Mike Kueber's Blog

May 28, 2015

Ann Coulter strikes again

Filed under: Culture,Media,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 12:52 pm
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Cassandra Lazenby, a local TV personality and Facebook friend, recently posted her outrage over a two-minute clip of Ann Coulter’s comments during an interview on Fusion TV with Jorge Ramos. Coulter is flacking her new book, Adios America.  Cassandra said:

  • Complete & utter ignorance. We need to stop giving bigots like this platforms to spew hatred & ignite racism. I cannot stand this woman and I’d guarantee most “American Anglo Women” don’t want her speaking on their behalf. (Myself included — I’m half Anglo & half Hispanic… What does that make me… Ann?) God bless Jorge Ramos for staying professional in that interview.

You might guess what Cassandra’s friends thought of Coulter.  The following are their unedited comments:

  • Rolando Medina fuck you stupid bitch. wow she is really stupid.
  • Roger Flores Wow.
  • Janie Hernandez Martinez Wow what a b#&@$!
  • Luis Munoz I’d be upset if I actually took her seriously. She’s just just a waste of good oxygen.
  • Tommy Gregory never heard of her, and already forgotten her.
  • Ron Davis wow,,,,,,,,,,! pendeja !, and she probably vacations in Cabo, has a latina housekeeper, gardener, and nanny,,,,,,,,I hope they pee in her coffee……….VIVA MEXICO !
  • Scottie C. Jackson The same “Anglo” culture that brought slaves to an inhabited land, killed the inhabitants and were in search of “freedom”?  When ignorance points a finger its own ugly is exposed.
  • Andrea Heisler Melcher When will this woman just go away?
  • Robert Rivard Amen.
  • Janie Hernandez Martinez This is what I would have told her when she said there is nothing I can tell you. Well your are going to piss of enough Mexicans that you are going to feel like YOU are in Syria lol just saying…
  • David Gonzales I take her as serious as I take a child when they tell their parents they hate them. She’s just a delusional crazy white lady who can’t stand the fact that America is as diverse as it is. I’d rather give Flavor Flav another show. That brotha doesn’t discriminate against anything lol
  • Selena Mejia You’ve got my blood boiling this am…we can never move forward with stereotypical assumptions around us. Let’s prove her wrong!  #FuelToTheFire
  • Ben N Hilda Salazar I bet any Sponsors that support her will drop her now or feel the rath of the Latin public…Please list the company’s that support her..so we can Ban these companies…
  • Jim Luna stupid bitch!!
  • Adam Morales Where does this stupid Bitch live…
  • Olica Garcia Wow.
  • Joe Enriquez Wow Ann… the last time I checked… America is 100% made up of immigrants from other counties. No different than the white Anglo settlers that came to North American from Great Britain, Ireland, Scottland, Germany, and many other predominantly Anglo…See More
  • Dina Majd She’s wearing a cross too. What an idiot. Middle Easterners are some of the kindest people. There are radicals in every country including USA. I’m curious why she’s such a hater. We aren’t better than everyone else bc we live in USA. We are just lucky we have the privilege to have freedom.
  • Joe Enriquez This woman is using her left wing prejudicy and hatred towards non-white people to make a name for herself. She has no business on TV or tabloids. She is a hipocrit and represents nothing but white supremacy, prejudicy and hatred coming out of her mouth. I don’t believe she represents today’s Anglo American majority. She is in her own little plastic bubble that just needs to be popped.
