Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Sailer on economic inequality

The Real Inequality Scandal: Rich, Poor and MSM Gang Up On American Middle Class
Most public discussions of inequality have been of limited utility because the fundamental measure is not income or wealth, but long-term standard of living. And that has two halves: how much you have to spend and how much whatever you spend it on costs.

Few commentators have thought systematically about the second half of the equation—the cost of living—even though we all obsess over it in our own lives.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Marriage, “a difficult issue”

A piece at calls Marriage, “a difficult issue”

...we all have a stake in its outcome. But we’ve become all discombobulated in trying to talk about it…if we’re willing to try at all.

Why this unwillingness? Consider:

In the summer of 2005 I was one of four speakers debating–in a friendly way and to a learned and (it must be said) relative affluent audience over the course of a week–the role of religion in public life in America. One of the speakers stated his own doubts about same-sex marriage and lamented the fact that we were not having the sort of debate about marriage as an institution we ought to be having. To my astonishment, he was booed by this respectable and mannered assembly. The hoots echoed across the audience. This left me, although I wasn’t the target myself, with a rather bad taste in my mouth and a genuine sadness about the inability of such well-educated people, who are influential and accomplished in their fields of endeavor, to acknowledge the need for such a debate. Maybe it is too late and we shall never have this much needed discussion. But perhaps not.

Some are willing to take the risk of public opprobrium and discuss it.

Don Feder ... Boston Herald columnist turned author and commentator is not among the uncritical relativists who accept cultural drift. He recently published the warning If Marriage Is Lost, We Lose Everything. He opens with this declaration:
Memo to conservative defeatists: Surrender on gay marriage is surrender on marriage – which is surrender on the family and, ultimately, surrender on civilization.

Recording Technology

Radley Balko has a piece on technology that can be used to record public officials out in public, in the course of their duties. How to Record the Cops - Reason Magazine

Some folks are already proposing life recorders, which would record everything going on in a person's environment (storage cost is 200 GB/year for audio, 700 GB/year for video). It won't be long before the fact of life is, if you're in the presence of another person, you're being recorded.

Conservatives’ View of the Law?

Jonathan Adler at The Volokh Conspiracy writes about TV reviewer Lithwick on Conservatives’ View of the Law.

...Dahlia Lithwick describes “the Supreme Court conservatives’ view of the legal system” as “the law is an airless, mechanistic set of fixed rules that privilege those who write the laws and often fail those who are weak or powerless.” This may be the liberal court commentator’s perception of judicial conservatives view of the legal system, but I cannot think of a single conservative justice — or judge or legal thinker for that matter — who espouses such a view.

As near as I can tell, that's more like the liberal view of what the law becomes under conservatives. I think that's a significant difference.

Maybe liberals assert that conservatives have that as a goal.

Stick Figure Science Winners

Teaching scientific concepts using badly-drawn cartoons. The winners, at Florida Citizens for Science

Creationism in the classroom

Dale McGowan is a parent. When his son came home after having seen a questionable presentation in his physical science class, he eventually took action. Science, interrupted

“He did this whole thing with overheads, and a bunch of it just didn’t make any sense,” he said. “This one overhead said something like…” Connor paused to remember the wording. “‘Experiments and evidence in the present can’t tell us anything about the distant past.’”

I’m not sure how much time passed as the wind-up monkey in my head banged his little cymbals. That my son’s high school science teacher was almost directly quoting the favorite trope of young earth creationist point man Ken “Were You There?” Ham was not encouraging.

“Then he goes off on this thing about ‘If no one was there to witness something, we can only guess about it. This is a big problem for the evolutionists…’ And he goes on and on about how they’ve got all these little bits of bones but how they can never really know what they mean.”

He decides to act on this. Step 1 is an e-mail exchange with the teacher to clarify. Dear Mr. Taylor (Part 1), Dear Mr. Taylor (Part 2)

Neither of these clears up the problem, though several smoking guns are uncovered. So he takes the matter to the principal. Up the ladder.

Disinterested in creating unnecessary difficulties, and perfectly willing to create necessary ones. That’s the balance to strike.
We’re not done, but at this point I’ve already achieved most of what I set out to do. Mr. Taylor has surely been shaken out of the complacent belief that he can spin ID-inspired threads in front of a captive audience without consequence. And Mr. Weatherbee now knows who to watch and what to watch for. That’s a win.

While I wait to hear back, I’ll check in with NCSE to bring them up to date and ask a few specific questions. What should I consider an acceptable resolution in this case? What if Taylor flatly denies it to Mr. W? And is it reasonable to insist on seeing the damn overheads that were trotted out in front of my son?

