Mike Kueber's Blog

August 25, 2015

Letters to the Editor

Filed under: Media — Mike Kueber @ 11:45 pm
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I am a lazy person who prefers shooting from the hip instead of taking careful aim.  That is why I am more likely to dash off a quick response to a political posting on Facebook than I am to pontificate about something on my blog.  A post on my blog is not a work in progress; it is a final product.  A comment to Facebook is a stream of consciousness, almost.

Letters to the Editor used to be like a blog post – i.e., something fully thought-through and carefully articulated. Because these letters involved a lot of work, I rarely took the trouble unless I was highly motivated, such as when Darrel Royal was not given credit for the Longhorns’ going undefeated in 1977.  In our new digital age, Letters to the Editor have become, like Facebook comments, supremely easy, and this ease is just what a laggard like me needs.

My favorite forum for Letters to the Editor is the local San Antonio Express-News.  Almost daily I comment on an article, usually to criticize the reporter or the paper for taking a liberal position or failing to provide us readers with the necessary information.  To encourage comments, the paper ranks commenters according to a complex formula, and I am currently their #6 commenter, with 351 comments.  My most recent comment to the Express-News concerned the reporting on Jeb Bush’s visit to McAllen.  I was pretty hard on reporter Aaron Nelson:

  • Aaron, you state, “Children born to parents in the U.S. illegally are guaranteed citizenship under the 14th Amendment.” Is this your unlegal opinion, or are you relying on some legal expert to state this conclusion? If so, please cite the expert and refrain from making categorical statements without citing an expert. I challenge you, or any other expert, to cite any Supreme Court decision holding that children born to parents in the US illegally are guaranteed citizenship under the 14th amendment.
  • I find it interesting that Jeb now points to Asians (anchor babies) or Central Americans (border crossers) as the current immigration culprits, although it is undeniable that the vast majority of anchor babies and border crossers have been Mexican. That appears to be a personal bias of his. It seems that Rubio and Jeb want to redefine the concept of anchor babies as limited only to rich people who take advantage of this constitutional loophole. The rich are mercenaries, while poor people who cross the border into Brownsville to have their babies are acting out of love. Talk about populists.

My second favorite forum for making comments is the New York Times.  The power of that paper amazes me.  It is not unusual for controversial articles to receive thousands of comments even though the paper often stops accepting comments after a few hours.  For additional discouragement, the paper moderates comments (i.e., screens them), so that your comment may not appear for hours after you submitted it.

Because of these discouragements, I submit comments to the NY Times probably less than once a week, but yesterday the Times finally gave me some encouragement.  I submitted a comment about an article on an Ivy League analysis of school suspensions of blacks in 13 southern states.  Consistent with my modus operandi, I criticized the reporting as follows:

  • “Surely, we haven’t reached the point where we apply racial quotas to suspensions! I suspect that males are suspended more often than females, but no one suggests sexual bias there. I wonder if there is a racial imbalance in instances of resisting arrest, too. It’s too easy to casually imply causality when actually all we have is correlation.”

Boy was I surprised when only a few minutes later I received an email saying that my comment had been published.  Then when I looked at the published comment, I noticed that it was listed as a “New York Times Pick.”  This designation means that the Times moderator believed it adds value to the commenter discussion of the article.  Of the 262 comments, only ten received the NYT Pick designation.  If a person submits enough solid comments, that person becomes a “verified commenter” whose musings are published without going through a moderator.

I wonder why I feel so good about this seal of approval from this bastion of liberal politics.  Because I respect journalism as much as any profession.

Sunday Book Review #165 – Go Set the Watchman by Harper Lee

Filed under: Book reviews — Mike Kueber @ 10:30 pm
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Go Set the Watchman is Harper Lee’s first draft of her all-time classic, To Kill a Mockingbird.  The draft was written in 1957, and the prospective publisher didn’t think it was ready for publication, but liked its flashback scenes so much that Lee was guided into writing a new/revised story that flashed back even further – 20 years.

Mockingbird was published in 1960, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1961, and was made into a Best Picture-nominated movie in 1962 starring Oscar-winning Gregory Peck and Oscar-nominated Mary Badham.  Lee became a bit of a recluse and never published another novel until this first draft was recently discovered.

The setting of Go Set the Watchman is Macomb, Alabama in 1954, shortly after the Supreme Court’s controversial mandate for integration in the Brown v. Board of Education decision.  The protagonist remains Jean Louise Finch (Scout), but instead of the six-year-old girl in Mockingbird, she is now a 26-year-old woman who works in New York City and returns annually to Macomb for a two-week vacation.

