Politics

A Thought About the Redskins Name

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I’ll start by stating I hate the Redskins. I hope they lose every game they play. With the possible exception of their games against the Giants. If the Giants have a better record, that’s the one time I’ll root for Redskins since they can at least do some good in that instance by marring another hated team’s record. Such is life as a Cowboys fan.

Look, I need something to look forward to. With the current state of the Cowboys, looking through the scores and seeing a Redskins loss can at least make me feel a bit better as a football fan.

That said, I’ve been really put off by the renewed attempts this year by folks, such as Mike Florio, to get the Redskins to change their name. In general, I view it as bullying. The Florio’s of the world believe they have the better of the argument mostly because everyone they deem as important agrees with the basic premise: the name is a racial slur against Native Americans.

This morning, I came across the first article I’ve read that attempts to defend the name. The point made by the author is that there is no offense intended in the use of the name. Quite the opposite in fact- the team name has been a source of pride for a storied sports franchise. From what I’ve seen, this is generally acknowledged by the Bob Costas’ of the world, but they don’t find it convincing.

The argument always circles back to the most recent usage of the “redskin” outside of the NFL world- as a pejorative against Native Americans.

I’ve stayed out of the argument because I haven’t had anything useful to say or offer that I thought was unique. After reading the Reason article, I finally had an inspiration.

According to Wikipedia, the term “redskin” did not begin life as a pejorative. I won’t rehash the etymology here, other than to note that it eventually became perceived as a slur. It then occurred to me: if the word could change from a non-slur to a slur, why can’t it change back?

While the pro-name-changers have a fair point arguing the dubious past of “redskins” as a slur, they fail to account for what the word could become. I’d refer back to the Reason article’s exposition on how the word “yid” was appropriated by a soccer team’s fans. “Yid” is a slur for Jewish people, yet these fans embraced the term as an unofficial term for their team. Doing so robs the term of it’s sting and power, I think.

Anyone who has faced down bullies will also note that the quickest way to defuse a verbal assault is to not allow it to affect you. When the mob starts calling names meant to offend and hurt, the best defense is to turn it around and make a joke of it. Not allowing the words to offend robs them of their power.

I’m not sure what power the term “redskin” as a slur has left in it at this point since it’s not in common usage anymore. So why not use the moment to change the usage of the term? If the English language isn’t dead, then surely this is possible- though the method isn’t exactly obvious to me. Perhaps a sustained campaign by the Redskins organization to honor Native American culture.

Still, the point is that the word “redskin” only has power if it’s allowed to. To ban it would go a long way to augment it’s power. By forcing the name change, it would join the ranks of other “forbidden” words. This is currently a conscious choice the Costas-Florio’s of the world are trying to force upon the rest of the world- to cement the word Redskin as a slur for the future.

It needn’t be so.

Perhaps, in the end, the way to change its perception is simply for every time someone is told “You shouldn’t use that word because it’s a slur” the response should be “I don’t use it as a slur, and you think of it that way because you choose to.” If intent is what got it started down the road towards becoming a slur, then surely intent can be used to change course.

For All the Know-it-Alls Out There

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Considering I’ve embraced my inner radical, and now that the government showdown is all but over, I have some questions for all the political know-it-alls out there. Particularly the ones that claim they want smaller government.

First, what has any of the current crop of “good” Republicans done to reduce the size of government? I suppose the smart-allecky ones will say “the sequester.” I’d answer we still have multi-hundred-billion dollar deficits. That’s not shrinking government.

Second, what proposals have you put forward that actually shrinks government? What ideas have you mentioned? Whom have you backed that’s willing to go after entitlements? (Alright, that’s 3 questions…)

Third, what level of debt will finally get your attention? If $17,000,000,000,000.00 and counting doesn’t, what will? $20,000,000,000,000? $25,000,000,000,000? $35,000,000,000,000? $50,000,000,000,000? Seriously, what is that magic number? What’s the point where you’ll finally say “Holy crap, we can’t possibly ever pay that amount of money back!”? While you’re at it, do you really think we should set our debt ceiling at a level where “Holy crap, we can’t possibly ever pay that off”?

What’s insane? People who don’t believe that we should have $17 trillion in debt and decide to take a stand and say “No more.” Or the people who think $17 trillion in debt is no big deal and it’s just business as usual? Please explain to me your definition of insane.

Do you think the music will play forever and that none of the seats will be removed? Or do you just want to make sure you get yours before the music stops and that it’s some other generation left standing when it does?

Quick Thoughts on Obamacare Rollout

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I had promised myself I wouldn’t post anything about Obamacare simply because evaluating healthcare policy is outside my wheelhouse. That said, the software portion of it is something I find myself interested in. Particularly the aspects related to the design.

With that, obviously the rollout has been less impressive than expected. This article says the President blames high traffic:

President Barack Obama is encouraging consumers not to give up enrolling for insurance under the new health care law.

He says sign-up problems have been caused by a website overwhelmed by high traffic. The president says officials are working “around the clock” to reduce waiting times.

Also, Ezra Klein is saying similar things and is not pleased. He does offer a silver lining regarding the overwhelmed servers:

The good news for Obamacare is that lots of people want to sign up. Lots and lots of people. Many more, in fact, than anyone expected. The bad news is that the Obama administration’s online insurance marketplace — which serves 34 states — can’t handle the success.

“The amount of demand is really driving the issues,” a senior administration official told me. “But we’re adding capacity every hour.”

Megan McArdle is a little more circumspect on the high demand theory.

