Shelfari: Book reviews on your book blog
Fearless Philosophy For Free Minds: January 2007

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Old Media vs. New Media

(Cross posted here at The Liberty Papers)

A rather interesting comment was posted in response to a minor point I made about the new media vs. the old media in a post I wrote for The Liberty Papers entitled The Scales of Justice Need Rebalancing. I thought the comment raised some interesting questions that deserved to be answered in a post of its own as opposed to a response to the response on the original post.

My original point had to do with the MSM’s (the old media’s) incomplete, sloppy, and biased coverage of the so-called Duke Rape Case and how bloggers and talk radio (the new media) managed to turn the tide against the narrative the MSM was trying to establish. The MSM basically convicted the lacrosse players before they had their day in court. When it comes to accusations of rape or sexual assault, all too often the MSM automatically presumes that women never lie about these sorts of things, therefore; the men who are accused of the act are guilty. Very few in the MSM were even open to the possibility that Crystal Magnum (the stripper who accused the lacrosse players) was lying; few wanted to hear the other side of the story or even ask some very basic questions.

The following is the statement I made in the original post:

Thanks in-part to talk radio, bloggers, and others in the alternative media asking questions the MSM failed to ask, everything seems to be swinging in the defendants’ favor.
William L. Anderson of made a much stronger case for the way the new media exposed the unethical and quite possibly criminal behavior of the District Attorney Michael Nifong. Anderson’s main point is that had it not been for the new alternative media, the other side of the story might not have come to light and Nifong could have gotten away with his framing of the young men in question.

This time, the new media got it right but was this good investigative reporting or just luck? The person who commented on my post who identifies herself as VRB believes it to be the latter:

I found the bloggers to be just as bad as MSN [the MSM?], they just happened to wind up on the right side. They did all their best to vilify the alleged victim before all the facts were in. They looked for every snippet of so called evidence to prove their point. Most seem to be saying if you are a whore you can’t possibly be raped and rapist aren’t smart enough to drug or use a condom. Of course all their arguments were so high minded how dare anyone questioned their motives. I think that bloggers are beginning to think the power they have, gives them truth. They just got lucky, so I wouldn’t pat them on the back. Bloggers are not any more pure than the rest of society.
I am sure that there were bloggers out there who instinctively went the other direction without considering any evidence but there were others who were fair-minded and only wanted to get to the truth. I hadn’t weighed in on the issue up to now but when the story first broke, I was concerned that the MSM wasn’t telling the entire story. I cannot speak for others but I would never be one to say that it would have been impossible for the lacrosse players to have raped Crystal Magnum because she was a ‘whore’. I wasn’t there, nor was anyone who commented on the case other than Magnum, the other stripper, and those who were at the party. All any of us can do is ask questions and draw our own conclusions.

When those in the new media started asking the questions, we discovered problems with Magnum’s story (such as the timeline), statements from witnesses (the other stripper, Magnum’s cab driver, etc.), a lack of DNA and other forensic evidence to implicate the accused players (some of which was withheld by Nifong), a report that Magnum had made false rape charges in the past, and other reports that cast doubt on Magnum’s version of events. In the end, all Nifong had to go on was Magnum’s ever-changing statements.

As to the motives, veracity, and ‘high mindedness’ of bloggers in the new media I just have to say they come in all shapes and sizes and are by no means ‘any more pure than the rest of society.’ Some are not at all concerned about accuracy and shoot from the hip while others do their homework and rival the veracity of MSM reports. Bloggers come from a much more diverse array of backgrounds, opinions, and motivations. It’s quite proper to question the motives of anyone who presents information (whether in the old media or new media) and VRB is correct in saying that power does not in any way equal truth.

Having said that, those in the new media who did ask the questions and uncovered facts about the case where much of the MSM failed do deserve a ‘pat on the back’. To avoid embarrassment, the MSM had to start asking the questions that ordinary people with laptops were already asking. If not for the new media, who knows what would have happened in this case?

The only reason the new media is gaining influence is because the old media is no longer adequate. The old media has one agenda and is driven by that agenda. The old media is much easier to censor and control than the new media; this is why some powerful people want to bring the new media down with legal restrictions such as McCain-Feingold and the so-called fairness doctrine.

One of the things that drew me to blogging was when bloggers exposed the forged documents in Dan Rather’s story on George W. Bush’s National Guard service. At the time I didn’t even know what blogging was. I was already skeptical of much of how the MSM reported the news as if everything they reported was stone cold fact. But when this fraud was exposed, I became even more skeptical. There is usually more than one side of the story but all too often, the MSM only presents the side they like. Now the new media has filled some of the void.

