Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Future.

David:
There is a lot going on in the world today, from technology, to politics, to social issues, to entertainment. Some of these things cross over and affect each other. This week, I thought we might  review some fictional works of the future, and see how close or how far they really came to the world we live in now, and where we might be headed.

Doug:
Ok, but the future is always in the future, so any failed predictions may just not have happened yet. The timeline of future predictions is hard to get right. I tend to give futurist a decade or two leeway.

David:
Granted, but some of the books that are the best known descriptors of the future were written 80-100 years ago, such as Brave New World. I, Robot was compiled in 1950.

The discussion  wouldn't be complete without a mention of the book, 1984, which was written in 1949. The curious reality is that we are constantly being monitored, and more so every day, but rather than the government of Big Brother, we are freely asking our own computers to monitor us in our homes and on the internet. While the book portrays the ever present cameras and says as an ominous presence, our reality is that there is benefit to having your computer tailor your time online to your preferences.

Doug:
Well, we aren't freely asking to be monitored. We are trading our personal data to companies. We gain convenience so that they can have information on us. I've always said that if 1984 were to be updated to 2024, Big Brother would be Big Business. I will say that I find it very useful for Google to parse my email and automatically add upcoming events to my calendar. But I also realize that that has a cost, and I am paying it.

David:
So 1984 got some things right, but instead of a nefarious government, it's mainly been a mass collection of data provided by us, and collected by advertising agencies. However, in the case of Google or FaceBook, they are collecting data specifically to manipulate us. I find that just as alarming as if the government was doing it. Maybe more so, as no one is there are no watchdogs at FB.

Doug:
More so! The government was created to serve us. Businesses (for the most part) only want to get our money.

David: Almost all of the novels, movies, and even cartoons have consistently portrayed the future world being inhabited by bipedal, humanoid robots.



As we've now seen with Google Home and other devices, we may have little need for such robots, or ones that appear like us. Our home will be our robot. We'll walk into the kitchen after Siri wakes us up. Siri will ask if we want something for breakfast, and a counter-top device will make it for us. We'll ask if anything newsworthy happened overnight, and Siri will tailor the news to what things are likely to appeal to us, based on prior preferences. And so on, and so on. Our car will work the same way, and so will our office, which will now be at home. This is somewhat reminiscent of Hal 9000, the computer from the movie 2001 A Space Odyssey.

Doug:
You are wrong about not needing humanoid robots. Taking care of the elderly is expensive, and hard work. Robots would be a perfect solution for this problem, and is the focus of much robotics research in other places in the world. 

Health care robotics research in Japan.


David: 
But the robots don't need to have two legs and a happy bear face to provide these services. A robot would be much more stable, and probably safer with a solid base. Right? We already have lift-chairs and other robotic devices that are available for just this purpose, without the humanoid appearance. 

Doug:
The bear face is often useful so it doesn't scare the living daylights out of grandma. But humanoid robots are often just designed to maneuver in our world, so it makes sense that they end up looking very much like us.

David:
Curiously, in the book A Brave New World, published in 1932, the government kept the masses subdued with a drug called Soma, which was a sort of tranqulizer. Either by accident, or with some purpose, since 1959 there has been a muscle relaxer marketed under the trade name of Soma. Perhaps they chose this name because the Soma from the book was described as "the perfect drug". I still find it amazing that anyone would choose to name their medication after a drug that appeared so prominently in a such an ominous portrayal of the future.

Doug:
Well, then you would be shocked to find out about the product Soylent. The movie "Soylent Green" supposedly occurred in the year 2022:


David:
Yikes!

Do you think they realize what they've done, or just thought it was a catchy, green, organic sounding name? I wouldn't drink it, because of a subliminal mental-block.

After all, IT'S PEOPLE !

Doug:
Yum! There are so many futuristic ideas about Artificial Intelligence (A.I.), and some of them are close to becoming present. Your nephew, Thad, just watched the The International Dota 2 Championship. Chances are that you have never heard of it, but more people watched it than watched the Superbowl. What is it? It is a free multiplayer video game competition.


That is, in itself, a futuristic event. But the interesting aspect of the event for me was the battle between the A.I. and the humans. The AI won. How did the AI beat the best player in the world? Part was just speed of commands executed (up to 60 actions a second). But part of the strategy was faking out the humans. The AI would appear (during what was an eternity for the AI, but pretty short for humans) to be getting ready for one type of attack, but then change tactics in the last few milliseconds. 

Thad reports that humans can beat the AI, but they have to do actions that are weird and unusual, so that the AI can't predict what they are doing. (Prediction of past game movements is the central method of Deep Learning, the new successful approaches to neural networks.) I don't remember reading any old SciFi with that motive, but there probably are such stories written. 

David:
I suppose we'd be derelict if we didn't mention Idiocracy. While other books have had segments of the population become sub-human or imbeciles in the future (The Time Machine), few have actually had the entire population devolve. As I look around, I sometimes think Idiocracy will come closer to the truth that many other predictors. Sad.


Doug:
That's a nice segway into next week's topic that will happen in The Future.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Talking about Big Data will give you goosebumps!

Doug:
One of the things I worry about most these days is people mining Big Data and finding ways to manipulate us. Some of the studies of Big Data are interesting, insightful, and funny. For example, The NYTimes reported on a Google analysis of the most misspelled words, state-by-state:

Google conducted a state-by-state analysis of the most commonly misspelled words for the first four months of 2017.
Indiana's most checked-on word was "hallelujah" and Pennsylvania's was "sauerkraut." That, no doubt, says something about our respective locales. Wisconsin's most-searched misspelling was "wisconsin."

But such analysis can also find what we find irresistible. For example, here is a study on social media headlines by BuzzSumo:

The article, wryly titled "This Study on the Most Effective Facebook Headlines Will Make You Cry Tears of Recognition," shows what works and what doesn't, in attracting eyeballs. Of course, just getting you to read something isn't worrisome manipulation. However, combine that with fake news, and we're in trouble.

David:
This just seems to be Advertising 101. Tag lines to get your attention have always been used to entice readers to take a longer peek at specific ads. "Be the first to impress your friends by using our new and improved widget! But wait! Buy it now and we'll include a once-in-a-lifetime guaranteed offer of a second widget at no additional fee! Hurry, as quantities are limited!" How many thousands of times have we heard that message?

Are you saying that there is something new and improved with big data collection?

Doug:
Yes, there are new things with these techniques, but not "improved" from our perspective. If you combine fine-grained details (like misspellings per state, or county) with targeted, effective headlines, you get "advertising" that works. But I'm not worried about this from a sales perspective; I'm worried about this combined with fake news. Now you are sold lies to get you to believe something that isn't true.

David:
Not true. We get these sales pitches all the time, yet we can spot a lemon or snake oil salesman. An effective ad may get your attention, but it doesn't make you purchase something. You still have to make that decision yourself. Fake news headlines are the same. Remember the National Enquirer back in the 1970's and 80's? Headlines about Elvis and alien babies certainly grab your attention, but few believed such nonsense. Fake news is more sophisticated, to be sure, but it is still the reader's responsibility to sort out truth from fiction.

Doug:
We don't get these pitches all the time. This is new. This is targeted. And it is designed to both be believable, and also to pitch you what you want to believe. How will you be able to tell the difference between what is true and false? You won't be able to, and, doubly insidious, you will want to believe it. And they don't want to sell you something; they just want your attention, and for you to believe.

