This page was last updated on April 23, 2004.
Perhaps I was a bit harsh on the home page, but I believe we all need a figurative 2-by-4 between the eyes every once in a while to get our attention.
The purpose of The Bird’s Eye View is to expose Beaver County, PA, residents to information and views different from those they normally hear and read. My positions are unabashedly conservative; I am not a centrist, compassionate conservative, or Rockefeller Republican.
Southwestern Pennsylvania has long been a virtual monopoly for liberal politicians and supporters of their communism/socialism-based economic platform. The current state of southwestern Pennsylvania is the result of nearly 75 years of liberalism executed by both Republicans in name only (RINOs) and Democrats.
The political inbreeding is so bad that many Democrat Party candidates run for office unopposed. Of those few candidates who run as Republicans, fewer still are true conservatives. Too many are RINOs.
What is strange about this phenomenon is I believe most Beaver County residents live according to conservative economic and social beliefs. That is, we believe in self-reliance and minimal government intrusion into our lives.
However, because most of us vote for candidates who believe and act exactly the opposite, perhaps my belief is wishful thinking. Consider the following excerpt from a letter to the editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
“Do I have a job? Do I make a ‘living’ wage? If I am retired, do I have a ‘living’ income? Can I afford health insurance? Can I afford prescription drugs? Can I afford dental care? If I have a job, can I save some money for buying a house, for providing a college education for my children and for providing for my eventual retirement?
“If I answer ‘no’ to any of these questions, then I should vote ‘no’ for the party in power.
“If the party in power didn’t make it happen for you for the term it was in office, then it won’t make it happen for you at all. That party has already helped whom it wanted to help. And you were not included.”1
Does that sound like someone who believes in self-reliance and minimal government intrusion into their life? This is someone with low self-esteem who needs a nanny government to “make it happen” for him or her.
The need for change in Beaver County is obvious. Our population is both aging and declining due to a lack of suitable jobs to attract and keep the young. Much of the infrastructure is in disrepair, reinforcing the rust belt image. Some of the required change must be at the commonwealth level and some must be at the local level.
Residents must give different ideas a chance. After all, we’ve been doing things the liberal way since the days of FDR. The results show the Democrat Party communist/socialist policies don’t work.
Though I respect people who maintain their convictions in the face of adversity, at some point you have to have the character to admit when the results show you are wrong. It’s insanity to make the same mistakes over and over yet expect different results.
As mentioned above, I want to expose Beaver County residents to views different from those they normally hear and read. Below are several reasons residents don’t get a balanced diet of fact-based opinion.
Many opinion pieces are shrill and mean-spirited attacks full of hyperbole, the equivalent of “trash talking.” The opposition is always a left/right wing, race baiting, rich, mooching, chauvinist, immoral, atheist/religious zealot, tree-hugging/land-raping, special-interest-kissing, extremist/radical, and then insults fly. This is true for all political parties.
Intelligent people should be able to disagree without resorting to playground behavior. We can’t move forward when we don’t respect each other enough to be civil.
More than two centuries ago, John Adams wrote, “Facts are stubborn things, and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”
We can’t move forward unless we use fact-based arguments. Most of the opinion pieces I see in local newspapers don’t provide verifiable data to support their claims. For example, if you write, “The White House will destroy or severely impair every major social gain of the 20th century” you should cite examples.3 When an author can’t or refuses to provide supporting facts, I assume the author is lying. The same is true when politicians refuse to produce credible data to support their positions.
Though the use of facts is critical, so is the proper use of those facts. Many news stories and op-ed pieces play fast and loose with the facts. That’s lying in my book. For example, one newspaper constantly talks about a funding gap between schools in poor and rich districts. The obvious implication is that students in poor districts get the short end of the funding stick. In fact, though, data published by the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) shows this is wrong. In just one example, using 2000-2001 data, the poor Aliquippa School District spent $9,705 per student-year while the rich Center Area School District next door spent $8,414. Further, Aliquippa taxpayers picked up only 33% of district funding while Center taxpayers provided 66%.
Do some poor districts have less revenue than some rich districts? Of course, but reporting only this part of the story is willful distortion of the facts. It also implies more spending means better results, yet a PDE-commissioned study showed that implication is wrong as well.4 Finally, underlying the funding gap cry is the unspoken belief that rich districts should not be allowed to spend more on public schools than poor districts. If wealthy districts can afford to spend more and want to, why should they not have that right?
Space and time constraints limit most mainstream news stories and op-ed pieces to little more than snippets and sound bites. As a result, we tend to get a subset of an issue’s details stretched out over a long period of time and out of context. These pieces are rarely tied together into a single, clear, unbiased picture. It’s difficult to make a decent decision when you don’t remember all the details and don’t have a good overall view of an issue.
I don’t have that limitation on this web site. In most cases, I try to provide both the details and the big picture.
When I refer to a particular group’s tendencies, I don’t mean to imply everyone in the group shares exactly the same opinions or behaves in the same way. Groups tend not to be homogeneous or monolithic. For example, when I say Democrat elected officials tend to spend more than Republicans,5 that observation may not be true for everyone in those groups.
