Friday, August 31, 2012

More about Instant Run-Off Voting

Interesting.  I didn't realize that there was some serious interest by some politicians (though not many  prominent ones--naturally) in instant run-off voting.   This has been an interest of mine  for some time.
Sometimes I wonder though, whether we would have been less likely to have elected Ronald Reagan.   The same system that gave us the wild-eyed socialist Barack also gave us the "wild-eyed conservative kook" Ronnie. 
I would like to see this applied to our Representatives and Senators as well.  Frankly though, I would prefer that the states had leeway in determining how their Senators are appointed.  Leaders in the Progressive Movement at the turn of the (20th) century dismissed the Founders' wisdom in having the Senate represent the States and state interests and decided that it should be a popular contest.  At most, I would say that the States should have the say-so on what their Senators represent. (The 17th Amendment  leaves no such option.)  I'd follow that up with an amendment to the state constitution that requires at least one of them to have 10 years experience running their own business  (perhaps this senator should be chosen by the legislature), and requiring that they both pass rigorous tests with regard to knowledge of the Federalist Papers and Anti-Federalist Papers.  (Hey, teachers have to pass standardized tests, but then, the course of our nation is a much less important enterprise.)
The Founders would probably have disliked even this concession on letting the states decide, since the 10th Amendment and the localization of power was very important to them.  State legislators would be more likely to pick senators who would protect state authority from encroachment by federal laws, not from wisdom but from old-fashioned self-interest.  The populace is more easily manipulated into voting for Senators who will vote for laws that consolidate power in D.C., allowing them to take care of their constituents in return for votes.  I fear the 17th Amendment forever disrupted an important aspect of checks and balances.  It would be easy to interpret the 17th Amendment as a deliberate attempt to undermine the checks against federal power--which was a recurring interest of the Progressive Movement.

However, since the people have become addicted, er, I mean, accustomed to direct representation in both Houses, IRV should be applied to the elections of both houses.

I believe we'd see a lot more political party diversity in the Houses.  There would be a lot more competition as more political parties burst in on the scene.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Todd Akin, Jon Stewart, and Kinds of Rape

On the way home from work I heard a segment that seemed aimed at getting Todd Akin and Mitt Romney mentioned in the same bunch of sentences (look, they have me doing it!) as possible. They didn't say what Todd Akin said. But apparently Akin gave the press the thing it's been salivating over--an excuse to stop the discussion of policy on the merits of policy and get back to 'Republicans want to molest your dog, cook your cat, and leave the toilet seat up.' So I'll weigh in here...

I know of two family members who have been raped. Not "I-got-drunk-and-that-other-drunk-I-was-with-should've-realized-that-I-was-vulnerable." An assault on the mind and body that makes you want to put some very serious hurt on a guy and make him wish he hadn't been born. I take the subject very seriously, and I don't assume that women are "asking for it." Running through Central Park at night wearing a tube top and mini skirt is a very bad idea; it still doesn't mean she deserved it or desired it. (Leaving your keys in your car--after 1960 anyway--is a bad idea; doesn't justify stealing.)

Dennis Prager has one of the more reasoned responses to Todd Akin's statement here.

It's more reasoned than the kneejerk reaction to denounce Akin and distance oneself from Akin as much as possible. But I've heard women say that they think that the stress and trauma associated with brutal assaults (as opposed to alcoholic blackouts or the nefarious cases where women are intentionally drugged) makes it more difficult to conceive, for the same reason that an early fetus, having already started, may be lost due to stress. I don't know if that's true, but it doesn't sounds implausible. All the same, I've never heard any good statistics offered on just what the effects on conception are the stress associated with the various kinds of rape.

Prager rightly notes that Akin's sin sounds like one of ignorance. That certainly isn't unique to Congressmen, and Democrats aren't experts at sounding enlightened. However, I'm not sure anyone knows, Prager or Akin or the various progressive pundits, what the numbers really are. The Soviet soldiers were more notorious for rape than almost any other army (one possible exception: the Japanese army in China). Does anyone know what the conception rate was? There were a lot of babies, but then the Russian soldiers committed a lot of atrocities. Not that I think Akin knows what he's talking about. I'm not sure anyone does.