And the resolution seems to have been a good one. I guess we'll know for certain if the offending course material fails to appear next year.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Price Of Astroturf (Wizbang)

Who really engages in astroturfing? The Price Of Astroturf (Wizbang)

These past few weeks haven't been very good for those who dismiss the "George Soros is an evil genius out to remake the world" notion as a whacked-out conspiracy theory.
First up, the liberal religious coalition known as Sojourners had to walk back a little on their previous statements regarding their funding sources. It went from "we got nothing from George Soros" to "we got nothing from George Soros, if by 'nothing' you mean $325,000 funneled through one of his favorite front groups."
So much for Sojourner's Truth.
Then, it was announced that Soros had given (openly, this time) $100 million dollars -- that's $100,000,000 -- to Human Rights Watch. This isn't a matter of Soros buying the group; he didn't need to. They already agree with much of his anti-Zionist, anti-Western prejudices. This was simply a matter of rewarding them for agreeing with him, and helping them advance his agenda.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Pajamas Media » Full Text of Christopher Coates’ Testimony to U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (PJM Exclusive)

Full Text of Christopher Coates’ Testimony to U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (PJM Exclusive)

Testimony on the disposition of the Black Panther voter intimidation case.

Easy Opinions: Annals of Government Medicine

Andrew Garland has arranged a series of posts at PowerLine on government medicine for easy reference. Easy Opinions: Annals of Government Medicine
John Hinderaker at →Power Line has put up many posts under the title Annals of Government Medicine. These are stories of health care failures mostly within the National Health Service in Britain. Ironically and tragically, the NHS is presented by Team Obama as an example for all of us to follow in "reforming" the US healthcare system.

These posts present a strong argument by example that government should not be managing healthcare. All of our lives are at stake.

PowerLine provides a search link to access these articles. I present these links below with summaries, ordered by newest to oldest. There is much useful commentary by Hinderaker at the links. Click on the date.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Condescending to Islam

It seems we're damned if we do, damned if we don't. Big Lizards:Blog:Entry “Bottoming Out: the Commonest Manifesto”

The definition of marriage under strict scrutiny

Daffyd ap Hugh looks at the rational basis for defining marriage as between opposite sex parters: Big Lizards:Blog:Entry “Companion Piece: Risible Racism vs. Gender Benders”

Thus we long ago concluded that legally, there is no essential difference among people on the basis of race. And therefore any racial classification or racial law is inherently invidious and requires the absolute strictest of scrutiny.

In the case of laws banning miscegenation, no compelling government interest other than the even more vile racial supremacism or separatism has been offered for banning mixed-race marriages... so such laws clearly fail the test of "strict scrutiny" and were rightly struck down as unconstitutional.

Contrariwise, only the most radical of radicals would dispute the essential difference between men and women. The claim itself is preposterous: Men can impregnate, women cannot; women can give birth, men cannot.

Moreover, much scientific testing has discovered profound differences in the way men and women think, behave, and react; and as any parent knows, such profound differences begin at birth (some say even earlier) -- so they are not simply constructs of an oppressive society, as the most radical feminists argue.

One can easily find many compelling government interests in promoting traditional marriage over SSM (and over polyandry):
  • To raise the fertility rate, so our population doesn't dwindle (as it has in many European countries), causing society to collapse.
  • To provide a more stable, well-rounded environment for raising children, thus lowering crime, drug use, and other socially destructive behaviors.
  • To mate the aggressive male personality with the loving female personality, in order to civilize the former and embolden the latter.
  • To prevent the objectivization and abuse of women by restricting men to but one wife, not the harems we find in, e.g., the ummah and among primitive tribal cultures.
  • To promote marriages that tend to last longer and be more stable -- as research clearly shows traditional marriages do, compared to same-sex or polyamorous marriages -- which in turn makes society itself more stable.
Each of these interests is compelling in itself; and traditional marriage promotes all of them. And please notice one point: Not a single one of these listed compelling government interests is in any way driven by religion. In fact, I myself am not in the least religious, yet I support all of them.
So yes, marriage to the person of one's choice is a fundamental right; but both laws that prohibit racial discrimination in marriage and laws that define marriage as between one man and one woman clearly pass the "strict scrutiny" test. We can prohibit racial separatism and supremacism, saying there is no essential difference between the so-called "races," without having to profess the absurdity that there is no essential difference between the sexes. The two claims are worlds apart.

"Luke warmer"

Anthony Watts discusses his position on global warming: I’m Not Schizophrenic (And Neither Am I) | Watts Up With That?

I am a ‘lukewarmer,’ one who believes that the physics of climate change are not by theselves controversial, but who believes that the sensitivity of the earth’s atmosphere to a doubling of concentrations of CO2 is not yet known, but is likely to be lower than activists have claimed.

I suppose it should bother me that I am getting slammed at activist websites such as Only In It For the Gold, Deltoid and ThingsBreak because they think I don’t go far enough, and slammed again here and at The Air Vent because I go too far. Although I want to be liked as much as the next fellow, it doesn’t, because the reasons given for slamming me never seem to match up to the reality of what I write.

