Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Survey Says!

Image result for family feud survey
Modern pseudoscience relies on the survey as its primary source of data.

A lady knocked on our door yesterday with two surveys that she asked us to fill out.  The surveys are part of her PhD dissertation, and I'm not quite sure what she's setting out to prove.  Like any other survey, it is setting out to prove something, whether people want to admit to this or not.  And that is the fundamental problem with surveys to begin with.  Almost every survey has a foregone conclusion that they're trying to prove through use of statistical data.

This particular survey was trying to figure out whether we liked turtles and trees.  I'm not quite sure what she's trying to prove by the survey, but I'm not sure I want to respond to it. There are three pages of questions as to whether I feel I identify with turtles (in one survey), or with trees (in the second). I'm asked whether I feel that turtles or oak trees define our island, whether I identify with them, what I thought of them, or what not.  It also asks whether I am willing to do things like clean up the beach for the turtles or plant trees or whatever.

The way the questions are worded, it is more like a push-poll than an actual survey of opinion.  The questions are more along the line of, "Do you love and cherish the turtles and trees, or are you one of those heartless bastards who just wants to ruin the environment?"  There really is no in-between in a survey like this.

I am hesitant to answer the survey as I'm not sure how the data is going to be used.  If the island residents respond that they love the trees and the turtles then perhaps this will be used as an excuse to make it even more difficult to maintain our properties here on the island.  As it is, we have to obtain a special permit to cut down a tree on our property, even if the tree is dead and overhangs your house and ready to fall in the night and kill you as you sleep - as one 150 ft tall dead pine tree on my neighbor's property is currently poised to do.

There is also talk of restricting access to the beach, and some parts of the beach have already been restricted in order to make room for nesting sites for birds.  We've already cut back on lighting on the shore to accommodate the turtles during mating season, even though our island is not a primary site for turtle nesting.

These are all laudable goals, but sometimes they have unintended consequences.  And often I see that the people who want to restrict access to the beach or restrict others' activities don't want to restrict them for themselves.  Local residents got all up in arms because one of the entrepreneurs working for the hotel was driving an ATV on the beach to tow his beach umbrellas and beach loungers from the parking lot, a distance of 1/4 Mile.

Meanwhile, employees at the Turtle Center not only have a huge ATV that they drive up and down the entire length of the beach all day long, they actually sell rides so people can go on "Turtle Expeditions" via ATV on the beach.  In other words, it's not okay for us to use the beach - even to walk on it.  But it's okay for an environmentalist to do whatever the hell they want, including driving vehicles on the beach.  There's a certain level of hypocrisy here.

It is, in a way, like the public transit advocate who thinks we should all be taking the bus but that they have important things to do, such as going to the public transit advocacy meeting - so they need to drive their Subaru.  Public transit for everyone, except themselves, of course.

If the response to the survey shows that the homeowners are less enthusiastic about the turtles and trees, this could also be used against us. We would be painted as heartless bastards who basically run over turtles in our spare time and chainsaw trees just for fun - and this used an excuse to restrict beach access and tree cutting.  If we profess a love for turtles and trees, this will also be used against us, with similar results.

Either way, no good will come of the surveys.  As they say on Dragnet, everything you say can be used against you in a court of law.  No matter how we respond to the survey, the data will be used against us.

I thought briefly about spoofing the survey.   In the comments section, I could have added things such as"live oak makes excellent firewood!" or "turtle eggs are sure delicious!"  But I decided to play it straight.  Whether or not I return these surveys though, I'm still undecided.  Again, I'm not sure whether the data will be used in a way that will be helpful to myself or to the trees or to the turtles.  It certainly will be helpful to the person who's working on their PhD dissertation.  And I wonder how much of our taxpayer money is going into this.

Speaking of surveys, another one is came out recently, saying that over half of all Americans have a family member who's been incarcerated.  I thought about this with regard to my crazy family including my drug-addled siblings and nieces and nephews, and thought that the survey result was pretty accurate, as at least two or three of them had spend some time in jail.

But again, like most surveys, they set out to prove a point, and the point in this case is that the United States is a horrible place and incarcerates more people than any other country except China, and that this is a horrible rotten thing because criminals should just be allowed to roam free on the streets.

I read more about the survey and realized it was performed by Cornell University in far-left leaning Ithaca, New York.  I'm all-too-familiar with Ithaca, having lived near there when we had our summer home. The place is crazy liberal, not just normal liberal.

The data sample was 4,000 responses, which is not really very representative of a nation of 310 million people.  And I have to question their methodology, too.  Did they questioned 4,000 people from the greater Ithaca area?  If so it wouldn't be surprising to me that most of them were in jail, particularly since it is very near Auburn, New York, whose population consists of prisoners and families are prisoners,  who actually moved to the town to be near their incarcerated brethren.  Next to Cornell, the prisons are the largest employer in the area!

As with all surveys, there is a problem with self-reported data.  First of all, the type of people who are willing to respond to such surveys has a huge filtering effect.  Someone living in rural Montana probably hung up the phone on their survey-taker when they said they were from New York, doing a survey on incarceration for Cornell University.  That person likely doesn't have any family members in jail, and they probably didn't respond to the survey.

On the other hand, people with an axe to grind about family members who are "unjustly convicted" are more likely to respond to such a survey.  Similarly, the tree-huggers among our population here on our island are probably more likely to respond to the survey, putting down all "sevens" that the turtles and the trees and most important things in their lives and represent our island.  Meanwhile, the people who feel ambivalent about the turtles and trees probably didn't bother to fill out the survey.

And even if they did bother to fill out the survey, odds are they didn't fill it out honestly. No one wants to be perceived as a tree murderer or turtle killer, so they would put down higher numbers than maybe they perhaps actually feel.

Sadly, today, so much of the "science" we are hearing about in the press is basically social science, which uses surveys to acquire data.  Survey data is highly flawed, particular in this day and age where people don't answer the phone, and people are too busy to fill out paper surveys.  Surveys also have an odious reputation as they usually used as bait for various online scams.

I filled out the survey and I guess I'll hand it back to the nice lady working on her Ph.D.  After all, I don't want to see another unemployed Ph.D candidate wandering around the country.  But I may regret submitting the survey the next time I try to get a permit to cut down that dead tree in our backyard - or the next time I go to the beach only to see a sign saying that is closed to everyone except for the environmentalists and their ATVs.

Throwing Your Life Away Over Politics

Image result for hero statue the incredibles edna mode's house

Maybe what the world needs is fewer heroes.....

Recently, a young man was sentenced to life in prison after he attended a Nazi rally and then ran over a protester with his car.   He hadn't accomplished much in life, being booted out of the military.  He lived with his Mom at an age when it was embarrassing to do so.  He couldn't keep a job, and instead spent all day long playing video games.  And yes, it was likely he was mentally ill.

