November 20, 2008

What This Blog Reveals

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 3:56 pm

No way! Andrew Sullivan linked to this site that purportedly determines what type of person you are from your blog. So I entered ergodubito.org and was amazed to be told, accurately, my Myers-Briggs personality type. I have received this personality type each of the several times I’ve taken the Myers-Briggs test, and this website was able to correctly deduce it from my blog posts!

My results:

The analysis indicates that the author of http://ergodubito.org is of the type:
INTP – The Thinkers

The logical and analytical type. They are especially attuned to difficult creative and intellectual challenges and always look for something more complex to dig into. They are great at finding subtle connections between things and imagine far-reaching implications.

They enjoy working with complex things using a lot of concepts and imaginative models of reality. Since they are not very good at seeing and understanding the needs of other people, they might come across as arrogant, impatient and insensitive to people that need some time to understand what they are talking about.

Of course that last sentence is bosh — whoever wrote that is too clueless to understand the profundity of us INTPs.

November 1, 2008

Official Ergo Dubito Voters’ Guide

Filed under: Politics — Bob Gifford @ 8:45 pm

Since I’m in the blogging mood, I thought I’d follow up my last post with the gory details regarding my votes this year.

Political Offices

I’m registered as a Decline to State, but for quite a few election cycles have been voting reliably Democrat. While there are some Democratic policy positions I’m not wild about, the GOP has been taken over by pod-people. Hence, I’m voting straight Democratic party line again this year:

  • President: Obama. He is an incredibly eloquent speaker, especially when he gets into his Black Preacher mode, but that isn’t what sold me on him many months ago. When you listen to him explain his positions in interviews and debates, it is clear that he is a very thoughtful, analytical person. Despite the rhetoric from the McCain campaign, he has a record of being very cautious, and more center-left than extreme liberal. After the last eight years, he is just what America needs.
  • US Representative: Schiff. He is the incumbent Democrat, and has done a good job with one exception: Schiff voted against the original financial rescue plan in what seemed to be a craven pander to liberal dislike of Wall Street. However, he voted for the revised bill a week later, so somewhat redeemed himself.
  • CA State Senate and Assembly: Liu and Portantino in what are admittedly straight line party votes. The California Republicans are almost exclusively pod-people, so it’s not a hard call.

Judges

We have to vote for judges in California in non-partisan elections. I have no idea who these people are, and I really don’t care to find out. So I outsource my decision-making to the LA Times under the assumption that they’ve done the research.

Propositions

I consult several different sources for my votes on propositions, but generally am predisposed to vote No. Propositions have been over-used and abused in California and generally are a poor substitute for legislation by, you know, the Legislature. Having said that, here are my votes:

  1. High Speed Rail Bonds: No. A lot of smart people are in favor of these bonds, but I’m just not seeing that this is the infrastructure we need to be borrowing money for.
  2. Farm Animal Confinement: Yes. The LA Times is worried this will drive the egg business out of California because of the added cost of providing hens room to turn around. But then the South was worried about the economic impact of ending slavery 150 years ago too.
  3. Children’s Hospital Bond Act: Yes. Despite California’s dire budget situation, this money is needed to provide health care for kids on S-Chip and MediCal. The US health care system is totally dysfunctional, but we can’t stop investing in facilities to care for the least among us.
  4. Parental Notification for Teenage Abortions: No. My views don’t fall easily into the simplistic pro-life/pro-choice dichotomy, but this is just a really bad idea. We keep voting it down, and it keeps reappearing on the next ballot.
  5. Nonviolent Drug Offenses: No. A drug habit does not excuse someone from stealing to feed their addiction. Addicts need drug treatment, but they also need to be accountable for their actions, drug habit or not.
  6. Police and Law Enforcement Funding: No. A poster-child for all the problems with legislation via propositions. If it’s a good idea, let the state legislature pass a law.
  7. Renewable Energy Generation: No. Sounds good, but environmental groups are against it.
  8. Same-Sex Marriage Ban: No.
  9. Victims’ Rights: No. The purpose of our legal system is not to facilitate vengeance on the part of victims. In fact, an objective of the legal system is to replace the victims’ desire to exact vengeance with something else entirely: justice. This is a terrible idea funded by a guy with way too much money.
  10. Alternative Fuel Vehicles Bond: No. Again, sounds good, but my sources all say it’s just a T. Boone Pickens enrichment scheme.
  11. Redistricting Reform: Yes. We desperately need to change our screwed up partisan redistricting system, and the state legislature would never reform it on their own. Poster child for why we need ballot propositions.
  12. Cal-Vet Bonds: Yes. Homes for vets in this economy? How could we say no?
  • R. LA County Transportation Sales Tax: Yes. Opponents to an increased sales tax argue it will hurt economic growth in LA County, but this ignores the tremendous cost traffic and long commute times impose on us all. Improving transportation in LA is vital to our continued economic well-being.
  • TT. Pasadena Unified School District Bond: Yes. We are under-investing in our public schools and desperately need to turn it around.

