Monday, June 30, 2014

My Take on the Hobby Lobby Decision

Just in case you haven't heard, the Supreme Court ruled that "closely held, for-profit companies can claim a religious exemption to the Obamacare requirement that they provide health insurance coverage for contraceptives." (Article)

If you just want my opinion on the issue:  It's bad.  I don't like it.  It is a dangerous precedent.  While it seems consistent with our laws and the defense of religious freedom, I think that it undermines individual freedoms.  And lastly, I do not approve of any laws or decisions that reduce our rights.

Reproductive rights are often cast as a women's issue, presumably because most of the restrictions that get bandied about are on women.  But as far as I am concerned, a threat to reproductive rights is a threat to all of our rights.  A woman's right to birth-control or an abortion does not interfere with my individual liberties unless I am being forced to conduct the abortion or administer the birth-control (assuming I was morally or religiously opposed to those things).  A woman having an abortion would only possibly conflict with my reproductive rights if it was my child that was going to be aborted, but that is a terrifically complicated issue, and my default would be to err on the side of freedom and support the right to an abortion (of course I probably wouldn't stay in a relationship with someone who would abort my child, so in the end it would be a clear indication that I should not have attempted to reproduce with that person).  This applies to other rights as well.  My right to keep and bear arms does not interfere with your rights unless I try to harm you with them.  A gay couple's right to marry does not interfere with my rights unless... I can't even come up with a situation where that could affect my rights.

We should all seek to avoid impinging on the rights of others in the exercise of our liberties.  But that does not mean that we should curtail the rights of others because there is a possibility that they may impinge on our rights.

My goal is always to try to see as many sides to an issue as I can.  I try to look for rational arguments that both agree and disagree with my position.  On this reproductive rights issues, as with gun rights issues, I am firmly on the pro-rights side.  Actually I try to be on the pro-rights side of pretty much any issue.  That includes religious rights.  And that is where this case gets sticky, because this is a case of two sets of rights smashing into each other.

In order for me to get to this case, I'm going to need to go on a digression.

When I say "rights" I mean rights that are outlined in our constitution, amendments, or supported by court cases.  Our constitution does not give you the right to determine when, where, or with whom you can have or not have children.  But the courts have upheld the right of people to decide whether or not they want to have children.  As far as I'm concerned if you want to strip Americans of a right that has been granted you had better have a mass of overwhelming, rational, incontrovertible evidence that the destruction of that right is necessary to the survival and function of our society.

I have yet to hear arguments against abortion or birth control that meet those requirements.

That does not mean that there are no valid arguments against abortion.

I am firmly of the opinion that the primary valid argument against abortion comes down to an issue of worldview.  If you believe that life begins at conception, then abortion is murder.  Plain and simple.  One can try to confuse the issue by pointing out that many people who oppose abortion, support capital punishment; but the conflict between those two ideas is irrelevant to the issue of abortion.  Just because someone holding a particular position is a hypocrite does not invalidate that position.

It seems to me that our culture has come to make a big deal about hypocrisy.  Hypocrisy is treated as a major sin.  I think that is absurd.  Hypocrisy is a minor sin.  We cannot seek to be better than we are without engaging in hypocrisy. (Here is a piece on Hobby Lobby's hypocrisy)

I am firmly of the belief that one's moral and ethical standards should be aspirational.  If you are able to routinely live up to your own moral and ethical standards then you need to raise those standards.

We should, all of us, be trying to be better than we are.  But if we cannot be hypocrites then we cannot hold goals loftier than what we are.  Pointing out another's moral failures or intellectual inconsistency does not make one a better person.  That does not mean that moral failures and intellectual inconsistency should not be pointed out, but it does mean that just because someone is inconsistent or wrong about something it does not invalidate all of their other positions automatically.

Which brings us back to the Hobby Lobby.  The argument in favor of the Hobby Lobby's position is that giving female employees insurance coverage that would include birth control methods contrary to the ownership's religious beliefs would be a violation of religious rights.  I do not think this argument is quite as spurious as it seems.  If one ascribes to a worldview that sees abortion and plan B as murder (believe me, I am very aware that the conflation of these two things is bullshit, but they are conflated in this debate), then providing material support for those acts would make one an accomplice in murder.  It seems hard to argue that people should be forced to help kill other people against their will.

