Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Governmental Gun Control

David:
As usual, following a tragedy like the mass killing in Orlando, the Democrats in Congress are pushing for a ban on "assault weapons", which they have now taken to calling "weapons of war". Instead of condemning the ideological monster bent on killing Americans, they'd like to go after their favorite target, the 2nd Amendment.

Doug:
There are so many "ideological monsters" that it seems it would be prudent to take away their weapons. That seems to just be common sense. But if you are using the Second Amendment to justify these weapons, then they are weapons of war by definition... weapons to be used in war by militia against your government.

David:
Which is actually a fair Segway to the topic I'm interested in discussing this week, which is why bureaucratic agencies in the executive branch are buying up these same weapons they want to ban for the American public, to use against Americans. Why do they need this firepower? Why are Health and Human Services agents being trained in the use of AR-15s by Army Special Forces contractors?

http://www.openthebooks.com/openthebooks_oversight_report_-_the_militarization_of_america/

Doug:
Wow... that is a whole book. I can't respond to a book this week... I'm on vacation.

David:
Here's a Cliff-Notes version...

http://www.cnn.com/2014/09/23/politics/auditors-guns/












Doug:
That report is a couple of years old. But I don't know. I guess if Americans have AR-15's then the government needs them too? Why do you think they need "machine guns" (as the article calls them)?

David:
I don't.  And the article calls them "machine guns" because they are actually military machine guns.

Let me give you a quick run down on some of the numbers, and perhaps you can tell me why a bunch of Washington pencil-pushers are armed to the teeth.

Doug:
Pencil-pushers armed to the teeth! Is this exciting or scary? Sounds like a Revenge of the Nerds sequel, so I guess both exciting and scary. Give us the rundown.

David:
In your world, it's scary for Americans to be able to live under the Constitution, with all of the rights that document grants them, but when the government is the one buying all of these weapons, it becomes a comedy. Got it.

The IRS spent just shy of $11 million for ammunition and "weapons of war". That comes out to almost $5000 in gear and arms for each and every agent.  As if the IRS isn't scary enough! The EPA has put $8 million into it's "Criminal Enforcement Division" buying guns and ammunition. The FDA has 183 special agents armed with "weapons of war". (Maybe they're fighting obesity with force?) The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (yes, there is such an agency) spent nearly $5 million on assault rifles, night-vision goggles, propane canons, military waterproof infrared scopes, and more. Propane cannons! Yikes!

In 1996, there were 74,500 federal officers authorized with firearm-carrying authority. Under the Obama "ban-all-guns" administration, that number has risen to 200,000. There are now more IRS employees armed with serious firepower than there are US Marines. My question is why?

Doug:
Because the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun?

David:
Hey, that's a novel argument. People should be able to defend themselves by using a gun.  Maybe we can add that idea to your version of the Constitution, which apparently leaves it out.

Doug:
I was mocking you. I'd like to get guns out of everyone's hands. But if any idiot can get a machine gun, then I don't see a problem with government employees having them too.

David:
Any idiot can't get a machine gun. You'd have to get a special permit and pay a hefty fee to be able to get something like that, and only if a bureaucrat gives his approval.

Doug:
Ohhh, a special permit, you have to pay extra money, and get a bureaucrat's approval. That sure sounds like it will keep out the idiots.

David:
You obviously don't have a clue what you're talking about on this particular topic, so I'll forgive your last comment. If any idiot could get a machine gun, every idiot would have one. They don't, because it's very, very difficult to obtain those types of arms.

But back to the topic at hand, Do you really trust governmental desk-jockeys to be armed? 

Doug:
I trust them exactly the same amount as I trust everyone else that can get a gun. No more, no less.

David:
Then the number of folks you trust is pretty small. Police have guns, and the military have guns. But why should the government spend taxpayer dollars to arm non-Defense Department employees in bureaucratic agencies, like Health and Human Services?

Here's a frightening statistic: IRS "Special agents"  accidentally shot their firearms 11 times between 2009 and 2011, and at least three of the cases “may have resulted in property damage or personal injury.”  Agents actually fired their guns accidently more often than they intentionally fired them in the field, according to an audit by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA). The report also found that the agency, which is now training with AR-15s, does not always provide remedial training to agents who fired their weapons due to “negligence.” This coming from the same administration that wants to prevent citizens from being able to protect themselves from regular bad guys, as well as doofus bad guys in the government. That isn't a large number of firings, which begs the question why they are armed at all.

Doug:
Less guns all around gets my vote.

David:
I'd just like to have my big brother join me in preventing the rise of Big Brother, ala 1984. Taking guns from the citizens and militarizing government agencies seems a pathway for totalitarianism. That's how just about every dictator through history has achieved their power. Here's a summary of just a few of the agencies that are arming:
-The Small Business Administration
-The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
-The Energy Department
-The Social Security Administration
-The Bureau of Engraving and Printing
-The National Institute of Standards and Technology
-The Food and Drug Administration
-The Department of Veterans Affairs
-The Environmental Protection Agency
-The Smithsonian Institution
-The US Mint
-Health and Human Services

All told, there are 67 agencies not part of any law-enforcement or defense departments that are now spending your money on guns, ammunition, night-vision goggles, helicopters, and other military-grade weapons. In the past 9 years, the Obama administration has spent $1.48 Billion to arm agencies that deal with Americans. Who do they think is the enemy?

Doug:
Your fears of 1984 come from a very different place from those of mine. I fear things that are actually happening, like the majority of people working more and earning less. I fear all of the wealth and power ending up in the hands of few people. I fear Big Business being able to track me without my consent. I fear government eavesdropping on all of my communications. I fear the militarization of the police. Do I fear pencil-pushers with guns? No, because that is a fantasy, or bad movie plot.

