Tools from Carl Sagan’s BS Detection Kit

We are in an age of hyper-information/persuasion/spin about all aspects of our lives, from what we eat, to what we buy, to what we attend, to whom we choose as leaders.  Now, as always, we can benefit from screening the inputs to our lives, and weighing our beliefs on a scale of clarity, and verity.  Carl Sagan gave us some sage tools to evaluate and detect fallacies of arguments, and false claims.  After the quote, I will try to translate, without bias, his precise language, and references, into reasonably understandable terms.

A. Evaluate Ideas to Approach the Truth:

  1. Wherever possible,there must be independent confirmation of the “facts.”
  2. Encourage substantive debate on the evidence by knowledgeable proponents of all points of view.
  3. Arguments from authority carry little weight — “authorities” have made mistakes in the past. They will do so again in the future. Perhaps a better way to say it is that in science, there are no authorities; at most, there are experts.
  4. Spin more than one hypothesis. If there’s something to be explained, think of all the different ways in which it could be explained. Then think of tests by which you might systematically disprove each of the alternatives. What survives, the hypothesis that resists disproof in this Darwinian selection among “multiple working hypotheses,” has a much better chance of being the right answer than if you had simply run with the first idea that caught your fancy.
  5. Try not to get overly attached to a hypothesis just because it’s yours. It’s only a way station in the pursuit of knowledge. Ask yourself why you like the idea. Compare it fairly with the alternatives. See if you can find reasons for rejecting it. If you don’t, others will.
  6. Quantify. If whatever it is you’re explaining has some measure, some numerical quantity attached to it, you’ll be much better able to discriminate among competing hypotheses. What is vague and qualitative is open to many explanations. Of course there are truths to be sought in the many qualitative issues we are obliged to confront, but finding them is more challenging.
  7. If there’s a chain of argument,every link in the chain must work (including the premise) — not just most of them.
  8. Occam’s Razor. This convenient rule-of-thumb urges us when faced with two hypotheses that explain the dataequally well to choose the simpler.
  9. Always ask whether the hypothesis can be, at least in principle, Propositions that are untestable, unfalsifiable are not worth much. Consider the grand idea that our Universe and everything in it is just an elementary particle — an electron, say — in a much bigger Cosmos. But if we can never acquire information from outside our Universe, is not the idea incapable of disproof? You must be able to check assertions out. Inveterate skeptics must be given the chance to follow your reasoning, to duplicate your experiments and see if they get the same result.
  1. Avoid Common Pitfalls of Common Sense

Just as important as learning these helpful tools, however, is unlearning and avoiding the most common pitfalls of common sense. Reminding us of where society is most vulnerable to those, Sagan writes:

In addition to teaching us what to do when evaluating a claim to knowledge, any good baloney detection kit must also teach us what not to do. It helps us recognize the most common and perilous fallacies of logic and rhetoric. Many good examples can be found in religion and politics, because their practitioners are so often obliged to justify two contradictory propositions.

He admonishes against the twenty most common and perilous ones — many rooted in our chronic discomfort with ambiguity — with examples of each in action:

