Friday, December 21, 2012

ObamaCare Job Loss

The guy who just fixed my computer can't keep his job because of the Affordable Care Act. He loves the work and has been paid by the piece by his company. He can make full-time wages working only 25 hours a week. He doesn't get health coverage right now, but he said he's okay with that and loving what he's doing.

He says that two days after the election, they sent out a notice to their 1200 technicians across the country telling them that they would be switching to hourly wages instead of piece-work and that they would be capped at 29 hours per week. Only 200 technicians would move to full-time work with benefits. At the new hourly rate he can't afford to keep working for them, so he's on the hunt for a new position. I wish him luck. 

Just another unintended consequence of trying to help people by limiting freedom.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Solving Voter Fraud

There are lots of ways to steal an election, of which voter fraud is only one. But it is an issue that we should tackle. Following this election when the result isn't in much doubt would be a good time to address it so that the issue doesn't have to be one of partisan advantage.

Slate has a great post up about using existing government databases to ID voters.
States maintain all kinds of data on citizens. Since Congress passed the Help America Vote Act in 2002 in response to the train wreck that was the 2000 election, they also maintain electronic voter registration databases....

Integrating those databases with existing databases, such as those maintained by state motor vehicle departments and public assistance programs, would make transcription errors in a voter's name or address obvious. Fewer voters would see their ballots challenged because of clerical mistakes.
They argue that you can snap of a photo of a person at the polling place if they don't have a photo on record already and it can become part of that voter's record for the future. Seems like a great way to find a middle ground between ignoring the problem of voter impersonation on the one hand and preventing legitimate votes from being cast on the other. 

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Is Local Better?

Ordinarily, I think that government or management is best at the lowest level possible. A story from Steven Malanga shakes my faith in that principle a little bit. The article is a summary of the large-scale corruption in New York, with "2,522 of its officials having been convicted of misdeeds since 1976."
The architects of those efforts sent billions of federal dollars into neighborhood programs to alleviate poverty, funneling the money to local groups that Washington bureaucrats assumed had the local knowledge necessary to uplift communities.
I have hope in the same premise: local groups have local knowledge to solve problems better than one-size-fits-all solutions. I wonder what could have been done to prevent this sort of corruption at a local level. Is it possible without people everywhere expecting integrity from everyone they deal with?

Thursday, August 30, 2012

NPR's Ryan Rebuttal

I heard a news story done differently than I'm used to. Mara Liasson was reporting on Paul Ryan's speech at the GOP convention. As she played the highlights of his speech, she then offered a rebuttal of each point or reminded the audience of another view of the subject. I didn't think that her responses were unfair or inaccurate, it was just something I don't remember a reporter doing in that way before. I was partly appreciative and partly irritated. I didn't like it that she felt a need to rebut each point, even was she wasn't disagreeing with a fact but only adding to the framing.

I suppose time will tell if she covers the speech from Romney, Biden, and Obama in the same way or if this was treatment reserved only for a few.

Update: Apparently I wasn't the only one that noticed, and apparently NPR wasn't the only one to do it.

Update: When I read this Fox News opinion writer's summary of the four main errors in the Ryan speech, I thought that 3 of the 4 were really differences in opinion or spin rather than factual errors. The fourth one seemed to be a more tricky one. Ryan claimed that an auto plant closed and you were sort of left with the impression that it had happened under Obama's watch, even if his language technically left it open either way. But now it appears that the fact checkers were factually inaccurate and that Ryan was more informed about the events in his home town than they were. Ryan is vindicated.

Update: I just listened yo Liasson's report on Romney's speech and she played it pretty straight.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Fair Share

Will someone please tell me what it means for the rich to pay their fair share of taxes? The federal government is spending $3.7 trillion each year. Spread over the population of 309 million, that is $11,974 for every man, woman, and child in the country. I'm sure as heck not paying that much in. Are you? Are you paying your "fair share"? I'm not, and I'm grateful the more wealthy are shouldering a greater part of the burden.

In a related vein, there are people insisting that we should be have a balanced approach of cutting spending alongside increases in taxation to balance the budget. The problem is with that number above. Who can argue with a straight face that we need a federal government that spends $11,974 for ever man, woman, and child and that we can't afford to cut that back substantially apart from any increases in revenue? If we cut a trillion off our spending to match our current revenue, that would still be $8,737 for every man, woman, and child. That is some expensive government. Shouldn't we be able to make do with that?