David:
The biggest problems I see at this point is Americans are poorly informed about civics and the real world around them, and also that news organizations have become so biased themselves that fake news seems more believable. When everyone is peddling a biased narrative, some story that fits that narrative becomes more believable. Even CNN has had to fire people because they bought into a fake story that fit their belief system. Remember Dan Rather? That was what got him into trouble: he wanted the story to be true so much that he failed to investigate.

Doug:
You are confused. I'm not talking about CNN or Dan Rather. But I'd be more concerned about people's ethics than their civil knowledge. I am talking about information that is created to sell you a narrative. Here is an excellent, if long, article on the problem; I recommend following the author. (CNN fired people because they made missteps in their reporting, not because they believed fake stories. And the reporters may very well end up correct.) If you can't tell the difference between CNN and any of the fake news outlets, then you have already been duped. If you can tell the difference, then "hallelujah" and pass the sauerkraut!

David:
I don't think CNN is trying to publish fake news stories, but they do leave out important details at times because of their bias. If you watch the news portion of Fox News, not the opinion shows, you might pick up on certain words that you would believe are biased. I see the same thing at MSNBC, CNN, and many other outlets. Polling shows that most Americans do not care at all about the Russia-collusion story, but the daily news is intensely focused on the story as though it were all true. Continuing to run non-stop coverage about an issue with no proof appears to be based editorializing. Some might call that investigative journalism, some might call it fake news pushing an agenda.

Doug:
Unnamed sources does not mean "no proof." The Washington Examiner: borderline! And that article was from May, 2017. You realize a few things have happened since then, right? But even if no one cares, it is still news! Oh, wait... maybe your news only gives you "news" that you care about. That is part of the equation for fake news: your pump is primed, to coin a phrase.

David:
What I'm saying is that you must make decisions about what you believe. Individuals must be informed and take some responsibility for what they believe.

Doug:
But there is no way that any one person can know what is true! How can you tell if any one story is based on fact, or is designed/engineered/tested to appear that way? You can't. We need reliable sources.

David:
But I do agree that it is a problem, and the problem is likely to get worse. This summer we watched the newest Star Wars movie, Rogue One, which had dead actors portray major characters. It isn't too far of a stretch to see how easy it would be to make a video showing someone doing something or saying something that they never did. Soon, we may not be able to believe our own eyes.


Doug:
That is my point: you can't tell (from pictures or text) what is the truth. But with artificial intelligence and advanced geometric graphics, this isn't limited to the big studios; you'll be able to do this too. Consider this research: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ohmajJTcpNk


Combine that with Big Data and targeted research, and we don't stand a chance. Unless we have reliable sources. We can't watch only news that we want to watch. We have to watch the news we need to watch. 

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

In the News - Healthcare Reform and Travel Bans

David:
There is a great deal of news in the media recently, and some of it is actually important. One of the things I thought we might analyze is the pros and cons of the current health-insurance-reform bill.  Currently, it is stuck in a quasi-limbo state in the Republican-controlled Senate.

The main two sticking points, as I see it, are how to curb the uncontrolled expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare, and how to restore freedom of choice in the insurance marketplace.

Doug:
It is funny how "freedom of choice" is one of your "two sticking points" on insurance. You are "pro-choice"! Most people would rather have good, low-cost healthcare rather than a choice of terrible, expensive insurance. Why do we even need insurance on healthcare? Everyone needs healthcare. Insurance for something everyone needs is not necessary. It is like having insurance for food. We can save money by bypassing the health insurance middleman. Everyone needs to be educated, so we have public education in this country. Everyone needs healthcare. The Republicans are paving the way for single-payer healthcare. Perhaps they really want single-payer healthcare, but they just don't want to do it themselves.

David:
That just isn't true at all. The vast majority of people don't require any interaction with a physician for most of their lives.

Doug:
Shorter: most people don't need a doctor, until they do. You especially don't need a doctor once you die. If you want to save money, get poor people to die earlier. Say, you don't think...

David:
Ah. So you're against right-to-die laws that allow you to refuse medical interventions. I'm for freedom to make your own health-care choices.

Once you've been born and get immunizations, most will not need anything that the health care industry provides for decades. Most would like to have insurance for emergencies, and they should, and they want to be able to get it cheap. That is the underlying structural deficit of Obamacare: It mandated that all insurance carriers must provide services that the majority of Americans didn't want or need, and that drove premiums through the roof. As an example, if the government mandated that all auto insurance provided for gas, tires, and oil changes, no one would be able to afford car insurance.

Doug:
I don't know about Indiana, but the state government of Pennsylvania does mandate that my tires, headlights, turn signals, engine, and the rest pass inspection. And that costs money. Not a lot, and it goes directly to the doctor, er, I mean, mechanic. And insurance is mandated as well. So to follow your analogy, you are either suggesting that the car inspection services and car insurance agencies should be the same companies, or you are suggesting that health insurance companies also do mandatory checkups. Somehow many people can still afford to drive cars in PA.

David:
You get to choose whether or not to drive. It's a privilege, not a right. If you choose not to drive, you don't have to pay those fees. And the money for the inspections goes to the government. And car insurance is available over the internet, and there are hundreds, if not thousands of auto insurance companies that provide a host of services.

Doug:
Not everyone needs a car. But everyone needs health, until they don't. Healthcare insurance should be regulated at least as well as car insurance:
"Insurance companies are part of a large industry — one of the largest and most profitable in the United States. It’s important for these companies to be tightly regulated."  - autoinsurance.org
Tightly regulated. That is part of what Obamacare did. You couldn't buy an insurance policy that did nothing, even if you wanted to, just like car insurance. And Obamacare was curtailing costs, until the current Republican administration starting whacking on it.

David:
This plethora of options and competition keeps prices lower. Health insurance should follow that model. Many companies, with a menu of services, that you can buy online would create a true marketplace and keep premiums low. If you want to wait until you're older to purchase insurance, you can do so. At least we can agree that most people want good, low-cost insurance.

Education is provided by the states, not the federal government. If you're arguing to return health care back to the states, then I'm all in.

Another important piece of news this week was a unanimous decision by the Supreme Court to allow the majority of President Trump's travel ban to be enacted, rebuking the lower court's decisions to stop it. While you may disagree with the ban itself, this decision certainly reinforces the separation of powers set forth in the US Constitution. Immigration is not within the prerogative of the judicial branch.

Doug:
Whoa there fella! You missed a step. The Supreme Court has not heard the Muslim ban case yet; it merely scheduled for a hearing in October 2017. That will be after the 90-day imposition defined by the executive order itself, so it will be interesting to see if a Supreme Court ruling has any effect. But it would be more interesting to see if they rule on whether a President can enact orders that are illogical even if he has the right under the constitution.

David:
Whoa there yourself. While the SCOTUS has not heard the final case yet, they did, as a mater of fact and law allow the majority of the ban to be enacted. The other thing you apparently fail to realize is that the courts can decide if something is constitutional, but they don't get to decide if a decision is wise or not.

Doug:
Wise? I didn't say wise. I said "logical." Can a President issue an Executive Order about growing flowers in Finland? I guess he can. But is it logical?

David:
Can you imagine if the President nominates a Supreme Court justice, and the Senate confirms that candidate, and then the court rules that the nominee isn't who they would have chosen? Apparently you can, if you believe they'll overrule a constitutional order because they don't like how it plays out, or disagree with the logic behind it. Since this preliminary decision was unanimous, it indicates that they felt the merits of this case give the President a high likelihood of success in October.