  1. ad hominem— Latin for “to the man,” attacking the arguer and not the argument (e.g., The Reverend Dr. Smith is a known Biblical fundamentalist, so her objections to evolution need not be taken seriously)
  2. argument from authority(e.g., President Richard Nixon should be re-elected because he has a secret plan to end the war in Southeast Asia — but because it was secret, there was no way for the electorate to evaluate it on its merits; the argument amounted to trusting him because he was President: a mistake, as it turned out)
  3. argument from adverse consequences(e.g., A God meting out punishment and reward must exist, because if He didn’t, society would be much more lawless and dangerous — perhaps even ungovernable. Or: The defendant in a widely publicized murder trial must be found guilty; otherwise, it will be an encouragement for other men to murder their wives)
  4. appeal to ignorance— the claim that whatever has not been proved false must be true, and vice versa (e.g., There is no compelling evidence that UFOs are not visiting the Earth; therefore, UFOs exist — and there is intelligent life elsewhere in the Universe. Or: There may be seventy kazillion other worlds, but not one is known to have the moral advancement of the Earth, so we’re still central to the Universe.) This impatience with ambiguity can be criticized in the phrase: absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.
  5. special pleading, often to rescue a proposition in deep rhetorical trouble(e.g.,How can a merciful God condemn future generations to torment because, against orders, one woman induced one man to eat an apple? Special plead: you don’t understand the subtle Doctrine of Free Will. Or: How can there be an equally godlike Father, Son, and Holy Ghost in the same Person? Special plead: You don’t understand the Divine Mystery of the Trinity. Or: How could God permit the followers of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam — each in their own way enjoined to heroic measures of loving kindness and compassion — to have perpetrated so much cruelty for so long? Special plead: You don’t understand Free Will again. And anyway, God moves in mysterious ways.)
  6. begging the question, also called assuming the answer (e.g., We must institute the death penalty to discourage violent crime. But does the violent crime rate in fact fall when the death penalty is imposed? Or: The stock market fell yesterday because of a technical adjustment and profit-taking by investors — but is there any independent evidence for the causal role of “adjustment” and profit-taking; have we learned anything at all from this purported explanation?)
  7. observational selection, also calledthe enumeration of favorable circumstances, or as the philosopher Francis Bacon described it, counting the hits and forgetting the misses (e.g., A state boasts of the Presidents it has produced, but is silent on its serial killers)
  8. statistics of small numbers— a close relative of observational selection(e.g., “They say 1 out of every 5 people is Chinese. How is this possible? I know hundreds of people, and none of them is Chinese. Yours truly.” Or: “I’ve thrown three sevens in a row. Tonight I can’t lose.”)
  9. misunderstanding of the nature of statistics(e.g., President Dwight Eisenhower expressing astonishment and alarm on discovering that fully half of all Americans have below average intelligence);
  10. inconsistency(e.g., Prudently plan for the worst of which a potential military adversary is capable, but thriftily ignore scientific projections on environmental dangers because they’re not “proved.” Or: Attribute the declining life expectancy in the former Soviet Union to the failures of communism many years ago, but never attribute the high infant mortality rate in the United States (now highest of the major industrial nations) to the failures of capitalism. Or: Consider it reasonable for the Universe to continue to exist forever into the future, but judge absurd the possibility that it has infinite duration into the past);
  11. non sequitur— Latin for “It doesn’t follow” (e.g., Our nation will prevail because God is great. But nearly every nation pretends this to be true; the German formulation was “Gott mit uns”). Often those falling into the non sequitur fallacy have simply failed to recognize alternative possibilities;
  12. post hoc, ergo propter hoc— Latin for “It happened after, so it was caused by” (e.g., Jaime Cardinal Sin, Archbishop of Manila: “I know of … a 26-year-old who looks 60 because she takes [contraceptive] pills.” Or: Before women got the vote, there were no nuclear weapons)
  13. meaningless question(e.g., What happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object? But if there is such a thing as an irresistible force there can be no immovable objects, and vice versa)
  14. excluded middle, or false dichotomy — considering only the two extremes in a continuum of intermediate possibilities (e.g., “Sure, take his side; my husband’s perfect; I’m always wrong.” Or: “Either you love your country or you hate it.” Or: “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem”)
  15. short-term vs. long-term— a subset of the excluded middle, but so important I’ve pulled it out for special attention (e.g., We can’t afford programs to feed malnourished children and educate pre-school kids. We need to urgently deal with crime on the streets.  Or: Why explore space or pursue fundamental science when we have so huge a budget deficit?);
  16. slippery slope, related to excluded middle (e.g.,If we allow abortion in the first weeks of pregnancy, it will be impossible to prevent the killing of a full-term infant. Or, conversely: If the state prohibits abortion even in the ninth month, it will soon be telling us what to do with our bodies around the time of conception);
  17. confusion of correlation and causation(e.g., A survey shows that more college graduates are homosexual than those with lesser education; therefore, education makes people gay. Or: Andean earthquakes are correlated with closest approaches of the planet Uranus; therefore — despite the absence of any such correlation for the nearer, more massive planet Jupiter — the latter causes the former)
  18. straw man— caricaturing a position to make it easier to attack (e.g., Scientists suppose that living things simply fell together by chance — a formulation that willfully ignores the central Darwinian insight, that Nature ratchets up by saving what works and discarding what doesn’t. Or — this is also a short-term/long-term fallacy — environmentalists care more for snail darters and spotted owls than they do for people)
  19. suppressed evidence, or half-truths (e.g., An amazingly accurate and widely quoted “prophecy” of the assassination attempt on President Reagan is shown on television; but — an important detail — was it recorded before or after the event? Or:  These government abuses demand revolution, even if you can’t make an omelette without breaking some eggs. Yes, but is this likely to be a revolution in which far more people are killed than under the previous regime? What does the experience of other revolutions suggest? Are all revolutions against oppressive regimes desirable and in the interests of the people?)
  20. weasel words(e.g., The separation of powers of the U.S. Constitution specifies that the United States may not conduct a war without a declaration by Congress. On the other hand, Presidents are given control of foreign policy and the conduct of wars, which are potentially powerful tools for getting themselves re-elected. Presidents of either political party may therefore be tempted to arrange wars while waving the flag and calling the wars something else — “police actions,” “armed incursions,” “protective reaction strikes,” “pacification,” “safeguarding American interests,” and a wide variety of “operations,” such as “Operation Just Cause.” Euphemisms for war are one of a broad class of reinventions of language for political purposes. Talleyrand said, “An important art of politicians is to find new names for institutions which under old names have become odious to the public”)