David:
Are you actually participating in this blog? Or are you pasting your answers from some other discussion? That last comment had nothing to do with this discussion, and seems a bit of a diversion.

I understand that you didn't read the report above, because it was too long for you, but it details the reality that this government you follow so blindly is hypocritically calling for the banning of guns, while at the same time arming itself with those same weapons. For Pete's sake, the Smithsonian Institution now has armed staff! All of these agencies have access to federal marshals to provide security when needed. Why are they buying guns for themselves? You fear the militarization of the police, who are trained to provide security and enforce laws, yet your not concerned at all that other government workers are more heavily armed?

Who do you think really has the power? Sounds like that would be Hillary Clinton and her Wall Street and foreign donors. Well, now she has an executive-branch army at her disposal. Perhaps you'd be a bit more alarmed if Democrats and liberals had been targeted by the IRS. Or if the EPA began targeting solar companies, instead of coal plants.  Or maybe you'd be at least a little alarmed to know your boogie-man, Donald Trump, might be in charge of an armed executive-branch.

If Democrats really want to eliminate certain types of guns, they should start with themselves. Otherwise, they're just reinforcing the notion that they are above the rules they create for the rest of the peasants (who are the rest of Americans). After all, I certainly don't want the guys who created the disaster known as Healthcare.gov to be  in charge of anything at all, while heavily armed!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Capital Punishment

Doug:
I don't think that the government should ever be putting its citizens to death.

David:
OK. Neither do I.

(I was actually hoping the title of this week's blog might be a subtle call for some Obama administration folks to go to jail. Maybe next time...)



Doug:
Interesting. Just so we are clear: you are not suggesting that capital punishment should be carried out by private companies? You are against any form of capital punishment? I would have guessed that you would support it as a form of punishment (which doesn't work to deter crime) or you would support it as form of moral retribution. Why don't you support capital punishment?

David:
You guessed wrong.

I think you may be admitting your biased view that because I'm a Republican, or a conservative, or whatever, that I must therefore fit your stereotypical view of what that entails.

Doug:
Yes. But you haven't let me down so far!

David:
Ditto on that, big brother.

The bottom line is that there are numerous reasons to oppose capital punishment. For decades, numerous studies have shown it doesn't act as any more of a deterrent to crime than prison. It ends up costing much more than placing a convicted criminal in the penitentiary for life. And We've seen numerous times that someone convicted of a crime is later found to be innocent of that crime. Juries aren't infallible, and neither is the justice system. With capital punishment, you don't get an opportunity for a do-over. Even though these cases drag on for years or even decades, with numerous reviews, it would be better to avoid even the chance of putting an innocent man to death.

Doug:
Great! Now, you should convince the other Republicans, or conservatives, or whatever, that they should not fall into that stereotypical view.

David:
I don't actually think the data supports this is so much a political viewpoint, as a moral one. Polling continues to indicate that more than 60% of Americans support capital punishment. Almost 40% say it isn't applied enough, while only 27% think it's applied too often. Even if every conservative subscribed to this idea (which they don't), those numbers must obviously include independents and liberals as well.

Doug:
I'll try to convince other Democrats, liberals, or whatever, to not support the death penalty.

David:
If you review the data, capital punishment just doesn't make sense as policy. So there is an underlying sense of moral outrage that appears to drive the polling data. There has even been a push in the past decade to add crimes to the list eligible for capital punishment, including child molestation and rape.

Doug:
Something that we both agree on, and can work together. Cool!

David:
It's hard to argue with solid data, and the numbers don't lie. Reversing moral outrage is no easy task, but hey, we can both agree on this topic, so there is always some hope!





Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Mass Transit

Doug:
I was thinking of all of the places that it makes sense to have a centralized, government-driven effort. It seems that Mass Transportation systems are one such area, right?

David:
No. Mass transit is like any other tool in the shop. You need the right tool for the right job. Mass transit makes sense in some areas, and is the right mode of transportation for many people in many cities. In other cities, or other areas, it is a waste of money.

Doug:
So, I think you just said "Yes, it makes sense in cities." Most people live in cities. What is your criteria for whether mass transit is wasting money? Doesn't it save a lot of money for the masses?

David:
Your question was should it be a centralized, government-driven effort. My answer is no. 

Mass transit should be operated by private companies. Amtrak is a good example of government-run mass transit that looses money because of government inefficiencies and mis-management.  Could the government make it work? Maybe, but their record is pretty dismal.


Doug:
Amtrak does a pretty good job, as far as I can see. Their job isn't to make money. If that was their goal, they'd just open a bank. But if it were a private company, it would have to be a monopoly. What would the pressure be to keep it affordable?

David:
But their job shouldn't be to lose money.

Why would it have to be a monopoly? No one forces you to use it. If mass transit is unreliable or expensive, people will use other means to commute. We've seen that play out in many cities and towns, where mass transit has failed miserably. Indianapolis is one city where mass transit (buses) has had great difficulty expanding, because it developed a reputation of being unreliable. It's better now, but bad reputations are hard to overcome. Uber is a perfect example of transportation innovation. Multiple bus companies could work in a single town, and set up various routes to better serve their customers. After all, we have multiple airlines that all serve a single city, and they aren't owned or operated by the government.

Doug:
Airplanes don't run on rails. Most airports are owned by the public, usually local, state, or federal governments. How could you share rail lines? How could buses compete? Uber isn't mass transit, just decentralized taxis. Mass transit can move a large number of people together on standard, repeated routes. That includes subways, trains, and buses.

