Sunday, January 29, 2012

Voter ID an indictment of low expectations

In a townhall meeting held Saturday Jan 28, 2012 at Maplewood City Hall the issue of Voter ID was initially raised by Rep. Leon Lille.  Lille and Rep Nora Slawik did the usual labeling of this issue as a “Republican campaign for voter suppression”,
with Ted Lillie saying
“it polls well...I know what the Republicans trying to do” 
and Nora Slawik saying
“it is being called a voter suppression bill because it is a voter suppression tactic”. 
As a propaganda technique, a false analogy, it may have a lot of appeal, but it does not help with understanding, or reality.

Liberals often cite foreign countries case law as examples of why we should do similar things, which I always find a rather unconvincing argument.  Liberals often want to point to Europe’s democratic-socialist example, but here we find strong emphasis on ID

“According to a 1996 document by Privacy International, around 100 countries had compulsory identity cards[1]. The card must be shown on demand by authorised personnel under specified circumstances.”
So in this case it wouldn’t work very well, thus they fall back to the usual discrimination arguments.

From ABC
“I lose sleep over voter suppression,” said Rep. Steve Israel, D-NY. “I lose sleep over the fact that the Republicans have said and they are embarked on a strategy that could deny millions of voters their right to go to the polls and actually vote for a candidate.”

No Republican has ever said this, it is simply a falsehood, promoted as “faulty cause and effect” argument.  So if we can get past the argument to mischaracterize the discussion, we can look at some of the other arguments made.

From the video the participants stated:
From Rep Nora Slawik:
“Students out of state how do they vote...
Seniors if they are not driving anymore how are they going to do it, ...
Whose going to pay for it, there is a $20 million fiscal note on  voter id...
Battered women, how are they going to vote they don’t have an address, how are they going to do that.  So that’s, we, I think this is one where we’re going to disagree on.  And I think there’s two sides to every issue and we’re not all going to agree on everything, but this is likely to go to a constitutional amendment, and go to the people.”

A man who worked in the hospitality industry says he is concerned because people have id’s where they no longer match the photo on the card.  He also works with a homeless youth shelter and claimed that an
“election judge did not like her photo [on a passport], coincidentally he was a Caucasian she was African American, she was turned down and not allowed to vote because he did not like the photo on there...Talk to the college kids, its very easy for them to get photo ids that are false to be able to get into the bars.”

Another person (Woman no 1),
“the voter id fraud is really exaggerated, I agree with Representative Lillie there is a transportation issue not just with seniors but poor  people have a transportation issue.  I grew up poor and if we had to drive 15 miles to get an id to vote then we don’t vote.”

An elderly woman stated:
“I heard on radio that there are people who have never driven, never had an id, and to get it now they have to get their birth certificates, a marriage certificate, and a lot of them can’t  do that.  And my problem as an election judge, is not so much voter id identification, but I am not allowed to ask them if they are a citizen, and I’ve had voters come in that cannot understand  a word of English and I cannot ask them if they are a citizen. And I don’t believe, if your not a citizen you shouldn’t be able to vote either.  And drivers license, non-citizens can get.  And when they wanted to put a symbol on the license saying they were not a citizen there was such an uproar, oh, we can’t do that.  Well I think they should do it.”

Leon Lille tried to summarize with:
“In Minnesota we have some of the best run elections in this entire country, not that we can’t do a better job constantly by some of these suggestions, and continue to improve … but we have an amazing electoral system in this country, plus participation.  So its, um, you know, can it get better, yes, but I don’t really feel this  is the answer.”

A final followup (from Woman no 1) was
“the cost of the voter id,  all those things that she said you have to get, marriage license, you know those things cost too.  That’s like a poll tax, and the poor have no discretionary, no extra money, ok, they can’t afford it."

Addressing the issues of discrimination the analysis from one writer is

Wow! Talk about the soft bigotry of low expectations. Democrats across America have risen en masse to fight Voter ID laws. Their talking points all read in a depressingly similar fashion. The quote-zombies vary in location, gender and complexion, but if you just read their words, they all look the same to me. The Democratic Party’s argument against Voter ID is based upon voter contempt.

and from Dennis Prager
Democrats and others on the Left virtually unanimously condemned all Republican attempts in state legislatures to pass legislation requiring voters to show a photo ID. The Democrats labeled it a means of “disenfranchising” blacks. Many Democrats compared it to Jim Crow laws. “Jim Crow move over, the Wisconsin Republicans have taken your place,” charged Wisconsin Democratic state senator Bob Jauch, referring to his state’s new voter-ID law.
It is hard to imagine a more demeaning statement about black America than labeling demands that all voters show a photo ID anti-black.

