A Resolution For 2015

In the recent rash of protests against the police across the nation, I was struck by a remarkably thoughtful turn of phrase from the flood of electrons and ink:

As imperfect humans, we have a tendency to limit our association with other persons to those persons who are most like us. Unfortunately, there is even more of a human tendency to stay within our comfort zone by further narrowing those associations to those persons who share our thoughts and opinions. By doing this we can avoid giving consideration to thoughts and ideas different than our own. This would make us uncomfortable. By considering only the thoughts and ideas we are in agreement with, we stay in our comfort zone. Our own biases get reinforced and reflected back at us leaving no room for any opinion but our own. By doing this, we often convince ourselves that the majority of the world shares opinion and that anyone with another opinion is, obviously, wrong.

It is only when we go outside that comfort zone, and subject ourselves to the discomfort of considering thoughts we don’t agree with, that we can make an informed judgment on any matter. We can still disagree and maintain our opinions, but we can now do so knowing that the issue has been given consideration from all four sides. Or, if we truly give fair consideration to all points of view, we may need to swallow our pride and amend our original thoughts.

Steve Anderson, Chief of Police, Nashville, Tennessee, December 26, 2014.

That sentiment seems to apply to all sorts of matters beyond the issue of the appropriateness of various kinds of police activity. So I resolve that in 2015, I shall take Chief Anderson’s message to heart, and endeavor to seek out those who hold perspectives and opinions which differ from my own on matters of importance to me, and understand with sobriety, charity, and good faith why these people feel as they do.

Being an imperfect human, I will surely not always succeed at living up to this ideal of open-minded intellectual engagement, but I shall at least try. And I must realize that being imperfect people, others of differing opinions surely will not always articulate their own positions with either skill or good faith — but to succeed in this living up to this resolution, I shall endeavor to separate zeal from substance with sufficient patience as to enable comprehension.

And I challenge you to join me outside of the echo chambers, those pleasant places where thought too often comes to rest.

 

Burt LikkoBurt Likko is the pseudonym of an attorney in Southern California. His interests include Constitutional law with a special interest in law relating to the concept of separation of church and state, cooking, good wine, and bad science fiction movies. Follow his sporadic Tweets at @burtlikko, and his Flipboard at Burt Likko.

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58 thoughts on “A Resolution For 2015

  1. Burt, this is the reason I started reading this website. It brought a diversity of viewpoints to a forum of civilized (or mostly so) discourse. Many other sites and interactions I’ve had have been the “la la la” fingers in the ears type of places–BSDI-although the more leftist media, which predominates popular media, seems more encompassing.

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    • …although the more leftist media, which predominates popular media…

      But is that really true? Take NPR for example. Folks on the right complain it’s a lefty outlet while folks on the left complain it has a rightwing bias. Surely they can’t both be right?

      What really happens is that every one of us sincerely believes our own positions on the issues to be thoughtful, considerate, and sensible, thus non-extreme and the logical center. Even people like Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot would fail to recognize themselves as the consummate extremist assholes that they clearly were.

      So when you observe that mainstream media like NPR is being criticized from both sides that’s a pretty good indicator that they’re actually fairly centrist. If no one from the right is complaining that you’re lefty, say Fox News, then you’re clearly on the right. Ditto for someone like Amy Goodman on the left.

      Where you stand depends on where you sit.

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      • Road,
        one problem is that conservatives complain when folks are too socially liberal, and liberals complain when folks are too economically conservative (maybe it’s a bad idea to leave food rotting in the fields? just a thought to those free market liberals out there).

        So it’s possible for both to be right.

        The best indication of the “lean” of a particular media outlet is which side (lib/con) has the better arguments. The media outlet leans the other way. [yes, there are ways to tell what a good argument is, independent of whether you agree with it.]

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      • When driving back from SF yesterday, my son (a member of the Peace and Freedom party) pretty much said the exact same thing as regarding NPR. Its only the Far Left that thinks they are right wing. And yes, we all view the world from where we stand, but we need to be ruthlessly honest with ourselves on where we stand.

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      • It’s been shown through various polls that mainstream media folk lean left on the conventional political spectrum. Frankly, I don’t care since I view both conventional left and right with disdain. But the mainstream generally carries the narrative and there is little real unbiased independent reporting and the media..all of it…is generally in bed with those in power.

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      • The fact that the people producing the media are themselves predominantly liberals of one stripe or another doesn’t necessarily mean that the news product they produce is slanted in that way. The more accurate take, I think, is that the media is not slanted right or left in any systemic way, but has a number of more fine-grained biases both in terms of issues (pro-fiscal austerity, pro gay marriage) and what types of stories to cover in the first place (favoring federal over state & local government). Some of these biases put the left at a disadvantage, others the right, and still others don’t have an obvious left-right valence.

