I Like Ice Cream
Originally posted to my personal website on Dec 17, 2012
The Newtown Elementary school shooting was impossible to predict. It was a horrifying thing just to hear about. I wanted to go get my kid from school the moment I heard about it. The three hours I had to wait was painful. I cannot imagine the anguish the affected families are dealing with now.
The response of folks playing the troll on facebook, reddit, and all the other social networks was depressingly easy to predict. It’s the same basic set of crazy, selfish, uninformed, uncritical, hateful rhetoric thing comes up every time bad things make national headlines.
Gun control is always a subject that comes up.
There’s the standard declaration that “now is not the time to discuss gun control!” Gun policy seems to be an interesting subject. Unique in the fact that, the moment it fails is NOT the time to talk about how and where it’s broken.
“They should have had guns” is something one hears a lot. In a lot of these cases, this sentiment almost feels like blaming the victims for being shot. It doesn’t seem reasonable to expect people to have guns in a theater. If we find ourselves needing some kind of paramilitary force to provide security for schools, then something is broken is a very big way.
On the other end, you get the “ban all guns” folks. There’s always issues with simply making things illegal. This is a lesson that no one seems to have remembered from the 1920’s.
A discussion about gun control with an eye to outcome is something that should be had before another such event occurs.
Some folks get religious.
There’s lots of pictures floating around with a message similar to “this is what happens when god isn’t allowed in schools.” I always get the feeling it’s intended as “god’s wrath” or some such nonsense. That’s certainly the way folks tend to mean it when discussing some natural phenomena, like hurricanes.
Other pictures come up imagining children meeting god. Folks rejoicing over the idea that 20 murdered children get to meet jesus or something. I get why it might make sense to some people, or even bring comfort. To me, it’s just horrifying.
Someone usually suggests praying as a form of practical assistance. As if something in the world physically changes because someone had a prayer. “Praying IS doing something!” Right.
I get why folks lean on religion for comfort, but it seems like many folks use it as an excuse not to feel or do anything. That, or use tragic events to further some religious agenda or another.
There’s more crazy crap that folks have posted, far more than I’ll talk about here.
I think it’s important to think about the victims. I think it’s important to shift the focus away from the killers. It’s important to shift the focus from opportunistic, politically driven people who use tragedies to suit their agendas. We certainly need to shift our focus away from folks who use this kind of thing simply to cause more pain.
I don’t know if it’ll help at all, but I made a memorial/tribute type picture. I haven’t seen but maybe one floating around.
There was a candlelight vigil last night in South Park in honor of the Americans that died in the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi. It was hosted by the KU Arab Student Union.
Given the nature of the events, the motivations involved, and some of the prejudices involved, I thought it was a singularly heartfelt gesture, and I felt the need to be involved in some way. So, I thought I’d go downtown and participate.
I’m not exactly sure what I was expecting. A bigger crowd. More media coverage, maybe.
There was 20 or so people participating. Most of them KU students, by far. A couple of guys from 6 news interviewed some of the people there. Three of the students spoke. Even though the blurb in the ljworld asked people to bring their own candles, they had plenty for the people that did show up.
While I was across mass street, taking a few pictures, I was approached by a man who asked what they were ‘protesting.’ When I explained what the event was about, he seemed to suddenly have places to go.
Given the fact that the only ‘real’ news people out there was 6 news, I went to their website this morning to try and find reference to it. There’s no mention of the event on the website, I can’t comment on their broadcast content, as I don’t have OTA TV. The ljworld didn’t have any notes on their site.
This was an event that was supposed to demonstrate common grief and desire for peace.
Instead, it just seemed like it wasn’t ‘interesting’ enough for people to care. And that’s a shame.
Mr. Trabert, and anyone else at the Kansas Policy Institute that’s interested,
I realized today, as I was finishing up a project(putting the last touches on the bombs) that I knew very little of what the Kansas Policy Institute really stood for. Well, other than my perception that you wanted to end the public school system. Well, “end” might be inaccurate, maybe “change beyond recognition.” More syllables, but more accurate?
Given the fact that you folks tend to make the local news from time to time, with the good Mr. Dave Trabert dropping a note here and there on the comments section of the website, I thought I’d make the effort to find out.
I loaded up your web site, looked at the blog, and skimmed over a few of the documents in your research center.
