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Marching orders

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press
Tuesday, February 16, 2016 08:15 am

A couple of years ago, The Los Angeles Times got some attention for announcing it would no longer accept letters to the editor from climate change deniers, that to publish a letter saying something like "there is no sign that humans have caused climate change" because such a statement is a factual inaccuracy," not an opinion. Trying to keep factual inaccuracies off the page I'm pretty sure is a goal of just about every editorial page out there, but this bold assertion of what is accurate and what is not is seems out of line to me. The paper has made its mind up and will brook no dissent. I've always thought the purpose of an editorial age in general and its letters package specifically was to generate debate, to keep an argument going. If it is vigorous enough, a good letters to the editor package can be self-correcting, with letters with good ideas driving out the ones with bad ideas.When The Times' policy was announced, Mother Jones contacted eight other papers and found more or less the same policy. Some were more open than others to a certain range of climate change skeptics, but most had the "no factual inaccuracies" policy that would keep a certain number of letters out. I mean, if you want to call climate change a hoax or a liberal plot to increase the power of government, forget about it. 

I mean, we have to bow to those experts. Here's the Los Angeles guy:

He cited the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's recent statement that scientists are at least 95-percent certain humans are causing global warming.

But 95 percent certain isn't 100 percent, is it? Maybe those who fall into the other 5 percent have something useful to add.

And if that deference to the climate change experts isn't bad enough, here's a psychology professor in a New York Times op-ed seeming to argue that we should rely on the consensus of expert opinion in all areas of endeavor, but it can be hard to do that because of the standard journalistic practice of airing opinions from experts on both sides, thus creating a "false balance" that keeps the public from understanding what the consensus of expert opinion really is.

Government action is guided in part by public opinion. Public opinion is guided in part by perceptions of what experts think. But public opinion may — and often does — deviate from expert opinion, not simply, it seems, because the public refuses to acknowledge the legitimacy of experts, but also because the public may not be able to tell where the majority of expert opinion lies.

That seems like an incredibly dangerous attitude to me. Never mind the fact that "experts" are as prone to having agendas and biases as the rest of us. Never mind that the consensus evolves (or at least should) as more knowledge is accumulated and understood. The fact is that urging people to bow to authority, of experts or anybody else, is never a good idea. And I think this is an especially risky time to encourage such thinking.

Look at how many people are rushing to support Dona;d Trump and Bernie Sanders, who disagree on many things, but have in common a love for big, robust government that tries to do big, bold things. Bernie would take all our money for the common good, and Donald might just take all our private property. And to get what they want done done, they would have to greatly increase the power of government, which means our freedom would be greatly decreased.

And listen to all the talk about who should replace Justice Antonin Scalia, and when, and who should get to make the nomination. All the stories talk about how important the court is and how much the new justice will affect our lives. One story mentioned that Scalia's view that the court in general should defer more to legislative and executive actions was "a minority opinion" these days, and that, alas, is an understatement. More and more often, nine people unelected and serving for life give us marching orders that we must obey.

And too many of us seem eager to send someone to the White House who will come up with his own set of marching orders.

I don't think this is the time to be putting our lives in the hands of experts and other authority figures, and it certainly isn't the role of newspapers and college professors to spur our acquiescence along. Despotism can start with our willing participation, and, call me paranoid, but the things I see today are starting to worry me. 


Is Washington on the verge of having a real discussion about entitlement programs. I sincerely doubt it, so, asked and answered.

Now, here's some science I can get behind: Have sex to avoid dementia — especially if you're an "older man" — scientists claim. Of course, I'v e also found that sex can make you lose your mind.

Those who advocate for a $15 minimum wage are fools, but even they can't hold a candle to Rep. Luis Gutierrez of Illinois, who things a $30 minimum is a fine idea.

Letters written by Pope John Paul II reveal he had a longstanding intimate emotional relationship with a married woman. Yes, you can have those, and it seems like theirs added much value to their lives without diminishing anybody else's. Hooray for them.

This alone is reason enough not to vote for Jeb Bush. He said "it's not important to me" whether the Senate gives an Obama Supreme Court nominee a vote.

Did you go all out for President's Day yesterday? Yeah, thought so. Isn't it time to give George Washington his own day back? He was our greatest president because he did it first and without a blueprint and had to get it exactly right. He did.

Kentucky lawmaker Mary Lou Marzian, annoyed that men put so many conditions on women wanting abortions, has, tongue-in-cheek, introduced a bill that would force men wanting erectile dysfunction drugs to jump through a series of humiliating hoops beforehand, 

. . . such as visiting a doctor twice and getting notes from their wives.

"I want to protect these men from themselves," Marzian, who is a nurse, told the Courier-Journal.

Mazian told Fox affiliate WDRB that House Bill 396 would also require that someone seeking Viagra, Cialis, Levitra or Avanafil "make a sworn statement with his hand on a Bible that he will only use a prescription for a drug for erectile dysfunction when having sexual relations with his current spouse."

Yuck, yuck, yuck. Of course, an ED drug is for the benefit of adults only. There is not a third life form, helpless and with no say in the matter whatsoever. So, analogy fails.

Finally, the exasperating story of how the government took the ordinary, humble perfectly working gas can and totally ruined it. the government will never run out of ways to make our lives as miserable as possible.


kakistocracy (kak-us-STOCK-ruh-see), n. — government by the worst persons; a form of government in which the worst persons are in power, as in: "Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders might not be the best choices for president, but we had a kakistocracy in the United States long before they came along."




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