The Transgender Bathroom Debate: A Conflict of Rights

Now that the gay marriage issue has been effectively settled, whether transgender people should be able to choose the bathroom and locker room of choice is the debate du jour. This issue took center stage when North Carolina passed a law stating a person must use the bathroom that corresponds to the birth gender.  This law was passed to override a new Charlotte law that said anybody could  choose a bathroom based on their sexual identity.  While this is not the most important issue of our time,  for some people this will significantly affect their lives, so it should not be dismissed as silly or irrelevant.


For the purposes of this discussion, I will focus more on the locker room situation than the bathroom situation.  While the same issues all apply for bathrooms, the effect of being in a closed stall in a common room is far less than the effect of sharing a shower with someone of the opposite gender.

What is the right and wrong of requiring that people be required to use the bathroom of their physical gender?  Some people firmly believe that transsexuals are sick and evil.  Others believe that those who oppose mix-gender locker rooms are homophobic and evil.  I reject both of these views.  I think of this as a case of competing rights:

  • A locker room or bathroom can be a hazardous and traumatic place for a transgender person.  The transgender person is a target for ridicule and bullying.  I would think that any reasonable person would not want to subject anybody to this unnecessarily.   The transgender person might also feel that he or she should have an inherent right to use whichever facility he or she chooses.  This right is much more debatable and a good person can take either side of this issue.  It also is unnecessary for this discussion.  The reasonable fear of bullying should be sufficient to establish that the viewpoint of the transsexual is valid.
  • A person should be able to use a locker room without being gawked at or exposed to a person of the opposite gender.  In particular, a fourteen year old girl should be able to take a shower after physical education class without having a boy walk into the shower with her.

Additionally, not all people who wish to use the locker room of the gender not assigned at birth are not the same.  Note that by definition a trans woman  is someone who is born as a man and identifies as a woman.  A trans man is someone who is born as a woman and identifies as a man.  We can divide these people into four groups:

  1. Some transsexuals have already had sexual reassignment surgery.  The North Carolina law says that people should use the bathroom of birth.  To me, it seems ridiculous to say that a person should not use the locker room that corresponds to their current genitalia.
  2. Some transsexuals look like their gender of choice.  If a trans-woman looks like the woman, it would seem reasonable that she should use a woman’s restroom and would be out of place in a men’s restroom.
  3. Some transsexuals look like their gender of birth.  If a trans-woman has a beard and looks like a trucker, it would seem reasonable that a woman would be very upset to have this person share a shower with her.
  4. Heterosexual men who are not transsexuals will take advantage of these rules to get see naked women and to expose themselves to women.  Does   anybody think that high school boys will not dare each other to claim that today they  identify as a woman and go into the girl’s shower?  Why should a pervert risk getting arrested flashing in a park or peering through a bedroom window when he can safely go into the women’s locker room?

I would think that a reasonable person would say that group 1 should be able to use the locker-room of their current physical gender, that group 4 should not be allowed to use the other gender’s bathroom, and that with groups 2 and 3 we should try to reach a reasonable compromise.  I think it is also fair to say that each case is different.  The transgender person is different and the available accommodations are different.  When we try to impose a draconian solution in either direction, we lose the ability to reasonable.   The Charlotte law was extreme in one direction and the North Carolina law was extreme in the other direction. Think of the zero tolerance policies in sexual harassment that result in a kindergarten boy being arrested for kissing a kindergarten girl.

I personally am not worried about true transgender people using a bathroom, but I think that the concern that it will be abused by straight people is quite real.  I have seen this concern dismissed in the media by two arguments:

  • First, they claim that this hasn’t happened.  While it hasn’t happened in numbers yet, it certainly has happened.  In one reported instance, a Seattle man invaded the woman’s locker room at a public pool.  It hasn’t happened more because until now, there were severe penalties.  Previously a high school boy entering the girl’s shower could get expelled and arrested.  When the penalties go away, the instances will go up.
  • Second, I have heard arguments that  women just need to get over their discomfort and get used to.  The Charlotte Observer compared it to white people needing to get used to sharing restrooms with blacks after desegregation.  This is a value rather than a factual statement so each person needs to evaluate this argument based upon his or her own values.  I do think it is interesting that the same people who complain about the “rape culture” and who claim a man who looks at a woman in a sexual manner is guilty of sexual harassment then claim that women just need to get over their discomfort with sharing a shower with a strange man.

If we accept the proposition that both sides in this argument have reasonable concerns, then, how do we come up with a reasonable solution?

  • First, we don’t make draconian laws in either direction.  We don’t have a law that saying no transgender people can use the bathroom for the non-birth gender.  We also don’t pass laws saying that anybody can use any bathroom they feel like using that day.
  • Second, if you want special accommodations, you should have an official diagnosis. By requiring a diagnosis, you are eliminating most if not all  non transgender people who would try to exploit the situation.This is entirely consistent with the way we handle other accommodations.  I have experience as my son had a diagnosis that was helped by special accommodations made by the school.  For example, he was allowed to pace at the back of the room instead of sitting at his desk.  He also was allowed to take a health course instead of the conventional physical education course.  We greatly appreciated how a team of counselors, teachers, and administrators would meet together with us to device reasonable accommodations that would help his educational experience.

    A transgender person with a diagnosis should receive the same kind of help.  Without this diagnosis, there should be no accommodations.

  • Third, we should look for reasonable accommodations that attempt to respect both the needs of the transgender person and the needs of others.  These accommodations should be decided on a case by case basis.  For example, in some schools it might be easy to designate separate gender neutral bathrooms.  In other schools, this might be cost prohibitive.

