Mike Kueber's Blog

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.

July 23, 2015

Larry Summers vindicated?

Filed under: Culture,Education,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 11:13 pm
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In 2005, at a conference on diversifying the science and engineering workforce, Harvard president Larry Summers proffered three potential explanations for why women were underrepresented as professors in the highest science and engineering positions:

  1. High-powered job hypothesis (i.e., women were distracted by family obligations)
  2. Different availability of aptitude at the high end (test results showed that men tended to have both the highest and the lowest scores)
  3. Different socialization and patterns of discrimination in the search and placement

In his conclusion, Summers explicitly attempted to provoke further discussion by suggesting that different aptitude was the dominant cause, saying he would like nothing better than to be proved wrong.

But, instead of proving Summers wrong, the politically-correct police charged him with sexism and careless scholarship.  After a year-long trial in the media, Summers was forced to resign as president of Harvard.  And when his name was floated as a potential Secretary of the Treasury under President Obama, this brouhaha was used to sink his prospects.

I thought of Larry Summers today when I read an article in fivethirtyeight.com about six American boys winning the International Math Olympiad.  The article pointed out that boys have dominated not only the American team but also teams from other countries ever since we joined the competition in 1974.  Eighty-eight percent of the six-person American teams have been entirely boys, and the teams from other countries average 0.5 girls per six-person team.

Joe Klein once defined politically incorrect as a statement that is true, but not proper to be uttered in public.  The lynching of Larry Summers seems to be an excellent example of the politically-correct police on steroids.  Or, as Summers said, I would love to be proved wrong.

July 15, 2015

Shifting the goalposts

Filed under: Facebook,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 11:07 pm
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Progressives and liberals are continually posting graphics on Facebook re: the accomplishments of President Obama.  Yesterday my cousin Pam posted the latest such chart from Occupy Democrats, updated July 13, 2015.  According to the chart, the key metrics that reveal Obama’s greatness are as follows:

  • The Dow
  • The S&P
  • GDP growth
  • Unemployment
  • Deficit percentage of GDP
  • Consumer confidence

I suggested to my cousin that the chart was misleading because of two problems:

  • Seems a bit misleading to compare Obama’s numbers to the bottom of the Great Recession. And since when did progressives start thinking that the Dow and S&P were important metrics of presidential success?

When my cousin responded by pointing out that the starting date (January 9, 2009) was Obama’s inauguration date, I countered:

  • That’s like Ann Richard’s joke that George W. was born on third base and thought he had hit a triple. But getting back to my major point, this chart is a major shifting of the goalposts for the anointed one. Surely, you didn’t elect him president in order to increase the stock market or shore up consumer confidence. Most Americans wanted him to strengthen the middle class, reduce poverty, deal with our illegal immigration problem, and make health insurance affordable. His only ostensible success is ObamaCare, which made health insurance affordable mostly by turning it into a federal welfare program.

I think a fairer chart would comprise the following metrics:

  1. Median income, adjusted for inflation
  2. Rate of poverty.
  3. Number of illegal immigrants in America
  4. Percentage of Americans who can afford to buy health insurance

According to FactCheck.org, median income has gone down and rate of poverty has gone up.   The number of illegal immigrants appears to have plateaued because of several demographic forces (e.g., the tepid American economy is not as great a magnet, while the number of people in other countries who are attracted to America is down).  And finally, CNN says the percentage of uninsured Americans has gone down from 18% to 12% under ObamaCare.  According to the NY Times, 86% of the 11.7 million Americans with ObamaCare received a government subsidy. According to US News, ObamaCare added 10.8 million people to Medicaid so that now almost 70 million people are covered under Medicaid or CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program).

Some progressives might argue that President Obama has been hamstrung by a Republican Congress, but that argument fails to appreciate that Americans turned the Congress from blue to red because of its antipathy toward ObamaCare.  Indeed, even Massachusetts replaced Teddy Kennedy with a Republican senator in an unsuccessful effort to defeat ObamaCare.

Based on President Obama’s achievements, I don’t think the progressives should be dusting off a place on Mt. Rushmore for him.

July 13, 2015

Sunday Book Review #163 – The Silencing by Kirsten Powers and Inequality by Anthony B. Atkinson

Filed under: Book reviews,Economics,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 12:57 am
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The Silencing describes how the left is killing free speech in America.  They do this by attempting to ostracize and punish anyone who holds a contrary political opinion.  The most common technique used by the left is to demonize the offender as bigoted, racist, sexist, etc.  When the left is charged with intolerance of alternative opinions, they respond that these issues are already settled within civil, mainstream society.  When the left is charged with killing free speech, they say that speech will continue to be free, but civil society is similarly free to levy punishment on those who stray far from the so-called mainstream.

I’ve always been a bit of a devil’s advocate, and The Silencing motivates me to redouble my efforts.  It also makes me feel a bit of shame for my reaction against the Dixie Chicks after lead singer Natalie Maines said some mean things about George W. Bush.  I’m sorry they are no longer making great music that I loved.

Inequality reminds me of one of my favorite books from last year, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, a French economist.  Piketty explained why the world economy was moving toward greater income inequality (r>g; return on capital was greater than the growth of economy) and provided some common sense solutions, such as increased education subsidies, greater progressivity in personal taxes, and reduced corporate tax loopholes.

Although Piketty’s analysis and proposals might seem radical to some conservatives, his tone was so nonpartisan that he persuaded me to see him as a reasonable man.  Atkinson not so much.  He is a British economist who reportedly mentored the younger Piketty on inequality, but his focus is more on the elimination of poverty, which seems to produce more draconian socialistic proposals.  Among them:

  • New technology should be developed in ways that encourage greater employment, not less.
  • Greater power to labor vis-à-vis capital.
  • Jobs guaranteed for everyone.
  • Minimum wage should be a “living wage.”
  • Guaranteed return on capital saved by low-income individuals.
  • Large inheritance granted to all individuals upon reaching majority; funded by wealthy.
  • Increase state ownership-participation in private companies.
  • Progressive taxation, up to 65%.
  • Increased estate tax and a new tax on wealth.
  • Payments to parents for having children.
  • Increased social security.

Although Atkinson seems quite bold in his willingness to interfere with capitalism, I confess to being intrigued by several proposals.  Especially interesting is the proposal to grant a large sum of money to all young adults, funded by a robust estate tax and an annual tax on wealth.  I think the first-world countries can afford to give their young adults a jump start on their life to think and act like a capitalist.

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.

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