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‘Same-Sex Couple’ Does Not Equal ‘Two-Sex Couple’

 

Same-sex “marriage” is in discussion again, as the US Senate seems intent on forcing the issue further down the throats of resistant Americans. There are multiple arguments for why same-sex couples do not qualify for “marriage.” My primary argument is that same-sex couples cannot produce children.

Marriage is socially and legally recognized for couples of two sexes because such a couple may, even is likely to, create new life, i.e., produce children. Those children blend the two families from which the couple came into a new branch on the tree of humanity and perpetuate that blend far into the future. Throughout history and across cultures, it has been and is the expectation of children that drives marriage. “Romance” or “erotic love” are very late additions to the long and broad history of marriage, and not particularly central to why marriage exists.

“Marriage” establishes a social and legal framework so that the new branch on the tree of humanity formed by creating children not only does not wither and die, but grows and thrives. Society (and the law that society creates to govern human behavior) has both short-term and long-term interests in the children that a coupling by people of different sexes may produce. Short-term, we want a structure in which those children are more likely to be protected, housed, fed, clothed, etc. Long-term, we want a structure in which those children and their children on through the generations bolster the society into which they are born.

It is a biological certainty that a couple consisting of people of the same sex will not produce children. Their coupling will end no later than when one of them dies. Societies (especially ours in the US) have legal systems for contracts for people to form partnerships that involve themselves only, and exist during their lifetimes.

In times or cultures in which women might be limited in their ability to own or control property or to conduct business, marriage also helped to protect women from destitution. That’s not really a concern in 21st-century America. So we’re left with children (or at least the possibility of children) as the public justification for marriage.

“Marriage” exists because of the potential for children emanating from the couple. A same-sex couple cannot produce children. “Marriage” designed for two-sex couples should not be extended to same-sex couples.

Bernie Sanders and Dark Humor on College Debt

 

I sometimes chuckle at dark humor. I found myself chuckling at this report that Sen. Bernie Sanders not only supports taxpayer bailout of student debt, but insists that all college should be “tuition-free” (i.e., paid for by taxpayers).

I chuckled because I remembered that his wife (Jane Sanders) had driven a college of which she had been president into insolvency and ultimately to close because of debt incurred while she was president of the college. While she was drawing a large salary that no doubt helped to pay for one or more of the three luxury houses the Sanders own.

National Review

NBC News

Daily Caller

Multiple sources, in case you think I’m not being fair.

It may not be entirely fair to blame a husband for the financial idiocy of his wife, but the idea that a guy who could not even help his wife avoid driving a college into insolvency is trying to tell the rest of us how colleges should be run struck me as darkly funny.

More Ranting on Solar Panel Tax Credits

 

Over the weekend, Biden Administration Energy Secretary Granholm proposed that lower- and middle-income families should buy electric cars and go into debt to install home heat pumps, home insulation, and home solar panels because those families can claim a tax credit in the future. This was her answer for families struggling with inflation. She talked of a 30% discount on prices. Her exact language as to where the 30% discount is coming from is unclear, but it appears she was trying to say that the 30% tax credit specified in the “Inflation Reduction Act” amounts to a 30% discount on the price of installation. She was particularly pushing this at low- and moderate-income families.

But … unless the new tax credits are written differently from most prior tax credits (including prior energy-oriented tax credits), the credits are not “refundable,” meaning that the consumer can use them only to offset the consumer’s federal income tax liability. If the consumer has no federal income tax liability, the tax credit is not “refunded” to the consumer. A large percentage of low- and moderate-income families do not have federal income tax liability. A tax credit is useless to a person with no federal income tax liability.

In 2020 something like 60% of United States households had no federal income tax liability, but 2020 was a weird year for income tax. In 2019 the figure was something like 42%. Nonetheless, a significant number of households or families have no federal income tax liability. A federal income tax credit is useless to them.

And if the family’s tax liability is less than the “value” of the credit, the credit is only useful up to the amount of the family’s tax liability. A potential $6,000 tax credit on a $20,000 solar panel installation (30%) is actually worth only $4,000 to a family with a $4,000 federal income tax liability.

Next, a tax credit is useable only when taxes become due. A family installing a qualifying solar installation in January 2023 will have to wait until filing 2023 taxes in March or April 2024 before claiming the tax credit. Meanwhile, the seller and the installer presumably need to be paid. Who’s going to pay the carrying costs for that for the year plus waiting for the tax credit to be usable? Will installers add that to their financing deal, putting the family further in debt?

Finally (for this rant), most of the touted installations that qualify for tax credits are the types of installations that only a property owner can carry out. Tax credits on those installations are useless to renters (which is a non-trivial portion of low- and moderate-income households).

Energy Secretary Granholm’s suggestions that low- and moderate-income families use debt and tax credits as a strategy for coping with inflation were irresponsible.

Expansive Government Risks Expansive Incompetence

 

Over the weekend, the Biden Administration Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm proposed the utterly idiotic idea that lower- and middle-income families who are having trouble paying for groceries, utilities, and gasoline should saddle themselves with thousands of dollars of debt to possibly be able to claim a tax credit in the future.

Reacting to this latest idiotic idea from the Biden Administration, I started to think about the many examples of basic incompetence that populate the highest levels of the Biden Administration. I review these examples of basic incompetence not so much because I’m a masochist, but because we have relatives, friends, and acquaintances who advocate for an expansive government to run many areas of people’s lives. We should remind them how easy it is for an expansive government to become populated with idiots and incompetents. Even someone who agrees with stated Biden Administration objectives must be starting to see how much incompetence is present at the highest level of that administration. And I think it is valuable to remind them when they want to concentrate power in the government that power may be exercised by incompetents.

The President himself: There seems to be an effective program in the White House to keep him out of public view. When he does appear, he is often obviously confused about where he is and why he is there. Does he or does he not have the basic faculties the job requires?

