Monthly Archives: February 2011

Quote of the Day: Beware of “Kook Tests” Edition

Popehat writes:

Here’s the thing: people with unscientific, irrational, and foolish ideas about evolution and global warming might still have something worthwhile to say about other topics. Take, as one example, Senator Tom Coburn. Coburn doesn’t believe in global warming. He also thinks that lesbian gangs were terrorizing Oklahoma’s school bathrooms. But he’s a been a vigorous critic of earmarks. He’s right to attack earmarks, and no less right because he’s a nut on other issues. If he’s the lone voice in the wilderness on earmarks, and we refuse to engage his criticisms because they’re coming from a lesbo-potty-phobic global warming denier, then we’re being lazy and cowardly. On the other hand, there are plenty of people, and groups, that believe firmly in evolution and global warming, but can’t be taken seriously as bastions of science or reliable political analysis. You won’t find much creationism or global warming denying at the Huffington Post, but you will find it to be a cesspool of junk science and assorted twittery.

Honest people — people who care about issues, and not crass group identities — ought to resist the strong human drive to construct rationalizations for ignoring competing viewpoints. “We can safely ignore and marginalize any blog where most of the authors or commenters don’t believe in evolution or global warming” is lazy tribalism, just as surely as “we can ignore any bloggers and blogs that don’t support Sarah Palin” or “we can ignore any bloggers or blogs that don’t oppose the War on Drugs.” It’s all a cheat, a form of shorthand — a quick way to separate, in our mind, people who belong from people who don’t. It may unclutter your RSS feed, but you’re not going to learn much that’s new, you’re not going to challenge yourself.

Personally, I’m quite skeptical of man-made global warming but like Popehat, I admit that I’m by no means a climatologist nor anything remotely close. He does make very good points here about writing someone off because they believe something kooky on one subject or even a assortment of subjects. There is always the temptation to ignore individuals like the “Truthers,” the “Birthers,” and “Creationists” – just to name a few. It’s quite defensible for me to tune someone out who goes into the whole “Obama is a secret Muslim hell bent on America’s destruction” nonsense if that is the topic of discussion but the same person might be quite rational and knowledgeable on other issues.

Also consider the founders of this country. Many of them either owned other human beings or defended the practice in the name of property rights even as they eloquently made the case for liberty. Thomas Jefferson, in The Declaration of Independence, scribed “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” yet himself didn’t find it “self-evident” that owning slaves inconsistent with this philosophy.

Should Jefferson be condemned by historians for being a slave owner?


Does this make his arguments or his founding brothers’ arguments any less valid?

I think not.

Comment of the Day: “Education” Edition

Re: “Don’t Forget Your Homework…or Your Miranda Card”

Liberalism in the United States has, over the past forty years, been usurped by the socialist agenda. Our public schools are little more than indoctrination camps for the pacification of future generations.

At the same time, conservatism in the United States has been usurped by war-hawks and fundamentalist christians. Our funding for education has been marginalized, contributing to the growth of the socialist mind-set among educators and educational administrators, as well as contributing to the general ignorance of the populace concerning historical precedent for current affairs, and critical analysis of future prospects for avoiding past mistakes.

They simply do not have the funds to broaden educational horizons for students, and due to the changes in both liberalism and conservatism, have instead created lock-down facilities much like concentration camps which institutionally discourage free thought, free discourse and the development of critical thinking skills.

The continuation of this trend will erode what little is left of truly American society, turning us into a nation of frightened chattel animals whose sole purpose will be to provide revenue and labor for a totalitarian state, and predatory industry owned by the wealthy few, whose political machinations are directly contributing to this end.

Comment by Ken — February 25, 2011 @ 8:48 am

While I don’t agree entirely* with Ken’s comment, he does raise some interesting points. There certainly is a collectivist mindset that is pervasive in our culture on the Left and the Right and I think Ken has successfully identified them.

» Read more

Unjustified self-righteousness

Apparently, a member of the Denver teachers union thinks she knows what work is:

That’s your problem. You’re an entrepreneur, so you don’t work. You don’t know what work is until you get into an educational area.

Warren over at Coyote Blog replies:

Yep, some day I will have to stop loafing around and take on a brutal assistant principal job somewhere. All I have to worry about is that every dollar I own (and more) is invested in my business and could disappear at any time if I make a mistake

Now, as an IT professional, my viewpoint on hard work is a little more extreme than most. Fifty hours, the point at which every teacher at that protest would be complaining bitterly, is a moderate week for me. My worst work week topped out at just under 100 hours. To put that number in perspective, remember that a week is only 168 hours long. My worst continuous stretch was 42 hours straight of emergency work. Why work so hard? Because I’ve got customers who are impacted if things aren’t working. Because development delays can cost companies thousands of dollars a day.