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      • Damon,
        yeah, I think the “media is in bed with power” is the best insight.
        But the secondbest insight is that Media is Lazy, and will print anything, if you write it well enough.

        So, it is actually possible to play three sides against each other, and get the media to do some “independent journalism” that Wall Street hates. IF you’re willing to spoonfeed it about what you’ve been rigging.

        Don,
        Just remember the Media is lazy. If you write a good enough story, they’ll play ball.

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      • Look at the professions that (we are told, any way) lean left:

        * Journalists
        * Academics
        * Teachers

        What they have in common is that, as white-collar work goes, they’re not particularly well paid, and people do them largely for the intangibles. In my profession, as it became relatively more highly paid, the common outlook stayed socially liberal, but gravitated from liberal toward libertarian. (Though the events of 2008 moved that needle back.)

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      • http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/12/15/how-much-teachers-get-paid-state-by-state/

        Average teacher salary (nationwide) is just over $56K. The range is from $75K (New York) to $39K (South Dakota). These numbers do not account for cost of living differences. Some schools in some districts in some states will have some teachers making over six figures, but that is usually limited to incredibly senior teachers who have worked within that district for most if not all of their careers (20+ years) and who take on responsibilities in addition to their classroom teaching (e.g., division chair, grade team leader).

        Average starting salary (nationwide) is just over $36K. For a job that almost always requires a bachelor to start and typically requires an advanced degree to continue on, a starting salary of $36K, average salary of $56K, and likely maxing out in the $80K-90K range isn’t all that great.

        I’m not complaining, mind you. Just offering some numbers and perspective on the issue. But I have the same (if not more schooling) as many of my friends and will never sniff what they make. Which I’m fine with because I love what I do.

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      • You can add non-defense/police government bureaucrat to that list of careers that lean left and that may be relatively less well-paid than other white collar work. All that tells me, though, is that liberals care more about certain kinds of status and certain kinds of power than about money. And that’s a pretty good reason to be suspect of liberals, but I’m a heartless capitalist so I would say that.

        *I say may, because as Damon points out, teachers make pretty good pay, even compared to lots of other white collar work. A teacher with a Masters of Education is certainly likely to make less than someone with an MBA, but that doesn’t strike me as a particularly useful comparison. Although, if you did an hourly wage comparison between a third-year teacher with a M.Ed. and a first-year investment banking associate with an MBA, it’s not clear who would always come out ahead.

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      • Average starting salary (nationwide) is just over $36K. For a job that almost always requires a bachelor to start and typically requires an advanced degree to continue on, a starting salary of $36K, average salary of $56K, and likely maxing out in the $80K-90K range isn’t all that great.

        That $36k number is interesting. Elsewhere I am seeing that the average starting salary for someone with a Bachelor’s degree was $45.6 in 2013. So we know that teachers earn less than the average. What would really be helpful is to get a breakdown by major and school. We have this for the overall pool, but not for teachers.

        I think what you’d find is that someone with an English or other Humanities degree who goes into teaching is doing pretty well compared to peers. Fields like publishing, for instance, pay really low starting salaries. However, teachers with STEM degrees are probably doing much worse. Engineering majors especially, as they tend to top the lists of highest paid degrees.

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      • j r,

        All that tells me, though, is that liberals care more about certain kinds of status and certain kinds of power than about money.

        You’ve reduced the motivations of scores of millions of people to three factors: status, power, and money. Do you think that list is exhaustive?

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      • Do you have any evidence for your assertion about generic bureaucrats leaning left?

        Mostly anecdotal, based on the two years I spent in a public policy grad program and the five years I spent working for the federal government. That and a lot of family and family friends who worked for municipal government; although there are confounding factors at work there.

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      • It’s not “evidence,” but FWIW I know a hell of a lot of city, state and county ‘crats, along with a smaller handful of feds, and I don’t think there is a Republican among them.

        Probably for the same reasons that most gays skew DNC and corporate CEOs skew GOP: People generally tend to choose the sides that champion them and eschew the side that demonizes them.

        There are exceptions, of course, but if you showed me evidence that non-police/defense bureaucrats don’t skew left I would find it jaw-droppingly shocking.

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      • I worked in a catholic charity for five years. Most of the workers were liberal and with plenty of agnostic/atheists types. I wonder what they says about Catholic charities. It could say that most of the people willing to do hard, poorly paid charity work were liberal with far more non-religious types then in the general population. Are there more left leaners in gov? Beats me but i bet that would depend on the state politics to a degree.

