Friday, February 29, 2008

Campus Rape Epidemic?

The campus rape industry's central tenet is that one-quarter of all college girls will be raped or be the targets of attempted rape by the end of their college years (completed rapes outnumbering attempted rapes by a ratio of about three to two). The girls' assailants are not terrifying strangers grabbing them in dark alleys but the guys sitting next to them in class or at the cafeteria.


If the one-in-four statistic is correct-it is sometimes modified to "one-in-five to one-in-four"-campus rape represents a crime wave of unprecedented proportions. No crime, much less one as serious as rape, has a victimization rate remotely approaching 20 or 25 percent, even over many years. The 2006 violent crime rate in Detroit, one of the most violent cities in America, was 2,400 murders, rapes, robberies, and aggravated assaults per 100,000 inhabitants-a rate of 2.4 percent. The one-in-four statistic would mean that every year, millions of young women graduate who have suffered the most terrifying assault, short of murder, that a woman can experience. Such a crime wave would require nothing less than a state of emergency-Take Back the Night rallies and 24-hour hotlines would hardly be adequate to counter this tsunami of sexual violence. Admissions policies letting in tens of thousands of vicious criminals would require a complete revision, perhaps banning boys entirely. The nation's nearly 10 million female undergrads would need to take the most stringent safety precautions. Certainly, they would have to alter their sexual behavior radically to avoid falling prey to the rape epidemic.

None of this crisis response occurs, of course-because the crisis doesn't exist.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Evolution of the flagellum

They said it couldn't be done. Now scientists are filling in the picture of how the flagellum – an "irreducibly complex" system – evolved.

The ongoing wars over the teaching of evolution (particularly in the US) have elevated into public consciousness an unlikely topic: molecular microbiology. Modern day creationists, rebranding themselves as ‘Intelligent Design theorists’, have made sweeping, not to say unfounded, claims about the limits on the power of evolution on the basis of a tiny nanomachine called the bacterial flagellum.

This complex structure, made of about 40 interacting proteins, is essentially an outboard motor that powers bacteria through their watery environment. At the heart of the flagellum is a rotary motor that drives a long, whip-like tail, which propels the bacterium as it spins round. It is a magnificent work of molecular engineering (see below).

For ID theorists, it is more than just awe-inspiring in its complexity and elegance. To them, it speaks of intelligent design. For tactical reasons the nature of this designer is often left unspecified. Yet the context of these claims makes it clear that a notion of a creator, of the kind found in Judaeo-Christian cosmologies, is lurking behind the scenes.

In this week’s New Scientist, I have a feature on what has been found, and what remains unclear, in flagellar research. Scientists do not claim to have wrapped up the story on flagellum evolution. But what is more interesting is the way recent scientific debates about the flagellum highlight the intellectual bankruptcy of ID theory. If you took the ID case seriously, you’d say “OK, the flagellum is irreducibly complex and could not have evolved – done.” You might then move onto the next difficult issue in evolutionary biology, and say the same.

The scientists I spoke with, by contrast, have a rather different epistemological approach. Yes, the evolution of complex molecular machines poses difficult questions, but that’s what makes them interesting and rewarding to study. And it’s not that evolutionists just want to club together to shout, “Look, the flagellum evolved – job done!”. They want to get some real explanatory purchase on the problem.

This concern with actually working out the details inevitably throws up different ideas, which other scientists then critically evaluate. Analyses are criticised, hypotheses scrutinised and conclusions questioned. This is the sign of healthy science in action; it leads to real insights and refined understanding. In short, the evolutionary approach is a genuinely testable theory, and a viable research programme. Falling back on ID, on the other hand, reveals an intellectual lack of nerve. Where evolutionary biologists face up to the mysteries the universe presents, and are prepared to put in the hard work required to crack them, IDists give up on trying to reach any sort of understanding whatsoever.

Is McCain a "Natural Born Citizen"?


I suppose I shouldn't be surprised when frivolity goes mainstream. This morning's New York Times carries an article raising the issue whether John McCain, born in the Panama Canal Zone while his father, a Navy admiral, was stationed there, is a "natural born citizen" under Article II of the Constitution and therefore eligible to be president. Of course he is. I spent a weekend a while ago in an intermittent e-mail debate with a few other constitutional law scholars on this question, and I was amazed at how such a simple question could be made so needlessly complex. The last line of the Times article, quoting the author of a long-ago law review article, is that "it is certainly not a frivolous issue." I think that's just what it is, Ptolemaic epicycles of abstruse constitutional reasoning to the contrary notwithstanding.


Perhaps the oddest thing about the Times article is its lead: "The question has nagged at the parents of Americans born outside the continental United States for generations: Dare their children aspire to grow up and become president?" Actually, I doubt very much that this has ever nagged very many of them at all. Dear overseas American moms and dads: if you haven't been worrying about this, don't start.

Read the rest for the analysis.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Terror's War on Us

Andrew McCarthy has an excellent column today on the fifteenth anniversary of the radical Islamist declaration of war against the United States. In one hour or so, exactly fifteen years will have passed since the first attack on the World Trade Center, a truck bomb that intended to demolish the symbol and home of American economic power. It would take eight more years for the terrorists to finish the job, but their intent was clear from the beginning


McCarthy prosecuted Omar Abdel Rahman and sent the "blind sheikh" and his cohorts to federal prisons for the rest of their lives. It did nothing to deter the terrorists. Indeed, as McCarthy points out, it motivated them to redouble their efforts to demolish the WTC or force us to capitulate to their demands.

WTC I was a failure, but what followed would not be. Unlike Americans, who calculate war success in minutes and days, radical Islamists calculate it in years. While we throw up our hands after a couple of weeks of tactical and strategic recalculation, al-Qaeda and its affiliates remain fixed on their mission.

After fifteen years, we should understand that the terrorists will not quit until we surrender. While they continue to make war on us, we cannot pretend that peace exists.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Is there a right to self defense?

....Especially if you're Jewish?

...The more vexing question, both morally and strategically, is what Israel ought to do about Gaza. The standard answer is that Israel's response to the Kassams ought to be "proportionate." What does that mean? Does the "proportion" apply to the intention of those firing the Kassams -- to wit, indiscriminate terror against civilian populations? In that case, a "proportionate" Israeli response would involve, perhaps, firing 2,500 artillery shells at random against civilian targets in Gaza. Or should proportion apply to the effects of the Kassams -- an exquisitely calibrated, eye-for-eye operation involving the killing of a dozen Palestinians and the deliberate maiming or traumatizing of several hundred more?

