Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Does the end justify the means?

Doug:
Here is a question that I have been wrestling with: does the end justify the means? Sometimes? Never? Always?






David:

Like killing a baby to harvest his organs, for the good of medical research? Or lying to the American people about Obamacare (If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. Period.),  just so the bill  will pass, for what you consider to be the greater ideological good?

Doug:
Your first example is not what I mean, but the second gets closer. I'm not asking whether we all have to agree that something is justified---I'm asking if a goal of yours can be justified by the means to it? Like sacrificing a pawn in a game of chess.

Should a baby be killed to possibly help medical research? It seems that the answer is "obviously no."

Should the remains of a living or non-living entity be donated to possibly help medial research? Sure.

Is lying ever justified? It could be. Maybe you want to protect someone, or, if explaining a complex idea, you want to keep it initially simple. Surely, you would agree that some unethical means are justified to get to the endgame?

Your examples focused on ends that you disagree with. Consider an ends that you would want. Is it justifiable to kill an abortion doctor to save the "lives of the unborn"? Is it justifiable to go back and time and kill Hitler? Is it justifiable to kill one person to save another? How about two others? How about one million others?

David:
The examples are not just things I disagree with. They are examples to illustrate a point. In the ends/means discussion, you have to evaluate the morality or importance of the ends, the means, and the motives of the individual.

Is research worth more than the life of a baby. No. (I note that you mentioned sacrificing a "living entity" for "possible help" for medical research is justified. That is totally unjustified in my world-view, and seems to be a means to a Soylent Green end for the world.)

Doug:
I said "the remains of a living entity." Quite different from a "living entity." I don't think that they should bury living entities, but I do think they should bury the remains of living entities. I know---I'm making subtle distinctions.

David:
How can you have "remains" from something "living"? After all, you did distinguish that from the remains of something "non-living", which makes no sense. Oh well…..

Doug:

You can have the remains of something that was once alive. Regardless of whether something was ever considered alive or not, I was referring to whatever remains. To me, it doesn't make a difference once everyone agrees the entity is not alive (e.g., never was, or now is not).  Donating such tissue for research is obviously a good thing, otherwise it is just wasted (dust to dust, as it were).

David:
OK (heavy sigh...).

Killing someone for any reason is wrong, or unjustified. It might still be done, and you may argue that to save others, it was necessary, but it remains unjustified.

Doug:
Good, something we both agree on! I too am against capital murder, war, and the government killing anyone for any reason. Since fetuses are not alive, no problem there. And the remains of an ex-living thing are also not alive, so no problem there either.

But the point I'm interested in is how to weigh the morality of the means with the end? I'm not very clear on your distinction between "necessary" versus "justified". Can you expand?

David:
At what point is a baby alive? When he has fully functioning human parts? When he feels pain? When he responds to a voice, or to light, or to touch? Apparently you've never actually read Roe vs. Wade, as it enumerates when and at what dates you can have an abortion. The original opinion goes into great detail about babies being viable in the third trimester, and abortions not being allowed after certain dates due to viability.  It was also full of a great deal of legal rules not based on science or found anywhere in the Constitution. Interesting reading.

Doug:
We now return from A Random Question about Abortion, both asked and answered by David...

David:
But to your point, the morality of the individual at question is the key component.  If you have no morals, then any and all means are available for any and all ends. It would seem that an Atheist would have quite a few more means at his disposal, no matter what the ends.  I suppose that would explain why there is so much more plagiarism and cheating at the college level now, compared to earlier decades, as fewer young people describe themselves as Christian. There is no higher power watching over them, so as long as they don't get caught by the professor, the cheating justifies their grade.

Doug:
So, your seat-of-your pants hypothesis is that Atheists are immoral and Christians are moral; immoral people don't feel any particular pressure to follow the rules; therefore, Atheists cheat. Unfortunately, you could not be more wrong. Much research has shown that Atheists commit far less crimes given all else being equal.

Some key findings:
  1. "Murder rates are actually lower in more secular nations and higher in more religious nations where belief in God is widespread."
  2. "Of the top 50 safest cities in the world, nearly all are in relatively non-religious countries."
  3. "Atheists and Agnostics actually have lower divorce rates than religious Americans"
  4. Teens who make religion-inspired "virginity pledges" are not only just as likely as their non-pledging peers to engage in premarital sex, but more likely to engage in unprotected sex
Although the US population is composed of about 20% Atheists, Agnostics, or otherwise unaffiliated, they only make up 0.07 percent of prison populations:

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2013/07/16/what-percentage-of-prisoners-are-atheists-its-a-lot-smaller-than-we-ever-imagined/



Ok, so you have no idea how people with a different set of beliefs from your own behave. But what about yourself? How do you weigh the means vs. the end?

David:
You have  misconstrued my statement, and totally over-reacted to the comment. I'm reminded of a Mark Twain quote: "There are lies, there are damned lies, and then there are statistics". Apparently murder rates are only influenced by religion? Could a safe city be dependent more on their police force, or on the religion of the populace? Perhaps just having someone sign a "virginity pledge" causes them to start thinking more about sex?  If Kim Jung Il said there was no crime in his country, and everyone was happy, and an atheist, would North Korea move up to the top of your list? There are too many variables to consider, but when you get your information from "The Friendly Atheist Blog", what do you expect?