Lost in all the above are my sense of which of these races really matter. Let me just note that we have signs for Obama and TT in our front yard, and I am volunteering for the No on Prop. 8 campaign.

No on Prop. 8

Filed under: Politics — Bob Gifford @ 2:33 pm

My brother has made his argument against California’s Prop 8, and in so doing has shamed me into posting my argument against it as well.

Let’s make a distinction between two types of arguments for/against gay marriage: utilitarian and religious. It seems to me that all of the arguments against gay marriage and in favor of Prop. 8 are implicitly or explicitly religious. Prop. 8 proponents say that gay marriage violates the sanctity of marriage, that it condones immoral behavior or that it is an assault on traditional values. All of these, at their core, are moral arguments based upon religious belief. Now, there is nothing wrong with religion informing moral judgments — my beliefs in favor of gay marriage are similarly rooted in my religious faith. (I can easily spend hours debating the exegetics of Romans 1, if anyone is interested.) But in a pluralistic society as ours, moral judgments based solely on religious beliefs have no place as a basis for our laws. In a secular society, laws must be based on utilitarian, non-sectarian arguments. If religious judgments can’t be translated into utilitarian arguments, they belong in the church but not in the law books. We don’t need to rely on the Ten Commandments to tell us that laws against murder are a good thing, but finding a secular rationale for banning same-sex marriage is far more problematic.

So what are the utilitarian arguments against gay marriage? I can’t think of one, while there are many utilitarian arguments in favor. If society is better off due to the stability of legally recognized unions between a man and a woman, the same benefits accrue from the stability of unions between same-sex partners. Societal recognition of marriage is an incentive to form long-lasting, mutual, chaste relationships instead of short-lived sexual liaisons. Do we think society is better off with monogamous heterosexuals but promiscuous homosexuals? It makes no sense.

Our laws should reflect the world as it is, not as we think it should be, and gays and same-sex unions have always been with us and always will be. Legalization of same-sex marriage acknowledges this fact, and accepts that state recognition of these marriages is a simple question of fairness and equity. Implicit in the opposition to gay marriage seems to be a desire to rid the world of gays. Once we admit this is impossible (and not even desirable), acceptance of gay unions is unavoidable.

Our country was founded on the Enlightenment principles of equality and freedom. These principles often come into conflict with various religious beliefs (hence the Establishment Clause), but we have stuck with them, again, for utilitarian reasons. They work. They are a foundation for a moral society in the midst of competing religious beliefs (and unbeliefs). They have allowed the richest nation on earth to prosper. Could there be any greater test of the principles of equality and freedom than to allow all people to marry whom they wish?

16,000 same-sex couples have been married in California, and there are no riots in the streets, no same-sex orgies in our schools or workplaces, no collapse of family values. Object to homosexuality on religious grounds if you must, but don’t attempt to embed those religious beliefs in our laws at the expense of equality and freedom, at the expense of the very basis upon which our country was founded.

Vote No on Proposition 8.

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