Friday, November 21, 2014

Bank phone poll spills the beans on tellers' doom


    

     With the election over, thank merciful God, I thought pesky telephone polls would subside. But if anything, they’ve increased. Not the “Who has your vote?” polls, or what I call “Slur Polls” — questions designed not to collect answers but to deliver attacks; polls that start out normally and then slide into insinuation: “On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being most disgusted, and 1 being not as disgusted as you ought to be, how revolted were you to learn of the secret slush fund of Rep. Peckinsniff ...”)      

     I try not to give much time to phone solicitors. I’ve learned to quickly set the receiver back down if the person on the other end doesn’t immediately reply to my tentative “Hello?” because that means it’s some automatic demon dialer in Mumbai that calls 10 numbers at a time and then connects with the first to answer. That takes 1.5 seconds, and by then I’ve hung up.
      But with phone surveys, I play along in a kind of information judo, using callers’ momentum against them. While they try to pry information out of me, I learn from them.
      For instance. Bank of America called this week. I am a preferred customer, which means I leave too much money sitting in accounts, drawing 0.03 percent interest, money that Bank of America then loans out at 3 percent. (That’s not “3 percent interest” they give , by the by. That’s three-hundredths of a percent. You wonder why anyone bothers at that point; the interest they pay hardly seems worth the paperwork to tally it).
     So, the Bank of America phone pollster wants to know: Have I used their Northbrook branch bank in the past 30 days? Why yes, I have! Just the other day. Working at home, at lunchtime, I took a break to do "errands"— my excuse to stand up and step outside. I stroll to the library and the post office, the hardware store, the grocery store and the bank. While most suburbanites don't visit their neighbors without getting in a car, I like that we live cheek-by-jowl to downtown, or to what passes for a downtown in Northbrook, and can walk everywhere. Doing so makes me feel like a character in a Richard Scarry story, if you remember those brightly colored children's books where friendly animal characters are always going about quotidian tasks, bakers baking and police officers directing traffic and such. My self-image during these strolls is not precisely a bear in a fedora waving his paw at a pig in a white apron. But very close. (I won't speculate on how I'm actually perceived, the likelihood of Northbrook mothers cautioning their naughty children with, "Now you behave, or I'll turn you over to the Scary Wandering Man and he'll put you in a pie and eat you for his dinner.")
     The greeter at the bank, the phone poll asked. Did I find her helpful? Uh-oh, I thought, somebody's job is in the crosshairs.
     I went to bat for the bank greeter. Yes indeed, I said, I find them enormously helpful. Which is true; it's helpful, after a morning staring at a computer screen by yourself, to actually have a human being smile and say hello and point you toward the tellers.
     And then an even more ominous question: Was I willing to wait "any amount of time" to use the services of my bank?
     "Any amount of time?" I replied, in a small voice. As in hours? No, I suppose not ...
     The next morning, in one of those coincidences that makes you wonder if the whole world is not one vast clockwork conspiracy, the Wall Street Journal published a story about the endangered bank teller. That banks, in their constant drive to hoover up more of your money while providing less in return, are using fewer tellers and paying them less. ATMs are vastly more economical than employees who, though they can greet customers, also draw salaries and take sick days and have babies. They want what employees they do have to be busy issuing second mortgages to people who need money because they haven't had a raise in nine years, and not indulging eccentric coots who just want to keep their blood circulating.
     Cash is going away someday, just as department stores, mail carriers and, yes, newspaper columnists and bank tellers, eventually. There's no point keening over it. Society does fine without gas station attendants or telegraph operators.
     But what about the people who are the cashiers and baggers and bank tellers? Where will their equivalent be in the new economy? Baristas and warehouse workers, I suppose. You know, Bank of America used to be LaSalle Bank, and LaSalle Bank had a full-time staff curator to keep track of its photo collection. In the end, when they sold it off, they made a fortune on the rare prints. There are many ways to make money, and firing people isn't the only path to success.


25 comments:

  1. Reminds me of the story I heard about union leader Walter Reuther going on a tour of a Ford plant where robots were first being used. His guide couldn't help but point out that the robots didn't pay union dues. Reuther shot back, "And they don't buy cars either."

    John

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  2. "But what about the people who are the cashiers and baggers and bank tellers? Where will their equivalent be in the new economy? Baristas and warehouse workers, I suppose."