Doug:
There was other import news this week. Some state governments shutdown this past week. That had an impact on people's 4th of July travel plans. Here is a beach that closed to the public. Hey! There are some people there:


Can we zoom in? Ah, Republican Governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie:


Three states did not pass budgets: New Jersey, Maine and Illinois. All three have Republican governors.

David:
Right. Three Republican governors all insisted that their legislatures send them budgets that balance and make sense. Governor Christie can't sign a budget bill, because the Democrat-controlled legislature didn't send him a bill to sign.

Doug:
Poor Chris. Let's make Chris Christie the face of Republican party. There was also news on the healthcare front: the Republicans failed to bring their secret health care bill (also know as the Big Tax Cut for the Rich) to a vote. That means more time to examine what effect this will have on the economy and lives.

David:
Which is the original point that I brought up in this blog. Was that picture of Christie sitting on the beach so jarring that your train of thought derailed?

Doug:
Yes, the Republican hypocrisy always derails my train. I didn't understand that when you said "health-insurance-reform" that you were referring to the "Big Tax Cut for the Rich."

David:
While Democrats, and you, portray the bill as a freebie for the rich and a death sentence for everyone else, there are lots of things within the bill that actually do need some discussion.

Doug:
Ya think?!

David:
Sure. There are things that should have been discussed when Democrats originally forced Obamacare through on Christmas Eve, without entertaining any Republican amendments.

Doug:
I think it is certainly true that congress entertained hundreds of amendments. 564 amendments, to be exact. Many of those (hundreds actually) were technical in nature. But many were substantial, like the lack of a single-payer option. But it took time to offer hundreds of amendments, don't you agree? Time that seems to be unavailable with the Republicans in charge.

David:
No Republican amendments saw the light of day. Not very bipartisan. Once the bill gets through reconciliation, then perhaps Democrats will be willing to sit down and make corrections. Right now, they have refused to participate in anything other than some minor tweaks around the edges. You can't paint a Yugo a different color and then call it a Cadillac.

The discussion should happen with the few Democrats who actually are willing to admit Obamacare didn't pan out and is about to collapse, and with the Republicans who will admit that the discussion on healthcare has changed in the past 8 years.

Doug:
Obamacare is not ready to collapse. But if you say it often enough maybe someone will believe you. Obamacare is not ready to collapse.

David:
There are entire states that now have no coverage from the exchanges. That sounds like a collapse.

In my opinion, Republicans should once again pass the repeal bill they passed in 2015, and then sit down at a big table and start over with compromise in mind. There were things in Obamacare that people liked, and there will certainly be things from this new bill that will make things work much better.

Doug:
You are wishfully describing Obamacare in the past tense.

David:
Turning Medicaid into block grants, and allowing the states to manage the system by their own rules will likely lead to more innovation and better coverage for more people at less cost.

Doug:
Obamacare was a compromise. Single-payer is what we should have done to begin with. Why is Obamacare so hard to replace? Because it is fundamentally conservative.

David:
It was a compromise with Democrats who didn't want a single-payor system. There was no input from Republicans, and no compromise with Republicans.

Doug:
Also, Trump couldn't stop himself from tweeting on what's on his mind, including more talk about a woman bleeding:

Why is he talking about Mika's face?

David:
You just can't help talking about his tweets, can you? Neither can the media. Maybe his strategy is working (whatever his strategy regarding the tweeting is...).

Doug:
In the second tweet above, Trump implies that he controls what the National Enquirer prints. Why would he say that? Perhaps blackmail?

David:
I hate to get dragged into another discussion about Trump's crazy tweets, but in this instance, the second tweet was in response to a comment from Joe Scarborough that Trump refused to intervene regarding a National Enquirer story. Unnamed, anonymous sources at the White House claim it was Scarborough, who had been on good terms with Trump previously, requested his friend Jared Kushner ask Trump to call the publisher of The Enquirer to kill an unflattering story about the two Morning Joe hosts and their relationship. I doubt Trump ever even heard anything about any of it. That was months ago. Rather than Trump threatening blackmail, it sounds like Scarborough was pleading for assistance from an old friend.

Doug:
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: this man does not have the temperament to be president. I think these smaller crimes may be his undoing with his base. But that may just be wishful thinking.

David:
Tweeting isn't a crime, big or small. And from what I've seen, the base loves it. You've said a great many things about Trump during the campaign, and since the election, and so have I. And yet there are things still getting done. If you watch the news, however, you'd think that tweets are all the President does all day. Maybe he'll stop tweeting at some point, but I doubt the media would focus on any of the positive news anyway. They'd just start attacking this administration about something else.

Doug:
Это все на этой неделе!

David:
Almost. I still find it to be an example of Democrat and media hysteria that if you talk to someone who is Russian, that conversation is equated to talking to "THE Russians". It's as if every Russian is a representative of Putin himself. I've worked with several physicians who were Russian. Does that mean I've colluded with THE Russians? Okay, now we're done.

Doug:
No, we are not done. Why would you think that, and why would you think you could declare it? It is a ridiculous assertion that the Republicans were just talking to plain old Russians. I have Russian friends. I have professional colleagues who are Russian. I have students that study in Russia. But there is a quite clear difference between such people and Russian Oligarchs and those acting on behalf of Putin. You really want to claim that Natalia Veselnitskaya is just a regular Russian? Chuck Grassley was already investigating her:



Grassley, an Iowa Republican. She shouldn't even be allowed in the country! In any event, I guess we want to find out exactly who she is and what she was selling. We don't want to sweep her under the rug and assume that she is just a regular Russian citizen. Right? We want to know. We want to know if Trump is a puppet.

David:
Your own comment lists her as an undeclared lobbyist. Not exactly the same as a Putin spokesman. Nice try. Now we're done.

Doug:
You sure want this to be done. You are right though: Natalia didn't describe herself as a "Russian Spy." If you read Grassley's request, you'll see that part of this goes back to the Obama Justice office. This is much more interesting if you actually look at the facts.

David:
See you all next week!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Does Rhetoric Lead to Violence?

David:
There has been much talk in the past week about the inflaming rhetoric that now saturates our media and social media environments. Do you think it's the worst it's ever been? Does rhetoric lead to violence? What should be done about it?

Doug:
Do I think that there is more rhetoric-leading-to-violence than there ever has been in the history of the world? No. Can rhetoric lead to violence? Of course. Rhetoric can lead to peace, toast, war, money, time shares, and sex. Well, you'd have to have some pretty good rhetoric to lead you to toast. What should be done about what?

A Fox Talking Head is just asking questions about VIOLENCE FROM THE LEFT. What can be done about it?

David:
Perhaps I should rephrase the question for your rigid thinking: Is the current state of angry political rhetoric causing violence, or leading some to commit violence? While there certainly has been angry rhetoric throughout the country's political history, very few times has it lead to violence towards legislators, or supporters of those legislators. Can or should anything be done about it?

Doug:
I think that there has always been people that have been inspired by talk to commit violence. But I admit that I have never heard presidential candidates advocating violence like this last campaign. Do I think something can be done? Yes! Get better candidates into such positions. And perhaps keeping people with mental health issues from being able to operate dangerous mechanical devices that can kill people. And get better support for people with mental health issues!