So as an attempt to address or de-construct these arguments we will look at what current ID programs are and how they touch on these points for the poor and the elderly.  Are the requirements for ID really that burdensome, or are they really already every day requirements for life in our society?  Can you cash a check without id?  Can you go to the hospital (with the exception that emergency rooms cannot require an id or insurance to give service) or a doctors office? Can you file for welfare? Can you buy Sudafed without photo id?  Can you apply for a job?  The answer to all these is NO.

If you are currently employed, the new requirements, with broad bipartisan support, are eVerify.  This was a process I was required to go through last year as a condition of employment, even though I had 35+ years with the company.  The major problem was finding which was the magic number on the birth certificate to match federal records.
E-Verify enjoys broad bipartisan support, with reauthorization passing in the House of Representatives on July 31, 2008, by a vote of 407-2. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) endorsed a comprehensive immigration reform bill last year that reauthorized E-Verify, while in the Senate Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) made E-Verify a cornerstone provision in their comprehensive immigration reform bill. Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) also endorses E-Verify. 2 The entire federal government is using E-Verify. Eleven states require use of E-Verify in certain circumstances, including Arizona and Mississippi, which mandate use of E-Verify for all enterprises in the state. Only one state, Illinois, limits its use.

President Obama, by executive order required ID for contractors
Federal contractors and subcontractors are required to use E-Verify as of September 8, 2009. Executive Order 12989 mandates the electronic verification of all employees working on any federal contract. The amended Executive Order reinforces the policy that the federal government supports a legal workforce.

The poor already have the exact same requirement to apply for welfare.  Thus providing no new issue for voting. As seen as at WelfareInfo . org
How to Apply for a Welfare Program
To apply for a welfare program one must contact the local Human Service Department located in the government pages of the phone book. It may be listed as Human Services, Family Services or Adult and Family Services. An appointment is made with a case worker. The case worker will give a list of required documents needed at the appointment. Common documents asked for are proof of income, ID, and utility bills or other proof of residency.

For the elderly, the same requirements for ID documents exist to enroll in Medicaid (and Medicare)
Affordable Care Act of 2010 Expands Medicaid Eligibility in 2014
In order to be eligible for Medicaid, individuals need to satisfy federal and state requirements regarding residency, immigration status, and documentation of U.S. citizenship.
Requirements to get a Minnesota State issued ID
  • One secondary form of identification from this list of Identification Requirements (PDF 54kb)
  • Your social security number
  • If you are under 18 - a parent or guardian with proper identification

Secondary forms are one of:
  • Another primary document (like those mentioned in audience comments above)
  • Photo driver’s license, state identification card, or permit, issued by a U.S. state other than Minnesota, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, or a Canadian province or territory, that is current or expired for five years or less.
  • U.S. social security card (nonmetal) or Canadian social insurance card.
  • Certified birth certificate from a government jurisdiction other than the U.S., the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, or the U.S. Virgin Islands.
  • Certified government-issued marriage certificate.
  • Certified U.S. or Canadian court order with full name and date of
  • birth.
  • Certified secondary or post-secondary school transcript containing legal full name and date of birth.
  • and several others

None of these look to be unreasonable items to expect.  Every citizen (first requirement for voting) who has worked for any length of time already has a Social Security card issued to them.  That is one item on the secondary list.

An article at Newsbusters  (based on a Politico article) shows even the Unions require ID to vote in their elections,
Union Election Requires Photo ID; Politico Fails to Note Irony
The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) has given 99% of its campaign money to Democrats (according to, citing Democrats, including Obama administration Attorney General Eric Holder, who will be in Austin, Texas tomorrow supporting the rejection of voter-ID laws and, according to the Texas GOP, "NAACP plans to involve the United Nations on (sic) US elections," abhor the idea of making voters bring some form of photo identification to the polls.

For a look at the States with Voter ID requirements look here. It shows a broad range of state options for ID.  There are many states requiring ID.  With little evidence of voter suppression, but a lot of sound and fury from the Left.

They are running a series of tests in Kansas looking at Voter ID impact on turnout
Kobach and Lehman said they do not expect to see a drop in voter turnout because of the additional check-in requirement.
“For years, people when they come to the polls have asked why they don’t have to show ID,” Lehman said. “So I think that people who intend to vote will not be deterred by that at all.”