I read the document entitled “Removing Barriers to Better Public Education.” It felt like the thing to read to get a general idea of what your position on education funding was all about. It reads like the whole problem with education is that there is too much money spent on it. It’s kind of odd that the only real conclusion in a document with such a name would be less money=utopian education system.
There is an interesting point about standards being changed in weird ways at weird times, which is good to know, and something to get frustrated at. Reducing funding, by itself, isn’t going to fix that, though.
It wasn’t what I was wanting to know, anyway. I went to your site to find out what your “how to” for education was, not “how much.” Because, well, the “how to” should define the “how much.”
Most people realize that public education is expensive. Most people realize that public education is inefficient. Most people realized that public education is a politically charged topic. Most people realize that there’s rarely a 1:1 ratio between money spent and academic achievement.
Many people (I wish I could say “most”, but I’m not sure anymore) realize these things, and push for public education anyway, because they perceive the benefits to be worth the cost. There’s all kinds of reasons people give for that belief, and I’m getting crunched for time, so I’m not going into it for now.
Anyway, I kept digging around, trying to find other things, and was only able to find a couple of documents that talked about “how to” instead of “how much.”
There’s a document promoting the idea of expanding online public education, which is an idea I think should be more thoroughly explored. This isn’t really an original thought, though, and to properly implement, it’s going to cost money.
There’s a blog post extolling the virtues of charter schools. I feel it overstated charter schools a bit, but it’s been awhile since I’ve researched the subject, so I might be a bit out of date.
Other than those two bits, everything on your website was focused on how much money was/is/will be spent (and why it shouldn’t be spent).
The issue I have with all this is that while your organization obviously harbors some hostility towards public education in it’s current form, it doesn’t really make an effort to describe what it should be replaced with.
Basically, the question I’m wanting an answer to, is if the Kansas Policy Institute think tank folks could design the ideal public education system for the State of Kansas, what would it be?
The crazy tax plan, by itself, isn't really the problem in my opinion. One learns to expect this kind of thing from certain types of politicians.
Democrats raise typically raise taxes to provide services. Republicans lower taxes and cut services.
There's a basic expectation, or there should be, that government services and taxes offset one another. If a street light costs $10 per year to operate, then $10 in taxes comes from somewhere. This doesn't strike me as terribly difficult math.
I never really understood why the Governor's office kept championing the tax plan that's on his desk right now. The projected state budget deficit quit being an "if" and turned into a "how massively huge?"
The "Dynamic Scoring Method" mentioned a couple of days ago was about the last straw. I read that as, "I'm going to give you some numbers I grabbed out of a hat, and call them 'budget projections.'" It's just plain insulting.
The "why" is easily enough explained. Cutting social programs, like education and public safety and victim's advocacy programs, is easier to to explain when there's a "budget crisis" going on "right now!"
Why there's a budget crises never comes up during the program cuts, or is inaccurately described. It's all a very dishonest process.
If taxes are going to be cut, that should be done along with funding for some government program or another. Cut $10 tax revenue, turn off that streetlight. That sort of thing.
Today, Scott Rothschild wrote an article about another tax plan going through the legislature. I'm not usually the conspiracy theory type, but I think that one's a red herring. It's not going to pass, and Brownback's going to be "forced" to sign a less-popular, budge-crisis inducing tax plan currently justified by a "Dynamic Scoring Method." That way, we get a horribly imbalanced state budget, and folks blame the legislature, rather than focusing on Brownback himself.
Here's to hoping I'm wrong.
Really, what's the problem with the concept of defining the role of government, then levying taxes that properly cover that cost?
I couldn't sleep, so I made this for my mother. Feel free to make a print.
I think there's a low-level incompatibility between science and religion.
There's folks that try to "bridge" science and their religion of choice. It generally just turns into a series of special pleadings, though.
Science is a self-acknowledged work in process that is constantly finding more accurate explanations for how our universe works. Finding out that a long-held explanation might be wrong is an exciting event, as it can lead to huge advances in a given field
Religion already has all the answers. Finding out that a long-held answer is wrong can get you excommunicated. Or executed, depending on how much power the religion has over the government. It's already perfect, right? Ideas from millenia ago are above reproach.
Because of this, I usually claim my first amendment right not to believe a religion and take a live and let live approach to life. Increasingly, though, it's starting to feel as though this isn't allowed.