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Moral Differences in Politics

We all like to believe we are acting rationally and that our opinions are based on sound reasoning and a thorough understanding of the historical record. But that doesn't turn out to be true. Instead, we make snap judgments about issues based on our values and then construct a set of evidence that supports our pre-drawn conclusion. I learned this from a liberal psychology professor, Jonathan Haidt, in this interview on Think.

[Originally posted as a comment on a Facebook post as preserved here to help me find the link again when I want it.]

Monday, June 25, 2012

Why I Won't Be Voting For Hatch

I wish I had made the time to create a more well-researched, well-referenced post on this subject. Since the primary is tomorrow, I'm going to just share a few gut level reasons why I'm resistant to Hatch.

  • He ran against Frank Moss in 1976 saying that 18 years was enough. He was right back then. After 36 years, it is well past time for Hatch to move on to other pursuits. 
  • He challenged Frank Moss to 8 debates back in 1976. He was right back then. Now, we only get Hatch to consent to a single radio debate for the primary voting public. It is shameful for a politician to hide from opportunities to answer questions. 
  • Last time he ran, he made light of the suggestion that he would run for a 7th term (as he is now doing) by saying it would be more important to spend his final years with his grandchildren. He was right back then. 
  • He was a co-sponsor of the SOPA legislation that so offended the technology community that even Wikipedia blacked out for a day in protest.
  • Hatch, citing his own role as a creator of music, is in favor of longer copyright terms. I favor radically shortened terms. 
  • Hatch famously made a passing comment about how he wished he could send a signal through the internet to blow up the computers of copyright offenders. Shortly thereafter it was discovered that his website was using an unlicensed JavaScript library. 
  • When the Tea Party was first rising as a serious force, David Kirkham emerged as a leader of the movement in Utah County. Hatch latched on to him and would phone him to get his pulse on the movement. It was even reported in the Deseret News that Hatch called Kirkham from the floor of the Senate as a controversial spending bill was up to hear what the Tea Party opinion was and ask how he should vote. Instead of seeing this as a laudable effort to stay connected with his constituents, I saw it as a cynical/pandering attempt to keep a clean record and avoid ticking off potential opponents. I understand others may view it differently. 
  • It feels like Hatch has become a creature of Washington rather than a creature of Utah.
  • Hatch touts his ability to bring home the bacon to Utah as a selling point. I view that as evidence that he's part of the problem. 
  • Hatch insists that without him, Hill Air Force Base would be closed. If it is the political power of one individual rather than the general merits of the base that keep it open, then perhaps it would be better for the country (as opposed to Davis County) if we let it close. I don't know if that is the right decision, but I can't believe that one senator is single-handedly holding back the tide of logic that would otherwise close the base.
  • In his radio debate with Dan L., Hatch all but admitted that he would have supported a government loan to a company like Solyndra as long as they were in Utah.
  • Hatch comes across as a cranky old man. I think the face of Utah in Washington should be more reflective of our cheer and optimism. Yeah, you'll think this is corny, but it is a gut level thing that is hard to distill in words. 
  • It is easy to discount the endorsements that sitting politicians receive. If Mitt Romney expects Hatch to be victorious (as seems most likely), then he is wise to forge the alliance that will help him get his agenda through congress after the election. That might be a good policy for Mitt Romney, but it isn't a good reason for me to vote for Hatch. 
If Hatch ever loses, I hope the person who replaces him will be able to learn from his great skill in constituent services. I've heard his office has been particularly helpful with Utahans in international travel situations. 