  • Blanca Hammond What an idiot and just as stupid are those that buy her book. Crazy woman has no clue that her ancestors were immigrant she is just ignorant !
  • Natalie Morales Jackson Can’t stand her!!
  • Irma Brunn She sounds stupid!
  • Martha Vergara Zurita What a dummey.
  • Rosanne Valdez Wow !!! I have never liked this woman. I hate talking negative about any woman trying to do her thing. But I am ashamed that she is called a woman a furthermore an American. She makes me sick
  • Melissa Uribe The ignorance of some people. And hello Ann the American culture? Is a mix of all the people who migrated to America! We are all immigrants unless she is full blooded Native American good luck with the argument.
  • Tanya Garza I am also Anglo and Hispanic…I would NEVER co-sign her ignorance and allow her to speak on my behalf!!
  • Amber Tamayo Such ignorance from this lady!! She should have been smacked on air!
  • Nate Aguilar Never seen this fired up side of yours cassandra… I must say I like it! As for this lady, she must not eat out cause who does she think is cooking her food!
  • John Palmer She is the the most ignorant person on earth.
  • Laura Soto Native Americans where here first, who crossed the ocean… Same people who’s ancestors killed and stole the land. Everyone is an emigrant, so unless your really pure suck it up leave your life and shut the hell up…
  • Joseph Acevedo Pendeja
  • Jackie Tristan Sotelo She is trying to sound smart & nothing,but crap is coming out of the hole on her ignorant face.
  • Richard Chacon Ann Coulter is right. You are more likely to be killed by Mexicans because barbacoa tacos taste too delicious. Damn you arteries!!!
  • Richard Chacon All i know is that lady needs an Enchilada plate with extra tortillas. Did you see the her toothpick legs?
  • VeroErniee Garcia I think the tanning bed got to her brain!
  • Buddy Howell she’s right….facts will always supersede opinions
  • Edgar Hector Villarreal Enough said!
  • David Garcia Wow is all I have to say
  • Pete Perez She’s an idiot. THIS IS WHERE ITS AT! https://youtu.be/h0EnAmUUzl
  • Buddy Miles Express – We’ve Got To Live Together
  • Manda Cass As an anglo woman, I definitely don’t want her speaking for me. She absolutely disgusts me.
  • Miguel Briones Ignorance at its finest
  • Mark Tilford What a freak.
  • Rick Kristin Navarro THE HELL WITH HER!!!!!!!
  • Braziel Jr C Breathe in breathe out
  • Will Dayoda True dat
  • ShaNito Reyes That’s a true nig right there, nuff said
  • Louie-Azalia Fernandez There will be a special place for her when she is gone !
  • Dallas Moore wow. I can’t believe she just tried to compare Mexican immigrants to the world’s worst terrorist organization. Obviously she doesn’t even know what the word “culture” means. Immigrants are simply seeking a better jobs and lifestyle. They’re not trying to wipe western civilization off the face of the earth. What an idiot.
  • Jim Lee Is this a Democrat coffee clutch tongue emoticon
  • Sylvia Ortiz What an ignorant bitch! People like her are keeping the hatred alive. She’s always talking out of her ass!
  • Paula Lovette McKoy  yep that’s all I got…
  • Laurie Butler Bouton She needs to rethink how she says things. Illegal immigrants are a huge threat to the welfare of this country and I believe they should all be deported, but comparing them to ISIS is ridiculous.
  • Joshua Holt wow
  • Enrique Serrano Louie-Azalia Fernandez take care of her please