Like all tools, the baloney detection kit can be misused, applied out of context, or even employed as a rote alternative to thinking. But applied judiciously, it can make all the difference in the world — not least in evaluating our own arguments before we present them to others.”

 

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Part 3 of 3: Common Mistakes You Can Avoid

I want to give Shannon Thrasher, The Tactical List Contributor credit for these ideas.  https://www.policeone.com/police-products/firearms/training/articles/7391346-10-common-mistakes-in-self-defense-firearms-training/

A gun owner can be ignorant, inexperienced, misguided, or naïve & still pass the requirements for a concealed carry license. Another scary thought. Mistakes & misunderstanding interfere with responsible carrying of guns.

The last thing we want is a bumbling gun owner in a deadly, public encounter.  Those who choose to carry a gun should avoid the most common training errors that professional instructors point out.

Not Pre-Qualifying Instructors

You do not want to master any bad habits, or make serious mistakes about firearms.  Find competent, knowledgeable instructors. Check instructor’s references. Talk with people who have taken the class you’re thinking of attending.  Training others is a separate, special skill beyond owning guns or being a police officer.

High Student-Teacher Ratio

Individual training & coaching is ideal but expensive. Taking group courses is the most cost effective path.  They can be valuable if there are enough assistants to provide a safe, effective learning environment. If there are 20 or 30 students in the class should have 5 or 6 assistant instructors or range safety officers present.

Wrong Training

Soldiers & police train for specific deadly environments. Being an armed citizen is different. Civilians need tactical training for the types of situations they might encounter in an otherwise safe, peaceful life; they need to know exactly what constitutes a threat that warrants lethal force, & how to responsibly employ that force when needed. This is not marksmanship training; it is situational combat training.

Wrong Gun or Caliber

Determining the right gun requires assessment of factors including body size, hand size, experience, & most importantly, your intentions.  Expert advisors will go through all the variables & arrive at a range of choices to try out before you choose.

Not “Dry-Firing”

Save money & learn safely, without the distraction of extremely loud noises & recoil you experience at the range.  “Dry-Firing,” uses dummy bullets with no potential harm to let you practice your techniques at home.  Live firing is aversive because of the unconscious anticipation of an explosion about to happen in your hand.  Strictly range shooting can cause you to develop flinches, jerks, & eye clinches that diminish accuracy. Dry-firing lets you learn how to hold & fire a gun correctly & smoothly without the trauma.  It also saves numerous outings that could cost $20 – 40 of ammunition plus range fees, each time.  Most expert instructors recommend 85% dry-fire & only 15% live fire.