The comparison that anti-abortion activists often draw is the Holocaust.  Just as WWII era German citizens had a moral obligation to oppose the murder of millions of Jews, modern era US citizens have a moral obligation to oppose the murder of millions of babies.  To this my response is to point out the prime corollary to Godwin's Rule of Nazi Analogies, if you bring up Hitler the conversation is over and you've lost.  Nazi analogies are not meant to be illustrative or edifying, they are meant to equate one's opponents to Nazis, and thereby invalidate anything that the opponent claims.  It means that one does not view one's own position as defensible on its own merits, and instead seeks to discredit other positions through fallacious association.

But while the Holocaust analogy might be bullshit, it does illustrate the depth of feeling on the issue.  And yet I still think that the Hobby Lobby, and other closely held or publicly held companies, should be forced to behave in a fashion that their leaders view as murderous.  To start to explain why, I'm going to quote Ruth Bader Ginsburg:

"Would the exemption…extend to employers with religiously grounded objections to blood transfusions (Jehovah's Witnesses); antidepressants (Scientologists); medications derived from pigs, including anesthesia, intravenous fluids, and pills coated with gelatin (certain Muslims, Jews, and Hindus); and vaccinations[?]…Not much help there for the lower courts bound by today's decision."

There's the rub.  This decision creates too wide an opening for religious groups to force their beliefs and values on individuals that do not hold those values or beliefs.  However, I do not think that privately owned companies, religious groups, or individuals should be forced to violate their religious beliefs.  But Hobby Lobby is not privately owned, it is closely held, which means that it can be publicly traded, but is not normally publicly traded.  If a company is going to seek to reap the benefits of entering the public realm for private gain then it should be required to adhere to public mores.

If we seek to err on the side of freedom in this case, then it seems to me that the Supreme Court made a bad decision here.

Help Me Find New Topics and/or Disagree With Me, Please

I want you, the reader of this blog, to suggest topics for me.  I want you to comment when you disagree or think that there is a facet of an issue that I have not considered.  You might change my mind, and you might be right about my failure to consider something.

I started this blog because I want to do what I can to change the partisan way that issues are discussed.  I think that in order to do that people need to openly disagree, and then try to find ways to accommodate their disagreement.  Really, honestly, agree to disagree when possible.

This idea was originally inspired by Obama when he came into office.  He stated that he wanted to try to find middle ground on issues.  Unfortunately there are a lot of issues that do not have a real middle ground.  Pretty much all wedge issues, as far as I can tell, are built around the lack of a middle ground.

But sometimes that lack of a middle ground is artificial.  Sometimes people can be brought around to tolerating a differing opinion if the terms of the argument are changed.  And sometimes my mind gets changed by someone else's argument.

"If you can't change your mind, are you sure you still have one."

It's a bit of bumper sticker wisdom that I actually like.

But some wedge issues just don't have a middle ground or obvious compromise.  Like abortion.  I absolutely support reproductive rights.  I think it is totally unethical for people to have their reproductive choices made for them.  But I also understand the worldview that sees abortion as murder.

To me, being able to recognize the validity of two totally opposing arguments makes for an interesting and difficult problem.

I received my first topic request today from Meagan Lockard.  She wants me to blog about the Hobby Lobby Ruling.  I think this is a great topic to try to tackle because it is centered on one of these points of conflict and incompatibility.  It's a court decision on reproductive rights and religious rights.  And it's a topic where I really don't feel like I have all the answers.

So I'm going to work on it.  And if you have a topic you would like me to work on please leave a comment.

I can't guarantee that I will come up with anything worth reading, but I will try.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

August Krier

About a month and a half ago I lost my baby brother in a car accident.  He was 20 years old.  No one else was responsible, he wasn't murdered, the car was not unsafe, the road conditions might have contributed, but ultimately he was just driving too fast.

This has been probably the most painful thing to occur in my life.  There is a gaping hole in my heart where my brother was.  He was 13 years younger than me, but we were extremely close.  I love and miss my brother terribly.

I helped take care of my brother when he was a baby.  When I look at my 12 week old daughter it can sometimes be hard not to see my brother.

Every time I read about someone dying I think about my brother.  Every time I read about a baby dying I think about my brother and my daughter simultaneously.  The death of my brother fills me with fear that something might happen to my daughter.

Two days ago I went to the theater to watch the movie Edge of Tomorrow.  It's a very good movie, I strongly recommend it.  But there is a lot of death in the movie.  One of the major action set pieces in the movie is an amphibious assault on a beach, and watching the scene I could not help but think of every one of those young soldiers as someone's brother or sister.  Watching people die when you have lost someone recently is not fun.