The entire book transpires in those two weeks and primarily concerns two storylines:

  • Racism.  Scout is dismayed to learn that her lawyer dad, 72-year-old Atticus Finch, feels strongly that the Brown decision will be a disaster and should be actively resisted by white Southerners.
  • Classism.  Scout is pursued romantically by Henry (Hank) Clinton, who was her older brother Jem’s best friend until Jem died two years earlier.  Although Hank is Atticus’s legal protégé and by all accounts a fine young man, Scout’s aunt Alexandra considers him to be white trash unsuitable to marry Scout.

Scout is a fascinating person in Watchman; the other characters not so much.  Now I need to read Mockingbird and compare the two.

Sunday Book Review #164 – The Me, Me, Me Epidemic

Filed under: Parenting — Mike Kueber @ 7:38 pm
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I’m no longer in the business of raising kids – capable, grateful, or otherwise – but I decided to take a look at The Me, Me, Me Epidemic by Amy McCready because its subtitle described a problem and proposed a solution to an issue that concerns me – “A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World.”

I remember being exposed to the concept of “entitled” decades ago in the context of upper-class people living their lives with an expectation of better-than-deserved treatment.  At that time, my criticism was that this feeling of entitlement was self-fulfilling – i.e., entitled people received better than deserved treatment.  In the social world, people often defer to the snobby elite, and in the work world, management favors those narcissists who think highly of themselves.  McCready’s book, however, examines this feeling of entitlement, not as something that benefits a person, but rather as something that is corrosive to the soul of a person, something that should be avoided at all cost.

McCready begins the book by describing various symptoms of entitlement in kids, and I was struck by the number of them that applied to my kids.  Just reading the Chapter titles alone had me saying yes, yes, and yes:

  • Kids Rule but should they?
  • The Great Give in;
  • They’re Not Helpless;
  • Over-control;
  • Creating a Consequential Environment;
  • Reasonable Expectations;
  • The Praise Problem;
  • Money and Sense;
  • Keeping up with the Kardashians, Joneses, and Facebook;
  • Un-centering their Universe; and
  • It’s OK Not to be Special.

Ultimately, there is no magic bullet for this problem.  The solutions are obvious to anyone with common sense.  The problem is that parents may know the right thing to do, but they don’t have the energy to stay with the program.  As Vince Lombardi said, “Fatigue makes cowards of all of us.”

Maybe things would be better if there was a stay-at-home parent.

August 24, 2015

What to do with eleven million illegal immigrants

Donald Trump’s strong stance against illegal immigration continues to dominate the contest for the GOP presidential nomination.  Because Trump is the dominant front runner, some of his opponents have been taking potshots at him, but even more forcefully, the media went after him this past weekend.

The principal anti-Trump argument on the Sunday TV shows didn’t concern his bold argument against birthright citizenship, but rather the media asserted that it was not financially and logistically possible to remove eleven million illegal immigrants.  According to cited studies, it would cost hundreds of billions of dollars and take years.

When confronted with these numbers, Trump gave a fuzzy answer that this challenge could be met through his excellent “management.”  Although that answer generally quieted his questioners, I suggest that there is a better answer, which was developed by a man much smarter than Trump – i.e., Mitt Romney.

In 2012, Romney concluded that millions of illegal immigrants would “self-deport” (a) if an effective e-verify system prevented them from securing employing in America and (b) if an improved detection and apprehension process made living in America less safe and secure (no sanctuaries).  At some point, America’s laws could also be tweaked to deny birthright citizenship and educational benefits to illegal immigrants.

I realize these measures are draconian, but if America wants to end illegal immigration, then the magnets that attract illegal immigrants must be eliminated.  Of course, millions of America don’t think that illegal immigration is a big problem, and they will be willing to leave things pretty much as they are.

Elections matter.  I will be surprised if the GOP selects a nominee who is soft on illegal immigration (Bush, Rubio, Walker), but I will also be surprised if the GOP nominee who is hard on illegal immigration (Trump, Cruz, Carson) is able to win a general election.  I think I’m shifting my support from one Cuban (Rubio) to another (Cruz).

August 21, 2015

An open letter to Bill O’Reilly

Filed under: Law/justice,Media,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 10:43 pm
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Bill, the word for the day is “sophomoric.”  Used in a sentence, “Your reportage this week on anchor babies was sophomoric.”

