Stumbling Blocks

I get frustrated from watching the news fairly often these days. Most of my frustration comes from people taking event A and using it to promote their policy agenda on issues Y and Z when event A only tangentially approaches issue Y, slightly grazes issue Z but smacks right into the heart of issue B.

My frustration is my own problem, though. As much as I look at the issue being unrelated to the actual problem the issues are still issues for these people and I have to be careful that my annoyance and frustration with the way agendas get pushed don’t cause me to be a stumbling block to resolution of those issues.

For example, Dylann Roof walks into a Bible Study in Charleston’s historic Emmanuel AME Church and kills nine people with his gun. This sets off a huge protest about the Confederate battle emblem flying on the grounds of the South Carolina Capitol. A Confederate battle flag did not cause Roof to become a racist or put murder in his heart. Pulling down the Confederate flag will not reduce racism in America one bit and, on the surface, that bothers me. Energy is being expelled and political capital is being spent in a way that will not solve the problem of our young people becoming racists with hate in their hearts.

However, that flag needs to come down for many other very good reasons so I need to be careful in venting my frustrations that I don’t become a stumbling block. The Apostle Paul talked about this:

1 Now regarding your question about food that has been offered to idols. Yes, we know that “we all have knowledge” about this issue. But while knowledge makes us feel important, it is love that strengthens the church. 2 Anyone who claims to know all the answers doesn’t really know very much. 3 But the person who loves God is the one whom God recognizes.[a]4 So, what about eating meat that has been offered to idols? Well, we all know that an idol is not really a god and that there is only one God. 5 There may be so-called gods both in heaven and on earth, and some people actually worship many gods and many lords. But for us,

There is one God, the Father,
    by whom all things were created,
    and for whom we live.
And there is one Lord, Jesus Christ,
    through whom all things were created,
    and through whom we live.

However, not all believers know this. Some are accustomed to thinking of idols as being real, so when they eat food that has been offered to idols, they think of it as the worship of real gods, and their weak consciences are violated.It’s true that we can’t win God’s approval by what we eat. We don’t lose anything if we don’t eat it, and we don’t gain anything if we do.

But you must be careful so that your freedom does not cause others with a weaker conscience to stumble. 10 For if others see you—with your “superior knowledge”—eating in the temple of an idol, won’t they be encouraged to violate their conscience by eating food that has been offered to an idol? 11 So because of your superior knowledge, a weak believer[b] for whom Christ died will be destroyed. 12 And when you sin against other believers[c] by encouraging them to do something they believe is wrong, you are sinning against Christ.13 So if what I eat causes another believer to sin, I will never eat meat again as long as I live—for I don’t want to cause another believer to stumble.

Source: 1 Corinthians 8 – Food Sacrificed to Idols – New Living Translation – Bible Gateway

Voicing my frustration over misplaced cause and effect could become a stumbling block for some who might take me as saying that the Confederate flag is acceptable to display. It isn’t. People say it is heritage, not hate but even if you want to call it heritage it is a heritage of hate and racism.

I’m saying that as a son of the South, born and raised in Tennessee and living the last thirteen years in Georgia.

Don’t get me wrong, I am proud of my heritage, just not the part that includes the Confederate States of America. While the Southern States may have been well within their rights to secede from the Union their reasons for doing so was to perpetuate slavery and that was wrong.

So while I can see the historical context that the Confederate flag is being flown, while I understand the organizations like the Sons of Confederate Soldiers simply want to remember their ancestors I won’t be a stumbling block by arguing for the historical context by which the flag on the South Carolina Capitol grounds is being flown.

We need to heal much, much more than we need to stand on technicalities.

It’s Time

“It’s time to move the flag from the Capitol grounds,” the governor said, speaking to reporters at the Capitol in Columbia.

Source: Haley of South Carolina Calls for Removal of Confederate Battle Flag – The New York Times

Finally a politician who actually has a legitimate voice in the debate has stepped forward to push for the removal of the Confederate battle flag from the lawn of South Carolina’s capitol. Out of every politician who has spoken out or side stepped speaking out on this matter she is the only one who has the legitimate power to do something about it. Until the people of South Carolina agree to the removal of the flag it’s going to stay there and she is leading them to that end.