Prager also trots out the "Feminist Perspectives on Rape" to remind people that there is more nuance to the issue, much as Jon Stewart's "hilarious" rape-rape lampoon tried to imply otherwise. In fact, the "Perspectives" article seems to imply that consensuality can be hazy under some conditions. Is it worse when some person takes something valuable when I've left it unguarded versus braking down my door, bashing my head in with the butt of a gun and taking my valuables at gunpoint? They are both theft. What? Are you saying there's theft, and then there's theft-theft? A thief is a thief. I'm not going to defend Roman Polaski, but if the same events had occurred with a woman of consensual age, would he still be a rapist? (As a grown woman she had claimed that Polanski did not try to hurt her in any way; not all women are so gracious toward their assailants) If not, is he as bad as some of the predators that get a thrill off the pain they cause? Would people have felt the same way if the girl had been 17? 16? Is 13 worse than 17, even if the legal remedies are the same? Jon Stewart can sneer about a spectrum; I suppose he thinks all crimes are equal. (There's crime, and then there's crime-crime.) Somehow, I doubt that is the case. The "Perspectives" itself describes a moral landscape that covers cases fundamentally different from that of the Trisha Meili case. That article doesn't even get into the shades of meaning that venture from the coercive to matters where consent is questionable. If the man and woman are both too innebriated to know what they're doing, who's fault is it? A feminist might reply that the man should never have allowed himself to get that drunk.

Akin plainly says that sexual assault can and does result in pregnancy. And he states that the fetus is an innocent child who should not pay for the crime. This latter part is contested by progressives. But rather than have this debate, they want to speculate on what Akin meant by 'legitimate rape.' It apparently doesn't mean that rape doesn't result in pregnancy. At worst, Akin's statements taken together seem to imply that conception likely means that the sex was consensual. Pundits largely aren't contesting Akin on the science; they are imputing evil intentions to a conservative. At best, Akins' statments imply that abortion is rarely about rape, and that where abortions are made available for that reason, they may well be procured for cases that were more a matter of drinking with some guy without intending that it would end with sex. If Crystal Mangum had become pregnant after the Duke Lacrosse incident, she would have been eligible for the get-out-of-jail-free-card, even though the law later determined that it was not a legitimate case of rape.

However, Jon Stewart can gloat about how little effect the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act actually had given the actual number of understandable terminations of in utero children, not just for rape and incest but for the health of the mother-- which pro-lifers who have been in the abortion business will tell you includes any time a girl/woman is experience stress or fear about having a baby. So, how many of the 191 women Stewart's show refers to fall into something other than "stress is threatening her mental health" category? That's not said. But let's assume for the moment that restrictions for this federal funding were limited to cases where the life of the mother was truly (legitimately) threatened. You do the math and find that the taxpayers were billed $1400 for each case.

Whatever one makes of the "evil intentions" of Todd Akin trying to keep all women barefoot and pregnant and "punish them with babies," the vast majority of abortions in the U.S. occur for the sake of convenience. The more young teenage girls get pregnant and are guided to abortions by altruistic abortion counselors, the more women grow up that are more than willing to buy into the progressive gospel that fetuses aren't babies and so abortion-on-demand is a wonderful expression of women's freedom. The alternative is too unthinkable.

