Posts

The Hazard of Incivility

Drivers and cyclists in Colorado Springs need to take a time out and do some deep breathing. Apparently, restriping two-lane streets to demarcate dedicated bike lanes and reduce the number of motor vehicle lanes to one—a phenomenon known as road dieting—has become a focal point for an impassioned civic divide. After losing a legal challenge, opponents of road dieting are left with writing acerbic letters to the editor at The Gazette. In turn, these evoke letters from proponents of biking and multimodal transportation. This corpus of letters goes back to December of 2016 and shows no sign of letting up, especially as restriping of major four-lane streets continues unabated. These missives in print—and the voluminous comments in response that can only be made and viewed in the online version of the paper—suggest that what might have been a reasoned yet spirited discussion regarding planning options for transportation has degenerated into fiery and fierce diatribes. This is but the locali…

Is It Right to Believe?

It seems to me that many people don’t know what to believe anymore, at least that’s what they tell me. I’ve also met some recently who think they believe, but don’t know why; that’s apparent from their clichéd responses to my query about the basis of their belief. These two groups concern me, but not nearly as much as those who have simply decided not to believe anymore at all. I’m not talking here about religious beliefs (though what I’ve said clearly applies to many). Rather, I’m talking about beliefs regarding our everyday world in general, but especially about beliefs regarding political discourse, issues, persons, and events. Too many people have become cynical and disillusioned, weary with fatigue and suspicious of politicians and what they say about themselves and their opponents. For others, their belief system is impenetrable and more than adequate in dismissing contrary opinion and disparaging those who hold different views. The clash that occurs when advocates of incompatible…

The Scandal of Payday Lending

The following article is an expanded version of an op-ed piece published October 3, 2018 in The Gazette in Colorado Springs. The conventional payday loan borrower will take out multiple loans during a year’s time. When you consider that the maximum you can borrow in such a loan is $500, this means the typical borrower could be taking out loans totaling $1,000 or more. But there is absolutely nothing conventional about these loans. Nor does the repayment of these loans follow an economically conventional pattern. Typically, the borrowers are wage-earners who have regular financial obligations that can barely be met by regular income. The paycheck may cover basic predictable expenses, the kind that practically everyone has all the time. But for many payday loan borrowers, there comes an occasion when an unexpected expense occurs that must be met, and there is no discretionary income and thus no flexibility in the distribution of income to include such an expense. Dipping into savings is n…

A Humanist, By Any Other Name

I recently received a brochure from the American Humanist Association (AHA) inviting me to join with the more than twenty thousand others who fill their ranks. I like invitations, especially invitations to join something. It shows that the inviters believe I might have a contribution to make to their efforts to achieve their goals or fulfill their mission. The rhetoric of the brochure clearly demonstrated that the inviters assumed I was a humanist (“As a humanist, you are not alone”), and that I should want to be part of an organization that has such prominent “humanists” as Bill Nye, Margaret Atwood, Alice Walker, Adam Savage, Gloria Steinem, Neil deGrasse Tyson, David Suzuki, Steven Pinker, and Joyce Carol Oats. As if these luminaries aren’t enough, I should know that the association’s membership included such prominent people as Kurt Vonnegut, Margaret Sanger, Isaac Asimov, Carl Sagan, and Katherine Hepburn (all now of blessed memory). Eerily the brochure pinpointed the areas of c…

Can Our Politics Be Moral?

It seems such an odd question. If it strikes us as odd, it’s probably because we’ve become inured to the corruption and duplicity of our current exceedingly-polarized politics. Nowadays, when we think of moral, we probably think there’s an ought hidden in there, as in “we ought to do this, and we ought not do that.” We say to ourselves, “Folks who think or do this are moral, while folks who think or do that are immoral.” That’s conventional wisdom (though for many it is more conventional than wisdom), and each of us quite likely has at least some inchoate sense of the sorts of ideas and behaviors that we would judge to be moral or not. Politics, on the other hand, is about gaining and exercising power through the apparatus of government in order to achieve certain ends, outcomes, purposes, or objectives sought by citizens. In a civil community or society where many people live together under a government, unanimous agreement is extremely rare because the objectives vary; different pe…

Homeless? You're Under Arrest!

So sacred and inviolable is the home that no one may enter it lawfully for any purpose without the expressed consent of the home’s occupant – or a lawfully-obtained warrant based upon probable cause. Whether the home in question is a millionaire’s multi-million dollar mansion overlooking the sweeping valleys of the Rocky Mountains, or an impoverished farmworker’s hovel in southern Arizona, or something in between, the right of the owner to be safe and secure in his or her person and possessions in their place of residence is inviolate. The trajectory of development for this idea goes back to Roman civil laws on privacy, from where the principle was incorporated into English common law. The doctrine of privacy and the right to be safe and secure in one’s own home was articulated by the English jurist Sir Edward Coke, who in 1604 ruled in a case that “the house of every one is to him as his Castle and Fortress as well for defence against injury and violence, as for his repose; … domus …