Thursday, May 22, 2008


About Michigan and Florida

The results of the "elections" in Michigan and Florida do not show up in the delegate counts of Senators Clinton and Obama. In the case of Michigan, all Democratic candidates except Clinton removed their names from the ballot because the date of the election violated the rules set forth by the Democratic National Committee. The candidates' names stayed on the ballot in Florida. However, Senator Clinton campaigned in those States while Obama and the others did not. Naturally, she "won" the votes and now argues she is entitled to the delegates that these votes would justify.

Is she entitled to claim victories in the Michigan and Florida primaries? I don't think so. There was no campaign by the other candidates for votes in those two States. The other candidates accepted the rules laid down by the DNC. Clinton at first accepted these rules also, but now that she is behind in the delegate count she insists that delegations from these States be seated at the Convention in Denver.

"The plans of mice and men gang oft agley" according to Robert Burns. In October of last year, Senator Clinton was the clear front-runner for the Democratic Nomination. She had a highly effective fund-raising organization. She had the support of the great majority of elected Democratic officials nation-wide. The DNC catered to the desires of such States as California to hold their primaries early in the year so that they could be influential in the outcome of the candidate selection process. It was expected that Senator Clinton would win these early primaries and have a majority of delegates sewed up by some time in March. She would then have eight months in which to campaign against the Republican opponent. It was going to be a great year for her, a great year for women, a great year for Democrats.

Then the upstart from Illinois, Barack Obama, came along and spoiled it all. The Democratic nominee is not going to be known until next month at the earliest and perhaps not until the convention. The ultimate nominee will have only three months in which to campaign.

The primary contest this year has been a disaster for Hillary R. Clinton. She's run out of money and has had to lend her campaign several million dollars from her own wealth. It appears unlikely that she will be the nominee of the Party. She isn't handling defeat at all well. She insists that the people of Michigan and Florida have their votes count and be represented at the Convention. That's a noble thought, but no one has figured out how to represent these people fairly. It isn't fair to count the results of the early and "illegal" primary elections, not because they violated the DNC rule but because the other candidates didn't campaign in those States. In Michigan Democratic voters were given the choice of two groups of delegates: those pledged to Hillary Clinton and those not pledged to anyone. Michigan Democrats did not have the chance to vote for Obama, Edwards, Gravel, Kucinich, Dodd, or Biden. There is no way that simply admitting a slate of Clingon delegates and a slate of uncommitted delegates to the Convention is being fair to the Democrats of Michigan.

Mrs. Clinton would do herself a lot of good by graciously accepting the results of the voting in those States that followed the DNC rules.


Monday, May 19, 2008


Megan Meier

According to information I have, obtained from reading the newspaper, Megan Meier committed suicide after receiving bullying messages via internet from a person she believed to be a teen-age boy. The boy wasn't real; he was made up by several persons who knew Megan, including the mother of one of her classmates. The message that sent her to the closet to hang herself told her that she was evil, worthless, and that the world would be a better place if she weren't in it.

Naturally, there is an outcry against the mother, Lori Drew. Because Missouri doesn't have any law forbidding threats by internet, federal procecutors are filing charges against Lori Drew for violating certain rules governing internet communications. Both the parents of Megan Meier and members of the public who read about the affair are angry and want to see the perpetrators of the hoax punished.

Being a person of contrary nature, I want to find out a lot more about this affair before I blame Lori Drew. Did Megan herself send messages by internet that nettled and then angered the group of conspirators? Was the hoak perpetrated on Megan simply pay-back for something she had done? Is it reasonable to suppose that merely sending an insulting message to Megan would cause her to hang herself? This blog of mine is available to anyone with a computer and an internet connection. I receive insulting messages once in a while. I expect a lot more than I receive, because I know that my expressed opinions must anger a lot of people. It is inconceivable that I would commit suicide because of an insulting message, even one that invites me to hang myself.

Megan was led to believe that a handsome sixteen-year old boy was writing to her because he was interested in her. Undoubtedly she was flattered. Then, when he had her confidence, he sent the fatal message. Devastated, she hanged herself. That's the story that I gather from the news. I doubt that it's the whole story. I wonder what caused the conspirators, led by Lori Drew, to create the handsome boy.

Unfortunately, I may never know.

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Defense of Landlords

In the Opinion pages of the Los Angeles Times today (May 14) a writer asserts that rent control is a form of thievery. Rent control prevents a landlord from obtaining the highest possible income from his property. Hence, it amounts to stealing from the landlord.