Patterns of hate and fear

Sixth graders are taken on a field trip to a mosque, taught a nonstandard version of history, and led in prayer. No one would dream of "balancing" this with a similar field trip to a Catholic church, a synagogue, a Mormon temple, or even a Hindu temple. Why the difference?

I've attributed it to Islamophobia – of the religions mentioned above, only one has demonstrated, in the here and now, a significant population of shock troops willing to kill infidels. The others are much safer, even if you insult them.

Bookworm sees a larger pattern at play: We only hate what we fear — why liberals hate the church and pay lip service to the mosque

The interesting question is why the Left doesn’t perceive a similar separation problem when it comes to mosque and state. I think it has to do with the liberal’s perception of an institution’s potential power over the masses.

A few months ago, I did a post about Rush Limbaugh, and the inordinate fear Leftists, not just extreme Leftists, but garden-variety Democrats, feel when they think about Rush. After a lot of background talk (I do love my background talk), I boiled it down to my key thesis, which is that liberals fear Rush because he is the one they worry will penetrate their defenses, make them think, and change their minds...
The same dynamic is at work when it comes to Leftists on the one hand, and mosques and churches on the other hand. For all their multicultural bloviating, so-called liberals don’t think much of Islam. They recognize that its moral teachings are limited (nothing clear and humanist like the Ten Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount, or the Golden Rule), that its history is ugly, and that its current practice, with all the demands about daily prayers and handwashing and fasting, is not going to be that attractive to the majority of Americans.

The Progressives therefore don’t seriously believe that anyone can go to a mosque and convert. Sure, if you go to prison you might convert, but anything looks good in prison. Further, as my cousin, the prison pastor, says:
It is not a contradiction to be a Muslim and a murderer, even a mass murderer. That is one reason why criminals “convert” to Islam in prison. They don’t convert at all; they similarly remain the angry judgmental vicious beings they always have been. They simply add “religious” diatribes to their personal invective. Islam does not inspire a crisis of conscience, just inspirations to outrage.

In other words, it’s not really a conversion at all.

Christianity, though, is scary. If you’ve got a good minister or priest or pastor, suddenly all sorts of persuasive stuff is going to appearing on people’s radars and penetrate their ignorance or defenses. You know what I mean: Stuff about justice, about dignity, about respect, about love, about forbearance. Worse, all this icky, non-Marxist stuff is going to fall on fertile soil, because even forty years of Progressivism in the public sphere hasn’t completely managed to leech away the Judeo-Christian beliefs that underlie American culture. Worse, Christ doesn’t demand of his followers grueling physical rituals. Instead, he demands faith. Not lip service and clean feet, but faith.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Fluoride and anemia?

An article that's been making the rounds at work alleges that fluoride is linked with anemia in pregnant women. The article, Effective interventional approach to control anaemia in pregnant women, looks at a number of women in India, and evaluates whether lowering fluoride intake had a positive effect.

Anaemia in pregnancy and low birth weight babies, a serious public health problem, troubles India and several other nations. This article reports the results of a approach to address the issue.
Results reveal that (1) the urine fluoride levels decreased in 67% and 53% of the pregnant women respectively, who attended ANCs during 1st and 2nd trimester of pregnancy. (2) An increase in Hb upon withdrawal of fluoride followed by nutritional intervention in 73% and 83% respectively has also been recorded. (3) Body mass index (BMI) also enhanced. (4) The percentage of pre-term deliveries was decreased in sample group compared to control. (5) Birth weight of babies enhanced in 80% and 77% in sample group women who attended ANC in 1st and 2nd trimester respectively as opposed to 49% and 47% respectively in the control group. (6) The number of low birth weight babies was reduced to 20% and 23% respectively in sample as opposed to 51% and 53% in control groups.

So we have fluoride levels in urine dropping, and at the same time, hemoglobin levels and body mass index increase. In addition, we see a decrease in birth complications.

Looks pretty telling, until you read this from the abstract:

The sample group was introduced to two interventions, viz.: (1) removal of fluoride from ingestion through drinking water, food and other sources, (2) counselling based intake of essential nutrients, viz. calcium, iron, folic acid, vitamins C, E and other antioxidants through dairy products, vegetables and fruits. No intervention was introduced for the control group.

The researchers changed two things at once – reduce fluoride intake, and increase the intake of essential nutrients. After both changes are made, the change in fluoride intake is given all the credit.

It would have been very interesting to see what the effect would have been had the women only gotten nutritional counseling. I suspect there'd have been positive results just from the improvement in nutrition.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Conservatism does not equal racism. So why do many liberals assume it does?

From the Washington Post: Conservatism does not equal racism. So why do many liberals assume it does?