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      • Excellent points, . I’d also be curious to see the salary difference (if one exists, which it might not given to heavy unionization) between teachers with degrees in education and teachers with degrees in other subjects.

        FWIW, I studied education for both my undergrad and graduate degrees but have worked exclusive in independent/private schools.

        BTW, I like how you framed the gap between the average starting teacher salary and the average salary for all bachelor’s degree holders as indicating the former is paid “less than average” as opposed to being “underpaid”. A far more objective accounting of the facts (not that I expected anything else from you).

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      • Perhaps, but it still requires an advanced degree which requires a similar level of financial investment and an often greater investment of time. For instance, both my undergraduate and graduate degree required ‘practicum’ hours (student-teaching), which far exceeded the typical one-hour-per-week-per-credit. For instance, my senior year of college — when most of my classmates had a mere 12 hours of class per week — I was putting in 40 hours of teaching time. During graduate school, I was able to use my regular job as my student-teaching but got the privilege of paying $12K+ per year to go to work (at a job that paid me $36K pretax).

        Again, I’m not saying teachers are underpaid. And I’m not complaining. But the reality is that we are generally paid less than other professions that require similar levels of education/training/experience. There are a lot of ways to slice and analyze that, but nothing changes the raw numbers.

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      • Hi.
        My name was mentioned, so I thought i would drop in.
        People don’t see me very often, even though Fox News talks about me quite a great deal.
        Some people have even suggested that I no longer exist, although like God, and Mark Twain rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated.

        Anyhoo, me and the other 5 members of my group gave this a bit of thought.

        While the media types conform to the Leftist Party Line very scrupulously regarding social concerns, they also tend to be upper middle class highly educated and well compensated members of the bourgeoisie.

        NPR for example, generally is sympathetic to same sex marriage, and loves them some exotic obscure music from authentic obscure dark skinned folk.

        But when faced with us, as in Occupy, they are deeply reflective, and fair minded, and you know, they have their property values and 401Ks to think about, and they know that economic concerns are very difficult, and without simple answers.

        Aside from of course, the obvious and axiomatic truths that taxes are always too high, and economic liberalism is self-evidently true.

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  2. Reading the chief’s message, I can’t help but remember the attention a few years back given to some cities’ use of tests to weed out applicants who were too intelligent (out of concern they’d be too bored by the job). I have to doubt this chief was ever given such a test with that purpose.

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  3. Kudos to Chief Anderson.

    I have to say that I’m intrigued by the NYC cops response to back off from doing their jobs:

    The New York Post on Tuesday reported, and city officials confirmed, that officers are essentially abandoning enforcement of low-level offenses. According to data The Post cited for the week starting Dec. 22 — two days after two officers were shot and killed on a Brooklyn street — traffic citations had fallen by 94 percent over the same period last year, summonses for offenses like public drinking and urination were down 94 percent, parking violations were down 92 percent, and drug arrests by the Organized Crime Control Bureau were down 84 percent.

    While there’s much whining about it (as in today’s editorial at the NYT,) there’s much joy for all those folks not harassed and ticketed, too. I hope this small window of cops leaving their comfort zone in NYC get’s studied for evidence of how not policing most low level offenses might be beneficial to communities.

    But the real issue will be how much do the city’s coffers will suffer the lack of revenue from fines, I think. I hope that’s also part of my wished-for study.

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  4. I spent the holidays with a relative who watches a LOT of Fox News and it was interesting. Since I’ve lived in Canada for ten years and barely watched TV for the first thirty, I’m not sure I’ve ever watched it. To be honest, most of the things she would talk about weren’t particularly offensive or anything, just unexpected. I figured Fox is just boilerplate conservatism, but the stuff she talked about was so out of left field that I rarely knew what to say. So, it was not an unhappy visit at all.

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      • Oh, she asked me at one point:
        “You know why that guy shot those two cops in New York, don’t you?”
        Me: “I guess he must have been pretty crazy.’
        Her: “It’s the result of forty years of welfare.”
        Me: “Oh, I… uh, I did not expect that.”
        Her: “Welfare has made people feel entitled.”
        Me: “To shoot cops?…”

        A lot of the arguments weren’t really offensive as much as sort of weird non sequiturs. So, more often I was scratching my head instead of arguing.

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      • The guy wasn’t even 40 years old! He wasn’t even 30!

        My theory is that more political rage and arguments is caused by stuff like this instead of straight up policy disagreements. The straight up not getting basic facts right is more headache inducing.

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      • I get a lot of stuff like this from people I encounter, mainly from clients. Generally, my clients’ politics are irrelevant to the work I do for them so I ignore it. I assume that there isn’t a lot of deep thought that goes in to it… But I’ll await an opportunity this year to make an inquiry and drill down a bit.

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