via PrairiePundit by Merv on 8/31/12
...There is more.
I have talked about Democrats substituting insults for logic for some time, but this is a new stage in their descent into avoiding debate at all cost by trying to shut down debate and criticism of the candidate they support. It is the equivalent of putting their hands over their ears and sticking their tongue out rather than engaging on the issues raised.
Friday, August 31, 2012
Germany's new "renewable" energy policy
By physicist Dr. Kelvin Kemm
It is amazing how biased the international media is when it comes to reporting on energy generation, specifically electricity. In mid-August, Germany opened a new 2200MW coal-fired power station near Cologne, and virtually not a word has been said about it.
This dearth of reporting is even more surprising when one considers that Germany has said building new coal plants is necessary because electricity produced by wind and solar has turned out to be unaffordably expensive and unreliable. In a deteriorating economic situation, Germany's new environment minister, Peter Altmaier, who is as politically close to Chancellor Angela Merkel as it gets, has underlined time and again the importance of not further harming Europe's – and Germany's – economy by increasing the cost of electricity.
He is also worried that his country could become dependent on foreign imports of electricity, the mainstay of its industrial sector. To avoid that risk, Altmaier has given the green light to build twenty-three new coal-fired plants, which are currently under construction. Yes, you read that correctly, twenty three-new coal-fired power plants are under construction in Germany, because Germany is worried about the increasing cost of electricity, and because they can't afford to be in the strategic position of importing too much electricity.
Just recently, German figures were released on the actual productivity of the country's wind power over the last ten years. The figure is 16.3 percent! Due to the inherent intermittent nature of wind, their wind power system was designed for an assumed 30% load factor in the first place. That means that they hoped to get a mere 30% of the installed capacity – versus some 85-90% for coal, natural gas, nuclear and hydroelectric facilities. That means that, when they build 3,000MW of wind power, they expect to actually get merely 900MW, because the wind does not always blow at the required speeds.
But in reality, after ten years, they have discovered that they are actually getting only half of what they had optimistically, and irrationally, hoped for: a measly 16.3 percent. Even worse, after spending billions of Euros on subsidies, Germany's total combined solar facilities have contributed a miserly, imperceptible 0.084% of Germany's electricity over the last 22 years. That is not even one-tenth of one percent.
Moreover, the actual cost of Germany's wind and solar electricity is far and away higher than its cost of coal and nuclear power. So much for "free" solar and wind. So much for all the German jobs that depend on reliable access to plentiful and affordable electricity. As to natural gas produced via hydraulic fracturing, that too is prohibited, even if it is required to back up undependable wind and solar facilities. No wonder Germany's natural gas and electricity prices are practically unaffordable.
This week, a state judge refused to block a new law requiring ID at the polls and increasing security measures for absentee ballots from taking effect this November.
Republicans are convinced that voter-ID laws coupled with absentee-ballot protections willcut down on fraud, and in areas like Philadelphia will lead to lower Democratic margins. The more honest among them acknowledge that the city has long been a fount of corruption, including when Republicans ran a machine that dominated it for 80 years until the 1950s. During that period, not a single Democrat was elected mayor, in part because of massive Republican-led voter fraud. All that changed after Democrats seized control of the levers of city power was that they perfected what former Democratic mayor Ed Rendell once admitted to me was "a yeasty system where the rule of law isn't always followed."
The basic problem that opponents of photo-ID laws have is that the American people reject their view that these laws are a tool of voter suppression. The American people view these laws as common sense. In a time when everyone needs ID to buy Sudafed at a drug store, purchase beer, travel by plane or even train, cash a check, enter a federal building, or apply for welfare benefits or a marriage license, showing ID at the polls doesn't strike the average person as burdensome.
Artur Davis, the former Democratic congressman from Alabama who nominated Barack Obama for president at the 2008 Democratic convention, agrees. "A big thing that drove me to leave the Democratic party and support photo ID was the realization that the real victims of voter fraud are minority and poor people who live in places where machines block reform efforts by stealing votes," he told me. He wrote in an op-ed in the Montgomery Advertiser last year that "voting in the names of the dead, and the nonexistent, and the too-mentally impaired to function cancels out the votes of citizens who are exercising their rights — that's suppression by any light. If you doubt it exists, I don't; I've heard the peddlers of those ballots brag about it, I've been asked to provide the funds for it, and I am confident it has changed at least a few close local election results."
From the comments:
The following article outlines that voter fraud is real, systemic, predominantly Democrats, and how Obama has benefited from a campaign of voter fraud just to get on the ballot in 2008.
Thursday, August 30, 2012
So central is this notion to Lakoff's thesis that his publicist sent out a list of "The 10 Most Important Things Democrats Should Know" with each review copy, and guess what comes in at #1:
"Don't repeat conservative language or ideas, even when arguing against them."
