Blessings and Links

The last several days have brought our family many blessings. My sister and her boyfriend graduated college (a semester early), my brother and his wife (who just moved from Seattle to Santa Monica) came in for the ceremony and an early Christmas celebration, and my grandmother has driven

Meredith's Graduation
Meredith’s Graduation

down from the family farm to spend Christmas with us.

I’ve spent quite a bit of time thinking about why I’m no longer interested in using this website as a mechanism for stating opinions but, rather, as a curation bulletin board. This passage from a relatively recent Brain Pickings post is illustrative:

We live in a culture where one of the greatest social disgraces is not having an opinion, so we often form our “opinions” based on superficial impressions or the borrowed ideas of others, without investing the time and thought that cultivating true conviction necessitates. We then go around asserting these donned opinions and clinging to them as anchors to our own reality. It’s enormously disorienting to simply say, “I don’t know.” But it’s infinitely more rewarding to understand than to be right — even if that means changing your mind about a topic, an ideology, or, above all, yourself.

That’s not to say that I don’t have strong opinions on certain matters. But they’re usually under-informed. These links and the corresponding passages just caught my attention for one reason or another and I hope that others find them interesting.

Garrett Epps at The Atlantic gets to the heart of the matter on NSA surveillance:

I think Obama is a man of humane instincts, and one who does respect the law. But if his legacy is a secret, lawless complex of aggressive spies and secretive jailers, who is to say that they will not be misused by a successor?

An interesting Fast Company story on the 23andMe controversy from the perspective of health insurance companies:

Some states ban discriminatory use of genetic information in all areas, but there’s no federal law. “A company can use your genetic information as part of their decision in your coverage,” Jennifer Wagner, a lawyer who works out of the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for the Integration of Genetic Healthcare Technologies (and a 23andMe customer), told Fast Company for our November cover story. But would you be required to disclose results of a genetic test? Or even that you’ve been tested? It’s not hard to imagine people getting their 23andMe results back, finding out their likely to get, say, Alzheimer’s, and then rushing out to buy a long-term-care policy. If too many people did that, there would be no business model for long-term-care insurance companies who’d end up covering care for a skyrocketing percentage of customers.

Corporations contribute money to left-leaning and right-leaning organizations. Cathy Reisenwitz writes about the “delicious irony of dark money.” Strong choes of Bootleggers and Baptists.

The truth is that most regulation is written by and for incumbent businesses to erect barriers to entry and to buy advantages over their competitors. That’s why corporations fund groups like the Center for American Progress.

Earlier this year, Center for American Progress donor Citibank hired lobbyists to literally write 70 out of 85 lines of a bill regulating derivatives trading which passed the House. If this regulation was meant to hurt Citibank’s profitability while defending their customers it’s unlikely to have done so.

There are three main reasons corporations like Citibank write their own legislation. First, lawmakers feel pressure from constituents to regulate industries about which their staffs know nothing; corporate lobbyists and lawyers provide much-needed information. Second, it’s much easier and faster for a company to understand and comply with a regulation it wrote. Third, and most important, companies write regulation that is easier and cheaper to comply for them than for their competitors.

Jon Cowan from Third Way, a centrist group, gives Molly Ball at The Atlantic his perspective on the Democratic Party’s seemingly inevitable left turn.

They want to take what we did in the 20th century and do more of it. They want to re-unionize the entire country, unwind the trade deals of the last couple of decades, and not just preserve but expand entitlements. Even if we could afford that, it wouldn’t solve most of the problems of the middle class.

A newly licensed attorney recently complained to Business Insider about his lack of options upon graduation.

Do not believe a word that comes from law schools, law deans, or law professors. They are salesmen and they want you to hand them $200,000 in non-dischargeable law school loans. That’s all they are interested in.

In a rebuttal essay, Niki Ford raises a broader critique of the millennial generation.

Perhaps he doesn’t have the job that he wants because he just wasn’t as smart and talented as his fellow students. That’s on him, but I think that most people in my generation can’t admit when failure is due to their own inadequacies. You know, I really wanted to play NCAA Division One soccer. My parents invested money and I invested time in training. I wasn’t talented enough to be recruited, and it wasn’t the NCAA’s fault.

The Duck Dynasty controversy has been blowing up my social media feeds for days. Some thoughts from Brian Doherty at Reason:

There may have been a good reason why classical tolerance of expression was summed up in the epigram: “I disagree with what you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it!”

That has a different feel than: “I disagree with what you say, I think you are evil for having said it, I think no one should associate with you and you ought to lose your livelihood, and anyone who doesn’t agree with me about all that is skating on pretty thin ice as well, but hey, I don’t think you should be arrested for it.”

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