Stuck with Narrow Training

One class with one instructor may leave you with just a few things to practice.  It is good to put those things in “muscle memory” with rigorous practice.  But what about the other things you do not know that you need to know to progress as a gun-carrying citizen?  Do not get stuck in the first grade.  Shop around for other qualified trainers who can teach you something new.

Target Shooting vs. Lethal Force Encounter

Shooting at stationary targets at the range cannot prepare you for adrenaline charged situations where the threat will be trying to hurt or kill you; you may never get the chance to learn & practice your response, if you’re not prepared beforehand. Continue learning & practice the skills you would need in the real world, like running away, moving laterally, taking cover, concealment, drawing fully clothed, multiple targets, reloading, tactical shooting, weak-hand shooting, & using life-like targets.

No Force-on-Force Training

You should never see anything in a gunfight you have never seen before.  “Force-on-force” training is kind of like paintball fighting, using non-lethal Airsoft guns & gear.  This way you can experience shooting at bad guys who shoot back.  Force-on-force training will teach you to move, take cover, deal with different distances; it will also show you how important it is to avoid being shot & what to do if you do get shot.

Carrying only a Gun & a Holster

Think for a minute what else you would need in a gunfight:

  • At least one spare magazine.
  • A cell phone to call the police & your lawyer.
  • At least one less lethal weapon such a knife, pepper spray, or a TASER. You probably would not use them in a life-threatening situation, but prosecutors might claim you needlessly shot the criminal who attacked you because you had no other options.
  • A good flashlight will help with positive target identification. Most shootings occur in low light.

Not Carrying Your Weapon as Much as Allowed

 Unless you are psychic, you cannot predict when you will face criminal violence.  Once you are properly trained, wearing your gun should be “normal.”  You chose to be armed for self-defense of yourself, your family, & anyone who is threatened with deadly injuries.  You do not want to find yourself in an “oops,” situation without your weapon.

Proper training & rigorous practice is a must for gun owners.

 

The Revolution Is Here – Take It To Heart

In every revolution, the “intelligentsia,”are swept aside.  They represent an entrenched notion of superiority and upper class that would keep change within their purview for ever. They call anyone who is not aligned with them “ignorant.”

But Americans have developed a different model of “knowing” called “trending.”

Ignorance is what?  What does a person have to “know” to rise above ignorance? Over the past six decades, we Americans have gradually diluted and “re-purposed”public education to reveal a new role for our schools:  Day Care and fail-proof graduation.

BTW:  What we don’t know, we can, like, Google, right?  Like, the internet is a great source, right?  And, like, almost better than rumors.  And Twitter, hey.  Right?  It is not only right; it is right now!  Who needs to be smart when they have smart PHONES;)

Each generation allowed to drift away from personal responsibility and thoughtful challenge dims our future, and insults our past.  Then the child become the parent, their children become parents, ad nauseum.  There is a saying, “Wisdom comes with age.”  But apparently, sometimes, age comes alone.

What has come of the devaluation of deep education, and elimination of critical thinking/learning skills?  Is it fair to castigate an electorate that has been hoodwinked into accepting whatever their equally educated associates and self-proclaimed leaders tell them?

What do we expect from uber-indulged offspring, un-chaffed by the requirements of self-reliance?  Why should we be surprised when 4th generation union laborers cry out in pain when their family traditions leave them without a clue or a paycheck?

We find ourselves in 2016, after wrenching damage to our smug image of ourselves as Americans with unlimited potential, who need only show up to garner success.  The wounds inflicted by 9/11 are still with us after 15 years of missteps in response.  We have tried to deny the damage; we have launched counterattacks on the phantoms of suicide using oceans of borrowed money to fund distant wars with professional warriors; we have salved our pain with money borrowed to buy homes and the trappings of wealth against a mirage of future prosperity; we drowned in the aftermath of deluded excess; we barely made our way back to the shores of reason and a semblance of recovery.

Now, we use deceitful yardsticks to measure our return to Camelot.  Empty words like “employment” when a person finally finds a job at 60% of their former pay.

We make false implications like “college education” when a barely literate and numerate high school “graduate” borrows the price of a new home to learn to read, write, and use a computer; then, the search for work that will pay the student loans, while the “college graduate,” either stays in the family basement, or shares desperate apartment space with like-indentured contemporaries.