A prime example of Lakoff's ruinous recommendations can be seen in the debate over abortion, which never seems to get resolved despite a trillion words being expended on it every day. The "conservative frame," to use Lakoff's language, is that a fetus is a human being who has not yet been born; thus to "abort" the fetus is to kill it, which means a human being has been killed, which is tantamount to murder. In response to this frame, Lakoff recommends — a recommendation that liberals dutifully follow — that those on the left completely ignore the conservative argument, and instead "reframe" the issue with metaphors like "freedom of choice" and "women's independence" and "reproductive rights." All those positive words — "freedom," "independence," "rights" — recast the entire debate in a different light, allowing liberals to "win" the debate by not acknowledging that the opposing side has even made a statement.
And this is Lakoff's fundamental flaw, which unfortunately exactly coincides with his fundamental thesis (in other words, his thesis doesn't have an error — it is an error). By intentionally refusing to challenge, disprove, understand or even acknowledge the existence of the other side's argument, you allow that argument to grow in strength and win converts.
So the Lakoffites can yap about "freedom of choice" and "women's independence" and "reproductive rights" all day long, yet the listener will think: But you aren't addressing the fundamental question. Is it murder? "Stop thinking in those terms," cries Lakoff. But the public can't stop, because the idea of abortion as murder has already been stated, and the idea of fetus as human existed even long before the modern political debates. Even if there were no Republican party, no conservative movement, a great many people would still have moral compunctions about abortion, because the controversy is rooted in biological realities, and was not fabricated out of thin air by reactionary rabble-rousers.
And this same insuperable problem bedevils every aspect of Lakoff's thesis: Most of the countervailing "conservative" arguments he seeks to suppress are rooted in inescapable economic, biological or physical reality that can't be euphemized out of existence, no matter how hard you try. This brings us to the fundamental difference between "progressivism" and "conservatism": Progressives and their various ideological brethren have a deep belief that human nature and human culture are "constructed," that there is no biological determinism, that mankind is a blank slate, and that human nature and human culture can be molded at will whichever way we want, if we just put our minds to it and manipulate the language cleverly enough; by contrast, conservatives and their various ideological brethren believe (correctly) that human nature is "innate," not fabricated, not random, and arises from genetic realities that willpower cannot dissolve, no matter how hard we try. Furthermore, much of the misery we've experienced in the last century comes from futile attempts to create utopian societies by denying the immutability of human nature and attempting to change it by force.
Monday, August 27, 2012
Sunday, August 26, 2012
Here's how to spot 10 tactics that many negotiators use. These have nothing to do with the win-win successful agreements of a good negotiation. Learn what to do when somebody pulls these tricks. Awareness of these tactics can strengthen your own negotiation skills.
Left at the altar - The other party feigns backing out of a deal just before you are ready to complete the agreement. Hoping the tactic brings the other party closer to their position, the tactic often yields 11th-hour concessions.
Your countermeasure: Don't fall for the bait. Let the deal drop and go through a quiet period. Try resurrecting the deal after no less than 30 days, or when the other party calls you. At that point, it will be your turn to get concessions.
Making balloon futures - The other party forecasts future sales growth, which is accelerated from historic averages. This is similar to the "call-girl principle," in which a service is worth more before it's performed.
Your countermeasure: Base your decision or price only on past history. Make future bonuses or payouts available if accelerated growth actually happens.
Calling a higher authority - The other party says that they are unable to make a final decision or won't tell you who the final decision maker is.
Your countermeasure: Stop negotiating until you are discussing directly with that decision maker. You are wasting your time and energy.
Crunch time - The other party applies a lot of pressure by saying, "that's nonsense, you have to do much better than that."
Your countermeasure: Use the "flinch" tactic, showing shock and amazement that this issue has been raised. Repeat the offer you just made.
Bring in the dancer - This is when a member of the other party talks for a long time without saying anything substantive to the real issues. This is usually intended as a distraction. This can also be a snow job, bringing in unnecessary data to support the other party's position.
Your countermeasure: Ask, "specifically, what does this have to do with what we are talking about?" Repeat several more times if necessary.
Re-trading the deal - The opposite party attempts to reopen points from the negotiation after agreement has been reached. This is also called "forgotten issue."
Your countermeasure: Simply say no. Call them out for breaking the agreement. This may become "left at the altar" (#1).
Huntley and Brinkley - Two people for the other party team up against you at the same time.
Your countermeasure: If you can't handle the pressure, get someone to join you or ask to negotiate with only one person at a time.
Turning Soviet - A really mean negotiator that doesn't care if the your side gets anything out of the deal. This is the opposite of win-win.
Your countermeasure: Ask for someone else to negotiate with and don't start again until your request is granted.
