On PointVincent Carroll, editor of the editorial pages, writes his On Point column most weekdays. He is also an author and freelance writer. Reach Vincent Carroll at carrollv@RockyMountainNews.com.
Carroll: Parental gall
Remember the old Borscht Belt definition of chutzpah: a kid who kills his parents and then pleads for mercy from the court because he’s an orphan?
Maybe that’s where Christina Grafner and Josh Norris got the inspiration for their plan to sue state and county child welfare agencies for $150,000 each, claiming the government failed to protect their son.
The government failed to protect their son? What about them?
Sure the government stumbled, as anyone knows who has followed the heartrending case of Chandler Grafner’s death by starvation. And maybe someone should collect money from the bungling agencies — if it would do any good and if the beneficiaries’ own hands were clean.
But Christina Grafner? The poster parent for bad choices and how not to raise a son? Or Norris, who first set eyes on his 7-year-old offspring, according to The Denver Post, at the youngster’s funeral? How do they deserve $300,000 of your and my taxes?
If we wanted to be uncharitable, we could discuss the various official reports over the years involving Grafner and her children, or her relationship with one of two people charged with killing the boy. But let’s confine ourselves to a single incident, on March 26, 2006, as recounted by the Rocky: “Wheat Ridge police encountered Christina — showing the signs of ‘someone using stimulants such as methamphetamine or crack cocaine’ — after being alerted to a pickup parked oddly at the side of the road.
“Her two sons were in the truck, one of them with no shoes on his feet on a 50-degree day. Police found the crack pipe. And an officer noticed that Chandler’s arms were ‘very thin’ and began asking about it.
“One of the boys told a police officer that neither of them ‘had anything to eat in three days,’ according to the report of the incident.”
Chandler faced long odds from the moment of his conception, and a bureaucracy that failed to appreciate his peril in the weeks before he died was only the final betrayal in a long and sorry list.
No-strike clause shaky?
You’re aware, no doubt, that Gov. Bill Ritter put a no-strike clause in his executive order inviting unions to organize state workers. What you might not have heard is that Jo Romero, president of the Colorado Federation of Public Employees, says she believes state workers could still strike under existing federal law and a 1992 ruling by the state Supreme Court.
And she may be right. The governor himself acknowledged the possibility that his no-strike clause might not be the last word on the subject when he briefed Rocky editor John Temple and me last week, although he obviously believes unions would be making a huge mistake to defy his order so long as he’s the chief executive. What the governor giveth, the governor can take away.
Still, so long as state law doesn’t explicitly bar strikes by public employees, you can bet that one day the unions will use the threat of a strike — or even an outright walkout — as leverage against the state. Lawmakers next spring should spare Coloradans this prospect by putting Ritter’s ban into statute.
Deflating the myth
Have you heard the Lexus radio ad that pokes fun at examples of conventional wisdom that turned out to be wrong? It’s a good theme, except the ad recycles a piece of “conventional wisdom” that was nothing of the sort.
In 1491, the ad says, conventional wisdom believed the Earth was flat.
Actually, no. For years historians of science have been trying to debunk this myth concocted in the 19th century, but with only partial success. It endures in the minds of many as an example of how the Enlightenment allegedly banished mindless superstitution from the public stage — except that it isn’t true.
“All educated people throughout Europe knew the Earth’s spherical shape and its approximate circumference” by 1492, reports historian J.B. Russell in his book Inventing the Flat Earth: Columbus and Modern Historians. Indeed, the most popular medieval book on astronomy, according to sociologist Rodney Stark, was titled Sphere.
“No contemporary document concerning Columbus, including his own journal and his son’s History of the Admiral, nor any account of other early voyages including Magellan’s, makes any mention of the shape of the Earth,” Stark writes. “Everyone knew.”
Vincent Carroll is editor of the editorial pages. Reach him at carrollv@RockyMountainNews.com.
Nice writing as always. Vince.
Educated folks knew the Earth was a globe by 1492? Eratosthenes could prove the Earth is a globe by 255 BCE (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eratosthenes).