But for some reason, he felt that his immediate problems in life were trivial, compared to the greater problems in society, and that "if only..." his brand of politics could become law of the land, then his own situation would improve.

I called this externalizing early on in this blog - the idea that our personal problems have nothing to do with the shitty decisions we make in life, our own laziness, or stupidity, but rather are the result of greater forces at work - conspiracies of [fill in the blank] designed to take away our life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.

The news also reports it is the anniversary of Sarah Jane Moore's attempted assassination of Gerald Ford.  No one seems particularly sure why anyone would want to take a shot at President Ford, who was by all accounts a genial man, if a bit overwhelmed with his Presidential duties in an era of stagflation and the end of the Vietnam war.  But for some reason, Ms. Moore became "radicalized" (sounds contemporary!) and was convinced in her own mind that the only solution to the world's problems was the assassination of a President.  After more than 30 years in jail - and no doubt some mental health treatment - she realizes she basically threw her life away over nothing.

These are two examples of extremes, of course, but increasingly, we are seeing, worldwide, that people are not just content to work on their own lives - getting a job, a place to live, paying the bills, and partaking in the really heroic struggle of life, but rather want a shortcut or easy way out, by pointing a gun, setting fire to a police car, or whatever - as if these acts of violence will really enact serious long-term social changes, instead of just making things worse for everyone else.

But you needn't be a jihadist radical to throw your life away with politics.  Sure, it is a good idea to think about policies and politics and vote, and if you get your life together, you may even have money to contribute to a campaign - which really makes a difference.   But becoming a professional protester or one of these boorish people who inflicts their far-right or far-left views on hapless friends and acquaintances?   Just leave that shit alone.

Myself, I tend to see both sides of the issues - and realize neither side is right, nor are they really so concerned about these issues as much as they are in getting into power and staying there. Republicans talk a lot about lowering taxes and cutting spending. Sadly, they seem to be obsessed about the former and forget about the latter - something that will come around to bite us on the ass in the next decade - as we engage in even more deficit spending to prop up the economy after the next recession.  Democrats are little better, and have also demonstrated their blood-lust for power, time and time again. They claim to want to help "the little guy" but they see us only as voting blocs to be pandered to, in order to get elected.  Neither side is entirely right or wrong, and both are little more than politicians concerned with preserving their own perks.

But you don't have to be a would-be assassin or a neo-Nazi to throw your life away over politics - many ordinary Americans do this all the time with a low-level simmering resentment of the political establishment or even their own country.  Obsessing about politics can make you unattractive to employers, friends, and potential mates.   No one wants to hire, marry, or hang out with the guy or gal with political bumper stickers covering the back of their car - the guy or gal who does nothing but talk about politics - as if they actually know something - while at the same time, their personal life is a train wreck.

I saw this in my own family, firsthand.  My late sister bought into this hippie bullshit in the 1960's and felt that the comfortable middle-class lifestyle that my parents struggled so hard to give her, was bourgeoisie and should be shouted down.   Hey, smoke enough pot and anything seems plausible.  So she gave up on the idea of marrying a successful businessman and instead married far beneath her social status, and then wondered what the hell happened when her life went off the rails.   Once she reached middle-age, she realized that having a nice income and a car that started wasn't such a bad thing.  When she went back to her 30th college reunion, she was chagrined to see that all her friends who espoused the hippie ideals back in the 1960's were all driving luxury SUVs and carrying expensive designer handbags, having either had married successful men, or were successes of their own in the world.

My brother did a similar thing.  He was going to protest against the Vietnam war, a war which he had little chance of actually fighting in, thanks to deferments and a college education.  He put his life on hold for a decade or more to live in an unheated barn in a commune which was communal except that one "guru" ran everything and told everyone what to do - for his own aggrandizement.   It took him more than a decade to realize that he needed to have his own independent source of income, and that being able to retire someday wasn't some evil bourgeois thing, but a human desire.

Another brother obsessed about politics (and yes, once again, pot was involved) to the point where his girlfriend left him for a guy who ran a bagel store.  She wanted to have a husband who was a provider and had his shit together, as she wanted to have children and raise a family.  Unrealistic goals, I know!   But brother saw this as yet another injustice in the world - all aimed at him - and that her desires were just bourgeois and she didn't see the greater issues and injustices in the world.  And yes, he is the kind of guy who uses phrases like "Republi-Nazis" and "Repukes" and whatnot, which doesn't really engender any sort of dialog, as much as it just shuts it down.

Lives wasted, perhaps not as badly as that of Sarah Jane Moore, but diminished, nevertheless.  And I almost went down that same road myself, wanting to be a causista and save the world, rather than save myself (and I did need saving) from my own folly.  I got some good advice from Dr. Sol Gordon at Syracuse University, who pointed out that in order to change the world, I needed to take care of myself, first.   What the world needed wasn't yet another indigent protester in the street with a sign, but people who succeed in their careers and changed the world from within.

And like I said, for better or worse, our generation won - not through marches and chants and slogans - but by taking over the machinery of our society from within.   IBM was never like this.  Republicans today are furious that the largest companies on the planet, mostly in the tech sector, are run by liberals - if not the flaming variety.   The traditional base of the Republican party has been subverted - by the traditional base of the Republican party itself.   We won from within, by taking those jobs, going to work everyday, and making a little dough to the point where we can contribute - sometimes staggering amounts - to political campaigns.

But I am sure that my brother's little "We Hate America" puppet shows had as great an impact as Jeff Bezos buying The Washington Post.  I mean, in a bizarre, parallel universe, that might actually be true.   And like Sarah Jane Moore, eventually the causistas get older and realize that perhaps they squandered a lot of their life's energy on someone else's causes while their own cupboard was bare.

If you want to be a hero, just live your life, support yourself, and be happy and comfortable.  These are not "evil" things, nor are they selfish. The world is already chock full of malcontents, drug addicts, crazy people, and whatnot.   Not adding to the pile is probably the greatest gift you can give to humanity - and not-so-incidentally, to yourself.  I think that was what Dr. Gordon was getting at, when he gave me that advice.

Did I change the world?  Hardly.  But probably more than my causista siblings - and I had a lot more fun in the process.  And sometimes, things we do might not seem to impact the world, in and of themselves, but over time, tiny actions, particularly by a large number of people, have greater reactions.  As one of the line workers at GM once told me, a tiny gear can turn a big one, slowly, over time.  Maybe this isn't as flashy or dramatic as burning down a McDonald's, but in the end, it is far more effective.

Be a hero - in your own life!  And have fun doing it.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

LGBTQ? Has it Gone Too Far?

Has this transgender thing gone off the rails?