Surely this isn't what advocates of proportion have in mind. What they really mean is that Israel ought to respond with moderation. But the criteria for moderation are subjective. Should Israel pick off Hamas leaders who are ordering the rocket attacks? The European Parliament last week passed a resolution denouncing the practice of targeted assassinations. Should Israel adopt purely economic measures to punish Hamas for the Kassams? The same resolution denounced what it called Israel's "collective punishment" of Palestinians. Should Israel seek to dismantle the Kassams through limited military incursions? This, too, has the unpardonable effect of resulting in too many Palestinian casualties, which are said to be "disproportionate" to the number of Israelis injured by the Kassams.

By these lights, Israel's presumptive right to self-defense has no practical application as far as Gaza is concerned. Instead, Israel is counseled to allow goods to flow freely into the Strip, and to negotiate a cease-fire with Hamas.


On March 9, 1916, Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa attacked the border town of Columbus, N.M., killing 18 Americans. President Woodrow Wilson ordered Gen. John J. Pershing and 10,000 soldiers into Mexico for nearly a year to hunt Villa down, in what was explicitly called a "punitive expedition." Pershing never found Villa, making the effort something of a failure. Then again, Villa's raid would be the last significant foreign attack on continental U.S. soil for 85 years, six months and two days.

The suggestions of the Europeans for Israel's response to the Palestinian collective punishment of Sderot for being Jewish is not one they would find acceptable for themselves. Why they show such sympathy for a terrorist death cult is inexplicable. The targeted killing of Hamas leaders did have a positive effect on reducing human bomb attacks in Israel. The logical response to the war criminals who run Gaza right now is to destroy the Hamas infrastructure o f terror and its leadership. While defensive measures might give some relief, they will not change the hearts and minds of the death cult which will just look for other means of killing Israelis.

When Americans want to live in Mexico

Michelle Malkin received an e-mail from one of her readers describing what Americans have to do if they want to own property and live in Mexico.

Hi Michelle - I live in Chicago but own a parcel in San Felipe, Mexico (east side of Baja, on the Sea of Cortez) Thought you'd get a kick out of what I need to do if I want to retire there….legally. Here's the info from the El Dorado Ranch Estates website:


For those of you who either lease lots, rent houses, or have purchased property through a Fideicomiso Irrevocable, you must have an FM-3 Visa to be legal in Mexico. Once you have signed any sort of contract, you are no longer a tourist. I would like to say at the outset, that if you do not have an FM-3 Visa and you find yourself in a property dispute or other entanglement which puts you in the arms of jurisprudence, you literally have no rights as an "illegal alien". This means your property, bank accounts, vehicles and personal belongings, are in jeopardy. The very minimum you need for owning or leasing property is the FM-3 Visa which is renewable every year for 5 years. The following is a list of items you will need to obtain your FM-3 or FM-2 Visa:

1. PROOF OF INCOME: $1,000.00 per person, or 1,500.00 per couple deposited into either a Mexican or American bank account. If not deposited into a Mexican bank, you must obtain a letter from your bank, translated into Spanish stating you have funds available in that bank. This letter must have an APOSTILLE from the Secretary of State's office and is not the same thing as a notary seal. The letter should be signed and sealed from a valid notary of your state, but in addition, you must have Apostille from your state secretary's office. You can contact the Secretary of State's office of your home state for more information on obtaining the Apostille.

2. PETITION LETTER: Letter from you requesting a change of your characteristic (from tourist to resident);

3. RESIDENT LETTER: Letter from camp or development manager, or copy of current Mexico electric, water or telephone bill verifying your current address in Mexico.

4. FMT TOURIST VISA: Can be purchased at any Immigration Office or local airport in Mexico for a current cost of 250.00 pesos for a period of 6 months.

5. PHOTOS: Three front and two of the side, in black and white. A specific infantile size is required and you can get these photos only at the Copicentro stationary store in San Felipe or any other shop that is familiar with this size.

6. The necessary "Form #5″ (can be purchased in any stationery store in Mexico). You need three (3) originals for each visa applicant.

7. A current passport.

8. FM-1 APPLICATION: A form which must be carefully typewritten in Spanish. You can obtain this form at any Immigration office. We strongly recommend that the Immigration office or a visa service prepare this form for you (a minimal fee will be charged).

Take all these documents and letters to the Immigration office or visa service. Upon completion of your file, you will be asked to take the "Form # 5″ to the bank where the appropriate fees are paid and receipted. They will keep 1 copy, and you will return the rest to the Immigration office. Now you're finished. It will take about 1 month for your file to go to Mexicali and be returned with your new FM-2 or FM-3.

Then there are the annual renewal fees and requirements you have to satisfy at renewal time.

Gay boy scouts?

Dafydd at Big Lizards has a lengthy post on why the position of the Boy Scouts of America -- no openly gay Scouts or Scoutmasters -- is a valid one. It's a long post, but I think it's worth quoting at length. (Links and intro in the original post.)

All right. So let's examine the question that Michael Medved could not effectively answer: Why, apart from Judeo-Christian religion, shouldn't the Boy Scouts have openly gay scoutmasters and members?

First, let me answer a related question that sometimes crops up (from the truly extreme haters of the Boy Sprouts): Why don't the Boy Scouts allow girls to join?

Boys... I think we all know the reason why: S-E-double-X. Scouting is about male bonding, about boys getting together to hike, to work on projects, to engage in acts of service to humanity... all in an atmosphere where they don't have to think about love, dating, or sex. Is there anybody -- outside of a meeting of the ACLU -- who isn't aware that when you have a bunch of boys together, the dynamic is completely different from when you have a mixed group of boys and girls?

Since the vast majority (about 98%) of boys are heterosexual, when they are around girls, they experience certain feelings and biological urges. Boys in Scouting are at precisely the age where such feelings begin, rage out of control, and only after several years become familiar, normal, and controllable.

I'm about to get really, really explicit; if that bothers you, cover your eyes while you read the next few paragraphs.