So many comments; so little to say.  When I read comments to NY Times columns, I am regularly amazed at how deep many of the readers think and how good they are at articulating their thinking.  Suffice to say, Cassandra Lazenby’s Facebook friends don’t seem to enjoy as much exercising their critical thinking skills.  I attempted to create a little balance by posting the following comment:

  • Coulter is obviously a provocateur par excellence. Witness how many commenters called her ignorant or a bitch without saying anything substantive. As Toby Keith sang, “I know what I was feeling, but what was I thinking?” Coulter’s point is that America is being overrun by too many immigrants, especially illegal immigrants, who have values antithetical to American values or have no experience in how a working democracy functions. Most commenters don’t bother making a point. Laura Butler Boltin makes a good point, IMO, that comparing illegal Hispanic immigrants to ISIS is ridiculous.

I half expected commenters to turn on me, but no such thing happened.  The comments continued to be scathing, but nothing to refute anything Coulter said.

After posting my comment, I viewed the entire one-hour interview. Ramos and Coulter talked over each other a lot, but maintained their civility.  Ramos is Mexican-born, American-naturalized, so he was not in a strong position to counter Coulter’s full-throated attack on Mexico’s culture.

Ramos’s essential points were that (a) most immigrants are wonderful people and (b) America will benefit from increasing diversity until 2045, when minorities will become the majority.  Coulter’s main points were that (a) America is not becoming more diverse, but rather is becoming more Mexican (30% of legal immigrants and 60% of illegal immigrants), and (b) “the browning of America” is not a good thing because most of the illegal immigrants since 1970 are coming from “peasant cultures” (more Nigerians than English) and they are a drag on the American economy and way of life.

Coulter made several questionable assertions, including one that Teddy Kennedy assured Americans that his Immigration Bill of 1965 would not change the ethnic composition of America.  With some additional research, though, I found an article in the Christian Science Monitor that seems to confirm her Kennedy assertion:

  • The bill will not flood our cities with immigrants. It will not upset the ethnic mix of our society. It will not relax the standards of admission. It will not cause American workers to lose their jobs,” he said during the Senate debate. In retrospect, the mix of immigrants, legal and illegal, shifted dramatically in favor of Latin America and Asia – a fact that Kennedy, in later years, would attribute to illegal immigration.

Yes, Ann Coulter is provocative.  Guess I will add Adios America to my reading queue.

May 27, 2015

One-man, one-vote, finally

Filed under: Law/justice,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 1:26 pm
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The US Supreme Court has finally decided to hear an issue that has interested me for several years – i.e., must legislative districts have equal numbers of eligible voters or equal numbers of people?

One of the bedrock fundamentals of American democracy is “one man, one vote.”  In Reynolds v. Sims in 1964, the Supreme Court used this constitutional principle to outlaw legislative districts that were based on geography instead of the number of people.  In reaching this conclusion, the Court had to use some mental gymnastics for rationalizing the fact that the U.S. Constitution specifically called for a U.S. Senate based on geography instead of the number of people.  Apparently, America’s constitutional framework wanted the U.S. Senate to be an anomaly and all other voting districts to be one-man, one-vote because of the amorphous dictate for equal protection under the laws.

Yesterday, articles in USA Today and the New York Times, as is their wont, focused on the superficial partisan aspects of the issue instead of the underlying merits.  The merits are whether proportional representation should consider children and illegal immigrants is districting.  Although current districting does count children and illegal immigrants, it is hard to reason why, in a democracy, it should.

The partisan aspects, which the papers find more interesting, are that urban areas will be hurt because they tend to have relatively more children, and states on the south border – FL, TX, AZ, NM, and CA – will be hurt because they have millions of illegal immigrants.

Although I will be surprised if the Supreme Court fails to correct the current injustice, I remain shocked that the Supreme Court insists that states are required to provide an education to illegal immigrants.

The Ivory Tower often sees things differently.

May 24, 2015

Stoking the racial animus

Filed under: Law/justice — Mike Kueber @ 3:16 am
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Yesterday, I noted how the media utterly failed to comment on the racial nature of a black thug killing a white family in D.C.  Today, a judge in Cleveland exonerated a cop in killing two individuals after a high-speed chase.  The Wall Street Journal described the incident as follows:

  • The chase began when Mr. Russell’s car backfired as he sped past Cleveland police headquarters. Police officers and bystanders thought someone inside had fired a gun. More than 100 Cleveland police officers in 62 marked and unmarked cars got involved in a pursuit that saw speeds reach 100 mph during the 22-mile chase.  Authorities never learned why Mr. Russell didn’t stop. He had a criminal record including convictions for receiving stolen property and robbery, and had been involved in a previous police pursuit. Ms. Williams had convictions for drug-related charges and attempted abduction. Both were described as mentally ill, homeless and addicted to drugs. A crack pipe was found in the car.

Here’s how my four leading newspapers of record reported the verdict:

  1. The New York Times.  A Cleveland police officer who climbed onto the hood of a car after a chase in 2012 and fired repeatedly at its unarmed occupants, both of them black, was acquitted of manslaughter on Saturday by an Ohio judge.
  2. The Washington Post. A Cleveland police officer was acquitted Saturday for his role in the 2012 fatal shooting of two unarmed people in a car after officers mistook the sound of the car backfiring as gunshots….  The Brelo verdict follows rioting last month in Baltimore over the death of a man who was fatally injured in police custody and comes at a time of growing national scrutiny over the use of force by law enforcement officers, especially against minorities. Brelo is white, and the two victims were black.
  3. USA Today. A Cleveland police officer was acquitted Saturday of charges of voluntary manslaughter in the shooting deaths of two unarmed people in a 137-shot barrage following a high-speed car chase.  Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge John O’Donnell ruled that Michael Brelo, 31, a white officer, acted within his constitutional rights in the November 2012 deaths of Timothy Russell, 43, and Malissa Williams, 30, two unarmed black occupants in the vehicle.
  4. The Wall Street Journal.  A white Cleveland patrolman who fired down through the windshield of a suspect’s car at the end of a 137-shot barrage that left the two unarmed black occupants dead was acquitted Saturday of criminal charges by a judge who said he couldn’t determine the officer alone fired the fatal shots.

Apparently, any time a black person is killed by a policeman, the race of the victim is relevant.  And it seems even more important to highlight the fact that the victims were unarmed, even though in this instance (a) there was some backfire that sounded like gunshots, (b) the victims had led police on a high-speed chase in excess of 100 mph, (c) one of the officers was on the hood of the car, and (d) it is hard to determine whether two people in a car are unarmed.

I don’t understand, however, why the media failed to report that the judge who exonerated the cop was white.  I suspect the police are considered fair game, but the judges are not – yet.

p.s.,  how does Time magazine characterize the news – “A white Cleveland patrolman who fired down through the windshield of a suspect’s car at the end of a 137-shot barrage that left the two unarmed black occupants dead was acquitted Saturday of criminal charges by a judge who said he could not determine the officer alone fired the fatal shots.”

May 23, 2015

Josh Duggar

Filed under: Parenting — Mike Kueber @ 8:41 pm
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Until this weekend, I’d never heard of Josh Duggar or his TV show, “19 Kids and Counting.”  Josh, 27 years old, is apparently the oldest of the 19 kids in this TV reality show on the TLC network (The Learning Channel).  He is in the news this weekend because of news reports that a dozen years ago he had a brush with the law because he molested (fondled) several young girls of undisclosed ages.  This conduct would be scandalous for any TV star, but it is especially embarrassing for the Duggars because they apparently wear their Christianity on their sleeves.

My liberal Facebook friends are outraged that prominent conservatives, like presidential aspirant Mike Huckabee, have been quick to forgive Josh, and they cynically wonder if the conservatives would have been so forgiving if the offender were Kim Kardashian.  Some point out that one’s views on child molesters should not depend on whether they are conservative or liberal.

I disagree that Huckabee’s response represents a conservative position.  Rather, I think he represents the Christian position, and Christians like Huckabee will always err on the side of forgiving a like believer.

Another criticism of the Duggars on Facebook has been that they are damaging their kids by raising them to be “pure” for marriage.  My liberal friends are aghast that the parents are setting up their kids for potential self-loathing when they likely fail to achieve this lofty goal.  (Abstinence only rarely succeeds, they report.)

I disagree with the liberal suggestion that this is a Christian problem, akin to the Muslim terrorist problem.  Rather, I think it reflects obsessive parenting, which can be found across the spectrum, from religious to secular. Indeed, I see a similarity between the Christian Duggars and the secular progressives who start working on their children’s Ivy League application before their kids are out of grammar school.  Or the sports parents who start sending their kids to gymnastic or tennis training about the same time they matriculate into elementary school.  All kinds of domineering parents, not satisfied with living their lives, attempt to live their kids’ lives, too.

So, yes, politics seems to color many issues today.  And that’s not a good thing.

p.s., when I first wrote this blogpost, I couldn’t find the article that prompted my comment about Christians obsessed with being pure for marriage.  Since then, I stumbled across the article in the Washington Post.

Sunday Book Review #160 – Missoula by Jon Krakauer

Filed under: Book reviews — Mike Kueber @ 2:22 am
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Jon Krakauer, is famous for writing for writing noble outdoorsy books like Into Thin Air and Into The Wild.  His latest book, Missoula, which is subtitled “Rape and the Justice System in a College Town,” seems dramatically different on the surface, but on a deeper level with this book he continues his Don Quixote quest for man’s nobility.

