Friday, September 25, 2009

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff 36

Bending the truth...somewhat
blogHouston, which I thoroughly enjoy, posted an interview with Andrew Prieditis, a prolific writer of letters to the editor who has been published in more than 70 papers around the world. In the interview, Prieditis addresses the fact that he always claims to live in the city in which the paper is published:

BH: What would you tell people who criticize your claiming to be from the town of the newspaper on ethical grounds?

AP: I would probably acknowledge that I'm bending the truth somewhat, but I would ask them to judge the quality of a letter based on the ideas that it propagates rather than the location of the writer.

He lives in New Zealand, so how is it "bending the truth somewhat" to claim that he lives in New York, or Houston, or anywhere besides New Zealand? It is outright dishonesty. And why does he write so many letters?

I am motivated primarily by the desire to get published. I enjoy being published in newspapers world wide as it validates my writing abilities and I also enjoy influencing what others read.
He believes that the ends--getting published--justify the means--lying. This second-handedness is not limited to dishonesty. He needs to get published to "validate" his writing abilities. In other words, he needs the approval of others regarding his writing. Apparently, he cannot objectively evaluate his own work. Of course, given his proclivity to "bending the truth" this isn't surprising.

We are all minorities
Chronicle columnist Lisa Falkenberg recently proclaimed that "We're all minorities now." Falkenberg is correct, but for the wrong reason. She points to census data that shows that neither Houston nor Harris county is predominantly white. To Falkenberg, minority status is a function of race. But as Ayn Rand pointed out:

The smallest minority on earth is the individual. Those who deny individual rights, cannot claim to be defenders of minorities.

The fact is, each of us has always been a minority, regardless of the racial or ethnic composition of the city. Falkenberg's collectivism shows itself in other ways:

The reality, though, is that a well-proportioned population doesn't translate into automatic equality.

Hispanics' population gains haven't translated yet into political gains, said Marc Campos, longtime Houston political consultant and Baytown native. And Houston's power structure, both political and corporate, is still dominated by whites.

In other words, equality is a matter of political power and economic success for the group. In truth, equality is a legal issue--equality before the law. Equality means individual freedom--the right of each individual to act according to his own judgments without interference from others, so long as one respects the mutual rights of others. Equality does not pertain to results, but the freedom to pursue one's desired results. Ignoring her own claim a few paragraphs earlier, Falkenberg writes:

Still, the daunting social problems Houston faces, such as poverty, high dropout
rates, unemployment, largely affect minority communities. The divides remain.

If we are all minorities, as Falkenberg correctly claims, then what is the meaning of "minority communities"? She is speaking of course, of certain racial and ethnic groups, not individuals. She--like all collectivists--is unconcerned with individuals; the individual exists only as a member of some group.

As if to further demonstrate her superficiality, Falkenberg cites attendance at Astro's games as another indication of inequality:
“You look at who sits in the lower deck of the Astros game and it's still mostly white,” Campos [political consultant Marc Campos] said. “We've still got a long way to go.”

Our measure as a culture is not to be determined by the level of individual freedom present, but by where we sit at a baseball game. I am hard pressed to imagine a more meaningless standard. But one possibility might be the makeup of the Chronicle's blog list--it certainly doesn't reflect the ethnic and racial composition of the city.

Just what we need...not
Peter Brown now wants the city to get into the electricity business (HT: Bay Area Houston). From Brown's web site:
The City should use its leverage and drive a harder bargain, protecting Houston consumers and getting them a better deal. And we should explore creative ways to lower monthly electric bills, like an opt-in program that would allow residents – especially seniors and those on low or fixed incomes – to buy their electricity from the City and enjoy the discounted bulk rates the City already receives.

I must admit that Brown surprised me on this one. He has come up with a number of inane proposals, but this one tops them all. At a time when the city is struggling with a budget deficit, he wants it to take on another burden.

With Brown apparently falling behind Annise Parker and Gene Locke in the campaign for mayor, Brown is now resorting to blatant pandering for votes. It's not enough that he wants to tighten development regulations, provide job training to gangsters, and generally meddle in our lives. Now he wants the city to be intimidating electric companies to "protect" consumers. Here is a suggestion Mr. Brown: protect my rights and let me worry about my electric rates.

Use as intended
When Ronald Beaver began feeling weak, he attributed his condition to his age. His doctor discovered that he had a copper deficiency, but the cause wasn't immediately clear. As the AP reports:
It wasn't until several weeks later — after the moving company employee from Tamarac, Fla., started getting daily doses of copper — that Beaver's doctor mentioned that getting too much zinc can trigger loss of copper. The only source of that much zinc they surmised was the tubes of PoliGrip denture cream he had been grossly overusing for a decade.

Beaver is now suing GlaxoSmithKline, the maker of PoliGrip. The lawsuit claims that the product is defective and consumers were not adequately warned about the dangers of misusing the product.

As the story states, Beaver did not use the product as intended. In fact, he "grossly overused" it, and because of that, he holds someone else responsible for his misfortune. Apparently, Poligrip isn't the only thing Beaver failed to use as intended. He also failed to use his mind, and now wants to blame others.


Rational Education said...

I thoroghly enjoyed the style of this post. The tempo of your brief commnents examining the philosophical fallacies in each of the separate instances that you have chosen to comment on, just dwelling long enough to explode the fallacy with skillful economy, is brilliant.

Brian Phillips said...

Thanks for the comments. There is so much more that could be said about each of these issues, and it was tempting to do so.