The answer is that the liberals are the party of self congratulation. They are convinced that they are good, kind, wise, and educated, so their answers to the world's problems must be the right ones. Anyone who disagrees is either too stupid to see the obvious truth of the liberal position, or is acting from bad motives.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Asking the Right Questions

Bookworm looks at the art of asking inconvenient questions: Asking the Right Questions

Over time, in business negotiations, I have learned that the best way to buy time while digesting information is to ask questions to better flesh out the issue. I don’t mean a Socratic dialog, I mean questions meant to make the other person think about their position(s). I offer the following in the context of the very excellent comments that have been made on this blog, recently, about how to constructively engage Liberals, especially the Liberals who have no idea of why they think the way they do, not to mention having a clue regarding why conservatives and libertarians think as we do. I propose that this latter designation represents a very significant block of prospective voters and we need to work on them, not just before November but with an eye to 2012.
Here are some examples of what I mean:

When a Liberal uses the race card: "why do you think that people on the Left are so utterly obsessed with peoples’ race?"

When a Liberal talks about America’s supposed insults to Islam: "Why do you think that all countries the surrounding the world of Islam are subject to Muslim attacks and terrorism?"

On Democrats being for the little guy: "Why do you think it is that the Democrat leadership is so filthy rich?"

On the Tea Party: "With what beliefs of the Tea Party do you disagree?"

On Democrats being for minorities: "Why do you think that blacks have fared so badly in Democrat-controlled inner cities since Johnson’s War on Poverty of 50 years-ago?"

One Liberal Dependency on Government: “"lease share your thoughts with me on how one can be simultaneously dependent on Government programs and still be free?"

When Liberals talk about Islam’s tolerance for others: "How many Muslims do you know? Can you tell me what’s in the Koran about tolerance toward others?" (OK, that’s two questions).

Saturday, September 11, 2010

A "pattern" of anti-Muslim hate crime?

Bookworm looks at a piece in the SF Chronicle: About that “growing” anti-Muslim sentiment

The MSM is bewildered. How is it that nine years after 9/11, people are more hostile to Muslims than they were the day of 9/11, when 20 Muslims murdered thousands of Americans, and sought to decapitate the American government?
Here’s the deal: The majority of Americans are more than smart enough to understand that the majority of Muslims worldwide are people who have no desire to bomb buildings or decapitate people. Like us, they just want to live their lives. We wish them well.

But we, the American people, have learned something in the last nine years, something that, prior to 9/11, only hyper-aware people knew: There are 1.3 billion Muslims in the world. A small percentage of them are jihadists, who are actively engaged in war against the United States and against Western culture generally, and have been so, with varying degrees of success and intensity since the early Middle Ages.

Given the 1.3 billion starting point, this small percentage point adds up to well more than a million Muslims around the world who actively wish us ill. Actively.

They fight American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, they blow up our cultural allies in Israel, England, Spain, Bali, and other places around the world. They gleefully decapitate their perceived enemies wherever they find them, whether in the Philippines, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, or anywhere else in the world.

They are also engaged in a concerted effort to use the threat of violence to blackmail Western culture into abject capitulation. Free speech within the boundaries of Western nations = death threats or, if you’re Theo van Gogh, actual death. Women appearing in public per the norms of Western culture, within the boundaries of Western nations = death threats, rape, acid attacks, etc. Open debate about Islam = death threats.

What Americans have also figured out is that the remaining billions or so non-violent Muslims are utterly passive. With remarkably few exceptions, beyond saying “we’re not violent,” they are doing nothing whatsoever to stop the cancer that lies at the heart of their religious affiliation. Frankly, that’s not good enough. Fine, I understand that they’re deathly afraid too, but they certainly cannot expect Americans to respect them unreservedly if they (a) keep repeating, contrary to available evidence, that Islam is not connected to violence; and (b) do nothing to stem the violence.

So the reason Americans are more anti-Islamic now than they were on 9/11 is that, in the ensuing nine years, they’ve learned more about Islam. What they’ve learned is that Islam, in active mode, is indeed a violent and threatening religion; and that Islam in passive mode, despite being the majority of Muslims, is useless at stemming the tide of millions of murderous Islamists. This has nothing to do with American ignorance, paranoia and economic fear, and everything to do with paying attention.

The Koran: Don’t burn it. Read it.

Michelle Malkin offers this advice: The Koran: Don’t burn it. Read it.

Gen. Petraeus says the provocation endangers the troops. But what’s in the Koran is far more of an inflammatory threat to American soldiers than any match with which to light it. What’s in the Koran has inspired decades of bloody warfare by Muslim operatives targeting our troops, civilians, and Western infidels around the world.

Don’t take my word for it. Take the time to re-read Ft. Hood massacre suspect and Muslim avenger Nidal Hasan’s own powerpoint presentation on “The Koranic World View As It Relates to Muslims in the U.S. Military.”

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Why marriage?

An editorial at NRO looks at the move to redefine marriage.