For example, here are  a few possible accommodations for a trans-woman who has an official diagnosis and would need to take a shower after physical education class.

  • Don’t require the trans-woman to take physical education.
  • Designate in advance one period where transgender showers will be allowed.  If you are transgender, you must take your PE class that period.  If you don’t want to shower with a transgender person, take your PE class any other period.
  • Have a separate gender neutral facility if one is available.

The key factor is to allow this flexibility.   In May 2016 the Obama administration issued a directive that require school districts to allow transgender students to use the bathroom of their choice based upon the request of the parent or legal guardian (New York Times).  There are three problems with this directive:

  • While requiring a parental request is better than relying on a student request, it is not as good as requiring an actual diagnosis.
  • There is no flexibility to accommodate the rights of others.
  • There is no reasonable legal authority for the administration to issue this directive.  It relies on the Title IX prohibitions against sexual discrimination, but Title IX does not mention trans-sexuality.  There also were no other hearings or comment periods or any of the normal procedures required before any such directive can be imposed.

When we have right versus wrong, we don’t want to compromise.  We shouldn’t compromise with Nazis or terrorists.  When we have competing rights  then we should be able to compromise to find a solution that tries to respect the rights of all.  Let’s compromise and work this out.




Hillary at Halftime

I remember this classic question from one of my early science classes:  What happens if an irresistible force hits an immovable object?  At just past halftime of the 2016 presidential race, we have a similar question:  if we have two presidential candidates who can’t possibly win running against each other, who will win?HillaryClinton

In an earlier post I stuck my neck out and said that Hillary Clinton will not be the Democratic nominee for president.  My reasoning was that with Hillary Clinton facing a possible indictment, surely the Democrats would have a backup candidate.  I at least was partially wrong as there is no backup candidate.  We still need to see if Hillary will be indicted or if at least the FBI will recommend indictment.  Quite frankly, even if she is indicted I would expect that she will not withdraw.

Hillary laughs at the thought she might be indicted and her defenders all scoff and say there is nothing there.  I would think that the FBI would not devote months and dozens  of investigators if nothing was there.  Right now I don’t want to re-argue the email situation.  This is about so much more than the emails.

There is so much that most people don’t know about Hillary Clinton.  Here is a bit.

The Clinton-Russia Uranium Deal

In early 2015 Peter Schweizer published a book tiled “Clinton Cash”  This book outlined many instances where countries and companies with key requests before Hillary Clinton’s  state department would pay Bill Clinton up to a million dollars in speaking fees and at the same time would donate many millions of dollars to the Clinton Foundation. The state department would then approve whatever the “donor” wanted.  Prior to his publication, Schweizer shared his research with the New York Times about one of these deals where the Russians gained control over 25% of the United States uranium.  The New York Times published this front page story on April 23, 2015.

Having published this story, the New York Times did not follow up.  Nobody, to my knowledge, has ever asked Hillary Clinton about this or any of the many other instances where the Clinton’s profited despite a strong conflict of interest.  Hardly anybody knows about all of these deals where the Clinton’s traded influence for money.

Hillary’s Persecution of Bill Clinton’s Women

Most people also don’t know how Hillary Clinton led the “bimbo” squad, a team designed to make the life of any woman who accused Bill Clinton of sexual improprieties a living hell.  Here is a New York Times story on this:

Hillary then had the audacity during this campaign to tweet the following “Every survivor of sexual assault deserves to be heard, believed, and supported.

In this post Bill Cosby era, many who support Hillary as a champion of women will be disgusted by Hillary’s persecution of her husband’s victims.

Clinton vs. Trump

Currently 65% of those polled have a negative opinion of Donald Trump and 55% have a negative opinion of Hillary Clinton.  Over 70% of women have a negative opinion of Trump.  With high negatives like these, Trump shouldn’t have a chance of winning the presidency.  Against Hillary Clinton, however, he may have a chance.

There are many people who, to quote Bernie Sanders,  “don’t give a damn” about Hillary’s emails.  They couldn’t care if it was revealed that the nuclear launch codes were in her email.  They don’t care what happened in Benghazi.  They don’t care if she is caught in lie after lie.  They support her because they like her politics and they want a woman in the White House.

These supporters believe she is a champion of the poor.  They don’t know that the Clintons have amassed a fortune of, according to Fortune Magazine, over $100 million.  As Hillary said they were broke when they left the White House, much of this can be traced to her influence peddling.  They believe she fights for women.  They don’t know how she abused women who spoke out against her husband.  They support her because they don’t know.

Donald Trump has proven himself to be an exceptionally good attack dog.  He will attack “Crooked Hillary”, to use his new term for her.  He will attack her relentlessly.  People will learn about Hillary’s scandals that they do care about.   If Trump can drive Clinton’s negatives to be even higher than his, he might just win.

Hillary Clinton might be the only candidate that Donald Trump can beat.  If Clinton were to be indicted and withdraw and were to be replaced by Joe Biden or almost any other less tainted Democrat, his negatives would most likely stop him from winning.   Possibly the best thing that could happen for the Democrats would be for Clinton to be indicted and withdraw.   As I said though, even if she is indicted, I doubt she would withdraw.

I am not saying that Donald Trump will beat Hillary Clinton.  I am saying that those who think that he doesn’t have a chance don’t have any idea what will be coming.



Election 2016 – Halftime Notes on the Republicans

The 2016 presidential election is now basically at half-time with only the Wisconsin primary during a four week period.  Here are some basic thoughts on the Republican candidates and the Republican race in general.  I will have another post on the Democrats

Donald Trump

In my last post I wrote on the good and the bad of Donald Trump.  I stated some things I liked and some things I didn’t like.  In summary, I said that whenever I started to think he might be a good choice, he would say something that made me cringe and drove me away.

