Mike Kueber's Blog

June 29, 2015

A very important person

Filed under: Culture,Philosophy — Mike Kueber @ 2:16 am
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A liberal Facebook friend, Cary Clack (former E-N columnist), recently posted some thought-provoking comments about the prevalence and pretentiousness of the term VIP.  Inexplicably, the term has become ubiquitous and acceptable in a nation of supposed democratic egalitarians.  Indeed, while watching Downton Abbey, the early 1900’s period piece on the British aristocracy, I am continually jarred when I see the train cars labeled first class and third class, but Clack’s comments jolted me into realizing that our progressive society has not progressed as much as I assumed.

Kids growing up in the 60s and 70s thoroughly rejected that sort of classism and elitism, but they seem to be making a surreptitious revival.

June 25, 2015

While I was on vacation – Confederacy and ObamaCare

Filed under: Law/justice,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 10:32 pm
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While I was on vacation in North Dakota (totally off my computer and non-ESPN television), two significant events broke, and I am only now catching up on them.

The first event concerned a murder in South Carolina of nine black churchgoers by a white supremacist, and the ensuing public reaction.  Inexplicably, the murder caused a mass movement to ostracize anything related to the antebellum South, especially the display of the Confederate flag.

Today the movement spread to San Antonio, where our leading politician, Julian Castro, boldly asked that Robert E. Lee high school be renamed.  I am not being facetious in using the term “boldly” because Castro doesn’t typically act precipitously before checking on the direction of the wind, and there has been a lot of backlash to his suggestion.  I suspect his action is directed more for nationwide approval, and he doesn’t have to worry about aggravating the piddling number of local alumni of Robert E. Lee HS.

Personally, I have always been torn by my affection for the Confederacy as a symbol of states’ rights and my deference to black people who resent it as a symbol of slavery.  Because of that conflict, I don’t think governments should memorialize the cause, but we should be able to memorialize valiant conduct of individuals like Lee.  Hell, we Americans seem to have reasonable opinion of Patton’s WWII adversary Rommel, the Desert Fox.

The second event was the Supreme Court rejection of an argument that federal exchanges for ObamaCare should not be allowed to give subsidies.  Although the argument seemed strong to me (Scalia thinks the name ObamaCare should be changed to ScotusCare because the Supreme Court has twice saved it), the NT Times confidently declared that the argument was preposterous. I’ve long been in the camp of those wanting to end ObamaCare, but admit that the GOP has not suggested what should replace it.  All Americans are entitled to healthcare, and it doesn’t make sense to route so many people to an emergency room with nonthreatening problems.

An aspect of this matter, however, that has not received much attention is that the premium subsidy that is provided to millions of Americans is really welfare – i.e., needed-based government expenditures.  Romney referred to the 47% of Americans who live off government benefits, but that includes Social Security.  It would have been more interesting to focus on needs-based benefits – welfare – because America might be reaching a critical mass of those people, too, and then America will begin to resemble a socialist country – i.e., from each according to their ability, and to each according to their needs.

June 11, 2015

Bicyclists and stop signs

Filed under: Fitness — Mike Kueber @ 5:36 pm

A popular poster circulating on Facebook reports, “Cops pull over and ticket 26 bicyclists at once for running a stop sign.”  Readers are encouraged to share if they agree with the cops.  I responded:

  • “I think we should all put bicyclists on a pedestal and appreciate them. We should treat them just like a deer because they are a pleasant and enjoyable sight that we want to encourage more of.”

Doing some additional research, I learned the following from the Prairie Village (KS) post:

  • “Police pulled over a total of 26 bicyclists Thursday around 7:30 p.m. after the group rode through the intersection of 69th Street and Oxford Road without stopping at a stop sign.  Thursdays are a popular evening for group bike rides in northeast Johnson County, with the ‘Prairie Village Yacht Club’ having met each week in the parking lot outside the Blue Moose Bar & Grill for years. Police Captain Wes Lovett said the department had received a prior complaint about riders’ behavior in the area, which appears to be the motivation behind last night’s intervention.”

I suspect the police in Prairie Village have nothing better to do.

Donating a kidney – 4

Filed under: Kidney donation — Mike Kueber @ 12:54 am

My kidney-donation process officially ended today with a telephone call from the program coordinator.  He reported that the review committee had considered my application on Monday and concluded that I was not a satisfactory candidate.  The primary reason for this conclusion was my indication to the psychologist that I would be reluctant to abide by their recommendation to reduce alcohol consumption to one or two alcoholic drinks a week.  A secondary reason was my self-reporting that, after my knee-replacement surgery a few years ago, I had experienced some minor depression, apparently due to 4-6 weeks of forced inactivity and my weaning from pain medication.