    What a coincidence that this runs the day after President Obama takes a huge unilateral step towards the policy on illegal immigration Mr. Steinberg favors. Having tutored English to immigrants (legal and illegal) for years, I know that warehouse worker in particular is a popular first job for them in America.

    Listen to Paul Krugman from 2006:

    "the net benefits to the U.S. economy from immigration, aside from the large gains to the immigrants themselves, are small. Realistic estimates suggest that immigration since 1980 has raised the total income of native-born Americans by no more than a fraction of 1 percent. Second, while immigration may have raised overall income slightly, many of the worst-off native-born Americans are hurt by immigration -- especially immigration from Mexico. Because Mexican immigrants have much less education than the average U.S. worker, they increase the supply of less-skilled labor, driving down the wages of the worst-paid Americans."

    And that was before the recently documented accelleration of jobs lost to technology. So there's a lot more competition for those barista and warehouse jobs at the same time President Obama is authorizing millions to come "out of the shadows" and compete for them. It amazes me how many people who consider themselves progressive have fallen for the "illegal immigrants help the economy" line without thinking about who is being helped and who is being hurt. Or for that matter thinking about how they were enraged by President George W. Bush picking and chosing what parts of the law he would enforce - regardless of the Constitutionality of such a practice - and decrying the "Imperial Presidency."

    What was Orwell's vision of the future again?

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    1. All one has to do is look at the nations with low immigration — Japan, Italy — and see how they're shrinking, to understand the disastrous results of lack of immigration. Krugman's argument is narrowly focused and, besides, the issue isn't who to admit to the country, but what to do with those we've already allowed in, years ago. Orwell's vision was a class of people who care nothing for the truth, but are blinded by ideology. If the shoe fits....

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    2. Mr. Steinberg you've been using Japan as a "disastrous" example for decades - I've been to Japan numerous times and have good friends there - their economic issues are nothing like ours (because their society is so much more economically egalatarian) and they wouldn't think of adopting anything like our immigration policy. If you want to talk about other countries, address Canada and Australia: they have robust immigration which is quite multicultural, and treat illegal immigration in ways the Tea Party doesn't even suggest. They can do this because they have a strong employment check system (in Canada's case it goes beyond employment). And they aren't shrinking, they're growing - look at their economic performance even during the Great Recession. This is also a red herring: nobody is arguing America shouldn't have controlled immigration and whatever number we determine we need we'll have no problem getting.

      The issue is not what to do with the people here - as I've written before and posted poll data to support, the vast majority of Americans, and a substantial majority on the right, don't want to deport 11 million people (as if that was possible) and agree they should ultimately get citizenship or permanent residency. The question is about the people NOT already here: how to avoid a repeat of 1986's experience. The good faith compromise would be to spend the money on a border fence (even if you think that's wasteful, it's what people want and it would act as an economic stimulus program to boot) and an E-Verify system with teeth. Then one last amnesty for everyone here as of the day the law passes - a real one without silly tax penalties and touch-backs and English requirements. Insetad your side is pushing for immediate legal status in exchange for spending a ridiculous half a trillion dollars for enforcement nobody, including the CBO, says will be effective (but will likely lead to more deaths and abuse of would-be immigrants committed by the smugglers). Krugman's argument isn't "narrow" at all - he was addressing Kennedy-McCain: generally the same thing as the Gang of Eight and wasn't calling for mass deportations of illegal immigrants.

      The problem with this discussion is that you haven't said what your "truth" is - I've asked several times if you favor an open border or if you believe there is any level of illegal immigration where the harm outweighs the good. If it's the latter then I welcome your suggestion on what to do to prevent that from happening and explain why you think it will be effective. If it's the former you can keep the compassion arguments coming - goodness knows there's Biblical support for it, but I don't believe it's immoral to put our most vulnerable citizen's interests first.

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  3. (Well, at least over a decade - neither of us are THAT old!)

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  4. Last one (for today!): Robert Samuelson, 2014, on immigration reform today (after chastising the far right):

    But liberals also need to be more candid on immigration’s costs and benefits. Sure, benefits are significant, especially from high-skilled immigrants. Still, the social costs are steep. The influx of unskilled Hispanics has sharply boosted U.S. poverty. From 1990 to 2013, Hispanics accounted for 57 percent of the 11.7 million increase in the number of people below the poverty line.