Up through the March 15 Super Tuesday 2 primaries, one could maktrump goode an argument that his attention-gathering statements were political brilliance.  If he had been ordinary, he would never have been taken seriously.  His blunt, non politically-correct statements drove him to prominence and to be the GOP front-runner.  Mission accomplished.  He was on the path to cruise to the nomination.  He said he could act very presidential.  It was the time to be presidential, the time to work on uniting the party around him and to reduce his negatives with a thought towards the general election.

Instead, he needlessly made abusive, divisive statements and has shown both a lack of thought on key issues and a total lack of self-control.  The post March 15 barrage started with another needless tweet out of the blue attacking Megyn Kelly.  He tweeted an awful picture of Heidi Cruz.  With polls saying 70% of women have a negative impression of him, how could he possibly think that these tweets would help him become the next president?

His statement saying women should be punished for abortions managed to alienate everybody, both pro-choice and pro-life.  It is obvious why the pro-choice would be alienated.  The pro-life movement has consistently stated it is not out to hurt the women.  Trump’s statement will be used against them for years.  Trump acted like someone who was not really pro-life, needed to act pro-life to get the nomination, and was spouting off what he thought was the pro-life position without understanding it.  He then went on to make a series of jumbled and thoughtless positions on foreign policy.

In fairness, many of the attacks on Trump say he is racist and sexist.  He is not racist or sexist.  He has taken controversial stands but there are reasons for his stands.  In his entire career, he has given major opportunities to minorities and women.  In the eighties, he put a woman in charge of constructing Trump Tower.  At that time very few women were prominent in construction.  No he is not racist or sexist.  He is just crude and offensive in general.

In short, in these last few weeks he has made so many cringe-worthy statements that I think he can not recover.

Ted Cruz

ted cruzTed Cruz’s biggest weakness is that he is rigid, uncompromising, refuses to work with others, so his colleagues hate him.  His greatest strength is that he stands staunchly behind his principles and doesn’t cave to pressure so his colleagues hate him.  His biggest strength and his biggest weakness are the same thing.

Perfect is the enemy of better.  In leading the effort to shut down the government to be perfect, he made things worse.  Trying to be perfect isn’t good.   Unless of course, you can achieve it.

I’ve heard people say Cruz is stupid.  Cruz is brilliant.  The well-known liberal Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz told Piers Morgan on CNN in 2013 that Cruz was one of the most intelligent students he ever taught:

One of the sharpest students I had . . . I’ve had 10,000 students over my 50 years at Harvard . . . he has to qualify among the brightest of the students.

Cruz was not my first choice.  I liked Walker.  I liked Fiorina.  I voted for Cruz in the primary.  Right now I think that Cruz, like Obi-wan Kenobi, is our only hope.


John Kasich

John Kasich has an outstanding record of accomplishment both in congress and as governor of Ohio.  If experience was the main factor in this campaign, he would easily be the nominee.  Kasich has failed as a candidate for two reasons.  First, he doesn’t inspire the Republican electorate.  Second, he cites many liberal positions,such as blanket amnesty, and he seems to eager to compromise with Democrats at a time when Republicans think we compromise too much.  His statement that he would consider a Democrat as vice president says all that you need to know here.john kasich

Kasich has no chance of winning the nomination and his continued presence in the race takes codes away from Cruz and helps Trump.  Unless Kasich has some secret deal with Trump, there is no reason for Kasich to still be in this race.  If Trump wins the nomination, he might have Kasich to thank.

Marco Rubio

Rubio is out of the race now.  His candidacy collapsed when he decided to make Trump-like comments about Trump.  It reminded me of the old like that you should never mud-wrestle with a pig.  You will just get dirty and the pig will like it.

Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, or anybody else

There has been talk about the Republican establishment hijacking the convention and putting in Romney, Ryan, or another establishment candidate.  If this happened both the Trump and Cruz supporters would be furious.  I think that the Democrats could run Hillary from jail and she would still win.   If the Republican establishment tries to hijack the process, it will be a total disaster.  I really think that, unless Hillary is indicted, that the one Republican hope is to get behind Ted Cruz and help him win the nomination in a fair process.





The Good and Bad of Donald Trump

trump good

I think that every liberal friend and relative who knows I am a Republican has asked me what I think of Donald Trump.  The general implication is that any shred of respect they ever had for my opinions will be gone if I say I like him.  Also, several of my conservative Republican friends absolutely abhor Trump and say they would never vote for him, no matter what.  On the other side, a third group of friends think he is the best hope we have to save the country and they fervently support him.

Personally, I am torn by Donald Trump.  To me, he is like the girl in the nursery rhyme with the curl in the middle of her forehead.  When he is good he is very very good and when he is bad he is horrid.  I’d like to discuss the good and the bad of Donald Trump. I will focus on who he is as a person, not his views trump badon individual issues.  Everybody has different views on issues.  My question here is does he have what it takes to be a good president.  Before I do this, however, I would like to share two insights that I think you are essential to understanding Donald Trump.

Insight 1:  The Art of The Deal

The first insight comes from Trump’s book “The Art of the Deal”.  I read this originally almost thirty years ago when it was first released.  I will confess that I do not remember it clearly, but one thing I do remember is that he says that you need to begin with an outrageous, extreme starting position.  As you negotiate, you will negotiate away the outrageous components and you will end up with what you actually want.  If you start with a reasonable position, then as you negotiate you will need to make real concessions and you will end up with far less than you want.