Those of you who don't happen to be male may be unaware of this; but for most boys, when they first become pubescent (or even slightly before), they are unable to control their erections; it just rises and won't fall. Girls, did you ever wonder why so often in junior high (middle school), boys would walk around with a really distressed, embarassed look on their faces -- and their notebooks pressed tightly against their laps? Well, now you know.

The erection can be caused by almost anything related to females: A girl wearing a halter top or miniskirt (in my day), or even by the rear end of a cute female teacher, jiggling while she writes on the blackboard. Or by a sexual daydream sparked by some cute female fellow student across the room... the one you'd never dare talk to because you know she would laugh in your face. (Yes, even popular kids have those same anxieties.)

It's honestly a relief for 13, 14, and 15 year old boys to get away from girls, so that they're not constantly worried about embarassing or humiliating themselves, flushing deep red, being convinced that the girl they're working on a project with has suddenly read their minds about what they fantasized about her last night. I'm convinced that's a major draw of the Boy Scouts, though I never had an opportunity to be a member: When boys are out hiking and horsing around, telling stupid guy-jokes, comparing LSD experiences, and laughing at the sartorial taste of the science teacher, they have an incredible sense of freedom, relief, and camaraderie.

Girls... Mix in a few 13, 14, and 15 year old girls, and the boys would be hiking on egg shells: Anything they said or did would have to be planned and carefully considered, and would carry the threat of imminent death by embarassment. Besides, it's hard to hike with your backpack turned around and pressed tightly against your lap.

Then, of course, there is the very real threat of actual sexual activity. I will here offer a very rare personal revelation, a confession, if you will. Hang on, this may be shocking:

Back when I was 13, 14, and 15 years old, I would have jumped at the chance to have sex with a girl. Almost any girl. Even more shocking, women I have talked to (when they were adults) frequently admit that when they were that age, they were also very attracted to boys and might well have acted on that attraction, if the boy pushed a little... and were they given the opportunity.

One critical function of society is to give young teens no such opportunities.

Besides the emotional problems that often afflict sexually active young teens, there is the danger of pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease. And for whatever adults were responsible for the welfare of those kids, there are obvious liability issues.

Thus, for all those reasons, the Boy Scouts do not admit girls; the Girl Scouts do not admit boys; and both organizations for the most part segregate the sexes. I'm sure there are some functions both boys and girls attend, but most activities, meetings, and functions are monogendered.

But what does that have to do with gay Scouts? Before answering, let's ask the next seemingly irrelevant question: Why don't the Boy Scouts have Scoutmistresses along with the Scoutmasters?

Forget the obvious answers. I know Scouts sometimes go skinnydipping in wilderness lakes; but they could wear swimsuits. And the Scoutmistress could avoid entering the shower facilities when any boy was present. Consider only the problems that cannot easily be prevented.

First, having a woman leading boys to a remote, private, or sequestered area brings up all the problems associated with having girls among the campers. Second, she may be tempted to mother the boys -- or the boys may perceive her as mothering them -- when what they really need is fathering. Boy Scouts need to be led by men for the same reason that boys growing up need fathers: Because in general, only a good, strong, decent man can teach young boys how to grow into good, strong, decent men. (Just as girls need a strong, loving, nurturing mother to grow up to be strong, loving, nurturing women. That's why children ideally need a male father and a female mother... but that's a whole 'nother post.)

Finally, there is one other issue that needs to be addressed, and it's disturbing: There are ephebophilic women who are attracted to teenaged boys; and there certainly are teenaged boys who are attracted to older women. It's not difficult to imagine terrible sexual problems arising -- whether real or imagined -- when young, teenaged boys are led on hikes or retreats by a reasonably young woman.

To name just a few:

Boys trying to "sneak a peek" at the Scoutmistress while she showers or goes to the bathroom;

A boy being traumatized when the Scoutmistress accidentally walks into the shower facilities, not realizing he hasn't finished;

Boys sexualizing the Scoutmistress while talking to each other (or holding certain secret kinds of "contests"), thus losing respect for her as a leader;

Actual sexual contact between one of the boys and the Scoutmistress;

And yes, even forcible rape.

Looming over all of this, from the perspective of the BSA as an organization, is again the issue of legal liability: Can you imagine the lawsuit that would result if a 15 year old Boy Scout and his 32 year old Scoutmistress were caught in a compromising position? The troop would certainly be sued out of existence; the Boy Scouts of America could follow, depending on how big the judgment was and whether the troop or council had been forced by the organization to accept that woman as a Scoutmistress.

So with that background, let's turn -- at last! -- to the real question: What about gay Scoutmasters and Boy Scouts?

Gay men and boys
First, everything said above about female Boy Scouts (except pregnancy) and about Scoutmistresses applies to gay Scoutmasters. Yeah, everything... and more:

Scouts would always be wondering if the Scoutmaster were "checking them out." If he entered the shower area while they were using it, it would make virtually all of them extremely sexually uncomfortable... probably worse than if the Scoutmistress did.

It's terribly unfair for gays and liberals to retort that the boys should "just get over it." They're at a very vulnerable period of change in their own lives, becoming sexual beings. It's incredibly cruel to make them confront being in intimate circumstances with open homosexuals at the same time.

If the gay Scoutmaster is magnetic and charismatic (as many heterosexual Scoutmasters are), the boys might mistake admiration for sexual attraction, knowing the sexual preference of the Scoutmaster (projection); they might become terrified that they were "secretly gay," even if they, themselves, didn't realize it until just now.

Sound crazy? Kids of this age have all sorts of terrors, and this is a very common one: "What if it turns out I'm really gay?"

Anytime the Scoutmaster privately counsels a boy (which is one of their jobs, I believe), no matter how innocuous, questions will arise in the mind of the individual Scout, his friends, and his parents. If a Scout is himself gay, and he spends any time with the gay Scoutmaster, you can magnify those questions a hundredfold.

And what should the Scoutmaster do if one boy wants to ask a lot of questions about homosexuality? Especially if the boy thinks he might be gay himself. Should he answer, and open up a whole new Pandora's Box of threats and liabilities? Or should he reject the kid, possibly driving him into depression or self-loathing?

Even when there is no personal contact, having an openly gay Scoutmaster raises the specter of sex in a situation that should be completely asexual.