The Vice President: She has accomplished none of the tasks that have been publicly assigned to her. Nor has she made even token progress on any of them. Most conspicuously on the issues at the southern border of our country. Chaos follows her, including in such basic tasks as internal office administration. Her public talks are mostly jumbles of meaningless words assembled into incomprehensible collections that sometimes have the structure of a sentence.

Justice: The head of the Department of Justice (Garland) is either indifferent or hostile to the concerns of millions of Americans that politics seems to influence the dispensing of justice, and that the application of justice seems to depend on your political party affiliation and/or your positions on certain political or policy topics. Although the federal Department of Justice is not responsible for the idiocy of local district attorneys, the federal department doesn’t seem bothered by such local idiocy either.

Homeland Security: The head of Homeland Security (Mayorkas) keeps talking nonsense. He insists the nation’s border is secure as his department is literally creating openings in the border to facilitate the importation of drugs, criminals, and slaves. He refuses to acknowledge the issues faced by municipalities along the nation’s border as thousands of people flood across that border every week. He speaks against and punishes border patrol agents trying to do what they think of as their jobs.

Defense (military): Very publicly claims to be more concerned about the minute feelings of a small number of “woke” people who may or may not be in the military than about military readiness and the defense of the country and its interests. Very public and conspicuously incompetent withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Transportation: The head of the Transportation Department (Buttigieg) decided to take off for several months during the biggest disruption to the distribution of goods the country had seen in decades (and maybe ever), many of those disruptions transportation-based. He only last week acknowledged that there were problems in the air transport system that the rest of us have known about for months. And all he could muster was to point a finger of blame at others. No ideas or suggestions. No acknowledgment of the possibility that government entities in his purview might be connected to those problems. He publicly expresses contempt for families struggling to pay for gasoline, recommending they instead spend tens of thousands of dollars on new electric cars. But then in his prior job as Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, he couldn’t get potholes in town roads fixed.

Energy: Besides advocating for people to increase individual debt as a strategy for coping with inflation, the department often seems to adopt a very narrow view of what constitutes “energy,” and to advocate against (or at least not advocate for) reasonable, practical energy sources like domestic oil and natural gas and nuclear power.

Health and Human Services: The head of “Health” (Becerra) seems to spend more energy advocating death (killing babies in abortion as a social good) and the mutilation of the children who survive gestation with “gender-affirming care” than he does promoting health and wellness across the population.

Education: The federal department of education supports tacitly, if not explicitly, the efforts of teachers’ unions to prevent children from attending school and getting an education, and to abuse many of the children who actually do make it into a classroom.

Let’s remind our relatives, friends, and acquaintances that a risk of an expansive, active government is that it will become populated with incompetents rather than experts. When we deal with private enterprises run by incompetents we almost always can find ways to avoid those incompetent enterprises. But we don’t have a choice in government. When incompetents run the governments that rule us, we have to deal with those incompetents. The more expansive government is, and the more it rules us, the greater the risk that we will find ourselves under the rule of incompetents.

We Should Celebrate Agriculture, Not Constrain It

 

In the last few weeks politicians have been making much noise about constraining agriculture in the name of emissions reduction or climate control or some such nonsense.

No.

We should be celebrating agriculture as we have reached (or at least are very close to) for the first time in human history the point that no one on the planet needs to starve to death due to a lack of food. Humans have sought that goal for millennia. It has been the stated goal of beauty pageant contestants for decades. Yet now that we have achieved (or at least are close to achieving) that goal, politicians, leaders, our elite, and others NOW want to put limits on the mechanisms that got us here?

I recognize that there remain some transportation and distribution challenges to getting all the food the world’s farmers produce to all the people who need it, but my unscientific observation is that overall we are growing enough food to feed the entire world population. When I was growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, the widespread concern was that the world’s population was growing faster than the world’s food production. But, due to improved farming efficiencies mostly in the United States and in Europe, those trends have switched. American and European farmers have solved world hunger! Despite setbacks such as the former Rhodesia (breadbasket of Africa) becoming Zimbabwe (the basket case of Africa), farmers have stepped up their game. We should be celebrating.

In the last couple of years, I have been fascinated with some of the (mostly United States) farming channels on YouTube. The efficiencies those farmers seek, and how much they produce using relatively few people is impressive. But that productivity takes capital expenditures (million dollar pieces of farm equipment!), specialty seeds and fertilizers (50 lb. bags of seed for $7,000!), and fuel (mostly diesel and natural gas) (125 gallons of diesel ($500 – 600!) for a day or two’s work from many tractors and other pieces of equipment!). Yet because of that diesel fuel usage, our “betters” do not want to celebrate. They want to constrain the very mechanism that has been so successful at feeding the world. This makes no sense.

Here we have achieved the goal of producing enough food in the world that no one need go hungry (or at least are coming very close). Yet our politicians and other elites want to get in the way. No!

Let’s celebrate that world hunger is or will soon be a thing of the past.

Abortion, Slavery – Who’s Claiming Ownership Over Human Bodies?

 

I don’t pay much attention to what Vice President Kamala Harris says because so little of what she says makes sense. So, I’m late to hearing about her speech to an NAACP conference in which she compared restrictions on abortion to historical American slavery.

VP Harris: “We know, NAACP, that our country has a history of claiming ownership over human bodies.” She then referenced “extremists” seeking to criminalize abortion, apparently trying to say that people seeking to restrict abortion are claiming ownership over women’s bodies.

But her reference to abortion and slavery is backward as to who is claiming ownership over human bodies. It is the pro-abortion and “pro-choice” camps that are claiming ownership over a human body. The argument in favor of unrestricted abortion says the mother alone (or sometimes in consultation with others) can decide whether the fetus, a body with human DNA distinct from that of the mother, is her property or is a separate individual — a “baby.” Just as defenders of slavery claimed the slave owner alone should be able to decide whether the slave, a body with human DNA distinct from that of the owner, is his property or is a separate individual — a “person.”