I’ve learned to hate RussiansMuslims
All through my whole life
If another war comes
It’s them we must fight
To hate them and fear them
To run and to hide
And accept it all bravely
With God on my side.

Trickle down economics is wrong — After a point.

The IMF has released a report hailed to be the coffin nail for Reaganomics. Basically Reagan claimed that if you put more money in the hands of the rich they will spend that money and it will fall into the pockets of the middle class. The IMF has found that rich people tend to just put what excess money they have into their investments.

I can understand this. After a certain point you are spending all the money you can and you get no substantial return on your lifestyle by spending any more.

With that in mind I’d like to suggest that maybe up to a certain level of affluence you can improve the economy by easing up on the tax burden but above that level of affluence it no longer works.

Maybe we do need to look at personal wealth along with income to determine the upper end tax bracket. Maybe if a person has a net worth of under $10 million we use the current tax brackets for taxing income. If a person’s net worth is between $10 million and $20 million then any income over $400k is taxed at 45%. For those with a net worth of more than $20 million but less than a $1 billion then any income over $400k is taxed at 75%. For those worth $1 billion or more then any income over $400k is taxed at 95%.

Note that I am saying “any income” here. Why treat earned and unearned income any different for those who are worth more tha $10 million?


 ‘We’re not all equal when it comes to water’

A progressive consumption tax would go a long way toward enforcing limits in water usage.

In April, after Gov. Jerry Brown (D) called for a 25 percent reduction in water use, consumption in Rancho Santa Fe went up by 9 percent.

Source: Rich Californians balk at limits: ‘We’re not all equal when it comes to water’ – The Washington Post

Carry this out through the entire economy with a progressive consumption (sales) tax and you would solve a lot of problems.

Ga. Supreme Court to hear tuition case for undocumented…

The Georgia Supreme Court agreed this week agreed to hear oral arguments in a case involving in-state tuition at Georgia’s public colleges for immigrant students with legal status.

Source: Ga. Supreme Court to hear tuition case for undocumented…

Kids go where their parents take them. A couple from Columbia who sneaks into this country illegally bringing their six year old kid with them has put their child into a legal situation beyond the child’s control. If that child remains in this country throughout his or her school years then that child needs to be considered a full member of the community and state of residence. It is wrong to deny them any benefit from the state that the child that is born in that state is entitled to.

You can talk all you want about stopping the flow of illegal immigration or denying services to illegal immigrants because we can’t afford it and as long as we are talking adults who consciously broke the law to enter this country you will get at least a sympathetic ear from me.

Once you start talking about punishing kids who know no other home but the U.S. and the state they live in you will get push back from me because you are wrong. No discussion, you are wrong and you should know it.

Who are you?

I really feel for this woman. I do. She has some issues with her identity, that’s for sure, but she actually seemed to be dealing with them in some positive fashion. She certainly didn’t need to be confronted with her issues in front of the whole country, being put on the spot as she was, to confront who she really is in contrast to who she has been presenting herself as being.

Dolezal did not directly challenge any accusation made regarding her race in the post but mentioned in passing that the national “dialogue has unexpectedly shifted internationally to my personal identity in the context of defining race and ethnicity.”

Source: Embattled NAACP Chapter President Rachel Dolezal Steps Down – ABC News

Honestly, I don’t see where the problem is. She seems genuinely concerned with race relations and in equality. She has worked hard to educate herself to where she appears to be a competent lecturer on African studies. And no one has made any allegations about her abilities in administering her chapter of the NAACP as its president. If we really are looking for equal opportunities across the board then how does race constitute a requirement to be a chapter president of the NAACP. The NAACP doesn’t seem to have a problem with it.

Actually race and ethnicity have such fluid boundaries I really can’t see why we use them any more. At some point in the near future I predict that race and ethnicity will be irrelevent taxonomies. We will all be mutts, as if we weren’t already.

Free speech, grand juries and asshats

There are right ways and wrong ways to spout off about government officials. You can say:

I hope there is a special place in hell reserved for that horrible woman.

