Some controversial issues

National Anthem

And no refuge could save
The hireling and slave
From the terror of flight
And the gloom of the grave

Lots of countries with unadmirable governments have national anthems celebrating military victories. But most of them are easier to sing than ours.

A much more uniquely American anthem is America the Beautiful. That would be a much better choice for public singing at public events, including all the verses. But maybe all Americans don't agree with its sentiments:

America! America!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

Remembering Lyndon Johnson
revised 30 November 2017

During the 1960's, Lyndon Johnson seemed to be the personification of evil to young people. But now one can recognize him as the southerner who finally broke the back of southern segregation by championing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Bill Moyers describes his ideals, methods, and legacy.

What I took away from the movie Selma was that the ideology and moral leadership of Dr Martin Luther King Jr, the political leadership of LBJ, and the impact of the still new medium of television, were all necessary ingredients.

What I took away from the possibly self-serving Robert McNamara's book In Retrospect was that the war in Vietnam was fought to preserve the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts from the Goldwater Republicans who, LBJ feared, might have come to control the Senate if the US withdrew unconditionally from Vietnam. In that respect he may have been like Lincoln, keeping the military, domestic political, and foreign diplomatic balls in the air all at once, and making no sense to observers who kept their eye on only one ball. According to Peter Edwards, the founder of Singapore claimed that by delaying the fall of Saigon from 1965 to 1975, the Western commitment gave potential dominoes, like Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia, 10 years to strengthen their political and economic resilience. Gen. McMaster came to a different conclusion.

There are other views of Vietnam: the war that killed trust. And the passage of those Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts led to the Southern Strategy and the death of bipartisanship.

But when I visited the LBJ monuments in Texas, I learned that he was personally proudest of bringing REA electric power to the Texas hill country in the 1930's as a New Deal congressman. A real man of the people.

Net Neutrality

Telecommunications companies were once required to strictly separate their information transmission networks businesses from their information content creation businesses. That's because it was desirable to grant monopolies to phone companies since nobody wants ten different sets of telephone poles polluting his community. This has been diluted since more information transmission technologies have become widespread. Now you can get internet access by dial-up copper land lines, DSL land lines, fiber land lines, tv cable companies, power companies, microwave companies, wifi companies, satellite companies... and so the monopoly issue seems to have gone away. But while it's easy to change television channels to get a different opinion, it's much harder to change your internet access technology - which may require you to change your email address and your website hosting and even your phone number. But since internet access itself is, technologically at least, almost a commodity, and therefore subject to commodity profit margins, companies that do provide internet access are eager to improve their profit margins by charging differential rates to different content sources for different bandwidth allocations. The next step, as in China, is simply to deny access to competitors or anybody else they don't like.

Net neutrality is the buzzword for requiring internet access providers to act as common carriers, accepting all traffic at uniform published rates. Trump doesn't like it. But I don't think it goes far enough. Internet access should be a completely independent businesses regulated like other public utilities, totally separated from internet content provider businesses.

The internet, and the web, were originally intended for peer to peer communication among individuals. Now their primary business is for large organizations to indoctrinate and surveil individuals. Individuals accept that, whether they know it or not, when they accept free entertainment or news content. We've seen it before - at the dawn of the television age it was hailed as a revolutionary breakthrough in educational enlightenment, but it was fairly soon commercialized into something much less salubrious.

Congress has acted in secret to make the internet safe for billionaires to get richer. The legislators who led this action were duly rewarded by the billionaires. California is restoring its own net neutrality.

Patents and Intellectual Property

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.

The power to grant patents was put in the Constitution so that inventors would have an incentive to share their inventions and thus motivate new ones. The alternative was trade secret protection, which had the problem at that time that trade secrets often died with their inventors, which were usually individuals working with limited communication with potential collaborators and competitors.

In the modern world, most patentable inventions are team efforts at competing organizations with access to the same research resources. Most patentable ideas are in the air and often discovered more or less simultaneously in different places; they could not exist as trade secrets. So whoever gets the patent is somewhat a matter of chance.