Recently, a teacher was fired from their job for refusing to use the "correct" pronoun when referring to a "transitioning" student in the third person.   It appears to be an inadvertent error - and certainly nothing worth getting dusted up about - but I think the teacher, egged on by the religious right, decided to make an issue of it, and said he would refuse to use the "correct" pronoun in the future,  due to his religious convictions, and was fired.   It quickly turned into a theater of the absurd.
“I can’t think of a worse way to treat a child than what was happening,” said West Point High Principal Jonathan Hochman
Oh, really?  I can think of a dozen.   In the news today, a stepmother sentenced to 28 years in prison for beating her stepson and locking in him a closet.  He was also malnourished.   But at least she referred to him by the proper pronoun!

When I was growing up, teachers could legally beat you, and did.  My gym teacher kept a wooden paddle and hit us on the behind - after making us bend over in front of the entire gym class (some sick sexual fantasy of his, no doubt).  Today, well, referring to someone by the wrong pronoun when talking about them to a third party is considered child abuse.   How did we get to this point?

When I was growing up, gays were in the closet, and yes, that was a scarring experience when you are very young.  The Stonewall riots occurred when I was about 13, although at the time, I don't recall reading about in the paper.  The drag queens at the Stonewall Inn wanted what everyone else on the planet wants - the right to be left alone.   Back then - and today - the issue was whether what someone does in private with other consenting adults was the business of the State or not.

And I think most people started to realize that the State had no compelling interest in bedroom monitoring.   That was the issue then - and now.   But somewhere along the way, it got complicated, very complicated.   And one thing that worries me is that we will see a push-back on these issues, and in fact, there already is, as self-appointed "activists" thing a good thing and take it too far.

Today, politicians pander to something called "LGBTQ" people, a moniker which keeps adding letters, as we divide people up into smaller and smaller sexual minorities.   From a personal perspective, I just wanted what those drag queens at Stonewall wanted - not the right to wear dresses in public, but just to be left the hell alone. Back then, the police set up "sting" operations or periodically arrested gays and then "outed" them in the newspaper.   The joke was, of course, the gay bars back then were all run by the Mafia, who paid off the police - but allowed periodic busts, particularly around election time, so the police could show they were "cleaning up the city."

My great-uncle was caught up in one of these.  He ended up killing himself when his name was published in the paper.  That sort of thing happened, circa 1948.   It was a different world back then. So you can see why I am merely content to be "left the hell alone" and not really interested in pushing my sexuality into other people's faces.

I was against the gay marriage thing - even though it did provide some limited benefits to me that are not available through contract - such as survivors social security benefits.  This is a pretty limited benefit, though, as my Social Security would be higher than any death benefit I would get from Mark's demise, and vice-versa.   I thought at the time - and do so today - that this would surely entrench both sides of this debate further and result in some push back.  The right to be "left the hell alone" was quickly morphing into the right to "make everyone accept me."   

And the latter can backfire.  You can't force people to like you.  I learned that in Kindergarten, when the teacher told the mean boys that not only did they have to "play nice" with little fey Kevin, but that they had to be his friend as well.  Well, of course, as soon as the teacher turned her back, the kids beat up poor little Kevin.   You can't force them to be friends with him.   What you should do, however, is prevent them from physically harming and bullying him.  Trust me when I say that would be a big victory - even and especially today.

Sadly, it seems well-meaning adults are instigating policies that not only don't prevent bullying, but like with poor Kevin, only seem to insure it.  By forcing people to "play nice" and telling them they have to "accept" things, they are only pushing the hate and bullying underground, where it will fester and ferment - and eventually explode.

The rallying cry on the Left is that people are "born this way" and thus we have to accept everyone's sexual peccadilloes or gender orientations as something they are genetically predisposed to, like having blue eyes.  The problem with this argument, is that it is not based on real science - at least at this time.  It is all based on social science, which is little more than taking surveys (to prove a point you set out to prove) and a lot of naval gazing.   This is not to say such science is worthless, only that it is suspect.

And I suspect that a lot of what social scientists say is true, but it also negates free choice and free will.  You might be predisposed to be homosexual, but you may also choose - as many did in the past - to marry a woman and have children and live a heterosexual life.  As they say here in the South, "gays make the best husbands, honey!"

But if you are creeped out by someone's sexual orientation or whatever, I don't think you are a horrible rotten person, necessarily.  If you feel the need to express violence to such folks, well, that's where you and I depart.  But if someone's sex life makes you uncomfortable, relax, you are not a horrible person.  Being creeped out by sex isn't an anomaly or an illness.  Think about your parents having sex - creeps you out, right?  That's normal.

The transgender thing creeps me out a bit, particularly when I see men who clearly are trying too hard to look like women - and failing badly at it.  I kind of feel sorry for them, they so desperately want to be girls, and it just isn't working.  Others, well, you'd have no way of telling.   And I suppose if that is their thing, and all they want is the right to "be left the hell alone" then I support that.   But it seems like everything else, we take it a step too far.

When I was President of the Gay and Lesbian Student Association, we had a "hotline" phone we manned.  And back then, in the closeted era, you had to talk many people down off a ledge (often quite literally) as they started to confront their sexual tendencies and felt that they had no other choice other than to jump off a building.  Yes, things were pretty horrible back then, and this wasn't that long ago - back in the 1980's.

But occasionally, we'd get a call from a local high school student, going through hell as he started to grapple with his sexuality issues, and no doubt, like poor Kevin, was bullied in school and called a "faggot" and whatnot. This is where it gets tricky, because these are minor children calling, and suggesting to them they come "out" and be fabulous is probably the wrong idea, particularly back then.

Our advice back then - and I am not sure it isn't bad advice now - was to wait until they turned 18 or even 21 and were on their own, before deciding things like your sex life.  There is no need to hurry these things, and what seems like a pressing issue now, may turn out to be a transitory thing later on.  Probably not, but that was the advice we gave, and I think it was sound advice then and now.

Today, people are encouraging - yes encouraging - youngsters to declare their sexual orientation and even gender not only in high school, but in junior high or even elementary school.  Children as young as five years old are encouraged to declare their gender - apparently the "gender reveal party" no longer occurs before the birth of a child, but rather after.  The whole tradition may be obsolete!  Of course, it was a more recent tradition.

But getting back on track, I think there is something wrong with this, although it is hard to put my finger on it.  Yes, we all knew the boy - like Kevin - who was a sissy in the third grade, or even before.  And yes, there were boys (and "tomboys") who liked to cross-dress at that early age.  But whether it was a "phase they were going through" or a lifetime commitment is something that I think is too early to tell.   We should not be encouraging children to make such choices so early in life.

