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Friday, April 22, 2005

Meddlers

Bill Suda provided some wonderful Faulkner quotes. Here is a good one:

I love Virginians because Virginians are all snobs and I like snobs. A snob has to spend so much time being a snob that he has little time left to meddle with you.

Unfortunately, they now teach at universities and like to meddle.

Luskin Weighs in on NYT Editorial by Mayer

Donald Luskin adds much more to my critique of Mayer posted below.

Equality: All in Poverty per NYT Editorial

Brookings Martin Mayer writes in a NYT op ed that the Fed’s interest rates at any given time will greatly affect the cost of purchasing a retirement annuity under Bush’s private account proposal. The idea is that upon retiring, the generation that has paid into SSI must purchase an annuity that will produce income that supplements the recalculated SSI payments.

While that is one of the options (and I prefer the Peter Ferrara’s suggestion that we receive a lump sum upon the institution of the new private system which we can immediately invest), Mayer is concerned that the Fed may treat interest rates in a more political manner given the effect on retiree income or cost of those annuities.

However, Mayer gives himself away with the following:

Most people concerned about the security of their pensions in a world of personal accounts worry that the money would be invested in an Enron. As advertised, diversification would take care of most of that problem. But you can't diversify time. If President Bush's proposal had been in effect for the last 30 years, an American retiring in the spring of 2000 - having earned an average income and built an average personal account in index funds - would retain a personal account at least a third larger than the personal account of his younger brother, who had the same income and the same investments but retired in the spring of 2003.

And this difference would have resulted not from anybody's working harder or investing more intelligently or more fortunately. It would stem simply from the accident of having been born a couple of years later.

OK, one brother is doing better than the other. By the time they retire, income differences will be only one of many issues they will have with each other. But let’s consider where these two brothers would be without the 30-year private accounts! Sure, they would be relatively equal in benefits. That equality would be living at the poverty line. I am sure they’d take an extra 33% or more of income under the private account proposal. Then, instead of being forced to live with each other in a small apartment, they could call each other on their cell phones from their spacious homes.

Fighting Back with Guns

Given the name and stated mission of this blog, I plan on presenting my list of "despots" that I wish to slay through sound arguments in our posts.

One group of despots are the "do-gooders" who manipulate the media and enact laws that not only increase the nuisance-factor of our lives (that come at a cost but can be survived by taking deep breaths and saying "Needles and Pins" or "Serenity Now"enough times) but actually make our lives more dangerous.

One group that makes our lives much more dangerous are gun-control advocates. The depth of their feelings about murder and mayhem is understandable. We all hate innocents being killed by miscreants. It is just that they are dead wrong on what can significantly stop such crimes. Gun control is a failure as it winds up disarming the innocent and law-abiding while ensuring the criminal has a safe passage of escape.

Through my friend Don Boudreaux at Cafe Hayek , I have learned of a blog that highlights the many under-reported (usually unreported) instances where people protected themselves with the use of guns. The blog is Civilian Gun-Defense Blog. Here are two episodes they have re-reported for your review:

From Buffalo’s WKBW.com of April 21, 2005
Pizza delivery man fatally shoots robbery suspect There are new details on a deadly late night shooting in Niagara Falls. Niagara Falls Police tell us two suspects with a gun, attempted to rob a pizza delivery man on Pierce Avenue about 10 p.m. Wednesday. The delivery man pulled out a gun and fatally shot one of the suspects at point blank range. The second suspect took off on foot; he remains at large. Although the shooting appears to be a case a self-defense, police are still investigating the case as a homicide.


From Montgomery’s WSFA.com of April 18, 2005
Man Fights Back Against Would-Be Robber A Montgomery man fights back against a would-be robber... and wins.Police say a deacon from Mount Olive Bapist went to the Normandale Compass Bank to deposit the church's offerings when a man approached him. The man then allegedly knocked the deacon down, took the money and started running away. The suspect, however, was in for a surprise. The deacon was carrying more than a money bag to the bank... he was carrying a loaded gun. He began firing at the suspect, who slipped, fell to the ground and dropped the cash. When the robber went to retrieve the bag, the deacon threatened to shoot him if he touched it.The suspect ran away.