David:
Buses don't run on rails either. And right now, almost  all of the rails in the US are privately owned and maintained. Freight lines and passenger trains share the lines, and seem to do just fine.

How do companies compete? They both offer the same service, and people choose which company they prefer. For example, you can look at bus tours for tourists in various cities. Tourists go to different locations to board their buses, and the tours basically all cover the same routes, to see the same sights. You, the consumer, get to choose which company you want to use. mass transit bus companies could operate in a similar manner.

Why should tax payers be forced to fund something they don't use or don't want?

Doug:
Lots of people do want mass transit. Can you imagine traveling in NYC without mass transit? It really is great to be able to travel all over the city for a reasonable amount of money.

David:
And, there would be a parking apocolypse  if all New Yorkers had to use their own cars.

Perhaps we need to separate the discussion into two parts. First, mass transit is a good thing, in a lot of places. Different types of mass transit work in different locations, and for specific needs. Second, who should pay for, and manage it? Remember, almost all of the rail lines in this country were laid by private companies. Some cities have laid their own subway and rail lines, and those serve their citizens very well. Airports developed slowly over decades as flight developed. Some airports were built with public money, some weren't. Large hubs are built with public money. I'm not opposed to that at all, but referendums need to be held to get public buy-in and approval for such projects. As far as who runs the transit after the initial outlays? Private companies. Interestingly, a private company running mass transit is held to much tighter controls and to much higher standards by government oversight than when government runs the programs. They don't hold themselves accountable or use the same standards.

Doug:
Mass transit isn't just a good thing, it is a great thing. It provides low-cost transportation to the masses (by definition) which makes our economy possible. And, it can help save the environment. Where I live (Philadelphia suburbs), access to mass transit is a high-priced luxury. When we were looking to buy a house, we couldn't even afford one anywhere close to the "main line" so that we could have easy access to the trains. We can get there, but it involves walking 1 mile, taking a trolley, then walking another mile. Not impossible, but also not as convenient.

But how can you let a private company manage such mass transit? It would have to be a monopoly... someone has to manage the infrastructure. I don't know what private companies you are thinking about that do a better job than the government. In my part of the world (upper east coast) there are entities that span the private/public divide, and are no better than pure government. We have the E-ZPass system, which looks to have spread as far as Indiana. There are lots of horror stories and compaints about E-ZPass. If it were left to the people making the money (public or private), every road in the US would be a toll road, and easily tracked and billed by E-ZPass.

This is very similar to the recent "net neutrality" issue. Are the wires that give you access to the internet a "common carrier"? Or are they commercially owned, such that the cable companies can charge different fees for different rates of access? So far, the government has kept access to internet resources equal to everyone. This has helped generate internet-based businesses.

David:
Perhaps we need to further separate the discussion into trains, planes, and automobiles (buses). Each of those entities has a different set of requirements. But when you talk about how affordable a system is, you may be discounting the fees that the government is providing that comes from taxpayers across the board, whether you use the service or not. Amtrak operates at a loss. If those people who used Amtrak paid enough to cover operating costs, it would be incredibly unaffordable. We are all paying for a very few to use the service affordably. As Obama likes to say, that isn't fair.

Doug:
Mass transit is affordable, because everyone shares in the cost, and many people benefit. It is true that if you were the only person on the bus and the bus company wasn't allowed to lose money, then that one bus ticket would cost a lot. And then you wouldn't ride the bus. And then no one would. The economies of mass transit (actually the economies of mass anything) can't be broken down into single-use fees. That doesn't scale. It has to be spread over a lot of users, over lots of uses.

David:
Lets look at another problem with mass transit, costs. Out in California, they are developing high-speed rail. Sounds very exciting. The initial plan was put to taxpayers as a referendum, with an estimated cost of $30 Billion, to be funded with bonds. The referendum was approved. Not a single rail has been laid, but the projected cost is now at $68 Billion. Some independent analysis (professors at California universities) have placed the estimates closer to $100 Billion. This report (which covers more problems with building a new rail system than our discussion encompasses) found that this information was available to the original agency planners who organized the referendum for voters. It appears they downplayed the costs, just to get the project approved. I think the idea was that, "if we get the project started, then taxpayers will just get the bill later to complete the deal". We saw the same issue appear with "The Big Dig" in Boston; The planners used the lowest estimates to sell the project, knowing they were unrealistic.  (I'd also argue the same mentality got Obamacare off the ground, but I digress.) The taxpayers are sold an unrealistic bid for the project. Government over-runs are not something to just gloss over. Here in Indy, there was a huge push over the past 6 years to build a train system. The proponents had initial plans and cost estimates laid out. Almost immediately, engineers noted that the plan estimates where grossly under-estimated, for costs, and over-estimated for ridership. The initial plans were scaled back, but the idea never really took off. Train service for Indy is a solution to a problem that doesn't exist. Buses are cheaper to operate and maintain, and can be upgraded more easily. Routes are easy to add or eliminate as well.
Once you lay rails, that route is set in stone, so to speak.

Doug:
Estimates are always wrong. Except when they aren't. Here is a story about a 17-year high speed rail line that came in on time and on budget. But how does this fact relate to centralized mass transit?

David:
The reason I bring it up is that California will never be able to recoup $100 Billion dollars. The costs of riding the train won't even provide for maintenance and operating costs. But the costs to build it is a total onus on the taxpayers. So they need to be on board and the estimates must be as accurate as possible, so voters can weigh the benefits versus the costs. In the instances, the government estimates were far, far lower than they realistically should have been. I think government prosecutors would be charging someone with "baiting and switching" if a private company had done this.