Doug:
You could try to claim that there are "too many variables to consider." But then you might end up thinking that Atheists plagiarize more. Or, you could look at evidence (wherever it may come from) and believe a more rational idea is that perhaps Atheists are not anything like what you imagine them to be.

David:
Perhaps when you find yourself in prison, you find religion. As the old saying goes, "There are no atheists in foxholes" during war.

My point is not that atheist don't have ethics, or that everyone who says they are a Christian has morals. My point is if you do not believe there is anyone watching  (either human or Divine) your likelihood of cheating may be increased.

Doug:
Project much?

David:
In studies of college students, when asked about committing plagiarism, they all admitted that they knew it was wrong. They actually admitted they knew they could be expelled if caught, but still stated they would cheat if the chance of getting caught was slim. As an atheist, you are totally dependent on your own ethical bearing to refrain from cheating. No one else is watching. That does not mean you will cheat, and saying you are a Christian does not mean that you believe God is watching you, and you won't cheat. But the more you believe no one will hold you accountable, the more likely you are to falter.

Doug:
But the evidence doesn't support that. Perhaps, because like many Atheists, I hope my kids end up learning a different message: "there is no one watching, so if you do a bad thing, only you will know; that will be a bad feeling to live with." I think that there is a fundamental difference between Atheists and many Religious folks, and it doesn't have anything to do with your idea of morality. It is more private, personal, and (ironically) compassionate. And the evidence appears to back that up. Although the current Pope seems to get it.

To the original issue: for myself, I believe that there is no "end" so the question doesn't really make sense. Unless you are playing a game of chess. Otherwise, there is always tomorrow, and more interactions. I guess that still leaves the question: should one always do what they stand for, or should they make actions that can produce desired outcomes along the way even if those actions appear to be against their own self interests?

David:
There is probably a difference between appearing to be against your self-interests, and actually being against your self interests, right? And I think you really are wanting to know if you should do something against your moral or ethical code, to get some desired outcome.

Doug:
Yes! Here is an example of what I mean. It seems that Republicans will be against whatever President Obama is for. Thus, President Obama could come out against gun safety laws, and then the Republicans would come out for them. Is taking the opposite side in order to get the argument to move in the direction you actually want "immoral" (whatever that is)? Or do such actions betray yourself by attempting to sway the argument using a false motivation?

David:
I would like to see President Obama come out in favor of the second amendment. You would likely see that Republicans would wholeheartedly join him in a big hug. When it comes to protecting the Constitution, we should all be on the same page. But you're saying he would be going against his morals and ethics to protect the Constitution? Hmmm. Curious.

Doug:
Guns are a great example of the issue I am interested in with means vs. end.  Pretending that Obama is against guns created a huge surge in gun buying. On the other hand, Obama has not legislated guns at all. So, if you consider how many guns were purchased, the manufactured outrage is worth it (in terms of money). But will it be worth it in the "end"? What is the cost of this facade?

As another example, I sometimes think that Kim Davis (a Kentucky marriage license clerk) has done so much damage for the idea of "Religious Freedom" that I wished I had thought of doing what she did. Perhaps she is really an Obama pawn?

David:
So, you're saying that President Obama is a big supporter of guns? Well, someone is certainly pretending.

Doug:
Regardless of what he says, look at his actions. For whatever reason, he has not done anything about gun safety.

David:

Kim Davis says she is standing firm in her moral beliefs. In this debate, she is not altering her code to reach a desired end. For her, the means do not justify the ends. Changing her beliefs to avoid jail is not an option for her, but has going to jail actually  ended up promoting the original ends (protecting religious liberty)? Maybe the judge is on her side.

Doug:
But here is the thing: you have no idea what is going on in their heads. You don't know what the Judge's or Davis's intentions are. I have a feeling that you give a lot of weight to someone's intentions, whereas I am more cynical and would rather weigh the act alone. This is why I am conflicted over the means vs. the end issue. If there is no end, then there are only means (behavior). If there are only actions, then that suggests that one must do something that matches one's desires, even if you know there will be a backlash, rather than acting differently to manipulate the backlash. Perhaps I am more like Davis than I would have guessed. Or we are both naive.

David:
I didn't do a very good job of explaining this earlier. Let me try again.

The whole question of ends vs. means is only within the personal realm. I can't tell if your means justify your ends. I can only determine the effect of my actions on me, for my goals or actions. I know what Kim Davis is struggling with only because she has told us, and I am giving her the benefit if the doubt that what she says is true. Which brings me back to our original detour into atheism. If I believe lying is a sin, then for me, lying (the means) has a different basis of meaning than lying would for an atheist, who doesn't believe that sin even exists. "Feeling bad" for doing something wrong is a bit different than suffering eternal damnation in hell, wouldn't you agree? For some things, the means/ends are based only in a right/wrong paradigm that both atheist and Christians may share, but for other things, the means/ends may be forbidden in a religious realm, but not in a strictly moral or ethical one. So, people of a faith may have more restrictions placed on them than an atheist, which would allow an atheist wider latitude for their means, and possibly their ends. Eating pork, or killing a sacred cow come to mind.

Doug:
On the other hand, Davis believes her personal feelings can stop her from doing the very job that she ran, and was elected, to do. If it were me, I would have just stepped down. But then I am a rational person. Davis will be remembered along with George Wallace.

