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Thursday, September 20, 2007

13. The Alpha Excuse

Fourteen months before the 2008 presidential election, the candidates are out in force, pounding us with their rhetoric. Platforms and policies are painted with broad brush strokes with few details provided. Promises are being made which are likely impossible to fulfill but they are made with good reason. These promises set the stage for future excuses.

In his book “Education Myths,” Jay P. Greene gives a perfect example of what I call the “Alpha Excuse.” The public school system is failing to teach our nation’s children even the most basic skills necessary to compete and thrive in our society. The principle excuse given by both the school system and the teacher’s unions is “overcrowded classrooms” and their success can only be attained by “significantly reducing the number of children per class.” Mr. Green points out that significantly smaller class size is not a workable solution. If the average class size is cut in half, the number of schools, teachers and education spending would all have to double. Both the schools and the unions know that such a proposal will never be approved yet instead of looking at alternate solutions they continue blame their failures on those that oppose their initial recommendations.

This “excuse” was named after an arrogant and incompetent co-worker of mine from the 1980s. His actual first name was Alpha. Regardless of the task assigned to him, Alpha always proposed a solution so sweeping and costly he knew it would never be approved, but he always proposed it with much conviction and bravado. Much like the schools and unions above, he now had his excuse, his reason for failing to complete the task. “I told you what needed to be done, I told you the solution to the problem but you refused to implement my recommendations. Is it any wonder the project failed?” Yet, just like the school system, Alpha always had his believers and followers who accepted his excuses regardless of the fact that the problems were eventually solved by others, using workable and economical approaches.

Our politicians are big believers in the “Alpha Excuse.” It works to their benefit on many levels. They propose unworkable legislation knowing it will be rejected in committee yet they are able to return to their constituents as heroes. “I did my best but the greedy, selfish, special interest driven opposition voted it down.”

In a prior essay I wrote about Global Warming and the Left’s seemingly unwillingness to take any sort of practical approach to the problem. Even in Al Gore’s “Inconvenient Truth” he outlines the alleged problem but without giving any concrete and workable solutions. The Left often blames George W. Bush and other greedy, selfish Republicans for the failure of the ratification of The Kyoto Treaty, another example of an Alpha Excuse. It was absurd to think we would sign a treaty that places the burden of reducing carbon emissions on the US while not placing those same limitations on emerging and heavily polluting countries such as China and India. But as much as Al Gore likes to blame the right, the treaty was defeated in 1997 in the Democrat controlled Senate by a vote of 95 to 0. Although the press continues to blame the Right for Kyoto’s failure, not one Leftist Senate luminary including Ted Kennedy, Barbara Boxer or John Kerry voted for its ratification. Instead of considering viable approaches to reducing energy demands, the Left continues to use Kyoto as their Alpha Excuse.

Another example is the “War is not the Answer” crowd. This group continues to point toward negotiation and continued dialogue to end international conflicts, saying, “War solves nothing.” Despite history proving otherwise, this delusional, quasi-religious crowd continues to chant their mantra of negotiation. It’s the perfect Alpha Excuse – even if negotiations do take place, as was the case in Iraq with Saddam Hussein, this group simply wants more and more negotiations. If dealing with thugs such as Hussein is so simple, why doesn’t this crowd prove their theory by bringing an end to gang violence in the major cities of the US? Simply go in, start negotiations and dialogue and stop the drug use, the drug sales and the killings. Prove to me you have the skills to fix this one domestic problem and then I might consider that you have solutions regarding international issues But, if you can’t control those in our own country armed with guns and knives how can I believe you to be able to subdue a madman trying to acquire nuclear bombs?

Jesse Jackson uses a version of the Alpha Excuse every time he talks about “empowering” people. Such a vague and subjective term gives him the freedom to continue his attacks on individuals, corporations and the government saying racism continues to exist and his followers continue to suffer. No amount of empirical data can prove his argument wrong. Only he can determine the moment when they are truly “empowered.”

When HillaryCare raises its ugly head once more, instead of placing our entire health care system under one huge bureaucratic monster, why not test the plan in one major city and set objective goals and a time line for reaching those goals. It would seem that New York City would be the perfect place to test this theory. The “Last Bastion of Liberalism” should embrace such a program. But they won’t and their reasons will be Alpha Excuses. “Unless the entire country is under such a plan, it will fail.” The reasons why will vary, but the excuses will remain. Imagine medicine taking such an approach, “The new drug failed in early, limited tests and had dangerous side effects, but in wide distribution, it will work just fine.”

The coming election year will yield many Alpha-type excuses. Hopefully at least one candidate will emerge who will rise above such nonsense.

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