This blog is an ally in our fight to slay the despots. Good work!

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Quotas are Stupid and they Discriminate Part !!

Fellow Think Tanker Allen Gorin adds to the post Quotas are Stupid and They Discriminate!

1) Thomas Sowell's criticism of quotas, especially in college admissions, caused Neal Phenes to reflect on what it's like to be born on the wrong side of the quota track. Specifically, Neal ponders what it would have been like had he been a Jew in 1940s/1950s America, with its de facto limitation of Jews admitted to certain (prestigious) universities. For Neal to have been shut out of a position he rightfully deserved, simply by virtue of his Jewishness, would have been "abominable."

Given that Jews have felt the sting of quotas, Neal and other like-minded Jews are sure to have pondered why many Jews have been in the forefront of pushing quotas for other groups currently on the right side of the quota track. (In this instance, I'm thinking mostly of affirmative action for blacks). After all, if the title of Neal's recent blog--Quotas are Stupid and they Discriminate!--really is so obvious and borne out by Jewish experience, why would Jews act contrary to common sense, their own self interest, and moral clarity?

The simple answer to this question came to me in October of 2000, at a Hillsdale conference in Salt Lake City, UT, courtesy of Myron Lieberman. Myron is an elderly academic, lecturer, and ex-liberal, education union organizer turned conservative activist, and was there to weigh in on the matter of "school choice." Prior to his talk, and especially at the point at which we realized we were both Jews, we started chatting about liberalism and its effect on the Jewish community.

At a certain point, I posed the following question to Myron: "Given that Jews have traditionally embraced education and entrepreneurship as the keys to success in America, and looked at government handouts as bordering on shameful, why did you and other Jewish liberals sell blacks the fool's gold of government programs?" In a sense, you were saying to black Americans, "The model we (Jews) have used for success is not right for you; now do as we say (i.e., government handouts), not as we did."

Myron paused thoughtfully, smiled, and then said, "The answer is quite simple, Allen. We were thinking with our hearts, not with our heads. So badly and ASAP did we want to bring blacks into full American partnership that we saw government programs as the great expeditor. Obviously, and with the benefit of hindsight, we were wrong."

I appreciated Myron's honesty and introspection. Having good intentions, especially in the realm of crafting sound public policy, is not good enough. One must have the wisdom to see the short and long range, intended and unintended consequences of government action or inaction.

2) There was a book published years ago, the title of which was something like The Black-Jewish Alliance: What Went Wrong. Let me suggest that a rarely discussed and little understood undercurrent of Black/Jewish friction has to do with the point I made to Myron Lieberman. In my opinion, Jews who encouraged blacks to pursue government programs as the panacea for correcting past injustices, instead of applying the self-help model of education and entrepreneurship, fostered considerable confusion and resentment among blacks.

This is not unlike the relationship between the self-made father with little formal education who sends his son or daughter to the finest college--"I want to give my kid everything that I never had"--and in the process creates a spoiled, insecure offspring who has little character and self confidence. And when the kid who has been "given everything" expresses regrets over having been spiritually debilitated, the parent adds insult to injury with the line "after all I've done for you, this is how you express gratitude?" The kid looks like the loser, and the parent the good guy.

I have long held the belief that raising good kids with good character is much more of a challenge for those parents with wealth, for reasons that revolve around the temptation to give kids too much too soon, thereby depriving children of the character-building experience that comes with struggle, deprivation, and being left alone. Similarly, it was a much greater challenge for Jews, as a very successful American minority, to reach out and genuinely help blacks than most Jews have ever really understood. Wisdom, much more than good intentions, was needed to truly help blacks become independent human beings. Such wisdom rarely comes into being when Jews think with their hearts, and not with their heads.

Protect Your Children

Mark Reynolds sent in this chilling report:

Anybody watching Greta last night saw that she broke this story which is in the news this morning: Detailed allegations in the case of Jessica Lundsford who was reported missing Feb. 24th and whose body was found last month buried near the trailer home where she had been held prior to her death.