David:
A county clerk actually has many other duties than issuing marriage certificates, but on this point we agree.

Doug:
Woot!

David:
I know. It doesn't happen often.

Kim Davis doesn't want to participate in gay marriages. So, she doesn't have to. The Constitution guarantees her right to religious expression, but it does not guarantee her a right to be county clerk. She should turn over her job to someone else. As George Will pointed out, apparently her religious convictions don't extend to her giving up her $80,000 job.

Doug:
If a pacifist Mennonite refused to sell guns (for the same reasons that Davis said), would you still be supportive of such a act of moral beliefs?

David:
A gun shop that won't sell guns wouldn't be in business very long. The analogy is not the same at all. The bakery owner in Kentucky might be a more apt one. The owner of that bakery has gay employees, serves gay customers, and had even baked birthday cakes and other goods for the gay couple that sued him. The owner drew a line at baking a cake for their wedding, because then he would be a participant in what he considered sinful. The owner of the shop even referred them to another bakery that he knew could meet their needs. He did not refuse to bake a cake because of who they were, or because they were gay. He did not want to make a wedding cake or participate in their wedding for religious beliefs. Do you understand the difference?

Doug:
I understand that that is exactly what the Civil Rights battle was about, and they invoked religion in exactly the same way. You cannot deny service to someone based on their race. You think that denying service to someone because of their sexual preference is much different? I think protection for same-sex relationships will be protected like other Civil Rights and that is an inevitable end, regardless of your means to fight it.

David:
At least we both agree that the ends-justifying-the-means issue is of a personal nature. Whether you are Mother Teresa or Niccolo Machiavelli makes all the difference.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Political Correctness

Doug:
I really hate the term "politically correct"... don't we really mean "using respectful language"? Isn't that something we all should do?

David:
The Bill of Rights begins with the right to "free speech". It doesn't say "using respectful language". I believe the Constitution guarantees that you can say anything you want, about anything, at anytime. (With exceptions that have been handled through the courts, often by the Supreme Court, because speech issues are so very important to our democracy.) The Constitution doesn't care about anyone being offended. In fact, it specifically protects your right to offend.

I believe you have used disrespectful language to describe Donald Trump. (A** Clown) Should you be penalized for that? Should you have to issue a formal apology?

I find it offensive when the President equates Republicans who oppose the Iran deal, with Iranians shouting "Death to America". I'd like to hear you roundly criticize him for being using such disrespectful words.

The problem with the entire idea of politically-correct speech, is that it stifles speech and ideas. I note that in an earlier blog, you describe religious beliefs  as "hateful"and "intolerant". And under the guise of "using respectful language", Christians should not be able to express their beliefs. That is just wrong. Isn't expressing your beliefs something we should all be able to do?

Doug:
I think you have confused three different ideas. Idea #1: When I said "we should use respectful language," I did not mean that it should be regulated! I meant that it is just generally a good thing to do in regular conversation, unless you want to purposefully insult people. This is the idea of "political correctness."

Idea #2: Of course, if you mean to insult someone, say Ass-Clown Trump, then by all means do! Being politically correct doesn't mean that you can't insult people; it simply means that you should only insult people when you mean to. Being critical of someone is also fair game. But again, that should be obviously your intention. One can be non-civil, angry, loud, and even obnoxious.

Idea #3: Now, "hate speech" is something very different. To quote Indiana's own Ball State University, hate speech "consists of verbal and nonverbal expression that is used to demean, oppress, or promote violence against someone on the basis of their membership in a social or ethnic group. Hate speech involves more than simply indicating that you dislike someone. It also is different than simply teasing or ridiculing someone, or shouting an ugly word at them in a single moment of anger or frustration." That page goes on, but you get the idea.

Does preventing Idea #1 "stifle speech"? No, because you are free to do whatever you want. Want to unintentionally offend someone (Idea #2)? Sure, go ahead. But be aware that some will dismiss you because of your rudeness.

Does preventing Idea #3 "stifle speech"? Yes, that is the very idea. But surely one could take any message in this category and turn it into something more productive. This stifle seems to be a fair balance in creating a civil society and free speech---there are still lots of ways to speak without having to resort to this level of incivility.

David:
So, just to be clear, if I intend to insult you (Doug's rule #2),  I'm free to do that whenever I want. But if I accidentally insult you, then I'm in some kind of trouble, and should be stifled? Well then, whenever I say something that you think is hateful, I am intending to insult you. So, take that.

It seem that #3 does regulate your speech, the one thing you say shouldn't be done. And it regulates your speech based on how someone interprets your speech.  You are saying that it is OK to intentionally insult someone with a derogatory comment, but you cannot use a "politically incorrect" derogatory comment. By your reasoning, you have now invited a third party to decide if your speech is hateful or not, based on their views. Does Donald Trump get to be that person?

And, Ball State doesn't trump the Constitution, which has a rich case-load of free speech decisions. The Constitution does not give the government authority to regulate speech for the goal of "civility".

Doug:
Yes, regulating speech type #3 should be done! Ball State is explaining to you (apparently not very well) what hate speech is. There are many cases of hate speech prosecutions.

David:
"Someone" has to decide if your speech crosses a line. But who gets to define the line?

Doug:
The same people that decide if my fence crosses into your yard, or if my car crossed the center line, or if some picture is obscene. We have laws defining all kinds of lines.