The scene is also reminiscent of the D-Day invasion.  It just so happened that my brother's funeral coincided with the 70th Anniversary of the D-Day Invasion.  As I was sitting in my hotel room in DC on the weekend of my brother's memorial the television was full of young men dying.

My brother was not a soldier, but he was a young man.  It is hard for me to separate these things sometimes.

Before the movie on Friday there were trailers.  It just so happens that the trailers were all for movies coming out in August.

My brother's name was August.  

Every trailer felt like a reminder.  My brother's name five feet long and luminous.

My brother was handsome and charming.  I always thought that he would be someone well known.  I thought he would be a politician.  He had his troubles, but he was growing as a man.  He had a longing for justice and fairness.  And he had a disarmingly infectious smile.  I always thought he was going places.

Now he is gone.  It's nobody's fault, it's just a thing.  But it dominates my thoughts these days.  When I write or read he is always in my thoughts.

If it seems that my blog seems to be focused on more negative topics right now, it is not your imagination.  I do not want my blog to be all about death and negativity, but it is on my mind.

I know that this will not be true forever.  Since he was born I have thought about my brother numerous times daily.  Right now my thoughts of my brother are all too often thoughts of death, but eventually I will not be thinking of my loss every time I think of my brother.  But for now...

In any case, please bear with me.  I will try to write happier posts, but I write about what is on my mind.

And right now August Anthony Krier is on my mind.

Who is Going to Kill You? A Statistical Examination: Part I

If you get killed, who will kill you?

Let’s start this off by saying that if you die for some reason other than old age or illness then statistically you are not going to be murdered.  Overall, if you die of injuries, you are going to die in a car.  It shouldn't come as a surprise that activities you engage in frequently are more likely to end up going horribly wrong.  Cars are very dangerous, but we use them every day.  We hurtle along at speeds far in excess of what our bodies can withstand in metal contraptions weighing thousands of pounds.  We are driving in various states of competence, experience, and impairment with thousands of other people of varying rates of competence, experience, and impairment.  These heavy metal contraptions we hurtle along in are stuffed full of explosives, and contain plenty of flammable material.  But despite the undeniable danger we place ourselves in every time we get in a car or walk near cars they aren't that scary.

But why aren't cars that scary?  Statistically a car is going to kill you.  I would argue that we aren't scared of cars because we are familiar enough with them that we are able to see that even though they are dangerous a car probably won’t kill us right now.  Because we know that cars are not waiting outside our doors to kill us we tend to underestimate just how dangerous they are, but that is just how our minds work.  Familiar daily dangers seem less scary than the dangers that seem to come out of nowhere.

(This entry is really just a digest of this interesting chart

Now, you might think that “OK, cars are going to kill me, but right after that it has to be crazed gunmen killing indiscriminately.”  Nope.  After cars comes unintentional poisoning.  If you are between the ages of 25 and 64 you are actually more likely to die of poisoning than cars!  Before age 24 cars are number one, and after age 65 the number one cause of accidental injury death is falling down.  “Falling down might kill old people, but what about me?”  You ask.  Well, falls are the number three killer. 

At this point I think it would behoove us to look at numbers.  The numbers I’m using are not rates, they are totals from 2010.  The numbers were provided by the CDC.  The numbers do not include illness.  They numbers are for “unintentional injury death,” though I’m not sure what definition of “unintentional” is being used since suicide and homicide certainly seem intentional to me.  The number for motor vehicle deaths in 2010 was 33,687, and the numbers for unintentional poisoning were 33,041.  Considering that we live in a country of 300 million, the difference there seems pretty negligible.  For unintentional falls the number is 26,009.  So here we see a significant drop of over 9,000 from the previous total.  But this number is actually misleading since 21,649 of those falls were by the over 65 crowd.  So I guess you could say, that even though falls are number three, if you are under 65 falls probably aren't that big of a risk to you.
Onto number four, Suicide with a firearm.  19,392. 

(Before we go any further I want to point out that suicide is divided up by mechanism.  Homicide is as well.  This entry will not go fully into the significance of this, but as we continue on with this series I will examine mechanism of homicide more in depth.  I think it is important.)