Contra Stewart, there not only is a spectrum acknowledge by feminists, it is the foundation of the slippery slope we slid down at the very beginning. Rape and incest were merely talking points for killing infants in utero, because if you can destroy an infant over an extreme case of unwantedness, why deny more mild cases? It's not wrong until the infant can breathe air. That's the only explanation for why women get 5-18 years for killing their newborns immediately after birth, while Senator Obama refused to outlaw abortions into even the 9th month for fear that it would set a bad precedent. In the 70s progressives marched through the door with a banner that read "safe, legal, and rare" and have been celebrating having accomplished "legal" for the last 40 years. Rare was (and is) a blatant lie, and safe was a terrible joke. The press can't stop talking about the money interests of Big Oil but they won't "follow the money" in the abortion industry--it's too much of a darling project of a certain ideology. I think Todd Akin and Jon Stewart have both said stupid things. Unfortunately, people are still listening to Jon Stewart. Rape and abortion are just too darn funny.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

On the evilness of nations

What 'multiculturalism' boils down to is that you can praise any culture in the world except Western culture - and you cannot blame any culture in the world except Western culture.
- Thomas Sowell 
I subscribe to the Judeo-Christian ethic of 'Thou shalt not kill' but that's just me.
- Mike Myers as Charlie Mackenzie

Justin Bieber displayed the influence of progressive culture (pervasive in Canada) on the tone of discussion of values.  His values are as influenced by his progressive state as by his Christian upbringing.  He shocked America by coming out against abortion.  Perhaps it was his strong language:  "I really don't believe in abortion. I think [an embryo] is a human. It's like killing a baby."  It's his personal belief that abortion is wrong; it's like killing a baby, like, sort of, y'know.  (And it is an awful lot like killing a baby.)  However, he musters his moral authority on health care: "You guys [Americans] are evil." He goes on to explain that Canada is the least evil country; one example: they not only take care of your premature baby, they do it for free.

Now, in America (and presumably Canada as well) if your would-be preemie has the lack of foresight to get out of the womb early, he/she may be terminated for the crime of being inconvenient up to and including the ninth month.  Obama (as senator) not only fought for this right for women not to be in chains, but also fought for the "right" to not have doctors/nurses care for or otherwise treat survivors of failed abortions.  You see, it is only the mother that decides life or death, and once the criminal is sentenced, sentence must be carried out.

This doesn't make anybody evil; it's just Bieber's personal belief versus your own.  He believes it's wrong to kill human beings in the womb; perhaps you think it's ok.  Live and let live.  Different strokes.  But if you don't think national health care is the way to take care of the needy, well, you're evil, bub.  That's wrong.  How dare you do that to an innocent human being!  How dare you have a gospel without socialism!! You evil son of a bitch.

This is the political climate where Nancy Pelosi can talk about socialized medicine as a mandate of the gospel, but anybody who is pro-life (including atheist Christopher Hitchens, I presume) is a religious nut imposing his religion on the rest of us.  Meanwhile the crusade goes on against the moral depravity of being insufficiently environmentalist, of not caring sufficiently how food animals are treated, of not being sufficiently collectivist, of believing that there is probably a good reason why cultures around the world have gone for ages without homosexual marriages and that it's a little arrogant to experiment with it, of using violent means to protect against violent threats, of believing that free markets of imperfect people can do less harm than government interventions by imperfect people.  And various other moral depravities.  The crusade demands that children be innoculated early on against the conservative venom of their parents.  The crusade demands that journalist ignore outrageous, violent outbursts by the moral crusaders and publicize anything that will put their evil antagonists in a bad light.

Morality may only be legislated (preferably by judicial means) by what Thomas Sowell has called the "anointed elite."  The moral Ubermensch will lead the way, if we will only follow.  And if we don't follow, well, as Hitler once said, "They've already lost; we have their children."  They, as G.K. Chesterton warned, will make our children in their image, or as Woodrow Wilson boasted,  "as different from their fathers as possible."

Click to Enlarge
Doing some class-related work on human trafficking, I found some references that as countries go, on some international rating criteria, Canada has rated poorly in their attention to and concern about human trafficking.  Canada's reputation hasn't been good.  And no, this wasn't some conservative site.  Maybe the criteria were questionable, but Canada has a problem (noted by sites that track this problem), women being trafficked to and through Canada.  America, on the same scale rates highly.  Not all European countries did as well as America.  Women are trafficked to and from many countries in Eastern and Western Europe.