"Non-obviousness" in arcane fields is pretty debatable. Good IP lawyers get much better paying jobs at IP law firms than they could get as patent examiners. So many patents are granted that would be obvious to anybody expert in the field. That doesn't matter to technology companies; when negotiating cross-licensing deals, it's pretty much based on quantity, which lawyers can readily judge, rather than quality. All the key players in semiconductor and information technology hold key patents that their competitors need and so they all have to cross-license each other to stay in business and out of court.

But patent cross-licensing is a good way to increase the barrier of entry to new players with just one innovation, which is the opposite of the original intent. Likewise, patent trolls - lawyers who buy patents rather than invent things - can sue established organizations for patent infringement, whether for valid or groundless cause, with impunity because they don't need to cross license and so have nothing to lose, but can hope to gain a worthwhile settlement from a large organization eager to avoid the expense of litigation.

"Non-obviousness" might be operationally defined as "protectable by trade secret" - that is, if not disclosed in a patent application, the invention would not likely be independently discovered by competent competitors - a pretty high bar in the modern era. Technologists soon learn that the fastest and safest way to advance their career is to change employers frequently. So trade secret protection would actually work for relatively few inventions.

As with other things, modern technology has forced the means to drift from the original end. It's time to rethink how best "to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts."

Civil Forfeiture
revised 13 April 2018

Civil Forfeiture is a process by which law enforcement seizes assets of persons suspected of crime, usually involving drugs. Not necessarily convicted, or even indicted, but only suspected. The assets are presumed guilty and the burden of proof is on the owners to prove their innocence in order to get the assets returned. That usually requires legal proceedings and thus lawyers. Being a civil procedure, there is no equivalent of a public defender to aid owners who can't afford a lawyer.

Most people don't mind if the assets of convicted drug lords are confiscated. That part's not controversial. On the other hand, drug lords can afford good lawyers to recover their assets if they are not convicted, so there's little incentive to seize assets in marginal cases. But particularly in poor rural areas, hard-pressed law enforcement agencies have discovered that civil forfeiture is an easy way to make up budget shortfalls by seizing assets of poor people who can't afford lawyers. Even if charges are dropped or never filed, the owners can't recover their assets and the agency gets to sell them to fund operations.

The Inspector General of the Justice Department found that the DEA seized three billion dollars in cash since 2007 from persons never charged with crime. Similarly for the IRS.

It is true that rural sheriffs have many unfunded mandates from urban-oriented state and federal governments. But robbing poor people is not the way to address the problem. According to Christopher Ingraham, "In 2014, federal law enforcement officers took more property from citizens than burglars did".

George Will seemed to be alone in opposing Sessions over civil forfeiture. Meanwhile Trump is squarely on the side of this funding mechanism for rural sheriffs. Jeff Sessions want to steal more from poor people.

I have always been pleased by the role that San Jose Mercury News investigative reporters played in ending the worst abuses of civil forfeiture in California many years ago. Those articles are not available in the free online Mercury but one is cited (ref #4) in seizure-fever-the-war-on-property-rights. California is better off without it but you might be out of luck in Texas.

In a related vein, some jurisdictions try to collect support costs from parents of children accused of crime, even if never convicted. And for a Republican, Trump has a pretty positive view of eminent domain.

Right to Work Laws

State Right to Work laws give employees the right to work in a business without joining or supporting the union which represents other employees there. The argument is that employees shouldn't be forced to join or pay for an organization they don't like or don't want. That sounds pretty simple, though of course some employees just want to get the benefit of union-negotiated wages and benefits without paying for the union. There have always been some unions who have not always kept their members' best interests at heart. But employers like right-to-work laws because they weaken unions. Right-to-work laws are a priority for the Chamber of Commerce, the Freedom Caucus, and the Trump administration.

For me bottom line is balance of power between employee and employer. As the economy has been changing, employers have generally been gaining power over employees, and organized labor's intransigence in the face of change has sometimes been short-sighted. But while I appreciate the theory in favor of choosing which organizations one supports, in practice right-to-work laws are intended to weaken organized labor when it most needs strengthening. So I am opposed to such laws, except where "fresh and local" applies - states right-to-work laws should be limited to businesses where the ownership, employees, and customers are local to that state.


