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(if I were) King of (the) Forest Posts

Suppressing Students’ Right to Vote

In December of 2007, The New York Times’ Board Blog featured an expression of outrage about a particular form of “voter suppression” — attempts to prevent students from voting. The prototypical incident they cited came from Georgia Southern University, where a local citizens’ group began challenging student voter registrations after something close to 2000 students were registered in a campus voter registration drive. Although the genesis of this activity appears to have been a concern about students voting in local elections — which the editorialist characterized as “local officials who want to keep a tight grip on political power” — both the Times and much of the commentary on the piece extrapolated that into a more nefarious — and partisan, since it is of course Republicans who despise representative Democracy and who want to prevent students from voting for Democrats — plot to rig the presidential and congressional elections.

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Health Care and Profit

The self-righteousness of those who proclaim that profit is the beast eating the health-care industry and that all would be wonderful if we could just remove profit from the system is both annoying and tedious.

It’s bad enough that they ignore the fact that the potential for profit is what entices investment and is the fundamental reason that our health-care R&D pipeline is so vibrant.

But it’s truly infuriating when such fulminations come from those working within the system. So far I haven’t heard of any who connect profit with their own take-home pay or who have taken a vow of poverty to make health care more affordable.

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Better Debates

In November of 2007, in the runup to the presidential primaries, Diane Rehm hosted on her show a discussion of presidential debates, of their benefits and shortcomings, and of how they ought to be changed.

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Regional Primaries (again?)

The day after the Iowa caucuses The New York Times lead their editorial page with yet another condemnation of the way we choose our presidential candidates, and in particular of the fact that those hicks in Iowa and New Hampshire seem to have so much more sway over the process than the more erudite and sophisticated urbanites of places like — well, like New York.

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Scientific Faith?

Last November, The New York Times published a piece by Paul Davies in which he took on the attitude of superiority with which secular scientists (his model, apparently, was those like Richard Dawkins, whose recently published book advocating atheism was one of several that sparked a firestorm between believers and non-believers) treated matters of faith. Some of his criticism hit the mark but I thought he went over the top when he claimed that science, itself, is an edifice built on faith — a faith in the scientific method and a presupposition that there are, in fact, physical laws underlying and explaining the way things behave.

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Structural Media Bias

…in the real world, tucking opposing views into the last paragraphs of a long story does not constitute either equal time or balance. It may be that a few news junkies have the time and luxury to read every story from beginning to end, but most people don’t. Most people read a newspaper more haphazardly…

…Most people will never get to the last paragraphs of a long story to see the “balance”. And hence, for them, such “balance” may just as well have been omitted.

I believe this is a source of much of the contention about whether particular press vehicles have “liberal” or “conservative” bias. If you analyze the full content of what appears in print, you will get a different answer to that question than if you could, somehow, assess instead the impression left with the majority of readers.

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I Want A Choice

We get these non-choices because we accept them. It’s not just that we vote for one of them on election day as the lesser of two evils. It’s worse: we spend the entire election season steeling ourselves for that vote, rationalizing our selection by imagining how awful it could be if the other guy wins, rather than imagining how good it could be if we had a real choice.

If you don’t like what the major parties offer, don’t fall into that trap. To be resigned to the process is to resign from it – so don’t do it. Don’t be passive, be vocal. Tell them you are unhappy. Tell them you want better.

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Airport Congestion

The problem of overcrowding at peak load times is the result of a basic philosophical premise on the part the FAA: that takeoff and landing slots are a public resource properly allocated on the basis of “fairness” or “equity” or some other moral ideal — moderated, of course, by political suasion — and in defiance of any economic consequence. The predictable result is that the benefits of such allocation accrue to the winners in the allocation lottery while the costs are socialized across the whole system.

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