The emerging elite consensus in favor of same-sex marriage has an element of self-delusion about it. It denies that same-sex marriage would work a radical change in American law or society, insisting to the contrary that within a few years of its triumph everyone will wonder what all the fuss was about. But its simultaneous insistence that opponents are the moral equivalent of the white supremacists of yesteryear belies these bland assurances. Our tolerance for racism is quite limited: The government, while it generally respects the relevant constitutional limits, is active in the cause of marginalizing racists and eradicating racist beliefs and behaviors. Moreover, social sanctions against racism, both overt and implied, are robust. If our society is truly to regard opposition to same-sex marriage as equivalent to racism, it will have to undergo change both dramatic and extensive. Churches that object, for example, will have to be put in the same cultural position as Bob Jones University was in the days when it banned interracial dating, until they too join the consensus.

If proponents of same-sex marriage thought through these implications, their confidence might evaporate, for it seems highly unlikely that this project will succeed at all, and impossible that it will do so without decades of arduous and divisive social “reform.” That is no reason to shrink from the task, if it is truly a just one. But we should first consider whether the historic and cross-cultural understanding of marriage as the union of a man and a woman really has so little to be said for it.
It is true that marriage is, in part, an emotional union, and it is also true that spouses often take care of each other and thereby reduce the caregiving burden on other people. But neither of these truths is the fundamental reason for marriage. The reason marriage exists is that the sexual intercourse of men and women regularly produces children. If it did not produce children, neither society nor the government would have much reason, let alone a valid reason, to regulate people’s emotional unions. (The government does not regulate non-marital friendships, no matter how intense they are.) If mutual caregiving were the purpose of marriage, there would be no reason to exclude adult incestuous unions from marriage. What the institution and policy of marriage aims to regulate is sex, not love or commitment. These days, marriage regulates sex (to the extent it does regulate it) in a wholly non-coercive manner, sex outside of marriage no longer being a crime.

Marriage exists, in other words, to solve a problem that arises from sex between men and women but not from sex between partners of the same gender: what to do about its generativity. It has always been the union of a man and a woman (even in polygamous marriages in which a spouse has a marriage with each of two or more persons of the opposite sex) for the same reason that there are two sexes: It takes one of each type in our species to perform the act that produces children. That does not mean that marriage is worthwhile only insofar as it yields children. (The law has never taken that view.) But the institution is oriented toward child-rearing. (The law has taken exactly that view.) What a healthy marriage culture does is encourage adults to arrange their lives so that as many children as possible are raised and nurtured by their biological parents in a common household.
Same-sex marriage is often likened to interracial marriage, which the law once proscribed. But the reason governments refused to recognize (and even criminalized) interracial marriages was not that they did not believe that such marriages were possible; it is that they wanted to discourage them from happening, in the interests of white supremacy. Sexual complementarity is a legitimate condition of marriage because of the institution’s orientation toward children; racial homogeneity has nothing to do with that orientation. Laws against interracial marriage thus violated the right to form an actual marriage in a way that laws defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman do not violate it. The argument about what the equal rights of all citizens entail for marriage laws turns, in other words, on what marriage is. If marriage just is by its nature oriented toward procreation, the refusal to redefine it to accommodate same-sex partners unjustly discriminates against them no more than the military does against the flat-footed.

Same-sex marriage would introduce a new, less justifiable distinction into the law. This new version of marriage would exclude pairs of people who qualify for it in every way except for their lack of a sexual relationship. Elderly brothers who take care of each other; two friends who share a house and bills and even help raise a child after one loses a spouse: Why shouldn’t their relationships, too, be recognized by the government? The traditional conception of marriage holds that however valuable those relationships may be, the fact that they are not oriented toward procreation makes them non-marital. (Note that this is true even if those relationships involve caring for children: We do not treat a grandmother and widowed daughter raising a child together as married because their relationship is not part of an institution oriented toward procreation.) On what possible basis can the revisionists’ conception of marriage justify discriminating against couples simply because they do not have sex?

How, for that matter, can it justify discriminating against groups of more than two involved in overlapping sexual relationships? The argument that same-sex marriage cannot be justified without also, in principle, justifying polygamy and polyamory infuriates many advocates of the former. There is, however, no good answer to the charge; and the arguments and especially the rhetoric of same-sex marriage proponents clearly apply with equal force to polygamy and polyamory. How does it affect your marriage if two women decide to wed? goes the question from same-sex marriage advocates; you don’t have to enter a same-sex union yourself. They might just as accurately be told that they would still be free to have two-person marriages if other people wed in groups.

We cannot say with any confidence that legal recognition of same-sex marriage would cause infidelity or illegitimacy to increase; we can say that it would make the countervailing norms, and the public policy of marriage itself, incoherent. The symbolic message of inclusion for same-sex couples — in an institution that makes no sense for them — would be coupled with another message: that marriage is about the desires of adults rather than the interests of children.

