Thursday, March 29, 2007

Hyper-partisanship Comes Back to Bite Global Warming Alarmists

People who care about global warming should start an immediate campaign to end hyper-partisanship in national politics and encourage civil debate. A culture has been fostered that encourages the demonizing of one's political opponents. If an "evil" person makes a valid point, many are still loathe to recognize it as such for fear of granting credibility to an enemy.

If you believe that global warming is a man-made disaster that will destroy our planet and way of life, you have an obligation to cease and desist from hyper-partisanship. The old saying is true that you attract a lot more flies with honey than vinegar.

Tim Thorstenson recently commented about the problem with accepting or rejecting alleged facts about climate because they are moral or immoral. Facts, he argues, have no moral component. We use our moral lens to help us interpret and act on facts, not to determine the verity of a factual assertion.

If global warming is a problem that we have power to address (which I doubt), then we should makes laws to address the problem. If the good of arresting global warming outweighs the bad caused to people in the developing world (which I doubt), then we should act.

If you treat me as the spawn of Satan for contesting your assertions, you lose the ability to persuade me. And if you think global warming is a looming Armageddon, it is in your best interest to persuade me rather than demean me.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Ken Burns at BYU

I attended the BYU Forum address (and the following Q&A session) by famed documentarian Ken Burns yesterday. He exceeded every expectation. BYU was not, unfortunately, able to broadcast the forum because Burns showed clips from an upcoming documentary on WWII that will not be released until this fall. I'm bummed, because I was hoping to link to some video clips of the event here. Maybe in September.

He told us how he had actively resisted efforts over the years to get him to do another war documentary after the smashing success of his Civil War film. He talked to us about the emotional difficulty of spending years involved in the study of something so terrible as war. But he finally felt compelled to approach this topic because he recognized that it would be criminal to let the thousands of veterans die before their story could be told.

In the Q&A session, Burns clarified his point a bit. It wasn't that there were not enough documentaries on WWII. He seemed to indicate a distaste for the History Channel's approach to the war. Too many swastikas everywhere you turned and not enough of the human story of the war. Burns set out to make a "bottom up" documentary that focused on the lives of the people rather than the affairs of the generals and presidents.

Burns claimed that WWII was not "the good war" but "the necessary war."

This is the point that seems to escape so many people who oppose our contemporary military conflicts. They see war not as a necessary evil, but as an absolute evil. In my view, war is a yucky, horrible thing. I look forward to the reign of the Prince of Peace when all war will end. But until that time comes, it simply will not do to allow evil men to rampage unmolested simply because we demand "peace." Peace at any price is not peace, but prison.

Burns told us that there is a sizable portion of the graduating high school seniors in our country that believe that we fought in WWII alongside the Germans against the Soviets. Many people are going to see films like "Saving Private Ryan" and are feeling the powerful emotion of the event without understanding the greater significance. Why were they landing on that beach? What was the strategy? What were the goals? Did it work?

He acknowledged that it is impossible to tell a story without any bias. He hopes that as he tells a story that he paints a fair picture that conveys the emotion he feels about the subject. I can tell you that the clips of the documentary that he showed certainly conveyed powerful emotions. It will be interesting to see how he lives up to his stated goal of also placing the events in the larger picture while being true to his bottom-up approach.

One person raised the question during the Q&A session about the exclusion of Latinos in the upcoming documentary. The question was asked in respect and Burns responded in kind. He didn't duck the issue at all, but provided a very compelling answer that I probably can't do justice in summary. In essence, he explained that he was trying to tell individual stories rather than provide a "phone book" treatment of the war. They chose, essentially at random, four cities and put out the call to veterans. They didn't seek out individuals, but put out the word that they were in town and took all comers. They did hundreds of on-camera interviews, only a fraction of which could be used in the film. They obviously couldn't use footage of people who didn't show up. He pointed out that other important segments were also underrepresented in the film, like sailors, submariners, and so forth. He decided that he must be doing a good job if he can make a 14 hour movie and still get complaints it isn't long enough. :)

Interestingly, there are about 100 other documentaries in production that are meant to springboard off the release of Burns's film. They will be aired in local markets and focus on the local population of WWII veterans. In this aspect, it looks like the film will succeed in creating a lot of dialog rather than being a soliloquy. Burns also hopes these other, local films will help fill in the gaps in coverage that people have already noted about his upcoming film.

I hope that you will watch the new documentary when it comes out on PBS this fall. In the meantime, you might check out two podcasts from the San Francisco Chronicle which feature an interview with Burns. I haven't listened to them myself yet, but they are now on my list!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Leisure Redistribution?

An article by Steven E Landsburg on Slate Magazine looks at the gap in number of leisure hours between the rich and the poor. Poorly paid workers have far more leisure hours than highly paid workers. While this is an interesting concept, the final paragraph really caught my attention:
Second, a certain class of pundits and politicians are quick to see any increase in income inequality as a problem that needs fixing—usually through some form of redistributive taxation. Applying the same philosophy to leisure, you could conclude that something must be done to reverse the trends of the past 40 years—say, by rounding up all those folks with extra time on their hands and putting them to (unpaid) work in the kitchens of their "less fortunate" neighbors. If you think it's OK to redistribute income but repellent to redistribute leisure, you might want to ask yourself what—if anything—is the fundamental difference.
Forcing people to pay more in taxes is one thing, but forcing people to work for free (slave labor?) is quite another. Or is it? By taking away a percentage of the money the marketplace is willing to pay someone for their work--higher taxes for higher salaries--aren't we essentially forcing them to work some number of hours for free? Is it really that different?

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Help the Kids at Primary Children's

Yesterday and today is the KSL Radiothon to raise money for Primary Children's Medical Center. I hope that you will consider making a donation to this wonderful facility.

My little boy, now two and a half months old, was born with spina bifida. He is doing great thanks to a generous Heavenly Father and His helpers on earth: the doctors, nurses, and staff at Primary Children's Medical Center and the University of Utah Hospital. The people at both hospitals were truly wonderful to us. It is hard to imagine how difficult it must be to deal with so many people at the most distressing times of their lives. Yet they treated my boy with compassion and competence.

In our visits to the hospital, a quick survey of the waiting room makes it fairly obvious that we're not dealing with lots of affluent people. Good medical help isn't cheap. But no one is turned away. It sounds like generous contributions from the community make this possible. I hope you can join in to help those kids without the means to help themselves.