The Constitution specifies the rights of persons accused of crime. International conventions specify the rights of prisoners of war. Accused terrorists held at Guantanamo or worse overseas detention sites get none of these. It demeans the United States to thus act like its worst enemies.

Of the remaining 40-odd prisoners:

Some of those unclassified are probably terrorists and some of those will probably return to terrorism given a chance. However probability of recidivism is a factor in American justice only in sentencing persons convicted of crimes, not an excuse for indefinite detention of persons not convicted or even accused of crimes, nor an excuse to continue to detain convicted criminals after their sentence has been served.

If there is an international need for new jurisprudence to deal with terrorism that is different from traditional notions of crime and warfare, then it needs to be developed internationally, remembering that in times to come it might be applied to Americans as well as by Americans.

The Trump administration refuses to justify its unconstitutional detention of an American citizen without charges or counsel.

Israel and Palestine

I had always hoped that Israel and Palestine would evolve toward two politically independent but economically entwined states. You would be able to walk freely between them and you might have to ask somebody to find out which one you were in at any particular moment. The political boundary might be approximately the one that existed prior to the 1967 war. That means Israel giving up some land that it controls now. The lands Israel withdrew from would be demilitarized.

Israeli citizenship would be restricted to Jews. Other permanent residents would have most civil rights but no right to vote or own real estate nor obligation to serve in the military. Palestinians would formally renounce a right of return. The Temple Mount would have a horizontal rather than vertical boundary - the top would be under Palestinian control, the bottom Israeli. Or maybe the top should be under Kurdish control.

Even though I was astonished by the fall of the Soviet Union and the Berlin Wall that I never expected to see in my lifetime, I see little reason to expect that equally astonishing hopes might be fulfilled for Israel and Palestine. There are too many factions on both sides that have made perpetual conflict a career path. Neither side wants to give up hard-fought gains for which their martyrs shed so much blood. Some Israelis want a secular pluralistic state, others a reactionary religious one. Gaza and the West Bank are controlled by rival factions that don't even agree on how much they hate Israel. Egypt and Jordan had their turns running Gaza and West Bank and probably wouldn't accept them again as a gift. Water rights disputes would be a recurrent problem even if everything else were resolved.

Ultimately so much conflict in such a small space lends itself to a technological solution. Weapons of mass destruction can bring peace to the middle east by eliminating both populations and rendering the land uninhabitable. I hope it doesn't come to that, but where is the will to prevent it?

Incentive Stock Options as Compensation for Management of Publicly-Traded Companies

Incentive stock options are often used as part of compensation for executives of publicly traded companies. If the stock goes up, the shareholders benefit and the executives benefit - identity of interest, right?

Not exactly. The stock goes up and down based on a number of factors, and for large publicly traded companies, overall market performance and sector performance are at least as important as executive performance. So in an up market, option recipients gain a lot, not necessarily due to executive performance, with no risk in a down market, unlike the shareholders. The real attraction of incentive stock options in publicly traded companies is that the compensation comes from other people's money rather than being a cash expense of the company.

A better-focused incentive would be to reward executives for company financial performance relative to comparable competitive publicly-traded companies. In a down market that would be a cash expense if earned.

In startups that are still privately held, incentive stock options make more sense:

A $64,004 Question: Should elected and appointed public officials be upper or middle class?

There's a school of thought that elected and appointed public officials, for identity of interest with the median voter, should have a standard of living like the median voter does, and should have comparable net worth and compensation. A problem with this point of view is that persons with median net worth and income can't afford to run for Federal office or even many local and state offices, and usually don't have enough recognition to garner enough donor support. The common man is unlikely to be able to compete without complete public funding of elections. Such an official needs to be working on his retirement plan: lining up a lobbyist position after his term of office.

Another point of view is that public officials should be well enough off that they won't be interested in bribes or other corrupt practices. Although Congressional salaries and benefits seem pretty generous to ordinary citizens, they aren't so impressive to the successful professionals and executives who become public officials. During the Nixon administration, Martha Mitchell publicly expressed her hope that her husband John would retire as attorney general in order to get back to private legal practice and making some "real money." From a technologist point of view, public service offers no stock options and no profit sharing and no chance of going public!