On another note, progressives have much evil to attribute to America regarding human rights and yet China (as well as the Soviet Union in its day) seems to get a lot of respect in spite of having a terrible record on human rights.  Not to mention the Arab nations.  Sharia law gets a lot of respect by various liberal academics in Europe and the U.S.; while liberal academics deride "socially conservative" Judaeo-Christian mores.   Palestine has only good intentions; Israel only bad.  America is a totalitarian state with its Patriot Act; Cuba is a model of democracy.  To some progressives, even Iran is  worthy of respect while America is not.

On yet another note, various progressives think America is evil because of its actual or pending immigration policies.  How do our immigration policies compare to European countries (esp. pre-EU, esp. policies toward extra-EU countries)?  How easy is it for just anyone to become a citizen of other countries, and what language do they expect you to speak?  How evil are they on that rating?

And America is apparently an evil place for not legitimizing homosexual marriage as equivalent to historical marriage.  How do we compare to other countries, especially countries outside of Europe in which homosexuality is a severe offense?  How many of these are countries that are in other respects lauded by our academic and journalistic elites?  How do all these countries rate on the progressive standard of "gender equality"?

I'm not against criticism of America by Americans.  But let's not be disengenuous about it.  Let's look at all these dimensions in which America deserves the "evil" label, and rate the countries across the board.  Let's compare and contrast.  Of course, holders of what Thomas Sowell calls the "tragic vision" may not see evil in every policy that progressives do, but at least the discussion can take place in something other than constantly shifting standards.

After 9/11 there was a lot of Progressive criticism against the Axis of Evil characterization.  SInce then, it seems to have become a decade's worth of tirade against the evils of conservatism.  The ostensible Progressive doctrine of non-demonization does not apply here.  We must be constantly told that terrorists are human, sometimes told they are not really dangerous, and often told that the difference between a terrorist and a freedomfighter is one of personal  perspective.  What's required here is to know the terrorist's personal story; he deserves to be understood.  On the other hand, all you need to know about conservatives is that they are ignorant, stupid, and morally repugnant.  That's all you need to know about fundamentalists, evengelicals, and Isaelis as well.  Muslims need understanding, you have to meet them on their terms; Christians must meet Progressives on their terms or they are obviously recalcitrant dogmatists.  This is selective multicutural relativism at it's finest.

If India is the most religious nation on the planet, and Sweden is the least religious, then America is a land of Indians ruled by Swedes.
  - Peter Bergson

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Is Militarism Inherently Conservative?

Don't ask why, but I was listening to KPFK on the way home.  It must've been The Socialist Hour--because it was a bunch of socialists complaining about how--ok, brace yourself--the Democratic Party has been steadily moving to the Right for several decades.  Wow. Just wow.
I did find something to agree with them on:  Obama's record on The Patriot Act  (the revision of which the ACLU reports has an interpretation that is undisclosed by the most transparent administration ever *), drone use, civilian casualties, assassinations, challenge of the War Powers Act, use of anti-terrorist powers to spy on civilians for other reasons, ramping up power in the TSA, and unilateral involvement (in terms of separation of powers, not in terms of the U.N.) does not reflect a reticence to wield the sword.  It is, dare I say, Nixonian.
[Update:  Government internet surveillance may be getting a leg-up again through Executive Order.]
Where I disagree with them is on their notion that wielding military might is a particularly conservative idea.  It's true that today's conservatives are more likely to support a strong military than our liberal counterparts.  This attitude grew out of the violence on our home turf (see the movie J. Edgar for a blast from the past) from Marxists, pro-labor terrorists, and communists as well as the growth of several social experiments in Europe that turned into complete government seizures of economic and political (is there a difference?) power all in the name of the working class people, whether they were called communism or fascism.  But exercising military might (at home or abroad) was not against early 20th century Progressivism.  In fact, having military power decentralized in militias rather than a national (Imperial!) force was an Anti-Federalist notion that would find a home in the conservative distrust of government.  And Democrat presidents have certainly not been opposed to war for most of the 20th century.