    If liberals care about reducing U.S. poverty, their support for tougher controls on both legal and illegal immigration should be enthusiastic, not just grudging. There is no reason most Hispanics can’t follow the path of previous waves of immigrants into the middle class. But this will take time and ***********won’t ever occur if a constant flow of unskilled workers routinely expands the ranks of the poor and creates competition for jobs with immigrants already here.***********

    (emphasis added)

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  5. Well, Neil, I guess it can't be said that you don't have a diverse audience. We aren't all soft-hearted liberals, just me.

    John

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  6. Tate - don't be so sure! I not only voted for Obama (four times in my life), I campaigned for him and contributed to his campaign. This and his decision to permanently undo most of the Clinton tax increases are the only major decisions I've strongly disagreed with him on.

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  7. You should tell us if you really favor an open border with Mexico Neil, so we can all sleep in our beds at night. Obama certainly doesn't, else he would not have been dubbed "Deporter in Chief." And why are you writing about Japan when you've never been there?

    Re all the huffing and puffing by Republicans about the Imperial Presidency and Obama's "overreach," -- one of your fellow columnists reports that the odious Phyllis Schafley has called it "a Fort Sumpter moment" -- Judge Posner posted a lucid defense of this exercise in executive authority in yesterday's NY Times. Actually, Obama's proposed actions are not nearly as transformative as Harry Truman's 1948 Executive Order integrating the Armed Forces. It led, among other things, to the Democratic Party losing the South and regaining its soul.

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    1. Does anyone favor "an open border with Mexico"? Why bring it up then? Fear-mongering, I suppose. And why the sudden sarcasm? What makes you think I've never been to Japan? Of course I have. This is an odd comment.

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    2. 1) Absolutely there are people who favor an open border, both completely (e.g., libertarians and I don't want to say "far left" but some very liberal Christians/religious types) and de-facto. There was something similar with the Central American kids-at-the-border crisis: some people argued that we should take in as many children who met the law's definition of refugee regardless of number.

      2) It's not sarcastic for the reasons I've given when I've put the question to you: we have an effectively open border now as it's ineffective it is in controlling immigration, even as to previously deported individuals. You wrote the question was what to do with the people here now - if you confine the question to that, it's an open borders position. This is a common chimera of the pro-reform advocates: they imply that they have a bottom line as to the level of illegal immigration they believe is tolerable but won't give a clue what it is (just that we're not there now) or what they propose to do to prevent it. The discussion is always circular: "ok, maybe there are people harmed by illegal immigration, but what are you going to do, deport all these people?" The alternative we give: an E-Verify system with teeth a la Canada/Australia and spend the money for a border fence is summarily dismissed.

      3) I didn't say you haven't been to Japan (though I don't know how recently) - I said I've been there and have enough regular contact with people there to know the nation is not a "disaster" and that they don't think the problem is that they didn't take in 4 million unskilled workers (to pro-rata the U.S. number). Japan has been a textbook example of technology taking the place of workers. (In fact, the New York Times has run stories about farms - the most compelling case for the need for immigrants -- increasingly using machines to pick certain crops and milk cows). Now I'd be less than honest if I didn't mention part of this is due to some endemic racism in Japanese culture that wouldn't welcome a lot of immigrants even if they were needed, but their economic problems are far more attributable to gross protectionism and terrible monetary policy. But let's assume you are right about Japan and the nation will be a disaster if they don't get a lot of immigrants there in a hurry. They wouldn't follow our example, they'd follow Australia's or Canada's (or, given the racism I mentioned, Germany's).

      Hey, I can't see into people's hearts, but I suspect they know that their reform talk is more partisan than policy - not that they might not indeed support executive action and Gang of Eight bill over doing nothing or an enforcement-centric approach, but that there are far more costs than they are letting on.

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  8. Thomas, I like you but I fear this is going to sound harsher than I mean it. Your post is a perfect illustration of when I say immigration reform turns liberals into the Tea Party. It's the reverse of a global warming debate: research, numbers, calls for documentation are met with sloganeering.

    To go in reverse order: not once did I argue that executive action is unconstitutional. Most (not all) of George W. Bush's DEMOCRAT critics - including Senator Obama - argued this either. Presidential signing statements had been used by presidents of both parties - the difference was that Bush wasn't using them to spin an interpretation of legislation, he brazenly announced he was going to ignore parts of laws he didn't like, effectively acting as a super legislature. Senator Obama was one of these critics. Heck, President Obama was too until a few months ago. And the comparison to integrating the armed forces is inapt: Truman's act was enforcing the Constitution and not ignoring any part of any democratically enacted federal law (let alone huge amounts).