I don’t know anything about the software or design of the system. Never the less, I have several questions related to the high demand problem. First, what kind of load was the system designed to handle? Do we know anything about the designers and their experience with such systems? I’ve seen the claim that the government is adding “capacity by the hour.” The government is in shutdown, so who is doing that? I assume they are considered “essential personnel”? How are they adding capacity by the hour? Are they throwing more servers at it? Better connectivity? In McArdle’s articles, she hints that the servers are getting millions of visitors. For a sense of scale, Google gets roughly 5 million search requests per day. It was claimed there are 47 million uninsured in the US, what percentage of those were estimated to enroll? What kind of equipment is being used and what’s the server platform?

Instapundit has a link worth reading. It also gives rise to other questions. Like, how capable is this system of withstanding various known cyber attacks like denial of service attacks? How tested is the system against garbage input? My understanding is a fair amount of personal information is requested during the signup. How secure is all that information?

My Only Post About the Shutdown

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I tweeted this yesterday and the more I thought about it, I figured I’d extend things a bit. Ross Douthat penned a very nice article explaining what I think has to be considered the source of right wing anger. In it, he summarizes the “ascendant” conservative movement which began with President Reagan and supposedly continued until President George W. Bush supposedly ruined everything.

What Douthat basically states is that there was never a conservative takeover of politics in this country. Perhaps in the sense that more conservative politicians were elected, but not in the sense of governing and policy. He points out that even during Reagan’s hay day, the federal government never, not once, got smaller in absolute terms. No departments were closed, nothing lost funding. In fact, it was well nigh impossible to actually reduce funding to anything because even a reduction in the growth of a program was painted as a “Draconian cut” that would put Grandma in the poor house while some opulent businessman smoked 100 dollar bills in a hot tub while sucking down martini’s.

In fact, the only “success” that conservatives ever achieved was on taxes and welfare reform.

As a result, the very term “conservative” is now awash in confusion. Is a conservative someone that wants to preserve the status quo? Someone that wants to reduce the size and reach of government? Someone that wants to keep progressives from running amok? Someone to vote for other than another Democrat? Someone who wants to blowup the US government? Someone that wants to return to the days of Jim Crow?

I’ve seen all of these definitions applied to the “conservatives” since I started reading blogs and generally became more politically aware. It always depends on whose doing the arguing and what they are arguing about. In general, the more left we go on the political axis, the cruder and meaner the implied definition of “conservative” becomes.

So at this point, I’ve come to the only reasonable conclusion about my own politics: I am a radical. I want to reduce the absolute size of government. I’d like to see whole departments shuttered or dramatically scaled back.

The reasons for this are difficult to put into a blog post that won’t become a book. I’ll start with this: it is not because I am a racist homophobe that wants elderly people to suffer. It is not because I am a mean-spirited jackass that doesn’t want people to get health care or help when they don’t have a job. It is not because I want to see taxes eliminated, the federal government abolished or any of the other caricatures of “conservatives” that are routinely deployed.

It is because, speaking in broad strokes, I believe that less government is better for the country. I think less control and rules leads to more flexibility and robustness in the population which translates into a healthier overall country. I think less government means the people of the country will be better able to weather downturns of all sorts because they will by definition be more resourceful. Will people all make the same choices that policy makers would prefer? No, and that’s a feature not a bug in my opinion.

Based on my observations of politics over the past decade-and-a-half, I’ve concluded that we are on a path to the politicization of everything. And I do mean everything. We are slowly watching the attempted conversion of our economy from a free-market model to a “command-and-control” model. Lawmakers routinely pass tax breaks, refunds, incentives and laws benefiting preferred interest groups or campaign supporters. We are constantly talking about “what the government should do” to improve the economy: infrastructure programs? helicopter dumps of cash? implementing large healthcare policies? student loans? business loans? business grants? state funds? more taxes? less taxes? I think many of the current fights regarding healthcare are a foreshadowing of healthcare arguments to come when talking about what should and should not be covered and who should and should not qualify and who should and should not pay.

We are at the point where the assumption anymore is that the government needs to do something, somewhere, all the time. The thought that a given problem should be allowed to resolve itself or that people should be allowed to resolve the problem or situation is never broached anymore. More succinctly, government involvement is never questioned anymore, only assumed. It is my opinion that this is a completely unhealthy attitude. It stunts initiative, free-thinking and problem-solving because who wants to do something when it’s a certainty that the government will step in?

All of these thoughts are incomplete, but I wanted to try and keep this post a manageable length. So I’ll wrap things up by circling back to the shutdown. I understand all the arguments against it and the wisdom of the approach and in my more politically congenial moods I agree with them. I’ll even grant that I don’t really know what the endgame is. But I can’t help but feel that having the government shutdown and having people experience that life continues without it is worth something. So from that perspective, I’d like to consider it a good thing.

Straight-talk or Jerk?

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John Gruber of Daring Fireball fame points out this article on speaking in tongues and opines:

Hard to believe The New York Times ran this piece of claptrap on their op-ed page. “We” don’t speak in tongues; religious nutjobs do, and they do it because they believe in superstitious nonsense. I’ll bet my bottom dollar that there is a high correlation between tongue-speakers and climate change deniers and creationist “science” school curriculum pushers — people who are doing real and genuine harm to our society and the planet.