Allowing openly gay boys to become Boy Scouts would open the same barrel of worms as allowing gay Scoutmasters: Among other issues, how could sexual situations and discussions be avoided among young teens -- if one of their number says he is attracted to others? Unlike in the military, we're not talking about adults; we're dealing with adolescents who are none too certain about their own sexuality.

And of course, assaults would occur; and on the other side, some gay Scouts would insist that every slight or disciplinary action was motivated by "homophobia." It would be just as much of a nightmare as the openly gay Scoutmaster.

The courts
Finally... what happens if, heaven forbid, a Scout returns from a multi-day hike and accuses the gay Scoutmaster of having sexually assaulted him? The legal jeopardy for the BSA would be off the scales.

If the Scoutmaster were heterosexual, he could more easily defend himself from the charge; but a gay Scoutmaster would start out with two strikes against him, in the jury's mind. At the very least, one strong defense -- "of course I didn't have sexual contact with him because I'm not attracted to males!" -- would be out the window.

There are plenty of gentlemen on the left who have the intense, messianic desire to sue the Boy Scouts out of existence -- just as there are those (many of the same people, in fact) whose greatest dream is the sue the Catholic Church out of existence; and the way the latter picked, and which almost succeeded (and still might), was to sue on behalf of "children who were molested by priests."

It made no difference that by "priests," they meant openly gay priests; by "molested," they meant, in 95% of cases, gay priests engaged in consentual sex with their supposed victims; and by "children," they meant, in the vast majority of cases, a male parishoner aged from 16 years old -- to 25 years old.

I'm sure I'll get attacked for this... but having sex with older teens and young-looking young adults is normal gay sexual behavior for a huge chunk of the gay community: Gays who hunger for twinks are a much bigger percentage of all gay males than men who hunger for Lolitas are a percentage of all straight males.

For obvious reasons, this applies very strongly to accepting gay Scoutmasters: It the BSA were insane enough to allow this, then it is inevitable that [openly gay] Scoutmasters would be sued for molesting [having consentual sexual contact with] Boy-Scout children [of 16 and 17 years old].

If the gay Scoutmaster actually did, in fact, have sexual contact, the legal damages would threaten to bankrupt the entire organization; but at least everyone but the most extreme could agree that he was a criminal.

However, if the gay Scoutmaster were likely innocent, it could be worse. Those who supported gays in scouting would fell compelled to champion the cause of the accused, while those who opposed the policy would seize upon the accusation to show that even a false charge damages the BSA.

The legal brawl would tear scouting apart: There are some crimes so heinous, not even innocence is a defense. Civil war would erupt within the ranks of the BSA, and those who oppose having gay Scoutmasters would end up seceding from the BSA, leaving the cherished name Boy Scouts of America as the property of those for whom social acceptance of gays is the most important issue in life. The Boy Scouts of America would have been conquered and colonized by GLAAD, Lamda, and the Man-Boy Love Association.

The kulturkampf
Just as the Civil Rights Congress became nothing but a Communist front, the BSA after that split would become nothing but a gay front group, agitating for everything from same-sex marriage to the right to create and distribute gay teenaged porn. That is the way of the Left; that is how they fight... and that is often how they win.

So why didn't these dire results come to pass when the Girl Scouts declared absolute neutrality on sexual preference?

Like it or not, society simply doesn't take lesbianism as seriously as it takes male homosexuality... and it never has. Thus, the social and legal problems that result are not as destructive to the organization as a whole.

Many local Girl Scout councils ally with Planned Parenthood and other feminist organizations, causing the Left to consider all Girl Scouts to be potential allies;

Finally, because Girl Scouts of the USA has never been woven as deeply into the fabric of America as has the Boy Scouts of America... so it's simply not as much of a target of the anti-American Left as is the male counterpart.

You have to understand: Most of the problems that would result from the BSA deciding to accept openly gay Scoutmasters stem not from the Scoutmasters themselves, or even from the Boy Scouts, but from the desperate quest on the part of leftists to destroy the organization. And those destructive activists are perfectly willing to play on the fear many Americans have of gays "corrupting" kids, if such fear will help destroy the Boy Scouts.

The Boy Scouts cannot even consider allowing openly gay men to serve as Scoutmasters, because it would open a security breach a mile wide, through which the forces of destruction would pour in a never-ending stream. Just ask the Catholic Church: Aside from a tiny handful of actual child molesters (like Father John Geoghan in Boston or Father Brendan Smyth in Ireland), the Church "sex scandals" by and large comprised gay priests having consentual sex with teenaged boys and young men... many over the age of consent. It was the greatest crisis of the Church in modern times.

And that is exactly what would happen in the BSA: A certain number of gay men would become Scoutmasters just for the sexual opportunities... and those men would strew legal apocalypse in their wake.

The end
So that is my answer to Mr. Medved's agitated, filibustering caller: The Boy Scouts cannot allow openly gay men to serve as Scoutmasters or openly gay boys to join the Boy Scouts because, in the end, it would either destroy the organization -- or at the least, put it through a crisis very much akin to the one the Church suffered some years ago (and which reverberates to this day).

It's too bad that gay men cannot contribute by being Scoutmasters, but they can find other ways to support Scouting, if they want. And it's too bad that gay kids can only participate by not talking about their sexual preferences; but since Scouting isn't about sex anyway, Scouts shouldn't talk about sexuality, even if they're heterosexual. There is no inquisition; the BSA doesn't launch an intensive background investigation and dating history before accepting a kid into the Cub Scouts or Boy Scouts.

So just don't talk about it. Again unlike the military, joining the BSA is a privilege, not a right and not a duty. Abide by the private religious organization's rules... or go somewhere else.

And state and local governments should simply stop trying to dictate suicide to the Boy Scouts, and focus instead on how Scouting can truly help millions of kids across the country. Diversity means diversity of thought, not just race and gender; so why not show some tolerance for those who believe in traditional morality?

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Declining to teach about climate change

Philosophy professor Felicia Nimue Ackerman declined an offer to incorporate climate change in her course.

A FEW MONTHS AGO, I received an e-mail offering me a “very exciting” opportunity. Unlike most such e-mails, it was not after my money. It was after what I guard much more carefully: my time and my ideological commitment. It asked Brown University’s philosophy professors to participate in a national movement called “Focus the Nation” and to “devote a portion of class time” on Jan. 31 or during that week “to teach about climate change as it relates to your discipline.”