Although I’m late to VP Harris’ comment, I think the counter to her comment is a valuable argument against abortion. The arguments for and against abortion are almost identical to the arguments for and against slavery. Read some of the debates from the first half of the 19th century. The arguments in favor of permitting abortion and in favor of slavery both include giving one person the ability to decide whether another body with unique human DNA is a person or property.

So VP Harris had her analogy backward. Support for abortion is part of a pattern of claiming ownership over human bodies.

Employee Shortage and “Woke” Employers

 

Business press articles on the widely experienced shortage of workers in the United States often identify as part of the problem that the current “labor participation rate” (1) is unusually low. The articles generally offer up several theories on why so many people are not participating in the labor market. Those theories include 1) people still living off government pandemic checks, 2) people unwilling to commit to a job while the school schedules for their children continue to be unreliable, 3) laziness of the youngest generation, and 4) older people who were prematurely retired during the pandemic and choose to stay retired. Businesses lament the difficulties in finding and attracting employees, and complain how the worker shortage negatively affects their business activities.

But, have businesses considered the possibility that they could be contributing to the problem themselves? Are businesses scaring off potential employees with “woke” policies and controversial political messaging? I’m not sure I can muster much sympathy for the “woe is me” businesses lamenting their inability to find workers while the businesses push “woke” policies and controversial political positions.

I am a premature retiree, though my premature retirement slightly preceded the pandemic. I sometimes miss aspects of working, and so occasionally look at reentering the paid labor market. But when I do look, I see all the focus prospective employers put on non-core issues such as promoting sexual deviancy and related bullying (illustrated with widespread use of rainbow flags), promoting “anti-racist” racism, opposing formation of stable families, promoting the killing of employees’ babies, hating on many aspects of Western Civilization and on the foundational values of America, and other topics from the current “woke” agenda. From that I conclude that the company probably doesn’t want me, and that if I were to go to work there I would be uncomfortable and the company would be working actively to make me uncomfortable.

My profession and particular skills are used mostly by universities and large corporations, organizations most likely to be pushing woke policies and polarizing political positions. I am a Christian man who supports the principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness on which the United States was founded. I am married to a woman, and of German/English/Scottish ethnic heritage. So I have many of the characteristics “woke” ideology seeks to banish from society. Why would I seek to work somewhere where I am so obviously unwelcome, and for an organization that seems determined to make me uncomfortable being there? I lose any residual interest I may have had in trying to reenter the labor force. Which means employers have to a shrunken pool of prospective employees.

I understand that employers believe “woke” policies and controversial political positions attract a type of employee the employer considers valuable. How sure are employers that they are pursuing a net positive? Can employers really be sure that their “woke” policies and controversial politics don’t discourage more prospective employees than they encourage?

As a side note, I also admit to deriving perverse enjoyment when those very “woke” employees the employers say they want then cause all sorts of internal turmoil when their woke priorities inevitably clash (see Washington Post and New York Times newsrooms for example).

Employers really should consider the possibility that pursuing wokeness might not be the net positive they seem to think it is for attracting employees that will help the business succeed. I can’t muster much sympathy for employers claiming they can’t find employees while those employers are actively driving prospective employees away.

 

 

(1) the percentage of people of “working age” who are either working or actively looking for work

Not All Homeless People Are the Same; Not All Policies Will Work the Same

 

While on my early morning recreational bike ride this morning I had a conversation with an apparently homeless man who was a real-life reminder that not all “homeless” people are the same, and so policies for dealing with them should probably not be all the same.

The man I talked to was on foot and was looking for a Salvation Army shelter (or presumably some similar overnight sleeping facility that might provide meals). There is no such facility in my town. But I admired the man’s logic for concluding that there must be. He said he observed that he had seen no people sleeping on sidewalks, on benches, or in doorways, so they must be sleeping in a shelter somewhere in town.

Pre-pandemic, I did some work with the primary organization that helps the homeless and (as they say) “marginally housed” in my county, so I actually know something about the “homeless” here. I live in the county seat of a semi-rural county about 25 miles west of a major metropolitan area (Fort Worth, Texas). The homeless of the type who sleep on the sidewalk do not come here. It is a far walk to get here. Once here, the distances between things are very long for a person on foot. There is no public transportation. And there are few resources here to help them. So they stay in the urban metropolitan area. There are a few sidewalk-sleeping people around town, but you can probably count them on one hand.

The homeless who do get here (or who become homeless while living here) generally have a vehicle that runs, and either think they want to find work or seek to escape what they consider the negative culture of the sidewalk homeless of the urban metropolitan area (crime, drugs, alcohol, disrespect). That most of them have a vehicle is key to why we don’t have an overnight shelter – they stay in their vehicles (and many of them have dogs that would be difficult to accommodate in a shelter). With a vehicle, they can get to a central food distribution center on occasion, can store several days’ worth of food, and do not need each meal served individually. I tried to explain to the man I encountered this morning that most of the “homeless” here have some type of shelter, which is why he doesn’t see people sleeping on the sidewalks, and that there really isn’t much demand for a Salvation Army type overnight shelter, though I don’t think he believed me. I did not find out how or why he got here. Did he hitch a ride with a trucker who stopped at one of the truck stops? Did he come on the Greyhound bus that stops at the Pilot truck stop? He wasn’t carrying luggage. Did he leave luggage somewhere? I didn’t pry, but I wasn’t able to give him much real help. He was quite articulate. And as I said, I admire his logical thinking.