The walkout - Deliberately walking out of a negotiation to show disinterest.
Your countermeasure: Let them walk out. If they do not come back, leave. Do not call them for a month.
Roaring brains - These are people that talk a lot with no real experience in a particular area.
Your countermeasure: Do the research so you have the facts to question their experience and data.
Friday, August 24, 2012
Zytiga (Abiraterone Acetate)The cost? $5000/month. (Don't know if that's $US or $Can.)
--- --- ---
- Pills taken daily with few side effects.
- Health Canada OK'd July 2011. Every province but Ontario funds it.
- Extends life an average four months and reduces pain.
WHAT THE PROVINCE SAYS
Letter from Ontario Health Ministry to patient denying coverage:
"Although there is a well-conducted randomized controlled trial demonstrating a statistically and clinically significant increase in overall survival without substantial side effects in this group of patients . . . the cost effectiveness of this agent is not favourable. As a result, the (Committee to Evaluate Drugs) recommended that Zytiga not be funded."
via The American Spectator and The Spectacle Blog by David N. Bass on 8/24/12
Political columnist Froma Harrop makes the odd and offensive suggestion in this column (entitled "Akin's Consistency is GOP's Real Problem") that fingernails are equivalent in human value to an early-trimester unborn child:
I believe that abortions should be easy to obtain early in a pregnancy and progressively harder to get as time goes on. The issue isn't when life begins, but when "personhood" begins. Sperm, unfertilized eggs and fingernails are all life and human. The point of development at which the fertilized egg should be considered a full-fledged person is determined by theology or philosophy, not science.Basing when human life begins on the nebulous idea of "personhood" leads to the kind of fallacious thinking that equates a fetus with sperm, eggs, and (weirdly) fingernails. Yes, a sperm and egg constitute the ingredients of human life, but taken separately they aren't human life. Combined, at the moment of conception, the ingredients form a human being.
Where do fingernails fit in? No idea.
The chief ethical challenge for supporters of abortion-on-demand is defining when "personhood" begins. For pro-lifers, that decision is easy. It begins at conception. Abortion supporters, however, must choose another arbitrary date, at which point basic human rights and constitutional protections are conferred.
From the paragraph I quoted above, it's obvious that Ms. Harrop struggles with that decision. Why should an abortion be more difficult to obtain as the pregnancy progresses? Is an unborn child becoming "more human," while not fully human until after birth? From a moral standpoint, is a third trimester abortion wrong (or more wrong) than a first trimester abortion? If so, why?
Those are the challenges of abortion-rights advocates. Most in their camp feel comfortable defining "personhood" as beginning at birth, when the baby can be sustained apart from the mother's body. The trip down the birth canal makes the difference. (The reality, of course, is that a newborn baby is just as reliant for survival on the mother as he or she would be while still in the womb.)
Pro-life conviction based on the sacredness of human life from conception to natural death is the most consistent position to take in the abortion debate. Those who fall into the other camp are routinely reduced to comparing unborn children to fingernails.
Thursday, August 23, 2012
Does This Really Read Like a Declaration of War on Women to You? - By Kathryn Jean Lopez - The Corner - National Review Online
Seriously, Americans ought to read the Republican party platform's explicit language on life instead of read about it:The Sanctity and Dignity of Human Life
Faithful to the self-evident truths enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, we assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment's protections apply to unborn children. We oppose using public revenues to promote or perform abortion or fund organizations which perform or advocate it and will not fund or subsidize health care which includes abortion coverage. We support the appointment of judges who respect traditional family values and the sanctity of innocent human life. We oppose the non-consensual withholding or withdrawal of care or treatment, including food and water, from people with disabilities, including newborns, as well as the elderly and infirm, just as we oppose active and passive euthanasia and assisted suicide.
Republican leadership has led the effort to prohibit the barbaric practice of partial-birth abortion, permitted States to extend health care coverage to children before birth. We urge Congress to strengthen the Born Alive Infant Protection Act by enacting appropriate civil and criminal penalties to health care providers who fail to provide treatment and care to an infant who survives an abortion, including early induction delivery where the death is intended. We call for legislation to ban sex-selective abortions – gender discrimination in its most lethal form – and to protect from abortion unborn children who are capable of feeling pain; and we applaud the U.S. House of Representatives for leading the effort to protect the lives of pain-capable unborn children in the District of Columbia. We call for a revision of federal law 42 USC 289.92 to bar the use of body parts from aborted fetuses for research. We support and applaud adult stem cell research to develop lifesaving therapies, and we oppose the killing of embryos for their stem cells. We oppose Federal funding of embryonic stem cell research.
