Saturday, May 15, 2004

Scoring lots of points

Bob Snodgrass writes in from Pasadena:
I'm very impressed with your manifesto. It can and should be shortened and improved. Many of the comments were excellent, including Burt Humburg's comments. My experiences as a Dean worker are relevant: The Deanies bogged down in November & December with blogging, mutual admiration and Internet communications, which just don't reach enough people. Quite a few of my college classmates, for example, either have no Internet access at all or their Internet life is limited to checking email once a week.

1) The manifesto is excessively anti-Republican and anti-Conservative. This may indulge our emotions, but we need traction with the general public. I dislike George Will's politics and his attitude, but he uses words carefully, we can learn from him, and he had an column on the disintegrating Bush Iraq policy: Being blankly incapable of distinguishing cherished hopes from disappointing facts, or of reassessing comforting doctrines in face of contrary evidence, is a crippling political vice ... "I have thought it my duty to exhibit things as they are, not as they ought to be" -- quoting Alexander Hamilton, That is the core of conservatism. Yes, we want people to see the world as it is, not as portrayed by advertisers or the media. See The Realities of Iraq. This is a difference between science and any religion: science says let's do an experiment or trial project, whereas many religions say just turn to the Bible, Qu'ran, etc.

2) Fair and balanced is now a garbage term, just like "judicial activism." Also, Humburg is absolutely right that scientific issues should not be treated in an equal manner. There are a small number of scientists who don't accept evolution and others (occasionally the same ones) who a. don’t believe either that global warming is occurring or b. that it has nothing to do with human activities. It's reasonable to start out with the majority point of view, explain how we know that it's the majority point of view, admit that it could be wrong and give a small (less than equal time) to the minority. A non-American commentator often helps enormously to balance some of these issues. Science is not a collection of facts, it is a process and the process does not operate by taking polls or voting. It is most reliable when based upon experiments. There is excellent experimental evidence for evolution but very little that bears closely on the origin of life.

3. Science is very important in many ways. Our country and our world face major problems that can be handled on the basis of ideology, but would be better handled by a science-based approach:

1. We have major water problems in the Western United States now, approaching Dust Bowl proportions. Do we allow developers to add thousands of homes to Arizona, Southern California and other desert states? Do we allow private companies to buy water, hoard it and sell it later at high prices?

2. World grain production has been dropping; world grain reserves are the lowest that they've been in 30 years. While higher grain prices may help ADM, the question is how the country and the UN can best deal with the serious hunger issues now visible coming over the horizon.

3. Oil poses a whole set of problems -- the media would encourage the government to reduce gasoline taxes and pollution controls because high prices are hurting us. We need a long-term view that includes higher taxes on low mileage vehicles. By the way, the idea of hydrogen fuel cells for cars is no slam dunk. Separation of hydrogen and oxygen from water requires energy input. Other kinds of fuel cells may be better because they add fewer easy targets for terrorism and require less energy up front (e.g. methanol fuel cells among others).

4. What about the twin disasters of Social Security and health care? Social security can actually be handled easily by small increases in the payroll tax, if we can insure that all the money collected goes to social security not to the DOD. Medicare and health care in general are much less tractable than social security. I'm 67, but I see no reason to provide better healthcare to the elderly than to children or any other group. The number of uninsured people is rising; many Wal-mart employees fall into this group. You and I pay for Medicaid, which covers some Wal-mart employees (nobody knows how many) so we subsidize Wal-mart's low wage, minimum benefit policy. While we can have a small effect by favoring Costco over Wal-mart (Costco provides decent wages and benefits), none of these problems: water, food, pollution, transportation, retirement and health care can be handled without a long term viewpoint and massive revision of our crooked tax codes. Getting Bush out won't solve any of these problems?

5. We should be against dogmatism, not religion. It's dogmatism when groups of the disabled insist that we must keep touch screen voting in spite of its facilitating gross errors and fraud simply because it permits a blind voter to vote without any hum an assistance. The first priority must be honest and believable elections -- Egypt has elections, but nobody believes the result. It's destructive for every group to putting its needs first. Why did the air traffic controllers' union insist that the 9/11 tapes be destroyed?

6. There must be some fun in life. Blogs are fine, but they aren't fun. Music can provide fun especially if there is a wide range of music -- Monday, Appalachian folk music, Tuesday, Colombian cumbias, etc. I'm talking about a radio station, not NPR and not dogmatic like AirAmerica nor Pacifica which are combat vehicles.

7. We can't reach average people if we use words like blogosphere.

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