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Big Game, Big Gap

Most of you will be surprised at the stance this animal rights activist takes. She's mad about ranches in Texas that raise big game animals that are endangered or extinct in the wild. The ranches allow 10% of their animals to be hunted for sport. The money from the hunt supports the large ranches and growing populations. Even so, she think this is wrong. Here is some of the transcript from 60 Minutes starting at about the 6:40 mark.
Priscilla Feral is president of Friends of Animals, an international animal rights organization. For the past seven years, she's been fighting in court to stop these rare African antelope from being hunted in Texas. 
Feral: They're breeding these antelopes, they're selling the antelopes, and they're killing the antelopes. And they're calling it conserving them. They are saying it's an act of conservation and that's lunacy. 
Logan: You would rather they did not exist in Texas at all? 
Feral: I don't want to see them on hunting ranches. I don't want to see them dismembered. I don't want to see their value in body parts. I think it's obscene. I don't think you create a life to shoot it. 
Logan: So, if the animals exist only to be hunted... 
Feral: Right... 
Logan: ...you would rather they not exist at all? 
Feral: Not in Texas, no.
Wow. Later in the piece we hear a little more from her.
But for Priscilla Feral, the bottom line is that these animals should not be hunted. She's helped create a reserve in Senegal for 175 orxy and in court, she's winning the legal battle she's been fighting for years to stop them from being hunted in the U.S. 
... 
Feral: The future for oryxes is Africa. It's not Texas. 
Logan: Can the future not be both? Don't they have a greater chance of survival the more of them there are?
Feral: In their native lands. 
Logan: Regardless of where they are? 
Feral: I don't think you can say regardless of where they are. A Texas hunting ranch is not the same as being in a reserve in Senegal. 
Here we have her saying to the incredulous reporter, that if these animals can't exist in Senegal, then they shouldn't exist at all.

Switching gears, this argument reminds me a lot about the line of reasoning used when we talk about income inequality. Some people would rather that we all be equally poor rather than have some people who are rich, even if having rich people means that the poor will be better off than they would be otherwise. Since some people find the disparity in wealth inherently evil--just like Feral think that hunting these animals is inherently evil--they can't make a compromise with people who believe the gap is an acceptable cost for the increased benefits to all.

Do you think income gaps are sufficiently evil that we should abolish them, even if that means less prosperity for everyone?

Friday, February 11, 2011

SB 124, or Stupid Bill 124

I called my state senator Friday to complain about SB124, a bill that makes it a separate, misdemeanor crime to leave your (under 9 years old) child(ren) alone in a car. I am SO annoyed by this bill, and with the Utah State Legislature in general this session. (I'll let you know if I hear back from him.)

First, the specifics: This bill is STUPID. Already the police have permission to intervene when children are left in a dangerous situation--alone in a car while Mom shops for 20 minutes, alone in a car in the cold cold winter or hot hot summer--it's called child endangerment. If the police officer thinks it is a dangerous situation, he or she has the ability to take care of it.

But--if this law passes--it will now be illegal to leave Hebs in the car while I go back in the house to get Gee and Mimi. Illegal to leave the littles in the car while I step 30 feet away to fetch Zee or Em from school. Illegal to get everyone in their carseats, fastened safely, and realize I left my purse--with the car keys--in the house.

I am frustrated enough with the restrictions society places on parents already, especially parents with big families. I'm already annoyed with the Legislature for another bill they are trying to pass, about making league sports have doctors on call or on the sidelines for concussions. For the record, I'm all for doctor support for sports concussions, I just think the State shouldn't be regulating it.

"But it's for the children!" they shout. To quote Colonel Potter, "Horsepucky!" It's about a nanny state, legislating for the sake of legislating, and, in the process, making us criminals by simply going about our lives.

And I'm sick of it.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Prohibition on Drugs

I have very conflicted emotions about the prohibition on certain drugs. Part of me wants to insist that we should prohibit destructive behaviors. I don't believe that illegal drug use is a "victimless crime" and I don't think we should embark on self-medicating journeys without someone experienced to guide us.

Drugs have been a blessing in my life. I can't imagine getting dental work done without the help of the pain relievers and numbing agents the dentist can use. But there is a class of drugs that have proven mostly dangerous. As a society, we've decided to make them illegal. We don't want to deal with the fallout of people taking these drugs.

My church is supportive of the ban on these drugs. That holds a lot of weight for me.

Yet I wonder if the prohibition is causing more problems than it is preventing. John McWhorter writes over at The New Republic that the easy "occupation" of selling drugs has enticed many young black men to forgo productive employment and opt for life on the street. He argues that this is one of the core problems plaguing the black urban community. Have a sample.
The end of the War on Drugs is, in fact, what all people genuinely concerned with black uplift should be focused on.... The black malaise in the U.S. is currently like a card house; the Drug War is a single card which, if pulled out, would collapse the whole thing.