We have five major truck stops along the interstate highway that runs across the south end of town. So the homeless with vehicles have places to park their vehicles, to use the toilets, and to shower (if they pay). The truck stops have varying levels of tolerance for the vehicle-based homeless. Some of the homeless don’t always look or behave all that different from some of the truck drivers who also may stay several days while waiting for a load. One of the truck stops has been known to employ a few homeless for odd jobs like sweeping the lot, picking up trash, and emptying trash cans in exchange for lodging in the attached motel. I met a lot with a woman who had such a job. She was completely bonkers, but could pull it together enough to do the work the truck stop wanted. She really appreciated the motel room she got in exchange. And she was extremely determined to stay away from the crime, drugs, and alcohol of the urban homelessness that she escaped to come out here.

Some of the homeless who do get out here are delusional that they have the capabilities to become employed. But that they have employment as a goal seems to keep them away from much of the self-destructive behavior we see the sidewalk-sleeping urban homeless. I met many times with a group of men who lived together in an ancient motorhome that they moved from place to place around town as they wore out their welcome. None of them had the wits to be able to hold regular employment, but they did find enough odd jobs to survive together. Another man thought the owner of the shopping center in which he parked his truck should be more appreciative of the unsolicited work that the man did around the shopping center. The shopping center owner did not agree that the unsolicited work was a net positive for his shopping center, and so there was some conflict about the homeless man continuing to park his truck there. But at least the homeless man grasped the concept of earning his keep.

But the largest category of people needing housing help here is the “marginally housed.” As a semi-rural area, we have a lot of marginal housing – cabins, travel trailers that are no longer mobile, or manufactured houses, built decades ago with no or inadequate plumbing, electricity, heating, or cooking facilities, that may be literally falling apart. “Affordable,” but often a long distance from prospective employment. Which, especially with today’s gasoline prices, puts staying on a budget that was already marginal, almost impossible. The landlords almost universally agree that they should be upgraded, but everyone also agrees that such upgrades cost money, and so the rents would need to increase. So, a major part of the work of the organization for the “homeless” is actually trying to find appropriate affordable housing for these marginally housed people. Shelter or housing for an individual who can find only intermittent employment for limited hours per week but who is otherwise more or less together is different from shelter or housing for a drug-addicted or mentally ill person who will not or cannot take care of even his most basic needs.

So, the “homeless” issue in my semi-rural county is very different from the homeless issue in the urban metropolitan area 25 miles to our east. The answers that might work in one place may not work in the other. My experience here is why I get really irritated when politicians and advocates talk as though “homelessness” were some monolithic problem with a single universal solution. Well, that’s true for a lot of problems, but after this morning’s encounter with the man on my bicycle ride, that is the problem at front of mind.

Why Are Abortion Proponents So Emotional?

 

Proponents of abortion get quite emotional, many to the point of irrationality. Their reactions to the potential that there might be even the slightest constraints on abortion are way over the top. We have seen quite a bit of hysterics on display the last couple of months.

Why? I can’t think of another issue that generates such a high level of emotion, even supposedly existential issues like “climate change.” The weird sex advocates get emotional and are very persistent, but even they don’t get hysterical in the same way that abortion advocates do.

What is it about abortion that causes such reactions?

For this discussion, I am referring to the extreme activists who put themselves on public display, not the vast muddy middle of people that @susanquinn  addresses below.

[I operate on a theory that the more I understand the other party’s motivations, the more likely I can help either find a workable solution, or convince them that they might be mistaken.]

Does the Biden Administration Intentionally Go Out of Its Way to Hire Stupid People?

 

Someone (possibly Jim Geraghty at National Review) recently offered up the opinion that Obama’s “E Team” (those left after the A, B, C, and D teams had left the White House over two terms) were Biden’s “A Team.” Clearly in the Biden Administration, we are not getting “the best and brightest.” Does the Biden Administration intentionally hire stupid people, or is the problem that only stupid people will work for the Biden Administration?

I am posting this because of a story so idiotic it would be unbelievable, but we have seen so much idiocy at the Biden Administration, maybe it’s true (and not Babylon Bee).

The Secretary of Education (Miguel Cardona) reportedly said arming teachers was a stupid idea because, in his mind, doing so would require giving the teacher’s substitute the gun if the armed teacher was absent. Is anybody really so stupid as to come to the conclusion of what the Secretary of Education is saying?

The new press secretary (Karine Jean-Pierre) demonstrates daily that she is an idiot. Her predecessor, Jen Psaki, lied almost every time she opened her mouth, but at least she made an effort to be convincing in her lies. Ms. Jean-Pierre is just plain incompetent. She rarely has an answer of any kind, even to questions that can be anticipated. And the answers she does give are clearly scripted and rarely relevant to the question asked.

The now-approved-but-not-yet-seated Supreme Court justice who was selected for her race and sex (Ketanji Brown-Jackson) demonstrated in her Senate hearings that she is not intellectually curious enough, nor mentally facile enough, to be a proper Supreme Court Justice. Surely among black women lawyers and judges there was someone with greater intellectual curiosity and capacity than Ms. Brown-Jackson.

But an Education Secretary who thinks that a proposal to let willing teachers carry firearms requires that the teacher’s substitute carry that same firearm is a special kind of stupid.

Is the Biden Administration intentionally hiring stupid people, or is their problem that only stupid people are willing to work in this administration?

What Is the Public Good That Justifies Public Funding of Universal College?

 

As so many people are calling for public (taxpayer) funding for universal college education (loan forgiveness, “free” tuition, etc.), what is the broad public good that justifies public funding of universal college attendance? The broad social benefit? The practical challenges of public funding of college are extensively argued elsewhere, so there is no point to rehashing them here. Instead, what are we trying to accomplish by encouraging everyone to attend college? What is the public goal?