Sometime after this, he added the following update:

UPDATE: As a perusal of my (and @daringfireball’s) Twitter replies will show, this post was, I suppose unsurprisingly, controversial. One word I’ve seen from those whom I presume to be Pentecostals or other evangelical Christians is “hate” — examples here, here, here, here, here, here. A lack of respect is not hatred; I do not respect superstitious nonsense. But this framing — equating lack of respect with hatred — is what keeps many from criticizing nonsensical religious views.

I haven’t bothered to copy over the links in the original update. See Gruber’s original post if interested. I’d recommend reading the original NYT article at the link above, if for no other reason than to contrast it with Gruber’s disrespect.

Gruber, I think, hangs himself pretty well in the update:

… A lack of respect is not hatred; …

No, I suppose it isn’t. But it’s not much of an improvement either, especially for someone who likes to consider himself so enlightened. Politically, speaking, Gruber is a liberal and one of the most oft repeated charges liberals bring against conservatives is the latter’s lack of respect for other cultures and many things liberals hold dear. Similarly, conservatives charge liberals with lacking respect for certain traditions and institutions that conservatives tend to hold dear. Last I checked this “lack of respect” wasn’t exactly resulting in a great deal of comity between liberals and conservatives. So the fact that Gruber is trying to draw a distinction between “hate” and “lack of respect” in his defense is pretty thin. Fine, his commenters in this case accuse him of “hate” and he’s playing a silly game of “Gotcha” pointing out he doesn’t “hate.” Roger that. He just totally doesn’t respect them. I’m sure they are assuaged.

I also note this line:

… “We” don’t speak in tongues; religious nutjobs do, …

Here, Gruber has setup the oft used “other” construct. But it’s more than that. By labeling one group as “religious nutjobs,” he’s implying that the other group, which Gruber is clearly a member of, is the normal, enlightened group. While I think that’s perfectly consistent with “lack of respect,” it’s hardly consistent with being tolerant, a typical source of pride for the enlightened.

Having read the original article, I’d personally go with labelling tongue speakers as “different” and leave it at that. No, I’m not about to start speaking in tongues, but that doesn’t automatically make me better than those that do. If I had a friend who spoke in tongues, it would certainly be a sort of curiosity to me. I might even think it weird; but, I wouldn’t lose respect for someone who believes in something like speaking in tongues. I find it hard to believe Gruber could make the same statement. Then again, perhaps some of Gruber’s best friends are tongue speakers…

Finally, as a form of justification, Gruber says:

I’ll bet my bottom dollar that there is a high correlation between tongue-speakers and … — people who are doing real and genuine harm to our society and the planet.

I suppose I should note that the “people doing harm” that Gruber specifically names are climate-change deniers and creationists. More of the “other” construct, along with some helpful labels! Gruber offers no support for his “enlightened” hunch- I’d take his bet.

As to the charge of “doing real and genuine harm to our society”, again I find that pretty thin. Gruber is a speaker all over the world. I’d refer him to this article about the actual real damage he’s doing flying all over the world, as opposed to the supposed damage his “other” is doing. No doubt, he’ll say how he doesn’t fly “that” much as his defense. That or I’m sure he gets the “Enlightened Group Discount” on damage.

So, enlightened people damage the planet as well. As for society? Gruber voted for President Obama, I’d bet my bottom dollar. I’ve got two words: “surveillance state”. Here’s two more: ’nuff said.

Consider this a shining example of “let he who is without sin cast the first stone”- shoot, spoke in tongues there.

From a broad perspective, Gruber thinks himself as a “non-bullshitter.” A straight talker that tells it like he sees it based on available evidence. When it comes to computers and technology, he’s often quite good at the schtick. But in this case, he’s confused his strong opinion about how he thinks the world works for “truth,” a common mistake for the “enlightened.” Ultimately, in this instance, he’s not a straight-talker, just another disrespectful jerk.

Reading Comprehension Fail

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First, some quick throat clearing. This post is a bit outside my wheelhouse- I don’t typically try to call people out. That said, after reading this article and a bit of my own internal debate, I decided I could keep this pretty narrowly focused and still make my point, all without getting personal and calling people names.

So here goes.

At Outside the Beltway, a political blog one of the author’s has written an brief article related to race. Doug Mataconis analyzes an essay by Victor Davis Hanson and all but concludes Hanson is a racist. First, here’s the excerpt from Hanson’s article (the accused) that Mr. Mataconis highlights:

First, let me say that my father was a lifelong Democrat. He had helped to establish a local junior college aimed at providing vocational education for at-risk minorities, and as a hands-on administrator he found himself on some occasions in a physical altercation with a disaffected student. In middle age, he and my mother once were parking their car on a visit to San Francisco when they were suddenly surrounded by several African-American teens. When confronted with their demands, he offered to give the thieves all his cash if they would leave him and my mother alone. Thankfully they took his cash and left.

I think that experience — and others — is why he once advised me, “When you go to San Francisco, be careful if a group of black youths approaches you.” Note what he did not say to me. He did not employ language like “typical black person.” He did not advise extra caution about black women, the elderly, or the very young — or about young Asian Punjabi, or Native American males. In other words, the advice was not about race per se, but instead about the tendency of males of one particular age and race to commit an inordinate amount of violent crime.

It was after some first-hand episodes with young African-American males that I offered a similar lecture to my own son. The advice was born out of experience rather than subjective stereotyping. When I was a graduate student living in East Palo Alto, two adult black males once tried to break through the door of my apartment — while I was in it. On a second occasion, four black males attempted to steal my bicycle — while I was on it. I could cite three more examples that more or less conform to the same apprehensions once expressed by a younger Jesse Jackson. Regrettably, I expect that my son already has his own warnings prepared to pass on to his own future children.