David:
But your fence is not protected in the first line of the Bill of Rights in the US Constitution. I would agree that you can be a more civil society if everyone is civil, but free speech means just that, you have the freedom to express yourself.

Doug:
My fence is protected by the Bill of Rights ("nor shall any person ... be deprived ... of property, without due process of law".) I am not arguing for civility! Politically correct speech is an acknowledgment that one should not unintentionally offend people, and being aware of when that can happen. You have the right to be offensive and obnoxious. You have much freedom to express yourself, with only some boundaries. Yelling "fire!" in a movie theater. And hate speech.

David:
OK, Big Brother.

The  problem with your argument is you are putting disagreeable, offensive speech in the same category as speech that endangers lives. Outrage, and being offended, won't kill you, no matter what the politically-correct lefties say. And outrageous speech is protected by law. I would hope you are teaching your students to be a little more thick-skinned than what you are proposing. Instead, it seems you are indoctrinating them that offensive speech, or disagreeable speech,  is dangerous.

Doug:
It is true that I am your Big Brother (by about 21 months). I encourage my students to use respectful language to others that they do not mean to alienate. I do believe that language matters. If everyone in a society uses language to denigrate a race, gender, or other group, then those ideas will become ingrained in that society. I believe that hate speech could endanger lives, and that is no doubt why there are laws attempting to diminish it.

I'm not "proposing" anything. I'm stating how the law works. You have to make a distinction between "hate" and other speech. Being "thicked skinned" doesn't have anything to do with this.

David:
The other  problem with your entire argument is the word "unintentional". If what I say might "unintentionally" offend someone, then all of my speech would be  regulated based on the interpretation of the listener, not by what I intend. Intention is the key, but you have claimed I'm OK if I intentionally want to offend or insult you (Doug's rules of etiquette #2). Your argument, and political correctness, is completely backwards.

 If I find your speech to be offensive, then you should not be allowed to say it. This opens the door to stifling just about anything. If you feel my words have demeaned you, or oppressed you, you can scream "Hater", and I'm supposed to apologize. And shut up. Perhaps our speech should be free (which is the law), and you can just walk away when you don't agree with someone, instead of trying to silence what they say. You can even call them a jerk while you're walking.

Doug:
I think you forgot about the three types of speech outlined above. I think it is nuanced, but clear. So you either mean: "The problem with using respectful language is..." or you mean "The problem with hate speech is..." You keep blurring the line between these two ideas.

David:
It is clear. You just refuse to believe it.

Hillary called Republicans "terrorists" if they are pro-life. That clearly appears to meet all of your own criteria for hate speech, as well as Ball State's, wouldn't you agree?

Doug:
No. Just because you want to ignore the nuance doesn't mean that the rest of us can't see a clear distinction.

David:
Looking over your argument, the only "nuance"  I see is that if you agree and condone what someone says, it's OK. But if you disagree, then it should be regulated. That kind of thinking resulted in the Tea Party being targeted by the IRS.

Freedom of speech equals freedom of ideas. It equals freedom of expression. Unless it clearly endangers actual lives, no speech should be regulated. None. Ever.

Doug:
Yes, in your world of black and white, there is no nuance. However, that is not the law, and many people attempt to use language that doesn't offend people unnecessarily. That is called "being politically correct." There is no law (and never will be) that says that you can't offend people.

There is another category of speech that intentionally attempts to denigrate or be hostile to a group of people. That is called "hate speech." Are you arguing that talking about burning a cross in someone's yard should be protected speech? Or talking about blowing up a church should be protected speech? Are you suggesting that these people should just have "thicker skins"? Note that no lives were threatened in my examples.

If your opinion is that you should be allowed to demean or be hostile to a class of people because of "Freedom", then we'll just have to agree to disagree. I believe that words are just that powerful.

David:
Talking about doing something falls into the category of free speech. Trying to hurt someone's feelings intentionally is free and protected speech. Planning to bomb a building is a crime. Burning a cross in someone's yard is a crime.

We can choose to be polite and politically correct, and I would argue one can get his point across better by discoursing in a respectful manner, but your arguments here suggest the government should enforce polite and respectful speech. That is the point where you cross the Constitutional line. Freedom means that you can love or hate anyone you choose, and you can let them know it. To have a free society means that you have to allow the freedom to be educated, and also freedom to be bigoted. Freedom to write poetry, but also freedom to write hateful diatribes. To regulate one, means you are open to regulate the other, depending on who's opinion creates the regulations. It's better for the government to butt out, and leave the public to decide on their own what they want to listen to, and what they want to walk away from.

Words are powerful, which is why they are so closely guarded as the ultimate freedom for the individual.

Doug:
Interesting that in your examples, you are never the one on the receiving end of hateful speech---you are free to "write hateful diatribes" but you didn't mention that you are also free to receive them. Every day. I suspect because you rarely find yourself on the receiving end. We are in the privileged position, white, male, and doctors (PhD. and DO.) That makes it harder to understand and empathize with.

David:
As a founder of the tea party, I have had my share of ridiculous, hateful speech directed at me personally. Running for a political office also influences folks to make rather irrational, very hateful assumptions about you, and often put them in print. But those are just words. And those people have a right to their opinions, and their right to express them.

We had no special privilege growing up.

