Archive for ‘politics’

September 27, 2013

The stalemate in Washington

by Neil Rickert

Frank Schaeffer, writing about the current political stalemate, says:

What the reality-based community, especially in our media savvy centers of intellectual life forget, is that a big chunk of our population has been groomed from birth to embrace delusional thinking.

Put it this way: you can’t understand who supports and voted for Senator Ted Cruz and the forty extremists in Congress holding the rest of us hostage, unless you first understand why the Creation Museum has so many enthusiastic visitors. When they are there they can learn how dinosaurs cohabited the earth with people and why the planet is only six thousand years old, sort of the scientific equivalent to claims that President Obama is a secret Muslim who was born in Kenya.

Until the root of myth-based political thinking is admitted and understood it can’t be addressed. Pointing out that the right lives in an echo chamber solves nothing. The point is why?

I recommend reading Schaeffer’s full post on the topic:


August 31, 2013

Stay out of Syria

by Neil Rickert

I rarely make political comments here, but it is time for an exception.  I was opposed to the invasion of Iraq, but I kept my view to myself.  This time, I will be more public.

There is no good reason for the USA to intervene in Syria.  There is no plausible good outcome.  We should stay out.

Some say that the use of chemical weapons must not go unpunished.  I agree that there is a plausible case for that argument.  But unless we are damned sure about which faction instigated the use of chemical weapons, we cannot use that as an excuse to intervene.

There’s an interesting analysis of the Syrian situation on Wolff’s blog.  I cannot vouch for its accuracy.  But it should remind us of how uncertain is our knowledge of the current situation.

April 22, 2013

Obese legislation

by Neil Rickert

Richard Posner, in a post about the proposed immigration reform, writes:

It is an unreadable 880 pages in length (legislation has become obese in tandem with the increasing obesity of the population).

Emphasis added, to highlight the part that I found both amusing and true.

February 24, 2013

Illinois public pensions

by Neil Rickert

Public pensions have been much in the news recently in Illinois.  This is largely because the state has serious budget problems, and part of those problems are pension related.

[Full disclosure:  I am currently receiving a pension from SURS – the State University Retirement System]

Some state politicians see the public pensions as too generous, and as a drain on the state budget.  So they want to cut pensions.  There are three kinds of cuts that have been suggested:

  • Cuts to people currently receiving pensions;
  • cuts to future pensions of current employees;
  • cuts to pensions of people hired in the future.

I have no problem at all with the third of those.  The state, as employer, can set whatever employment conditions it wants.  People are free to choose not to work for the state of Illinois if they do not consent to the working conditions.

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February 22, 2013

On the keystone pipeline – an opinion

by Neil Rickert

There has been a lot of discussion about the keystone pipeline, and whether approval should be given for its completion.  A number of environmental groups have been pressuring President Obama to reject the pipeline.


The pipeline would bring crude oil from Canadian tar sands to refineries in the USA.  Extracting oil from the tar sands is a particularly dirty operation, in terms of its effect on the environment.  Environmentalists point to the pollution that will be caused by extracting this oil.  And they remind us of the global warming problem as they argue for rejection of the pipeline.

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December 24, 2012

It’s off the cliff we go

by Neil Rickert

It is not yet quite certain, but with the recent turmoil in Washington, it seems almost inevitable that there will not be an agreement in time to avoid the fiscal cliff.

In my earlier short post on this topic, a commenter asked:

Why are Republicans considered to be digging in their heels on taxes (which is true), but nobody talks about the Democrats digging in their heels on spending?

I want to say a little on that topic.

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November 28, 2012

Go off the cliff

by Neil Rickert

Going of the fiscal cliff is not the best idea.  But, if the Republicans keep digging in their heels, it might be the best available idea.

Going off the cliff will establish a new baseline, from which negotiations should be easier.

November 22, 2012

The rationality of voting

by Neil Rickert

There are a couple of posts at the Becker-Posner blog about voting, and about the reasons that people vote:

Becker expresses the question with

This raises the very old question of why people vote in large elections when their chances of being a pivotal voter are virtually zero, and when voting takes time and is often inconvenient. The electorate is surely conscious of the cost to them of voting since, for example, turnout is usually much smaller when the weather is very bad. The common answer nowadays about this so-called paradox of voting is not that voters are irrational, but rather that they vote for reasons other than to influence outcomes. They may vote to indicate their moral support for particular candidates, or because they believe they express a precious right when they vote, or for other non-instrumental reasons.

In turn, Posner expresses his curiosity with:

The paradox of voting in national elections is that, since a single vote is almost certain to have no effect on the outcome (in a Presidential election, it will merely add one digit to an eight-figure number), there seems to be no benefit from voting. The cost is small enough (if it’s high for a person, he is unlikely to vote), but it’s positive, so that if the benefit of voting is zero the voter is being irrational. Yet, as Becker points out, more than 100 million people bothered to vote in the recent Presidential election.

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November 20, 2012

My advice to the Republicans

by Neil Rickert

The Republicans have not asked for my advice.  And I am quite sure that they will ignore any advice that I give.  Still, they do seem to be in a quandary, so I will offer my advice anyway.

I suppose I should be suggesting a 12-step program, but I will content myself with two steps:

  1. Adopt a pro-choice position on abortion.  This should actually be a no-brainer.  It fits with the traditional Republican view of favoring a small government.
  2. Welcome the log cabin Republicans into the party, and pay attention to what they say.  Decisions on gay marriage should, in the main, be left to the culture and not controlled by politics.  Again, this fits with the traditional Republican view of small government.

This will, of course, be a painful step.  The Republicans will lose those conservative evangelical Christians from their party base.  But that is actually the point of my suggestions.

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September 27, 2012

Obama for President

by Neil Rickert

I rarely post on politics.  That’s because most political discussions generate more heat than light.  However, President of the United States of America is an important office, where it seems appropriate to express my opinion.

Most of the readers of this blog have probably already guessed that I would support Obama.  They will know that I generally support positions that are based on evidence and reason, rather than on unproven ideology.

I’m an independent

I’ll start with a brief comment on my broad political views.  I think of myself as an independent.  That is, I am not committed to any political party.

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