David:
You've touched on two potential issues/solutions. Better candidates seem unlikely in our current system of primaries. I believe we've discussed this before. The only voters who show up for primaries are the base of each party. That means the candidates that often emerge from the primaries are those who are farthest from the center, or those who are furthest towards the right or the left. Bernie Sanders had an excellent chance of securing the Democratic nomination for that reason, but Democratic leadership intervened to get a candidate they thought would run better in the general election. Perhaps we should abandon the old primary voting system, and just have candidates selected by party officials from each state.

Doug:
If the Republican Party had "intervened" in the Republican primaries, you would have had a much better candidate. But if you think that Bernie Sanders would have had a better chance at beating Hillary, then you don't understand the last election. The truth is that the system is designed to try to balance individual wishes with those of the establishment. That is not necessarily a bad thing.

David:
Funny. The Republicans would have benefited from such a system, even though their candidate won, and yet I'm the one who doesn't understand what happened during the last election.

Doug:
Yes, the Republican candidate won. But was he the best that the Republican field had? No. I like to make that distinction. I want a qualified president, regardless of the party affiliation. Will Trump have a long-lasting negative effect on the future of the Republican party? We'll see.

David:
You still seem to be mixing your thoughts on the subject. You feel that Trump was not the best candidate, nor is he qualified, yet you think the system works? Since Trump won, that means that Clinton, the best that Democrats had to offer, couldn't beat a mediocre Republican? What long-lasting effects will 2016 have on both parties?

Doug:
There is a system in place (that the Democrats used in the primaries) in order to attempt better candidates from the establishment. The Republican national committee did not use that. If they had, you would have had a better candidate (literally any of the other candidates). The fact that Trump won means that we need to get more of the population (the US population, not Russian population) to vote.

David:
The second point you bring up is about keeping "mentally disturbed people" (your original words, before you edited them to "people with mental health issues") from "operating dangerous mechanical devices". When you talk about "mentally disturbed" individuals, about whom are you speaking? If you're talking about persons with a diagnosis found in the Diagnostics and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)? That would include not only those with schizophrenia or paranoid disorders, but also those with depression, ADHD, transgenders (gender dysphoria), PTSD, anorexia, and even some people with insomnia. If you are talking about guns, then you are advocating removing  constitutionally-guaranteed rights to certain people because of their medical condition.



Do you mean to restrict the rights of people who are currently suffering from untreated mental illness, or people who are controlled with medications as well? What about those who only have a history of mental illness, like someone who had a temporary bout of depression, or was once treated for suicidal thoughts? What about a veteran with PTSD? Can that veteran no longer have access to a hunting rifle? Should a transgender person not be able to purchase a gun for protection just because they're transgender?

Doug:
You ask many unrelated questions. You forgot people who are afraid of spiders. You forgot drunk people. You forgot people who have a history of abuse. You forgot children, for whom shootings are the third leading cause of death. But I think that you have convinced me that guns (and other dangerous mechanical devices) need more technology to help prevent deaths.

David:
All of my questions are related. You apparently just don't understand how. That's a problem.

All of the things I listed are various mental illnesses. Alcoholism, and other addictions, is a mental illness. The other things you listed are not. Children killed by other people is a tragedy. A fear of spiders is only a mental illness if it causes irrational behavior. But you failed to answer the question I posed to you with your diversionary tactic. Mental illness covers a great scope of medical conditions. Is the entire debate about "mentally disturbed" people just a red herring to try to ban guns? Or do you have any serious thoughts about what mental conditions fall into a category that patients who suffer from them need to have their rights restricted?

Doug:
I didn't say that people with mental health issues lead to violence. But you have to admit that if you want to kill innocent people, then, by definition, you have a mental health issue.

David:
Interesting. This poll indicates that 84% of Americans believe an unborn baby is an innocent "person".

You have selected people with mental illness as a group to target for certain restrictions. I'm trying to tell you that the issue is much more complicated than the current narrative suggests. Mental illness covers a very broad and divergent group of illnesses. Patients can be in a gradient of incapacitation within each diagnosis. My question is how do you determine which patient, or which diagnosis, makes the list? Who gets to make that decision? I fear that legislators will put political expediency ahead of thoughtful discussions (as usual).

Your choice of the phrase "dangerous mechanical devices" is curious, but accurate. Do you mean trucks or automobiles, which have been used in numerous recent terrorist attacks. Should someone with mental illness not be issued a driver's license? Would that even make a difference? What about knives, or axes? There are many questions that would need to be sorted out in the mental illness debate. There are issues that many have not thought through yet.

Doug:
Do you consider a knife to be a "dangerous mechanical device"? If so, there is your problem: your concepts aren't very well defined. I think it would be quite useful to have many devices become inoperable if the mental state of the operator is in question. That way, even if rhetoric does lead to violent actions, the damage can be minimized.

David:
So says the man who believes a fear of spiders is on the same scale as paranoid schizophrenia.

Doug:
I think I see your problem.

David:
I chose knives as an example of a dangerous weapon that isn't mechanical. Shouldn't we consider them in the discussion as well? (although a switchblade is technically mechanical).

Doug:
No.

David:
Yes, it's true. A switchblade is mechanical.

You seem to be making an argument that someone with a diagnosed mental illness shouldn't be allowed to drive? Can they have a job where they use power tools?

Doug:
You seem to be suggesting that the advice "don't operate heavy machinery" when your mind is not operating as usual is not good advice.

David:
There are already laws on the books about driving while impaired. Just ask Tiger Woods. What we're discussing at the moment is banning guns, or other "dangerous mechanical devices", from people with mental illness, just because they have mental illness.

Doug:
Why do you jump to "banning guns"? I said they need better technology that disabled the device.

David:
The "device" gets disabled when someone gets a mental illness? Which mental illness? How does the "device" know? Come on, brother, you're talking about banning guns.

The question is do you restrict someone's rights because of a diagnosis. But does that include someone under treatment? What about someone who is currently being treated, but decides not to take their medications? Should doctors or psychiatrists be the ones making the decisions? Do they have liability if the patient disagrees with their evaluation? What if two doctors disagree?

You claim my concepts aren't very well defined, using the example of a knife, but you have no answers at all to the very serious questions I'm posing. You fling words like "mental disturbed" around without understanding how difficult the underlying questions really are. You really have not put forth any serious answer at all to how we should categorize or even document these people. Should the federal government access your medical records to deny you a gun permit? Who in the federal government should that be? A local official or a desk clerk like at the BMV? Can you imagine, "I'm sorry, sir, but you can't get a gun because you're mentally disturbed" being announced at the sporting goods store?

Doug:
Regardless of what you think, most of the topics we discuss here have difficult, underlying questions. Mostly you tend to think that they have simplistic answers. Most do not have simplistic answers, like ensuring gun safety for everyone. So, yes, I can fling my rhetoric all over the place, on any topic of my choosing. Can you imagine selling a gun to someone with a known, mental issue? Apparently you cannot imagine not giving that person a gun! And at the same time, you ask: what can be done?

David:
Again, after you just correctly noted that the issue is not simple (which is the point I'm trying to make) you once again lump everyone with "a known, mental issue" into one category. My entire point is that mental illness isn't a single disease. It's a broad category. And each individual disease runs on a continuum, from mild to serious. Yes, I can imagine selling a gun to someone with a mental illness, and I can also imagine not selling a gun to someone with a different mental illness. But the issue needs to be carefully thought out before laws start getting passed.