She declined, because:

Reason 1: Climate change is not what students signed up to study in my courses.

Neither of the courses I am teaching this term has anything to do with climate change. I would not pay my veterinarian if he talked about climate change instead of examining my cat....

Reason 2: I am unqualified to teach about climate change.

I am not an expert on climate change. I am not an expert on how climate change might relate to philosophy. Rather than taking the time to become an expert on these topics, I prefer to pursue the intellectual interests I already have.

Reason 3: My students can have better opportunities to learn about climate change.

Brown University has physicists, geologists, chemists, biologists and engineers. Brown probably also has non-scientists who are interested in becoming experts on climate change as it relates to their disciplines. Experts can offer courses and teach-ins on climate change. Why not leave the teaching about climate change to them?

Reason 4: I do not think climate change is the most important social problem in the world.

I am not disputing the scientific consensus about the technical aspects of climate change. As a non-scientist, I would have to be a crackpot to think that I know more than scientists about scientific matters. But I can have my own views about priorities. Climate change holds danger of future catastrophes. But other catastrophes are happening right now.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Climate Debate Daily

A tabular listing of the pro and con arguments.

They report, you decide.


For anyone who still believes in the methodology of the Enlightenment, sitting around the table at a twenty-first century dinner party can be intellectual torture.

Your fellow guests tuck hungrily into a menu of conspiracy theories, pseudoscience, junk history and (above all) quack medicine. Yet they will also have the nerve to insist that they reject the ‘medieval superstition’ of religion.

We are facing an epidemic of gullibility caused by what I describe in my new book as ‘counterknowledge’ – fiction masquerading as fact. The chief medium of dodgy empirical claims is, unsurprisingly, the internet, which enables people to construct do-it-yourself conspiracy theories and turn them into cyberspace cosmologies within the space of 24 hours.

How have respected institutions allowed themselves to be drawn into pushing counterknowledge? The answer lies in a mixture of postmodern political correctness and capitalist greed – and the two mix very well together.

I am a capitalist and a conservative. But I also believe in a public domain in which facts must be demonstrated to be true. Many of my allies in this battle are Marxists who believe the same thing. The crucial conflicts of the future may not be between ideologies, but between fact and fantasy.

The enemy consists of ‘9/11 Truthers’, Afrocentric historians, homeopaths and ‘scientific creationists’. An ill-assorted bunch, certainly – but, unfortunately, their stuff sells.

How dare you fight back!

Did you know John McCain has declared war on the NY Times?

The story of the New York Times hit piece on John McCain keeps getting stranger and stranger. First the paper puts out a story that uses two disgruntled former "associates" of McCain to allege that they wondered whether he had an inappropriate relationship with a female lobbyist. Not that he actually had an inappropriate relationship, but merely that they wondered about it. They also allege that they staged an intervention with McCain about it, one that somehow bypassed the top staffers on his campaign, and for this the newspaper offers no proof and no corroboration whatsoever.

John McCain then holds a very polite and rather subdued press conference to deny all of the Times' unsubstantiated gossip. How does the New York Times report this? With unbelievable hysteria

Later in the day, one of Mr. McCain's senior advisers leveled harsh criticism at The New York Times in what appeared to be a deliberate campaign strategy to wage a war with the newspaper. Mr. McCain is deeply distrusted by conservatives on a number of issues, not least because of his rapport with the news media, but he could find common ground with them in attacking a newspaper that many conservatives revile as a left-wing publication.

Oh,please! First, the Times published a scurrilous and poorly-sourced story that even gossip rags would have rejected, and they have the nerve to accuse McCain of declaring war? Has Bill Keller lost his mind?

Remember, the Times endorsed McCain

At Captain's Quarters, Captain Ed notes that, among other things, the Times' smear job on McCain may have done what seemed next to impossible -- won McCain the support of the conservative wing of the Republican Party.

The New York Times may have done the impossible for the John McCain campaign and for Republicans in general. As predicted yesterday when their strange and threadbare allegations hit print, the attack united conservatives behind McCain. It also may have been an act of seppuku for the Times, as its claim objectivity and credibility have been discredited. The Los Angeles Times surveys the damage...]
[[Bear in mind that both [Rush Limbaugh and Laura Ingraham] had pressed hard before Super Tuesday to keep McCain from winning the nomination. They have no particular love for the Arizona Senator, and had kept up a steady drumbeat of criticism over his record. If the New York Times had actually produced a substantiated scandal involving McCain, they may have been the first to proclaim I told you so! from the tops of their transmitting stations.

Instead, the Times ran a piece of gossipy nonsense that doesn't even have the courage to allege what it only implies. Two self-described "disillusioned" former staffers who won't go on the record alleged -- what? -- that McCain had an affair? No. That McCain did favors for a romantic paramour? No. The Times reported that these two staffers somehow got past Mark Salter and John Weaver to stage a confrontation with McCain over their concerns that McCain might have possibly started to get close to thinking about a romance with Vicki Iseman.

Maybe the New York Times really does want McCain elected President, and this is their way of jiu-jitsu-ing him into first place.


Or maybe Pinch really is that stupid.

Is there a good outcome for the NY Times?

Matt Lewis at doesn't think so.

At this point, it seems clear the allegations put forth by the New York Times were bogus.  Maybe more will come out tomorrow, but as of now, it looks pretty weak.

But having said that, there are essentially three possible scenarios that could have occurred, and, in my estimation, all three make the New York Times look bad.

1.  The story is true (in the sense that the story accurately reported allegations), but the insinuated allegations are false.  Remember, the Times didn't say the allegations were true.  What they said was that the allegations had been made.

Remember, it's possible that in the wake of the Lewinski scandal, McCain's aides felt it was important to remove even the appearance of impropriety, so a staffer may have asked this attractive lobbyist to quit being seen so frequently with McCain.  This staffer may have even "believed" that something was going on between McCain and the lobbyist.  This event taking place, of course, does not mean that McCain did anything wrong. 