I don’t slur entire groups because of the actions of a few. The Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS) incident is an example. Lott’s comment reflected underlying racism at worst or simply an attempt to flatter a 100 years-old man (Sen. Strom Thurmond) during a birthday toast. I don’t know which it was because I don’t know Sen. Lott. Because Lott is a Republican, many liberals immediately claimed all Republicans were racists.
All political parties have their share of racists, sexists, and otherwise stupid people. That’s why I don’t brand all Democrats as racists because Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV):
As a side note, it was the Republican Minority Leader, Sen. Everett Dirksen, who delivered enough Republican votes to force cloture of the Democrat-led filibuster of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Though it’s not considered politically correct, I generally refer to liberals/progressives as socialists, and communists when appropriate. I don’t do this for shock value. I do it because I believe in calling a spade a spade. I don’t claim most liberals want the totalitarian forms of communism and socialism we see/saw in Cuba, North Korea, Red China, and the Soviet bloc, but there’s no arguing much of the liberal agenda is based on the core philosophies of communism and socialism. Just check the dictionary and then look at liberal economic and social positions. Of course, this means the bulk of the Democrat Party7 platform is based on socialist beliefs. There’s nothing liberal or progressive about communism and socialism.
Alternative philosophies tend not to get adequate airing in Beaver County. As mentioned above, the leading local newspapers lean to the left. ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC, NPR, and PBS also lean to the left.8 Even Walter Cronkite, a self-described liberal, concedes a liberal media bias. The same is true for most national news magazines and major city newspapers.
It’s true residents can get alternative political views from Fox News Channel (FNC), nationwide conservative talk radio, and a couple of conservative talk radio shows based in Pittsburgh. However, these don’t offset the day in/day out influence of local sources.
If you rely on the Beaver County Times, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC, NPR, PBS, and most mainstream news magazines for your news and opinion, I urge you to add some variety. Don’t drop your current fare, but mix in a little FNC, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and these alternative information and opinion voices. You need a mix in order to make informed decisions.
Liberal bias in education is alive and well. The Duke (University) Conservative Union recently cross-referenced Duke’s departmental faculty lists with North Carolina voter registration lists. The DCU found “…Democrats outnumber Republicans in the departments of History, Literature, Sociology, and English by 32-to-0, 11-to-0, 9-to-0, and 18-to-1 margins.”9 In these four departments, Democrats outnumber Republicans 70 to 1! Duke is not the exception; it’s the rule.
Michael Munger, chair of the political science department, was not so quick to dismiss DCU's arguments. “‘In at least one case, a department chair has said they thought the function of Duke was to rid conservative students of their hypocrisies,’ Munger said. ‘If that attitude were widespread, then yes, we would need to hire more conservatives.’ Munger noted, however, that he did not believe the attitude to be widespread.”10
As Mr. Munger, some people downplay the liberal tilt of instructors, saying that teachers don’t inject their ideology into class material. If only that were true.
Consider the case of a class at Citrus College in California. The students were given a project in which they were to write letters to President Bush opposing the Iraq War. A letter opposing the war would give the student extra credit while a letter expressing support would receive no bonus.11
It’s not just in college. Consider a letter to the editor of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review by a local eighth grader. It was part of a school project to discuss whether or not Columbus deserves a national holiday. The student wrote,
“Christopher Columbus came to America, and he took over the land that belonged to the Native Americans. To get that land, he killed many Native Americans. This proves that Columbus was a murderer. If he was a murderer, then he should not be honored (with a national holiday).”12
The remainder of the letter is similar. Unfortunately, the story gets even worse. This letter was typical of the 20 letters the class sent to the Tribune-Review.13 Only four students stood up for Columbus. From where do you think these kids got this warped view of history? It came from the teacher and/or textbook.
You have to wonder what liberal teachers are teaching kids about George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.
1. Are you making it? If not, vote out the party in power; L.V. Tomasic; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; February 11, 2004.
2. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorial opinion FAQ page says, “…it wouldn’t be unfair to describe the Post-Gazette’s philosophy as generally liberal on social issues and more conservative on economic issues.” Despite this claim, don’t believe for a second that “more conservative on economic issues” means the P-G has conservative economic beliefs. Based on voting data for the U.S. House and Senate, the fiscally conservative liberal doesn’t exist.
The Beaver County Times tends to take positions left of the Post-Gazette. In addition, local Times columnist Gino Piroli (retired Aliquippa postmaster) occasionally submits opinion pieces even more partisan and socialist than the editorials. I have to give the Times credit for publishing letters to the editor that don’t necessarily agree with Times’ positions, however.
3. When I asked the author to back up his claim, he responded, “if you want proof of the attack on social programs reading the paper or listening to the TV should be enough.” In another note, this columnist wrote, “I say there is a left leaning press.” Therefore, he wanted me to accept as validation of his statement, sources he admitted were biased against President Bush!
4. Statewide Insights – Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; Standard & Poor’s School Evaluation Services; 2002.
5. I can already hear the protest that Republicans as a group spend as much as Democrats. That’s true, but most of today’s Republicans are not conservatives when it comes to fiscal issues and limited government. Don’t confuse being a Republican with being a conservative.
7. Though not technically correct, I refer to the Democratic Party as the Democrat Party. Why? Because the party has socialism at its core, and socialism conflicts with democracy.
8. Your tax dollars subsidize NPR (National Public Radio) and PBS (Public Broadcasting System).
© 2004 Robert W. Cox, all rights reserved.