It may be that the conventional wisdom is correct, and legal recognition of same-sex marriage really is our inevitable future. Perhaps it will even become an unquestioned policy and all who resisted it will be universally seen as bigots. We doubt it, but cannot exclude the possibility. If our understanding of marriage changes in this way, so much the worse for the future.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Bible Burnings Could Provoke Reprisals

The U.S. commander in Afghanistan on Monday criticized a Florida church's plan to burn copies of the Bible on September 11, warning the demonstration "could cause significant problems" for American troops overseas.

"It could endanger troops and it could endanger the overall effort in Afghanistan," Gen. David Petraeus said in a statement issued Monday.

OK, some of the details are wrong, but Bible *is* Latin for "book", and last time I looked, the Quran was a book.

Seriously -- you can immerse a crucifix in urine, and no one worries about "significant problems" from much of anyone.  You say you're going to burn a Quran, and members of the "Religion Of Peace" will kill our soldiers.

Give me a break.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

History like you never learned it

Steven Horowitz at The Freeman on The Importance of History:

I’m doing this in two different classes this semester. The more historical of the two is a senior seminar on the Great Depression, which I’m teaching for the second time. (The syllabus is here). We started the class last week by walking through what I like to call the “High School History” version of the Great Depression. This is the version in which laissez-faire capitalism caused the stock market crash and Herbert Hoover stood around doing nothing (committed lover of laissez-faire that he was), allowing the crash to become a depression. Of course this version also tells us that FDR and the New Deal saved us from utter chaos and that our entry into World War II finally pulled us out of the Depression.

The students nod quietly as I repeat this narrative, only to look a little shocked when I then say, “Every piece of that story is wrong and we’re going to explore why over the course of the semester.”
The other course is comparative economics. We started by talking about how the West grew rich (and reading Nathan Rosenberg and L. E. Birdzell’s wonderful book by that name). In the opening chapter, Rosenberg and Birdzell offer nine different commonly believed reasons the West grew rich, including three that are staples of the contemporary college curriculum: exploitation, colonialism/imperialism, and slavery.

My students who have studied First-Third World relationships in other courses nod their heads quietly until I start to explore the counterevidence Rosenberg and Birdzell offer. It’s hard to argue exploitation, they point out, when the real wages of labor have steadily risen over the last 200 years and capitalists have more or less willingly paid them. As for the other two, they offer examples of western countries that were colonial powers but did not get rich and other countries that had no colonies but did get rich. As for slavery, they make the same point: Some slave societies did not get rich, and some rich countries did not have slaves. The bottom line of their first chapter is that none of these “standard” explanations seem reliable. They argue instead that it was the unique institutions of the West (private property, limited government, freedom of thought and exchange) that generated our prosperity.

This unmasking of history is not just powerful in the college classroom; it should be one of the key ways we classical liberals make our arguments and try to persuade anyone of our views. Arguing theory is fine, but many who disagree with us often trot out historical examples they believe undermine the theory. Those examples are usually wrong, but to show it, classical liberals must have a good command of history and be prepared to offer a different narrative of the event in question. I submit that at the bottom of most disagreements with classical liberalism lies a bad reading of history.

“Gam ha’oyev oved beshabbat”

A nice piece from the Jerusalem Post: The Ground Zero mosque - what US could learn from Israel

Life in our region has taught us that the first necessary step to defending yourself is acknowledging that someone is out to destroy you.
I still recall being jarred, when we made aliya, by the matter-of-factness with which Israelis use the word “enemy.” But it wasn’t a judgment or an accusation. It was simply a fact: There are people out to destroy our state, who seek to kill us and our children. And as the intifada later amply demonstrated, they did not yearn for our understanding or our friendship. They wanted our demise.

YEARS AGO, we took our then teenage daughter to an evening sponsored by the army, at which religious parents could ask questions about what the army would be like for their daughters. Some of the parents were downright hostile, clearly opposed to the prospect of their daughters joining the IDF. At one point, an obviously angry father stood up, turned to the base commander and asked (or more accurately hissed), “Do you make the girls work on Shabbat?”

The room was perfectly silent, for everyone knew the answer. No one moved. Even the base rabbi said nothing. He stood at the podium, leaned into the mike and, lost in thought, played with his beard.

Suddenly, one of the three soldiers who’d been brought to address the parents, a young woman with her uniform shirt buttoned up to her chin, her sleeves extending to her wrists and her armyissued skirt down to her ankles, looked the father right in the eye, and without being called on, said to him, “Of course we work on Shabbat.” And then, after a second’s pause, she added, “Gam ha’oyev oved beshabbat” – the enemy also works on Shabbat.

It was a game changer. “What?” she essentially asked. “You think we do this for fun? There are people out there trying to destroy us. Either we’re as serious about this conflict as they are, or they’re going to win.”

I hadn’t thought of that young woman in years, but ever since the Cordoba Initiative controversy erupted, I’ve remembered her repeatedly. For Israelis do have something to teach Americans, and it’s very similar to what she said to that father. It goes something like this: It’s fine to say that “America is not at war with Islam,” to point out that most Muslims are not terrorists and that many American Muslims are moderates. That’s true, as far as it goes.