Citizens without a valid, government-issued photo ID may request a free non-driver’s identification card by filling out a form available at the Sedgwick County Commission office or at The forms will be available online after the first of the year, Lehman said.

As for the unfounded statement that there is “exaggerated fraud”, you have to look at what has been uncovered as a tip of the iceberg.  As in a Powerline article
Of course, liberals don’t explicitly come out in favor of voter fraud; rather, they argue that lax enforcement of election laws is no problem because voter fraud hardly exists.
The problem with this easy assurance is that we have no clear way to know how prevalent voter fraud is. By definition, those who perpetrate it seek to go undetected, and it is a circular argument to say that there is no need for better law enforcement because our current lax enforcement hasn’t caught many violators.

So what are known indications of voter fraud:
Minnesota Leads the Nation in Voter Fraud Convictions

Minnesota Majority  The Case for Investigation and Reform

CBS article
The secretly recorded video shows activists requesting ballots for recently deceased voters. In most cases, they receive the ballot with no questions asked.

HuffPo tries to dismiss this with citing a Patch article that really concluded
"Andino is not operating off of the same list (950+ voters) that was given to SLED for investigation," Communications Director Mark Plowden said in an email to Patch. "Until SLED has completed its work, no one will know anything. It is incredibly premature to take a list of six random voters from a single county and proclaim the case is closed."

Dead people voting in New Hampshire primary 2012 and covered on HotAir

OUTRAGE: Obama Officials Push Agents to ‘Rush’ Immigrant Visas – Even If FRAUD Suspected
So you have to ask yourself: why would the Obama Administration purposely loosen standards on granting immigration visas that are a proven national security threat?
Is this outright treason? Or just another illegal alien voter registration drive for “Obama 2012″?
To seek for election integrity is not “voter suppression”.  To say it is, is demagoguery of the worst ilk.  The spectre was raised and investigated for years in the Florida election results when the Democrats claimed fraud in the Bush-Gore election, with no real basis in fact.  After many recounts by many organizations, the results were always the same.  Election integrity is vital to assure that each persons vote receives the same consideration, and that we have faith that our leaders are duly elected. 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

SOPA, far more than an Internet Shutdown

Perhaps for many, the Wednesday Google, Wikipedia, and other organizations, self-imposed blackout of websites was the first time you heard  about SOPA and PIPA.  That demonstration only addressed the technical problems argument of the debate to address online piracy.  SOPA implements their strategy by altering DNS, the way we find sites by human readable names, to take down a site.  The demonstration was enough to make staunch allies of MPAA and the Hollywood moguls, like Rep Betty McCollum and Barack Obama (well his aides), wither and declare they would no longer support it. “But the heightened awareness – or lack thereof – failed to reach Minnesota’s own Senators Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar who are co-sponsoring SOPA’s sister bill, PIPA”. Klobuchar, who appear taken aback by opposition, has received $200,000 financial support from the entertainment business interests that backed PIPA, and Franken has raised more than $900,000.  However the technical side of the argument, which was given short shrift, like the tip of an ice berg ignores even larger issues - freedom of speech for all of us.

The ability to take down and deny free expression to any web site/blog, essentially criminalizing them, by simply finger-pointing will have an instant and complete chilling effect.  It would silence much of the content in online newspapers,  journals, blogs, or any site that uses video clips and citations from other sites.  Here are several quotes (something I probably could not do as “fair use” under SOPA/PIPA) that explain this issue.

From The Internet piracy bill: A free speech 'kill switch'
Consider this: Under the proposed legislation all that’s required for government to shutdown a specific website is the mere accusation that the site unlawfully featured copyrighted content.  Such an accusation need not be proven – or even accompanied by probable cause. All that an accuser (or competitor) needs to do in order to obtain injunctive relief is point the finger at a website.

TedCarnahan com
Imagine a tool like this used as a pretense to silence political opponents.  A site torn down by SOPA might be offline for months while the procedure for reinstatement is followed.

SOPA - Why You Should Be Very Afraid
If SOPA passes and is signed into law, this Blog, and tens of thousands of others used to express free speech will go away, or be severely curtailed. This Blog would become text only, with no links, photos, or embedded content whatsoever. I couldn't post a photo, unless I knew exactly who produced it and had their explicit permission to reproduce it. I couldn't link to a YouTube video, because I would have no way of guaranteeing that no one along the chain had any claim to a copyright. What would be the point then?