I also bring it up because I don't want my Indiana tax dollars funding a $100 Billion bullet train that is completely within the borders of California, and will only potentially be used by Californians.

To address your local needs, it sounds like an enterprising individual could start a bus service in your area to get people to the train station, or all the way to downtown locations, cheaply and affordably.

Doug:
No, that doesn't sound like a viable business plan at all! And it sounds like it would cost far too much for anyone to afford.

David:
Local bus lines serving the needs of a local area? Isn't that just what mass transit's business plan is?

We can both agree that mass transit is an important part of living in a city. We can even agree that stations, hubs, and airports will likely need to be built with taxpayer dollars. But charging taxpayers who don't use the service so that those that do get a cheaper ticket is not right.  I believe evidence shows that you will almost always get better, more efficient  service with the actual management being in private hands. At least until we get our flying cars.

Doug:
Private companies want to make as much money as possible, and charge as much as possible for any ticket. A government-run program would want to charge the least amount, to make it usable by as many people as possible, The goals of a government-run program is to serve the people that need it, and to create a better environment for all. Your sense of what is fair and good is upside down.

David:
You seem to think all private companies are evil, money grubbers. That just isn't true. I don't think government is all bad, either. But government goals do not equal government realities.  Private company goals are often mandated by reality.  Private companies need to cover costs, and they also employ large numbers of people in this country. They have multiple incentives to provide courteous and efficient service, that the government doesn't have. Why do you think people tell jokes about government inefficiency and ineptitude? Studies actually show that you're more likely to die of natural causes than be fired from a government job. If there is no threat to losing your job, for any reason, what is your motivation to go out of your way to provide better service? Apparently you think all government workers are completely altruistic and are descended from Mother Teresa, while all private workers are the children of Bernie Madoff.

Mass transit can be a good thing, but only if there are people that use it. For that to happen, it needs to be efficient, clean, reliable, and a good bargain for users. On that, we agree completely. Maybe, instead of flying cars, we can get flying buses!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Anti-Trump Violence

David:
Donald Trump started his campaign by saying that Mexico was not sending us their best. He called the Mexicans coming across the border criminals, "while some of them are nice people". In the last few weeks, we've seen protesters rioting at Trump rallies, and assaulting Trump supporters. They've burned American flags while waving Mexican flags. In essence, they appear to be....Mexican criminals.


Doug:
I had not heard of Mexican Criminals showing up to Trump rallies. Won't they get caught that way? Wonder how they have time in their criminal schedules to protest at a rally? Oh, I see this article about a single person burning an American flag. But your description jumps to a few conclusions: that there is an organized group (more than one person), that they are Mexican (no evidence), and that burning flags is a criminal act (it isn't). According to you, it isn't even their flag. But let's go with this mind-bending leap of logic to see where this takes us. A critique of Trump's racism perhaps?

David:
The Huffington Post hasn't really reported on these attacks (they're too busy claiming Trump is racist), so your complete lack of knowledge of current events is excusable. Let's see. If you come into the country illegally, you are indeed breaking the law. If you assault people, you are committing a crime. While all hispanics are not Mexican, many of the protesters at these "rallies" are waving Mexican flags, perhaps just to support illegal Mexican immigrants. But these anti-Trump protests have occurred in numerous cities over the past few weeks, and have become ever-more violent.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2016/06/03/ugly-bloody-scenes-in-san-jose-as-protesters-attack-trump-supporters-outside-rally/

Trump supporters have been egged, punched, and in one instance, struck with a plastic bag full of rocks. If you bring a plastic bag full of rocks to a protest, I assume you're looking to cause bodily injury to someone (or maybe the fellow just stopped at the protest on his way home from the rock store).

Doug:
That looks like chaos, with lots of violence coming from many people from all sides. I guess it isn't surprising; as the reporter notes: "The ugly scenes of violence toward Trump supporters Thursday appeared to be the inverse of similar incidents earlier in the campaign in which Trump protesters, not supporters, were targeted."

David:
You'll note that the article lists numerous attacks on Trump supporters, but your excerpt  above mentions only a single incident at one Trump rally, where one individual struck a Trump protester. I don't see that as violence coming from all sides. There certainly is quite a bit of violence from one side. And it makes that side look bad.

Doug:
No, that doesn't mention any incidents, but suggests "similar incidents." But there are people keep tabs of the violence: A Continually Growing List of Violent Incidents at Trump Events. And let's not talk about "violence coming from all sides." That implies that the violence is like a team sport. The Republicans vs. The Democrats. No, these are angry individuals.

David:
I agree that most protesters have been peaceful, but in the last few weeks the violence has increased, and it's been mobs of anti-Trump folks singling out Trump supporters for vicious attacks.

Hillary Clinton has blamed the victims of these attacks, saying they're bringing it upon themselves by supporting Trump. The Democratic mayor of San Antonio also said that the Trump supporters were responsible for getting beaten.  An editor at Vox encouraged rioting at Trump rallies, as though rioting is an acceptable and legitimate weapon to shut down political discourse, if you aim it at the "right" target. This appears to be the new, acceptable way Democrats  shut down free speech: with violence.

Doug:
Not just Clinton, but even the reporter of the article that you linked to suggested that Trump supporters were reaping what they have sown.

David:
I don't see how that somehow excuses her "blame-the-victim" rhetoric.