Here’s the relevant part of Mr. Mataconis’ analysis:

So, because Hanson’s parents had one bad experience with young black males in San Francisco and he had another in East Palo Alto some years later, he’s decided that it makes sense to teach his children to inherently distrust every young black male that they encounter. But, of course, he’s not being racist.

Here’s the problem, Mr. Hanson didn’t decided to teach his children to “inherently distrust every young black male that they encounter.” At least, not based on what he’s written in the article. Also, Mr. Hanson didn’t have one bad experience in Palo Alto, he claims to have had 5. He cites two explicitly and then goes on to state that he could cite 3 more. Those are in the third paragraph of the excerpt from Mr. Hanson’s article.

As to the other accusation, Mr. Hanson implies something much more narrow than what Mr. Mataconis accuses him of. Mr. Hanson implies, he does not provide a quote of the actual lecture to his sons, that he advised his sons to “be careful if a group of black youths approaches you.” That’s quite clearly not “every young black male they encounter.” I’ve highlighted the source quotes above.

Mr. Mataconis goes on to make some reasonable and well-worn points about race and so forth. While I generally agree with those points, his stepping off point and analysis is, I think to any rational evaluation, hyperbolic at best. If he wants to argue that Mr. Hanson shouldn’t be giving his sons advice based on Mr. Hanson’s own personal experiences in this instance, then he needs to go a lot further than he went here. If he wants to argue that Mr. Hanson is a racist, again, he needs to go a lot further than he went here. Dictionary.com defines racism as follows:

a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior and has the right to rule others.

Mr. Hanson pretty clearly has not gone to that length here. Frankly, I don’t see how one gets there from here without a lot of sketchy supposition.

Not Knowing

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At her new digs over at Bloomberg, Megan McArdle has penned an article about George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin. She concludes with the following:

Here’s my opinion of what happened on that dark night in Sanford, Florida: I don’t know. I don’t know what Zimmerman and Martin were thinking. I don’t know who said what to whom. I don’t know who threw the first punch, or why Zimmerman got out of his car, or why Martin didn’t go home.

What I know is that we find it very easy to imagine the worst of people who are not like us. And we frequently confuse our imaginations with reality.

I think this is what every political pundit that’s touched the case should have concluded as well. Ask yourself this- what good has come from all the discussion? Have we agreed on anything? Is there any law everyone agrees will benefit society? How has the “discussion” benefited the country? Does anyone even agree on what happened that night? Is everyone in comfortable that justice has been served?

I’d say that, if anything, the “discussion” has made things a little worse. Trayvon Martin is dead and his memory is being established by innuendo and armchair detective and psychology work. George Zimmerman, his family and his friends fear for their lives now that he’s been acquitted. LDP’s (Liberals/ Democrats/ Progressives) are uniformly disgusted with “Stand Your Ground” Laws. CRT (Conservative/ Republican/ Tea Partiers) are stinging from another round of being called racists and violence enabling thugs.

Worst of all, everyone is 100% convinced of their righteousness and the motivations of “the other side.” It’s been a pretty pathetic display all the way around.

Contrast that with what likely would have transpired if everyone had had the humility to conclude “You know what, I just don’t know what happened and I don’t think I’ll ever know.” I think it’s a pretty simple case we’d all be better off now.

No Way to Govern

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Reading this piece by Brian Beutler, I have a couple of thoughts.

One, modern day politics is a game of one-upsmanship. Both political parties believe absolutely that their preferred policies are synonymous with what’s best for the country. The result is a never-ending series of contests whereby each side is worried more about how they are perceived. What we end up with is one penny-ante, well, billion-ante, tactic after another. They disseminate their talking points through their minions and try to position themselves as the one that “care.”

Two, what they care about is power. Both the pols doing their tactical dances and their pundit minions that hang on their every move. Both sides agreed to the sequester, now neither side wants to own it. All they care about is how it’s execution affects the balance of power.

In the meantime, the rest of us are forever being jerked around by all their caring.

Scouts Should Include Gays

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My brother asked me what I thought about the recent rumblings from the BSA. Even with my involvement in Scouting for now, I really hadn’t thought much about it. When I did, it seemed obvious that it’s the right thing to do and there wasn’t much more to it.

Then I figured, eh, why not write something up and put it here for all to see. To quickly summarize, I think the reasons to exclude gays are thin, and the reason for inclusion have mostly upside.

To start, one of the core values for Cub Scouts is respect, which has as one of its meanings “deference to a right, privilege, privileged position, or someone or something considered to have certain rights or privileges; proper acceptance or courtesy; acknowledgment.” For that matter, the BSA’s own site reads “showing regard for the worth of something or someone.” It’s hard to square this core value with the current policy.

Shifting gears a bit, the fear that’s brought up by defenders of the status quo is the possibility of pedophilia and child molestation. But studies and time have revealed that both are a separate and unrelated thing from homosexuality. Thus, this reason has faded to the point of oblivion- if the fear still exists, it exists out of ignorance.

If looking for arguments for the change, I’d say look no further than a story like this. A Boy Scout, denied the rank of Eagle he had earned for the sole reason that he was gay, received his Eagle pin from another Eagle Scout who came out as gay when he heard of the boy’s plight. Now, some might miss the forest for the trees and focus on the “dishonesty” of the older Scout never having revealed he was gay and earning something he “didn’t deserve.”