When I say “we,” I mean our shackled culture.  We have been fooled into believing what we are told, minding our “political correctness,” and allowing mobs to control our justice system when, the results do not satisfy them.  We have allowed loud minorities of no more than 3-5% of our population to direct our legislatures and judiciaries to give them control and sanctions over the rest of our society.  We have succumbed to the notion that Americans have to allow others to flaunt our laws, treaties, and alliances because we should never stand firm, confront evil, or fight dirty.

The idealized America of the past was pretty hard-nosed, and seldom a patsy for, “that’s not NICE.”  Our heroes were tough guys who would not stand for threats or false promises.  Somehow we believe we are still tough when we are just the opposite.

The social organizers, the media and professional politicians have informally colluded to keep Americans in their recliners, consumers of what they conjure, passive observers of life in America.

But we all have our limits, and when those limits are breached, we get up and fight the bullies who have tried to keep us under control with their well-honed rules.  Both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are appealing to the Americans who have suffered and who see not relief, but more suffering.  They are mad as hell, and they are not going to take it anymore.

Even if these gladiators are martyred by “the System,” they have awakened those who have let things go too long.  These revolutionaries will not accept sophisticated “ideas” or convoluted promises; they want palpable relief.  They want to push the buttons, and pull the levers, and see results that make a difference.

Truth Is, Neither Political Party Has Real Solutions – Unsolved Problems Equal Unrivaled Political Power

Have you noticed how much time and blather are lavished on inventing and enlarging problems, blaming, and shaming the “other” for causing, maintaining, expanding and taking advantage of problems?  Have you paid attention to how little or no time is invested in compassionate, cooperative, thoughtful, creative ideas?  Have you noticed how little time is spent pursuing sometimes simple obvious solutions, and strategies to reduce divisiveness, or resolve negative issues?

That is because “Problems = Power” in politics – especially perpetual & perpetuated problems.

What is a problem?  Think about it – a problem is a perception, a belief, a concept, an idea, a puzzle, a construct that proposes that an obstacle, a burden, a threat, or a harmful condition exists for a person or group of people.

The word “problem” also implies that a “solution” or “answer” or “proof” is available.

If you want political power:

  • Define a “problem” and declare a solution is available.
  • Proclaim yourself the champion of a particular social, financial, cultural pain for which you have the answer.
  • Stand up as the leader who will right a present, past, or future wrong.
  • Convince others that you are a spearhead who will break the hold of nefarious conspiracies on the throats of the weak, disadvantaged, and marginalized.

The basic strategy appears to be:

  • Maintain and emphasize the “problem” to your intended constituency.
  • Complain publicly, and produce anecdotal, sometimes rare examples of the “problem,” victims, or damage.
  • Blame someone else for creating, expanding; and perpetuating the “problem.”
  • Berate anyone who could or could have, should or should have solved the “problem.”
  • Propose a law so someone else has to stop it, fix it, or pay for it.
  • Promise that, if elected, you will fight it, expose it, or make it “fair.”
  • Make emotional accusations that others intentionally cause the “problem” for their benefit.
  • Stir up anger and hatred for groups, classes, or nations accused of causing, imposing, or withholding solutions for the “problem.”

But do not, under any circumstances, actually do anything to solve the problem systemically because, when you solve the problem, you lose the power created by the problem.  (that is, if there really is/was /were a problem.)

Some statements sound like problems, but they are really just statements.  For example, I remember hearing:

  • “The poor will always be with us.”
  • “How much better is it to acquire wisdom than gold! and to acquire understanding is worthmore than silver!”
  • “Thethings you own end up owning you.”

Other “problems” are invented and protected, such as the “problem” of requiring a photo ID.

First, has anyone, besides me, ever been in another country?  Everyone, citizens, residents, & visitors must have “papers” such as passports, or else you go to jail or get deported, period.  Often, proof of birth is not on record, but the governments know this and have methods of dealing with it.  Guess what? – people get and keep IDs.

