Opportunity in Detroit

1000 dollar home

The city of Detroit desperately needs an investment of human capital, in fact things are so bad that they are selling homes for $1000. Of course a $1000 home is a sure sign that the home is going to need more than the purchase price to make it work but I see this as an incredible opportunity for those who are willing to tackle the whole challenge. Let’s have a look at what that whole challenge is. Continue reading

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Open Prospective Longitudinal Study

Mind Research
Photo by: Chris Hope

I’ve been reading Triumphs of Experience and really coming to appreciate the value of prospective longitudinal studies. I’ll write a review of the book after I finish it (and I might finish as early as tonight). The limitations of this study are well known to researchers but despite those limitations the study has incredible value. Imagine the value of a study that didn’t have those limitations. Continue reading

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Public vs Private Companies

Blessed 2 Scrapbook
Photo by Paul Riismandel

Coverage of the Hobby Lobby case seems to be consistent in saying that the U.S. Supreme Court is essentially deciding the question of whether not-specifically-religious corporations can exercise religious rights. The issue in this case is requiring insurance coverage for federally determined forms of contraception but if the decision is based on the ability of companies to exercise religious rights then it could also extend to whether companies can choose under what circumstances they will offer their services.

It struck me this morning that the question isn’t really whether corporations can exercise religious rights. The real question is: at what point in the pursuit of profit do individuals diminish or forego their right to religious expression? Those siding with the government in this case are afraid that companies will be able to use the guise of religious belief to get around the expense of some legal mandates. After all, if the Green family (Hobby Lobby) can claim religious belief avoid paying for some expensive forms of birth control for their employees why can’t the Walton family (Walmart) do the same? Continue reading

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Confusing the Point

Edward Snowden
Image by: DonkeyHotey

This may be the most obtuse argument I’ve read regarding Edward Snowden. I don’t want to be too hard on Jay Evensen but the logic he uses here is terrible. A conspiracy theorist could come up with many sinister motives for such a poor argument against Snowden but I’m sure it’s something much more mundane like trying to meet a publishing deadline.

Let’s break it down.

First we have an attempt to discredit Snowden based on his connection with Russia.

{Snowden} chose exile {in Russia} because he faces charges of espionage in the United States for revealing things he felt were so egregious he no longer could keep quiet about them. And yet neither he nor his friend, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, seem concerned enough about the blatant abuses in Russia or other countries to dig deeper and expose more.

But it’s no longer convincing, or even noble, to claim a sort of relativistic neutrality while hiding in Russia.

There are two parts to this. The first is that Snowden had a choice of where he took exile. This argument requires that we ignore the fact that while Snowden chose exile because of the charges of espionage in the U.S. he was unable to fly to any of the other locations that offered him exile. Russia was functionally his only option. The second is that Snowden should be exposing Russian digital espionage. This argument relies on ignoring the fact that Snowden’s revelations about the NSA are not based on some super hacker skill on Snowden’s part. Snowden’s information was based on him holding a position of privileged access within the NSA which he would never have within Russian intelligence.

Then we have an effort to defend the NSA by saying it does necessary work.

The U.S. government spies on people. We get it. The NSA is a huge agency with the resources to build a profile on just about anybody it chooses. We get that, too.

But why does the NSA do it? Could there be noble reasons, even if the methods aren’t the best?

Does Snowden care at all about the security of the nation he fled? Does he think the NSA should stop spying altogether, or can he imagine a reason why a spy agency might be important in a dangerous world? What would he consider proper spying?

Again this comes in two parts. The questions for Snowden can’t be asked sincerely unless you have only listened to the non-Snowden side of the story. He has been very clear that he recognizes the necessity of espionage activities and that the reasons behind his actions were the systemic abuses whereby the agency overstepped their constitutional authority (which someone might argue is occasionally necessary) and hid their actions not only from the American public at large (which is certainly necessary to some degree where espionage is concerned) but also from the very congressional committees with oversight over their actions (which is a red flag of the first order in all cases).

Using “Could there be noble reasons, even if the methods aren’t the best?” as an argument here would be like saying of the John Swallow case that raising money is necessary to run a campaign so even if he got money from payday lenders it really shouldn’t be a big deal. That argument completely misses the point of the outrage which isn’t that Swallow got money from payday lenders and that the NSA was spying. The reason for people to be upset in both cases is the way John Swallow and the NSA both went to great lengths to hide their activities from the very people they were supposed to be working for and the organizations that were authorized to provide oversight for their operations.

It occurred to me as I reviewed the article that the point Mr. Evensen wanted to make was that Russia was a greater threat to liberty than the NSA. If so, this was not the way to try making that argument.

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An Open Letter to James Evans

The chairman of the Utah Republican Party sent a letter to precinct chairs last week. Unfortunately in that letter, Mr. Evans crossed a line that any elected person whether public official or party officer should never cross.

Mr. Chairman,

You’ve crossed an important line and I am disappointed by you and anyone among the leadership of the Utah Republican Party who felt that the letter you sent to precinct chairs last week was acceptable.

Obviously it is reasonable that you should communicate with precinct chairs. Certainly it is wise that you should inform them of items that you feel are adversely affecting the party that both you and they have been elected to support. Naturally we should expect and even want you to offer suggestions and encouragement for them to make a positive difference on issues of concern. Despite these truths, the paragraph that you requested the precinct chairs to read at the caucus meetings was out of line.

I see nothing wrong with you pointing out the disproportionate ratio of male to female delegates in past conventions. I also have no problem with your efforts to encourage women to run for delegate positions, to invite precinct chairs to do the same, and to share your concerns and the corresponding statistics with caucus attendees. The problem comes in your overt request that caucus attendees elect more female delegates.

I don’t mind if we do elect a higher proportion of women as delegates than we have in the past – my problem with your request isn’t the desire for more female delegates. My problem is that you would publicly express favoritism on intra-party elections. That is completely unacceptable for a party officer.

Our job as caucus attendees is to select the best people we can to represent us as delegates at the state and county conventions. Having more women running for those positions gives us more options to evaluate which is a good thing. Giving us the information regarding the 4 to ratio of men to women in past conventions is useful information so that we can make an informed choice regarding who we send as delegates. Requesting that we elect more women is inappropriate as it is our job, not yours, to determine who in our individual precincts will best represent us – regardless of gender or gender ratio.

I appreciate your desire to make the party and the party conventions the best they can be but there is no excuse for crossing the line into telling party members how they should be shaping the party with their caucus votes.

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