Trying Too Hard

Kansas City Star sports columnist Jason Whitlock started a new venture today, writing columns about politics.  His first piece, Beck, Palin adopt tactics of Jackson, Sharpton was a swing and miss.

Whitlock has made a couple forays into political writing in the past and I was impressed.  I thought he demonstrated clear-thinking and open-mindedness.

But, equating Beck and Palin with Jackson and Sharpton is an epic fail that lacks any basis in fact or reason.

To make his case, Whitlock fabricated straw men (i.e. false) representations of Beck, Palin and Limbaugh and tried to connect those with actual tactics of Jackson and Sharpton.

Example of Palin’s straw man:

Gal Sharpton (Sarah Palin) travels the country stoking the fears of white Americans telling them their country has been stolen by a mixed-race president.

It seems like it would be easy enough to produce at least one example to back up this accusation.  None are provided.

Compared with Sharpton’s actual incident:

We’re witnessing a disproportionate backlash from Sharpton’s unrepentant Tawana Brawley hoax…

It would be refreshing to see Whitlock take a calm approach to address what Palin, Beck and Limbaugh actual positions, rather than creating and attacking the false positions.

Whitlock writes:

Backed by major media outlets and choosing demagoguery over reason, Beck, Palin, Limbaugh and their imitators are growing in influence and seemingly pushing for anarchy by baiting racial distrusts…

Another accusation without facts.  And, it couldn’t be further from the truth.  Choosing demagoguery over reason? Pushing for anarchy?  Baiting racism?  Utter nonsense.   This demonstrates that Whitlock hasn’t done a minute of research to substantiate his viewpoint.  His editors should have pointed this out immediately.

I guess Whitlock isn’t interested in the truth.  From this absurd column, his interest appears to lie in the same place as those he accuses – making money.

Good luck with that.  I may give him a couple more chances based on the quality of his previous work, but if he just wants to put his spin on the same fiction that bounces around the airwaves, it’s not worth my time.


Moral Relativism on “Star Wars: The Clone Wars”

If you watch the Clone Wars or haven’t seen Episodes II and III of the Star Wars there are some spoilers below.  Fair warning.

I love to watch the Cartoon Network’s Star Wars: The Clone Wars with my son each week.  The series tells the story about what happens between Episode II of the Star Wars movies and Episode III, when Anakin Skywalker turns to the dark side and becomes Darth Vader.

In a recent episode, the Republic is defending a planet that’s on the fence between Republic protection (the “good guys”) and Separatists (the “bad guys”).  In the fight, they discover a large animal that was thought to be extinct, the Zillo Beast.  The Zillo Beast appears to be the last of its kind and its body is covered with impenetrable armor (perhaps to be used to cover the Death Star?).

The inhabitants of the Zillo beast’s planet want it dead because they know the harm it can cause.  Mace Windu, a Jedi master (good guy), doesn’t want to kill the beast.  He wants to take it somewhere it can live freely.  His defense is based in principle – it’s not right to kill a creature for no reason.

The Chancellor (official head of the Republic government and secretly calling the shots of the Separatists in order to consolidate power into a dictatorship) wants the creature to figure out the secrets of its armor.  However, once the beast becomes to be too much of a burden to keep alive, the Chancellor orders its death.

Anakin’s wife, Padme, a Senator in the government and ally of Windu wants the creature’s life spared, asks for Anakin’s support during discussions with the Chancellor and is disappointed when Anakin doesn’t give it.  Anakin explains, “you have to admit, the Chancellor makes some good points.”

This is a clever bit of writing.

This episode showcases the difference in the mindsets that lead to the eventual consolidation of power and dictator rule.   The Chancellor has no principles except the ones he makes up on the fly to achieve his desired ends.

He wants the armor to help him “end the war” (i.e. consolidate power) and whatever harm caused to an innocent creature is a cost that’s worth it for the greater good.  He takes a utilitarian approach to assessing the cost-benefit of the situation.

Anakin, who will eventually become the Chancellor’s henchman in the dictator-led Empire, accepts the greater good argument and doesn’t have any qualms about principles like his wife and fellow Jedi.

Lesson: Beware the moral relativists.   Look, we all rationalize to some extent, even the good Jedis.  But, there are lines (principles) that some won’t cross and others will as long as there is a relative argument for it.  Watch out for those guys, because at some point you might find that you are the cost that is worth the benefit.

Warren Buffett is finding that out right now.  Warren Buffett was Democrat supporter in 2008.  I wonder if he regrets his decision?  From today’s Wall Street Journal, Berkshire Presses Lawmakers to Roll Back Proposed Curbs, Avoiding Potential Hit.  Buffett, billionaire, estate tax supporter, business philosopher and down-to-Earth-guy wants some special provisions in the financial regulation bill to save him some dough.