So it helps to be rich or at least well-to-do from the outset. A problem with this point of view is that for Federal office, even being as rich as Trump isn't rich enough; he did not finance most of his own campaign. So candidates are still susceptible to sanitized bribery in the form of campaign contributions. And since most of the biggest political contributors are business executives, they think of their activity as investment rather than charity, and they expect a return on investment.

Defined-benefit pensions and social security

One of the biggest issues facing state and local government is funding defined-benefit pensions, often enshrined in public employee union contracts. A defined-benefit pension plan promises to pay a certain amount to qualified retirees as long as they live, independent of the actual amount contributed by the retiree and by the employer. No actual funds need to be set aside to pay the promised benefits, and there's the rub. In recent years in California, San Bernardino, Stockton, and Vallejo are among the cities that have gone bankrupt and voided union pension plans that they had no means to fulfill. San Jose and many other cities are struggling to avoid that fate. State and local governments can't print money and can't raise taxes very easily. Oregon is imposing its pension overruns on every impoverished rural county and town. Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, and Guam are all in pension trouble. Eventually, underfunded public pensions will have to be funded in lieu of other worthwhile projects.

Most taxpayers don't have defined-benefit pensions; they mostly disappeared from the private sector along with unionization long ago; many of the rest are in trouble. The benefit is defined in advance; the means of paying the benefit is left to an unknown future. And typically, for political reasons, overly optimistic assumptions are made about the unknown future that can't possibly come true. The optimistic assumptions could be viewed as defects, but they seem to be baked into the system by the collective bargaining process. Then when the unknown future arrives, its taxpayers must shoulder the tax burden to support the previous generation of public employees, or the government entity has to declare bankruptcy to get out of the pension burden. It's not easy to get the legislature to act. Dan Pellisier explains how CalPERS is $153 billion short with few credible recovery options.

Instead of defined-benefit plans, most taxpayers have the option of contributing part of their pay to defined-contribution pensions like IRA's, 401k's, 403b's, etc... there are way too many flavors of such plans, similar but slightly different, testimony to lobbyist powers I suppose. Employers can contribute to such plans as well, but it's mostly up to the employees. The contribution is defined now; the benefit is left to an unknown future; most such plans allow the employee some control over how the money is invested (and that allows most employers to avoid liability for bad choices).

Many small businesses can't offer retirement plans, which have some administrative overhead. So California and other states are setting up a public option, called Secure Choice, which will allow small businesses to offer state-run retirement plans at no cost to the business. Voluntary to the business, voluntary to the employee, no new taxes, but Wall Street is opposed and has found foot soldiers in Congress. California's elected officials are fighting back: Brown and not always with wonderful results.

Social Security is even more egregious. Besides being a defined-benefit plan, it's also a Ponzi scheme; each working generation pays for the previous generation's benefits. That's fine as long as each generation is larger, but that is not going to be the case after the baby boomers finish retiring and will be worse if immigration is controlled.

Everybody who's studied the matter understands that something will have to be done about Social Security; the present benefit schedule can't be maintained. But nobody who can do anything about it is willing to take the lead.

So was Social Security a giant con game or a brilliant device to save democratic government at a time (1930's - but much like our own) when economic malaise was so widespread that democracies were falling left and right to left-wing and right-wing dictatorships?

If defined-benefit pensions are really the best way to go - as most of the world agrees - they need to be Federal, available to everybody who has worked enough, and paid for from general Federal tax revenues. The flat rate tax on discretionary income would have to be quite a bit higher, which won't please the wealthy much, but no more social security taxes, IRA, 401K, 403B, ... Federal pensions would be portable and secure - all the "guaranteed" pension insurance schemes ultimately rely on the taxpayers anyway. And as far as unguaranteed pension funds go, a million people are in pension funds going broke.

Nobody wants to bet too much on a politician's promise, but why would anybody prefer a Wall Street executive's promise? Federal pensions would not solve all problems - the income tax burden would indeed be higher, and the next generation would still be taxed to support the previous retired generation.