It turns out that this 9 year old was raped, buried alive with a trash bag tied around her neck and stereo wire tied around her hands still holding a stuffed dolphin her father had won for her at a fair. She died of asphyxiation. See link below. One can only imagine what was going through this little girls mind and the fear that she experienced throughout this ordeal. Couple this with the probability that she was still alive when cops initially came to the trailer home to question John Couey and this story is enough to break your heart and at the same time want to beat the livin’ - - - - out of this previously convicted sex offender.

Here is a link for the FBI’s Crimes Against Children page which contains a link for State Sex Offender Registry sites. While they may be a good start, these registries are not enough. Check out your own state’s list, many are insufficient. New Jersey’s list only “includes information pertaining to sex offenders determined to pose a relatively high risk of re-offense (tier 3 offenders) and, with certain exceptions, information about sex offenders found to pose a moderate risk of re-offense (tier 2 offenders). The Internet registry excludes any information about offenders determined to present a low risk of re-offense (tier 1 offenders).” This is troublesome in that the animal that did this to this little girl, while he was required to register under Florida law where this happened, he may not have been listed on New Jersey’s Sex Offender Internet Registry. Couey had a criminal record which included; 1978 burglary during which he placed his hand over a girls mouth and kissed her, a 1987 conviction of indecent exposure and convicted of fondling a child under 16 in 1991. Was he a “tier 3” offender? Who’s deciding this? Further, with regard to New Jersey’s list, you can only search records added after January 1, 2004. Would Couey have shown up on the Jersey list? Who knows!!

Not another child should be subjected to these horrors. Not another parent should have to lie sleepless wondering what happened to their child. Something must be done to end this.

Please keep your kids safe.

The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children offers tips on keeping children safe: Make sure you know where each of your children is at all times. Be involved in their activities and give them lots of attention and supervision. Listen to them, especially if they talk about people they don't want to be around. Teach them they can say no to unwelcome actions or touching by others. Be sensitive to changes in their behavior or attitudes. Screen babysitters and caregivers. Check references and sexual offender registries. More tips and information can be found at www.missingkids.com or by calling 1-800-843-5678.

For School Success, It's Nurture not Nature

2 articles examine the reasons behind the poor performance of minorities in schooling. Both pieces conclude the reason is culture: The failing minorities do not have the educational work ethic that other groups have. By minorities we mean Blacks and Hispanics, not various Asian groups or Jews.

Kay Hymowitz, in the City Journal, offers an in depth review of studies done over 30 years that show that government programs designed to lift up minorities in school performance have produced next to nothing. The parenting philosophy of the successful students can be labelled "The Mission". In the Mission parents focus on the cognitive development of their children. They read to them more, speak to them more, from birth and onwards.

Contrast that with the failing approach described as the "natural-growth theory". Hymowitz descibes that as "Natural-growth believers are fatalists; they do not see their role as shaping the environment so that Little Princes or Princesses will develop their minds and talents, because they assume that these will unfold as they will. As long as a parent provides love, food, and safety, she is doing her job."

Citing a 1995 book Meaningful Differences, she writes:

Hart and Risley were troubled by the mediocre results of the curriculum they had helped design at the Turner House Preschool in a poor black Kansas City neighborhood. Comparing their subjects with those at a lab school for the children of University of Kansas professors, Hart and Risley found to their dismay that not only did the university kids know more words than the Turner kids, but they learned faster. The gap between upper- and lower-income kids, they concluded, “seemed unalterable by intervention by the time the children were 4 years old.”

By the way, there are black families that follow the Mission approach with successful students.

Larry Elder provides a snap-shot corroborating that hard work gets results. He reviews the relative test scores of latino and Asian children. The difference in results are striking with AP classes dominated by Asians and low test scores brought in largely by the Latinos.

He offers this anecdote and conclusion:

" I have a friend who lives in mid-town Los Angeles. Years ago, he invited me to visit a small library at the corner of Olympic and Vermont, an area between the high-rises of downtown and Koreatown. It is about 70 percent Hispanic and 20 percent Asian. At around four-o'clock in the afternoon, outside the library, several Hispanic kids performed incredible tricks on their skateboards. They were jumping, spinning, twirling and showing off their considerable skills. My friend then said, "C'mon, Larry, let's go inside." Inside the library -- standing room only -- were Korean-American kids and their mothers. Not one Latino kid inside the library. Not one.