We also salute the many States that have passed laws for informed consent, mandatory waiting periods prior to an abortion, and health-protective clinic regulation. We seek to protect young girls from exploitation through a parental consent requirement; and we affirm our moral obligation to assist, rather than penalize, women challenged by an unplanned pregnancy. We salute those who provide them with counseling and adoption alternatives and empower them to choose life, and we take conform in the tremendous increases in adoptions that has followed Republican legislative initiatives.
Tuesday, August 21, 2012
Clayton Cramer's Blog by Clayton on 8/21/12
It turns out that a lot of studies have been published the last few years showing that pregnancy resulting from rape is about as likely (and perhaps even more likely) than pregnancy resulting from consensual sex. It certainly would not be surprising if the violence associated with rape was traumatic, and interfered with pregnancy, which is what Akin was trying to claim was the situation. The evidence, however, seems to show otherwise. So where did Rep. Akin get this idea?
I can remember some years ago reading in a book opposing abortion about a study done in post-World War II Hungary, where invading Soviet troops behaved about as well as they did everywhere else that they invaded, which did indeed find a very low pregnancy rate resulting from rape. But I find myself suspicious that other factors may have been at play under these circumstances, including nutritional problems. My guess is that pro-life groups have been pointing to that study because they fundamentally disapprove of abortion, and therefore have been looking for ways to discredit what is one of the exceptions that most Americans are willing to make with respect to abortion.
This is one of the reasons that I try to emphasize to ideologues of all stripes that if you go looking for evidence that backs your position, you will find evidence that backs your position, and you will miss the evidence that doesn't.
UPDATE: Here is a really harrowing paper that may shed some light on the Hungarian study to which I previously referred: Mladen Lončar, Vesna Medved, Nikolina Jovanović, Ljubomir Hotujac, "Psychological Consequences of Rape on Women in 1991-1995 War in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina," Croatian Medical Journal 47:67-75 (2008). Of their sample of 68 women who were raped, 42.9% became pregnant, although many were subject to repeated daily rapes and gang rapes, hence the very high rate of pregnancy.
Almost half of women got pregnant as a result of rape. Women who were raped once, compared with those repeatedly raped, had seven times higher risk of pregnancy.The paper also mentions that many of the women were tortured, forced to watch family members killed, and watch other women raped. This might explain why the women raped once were subject to so much higher pregnancy risk than the ones who were repeated victims. The repeated victims were apparently subject to much more traumatic situations.
Monday, August 20, 2012
Includes a lot of meat in the comments.
Saturday, August 18, 2012
A number of prominent ex-Journolistas and reliably left leaning media lackeys are working overtime repeating one line over and over to try to aid the Obama Campaign...that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are going to end Medicare and leave seniors without coverage. The exact opposite is true, as I'll demonstrate, but even more important is how this is going to turn over on the Obama Campaign. It's a hanging curve ball just waiting to be hit out of the park.
First of all, let's start with a simple truth. Medicare is going broke, and if nothing is done, the program will be bankrupt in around a decade.
The Obama Administration has accelerated this process by stealing around $716 billion from the program in order to fund a new entitlement, Obama Care. And contrary to what they're telling you, these are not 'administrative costs' but actual reductions in service. ObamaCare is set to destroy Medicare Advantage, a program 12 million seniors use. It is already causing the rationing of cancer drugs and a de facto rationing of care that is going to get a lot worse as the Independent Advisory Medical Boards (IAMBs), 15 unelected government officials, exercise the death panel style function they were designed for in ObamaCare and cut the payments to doctors and hospitals to the bone so that fewer and fewer of them can afford to accept Medicare patients. It is major rationing for seniors and ultimately the death of a thousand cuts for Medicare as a whole.
It is ObamaCare that was specifically designed to destroy Medicare, and to herd seniors into a one size fits all plan where care to them can be rationed with impunity. And even Dr. Donald Berwick, President Obama's personal choice to run Medicare and Medicaid admitted it's one of ObamaCare's ultimate aims...as did Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, one of the president's chief healthcare advisers.
And unlike the final Medicare reform plan submitted by Paul Ryan, and the one outlined by Mitt Romney, these cuts directly affect current retirees.
Now you know who really wants to push grandma over the cliff.
Friday, August 17, 2012
Mr. Wapshott says that Friedman really was quite sanguine about a large and constitutionally unrestrained state, based on the alleged contents of a supposedly "lost" essay by Friedman. Contrary to the naive Hayek—who worried that power concentrated in big government inevitably corrupts politicians and invites its own misuse—Mr. Wapshott says, the essay (which was originally published in 1989) shows Friedman believed "that big government is not evil so long as it is honestly administered." He adds that the essay "calls into question whether those today who rail against the size of the state are blaming the system when they should be rooting out corrupt politicians and public officials instead."
So Milton Friedman was really a good-government progressive? No.