I would go so far...

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Third House of the Legislature

In light of our worsening budgetary problems, I'd just like to explore a fanciful idea about adding a third House to our federal Legislature with the following considerations in mind:

  1.    The menu is determined by those who are paying the bill. Democracy shouldn't be two wolves and a sheep voting on what's for dinner. People that take more from the government than they provide shouldn't be able to simply vote themselves money at their neighbor's expense.
  2.    Americans should have more direct say on how such a considerable slice of their income gets spent. Of necessity, they can't control all of it, but they can at least override the influence of their legislators to some degree. If a citizen does not want his money spent on defense, he/she can earmark up to 50% of his/her income for something else. If she wants 30% to go to Social Security and 20% to pay the debt, she can do this.
  3.    Each district would get financial representation that would be answerable, not on policy of who gets which entitlements (that's for the Senators and Representatives to work out with lobbyists and special interest groups), but to be judged solely on certain financial matters. The Senate and the HoR can still spend the money on wasteful enterprises, but they won't be able to arbitrarily run us into debt to do so. Meanwhile our financial representatives would have no say over culture war issues. They will mainly act as our budget balancers and investigate how our money is being spent. They determine how much the other Houses get to waste.
  4.    Not just anyone should be allowed to act as our accountants. Most legislators have legal training (lot of good it does them) and not much business sense beyond how to exploit the political process to make money. This is really, really, really bad for the rest of us.

With these considerations in mind, I introduce the Third House of our new Tricameral Legislature by Amendment 28 to the Constitution!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Obama outlaws the lottery!

No, Obama didn't outlaw any lotteries.  But he should, if he's a man of principle. 
Is a lottery fair? In the Obama sense, unlike business ventures, you truly didn't win through either merit or intelligence (unless somehow you cheated), but now you have all this money that the others players don't.   Seems like the most fair thing would be to distribute the money among all those who contributed.  Wouldn't that be the most fair?  

Are people playing primarily for the fun of it, or are they risking some money in order to have a greater income than that of their fellows?  That sounds unfair to me.  As Obama would say, "you didn't build that." All you can say is that you put your money into it.  Like a shareholder.  

When you think about it, it would be a lot more fair to take 90% of the winner's money and use it to help all the other desperate players who were hoping for a better life.  Of course, the money would be going back to the people that bought the tickets.  Though, wouldn't it have been better if they would've just held onto the money in that case?  

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Progressivism has no tolerance for free exercise

Well said (and in the NY Times no less):

To the extent that the H.H.S. mandate, the Cologne ruling and the Chick-fil-A controversy reflect a common logic rather than a shared confusion, then, it’s a logic that regards Western monotheism’s ideas about human sexuality — all that chastity, monogamy, male-female business — as similarly incompatible with basic modern freedoms.
Like a belief that the gods want human sacrifice, these ideas are permissible if held in private. But they cannot be exercised in ways that might deny, say, employer-provided sterilizations to people who really don’t want kids. Nor can they be exercised to deny one’s offspring the kind of sexual gratification that anti-circumcision advocates claim the procedure makes impossible. They certainly cannot be exercised in ways that might make anyone uncomfortable with his or her own sexual choices or identity.
It may seem strange that anyone could look around the pornography-saturated, fertility-challenged, family-breakdown-plagued West and see a society menaced by a repressive puritanism. But it’s clear that this perspective is widely and sincerely held.
It would be refreshing, though, if it were expressed honestly, without the “of course we respect religious freedom” facade.
If you want to fine Catholic hospitals for following Catholic teaching, or prevent Jewish parents from circumcising their sons, or ban Chick-fil-A in Boston, then don’t tell religious people that you respect our freedoms. Say what you really think: that the exercise of our religion threatens all that’s good and decent, and that you’re going to use the levers of power to bend us to your will.
There, didn’t that feel better? Now we can get on with the fight. . . .