And yet, many parents are doing just that, when there no rush or hurry to make such a choice.  And when it comes to permanent life-choices, such as hormone therapy or surgery, this is some serious business.  I don't think you are being unreasonable or "phobic" to say we need to back away a bit from this and see where it is going, before we jump in with both feet.

And I am not sure that such expensive surgery or other techniques need to be paid for by health insurance, any more than cosmetic surgery should be paid for.   You see, I pay premiums too, and they are skyrocketing today because a lot more things are being covered than ever before - including mental health care, which is staggeringly expensive.  We have to get away from this "wouldn't it be nice if the government could...." mentality, as it is getting far too costly.  But I digress.

On the other hand, it is important to note that a lot of the "push back" regarding this transgender thing is coming from an organized group on the right.   I have a number of "fundamentalist" Christian friends - evangelicals, they call themselves - and most of them, while not happy with the idea of gay marriage and whatnot, do little more than pray for who they perceive as sinners.   But others want to stoke the fires of hatred and instigate incidents - such as this teacher firing.  And sadly, well-meaning but crazy liberal activists - such as the principal quoted above - often play right into their hands.

These well-meaning folks, who are often not LGBTQ people, are sometimes the ones who are taking this whole thing a little to far.  While claiming to speak for my interests, they instead push a radical agenda that I quite frankly don't want to be a part of - and I suspect a lot of other people don't want as well.

I just want the right to be left the hell alone, quite frankly.   And that is a right that doesn't impinge or infringe on the rights of others.   Why can't we just leave it at that?

Monday, December 10, 2018

Don't Trust Anyone - Not Even Me!

Image result for living stingy used car salesman
In the world of commerce - which increasingly encompasses every aspect of our lives - you can't trust anyone!

In the mail today:

Hi Robert, 
I just read Living Stingy: The Future of RVing?, I think you had some great points which is why I think a collaboration between us could work well.
I represent a digital marketing agency currently working with a leading travel company who operates in the same marketplace as *** and ****** Holidays. We are in the process of securing sponsored placements for our client and we were wondering if you were interested in featuring such a post on your site. For the privilege of being featured on your site, we would be happy to offer a fee in the region of $15. Would you also be willing to accept link placements on pre-existing content on your site?
Let me know your thoughts.
Kind regards,
Fuck you, Glen!

You see how this works.  People sell their souls for 15 lousy bucks.

Everything - and I mean EVERYTHING on the Internet is scammed, shilled, spammed, and paid-for.  Not many sites are merely pure, unadulterated data.  You have to remain skeptical about every site you visit - Wikipedia, Snopes, whatever.  Everyone has an agenda.

And yes, you should be skeptical of my crappy little blog.  I would be so bitterly disappointed if you weren't.

I Don't Get It...

When the media leaves out a big chunk of a story, chances are, that is where the story is.

First, a disclaimer.  I am no fan of "President Trump" - I find him to be boorish and stupid, insulting and ugly - both physically and spiritually.   I don't support his policies, either.  I tend to vote Democratic, almost all the time, even when sometimes it is painful to do so.

But on the other hand, from a policy perspective, I don't see him as acting any differently that any other Republican.  He cuts taxes, loosens regulations, and engages in crony capitalism.   What did you expect from a Republican?  About the only thing that distinguishes him from traditional Republicans (in the modern sense) is his disregard of the deficit and his short-sighted foreign policy.   Those are the areas the Democrats could attack and pry loose some Republican votes.  Sadly, they are letting this opportunity slip by.

Instead, they are trying to cast Trump in moral terms - perhaps to pry loose some support from the Evangelicals.  Trump doesn't say the liturgy!  Trump has sex with porn stars!  Trump isn't really Christian!   These may be truthful statements, but in the realm of politics, irrelevant.

Like the Whitewater investigation before it, it seems the Russian collusion investigation is producing nothing that can be proven, other than that the President has sexual appetites.  Bill Clinton got a blowjob - big deal.   Even back in the 1990's, it was hard to get anyone to do other than feign outrage about this.  Today?  Trump isn't ashamed he banged a porn star - the guy who "grabs 'em by the pussy" has no real shame.

So what's the big deal?  The press reports that it is a foregone conclusion that any "hush money" payment made to a porn star is a de facto violation of campaign finance laws.   And this leaves me, a lawyer, scratching my head.  After all, Stormy Daniels didn't contribute to Trump's campaign, did she?  (or are blowjobs considered "payments in kind" these days?).  What exactly is the legal argument that this hush money payment was a violation of Campaign Finance Laws?

And like clockwork, the "experts" and the media sweep this under the rug and say, "Bobby, this is way above your head. You just don't get it, do you?"

And to quote Ron White, "I'm listening..."

As I noted before, whenever the media or someone tells only one side of a story, the odds are, the other side isn't very helpful to their cause.   And it took some digging (0.05 seconds, according to Google) but I found someone willing to come down from the mountain and explain this to us plebes.  And as it turns out, it isn't so much a "foregone conclusion" but what we call in the law, "a thin reed."

Funny thing is, I found the explanation in the Washington Post's opinion page, written by some slug who was a former chairman this-or-that of something called the Federal Election Commission.  What the heck does he know, anyway?  Maybe the reporters from the Post should read their own newspaper sometime!

He explains it better in his article than I can, so read the link.  The nub of this is, if you assume the payments to Stormy Daniels, et al, were for the purpose of advancing his campaign, then they should have been itemized and reported to the FEC, even if Trump used private funds.   This isn't exactly a cut-and-dried thing, to me.   The intent of the payment becomes key.  Was he trying to prevent Melania and his family from finding out? Or was he grooming his image as a candidate?  And how far does grooming go, in terms of reporting requirements?

And is this a capital crime after all?  Failing to itemize and report a personal contribution?  In this era of no-holds-barred Citizens United, it seems like handing out speeding tickets at the Indy 500.

It wasn't like he was misusing campaign funds to pay hush money to porn stars.  He was using his private funds.   And paying off a porn star is a campaign expense?   I am not sure I get this.  Yes, ordering 100,000 "MAGA" hats is a campaign expense.  I am less sure about the porn stars.

As the author of the Post piece put it succinctly
But let’s go in that direction. Suppose Trump had used campaign funds to pay off these women. Does anyone much doubt that many of the same people now after Trump for using corporate funds, and not reporting them as campaign expenditures, would then be claiming that Trump had illegally diverted campaign funds to “personal use”? Or that federal prosecutors would not have sought a guilty plea from Cohen on that count? And that gets us to a troubling nub of campaign finance laws: Too often, you can get your target coming or going.
The press today is reporting this as though it were Watergate-levels of corruption.  In case you missed it, in Watergate, Nixon had a small army of evildoers break into offices - and not just in the Watergate Hotel - and perform "dirty tricks" to smear opponents and spy on them.   Nixon was nailed for trying to cover it up, which itself was illegal, but arguably not as bad as the underlying crime.