Missoula, MT is the setting for this book because a few years ago the city had several newsworthy incidents of alleged sexual assault, most involving University of Montana students, including several University of Montana football players.  But Krakauer points out that rape is statistically no more prevalent in Missoula than most other places in America.

Krakauer is very sympathetic to the alleged victims and very critical of the law & order folks – i.e., the police, the prosecutors, and the college administrators.  He accuses them of being cynical of the alleged victims.

But I don’t blame them, because the women rarely come before the court of equity with clean hands.  They were almost always drunk, they almost always voluntarily got into bed with the guy, and then in a he-said, she-said, she says she changed her mind at some point prior to consensual sex. This is often called Date Rape.

I’ve never understood why Date Rape is treated under the law with the same severity as Rape between strangers.  When a drunk woman declines to have sex with a drunk guy, but allows him to sleep it off in her bed, and then awakens to him fondling her (this was one of the reported incidents), do we really want to lock him up and throw away the key?

I understand that a woman has the right at any time to change her mind, but from the perspective of a criminal prosecution, this is a tough case to prove beyond reasonable doubt.  Colleges, however, can expel on the basis of the lower preponderance-of-evidence standard.

To make matters more complicated, Krakauer argues that for some psychological reason the victim will often refuse to call for help.  With one alleged rape, there was a third-person outside the bedroom door; with another rape, there was a third-person in another bed in the same room; and finally with a third rape, there was another person in the bed with them.  None of the three called out for help.

Both the alleged victim and the alleged assailant are often guilty of being falling-down drunk.  And it is the slogan du jour that drunk women can’t give consent for sex.  But what’s good for the goose is also good for the gander.  Does that mean that a woman who has sex with a falling-down drunk guy is likely to be prosecuted for rape?

As John Wayne said in The Searchers, “That’ll be the day.”

p.s., as I wrote this blogpost, I was unable to find a column that suggested that feminists had pushed their concern for date rape beyond reasonable limits.  Today, I stumbled across the column by Cathy Young in the Washington Post. It is titled, “Feminists want us to define these ugly sexual encounters as rape.  Don’t let them.”  Subtitle – “We need to stop prosecuting bad behaviour as rape.”

p.s.s., NY Times columnist Nicholas Kristof recently opined on “acquaintance rape” and Missoula.  I don’t disagree.

May 22, 2015

Hate crime and racism

Filed under: Law/justice,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 1:21 pm
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Yesterday the DC police captured the man suspected of killing his rich former employer, along with the employer’s wife, 10-year-old child, and the family maid.  The story has been extensively reported for several days, but I haven’t read a single article indicating that the murdered family was white while the suspected murderer was a black.

By contrast, the deaths a black man at the hands of a white man are sensationalized in Sanford, Ferguson, Charleston, Baltimore, and Staten Island and the media speculates on why white people are killing young black males.  The U.S. Justice Department is called in to determine whether the incidents constitute a hate crime.  President Obama can be counted on to call for reflection on race in America and “teaching moments.”

The media also plays this sort of identity politics with Muslims.  A few weeks ago, the terrorist attack in Garland, TX by a couple of Muslims caused countless reports on Islam as the source of this terrorism and the Muslim people for failing to assimilate into America.

But when you have a young black man with a long criminal record murdering a white family, this is treated as a one-off.  No need to generalize or stereotype here.  There is no consideration of a hate crime here.  Ditto when a young black man with a long criminal record murders a cop in Brooklyn.  There is no rioting against this criminal culture.

The problem is that people have given up on inner city poverty and crime and have adopted a fortress mentality with a policy of containment implemented by the police.  I don’t see light at the end of this tunnel.

May 21, 2015

A world-class consumer

Filed under: Economics,Philosophy — Mike Kueber @ 11:13 pm
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Last week, I got into two separate philosophical arguments with two of my best friends over whether it was wrong to spend a lot of money on materialistic things.  The arguments were prompted by an anti-religion Facebook attack on a Houston pastor living in a $10.5 million house.

Neither of my friends thought it was wrong for people to spend boatloads of money on themselves, although one friend who was brought up in the Catholic/Jesuit tradition believed such spending was inappropriate for a man of the cloth.  And the other friend, more of an Evangelical guy, begrudged the Houston pastor as a charlatan.

