. It is truly stunning what people willingly allow Facebook and Google (for examples) to have access to. I am concerned about the government's access to such data, but I am more concerned with corporate access.

Snowden's revelations only solidified what many of us suspected. I think he was brave, and history will look back on his actions favorably. Sometimes civil disobedience is the only way out. You are right that "safety" is how the government sells this to us. Really, though, it is fear. Are people really so afraid that they are willing to trade their personal information for safety? Actually, I don't think it makes us any more safe.

Take airline safety. I think that they focus on exactly the wrong things. Who are you? Where are you from? Where are you going? None of that matters. They should just search you thoroughly, and that's it. They don't need to know who you are. If I owned an airline, I would call it "Naked Airlines" and you wouldn't even need ID. No luggage allowed, either. Just a clean towel to sit on. You're naked. Get it?

Remind me not to fly with you, weirdo. And what if the naked guy next to you has a bomb up his….

Thoroughly checked. Thoroughly.

I trust corporations more than I do government. At least they have the possibility of someone watching what they're up to. Right now, the bureaucracy of government is so big, that the President finds out about government agency misdeeds  (that are under the supervision of the executive branch) by watching the evening news. David Axelrod, former senior advisor to President Obama admitted "the government is so vast" that no one can really know what anyone is doing.

Of course it is too big for any one person to know all the details. That's what hierarchies are for.

I do not trust corporations more than the government. Corporations will lie to you to get you to buy something. That's the definition of advertising. If people in the government are found lying, well, they would lose their job.

No one in government loses their job, at any level. The first article, from USA Today (hardly a right-wing paper) notes you are more likely to die, than to be fired from a government job.

The rules provide no means to get rid of worthless employees, and no reward for excellence. This is just the opposite of the private sector. Capitalism is a much better model to get the best from your employees.

Referring back to 1984, it seems the government is coercing certain social media, along with other internet giants like Amazon and Google to bring about Big Brother.

Facebook actually admitted to manipulating the emotions of site users by altering and manipulating the posts people were able to see on their own feeds! Now that is scary! If the federal government took over (under the banner of safety, of course) an internet force like that….Yikes!

The government couldn't handle that kind of power.

And yet, it has that kind of power.

If I were the President, I would have pardoned Snowden immediately, to get him back before any serious national security issues were leaked. Instead, he spent months in Russia. (I'm sure they didn't learn anything.)  I agree that history should view him favorably. After all, we're blogging about this topic because of his efforts.

I'm going to have to agree with you on that one. Weird!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Ground Rules

Welcome to our new blog.
If past experience is any hint, Doug and I will be presenting quite differing takes on the state of the world, politics, religion, culture, and anything and everything in between. Although it may appear that we disagree on just about everything, there are some things we concur on. Like which one of us is the smarter brother, for instance.

There is no topic that is out of bounds. If there is a topic you'd like us to address, let us know, and we'll add it to the lineup.

Before we begin, we should probably lay out some ground rules. We want the blog to be an interesting examination of current events. Both of us come from a science background, and at least one of our goals is to provide real arguments based on facts instead of the most current trend or catchy meme. We encourage discussion and comments. Especially if you agree with me.

Some topics are likely to create more discussion than others. We would like to be a "free-speech" zone, and don't intend to delete comments. Please don't make me. So, play by the rules (which are subject to change whenever we feel like it).

  1. No biting.
  2. No cursing.
  3. No hair pulling.
  4. No Indian Burns. (Can you still say that? Or does it now have to be called "Native-American burns"?)
  5. No kicking.
  6. Absolutely no Vulcan nerve pinch.
  7. Try to be concise.
  8. Be polite.
  9. No bending back of pinky fingers.
  10. No name calling. What I mean here is Saul Alinsky tactics are not allowed. Attacking the messenger with personal insults is not the same as debating the issues.
  11. Be respectful.
  12. No eye gouging.
  13. Wear proper foot gear.

Don't get too worked up, and try to enjoy the blog.  I know I will. And Doug will, too, once he comes around to the right way of thinking.

Ok, great! Let's get going! I think we can boil down the rules a bit. I had never heard of Saul Alinsky, so I think we can better define that one. And, no, you shouldn't use "Indian burn" (I think "political correctness" could be on the list of topics to discuss; see rule #1 below). And as long as we don't use the "Avada Kedavra" curse, a little cursing is ok. How about:

  1. Be respectful.
  2. Discuss the issue, not the person (no ad hominem attacks).
Doesn't that about cover it? 

As for comments, I think we will have to approve comments, rather than having to delete inappropriate ones. Otherwise, we would end up with comments from robots advertising products that break most of your rules, and then some. Shouldn't we just approve comments that add to the conversation? Comments such as "I think Doug is right" don't really add to the conversation. And there could be quite a few such comments...might overwhelm the system.

I agree with you, Doug.  
(That may be the first and last time you hear that phrase in this blog!)