Doug:
I always have a hard time following your thinking. So, you are describing this single, solitary person bruning an American flag as "attacks"? Who are the victims? The burnt flag? And then some editor (another single, solitary person) as advocating rioting as acceptable. And you then jump to the conclusion that Democrats (all/most/some/one?) want to eliminate free speech with violence. Are you sure that you want to make that argument? We could perhaps discuss Trump advocating killing of the innocent families of anyone he declares to be a terrorist. That is an undisputed statement, not some crazy leap of illogic. Killing innocent people seems like a violent act worthy of discussion.

David:
I'll try to explain it for you (and I'll type slow, so you don't miss anything). Hitting folks with bags of rocks is a crime. Hitting someone in the face with a fist is a crime. The crime is not the burning of the flag. However, when the person burning the American flag is waving a Mexican flag, it adds context to the entire picture.

Doug:
I see. "Adds context to the entire picture" means that it allows you to jump to the conclusion that "Mexicans are violent criminals." For regular folks, they would not assume that the same person who burned the flag is the same person who committed a different crime. But in your logic, you can collapse all of those events to a single Mexican. Your explanation is indeed helpful to see how your mind can make such leaps.

David:
You do like to put words into other's mouths, don't you? Even though you put it in quotes, I don't see the phrase "Mexicans are violent criminals" anywhere else in the blog. Nice try.  Let's try to stick to this topic, and not allow your bias to cloud the actual conversation. No wonder you can't follow my thinking. You've added all sorts of your presumptions into the debate.

I'm sure we'll discuss the many things Donald Trump has said at length. It's still a long way to November. Hillary hasn't even been indicted yet.

Doug:
I think we are talking about violence at Trump rallies, so I would think that any violence Trump advocates is indeed on topic. You do realize that Trump is scheduled to appear in court for his Trump University scams, and that he has appeared in court 169 times? I don't see Hillary Clinton scheduled to appear in front of any court.

David:
Yes, because so far she has refused to talk to her own State Department inspector general, or the FBI. So much for cooperation.

Doug:
You mean like the 11-hour question-answer grilling? She answered every question, as far as I see.

David:
Like I said, she hasn't talked to the FBI, and refused to answer questions from her own  IG.

Doug:
She would also probably refuse to talk to you. Does congress have higher authority? Yes. Did they ask her questions about everything? Yes. But you still aren't happy. Surprise!

David:
If she's answered all of the questions that could be asked about the legal issues at hand, then why would she refuse to talk to the legal authorities?

Trump being sued for fraud has nothing to do with the violence at these rallies. And do you realize he's in court quite a bit because he sues people at the drop of a hat. I don't think that's a good trait to have, and feeds the notion he's thin-skinned, but again, it has nothing to do with this conversation.

Doug:
Agreed, but you mentioned "Hillary" and "indicted". If you mention weird accusations, I will refute them. And if people sue at the drop of a hat, then why aren't Clinton and Sanders being sued? And Trump is thin-skinned. He is the definition of having a sensitive ego. How many times has he threatened to sue people? Googling "Trump threatens to sue" gives me over 500,000 hits. But, I agree, this is only tangentially related to his violence.

David:
Fair enough, but you have made several erroneous assertions that should be clarified. Articles with the words "Hillary" and "Indicted" are all over the internet, so it isn't some weird accusation that your brother came up with after a closed-head injury. After the release of the State Department report, it seems ever more likely some form of indictment is forthcoming.

Doug:
Place your bets. There is a big difference between the prospect of a single court case versus 169 actual, different court cases. But continue.

David:
In addition, if someone famous threatened to sue someone, there may be a thousand stories and blogs written about that single event. The number of internet hits does not correlate with the number of incidents being reported on. President Obama himself is currently being sued by Congress, and there are 50 million Google hits for the search "President being sued". By your logic, he's a particularly nasty fellow. The reason these clarifications are important to this conversation, is that the number of separate, distinct riots outside of Trump rallies, by anti-Trump forces, is increasing in number and severity. And there appears to be some coordination from well-funded Democratic groups.

Doug:
We love a good conspiracy! Please continue.

David:
Again, the Huffington Post has not reported on Democratic ties to the riots, so I'll forgive your ignorance on this issue as well.

Doug:
I don't read the Huffington Post, so I'll have to trust you on the conspiracy to hide violence. You must keep pretty close tabs on it to know what they do not report on. How can you stand to read it? I find that much of HuffPost is surrounded by stories of celebrities and weird stories.

David:
Apparently you don't read anything. At least Hillary acknowledges that these riots are occurring, and admits the violence is coming from the protester's side. However...

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/jun/6/tammy-bruce-anti-trump-rallies-funded-by-the-left/

Doug:
Are you kidding me? You are referencing an opinion article from the Washington Times titled "Anti-Trump rallies funded by the left." Did Hillary buy the eggs? Your writings in this blog have as much weight as a Tammy Bruce opinion article.

David:
This article discusses ties to several national Democratic groups funding and organizing these protests: MoveOn.org, Bernie Sander's Democratic Socialists of America, and the Hillary Clinton campaign itself.