Friedman's essay, "John Maynard Keynes," was never lost. The original article, first published in German translation in a volume of commentaries on Keynes's "General Theory," was translated and republished in 1997 by the Richmond Federal Reserve Bank in its quarterly magazine, and it is readily available on the bank's website.
The essay shows beyond a shadow of doubt what Friedman really thought about Keynes's views on government: "I conclude that Keynes's political bequest has done far more harm than his economic bequest and this for two reasons. First, whatever the economic analysis, benevolent dictatorship is likely sooner or later to lead to a totalitarian society. Second, Keynes's economic theories appealed to a group far broader than economists primarily because of their link to his political approach."
Friedman here articulates concerns long expressed by Hayek in the latter's 1944 book, "The Road to Serfdom," that big government of the sort that Keynes demanded is poisonous to freedom and prosperity. He saw clearly that Keynes's "political bequest" was so dangerous that no amount of rooting out of corrupt officials would prevent a government armed with unlimited discretionary economic power from becoming tyrannical.
There's an even more egregious misrepresentation of Friedman, this one by Paul Krugman, the economist and New York Times columnist. A few months after Friedman's death in November 2006, Mr. Krugman penned an essay in the New York Review of Books, "Who Was Milton Friedman," accusing him of being "intellectually dishonest." He doubled down on this charge in a letter to the editor of the New York Review responding to critics of the essay.
The dishonesty, in Mr. Krugman's telling, consists in an alleged contradiction. On one hand, Friedman the scholar claimed in his famous "Monetary History of the United States" that the Great Depression was worsened by the Fed's failure to keep the money supply from falling. But, on the other hand, Friedman the public figure claimed that the Depression likely would have been far less severe in the absence of the Fed. "I'm sorry," Mr. Krugman wrote in the letter, "but those are contradictory positions."
Mr. Krugman's charge is silly. Friedman understood that, without the Federal Reserve, private bank-clearinghouse associations—market institutions that were displaced by the Fed—would likely have prevented the money supply from collapsing and, hence, might well have kept the depression from becoming "great." But Friedman also understood that the Fed, having substituted its own technocratic discretion for the market adjustments of clearinghouses, then had a responsibility to manage the money supply properly. It failed to do so. Friedman (and his co-author Anna Schwartz) properly criticized the Fed for this terrible failure.
Friedman's argument here is no more contradictory or dishonest than would be the argument of, say, a physician who, having unsuccessfully warned a patient not to rely for medical care upon a witch doctor, points to the witch doctor's failure to administer appropriate mouth-to-mouth resuscitation as the cause of the patient's death.
Link: http://www.nationalreview.com/nroriginals/?q=ZmI3ODA0MzdhZTNkMzdkYzMwYzQyNjJjNDJlYmVlYzY=&w=MA== (via shareaholic.com)
The coverage of the tremendous South Vietnamese victory at Anloc is a case in point. Time Magazine played up the physical devastation to the town, and ended on a downbeat: "But for the foreseeable future, Anloc is dead. . . . Perhaps the best that can be said is that the city died bravely, and that — in a year that included the fall of Quangtri and Tancanh — is no small achievement." Newsweek was able to find an "American officer" who had something disheartening to say: "'Anloc, as costly as it was, can probably be considered an ARVN victory. But this thing is not over yet. The next enemy target may be Saigon itself.'"South Vietnamese victories are almost always reported with qualifications. "The South Vietnamese are advancing, but are taking serious casualties," or "but observers fear that they may be falling into a trap," etc. It's "the North Vietnamese are still holding part of the city" instead of "the South Vietnamese have captured most of the city." While South Vietnamese "retreat," "run" or are "routed," Communists "withdraw," "regroup" or "melt away." South Vietnamese forces are either "stalled" or "bogged down." But two months after the Communist failure to take Anloc, it was the South Vietnamese relief column, not the Reds, who were "bogged down" and "stalled." The "enemy" doesn't exist for United Press International (UPI). Instructions have been given to avoid that term in referring to Hanoi.
Thursday, August 16, 2012
It's interesting to work out the correlation coefficient. The R^2 value is 0.505, and the zero growth line is at a government spending decrease of 2.6% per year.
So on average, countries that shrank their government by more than 2.6% per year should have experienced positive growth.
Sunday, August 12, 2012
They keep the same charges in a drawer. They're plug-and-play, just insert them into ads against the latest Republican nominee for anything.
(Update: It is worth noting--since Keenan does not--what Ryan's position on abortion actually is: he has always opposed it, except in cases where the mother's life is in danger--precisely what Keenan tries to lie about. The Associated Press noted as far back as 1998, during Ryan's first run for Congress, that "Republican nominee Paul Ryan has opposed abortion in general except to save a woman's life.")