I disagreed with both of my friends on the general practice of spending lots of money.  I don’t recall when, but at some point in my life, I came to the opinion that it was sinful to use an inordinate share of the world’s resources.

I guess this philosophy started with my Catholic upbringing.  We were taught that it was admirable for priests to take a vow of poverty.  Then a few years later during high school and college in the 60s and 70s, I was taught the evil of conspicuous consumption.  Although that concept had been around since the 19th century, it reached the height of ridicule in the 60s. And finally during law school in the late 70s, there was an oil crisis with long lines at the gas pumps and talk of rationing.  During that time, a person did their civic duty by self-restricting their use of gas, and many even considered this a patriotic duty because of our nation’s reliance on imported oil from the Middle East.

In the past few years in San Antonio, my philosophy have been reaffirmed in the context of water usage.  Because our city seems to be continually on some sort of drought restrictions, there is community pressure to reduce water consumption.  The local paper, the Express-News, does its part by periodically doing an article that exposes the biggest private water users in town, with headlines shouting that the profligates are using 10 to 20 times as much water as a typical household.  Not surprisingly, those exposed are apologetic and promise to do better in the future.

Because of all of these life’s experiences, I have gradually settled into a position that ethical people shouldn’t feel entitled to deplete an inordinate amount of resources, even if their income or inheritance allows for it.  It isn’t just oil and water that are limited resources.  Our entire economy produces a limited amount of resources, and in that context it doesn’t seem fair or just to consume 10 or 20 times as much as a typical household.

So, what are successful people to do with their good fortune?  Obviously, they could use it to help others, but if philanthropy is not in their nature, they can retain the capital as productive assets.  As Thomas Piketty pointed out in his classic book, Capital in the 21st Century, the world economy remains out of balance with too much labor and not enough capital, so increasing our savings rate will help everyone.  Plus, with a healthy estate tax, larges estates will provide government with a relatively painless way to fund the necessary governmental services.

In Downton Abbey, the aristocratic Dowager Countess haughtily attempted to justify her use of servants:

  • An aristocrat with no servants is as much use to the county as a glass hammer.”

In her mind, providing employment to servants was a noble thing for aristocrats to do.  I love Countess Grantham in the TV show, but her thinking is outdated.  Employing a slew of servants to wait on you is, not only demeaning to them, but also corrosive to you.  As Jean Knight sang a big hit in 1971, “Mr. Big Stuff, who do you think you are?”

May 19, 2015

Is Hillary Clinton slimy?

Filed under: Politics — Mike Kueber @ 11:18 pm
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Recently Bill O’Reilly on his TV show was discussing Hillary Clinton with pundits Mary Katharine Ham and Juan Williams.  Their discussion was prompted by a report that since January 2014, Bill and Hillary Clinton had collected in excess of $25 million for giving 100 speeches (more than $250,000 a pop).

When a liberal friend of mine on Facebook defended Hillary, I commented the following:

  • Getting paid millions of dollars to speak to special-interest fat cats is not a respectable way for noble public servants to behave, IMO. Those fat cats expect a return on their investment because they know that the Clintons are still playing the game of influence.”

Mary Katharine, however, used more colorful language and characterizing Hillary as “slimy.”  Not surprisingly, mainstream O’Reilly was taken aback by her use of that term.  Me, too, even though Mary Katharine is a bit of a provocateur akin to Ann Coulter.

After the show, I decided to research the precise meaning of “slimy.”  According to Merriam-Webster – “very dishonest, bad, or immoral.”  According to The Free Dictionary – “morally repulsive, as in being dishonest or corrupt.”

When I googled to see if any other pundits online had connected Hillary to slime, I was not surprised to see that Mary Katharine had penned a column on the subject.  This is not the first time I’ve noticed that a TV pundit who seems to be extemporaneously pontificating with great eloquence on a subject is actually recapitulating a column that was written earlier.

But Mary Katharine wasn’t the only online pundit connecting Hillary to slime. Indeed, liberal columnist Maureen Dowd for the NY Times three months ago accused the Clintons of replacing their previous War Room with a Slime Room.