“It seemed like an outpouring of veteran anger against Donald Trump: over a dozen former service members protesting outside Trump Tower. But the reality was more complicated. The protest was actually a coordinated effort, led in part by the Hillary Clinton campaign… It only looked like a grassroots demonstration…”
At first everyone lied about the fact that it was Hillary astro-turf protestors, but then it all fell apart. “A spokesman for the demonstrators insisted they had no affiliation with any campaign. Later he said the protesters had reached out to the Clinton campaign for press contacts, but that’s all. Then the activist finally admitted that, yes, the Clinton campaign had helped organize the protest.”
I suppose this is all just my imagination, or as Hillary says, it's a vast right-wing conspiracy to try to make her look bad, along with the FBI. And the State Department inspector general. Curious that the violence is all outside of the Trump rallies, from the protester ranks directed towards Trump supporters, and not the other way around.
Doug:
If you are going to quote at length from a Tammy Bruce opinion piece in the Washington Times, and pretend that it is real, then at least two things will happen: people will stop reading and they will stop taking you seriously. Come on man! My time is valuable. Can we can raise the bar of discussion just a tad higher? Feel free to delete the above paragraph's for all of our reader's sakes.

David:
I chose this article for a reason. While the conclusions are Tammy Bruce's opinion, she lists multiple sources for each episode she discusses. The information listed and quoted within the piece is not her opinion, and can't just be tossed aside as such. The part of the article I quoted from is from another report.

Doug:
If Tammy Bruce is the best article you can find, and you can't find primary sources, then, yep, it is tossed aside. Wikipedia is even better. It is no wonder that people have trouble separating fact from fiction if they rely on Washington Times articles.

David:
We don't really have the space for all of the articles on this topic. Like I said, this article incorporates quotes and information from numerous primary sources, and fits our space needs perfectly. Apparently you'd prefer no one read the article, as you've suggested I delete it, or that everyone should just look the other way. I'll let our readers decide for themselves.

Doug:
Now, let's actually talk about violence. I am absolutely appalled by the violence both inside Trump rallies by Trump supporters, and outside by whomever these people are. If they are Democrats, shame on them for stooping to Trump's level.

But this pales in comparison to the kind of violence that Trump advocates in his "speeches." Do you really think that torturing terrorists and killing the family members of terrorists is a valid plan? Even if such illegal violence would lead to peace (it won't), I would not be in favor of that type of policy. It is immoral and despicable, and I am ashamed we even have a candidate for President of the United States speaking those words.

David:
I agree, and don't make any attempt to defend such talk.

Doug:
Thank you! But, when you divert attention away from Trump's chest-beating, it is almost like you are defending such talk.

David:
I find it curious that you discount everything that Trump says as complete nonsense, but for some reason you've latched onto this one sentence as something he will actually do. You do realize that the president can't just go waterboard terrorist in the oval office, nor can he go out and kill people or their families. Donald Trump has said a great many things to get the attention of the media, without any serious plan to actually accomplish any of it. It seems some people think it's part of his charm.

Doug:
Trumps' charm?! "I'll kill their families! Just Kidding!" Who are these people that think that such nonsense is endearing?

David:
But let me refresh your memory, as there are two candidates that have gone on record supporting torture.  After giving a speech in which she condemns "torture", Hillary Clinton said the following during an interview: "In the event we were ever confronted with having to interrogate a detainee with knowledge of an imminent threat to millions of Americans, then the decision to depart from standard international practices must be made by the president, and the president must be held accountable," she said. When asked to clarify if her comments were about torturing terrorists, she again said," In those instances where we have sufficient basis to believe that there is something imminent, yeah, but then we've got to have a check and a balance." She has since made comments that are all over the board in regards to the use of torture. It seems it's allowed if her audience is veterans, but it is absolutely wrong when she is talking to college students. This makes her appear cynical and opportunistic. But then again, no one has accused her of being honest and trustworthy.

Doug:
But let's be clear: Clinton allegedly said that in 2006. She no longer supports that position, and hasn't since 2008. Trump advocates torture today. And he wishes to go further, actually going after innocent families of anyone declared to be an enemy. Today. Your opinion is that is better to support someone who is consistently violent rather than someone who waffles on using violence? Rather than criticize Clinton, shouldn't you be celebrating her change of heart, and supporting her change of position on violence? Unless you really don't care about violence, and just want to criticize her.

David:
I do criticize her. She's changed her positions on so many different things (and then changed back again) for political expedience, that no one really knows what she stands for. That's why no one trusts her. Even huge numbers of Democrats don't find her honest or trustworthy.

Doug:
I trust her. I trust her because she thinks.

David:
So you're the one guy in the polls who thinks she's trustworthy.

Doug:
More trustworthy than Trump. He has changed his mind on far more things.

You name a topic and Trump has believed both sides of it: abortion, war, marriage, undocumented immigrants, nuclear weapons for everyone, Obamacare, women, and violence.

David:
I think we can both condemn the violence directed at supporters of a presidential candidate. But blaming the victims is wrong as well. Let's hope the Trump supporters don't get the Juanita Broaddrick treatment.

Doug:
I had never heard of Juanita Broaddrick, so whatever her treatment is, it is unknown outside of whatever bubble you live in. Googling her, I see that this is a woman who reluctantly accused President Bill Clinton of rape. You do not have to go back to 1978 to find stories of Rape Culture, you can find that in the headlines today. Literally today. And yesterday, and probably every day since 1978, and before. So the treatment of Juanita Broaddrick is one of blaming the victim? In my brief googling, I see no claim made by anyone that whatever happened was her fault. Like many rape cases, it seems to end up being a he-said/she-said accusation, without supporting evidence one way or the other. On the other hand, Trump advocates violence, and he gets it at his rallies, both by supporters and by others.

David:
Holy smoke! You're really stretching your credibility with that whooper! Bill Clinton was accused of assaulting women? When did that happen? Golly jee whillikers! Hillary and her advisers attacked the women, calling them "Trailer trash", "Bimbos" and "Narcissistic looney toons"?  Hillary's an enabler? Bill settled out-of-court to avoid trial?  Multiple women accused him of sexual assaults, and Hillary did what to those women? Bill was impeached for lying about it? I've never heard such outrageous tales...