And that would be a great shame. The fact is these two men had done everything required of them by Scouting to attain that rank. That means they had proven themselves “morally straight.” Are we really supposed to believe that by announcing a truth about themselves, they suddenly were not? By what reasoning could that possibly be true?

I’d say there are also pragmatic reasons. There are areas of the country where the current policy likely works to depress membership. I had one parent explain to me that she almost kept her son out of Cub Scouts because of disagreement with the policy. Ultimately, she stuck with it because of her son’s friendships within the Pack and that it didn’t make sense to punish him for something he knew nothing about. If she was thinking like that, how many other parents use similar lines of thought and keep prevent their sons from getting involved? The Constitution certainly protects the rights of the BSA to run the organization as they see fit, but they can’t protect it from the consequences of those decisions.

Another pragmatic aspect to consider is one of leadership. In this area, Scouting hangs on by the skin of its teeth. Part of the reason is it takes a lot of effort and time to organize all the different activities and meetings involved. The idea of casting good people away simply because of sexual orientation seems like a bad way to address that problem. While I know Scouting is robust in other areas of the country, I’m sure there are other locations where it’s similar to here. The bottom line here is that help is needed and tossing it aside because of sexuality is self-defeating.

The bottom line is Scouting is a worthwhile endeavor for young boys. It promotes all of the sorts of qualities that we might want in our kids: resourcefulness, independence, grace under fire and a willingness to lead and be responsible. There is no reason those qualities can’t apply to gay Scouts and there is no reason gay men can’t help to foster those qualities in Scouts they lead.

Things to Think About

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A couple of interesting links for a Sunday morning, both football related but with political overtones.

First up, we have this item about future stadium concepts. The basic idea is to create a stadium with a massive bar, and by massive I mean massive- standing room for 20,000.

Given the current state of the economy, it’s not unreasonable for the NFL to think about ways to give fans their monies worth. Even this year, localized TV blackouts have been something of an issue for several teams, including the Cincinatti Bengals and the San Diego Chargers. The teams avoided the blackouts by purchasing the remaining tickets. Considering that the purpose of blackouts is to essentially “punish” fans for not purchasing tickets so they can’t watch from the comfort of their home, I’d say that’s a pretty extraordinary circumstance.

I’m not a fan of the current trend whereby NFL owners build new stadiums with giant public loans. Essentially, the NFL takes people’s current money in ticket prices, then their future earnings through taxes. They then have the gall to over charge for food and drink once a fan is in the stadium, plus they ban anyone from bringing in their own food. In all likelihood, they’re probably trying to figure out a way to monetize tailgating- probably by limiting the practice to a certain fee based area.

In summary, football is expensive for fans. These proposed changes to stadiums are an attempt to give fans value for their money. It’ll be interesting to see if it works.

Next up, we have political meddling. I don’t have much more to offer here other than a general observation that it’s getting hard to go anywhere and avoid politics, or more specifically government interest. It’s possible my view is skewed by my reading habits, but it still seems right. Just about any topic comes back to politics it seems: education, cars, jobs, parenting, heating, relationships, health, and now sports. If I missed it, I’m willing to bet politics is still involved.

More on Guns

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I don’t have anything I’d put into an essay, but I have a lot of stray thoughts regarding the current “debate.” And yes, I’m being sarcastic because gun control advocates aren’t interested in a debate- they want to do something, anything. The only “debate” they want is how far they should go and the notion that other options event exist is completely out of bounds.

Before I list my gun control thoughts, I’ll also note that the current “debate” is following a similar arc to previous ones. Namely, Democrats come up with a problem they want to deal with and the “debate” starts. When it becomes clear that their opponents don’t agree with the Democrat’s solutions, Democrats quickly move to declaring their opponents “unserious.” Finally, they pass legislation or, as more recently they can’t just ram legislation through because of split government, they take to lamenting the “unseriousness”, “selfishness”, or whatever other form of demagoguery they can muster. The notion that someone else could think something what’s “best for the country” and have it not be exactly what Democrats think doesn’t seem to occur to them.

With that, here we go:

  • Kevin Drum basically wants some kind of gun legislation and is apparently on board with passing it by any means necessary. His second statement starts “I’m all in favor of Congress taking some action to regulate guns, …” He states it so breezily that a reader might think that the gun market is completely unregulated, which is unequivocally false. For a small sampling, it is illegal to sell fully-automatic weapons to civilians.

    Further, and I hold Mr. Drum up as paragon of this particular rationale, there is no attempt to connect the regulation to the crime. “Newtown was so uniquely horrific that something has to happen” Mr. Drum states. Nothing like passing silly symbolic legislation that makes the lives of normal, law abiding citizens more difficult with the only rationale that “something had to be done.”

  • I’ve come to the conclusion that the only thing that might stop a future massacre in a school setting is allowing some kind of exemption for the “gun free zone.” Yes, this means I basically agree with Wayne Lapierre- at least let me justify it.

    1. Guns are here to stay for the foreseeable future. There are likely over 300 million in civilian possession. There no chance that changes. An outright ban that started now would be meaningless and a buyback program would do little to dent it. People want their guns in this country. Further, all evidence and common sense leads me to the conclusion that any ban at this point would only ensure criminals end up with guns. I read somewhere that the shooter at Newtown violated 40 something laws before he shot his first victim- think about that.

    2. There is no law that can be passed today that would have prevented the Newtown massacre. None. I understand this is frustrating, but that’s the reality we live in.

    3. The evidence we have about the personalities of mass shooters is they live in a fantasy world which is readily ruined. They are not, for instance, suicide bombers with a higher calling. Confronting them can quickly bring about an endgame that saves lives.