In the United States, primary school education (grades 1 – 8) became publicly funded at least in part on the belief that a republic of free citizens functions only if most of those citizens have some basic capabilities to be able to conduct business among themselves and inform themselves so they could choose effective elected representatives: Read and write at a basic level, do basic arithmetic, know some amount of science and history, have some understanding of how government is supposed to work, and a few other topics.

I suppose I can grasp that as society became more complex in the late 19th century and into the 20th century the basic knowledge expectations for a functioning citizen forced the expansion of publicly funded education into secondary schools (grades 9 – 12).

But what is the “public benefit” of universal college today? Has society in the early 21st century gotten more complicated in a way that four additional years of education are necessary to produce citizens capable of functioning as free people in a republic? Evidence suggests the opposite may be true. We keep getting glimpses that many people come out of college with less civic knowledge than they had going in, and with less ability to function as free citizens in a republic – that college may be detrimental to our functioning republic.

Many years ago I attended a publicly funded “research university.” The justification for public funding of the university was that the state’s overall economy was improved by proximity to all the knowledge being generated at the research university, and the improved economy benefited all the residents of the state. Research was the primary purpose of the university. Student education was explicitly only a secondary goal, mostly a byproduct of the university’s research activities. The public benefit of a research university is specific to certain types of universities, and the presence of certain types of professors and students. It is not a justification for broad funding for everybody to attend college as students.

We hear that college graduates earn much more money over their lifetimes than do people who do not graduate from college. But that is a private benefit – an argument for private investment by individual students or their sponsors, not for broad funding for everybody to attend college. With a measurable return-on-investment, investing now in order to produce higher future income is a great market opportunity, and does not need government subsidies. Also, any potential public benefit of a higher income population in and of itself seems both doubtful and remote. I’m skeptical whether if college attendance becomes more universal, universally higher incomes will continue to result. While that would collapse the market opportunity, it also collapses the argument for why taxpayers should make that investment.

So what is the broad public good that would come from universal college education that justifies public funding of college students?

Better Judicial Confirmations

 

I suppose I’m likely ignorant and/or naïve (I’m just a retired corporate patent lawyer who did not attend a top tier law school), but it seems to me that we could learn a lot better information about judicial nominees (especially Supreme Court nominees), AND the nominees would have a lot less wiggle room to avoid answering questions, if rather than grandstanding on particular issues, the Senators asked some basic questions about the nominee’s process for reading, understanding, interpreting, and applying documents.

  • How do you start reading and interpreting a document on which you are expected to make a decision (whether the Constitution, a statute, a regulation, or a contract)? Do you try to discern what the particular author intended the language to mean at the time it was written? Or do you read it as a bystander (member of the public) would have read it at the time it was written? Or do you read it as a person with specific specialized knowledge would have read it at the time it was written, such as people in specific industries or professions? Or do you read it with today’s understanding of the words and grammar used? Or do you read it as you believe the author would have wanted it to mean if the author were writing it today?
  • Can a document later have a meaning different from the meaning it had at the time it was written? [Possible follow-up questions about contracts, which will raise fewer red flags than asking about the Constitution or statutes – can a judge interpret a contract to mean something different than what it would have meant at the time the contract was signed?]. Can a document today have a meaning that it never had in the past?
  • If a document can have a different meaning today than it did when it was written, what types of sources are appropriate to use when determining what the proper meaning of the document is today? How would you decide what sources to use and what sources to reject (if any)? How would you approach conflicts among the selected sources if using different sources lead to different meanings?
  • If you find a document is ambiguous in meaning, how do you resolve that ambiguity? What types of sources do you consult? If you consult external sources, do the external sources need to be exactly parallel with the parties to the dispute before you? Same industry? Same financial system? Same cultural history? Same legal system? For example, if you are looking to law of another jurisdiction to interpret language, does it matter if the social or legal culture of the other jurisdiction is different from the culture where the dispute before you is? If it is appropriate to look at the law of other jurisdictions to help resolve an ambiguity in a document, are all other jurisdictions to be considered equally relevant? For example, would the law of Britain be as relevant as the law of Germany? Saudi Arabia? China? If so, why? If not, why not?
  • Can you imagine that an ambiguity in a document might render the matter so unclear that it would be inappropriate for a judge to resolve? Must a judge resolve every dispute that comes to the court? Might there ever be a circumstance in which a judge should return it to the people who drafted the document to resolve some other way?

I think questions of this type would be much more useful in discerning a nominee’s “judicial philosophy” than the subject-specific questions typically thrown out today. A nominee, especially one that has risen to the point of being considered for a state or national supreme court, should be prepared to answer such questions, and to explain the reasoning for those answers, regardless of whether the nominee takes a “strict originalist” or a “living document” approach or some other approach.

One of the things that bothers me about the current U.S. Supreme Court nominee (Ketanji Brown Jackson) is that she has overtly evaded questions about how she goes about making judicial decisions. She has given nonsense answers to questions about how she makes decisions, even at one point claiming she hadn’t thought about the subject. Either she’s lying and has thought about it but knows her thoughts are unacceptable, or if she truly hasn’t thought about it, she is the most incurious person ever nominated to high judicial office.

How a person makes decisions is a much more pervasive attribute than are the person’s views on particular topics.

Then and Now: Cheapskate Environmentalism

 

Then: 1950s and ‘60s (my childhood; I was born in 1956)

Now: 1980s onward (my adulthood)

Then: You are a cheapskate (a socially undesirable status) if you: reuse things like paper bags, plastic eating utensils, etc.; you turn off the water while brushing your teeth or washing the car; you turn off lights and appliances you are not using; you turn off the car engine while waiting for someone; you maintain and hold onto old things like clothing, furniture, and cars rather than keep up with current styles; when you do buy a car, you choose a car that goes farther on a gallon of gas. And others. Those things cost money, and “cheapskates” are intent on saving money. “Cheapskates” are mocked by many who considered themselves social betters.