What happens if everybody gets serious about funding their own retirement? Historically the best long-term investment has been the stock market; unimaginative individual investors who simply buy (by dollar-cost-averaging) and hold no load target date mutual funds (throwing away the quarterly statements), will outperform most professional money managers. Of course, in any given business cycle, some professional money managers will outperform the market. They rarely do it repeatedly. Remember if thousands of monkeys start executing trades at random, by chance a few of them will also outperform the market in each business cycle.

One of the real shortcomings of defined-contribution plans is that most individuals don't have the knowledge to invest wisely and the interest in learning, nor the knowledge to accurately evaluate investment advisors. So an essential adjunct to defined-contribution plans is a fiduciary standard for advisors and also for employers offering such plans, to avoid Enron scandals. But the Trump administration is against a fiduciary rule, presumably because it's an Obama administration idea that inhibits new billionaires building their fortunes by exploiting naive workers and investors. Congressmen don't have to learn how to manage their pension investments or how to select a manager - they have a defined-benefit pension funded by the taxpayers.

Remember, the important question is: how can the masses best serve the billionaires. Clearly, "fiduciary responsibility" now means faithfulness to the interests of the Wall Street billionaire class. Steve Butler explained how all that works.

Obama was for the old definition of "fiduciary responsibility" - faithfulness to the worker hoping to save enough to retire on. And anything Obama was for, Trump is against. So he's all for getting rid of these burdensome Federal regulations that just level the playing field.

One of the arguments against relying on 401k's and IRA's is that individual retirees make poor choices of investments. That's nonsense - they make great choices as far as Wall Street and the salesman are concerned. As the old joke goes,

The firm made money, the broker made money, and two out of three ain't bad.
As a lifetime salesman, Trump is on board with that outlook.

I always figured the superior long-term return of the stock market - for buy and hold individual investors - was funded by social individual investors who bought high when their friends were buying and sold low when their friend were selling. Even if you market time better than that, you still have to avoid costly panic attacks.

The problem is that you don't know whether any given day is a low or a high until some time in the future, and most investors who try market timing end up missing out on big-jump days when the market turns up... because at the time they look just like the big-jump days followed by bigger-drop days when the market continues down... and underperform buy-and-hold investors, who also benefit from lower transaction costs. Investment for most people can be very simple: invest directly - not through brokers - in no-load target-date mutual funds in equal amounts every month, then throw away the monthly statements. No-load to increase return, equal amounts each month to insure that you are buying more shares at low prices than high, and most important, target-date so the first decision you have to make is when you want the money, because that determines the acceptable risk, and that determines the maximum return. Throw away the statements when the target date is far away, so you don't panic yourself into selling at the bottom.

You have to start being disciplined when you are young: if you are reaching retirement age without enough retirement assets, it is very hard to catch up. There's nothing like the power over time of compound interest; it's just another form of exponential growth.

However the modern stock market is so dominated by institutional and automated trading that individual investors hardly matter any more. So I need a new theory.

What if everybody gets smart about their retirement and invests in appropriate no-load target date mutual funds, which pretty much become index funds? Are there enough common stocks to support all that investment without bidding prices up so high that other investments become better choices? Perhaps time will tell. There's some interesting debate about what is going to happen as passive investors such as index funds become the market and no longer attempt to influence management of publicly-traded corporations. Indeed, David Webber argues that killing pension-fund investment activism is the main reason that wealthy investors want to eliminate public employee and other large pension funds in favor of individual 401k's.

Seth Klarman thinks index funds might benefit stocks that are not part of the index. For the time being, though, index funds are a pretty good choice for individual retirement accounts and college endowments.

Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Comprehensive Immigration Reform (like Obamacare reform or tax reform) is something that politicians like to talk about but not do anything about, because the forces against it are so much more powerful than the forces for it. The current system has large numbers of illegal immigrants here to do the dirty work for wages and conditions that Americans will not accept. This is not a bug; it's designed that way so that illegal workers have no way of organizing to improve their lot - and thus improve their wages to the point that maybe Americans would be willing to do some of that work. You might think that because you don't hire any illegal workers that you don't exploit them, but you benefit in the form of cheaper food, cheaper restaurant meals, cheaper lodging, cheaper gardening, cheaper home remodeling... If there were justice for illegal workers, all those things would cost more.