    4. This will piss people off, but I happen to believe it’s also a very unfortunate fact: the procedure that the teacher’s went through at Newtown lined up those children for slaughter. The teacher had no chance to stop the shooter once he arrived at the class room, locking the door was meaningless. The police arrived 20 minutes too late. The only reason the entire school wasn’t slaughtered was because the miserable piece of excrement shot himself.

    Given all of this, I think the only thing that has a chance of working is that a first responder already be on the premises. Yes, I also think there would be a preventative affect as well. What’s known about mass shooters points to the fact that they are drawn to helplessness- they typically choose targets where they know they won’t be confronted. The Aurora shooting this past Summer is an example- there were plenty of theatres in the immediate vicinity but he chose the one that had a gun ban.

    What form does this take? Well, I think some kind of general ability to wave the gun ban for qualified individuals is the way to go. Perhaps that means teachers and administrators can have concealed carry; or some kind of armed personnel like a security guard or police is on site. Notice I didn’t say “lift the gun bans”, I said “make qualified exceptions.”

  • I find the notion that the NRA or that gun owners in general are culpable for what happened odious. The NRA lobbies on the behalf of law abiding citizens and the vast majority of gun owners are law abiding citizens. Using this form of demagoguery is absurd. Personally, people pushing this argument should be slapped, hard.

    Don’t agree? Well, then how about we agree that all people who voted for President Obama are culpable in the murder of children by drone strikes. If the shoes fits, as they say.

    I’ll say it clearly because it can’t be said enough: the shooter at Newtown is the criminal and he deserves the disgust and anger of everyone. Law abiding citizens did not kill those teachers and children.

  • Smaller magazines or lower capacity clips will be meaningless. Criminals will make their own higher capacity clips, and those in circulation will remain.

  • Banning “assault weapons* is meaningless drivel. First, no one can even define what an “assault weapon” is. Second, criminals won’t care and will end up with them anyway.

  • Gun control advocates get sick and tired of hearing the same reasons and arguments, but that doesn’t make them any less potent. It means they haven’t come up with a proper counter idea, argument or rationale. They can’t wave those reasons and the rationale away by waving their hands and screaming “something has to be done.”

  • The statistics regarding the “successes” of gun control are highly debatable and abusable to the point, in my mind, that they are largely meaningless. Certain forms of gun violence go down, while others increase dramatically. I’ll agree that in an ideal world, guns don’t exist. Unfortunately, that’s not the world we live in and we can’t legislate our way into it.

Anyway, that’s it. If you’re a gun control advocate then I’m firmly in the “fanatic” zone at this point. That said, at least I have logic and reason on my side.

On Gun Control

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This is probably the single best thing I’ve read about guns, gun control and useful policies going forward (via Instapundit). I’ll admit that my own conclusions went in this general direction including his opinion on concealed carry, so it could be a matter of confirmation bias on my part. Still, he takes on all forms of argument about gun control and throws in a number of surprises that I was unaware of in response to the usual arguments for gun control.

For instance, gun control proponents like to hold up Australia as a shining example of a success story. Why? Because in direct response to a mass shooting they banned guns and instituted a buy-back program. Since there have been no mass shootings. Sounds great, but, it turns out, the devil is in the details. Turns out there is little evidence that the new gun controls have had much effect on crime and violent crime in general.

There are other interesting tidbits throughout the article. Go give it a read.

A Problem with Gun Control Statistics

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This article came across my Twitter feed today and after reading through it, I had a thought related to the gun control argument going on right now.

First, the majority of the case against guns lies in statistics. For one, there is no data to demonstrate that having a gun for self defense purposes is actually valid in practice. For two, where massacres are concerned, gun control advocates are quick to point out that none of them have ever been stopped by a citizen with a gun.

As to the first, I’d guess there’s a data problem. While there are police reports and so forth to aggregate data related to gun usage in crimes and the like, how would a researcher go about figuring out how many times a citizen pulls a weapon on a would be robber or whatever, which immediately causes the offender to retreat, and then nothing ever get reported? I’ve personally heard of a couple of stories along these lines- I suspect that’s the only way anyone would ever know.

As to the second statistic, well, if you read the above link you might already know where I’m going. There’s a definitional problem. A massacre becomes one because there’s only 1 (or a group) armed person firing at unarmed, defenseless citizens. But when someone is present to confront the attacker, then a massacre becomes no one dead, hopefully. As a second data point, there was a shooting in Clackamas, Oregon recently where the shooter was confronted by someone with a conceal carry. Only 2 people died and the shooter took his own life shortly after the individual with the concealed carry permit confronted him. Also notice, our hero here doesn’t exactly sound like a cowboy (from the article):

“I don’t ever want to see anyone that way ever,” said Meli. “It just bothers me.”

Flapdoodle

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I think Megan McArdle hits the nail on the head:

It is tempting to blame the candidates, but ultimately, I blame the situation. The candidates do not have a big program, because there is no money to pay for big programs. Whoever spends the next four years is going to have to do some unpleasant things to taxes and spending. No one wants to hear about those things, and they certainly don’t want to tell us about them. And so we have piddling personal attacks, half-hearted promises, and vapid reaffirmations that America is so great because it’s exceptional, and exceptional because it’s America.