But it only goes so far. Because America is at war and its enemies are Muslims.

Gender has never mattered in marriage...

The Anchoress comments on the recent decision overturning Proposition 8. Gender No Longer Essential to Marriage

My first thought: the churches–any of them who wish to remain able to practice their faith in relative freedom–will have to seriously consider getting out of the business of acting as “duly recognized” agents of the state in legalizing marriages. The alternative will be inevitable lawsuits charging “discrimination” for disallowing church weddings, a diminution of our constitutional right to free worship, and a further emptying of church coffers as settlements and fines are levied.

Time for separation of marriage and State, it would seem.

Bias in the Media

Another Karl at Patterico's Pontifications looks at "manufacturing dissent".

Why was the establishment media so slow to recognize the turnaround in the Iraq war? Why did they largely rush to judgment when the Duke lacrosse team members were accused of rape? Why did they get the Jena 6 case wrong? Why was the establishment media narrative about Hurricane Katrina built on myths, including grisly fables about violence and death in the Superdome? And why is the establishment media celebrating it?

These examples are but the tip of the establishment media's "faux news" iceberg. Folks on the far left probably have an entirely different list, but that is the point — the establishment media's center-left epistemic closure produces the same problems critics identify in the conservative media. That the critics are only concerned about closure in conservative media — and dismiss the theory that conservative media closure is partially caused by the establishment's marginalization of conservatives — suggests they are less interested in solutions than they are in further marginalizing the right.

As with the epistemic closure obsessives, don't hold your breath waiting for the center-left to consider that that their shrill stereotyping only adds to the problem. And as with the epistemic closure obsessives, the offense they give to everyone else is fueled in part by the double or triple standards at work. If you think the Ground Zero mosque is a bad idea (as I do), you are deemed a religious bigot, or are empowering religious bigots. In contrast, if you think Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptists protesting at military funerals (or Bill Keller setting up shop near Ground Zero) is a bad idea (as I do, for many of the same reasons), the center-left does not unleash the same gushing firehose of vitriol. When the passage of California's Proposition 8 caused people to engage in anti-Mormon protests and boycotts, and to practice the politics of personal destruction against Miss California, the center-left was not denouncing it as religious bigotry. And to bring it full circle, if the folks behind the Ground Zero mosque are not entirely gay-friendly, the center-left media ignores it.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Polyamory case in Canada

Same-sex marriage is legal in Canada.  Now polygamous/polyamorous marriage is on the docket
But "slippery slope" arguments are bunk, right?
Canada has its own pending marriage case, which is likely headed for the Canadian Supreme Court. Canada, which redefined marriage nationwide to include same-sex couples in 2005, against the backdrop of successful provincial lawsuits against the country's marriage law, could be moving on to bigger things -- literally. Specifically, polygamy and polyamory, as this case invokes the question of whether the government can continue to criminalize multiple-partner marriages.

It may also be true that there is a dearth of published studies of harm caused by polyamory. This would not be surprising given the novelty of the practice and its small set of practitioners. There seems to be no shortage of breathless stories in newspapers and magazines about these kinds of arrangements but these do not equate to research. Any study of polyamorous "families" is likely to be plagued by methodological difficulties -- large holes in data, voluntary samples, reliance on self-reporting, small sample sizes, poor comparisons, and misplaced focus.

Even if the courts accept the egalitarianism, consent, and no data arguments as true, the proposed distinction between multiple-wife polygamy and polyamory in terms of social harms is spurious. In fact, it may be the case that acceptance of polyamory would, if possible, be more harmful.

For instance, the social science data we do have on children who experience a succession of relationships with parents' cohabiting partners (a kind of de facto serial polyamory, or as the sociologists call it, "multiple partner fertility") is not encouraging (here and here). They are at higher risk for abuse, behavioral problems, and household instability. The presence of two sets of unrelated children mentioned in some of the affidavits also does not sound promising for the well-being of younger children. We should not be sanguine, therefore, that children raised in polyamorous homes will be just fine.

If we take seriously the idea that marriage laws have an educative function, polyamory raises red flags. On each of the core functions of marriage -- promoting fidelity, providing a tie between children and parents, securing permanence for spouses and their children -- polyamory seems particularly harmful. Both traditional polygamy and polyamory promote types of infidelity (though the former is of a more orderly variety), of course, but the chaos of polyamory blurs distinctions of parenthood more significantly than does a setting where a child has an established set of parents and lots of half-siblings. The ethic of "choice" at the root of polyamory does not bode well for permanence either.

As complicated as the day to day existence must be for children in homes with multiple adults acting as "parents," the breakup of polyamorous relationships would be dramatically more complicated for children. There would be an exponential increase in the possible divisions of a child's time, of decision-making authority and demands for the child's loyalty, when the dispute involves three or more people than when only two disputants are involved.

Clearly, when it comes to marriage, the adage "the more the merrier" does not apply.