The diversity/inclusion/multicultural crowd wants not only equal rights. They want equal results. But results require hard work, sacrifice and discipline. Either that, or a really good government program.

We need more Bill Cosby's to light the fire in the black community (and it looks like they are craving the "hard-love" message) because the minority leaders who normally get the media face-time just feed into the complacency that leads to failure.

More on Ratzinger

Skip adds more about the Pope:


He was a 16 year old boy whose family resisted the Nazi's and he did what he could to get away from them........

As for his role in the Church he took John Paul II's positions on doctrine and established a theological foundation for it. He played a major role in establishing and articulating the moral consistency we heard from John Paul II. So, if you liked John Paul II for his moral consistency, you gotta like Benedict XVI. The harsh labels applied to Cardinal Ratzinger were hugely unfair as he was taking John Paul II's lead. Critics would have an easier time attacking Cardinal Ratzinger than the very popular John Paul II

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Be Chubby and Live Forever

I just jogged a few miles and then felt guilty about eating a chicken sandwich with mayo and cheese. But then I read the following and feel much better from this AP story. The story refers to a CDC study that says:

"obesity - being extremely overweight - is indisputably lethal. But like several recent smaller studies, it found that people who are modestly overweight have a lower risk of death than those of normal weight".

Was Sleeper on the money or what? Guess I'll have a few chips now.

Not a Nazi Part-II

Further to Mark's point below on Ratzinger's past, from the Federalist Patriot excerpting the Jerusalem Post:

As prefectof the Doctrine of the Faith, Ratzinger played an instrumental role inthe Vatican's revolutionary reconciliation with the Jews under JohnPaul II. He personally prepared Memory and Reconciliation, the 2000document outlining the church's historical 'errors' in its treatmentof Jews. And as president of the Pontifical Biblical Commission,Ratzinger oversaw the preparation of The Jewish People and Their SacredScriptures in the Christian Bible, a milestone theological explanationfor the Jews' rejection of Jesus. If that's theological anti-Semitism,then we should only be so lucky to 'suffer' more of the same. As forthe Hitler Youth issue, not even Yad Vashem [the definitive HolocaustMuseum] has considered it worthy of further investigation. Why shouldwe?" --Jerusalem Post

He was No Nazi

Think Tanker Mark Reynolds sends in the following:

As regarding the “Polarizing Pope” headline, one must understand that in his most recent position within the Church, Cardinal Ratzinger was the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. As Prefect he was in charge of overseeing Church doctrine, in other words, he was to make sure everyone followed the rules. We know what the Catholic Church doctrine is on issues such as birth control, ecumenism, homosexuality, etc. Thus it should not be surprising to hear the guy who is in charge of enforcing the rules making statements in support of and as to what those rules are. The question now becomes did the office of Prefect dictate the man or did Pope John Paul pick the man as Prefect because of his “traditional” views? In any case the Catholic rules are what they have been for many years. Why is that “polarizing”?

A non-Catholic friend of mine commented yesterday that the Church has to be brought into the 21st century. No, Catholic doctrine shouldn’t be at the whim of what’s popular here in the U.S. If something is wrong then doctrine needs to be “fixed” but religion isn’t a fad that changes with the wind.

Here’s a link to a Wall Street Journal article on the Catholic Church in America.

http://www.opinionjournal.com/columnists/bminiter/?id=110006575

As an aside, I was on the elliptical at the gym when they announced the new Pope. The guy next to me started yelling “They picked the German. They picked the Nazi. They’ll do anything to alienate half the world.” Then he gets on his cell and starts yelling the same thing into his phone.

Now I really didn’t know anything about Cardinal Ratzinger’s background, so I said nothing (which is a good idea, in New York City, when people start yelling at no one in particular) and when I got back to the office I did a search on Google.