The Washington Current
The chief bipartisan opponents of the bill, including Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), say they are committed to fighting online piracy. However, they and others contend the current legislation is overly broad and could allow the federal government to shut down entire websites without recourse.

Google and First Amendment scholars like Harvard’s Lawrence Tribe argue that SOPA would squelch free speech by giving private parties power to effectively cripple sites that allegedly — but not conclusively — steal copyrighted content. The simple filing of a complaint, they say, would exert huge pressure on the Internet ecosystem to blacklist an accused site. They also say it would give the feds dangerous new powers to go after sites for political reasons.

Prescott eNews
Here's how these bills would work. Suppose someone, we'll call her Mary, claims her copyrighted material is on (fictitious) website without prior permission. The government could then shut down JoesInformation immediately, without any warning or opportunity for Joe to defend himself. Additionally, not only can Mary sue Joe in court, but the DOJ can also sue Joe in court.
However, these bills wouldn't protect against all copyright infringements. For example, when Ann Kirkpatrick's campaign took a video without permission from Prescott eNews to use in a commercial against her opponent Paul Gosar two years ago, the only final recourse was to spend thousands of dollars on a lawsuit in federal court.

Unquestionably, the Hollywood moguls have a right to protect their copyrighted materials from illegal distribution.  Piracy of their products is illegal and broadly prosecuted already, as evidenced by this weeks international take down of MegaUpload. But the enormously broad over reach of this approach, that would deny even fair use issues and discussion, will violate the free speech of virtually everyone, whether related to this issue or not.  It was pointed out to me that supporters arguments for this form of legislation look remarkably like the arguments for rent seeking on all discussion.
In economics, rent-seeking is an attempt to obtain economic rent  by manipulating the social or political environment in which economic activities occur, rather than by creating new wealth. For example, spending money on political lobbying in order to be given a share of wealth that has already been created. A famous example of rent-seeking is the limiting of access to lucrative occupations, as by medieval guilds or modern state certifications and licensures. People accused of rent seeking typically argue that they are indeed creating new wealth (or preventing the reduction of old wealth) by improving quality controls, guaranteeing that charlatans do not prey on a gullible public, and preventing bubbles.
The obvious criminal activity of the Chinese duplication industry, as one example, needs to be stamped out without question.   However the MPAA has long been an opponent of new technology, much like the great Chinese firewall, in misguided attempts to put curbs and barriers to viewing their product to prevent piracy. 
Wikipedia, MPAA'SJack Valenti
During the late 1970s and early 1980s, Valenti became notorious for his flamboyant attacks on the Sony Betamax Video Cassette Recorder (VCR), which the MPAA feared would devastate the movie industry. He famously told a congressional  panel in 1982, "I say to you that the VCR is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston strangler  is to the woman home alone."[6]  Despite Valenti's prediction, the home video market ultimately came to be the mainstay of movie studio revenues throughout the 1980s and 1990s.
The short-sightedness of MPAA’s Valenti hyperbolic argument and its ultimate falsity should have educated the MPAA and others to search for the gain to be made with new distribution technology of the Internet.   Netflix certainly has.  Economically attractive (there are very small costs compared to DVD production and distribution price of $20+), on demand viewing, of a vast library of films will certainly be their future.  Effectively crushing any significant rationale for piracy.

picture thanks to

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Fairness for some, or for all?

Fairness is the subject of much debate today.  How true to the traditional meaning of fairness do these discussions fall?

Fairness, is defined as the quality of having an unbiased disposition. It is the characteristic of being just to everyone, of treating them without discrimination or partiality. It is the absence of prejudice.

The concept of fairness seems too have a simple ring to it. Despite this, fairness stands for a complicated set of moral and practical principles informing us since childhood. Consequently, fairness presents knotty problems in application. 

Democracy is based on the principle of equality and freedom.  Everyone is treated with the same rules and laws, and free equal opportunity in their pursuit of happiness.

Communism/Socialism is a political ideology that is based on a common ownership, mainly concerned with equality and fairness. Fairness is expressed as equal outcome.  Despite dramatic distinctions between the have and have not's under communism, adherents like the 1% continue to use this as their defining term for fairness.  Yet the fact that it never worked out that way in reality, deters them not at all. It is a path that quickly leads to disappointment, mediocrity, class warfare, and envy (the desire to take the possessions from others).

