Friday, December 17, 2004

READER RESPONSE -- Fisking the Nickster

Posted by Craig Westover | 2:20 PM |  

From today’s e-mail:

At the risk of having it become a full-time occupation, I assume you will have something to say about Nick Coleman's latest column, blasting back at those offended by his "homeless" tirade. What a pompous bloviator! He has ascended to his own unique class of self-righteousness! Until last week, I made it a point never to read his column. Now I am sorry that, against my better judgment, I tried it just to see what you were talking about. I guess you were right; it really IS tripe, and not even good tripe.

You're doing great. Keep it up.
This reader sums up things up pretty well, and despite the fact that a mention of Nick does for my visitor count what a naked butt shot of Dennis Franz on “NYPD Blue” does for ABC’s ratings, I don’t intend to make him even a part-time concern. I can be bought, but not THAT cheaply.

"Butt" what is the connection?

As I mentioned in my post on homelessness, the only reason I read Coleman’s Wednesday column in the first place was because in his e-mail to me over the now “alleged” book shortage at Maxfield, he implied the threat of using the pages of the Minneapolis Star Tribune for a personal vendetta against me for having the audacity to “highjack” his column to support school choice. I don’t intend to let him co-opt the school choice issue.

That does put Nick on the radar screen, I guess, but doesn’t necessarily mean I feel obligated to target him. Two facts of life -- you can’t bluff a dumb poker player and you can’t debate with someone who only wants to argue. I always thought Nick was the latter; reading him, I get the sense he might be the daily double. Ignorance and arrogance are certainly annoying, but like secondhand smoke, a reasonable person can easily avoid the contamination.

To be honest, if we weren’t talking about real people living in cardboard boxes under overpasses, Nick’s two columns and the blogosphere bashing of the same would be mildly amusing. The moral high ground is up for grabs and both sides are grappling it out in the lowland swamps.

Just because Nick Coleman writes about homelessness, doesn’t mean it’s not real. But rather than address how to deal with homelessness without involving government, taxes, bureaucracy and all the other right-wing denounced evils, all but a few conservative bloggers have taken the opportunity to blast away at Nick’s hyperbole, misuse of metaphor and and parsing of the word "homeless" ( the same way he parsed "textbooks" in his e-mail to me.) Nick, on the other hand, has long since lost sight of the homeless as people; they, like children at Maxfield Elementary, are nothing more than the means to his political end. Facing the enemy, Nick stands behind the poor, the women and the children all the way.

Frankly, there are 8,000 homeless in Minnesota, a state with a population of around 5 million. To my way of thinking it’s a disgrace that apathy (which I blame directly on a government created sense of “taxes equals compassion”) has reached a level such that a population of 5 million people is ethically, financially, and structurally unable to provide for less than .002 percent of its population without government help.

Update: [Thanks to "The Knowledge Worker" for pointing out my "fuzzy" math. The percent of the population should be less than .20 percent (precisely .16 percent) of the population. That's still an incredibly small percentage when you think about it.]

I am disappointed that conservatives and liberals would rather play tug of war with taxpayers' wallets than figure out a way to reinvigorate civil society to the point where a minimal government role in social welfare can be justified not just in principle, but in tangible results.

So, go ahead and rant, Nick. You’re preaching to the choir and no matter how loud they sing, it’s not going to house a single homeless person. If you can live with that, more power to you. And to my friends in the blogosphere, if you want to take shots at Nick, have at him (I'll guiltily laugh along with the rest of you), but remember, ridiculing the ridiculous doesn’t make the problem go away either.

My only warning -- keep away from the kids. I’m not going to let whining or whacking sidetrack the issue of school choice as the only ethical way to manage a true public education system.