Archive for March, 2013

Gay marriage debate turns into fight for validation of private beliefs

by David McElroy

Gay marriage confrontation

We all think that what we believe is right. We’ve been taught principles of right and wrong all our lives. We’ve thought about what the principles mean and we’ve decided which narrative of morality we believe is right. Sadly, most of us want something else, too. We want others to endorse our view of morality.

The whole issue of gay marriage has become a battle between two sides wanting to “make a statement” about right and wrong — and forcing others to go along with them — rather than finding a legal solution that respects everybody’s rights. This battle is fierce enough that passionate people on both sides aren’t really interested in a principled solution to get government out of the marriage business. For those people, it’s a social battle to force “society” to endorse their position.

On the surface, the issue seems to be about how everyone can be treated equally by the law while respecting individuals’ very different beliefs about the underlying issue of homosexuality. If that were truly the only issue to deal with, we have a solution. Eliminate marriage licenses and get government out of the business of deciding what a marriage is. But that’s no longer what this is about. Here’s what the two sides really seem to be saying:

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Shocker? If you give folks incentive not to work, many stop working

by David McElroy

Disability claim form

Why do people seem shocked to find out that if you give people incentives not to work, many of them are going to take advantage of that if they can get away with it?

This American Life has an episode this week about the explosive growth of the $200-billion-a-year federal disability program, but the reporter and host seem shocked that people could be doing what the system gives them incentives to do. Even after an hour of reporting — in which there was discussion of poverty, job prospects and more — there wasn’t any mention of the simple economic fact that people do what they have incentives to do.

This episode is reported by NPR’s Planet Money, and the reporter seems to be going out of her way to come up with as many semi-legitimate excuses for the problem as possible. Overall, she sounds like a progressive liberal who’s confronted with evidence that a progressive government program doesn’t work — and she’s trying to avoid offending other progressives by pointing that out.

(Other progressive are offended, though. The left-wing organization Media Matters for America has blasted back at the allegedly “error-riddled story.”)

The piece goes to great lengths at times to attempt to explain away the problem as a simple matter of poor people turning to the disability program because they have no other choices. What the reporter doesn’t seem to understand is that people react to incentives. If they’re going to starve or be homeless in the place where they are (with the skills they have), people tend to find a way to do something about it — whether that entails migrating or learning something new.

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Public gets hypocritical politicians because that’s what voters choose

by David McElroy

Steve KatzA speeding ticket isn’t normally that big a deal for a politician, but a traffic stop turned into a publicity nightmare for New York state legislator Steve Katz last Thursday.

When a state trooper pulled Katz over for going 80 mph in a 65-mph zone, he noticed the smell of marijuana coming from inside the car. When questioned, Katz turned over a small bag of what appeared to be weed. He was charged with possession of marijuana and released, because the trooper didn’t think Katz was impaired.

The bigger issue — and the one that’s made it a national story — is that Katz is a Republican state assemblyman who’s “railed against illegal drugs,” according to the local newspaper in the area. In addition, he voted last year against legalizing medical marijuana.

In other words, he’s the typical politician who’s telling a mainstream audience what it wants to hear and voting the way his voters want him to vote.

Predictably, this has turned into a story just about his obvious hypocrisy. While that’s certainly the case, the real story is that voters don’t know their legislators — because those legislators tell voters whatever they want to hear in order to get elected and stay in office.

I’ve mentioned before that when I worked in politics, I didn’t ask each client which issues he wanted included in the campaign material I produced for him. Although the client certainly reviewed material before it was printed, the issues were almost always the ones that I selected — and I wrote exactly what voters wanted to hear. That’s just the way politics works.

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I kinda like Rand Paul, but I don’t support anybody as ruler-in-chief

by David McElroy

Rand Paul 2

Of the politicians currently in Congress, Rand Paul is probably the one whose views would be least damaging to the country if he were made president. In other words, I consider him the “least bad” of the bunch.

Despite that — and despite the fact that I liked his political theater last week — I won’t support him for president. It’s for the same reason I didn’t support his father for president. I don’t want anybody to be president.

I’m opposed to the entire current system. I don’t support any system that says it has the power to tell others what to do and says it has the power to steal their money. The idea at the core of our system as it’s constituted — that the majority have the right to make up rules that everyone else has to obey — is immoral and evil. Anybody who takes the reins of power in that system is giving legitimacy to that idea.

Some people who see themselves as pragmatists believe they should be a part of the system, saying that it’s the only way to influence the system and that since the system is going to exist, we might as well accept it and get seats at the table when the power is divvied up. I understand that position, because I tried to live that way for awhile. Eventually, though, I had to give it up as morally bankrupt.

Even if you’re a libertarian — of the minarchist type — and believe it’s OK to establish a central governing authority over what we call the United States, Rand Paul isn’t much of a libertarian. He’s an odd mixture of libertarian and pragmatist conservative. That might actually sell well in a future Republican primary, but it shouldn’t carry much weight with libertarians.