I mean, there's all the hullabaloo about gay marriage, abortion, even birth control. The rationale for these issues is usually religious at its root. At the point when people start making laws on nothing more than a religious position, I feel the need to complain.
I never try to argue on the point of theology, because that always becomes an ever-increasing tower of anger and “righteous” rage. Instead, I encourage the person I'm talking to to look at it from a scientific point of view. Find scientific reasons for these rules, rather than simply demand I blindly follow the religion they're inspired by.
Sometimes I find someone willing to make the attempt. It's actually kind of refreshing to have the conversation without the other party quoting scripture over and over again.
But they just about always get the “science” wrong. If you try and explain to them WHERE they got it wrong, they start quoting scripture over and over again. As if talking will make them more correct.
I'm thinking that maybe it's just a lack of education. Maybe folks who came from a religious perspective just didn't know what was meant by “The Scientific Method.” Maybe this was why they refused to apply it to their religious beliefs.
So... since I have nothing else going on tonight, I thought I'd go over it for everyone. :P
So... We'll say “Jimmy” does the following stuff.
Step 1: “Define a question.”
“Hey, why did my ice cream melt?”
Step 2: “Gather information.”
Do research. Find out how ice cream is made. That kind of thing.
“Ice cream is stored in a freezer.”
Step 3: Form a hypothesis.
It's that if/then statement.
“If I take my ice cream out of the freezer, then it will melt.”
Step 4: Test the hypothesis in a controlled/reproducible way.
“I'll get two ice cream bars. I'll leave one in the freezer, that's my control. I'll take the other one out and leave it on the counter.”
Step 5: Analyze the data.
“The ice cream on the counter melted. The ice cream in the freezer is still frozen.”
Step 6: Interpret the data and draw preliminary conclusions.
This goes to step 7: “Taking the ice cream out of the freezer causes it to melt.” Take this back to step 3: “If I take my ice cream out of the freezer, it will melt.”
Step 7: Publish results.
“I'm going to set up a booth at the science fair!”
Step 8: Other scientists perform the same test you outlined.
Jaimie finds out about Jimmy's booth, and does steps 3-6 on her own.
Their results: “I took the ice cream out of the freezer, and it stayed frozen. WTF? What didn't I control for?”
She repeats steps 3-6 on their own a few times: “If I take the ice cream out of the freezer, and it's over 0 degrees Celsius, the ice cream will melt!”
Jaimie posts her results in a blog, which Jimmy reads, and starts doing more experimentation, finds out that results change when the freezer is off... publishes data...
The takeaway should be that Jimmy first conclusion was wrong. The folks who penned the first editions of these holy books were very likely wrong, as well. The rule of law shouldn't be based on those.
So.. there was an article in this website that was posted last Thursday. It’s about that “protect religion from a perceived threat” bill that gives pretty much anyone who wants to claim religious motivation to act out their hateful or bigoted fantasies something to lean on if they get complaints.
The actual text of the bill basically restricts local governments from doing anything to “burden” someone claiming some kind of religious exemption. Feels pretty vague and far reaching. Almost as if it could be applied to pretty much any situation involving civil rights.
Discrimination based on gender, race, age, disability, military service, “other” religions, all those things suddenly become legal if someone decides to say it’s a religious thing.
The thing that gets me about this is that the motivation, allegedly, was anti-gay sentiment. Apparently, anti-gay sentiment great enough to erase decades of civil rights history.
I’m just not sure where it all comes from. I’m not the most well-read person in the world, I’ll admit. But most of what I’ve read suggests the average gay person is as benign as the average straight person. I honestly doubt that a rainbow-colored gay-people launched bomb is going to land on anyone’s church.
There was a lot of commentary below the article, 251 comments as of this writing. The vast majority of the supporters of the bill were of the “God hates gays, and government should, too” variety.
To me, God’s feelings on any issue, including homosexuality, should be taken with a grain of salt. There’s too many ways to interpret the holy books, and too many people with differing agendas between god and the masses. “God said so” is, without other justifications, a bad reason for any action or inaction.
So, is there a real reason for this odd fear about what two consenting adults might do when they get a private moment? Reason enough to justify attacking a lifetime of civil right movements? Other than “God said so?”
I don’t think there is. It worries me that our current crop of elected officials believe otherwise.