So, slimy is not a word that rolls of my tongue in civil conversation, but I think the Clinton’s money-grubbing conduct while they claim to be public servants is very bad and corrupt.

Donating a kidney – 2

Filed under: Kidney donation — Mike Kueber @ 12:24 am
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A few days ago I blogged about contacting a transplant hospital to donate a kidney. During that initial contact, I was given a brief telephone interview and was sent a specimen bottle for collecting urine for 24 hours.  The specimen had to be refrigerated, so imagine my perverse feeling in going to the refrigerator every time I felt like going to the bathroom. Today, I brought the specimen bottle in to the hospital and had about a dozen blood samples taken.

If not red flags come from the blood or urine, my next step in a couple of weeks is to have a comprehensive 5-hour examination/evaluation.  This will include several medical tests and a psychological one.  And then the transplant would be scheduled.

The news today was mostly bad, but with a silver lining:

  • The silver lining – I was told that most “undirected” donations, like mine, trigger a chain of multiple transplants that are currently precluded because donating relatives/friends don’t match with the recipient.  A 17-link chain that was reported in the local newspaper last year is what prompted me to consider donating, but much smaller chains are more likely.
  • The bad news – 1 – The people in the waiting room were mostly obese, and when I got home, I confirmed that diabetes is the leading cause of chronic kidney failure and being overweight is the leading cause of diabetes.  I guess I would prefer doing this for a younger person struck down by bad luck than for older persons who let their weight get out of control.
  • The bad news – 2 – Kidney surgery is not as simple as I thought it would be.  I thought a kidney was a small organ, but learned it is about the size of a fist.  Thus the incision to remove it is pretty big – 3 to 4 inches – which results in 2 or 3 days in the hospital.  (I was only hospitalized one night to replace my knee!)  And finally, the at-home recovery is 4 to 6 weeks, with no lifting over 10-15 pounds.  Weight-lifting is obviously out; what about cycling and yoga?

Who would have thought that simply retrieving a superfluous organ would be more formidable than replacing a complicated, essential knee?  I’m still leaning toward going forward (guys hate to turn around), but my commitment is a bit shaken.

May 17, 2015

Sunday Book Review #159 – The Most Good You Can Do by Peter Singer

Filed under: Book reviews — Mike Kueber @ 1:45 am
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Peter Singer is a world-famous philosopher professor who espouses a philosophy – utilitarianism – that seems most reasonable to me.  According to utilitarianism, the correct moral action is the one that maximizes utilities such as pleasure, economic well-being, or the absence of pain. This sounds a lot like my Jesuit-trained best friend, who espouses “the preponderance of satisfying consequences.

The Most Good You Can Do is Singer’s explanation of “efficient altruists” – i.e., individuals who apply evidence and reason to determine the most effective ways to improve the world.

One of my favorite philosophers, Ayn Rand, has written extensively in opposition to altruism, and I have adopted one of her pithy anti-altruism sayings on the subject:

  • I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.

Phil Donohue once asked Rand why she had a problem with do-gooders who wanted to be charitable and help others.  Rand responded that helping others or doing good was fine if (a) you did it by your own choice, (b) it wasn’t your primary aim in life, and (c) you didn’t regard it as a moral virtue.  When Donohue pressed her on why doing good for others shouldn’t be considered a moral virtue, Rand said that characterizing it as a moral virtue would mean that you are preaching self-sacrifice, that you place the welfare of others above your own, and that you are living for others as justification for your life.  That, according to Rand, is immoral.  For historical evidence, she asserted that self-sacrifice or altruism was the basis for Nazi Germany and Communist Russia.

The philosophies of Rand and Singer seem irreconcilable, with Rand seeing altruism as immoral while Singer sees it as the ethical path.  But Singer in his book devotes an entire chapter, titled “Altruism and Happiness,” to describe how efficient altruists deny being selfless or making sacrifices of anything important to them.  Rather, they see their good deeds as essential to their happiness and self-esteem.  And, yes, Singer recognizes that this essentially modifies the definition of altruism.