Doug:
Whoa, dude! I don't think you understand the idea of privilege. I guess when you don't see the obstacles others have had to deal with, you imagine that they were a lot like you. That is not true.

David:
Everyone has obstacles. Who has a greater obstacle to success, a poor white male, or a rich black female? A white boy with a single parent, or a black man with a two-parent household? What about Asian kids? To say that someone has "privilege", and therefore an easier ride, based solely on their skin color makes a great many assumptions. One could say it is racist, because you are determining your conclusion totally on skin color alone. While historically your conclusion may have carried some weight, it isn't true any more. Life isn't so simple.

Doug:
You're right: you can't tell by looking at someone what privileges they had or have. But that does not mean that there are not a lot of privileges still afforded by skin color. One need only look at the implicit bias that most of our society shares to understand that.

David:
"Implicit bias that most of society shares"? In 2015? Just because the left preaches it, doesn't make it true.

Doug:
I'll agree on that: preaching does not make the message true. But I'm quoting research from places like https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/demo/background/faqs.html or http://bytheirstrangefruit.blogspot.com/2012/08/resetting-scale-of-racism.html It is a fact that our society (whether you are black or white) shares some of the same racist biases.

David:
We came from a two-parent household, but that was because our parents chose to be married, and to stay married. Dad worked very hard to get the job he had, and stayed in it, even at times when he didn't like what he was doing. He did that for us. Not the government, or "the man", or anyone else.

Doug:
Sometimes you can't "choose" your way out of systemic problems. Being wrongfully accused of a crime, being raped, or otherwise injured might be beyond your control. We never went hungry, had a big, safe place to play, and had family support for going to college. Those are huge privileges.

David:
But again, those things you mention are not racial.

One of my best friends growing up was black ( in fact, the only friend I ever had over for a sleep-over), and half of my college roommates were black. Their skin color made no difference in our relationships, nor did I see that their skin color had any bearing on how they lived their lives.

Doug:
Oh, you're kidding me.... do people really say that kind of thing? Do you know how much of a stereotype that is?

David:
All of them accomplished what they set out to do, and are doing just fine today. Of course, none of them were "victims", nor were they somehow oppressed. They just happened to be dark-skinned. The subject never even came up in discussion.

Doug:
Sounds like some deep, meaningful discussions you all had. Just happening to have dark skin can have a pretty big impact on your life. And it never even came up in conversation.

David:
No, it never came up in discussion between me and my American black roommates. It did come up once with Roger, my black roommate from England, but not in the way you would think. That is probably a discussion for another blog, because it was quite interesting and insightful.  But too long of a story to tell here.

You knew all of my roommates. You know what I'm saying is true.

Doug:
Yes, you had black roommates in college. But don't assume that they have the same worldview as you simply because they never talked to you about it. You might enjoy a book called "Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do".

David:
Oh, we did talk about our world views at considerable lengths. We all got together every night for bible studies and to talk about all sorts of issues. We talked together for hours on end. We were all on the same page in so many things. Race didn't affect or enter our conversations, and I can say with some degree of authority that it didn't matter to any of us. It didn't matter any more than if you were wearing a red shirt, and I was wearing a blue one.

Doug:
And that is the proverbial hitting the nail on the head. If you think that your race matters about as much as what color shirt you are wearing, then you are speaking from a place of privilege. That is exactly what privilege gives you. You look in the mirror and don't see race. You go to work, and don't see any obstacles. Hard work gives back deserved results. That is privilege.

David:
And you and I are doctors because we worked very hard to get the positions we have. I didn't displace any minorities to get where I am. I doubt you did either....

Doug:
Oh, please, do not bring me into your imagination.

David:
...but somehow, you feel guilty for what you have. I'm grateful and humbled that God has provided me with a wonderful family and career, but that isn't due to some unseen privileged position.

Sounds like another blog topic brewing….

Doug:
Oh, my goodness. Wow. I wish everyone could have had all of the privilege that we had. I wish that you could see what kinds of support we had. I am very thankful, but I am also aware that there are others just like me that didn't have such support, and didn't make it.  It takes a certain level of arrogance not to see, let alone appreciate, one's privilege.

David:
That is all true, but you are making the assumption that what we had was based on race, and we would not have had any of that if we had been a different race. Or if you are born black, you can't have any of the things we had. That just isn't true.

Doug:
I never said that "if you are born black you can't have any of the things we had." I said that there are, of course, obvious obstacles for people of color in our country. Now, let's see if I remember what we were talking about... Right, hate speech.

There is "hate speech" and laws against it. Break those laws and you will go to jail. You may not agree with that, but that is the law.

Do you think that you are free to burn a cross in your own yard? Do you not see that that is a symbol, and that words are just symbols? Most people would agree that your freedom should end when it begins to terrify others.

David:
Sometimes your ideological arguments terrify me. But it hasn't stopped you yet.

Some symbols can be protected as speech, but speech is not a symbol. And a burning cross has a universal meaning. Depending upon the circumstances, you can not threaten a person, and a burning cross falls into the category of making a threat. Stalking, or terrorizing someone also falls into a category that is against the law. Calling someone a derogatory name is not against the law. See this example:

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/crime/judge-rules-favor-man-arrested-profanities-article-1.2361501

That's why a group of black people can march and chant, "Pigs in a blanket, fry 'em like bacon". According to your argument, I guess they should all be arrested and sent to jail, right? In the real world, their speech is disgusting, but allowed.  You would probably defend them for speaking out about a perceived injustice. So, hate speech is in the eye of the beholder?