    As to the rest: illegal immigration has winners and losers. You can snark all you want and pretend that's not true like the Tea Party pretends global warming isn't happening. You can voice platitudes about Japan and ignore what really happened with their economy (protectionism, an out of control debt that makes our budget problems seem modest (and they in fact aren't as bad as the GOP say, though that's partially due to sequester...)) and blithely ignore the immigration experiences of countries that are doing well. But there's something particularly off-putting about comfortably off, educated white people who largely don't face any direct competition from illegal immigrants insisting that there's a crisis that demands immediate action and dismissing the impacts of illegal immigration on our most vulnerable.

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  9. For the record, I didn't really think you or anybody else really favors an open border with Mexico. Or that you hadn't been to Japan -- just the notion that having visited a country gives one a good amount of expertise about it. I see now that sarcasm is probably not a welcome tactic when people are having a serious discussion. Should have realized the hazard from the historical fact that putting tongue in cheek was originally a sign of contempt.

    I do know quite a bit about the historical effects of immigration -- and assimilation -- beginning with required reading of W.I. Thomas' "The Polish Peasant in Europe and America" at the U. of C. many years ago, and it gives me hope that over time the crisis will subside. But maybe not.

    I thought the subject of executive authority was pertinent because it is obvious that we will be hearing a lot about Obama "trampling on the Constitution" as the debate progresses.

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    1. I would just let this go, Tom. Japan has been in a 20-year slough Sorry to be the one to tell you. Towns are emptying out because there are no people. Their wave of elderly is going to cripple the country. Ours won't because we have those immigrants. That's just a fact. Obama is doing the right thing, ethically, economically and legally. Nobody bitched when he used his discretion to deport people he shouldn't. Now they're predicting riots in the street. You have to understand, what looks like perfect sense sitting in the back of your head looks quite different when you air it here.

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    2. Oh crap, I thought I was the one accused of sarcasm! I'd suggest the lesson of the mid-late 1990's was that if the elderly created a demand for unskilled/low skilled workers, people would hire unemployed African-Americans in greater numbers. Goodness knows they worked such jobs in such numbers in the past it became a racist cliche. But if you're arguing that American racism is so great that could never happen, I couldn't dismsis the possibility...

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  10. I agree with Anon.

    I would like to go in a somewhat different direction.

    We are a nation of laws not of men. This is a vast extension of executive power. Under the constitution the legislative power is vested in the Congress. President Obama’s recent rhetoric sounds as if he believes he is at parity with the Congress with respect to legislating. This should not be the case if the “rule of law” is to have any meaning.

    Diktats by an executive authority – even if done under the forms of law – is not the rule of law. One merely has to imagine the horror if a conservative president used Obama’s overstepping as a justification for his or her overstepping.

    Less egregious overstepping done in the past is simply not a justification for this vast new overstepping of executive authority. Two wrongs do not make a right especially when the first wrong is of lesser severity. Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in time of war in part to weaken and subvert the South – our actual enemy at the time. We are not at war here.

    I am both an attorney and familiar with the hard sciences. Constitutional jurisprudence is not science. There are no right or wrong answers in the sense that there is a right answer to a problem in thermodynamics. The Constitution cannot be mechanically interpreted. i.e. plug these values for variables in and the correct answer will pop out. Rather Constitutional jurisprudence is a discipline extracting lesson from the history of mankind and of this nation as to how best to form a more perfect union to ensure life, liberty and aid in the pursuit of happiness.

    Accordingly I hope we have an extended national debate as to whether this is the way we want our Nation to go. If we want President Obama and future presidents to have much more lee-way to unilaterally establish policy -- that is policy backed up by law enforcement or lack thereof.

    I opt for the rule of law rather than the rule of men. Merely coming to power legally -- and taking actions in which judicial review is difficult -- if not impossible -- is not the rule of law. Merely complying with legal formalities rather than having an effective system of checks and balances is not the rule of law.

    Many dictators have complied with legal formalities.

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  11. Yes the subject has been exhausted and I have learned my lesson. I do make odd comments from time to time, to my wife's dismay. She has a look that translates into "not really funny."