Singer’s book is really a primer on becoming an efficient altruist.  The following are a few examples of the practical considerations discussed by Singer:

  • What sort of job will maximize your positive effect?
  • Do kids detract from your ability to be an altruist?
  • How important is empathy?
  • Should your help be local, national, or international?
  • Is it important to live modestly?
  • Should you donate part of your body (blood, bone marrow, kidney)?
  • Is animal suffering comparable to human suffering?
  • Is pet suffering comparable to livestock suffering?
  • What are the concerns regarding human extinction?

The first three dot points are especially interesting:

  1. What type of job is best?  Singer starts the book by describing a brilliant philosophy student of his at Harvard who decided he could be more effective, not by taking a do-gooder job, but rather by becoming an investment banker and donating a high percentage of his income (more than six figures) to highly effective causes.  I had a Hispanic friend in law school who once told me essentially the same thing – i.e., when we talked about the possibility of working for a low-paying legal aid clinic, he pointed out that he wouldn’t be advancing the cause of his people by declining to be economically successful.  If he didn’t take the job, Legal Aid could hire someone almost as effective as him, so his positive effect would be marginal.
  2. Will having children diminish your ability to do good?  Although this question might initially seem to concern only radical altruists, upon further reflection it is quite analogous to the Catholic Church rationale for celibacy for those who become priests and sisters/nuns.  Raising kids clearly draws from your energy and financial resources, but Singer points out that the kids don’t need to cost that much and provide much joy to you and are likely to be forces of good in the future.
  3. How important is empathy to altruism?  Singer describes two types of empathy – emotional empathy includes “empathetic concern” and “personal distress” while cognitive empathy includes “perspective taking” and “fantasy.” Effective altruists may not possess emotional empathy, but they invariably possess cognitive empathy.

Later in the book, Singer elaborated on the job-selection conundrum by describing an MIT grad who did essentially the same thing as the Harvard grad (joined a hedge fund instead of investment banking).  The choice of the MIT grad was subsequently formally challenged by my favorite columnist at the NY Times, David Brooks.  According to Brooks, a grad who takes a job based on maximizing his income runs three risks:

  1. Our daily activities change us, and by working as an investment banker or at a hedge fund, a person’s ideals could slip and be less committed to giving.
  2. Choosing a profession that does not arouse your passion might leave you loving humanity in general but not the particular humans around you.
  3. Most importantly, turning yourself into a machine to make money and redistribute money might be corrosive to your humanity.

Suffice to say, Singer refuted, or at least deflected all of these charges.  One of his most significant caveats was that “earning to give is not for everyone.”

Fascinating book.  I’m going to have to think some more about Rand’s fear of preaching self-sacrifice or selflessness.  While I think people helping people should be voluntary, I also think it would be unethical for me to live a life that consumes an inordinate amount of the world’s limited resources.  Despite how capitalism allocates rewards, “You didn’t built that!”

Incidentally, while reviewing my earlier blogposts about Ayn Rand and altruism, I noted the following discussion in a review of George Gilder’s book, Wealth and Poverty:

Because Gilder is a great fan of Ayn Rand, he felt it necessary in his Prologue to explain why Rand was incorrect in concluding that capitalism and altruism were inconsistent:

  • “I hugely admired Rand, who flung her moral defense of capitalism in the face of Soviet terror and socialist intellectual tyranny.  But toward Christian altruism she indulged an implacable hostility, stemming in part from her own simplistic atheism and in part from her disdain for the leveler babble of sanctimonious clerics.”

Gilder is a confirmed supply-sider and his protagonists are Arthur Laffer, along with Friedman, Hayek, Buckley, Kristol, Kemp, and Wanniski, while his antagonists are demand-siders Galbraith, Thurow, Zinn, Chait, Krugman, and of course Keynes.

In addition to Gilder’s moral defense of capitalism, I was most impressed by his two-pronged argument that effective capitalism requires (a) the accumulation of capital, and (b) a capitalistic spirit in its people.

I dare say that Singer’s effective altruists retain their entrepreneurial spirit, but they are not so good on accumulation of capital.  Indeed, one of my fundamental concerns about massively spreading the wealth is the significant damage that would be done to the economic engine of the modern world economy.

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