I was a bit surprised by the phone call because I thought they were waiting on me to decide whether I would go through with the donation despite their alcohol warning.  They took the decision out of my hands, but I had pretty much decided against the donation unless I was able to find solid evidence that one kidney can be expected to handle as much alcohol as two.

I’m a little relieved because the donation was not going to be a picnic, but I’m similarly disappointed because a chain donation would have time well-spent.

June 9, 2015

One person, one vote – San Antonio

Filed under: Law/justice,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 1:49 am
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When I was running for the San Antonio city council a couple of years ago, I discovered that the city had apparently violated the one-person, one-vote requirement in its Charter to the detriment of the Northside citizens when it redistricted following the 2010 census.  During the campaign I tried to make this a big issue because it exemplified how (a) minorities in San Antonio (Anglo northsiders) were being shortchanged by the majority (Hispanic south and westsiders), and (b) the city was becoming like a banana republic in its disregard for Charter constraints.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have the resources to create a “big issue,” and the media was not interested.

After the election, I tried to get city officials to fix the redistricting, but the mayor and my councilman ignored me, and although the asst. city attorney admitted that the redistricting was problematic, she refused to do anything about it.  That left my only recourse a lawsuit.

For months, I procrastinated about filing the suit myself, but I wasn’t confident of my litigation skills, so I found a lawyer at my gym who was willing to take on the matter for a discounted fee.  I gave him the money a year ago, but because of numerous distractions he didn’t get around to filing the lawsuit in state court until a couple of months ago.  Then, just as we were preparing to filing a Motion for Summary Judgment, the City removed the lawsuit to federal court, probably because the vast majority of Bexar County judges are Republicans based in and sympathetic to the Northside.  The City might have also been concerned that a Republican judge would halt the current council/mayoral election.

In any event, we are now litigating to return the lawsuit to state court.  In my opinion, the city’s attempt to make a federal case out of this lawsuit is not only wrong, but also frivolous.

Time will tell.

June 8, 2015

Donating a kidney – 3

Filed under: Kidney donation — Mike Kueber @ 4:05 am

Last week, I had several interviews with members of the kidney-transplant team, including a doctor, an advocate, and a clinical psychologist.  Everything seemed fine until the clinical psychologist learned that I typically drink alcohol at a rate of 3-4 drinks 3-4 times a week.  She noted that they recommend that people with a single kidney drink no more than 1-2 drinks a week.  That would be problematic, I told her.

A couple of days later, the psychologist called me back to confirm that, although their guideline was conservative, she had confirmed that any drinking of alcohol in excess of that would be risky.  She suggested that, because my donation was entirely elective, and because my health currently was in such a good place, I should seriously consider whether I would want to do anything to potentially throw my life out of balance.

As I’ve thought about the matter this weekend (and done a lot of internet research on the subject), I am learning against the donation.  The 4-6 weeks of post-surgery disability is concerning enough, but permanently and dramatically curtailing my drinking is probably too much.  Drinking 3-4 times a week is an important part of my social life.  If I had to choose between giving up drinking and giving up yoga, I’m not sure which I would do.  Fortunately, I don’t have to give up either.

More time to think.

Sunday Book Review #162 – Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not to Have Kids by Meghan Daum

Filed under: Uncategorized — Mike Kueber @ 3:49 am

A couple of years ago I blogged about a subject discussed in Time magazine and the LA Times – a childfree life.    The LA Times column was written by Meghan Daum, and I was not persuaded:

  • Call me cynical, but I think Daum is rationalizing. Someone with the discipline to become a great writer surely has what it takes to become a good parent. Yes, some people are naturally great parents, but the vast majority of people can be good parents. Unlike Daum, I think these unborn kids deserve the opportunity to experience what we have been given. Furthermore, from a purely private perspective, Daum should consider that virtually all parents, regardless of whether they were natural-born parents or parents because of societal pressure, will declare with unabashed certainty that parenting was the most satisfying experience of their lives.”

Well, Daum’s column proved to be so provocative that she decided to produce a book on the subject.  As suggested by the book’s title, Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not to Have Kids, the book comprises sixteen explanations for not having kids, plus an introduction by Daum.

In the introduction, Daum points out that childfree people are not a monolithic group.  Indeed, “the common theme is that there is no common theme.”

I beg to differ.  Beyond the obvious fact that all of these sixteen people are artsy writers devoted to their craft despite its financial and professional insecurities, they also tend to share many other significant characteristics, like being an only child, abandoned, having a horrible relationship with a parent, or needing mental therapy.  As Daum initially noted in her LA Times column, some of the childfree writers claimed to lack the necessary skills to be good parents.  Others, however, felt they had both the skills and human warmth to parent, but merely lacked the inclination.

