With Friends like these…

Well, I was hoping that after my open letter to a friend some basic decency would have happened. I try to be an optimist and believe in the innate goodness of people. Sometimes I am wrong and this is one of those times. 

Friday was a hectic day for me as I got called to deal with an emergency computer issue at a site. While I was waiting for something on site I decided to get my iPad started and see what was going on in my friendly slack channel. However, it wasn’t so friendly. My friend (we’ll call him #1),  who decided to leave the channel instead of treating someone (let’s call him #2) who has different views with respect, went and banned #2 from the Slack channel. Why did this happen? I can’t imagine any other reason than being out of spite. 

Because we wanted to keep our small group connected and not lose another person we switched services again. This time we are now on Discord. I don’t care what service we use (I suggested Lotus Notes and Yahoo! Messenger) as long as we are connected and keep respect and tolerance of differing views. 

The fact that #1 would do this to someone really shows poor judgment and I have to wonder about their priorities. I wouldn’t have expected someone to do something like this and I’m incredibly disappointed what our political discourse has come to. 

An Open Letter to a Friend

Dear Friend,

About a week ago you left our little slack channel never to return. I joined our little group about 15 years ago while we were on IRC. Although we have had members who have passed away or have fallen by the wayside for other reasons, I feel your leaving the channel was a shortsighted at worst and dumb at best. In the spirit of  John Adams in his letter to Thomas Jefferson when they renewed their friendship “You and I, ought not to die, before We have explained ourselves to each other.”, I’d like to explain where I think you’ve gone wrong.

Not to put too fine a point on it, you decided to leave because you couldn’t handle having people in the channel with different political opinions than you (myself included). The biggest crime was that they voted or may have voted for our current president. You considered this ” wrongthink ” and worked on changing their minds any chance you got. Having a civil conversation with you about any “hot issue” topic was impossible because you could not see past the fact that they were wrong and not paying attention to the “evidence” you provided. When they had the gall to disagree with you (not just ignore your provocation) matters got worse and the incivility was ratcheted up to 11 (as we know that it one more than ten). 

For some reason you didn’t want to be civil in any of these conversations. It is almost as if you felt that people who had different opinions then you should be punished and treated like little children who needed to be taught a lesson by a wiser, older adult. These rules put out by Rabbi Sacks would have been helpful. It’s a shame they didn’t come out before you left.

In a personal level, I feel that there was animosity toward me because of my being a religious Jew. On a number of occasions you made comments that at the line of anti-semitism if not over the line.  I called you on these statement and you always shrugged them off saying “it’s how my friends and I always talk to each other”. For all of your talk about inclusiveness and diversity my differences didn’t seem to matter and I could be made fun of as the “outsider. 

In spite of this, there were times when you did wonderful and kind things for me. The most recent time was when I was mentioned I didn’t have Netflix because it wasn’t in my budget. What did you do? You went and gifted me a year’s subscription to the service. I will be forever grateful for that kindness you showed me.

I hope that in time you decide to come back and join us when you get tired of the echo chambers you’ve decided to silo yourself in. If and when you do come back I hope that you have come to understand that when there are differences in opinions you should treat everyone with respect and a knowing that people are allowed to have different opinions. It’s what makes the world go around.

Nick Gillespie on Jake Tapper

While reading Reason’s take on last night’s town hall shown on CNN I saw this gem:

…it’s good to see a thoughtful, well-informed news anchor and interlocutor who consistently asks difficult questions of all his guests and also gives them the time to answer.

I’m in complete agreement with Mr. Gillespie. I’ve been a fan of Tapper since his days as White House correspondent at ABC.

Thoughts about “Thoughts and Prayers”

It’s really upsetting to read about another school shooting like the one that happened yesterday in Florida.  I believe that there is a middle ground somewhere to be had so that basic freedoms are kept and guns are out of the hands of people that shouldn’t have them. The fact that the perpetrator of this heinous crime seems to have gotten the guns legally seems to indicate there is a failure somewhere in this process.

What exactly should be done is a debate for (maybe) another post. For the time being I’ll direct you to what I think is a very reasoned post from Reason.com (pun is completely unintentional – this time) about this topic. The main thing I wanted to talk about is the much maligned phrase “thoughts and prayers”. I think that people who lampoon, make fun, or chastise those who use the phrase are wrong. I completely understand their anger but I think it is misplaced.

