Posted by: bkivey | 8 March 2010

Another great news day II

This topic is threatening to turn into a regular feature: the Sunday paper provides a wealth of material and these types of posts get the highest number of views. So, from the 7 March edition of the local paper:


In a guest column a Mr. L. Jawn Hollingshed makes a compelling argument that at least some Portland metro police officers practice racial profiling. In his column Mr. Hollingshed comes across as a thoughtful, reasonable man who faces a disheartening situation with good grace. This is not to say that he accepts the situation, but he makes his observations without rancor. Mr. Hollingshed also demonstrates a willingness to address the situation proactively by going on ride-alongs with his local police department.

Several items in the column stood out for me. The most obvious is that the gentleman states that in the 20 years he has lived in the area he has been stopped by police 24 times and received a total of four tickets; three of which he successfully fought in court. He also says that most of the stops fit a pattern: an officer pulls alongside his car, Mr. Hollingshed makes eye contact, and then the officer pulls him over. If officers have told Mr. Hollingshed that he ‘fit the profile’ then certainly the officers do to.

I have been pulled over by the police my fair share of times, but I can’t point to an incident where I was pulled over because I made eye contact with the officer. I also can’t say that I’ve been pulled over 24 times in my entire driving career, which spans considerably more than 20 years.

In his column Mr. Hollingshed says that “many people seem caught up in the wishful thinking that we live in a post-racial society.” I have advocated for such a society in previous posts here and here. I don’t pretend that we live in a post-racial society, but I do think that we should be taking steps to achieve one. I commend Mr. Hollingshed on his equanimity and for illustrating how long the road to a post-racial society is.

And your point is?

In a Letter-to-the-Editor Chris Dreger seems to want to make the case for solar power over nuclear power but his argument is nearly incoherent. He starts by pointing out that the radioactive energy in a nuke is used to boil water, which Mr. Dreger describes as “late-1700’s technology” (actually, people have known that boiling water could produce mechanical motion for over 2000 years and known that fire will boil water for much, much longer.) implying that because a technology is old it must be unsophisticated. And?

The writer goes on to give the example of a camper boiling water using a magnifying glass, presumably to focus solar energy onto a fuel, to boil water. He suggests that this “simple technology can be industrialized in eastern Oregon or any other sunny place” [Fair dues: I must compliment Mr. Dreger for not capitalizing a geographical locator. This is a practice I decry and it is one of my pet peeves, e.g. Southern California.]

Some comments seem in order. I have yet to see a proponent of any of the so-called renewable energy sources explain where the power is going to come from when the sun goes down or when the wind stops blowing. There is no way to ‘save’ excess energy from these sources on anything like the scale that a technological society requires. Such a society requires what is known as ‘baseline power’: power that is available around the clock regardless of the environmental conditions. Because of the inherent limitations of renewables they cannot be anything other than supplements to the power grid.

The other comment goes to the confusion between a technology’s theoretical basis and it’s implementation. Yes, boiling water is a simple process and the theory behind it is well-understood, but to implement that process into a viable power-generating system takes sophisticated engineering and a high level of machining knowledge, not to mention the high level of skill in a myriad of disciplines such as the construction trades, project management, facility management, finance, economics, and on and on.

So yes, Mr. Dreger, nukes boil water and boiling water is simple, but I invite you to tour a power-generating facility of any type and then tell me how ‘simple’ it is.

Want to pay more taxes? Volunteer!

In a great illustration of one of the fundamental flaws of progressive thinking, Leslie Yeargers writes in a Letter-to-the Editor (about halfway down the page) about various ways people can volunteer their kicker checks to various organizations [for those of you reading this outside of Oregon, the ‘kicker‘ is a quirky little Oregon law that was  passed by initiative in 1980 and made part of the State Constitution in 2000. It stipulates that in any biennium in which the state tax revenue exceeds the budget by 2% or more the difference must be refunded to the taxpayers.]

Because the state budget is in such a shambles there has been increasing sentiment to do away with the kicker altogether. In the main I agree with this and I agree with Ms. Yeargers point that if you don’t like the kicker then take your money and give it to the cause of your choice. This is in effect charitable giving, as compared to the uncharitable giving of government-enforced tax collection.

What Ms. Yeargers (perhaps unwittingly) illustrates is that progressives don’t like to do things of this nature unless they can force everyone else to do it, too. Some years ago I had a conversation with my father about taxes. He thought that people weren’t paying enough taxes. I responded that I was forced to give various government agencies 30% of my income and how much did he think was enough? I also asked him why he didn’t voluntarily send the government more of his money if he thought he wasn’t paying enough. He became upset and told me that he shouldn’t have to send more of his money if other people weren’t doing it; a statement that makes no sense in light of his beliefs, but makes perfect sense if what a person really wants is control over how others live.

So for all of you who think government should have more of your income, I say send it in. Show us the courage of your convictions.


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