Figures for references

In the news (American Spectator):
...a new study from the Heritage Foundation also shows that wind power could be more dangerous to worker safety than traditional energy sources.
It seems the fatality rate among wind power workers averages 0.0220 deaths per terawatt-hour (TWH). 
This does not compare favorably with the statistic for coal power of 0.0164 deaths per TWH.
800 X (.0220 - .0164) = 4.48 additional deaths per year.
Now granted, these are "statistical lives", and past performance is no guarantee of future trends, but it's worth considering.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Government-Run Health Care

Again, linked from Jon Ray's blog.
Doctors do not prevent homicides or car crashes. In the things that doctors can affect, such as the survival rates of cancer patients, the United States leads the world.

Americans get the latest pharmaceutical drugs, sometimes years before those drugs are available to people in Britain or in other countries where the government runs the medical system. Why? Because the latest drugs cost more and it is cheaper to let people die.

The media have often said that we have higher infant mortality rates than other countries with government medical care systems. But we count every baby that dies and other countries do not. If the media don't tell you that, so much the better for ObamaCare. But is life and death something to play spin games about?


Note: EVERY DAY there are stories on my EYE ON BRITAIN blog about the horrors of the British socialized medicine system. And there are also pretty frequent stories on my AUSTRALIAN POLITICS blog about the horrors of its Australian equivalent.

White Man's Burden

Jon Ray has some thoughts on Kipling's poem.

That's amazingly good prophecy by my lights. Very wicked of him to mention skin color judged by today's hysterical political standards but Britain and America WERE largely white countries at the time, and still are.

About "GWB's War in Iraq"

From the New Republic:
Some nice historical perspective, from someone who does not approve of the war at all.

For those Americans still persuaded that everything changed the moment Obama entered the Oval Office, let's provide a little context. The event that historians will enshrine as the Iraq war actually began back in 1990 when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, Iraq's unloved and unlovable neighbor. Through much of the previous decade, the United States had viewed Saddam as an ally of sorts, a secular bulwark against the looming threat of Islamic radicalism then seemingly centered in Tehran. Saddam's war of aggression against Iran, launched in 1980, did not much discomfit Washington, which offered the Iraqi dictator a helping hand when his legions faced apparent defeat. 

Yet when Saddam subsequently turned on Kuwait, he overstepped. President George H.W. Bush drew a line in the sand, likened the Iraqi dictator to Hitler, and dispatched 500,000 American troops to the Persian Gulf. The plan was to give Saddam a good spanking, make sure all concerned knew who was boss, and go home. 

Operation Desert Storm didn't turn out that way. An ostensibly great victory gave way to even greater complications. Although, in evicting the Iraqi army from Kuwait, U.S. and coalition forces did what they had been sent to do, Washington became seized with the notion merely turning back aggression wasn't enough: In Baghdad, Bush's nemesis survived and remained defiant. So what began as a war to liberate Kuwait morphed into an obsession with deposing Saddam himself. In the form of air strikes and missile attacks, feints and demonstrations, CIA plots and crushing sanctions, America's war against Iraq persisted throughout the 1990s, finally reaching a climax with George W. Bush's decision after September 11, 2001, to put Saddam ahead of Osama bin Laden in the line of evildoers requiring elimination. 

The U.S.-led assault on Baghdad in 2003 finally finished the work left undone in 1991—so it appeared at least. Here was decisive victory, sealed by the capture of Saddam Hussein himself in December 2003. "Ladies and gentlemen," announced L. Paul Bremer, the beaming American viceroy to Baghdad, "we got him." 


Which brings us to the present. After seven-plus years, Operation Iraqi Freedom has concluded. Operation New Dawn, its name suggesting a skin cream or dishwashing liquid, now begins. (What ever happened to the practice of using terms like Torch or Overlord or Dragoon to describe military campaigns?) Although something like 50,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq, their mission is not to fight, but simply to advise and assist their Iraqi counterparts. In another year, if all goes well, even this last remnant of an American military presence will disappear. 

So the Americans are bowing out, having achieved few of the ambitious goals articulated in the heady aftermath of Baghdad's fall. The surge, now remembered as an epic feat of arms, functions chiefly as a smokescreen, obscuring a vast panorama of recklessness, miscalculation, and waste that politicians, generals, and sundry warmongers are keen to forget. 

Back in Iraq, meanwhile, nothing has been resolved and nothing settled. Round one of the Iraq war produced a great upheaval that round two served only to exacerbate. As the convoys of U.S. armored vehicles trundle south toward Kuwait and then home, they leave the stage set for round three. 

Call this the War of Iraqi Self-Determination (2010–?). As the United States removes itself from the scene, Iraqis will avail themselves of the opportunity to decide their own fate, a process almost certain to be rife with ethnic, sectarian, and tribal bloodletting. What the outcome will be, no one can say with certainty, but it won't be pretty.