The White House has been trying to kill the Berkshire provision on the grounds that it would weaken the government’s ability to regulate the enormous market for derivatives.

Pelosi Mentions the Dinner Table

In a Q&A session this week with children of journalists, Nancy Pelosi mentions the Dinner Table.  One child asked, “Why are there so many problems with the government?”

The beginning of her answer:

I think I’m getting a tenor of the dinner table conversation at home. I guess this is not an appropriate time to talk about the previous administration, then.

Read more about it and see the video here.
From the looks of it the journalist parents could learn a thing or two from their kids.  To Nancy Pelosi’s point, I wish more of the narrative that took place in the general media would carry the tenor of dinner table conversations.

Rep. Todd Tiahrt on the Tea Party

Here’s a letter to the editor published today in the Kansas City Star from Rep. Todd Tiahrt of Kansas.

Across the nation patriotic Americans are making their voices heard by protesting the largess of a federal government intoxicated with raising our taxes, spending our money and controlling more of our lives. Unfortunately, President Barack Obama and liberal members of the media have spent more time ridiculing the tea party movement than listening to it.

Instead of lecturing citizens for engaging in the political process, Washington leaders should be signing up for lessons to start learning why people from every walk of life are so angry about what is happening to our country.

Americans are outraged — and rightfully so. The liberal spend-and-control agenda of the Obama administration is dangerous and threatens to undermine many of our freedoms. I hope the tea party movement is just getting warmed up, because we desperately need an end to the “change” agenda being forced on us by the president.

We must continue making our voices heard and fighting against the establishment of a more intrusive bureaucracy. Then we need to do the necessary work of undoing the mess created in Washington and start building our economy from the ground up, not the government down.

Emphasis is mine.

Is DDT Bad?

On her Earth Day show, Oprah mentioned the banning of DDT as one of the successes of the Earth Day movement.

The banning of DDT is another example where our reflexes have been trained and our brains have been disengaged.  To question the validity of the DDT ban has been conditioned to be a bad thing.  We nod our heads in agreement that the ban is a good thing and go on with living our lives.

But, this Wall Street Journal editorial, DDT and Population Control, from today presents a different perspective.

Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson, a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, was a leading opponent of the insecticide DDT, which remains the cheapest and most effective way to combat malarial mosquitoes. Rachel Carson’s 1962 book, “Silent Spring,” misleadingly linked pesticides to cancer and is generally credited with popularizing environmental awareness.

Today, malaria still claims about one million lives every year—mostly women and children in sub-Saharan Africa. There’s no evidence that spraying the chemical inside homes in the amounts needed to combat the disease harms humans, animals or the environment. Yet DDT remains severely underutilized in the fight against malaria because the intellectual descendants of Senator Nelson continue to hold sway at the World Health Organization and other United Nations agencies.

So, to put this in terms that the Left may better understand, why is Oprah against something that can save 1 million lives a year?  If it is true that DDT can save 1 million lives a year without causing harm, then why are we so closed minded to this?  Perhaps its because we don’t see the faces of the those 1 million people a year that die from malaria.


Our reflexes have been trained.  We no longer question or think about things.  We avoid disagreements and conflicts.

For Earth Day, Oprah had the mother of a green family switch places with the mother of a non-green family.

In one clip the father of the non-green family showed how he left the kitchen faucet running in the background because he “likes the sound” it makes and it relaxes him and helps him focus.

That was met with a reflexive gasp from the audience and from the people in my living room.  I even caught myself dropping my jaw in horror.  Then I started to think.

Why is that such a big deal?  Why did it seem like a big deal to me?

Then I remembered.  When I was in elementary school, I remember the campaign to “save water”.  I had been lectured many times to “not let the faucet run.”

But, as I got to thinking about it I wasn’t clear at all why it was so bad for this guy to let his faucet run.  Clearly, it violated a standard of etiquette that has been brainwashed into our heads.

But Oprah’s show was about how our actions can effect others and I’m not clear on how this man’s action of leaving the faucet running will effect others.

We have plenty of water in most places.  There is no shortage of it.  The guy pays for what he uses.  It’s cheap.  Sure, it takes some energy to clean the water and get it to his house.  The waste of that energy might be a valid argument, but the waste of the water itself?  Water isn’t wasted.  It’s recycled over and over again.

To those in the room that continued to exercise their brainwashed reflex by chastising me for my uncaring attitude, I pointed out to them they also had wasteful habits like leaving lights on rooms that were not in use, taking long showers sometimes more than once a day, watering their lawns, filling their backyard swimming pools, running their Slip-n-Slides in the summer time, visiting water parks, drinking only bottled water, using dishwashers and so forth.

I’m a big environmentalist.  I don’t like to waste resources and I’m frugal so I see no need to create unnecessary expense.  But, who am I to judge this guy for leaving his faucet on?