They couldn't nail anything to Clinton, although I still say that Hillary's commodities trading thing (where the attorney for Tyson's food guided her to make a quick hundred-grand in commodities trading, at which point she quit the game) was an actual bribe.   All they could nail Bill for was lying about his sex life, which shouldn't even be considered a crime.

And now we have this Trump thing.  We can't prove anything about Russia, although I am certain that Putin and his "Internet Research Agency" actively uses the gift of social media to influence politics all over the world.  From the 2016 election, to Brexit, to Catalonian independence, to "yellow vest" protests, the Russians are there - nudging and suggesting to people that things are actually worse than they are.   But that is just how countries act.  We do - or did - the same thing back in the day.   We would use CIA agents to influence people in foreign countries to act in a certain way - and if that didn't work, we'd stage a coup.

We created this "social media" thing and it was a gift that fell into Putin's lap. Today, you can influence public opinion in a foreign country without having set foot there.  People are idiots, and people who think Fecesbook is great are the biggest idiots of all.  Just post something about Hillary being corrupt or whatever, and 5 million people will "like" it and forward it, without bothering to check it out.   After all, it is on Facebook, it must be true, right?

My gut reaction is that the Trump campaign tried to collude with Russia, but their awkward attempts at being big-time criminals were laughed at by Putin and his cronies.  "We've got this," they said, "go back to your rallies and half-assed campaigning.  We'll get you elected without having to coordinate with you at all!"   And they did.

Maybe this investigation will turn up a "smoking gun" after all.  But so far, it seems that the media is overstating things just a little bit.  They have been going orgasmic about this for a year now, telling us that "any day now" the Mueller report will come out and the shit will hit the fan.

The problem is, we've been waiting a long time, so far with nothing to show other than a lot of petty criminals have been nabbed in other schemes.   The vaunted "collusion" has yet to be proven, and the only "smoking gun" they've found is a smoking-hot porn star.

Maybe - just maybe - the Democrats need to come up with better candidates if they want to win elections.  And no, this doesn't mean "Beto" either.  Or Stormy Daniels' lawyer (what was he thinking?).   We need better candidates and better issues.  And if you want an issue, maybe this deficit spending thing is a good place to start.   It is something that resonates with everyone, as it affects all of our finances.   And it cuts across party lines as well.

Nah!  The rights of transgender school children to use the restroom - that's a winning issue!

UPDATE :  Two additional points. The Washington Post points out that John Edwards was prosecuted for very similar violation of Campaign Finance laws. He paid off his mistress in order to prevent disclosure of their affair prior to the election.

Even though John Edwards is a pretty odious scumbag - but not quite at the level of Donald Trump -   A jury acquitted him on one charge and was deadlocked on the remaining. He was not retried. I'm not certain this is overwhelming evidence that election laws were meant to be applied in this manner.

In other news, a teacher in Virginia was fired from his job for referring to a transgender student by the wrong pronoun - not directly to the student but rather when talking to other students. It doesn't appear to have been an intentional thing, but when the issue was brought up the teacher decided to make an issue of it over religious grounds, no doubt egged on by conservatives in order to make a test case out of this.

The school principal opined that he "could not think of any worse way to treat a student." Myself, coming from an era in which students were beaten and paddled by teachers, I can quickly think of other ways. I am not sure where the outrage is over all of this is. And I think if you want to change genders or whatever, you can certainly wait till age 18, and make sure this is a real commitment and not just a phase or a fad.

Why the left has chosen this is their emblematic issue is beyond me. This is going to backfire in a huge way. Middle America isn't going to see this as a burning issue in the next election.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Why Bipartisanship Doesn't Work

Image result for senate leader as turtle

You can get more votes and get more press with pie-in-the-sky ideas than by actually getting work done.

Two items in the news today reminds us of why gridlock is so popular in Washington.  In some instances, gridlock is a good thing.  Congress passes hundreds of laws during a term and sometimes it is better if Congress just does nothing.  There really is no need to change a lot of laws in this country if things are working okay.  Sometimes the status quo is a better idea.

But you don't get reelected if you can't point to some bill that you've offered or some law that you've enacted.  But with regard to the latter, it probably isn't as much of a good idea.  Once laws are enacted, they can backfire in a big way and end up besmirching your reputation.  Proposing radical health care laws that never have a chance of being enacted, is safe.  Actually passing Obamacare can come around to bite you on the ass.

So sometimes it's better to propose pie-in-the-sky ideas that never have a chance of going anywhere as the media loves these sort of things, and the voters remember them even if they never become law.

Recently a group of senators - A bipartisan group - has put together a Sentencing Reform Bill which is long overdue.  During the 1980s and 1990s, mandatory minimum sentences were enacted into law, effectively tying judges hands and forcing them to send low-level criminals to jail for long periods of time.  Not only was this a manifest injustice, it was a huge waste of prison resources.  It took low-level criminals and turned them into career criminals as well.

There have been calls on both sides of the aisle for sentencing reform.  And courageous senators have come together across party lines to put together a sentencing reform bill.  But one Senator, Mitch McConnell, the leader of the Senate, has decided the bill will not come up to a floor vote because some cracker from Arkansas has decided that it is not a good idea.  So you can see what the reward is for working across the aisle and for bipartisanship.  And if you can remember the names of the Senators who worked so hard to put together this bill then good for you, because I've already forgotten them.

In the meantime, Bernie Sanders puts together another one of his half-assed ideas to nationalize this or socialize that, and the Washington Post and New York Times goes ga-ga over the whole deal.  Of course, Bernie Sanders's ideas have not a snowball's chance in hell of ever becoming law, even if he was elected President, which also has snowball-in-hell type of odds.

And of course Sanders never has to deal with the fallout of how such laws would actually work if they were enacted because he knows they have no chance of ever being enacted.  Rather, he gets a lot of positive press for being a "man-of-the-people" and wanting to help a little guy even though his symbolic and Pyrrhic victories amount to absolutely nothing.

Another article in today's paper illustrates the same point with regard to Nancy Pelosi.  "Nancy Pelosi Comes Out Swinging" The Washington Post and NBC gushes, claiming that she's introducing a bill to reform campaign finance laws.  Any third grader who can count on his fingers realizes that such a bill has no chance of ever succeeding in the Senate and possibly not even in the House.

Democrats and Republicans alike both like to raise large amounts of money from various corporate interests, PACs, and other odious sources.  The Pelosi bill has no chance of making it through the Republican-dominated Senate and there's a pretty good chance it won't even make it through the Democrat-dominated house.

But it makes for a good headline and a good sound bite, and that's all she's really interested in.  She's not an idiot, she realizes that these bills have no chance of going anywhere.  Rather, this gives her five minutes in the sun to be lauded as supporting democracy and the little guy and being against big businesses, even if she raises millions of dollars from special interest groups in California.