I also liked this paragraph:

The true object of these debates is to say as little as possible about anything of substance. Mitt Romney promises to be Obama Lite, with one third less social democracy than regular Barack Obama- but fortified with a full day’s RDA of social conservatism! Barack Obama claims that Mitt Romney only wants to be president so that he can invest the Social Security trust fund in companies that will ship all our jobs to China- jobs that under Barack Obama would be done by hard-working American robots. It is a carnival of claptrap, a festival of flapdoodle.

Of course, read the whole thing.

For as long as I’ve been paying attention to politics, the game has been about what a candidate is going to give their constituents, be it tax cuts, some kind of money for health care, retirement income, legislation that kills competition, some kind of government contract to make something or research something, or money for education. No one that I can remember has stated “I’m going to take something away.”

I understand the reasons. We all want someone to give us things because, deep down, we know that we deserve it. We worked hard all our lives and it’s about time we collected our just rewards. So when James Q. Politician comes along with his legion of “expert” enablers and says he’s got a plan, we uncritically swallow it because we want to believe and, after all, we’ll only be around for so long anyway. Might as well get ours along the way.

Short of guaranteeing that everyone will get a job, though, it’s hard to imagine what else can be promised at this point. Even if something more could be promised, where’s the money going to come from to provide it?

In my humble opinion, the math of the federal budget doesn’t add up for either of these guys. We can’t tax our way back to a balanced budget, and we can’t cut enough programs because too many people are dependent on those programs. Politicians have, over the years, systematically over-promised to the American people and the result is a government that wants to legislate away risk, at the expense of one citizen for another.

The day is coming where we will discuss who’s going to get screwed and how; what promises the government has made but can’t be keep. But today is not that day. Today, we get flapdoodle.

Kids and Politics

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I’m not surprised this happened, though I’ll cop to a little surprise at the early age.

On the way home from soccer practice today, the boy asked “Dad, who are you voting for, President Obama or the other guy?”

Before I could answer, he continued “My friend at school said that the other guy wants to make the rich richer and also wants to go to war, so he’s voting for President Obama because he wants to make the rich poorer and the poor richer and he doesn’t want to start any wars.” Except for the “My friend” part, where he actually named his friend, the quote is pretty much verbatim.

I thought for a moment and said, “Well, I don’t think your friend knows what he’s talking about. Mitt Romney wants to make everyone richer and, to the best of my knowledge, doesn’t want to start any wars. Though, I think he’d be willing to fight if he was forced to.” I actually know the friend in question pretty well. He’s a smart kid, with a pretty good imagination. My guess is he was repeating talking points his parents had spoken to him.

“You mean like in karate? Where you don’t go looking for a fight but sometimes you have to?” he asked.

“Yes, that’s it exactly.”

“So are you going to vote for Romney?” he asked again.

“Yes, I will.”

“I am to,” he said. Then, amusingly, he add “I was going to vote for him anyway, before you said it. I was just curious what you were going to do.”

I’m well aware that kids almost overwhelmingly adopt the politics of their parents. Having them, it’s obvious why- what else could they have to base that kind of decision on?

Then, the boy asked me another question: “Why are you voting for Mitt Romney?”

Somewhere, when he reads this, the boy’s Grandfather is smiling. Not so much about Mitt Romney, but more because he seems to be taking an interest in politics.

Going back to the boy’s question, I was trying to figure out a good way to answer him. Something that he could understand, sort of at least. Ultimately, I figured that the answer had to be suitably generic. So I told him “President Obama wants the government involved in our lives more, Mitt Romney doesn’t. I don’t want the government involved in my life anymore than it already is. I think it does too much, and most of it not very well. There are other people who disagree with that, but that’s my opinion.”

The boy nodded in agreement, which made me smile. Not in a “good, he’s following my lead” sort of way, rather in a “like he really knows what any of what I just said means” sort of way. He was having an “adult” conversation with Dad, so he was enjoying it.

I’m not really in the habit of telling the boy what to think when it comes to stuff like this. The lass either. I have no expectation that he should follow my lead, or unblinkingly mimic my own reasoning. I want him to be his own man someday, and to do that I have to teach him to think: to gather data and then make a guess as to what that data might mean. When it comes to politics, there’s so much to it that he can’t possibly think for himself on it. I realize that my own opinions will feed his own future opinions, perhaps serving as a baseline. My hope is that he’ll question all of that someday and come to his own conclusions as a result.

If they comport with my own views, so much the better.

A Simple Theory on the Presidential Polls

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Since the first debate, the most dominant theme has been how Romney’s performance completely changed the race and the polls have been swinging strongly in his favor ever since. As such, I’m sure the next round of polls to come out will also get a lot of attention, mainly, to see if President Obama was able to stop that apparent momentum with his performance.

Via Glenn Reynolds, the latest Rasmussen tracking poll shows Romney continuing to press his advantage. Some caveats apply, like the majority of the data was from interviews prior to the previous debate. So we have a couple more days before any real firm interpretations can be made.

But I’d like to point out this, which points out that Romney was actually moving back to parity with President Obama prior to the debate.

There’s been a lot of talk about the polls and whether they’ve been biased in the Presidents favor. That is, up until they weren’t showing the President with a lead. I’m going to propose a simple reason for Romney’s swing in the polls: bad data.

Now, this doesn’t mean that polling outfits were cooking their results. All it means is that prior to late September, all of the polls were worthless because they were not getting an accurate sampling of the electorate. Then, somewhere in late September, that started to change. This comports with the what seems to be conventional wisdom that most Americans don’t start paying attention to political races until Election Day is close at hand. Most Americans are busy earning a living in a field that doesn’t involve paying attention to politics every single day. Further, my guess is many are jaded to the point that they don’t care about the vast majority of the stuff that gets political pundits excited.