Doug:
For someone who opposes legislation, why do you jump to the idea that we need to pass laws? I certainly didn't mention that.

David:
Sure you did. You're the one who brought up the idea of "keeping people with mental health issues from being able to operate dangerous mechanical devices that can kill people".

Back to rhetoric. Just this week, Hillary Clinton said that the Republicans are the "party of death". Nancy Pelosi said that "hundreds of thousands of people will die" if the Senate passed their version of the health reform bill. Neither of those things is true, but the hyperbole is extreme. Don't you think that kind of language could trigger someone to commit a crime against Republicans? After all, both Clinton and Pelosi have said that Republicans are out to kill innocent people. Is their rhetoric over -the-top? Should they tone it down a bit,  re-enter the real world, and discuss the actual merits or problems with the bill?

Doug:
Lots of people are saying that the GOP healthcare is going to have an adverse effect on tens of millions of people's lives. You want to prevent "that kind of language"?

David:
See. You've already changed their words to be something more palatable, in order to defend their words. Having an "adverse effect" on their insurance is not the same as "killing" people. By changing their words, you have, in effect, admitted that you think their particular language is over-the-top.

Doug:
Some will die. There. Not over the top.

David:
Not from this bill, they won't. And even now you continue to water down their words, from "hundreds of thousands" to "some". I'm glad to know that at least your sub-conscious won't allow you to share their words. There is hope for you yet.

Doug:
Do people really hate your disparaging comments in the form of supposedly insightful questions? Do they think asking such questions is really a viable argument? Do they believe that tying Clinton to a particular belief will make them hate that belief? Do they believe that the Republicans really want to have a discussion on the actual merits of the bill, while attempting to have a vote in the next day or two? Rhetoric, done well, can be insightful. But asking simplistic questions like "does rhetoric lead to violence?" is just a ridiculous hobby for the privileged.

David:
We've been talking about health care reform for 10 years now. The House passed a bill over a month ago, and the Senate bill is similar in many ways, yet now you think we need to start having a new discussion on what it is we're talking about? Democrats have somehow been caught off guard?

Asking questions is what starts dialogues. And dialogues lead to more questions, and ultimately answers. Complicated problems all start with simple questions.  But as you think all Republicans are simple-minded, it doesn't surprise me that you think my questions are simplistic. Seeking answers to serious problems like the causes of violence seems to be worthwhile, not a "ridiculous hobby".

Doug:
Oh, sorry! I should have asked: Don't you think that asking simplistic questions like "does rhetoric lead to violence?" is just a ridiculous hobby for the privileged? I'm just asking. Now we are making progress! And I appear serious. Win win!

David:
Privilege: A liberal, rhetorical phrase used to disparage someone you disagree with, or their arguments, when you can't debate them with logic. Example: "Don't listen to that old, white man's argument because he's privileged. If you do, you'll be ostracized and shunned from our Antifa tribe!"

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

All the President's Tweets

David:
What do you think of President Trump's use of twitter to talk directly to the people?

Doug:
Your title "All the President's Tweets" may be very appropriate, reminding us of "All the President's Men." Evoking Nixon is cruel! But I can imagine Trump saying: "I am not a crook. I am just ignorant." That would go over better than Nixon's unforgettable denial. Maybe Bernstein and Woodward will use your suggestion for their next book/movie.


David:
Actually, you are not too far off in my thinking. At a time when Democrats are hyperventilating over the word Watergate, Trump continues to tweet about hidden recordings or tapes. If his goal is to keep people thinking that he's Nixon, he couldn't do any better. It makes no sense from a PR (or any other) perspective.

But even Bob Woodward says there is no comparison of what's going on to Watergate, and he should know. He says there is no evidence of any crimes committed by Trump, but he does believe some Obama administration officials may be facing some legal charges.

Doug:
Ha! Those Washington Examiner articles are from May and March 2017. Outdated. There are two parts to your question: Trump's use of Twitter, and the idea that this somehow allows him to "talk directly to the people." First on his use of Twitter: Yeah, baby! He should tweet early and often. The more he tweets, the more use that is for all purposes. For example, his tweets on Monday June 5th, 2017 (just a few days ago) completely undermined his case for his travel ban. He did two things: he admitted that it was just a "watered down" version of the first:
Of course, it was his own Executive Order, so who is he complaining about? Who is actually coming up with these Executive Orders? Also, he admitted that it was a "Travel Ban."
"During court arguments, U.S. government lawyers have gone out of their way to not use the term 'travel ban,' instead calling it a 'temporary pause' — the same phrase used by Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly" - The Hill
I'm not a lawyer, but this type of tweeting appears to speak to the President's intentions, and that appears to be useful in deciding if this Executive Order is really a "Muslim Ban" as he promised (but then deleted).

So, yes, I love that he tweets without having those bureaucrats edit his text into something coherent.  That would just muddy the waters so that we wouldn't get a clear picture of what he is covfefe.

David:
I concur. He is his own worst enemy when it comes to his tweeting habits. Why he feels the need to completely undermine his team is beyond me. He has always been egotistical, along with just about everyone who runs for  POTUS, but he needs to tone it down. His tweets feed the frenzy.

In another sense, the press spends days talking about the tweets rather than anything that might focus criticisms towards the agenda, but for the most part, his tweeting is completely disrupting any way to move projects along.

Doug:
But the idea that any president needs a channel to "talk directly to the people" is wacky for two reasons. First, any president has any number of ways of getting messages to the public. And there are at least a couple of media outlets that would gladly give him whatever airtime, column space he would want. But more importantly, this type of "talking directly to the people" is dangerously one-sided. When a president gives a press conference, the president can speak their mind; but the press usually gets to ask questions about whatever was just spoken. That is an important component left out when the president posts his 140-character nuggets.

David:
"A couple of media outlets" is just about right. The vast majority of the media is biased in a liberal way, as we have discussed before.

Doug:
When I said a "couple of outlets", I was referring to organizations like FoxNews and Sinclair Broadcast Group, and I was directly referring to those that would gladly give him uninterrupted time without even having a rebuttal. But note that Sinclair Broadcast Group is poised to purchase Tribune Media Group. That will make this group the largest provider of local news in the country. So, yes, as we have discussed before, the vast majority of media is "fair and balanced" in that particular manner that is neither fair nor balanced.

https://www.mediamatters.org/blog/2017/06/01/how-sinclair-broadcasting-purchasing-tribune-media-could-help-trump-get-re-elected/216737

David:
I'm surprised you think it's dangerous for the POTUS to be able to state what he wants to say without filters.

Doug:
I'd be surprised at that too! Because that is not what I said. I said that it is dangerous for him to be able to state what he wants without questions. But that is subtlety that hardly matters in this day and age.

David:
We're both saying the same thing, I think. The media questions filter what he's saying to add depth to the comments. To flesh out the statements. Twitter is a poor way of expressing any ideas, let alone serious, national policy issues. It's been illustrated in studies that the format of twitter, Facebook, and even e-mail, fails to provide the needed context and depth that serious matters require. It's too easy to misinterpret a one-sentence statement.

Doug:
Your irony kills me!

David:
But It isn't necessarily dangerous, just not the best way to get information out. I don't have a real issue with using social media to bypass the press, as they seem to have their own narrative.

Take this article, for instance. The headline is Sean Spicer can't say if Trump remains confident in Jeff Sessions. But within the article, the quote is:

"I have not had a discussion with him about that," Spicer said when asked Tuesday about Trump's feelings toward Sessions."

