Endorsing Laura Belnap


School board elections tend to fly under the radar compared to other elections in Utah. I suspect that at least part of the reason for that is that they are non-partisan so candidates aren’t affiliated with a party (at least as far as their campaigns are concerned) and the parties aren’t involved in promoting the campaigns of any candidate for those offices. I’m not going to make any argument about whether that is good or bad, but I feel confident that it is a natural consequence of having these be non-partisan. As a voter I have generally felt less informed about School Board candidates before they are elected and the records of Schoold Board members after they are elected than I do about candidates and holders of other offices. Because of that traditional lack of feeling informed I have decided that despite being busy and foregoing other endorsements this cycle I am going to make this endorsement of Laura Bellnap for State School Board.

Laura Belnap stands head and shoulders above her opponent in her understanding of the way to address the issues in our education system in Utah. She recognizes the importance of keeping parents informed and involved to ensure that their children get the best available education. She recognizes the value of technology from an educaitonal perspective without blindly thinking that technology alone will solve all our problems. She is also able to see the value of Common Core along with the pitfalls of it where too many people see only one side or the other.

It is because I expect that many voters are in the same boat I have often been in with regard to school board elections that I consider it important to share my perspective when I feel that one candidate so solidly stands above the other in this important race.

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Ballot Issues

After seeing the ballot for this election cycle I quickly spotted a number of problems with the ballot. These weren’t issues with the ballot being faulty. They were (generally) manifestations on the ballot of problems within our political system and climate. Here is the ballot I received:

Ballot Issues


Empty Ballot

This really isn’t a problem unless the ballot stays empty (which this one won’t). The problem is that there are always thousands of ballots (millions nationwide) that remain empty. This is, functionally, the simplest of the problems to fix – people just need to take the time to vote. (If only it were really that simple.)

Long Ballot

This ballot is 8½ X 17 and it fills out the first side and most of the second. That is too many races and issues for most people to pay attention to and cast informed votes on in a single cycle. It practically guarantees uninformed voting. Continue reading

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Pornography and Addiction

Art of Manliness recently did a series of articles on pornography which covered the history, neurochemistry, and consequences of porn use from a scientific and data-backed perspective. The whole series is worth reading and if you think porn is harmless or even beneficial it will have you checking your assumptions on the subject. As much as I liked the series I was mildly disappointed that when discussing the pitfalls of too much porn use Brett refused to call pornography an addiction. Here’s his take:

What about when porn use turns into a full-blown addiction? Is that another one of its pitfalls? Can it even truly become an addiction or is it just a habit?

Suffice it to say, these questions are the subject of much heated debate.

Currently the DSM-5, the Bible of psychiatric diagnosis (which, just like the actual Bible, is super controversial) does not consider behaviors like porn use, eating, or gambling, to be addictions. Only dependence on substances, like drugs, alcohol, and nicotine, are “officially” considered addictions. You can have a look at the criteria the DSM-5 lays out for substance abuse dependence, here. The list includes things like strong cravings for the substance, the creation of professional and relationship problems, needing more and more of the substance to get the same high as before, difficulty quitting, and withdrawal symptoms when doing so.

Looking over that list, one can easily see how certain behaviors outside drug and alcohol use would seem to qualify as an addiction. Millions of people have reported behaviors like compulsive gambling, shopping, and web surfing as meeting several of the criteria.

So, while the DSM-5 still does not currently consider behaviors to technically be addictions, a case could be made for labeling compulsive porn viewing as such. Different studies have both supported and contradicted the idea of porn being addictive. Given the length of this post, I won’t go into the details of these studies; this article from the APA does a good job examining the two sides of the issue. Ultimately, drawing the line between habit and addiction is always going to be subjective, no matter what scientific research and opinions are brought to bear on the question.

I also admit that there isn’t a consensus agreeing that pornography can be an addiction but I want to explore why I think Brett is wrong to reject that label. Continue reading

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Shifting Responsibility in Sexual Assault

Photo by Eric Parker

While I fully agree with the basic premise of this article that blaming the victim is inappropriate I think the article perpetuates the longstanding tradition of oversimplifying the fundamental issue. Here are two examples of that. First:

Males and females alike must know they are responsible for their bodies and their actions — that they have an unassailable right to decide whether someone else can touch them or not. They have a right to be safe. And they have an absolute duty to respect those rights in others.

At first glance that’s all true but it’s obviously oversimplified because stating that everyone has an absolute duty to respect the right of others to decide whether someone else can touch them or not hints that people ought to be able to rely on those around them to uphold that absolute duty. In other words, nothing the victim chooses should bear any scrutiny because the aggressor had an absolute duty. To say that how a potential victim dresses, acts, or talks has no bearing on the actions of potential aggressors is naive at best. While the aggressor should bear full responsibility for their actions, we must acknowledge that aggressors rarely choose their victims at random. The vast majority of the time they will be seeking some specific characteristics or vulnerabilities in their victims and the dress, speech, and actions of the potential victims will play into their calculations regarding whether any given target is the kind of victim they would seek. Continue reading

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It’s not sexuality OR self-expression

Bingham High School
Photo by Photo Dean

Despite how the media and students are portraying the situation, the Bingham High dress code fiasco isn’t about sexuality nor is it about self-expression despite what this article in the Standard Examiner suggests.

They got their spin from the girl who led the protest walkout on Monday. She said this:

I understand having a dress code but when it comes down to a dance that’s our time to be rewarded for being good students and we should be able to express ourselves.

She’s trying to claim self expression but notice that there is no complaint about the dress code itself. “She understands having a dress code” and she makes no claim that its too restrictive or unreasonable. She simply wishes that it would be ignored for the dance despite the fact that the school did everything to make sure that students understood the dress code for the dance. Continue reading

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