Based on this theory, I don’t think it’s a stretch to conclude that it’s difficult, if not impossible, to get a clear picture of what the electorate is thinking before hand. Thus, pollsters do their thing, but they get hangups or people don’t even bother to answer or participate. (Count me among those- I don’t ever participate.) So whatever data they get is unreliable. It was recently reported that participation in these surveys is down to 9%- meaning 1 in 10 people participate in the polls. It used to be closer to 25%. I think this has to have an effect on polling reliability.

Once that corner is turned in late September; however, the sampling data improves because now more people are engaged and now pollsters are able to get a more accurate sampling (i.e.: better data) of the electorate.

Note that this theory does not predict that we’ll always see a big change in the polls come late September, early October. It merely means that the odds of it happening aren’t as unlikely as some may like to think, especially if, on balance, their preferred candidate has a lot of other problems. It also means that the polls aren’t necessarily as event driven as pundits like to think. Note in my second linked piece, the author is at loss for a reason for the move back to Romney, since nothing noteworthy was going on in the time frame he noted. I think this supports my theory and gives us a period of time where the sampling data began improving.

Also note that this theory does not predict who benefits. It could just have easily been President Obama. Thus, I think it blunts the effect of the first debate. My guess is that debate helped Romney to some degree, but did not have the huge effect most pundits are attributing.

A more interesting scenario would have been if Romney’s performance had been less notable. In this case, my theory means we still would have seen a move towards Romney because that’s where the electorate was already leaning. This might seem odd, but remember, I’m talking solely about the data and its reflection of reality.

One thing I do think it means is that, in this case, President Obama has been operating under a false assumption: that he’s had a solid lead. It would appear that, in fact, he really should have been trying to overcome a deficit.

Long Day

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Well, we went out and did our best to help the economy today. We hit the retail, the restaurant, and the construction sectors, to name a few. Now I’m ready to climb into bed.

But before I do, I wanted to highlight this comment regarding the whole “You didn’t build it” brouhaha. Frankly, I’ve wondered why that statement hasn’t been properly hit out of the park like this fellow did.

(hattip: Instapundit)

Compare and Contrast

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Obviously, I follow politics to some degree. I don’t blog about it much, if at all, because it doesn’t have anything to do with my being an SAHD. Also, there’s plenty of others taking care of that front and I don’t have the time or patience to follow it and argue about politics here on the blog.

But, as I said, I do pay attention. And the following is the sort of stuff that drives me crazy. Who do you believe? This guy, who claims no Ryan bounce, or this guy, who claims there is a Ryan bounce. Both use Gallup polling data to arrive at completely different conclusions.

In general, the coverage of this election from either side of the aisle is bipolar- from one side Romney is running a smart campaign as the President and Vice President stumble and bumble their way along, or from the other side Romney is an evil, lying, shit-slinger at the poor President and Vice President whom are doing their level best to govern in tough times.

It’s hard to know what to make of any of it. And people wonder why we fall back to ideology.

On Romney’s Tax Returns

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This chorus is getting almost deafening on the political blogs. Dare I say the conventional wisdom is for him to release them.

Meh.

Frankly, Romney chose a position and he should stick with it. Changing course due to pressure from the political hacks of the world would only serve to diminish him, as far as I’m concerned.

Further, we all know that the President and his flunkies will dishonestly represent whatever is revealed in the tax returns. Romney would be opening the door even more to being defined by his opponents. I wonder if any of these goofballs “demanding” Romney release his tax returns honestly believes they’d reveal anything about his fitness to be President. Do they expect something illegal to be there? It’s not like the IRS is beating down his door for them. How do I know? Because the political world would be bleating it from the mountain tops.

What I’d really like to see, though, is for him to go on the offensive on this issue in some way. For instance, he could demand that the President release all information related to Fast and Furious. Or he could demand that the President come clean on some other sensitive political issue. Or he could demand the President don a clown suit for a week. I’d like to see him flip the script, turn the whole tactic around on the President.

Similarly, Romney should be more assertive regarding the current stupidity about his Bain retirement. For instance, he could reply “What does a community organizer know about running a business?” or “I can understand why the President is confused about my leaving Bain, since he clearly never had any similar experience.” It’s not like the President is some untouchable being on anything.

What’s That About?

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Via Ann Althouse, Bank of America is forgiving mortgages for certain “qualified” borrowers. The program, or whatever, is the result of a settlement over abuses in dealing with foreclosures. There isn’t a whole heckuva lot of detail at the source article either.

I’ll admit my initial reaction was outrage. Another round of helping out people who got in over their heads making people like myself and the Wife sucker’s. But then, after seeing that it’s a settlement, I started wondering if there isn’t some angle that BoA is playing here that makes this much less than it appears. For instance, perhaps not that many people will ultimately qualify. Or perhaps those that qualify are also likely to end up losing the deal because they can’t meet some other conditions. I’m not a banker, so I can’t imagine all the ways this could be to a bank’s advantage.

On the flip side, there will undoubtedly be some people who make out, getting tens-of-thousands of dollars forgiven from their debt load. Having their bad behavior rewarded.

Seems hard to escape the fact that, no matter what side you choose, those of us who pay our debts get screwed. We pay the bank so they can go and abuse trust. And we also foot the bill for the delinquents.

The kids lament their lot in life as being unfair. Wait until they’re old enough to grasp this idea.

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