Category Archives: Opinions

Children can’t handle philosophy?

I was delighted with today’s rebuttal of this ill thought out think piece published in the Trib on December 4th.

I was strongly tempted to write my own critism. Its the second time I’ve been tempted to argue with this retired Iron Range teacher but I’m a busy fellow and, as a school board member, I don’t want to wear out my welcome writing op-eds to the Tribune. This “educator” opined that it was a waste of time to teach kids philosophy because their brains weren’t ready to handle it and more prone to taking stupid risks. Hell, why do we bother to teach them anything other than readin and writin and rithmatic before they are old enough for post-graduate studies?

Here’s is a sensible reply I second.

A short sample:

Heck, I’m a middle-aged man; we are famous for making bad life choices despite our well-developed brains. Just this summer, against my better judgment, I followed a couple of friends over a dangerous waterfall crossing at Tettegouche State Park. (And I’m still gunning for a sports car.) My fully developed prefrontal cortex may mitigate bad judgments, but it doesn’t immunize me against them.

More importantly, my bad choices do not make me a bad philosopher; they just make me human.

LWV

I answered the League of Women Voter’s questionnaire tonight. I’d started filling it out a couple days ago but kept getting interrupted. They asked a series of momentous questions which a serious answer requires an expert and a book but gave us a 50 word limit. I was considerably shorter. I will not make a habit of filling out questionaires in this campaign but this one wasn’t from one of the mindless “I’ll give up when you pry my cold dead fingers off the trigger” type organizations.

Its lengthy and some of my answers are pretty flip but I’m no expert on many of the querries:

What is the role of the federal government in encouraging exploration and innovation for future energy needs?  (50 words)
Its regulatory role is preeminent to assure that there is minimal environmental degradation.  Only the government can be trusted to enforce the reduction of carbon and methane.  Its role in fostering energy conservation is also critical but it must not place unnecessarily burdensome requirements on private industry.
Are market forces sufficient to ensure a clean environment?  If not, what regulatory actions would you support?  (50 words)
No they are not. Environmental degradation is a hidden tax on the future.
How should the costs of maintaining national parks, historic sites and national forests be paid?  (50 words)
The national parks are natural treasures that should be primarily dependent on taxpayers for support. User fees should only augment their upkeep.
How can immigration policy balance US economic needs, the interests of US workers and security?  (50 words)
 Not easily
What are the long and short-term impacts of the deficit on the economy?  (50 words)The short term impact has been to prime the economy for the political benefit of incumbents. The long term consequence is a great burden placed on the shoulders of the next generation which is already facing huge demands from the increasingly geriatric baby boom population.
If Social Security and Medicare place significant burdens on future budgets, how would you make up the balance?  (50 words)
By a combination of raising the age for payouts and raising the taxes to pay for the promises made and the sooner the better.
What steps, if any, should the government take to make health care more accessible and affordable?  Explain.  (50 words)
There should be a greater national role in providing health care so that there is less effort by the medical community to shift costs.
How can we ensure effective response to disasters and/or pandemics?  (50 words)
For one thing by making sure that competent professionals take over the agencies that oversee this responsibility rather than political cronies.
How can civil liberties be preserved while giving our government necessary tools to fight terrorism?  (50 words)
By not criticizing the motives of people who are pointing out the continuing erosion of long established rights.
How best can elected officials foster separation of powers as laid out in the US Constitution?   Explain.  (50 words)
By honoring that separation rather than denying it.
Does the current system in Congress allow for fair and thorough review and judgment of ethics charges brought against its members?  (50 words)
Probably not.

Vic’s Challenge

My email buddy Vic who has sent me interesting items for years recently read my gushing praise for the “This I believe” segment sticking up for the middle.

“And where is “the middle” for would-be Representative Harry Welty regarding our drug laws? The idiocy of prohibition revisited, which is what we have; or decriminalization and treatment? ‘the greatest freedom’, with everyone being prohibited from toking, and with almost half of our prison populations existing because of those idiotic drug laws?”
Vic

One advantage I have over Grams and Oberstar is that as someone not dependent on a political party I can be candid without fear of outraging the party I depend on. So here goes, Vic. You’re right. We’ve put millions of Americans in jail over the last decade for drug crimes and made our streets momentarily safe. We did not try to rehabilitate these folks. Some states, like California, skimped so much on their vast, chaotic prison systems that they are out of control; little more than gang-breeding programs. And last week there was the terrible shoot-out by prison guards of FBI agents who were about to arrest them for the business-like way the guards solicited sex from female inmates. A guard killed an agent.

Now this prison population is poised to flood back into the streets as their sentences reach their conclusion. Our get-tough drug policies have only created bitter graduates who will wreak havoc on the streets.

I’m not eager to make America a Netherlands-like land of pot heads but our punitive drug laws are and have been stupid for years. Now we are facing another terrible drug, methamphetamine. Maybe, since it is ravaging a rural white populataion instead of black inner city neighborhoods our leaders will be motivated to rethink our drug laws. I know if I’m elected I will be prepared to change them from the ground up.

As a proponent of the middle I think it’s fitting to ease up on the most draconian laws but I’m also willing to put hurdles in the way of free and unimpeded drug recreation.

Yglesias Award

One of Andrew Sullivan’s best ideas is an award he gives to pundits who, as Sullivan puts it: “actually criticize their own side, make enemies among political allies, and generally risk something for the sake of saying what they believe.” I’m not sure who Yglesias is (because I don’t have an index of pundits) but Sullivan gives one of these awards to Markos Moulitsas, the very liberal blogger of the Daily Kos’s for showing that not all Republicans are xenophobes.

Google has failed me so far

I’ve googled for “bloggers,” “columnists,” and “pundits” but haven’t found a comprehensive list of know-it-alls. Somehow this seems like a serious oversight. Sure you can google individual names and get random information on just about any of them but there ought to be a ranking kind of like the ones for politicians. Anyone up to putting one together?

a List of columnists

Here’s a list of columnists. Some of the links actually work. The list doesn’t tell you anything about the politics of the writers only the publication or blog they are associated with. There are lots of missing names.

Historical forecasting

In my continuing search for a pundit glossary I ran across an interesting article on ranking Presidents in the Opinion Journal. Written just before last year’s election it found that a survey of historians equally balanced between Democrats and Republicans put George W Bush squarely in the middle of the Presidential pack. Of course, it was a little premature. There is no historical distance yet for an objective judgement.

I think Bush’s ranking will decline steadily over time. The year since the election has done nothing to enhance his prospects for a generous appraisal.

News Who?

A couple posts ago I commented that most political blogs, no matter how much they criticize the MSM (mainstream media) depend upon it for content and context. I was looking for a who’s who of pundits and periodicals that I could link to for people trying to figure out how tell what the prejudices the writers approached their writing from. I haven’t found one yet but I did find a two year old list of the top 16 new sites that bloggers linked to in 2003.

It probably hasn’t changed much in two years.

01. The New York Times
02. The Washington Post
03. BBC
04. U.K. Guardian
05. Wired
06. News.com
07. MSNBC
08. CNN
09. Reuters
10. (U.K.) Register
11. Los Angeles Times
12. ABC News
13. (U.K.) Independent
14. The National Review
15. WSJ. Opinion Journal
16. The New Republic