Therefore Donald Trump starts his approach to immigration saying he will deport every illegal alien in America.  The press and other detractors have ridiculed this position saying that it is impossible and/or impractical.  I believe Donald Trump knows that.  This is his outrageous starting position.  If he gets elected president, he will negotiate down and end up with an immigration policy he never could have achieved if he started with a reasonable position.

Insight 2:  The Board Room

The second insight derives from watching Trump for many years on the Apprentice.  In Trump’s boardroom, if you are attacked, you must counter-attack.  If you don’t counter-attack, you get fired, even if you did a great job.  My personal philosophy is that if I am the project leader, everything that goes wrong is somewhat my fault.  My job is to anticipate and prevent other people’s mistake.  I would not have made it out of the first boardroom.  I don’t agree with his philosophy here.  On the other hand, he is a multi-billionaire and I am not.  Maybe he knows something that I don’t.  Whether you think this is good or bad, it is who he is.  You can’t understand Donald Trump without understanding this.

The Good 1:  The CEO

The best thing about Trump is that I think he would be a great Chief Executive of the United States.  The man knows how to run an organization.  Most importantly, I believe he would bring in very talented people to work under him.  Too often, key government positions are political payoffs.  They are rewarded as political prizes, often with little thought given to the ability.  Trump didn’t get to where he is by hiring his buddies.  I am not worried about Trump’s lack of Washington experience.  He can hire people with Washington experience.  Presidents often hire people who will tell them only what they want to hear. You don’t become a billionaire by surrounding yourself with flatterers; you surround yourself with highly competent people that tell you what you need to know.

The Good 2: The Blunt Spokesman

When my son was about five years old, he was randomly selected for a full body pat down at the airport.  While security was busy making sure that Jimmy was not carrying any weapons such as high-caliber squirt guns, multiple people who appeared to be from the Middle East walked through security without being hindered.  Sometimes political correctness is silly.  Sometimes it can get people killed.

I think it is important to have a president who is willing to tackle serious issues and will not be frightened off by political correctness or the fear of offending someone.  Trump is correct when he says he made immigration a major issue.  Before Trump’s initial comments, immigration was a secondary issue and primarily focused on how we should not offend Hispanic voters.  After a few words from Trump, it became the issue in the campaign.  He not only says what needs to be said, but when he says things, people listen.

The Good 3: The Attack Dog

In 2012, the Democrats painted Romney, a person who truly has dedicated his life to helping others, as one of the most horrible people the world has ever known.  Romney, on the other hand, would attack Obama’s policies but he refused to say anything negative about Obama as a person.   Romney lost.  The Republicans cannot make this mistake again.

Many pundits think that Hillary Clinton would mop the floor with Trump.  I have heard predictions she would win forty nine states.  I think that these people have not watched Trump at all.  When Trump attacks, people listen and his attacks work.  His low-energy comments destroyed Bush.  His attacks on Cruz’s citizenship, which I personally think are without merit, have caused Trump to surge in the polls and overtake Cruz in the Iowa polls.  Bill Clinton has been an abuser of women for women for over twenty years and Hillary has helped him do it, but until Trump brought it up, nobody thought anything about it.  After a few words from Trump, Hillary’s poll ratings from women plunged.

Trump is probably the best, most-effective attack dog I have ever seen.  He has the ability to find the attack that sticks and get people to talk about it.  I think he could devastate most opponents.  If his opponent is Hillary Clinton, with so many negatives that most people don’t even begin to know, some of which dwarf the email issues, I think that Trump could be the most effective candidate the Republicans could run against her.

The Bad 1:  The Meanie

I understand Trump’s need to counter-attack his enemies.  I am disturbed how he needlessly says mean and crude things about people who sometimes aren’t even his enemies. Comments on Carly Fiorina’s face or saying McCain wasn’t a hero because he got captured just make me cringe.

I think that Trump’s war on Megyn Kelly is the best illustration of his pettiness.   Megyn Kelly asked Trump a question in the first Fox  debate about his denigration of women. The moderators began the debate by asking each candidate a tough question that would certainly come up at some point if the candidate won the nomination.  In that light, I thought that her question was  totally fair and reasonable.  Since then, Trump has been throwing out a steady stream of attacks on Kelly including a line which I certainly interpreted as being about her menstruation.  It culminated in his boycott of the Iowa debate.    During this time, Kelly has shown nothing but class.  I can certainly understand a candidate attacking the media for being unfair.  It often is.  In this case, though, it is certainly vast overkill.  He comes across as petty, petulant, and just plain mean.  These are not characteristics you want in a president.

The Bad 2:  The Narcissist

I have always thought that President Obama is a narcissist.  In his campaign, he consistently stated how he could make everything right based upon the force of his personality.  The Iranians might hate America under Bush, but Obama would turn them around and make them see the light.  Obama also never admits he is wrong about anything.

I see the same narcissistic characteristics in Trump.  He can make Putin see reason.  He can work with Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats.  He very seldom says how he will do anything, asking us to trust that he will succeed because he is Trump.  While Trump may have more justification than Obama in thinking he can succeed just because of who he is, I still think is is a dangerous personality characteristic.

Trump also refuses to admit he ever makes a mistake.  For example Trump claimed he saw a newscast video of thousands of Muslims celebrating 9-11 in New Jersey.  Nobody has found such a video.  To me it is obvious and innocuous what happened.  He saw videos of thousands of Muslims in the middle east celebrating.  He saw another video of a few Muslims in New Jersey celebrating.  Over time, he mixed them up.  This is a fairly normal type of thing.  I certainly have done it.  Trump, however, will never admit he made a mistake about anything.  I can’t say for sure it is from Narcissism.  I don’t know if he knows he made a mistake but feels if he admits a mistake, it will destroy the Trump magic.  Maybe it would.  I just don’t want a president who can’t ever admit when he has been wrong.  If a policy is bad, it needs to be changed.  Would Trump change it?