    The phenomenon you describe in Japan is somewhat true of Italy, although they do have quite a bit of immigration from eastern Europe and (unwelcome) Africa. The "emptying of towns happened decades ago, largly due to land reform, but you do see a lot of old foggys sitting around and talking on cell phones ("telephonini") and not a lot of young people.

    The discussion did inspire me to revisit W. I. Thomas after half a century. Did you know he coined the phrase "self-fulfilling prophesy?"

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  12. What Jerry said! (Seriously, that was very eloquent).

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    1. He was. But Obama's actions are not "a vast extension of executive power." When he decided to deport more people, nobody was saying he didn't have authority to guide federal action. This is Congress' mandate, but when Congress fails to act on important matters -- such as here -- other branches must step in and do what is necessary.

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  13. Forgot to add Neil that I totally agree Obama is doing the right thing, ethically, economically and legally. As fot the "rule of law" stuff, Congress passes laws, but seldom specifies exactly how they will be executed and almoat never appropriates enough to enforce them to the full -- e.g. deport all those law breaking illegal immigrants -- thereby leaving the Executive with wide discretion in assigning priorities. Again, I would refer to Judge Posner's more eloquent explanation of this in the New York Times.

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  14. Thomas Evans:

    That was not written by Judge Richard Posner or any judge "Posner" -- for that matter.
    It was by his son Eric.

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  15. Constitutional jurisprudence is not rocket science. Any professional scholar or serious thinker can get through the standard one year of Constitutional Law at a typical law school. There is some jargon – but jargon can always be unpacked into “baby steps.” Such a course is merely distilled wisdom -- but profound distilled wisdom.

    A sub-discipline of jurisprudence is “Rule of Law” thinking. This thinking cuts across liberal- conservative lines. It is embodied in many areas of Constitutional Law including that of separation of powers, check and balances, procedural due process in the civil and criminal realms, the right of the criminally accused to counsel, and the equal protection before the law.

    About 2 or 3 constitutions are adopted each year by nations world-wide. About 4 years ago I attended --as a mere spectator -- a conference at the U of C Law School. This was a conference of scholars who advised on the writing and adoption of such constitutions.

    A central conclusion is that the mandates of any written constitution can always be circumvented and that there are well known ways of doing so. The key notion was that all citizens and participants in the political process have to be vigilant and to always act in good faith.

    I submit that the following statement of Mr. Steinberg is the antitheses of Rule of Law thinking:

    “”“...but when Congress fails to act on important matters -- such as here -- other branches must step in and do what is necessary.”””

    There is no scientific way to tell whether something is or is not a “vast extension of executive power.” Probably the best way to reason about such matters was suggested by Kant – to imagine that one’s action will be established as a universal principle to be used by others. Thus liberals and progressives have to ask themselves if they could tolerate similarly vast extensions in other areas under a conservative president.

    I am doing this from memory – but I remember the “Darkness at Noon” quote that tyranny does not come all at once but creeps up on us as an imperceptible twilight.

    We have had “nut job” presidents. Nixon and LBJ come to mind. Our President Obama is just a mediocre – probably good natured – fellow. My point is that one does NOT have to posit President Obama to be a tyrant in order to assert that he is contributing to the Darkness at Noon.

    We have this immigration over reaching. We have the knowing deception with respect to ObamaCare. We still have not gotten to the bottom of the IRS Scandal. We have the domestic surveillance controversy. In ways only obvious to lawyers President Obama has taken legal actions to increase the authority and the reach of the centrally administered bureaucratic welfare state vis-a-vis local governments, non-governmental institutions, and individual citizens.

    Again I fully concede that our President Obama is doing all this out of a sense that he is serving the public.

    People have to decide for themselves if this is the way they want our nation to go. The imprimatur of some so-called expert will not do here.

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    1. Jerry,

      I don't know what the solution to the immigration problem is, but am generally supportive of Obama. I'm not a constitutional scholar, nor even a lawyer, so feel free to disregard the rest of my comment. I'll also admit that even when Obama does things that I don't agree with, I usually end up thinking that they must be the best option, given a number of less-than-ideal possibilities. So, perhaps I've "drunk the Kool-Aid."

      However, I think that Anon-not-Anon has made some good points here, and I think they're worth fair consideration. You've made an effective argument, as well. The difference, to me, is that A-n-A is going "against type" in disagreeing with Obama about this, while you're using this immigration action as another in a long litany of rationales to bash Obama, whom you don't support politically.