Doug:
It can make a difference who is saying what, and who has the power.

David:
Now, you are arguing that certain words or speech are fine for one person to say, but a crime for a different person to say.

Doug:
I think you are starting to understand!

David:
I understand you're going to quickly run afoul of the 14th Amendment, and equal protection under the law. But equality of ideas doesn't seem to be your goal.

The laws restricting speech are very specific, and speech remains widely unregulated. That's why the left has now taken to mob-mentality group attacks against people  to try to force an end to dialogue they disagree with, using the term "hate". Politically correct speech, or at least the definition of it that causes such an uproar, is that it is not about which words you choose, but about your intentions and meaning that are assigned to you, whether you meant them or not.  Your opening argument is that we should all be respectful. I agree, but many people would say when they talk about political correctness run amuck, they mean that their thoughts are being censored, not because of what they say, but because the listener disagrees with them.

Doug:
I failed.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

A Path to Citizenship

David:
While building the infrastructure for a secure Southern border is the first priority for dealing with our immigration chaos, some plan needs to come together for dealing with the millions of immigrants who are already here.

While "amnesty" has become a four-letter word, some practical answer needs to be found. By some estimates, it might cost hundreds of billions of dollars to identify and round up all of the illegal immigrants who are here. In a time of huge debt, this is not a suitable solution.

Doug:
That never sounds like a solution I would support! And I don't I buy your "first priority". But continue...

David:
Let's see if we can come up with a bipartisan, brotherly answer to the problem.

Doug:
Ok, great! Ah, wait... what problem are we attempting to solve?

David:
Perhaps you don't believe that millions of people who have no legal status is a problem. Perhaps you would prefer to have a president that can wave a magic wand and suddenly, everyone who has ever entered the country illegally is now a citizen. However, our laws don't work that way. And, I suppose I need to remind you that we are a nation of law.

Doug:
I guess I don't know how to prioritize this "problem." About the only indication of the problem that I see is that there is a steady supply of low-paid workers that do most of the jobs that we don't want to do, such as house cleaning or day labor.

David:
Along with drug dealers, gang members, possible terrorists, and an occasional murderer or rapist. Trouble is, we aren't keeping tabs on any of them.

Doug:
I would like a president with a magic wand! That would be cool.

David:
Like President Trump?

Doug:
He has a magic wand? Trump for President!

David:
If he had a magic wand, I think you would be turned into a newt right about now.

I would think you would be opposed to him (or some other Republican) being all powerful. I'd prefer to follow the Constitution with it's checks and balances.

If your house is flooding, you don't run to the store to buy more buckets. First, you turn off the water, then you decide how to manage all of the water that's there. Therefore, you control the entry of illegal immigrants first, then you can deal with all of the folks who are already here.

Doug:
What in the analogy is the buckets? Is the country flooding with illegal immigrants?

David:
Yes.  And right now, we send some back, but they come right back through the open border. Felony convictions or not.

So back to the discussion.

There needs to be a mechanism in place for those who are here illegally to begin a process to work towards becoming a citizen, assuming they wish to stay. Children born here are citizens by birth (anchor babies), but their parents are not. Suggestions are to have them pay a fine, learn English, and wait a certain period of time to become citizens.

Doug:
So, you are supportive of birth-right citizenship? That is good to hear, as that appears to be a target for many Republicrats this year.

You do realize that our great-grandfather, Paul Peter Blank, was an "anchor baby"? He also grew up to fight in the civil war, for the Union. I don't believe that his parents (George and Marie) paid a fine, and they probably never learned to speak English... they spoke German. George was just about exactly your age when they arrived here in the US. If they weren't allowed to stay, chances are you and I wouldn't be here today.

David:
We know our ancestors came into the country legally. They were documented and we can still examine the paperwork. We have a copy of that paperwork with their signatures. That's how it should be. Legal. No one in the family was an "anchor baby". That term describes a situation where an illegal immigrant uses their American-born child to try to gain residence in the country, bypassing legal pathways. While the children are US citizens by birth, the parents are not, and can still be deported. Unless we reform the laws in some way to provide them with a legal pathway to citizenship.

Doug:
Your imagined idea of "anchor baby" is hysterical! I imagine this conversation:
Stranger: My, you have a beautiful baby!
Mother: Oh, that's not just a regular baby, that's our "anchor baby." You see, we didn't have a baby because we were in love, wanting to start a family in our new home, we had this baby so that we could live here bypassing legal pathways. 
Stranger: Oh! I'm glad you told me... otherwise I wouldn't have known. She looks like a regular baby.  I stand corrected: you have a beautiful anchor baby!
As far as George and Marie Blank entering the country "legally," as far as I know there was nothing to stop them. They simply arrived, checked in, and started their new life. Perhaps that is the solution to your problem.

David:
That would be a good start, requiring all of them to "check in". And back in those days, you had to have a medical exam, to ensure you had no signs of communicable diseases. If you did, you were denied entry.

The President himself has used immigrants' children's citizenship as the single basis for not deporting their family members, bypassing legal pathways.

All I'm looking for is the same security at the border, for people that are entering the country,  that we have at our airports, for anyone to board a plane. More people fly each day than cross the border, but somehow we can't seem to screen them…at all…because some people just don't want to. Why is that?