Thursday, August 09, 2012
Most offensively Israel's economic success has kept pace with its transition from socialist collectives to free enterprise, going from a "You didn't build that" culture to a "You built it" culture. While the Palestinian Authority and most of Israel's Muslim neighbors still operate under government monopolies, Israel's tech industry revolution has boosted its international trade while making it possible for a few army or air force veterans to cobble together a company that brings a revolutionary new product to market.
USB flash drives and instant messaging software came out of that "You built it" culture. On the other side of the border malaise and misery, bombs and fanatics, have come out of the economic monopolies wielded by military rulers, tribal leaders and religious despots.
via The American Spectator and The Spectacle Blog by Lars Walker on 8/9/12
You know the scenario. In a frontier settlement, far from the authority of central government, one man murders another. Then a friend or relative of the victim kills the slayer, and soon a range war sweeps across the land. Men must band together and ride out, to defend their homes and apply rough-and-ready justice.
It could be a western movie, but I was actually thinking of an Icelandic saga. There's a rumor among saga enthusiasts (I've never actually seen it documented) that Hollywood script writers used to comb the sagas for plots, back in the days when the studios were churning out oaters the same way the federal government churns out food stamps today.
But though a saga may resemble a western, there are distinct differences. One of the classic tropes of the western is the appearance of the Mysterious Stranger, who drifts into town and takes up the cause of the side with the pretty girl. Nobody knows his story, but he's a good man to have with you in a fight.
In a saga, there are no mysterious characters. You know not only who everybody is, but who their parents are, where their farms are, and (often) where their people came from back in Norway. The Icelanders cared intensely about families.
Modern writers, on the other hand (and I speak from experience here), tend to avoid extended families. Relatives just get in the way. In my own novels, several of them based on sagas, I prune the kinfolk back as far as possible, but I still have to add character lists to help the readers keep score.
Which is to say that since saga times, social reality has changed. To the Icelanders, kinship was a vital concern. Every saga was a conflict of families more than of individuals. My cousin's actions are, by extension, mine. If your cousin killed my cousin, I might just kill you, because one kinsman is pretty much as good (or bad) as another. To us, this seems ridiculous. Not only do we not want to be responsible for our cousins' actions, we don't even want to sit next to them at Thanksgiving.
The Viking way seems barbaric to us -- and it is. But in studying Viking culture, I've come to believe that (to use a formula scrounged from our liberal neighbors) "we have much to learn from our Norse friends."
The central political value for the Norseman was freedom (at least for himself and his kinsmen). The defense of freedom is an issue that rises again and again in the history of the age, as an old system based on kinship and traditional law resisted a new system based on central monarchy and imported laws. And the central bastion of this freedom -- the chief counterweight to the power of the state -- was the family. The genealogies in sagas are long because the families were big. The more relatives, the more power and security a man enjoyed, and the more axes he had available to resist oppression.
Marriage was central to that system. Though a Viking woman could not (in theory, anyway) be forced into a marriage, marriages were more the alliance of two families than the union of two loving hearts. The dynamic of marriage was that it looked outward and forward -- multiplying kinship ties, multiplying descendents through the generation of children.
One of the reasons Americans nowadays yell at each other so much over marriage is that we fail to understand this (or understand it and don't care). Those whose idea of marriage looks back to this old model (which is not exclusively Norse, but almost universal in the world in one variation or another) argue with people whose concept of marriage is purely private.
It's my observation that most of us on the traditional side do hear what the moderns are saying, though we disagree. But the other side doesn't hear us at all.
The modern idea of marriage makes it purely a private matter. Children are an accessory, and often not an important one. In-laws are not only not an accessory, but (generally) a positive drawback. Where the old idea of marriage looked outward and multiplied relationships, the new model looks inward and isolates people in pairs.
Aside from my religious scruples (which I won't get into here), my main concern in regard to the definition of marriage is that under the new model, the family is no longer the bastion of freedom. Family no longer looks out for family. Family no longer resists the king. The old kind of marriage was the original, best, and most organic social welfare system. You help a friend because you like him; you help family whether you like them or not.
It's probably no accident that a certain prominent American liberal politician, who shall remain nameless, has a half-brother living in a third world country for whom he seems to feel no obligation at all. Blood may be thicker than water, but it doesn't flow through the proper government channels.
For those who are happy to be clients of an all-powerful state, losing the family freehold is not a bug, but a feature.
For those of us who view expanding state power as a threat, the re-definition of marriage would seem to be a sign that the game is essentially over.