There is one problem no one seems to address when it comes to media of all kinds: the media consumer. Yes, you and I are the main problem. Far too often, we do not think critically about the news and receive it passively.

As consumers of the news, we should ask the same questions journalists are supposed to ask: who, what, when, where, how, and why. These are very simple questions that are rarely explored. For example: Why does the minimum wage need to be raised? Who says it should be raised, politicians or economists? What are the positive and negative consequences of raising the minimum wage? When should it be raised? How should it be raised? How will it affect the economy?

Apply these questions to any problem or issue and you will find that these questions are often not answered in the news story. Always be prepared to question the answers.
Free Hit Counters
devry university

Friday, January 19, 2007

New at The Liberty Papers

I am very pleased to announce my joining the staff of The Liberty Papers. TLP was established in November of 2005 as a blog with a primary focus on posting issues that involve liberty. Eric, one of TLP’s original contributors, explains the purpose of the blog in this way:

We are a group of people who hold some very specific beliefs. We believe that the theories of individual, inherent rights and government of what is now known as classic liberal theory are the correct political theory. We believe that failing to understand the reality of market economics, individual motivation, and politics leads to tragedy as the world has seen so many times over in Russia, China, Cambodia, Vietnam, Iraq, Zimbabwe, Yugoslavia, Cuba, France and many other places around the world. The Declaration of Independence is not just the document that told the British Crown that its American colonies were an independent nation. It is a Declaration that henceforth men would no longer be subject to oppressive government that traded their individual liberties and rights for the paternalism of government. It is the best single expression and declaration of the rights and responsibilities of the individual, including the source of the powers of government. We believe that the United States Constitution is the best attempt by man to take these ideas and turn them into practical, political reality.

All of us are experienced bloggers, we’ve written, in the aggregate, literally hundreds of thousands of words on a wide variety of topics. Always, though, there has been a steady theme of classic liberal belief running through those words. Some people, today, might call that set of beliefs “libertarian”, but there are differences between libertarians and classic liberalism. We are not pacifists, we are not libertines who merely want our vices to be legal. Most, if not all, of us believe that the use of drugs, for example, is a very bad idea, and one that creates issues for the individual, the family, the society. But, we believe the oppression that comes with dictating morals and personal behavior, through collective action and the law, is far worse, and far more destructive to society, than the use of narcotics. We are not anarchists. There is a legitimate purpose for government. Government derives its just powers from the consent of those who will be governed by it. [click here to continue reading]

As many of you know, I have recommended specific posts from TLP almost from the very beginning because it has been my favorite blog for quite some time. TLP is ranked an adorable rodent in the TTLB ecosystem but don’t let that fool you; this blog is very widely read. Neal Boortz even made mention on his blog called Nealz Nuze of Brad Warbiany’s post called The Threat of Teacher’s Unions (I responded to the post here).

I can’t even begin to describe what an honor it is to become a part of this blog. I have written my first post at TLP which introduces myself to the TLP readers. If you have read Fearless Philosophy for awhile and are curious about some aspects of my life I have not shared here, here’s your chance to do your own psycho analysis of me (it might answer some of your questions anyway).

If you have not read The Liberty Papers before, as its newest contributor, I invite you to give it a read. You won’t be sorry you did.
Free Hit Counters
devry university

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Negotiate Your Own Minimum Wage

One of the top priorities of the new Democrat-controlled congress is to use the heavy hand of government and force employers to pay employees more than the employers believe the services of their workers are worth. Ted Kennedy uses emotional language suggesting that far too many people in this country are not being paid a fair ‘living wage.’ This from someone who apparently knows nothing about economics and who is only rich and powerful by an accident of birth (unlike most wealthy individuals who are high achievers).

Most Americans are working a ‘minimum wage’ job. I am one of them. Not the federally mandated minimum wage, but the lowest wage I am willing to accept for my time, services, efforts, knowledge, and skills. Most Americans accomplish this by negotiating a wage when an offer is made by a prospective employer. When the offer is made, the prospective employee decides whether or not to accept the offer. No company in America can force any individual to accept an offer he or she does not believe to be acceptable.

Last summer, I went through this very process. I ended my employment at a company I worked for in Arizona to make a move to Denver, Colorado. Once I was settled in to my new digs I visited some websites to determine the cost of living in Denver, Colorado versus Phoenix, Arizona. I learned that the cost of living in Denver was slightly higher than Phoenix. I wanted to make no less than I was making at my previous job so I adjusted my ‘minimum wage’ I would accept accordingly. I also took an inventory of my skills which I have acquired over the past few years and searched for job openings that I believed matched my skill sets. I could have all the necessary skills in the world for my given field but if there was no market for these skills, I would have to reconsider what my minimum wage would be. As it turned out, the market for experienced structural CAD drafters in Colorado was very good…could I consider raising my minimum wage?