Spicer says he didn't talk to the president about Sessions, and that becomes a headline and story that insinuates their is a rift between the president and his AG. There are many examples just like this where it appears there is a narrative already in place, and even a comment that Spicer "doesn't know", which means he doesn't know the answer to the question, becomes evidence that the narrative is true.

In the context we're talking about twitter, it could be considered dangerous for the president to use twitter with it's limitations, but that has nothing to do with reporters challenging the statements. They seem to be doing that well enough.

Doug:
I also see that some have taken him for task for blocking some twitter users. Some say that is unconstitutional.


David:
If a president chooses to use a personal twitter account, how could it be unconstitutional for him to block certain people from use? If he maintained a personal FB feed, he could do the same. For that matter, he can block certain news outlets from being present at news conferences if he chooses. There is no constitutional right for people to be able to use twitter. Anyone who thinks the US Constitution guarantees the right to troll the POTUS is a nut job who doesn't understand what constitutional rights are.

Doug:
Unless, of course, his tweets are official statements from the President of the United States of America, and he only allows some of those Americans to receive his golden nuggets. But please don't call Spicer a "nut job"... his job is hard enough.


And it may be illegal for him to delete tweets, if they are Official Statements from the President (which Spicey says that they are).  This just in: they are official, and can't be deleted.

David:
They are certainly the unvarnished words of the POTUS. But you're mixing two arguments. Limiting who can comment on tweets is not the same thing as deleting tweets. Not everyone can come to a press briefing, right? The president can pick and choose who gets to attend his speeches. You can't just walk into the State of the Union Address. So, the president can certainly pick who can comment on his twitter account in the new world of social media.

But the idea that the president's tweets cannot be deleted is a new wrinkle that needs to be thought out better by the president and his people. Social media is a new way for the POTUS to communicate, but the legalities behind those tweets has yet to be completely ironed out. It's another reason he should think twice before hitting the keypad.

Doug:
Of course, Trump isn't the only politician speaking directly to the people:
Keep on tweeting, people! And all of this is a distraction from items of importance this past week:
  1. Comey's Testimony; Sessions Testimony
  2. Senate GOP works to cripple healthcare -- Shh! It's a secret!
  3. Mueller staffing up Russian probe
  4. UK's conservatives lose majority; oops!
Pass the popcorn!

David:
You're forgetting other important news that is being overshadowed:

1. Iowa's Obamacare market completely collapses, seeks bailout to save it.
2. New Pennsylvania coal mine opens with bipartisan support.
3. US leading indicators point to faster economic growth.
4. U.S. added 235,000 jobs in February; unemployment rate dropped to 4.7 percent.
5.  Bipartisan Fast and Furious report released: Obstruction of Congress by Obama Dept. of Justice


Personally, I'm calling on the same guys who smashed all of Hillary's iPhones to get their hammers out and eliminate Trumps iPhone as well. Or at least institute a "No Tweeting Between the Hours of 11PM  - 6AM" policy.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Is Portland the Most Racist City?

David:
I came across this well-written, and in-depth article in The Atlantic.

Portland is certainly one of the most liberal, progressive cities in one of the most liberal, progressive states in the USA. And yet this article describes the insidious nature of racism even in this bastion of progressivism. Rather than outright bigotry (although that is present as well), the author describes decades of racist activity under the guise of progressivism, and despite the city's progressive backdrop.

Oregon may well be the most racist state in the union, shielding itself behind denial and environmentalism.

Portland: The Whitest City in America.


KKK march in Oregon, 1920's
The article indicates Portland has been able to continue this orchestrated racism just outside of public knowledge or scrutiny, and has allowed many young, white progressives to engage in systemic racism by displacing blacks from their traditional neighborhoods.

Doug:
There is that kind of racism in every state, of course. Was it easy to occur everywhere, and to keep occurring? Or does racism require work? But it isn't outside public knowledge. Are you just discovering racism in America?


Racism in Portlandia?
David:
I don't think there is that kind of racism in every state. Did you read the article? Apparently not. Oregon was and is an outlier. No other state to my knowledge banned blacks from living within the state's borders after the civil war. The article is very specific about the degree of racism and the tactics that were, and still are being used within Oregon, and within Portland. While other cities have plans to revitalize areas of blight, this article states Portland created a system to force blacks to live in a certain area, and ensured that the area would become blighted so it could then be literally bulldozed over to make room for white citizens. Where else has that occured? Where else, specifically, is that occurring today?

Doug:
Oregon does have a terrible, unique past. But I'm talking about racism now. If you read the comments at the blog Shit White People say to Black&Brown Folks in PDX, linked to in the article, you'll find comments that could be said anywhere in the US today. I think the racism in Oregon is surprising to many people because you might not expect it, given the progressive stories about places like Portland. You might expect that kind of racism in South Carolina, but Portland? Sadly yes. If there is one problem we need to work on, it is racism. But how?

David:
While there are certainly some things people say that is racist, many of the things appearing in that particular blog are overly-sensitive people misconstruing what someone else says. One of the comments is about a guy who was sweating in a gym while working out. He put a towel on his head, and someone commented that he looked pretty funny that way. He took that to be racist, because he's from the Middle East. But perhaps he just looked funny wearing the towel, the same as you or I would in the same situation. Hard to say without the context of the situation.

Doug:
What you don't understand is how those comments pile up, each like a little, annoying paper cut. As you have just shown, you can easily dismiss any single comment. But when you have to hear those comments multiple times a day, every day of the year, it is unbearable.

David:
Or, if you are trying to interpret everything every single person says to you as something offensive, you are likely to be frequently offended by innocent comments.

This reminds me of a story I alluded to in a very early BvB blog, but never got around to actually telling. My first roommate in college was Roger Hunter, a black man from England. He was at Indiana University on a track and field scholarship. At that time, Roger was the second-fastest man in the world running the 400m. (As an aside, the fastest man at that  distance, Sunder Nix, was also on our team.) One evening we were eating dinner with two other black athletes and one white one. The waitress we had was pretty bad. The two black students claimed she was serving us poorly because she was racist. Roger pointed out that not all of us were black. "What about Dave and Scott?" They insisted that she was racist, but Roger argued she was just a bad waitress. Afterwards, back at the dorm, Roger noted that black people here in the US are quick to see racism everywhere they look, but it was not that way in England. I thought about that for a long time after that, and still ponder it today. I suppose, because England decided to do away with slavery as a matter of common agreement, that former slaves may have been more accepted into the culture. Fighting a civil war to end slavery left many bitter in America, and they may never have come to grips with reality through the 1960's, and some even today. The point of the story, though, is that everything someone says isn't racist. And even actions taken by a city or corporation may have more of an impact on a certain minority, but that does not mean that the action was racist, or had anything to do with race. I had thought that attitude had passed (the story takes place in 1983), but the recent rise of the Black Lives Matter movement causes me to frequently remember that meal with Roger and our friends.  Reading the blog you linked us to also has numerous examples of the commenter assuming the person was saying something that was racially based, but I can see several instances where that is not necessarily the case. As Roger said, sometimes, you just get a bad waitress.

Doug:
The point of your story is that a single event can't tell the whole story of racism. If everywhere you go you get a "bad waitress" then you might start to wonder about your hypothesis and start to wonder if there isn't something systemic going on.

David:
The point of the story is that a black man from England felt that black people in the US are overly sensitive. Roger also lived his entire life as a black man, and he is the one who was making this argument.