Why do I think your reportage was “conceited and overconfident of knowledge but poorly informed and immature”?  The Bill of Particulars against you contains two items:

  1. False statements.  In your Trump interview on anchor babies, you paraphrased the 14th Amendment as saying, “If you are born in America, you are a citizen.”  Your omission of the critical middle clause, “and subject to the jurisdiction thereof,” is flagrant journalistic malpractice.  Then you imperiously declared the sentence could have only one legal meaning.  Yes, the sentence you read could only have one meaning, but what is the meaning of the clause you didn’t read?  In law, there is a strong presumption against construing a clause to be redundant or irrelevant.
  2. Two days later, you attempted to buttress your legal opinion by interviewing two legal experts – one a conservative and one a liberal – who agreed with you. In law, a judge will pit two advocates against each other and then decide.  Couldn’t you find anyone to articulate an argument contrary to your position?  What about one of America’s most popular constitutional authorities, Mark Levin, who earlier in the week spoke out strongly against your position?  What about one of America’s most respected federal judges, Richard Posner, who opined about anchor babies in a 2003 appellate decision, “Congress would not be flouting the Constitution if it amended the Immigration and Nationality Act to put an end to the nonsense.  A constitutional amendment may be required to change the rule whereby birth in this country automatically confers U.S. citizenship, but I doubt it.”

It’s not too late to redeem your reputation by apologizing to your viewers and presenting them with a full-throated argument on the meaning of “and subject to the jurisdiction thereof.”  Is it directed narrowly at foreign diplomats or more broadly at anyone who has allegiance to another country?

August 20, 2015

Maryanne Trump Barry

Filed under: Culture,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 2:00 am
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The New York Times today did a profile on Maryanne Trump Barry, older sister of The Donald. In the article, she comes across as a serious, respectable person who was a homemaker who went to law school and thrived. Eventually, she became a success lawyer before becoming a federal judge, and I was impressed.  But, because I hate political correctness, I loved her comment from 1992 about sexual harassment:

  • “Professional hypochondriacs,” the speaker [Trump] said, were making it hard for “men to be themselves” and were turning “every sexy joke of long ago, every flirtation,” into “sexual harassment,” thus ruining “any kind of playfulness and banter. Where has the laughter gone?” As for boorish behavior, the best way to disarm it was with “humor and gentle sarcasm,” or better yet, that “potent weapon” of a “feminine exterior and a will of steel.”

That sounds like my kind of woman.

August 19, 2015

Illegals

Filed under: Law/justice,Media,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 6:26 pm
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The New York Times Magazine is publishing an article this weekend titled, “The Unwelcome Return of ‘Illegals.’”  The article points out that, despite longstanding efforts by the GOP to soften the way its leaders characterize illegal immigrants, the current crop of GOP presidential candidates are being drawn back to a harsher characterization, “illegals.”

When I googled the term “illegal immigration,” I quickly learned that the roiling argument over the proper way to describe illegal immigrants has never subsided.  Countless essays and articles nitpick between illegal and undocumented, with the term illegal preferred by those who think there is something fundamentally wrong with the individual’s status, while the term undocumented is preferred by those who think there is only a minor, correctible technicality wrong with the person’s status.

An article three years ago on CNN.com suggested a compromise based on a Supreme Court opinion by Justice Kennedy.  He used the relatively neutral term, “unauthorized migrant,” but the term hasn’t caught on, probably because most people are not relatively neutral on this subject.  Rather, they either want the migrants gone yesterday or want them welcomed with open arms.

Although I would be much more generous to illegal immigrants than my political brothers-in-arms (I would amnesty those who have been here at least 7-10 years), I have a major bone to pick with the media on its liberal coverage of this issue.  It is almost impossible to find a media article that doesn’t inaccurately conflate illegal and legal immigration.  Candidates like Trump are described as anti-immigrant when the accurate description would be anti-illegal immigrants.  Some pundits might be anti-legal immigration (e.g., Ann Coulter), but I have yet to hear of a GOP presidential candidate who wants to reduce legal immigration.  Indeed, the vast majority of them want to increase legal immigration.

Of course, if the GOP field is generally anti-illegal immigrant, that would mean the Dems could claim the mantle of pro-illegal immigrants, and I don’t think Hillary and the Dems would decline it.

August 13, 2015

Redistricting San Antonio

Filed under: Law/justice,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 10:50 pm
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Yesterday morning, I attended a hearing on my lawsuit against the city of San Antonio – Kueber vs. City of San Antonio.  The lawsuit accuses the city of illegally redistricting the City Council following the 2010 census – i.e., the liberal City Council diluted the votes of Northsiders (conservatives) by packing an additional 55,000 people into the Northside districts.

The lawsuit was filed in state court, but the city removed it to federal court, claiming that the suit involved federal issues.  We argued that the dispute concerned language in the City Charter and had nothing to do with the Constitution, but the federal judge seemed disinclined to send it back to state court and suggested that we plan on the matter staying in front of him.

Although we thought the matter should have been heard by a Bexar County judge, who are mostly elected Republicans and therefore more sensitive to disenfranchised conservatives, the unelected federal judge David Ezra impressed us with knowledge of voting law.  Because the law is so favorable to us (we think), we think that having our case determined by someone with strong legal skills and an unbiased background augurs well for future success.

This matter has been dragging for months, and now it appears we may not get a decision until 2016.