Or you can say:

Metaphorically speaking, I hope there is a special place in hell reserved for that horrible public official on whom I am entitled to comment, purely as hyperbole, on a matter of public concern under my First Amendment rights to free speech and to petition the Government for redress of grievances. Cf: The Screwtape Letters, an allegorical series of essays in which C. S. Lewis used Hell as a literary device for comment upon matters of spiritual and political concern.

Source: Department Of Justice Uses Grand Jury Subpoena To Identify Anonymous Commenters on a Silk Road Post at | Popehat

The first might get you summoned to appear before a grand jury costing you thousands upon thousands of dollars in legal fees along with untold hours of lost wages. The last will make you look like a moron with no backbone but at least you’ve had your say and you’ve kept your bank account intact.

Can a Robot Writer Have Journalistic Integrity or Be Ethical?

Robots don’t threaten human journalist jobs because automated content is typically used to expand coverage, not replace existing coverage.

Source: Robots write thousands of news stories a year, but not this one – Jun. 11, 2015

HA! That’s the same line we used when we automated all the factory jobs.  We didn’t replace any existing jobs but we sure made it easy to justify not hiring replacement workers for those that left through natural attrition.

So there’s one less unpaid intern getting experience that will allow them to ease into the shoes of the reporter with two years experience that is replacing the old guy that moved on up or retired. A few years later the editors are bemoaning the lack of experience in those candidates for the entry level journalism jobs. The publishers see this as justification for trying to expand the role of these robot reporters into creating more complex pieces.

I saw the same thing happening in manufacturing as I was automating more and more tasks. We said way back then that this automation stuff would zoom through every industry out there including health care, journalism insurance and the legal industry.

All rise for the court, the Honorable Judge Tin Man presiding.

IMF Warns Underpricing Water Is Fostering Shortages

Remember that video that went around a few months back about the CEO of Nestles declaring water is not a human right? He was probably correct. How can I have a right to something that may not be available?

The IMF is now chiming in with a decree that water is underpriced and that underpricing of water is causing shortages.

Governments should be charging consumers higher prices to encourage more sustainable water use and improve access for the poor, the IMF says in its latest staff discussion note.

Source: IMF Warns Underpricing Water Is Fostering Shortages – Real Time Economics – WSJ

Right pricing water is going to be critical to sustaining our potable water supply.

Check Your Premises

Carl Woodward had a very interesting article in the Baltimore Post-Examiner last week. He made a very clear point that I fully agree with that for the next several election cycles the Republicans will retain control of both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. Any Democratic President is not going to be able to push much, if any,  of a legislative agenda.

He illustrates that with the following:

“Every young man or young woman should be automatically registered to vote when they turn 18,” she said, adding that states should also offer at least 20 days of early in-person voting.

The proposal is being hailed by liberals as “a huge reform” (Ari Berman), a “big big move” (Greg Sargent), and a “major step” (Andrew Prokop). Not only would it instantly remove a major obstacle to voting for around 50 million Americans by adding them to the rolls – it would also shift the balance of likely voters to the considerable advantage of Democrats. Americans in general are significantly more progressive than our subset of likely voters.

Source: Democrats should demand executive actionBaltimore Post-Examiner

And follows up with asking exactly how is she going to achieve this goal with a Republican led Congress and he’s got that exactly right. However, she couldn’t have done much to achieve this goal of automatic voter registration and 20 days of in-person voting even with a Democratic controlled House and Senate. States set these election laws, not the federal government. Ms Clinton is basing this campaign plank on a false premise.

That’s a false premise Ms Clinton made. There are other false premises in this article. When I read it I didn’t have time to go into detail so I tweeted:

Again, the president having the power to change voting laws isn’t a false premise of Mr. Woodward’s but it is a false premise that was quoted in the article. I bring that up mostly because people tend to think mostly about Federal legislation and look to the Feds for regulating voting, guns and marriage but in truth the states hold almost all the power in those realms. The Feds are there to keep the states honest and to ensure that state laws are applied with equality to all citizens of a state.