The new Pope’s father was an ex-policeman who was anti-Nazi and who’s efforts to rein in Hitler’s Brown Shirts forced the family to move several times. Ratzinger was forced into the Hitler Youth as a teen (membership was compulsory under German law) then at sixteen he was drafted into the army, subsequently, weeks before the German surrender, he deserted the German army, an act punishable by death. Often these executions were done “on the spot” without the deserter having a judicial hearing. Did he as a German citizen do enough to stop what was going on in that country at that time? Maybe not – it’s not clear from the information I read, but he doesn’t seem he was a Nazi. Any dissents or comments here?

The New Pope Disappoints

I see there is great disappointment among gays and liberals because the new Pope is taking a hard-line on homosexuality and other related issues. I don't know much about Catholicism but I grew up with a bunch of Italians and spent most of my pre-marriage adulthood hanging out with Irishmen (my wife has banned Irishmen from my social life). Over time I have seen many friends make the sign of the cross and voicing concerns about going to hell after telling me some off-color joke at the Church's expense. So I have picked up a little about the religion.

There is no way a Pope will blow up canon established over 2000 years on the subject of homosexuality. Besides canon, I believe there are biblical references about men not sleeping with each other. There is all of that pro-life/procreation stuff as an over-riding ethic. While there my be a "look away" regarding condom use in marriage, the gay love issue is a keeper. And Christianity is consistent on this issue with Judaism and Islam.

How can people have thought that the new guy was going to even consider changing the rules on this? It is like a new baseball commissioner immediately ruling that there will be no short-stop (not that the union would allow it). Though a poor analogy, please understand that I am not implying that infielders are gay.

Fellow think tanker Skip says: I was watching MSNBC's coverage of the new Pope yesterday and the headline caption was "Polarizing Pope" It is rampant in the MSM that if you take a firm stand on something and are conservative in your views you are a polarizing figure.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Nets Dead?

In an article entitled Donaldson: Network News Dead, 3 famous talking heads, Sam Donaldson, Charles Osgood and Jeff Greenfield, "agree that that Internet bloggers have had a generally positive impact on news because mainstream reporters are forced to better verify their information and pare opinions out of their work or face he wrath of scrutinizing critics". Yeah. Great verifying going on there. There'd be no blogs if they did their jobs.

Education Degrees and Education-Argh!!!

One of the many gems from the speech by David McCullough at Hillsdale College on the value of history was his problem with teachers today. He said:

We have to do a far better job of teaching our teachers. We have too many teachers who are graduating with degrees in education. They go to schools of education or they major in education, and they graduate knowing something called education, but they don’t know a subject. They’re assigned to teach botany or English literature or history, and of course they can’t perform as they should. Knowing a subject is important because you want to know what you’re talking about when you’re teaching. But beyond that, you can’t love what you don’t know. And the great teachers – the teachers who influence you, who change your lives – almost always, I’m sure, are the teachers that love what they are teaching. It is that wonderful teacher who says “Come over here and look in this microscope, you’re really going to get a kick out of this.”

A father of a 4th grader just e-mailed me the following:

My daughter lost 10 points on an American history test last week because the Boston Tea Party wasn't about taxes (which I always thought) but about the colonists being forced to drink tea! Argh.

I had bought a copy of Hamilton by Chernow for this friend and we read our own copies and discussed it when we had time. While I recognize the value of parents developing their children's interest in certain subjects (and one of our Think Tankers home schooled his 2 children), we are paying major bucks in taxes for teachers who cannot explain something as simple as the Boston Tea Party.

McCullough mentions that the textbook s used by these education majors are largely the PC-ridden textbooks that further extend the ignorance if not false understanding of the subject. He says:

There was a wonderful professor of child psychology at the University of Pittsburgh named Margaret McFarland who was so wise that I wish her teachings and her ideas and her themes were much better known. She said that attitudes aren’t taught, they’re caught. If the teacher has an attitude of enthusiasm for the subject, the student catches that whether the student is in second grade or is in graduate school. She said that if you show them what you love, they’ll get it and they’ll want to get it. Also if the teachers know what they are teaching, they are much less dependent on textbooks. And I don’t know when the last time you picked up a textbook in American history might have been. And there are, to be sure, some very good ones still in print. But most of them, it appears to me, have been published in order to kill any interest that anyone might have in history.