I’m open to considering why this is bad if anyone has a valid argument.  It might be.  But, none of the people who gasped, including myself, could come up with a reasonable argument for how his habit was any worse than our wasteful habits.

Outlaw It

For years we’ve been hearing about the big problem of 46 million uninsured for health care.

Their solution:  Make them criminals.

Soon those 46 million people will be breaking the law if they are uninsured and will pay a penalty.

Somehow, that’s not exactly what I envisioned as a solution.  That’s so simple.

Maybe we should outlaw poverty too.  We can also make it illegal to be late on a payments.  Perhaps we can make it illegal to not have a college education.  Maybe being unemployed should be illegal as well.

Diane Sawyer

On the evening news tonight, Diane Sawyer reported that home sales were up.  She credited the rebound to tax credits because some percent of the home purchases were made by first time home buyers.

She may be right about the impact of the tax credit.

Or wrong.

I can’t tell based on the information provided.

It would be more convincing had she provided the usual percent of home purchases made by first time home buyers as a comparison.  For example, if she said that 50% of purchases were made by first time home buyers when that figure is normally 10%, that would be more convincing, but still not necessarily correct.

But, she didn’t provide the comparison.

This is an example of an irritating phenomenon.  News organizations analyze and interpret rather than reporting the news.  In this case, Diane could have simply said, “Home sales are up.”   Next story.   That’s news reporting.

Telling us home sales are up because of the first time home buyers credit is analyzing, interpreting, editorial and narrative, which are all better left to other venues like talk shows or the opinion section of the newspaper.  In those venues, the viewer at least knows that the narrative has been added, can take it with a grain of salt and decide whether they agree or disagree.

When it’s reported as Diane reported on a news program, it seems much more like fact than opinion.  To the unsuspecting viewer, the way this is reported makes tax credits seem like a good thing — even if they’re not.

Another irritating phenomenon is that we rarely notice it.  We take it as fact and rarely entertain the idea that the news narratives might be wrong.  Though, I think subconsciously we do know.  That’s why newspapers and TV news are struggling.  They’ve lost credibility by lacing narratives with reporting.

In this case, Diane didn’t us enough information to draw our own conclusion.  That’s either sloppy narrative or because the facts don’t necessarily support the case.

Finally, even if Diane had provided a comparison that made a convincing case that tax credits were driving home sales, it would not necessarily be true that tax credits were the cause.    There might be other plausible explanations.  All I want to know from my news program is what: homes sales are up.

If they want to give me their opinion, fine.  Tell us that.  “Home sales are up.  In the opinion of the producers of this program, that’s because of the tax credits!”

Infused with law

Here’s something that applies to a great deal of our everyday lives.  It’s so natural the impact in has on our behavior that we take it for granted and don’t even recognize.  Very well written by Don Boudreaux of Cafe Hayek.  Read the full post, The Law of Capitalism Vs. the Lawlessness of Politics.

…capitalism – real capitalism – is infused with law, most of which is self-enforcing.  The manufacturer who pays his suppliers late gets poorer credit terms in the future; the retailer who cheats her customers loses business; the customer who doesn’t pay his bills can no longer buy on credit.

Conservative v Liberal

Credit to the Shanin & Parks Radio Show in Kansas City for the Conservative vs. Liberal distinctions below.

I’ve seen similar things before written from a liberal point of view where the conservative side was distorted or exaggerated. I’d love to hear from liberals on this.  I wonder if liberals think their side is distorted here or if it’s a fair representation.   If these aren’t correct, I’d like to see suggestions.

I think the conservative side is true for many conservatives, though there are exceptions to all rules and there will be factions that call themselves conservative that think differently or disagree with some of these.

The gist is that conservatives generally don’t want to force their will on others through the government, while liberals seem to think that’s okay as long as it meets some logical test of being intended for the greater good.  Whether or not the imposition fulfills the intention in reality rarely seems to be a concern.

If a conservative doesn’t like guns, he doesn`t buy one.
If a liberal doesn’t like guns, he wants guns outlawed.

If a conservative is a vegetarian, he doesn’t eat meat.
If a liberal is a vegetarian, he wants meat products banned.

If a conservative is homosexual, he quietly leads his life.
If a liberal is homosexual, he demands legislated respect.

If a conservative is down-and-out, he tries to better his situation.
A liberal wants to know who is going to fix it for him.

If a conservative doesn’t like a talk show host, he switches channels.
Liberals want those they don’t like to be silenced.

If a conservative is a non-believer, he doesn’t go to church.
If a liberal is a non-believer he wants any mention of religion silenced.

If a conservative needs health insurance he shops for it, or looks for a job that will provide it.
A liberal demands that the rest of us provide for it.

A conservative will read this and will forward it, so his friends can have a good laugh.
A liberal will read this and delete it, because he’s offended.