Compare that to the life of a teacher, and that’s pretty damned rough. Compare that to truly high-stress, high-demand professions, and it’s not that bad. I wouldn’t trade places with a power company lineman who has to labor under potentially-lethal conditions and extreme pressure to get people’s power back on in an emergency. Nor would I trade places with an ER doctor or nurse who works long hours tending to sick and shattered people. Nor would I trade places with a harbor pilot or air traffic controller, who run the risk of causing massive damage with a moment of inattention.

Millions of people in this country do jobs that make teaching look like a cakewalk. Now, in a perfect world, that quote from a teacher wouldn’t cause someone like me the least bit of offense. But it’s an imperfect world where this teacher is using completely unjustified self-righteousness as a weapon to stifle debate on the issue of public sector compensation. I find that offensive.

“Don’t Forget Your Homework…or Your Miranda Card”

I don’t know how much play if any this story has received in the national media but it has been a subject of local news and talk shows here in the Denver media market. Basically, an 11 year old boy drew a disturbing picture for his school counselor and later that evening, the boy was hauled off to jail in handcuffs and booked – fingerprints, mug shots, and all as if he were a hardened adult criminal. The video below goes into more detail.


Local Denver talk show host Peter Boyles, as a result of this case and others like this case, has concluded that perhaps it would be prudent for school students of all ages to bring some sort of “Miranda Card” like the one shown below to be presented to school administrators or even (especially) the police. Boyles said that until just a few years ago, he was of the opinion that kids should be taught to trust the police and answer any questions they might have – just as the parents of this young boy did. Now he says that perhaps we should teach our children the exact opposite.

Is this really what it’s coming to now – having to teach our elementary age children the “10 Rules for Dealing with Police” even before they are taught the facts of life?

Maybe so. But there is also another lesson that might be useful for children and hopefully this boy has learned this lesson: don’t be afraid to question authority figures. In the case of this boy, all the authority figures failed him. His counselor failed him by encouraging to draw the picture in the first place without offering any words of caution. The school administrators should have coordinated their approach with the counselor rather than involving the police. The boy’s parents encouraged him to speak openly with the police who then used unnecessary heavy handed tactics that undoubtedly traumatized the child. His trust was betrayed by them all.

Clearly, this is a troubled boy who needs help and was already receiving therapy before government intervention. Why not let those professionals who actually know what they are doing do their jobs?

Now as a parent, I am put in a difficult position. What am I supposed to tell my kids about how to deal with the police? I don’t want them to disrespect the police but at the same time, I don’t want them to grow up having the false notion that the police will always act in their best interests if only they “cooperate.”

It’s a very sad commentary to be sure.

There’s More Missing from the Collective Bargaining Debate for Government Workers than Democrat Legislators

In all the coverage I’ve read, listened to, and watched concerning the public sector unions in Wisconsin and elsewhere, there is one term that is usually very much present in the political debate that seems to be conspicuously absent: special interests.

Special interests, we are so often told, have a very corrupting influence on our system of government. Special interest groups send lobbyists to Washington and the state capitals to influence legislation (usually via the tax code) in such a way that if the special interests were not part of the system, elected officials would be more inclined to represent “the people.” People from both the Left and the Right make this argument (though it seems to be made more by those on the Left) and hold up examples of the groups which are opposed to their policies as special interests; special interest groups they agree with are almost never described as such.

So far as I have noticed, proponents of either side in neither government nor in the MSM has called these public sector unions by this term. Why not?

Surely these unions qualify as special interest groups as they pour millions of dollars into the coffers of (mostly) Democrat campaigns? Can anyone argue that these unions, whether one thinks for good or ill*, don’t have a very strong influence on these politicians? Why else would Democrat legislators go AWOL if they were not scared to death of losing their power due to unhappy union leaders? This is not how legislators normally behave. Under normal circumstances, those who disagree with a bill cast their votes against the bill even when they know that they are going to be on the losing end. Under normal circumstances, the losing side doesn’t take their ball and go home.

Why shouldn’t the Democrats be condemned for caving to special interest groups as would be the case if it were Republican legislators who left their state in fear of losing support from their special interest groups?

The truth of the matter is there will always be special interest groups that will try to influence public policy as long as there is a republic. And why shouldn’t there be? Anyone who runs a business that is subject to government regulation would be very foolish not to try to participate in the system (if not, those who would regulate their business would be at an advantage). The only way to reduce the power of these special interests would be for the state and federal governments to restrict their law making and regulations to the confines of their constitutions.

But for the sake of clarity and honesty, let’s not pretend that unions are anything other than what they are: powerful special interest groups that are no more saintly than any other special interest group.

» Read more

1 2 3 5