To repeat the great words of my friend the father and history buff: Argh!!!

Quit Yelling and Make Your Point!

Our Princeton University contributor, Arielle Gorin, weighs in with an incisive essay on the low level of public discourse these days.

WALKING STICKS AND RHETORIC: PREVENTING INCIVILITY IN POLITICAL DISCOURSE by Arielle Gorin

On May 22, 1856, South Carolina Congressman Preston S. Brooks strode into the U.S. Senate chamber, approached the desk of Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner, denounced a fiery anti-slavery speech the senator had made two days earlier, and promptly beat Sumner unconscious with his cane. The incident—nowadays regarded as nothing more than a bizarre bit of historical trivia--can actually be viewed as an extreme example of the consequences of incivility in political discourse. Political rhetoric had become so emotional and ad hominem in the turbulent pre-Civil War decade (in Sumner’s aforementioned speech, he had mocked a speech impediment of Brooks’ uncle—an author of the Kansas-Nebraska Act—several times), that participants literally came to blows.

Fortunately, we haven’t had any canings in the Senate in recent years. However, dialogue in the modern political realm is beginning to rival 1850’s-era rhetoric in terms of invective and incivility. The Global Language Monitor, an organization that “documents, analyzes and tracks trends in language the world over,” concluded in a recent study that incivility in political discourse has reached dismaying levels. The organization’s president, Paul J.J. Payack, commented that “not since the Civil War era, when President Lincoln was frequently depicted by adversaries as a gangly, gaping baboon, has the discourse sunken to such a profane level."

At the vanguard of this modern increase in incivility are not walking stick-wielding congressmen, but fiery pundits and media commentators such as conservative columnist Ann Coulter and liberal filmmaker Michael Moore. Often relying on angry accusations and shock-value to promote themselves—Coulter has asserted that “even Islamic terrorists don’t hate America like liberals do,” while Moore has called Republican politicians “conniving, thieving, smug pricks”—such pundits have enjoyed great success and notoriety in recent years. Their fame and success has, in turn, tugged the entire political arena in their direction. To adapt a phrase from the late Democratic Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who spoke of “defining deviancy downwards,” firebrands such as Coulter and Moore are defining civility downwards.

This trend is not only distasteful, but also potentially deadly to the very purpose of political discussion and debate. Consequently, it is the duty of intelligent, politically aware citizens everywhere to withdraw support for the firebrands, even those with whom they agree policy-wise. We must deny Coulter, Moore, et al. their very lifeblood—the fame and attention they desperately seek—and thus minimize their influence in the political arena.

The word “politics” comes from the Greek polis, which means a city-state or a collection of individuals—essentially, a society. Politics concerns the ordering and governing of such a society. Thus, the goal of political discourse is to determine how such ordering and governing is best accomplished. Ideally, then, all political dialogue and debate would point to this goal, would be conducted for the purpose of discovering what is true about how societies function and should function, and what is the right way to go about achieving the kind of society we have determined we should strive for. Of course, ideals are not always attainable; clearly, things other than the quest for the true and the right come into play in political discourse, such as individuals’ desires for power and fame. Nevertheless, as participants in society—as members of the polis—both duty and self-interest dictate that we should attempt to guide political discourse toward its ultimate purpose.

Firebrands, however, steer political discourse away from this purpose. Instead of being concerned with the true and the right, they focus on the best way to shock and insult and outrage. Their penchant for ad hominem attacks on opponents—harping on Bill Clinton’s affairs or George W. Bush’s grammatical missteps, for example—diverts the country’s attention from the merits or shortcomings of these politicians’ stances, and instead sparks national mudslinging sessions, which leave everyone covered in grime and leave no one closer to understanding the right set of policies for the country or the truth about how government should function. In other words, the firebrands often sling invective instead of ideas, even though ideas are the purpose of political discourse. As Edwin J. Feulner, president of the conservative Heritage Foundation, has commented: “What we see today, I am afraid, is an accelerating competition between the left and the right to see which side can inflict the most damage with the hammer of incivility. Increasingly, those who take part in public debates appear to be exchanging ideas when, in fact, they are trading insults: idiot, liar, moron, traitor.”