So what's the point of all this? While every politician claims they want to work across the aisle and enact bipartisan legislation, none of them actually want to do it.   The lesson is quite clear.  If you work across the aisle and engage in bipartisanship you will be punished severely both by the Press and by your peers - and by the voters.  On the other hand if you do a lot of grandstanding and introduce pie-in-the-sky ideas as bills that never go anywhere, people will remember that and remember your name and vote for you next time, even though your efforts are wholly ineffective.

People get the government they deserve.  And so long as people think that Bernie Sanders is an effective legislator, that Mitch McConnell wants to "work across the aisle,"  and that Nancy Pelosi "gets things done" not much will change in Washington.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Combating Hoarding Disorder, Part XXXVI

Throwing away things is the hardest thing to do, but you have to do it.

We took a bunch of stuff to the curb today and put a sign on it, saying "FREE STUFF".   Some other things, we put in boxes to take to charity.   We thought about having a garage sale, but nothing in the pile was garage-sale worthy, or at least not worthy of my time and efforts to set up tables, organize and sort everything, and put prices on it all.

A lot of people stopped and took things.  A lot more will go in the trash.

Hoarding disorder is a growing problem in the US.  Not only are we all going a little crazy these days, but stuff is so cheap today that it is all-too-easy to accumulate "things" and darn hard to get rid of them.  To legitimately get rid of a tube television or computer monitor, for example, is hard.   Most folks slip them in the garbage and hope the garbage man doesn't notice.   Even flat screen displays are hard to unload.  Unless they are state-of-the-art, no one wants them.

There are a lot of things that are hard to get rid of, and you have to watch yourself in accumulating junk.  The age-old cry of the hoarder, "It's worth something!" affects us all to some extent.  After all, we paid good money for that flip-phone, and if we hang on to it for another 30 years, maybe the Smithsonian will call, wanting it.

Or not.

Electronics are a tough one, which is why it is a good idea not to accumulate them in the first place.  Today, so much of the electronic clutter in our lives is being replaced by one device - the smart phone.   The landline, the television, the computer, the answering machine, the radio, the stereo, and so forth are all being replaced by apps on this ubiquitous device.   But that may mean you have an old boom box cluttering up your garage, or an old landline phone (or several) cluttering up your desk.  Or maybe, as I did, a large box of computer cables, woefully obsolete.   Or that box of wall-pack transformers.

Throw it all away.  It is hard to do, but if you let these things accumulate "in a drawer somewhere" you may wake up horrified to find you still have a collection of cell phones and electronic trash dating back to 1990.

Cleaning Supplies are another toughie.  We tend to use four or five products from Dollar Tree - their orange cleanser, their lime-away (in spray and gel), their oven cleaner, and their furniture polish.  We also use Chlorox  cleaning spray for the bathroom tile.   These few cleaning agents are the "go to" products for us.   Yet, our cleaning supply cabinet is full of other bottles and containers of half-filled potions and lotions and notions that were bought with good intentions, but found lacking.   But you can't throw those away, right?  You paid good money for them.

A neighbor recently moved and movers won't pack liquids for obvious reasons - they can spill and damage furniture and clothing and other items - including items belonging to other customers.  So use them up or give them away.  And we ended up taking quite a lot of these things, and have been trying to use them up.

By the way, car cleaning agents fall into this category.  I once had a three-foot-long plastic storage box filled with various cleaning agents and waxes accumulated over a decade.   I use two things, basically - Dollar Tree wash-n-wax car wash soap, and NuFinish "once a year" car wax.   Everything else is just stuff I tried and never used again - but the dried-up bottles remained in my collection.

Toss 'em!

Broken Tools and Old Fasteners are another problem for men.  You may have a drawer in your toolbox for screwdrivers.  How many of them are dulled, bent, chipped, rounded off, or otherwise broken?  Ditto for that hammer whose handle broke - you're going to get a new handle, someday, right?   Except that no one sells just the handles anymore and it is cheaper and easier to just buy a new hammer.  And why exactly do you have seven of them?  Oh, right, cleaning out dead relative's toolboxes, and then there is that one you found on the street or in the attic of your old house.

Shit just accumulates.

And nowhere is this worse than with nails and screws.  Buckets of 'em, right?  Or maybe little glass Mason jars of nails that have rusted into one solid mass - as was the case in Mark's Dad's "shop" - which I cleaned out twice over two decades, only to come back months later to see it back to proto-hoarder mode.  We had to pay someone to haul away all the rusty tools and junk.  If you live in Florida, near the water, simply don't bother with keeping old tools or nails around.  They will just rust together into one solid lump.

Scrap Lumber is another man-hoarding material.  My Dad had a stack of such nonsense in the garage.  We should have burned most of it in the fireplace (you are always making more of it, if you have projects going on, anyway).  But he kept these small scraps of 2x4 or pieces of plywood, convinced that someday, that birdhouse project would need them - along with the collection of rusty nails.   Keep a few pieces if you must, but during fireplace season, toss 'em all in the fireplace, or pick one day a year to toss 'em all and start over.  Otherwise, you'll end up with a pile of lumber chunks in your garage or shop.

Clothing is another source of trouble.   We keep an old shirt or pants around because it is "too nice to throw away" but then again, it really doesn't fit.   OK, we'll keep it for the time when we "lose weight" and then it will fit, right?   But that never really happens, particularly if the problem is the shirt is too short - which happens a lot with me.   Shirts that ride up and show people my hairy belly are just plain wrong.

Torn underwear and stretched-out socks - why do people keep this stuff?  Or that sweater you never wear for one reason or another - it is too nice or not nice enough.   Shoes that don't fit, or have molded and mildewed from lack of use.   Suits that you never wear and won't even be buried in.  Winter clothing - when you live in the South.  And so on, and so forth.

Toss 'em - or put them in a box and take it to goodwill.  In fact, we keep a box permanently in the closet for this purpose and take it to goodwill two or three times a year.  I swear to God, the clothes in the closet multiply in there when we go away on vacation.

Cooking Supplies and Kitchen Hardware is another problem area.  That "must have" kitchen gadget has only one use, and that is for de-seeding pomegranates.   You use it once and it goes "in a drawer, somewhere" which is the same as not owning it.   If your kitchen is so flooded with utensils and pots and pans, you can't find anything, it is like not having anything at all.   Having multiples of the same utensil or pot or pan can also be frustrating.  Do we really need six frying pans?  The old one is shot - all the teflon is gone - but why throw it away just yet?  Maybe it might be useful for the day when you have to fry eggs for 20 people at the same time.