The Bad 3: The Waffler

I have my doubts about Ted Cruz, which I will not go into right now, but I certainly admire his integrity and consistency.  In Iowa, Cruz has stated his opposition to Ethanol subsidies.  Iowa lives on Ethanol subsidies.   Every candidate who ever campaigns in Iowa supports these subsidies except Cruz.  To me this clearly shows that Cruz will stand by his principles no matter what.  I can’t say that about Donald Trump.  I don’t really know what his convictions are.

In the last debate, Trump swore he would not personally bring a lawsuit against Cruz on the citizenship issue, then a few days later he said he was considering it.  How can he consider it?  He just promised he wouldn’t.  Likewise, pledging to support the Republican candidate no matter what, he started hinting again that he might run as a third party candidate if he wasn’t “treated fairly”.  It bothers me that he reneges or at least considers reneging on promises that easily.

With this lack of integrity, I find it hard to evaluate Trump’s true views on many issues.  Earlier in life he espoused some fairly liberal positions and supported Democratic  candidates.  He says his views have evolved over time and he supported Democrats because as a businessman, it is what he had to do.  That might be true, but I don’t have enough confidence in his integrity to know that for sure.  While the Cruz citizenship suit threat might be minor in the grand scheme, it tells me that his promise can’t be trusted. I understand that sometimes promises must be broken due to extreme circumstances.  This, however, is not an extreme circumstance.  If he can break his word here, he can break it anywhere.


I am still torn on Donald Trump.   There seems to be a trend where I start to like him and then he says something that makes me cringe and it pushes me back away from him.  I would certainly vote for Trump over Clinton, Sanders, or any Democrat who I can think might run.  I just kind of sort of hope that the Republicans choose somebody else.  Maybe.  I think.  Ask me again tomorrow.







The Assumptions Underlying the Syrian Refugee Debate

Even before the terrorist strikes in Paris, we had a simmering debate on whether the United States should accept refugees from Syria.  On one side, we are naturally a compassionate people and instinctively wish to help people who are suffering.  On the other side, there was a strong likelihood that terrorists might be embedded among these refugees.  syrianrefugeesAccepting refugees could be inviting in terrorists.  The fact that at least one terrorist was a recent Syrian refugee, combined with ISIS’s boasts that they are sending terrorists as refugees, has intensified the debate.

A central premise of this blog site is that our underlying assumptions determine how we approach issues.  We can’t have any meaningful debate until we recognize these assumptions.  I highlighted particularly troublesome bad assumptions in a series on this blog on the top ten bad assumptions.  In this case, we have Bad Assumption 3 – America should not favor Americans.  I recommend reading or reviewing this post before proceeding.

The central assumption of those opposing settling Syrian refugees is that America needs to take care of Americans first.  If this is your assumption, it is crazy to risk the lives of Americans by admitting a refugee pool that very likely includes terrorists.  The key issue is security.

The central assumption of those supporting settling Syrian refugees in America is that we should not favor Americans over non-Americans.   The vast majority of the refugees are suffering people and we are heartless if we don’t help them.  The key issue is compassion.

One side says the other is crazy.  One side says the other is heartless.  Both sides have good people.  The difference is this underlying assumption.

My viewpoint is that America needs to look out for Americans first.  I outlined the reasons for this in the above-referenced blog entry.  Security must come first.  It may be impossible to prevent every terrorist attack, but we don’t need to go out of our way to make it easy for the terrorists.  The large majority of refugees are young, fighting age men.  Admitting these Muslim men from areas controlled by ISIS is laying out the red carpet for terrorists.

This doesn’t mean we should do nothing to help.  We can assist in humanitarian efforts and help them get resettled elsewhere, preferably in Muslim countries.  We could consider admitting some families with children, but that is still problematic.  That would be much safer than admitting single men, but it is still possible for ISIS to throw along a woman and some children to help the cause.

We could also consider admitting Christians, who are being persecuted and beheaded.  Obama also says it is shameful to have a religious test, but this is nothing new.  Our refugee laws are designed to help those who are persecuted.  These laws specifically mention religious persecution.  Saying that we shouldn’t consider religion is like saying if we did want to help Nazi victims that we couldn’t give any preference to Jewish over Christian Germans.

Proponents of bringing in the refugees also say that historically we have been compassionate with victims of persecution; however, refugees such as the Vietnamese boat people or the Bosnian victims of genocide did not threaten the safety of the American people.   Historically, we have always looked at safety first.  An immigrant suffering from tuberculosis would never get past Ellis Island.

If you were a parent with young children, you might also wish to be compassionate and invite a homeless person into your house.  This homeless person would probably not hurt you or your children.  As you invite more and more homeless people into your house, the chances increase that one of them will harm your children.  If you invite enough in, you are dooming your children.  Is this compassion?

President Obama mocks people who have security concerns when he says that opponents of admitting Syrian refugees are afraid of widows and orphans.  This shows a total lack of ability to understand the concerns of what appears to be a majority of the American people.  Possibly one compromise solution could be admitting widows and orphans but nobody else.

Once again, differing base assumptions underlies a key policy debate and prevents many on each side from seeing the viewpoint of the other.  My fundamental assumption is that it is the first duty of the American government to protect the safety of Americans.  If you do not agree, what is your assumption?  Think about it.