Second, we live in a culture of ubiquitous identity verification requirements.  How does anyone live in the USA without government issued ID?  We need ID’s to receive, record, do, buy, or operate anything worth receiving, recording, doing, buying, or operating.  Here are some examples:

  • Paychecks (job application & check cashing)
  • Social security checks (benefit application & check cashing)
  • Credit purchases
  • Food Stamps (benefit application & purchasing)
  • Unemployment (benefit application & check cashing)
  • Welfare (benefit application & check cashing)
  • Home & auto titles
  • Insurance
  • Marriage
  • Birth
  • Divorce
  • Buying alcohol
  • Driving
  • Attending school
  • Getting medical care
  • Internet purchases
  • Electricity
  • Sports events
  • Buying stupid stuff advertised on TV for $19.95, (but wait – order now &..)
  • And much, much more

Oh, I forgot, with everyone taking “selfies” these days, that means they have a smartphone, and the related bills.  They are also creating photo IDs on the internet.  So who is left?  The Disabled, the Aged, the Homeless, the Poor?

Why haven’t their family, or friends, or social workers, or political party members taken them to the Department of Motor Vehicles, or the Post Office, or wherever they need to go to get an ID?  The fact that the photo will be atrocious should not daunt you.  The ultimate ID is a US passport, good anywhere in the world.  Next is a driver’s license or a non-driver’s ID from the state.

Obviously, the first step is a census, a list of people who do not have an ID.  The opponents of having an ID seem to know who they are; so prove it; produce the list.  Then solve the problem instead of complaining.

Third, where photos are required, couldn’t we just have cameras, or smartphones to take pictures of people who have none (duh)?  For example, have digital cameras to take photos of any who wants to vote, but has no ID.  Email the picture, name, address, and phone number to a secure central server.  If there ever is a problem or doubt, you have the data to answer any questions. I’ll bet the pictures would come out better than the Department of Public Safety, or Department of Motor Vehicles, or, heaven forbid, Department of Corrections.  This data could also be used to create a photo ID, once verified.

Fourth, isn’t getting a photo ID something that lasts once you get one, or only requires renewal every few years?  If you average out the yearly cost of having a photo ID, it should be affordable (maybe $5-10 per year, at most).

I mean, if you knew Aunt Betty did not have a photo ID, couldn’t you help her get one as a 50th birthday present?  Also, if a political party wanted supporters to vote, couldn’t they spend some small fraction of the millions of dollars they raise to get them ID’s?  Naahh!  Just let the problem ride, and keep the power so you can accuse, complain, and litigate again next year.  Oh, and take the “problem” to the Supreme Court to make it permanent.

But, this is just one example.  Let’s think about how politicians develop strategies around problems.  What is missing, or mislaid?

  1. Avoid Problem Analysis – Strategy: generalize, exaggerate, fabricate, and avoid any details and real research.

Ask yourself, would the protestations of ANY of the current candidates for President solve ANY of the serious pains Americans are suffering?  All I have heard are mission statements, results promises, and slogans.  Oh, I forgot, blame, & snide ad hominem bombs hurled like fireworks into the air, never to land; entertaining, reinforcing, & useless.

  1. Avoid Solution Analysis – Strategy: poor math, blur the subject, blame obstacles, avoid saying who would really pay.

Has anyone heard of a workable tax/spend plan that would actually produce the stated result, in practice?  It must be out of fashion to think things through; for example, “Tax the Rich” probably won’t work, when we wiggle the definition of “rich,” and forget that people do not stand still for painful government actions.  They either stop the taxable behavior, or substitute non-taxable behavior, or cheat.  “Do Not Tax the Poor” is a problem when the definition of “poor” is feeble, and government spending exceeds the resources of everyone.

  1. Avoid Distinctions – Strategy: collapse specific meanings into general terms, confuse demographic groups by using the same words to describe different groups.

The most prominent example of this is the intentional, improper use of the word “immigrant.”  “Immigrant” means a person who is a citizen of another country living in the USA legally by registration (aka – Green Card), or through naturalization to become a citizen of the USA.

That is all.   The term is specific and narrow in its legal definition; it absolutely excludes “unregistered aliens,” “foreign nationals,” “migrants” and so called, “illegal immigrants,” and “undocumented workers.”  All of those terms refer to unregistered non-citizens living here in violation or our immigration laws.  But, clever politicians, journalists, and advocates substitute the word “immigrant” for people who are not citizens.

