Thursday, July 29, 2010

Dumas Debate

I just love the works of Alexandre Dumas; I read (or rather re-read) one every summer. This summer it's The Count of Monte Cristo. One of the things I love about Dumas is that he captures human nature so well, and manages to get his characters to discuss all kinds of things without them being aware of it. In today's reading I've found a discussion that I'd like to extend to my readers.

In this excerpt, Dantes has just been falsely accused of treason and Villefort is questioning him.

Villefort: "But you may have excited jealousy. You are about to become captain at nineteen—an elevated post; you are about to marry a pretty girl, who loves you; and these two pieces of good fortune may have excited the envy of some one."

Dantes: "You are right; you know men better than I do, and what you say may possibly be the case, I confess; but if such persons are among my acquaintances I prefer not to know it, because then I should be forced to hate them."

Villefort: "You are wrong; you should always strive to see clearly around you."

Who's right: Dantes or Villefort? Is it better to know who your secret enemies are, or is that knowledge destructive? Discuss.

Friday, July 02, 2010


Now that Bob Bennett is out of the Utah Senate race, I'm throwing away a letter he wrote to me.

Back in 2009, I wrote to him regarding CPSIA. I'd already written to my Congressional Representative, Rob Bishop. Rep. Bishop (who voted for CPSIA, as did Bennett) wrote back that there was pretty much nothing he could do, given that the Republicans were out of power. I wasn't thrilled with that, but I thought "Well, he's just one out of 435 Representatives so maybe I'll get better results from a Senator." Senator Bennett's letter to me included a copy of his remarks on his CPSIA "fix" bill. Of all the CPSIA "fix bills" proposed, his was one of the worst: it merely extended the timeframe for implementation from six months to 18 months. At the time I supported it because, well, it would be something, and something was better than nothing. But when I read Bennett's remarks stating his full support for various insane provisions in CPSIA, such as the 12 year age cutoff for "children's products" even though kids over six rarely mouth their toys, his statement that it made "perfect sense" for all children's products to have to be tested by labs before being allowed to be sold, and some flat-out untruths about what the bill he proposed would actually do (he claimed it would give relief to thrift stores and allow component testing, when all it did was extend the deadlines; maybe he was confused and was thinking about Sen. DeMint's bill, which he didn't even co-sponsor). The letter painted Bennett as a valiant defender of small business, but actions speak louder than words.

I could forgive him for voting for CPSIA. A lot of people voted for it because it was For The ChildrenTM. And I might have forgiven him for his "tweak" bill (not even strong enough to be considered a "fix" bill) because let's face it, we all knew none of the "fix" bills were going to get out of committee when the committee was headed by the guy who wrote the law and also wrote a whole book about how his laws were perfectly crafted, so something like this might have had a chance at getting out of committee. But CPSIA brought my attention to Bennett's voting record, and I started to see a pattern. I'm not totally naive; I know that politics requires compromise. If the Democrats want to serve us a ham sandwich and the Republicans want to serve us a peanut butter sandwich, we end up with a peanut-butter-and-ham sandwich. But when the Democrats want to serve us a crap sandwich, Bennett was always right there proposing that we be given a peanut-butter-and-crap sandwich-- and if we complained about it, his reaction was "What, I thought you liked peanut butter? I'm trying to get you some peanut butter!" There are some things you just don't compromise on, and Bennett was such a master of the art of compromise that he forgot that.

I saved this letter throughout the caucus, convention and primary to remind me why I really didn't want Senator Bennett to get another term in the Senate. And now that he's not going to be able to run again, I'm throwing it away.