Carly Fiorina’s Business Record: Triumph or Disaster

I started this post a month ago, shortly after the second Republican debate.  I was not able to complete it before going on vacation.  Now I return to it the day before the third debate.  Carly Fiorina was the clear winner from the second debate and her standing in the polls skyrocketed.  Since then, she has lost much of the momentum from this debate.  Carly_Fiorina

She has been subject to a relentless attack. Liberals attack her for being a firebrand conservative.  Conservatives attack her for being a closet liberal.  More than anything else, she has been attacked for her business record at Lucent and Hewlett Packard.   In particular, she has been savaged for her championing of the merger between HP and Compaq computers.  This leads to two questions:

  • How valid are the charges against Fiorina.  Was she truly a “disaster” as CEO?
  • Regardless of the validity of the charges, will they be an effective political weapon against her?

Fiorina began her career with six months as a receptionist for a real estate firm, moving up to broker before she left.  After a stint teaching English in Bologna Italy, she joined AT&T in 1980 at age 25 as a management trainee, selling telephone services to federal agencies.  In 1990 at age 35 she became the company’s first female officer as senor vice president.   In 1995 at age 40 she headed North American Operations when AT&T spun off Lucent Technologies.  She had a major role in Lucent’s IPO, described as one of the most successful IPO’s in US history.  Lucent’s price increased 10-fold by the time Fiorina left.  In 1998 Fortune magazine named her “The most Powerful Woman in American Business”.

In July 1999 Hewlett-Packard named Fiorina as its new CEO, making her the first woman to lead a Fortune 20 company.  She was hired with the mission to change Hewlett-Packard’s culture to make it more innovative.  Her changes, however, were fiercely fought and she made her many enemies at HP.  The Tech bubble burst shortly after her arrival and HP’s stock plummeted.  HP had to layoff over 30,000 people during her tenure.

Her most controversial move was the merger with Compaq computers, which at the time was the second largest producer of personal computers after Dell.  There was heavy opposition to this merger including from HP founder William Hewett.  At the time, many considered the merger a disaster and HP’s stock plummeted further.  In February, 2005, she lost a power struggle with the board of directors and was fired.

Her rise from secretary to becoming the first woman CEO of a Fortune 20 company was undoubtedly spectacular.  Her record at CEO is certainly up to interpretation.  She was unpopular with many HP employees.  On the other hand, she was hired to shake up the company culture, so resentment was inevitable.  Her critics condemn her for Hewlett Packard’s price decline under her tenure and say that the tech crash is no excuse.  The same credits, however, refuse to give her credit for the stock rise at Lucent, stating it was due to the tech bubble.

Bloomberg did an interesting analysis of HP’s stock performance.  This chart illustrates the value of HP stock along with comparable companies till five years after her departure.HP Stock Values

This chart shows that from the time Fiorina became CEO of HP until five years after her departure, HP stock did better than its key competitors.  One can argue that this shows that her strategy was a success.  One can also argue that the credit would go to her successor but not to her.  Alternatively one could argue that HP might have done much better had she remained and been able to execute her strategy herself.  In short, her grade as CEO can only be incomplete.

The other question is whether the Democrats could use her business record as a weapon against her.  They certainly will try.  Barbara Boxer used attacks against Fiorina’s business record to defeat her in their Senate race.  No matter who the Republicans run, the Democrats will have an attack line to use against him or her.  If the Republicans refuse to nominate a candidate because they can be attacked, there will be nobody to nominate. Fiorina has had since her defeat in 2010 to come up with a strategy to counter these attacks.  She certainly will have plenty of opportunity to demonstrate her strategy over the months ahead, possibly in the debate tomorrow.

Way to Go Carly!


Carly Fiorina first drew my attention early in her campaign when nobody ever heard of her.  Whenever I saw her interviewed, I was extremely impressed by how she would answer every question with a display of directness, in-depth knowledge, sound logic, and clear reasoning.  She answered questions most politicians would dodge.  While I believed she had no chance and she certainly was not my first choice, I began rooting for her and wanted to see more of her.  Here is an example in an interview she did with Katie Couric on climate change.

I was hoping she would make the cut and get into the first debate.  I was disappointed that she did not make the cut for the top ten in that debate and was relegated to the “kiddie” second string debate.  I thought she totally dominated that debate.  I wasn’t the only one who thought that, with over 80% of the polled viewers picking her as the winner, a percentage highly unusual for a five person debate.  After seeing her in this debate and her follow up interviews, she surprisingly became my first choice as a presidential candidate.  Here is an example of Carly in the first debate addressing Iran and ISIS.  Notice how she gives very specific examples of steps she would take.

I look for three things in a presidential candidate in the primaries.  First, I look for a political philosophy that is compatible with mine.  Second, I look for strong personal characteristics such as leadership, competence, and honesty.  Finally, I want to back a candidate who has a good chance of winning the general election.

Carly Fiorina scores high in each of these categories.  She believes in limited government, the free market, and a strong defense.  She rose from secretary to chief executive of a major company.  She shows a tremendous grasp of the issues, and where other candidates speak in generalities, she gives specific after specific after specific when asked how she would handle a problem.  In her rise from total obscurity to qualifying for the first debate, she has shown herself to be an outstanding candidate.

In the second debate, she was magnificent.  Here are two examples.  The first shows Fiorina responding to Trump’s comments insulting her face.  The brilliance here is that she is using Trump’s words from the question before, where he attacked Jeb Bush, against him.  In other words, this was not a scripted response.  She showed how deftly she can think on her feet.

For the other example, I would like to show examples of how Trump and Fiorina handled the same question on how they would handle Putin.  I think these show a great contrast.