That is neither an exaggeration nor an oversimplification. It comes down to this: If there were no way to sell drugs on the street at a markup, then young black men who drift into this route would instead have to get legal work. They would. Those insisting that they would not have about as much faith in human persistence and ingenuity as those who thought women past their five-year welfare cap would wind up freezing on sidewalk grates.
There would be a new black community in which all able-bodied men had legal work even in less well-off communitiesi.e. what even poor black America was like before the '70s; this is no fantasy. Those who say that this could only happen with low-skill factory jobs available a bus ride away from all black neighborhoods would be, again, wrong. That explanation for black poverty is full of holes. Too many people of all colors of modest education manage to get by without taking a time machine to the 1940s, and after the War on Drugs black men would be no exception.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Election Day

(Now with updates in red!)

It's Election Day, and you know what that means...

...another long political post from Keryn that you can ignore. Yay!

So...the Senate races are some of the biggest to watch. In particular, I'll be looking at:
  • Nevada (duh): Angle (R) vs Reid (D). This one is going to be a squeaker. I'd like to think Angle wins, but I don't know. We'll just have to see. (Reid wins. Bummer.)
  • California: Fiorina (R) vs Boxer (D). I think this one stays with Boxer, although I'll be pleasantly surprised if it doesn't. Boxer comes across as a somewhat obnoxious, and occasionally entitled incumbent; it would be a pleasure if she didn't get sent back to Washington. (Boxer wins.)
  • Colorado: Buck (R) vs Bennet (D). I don't know too much about this one, but it is a toss-up, apparently.
  • Alaska: Miller (R) vs McAdams (D) vs Murkowski (Entitled). This one is interesting. Murkowski is the incumbent, but she lost the primary nomination to Miller. She then decided to run a write-in campaign, essentially becoming a pretty sore loser about the primary. (I have Opinions about this.) The Alaska Board of Elections, on Thursday, decided to change its rules to allow lists of write-in candidates' names in the polling places, giving Murkowski a distinct advantage. There have been some very sleazy events surrounding this election. However, polling looks good, and it's hopeful that Miller will win. We'll see!
  • Washington, Pennsylvania (goes to Republican, thankyouverymuch Arlen Specter R-2, D-2), West Virginia (stays Democratic), and Illinois (President Obama's old seat has gone Republican!) are good ones to watch, as well.
The House is likely to switch parties today (the Senate less likely, but there is a wee little chance), and the number to watch for is 39--the Republican party needs a net gain of 39 to reach the 218 votes needed to have control of the House. (Major news networks are calling the House for the Republicans. No big surprise there.) I haven't been too interested in too many of these races, but an interesting one to follow will be Nevada: Congressional District 3 (suburban Las Vegas, but I don't know if that includes my family's home) Heck (R) vs Titus (D). This one wasn't supposed to be a close race, but Heck has been polling closer and closer to Titus in the last weeks. (And that would be just cool, because then two of Nevada's representatives would be named "Heller" and "Heck".)

Also, keep an eye on Massachusetts' Barney Frank, who might not win reelection. Heh heh. (Bummer. He wins.)

Also, there are some governor's races to watch.
  • Colorado: Hickenlooper (D) vs Tancredo (Annoying) vs Maes (R). I have Opinions about this race as well. Specifically, I think that if the primary voters choose a particular nominee (Maes), then the state GOP should darn well better get behind him and support him. If they can't support the people's choice for nominee, then they should RESIGN their positions in the state party. In this case, that didn't happen. And now Maes has single digit support, and the race is between Hickenlooper and Tancredo. Basically, I'm hoping for Hickenlooper, but since I don't live there, I don't know what that would mean for day-to-day stuff. Still, I'm highly annoyed at Tancredo and the CO state GOP. (Hickenlooper wins.)
  • California: Whitman (R) vs Brown (D). Brown was governor of California from 1975 to 1983, so he knows what's what. Whitman is a multi-killjionaire CEO. This will be interesting. I don't know why anyone would want to be in charge of the mess that is California right now, but different people have different tastes. (Brown wins the...honor?)
Okay, that's my two bits. There are precious few things to care about in my state today, so I'm ranging far abroad for interesting stuff. Even though I voted for Anderson for county commission, I don't care if Henderson wins instead. Ditto for everything else that might be a tight race here. Oh, and I guess I don't want the Constitutional Amendment A to pass. Whoop-de-do.

What do you all think?

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Stupid, Racially Charged Headline


My head is going to explode over this headline: "911 call on Conn. shooting shows racial disparity". I don't know who wrote the headline (Yahoo! or the AP), but it is completely misleading and racially charged.