If this scenario is true, the New York Times is guilty of creating a fire-storm for nothing -- which -- because of the high stakes involved -- is tantamount to screaming "Fire!" in a crowded theater.  When "the paper of record" makes allegations about the man who is essentially the GOP nominee for president on the front page of their newspaper, there should be a reasonable expectation that the story is both accurate and relevant.  And the fact that they made these allegations without any evidence, based on sources who remain nameless, there credibility is in jeopardy.

2.  The story is false.  Obviously, if the story if false (which seems to be the case), it's a huge indictment against the New York Times.  The sources making the real allegations aren't named, but we do know the sources are former aides.  It's very possible that a disgruntled former employee might have an ax to grind.  At the very least, if the Times is reporting false allegations it is a shameful example of yellow journalism.  It might also show the Times' liberal bias.

3.  The story -- and allegations -- are true.  If this is the case, then it means the New York Times spiked the story in December (when knowing about it might have meant the GOP nominated a different candidate), endorsed McCain a month later (having known about the scandal), and then -- once McCain was the presumed nominee -- released the story.  If this is the case, it would mean the New York Times knowingly helped the GOP pick a flawed candidate.  The obvious extension of that would be that the Times helped the Democrats win the General Election.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Major News Story an Orhpan?

Apparently, no one at the NY Times wants to promote the major news story they broke.

When a newspaper breaks a major story, the editors and the reporters usually make a media blitz to promote it. The New York Times has apparently decided to go into the bunker instead. Patrick Hynes hosts a weekly radio show called Meet the New Press (and also works for the McCain campaign), and he invited Jim Rutenberg to appear to debate their slimy attack on John McCain. Rutenberg said no, and don't bother to ask anyone else either...

John McCain had a few things to say...

John McCain wasted no time getting in front of the media to deny the paper-thin allegations leveled by the New York Times. He appeared at a press conference with his wife Cindy at his side, from his latest campaign stop in Toledo. He denied that anyone ever "confronted" him about his relationship with Vicki Isemen at least twice....

...McCain added something later in the presser. "Since it was in the New York Times, I don't take it at face value." We tried to tell him the same thing when the Times endorsed him last month. Now he understands what we meant.



The New York Times launches its long-awaited smear of John McCain today, and the most impressive aspect of the smear is just how baseless it is. They basically emulate Page Six at the Post, but add in a rehash of a well-known scandal from twenty years ago to pad it out and make it look more impressive. In the end, they present absolutely no evidence of wrongdoing -- only innuendo denied by all of the principals...


It's infuriating that reporters can just whistle past a graveyard of their own creation, and pretend they're not part of the story.

Ha: "Since it was in the New York Times, I don't take it at face value," McCain said when asked about former adviser John Weaver.

That was my favorite line. I think he should have been more explicit about the absolutely deplorable quality of the reporting involved.


What's the Quickest Way to Rally Conservatives 'Round McCain?

Posted by: Mary Katharine Ham at 10:40 PM

A sandbagging from the NYT of just this skeezy a nature.

This doesn't reflect badly on anyone but the Times, as far as I'm concerned. The innuendo and full-on craptastic nature of the lede alone is enough to damn any actual facts that follow, which are few and far between.

Patterico posts on "What the Times left out" and "The Times Upholds Its Standards" and "So Far As I Can Tell, The NYT Never Ran A Story On The Rumor That Hillary Might Have, Allegedly, Had A Relationship With An Aide Which Was Possibly Sexual, According To Sources Who Were Anonymous, But Said To Have Been Close To At Least One Former Aide Of A Staffer Who Once Drove Chelsea To The Airport"

From the Weekly Standard:
[[Today, the New York Times unloaded this story about John McCain's supposed ethics issues and insinuates that he had a "romantic relationship" with lobbyist Vicki Iseman. The ethical issues are very old news, both McCain and Iseman have denied the allegations of an affair, and the McCain campaign issued a statement with facts the Times left out. Practically every blogger is on the story--and after dissecting the Times's painfully long rant (the Swampland has Cliffs Notes), many agree that the tale might not get the reaction its editors had hoped.

This morning, Richelieu made a few important points here. He asks, "No allegation of corruption, no favors, both sides deny an affair. Why is this even a story, and why is the timing so partisan?"]]
And, of course, there's
[[The liberal New Republic on the McCain smear: "In the absence of concrete, printable proof that McCain and Iseman were an item, the piece delicately steps around purported romance and instead reports on the debate within the McCain campaign about the alleged affair."]]
and <>
[[Conservatives and liberals alike don't think the Times came up with the goods in its long-awaited assault on John McCain -- an awkward mix of innuendo and old news.]]

Censored Science?

A contentious topic these days is the censorship of science. Advocates for any number of positions claim their position is being censored. Anti-evolution advocates claim their work is exiled from universities, and people are required to affirm a belief in "Darwinism" in order to be admitted to the halls of learning. Skeptics of the premise that human activity is baking the planet to death assert that their point of view receives no attention or funding.

To be sure, there is a bias in the universities. History departments are biased against claims advanced by, for example, the Institute for Historical Review, claiming the Holocaust either didn't happen at all, or was greatly exaggerated. Science departments are biased against claims that evolution is impossible for the same reason they're biased against claims of perpetual motion devices, "free energy" devices, antigravity devices, or any other claims that oppose long-established scientific facts.

But there are some cases where bias seems due less to the underlying facts than due to an overpowering narrative.

Years ago, I chanced to see an article which listed a number of "Hot Topics In Psychology". Among these were "Race and IQ". I'm sure Professor James Watson can attest to how heated debated on that topic can get. Another Hot Topic is illustrated by this post in Clayton Cramer's blog:

Sexual Abuse & Adult Homosexuality

There's a surprising number of journal articles about this subject. The abstracts alone are pretty telling. Lynda S. Doll, "Self-Reported Childhood and Adolescent Sexual Abuse among Adult Homosexual and Bisexual Men," Child Abuse and Neglect: The International Journal, v16 n6 p855-64 Nov-Dec 1992:

This study of 1,001 adult homosexual and bisexual men found that 37% reported they had been encouraged or forced to have sexual contact with an older or more powerful partner before age 19. Median age at first contact was 10. Ninety-three percent of participants reporting early sexual contact were classified as sexually abused.

Median age at first contact was 10?

Maybe the researchers were computer geeks and the number is base 16.