Trump basically is saying that we can handle Putin basically due to the superiority of Trump’s personal skills.  He does not give any specific examples.  This is basically the same argument that Obama used in 2008.  We can see how well that worked (although to be fair I would expect that Trump’s negotiating skills would be vastly better than Obama’s).   Fiorina takes a very different approach, including giving multiple examples of steps she would take.

After Fiorina’s success in the debate, the naturally became a target for attacks.  The attacks focused on two areas.  One was her business record.  I will write a separate blog entry, hopefully soon, that looks at her business record.  The other attack is that she lied/misrepresented on her attack on Planned Parenthood in this sequence:

In the video, a woman tells a story about how she watched as Planned Parenthood harvested a brain from a moving just aborted fetus.  The charge is that Fiorina lied because the footage of the fetus in the video was stock footage and it was not the fetus that was being described.  I would argue that this is standard practice and is not a misrepresentation at all.  Using stock footage is a standard practice in documentaries.  For example, a holocaust survivor is telling her story.  As she tells her story, we see pictures of skeletal figures and mounds of dead bodies from concentration camps.  There is no no claim that these concentration camp scenes are what this survivor actually saw.  They give the viewer a vivid idea of what is being described.  There is no difference in this video about Planned Parenthood that Fiorina describes.

Fiorina is currently my top choice as a candidate.  There are other very good candidates out there, notably Marco Rubio.  She has had two amazing rises.  Her first was going from secretary to CEO.  Her second is going from a political nobody to a major candidate for president.  This may be her peak.  She may be like Michelle Bachmann and Herman Cain in 2008, who each topped the polls for a week or two before disappearing off the charts.  On the other hand, she might be the next president of the United States.  Right now, I just want to congratulate her for a job well done.

If you have the time and want to get a better feel of who Carly Fiorina is, I am enclosing a very long (almost one hour) video from her talk to the college republicans at Dordt College in Iowa.  I thought it was quite enlightening and is worthwhile if you are a Carly Fiorina enthusiast.

Hillary Clinton: White House or Jail House?

Hillary Clinton will not be the Democratic nominee for president.  I think there is a fairly good chance she will not even be in the race by the time of the Iowa Caucus.  The findings from government inspectors and the FBI of top secret documents on her unsecured server may very well be the nail in her coffin.HillaryClinton

The Democrats  will not want to risk nominating someone who may be under indictment by the time of the election.  Will there be an indictment?  There are two factors needed for there to be an indictment.  There needs to be an indictable crime and the justice department needs to be willing to make an indictment.

The inspector’s statement that Ms. Clinton had top secret information on her unprotected server, assuming this is true, means there is unquestionably an indictable crime.  My understanding of the law is that intent to misuse the information is not necessary for this to be a crime; it is a crime to put classified data in an unprotected location.  General David Petraeus and many others were convicted for much less.  The big question is will the Justice Department indict?

Up to this point the Obama administration has been highly consistent in that it will not even investigate, much less indict, Democrats who are loyal to the president.  The fact that there has not even been an investigation, much less an indictment, of the IRS harassment of conservatives is the prime example of this.  President Obama, however, does not like Hillary Clinton.  This is documented in Edward Klein’s book “Blood Feud: The Clinton’s vs. the Obamas.”  Obama doesn’t need to do anything to free the path to an indictment.  All he needs to do is step aside, do nothing, and let the FBI do their job.

While her handling of unclassified emails currently appears to be her largest legal problem, it is not the only legal problem.  Her destruction of emails under subpoena could subject her to obstruction of justice charges.  Hillary and Bill have also amassed a fortune of over $150 million dollars since Bill left office.  Much of this derives from speaking fees from foreign sources who “coincidentally” had major issues before the state department at that time.  These sources also gave many more millions to the Clinton foundation.  Investigation into these donations could also lead to criminal charges.

It seems that every day something new comes out about Hillary’s illegal activities and showing that her denials are lies.  If you were a leader in the Democratic party, would you want to risk going into the next election with all of your eggs in the Hillary basket?

Top Ten Bad Assumptions: 10 – Welfare is charity.

Alternate Assumption:  Welfare is nothing like charity.

Most of my extended family and many of my good friends are Democrats.  I think that a primary reason is that they perceive the Democrats as the political party that tries to help people.  Such programs as welfare, Medicare and Obamacare are seen as a form of charity.  If we are good people, we must support these programs.  I’d like to challenge this assumption.  There are three big differences between welfare and charity.

Donating to charity is voluntary.  Paying taxes is not.

By definition, charity is voluntary.  Other people may have a different experience, but my understanding is that paying taxes is not exactly voluntary.  One can argue that if we are members of society and society democratically votes to pay taxes to help others then this is voluntary.  We can always elect to leave that society.

This argument has validity if everybody who votes pays taxes and everybody potentially benefits from the spending.  For example, if a city votes a 1% sales tax to support city parks, one can argue that even if I never go to a park, I have the right to use the park and the whole city benefits from having a park.  I think it has less validity if everybody pays and only a few benefit.  If this same sales tax is used  to subsidize favored corporations or for welfare payments, then it moves into what I would consider a gray area.

If, however, the majority of people vote for a tax paid only by a minority, then it  totally ceases to be voluntary.  For example, if 90% of the people vote for a tax that is only paid by the top 10% and then redistributed to the other 90% then this isn’t charity.  This is theft by taxes. We fought a revolution against the British because of taxation without representation.

Charity is much more efficient than welfare.