Like other western democracies, America is running out of resources to support an expanding population - water is the critical issue in California - while it is also running out of laborers to support its aging population. Most economists agree that reducing immigration severely will have severe economic consequences. So the trick is to somehow get the work done without increasing the permanent population faster than we can support it.

Here are some ideas:

Second Amendment
revised 5 October 2017

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

That's the Second Amendment. There are those that think the wording about militias is just an introduction and the normative part, to be taken literally, is this:

The right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

I have bolded certain key words:

I think even most Second Amendment advocates would not go so far as to assert that the Constitution requires that terrorists be admitted to NRA conventions bearing biological weapons, and that no prior restraint on their activity is permissible, only punishment after they break the law - a pointless punishment if they were suicide terrorists. It's another case where modern technology is a force magnifier that transforms a small investment into huge damages, with nobody to recover the damages from. In 1787, it was not possible for one terrorist to kill dozens of people in a crowded theatre or legislature or public transportation before being overcome by even unarmed citizens. And in those days, suicidal terrorists were unknown.

So there must be some reasonable prior restraint available - and who decides what's reasonable? It must be the government: executive, legislative, and judicial. Once it's granted that government has to decide what prior restraint applies, then there's no big constitutional question to consider, just the normal give and take of democratic politics. Maybe those first words of the amendment about the militia are important after all, to define the scope of reasonable and unreasonable prior restraint, in the context of judicial review.

Another way to impose prior restraint is to apportion civil liability appropriately. Since it doesn't usually do any good to sue a deceased impoverished terrorist for damages he caused, follow the money to the deep pockets who enabled the terrorist: firearms manufactures, distributors, retailers, and owners who failed to adequately protect the unarmed public. And arming the unarmed public in a dark crowded movie theatre during a noisy explosive action film is a recipe for more loss of innocent life, not less.

Alternatively, weapons manufacturers could be taxed to fund a Federal program to compensate innocent victims of their products. Every massacre increases the tax rate. That might provide the incentive to tighten up the distribution chain. Civil liability is a powerful tool. It destroyed the market for general aviation aircraft, and could eventually do the same for drones.

What does a well-regulated militia need to secure a free State? The Posse Comitatus Act was designed, as part of the Corrupt Bargain of 1877, to prevent Federal military intervention against Southern segregation. So the Army can't be used to enforce Federal or state law within the United States. That leaves state and local authorities to enforce their laws, through normal police, or in extreme cases, by calling out the militia (National Guard). They don't need national defense weapons, just what they need to enforce the law against their own citizens. That seems to adequately circumscribe the scope of the Second Amendment.

Anybody running for President should first see the musical Assassins and contemplate the total irrelevance of the President's politics or personal characteristics... the assassins are only trying to prove themselves worthy of the love of... Emma Goldman, Jodie Foster, Charles Manson, or ... and everybody has the right to be happy, don't they? Or at least to pursue happiness? Isn't that the point of the Second Amendment?

Everybody made fun of the California Task Force to Promote Self-Esteem and Personal and Social Responsibility but the musical Assassins emphasizes, through its stories of pathetic losers who finally make the world pay attention, how much lack of self-esteem has to do with both assassins and suicide bombers. Do pathetic losers have the right to kill as many people as they can in their pursuit of happiness, if they are willing to pay the price?

These are the some of the most truly forgotten people of America, but by his stalwart support of the 2nd Amendment right to be happy, Trump insured that nobody can afford to forget about them. Even Jihadists.

Nicholas Kristof on self-protection during a shooting.

What we can already guess about the last few mass shooters and the next few:

The technology that makes mass slaughter possible seems unlikely to be undone, or even subject to more than token control on availability. It looks like the only point of leverage here is:

For a couple of days his news stories had higher ratings than Trump's.