Now: You are being environmentally responsible (a socially desirable status) if you: reuse things like paper (and now plastic) bags, plastic eating utensils, etc.; you turn off the water while brushing your teeth or washing the car; you turn off lights and appliances you are not using; you turn off the car engine while waiting for someone (or even a traffic light); you maintain and hold onto old things like clothing, furniture, and cars rather than keep up with current styles; when you do buy a car, you choose a car that goes farther on a gallon of gas. Those things use the earth’s resources, and the “environmentally responsible” are intent on saving the earth’s resources. “Environmental responsibility” is lauded by those who consider themselves social betters.

So many actions that then (in my childhood) branded my family as “cheapskates” are now lauded as “environmental responsibility.” Same actions. Different social status.

Monoclonal Antibodies and FDA Emergency Use

 

Since again the “news” media do such a terrible job of reporting facts, I’m turning to the knowledgeable people of Ricochet.

Is the monoclonal antibody treatment for which the Food and Drug Administration recently revoked emergency-use authorization the only monoclonal antibody treatment that was available to the public? In other words, did the FDA’s revocation stop all monoclonal antibody treatments for people who get COVID-19 or only some? The news media is interested only in reporting the politicians yelling at each other, not on any underlying facts.

I had been hearing many anecdotal stories about favorable results from monoclonal antibody treatments. Among the anecdotes, two friends of mine who recently (two weeks ago) tested positive for COVID-19 received monoclonal antibody treatments, and their conditions immediately improved significantly. Of course, the experience of two of my friends is not scientific proof of anything, and we can’t even be certain that the treatment caused the improvement of my two friends — though for one in particular, the coincidence of treatment and the magnitude of improvement was remarkable. Nor do I know if their treatments were the same ones for which the FDA revoked emergency-use authorization.

The closing of Florida treatment centers and accompanying yelling by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis gives the impression that all monoclonal antibody treatments have been stopped. But maybe Florida was using only one version, the version that was the subject of the FDA action.

I admit that I come into this discussion with a bias, as it seems to me that the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are focused on vaccines for COVID-19 and are generally opposed to (or at least uninterested in) finding treatments for those who become infected. That anti-treatment bias may not be true, but abruptly revoking the emergency-use authorization of monoclonal antibodies without much further detailed explanation provides fuel for the speculation that the agencies are anti-treatment. More information on the scope of the FDA’s action would help the not-medically-trained me evaluate what’s going on.

So, did the FDA’s revocation of emergency-use authorization for monoclonal antibody treatments apply to only some treatments or to all of the monoclonal antibody treatments that people had been getting? Do people who have COVID-19 still have an option to receive monoclonal antibody treatment, or are all options to receive monoclonal antibody treatment off the table?

President Biden’s Successes

 

I appreciate that Fox News has published at least two positive endorsements of President Biden’s first year. Other than the weak efforts by poor Jen Psaki to lay out the positives of President Biden’s actions, I had not seen any outside explanations of why we should be glad that Joe Biden is President of the United States.

One of the pieces (Biden Gave a Commanding Performance At His Press Conference) is by Kevin Walling. Unfortunately, the piece is nothing but vague characterizations of events and statements that make accurately measuring and commenting on them difficult. Well, except that Mr. Walling said,

Americans saw in their commander-in-chief someone willing to speak earnestly and frankly with the American people, and his command performance Wednesday harkened back to an earlier Biden from the campaign trail: forceful, direct, self-deprecating and earnest.

It was so earnest and frank that several Administration officials had to rush out immediately with “clarifications.” And press secretary Psaki had to spend most of her press conference this morning undoing (or “clarifying”) what the President said. So maybe the President’s press conference performance wasn’t all that commanding.

So we move to the more substantive piece by Juan Williams (Five Things to Celebrate From Biden’s First Year). Cutting and pasting from the piece:

  1. Biggest drop in unemployment in his first 12 months of any president in history
  2. Highest Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the measure of the growth of the American economy, in nearly 40 years.
  3. During Biden’s first year in office the stock market has seen its value soar go up 25%.
  4. The country has avoided another lockdown despite the rise of a new coronavirus variant
  5. By the end of last year nearly all schools were able to reopen thanks to Biden’s successful distribution of the vaccine.

Things 1, 2, and 3 are all things that most likely would have happened even if a house plant occupied the Oval Office (re house plants, see discussion on the thread “Remember – Biden Was Always A Plant” by @BDB ). Local and state restrictions on liberty and economic activity in 2020 were so severe that by January 2021 there was nowhere to go but up. I’d be more interested in a comparison to late 2019.

“Lockdowns” (Thing 4) were mostly functions of local and state governments, not the national government, so there is little basis for Biden to claim credit for a lack of lockdowns.

Closing down the schools (Thing 5, again, mostly decisions made by local and state governments) was clearly a mistake, and as it turns out the availability of vaccines (especially the availability to children) was not a major factor in decisions to reopen schools.

Mr. Williams is crediting to President Biden “successes” that are almost or totally independent of Mr. Biden’s decisions or actions. I don’t think inevitabilities are reasons to “celebrate.”

So I guess I’m still waiting for someone to explain why the American public should be glad Joe Biden is President of the United States.

COVID: 100% Vaccination Is NOT the Goal

 

Or at least shouldn’t be.

Reducing the spread and/or seriousness of the disease is the goal. Vaccines appear to be a tool that helps toward that goal. Yet the rhetoric about Covid vaccine mandates now treats vaccination itself as the goal. So confusing the goal and a tool intended to help achieve that goal keeps people and organizations from seeing other tools that might be useful to achieve the real goal, and causes people and organizations to pursue the tool regardless of whether it continues to contribute toward the goal.