After only a few weeks of making contacts with employment agencies and talking to prospective employers, I found a company which I believed to be a good fit. The offer was a half dollar an hour less than the wage I wanted but I took into consideration other factors such as the healthcare plan, flexible spending account for medical expenses, 401k plan, vacation time, commute, training opportunities, etc. After considering all these factors I decided that the prospective company met my minimum requirements.

What is missing from this process? The answer is government. In no point in the process did I write my congressman nor did I seek out a union to demand that engineering companies pay CAD drafters the wage I believed CAD drafters of comparable experience should be worth.

The Ted Kennedys of the world would have us believe that my situation is unusual; that most Americans cannot receive a ‘fair’ wage without the help of the federal government. Nothing could be further from the truth. According to a 2005 Department of Labor report (the most recent report available) those who make at or below the federal minimum wage make up only 2.5% of the Americans who earn an hourly wage (1.9 million workers). One quarter of those making at or below the minimum wage are between 16-19 years old. What about adults who are trying to ‘live’ of the ‘living wage’? Roughly 2% of individuals over 25 years of age make at or below the minimum wage; most of those who do don’t depend on their minimum wage job as their primary source of income.

If the minimum wage directly affects such a small portion of the workforce, why are the Democrats pushing it so hard? There are several reasons but the main reason is that they want to appear as though they are ‘doing something’ for the poorest among us. The minimum wage hike overwhelmingly passed the House yesterday with broad bipartisan support. Senate Republicans, not wanting to appear unsympathetic to the plight of the poor, will likely also support the minimum wage hike and President Bush has already indicated he would sign it into law. But will raising the federal minimum wage truthfully help those who are supposedly going to benefit?

On paper, raising the minimum wage appears to help those whose wages are dependent on the federal government…until other factors are considered. First of all, if someone is barley getting by on $5.15 an hour, would raising their pay to $7.25 really help all that much? Seems to me these individuals would need a little more to see a difference. Another question to consider: would employers cut back on their hiring or lay off some of their current employees to maintain their current profit margins or would they simply raise the price of their services?

While paying entry-level employees an extra $2.10 an hour does not seem like a whole lot, one should consider the impact of this government-imposed raise (with no economic considerations for businesses both big and small) on the overall cost of doing business. Suppose you own a chain of supermarkets with 200 workers making the current minimum wage of $5.15 an hour. The government now tells you that you MUST pay these people $7.25 an hour. By my math that’s an additional $420 an hour, $14,700 a week (assuming each of the 200 workers work 35 hours a week), and $58,800 a month ($14,700 x 4 weeks in a month). That’s only considering the impact of raising the wage itself without considering increased cost of payroll taxes or those who earn more with earnings based on a factor of the minimum wage.

What are you going to do to absorb these expenses or are you going to be willing to accept lower profits? Assuming you want to maintain your profit margin, you will have to lay off some workers, cut benefits (i.e. healthcare), or increase your prices; all actions which will do the most harm to the unskilled workers (those who do not lose their job pay more for the same groceries negating any benefit of the $2.10 raise from the government). If your business is already struggling to stay in the black, this could be enough of a difference to close your doors permanently which would result in all of your employees losing their jobs. Does raising the federal minimum wage still sound like a compassionate thing to do?

I realize that, for all practical purposes, I have lost this debate. The majority has spoken. But because I am in the minority on this issue does not make me wrong. I also realize that there is a chance that someone might read this post who currently makes the minimum wage and is angry that people like me oppose the measure. To you I want to say that there is no shame in working these jobs provided that you are doing all you can to improve your situation. I worked a minimum wage job until I was 20 (while going to trade school). I eventually got tired of having very little money to live on and was inspired to pay more attention in class. After graduation I found my first job as a CAD drafter being paid a wage I could have probably made at Wal-Mart (this is not a knock on Wal-Mart). From that point I gained experience that would help me in the rest of my career. I have since returned to school to acquire even more skills to have even more career options. Again, there is nothing exceptional about my story…I’m just doing what is required to make a better life for myself and my family and you can do it too.

My point is this: if you want to make a more livable wage, don’t wait for Ted Kennedy to give you a raise, have some initiative. Stay in school, pay attention, work hard, and negotiate your own minimum wage.