The effect of this is to rile up immigrants, who are Americans, and make it sound like Americans hate immigrants.  Use the right words and it is clear that Americans love immigrants; we ARE immigrants, or descendants of immigrants.  We oppose people violating our immigration laws.

It is deceitful, and “newspeak” to use euphemisms or the word “immigrant” with obfuscating adjectives to imply that illegal aliens are really just citizens who kind of sort of haven’t taken care of a few annoying, paperwork details, so it is okay for them to come here and stay as long as they want because they really are Americans; aren’t they?

All in all, we can be tricked into supporting causes and politicians by perceiving “problems” as reality.  Sure, there are real problems, like homelessness, nuclear threats, infrastructure neglect, terrorism, inadequate public education, business and government corruption, to name a few.

But “inequality,” and “poverty” will always exist because people are different and “unequal” in many ways.

Should we regard exceptional students, athletes, scientists, artists, inventors, leaders, entrepreneurs, other geniuses as affronts to those who are not exceptional?  Should we slow down the hard workers and ambitious business owners to make things more “equal?”

Should we fault those who adapt to the world the way it is, instead of insisting that the past return for those who are stuck there?  Should we respond to the politicians who accuse government for making terrible agreements with other countries, or for not meeting all of our personal needs?  Is there something not great about America the way it is?

Make no mistake, America is the best place in the world for people who treasure liberty, personal freedom to live and work wherever we want, love who we want, go where we want, strive for our dreams, and as citizens vote how we want.

Go the Middle East, or Asia, or Africa, or Central America to see how the “other half” lives, and you will kiss the ground when you get back home to the United States of America.

 

 

Picture Perfect – What Is the Answer to the Problem of Photo IDs?

Why not fix the Texas photo ID problem?  Why use the problem to prevent the real solution to the problem?

I suggest that those who object should harness the energy and money they are spending in opposition to get the photo IDs in the hands of these voters.

An estimated, $13.3 million plus the efforts of concerned volunteers could get the job done. I am sure the interested parties could manage to raise the money to enfranchise the voters about whose rights they are so deeply concerned.  If election time approaches before all the voters get their IDs, they can request and submit absentee ballots without meeting the photo ID requirement.

The Attorney General of Texas submitted data to the U. S. Department of Justice showing that 605,000 eligible Texas voters may not have qualified photo IDs.

In federal court, the Department of Justice asserts that a disproportionate number of these voters are Hispanic & members of racial minorities; they claim that the photo ID requirement places “significant burdens” on minority voters, in violation of the Voting Rights Act.

Texas counters that photo IDs are available free of charge, and that anyone who does not have an ID with them on election day can vote via provisional ballot, and return within a few days after the election with the ID to validate their vote.

Opponents to the requirements point to the costs of transportation to the DPS driver’s license office and the possible costs of providing proof of identity, (requirements are the same as for a driver’s license,) which could include $22 to get a certified copy of their Texas birth certificate.

http://mediamatters.org/blog/2012/03/14/fox-ignores-significant-costs-that-come-with-fr/184318

Even if every one of the 605,000 “photo-less” voters had to get a birth certificate, the total cost would be $13.3 million at $22 each.

Acceptable identification documents include:

  1. One piece of “Primary Identification,” OR
  2. Two pieces of “Secondary Identification,” OR
  3. One piece of “Secondary Identification” plus two pieces of “Supporting Identification.”

http://www.txdps.state.tx.us/DriverLicense/identificationrequirements.htm

For non-drivers, a certified copy of a birth certificate costs $22 dollars from the state of Texas; (other states charge various rates for certified copies in the range of $28 – 72.)

http://www.dshs.state.tx.us/vs/reqproc/certified_copy.shtm

As with driver’s licenses, holders of the Texas election identification card must get a replacement card when they move to a new residence, and must renew the card every 6 years for $16.

These requirements are no more onerous than requirements for a US passport.

http://travel.state.gov/passport/get/first/first_830.html#step4first

Federal Requirements for State Issued IDs

Ironically, the Federal Government enacted the REAL ID Act in 2005 with these requirements for state driver’s licenses.