Or "put it in the camper" or the guest house, or the boat, or the vacation home.  That is the problem with such things - they end up being repositories for stuff "too good to throw away" but yet should be.   Or maybe someone would want it, right?  And old rusty frying pan with mysterious brown stains on it.  Yes, people might want that instead of buying a new one at Wal-Mart for $12.

And therein lies the rub - new stuff is (or was, before tariffs) so cheap that why would anyone want your old grubby and broken crap?   For the older generation, raised during the depression, or the stagflation era of the late 1970's, the idea of throwing things away is an anathema.  But today, if you don't throw away, you'll drown in a sea of crap.

Small Appliances are another problem area.  Why get rid of that old toaster oven, just because you bought a new one?   I mean, you paid nearly $50 for that, several years ago, and now it has a nice burnt orange patina (see Dollar Tree oven cleaner, above).   Someone might want that!  Or they might just buy one new for $38 at Wally World.   The same is true for blenders, juicers, margarita machines, specialty coffee machines (which are not professional grade, but are such counter hogs, they end up on a cabinet somewhere).  This goes double or triple for bread machines, which get gross, and over time, lose their heat so that the loaves get smaller and smaller - and stick to the innards more and more.   You can't give those away - not in today's gluten-free world, anyway.

The best thing, of course, again, is to simply not buy these things in the first place.  Odds are, your perceived need for a veggie juicer or whatever, will evaporate rather quickly, regardless of whether you buy one or not.  And if you buy one, the amount of money spent will prevent you from ever getting rid of it.

Throw Rugs and Mats are also problematic.  You buy a door mat for the front door.  It gets worn and dirty.  You scrub it and clean it and let it dry in the sun and then put it by the back door.  Slowly, it works its way down the food chain, to the garage side door, to the basement door, to the kid's tree fort, or wherever.   And if you are not careful, it may end up in an attic or basement, where it will multiply with other rugs and mats to have a litter of baby rugs that will pile high in your attic, causing a fire hazard.

Again, the cry of "it's worth something" or "it's still good!" is heard - and should be ignored.  The dog only peed on it a dozen times or so, right?  Throw rugs are fine and all, but if you are rolling them up and putting them in your attic, ask yourself why.  You aren't using them, you don't want them, you have no intention of using them.   And this goes double, triple, and quadruple, for carpet remnants, scraps, and padding.

The previous owner of our house left such scraps in the attic - small rolls of lime-green deep shag carpet (it was the 1970's) and padding that were a pain-in-the-ass to haul out and throw out, but throw out I did.  Why bother saving it?  It sat in the attic for at least four decades, unused.

Christmas Decorations are a topical one.  In days gone by, ornaments and decorations were so expensive and rare that they were carefully packed away every year - often in tissue, or in special boxes - and the carried in a heavy trunk into the attic or basement.   Today, all this stuff is made in China, cheaply, and you can buy a staggering amount of Christmas bling for not a lot of money.  No one chases down the dead bulb in Christmas light strings.  You throw the string away, or maybe your tree was pre-wired with LEDs that never wear out.

Faded and dirty inflatables are just an eyesore.  Throw them away, or better yet, don't bother buying them in the first place.  In the old days, we, as a nation, were pretty restrained in our Christmas decorations, largely because they were so expensive to buy and maintain.  Today, this stuff is so cheap, you can light up your house like Clark Griswold in Christmas Vacation.   This does not mean, however, that it is a swell idea.  The best Christmas decorations are in the poorest neighborhoods, and that is telling.

The list goes on and on.  Cardboard Boxes, for example, can multiply in your garage.  As Erma Bombeck once noted, "Youth assumes a cardboard box will be available when they need one, old age doesn't want to take that chance!"  Mark's grandmother used to disassemble cardboard boxes of all sizes, fold them flat and then wedge them behind the refrigerator.  She always had a cardboard box, if needed!  We have a recycling bin - where cardboard boxes are supposed to go.

Old Financial Records are another source of trouble.  Boxes and boxes of receipts and tax returns and financial reports can pile up in no time.  The IRS will only audit back seven years or so.  And most online brokerages keep records of your adjusted basis in investments - if indeed you even need such data, for traditional IRAs and 401(k)'s (where you pay tax on the distribution, not the gain).  No, you don't need to save your old phone bills from 1998.  Trust me on this.

Art might seem like an unusual category for hoarding.   But bad art can accumulate quickly.   You buy a nice piece of art - a poster, print, or painting, and put it on the wall.  You take down another piece that, in retrospect, was just junk.  But it is "too good to throw away" and no one will buy it at your garage sale, so you jam it in a closet.   Pretty soon, the closet is full.

Pottery, sculpture, and other knick-knacks can also accumulate.   The cat knocks over a vase and you glue it back together.  But it isn't nice enough for the coffee table anymore, and into the closet it goes - when it should go in the dumpster.   Art is hard to throw away, because, well, it is Art.  The only thing harder to throw away is..

Books.   It seems almost a crime, or at least a sacrilege, to throw away a book.  After all, this is literature - this is knowledge - the very stuff of civilization!   You might decide to re-read that latest airport paperback mystery someday!  So on a shelf it goes, until your shelves are jammed full.   You can, however, donate these to the library, or dump them in one of those "little library" deals that people are setting up all over.   Leave a book - take a book!

But in the era of e-books, physical books are slowly fading away.  A camper downloaded almost 7,000 tomes onto my laptop, and I finally uploaded these to my cell phone.   An entire library on a chip no bigger than my fingernail.  It is the stuff of science fiction!  (Sadly, this collection includes little actual science fiction).

Keep the best, discard the rest.  Someone else might want to read them.

CDs and DVDs fall along similar lines.   You can burn a CD to your computer and load it to your phone or pad or a memory stick.   I have memory sticks like this in both cars - the stereo will read the data and play whatever you select - or make a random choice.  It even displays the album art on the monitor screen.   Burn the CD and then give it to a friend. 

DVDs?  If you've watched them once, and have no intention of watching again, time to sell it at a garage sale, donate it to the library, or just toss it.   Everybody is streaming today anyway, so the format may be obsolete in any event.

It is hard to throw away.  But if you don't, you will end up depressed, as your life gets cluttered with old, broken, outdated, and obsolete things.  Possessions can entrap you, to the point where you are bogged down by the material in life.   Possessions end up causing unhappiness.

This is not to say you should live like a monk, only that sometimes, you have to let go, in order to let new things into your life.

I have learned that I can't have it all - nor do I want it.   Oftentimes, I buy things and later on regret buying them.  They don't provide the happiness or joy or entertainment I thought they would provide.  And getting rid of them is difficult, as you resist throwing things away (and admitting defeat) and no one else wants to buy them - or even take them for free.

Less is more.  Wanting is better than having.  Experiences are better than owning things.   Or put another way, owning things should be for the purpose of having experiences.

