Letters to the editor
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The nanny state is the cause of U.K. rioting
The Post-Gazette editorial "Britain's Unrest" (Aug. 10) was remarkable for what it ignored. The editorial blamed the riots on Prime Minister David Cameron's austerity measures affecting the United Kingdom's disadvantaged classes and the gap between the rich and the poor.
The writer further attempts to blame rioting on disrespect for the police because of bribes from Rupert Murdoch's defunct News of the World. I doubt if the rioters even followed the Murdoch saga.
You've ignored the fact that the United Kingdom was an unapologetic nanny state, giving people other people's money as a right. Britain and the other socialist countries of Europe have failed not because their hearts are bad. They failed because they didn't understand human nature. Making people dependents of the state destroys their character. When the state has to cut back because of lack of money, the nanny state's dependents behave as expected: They riot and destroy things and property.
What's the mystery?
PAUL E. FRANCIS
Help our kids thrive
In response to "Back-to-School Costs to Climb, Survey Finds" (Aug. 1), I want to describe a few consequences of defunding our public schools and consequently our school sports programs.
As discussed in a 2003 PG story, "Town Battered by Steel Industry's Decline Finds Joy in High School Football," I had a rough childhood. But things started to turn around for me when I reached junior high and began playing for the school football team. Because funding was available for schools and school sports, we had sports teams available at the junior high and high school levels, and those teams gave me the opportunity to build confidence, perseverance, self-discipline and character.
School football not only kept me off the streets, it prepared me for manhood and a successful, meaningful life. In high school, I was named the 1984 Player of the Year by the Post-Gazette, and I acquired a football scholarship that enabled me to attend college. This success inspired the students who graduated after me, and the education I acquired enables me now to give back to Beaver County as a school aide and football coach.
RAPHEAL "PUDGY" ABERCROMBIE
The essential EPA
Regarding "It's Time to Rein in the EPA" (Aug. 4 Perspectives) by Tracy C. Miller:
According to Dr. Miller, "... evidence of harm from CO2 is inadequate." Explain that inadequacy to the families of the 20,000 worldwide whose deaths each year are linked to excess atmospheric carbon dioxide. Look up the Jan. 4, 2008, Stanford report: "Carbon Dioxide Emissions Linked to Human Mortality."
In the United States, coal-burning plants emit half of our total carbon dioxide, and cars exhaust an average of one pound of CO2 for every mile traveled.
He asks: "Does the EPA have any business regulating greenhouse gases as pollutants ... when economic evidence ... indicates that the costs of reducing global warming will far outweigh the benefits?" Reducing pollution will improve our health, reduce our health care costs and reduce global warming. How's that for being cost-effective?
Today, atmospheric CO2 is at 387 parts per million (and is rising), which is above the 350 parts per million considered a safe maximum for the planet. Due to CO2, our oceans are becoming more acidic, which kills oxygen-producing algae. If the Earth's oxygen falls below 17 percent (normally it's about 20 percent), we would all be gasping for breath, as was proven in the 1990s Biosphere project in Arizona.
Algae supplies the Earth with more oxygen than all earth-growing plants combined. Diatoms are single-celled algae and form the basis of the oceans' food chain. If diatoms are wiped out by CO2, fish in the oceans quickly will be wiped out, followed by humans. That's not economic evidence -- it's scientific evidence.
Does the EPA have any business regulating greenhouse gases? You betcha!
JAMES GARDEN JR.
A world-class visit
In December, I visited the Carnegie Museum of Natural History for the first time. As a lifelong paleontology buff, I have been interested in seeing this museum since I was in the fifth grade. After a roughly 20-year wait, I finally got to visit it, and I was not disappointed.
I have seen museums all over the country, including the Field Museum in Chicago, the Smithsonian, the Harvard Museum of Natural History and the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan. The Carnegie Museum, in my estimation, ranks right up there with the best in the America, and indeed, the world. It truly lives up to its billing as a mecca for paleontology and its fine fossil displays.
I was amazed to no end at the Apatosaurus and Diplodocus skeletons lined up next to each other for one-on-one comparison. The Allosaurus and Stegosaurus in the same (Jurassic) room are top-notch, too. The Cretaceous room is likewise terrific; I was especially pleased to see an early 20th-century scientist's vision come to life by seeing, in person, the T-rex skeletons posed as if they were dueling over territory and prey. The background treatments also lend an optimal feeling of realism.
Pittsburgh should stand proud not only for its rich industrial and commercial history, not just for its Steelers and their winning ways, but especially for the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, a truly world-class scientific repository.
It's a common and logical mistake for people to think that teacher certification and licensing might actually mean better teaching, but a large body of research proves both have nothing to do with how well a teacher performs his or her job.
The Post-Gazette makes this erroneous assumption in the opening lines of the article "Concerns Raised Over School Choice Bills" (Aug. 4): "Tax dollars soon could go to schools where teachers aren't required to be certified and where students aren't required to take the same standardized tests as their public school counterparts."
The reporter meant to highlight this potential as significant, and possibly dangerous, but since the research says certified teachers are no more likely to teach well than uncertified teachers, it really makes no difference.
The real significance? If the state ignores teaching certification, it removes a barrier to gifted yet uncertified teachers entering classrooms and beginning to change students' lives for the better.
Education Research Fellow
The Heartland Institute is a think tank promoting policy based on individual liberty, limited government and free markets.
Arrogance and ignorance will force misery upon the nation
I first studied economics as an undergraduate 45 years ago. It was an education that has served me well. In that course I learned some rather startling ideas. I learned for example that a bank's assets were the money it had lent out and that its liabilities were the money coming in. It still makes me smile when banks point out that their negative balance sheet, their assets exceeding their liabilities, is a sign of their good standing.
Economics has many such enlightening if counterintuitive things to teach us. On the other hand I never learned that a nation's indebtedness could be analogized to short-term interest on a credit card as both our president and House Speaker John Boehner tell us.
I never learned that our economy grew just by reinvestment of business profits since that alone would not increase the money supply and when I studied economics I never learned that laissez-faire, hands-off policy was the best way for a government to manage an economy. In fact 45 years ago this was considered an archaic and discredited view. We were taught that governments create markets and must have a hand in regulating them if we were to avoid the boom and bust cycles such as the Great Depression from which the country had just successfully emerged.
When I asked my professor whether such a view could ever return he chuckled to himself and told me that the American people knew it was greed and unbridled speculation that brought them into the Depression and that it was active intervention by the government that pulled them out of it. He assured me, as green as I was, that the American people had no desire to return to the "gilded age."
My professor and his generation are largely gone now. Now a new arrogant generation of American citizens, ignorant of both economics and history, are about to relearn the lessons that had been so bitterly and forcefully taught to him in his time and which he did his best to impart to succeeding generations.
First Published August 16, 2011 12:00 am