Well, we have capitalism and one of the principles of capitalism is that a seller is allowed to sell his product to the highest bidder. In that way, according to orthodox economic theory, resources are allocated and used in the most efficient way. I think the theorists had in mind that the seller who obtains the highest price for his product has created a product of the best quality. I don't think the theorists had in mind the case of a seller with a rare product, one based on a natural material that is in short supply. [That's just one of my opinions, of which this blog is full.]

Location is the product in short supply. There is still plenty of vacant land, or of land that's being used in a way that provides only a low income to the owner. What's in short supply is a residence in a convenient location.

It seems to me [another opinion] that it is unfair to consider only the rights of the landlord and not the rights of the tenant. Both are entitled to the pursuit of happiness and government should intervene in cases in which the natural result of capitalism is to favor the rights of one over the other. The landlord has a right to obtain income from his property. The tenant has a right to have a place to live. Otherwise, how can he pursue happiness if he is homeless? The constitution does not place one right above the other. Hence, a compromise is needed to protect the rights of the weaker party in the transaction. Rent control laws allow the landlord to increase rent in a manner proportional to the inflation in the cost of living. It is presumed that the tenant is employed and receives increases in his salary commensurate with the cost of living.

It is not thieving to try to achieve a balance between the rights of one and the rights of another in a transaction. For example, a grocer does not have the right to sell me a defective product at the price of a good product. If the grocer offers overripe fruit or tainted meat, he is obliged to inform the buyers of the condition of the food. In some cases, he is not allowed to sell the product at all. This restriction certainly limits the potential profit the grocer could make if he were not required to provide the quality information. However, we do not consider that the restrictions amount to stealing from the grocer.

All of which leads to my conclusion: Vote NO on Proposition 98. If it passes, rent control laws will be phased out in California.

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Saturday, May 10, 2008


Whose Health Care Plan is Best?

Candidates Clinton, Obama, and McCain all offer plans to improve the existing health care system of our country. Clinton tries to achieve universal health care by simply requiring everyone to buy health insurance. Obama tries to make health insurance more affordable for low income residents. McCain offers the most radical proposal: decouple health insurance availability from employment and instead create insurance pools based on labor unions, organizations, and other definable groups.

I haven’t seen any details of McCain’s plan. I like the idea of separating health insurance from employment. I would like to believe that McCain’s advisors have in mind something like the system of health insurance of Germany. In Germany there are numerous insurance pools. An individual joins one of the pools and obtains health insurance. Because the pools are large, individuals can be insured without regard to pre-existing conditions.

I suspect that McCain’s advisors have not yet thought through the implications of their proposal. These pools should be operated with an incentive to provide needed and good quality medical care rather than an incentive to provide high dividends to share holders. Decisions about coverage should be made by medical experts rather than accountants. Pool managers should be rewarded according to the care paid for by the pool and not by the profit or the increase in the pool’s financial resources. It will take some thought to create such incentives for pool managers.

There are many things that McCain proposes doing if he becomes President. I oppose many of them. In particular, I oppose investing more lives and money in the Iraq project in the vain hope of eventual “victory.” I oppose making the Bush tax cuts permanent. Instead, the President and the Congress must be free to investigate any and all plans to reduce our growing national debt, if only to escape the situation in which all available revenue would have to be used to pay the interest. I oppose McCain’s presumed policy of appointing more ultra-conservatives to the federal courts. I have many reasons for voting against McCain this coming November.

However, I hope that whoever becomes President will take a close look at McCain’s proposal to create insurance groups that are not connected to employment. That looks like a good first step toward repairing our broken health care system.

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Thursday, May 08, 2008



There's a Jewish communicy center near my house and I pay for an annual membership, even though I'm not Jewish. One of the benefits of membership is a weekly lecture or seminar on history given by a retired history teacher. I have known this teacher for many years and regard him as a good friend.

Last week the topic of his lecture was ancient Greece. One aspect of Greek society that he dwelt on was democracy, a word that meant participation by the people or citizens of a city (the demos) in the government of the city. I had known from something I read years ago that the Greeks did not elect their officials. They chose them by lot. Hence, to the Greeks, democracy had no reference to the way in which officials are chosen.

We Americans like to believe that we have a democratic society. However, to us the term democracy refers to the method of electing our representatives, governors, and other public officials. Some of us who are more careful in the use of language insist that we have a republic, or a "representative form of government." In a republic, officials are elected and represent the voters who elect them in carrying out the debates and discussions regarding public policy.

It is an election year and I have been a phone volunteer for a candidate for the California Senate. At the beginning of a calling session I am given a list of names and phone numbers. I am to try to talk to each of the persons listed by telephone, tell them about the great things the candidate has done in the past, and persuade the listener to vote for the candidate in the election next month. My experience is that I am able to make fifty calls during a session. Forty of the calls reach an answering machine. I do not leave messages. I simply make a notation on the list that the person is "not home" and go to the next name.