Wednesday, August 08, 2012
Being Pro-Life and Pro-Death Penalty
I recently wrote about the death penalty and I've been getting annoying feedback ever since. I'm in favor of the death penalty for people who deserve to be put to death. I very much oppose the death penalty for people who do not deserve to be put to death. I phrase it this way because so many opponents of the death penalty love to point to innocent men who were sentenced to die as if proof of error in the system invalidates capital punishment in principle. I don't know if an innocent person has ever been executed, but even if one were that outrage (and it would be an outrage) no more invalidates the death penalty than an instance of friendly fire invalidates the need for a military.
Look at it this way: If in, say, Illinois they wrongly sent a man to death row does that make the Aurora killer any less deserving of the chair? Where is the transitive property here?
But that's not even why I'm talking about the death penalty. One of the more annoying rejoinders to any discussion of the death penalty is, as one e-mailer puts it: "You f***ing wingnuts are such hypocrites, you talk about being pro-life but you have no problem killing minorities when it suits you."
I find this category error mind-boggling. Now while I'm functionally pro-life for the most part, I am not conventionally so. But that's irrelevant given the charge of plenary incompatibility of the pro-life and pro-capital-punishment positions.
First off, when a fetus shoots up a movie theater or rapes and kills a little girl or throws political dissidents into a wood chipper please be sure to shoot me an e-mail or tweet about it, because that sounds like an interesting story.
On that point, the argument against abortion hinges on the fact that it is the taking of an innocent life, often for selfish purposes. If you don't think it's a life worthy of respect that's something we can argue another day. The point here is that pro-lifers do think it is a life, an innocent life. And as I said at the outset, I'm in favor of the death penalty for people who deserve to be put to death. What has an eight-and-a-half-month-old fetus done that it deserves to be put to death? The abortion-rights position holds that the uterine-occupant's crime is that, if allowed to be born, it will potentially inconvenience or harm the mother. Obviously, the issue of harming the mother is morally significant, but the inconvenience issue is much less so.
However you want to think about all of that, what's very clear is that the moral contexts of abortion and capital punishment are very, very different.
This is a good time to invoke William F. Buckley's old line about moral equivalence. If you have one man who pushes an old lady out of the way of an oncoming bus and you have another man who pushes an old lady in front of an oncoming bus, it will simply not do to describe them both as the sorts of men who push old ladies around. Abortion renders a whole class of humans, non-human. Capital punishment says that a specific human being, one who has been proven to have taken another human life, is fit for execution. The death penalty may or may not be wrong, but to my mind it has as much in common with abortion as indexing capital gains or the infield fly rule.
What I find fascinating is the way pro-abortion, anti-death-penalty types find this so hard to understand. Here's my theory: They think that pro-lifers suffer from magical thinking. A burning bush, or a guy in a white robe, or some mystical book told them to oppose abortion. The incantations surrounding this belief involve phrases like "sanctity of life" and "every life is sacred." And so they conclude that pro-lifers are being inconsistent by not extending the magic cloak of protection to serial killers, mass murderers, and child rapists.
Now, for some pro-lifers who also oppose the death penalty that actually is part of their argument. The "seamless garment" argument holds that all life is sacred. But it's worth noting that official Church doctrine still allows for both just wars and capital punishment.
Regardless, I'm not a seamless-garment guy. I believe that if you wantonly and brutally, with evil in your heart, tear that garment you deserve to pay for what you've done.
A few quick points:
Speaking of first wives, I think it's interesting to note that Dan Cathy's original controversial statement is more pointed at the institution of divorce than at gay marriage. "We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that."
And yet it wasn't the divorced-American or the re-married-American community that rose up in outrage. It was the gay-rights community -- which apparently sees belief or rather vocal belief in "Biblical marriage" as a crime unto itself.
Speaking of gays, I think it's fascinating and horrifying that the political incentives for three big-city mayors are such that they thought this was an easy pander. After all, we know that all gays don't believe that committing such a thought crime should disqualify you from getting a business license, and yet these politicians all thought this was a gimme. One political takeaway from this, I suspect, is that the insider-clout of gay-activist donors and allies is incredibly strong within the mayoral bubble in big cities, so strong that it distorts one's perspective of the larger political climate. For hacks like Tom Menino and that crook who runs D.C. that's not too shocking, but that Rahm Emanuel was seduced by the temptation tells you something.
Last, I don't believe that everybody who waited hours for a chicken sandwich opposes gay marriage, though many surely do. My sense is that a large number of people showed up simply because they despise the glib bullying of the liberal Gleichschaltung. Rahm Emanuel, Tom Menino, and Vincent Gray (the aforementioned crook) looked for an easy way to score some points in the culture war and they inadvertently tipped their hands: They're bullies, like the gay dudes in Seinfeld who insist that everyone wear an AIDS ribbon.
via smitten kitchen by deb on 8/7/12
This is Alex's birthday week, which, in case you're new here, means that there's an open package of bacon in the fridge, the promise of oysters, shrimp cocktail, small-batch bourbon and babysitters on the horizon, butter and chocolate will soon align to meet their many-candled cake destiny and I, well, I bought some steak. I bet you'd imagine that a guy married to gal who likes to cook things that make people happy would be frequently entitled to his favorite food on earth, made at home, just because it's a Tuesday. Well, once every year or so, that is exactly what happens.