The main obstacle in the pursuit is the simple fact that ability, motivation, charisma, leadership, work ethic, appearance, and innumerable other abilities, skills are not equally existent in each person.  So to expect equal outcome is as much a fantasy as no one losing in the lottery.  Sorry, Phyllis Diller was never equally beautiful as Rita Hayworth.  Though ultimately she was probably as happy and successful in the appearance dominated Hollywood, possibly even more so.  Equal provision does not dictate equal outcome, nor does unequal provision dictate unequal outcome. 

One writer expressed it as
It might be thought fair to give everybody the same provisions, whether they worked for them or not, such as socialist systems try to do, to be fair to everybody.  This overlooks the production of wealth and maintenance, which depends of motivation and reward.
This issue arose in a Betty McCollum townhall discussed in an earlier article.  A man in the audience essentially voiced the view that all profits are made by stealing the money from labor of the worker “Which by the way is mostly our money! Its not the money of the rich, and its not the money of the corporations!”.  Rep Betty McCollum did little to disagree, and redirected, or equating, to a discussion on tax cuts.  The reality is that ultimately, without the corporation or the entrepreneur, those like that man would probably have neither job nor income, and the government nothing to tax and redistribute as Betty McCollum appears to promote (which is not a democratic governments responsibility anyway, but charity is another discussion).  Wealth is not a finite resource to be equally divided. It is something created anew by the ideas and sacrifice of those who create a product or service business.  Others participate in it by either risk investing or by agreeing to work for a no risk-no sacrifice salary (please, that is not to say that personal hazards do not exist, its that they have no particular fiduciary risk involved, they are guaranteed their salary).  There is a parable in the Bible where those who had agreed to a certain payment were grumbling that they were given the same pay after a days work as those who began work in the last hour [this is a parable about faith, but expressed in the context of wages for labor as a concrete example].
Matthew 20:13-15
And the landowner replied to one of them, “Friend, I am not treating you unfairly. Didn’t you agree with me to work for the standard wage? Take what is yours and go. I want to give this last man the same as I gave to you. Am I not permitted to do what I want with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?

As Charles Krauthammer declares
Obama is a leveler. He has come to narrow the divide between rich and poor. For him the ultimate social value is fairness. Imposing it upon the American social order is his mission.

This redefinition of fairness to the current “economic fairness” could perhaps be more based on envy and the negative human tendency to want tear others down so “no one should have more than me”.  No where is this more clear than in the 1% arguments that have been looking to crushingly tax one small group of citizens versus another.  Equal, un-prejudiced, treatment? Its sad that so many seem to agree.

A political pressure group, “Courage Campaign,” which wants to raise California’s top tax rate from 10.3%, has come out with a video arguing that Kardashian is paying way too little tax. Kim Kardashian was certainly chosen for the comparison because as a woman who appears to make a living as a professional dilettante she will engender little or no sympathy or consideration for “fairness”. Emotions will say “stick it to her”, smackdown.

In paraphrasing a article:

Their claim is that “Kim Kardashian made more than $12 million in 2010, but she only paid 1% more in taxes than a middle-class Californian”, earning, they estimate, $47,000 [in reality, census numbers show its $59000]. A claim of minimal truth and maximal misrepresentation.

The minimal truth is that the marginal tax rate, the percentage paid on income above $46,766 is 9.3% and the rate above $1 million is 10.3%, thus stating there is a difference of 1%.  But truth ends there.  The maximum misrepresentation is that while the middle-class family only paid $2,200 for an effective of 4.7%, Kardashian paid about $1.23 million in state taxes. Making reality 56,000% more in real state taxes than a middle-class Californian.  Bottom line? If including Federal Tax tables, Kim Kardashian pays $5 million in taxes, and the middle-class person pays $9,600, Kardashian has paid 52,000% more in taxes. Even using their respective effective tax rates Kim Kardashian would be paying about 42% of her income in taxes, the $47,000 middle-class family would be paying 20%, considerably more than a 1% difference. These are the debate style calculations used to create their point.  Its unlikely that either party would really pay the straight table based tax.  Many middle class people would probably pay far less after 401k, and other deductions, as potentially could Kardashian.  Some of the middle class might pay nothing, or even get government payments.  But ultimately the comparison will almost certainly remain the same.

Sadly, despite this, or any, discussion, many will still see only the way of the 1%, and fairness as a tool they can distort to continue to spend other peoples money.  Justifying abdication of their own responsible participation and “paying their fair share” to support the Nation.