Of the ten persons who are home and answer, I get various responses. One response is, "I don't talk to anyone about political matters" and the person then hangs up. Other responses are that "I know this person and am going to vote for her," or "I don't know this person," or "I know that this person is too liberal (conservative) and I won't vote for her." If the responder is undecided, I try to tell him or her about what the candidate has done and what she will do if elected. Sometimes I am successful in persuading a responder to decide to vote for my candidate.

Most Americans don't like to engage in phone conversations with callers like me who try to persuade them to vote for a particular candidate. A few responders show a keen interest in certain issues, sometimes issues that I haven't mentioned in the conversation. One responder wondered about my candidate's position on guns. Another was interested in universal health care. Another asked if my candidate approved or disapproved the governor's proposed cuts in education spending. These responders are engaging in talking about policy. That's what the Greeks meant by the word "demokratia." Another example of demokratia is attending a meeting with a member of the State legislature or the federal congress and participating in a lively discussion of some issue of interest. The object of the discussion is to persuade the representative to vote a certain way when the issue comes up in the legislature or congress.

In my phoning I am disheartened by individuals who refuse to talk to me about political matters. They are, in my opinion, very un- or anti-democratic.

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Thursday, May 01, 2008


Comment about Immigration "Reform"

I tend to wander in my thoughts and forget where I've been before. I probably wrote something about immigration reform some time ago. There was a proposal in Congress last year that had some support, including the support of President Bush. It would have provided a way for the six million or so immigrants in the country without visas or permanent residence permits to become legal residents or legal visitors. A minority of the members of Congress and a minority of the American public rose in anger at the thought of granting illegal aliens "amnesty." The only thing these people would consider was a law that would require the federal government to rounding up all six million of the illegal residents and sending them back to their countries of origin.

It sounds simple, fair, and just to send these people home. Doing it is not simple. We don't have in place any means of tracking these people - or any other people. The government doesn't know where they are. Most of them will not willingly reveal themselves. How is the government going to find them?

That's not a problem to the angry minority. All of these illegal residents look the same. They have dark skins. They speak Spanish. Just stop every dark-skinned person who speaks Spanish and verify his or her citizenship status. Those who are not citizens (i.e., have no proof of citizenship) or who do not possess valid visas or green cards are therefore illegally in the country and must be deported.

This is an example of a solution to a difficult problem that is simple, cheap, and wrong. The thing that's the most wrong with it is that Americans who are citizens do not carry with them proof of citizenship. I have lived in this country all my life and I have no such document. Somewhere I have a copy of my birth certificate. That doesn't prove that I am the person named on the certificate; there is no picture or fingerprint or footprint on the certificate. There is just the statement that "Albert Jackson Saur" was born in Kent County, Michigan on March 11, 1923 and his parents were Harry and Bessie Saur. My driver's license is also not a proof of citizenship. It does have my picture on it and it is a government document that proves that a person who looks like me is named Albert J. Saur and is licensed to operate a car in California. It also states that Albert J. Saur was born on March 11, 1923. Perhaps the combination of driver's license, the birth certificate, and my pale complexion would convince a federal agent that I was probably a citizen and not deserving of deportation.

In fact, since I have a pale complexion and don't speak Spanish, the federal agent would not challenge me at all.

If the angry minority would think about what I have just written, it would dawn on them that it is practically impossible to enforce our present immigration law. We have no legal and fair means of identifying those persons who are here illegally. Perhaps what the angry minority really want is to deport everyone who has a dark complexion and speaks Spanish. If so, they are guilty of bigotry, racism, and white supremacy.

The law would be easier to enforce if we in the United States would adopt a national identification system, with every citizen and every legal resident carrying an identity card with a picture, a finger print, or some other suitable means of identification. It would be legally required to have this identity card with us at all times and we would be legally obliged to show it to any police officer or any federal agent who asked to see it. Americans rightly resist atopting any such scheme. Absent a fool-proof identity card which every legal resident carries, there is really no way to round up the illegal residents.

What, then, is to be done? Without calling it amnesty, we would provide a way for an illegal resident to become legal. The person would pay a fine and would demonstrate that he or she has not engaged in criminal activity during his stay. The person would then receive a visa, good for a certain length of time, and which could be renewed if he or she continued to obey the laws. The person would also be required to have employment. The visa would permit the person to return to the country of origin to visit relatives and to return to the United States. I think that there should not be a requirement that the person apply for citizenship. However, there should be a path toward citizenship if the person wanted to follow it.

At least, this is my suggestion. It doesn't choke me to admit that it is very similar to President Bush's proposal. Like Rip van Winkle's clock, even Mr. Bush is correct occasionally.

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