Category Archives: Good people disagree

A tax plan for Biden #2 – guiding principles *updated*

Tax expenditures 2018

In Part One of this series, I updated several “quick hit” actions a Biden Administration could take to restore some measure of sanity to the U.S. tax system. In this part, I want to update my four basic principles for a fairer, simpler, and more effective federal income taxing system. I believe these principles also to be legislatively achievable. But… Read more »

Kids, can you say epistemology?

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Blaise Pascal

Zen kōans (similar to parables) are notoriously hard to source, but the “stick” theme is common. This “stick kōan” about accepting reality is of unknown provenance, but it makes its point: The master held out a large bamboo stick and asked the student “Is this stick real?” The student, trying to show his superior understanding, replied, “How can we know… Read more »

The moral conversation around coronavirus vaccine priorities

Who Am I?

It did not take long for the difficult moral questions around who gets the Covid-19 vaccination first to get ugly. At Stanford University an algorithm for distributing the vaccine prioritized older doctors working remotely over young interns and residents who are in daily contact with Covid patients, resulting in a public shaming demonstration. After the bad public attention, the university… Read more »

When the Pope is a better lawyer than Amy Coney Barrett

God

I had thought that we were basically done with the legality issues surrounding same-sex marriage in the United States, but the elevation of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court and a recent Supreme Court dissent by Justices Alito and Thomas demonstrate that we still have “a failure to communicate” here. The right of LGBTQ people to cohabit legally… Read more »

Moral luck, Donald Trump and the coronavirus

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Trump Covid

The concept of moral luck is one of the more curious sidelines in the study of ethics, at the intersection of moral philosophy and mathematics. However, Donald Trump’s bizarre reactions up to, during, and after contracting Covid-19 make for a great opportunity to look at the concept. In short, President Trump first ascribed his escape from Covid for the first… Read more »

History and the math of “probably not”

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On a day when we can’t get an agreed-upon historical reckoning of the sequence of governmental Coronavirus response in the United States in early 2020 (despite extensive video evidence), I’d like to share my thoughts on “the probability of history” using some classic (and potentially dangerous) examples. In the mid-1990s, the late religious historian Marcus Borg authored a series of… Read more »

Lifting the veil of ignorance in Minneapolis and Kenosha

One more week, one more caught-on-video incident of a policeman shooting an unarmed Black man who was not posing an imminent threat, this one in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Honestly, my first thought on seeing this particular episode after all of this ugly summer’s “repeats” was “How stupid a policeman are you?” The “veil of ignorance” may have been lifted for you… Read more »

Rescuing moral probity

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Republican coalition vectors

In a recent post I used a graphic illustrating what I call six traditional Republican “vectors” of general directional agreement over time. Three of these have been virtually obliterated (the red X’s) from public party conversation in the four years of Trump. The bottom vector shown is my contention that pre-Trump Republicans had long put a high value on the… Read more »

The Covid attack on empathy, sympathy and compassion

Empathy-Sympathy-Compassion

It is now official. The coronavirus mitigation policy of President Trump and state governors like Iowa’s Kim Reynolds is now essentially, “Sorry, old folks and immigrant workers, a lot of you are gonna die.” As a member of that honored class, pardon me if I am angry today. The coronavirus has taken a huge hit on three bedrocks of human… Read more »

How bad are we really? Humankind by Rutger Bregman

Garden of Eden

An ages-old morality play has started a new season of “reality shows,” run on television every night since May 25, 2020. Was George Floyd a bad man or a good man? How about the four policemen who killed him on the street? Were the street protestors outside the White House on June 1 patriots expressing their constitutional First Amendment rights… Read more »