Doug:
Because it would cost too much time and money, no one really cares, and it would cut down on the stream of low-wage workers? Seriously, I have no idea.

David:
Immigration may become one of the biggest issues of the upcoming election. Even Hillary has weighed in that "sanctuary cities" that don't turn over illegal immigrants to the Feds is wrong. Apparently you are the only one who doesn't care.

Doug:
You are comparing me with the Presidential nominees? Why thank you! Unfortunately, just because the politicos are hopped-up on immigration issues doesn't mean that anyone else is. There are important immigration issues that affect millions of people, but few have to do with the security of the border.

David:
But to get an immigration reform bill passed to address those other issues, border security will need to be implemented first.

And you might ask all of the unemployed young people in the country right now if they care about the influx of workers that are being paid low wages under the table for entry-level jobs.

Doug:
There are lots of jobs available, but many do not pay enough to survive on. What exactly do you want to ask them?

David:
Apparently, millions of illegal immigrants are surviving on those wages, year after year, and sending some money back home to their relatives as well.

Nice segway to another blog: Should there be a National minimum wage? The correct answer to that is, "Of course not!!" I'll start writing it now.

Well, so much for trying to work together to find a solution to a problem…..

Doug:
Just to recap this discussion. Problem: we all want to find a path to citizenship for immigrants. Solution: build a wall between Mexico and the U.S. Perhaps we need a different strategy to find real solutions…


Wednesday, September 9, 2015

In The News: Hillary's Free College Education

David:
The Democratic front-runner announced that she will make higher education more affordable, by changing loans to grants (which allows forgiveness of the debt without payment), and taxing the rich to pay for the bill. Unfortunately, pumping more government cash into higher education is what has led to the astronomical costs in the first place.

As a college professor, what are your thoughts on this deal, and how will it impact you?

Doug:
First, nothing that the government does will have an impact on my job. I will continue to teach and have students---we have an endowment that could last for many years or decades even without students; and I have tenure. So, the outcome will not affect me. Maybe the next generation of professors, but not me.

Second, I agree that there are some colleges that do cost an "astronomical" amount. But there are many colleges (state colleges and community colleges) that are quite affordable.

There is a bit of competition in this open marketplace that does serve to balance what you get for what you pay for. For example, if you only have ineffective teachers (because you can't pay them enough, they are over-worked, or not properly trained, etc.) then few would want to go to your school. Or if you cost way too much (because faculty cost too much, or not enough students, etc.), and most students can't afford it (regardless of financial aid) then you are in trouble too.

So, just like healthcare, there are issues in getting quality service, for a low prices, for everyone. Unlike healthcare, teachers make a lot less than healthcare workers.

But I do agree with Clinton that education is of prime importance to our country. We may, at some point, need an Obamacare-like program for higher education.

David:
Be careful what you wish for.

But you didn't actually answer the question, and some of your comments illustrate why this deal is a bad one. If you make the money for college easier to obtain, with the ability to just write it off without repayment, at taxpayer expense, the costs are likely to rise even further. That's really been a key problem with healthcare. When no one has a care what anything costs, and insurance covers the bills, costs go up. A Lot. And it will run up our debt, which is bad for us all, in the end.

Education is of prime importance, but many have started to question whether higher education is important enough to justify the costs. Are we getting enough bang for the many bucks we are spending?

Doug:
I don't know who those "many" are that are questioning higher education. If I wanted to destroy another country, I would dismantle its higher education system. Are you a terrorist?

Higher education is not about "bang for the buck." It is about creating a thriving, thinking populace.

Healthcare and education should be easy to obtain. The key to both issues is to make sure that everyone cares about what it costs.

David:
"It's not about the bang for the buck, and yet everyone should care about what it costs." You seem to be talking out of both sides of your mouth, there.

Doug:
"Bang for the buck" has certain implications, like that poets, artists, or researchers might not be "valuable." Everyone caring for the costs just means that the price of creating a thriving, thinking public should be reasonable. Usually, some system of checks and balances can be used to balance these two sides of the equation. But, it is a compromise.

David:
Perhaps you may want to talk to someone like Mitch Daniels, President of Purdue University. He froze tuition for the past two years, and has it frozen for the next two as well. A great many education administrators recognize that when a student can't make enough in their working career to cover the cost of their education, there is a problem.

Doug:
Agreed! But what to do about it? Dismantle higher education, or find ways to distribute the costs?

David:
How about just making it cost less? That's the approach the government is taking with healthcare: require hospitals and healthcare professionals to offer the same services, but you only get paid 2/3 as much. How do you think higher education would react to that? 

Doug:
It is a bit difficult to compare higher education costs to healthcare costs, at least directly. I guess this is because we can't let people die, yet we have no problem letting people live without higher education. So, there is a cost that we all have to pay to keep people alive, and the government gets involved in what those costs should be.

David:
Or perhaps mandate colleges and universities follow "best practices" on what college courses actually lead to gainful employment, and eliminate all the rest (like the course offering, "How to watch television").
http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-06-07/20-completely-ridiculous-college-courses-being-offered-us-universities

Doug:
All of those courses sound quite interesting, but I understand why someone who isn't involved in the academic world could see those as being worthless. We teachers often couch hard ideas in easy-to-understand scenarios. That way, students will actually sign up to take a course. You may not realize this, but if no students sign up, a class is cancelled, and the faculty member is usually reassigned to teach something else. "How to watch television" sounds like a "critical thinking" course. The colleges offering those courses are some of the best institutions in the world.