It’s misplaced because this always falls along the political side you’re on about this topic. For example, those who believe that there should be very strict gun laws will only chastise the people on the other side of the opinion about using the phrase. If someone on their political team would use it there would be nothing but crickets. (I also think Twitter and the “hot take” have seriously degraded conversation and debate about controversal topics but that is maybe another post for another time.)

However the main thing reason these people should not be chastised is because right now what else is there to do for the people going through the hardship? Let’s take Joe (or Jane) Politician. Unless the politician is local to the incident, they really can’t do anything else. Could Politician have done something preventive so the horrific event doesn’t occur? Maybe they could have but in the here and now there isn’t really anything else Politician can do aside from offering “thoughts and prayers”.

Maybe you would argue that the politician really doesn’t mean that and they is just offering lip service? That is a very cynical approach to things and in a situation like a school shooting I would presume that the use of the phrase “thoughts and prayers” is heartfelt.

Let’s start trying to raise the level of discourse and start giving people who want to offer “thoughts and prayers” the benefit of the doubt that they really mean what they say.

Thoughts on the NYC Mayoral Debate

A few weeks ago the New York City Democratic Party had a debate with the two candidates running in the primary coming up in a few weeks. The two candidates are the incumbent mayor, Bill de Balsio, and Sal Albanase.

For the most part the debate was your typical modern day debate filled with zingers, gotchas, and sounds bites. I wasn’t too impressed with Albanase and I’ve not been impressed with the way de Blasio has run the city the past four years.

There was one part of the debate that was interesting that was the good folks over at Intelligence Squared US co-sponsored the debate. There was one question which the candidates debated for and against a motion. Like all debates put on by Intelligence Squared the idea is to use facts are reason, not sound bites, to win.[1]. I didn’t think either candidate did a good job with the facts. In fact, I don’t think they fully understood what they were supposed to do. This is a shame but on the other hand it isn’t much of a surprise because they are not used to debating in that way.

However I think this is a great idea and I hope that more local debates do this and eventually all of the debates can be done in this fashion.


  1. The debate for the general election (October 10) will also have a round of questions where the candidates will have to do the same.  ↩

UBI, Healthcare, and the states

A few weeks ago the news broke that Hawaii was starting to look at having a state wide Universal Basic Income (UBI). I became aware of the UBI last year when Charles Murray did several short Youtube videos about how UBI would help in the U.S.

I don’t know any more of they details for the Hawaii plan but I think this is going the right way and it’s why Federalism can work if we just give it a chance. Think of it this way, if Hawaii is successful another state can take the idea and modify it to what works for them. If Hawaii’s plan isn’t successful there will be lessons that other states can learn from and possibly go ahead with a different plan from the lessons learned. If a subset of states are successful it can me a model for a federal plan.

It’s the same idea for the single payer health care. I am not the biggest fan of the of the single payer system but I do think that if a state wants to try a single payer system they should be able give it a try if they would like. (Of course the fact three states have wanted to try but couldn’t figure out how to keep their budgets balanced says something)

That states can try these things is the great thing about our federalist system and the exact thing that the Founders wanted them to try. Now that both political parties understand the need to the states to be somewhat independent from the federal government let’s see what the states can come up with.

Hate crime stats and what they say about NYC

Today there was a tweet about some hate crime stats in NYC:

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

There are several things that jumped out at me about these numbers:

  • Why are they comparing this year’s numbers to the attacked from 2015? It seems to me that the only reason they are doing that is because they can then show the much larger differences1.
  • The sample size of these numbers is very small. I don’t think you can make any points based on these numbers.
  • In what may be a surprise to some people anti- semitic crime is seeing the biggest increase. Again, these are small samples so your milage may vary.
  • These are only crimes the police classified as “hate crimes”2. How many more crimes were there when it was a question if it was a “hate crime” or not? I’d be interested in seeing those numbers as well.
  • Finally the total number of hate crimes in NYC is shockingly low considering the population of the city. This is a good thing and shows most people are tolerant of others. Of course the fact it is increasing is not good at all.