After reading 270 pages of explanations for choosing to go childfree, I agree that the precise journey that each writer took to reach their common destination is unique.  To some, it was an easy journey, with little or no doubt, as they march to the beat of their own drum.  Others, however, have vacillated for years with uncertainty coming from either their own soul or from societal pressure.

I don’t think society is wrong to apply some slight pressure in favor of parenting, just as there is slight pressure to help your neighbor or to enlist in the military. As John Kennedy said, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country. Some developed parts of the world (including white America) are experiencing negative population growth because so many of their people are going childless, so this trend does not bode well for America’s future.

America’s future is something that more than a few of the writers don’t care about.  They care only about their lifetime, without thinking about how to make the world a better place in the future.  For most of us, that means raising kids to be better than us.  And some of the writers act as if kids are fungible things, easily replaced by someone else having kids, while failing to recognize that their kids could have been special.

In my initial blogpost, I suggested that Daum was rationalizing her decision to go childless.  In her book, some of her writers suggest that parents often rationalize their decision to have children, and that may be true.  Upon further reflection, maybe we should accept, without recrimination, that each person should be able to decide for themselves how to spend their limited time on Planet Earth.

June 1, 2015

Sunday Book Review #161 – The Wright Brothers by David McCullough and One-Page Financial Plan by Carl Richards

Filed under: Book reviews — Mike Kueber @ 2:09 am
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Many years ago, I read David McCullough’s book, The Great Bridge, which describes construction of the Brooklyn Bridge from 1869 to 1883 by the Roeblings, father and son.  Although the subject was interesting, I was most drawn to the book because it provided a fascinating perspective on living and working more than a hundred years ago in my favorite town, New York City.

McCullough’s most recent book, The Wright Brothers, provides a similar historical perspective, although Dayton, Ohio in the first years of the 20th century is not quite so bewitching as NYC.  Further, The Great Bridge is about the City, not the Roeblings, while The Wright Brothers is not about Dayton, OH, but rather about the Wright Brothers. And they are impressive brothers.

Two quotes from Wilbur Wright are especially impressive:

  1. If I were giving a young man advice as to how he might succeed in life, I would say to him, pick out a good father and mother, and begin life in Ohio.”  As someone born and bred in the Midwest, I appreciate someone who appreciates how lucky we were.
  2. “I do not think I am especially fitted for success in any commercial pursuit even if I had proper personal and businesses influences to assist me.  I might make a living, but I doubt I would ever do much more than this.  Intellectual effort is a pleasure to me and I think I would be better fitted for reasonable success in some of the professions than in business. In business it is the aggressive man, who continually has his eye on his own interest, who succeeds.  Business is merely a form of warfare in which each combatant strives to get the business away from his competitors and at the same time keep them from getting what he already has.  No man has ever been successful in business who was not aggressive, self-assertive and even a little bit selfish perhaps.  There is nothing reprehensible in an aggressive disposition, so long as it is not carried to excess, for such men make the world and its affairs move….  I entirely agree that the boys of the Wright family are all lacking in determination and push.  That is the very reason that none of us have been or will be more than ordinary businessmen.”  As someone born and bred in the Midwest, I appreciate the humility that is so common there, even with those who are gifted & talented.  Regarding their talent, the Wrights remind me of the Oracle from Omaha, Warren Buffett, who attributes his success to luckily having a skill that is especially marketable in the current economy.

Of course, all of this common sense and good judgment didn’t fall out of a tree.  Their father, who was a Methodist minister, taught his kids, “All the money anyone needs is just enough to prevent one from being a burden to others.”   The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, and although neither of the boys were business geniuses, their world-changing invention enabled them to become wealthy.  More importantly, they lived the life they were intended to live.

The One-Page Financial Plan by Carl Richards doesn’t contain a plethora of insights.  Rather, it is filled with guidance that most financially competent people already know – investing, borrowing & spending, budgeting, saving as much as you reasonably can, and determining where you are and where you want to go.  There was, however, one very useful insight.  Author Richards suggests the following as the most important threshold question before you can do any financial planning – i.e., why is money important to you?

Many years ago I remember questioning why I should be strongly motivated to make an additional $20k a year when I already had enough money to buy everything important to me.  A co-worker suggested that with the additional $20k, I could retire earlier, and that made sense to me.

So money was important to me because it would enable me to quit working and do what I want.  Or, as described by author Carl Richards, “It’s about giving you the time to do what matters most.”  Now that I’m retired, I have the luxury of deciding what matters most.

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
Tags: , ,

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.

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