Archive for April, 2010

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Letter to the Editor: Response to Claims of Historical Ignorance

Dear Editor,
This is in response to the letter, “Tea Partiers should try learning some history” published Friday April 23rd.

Limiting government is a very real and historical American political tradition; from the founding and the institution of the Articles of Confederation, limiting Federal power in such a way as to make the common defense of our citizenry difficult, to the balance created in the United States Constitution so as to ensure ONLY those powers specifically enumerated to various levels of government are exercised, as a people we have often been at odds with government power whether for ill or good.

What the Tea Party represents is simply a reflection of this tradition: a simple repudiation of a level of taxation and spending that is hardly good for the fiscal future of this nation; a realization that what works best in a Federal system is more local control, rather than centralization of control; and finally, a problem with elected officials adhering to a set of principles that serve their careers better than constituents, whether Republican, Democrat, or somewhere in between.

Another bit of history: the debate concerning the power of the Federal government has been taking place since the Articles of Confederation were in place. There was a very real concern at the time of the Constitution’s writing that the Federal government would be granted too much power, and the debate has continued well beyond its ratification.

You can read what arguments were written in favor of our constitution in the Federalist Papers, but note that these arguments do not emphasize the need for unlimited Federal power, only enough to grant the government the authority to attend to its affairs without the constraints placed on it in the Articles of Confederation, which made such action impossible.

I didn’t learn any of this from Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, et al. Instead, I cracked open a few books and read them long before the Tea Party was ever in place. Traditions change, and there is nothing wrong with that, but we should read and understand the real needs and concerns surrounding the founding of our nation in order to better understand why people feel the need to continue in them. This debate is a legitimate one, but it is better to address the issues rather than to disparage the messenger for the beliefs they hold.

Mike Mattner

Sent to the Herald Palladium for consideration.

At least two‐thirds of our miseries spring from human stupidity, human malice and those great motivators and justifiers of malice and stupidity: idealism, dogmatism and proselytizing zeal on behalf of religious or political ideas.

Aldous Huxley

Rights, Duties, and Obligations in the Modern Era

I recently discovered a brand new and interesting philosophical blog, via Marginal Revolution. If you happen to get an opportunity, please explore–there is quite a bit there worth reading. And so far, I’m enjoying it immensely.

In a recent post discussing rights and duties, James Otteson lays out the interplay between the two very well and the important roles each play:

Whether one has a “right” to something is whether someone else has a duty to provide it. The two—a right and its correlative duty—are logically inseparable; like mountain and valley or ebb and flow, one exists only with the other. Hence if no one has a duty to provide you something, you have no right to it; and you can claim a right to something only if it is someone else’s duty to provide it for you.

He goes on to say that if one really, really wants whatever it is they’re clamoring for, it does not then become a right, nor does it become a duty for another to provide it for them.

The whole post is a pretty interesting discussion concerning positive and and negative liberty, one that I’ll leave to you to read and digest, but it brushes nicely over the current health care debate.

The question we have is, if health care is a right, as claimed, who then has the duty to provide it at their expense? Anyway, read the article and the accompanying discussion for a little balance.

I maintain there is much more wonder in science than in pseudoscience. And in addition, to whatever measure this term has any meaning, science has the additional virtue, and it is not an inconsiderable one, of being true.

Carl Sagan

The Need for Historical Primacy

It is with great humility and with great pride that we tonight will make history for our country and progress for the American people. — Nancy Pelosi1

This president seems particularly fixated on doing something for the sake of historical magnanimity. His election was historical, healthcare reform is historical, cap and trade is historical, we’re at a cross roads in history, etc. The list is long and arduous–historical moments are what this government is all about.

And we may very well be approaching some of the most important events of our era, but our identification of them as such should seem dubious. Who are we to say what will be considered important details in one hundred years time. Certainly President Obama’s election would be one moment, but the passage of a flawed set of rules and regulations that do not approach the change they were believing in?

Perhaps. For good or ill, I don’t know.

I’m just a little unnerved by this unhealthy need to create these moments for the books; it is incredibly egotistical and narcissistic of the lot of them.

Should a man seek history’s pen or should history’s pen seek him? Depends on who is in charge when said pen strokes paper, though I suspect telling everyone you’re doing something historic does not equal historicity.

  1. Pelosi, Nancy. Making History, Making Progress, and Restoring the American Dream. The Gavel Blog. Accessed 4/15/2010.

Well, the telling of jokes is an art of its own, and it always rises from some emotional threat. The best jokes are dangerous, and dangerous because they are in some way truthful.

Kurt Vonnegut

The Joys of the Small Engine Mower

I own essentially two of the same self‐propelled, push‐style lawn mower made by Toro. One has an electric start that doesn’t work and runs terribly. The other other runs pretty well, but is the standard pull start. Both I have to pull start, and both require some service, including a new nylon pull chord. And both, of course, are hand‐me‐down in nature, and I couldn’t be happier about it.

The first one I was given just plain worked. It was given to me for that simple reason, because its purpose initially was simply for use as spare parts, but when I needed one it worked well enough for my use–mostly. It smoked on first start up, indicating some regular wear and tear that needed to be addressed, the electric start didn’t work, the self‐propelled drive needed a new belt but worked well enough for me. Frankly, it got me through a couple of seasons of mowing, and probably would have chugged along for a few more.

Then I was given the identical mower; wasn’t an electric start, the pull cord had been frayed and was temporarily replaced, but it worked beautifully and was very clean. This mower was a pleasure to use. I recently decided some repair and maintenance was in order on the thing. So, I went and bought an air filter, spark plug, oil, and a new pull cord and proceeded to disassemble and replace and clean the little mower that could. How did I do this without knowing mostly what I was doing?

I took apart the old, sort of working one first to see what I would need to do. And that’s the beauty of the thing. It has allowed me to tear into a small mower a bit and see how the thing works. My plan is to see about rebuilding, or at least tearing down, the Briggs and Stratton engine that it uses.

Which is why I wanted to post this in the first place. I want to know what I can do with this mower, and see how well that might translate to a larger engine.