I have often seen in the corporate world employees and departments get so focused on a particular tactic used to achieve a company goal that the employees come to think of the tactic as the goal, and lose track of what the real goal is. Besides becoming blind to possible alternatives to achieve the real goal, they get so wedded to the tactic that they fail to consider whether the tactic is still contributing to the goal, and run the risk of continuing the tactic even if it no longer contributes to the goal.

With respect to Covid, I fear that so many have become wedded to the tactic of 100% vaccination that they have lost sight of whether other tactics might be useful, and they are not considering whether the tactic is really accomplishing the goal of reducing the spread or seriousness of Covid. Natural immunity is being almost completely ignored. Treatments of the disease are being almost completely ignored. Health issues that suggest the vaccine could be high risk for some people are ignored by many of the vaccine demands. Employers and schools with populations at extremely low apparent risk of serious Covid consequences (the young and healthy) fail to consider whether vaccination will really reduce the spread or seriousness of the disease within their populations, and refuse to consider any balancing of the very low apparent risk of the vaccine with the very low apparent risk of the disease itself. 100% vaccination has become the goal.

If we could keep our eye on the goal of reducing the spread and seriousness of Covid and treat vaccination as A tool that seems to contribute to that goal, rather than treating vaccination as the end goal itself, we could have much more useful public discussions about how to achieve the real goal. Unfortunately, too many people and organizations in government, media, and corporate businesses have become wedded to vaccination as the only tool they will consider, and thus 100% vaccination has become the goal, instead of reducing the spread and seriousness of the disease itself. Thus, such useful public discussion of the goal of reducing the spread and seriousness of Covid no longer seems possible.

That’s Not How It Was Supposed to Happen. Group Writing: Surprise!

 

Aug. 15, 1981.

I’m waiting at the front of the church for her to walk down the aisle for our wedding. But I only met her 20 months ago. And for all but seven of those months, we were a thousand miles apart. That’s not how it was supposed to happen. I always knew that I would need to know a girl for several years (I figured about five years ought to suffice) to be sure she was the one to marry. Surprise! Met Dec. 26, 1979. Engaged September 1980. Marrying Aug. 15, 1981. Isn’t that too fast for me?

I am very methodical. I think linearly, as is probably apparent from the pedantic style of most of my writing. I have a degree in electrical engineering. Algebra made a lot of sense to me. Solid linear processes to get to a solution. Geometry did not make sense to me. Too much spatial visualization that eluded me. At the time of this surprise, I was in the middle of law school. Law is the methodical application of precedents to new circumstances. So of course I was going to be slow and methodical about deciding whom to marry. God (or fate or just circumstances if you prefer) said otherwise.

We met because neither of us skied, yet we were on a ski trip organized by my home church for young adults between Christmas and New Year’s. She belonged to a different church but had come on this trip as a favor to accompany a friend. I was one of the group’s van drivers.* Between my shuttle runs to the ski slopes, while most of the group was skiing, she and I were among the few hanging out at the church facility at which the group was staying. My mother had come on the trip as chief cook for our group of about 50, and she was intrigued watching us. After the trip, we had exactly one date before I had to return to school 1,000 miles away. Daily letters were our communication for spring semester 1980 and the 1980-81 academic year. We each wrote about 250 letters over those three semesters, many of which we still have. (For you kids, at that time telephone calls were very expensive, and there was no email, no phone texting, no Facebook. So letter writing it was.)

Our families got along with each other. They got together even while I was away at school. She passed my father’s interrogations with flying colors. My mother threatened to disown me and adopt her if I didn’t ask her to marry me. My brother told me I needed to marry her. A [female] lifelong friend of mine (we were infants in adjacent cribs in the church nursery, and during our teenage years, she unsuccessfully tried to explain girls to me) told me she was the girl I should marry. My doubts, “We’ve only known each other for a few months,” were met with “But we who know you and love you have seen enough to know that she is right for you.” Finally, one evening in late summer 1980, instead of our planned dinner date and walk on the beach, she was hanging on my mother’s garage door (as was my mother) to provide leverage so I could attach new springs to replace the one that had broken that morning. If she could put up with that, maybe we could make a lifetime together work. It took me another six weeks to work up the courage to actually ask the question during a sudden very brief trip home from school to do some work for my father.

More months were spent apart while I finished my last year of law school. More letters. I did splurge on a telephone call most Sunday afternoons, when phone rates were the cheapest. But strictly limited the time to 60 minutes. I was a student on a budget.

Marriage only 20 months after meeting was not the way it was supposed to happen for methodical, pedantic me. Surprise! And the time would likely have been even shorter were we not separated by 1,000 miles for most of that time. So much for my expectations. We celebrated 40 years of marriage on Aug. 15, 2021.

*There’s a separate fun story about the first time we actually “met,” which was along the shoulder of US Highway 395 between Big Pine and Bishop (California), on the trip from Orange County to the Lake Tahoe area. The van I was driving (which was full of people and was pulling the luggage trailer) ran out of gas. She was in the van following me, and next to her was the only empty seat for me to ride in to take me to a gas station. I was too embarrassed to even introduce myself at that moment.

[Not all surprises are “October” surprises. (: This is what you get when @she  mentions “getting to know you” in connection with encouraging write-ups.]

Pete Buttigieg and Human Trafficking

 

I’m going to pick on Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg since his “parental leave” during a period of tremendous challenges to the United States transportation systems has recently brought up his claim to being a parent.

We know virtually nothing about the two babies Pete Buttigieg and Chasten Glezman “brought home” in August. Where did they come from? How were they created? Did Mr. Buttigieg and Mr. Glezman procure one or two women with wombs in which to grow babies for their own pleasure? If you think I’m a conspiracy theorist, then please point me to specific information that the actions of Mr. Buttigieg Mr. Glezman are something other than selfish actions by privileged men.