The false premises that I found that were Mr. Woodward’s are found in the following passage in that article:

The crucial difference with executive action: it’s actually possible. The attempt, at least, can be absolutely guaranteed.  And the potential is enormous: consider the executive’s considerable discretion over matters of enforcement, her power to pardon, her control of military affairs and foreign policy, and so on.

Executive actions are limited to how existing laws are administered. Executive actions can’t create new law nor can executive actions create new programs. Executive actions set priorities, policies and procedures for enforcement of laws passed by congress and programs created by congress. It is a false premise that executive powers reach anywhere the magnitude of legislative powers.

There is a false premise that just because the president orders something that is within his or her power to order that there will be funding available to carry out that order. There is also the false premise that the executive power over foreign policy is any more than just a leadership position. Agreements with foreign powers must be ratified and funded by Congress.

While I generally agree with Mr. Woodward’s assessment of Ms. Clinton’s campaigning, she is being completely dishonest in presenting her platform as anything more than a pipe dream, using executive powers in a Democratic administrative with a powerful Republican Congress isn’t the silver bullet he makes it out to be.

Whoever becomes the Democratic president (and I’m not at all confident that will be Hillary Clinton) in that environment has only one hope of moving their agenda will be by working along the fissures in the GOP. There are at least three factions of the GOP find a way to get a lever in the cracks and exert pressure.

Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported.

Ephemerality | Definition of ephemerality by Merriam-Webster

I’ve gotten myself in the habit of checking definitions on words I have any question about that I come across online. It’s just too easy to assuage any doubt. I knew that ephemerality was referring to the temporal or fleeting nature of things but I had a little naggling doubt about it so I marked it and told Chrome to look it up.

My personal opinion is that the below definition is useless.

noun ephem·er·al·i·ty \i-ˌfe-mə-ˈra-lə-tē, -ˌfē-\
plural ephem·er·al·i·ties
Definition of EPHEMERALITY
1 plural :  ephemeral things
2:  the quality or state of being ephemeral

Source: Ephemerality | Definition of ephemerality by Merriam-Webster

You “like” me, you really “like” me.

I don’t care whether Facebook knows when people like my content but I do care when people do like my content. I really wish the “like” button down there kept track on my site which articles y’all like and would give me a report showing the ongoing popularity of all the articles on my site that people “like”.

So, do any WordPress Plugin developers want to build a “Like” plugin that works my way? It can publish to Facebook or +1 to Google or anything else but above that it needs to track the “Likes” on each article and compare it to all articles on this blog. Being able to see “likes” by categories would be needed also. A bonus is given if I can look at “likes” by tags.

Intellectual Arguments? No, those were all emotional.

“Everytown has done a great job of presenting intellectual arguments to people about gun violence prevention, common sense laws and public safety measures, but we really weren’t engaging people emotionally,” Jason Rzepka, the Director of Cultural Engagement for Everytown told The Daily Beast. “But for some reason it felt like the movement wasn’t moving as quickly as it could. We hadn’t made it easy enough for people to show their support for the issue.”

Source: Can Slacktivists Stop Gun Violence? When Fashion Meets Activism – The Daily Beast

No, Jason, your organization hasn’t done a great job of presenting intellectual arguments, every argument presented is based on false assumptions, disconnected datasets or pure emotions. Your social media campaign is made up entirely of sound bites and memes and those aren’t intellectual arguments, they are marketing tools.

Don’t feel alone in this, though. Gun rights activists have done no better. I’m especially troubled by open carry activists even though I’m sympathetic to their cause. They have given you a very easy target to take pot shots at.

But, I shouldn’t be surprised, your organization was derived from Mother’s Demand and I have to believe that Shannon Watts had something to do with your public relations campaign strategies. Her organization has been intellectually dishonest from the beginning. Her platform started out with Mother’s Demand being an informational outlet that did not condone boycotts. Boycotts are the only claim to success her organization has and most of those successes were actually failures spun to look like wins.

You may one day be successful and get guns banned in the U.S. but you won’t do it on intellectual arguments, you will do it with distorted data and out and out lies. I’d rather not be successful that way.