For example, owning a boat isn't fun - going out on a boat is.   The owning part is the worst part of the deal - the constant worry, maintenance, cleaning, and so forth.   As I noted in an early posting, we sold our boat when we found we weren't using it, and it was costing us several thousand dollars a year in storage, maintenance, and insurance.

I met an older gentleman at the marina who had an older boat that had sat in storage since we had moved here.  He was having an outdrive replaced, and I asked him if he used the boat much.  "Not in years!" he replied.  I asked him why he kept it - what joy was there in owning a boat that sat in a storage rack in a barn for years?  "Pride of ownership!" he replied.

I think the dementia was kicking in, on that one.   Owning something is not an end in and of itself.   Doing things is far more important.  If possessions help you do that, so much the better.  But when they prevent you from living life to its fullest, they are detriment.

Getting rid of "stuff" is always a liberating experience for me.  It feels good to be free of the material, even if it is just a small portion of the junk we own.   It is liberating!

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Willie Horton

Was George H.W. Bush a hero or villain?

George Bush's body is hardly cold and isn't even yet in the ground and the New York Times is already attacking him. Apparently, the leftists at the New York Times have had enough of people praising a Republican President and needed to do what they felt was a reality check.

So they bring up Willie Horton.  It's been a couple of decades since the Willie Horton campaign ad and a lot of people don't remember it.  You may not have even been born before then.  Back in the day, Massachusetts passed a law allowing for prisoners to have weekend furloughs to go home.  The idea was that prisoners reaching the end of their incarceration could go home on weekends and start to acclimatize to civilian life  A number of States have enacted this type of program and it's been shown to make it easier for prisoners to integrate back into society.

Of course, Massachusetts being Massachusetts, someone claimed that the system was unfair, as convicted murderers who are serving life terms without parole -  the Massachusetts equivalent of the death penalty - weren't allowed to participate in this program.  Of course, this is a ridiculous argument on its face.  Someone serving life sentence, without parole, isn't expected to be let out and reintegrate into society.  However, some people argued that in many instances, such prisoners are eventually released if the governor commutes their sentence and allows them to apply for parole  - and thus convicted murders should be allowed to have weekend passes.

Nevertheless, the Massachusetts Supreme Court decided that since the law didn't specifically say you couldn't do this, then it must be permissible.  This is a wake-up call to Jurists on the far-right who believe in "strict interpretation" of the law.  But perhaps, the Jurists figured that this error in the law would be quickly corrected by the legislature.

And indeed it wasHowever, then Governor Michael Dukakis refused to sign the bill into law, which would have eliminated weekend parole for people serving life sentences without the possibility parole.  This of course, is an outrage.   Life without parole doesn't mean "home on the weekends" or "free to offend again".   The whole point of locking up violent people is not only to punish them, but to protect the rest of us.   Whose needs and rights are more important?

But to hear the New York Times telling it, the real outrage is that Mr. Horton's name wasn't spelled right.  Mr. Horton claims he never went by the name "Willie" but rather "William" and that this is a racist injustice.  Willie Horton is now serving two consecutive life terms in Maryland after he was released on weekend furlough and then failed to return.  He went down to Maryland and beat a man senseless and stabbed him and then raped his wife - repeatedly.  Not surprisingly, Maryland is not letting him go back to Massachusetts where he may be let out again.

Dukakis eventually relented and signed the bill into law during a second non-consecutive term as Governor, when he started to have Presidential ambitions and he knew the weekend furlough thing would come back to haunt him.  It wasn't George Bush who first brought up this issue but rather Al Gore, during the primaries, when he was running against Dukakis.   So, to lay this at the foot of George Bush is rather disingenuous.  Granted, some of the Bushe's former advisers, including Rodger Ailes, decided to make an issue out of the Willie Horton thing.  But it was a legitimate issue to raise.

Nothing in the "Willie Horton" ad shown above is factually incorrect.  People on the Left argue that it was racist, as it showed an unflattering picture of Mr. Horton, who is black, and thus was race-baiting.   Perhaps there is a nugget of truth in that - a tiny, tiny nugget.  But the overwhelming truths involved far outweigh that.   Do you want a President who cares more about the rights of criminals than the rights of citizens?   That was the question of the hour then, and particularly today.

Sadly, the Democratic party seems to be enamored of prisoners and criminals - and illegal aliens, who they call "undocumented" as if they left their passport on their dresser this morning.  All we hear about from the Democrats these days is the rights of prisoners, criminals, and those entering the country illegally.  Granted, these are important rights - and the rights of the accused should be respected, and prisoners should be treated properly.   On the other hand, American prisons are country clubs compared to most of the prisons in the world (except perhaps those in Europe).

And, no, separating children from their parents at the border was wrong.  But on the other hand, can we continue to grant "asylum" to people whose main grievance seems to be economic more than social?

The Democrats want to restore the right to vote to felons - as if this was some huge demographic that they should be pandering to.  The rights of the victims of criminals - which is the rest of us - are never mentioned or discussed.  This seems to me to be an asinine strategy for getting elected in America.

You can't win elections by cobbling together a voting base of minorities - Hillary Clinton demonstrated that.  Blacks will only get out to vote when one of their own is on the ballot - and even then, only on the top of the ticket.   Barack Obama demonstrated that - twice.   In order to win elections, you have to get some white folks to vote for you as well - we still are about 70% of the population, despite dire predictions that we too, will become a minority in the near future.   This is not racism - this is election strategy.   You want to win, you have to appeal to a broad base, not narrow demographics.

And ex-cons constitute a very narrow demographic.

The New York Times goes on to bloviate that as a result of the Willie Horton commercial, Democrats were "forced" to move further to the right and enact stronger criminal justice laws, culminating in the passage of Violent Crime Control law, during the Clinton administration.

What they fail to acknowledge is the crime rate in the United States plummeted after the enactment of those laws.  And crime is starting to rise, in States where criminal laws are being "reformed." 

There is, of course, calls on both sides of the aisle to "reform" our criminal justice system, particularly with regard to mandatory minimum sentences - particularly for non-violent crimes.   And I suspect that such reform could take place - if both sides are willing to compromise.

But if we go back to the "feeling sorry for criminals" mode of thinking, I am not sure it will bode well for the rest of the country.   Giving violent offenders weekend passes was wrong back in the 1980's, and it is still wrong today.

Sometimes, the only thing you can do with a young man who is inclined to violent crime is to lock him up until he simply ages out of that phase in his life.   And sometimes, for some crimes that are so heinous, there is little else you can do but lock them up forever - or strap them on a gurney and send them on to the next world.

The Democrats are going to lose in 2020, if they continue down this road of wacky liberalism.  And that is the real shame.