“Documentation required before issuing a license or ID card

Before a card can be issued, the applicant must provide the following documentation: [20]

  • A photo ID or a non-photo ID that includes full legal name and birthdate.
  • Documentation of birth date.
  • Documentation of legal status and Social Security number
  • Documentation showing name and principal residence address.

Digital images of each identity document will be stored in each state DMV database.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/REAL_ID_Act

Summary of the New Law Compared to the Previous Law:

Texas

Election Code §63.001 et seq.

NOTE:  TX’s new photo ID law takes effect after preclearance by the USDOJ. Pre-clearance was denied on March 13, 2012, and the state is expected to apply for reconsideration from the Federal District Court of Washington, D.C.

Existing law:

On offering to vote, a voter must present the voter’s voter registration certificate to an election officer at the polling place.

New law:

On offering to vote, a voter must present to an election officer at the polling place one form of identification.

Existing law:

Voter registration certificate

  • Driver’s license
  • Department of Public Safety ID card
  • A form of ID containing the person’s photo that establishes the person’s identity
  • A birth certificate or other document confirming birth that is admissible in a court of law and establishes the person’s identity
  • U.S. citizenship papers
  • A U.S. passport
  • Official mail addressed to the person, by name, from a governmental entity
  • A copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, or other government document that shows the person’s name and address
  • Any other form of ID prescribed by the secretary of state

New law:

  • Driver’s license
  • Election identification certificate
  • Dept. of Public Safety personal ID card
  • U.S. military ID
  • U.S. citizenship certificate
  • U.S. passport
  • License to carry a concealed handgun issued by the Dept. of Public Safety

All of the above must include a photo of the voter. With the exception of the certificate of citizenship, these forms of ID cannot be expired, or cannot have expired more than 60 days before the election.

Existing law:

A voter who does not present a voter registration certificate when offering to vote, but whose name is on the list of registered voters for the precinct in which the voter is offering to vote, shall be accepted for voting if the voter executes an affidavit stating that the voter does not have the voter’s voter registration certificate in the voter’s possession and the voter presents other proof of identification. A voter who does not present a voter registration certificate and cannot present other identification may vote a provisional ballot. A voter who does not present a voter registration certificate and whose name is not on the list of registered voters may vote a provisional ballot.

New law:

A voter who fails to present the required identification may cast a provisional ballot.  The voter must present, not later than the sixth day after the date of the election, the required form of identification to the voter registrar for examination OR the voter may execute, in the presence of the voter registrar, an affidavit under penalty of perjury stating that the voter has a religious objection to being photographed or that the voter does not have identification as a result of a natural disaster declared by the president or the governor which occurred not earlier than 45 days before the date the ballot was cast.

http://www.ncsl.org/legislatures-elections/elections/voter-id.aspx

Those Who Complain of Perceived or Prospective Voter Repression – Just Do It

Voting rights and participation are fundamental to our system of government.  Every eligible voter should have access to facilities that give them everything it takes to vote.

Of all the barriers to voting, proving you are a registered voter is the lowest hurdle to overcome.  Do you have a library card?  Do you drive?  Do you have a doctor?  Are you eligible for federal or state benefits?  Do you have a job?  Do you have a Social Security number?  Do you have a water bill?  Do you have a checking account?  Do you have a credit card?  Where are the people who have “none of the above?”  Once we know who they are, we can fix the problem.

If you think some voters will be repressed because they have to show proof of identity, do something besides complain.  Go get them proof.  Do it once, and it is done!

Who believes the advocates of voter participation are incapable of finding solutions to voter reluctance?

Why not publish a list on the internet of the voters or neighborhoods where the feared repressive requirements exist?  You could solicit money to pay any costs for their registration, identity proof acquisition, poll information, and transport to and from the polls. Give people a chance to contribute to solve the problem.

The money and time the complainers now spend on complaining and blocking voter registration requirements could pay for solutions for the voters they think would be too frightened to vote.

People who can, but do not want to solve problems, must receive benefits from keeping the problems unsolved.  People who want to solve problems find a way to make it happen.