Despite my snarky comment in another thread, I know that the basics of human reproductive biology have not changed in recent years. It still takes one actual man and one actual woman to produce a baby human. I will also state upfront that I oppose creating a human baby with the specific intent of removing that baby from one of its biological parents or with the specific intent to hand the baby to a non-biological parent. Doing so is extraordinarily selfish of the customer, and intentionally deprives a child of the love and care of a biological parent.

Are the babies adopted by Mr. Buttigieg and Mr. Glezman unwanted creations that were adopted through the existing channels of adoption after being spared Mr. Buttigieg’s preferred solution of abortion? Or were the babies specifically created to be adopted by Mr. Buttigieg and Mr. Glezman? And if they were specifically created for Mr. Buttigieg and Mr. Glezman, from where and how did Mr. Buttigieg and Mr. Glezman procure the womb(s) in which to grow those babies?

Many “news” sources make statements about the babies that seen to be assumptions on the part of the news source, as the “news” source statements are not supported by Mr. Buttigieg’s actual statements.

Many sources refer to the babies as “twins,” but as far as I can tell, Mr. Buttigieg has never used that term, raising the question whether the babies have the same mother. Since Mr. Buttigieg does not seem to refer to the babies as “twins,” I assume they are not. It is extraordinarily unlikely that two newborn babies from different mothers become available at exactly the same time in the existing channels of adoption.

Some information outlets seem to assume the babies came through existing channels of adoption for unwanted babies because that was Mr. Buttigieg’s original plan. But after one effort at adoption failed when the baby’s (then singular) mother backed out of the adoption plan, Mr. Buttigieg stopped using such language. Therefore, I assume the babies Mr. Buttigieg and Mr. Glezman currently have were created specifically for Mr. Buttigieg and Mr. Glezman.

So we’re at the human trafficking question. How and from where did Mr. Buttigieg and Mr. Glezman procure the womb(s) that would allow them to claim to be “parents”? Did they use their power and wealth (“privilege”) to cause some less powerful or wealthy (“less privileged”) woman or women to let Mr. Buttigieg and Mr. Glezman use her womb for their pleasure and selfish purposes?

Mr. Buttigieg is part of the Biden administration. Allies of the Biden profess to oppose human trafficking. But the policies of the Biden administration, particularly with respect to the southern border, leave plenty of opportunities to facilitate human trafficking. The Biden administration does not seem particularly opposed to the concept of human trafficking and using the less privileged for the benefit of the privileged. How convenient for Mr. Buttigieg.

Helpful Reaction to Getting Covid

 

My next-door neighbors have what I think should become a normal reaction to getting Covid. Four of the five of them have gotten Covid, and they are reacting much the same way they would if they all got the flu or some other common bug. They want to sleep; members of their church are dropping food on their doorstep; they are talking to their physicians; and on recommendations of those physicians, they are beginning a treatment regimen.

No panic. No “oh no we’re all going to die!” They have asked people not to bombard them with demands they “must” take certain medications or treatments, since those demands often come from a political or social agenda. As Christians, they also know that God has ultimate knowledge of the outcome. They also humorously tease the nine-year-old – the one family member who seems to have escaped (so far).

Husband/dad (about age 42) vaccinated; Wife/mom (age 38) not vaccinated based on recommendations of physicians because of her particular medical state; Children (age 11, 9, and 3). Husband/dad and wife/mom report almost identical symptoms. Children’s symptoms are somewhat different.

The Covid virus is almost certainly not going to disappear from the earth. To me, “normal” will be when we respond to it like the myriad other communicable diseases with very small mortality rates with which we already live.

For some people, Covid does create serious and sometimes fatal results. But those results are rare. Yet for almost two years we have been reacting as though a diagnosis of Covid is almost a death sentence. The rare serious results are publicized by the government and in the media to the point that many people have an exaggerated sense of the risks posed by the disease. Too many people believe Covid has a very high mortality rate (something like a fifth of the public believes the Covid mortality rate is more than 10%, many believe that large numbers of young people die of Covid, and apparently about a third of the public believes more than half of Covid cases result in hospitalization). The reactions based on such exaggerated results have paralyzed a lot of society and prevented a lot of life from being lived.

I appreciate seeing a family react to Covid as yet another of the many very inconvenient and painful but ultimately low-risk illnesses that run through households. It is good to see more measured reactions from families like my neighbors.

Moving Trucks To and From California

 

The Babylon Bee has a piece up “Gavin Newsom Named U-Haul Salesperson of the Year.”

Mrs. Tabby and I recently cleaned out the house of her late parents near Sacramento. She insisted we not bring much stuff back to our house in north Texas. So we did not need to rent a truck. Everything she wanted to bring back fit into our compact SUV. But moving things got me thinking about moving truck rental.

And I know that social scientists use truck rental rates as a proxy for how many people are moving where. So I decided to check.

For a rental of a 26-foot truck (U-Haul’s largest) to start on October 4, the base rate to take the truck from our town in north Texas to the Sacramento area would be $1,638. But the base rate to rent the same truck on the same day from the Sacramento area to north Texas would be $5,746! The rate from California to Texas is 3.5 times the rate from Texas to California. That says something about the demand by people moving into versus out of California.

Though in fairness to California, when we moved from western New York to Texas in 2018, and even when our son moved from New York to Texas in 2010 to start his Air Force career, truck rental rates from New York to Texas were 2.5 to 3 times as much as rental rates from Texas to New York.

And notwithstanding the desire of many to leave California, 1) several of my Texas neighbors who have previously lived in California and who still have family there are in the process of moving back to California (most cite the desire to be near family), and 2) many people offered what I consider ridiculously high prices for Mrs. Tabby’s parents’ house, indicating many people want to stay in California. The house sold this week to a young family. I don’t understand how they can afford it, but the mortgage lender says they can. The accepted offer was one of 25 offers received within a five-day window after the house was listed.

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