The first two paragraphs are the only one that deals with the 911 call:
A woman hiding under her desk tells an emergency dispatcher that a co-worker is in the midst of a shooting spree. The dispatcher presses for any information about the man.

"I don't know anything," the woman says, according to a 911 tape released Wednesday. "He's a tall black guy. He's like the only black guy that works here."

How in the WORLD is describing the crazy mad shooter "racially disparity"? That has to be the dumbest, most inflammatory way to describe the caller's actions I can think of. Really, really bad form, AP and/or Yahoo! Super lame.

(The story then goes on to describe the difficulties the man had being the only black man in his office. I have no information about whether or not he was discriminated against in his job. That, however, is not relevant to the headline. The woman under the desk was describing the physical attributes of the attacker for the dispatcher, presumably so the police could identify him.)

Friday, July 23, 2010

Think Progress vs. Breitbart

I've watched from a distance as the flap over Shirley Sherrod has come and gone over the past week. First, Andrew Breitbart posted a video clip that showed her confessing racist feelings. The audience in the video seemed to chuckle at the sentiment rather than act repulsed or disappointed.

The USDA immediately believed the worst about Sherrod and forced her to resign before they even had a conversation with her to understand her side of the story.

Shortly, the larger picture came out. Sherrod was confessing that she had been a racist but was trying to tell a story of how she moved past those feelings. The clip had been unfair to her. As the news was breaking, my wife was scanning the blogs as we were driving. She started rattling off the list of people who retracted their denouncements of Sherrod. Glenn Beck, Rich Lowry, Shannon Coffin, Jonah Goldberg... basically all the big conservative bloggers immediately set the record straight.

It was really encouraging. Someone made the point, in defense of Breitbart, that it is possible to act rashly without acting maliciously. Breitbart claimed to have received only the small clip that he played and that he hadn't checked the larger context before he posted.

This morning, I was reading through some older posts and I came across a link to a video created by Think Progress.  My jaw dropped to the floor. They were splicing together clips from Tea Party activists making racist comments. This may be one of the most dishonest political clips I've ever seen.

The editors at Think Progress chose to use a video clip statement from a man being actively expelled from a Tea Party event as representative of the content of the event. Breathtakingly dishonest. It is like using ellipses to turn a negative movie review into a positive one.

Here is the Big Government post that criticizes the Think Progress clip.

Will Chris Matthews and Keith Olberman now denounce Think Progress as they did Andrew Breitbart? Will those on the left who were fooled by the video come out and apologize as so many on the right have done? This is a test of character. Let's see how it goes.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Pox: Lee AND Bridgewater

I'm so fed up with Mike Lee and Tim Bridgewater, I've decided that I won't cast a vote for either of them tomorrow. There are two reasons for this.

First and most important, they are both running negative campaigns and it is disgusting me. On a small flyer I got from Mike Lee, 25% percent of the space was consumed by stuff he didn't like about his opponent. The rest was filled with photos and fluff.

Bridgewater had the gall to send me a campaign flyer in the mail that denounced Mike Lee for running a negative campaign--and then attempted to smear him for being a lawyer. A short time later, the next flyer in the mail comes from Bridgewater attacking Lee for carrying water for EnergySolutions.

Way to lead by example about how you'll improve the tone in Washington.

The second reason I won't vote for either of them is the blatant disregard they've shown to having my telephone number. The other night, we returned home after a day of being gone. In the two and a half hours, we received SEVEN robocalls from the two candidates. It was infuriating that they would disrespect my time like that. Today, one day before the primary, we've counted 16 calls so far today. Two of them were real people, the rest were robocalls.

Here is a tip to future candidates. (I'm sure they'll all be reading this blog post intently.) As a voter I love to be informed. I appreciate getting a call or two with information about candidates or an endorsement. Especially calls from real people. But if you are wasting your money calling the same people with the same message over and over, I don't trust you to spend money wisely while you're in office.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Glenn's Favorite Graphic

Glenn Reynolds (Instapundit) used to put up this graphic pretty frequently. It is the one I think of when people complain about the Tea Party protests being overly partisan.

I'd be curious to see the current numbers for '09 now that that is in the books. Perhaps we'll start seeing an updated view of the spending that will either confirm or refute this rather stunning chart.