Number five, Homicide with a firearm.  11,078.  We finally get to killing, but you might have noticed that suicide is almost twice as common as homicide.  In fact the numbers for gun deaths ( are ~60% are suicides and ~35% are homicides.  Of the remainder ~3% are accidents, and a good chunk of what’s left are “legal interventions.”  If you get killed by a police officer it doesn't count as a homicide, it’s a legal intervention (I have a whole tangent I’d like to go on here, but I’ll spare you).

Do you know what the next two are?  Suicide and Suicide.  Suicide by suffocation (if you’re trying to figure out how people commit suicide with a pillow, try thinking hanging or jumping off a bridge), at 9,493; and Suicide by Poisoning, at 6,599.

If you want to know what the last three of the top ten injury deaths are they are:  Unintentional suffocation, 6,165 (3,400 are the over 65’s); Unintentional unspecified, 5,688 (4,596 are the over 65’s); and Unintentional drowning, 3,782.  Homicide by means other than guns is not in the top ten for the overall population, though if you look at the chart you can see that other forms do pop up for certain age groups.
Now you might have noticed something.  If you add up the top three methods of suicide the total is 35,484.   That’s more than cars.  That means that you are more than three times as likely to kill yourself as you are to be killed by an assailant with a gun.  320% more likely in fact.

You are more likely to be killed by a car than by any other mechanism, but cars have no agency.  Your car doesn't want you dead, it’s just a thing.

But the numbers show that there is a killer stalking you.  When we think about dying we often think about “who” more than “what.”  Suicide is more likely than other forms of injury death.  And most accidents are going to be things that you cause for yourself.  Who is going to kill you?  You are.

Statistically speaking anyway.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Guns Kill Twice as Many Kids as Cancer, and Swimming Pools Kill Ten Times as Many Kids as Guns

One of the constant wedge issue conversations I get drawn into is gun violence and gun regulation.  As an unabashed gun rights advocate I definitely tend to end up siding with Conservative voices on this topic, but it bugs me that this issue has been turned into a Left/Right issue when I don’t think it is at all.

(As and aside:  Every time I write or hear the phrase “gun rights” my first response is a mental giggle and the thought “civilians aren’t allowed to own artillery pieces.”  I know that the colloquial usage of gun refers to any projectile firearm using explosives for propellant, but the military uses rather different definitions.  Definitions are important, and advocates on both sides of the debate deliberately skew the meanings of the words they use.)

With this entry I wanted to start weighing in on the gun debate, but I have way too much to say on the topic to encompass it all in a single post.  So this will be a topic that I will return to frequently.  Not the least because it is inextricable from a large number of related topics like violence, rights, self-defense, paranoia, demonization (or otherization) of groups, racism, inequality, differing ways of life, urban-rural divides, and a pronounced failure of our educational system in this country.

The particular failure of our educational system that I am going to focus on in this article is a lack of understanding of statistics.  This goes right in hand with the lack of scientific literacy our educational system produces.  Now, I am not claiming to be a statistical wiz, but I do want to promote a more critical attitude toward the reading of statistics.

An excellent example of the emotionally appealing, but misleading use of statistics is captured in an anti-gun image that I saw recently.  The picture was of a little blond girl holding a stuffed animal and a revolver with the caption “Guns kill twice as many kids as cancer.”  This may be true.  Since there was no source provided for the “statistic” it is hard to directly evaluate, but we can simply accept that the number is accurate for some given definitions of “guns,” “kids,” and “cancer.”  But the image and caption itself are very misleading, and so this blog entry is focused on looking at the idea that is presented by the image and the reality of what the image is claiming.

This is a great example of a statement that is true, but misleading.  Guns kill twice as many kids as cancer…  And swimming pools kill ten times as many kids as guns! (at least during ages 1-4, after that it's mostly cars).  The appeal of the claim is emotional, because everyone knows that cancer is a major killer in our society, so the idea that guns could be killing twice as many kids as cancer is horrifying.  But childhood cancers are very rare.  The rate of childhood cancer in 2003 was 14.8 per 100,000.  That equates to roughly 0.015% of children get cancer.  Of those children who get cancer a little over 10% die.  So let’s call that a rate of 1.5 per 100,000, or a 0.0015% chance that a given child will die of cancer.  That would mean that there is a 0.003% chance that an average child will die of a gun.  That actually seems a bit low to me, but that would be the claim made by the image.  (Links for this paragraph below)

Now, what I said about swimming pools is true.  Swimming pools kill a lot of kids.  But the primary time that they kill kids is when they are small.  The primary time that guns kill minors is when they are adolescents.  If you make it 0-19 and include suicide with a firearm and homicide with a firearm, then drowning kills half as many minors as firearms. Firearms are even responsible for 3/4 as many deaths as cars for 0-19's and almost twice as many as SIDS.