No coverage means no copycat. But technology has made censorship more difficult, too. Modern media technology finds bad news and scandal stories, genuine or fake, are more profitable entertainment than good-news and positive stories. So expect more of the same.

Reproductive Rights and Elections
revised 13 April 3013

There are a large number of conservative religious immigrant women who are appalled by Trumpism's blatant endorsement of sexual abuse and immigrant abuse. Yet the feel obliged - by their own convictions as well as external reinforcement in their community - that the number one issue in this or any election is sanctity of life, so in an election they vote for whoever is loudest in attacking reproductive rights.

In a contestable district with lots of conservative women, progressives should think carefully about how they vote in the Democratic primary. The Democratic hopeful most closely aligned with their ideals might have the least chance of prevailing in the general election against a Republican who is loudly and proudly against abortion. A Democratic candidate who is closer to the median of the district on this issue might have a better chance of moving the conversation toward other issues.

Single-issue voters and single-issue candidates have been a bane of democracy forever, though eclipsed somewhat in recent years by narrowcasting cable tv and social media, and by dark big money enabled by Citizens United. One can only hope that the daughters of these conservative women will come around to a different point of view on reproductive rights.

Restrictions on abortion might not seem so bad, if there were a way to do so that reduced the freedom of rich and poor alike, and the freedom of men and women alike. But nobody's ever thought of a credible way to do that. 50 years ago, if a rich man's daughter became pregnant, he just sent her to Sweden or Denmark to take care of it. If abortion became illegal again in the USA, you wouldn't have to be quite as rich to go to Canada, but that solution would still be out of reach for some, especially for young poor women. So once again abortion would be illegal and unsafe. Money buys a lot of freedom - for the rich. Gross income inequality implies gross freedom inequality. Debates about abortion vs reproductive rights are ultimately about money, not morality.

Most women, if they have the knowledge and the means, would like to limit their family size. So in modern industrial society get the knowledge and the means and birth rates go down.

When our fabulously wealthy society is not doing a very good job educating the wanted poor children we have, who would be interested in having more unwanted poor children? The book The Chalice and the Blade clarifies the roots of the issue.

Unwanted boys, seeking acceptance or belonging, are good recruits for soldiers as cannon fodder, or suicidal terrorists. Unwanted girls, seeking acceptance or belonging, are likely to produce more unwanted boys and girls. So in a patriarchal, hierarchical, or militaristic society, there's no such thing as an unwanted poor child, at least as far as the ruling class is concerned. That's why militaristic dictatorships like bachelor taxes and incentives for childbearing. In addition, every major religious tradition has fanatical sects who believe (at least the men) that it is their sacred duty to "win" by outbreeding the opposition.

Gasoline Taxes and Road Repair
revised 17 April 3013

California Republicans tried to use the initiative process to bypass campaign contribution limits.

And why are California Republicans in such a tizzy to get the gas tax initiative on the ballot? They are afraid their demoralized base won't show up to vote in June and November and a bunch more of their state and Federal legislators will get an early retirement present from the Democrats.

But the Republican base here can be counted on to show up to vote against taxes, even as they complain about the state of the roads they drove on to get to the polling place.

As for the gas tax, there probably are fairer ways to pay for much-needed transportation infrastructure maintenance. Since a 2000 pound electric vehicle does as much road damage as a 2000 pound gas vehicle driven the same mileage, they should be sharing the bill equally (there remain a number of other incentives to electric vehicle ownership). So in principle, the road tax should be proportional to weight times mileage, and indeed the DMV has been running voluntary trials based on measuring mileage. That's kind of intrusive for private passenger cars, so it might be more broadly palatable to just tax all private passenger cars based on an average mileage number like 12,000 per year, and just do measured mileage on commercial vehicles.

Even without considering electric and hybrid vehicles, which are going to become increasingly necessary to meet mileage requirements to achieve greenhouse gas goals, improving gas mileages for conventional engines is also drying up highway funding, so something has to be done.

There is nothing to buy or sign up for on this website.
Return to home page.
Please report dead links, typos, and factual errors to
web-report at comcast dot net
Visitor count for this page starting 1 December 2017: .
controversial.html 1.105 21/05/11