When you give to a good charity, a high percentage of the money actually goes to the recipients.  I know that my favorite charity that provides many services to the poor, including a food bank, cites that over 85% of donations go to the poor and less than 15% goes to administrative overhead.  James Rolph Edwards did a study in 2007 published in the Journal of Libertarian Studies in 2007 that stated that typically charities target 75% of the their spending directly on services to the poor and 25% goes to overhead.  In contrast, with welfare programs only 25% of the money goes directly to the poor and 75% goes to overhead.  Welfare is a very inefficient way to get services to the poor.1

This becomes particularly worrisome because many supporters of welfare believe that because government helps people, they don’t have to.  For example, Vice President Joe Biden is a big proponent of government spending on welfare.  This chart shows Biden’s tax donations for the ten years before he became Vice President:


When we direct money to welfare, we often direct money away from charity.  As a result, the bureaucrats prosper and the poor suffer.

Welfare is addictive.

The most insidious difference between charity and welfare is that welfare is addicting. We now have multi-generational welfare.  People spend all their lives on welfare and don’t know anything else.  Welfare does not cure poverty.  Welfare causes poverty.  The following graph charts welfare spending in constant dollars against the official poverty rate since the war on poverty started in 1964.

Welfare Spending vs. the Poverty Rate

As the chart shows, the poverty rate fell dramatically from 35% in 1950 to  less than 20% in 1964 before the war on poverty started.  It continued to fall to approximately 10% in the early 70s.   Since then, despite dramatic increases in welfare spending the rate has stayed within the 10 to 15% range ever since.  We are spending more and more money on welfare to fight poverty, but we are not reducing poverty.  Since Obama became president, we have dramatically increased welfare spending, but instead of poverty going down, poverty has gone up.

The addictive quality of welfare in the long term make poverty worse instead of better..  Each charity can decide how it wishes to help people.  If the charity isn’t being effective, it can change what it does.   If the donors think the charity is ineffective, the donors can give elsewhere.  Welfare is a government program that is locked into what it does.  It doesn’t change when it isn’t effective.  And the “donors”, the taxpayers, certainly don’t have the choice to give elsewhere.


Welfare is not charity.  It is not Tzedakah.  Welfare replaces Tzedakah, and welfare is a poor substitute.  Assuming that welfare is charity is a very bad assumption.  The people who suffer the most from this bad assumption are the poor, the people we are trying to help.

1Normally, I always like to cite reference data from mainstream sources.   In this case, after extensive googling I was unable to find any data from a well-known, unimpeachable source.  This data is typical of what I found.  I will leave it to the reader to evaluate the merit of this claim and I would appreciate it if anybody else can provide data from a more mainstream source.

Why do intelligent, well-meaning people disagree?

I have changed the tag line of my site with this question.  I have also added it as a permanent page to the blog.  The text below is now on this new page.

I am blessed to have wonderful friends and family.  They are good people.  They wish for peace and prosperity for themselves, the people they care about, their country, and the world.  They are very intelligent, thoughtful people who take an interest in the world and are reasonably well informed.  I also think that I am a reasonably good, reasonably intelligent person.  So why is it that when it comes to politics, most of my friends, my family, and I profoundly disagree?

Why do intelligent, well-meaning people disagree?   I have never seen anybody else seriously address this issue. This subject fascinates me.  My blog can go in many directions, from memorable movies to global warming, but the majority of my blog focuses on this key question.

I am a computer programmer.  In computers, we think in terms of input, process, and output.  If we share common goals, basically peace and prosperity, we desire the same output.  If we are intelligent, we have reasonably good process.  I believe the disagreement is primarily due to the input, the assumptions we make and how we frame the issue.

Early in life we form assumptions about how the world works.  We make these assumptions based upon our observations and what we believe to be common sense.  Once we make an assumption, this becomes the starting point for our thoughts on everything else.  We seldom re-examine our assumptions and we tend to hold our assumptions with a religious fervor, rejecting outright any argument that violates our assumptions.

To a certain amount this makes sense.  If a person starts with the assumption that 2+2=5, that person may be able to brilliantly argue that 4+4=10, but that argument is worthless as it is built on a faulty assumption.  You and I have better things to do with our time than to listen to this argument.

People can only have a reasonable discussion when the discussion begins with common assumptions.  Two Christians can have a fascinating debate using the text of the new testament as the basis for their arguments, but if you are a Jew, a Buddhist, or an Atheist, for example, their arguments mean absolutely nothing to you as you don’t accept their underlying assumptions.

In this blog, I try to examine our underlying assumptions, both good and bad.  It is only at this level that people of differing political philosophies can have any kind of meaningful discussion.  I, of course, tend to think my assumptions are good and try to justify them.  I welcome others to point out any flaws in my arguments.  If my assumptions are wrong, I want to re-examine them.  For example, a book I read recently by Malcolm Gladwell caused me to modify an assumption I had held for over forty years.

Bad assumptions aren’t the only type of input that causes well-meaning, intelligent people to disagree.  I think another problem is that we frequently don’t frame the issue properly.   For example, someone might say that he or she supports government program XYZ because it is a good program that helps people. I would ask is XYZ such a good program that it is worth borrowing money from China that our children and grandchildren will have to repay. Because of this debt they will not be able to afford many other good programs.  If this is true, do you still support XYZ?

I care about what causes intelligent, well-meaning people to disagree.  I don’t care about analyzing the opinions of people who don’t fit this category.  I don’t care about the haters, who are on both the left and the right politically.  I don’t care about the opinions of clueless, people who can’t identify China on a world map and give no thought to these opinions.

I hope through this blog to find others who find this topic fascinating.  While I will venture off into other areas that interest me, this is the predominant theme of the blog.  I hope you find it fascinating too.