You might think that you (as an outsider) know better than these institutions on what would lead a student to gainful employment. The students taking these courses at these institutions are not just getting jobs, but creating industries. Even Steve Jobs said that "Technology alone is not enough."



David:
Why would Hillary make a major speech about this issue if no one was questioning the cost of higher education? (and I might add she has only made 2 major speeches in the past two months.) Why would she be talking about making major changes to the whole student loan program if it was not an issue?

Doug:
Oh, it is a very important issue! I just said that it won't affect me one way or another as a professor. As a parent of college-going children, this can have a large impact.

David:
By the way, destroying another country by dismantling it's higher education system seems like a Rube Goldberg way of accomplishing the task.

Doug:
A Rube Goldberg way is the best kind of way: fun to watch, insidious, and effective! You understand terrorism better than I thought.

David:
Actually, now that you mention it, most government programs are very Rube-Goldbergish in the way they try to accomplish things. That's why they are so ineffective, and why they cost so much more than similar programs in the private sector. It's also a sure fire way to add about a dozen extra bureaucrats to the mix, when one would have fouled things up plenty on his own. Insidious, yes. Fun and effective…..not so much.



Wednesday, September 2, 2015

To Debate or not to Debate. That is the Debate.

David:
The Republican debates have started, and have already showcased different candidates and issues. But the Democrats have put off starting their debates until October. That should give Hillary plenty of time to work on her horrible debate skills. But it hurts the other candidates who are trying to get their own messages and ideas out.

Is the Democratic National Committee trying to shield her from tough questions from reporters and other candidates?

Doug:
Ah, your consideration for those other Democratic candidate's messages is heartwarming! You want to hear more of the Democratic and Progressive messages? I agree that it would be good to get those ideas out in the mainstream. Otherwise, Trump starts to look normal.

But I'm not too much into conspiracy theories involving any national committee attempting to cater to the idiosyncrasies of a particular candidate.

But I think your "question" wording is very clever. I like how you call her "Hillary"... that removes any respect that she may have earned as a lawyer, Secretary of State, or any other position that she has held. I like in the question is the implicit "fact" that she has "horrible debate skills" and that the national committee would be colluding with her to hide that fact. I like how you framed the Republican debates as "showcase" of differing ideas---better word than "circus". I like how you used the word "Democrat," what many would call a slur:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democrat_Party_(epithet)

All that in just a simple question. To answer it would be to acknowledge it, like answering "do you still beat your wife?"

David:
Interesting non-answer. Let me comment on your multiple attempts to desperately change the subject, and then you can step up to the bat again.

The other Democrats in the race have made the same allegations. The lack of debates favors the candidates who have money to run ads. Debates are the way for others to get their ideas out to the public. Without more debates, you limit the messaging to the wealthiest. When I ran for office, I did my best to encourage every neighborhood association to hold their own forums and debates, because I had limited funds to work with, as opposed to my competitor who had raised money for over 20 years. Do you want Hillary to win just because she's taken in millions from all corners of the globe? No. I'm sure you want the best candidate.

Funny, but I think you usually call Hillary, "Hillary". I don't know any others named Hillary, and she herself has a big logo with an "H". She doesn't have a logo that says "Clinton". Nice try to make this into some kind of attack against women or their accomplishments. She is actually so well known, that she only needs the name Hillary. Like Madonna. Or Cher.

Her debate skills sank her against President Obama the last time around, and I think everyone knows that adding  debates for the Democrats will likely expose not only her weaknesses, but will likely make her campaign more of a joke, rather than a circus.

What should I call the Democrats if the word is so humiliating to you?

Doug:
The term is "Democratic Party."

Why is it that Tea Partiers find conspiracy wherever they look? I think a year of "debates" is more than enough time for most people to understand a candidate's  positions, and to form an opinion. Whether these are actually debates is another issue.

So, to answer your non-question: no, there is no conspiracy regarding the Democratic National Convention debate schedule.

David:
Riiiiight. The question is not having debates over a year's time. The question is how many debates.

I didn't realize Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley were Tea Party members (which is the correct term for a tea party member….well actually, we don't have members.  Anyone who ascribes to the belief that the government is too big, and needs to spend our money wisely can say they belong to the tea party. Seems odd you would make such a big deal about what we call your political party, and then use a term you would probably agree is disparaging to describe my political affiliation). After all, they were the ones who brought up the issue, not anyone from the tea party.

http://thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box/dem-primaries/omalley-dnc-debbie-schultz-awkward-debates

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/bernie-sanders-democrats-dnc-2016-primary-election-debate-schedule/

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2015/08/29/omalley-sander-criticize-small-democratic-debate-schedule-suggest-its-rigged-to/

Oh well, I wonder if Hillary has been measured for her crown yet.

Doug:
"We don't have members." Oh, the irony. We'll have to discuss Tea Party Politics in another post. For now, we'll just have to agree that Secretary of State Clinton should get a crown.

David:
It's currently looking like handcuffs might be more likely…..

Doug:
I'll take that bet. We should keep a running list of predictions, and see which of us is dreaming.