      "'Rule of Law' thinking ... cuts across liberal- conservative lines." Perhaps that's true. YOUR thinking may, also, but sometimes does not seem to. And to argue that the interpretation of the law in this country is not rife with political biases and implications is a non-starter, IMHO. As usual, I'm not qualified to engage you in a serious discussion of the matter, alas. And maybe you've argued vehemently against the many occasions on which Republican presidents have engaged in what might be considered to be over-reach. I wouldn't know. I DO know that you're at least as biased against Obama as I am for him, so that tends to inform my reading of your eloquent comments here, as it often does.

      As for "the authority and the reach of the centrally administered bureaucratic welfare state vis-a-vis local governments," and whether this is the way we "want our nation to go," I suppose it depends. Seemed like it was a necessary component of that "nut-job" LBJ's efforts to force the South into the 20th-century with civil rights legislation, for instance. And if I were a person wishing to have a same-sex relationship recognized by my local government in Mississippi or Alabama right about now, the authority and reach of the federal government might be welcome, even were I a Republican.

      All that being said, I agree that imagining "that one’s action will be established as a universal principle to be used by others" is an important consideration, and that people on both sides of the political divide have a distinct tendency to accept the "over-reach" of their folks, while decrying it when it's employed by their adversaries.

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  16. Jakash:

    Rather than quibble about minor stuff – I will say I agree with your post.

    As a rough label I am a moderate conservative/libertarian. I support gay rights and same sex marriage and have repeatedly disagreed with my personal friends Greg J and MCN on Zorn’s blog on these issues. I am in favor of more governmental regulation than Greg J. I supported centrists like Bruce Rauner and Mitt Romney over more right wing folk.

    I don’t strive to be a moderate. Rather I strive to have the most intellectually defensible positions – and that usually involves recognizing some merit in “left of center” thinking. Actually I strive not to embarrass myself when talking to very smart people.

    With the people I deal with – lawyers and judges at meetings of the Chicago Bar Association -- and folk at Northwestern University and the University of Chicago – I would look foolish merely attempting to conform my thinking to contemporary conceptions of what it means to be a liberal, progressive, conservative, or libertarian.

    A THEORY OF JUSTICE by John Rawls is considered canonical by many liberals. ON LIBERTY by J.S Mill is considered canonical by many libertarians. And REFLECTIONS ON THE FRENCH REVOLUTION by Edmund Burke is considered canonical by many conservatives. I recognize much merit in each of these works and can discuss them in depth.

    I can tell you what I think and why I think it. Most contemporary beliefs have a long pedigree in serious thought by major thinkers over the centuries if not millennia.

    You know me well from Zorn’s blog. If you want to use some contemporary label to stamp on me – then feel free to do so.

    For myself – as short hand – I label my beliefs by their pedigree:

    • Socrates
    • Plato
    • Aristotle
    • J.S. Mill
    • Edmund Burke
    • Max Weber
    • Machiavelli
    • Tocqueville
    • F.A Hayek
    • Federalist Papers writers
    • Adam Smith
    • Richard Posner
    • M.L. King
    • M. Ghandi
    • John Marshall
    • Richard Feynman
    • John Rawls

    Also keep in mind that I discuss ideas with people from throughout the world where American conceptions of liberal, conservative, etc. have little relevance.

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    1. Jerry,

      This post is pretty far gone, so I'll leave it at this. Lord knows if you'll see it. As you note, I'm very familiar with many of your attitudes, and certainly the political label you frequently apply to yourself, from CoS. I'm also well aware that you're one of the most well-read and thoughtful contributors I've engaged on these blogs. Additionally, I have long recognized some of the major differences between your outlook and that of your amigos in the old Cabal. These were often highlighted for me by the fact that you and I often ended up agreeing on select issues, while my discussions with Greg and MCN seldom settled on much common ground.

      Anyway, I've never doubted that you're highly intelligent and well-versed in the varying philosophical traditions. The reason that I often end up responding to you, though, is that you seem to occasionally start your engagement on a topic with what I'd call a partisan hay-maker or two, sometimes backed up with evidence, often not. I think you may sometimes do this just to attempt to start a discussion, in the midst of which I've found that you are almost invariably much more reasonable, gracious and less dogmatic. Which I certainly appreciate.

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