            If you want to see something really horrible and soul crushing look at this infosheet
 It makes it pretty clear that being Native is probably the biggest risk for early death by accident or suicide. And that by age 15 death by homicide is a third as likely as all forms of accidental death for all groups, which is very scary. The sheet doesn't include ethnicity info for homicide unfortunately, but if it did that would also tell a very sad story.

           The issues facing Natives are also true in Canada, but in Canada the difference between native and non-native rates is even more striking.  Since Native rates in Canada are comparable to the rates for Natives in the US, but not for non-natives.  For the rest of Canadians rates of death from accidents and homicide are way lower. I was a little surprised while watching the news this week in Canada that alcohol related driving deaths in Canada are 1/20 of the US, even though Canada has 1/10 the population. Even when it comes to drunk driving Canadians do twice as well as the US.

            But this blog entry is about guns, and people usually think about homicide (which is 35% of "gun deaths") when they think about guns.  Here we go, for youth homicide it's actually not worst to be Native in the US…

           If you break it down by mechanism it's even more dramatic. If you're young and white you're twice as likely to die of firearms than knives or other means, if you're Native chances are about even for guns and other forms, but if you're black you are 1125% more likely to die of gun violence than other forms of homicide.

           Here is an interesting article. Even though homicide is at one of the lowest historical rates in the US the reduction in homicide has not been uniform. Reduction in gun homicide has been slower than for other mechanisms, slower for males than females, and slowest for blacks. So if you are a white female you are safer from being stabbed or beaten to death than ever, but if you are a black male then you're shit outta luck

So when we look at the image that inspired this post, the image is of a little blond girl.  It suggests that little white girls are in serious danger from guns.  But the statistics do not bear that out.  One can assume well-meaning behind the use of a white girl and suppose that the idea was simply to present a child of the majority ethnicity when talking about gun deaths.  Or one could take a more cynical view and assume that the person who made the image assumes that people are not going to react as strongly to an image of a black boy.

I’ll write more on this topic, but this is a start.  This entry is already too long and rambling.  I’ll try to write more focused entries going forward.

Why "The Center Gnome"

I want this blog to be responsive, and the first questions I got were what the name means.  So I decided that I would go ahead and explain.

I call myself a Radical Centrist.  There are a few reasons for that.  First off, in the US these days centrism is a pretty radical stance to take.  I confuse a lot of people when they talk to me and run across some political point where we disagree. Frequently Liberal folks think that I am Liberal, and Conservative folks I talk to think I am Conservative.  This kind of confusion is also increased because I tend to fairly extreme positions on some issues, and my positions on wedge issues can seem random to some people.  The extremity of some of my views is why I call myself a radical.

Exactly what I mean by radical centrism should become clear over time as I write more entries.  Well, as long as I actually write intelligibly it should.

I find myself wanting to write a lot, but the baby is making that rather difficult the last couple days.  She seems to not want me to put her down, and it is hard to write a blog entry with one hand while laying down with a baby on ones chest.

The second part of the name is rather more whimsical.  I grew up in Nome, Alaska.  When I moved to Seattle in 1999 I was friends with a number of other people named Jon.  So people needed a way to distinguish me.  Thus the nickname Nome-Jon was born.  Some people confused the spelling and wrote it Gnome-Jon.  I thought this was a fun reversal of the misspelling in The Gnome from Nome, and it kind of made me the Gnome from Nome.  I've had fun with that name ever since.

And just in case I wanted to walk away from the Gnome nickname my friend Nate made that rather difficult when he found the Evil Gnome in Fallout: New Vegas.  It hides in a cave, and as you can see from my profile picture it actually does look kinda like me.
So, there you have it.  I am a Centrist Gnome from Nome, thus the Center Gnome.

P.S.  Also I thought that "Center Gnome"  was suggestive of "Metronome."  I liked the idea of subtly suggesting a device that keeps a steady beat.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Dangers of Divisive Politics

This next blog entry is basically just part of a conversation I was having with a friend, but I thought it would work as an entry. It is a response to a Foreign Affairs article (Foreign Affairs is a magazine that has been published since 1922 according to wikipedia ). The article seeks to shift blame for the ouster of a democratically elected government in Iran in the 1950's from the CIA and over onto MI6 and internal politics of Iran.