Doug:
Watch your language, Gilligan. I only said that I never heard of Ms. Broaddrick.

David:
Here's a piece from the liberal NYTimes to inform you of these events:

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/21/us/politics/90s-scandals-threaten-to-erode-hillary-clintons-strength-with-women.html?_r=0

Doug:
That is a reliable newspaper, and liberal the way that truthiness always is. What are we talking about? How is this related?

If you really care about stopping violence, support someone who at least waffles on its use. Killing innocent families and torturing anyone is unacceptable. If you really care about stopping Rape Culture, call it what it is. Don't associate a victim's name (Juanita Broaddrick) to represent it. Leave her out of it. Rape is violence, and is unacceptable. If you care about stopping violence, support Black Lives Matter. If you want to stop violence, make sure that trans- people are protected. We don't need to qualify our condemnation of violence: let's agree to condemn violence directed at anyone.

David:
Ah, so now she's a waffler. Good.

Doug:
Definitely agree that it is better to be hesitant about using violence. I'm glad that you think a waffler on violence is better than someone committed to violence.

David:
I'm just glad you can admit she's a waffler about important issues.

Doug:
I think Trump would win the waffle contest, but do continue.

David:
Maybe we can just skip the rest of the campaign season, and just settle this with a waffle-making contest. Best waffle wins?

But we can certainly agree no one should get raped. (Make sure you tell that to Hillary's husband.)

Doug:
Amen! You might want to mention that to Ivana's ex-husband, regarding The Time Donald Trump's Ex-Wife Accused Him of Brutally Raping Her. Ivana says to her friends: "He raped me." Which is worse: the rapist or the enabler? Which is worse: the future war criminal, or the waffler?

David:
Now you're reporting events that never happened, as Ivana Trump denied she ever said such a thing.  But at least you admit she's an enabler.

Doug:
Yes, let's blame Hillary for everything that Bill did. (But she didn't leave him. Trump has been divorced three times. If you paint her as "enabler" then you also have to paint her as "loyal", and a "forgiver".) Ivana did later deny that she said it, but she didn't deny the action. It sounds like rape to me.

David:
She's so loyal she attacked his victims. That seems to be a pattern.

No one should get assaulted for any reason. The Black-Lives-Matter movement has led to more violence in the cities it is operating in.  They should be condemned. I agree that we should condemn all violence.

Doug:
Remember, don't blame the victims. Unless you are suggesting that we should condemn Trump supporters.

David:
I'm condemning people who's actions lead to violence, not the victims. So, how about we just allow people to attend rallies for the people they want to support without the threat of being beaten. How about we just allow Presidential candidates to give their speeches without protesters from the other side threatening the listeners.  And how about cracking down on the daily black-on-black violence in the President's old neighborhood. If you can join me in all of these sentiments, I think we can make some progress.

Doug:
Oh, yes, I agree that all violence is evil. But one has to admit that the threat that the proposed leader of the free world wanting to track down your family and kill them if you are considered (by him) to be a terrorist is the worst kind of violence. A bit worse than throwing eggs, or even burning a flag.

David:
Then you'll be glad to hear that Donald Trump changed his mind, and now holds the position that his original ideas were wrong. He's declared that torture and killing family members was a bad idea, and he is opposed to it.

http://www.nytimes.com/politics/first-draft/2016/03/04/donald-trump-reverses-position-on-torture-and-killing-terrorists-families/?_r=0

Apparently he does have the ability to listen to critics and make the right decisions.  That sounds like a good quality for a president to have. Since your major criticism of him in this blog is gone, maybe you'll have to give him another look?

Doug:
You are serious?! You say that "Trump changed his mind" and that means he has "the ability to listen to critics" and therefore deserves "another look"? But when Clinton changes her mind she is a "waffler"? Ok, I now believe that you will just believe whatever you want to believe. There are no principles, only justifications. Do you seriously want people to consider Trump because he says something different? He always says something different, and he has no experience in politics. What kind of criteria does one need in your book to be unqualified?

David:
Apparently you have no taste for sarcasm. Lighten up. I don't really expect you to take a serious look at Trump. He's running as the Republican.

Trump needs to get a lot more serious in what he says, but the people at his rallies should not have to fear for their safety to find out if he can manage that. That's all I'm asking.

Doug:
Oh, this is so dramatic and entertaining! Will Donald say something serious? Will people be able to find out that he said something serious? Will there be violence at his rallies? Will Donald change his mind again? I see why people find him so charming! Not. This is disgusting and a travesty.

David:
But that's what makes our country great, you see. Apparently anyone can become president. Everyone has the right to express whatever ideas they have, and all Americans should have the ability to freely exchange their ideas, and support candidates for political office,  without the threat of violent assault. That's neither disgusting, nor a tragedy. That's how free speech works.

Doug:
No, not just anyone should be president! We should elect qualified people to hold office. I really wish that you would be against violence in general, rather than just against violence on Trump supporters. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Keys to Happiness

David:
What are some of the things that make us happy, as people in general. Why do you think we have such high rates of depression and drug use in the culture? Are they related?

Doug:
Research shows that having a huge amount of money doesn't make you happier. But having enough money to live on can make a huge difference. I think drug use can largely be an escape from those situations that are seen as inescapable.

David:
Both are true.

There has been quite a bit of research through the years, as happiness is one constant that we all seek. So what are some of the things that tend to bring happiness, or create depression if they are absent? Here are some of the most frequent keys to happiness that appear in sociology/psychology studies.