Related Fearless Philosophy Posts:
‘Living Wage’ was one of my 10 Terms and Phrases to be Wary of
The Virtue of Selfishness

Related Posts and Articles by others:
Minimum Wage, Maximum Folly by Walter E. Williams
The Real Cost of a Minimum Wage Increase by Doug Mataconis
Sticking it to Low-Skilled Workers by John Stossel
Dems to Tackle “Income Inequality” by Larry Elder (“Income Inequality” is another phrase that’s a pet peeve of mine)
Free Hit Counters
devry university

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Sunday School Science Lesson

So what’s the harm of teaching Intelligent Design in government schools instead of evolution? Nothing if it’s being taught in a world religion class alongside all the other religious explanations for life. Unfortunately, pseudoscientific ‘theories’ such as I.D. are being taught in place of science in many science classrooms rather than in their proper context.

Those behind the I.D. movement (the Christian Right) are no longer satisfied only with corrupting biology inside and outside the classroom; geology seems to be the next big target. Why geology? Inconvenient evidence which proves the earth is older than 6,000 or so years. Sadly, the Bush administration has thrown a bone to the Christian Right with anti-science/pro-faith appointees. In the U.S. Park Service for example, the Grand Canyon National Park is not allowed to give an estimate of the geological age of the canyon for fear that they might offend Evangelical Christians. The Park Service has endorsed a book that claims that the Grand Canyon was created by the flood as described in the tale of Noah’s Ark in Genesis, however.

That’s right. Forget looking at all of the available geological evidence, we are supposed to take the story of Noah’s Ark literally as a historical event and not question any of the problems with the story (the ark was 450’ long holding one male and one female of every animal that ‘creepeth upon the earth’…all of which were loaded into the ark “in the selfsame day”). I suppose we are also supposed to assume that everything we have learned about dinosaurs and the Ice Age (along with the migration of the first Americans made some 15,000 years ago following the Mammoths across the land bridge from Asia to North America) is incorrect. Those godless scientists created the entire fossil record in a lab don’t you know! They are deceivers sent here by the devil himself.

Since we don’t want to offend the fragile faith of the fundies, why not allow them to substitute their own version of reality in all the other sciences? Clearly the astronomers don’t know what they are talking about either because the Bible clearly stated that the earth was flat and that the sun revolves around the earth. We ought to burn all books written which contradict the Bible. This will be no small task: we pretty much have to rid ourselves of everything we have learned about biology, geology, astronomy, anthropology, psychiatry, history, mathematics, medicine, and more.

Instead of ‘leaning on our own understanding’ we should rely on faith. Here is a wonderful video which PROVES that I have been wrong all this time. Enjoy!

Hat Tip: Atheist Jew
Free Hit Counters
devry university

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Update III: The Plight of Cory Maye

While pointy-headed intellectuals around the world argue whether or not Saddam Hussein received a fair trial or was executed in a dignified manner, little or no mention has been made of an injustice which has occurred in this country. Unless you have read about this case in a blog somewhere, you probably have never heard the name of Cory Maye. Cory Maye, a young man who was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death (but off death row for now pending a new sentencing trial) for shooting a person who he believed to be an unlawful intruder who turned out to be a police officer raiding his home in the dark of night with a search warrant issued on dubious grounds. If you are unfamiliar with the details of this case, please read this post, this post, and this post before you read any further…

Just over five years since this tragic incident, Judge Eubanks has ruled that Maye’s court-appointed lawyer Rhonda Cooper was in-fact competent in her defense of Maye in the guilt phase of the trial (but incompetent in the sentencing phase which is the reason he will be granted a new sentencing trial). The fact that Cooper knowingly chose not to show the jury exculpatory evidence was available at that time that would have supported Maye’s testimony was not enough for Judge Eubanks to render Cooper incompetent. Because Cooper was considered competent, Maye receives no new trial to present invaluable evidence to a new jury.

Such is the tragedy of our so-called criminal justice system. Is it possible that Maye would be a free man today if he had the means to pay for a decent defense lawyer? I tend to believe so. What chance for justice does someone really have when being represented by a court-appointed lawyer in a murder trial? Because of the interests of justice, he now has the council of a quality legal team but unfortunately, it may be too late.

Not all hope is lost for Cory Maye, however. He can apparently make appeals to the Mississippi Supreme Court and their may be other routes he can go in federal courts. I was hopeful that this case would not have to go that far before one judge with a shred of common sense would see a need for at a minimum, a new trial.

Before we criticize Iraq’s criminal justice system with moral indignation, perhaps we should look at fixing our own. There is much to be desired in our criminal justice system; just ask a man named Cory Maye who will most likely unjustly spend the rest of his life in prison here in America for the crime of protecting his home, his family, and for being too poor to afford a quality attorney.

As always, be sure to read Radley Balko’s Cory Maye page for all of the latest developments (with much more detail than I provided in this post).
Free Hit Counters
devry university