After citing a few more articles, Clayton writes:

Hmmm. More than one-quarter of gay men reported that they had been sexually abused? That's almost three times the rates of sexual abuse among men in the general population. Isn't anyone noticing what might be an obvious connection here?

And there are lots of other articles out there, again ignoring the elephant in the bathtub--the high rates of childhood sexual abuse among adult gay men.

Given the reaction to Dr. Laura Schlessinger's statement in which she called homosexuality a genetic mistake, I think it's safe to say that any hint that homosexuality is in any linked to pathology is a Hot Topic. If a researcher with the standing of James Watson can be brought down for violating the taboo against linking race and IQ, it's easy to understand why only the bravest -- or most naive -- researcher would risk his career by saying anything negative about homosexuality.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Sometimes the tooth hurts

(Hat tip: John Ray)

Dental alternatives

Recently I was having dinner at a local restaurant and bite into something hard that really shouldn't have been there. My jaw felt sore but after a day or two it seemed fine. A few days later the pain really started. I called around the local dentists and found only one that would fit me in. He quoted a price of $160 for the appointment. With no other option I took it.

The dentist himself rarely appeared during the entire appointment. An assistant took an x-ray of my top left molars. The dentist put in a brief appearance to look at the tooth and the x-ray and tell me it was fractured. He then wanted to send me to a specialist for a root canal and then to come back to him for a crown. I have no idea what the cost would be since I didn't have the cost of the specialist or the root canal. But just the first dentist alone, with the first visit, wanted $1,300+. Add in the root canal and this first useless visit and the cost most likely would have exceeded $2,000.

As for the severe pain the dentist suggested I buy some over the counter pain killer -- the very kind of pain killer that was already failing miserably. To be fair, I don't blame the dentist for his refusal to prescribe a pain killer. The drug cops, in order to expand their field of operations, have been harassing doctors who dare to try to alleviate patient pain. The government wants you to suffer in order to protect you from yourself.

But what really pissed me off was that by the next day it was quite clear that they had diagnosed the wrong tooth. Originally I told them it was my left side but that it sometimes felt as if it was the top and sometimes the bottom. I couldn't tell because the entire jaw was throbbing. But as it got worse it was more clearly the bottom jaw. Yet the tooth they diagnosed was on the top.

A conversation with someone reminded me that Tijuana is filled with dentists so I flew down that Sunday night to make an appointment on Monday morning. The dentist there fit me in his schedule a couple of hours after the call. He checked the teeth and said it looked like there was a small fracture in a lower molar. Then came my first surprise. To x-ray the tooth he used a small plastic device, which acts as the film, that was attached to his laptop. After the x-ray is taken the image appears instantly on the laptop. My U.S. dentist wasn't this advanced.

From the x-ray it appeared that a root canal would be needed. My last experience with a root canal was very unpleasant -- lots of pain that the dentist kept telling me couldn't be happening but was. The dentist assured me that it would be different. I went ahead with some reluctance.

The pain killer was injected and he waited and waited. He kept asking about how numb my lips were feeling. And when I told him they were numb to the center of my lip it was time to start. I can honestly say that there wasn't any pain during the entire process. He did the root canal and packed the tooth scheduling me for a crown on Friday.

During this first session he spent over two hours working on my tooth. He was the only one who did the work. He didn't bring in a second-stringer. There was no pain whatsoever. He warned me the jaw would be in pain when the shot wore off. It did. And when it got bad I called him and he suggested a pain killer which I can purchase over the counter -- you can't get in the U.S.

I went back a few days later to have the crown fitted and then again the next day to have it attached. Only on the third visit did another dentist handle it because my original dentist had no appointments. This dentist constantly kept fitting the crown and filing away at it to make sure there was perfect fit. And then as a bonus I decided to have my teeth cleaned as well. That cost $30 extra.

There was nothing second rate about the care I received. I got prompt care directly from the dentist. It was accurate, pain-free and effective and it cost a fraction of what I was paying at home. Even with my flight the total cost was about half what I would have paid at home. So even the cost were relatively pain free. The most painful part of the experience was dealing with the travel Nazis at the airport and waiting in line with thousands of people trying to get permission to re-enter my own country on my way back to the airport.

Of course you can seek treatment in the United States if you wish. Or you can take a medical vacation in Mexico. What you'd save, depending on what needs to be done, can pay for the trip and still put extra money in your pocket. Of course, if you have third party payment for your care you may not worry about the costs -- and that's one of the reasons that medical care in the U.S. is so expensive.

Romney suspends his campaign

To all intents and purposes, Governor Romney has ended his campaign. He did so with what may have been the best speech of his entire campaign.

Thinking back, I recall Al Gore's concession speech, when he finally got around to conceding that he did lose Florida, after all. It was a very good speech. I remember thinking that if that version of Al Gore had shown up at the debates, he'd have won the election. (It wouldn't have taken that much of a shift, after all.)

Maybe candidates for office should, as a rule, write out their concession speeches at the very start and give it early in the campaign (without the parts where they concede, of course). Maybe candidates are at their best -- most focused on the principles for which they're campaigning, most human, best able to connect to the listeners, and so on, when they have given up the daily battles that are a political campaign. Maybe in their concession speeches, candidates are finally speaking for the ages. And maybe that's what they should have been doing all along.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Who's your candidate?

Friday, February 01, 2008

Military retention issues

(Scroll down to "Culling the Legions")

I have this from mail, and it can serve as my essay although I didn't write it.

Subject: The Unpublicized Generation Gap

"Many people in the military now perceive a "generation gap" that is marked by a specific date; September 11, 2001. Those who joined after that day, were more likely to have done so for patriotic reasons and were in to fight. The pre-911 troops had served in a peacetime military. The 1991 Gulf War lasted only four days. The Balkans peacekeeping operations of the 1990s involved very little combat. In other words, the pre-2001 troops had seen very little action. A lot of the pre-2001 officers and NCOs had a hard time adapting to wartime. This is nothing new, and happens every time there is a war. As a result, there were a lot of transfers (to other jobs) and retirements. Yes, the army was offering re-enlistment bonuses of $150,000 to some senior combat NCOs. What the army did not publicize was the large number of officers and NCOs that were encouraged to leave, or get out of their combat job, to make way for people who wanted to fight and were willing to learn how. This is something the military would prefer to keep quiet, despite the fact that it happens every time there's a war. Journalists tend to miss it as well, although historians often catch the scent and dig a bit. But, by and large, the changing-of-the-guard in the leadership ranks is something that goes unnoticed outside the military."