August 11, 2015

The GOP debate, Megyn Kelly, and Carly Fiorina

Filed under: Media,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 6:11 pm
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Yesterday, I blogged that the Republican debate was “riveting” because each question “attacked the candidates at their most vulnerable point.”  Since then, however, I have been persuaded by conservative talk-show guy, Mark Levin, that I was wrong.

Levin has described the event as a National Inquirer debate because of its focus on embarrassing issues instead of on substantive policy.   His prime example of this conduct was the second question of the debate, by which Megyn Kelly suggested that poll-leading candidate Trump was a misogynist who was waging a war on women.  During a 30-minute expose on his show, Levin showed how the question was unfair and inappropriate.  How could Trump possibly explain in 60 seconds the context of each one of the charges?  Levin did take the time to defend/explain the charges relating to Rosie O’Donnell and the “on your knees” comment taken from an Apprentice show.  Levin pointed out that Kelly had been a practicing lawyer, and I wonder if this was her version of the famous legal question – “Yes or no, have you quit beating your wife?”

Aside from Trump and Kelly, the story of the Republican debate seems to be Carly Fiorina vaulting to the top tier.  I’ve never liked Fiorina and she is often described as colder and more calculating than Hillary Clinton, but I decided to watch a tape of the Happy Hour debate to see what all the fuss was about.  After watching, my position remains unchanged.  During my working career, I’ve encountered several people like her who give great briefings by sounding like they know everything, but over time they invariably fail miserably because they don’t know as much as they think and they don’t know how to work with others.

But aside from this substantive weakness, there is another reason why Fiorina did so well last Thursday – i.e., she participated in the Happy Hour debate, where the questioners allowed the candidates to address substantive issues, and this is her forte.  Imagine if, instead of substantive questions, she had been asked only embarrassing questions, such as:

  • You’ve been married twice, but never had any children.  Why?
  • Your claim to fame is being the CEO of Hewlett-Packard, but you were fired after six years, with the company losing 50% of its value.  Including your golden parachute, how much were you paid by H-P to lose 50% of its value and how does that compare to the pay of an average employee during that time?
  • Your only political race was a landslide loss to Senator Boxer in California.  What was your thinking in that such an electoral failure should lead to running for president?

I suggest that Carly Fiorina would not have vaulted to the top tier if those were her questions.

August 10, 2015

Donald Trump and the GOP debate

Filed under: Insurance,Media,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 7:08 pm
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Although I hadn’t planned to watch the Republican debate on Thursday, I did record it while attending a Happy Hour at Big Bob’s Burger with a bunch of former co-workers.  Then on Friday afternoon, I decided to give the debate a gander, and after getting by the awkward 10-minute preliminary event, I found the entire debate to be riveting.  Each question attacked the candidates at their most vulnerable point, and the one-minute limit for responses inexplicably kept the candidates from glossing over the question and switching to a nonresponsive talking point.

The candidates were mostly exemplary, but the 800-pound gorilla in the room was Donald Trump (a bull in the china closet).  He had a commanding lead in all of the polls and received the lion’s share of the media’s pre-debate attention.  In responding to the pointed debate questions, however, The Donald took a different tack.  To use a fencing analogy, his nature is not to bother with parrying the questioner’s attack; rather, he immediately responds with a riposte.  While the other candidates try to think of the questioners as merely doing their jobs, Trump sees it as an ad hominem attack.  Thus, the other candidates answered substantively while Trump stormed and blustered.

Even before the debate, I considered Trump to be a novelty and not a serious contender.  Surely, most Republicans would gravitate toward one of the other serious candidates.  The debate made this scenario even more likely.

But Trump’s treatment after the debate makes me want to defend him.  The media’s major post-debate criticism of Trump is that he made a childish suggestion that Megyn Kelly’s hormones caused her to ask him such nasty questions.  He said the following on CNN to Don Lemon:

  • “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes. Blood coming out of her wherever.”

The media almost universally assumed that Trump was suggesting that Megyn might have been on her period.  Since the media wasn’t in Trump’s mind, it should have at a minimum said that it was “inferring” that Trump was referring to her period.  Then the question could shift to the media to explain why it was inferring such nonsense.  Trump argued that only a deviant would infer such a thing.

Because I hadn’t heard the actual interview of Trump by Don Lemon, I went to You Tube and listened to it.  The quote pretty much speaks for itself, but a minute or two later on the interview, Trump shifted his pique to Chris Wallace, and charged that he, too, seemed to have blood coming out of his eyes.  I believe this second usage of blood coming out of the eyes of a questioner supports Trump’s assertion that he was using some obscure idiom involving blood coming out of a head without a misogynist intent.

Although I would never consider voting for Trump for any leadership position, I plan to speak up for him whenever the establishment treats him unfairly.

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