If everywhere one goes they get "bad wait staff", then maybe there is a problem with the person complaining of racism.  Perhaps their expectations are unrealistic. Don't you think that is more likely than every single waiter or waitress is racist?

The easy answer to having people understand each other better is education and getting to know people who are different from us. But that is much harder to accomplish in reality for a host of reasons.

Doug:
Yes. And we need that everywhere, not just Portland.

David:
One of the things that the author of this article claims to be true, but may not be, is that black people live together in a certain part of town because they were forced to do so because of a vast conspiracy of banks and lending agents. But in almost every city in the country, there are areas and neighborhoods where minorities congregate. It's the same in grade school cafeterias, prison recreation areas, and any other locations where people have a free choice of the people they want to associate with ( known as homophily or assortativeness). People prefer to be with people they are most like. While this article makes a fairly compelling case for the situation in Portland, it is also likely that the situation in Portland is brought about, at least to some degree, by the people themselves and the choices they make.

In this example of friendships among high school students, the yellow dots represent white students, the green dots are black students, and the red dots are mixed-race or other minorities:


When given a choice, people don't often associate or become friends with people of other races. Nor do they choose to live in a neighborhood that is mainly occupied by people of other races. This is as true today as it has ever been.

I think this is much more likely to be the true reason things have ended up as they have in Portland, rather than a massive conspiracy that forced all of the minorities to live in slums, and then forced them out of the city. Portland actually has a fairly extensive system of diversity programs ongoing in all levels of city government. They even host numerous national diversity programs in the city.

Doug:
There are people that study such ideas. They're called sociologists and anthropologists, and they would not agree that "people don't often associate or become friends with people of other races." But there are some interesting computer simulations/models that come out of that research. Thomas Schelling showed mathematically that just a slight preference to be with just a few similar people could, over time, end up with segregated neighborhoods. In the computer simulation, there are green and red "turtles" (pixels). The turtles are slightly more happy when they are nearer to a same-colored turtle. Run the simulation (click "setup" and then "go") to watch the turtles move around randomly based on their "happiness" levels. You'll see over time that they end up segregated. So, you can explain segregated neighborhoods by jumping to the conclusion that "people don't often associate or become friends with people of other races" or see it as an emergent pattern that occurs based on small preferences. 


Of course, there is also institutional racism from our government and other organizations. Consider the activity called "redlining". I also just watched an excellent Frontline special last night on affordable housing. It is sad how the best intentions from some can be transformed into terrible situations by others.

David:
But that's just it. Even small preferences lead to self-segregation. The studies that have been done on assortativeness show that in all situations where people have a choice of where they live or with whom they hang out, they all lead to self-segregation. While someone may not care very much or have much of a preference, your own argument is that even a tiny hint of preference leads to this outcome. The only way to change that would be to force people to move or live in different areas, which results in loss of freedom. 

Doug:
But segregated environments are not what most people want---usually people just don't want to be too isolated and that preference builds up over time. If you want to make this about freedom, sure! I should be able to have the freedom to live in an area with good schools, good drinking water, and good public services. 

David:
Most people don't want to be isolated, and polling shows that many support diversity itself, but studies also show a preference to live in neighborhoods with people that are like them. Studies like the ones we have both presented show that people prefer (if even slightly) to be friends and hang out with people they are most like.

You and I are both making the same argument: there is plenty of evidence that the situation in Portland and other cities is caused by the people themselves. You say that there is institutional racism going on, but your Wikipedia article on redlining lists practices from the 1960's through the 80's. That's from 40-60 years ago. The rest of the article describes practices that may have nothing to do with race, but may just be good business practice (put your business where you can sell the most of what you're selling. That's called Business 101). There are more recent cases mentioned of institutional racism, mainly among banks and lenders, and they all occurred in liberal bastions: Chicago, New York, and the liberal Northeast. Hmm, maybe the author of my article from The Atlantic is on to something.

Doug:
Redlining was a past activity, but is an example of how racism can be codified. The Frontline special is about today's practices. The racism continues, and it isn't confined to your imagined "liberal bastions." 

David:
It's your article. Argue with it as much as you want, and if you think their argument is imagined, or that Chicago and NYC are not blue, well...

Doug:
It isn't an article, it is a video. It isn't about Chicago and NYC, but it does explore Dallas and Florida. 

David:
I'm still talking about your linked Wikipedia article.

The government is full of people who had good intentions, but government programs are always subjected to the gauntlet of lobbyist and others with competing goals. The farther the government is from the people, the worse the results. Local government is more responsive to the needs , and their programs subject to closer scrutiny, by the people who are affected by laws and rules set up by government. The feds should butt-out when it comes to social programs, and just provide block-grants to the states. That would help to prevent those wonderful programs from becoming so terrible. (By the way, if there are government programs that are "terrible", perhaps we should eliminate them.)

Doug:
By the way, I didn't say that the government programs are terrible, I said that some people are terrible. But we shouldn't "eliminate them"... perhaps just give them a punishment. I think that you would agree that just because medicine is administered poorly that doesn't mean we should "eliminate" medicine. It just means that we need to give it in the right doses, and make sure that there are follow-up visits. 

David:
You said people in government create terrible situations from good ideas. 

Doug:
If you watch the video, you'll understand that I am not talking about "people in government." In this case it is people that are taking advantage of the government. 

David:
Hmmm. You are saying that there are actually people who are taking advantage of government programs? People who are getting benefits that should not be? How can that be in a Big-Government utopia?

If a doctor or hospital performs "poorly" they get sued or fired, or both. Yet Lois Lerner got a fat pension by pleading the 5th, and no one at Justice ever turned over anything related to the government's Fast And Furious gun-running operation. Maybe we should pay a follow-up visit to those scandals?

Doug:
Let's try to focus on the current conversation, otherwise it looks like you are saying "what about them?" So, I think we agreed that we don't want to "eliminate" medicine. We agree that you can't just give out the medicine, but that a proper program requires follow-ups. And if the doctor (or anyone in the process) is acting against the health of the patient, we'll deal with them rather than "eliminate" the medicine.

David:
But we're not talking about eliminating the government, just government programs. If a medication doesn't work, or something better comes along, we do, in fact, eliminate the use of that medicine or practice. Medicine is always working to be better and more efficient. Government should work the same way: eliminate programs that don't work or are inefficient. Maybe we should be able to sue individual government employees and regulators when they screw up. But we digress.

Doug:
I'm not sure what problem has suing more people as a solution. 

David:
Good, you're finally on-board with medical tort reform.

Doug:
No, you can sue some people, but let's not advocate suing even more. 

David:
Sounds like you just said it's OK to sue doctors who are trying to help you, but you should not be allowed to sue incompetent government workers who screw up your life. Whatever.

Doug:
But let's just agree that if you don't have follow-ups, it is hard to tell whether the medicine is working. Government is the same way: if you don't follow-up to make sure your policy is working, then the government needs to do its diligence. We need to operate on facts, and we need to make sure the system is working. And if it isn't working, then, yes, we need to fix it. That doesn't necessarily mean to "eliminate" it. 

There are, no doubt, racists in the Democratic party, just like they are in all parties. But affordable housing and environmentalism (both progressive ideals) do not create these situations. Rather, corruption and money cause these problems. To your original point: Portland has racial problems like any other city, town, or village in the US.

David:
Affordable housing and environmentalism are also conservative ideals. 