  1. I assume the they in this case is the NYPD, but no context was given in the tweet. 
  2. Yes the term is in quotes because almost all crimes of violence are hate crimes. No, I don’t like violence against anyone and I’d like to think I respect everyone’s beliefs. 

Holocaust and Immigrants

It is amazing how a few days change things. As I mentioned in a previous post I didn’t vote for our current president, but I didn’t think his election was illegitimate either. As with every president I hoped that he would do a good job running the country but was expecting to be let down. I didn’t think it would happen so fast.
Let’s take a look at a few things that have gone on this past week. Friday was International Holocaust Remembrance Dayand as a matter of course most governments issue a statement about the day mentioning how the Jewish people were singled out for genocide by the Nazi. However the current administration didn’t see fit to mention the Jews in the entire statement1. Here is the full text of the statement and some emphasis added by me:

“It is with a heavy heart and somber mind that we remember and honor the victims, survivors, heroes of the Holocaust. It is impossible to fully fathom the depravity and horror inflicted on innocent people by Nazi terror.
“Yet, we know that in the darkest hours of humanity, light shines the brightest.‎ As we remember those who died, we are deeply grateful to those who risked their lives to save the innocent.
“In the name of the perished, I pledge to do everything in my power throughout my Presidency, and my life, to ensure that the forces of evil never again defeat the powers of good. Together, we will make love and tolerance prevalent throughout the world.”

There were a lot of innocent who were murdered during the Holocaust, around 11,000,000. However, there was only one group that was above 50% and who were singled out as being a problem requiring a “final solution”.

The administration defended their statement by saying there were more than Jews killed during that time. This is a very stupid defense and is taken apart by John Podhoretz at Commentary Magazine his main takeaway is chilling:

It is, rather, the culmination of something—the culmination of decades of ill feeling that seems to center on the idea that the Jews have somehow made unfair “use” of the Holocaust and it should not “belong” to them. Someone in that nascent White House thought it was time to reflect that view through the omission of the specifically Jewish quality of the Holocaust.
Now the question is: Who was it?

Who was it is indeed the question.

Shabbos afternoon I mentioned to my daughter what a gift Shabbos was because we are off the grid and don’t have to deal with what craziness the President has done now. I didn’t know how true those words were. Once Shabbos was over and I got onto to Twitter I saw what the president had done via Executive Order2. This ban on immigrants who are holders of legal visas and green cards is wrong. It is exactly this kind of attitude that didn’t allow Jews into the country who were trying to escape the clutches of the Nazi government3. There is a lot of hyperbole and hysteria going on about it (this is a good article with facts and a right-of-center view and another article which destroys the EO.) but way the administration handled this from the beginning was ham-fisted and wrong. Just the fact they didn’t allow the DHS (I think that is who was supposed to review it) to review and suggest things is the worst kind of management possible. Moreover when the DOJ suggested changing things they were overruled by the Whitehouse. It’s a classic example of an over-reach.

The upshot is that this administration is poorly run and has no idea what it is doing. The opposition is screaming about everything the government does which makes the signal to noise ratio very high. If everything is horrible then nothing is horrible. We need to pick and choose the battles to fight (like this one) otherwise there will be no strength to fight the important battles.


  1. For comparison, here are the statements from President Bush and President Obama
  2. I am not a fan of the Executive Order. Our past two presidents made use of them and we now reap what we have sown. 
  3. Here is just one story. 

I’m going to give an unpopular opinion. I am no fan of Trump but a supposed news like site Buzzfeed shouldn’t be posting news by saying we have no idea if this is true or not, we’ll let you decide. Yes, the details are salacious and everyone is getting a good laugh but if “fake news” is a problem (and I think it is to a degree) then this shouldn’t be the standard of publishing. Moreover, this guy Cohen who was supposed to be in Prague, was never there. He was at USC with his son (this has been confirmed). I know that Trump is the devil and if he says the sky is blue it needs to be rebutted but let’s be fair about what we are doing here.

Just because he has gone and said things with no proof, that does not grant us permission to do so as well. Additionally publishing this stuff allows the ignoring of bigger issues with Trump as president.