This is worth keeping in mind as you occasionally read horrific articles about how the military is losing senior NCOs and mid-level officers. With an actual war going on, we are building expertise and experience at much faster rates than during peacetime. For instance, the largest movement of US troops at once since WWII took place while I was working at the headquarters that had to carry it out. No pressure... I know some people we're still easing out of the service, because we figure their replacement will be better for the greater good. While I know some good people who are getting out sooner than the expected, I don't know of any who doesn't have health or family issues I'd consider sufficient to explain the matter. The back bench is now extremely capable of stepping up if something happens to the varsity. We let junior sergeants lead patrols knowing that even if they don't make an error, they can still be a horrible example on CNN the next day. Why? They can handle it.

Serving Officer

This morning, there was news of an increase in suicides among soldiers. Now I wonder how many of the suicides had enlisted before 9-11.


RIO RANCHO, N.M. -- One night last month, Jean-Pierre Larroque drove into the desert here, lay down in the road and waited for one of his best friends to waterboard him.

Just a few hours earlier, the 26-year-old Peace Corps volunteer had been debating with two close friends whether waterboarding is torture. Finishing up a pizza dinner, Mr. Larroque casually suggested that the three settle the matter by trying it out for themselves.

On Dec. 11, the three friends got together for pizza and beer at Mr. Gaspar's house. They were watching cable-news reports about congressional efforts to ban waterboarding when Mr. Larroque and Mr. Toulouse began to joke about trying it out for themselves.

The conversations turned serious as they discovered that waterboarding required no training or equipment. Mr. Larroque found a "How To Do It" guide at, which opposes the practice. It said the only things needed were an inclined surface, a container of water and a damp towel or piece of plastic wrap. The plastic wrap is put over the mouth, leaving the nose and eyes uncovered. The water is then poured into the person's nose, filling his sinuses. The plastic, meanwhile, prevents the person from expelling the water. With a towel, the cloth is used to cover the person's whole face before the water is poured.

With Mr. Gaspar filming, Mr. Larroque lay down on the frozen ground with his arms at his sides and his head leaning back. Mr. Toulouse poured.

On the videotape, the water hits Mr. Larroque for about 10 seconds before he jerks upright, sending the towel flying.

In a posting on his blog, Mr. Larroque said he was surprised by how fast his air supply ran out. In other circumstances, he says he can hold his breath long enough to swim the length of a pool.

"Waterboarding is like a one-way valve," he said in an interview. "You've got water pouring in and the cloth keeps you from spitting it out, so you can only exhale once....Even holding my breath, it felt like the air was being sucked out, like a vacuum."

It left no lasting physical damage, making waterboarding arguably "a more humane" way of forcing information out of an otherwise uncooperative prisoner, he said.

On the other hand, Mr. Larroque remembers feeling blind panic as his air supply ran out. Willingly inducing similar feelings in another human being would be torture, he believes.

"This leaves no mark, no trace. It's almost like the ideal way of torturing someone," he said. "This is torture 2.0."

About those WMD

From today's Wall Street Journal:

...the most important news in the segment comes when Mr. Piro describes his conversations with Saddam about weapons of mass destruction. The FBI interrogator says that, while Saddam said he no longer had active WMD programs in 2003, the dictator admitted that he intended to resume those programs as soon as he possibly could.

Here's the relevant segment, which appears well down in the interview:

Mr. Piro: "The folks that he needed to reconstitute his program are still there."

Mr. Pelley: "And that was his intention?"

Mr. Piro: "Yes."

Mr. Pelley: "What weapons of mass destruction did he intend to pursue again once he had the opportunity?"

Mr. Piro: "He wanted to pursue all of WMD. So he wanted to reconstitute his entire WMD program."

Mr. Pelley: "Chemical, biological, even nuclear."

Mr. Piro: "Yes."

Iraq's active WMD program had been destroyed, mostly by U.N. weapons inspectors, sometime in the 1990s, but Saddam told Mr. Piro that he maintained a pretense of having those weapons mainly to keep Iran at bay. This isn't exactly news. The key point is Saddam's admission that an Iraqi WMD program remained a threat so long as Saddam remained in power.

Opponents of the war argue that none of this matters because Saddam and his ambitions were being "contained" by U.N. sanctions. Hardly. As the Los Angeles Times reported in December 2000, "sanctions are crumbling among U.S. allies, who have begun challenging them with dozens of unauthorized flights into [Iraq]."

Bowing to this reality, the Bush Administration came to office the following month promising to ease the sanctions regime, even as it spent billions patrolling the so-called "No-Fly Zones." And as we learned after the invasion, Saddam was well on his way to breaking free of the sanctions by bribing everyone from a British member of parliament to a former French cabinet minister, all through a U.N. convenience known as Oil for Food.

In another telling moment in the "60 Minutes" interview, Mr. Piro relates that when he asked Saddam about his use of chemical weapons against Kurdish civilians, the dictator acknowledged that he had given the orders personally and explained himself in a word: "Necessary." The same still goes for getting rid of Saddam.

OK, I want one

Tata Motors, the Indian car company that just flummoxed Greenies because its $2,500 Nano mini-car will actually bring joy and comfort to the poor, may get back in with the alienated Birkenstock bunch with its latest effort, the Air Car.

No, not the Jetson's kind of air car. This one runs on air and emits just air from its tailpipe. The long-distance model adds a gas engine that compresses the air on-board, increasing the range while still getting 130 miles to the gallon.

The pressure tank stores air at a pressure of 300 bars (one bar is a touch more than atmospheric pressure), and provides a range of 60 miles at highway speeds. An onboard air compressor can recharge the tank using household current in four hours. An industrial compressor providing 3500 psi of pressure can fill the tank in a few minutes for a couple of dollars.

Well, let's see. A range of 60 miles, and fills up for two dollars. That's 30 miles to the dollar.

On the other hand, my van gets 20 miles to the gallon, and each gallon costs 3 dollars. That's 6.66 miles to the dollar.

And at least one model is very quiet, and since the air cools as it expands through the engine, it has built-in air conditioning.

Yes, I think I want one.