Doug:
I wish that were true. 

David:
And that is why you don't understand conservatism.

Doug:
That must indeed be true. How could killing the EPA be supporting the environment? How could cutting affordable housing be supporting affordable housing? I do not understand. 

David:
Right. Cutting back the EPA to it's intended job is "killing" it. Making sure able-bodied, working aged folks are not living in subsidized housing or taking food stamp money from people that can really use it is just making sure government is responsible.

Freedom is a conservative ideal, too. Allowing people to live where they want to and associate with whom they want to are hallmarks of America.

Doug:
And that is what the Frontline special is all about: people just wanting to live where they choose. Unfortunately, one can use money (or the lack of it) to control where you live.

David:
But as we've shown, the majority of people choose to live in segregated communities. It's called human nature, not racism.

I noted last week that Harvard had a separate graduation for black students. While we all recognize the hardship these students had to endure attending the most elite and progressive of colleges in America, it seems very self-defeating to enhance the differences we might have based solely upon skin-color, rather than working harder to break down those barriers. The more racial divisions that get institutionalized, and the louder Black Lives Matter protestors scream, the harder it is to become a society that judges people not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

Doug:
I am a BLM protester. Who do you think I am? Who do you think that you are? Do you really think that you understand the life of a 22-year old black woman graduating from Harvard in 2017? You think you understand how to celebrate diversity better than they do? Do you think you understand why they had a separate graduation? Do you understand what it is like to have a "bad waitress" far more often than your white friends? Do you really think you understand Portland better than the city that you live in? Do you hear what the BLM protestors are "screaming"? Do you believe that you can lecture them about how to create a society that does not judge people by their skin color?

David:
You must be a BLM protester in abstentia. Their Memorial Day celebrations did not allow any white people to attend.

Doug:
Well, we don't live in NY, and we didn't get invited to that party on Memorial Day by those groups. And of course, there have many protests in the last year. We have a BLM sign in our front yard. Wait, what is your point? Oh, you are deflecting.

David:
Insisting that you judge by skin color seems a contradictory means of getting people to not judge by skin color. Celebrating diversity by eliminating diversity? More segregation to end segregation? These sound like arguments right out of the book 1984.

Doug:
You really do not understand. Or you don't want to.

David:
I'm calling it for what it is. It isn't subtle to promote segregation based on skin color. Back in the 1960's, that was called racism. Now, you're saying it's fine for blacks to be racist, but wrong for anyone else.

Doug:
No.

David:
Yes.

But you've said it all in a nutshell. While I'm quoting Dr. Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech, you advise that I should not even be able to comment on the subject because I'm not black.

Doug:
I didn't say that you should not be able to comment on it. I want you to. But I would also like for you to ask questions, and listen to what the BLM protesters want. I want you to understand MLK, and how he effected change. He was feared by a great many white people. He broke laws. He did not protest the way that white people wanted him to.

David:
But I encourage you to continue thinking your way. This article from an English magazine notes that BLM actions lead to the election of Donald Trump, while completely overlooking the serious, provable problems that are found within the black community across the country, and brought about by that community itself.

Doug:
The Spectator is not just "an English magazine"... it is a conservative magazine. It is true that some people are afraid of BLM protesters (just like some people were afraid of MLK) and it is true that Trump used that fear. It is also true that some people did not want a woman president, and Trump used that fear as well. But the solution is not to break up BLM or to only run male candidates. We need to fight systemic racism and sexism.

David:
Here's a data-heavy article that discusses quite a few different statistics, beginning with the most notable: Blacks commit more than 50% of all violent crime in the country, despite being only 13% of the population.

Doug:
Yikes! That is not an article! It is a blog! Just like this one! You should be more discerning with your "heavy data." Your first statistic is way off. You aren't measuring "all violent crime committed"... you, or course, are measuring incarcerations. Could systemic racism affect the incarceration stats? Yes. Second, the basic statement is just false. The fact that you get wrong this basic idea leaves most of the rest of the "heavy data" highly suspect.

David:
Perhaps you missed that the data is from government reports.

Most of their victims are black. Focusing on the problems that create this statistic is important. Single-parent households leads to poverty which correlates to poor or limited education which leads to continued poverty which leads to crime which leads to violent crime.

"Unmarried black mothers with children under 18 are the most impoverished demographic in American society, and they are the most common type of family structure in black communities." ~ US Census Data

Since most violent crime is committed by black males between the ages of 16-30, and that age / gender demographic equals only about 3% of the American population, that makes young black males as a group, very dangerous. What is BLM saying about this? Nothing. They accuse the police of focusing too much on this group, even though statistically if you detained all black males in that age group, you'd eliminate half of all violent crime in the country. That is a truth that should be particularly troubling to the black community.



You act as though I live in some type of rich, white, Republican bubble.

Doug:
No, you act as though you live is some type of rich, white, Republican bubble.

David:
... says the liberal,elite, college professor surrounded by his liberal,elite, college professor peer group.

I spend time regularly with 22 year old black women in my ER, taking care of both them and their children. I did my residency in Detroit (a city of blacks and by blacks), where I  had young black men screaming at me, "You better get me some mo-phine right now, you honky M*****F*****r", while I was holding 4x4 bandages over their gunshot wounds trying to save their lives. After a while, I thought maybe my name badge actually said "Dr. Honky M*****F****r". It's what the young people called all of us who were white. The older black patients were all very nice, polite, and appreciated anyone who was trying to help them.  While people from that older generation were fighting to end segregation, this new generation appears to be fighting for segregation.

Doug:
See, this is useful: we see where your stereotypes come from. Why are all of the black women you spend time with 22 years old? I don't want to know. I like how all of the young black men said the same thing, and how you held a collective 4x4 bandage over all of their wounds. This doesn't sound like broad generalizations at all. Nope, not at all. And you sure you want to claim that Portland is worse?

David:
I chose 22 years old to compare with your 22 year old black woman graduating from Harvard. You talk about stereotypes, yet you don't ever deal with actual poor or homeless people; Certainly not on a regular basis.

The world of the Harvard graduate is a very far cry from from the real world that most blue-collar Americans live in, no matter what color you are. But I certainly encourage the Democratic party to thoroughly embrace identity politics and the idea that everyone is a victim. It's working well for you. Identity politics transforms other Americans that disagree with you from being a political opponent into an oppressor. The more the Left denigrates and insults average, hard-working Americans, the less likely they will ever win them over.

You should live for just a short while in Detroit, or at least visit Detroit Receiving's ER. I cannot remember any young black men that I saw in the ER during my trauma rotation that were not victims of penetrating trauma.  The 4x4s are just to stop the bleeding until they get  to surgery. DRH keeps three trauma teams in service 24/7. We had a shootout inside the hospital while I was there. Another resident and a nurse were killed in the staff parking garage while I was training there. You have not been there, nor have you ever experienced anything like that, yet you are certain that what I'm telling you isn't true. You know nothing about what you speak. Nothing.

Doug:
You aren't implying that BLM protesters or Harvard graduates aren't average, hard-working Americans are you? In any event, some things are working well: Harvard Law Review just elected its first black woman president in 130 years. Perhaps this will just help Trump get re-elected. So be it.

David:
Back to Oregon. Two Portland women were forced to shut down their burrito stand when they were accused of culturally appropriating their recipes. The diversity police are paradoxically alive and well in the City of Roses, The Most Racist City in America.