Even when there is something substantial beneath the mud—solid logic or coherent positions—the style in which the firebrands present their positions often turns off opponents from considering their ideas. In other words, when ideas are presented in a strident and offensive manner, the skeptical public often discards the message with the messenger, rather than realizing that there is merit to the ideas themselves. Further, the firebrands’ strident style often creates such an angry and polarized political atmosphere that a synthesis of opposing ideas becomes impossible; even if the best course of action were some combination of the policies promoted by Coulter and Moore, such a coming together would be impossible, since the two pundits’ angry, provocative styles engender such hatred between the camps. As the famous 20th-century rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote, “There is no truth without humility.” Quite simply, humility requires a person to acknowledge that he might be wrong and the other side might be right. Unfortunately, the firebrands’ angry condemnations of their opponents preclude any such humility, and thus hinder the quest for the truth about how best to govern a country.
Another consequence of the firebrands’ provocative and sometimes offensive styles is that they chase more reasonable and civil participants from the political realm. In regards to professional pundits, the flashy and provocative firebrands steal the limelight from their more courteous but less flamboyant counterparts, giving these civil pundits less airtime in the media marketplace of commentary. In regards to part-time or amateur commentators—those who simply enjoy a good political discussion or write an occasional letter to the editor--the domination of the firebrands causes civil and courteous citizens to become disgusted with the realm of political discourse and seek other occupations.

To quote Feulner again, “Many people withdraw and tune out [when they encounter incivility]. . .This is the real danger of incivility. Our free, self-governing society requires an open exchange of ideas, which in turn requires a certain level of civility rooted in mutual respect for each other’s opinions and viewpoints.”

One rarely heard, but at first glance convincing, defense of the firebrands is that pundits like Coulter and Moore provide a sort of catharsis for their followers. That is, perhaps politically aware individuals who accumulate pent-up frustration and anger at those who promote seemingly destructive policies can “get it out of their system” by reading or listening to the firebrands. In reading Coulter’s book Slander or watching Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11, individuals are able (so the hypothesis goes) to vicariously vent their anger. Perhaps this mental purging of annoyance and frustration is a healthy process.

However, at least two things prevent the process of patronizing the firebrands from qualifying as a catharsis. First of all, a catharsis must entail a person’s acknowledging that the thing he is purging from himself is undesirable—in this case, the viewer of a Moore film or its equivalent must realize that the anger which he is able to vent by watching such a film is a negative thing, something he would have been better off never having accumulated in the first place. However, followers of the firebrands—to the contrary—tend to revel in their outrage, and tend to revere the firebrand for his or her skill at expressing such outrage, at “sticking it to” the enemy.

Secondly, a catharsis must entail getting rid of the acknowledged undesirable thing, rather than increasing it; specifically, the reader of a Coulter column or its equivalent must eventually feel less anger and outrage than he did before reading such a column. However, this is clearly not the case; the work of the firebrands is intended to increase outrage, not eliminate it. In this sense, patronizing Coulter, Moore, etc. can be viewed more as a feedback loop than a catharsis; a person brings his own anger or frustration into the process, and exits feeling even more outraged than before.

What, then, can we do to combat the effects of the firebrands’ angry rhetoric? Clearly, censorship is not a viable option. As well as violating the First Amendment, such a restriction of free speech would entail an even more direct and lethal blow to our political system than the firebrands’ rants. And clearly, a polite request that such pundits tone down the invective would have little effect; their capacity to outrage and grab headlines is the very reason they are famous and successful, and they are unlikely to give the game up simply because some people dislike their style. No, what is needed now is nothing less than a good, old-fashioned boycott. It must be a special kind of boycott, however: we must withdraw our attention as well as our pocketbooks. That is, in addition to not purchasing the firebrands’ books or viewing their films, we—politically aware, involved citizens though we may be--must not write letters to the editor about the firebrands, or start web sites devoted to them, or attend their public appearances. As with a child who misbehaves to get attention, the best policy is simply to ignore the firebrands. Publicity is their currency, their lifeblood, and by denying them the fame and attention they crave, we render them impotent.