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Little green soldiers on cupcakes mean trouble for Mich. third grader

by David McElroy

Birthday cupcake-soldierIf cupcakes are topped with little green WW II soldiers, they somehow become dangerous or threatening if they’re brought into a school. Whatever the case, it was enough to get a Michigan 9-year-old and his parents into trouble with his school. It seems like another case of insane “safety” overreach by out-of-touch school administrators.

Casey Fountain’s third grade son brought cupcakes to school last week to share with his classmates in celebration of his ninth birthday. The boy’s mother made the cupcakes and decorated them with small green soldiers that the boy likes — very much like the G.I. Joe figures that every generation of kids has been playing with for decades.

But when the boy got to school with the “insensitive” cupcakes, they were confiscated because of the figures. The principal called the boy’s father and told him that it was insensitive because of the shootings in Connecticut last year. (Did army infantry invade the school? I must have missed that.)

The boy’s father called the media to complain, but the school refused to go on camera to talk about the case, issuing a strange statement instead. Here was the strangest part of the statement:

“On the other hand, there are those who feel that guns create fear in schools and we need to put solid security measures in place  plus practice routines to be prepared in case an emergency should ever occur,” the statement said. “Living in a democratic society entails respect for opposing opinions.” [Emphasis mine.]

So this is the school’s way of showing “respect for opposing opinions”?

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Rand Paul filibuster brings GOP rats out into the light for us all to see

by David McElroy

Rand Paul-filibuster

Rand Paul has a better chance of being elected president than his father ever had. That’s partly because he’s more willing to play the pragmatic party political game, but it’s also partly because he’s not the doctrinaire libertarian that his father generally was.

Paul’s filibuster in the U.S. Senate Wednesday was nothing but political theater, but it ended up achieving something unexpected. It flushed out some of the highest-ranking Republicans and forced them to show the disdain they feel whenever individual liberties are concerned.

Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham not only didn’t support Paul, but they spent Thursday actively attacking him. McCain took to the Senate floor to attack Paul’s concern that the Obama administration would ever use drone strikes on Americans inside the borders of the country. Graham not only attacked Paul, but praised Obama’s use of drone strikes to kill people on the other side of the world.

After starting his filibuster alone Wednesday, Paul was eventually joined by a few Republican senators and one Democratic senator. While they talked about constitutional rights and lambasted the Obama administration for its refusal to say that it didn’t have legal authority to unilaterally kill Americans in this country, where were McCain and Graham?

They were with the Republican establishment having dinner with Obama.

If you’re one of the many conservatives who believe that the Republican Party is your savior when it comes to battling big government, think again. There’s a small core of GOP politicians who are somewhat more likely to be on the side of individual freedom than the statist old guard is, but those who believe in freedom are a minority in their own party.

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I’m all broken up about ‘draconian’ cuts hitting the federal government

by David McElroy

Crocodile tears

I just read the the Navy’s Blue Angels are going to cancel their flying shows this year because of budget cuts. I’m really upset about this.

If there’s no budget deal by midnight tonight, about $85 billion in budget cuts will kick in. For weeks, I’ve been bombarded with stories about how “draconian” these cuts will be. Even though everybody has known for months that the cuts are coming, Barack Obama and congressional Republicans act like teen-agers in cars playing chicken near a cliff.

Even though Obama gets to decide what cuts are made, he calls them “dumb, arbitrary cuts” that are “unnecessary and inexcusable.”

For instance, Joe Biden isn’t going to be able to fly home on the weekends aboard his Air Force jet. Instead, he’s going to have to go back to riding an Amtrak train. This is horrible. It’s upsetting. How could we let such a thing happen?

Various federal agencies are telling their employees that they’ll be taking one unpaid day off every week through the end of the year unless a budget deal is reached. (The IRS is delaying this particular cut until after tax season, so you can tell what their priorities are.) How will we possibly survive with a 20 percent reduction in the hours worked by these various bureaucrats? It’s outrageous that they won’t be in their offices doing … well, whatever it is that they do.

The White House wants to apply maximum pressure on Congress to keep spending, so it has released a list of what cuts will hit each and every state. Here’s the list of cuts that I’m supposed to be scared about here in Alabama, for instance. And I am. I’m terrified.

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Start over here

When this site launched in 2011, it was intended as a way to find others who were sick of partisan politics and wanted to connect with like-minded people who were ready to go beyond politics and find ways of escaping. It has shifted focus in ways that reflect my own shifting thinking. I’m less interested in politics and more interested in looking at the things that make life worth living, such as love, creation, self-understanding and connecting with others. Every article I have posted since 2011 is still in my archives, but everything I write is a reflection of my current thinking. Sometimes I’m wrong — and that’s fine with me — and I don’t always end up agreeing with what I wrote five years ago. For now, you can still read what I wrote about the site’s purpose in 2011, but I should rewrite this. Read more.

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David likes email, but can’t reply to every message. I get a surprisingly large number of requests for relationship advice — seriously — but I rarely have the time to respond. (Sorry.) Besides, with my own romantic track record, maybe my advice isn’t worth taking. I’d like to find a wife one of these days, so maybe I should add an “application.”

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