Surround yourself with happy people.
Turns out that being with happy people can make you a much happier person. Of course, to be accepted into such a group requires you to also be happy. The studies all indicate that if you try to make yourself become more optimistic, you can have a positive influence on others, and they can have a more positive influence on you. If your social media contacts are a bunch of sourpusses, you should clean house, and limit your time spent with these people. It is not hard to complain about things, and complainers also breed other complainers. In other words, you become a mirror of your peer group, according to many studies.

Doug:
The media don't show too many happy people these days. Many seem to yearn for the "good old days" in one form or another. I think people can delude themselves into happiness, and unhappiness. Perhaps there is a form of happiness of surrounding yourself with like-minded unhappy people.

David:
We may long for the old days because when we are young, we have fewer concerns and much more to be happy about. Perhaps we should all strive for the Thoreau advice: Simplify, simplify.

Be grateful.
Start each day praying or thinking about the blessings that you have in your life. Seriously. Studies indicate that simply acknowledging the things in your life that you are grateful for creates joy at having those things, and joy brings happiness. Sounds almost too simple to be true, but it is.

Doug:
I don't know about praying per se, but sure: quiet contemplation seems like it could calm and soothe even the savage beast. But I don't see these suggestions as being "true" or "false." Everyone must find their own recipe for happiness.

David:
There are things that are constants throughout a multiple of studies. To find a real and lasting happiness, you should try to incorporate some of these strategies. You may have some variation, and people can be happy without all of these specific suggestions, but incorporating these into your life will help. This idea is more than just meditating, it's being grateful. That's different.

Be kind to others.
Donating time, money, energy, or anything else to others creates happiness in test subjects. Being forced to pay taxes by the government doesn't do it, however. Giving something away freely created a sense of happiness and well-being in multiple studies. So, to increase your own happiness, find ways to give to others.

Doug:
You just need to adjust your attitude about taxes. Think of it as tithing. And when it is time to pay your taxes, throw in a little extra because you want to be kind to others. Or you wanted bigger tanks. Whichever makes you feel good. Ahhh, can't wait until the next April 15th.

David:
You can actually donate to the government on your tax form. There is a box you can check to donate more than you owe.  A newspaper did a survey a few years back (sorry I can't find the source) and found that no politician that argued for higher taxes had ever checked that box on their taxes. I'm going to guess you never have either. But you don't have to follow any specific ideology to give something to others. And studies show it makes you happier.

Doug:
Please stop guessing.

David:
Participate in religion.
Multiple studies covering multiple disciplines found this to be true. There are various ways that religion can make you happier, from a sense of purpose to providing meaning to your life, provides increased happiness to those studied. It also provides you with a like-minded peer group that provides support and happiness around you (see above).

Doug:
For some of us, working for our government can fill that role. Again, it just takes a little mental adjustment.

David:
When big government is your god, it makes sense you would worship it.

Doug:
Working for something is not the same as worshiping it. Why do I feel like I even need to respond to that?

David:
Exercise and eat well.
Even physiology studies show people who eat right and exercise a bit each day have a sense of more energy and well-being. They also tend to sleep better at night, and feel more rested a fresh during the day. These traits make one feel happier about themselves and their surroundings. It can also open doors to friends on the jogging trail, at the gym, or wherever you like to walk for exercise. This can help you to keep it up.

Doug:
Sure, no argument there. Except that you have to have time, money, and energy to eat well and go to the gym. But yeah.

David:
It doesn't take any money to walk down the street or take the stairs. And it costs less to make your own meals rather than eating fast-food. You just have to decide to do it. You'll be happy you did.

Create a blog with your brother.
This just goes without saying, doesn't it? Although it is true that building close relationships with both family and friends makes for the happiest people. Social media friends don't really count. Spending time with real people that you know you can count on when they are needed creates a sense of security that is important for happiness.

Doug:
I don't know about that one. And social media friends can be more meaningful than "real" friends or family, sometimes. Again, that sounds like people grumbling for the good old days.

David:
We've discussed before that the majority of the impact social media has on people is negative. You and I may both have good friends on social media, but there is a great deal of negativity on the web. All of the studies I've seen show the same thing.

The lack of these ideas can leave people feeling adrift, and lead to depression and drug use, as you mentioned. Being happy is a choice. Being depressed is a default position, according to Freud, because it takes much less energy that doing the things that bring happiness. Of course, Freud said a great many things that have been disproven over time.

Doug:
You can't choose your way out of depression. Your suggestions sound like a Hallmark greeting card. Happiness is where you make it. Happiness is who you make it with. I think Freud may have seen a sexual in-your-window on that last one.

David:
The first key to being happier in your life, or turning away from addiction is to admit you have a problem and then decide to do something about it. You say that depression isn't a choice, but then say you make your own happiness. That is a choice. To be more accurate, it's a set of choices.

Doug:
You can choose to do something to try to make you happy, but that doesn't mean that you won't be depressed.

David:
Look around you and be grateful for all you have, and for all the people in your life. Find happy people and spend more time with them. Skip McDonalds, and take the stairs at work. Smile more at others, and spend some time with God.

If you don't believe me, go read the research on your own. It's all over the internet. Just don't get sucked into negative sites....
And then, just be happy.

Doug:
Praise Jesus, eat vegetables, and hug a puppy? Great if that makes you happy. I'll find my happiness in nature, science, family, cheeseburgers, and love. Although we do have a puppy. If anyone is feeling depressed, see a doctor who will listen, and help. And if your idea of happiness doesn't fit someone else's mold, don't worry; be happy.