It won’t be easy, of course. The passionate, fiery side of us may very well enjoy the firebrands who agree with us, and when we encounter firebrands who disagree with us, we may very well feel the need to disagree publicly with their outrageous and provocative statements. But that’s exactly what they want. Firebrands thrive just as much on being hated as loved; again notoriety is the main thing for which they strive. Thus, for the sake of our political discourse, of our society, of our quest to know what policies and ideologies are true and right, we must combat the firebrands by ignoring them. It’s the only way to stop them.
Until then, look out for congressmen with walking sticks.

BIBLIOGRAPHY
August PQ Index: Trash Talk Tops the Buzzword List.” The Global Language Monitor.
, 2004.

Feulner, Edwin J. “Lay Your Hammer Down.” Hillsdale College Commencement
Address. <http://www.hillsdale.edu/newimprimis/2004/july/julyPrintable.htm>, 2004.

“Charles Sumner.” Wikipedia Encyclopedia.
, 2004.

“Michael Moore Quotes.” Brainy Quote.
, 2004.

Freedland, Jonathan. “An Appalling Magic.” The Guardian. , 2003.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Will that VW start today?

Emotional depression is spiking up in Germany these days per the BBC. It is particularly high for the young workers (when they can be found). The report shows that it is higher in Berlin and bigger cities where treatment is more available. They are calling in sick due to depression as an excuse just behind colds, flus, back pain and PMS. They say they are afraid to come in to work because a boss is ready to fire them. So goes that Teutonic work ethic.

And with unemployment at over 10%, these guys who have jobs should be jumping for joy.

My friend used to say he was having "eye problems" when he called in sick. They would ask what was the matter and he'd say, "I just don't see myself coming in today."

World Poverty-Don't send money

Don Boudreaux of Cafe Hayek sent me an e-mail with a WaPo article on poverty in Malawi. Don states in his letter: "Poverty is alleviated not by the mere getting of money but, rather, by the production of goods and services that people want. Ordinary men and women can be wealthy only if they are part of an economy in which most people produce for markets rather than beg from – or prey upon – others."

Charlotte Gott relates her observance of Malawian dependence on charity wrought by decades of hand-outs in her article. Gott talks about how her medical expertise was not valued by the people. She was seen as a white person from the West, a cash cow. She says, "Instead, the health-care providers would come to my door wanting help to buy refrigerators, to pay for school fees, to get new laptops. That is what our donations have trained them to expect."

With Jeffery Sachs telling everyone that more money needs to be redistributed world-wide to end the suffering, the great Peter Bauer tells us that money buys temporary help, if any actually escapes the leaders' accounts in Switzerland, but long range change is needed through capitalism.

And Sachs suggests that malaria can be defeated by use of malaria nets. Is he for real? How big do these things come? See the history of malaria and how DDT would be the proper choice to combat it at Tech Central in general and here for a solid article.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Unfreezing the Constitution- Does it mean what it says?

How does an article about Constitutional law fail to contain any quotes from Jefferson, Madison or Hamilton, those radicals who founded our form of government and drafted and executed the law under which we live.

The NYT Mag highlighted the current "conservative judicial activism" movement in Jeffrey Rosen's "Toward an Unregulated America". While it lacked much of the usual overt hysteria against non-liberal credo, it still painted professor Richard Epstein of U of C as a radical. A radical for refuting the belief that the commerce and general welfare clauses provide the government the right to undo most of the other language held in the Constitution. Epstein is a radical for pursuing the rights of the individual over that of the State.

Please read this article. It is a blueprint for where to find the high intellectual basis of the schools of thought that place liberty over the rights of the bureaucrats. It has now led me to pursue the writings of these "radicals" like Epstein to further support my general philosophy that this is supposed to be a government of limited powers per the Constitution. Please label me a radical.

But again, thanks to the NYT for providing the information on the American Enterprise Institute, The Institute for Justice and the Cato Institute to people interested in libertarian thought.

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