The article is rather long. You can listen to a recording of it, but the recording is 37 minutes long by itself. This gives you an idea of the length of the article. For me reading is much faster than listening, but it is nice that they have multiple options, especially if you are in a place where you spend a lot of time in your car.

I would like to provide what I would see as a balanced digest that provides external contextualization in order to illustrate biases for this article, but I really can't. I know very little about Iran, so my response to this article has very little to do with Iran. Feel free to read the article, but it is not necessary if you are more focused on my blog entry.

This article is very long, and I suspect quite slanted. I do not know enough about Iranian politics to form an opinion, but it does highlight a scary problem to me. People tend to look only at the nearby near-term effects of political maneuvers, but they can carry longer term generational effects. This article is about coups and counter coups and what Britain and America did when, but I can't help but think that all this stuff created a generation that was very distrustful of their institutions. It doesn't seem too surprising that when the generations born and raised in this environment became adults, the Shah was overthrown by people who claimed to have a good and godly plan.

The article seeks to shift blame for the ouster of the democratically elected Prime Minister away from the US. Without more information I couldn't really evaluate that idea, but to me the article certainly seemed to suggest that Western activities likely had a strong impact on the eventual ouster of the Shah and the formation of the Islamic Republic.
This is what really scares me about divisive politics in our country.  
I consider the success of our own democratic rebellion to be a miracle, but I fear that it only remains a miracle as long as people believe in it.  When you look around the world and at history it certainly seems that revolutions that result in better conditions and more freedom for the people who have revolted are exceptionally rare. By the standards of history I would argue that the Soviet Revolution in Russia and the Cultural Revolution in China were actually very successful. Considering how horrible things were for the citizens of those respective countries before their revolutions there certainly was marked improvement in the general standard of living. If you realize that most revolutions result in worse outcomes than Lenin and Mao, it makes our own revolution's outcome seem truly miraculous.
As politicians spend more time demonizing each other and less promoting common values it becomes hard to convince up and coming generations that the country is worth supporting. What keeps our country working is common values and the majority of people having a stake in the system. What will the long term ramifications of our current politics be in this country?
The left tells its constituents that they have no stake in the country. that all of the benefits of our society are going to the rich. The right warns that the left seeks to destroy Murkah! and that our only defense is supporting policies that reduce the broader population's stake in society. And of course both sides claim that the other is the devil. But this idea of two Americas, one red and one blue is creating a fertile ground for revolution. Not now, but in a generation or two. And who is going to lead that?
More important to me is what can be done to avoid that. I would like to see plenty of changes in our society, but I'm scared of what kind of attitudes our current politics are instilling in our youth. Despite our problems almost everyone in the US gets a pretty phenomenal share in our prosperity (as compared to history and the broader world). We are so prosperous that poor people are fat in this country. Poor people have cell phones and TVs. But if people are just being told that they aren't getting their fair share, or that the godless commies are coming to take their guns and property, then what is going to keep people believing that our country is worth supporting?

Monday, June 23, 2014

I've been threatening to create a blog for a long time

Alright, I've finally decided to actually start a blog.  I'm all full of opinions, but I don't like to use my facebook page to share them.  I wanted to create a blog that dealt with the things that I find most interesting, namely politics and archaeology.

I think that I have some interesting takes on a lot of issues, and I really want to do what I can to learn and clarify as much as I can about politics.  Unfortunately I have a lot of thoughts on a lot of topics, and that makes it hard to start with discreet ideas for blog articles.  Though, in all honesty, what has really kept me from writing a blog has been a combination of laziness and fear of no one reading.

I'm going to be a stay at home dad for most of the next year, starting today.  So I figured that now, today, is the optimal time to just start writing so that I can keep myself busy.  Plus, now instead of posting a long comment on someones status update I can just say, "Hey, I wrote a blog entry on this topic."

My guiding principle for talking about politics is that wedge issue politics are one of the gravest threats facing our country today.  People get very worked up about wedge issues, and they serve to psychologically divide our country into Us and Them.  I think that is a problem.  My goal is to try to find ways to discuss issues that doesn't divide the US into Us and Them, Red and Blue, Republican and Democrat, or Liberal and Conservative.