This is also that point in the summer where pretty much every human being I know is either at their own beach house or a guest in someone else's right now. If you're in the former category, well, la-de-dah, okay? If you're in the latter category, I know a secret: You are totally going to get invited back next year because I have just the hostess gift for you to bring. You're welcome.
... Read the rest of charred pepper steak sauce on smittenkitchen.com
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smitten kitchen by deb on 8/3/12
Last year, not seconds after putting the final touches on what I certain was The Lemon Bar To End All Lemon Bars, a recipe intended for that little cookbook I wrote, I couldn't quite change the station and became immediately absorbed in making something I wanted to call a pink lemonade bar. They'd be as awesome as a summer carnival, the kind that rolls into town with sketchy rides that your parents forbid you to go on but you do so anyway (or so a friend once told me!), or maybe a play date at the friends house whose mom served prettier, thus cooler, lemonade than what you had at home. I had great plans for these bars, I just had one tiny problem: I had no idea what made pink lemonade pink.
I don't mean that I am naive; I was aware that in 99 percent of the iterations of pink lemonade out there, the pink was supplied by food dye. I was also bummed to learn that some other people had thought to make pink lemonade bars first — being the type who still clings to the silly notion that there are new, uncharted waters to bake our ways through — but the vast majority of the recipes called for red food dye too. Surely, before pink lemonade was made with red food dye, it was made with a fruit of sort, like strawberry or raspberry or cherries, right? Since last summer, this article has been written but even it doesn't come to a singular conclusion as to what should make pink lemonade pink. The only thing that is apparent among its discussions of clothing dye and red hot candies is that if you can make it with something natural and/or tasty, you're probably improving upon its lineage.
... Read the rest of pink lemonade bars on smittenkitchen.com
via The American Spectator and The Spectacle Blog by William Tucker on 8/8/12
When Mitt Romney made his remarks about culture accounting for the differing success made by Palestinians and Israelis in cultivating the meager resources of the Eastern Mediterranean, he was immediately pounced upon by the entire liberal world.
In response, Romney made a reference to Guns, Germs and Steel, Jared Diamond's 1996 Pulitzer-Prize-winning analysis of why different parts of the world have progressed at different rates. Diamond, being a good academic, fired back immediately with an op-ed in the New York Times in which he charged, "This is so different from what my book actually says that I have doubt whether Mr. Romney read it."
I also have doubts Romney has actually read the book because if he did, he wouldn't be enlisting it to his cause. Diamond's argument is completely dismissive of cultural achievement and reduces history to the impersonal causes. Quite simply, Diamond's argument is the academic equivalent to President Obama's now-famous remarks to the founders of small businesses: "You didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen." Diamond's message to America and Western Civilization is, "You didn't build that. Something else made that happen." That something else is what he calls "biogeography."
I read Diamond's book about four years ago after all the Pulitzer Prizes had been awarded and frankly I never read such of mass of nonsense in my life. I wanted to register my objection but there was no logical place to put them. Now that it has become a campaign issue, I'm happy to have the opportunity.
Diamond's answer to why Europe and America have become so remarkably prosperous while most of the rest of the world has lagged, comes down to two words: "dumb luck." Rather than any of the cultural achievements that have characterized Western civilization -- the Judeo-Christian tradition, the respect for intellectual attainment, the rule of free institutions and individual rights -- Diamond says it's all a matter of "biogeography" -- what kind of plants and animals you had in your neighborhood and how easily they travelled from one region to another.
His main thesis, believe it or not, is that the Eurasian landmass, stretching from Gibraltar to China, lies on a horizontal axis, while Africa and the Americas are on vertical axes. As a result, it was easier for plant species, material goods and eventually ideas to flow along the Eurasian axis than it was for them to travel in Africa and the Americas. Because of this iron law of geography, civilization developed better in Europe and Asia than it did elsewhere.
Do you see any flaws in that argument? I can think of about six to start. But let's take a moment to allow Diamond to have his full say before we begin trying to evaluate his thesis.
Diamond began his quest in the 1960s while working, not as an anthropologist or geographer or developmental economist, but as an ornithologist studying birds in New Guinea. One day, as he recounts, he ended up in a long conversation with a local politician named Yali who eventually posed him with a question: "Why is it that you white people developed so much cargo and brought it to New Guinea, but we black people had little cargo of our own?"
"Cargo," it should be noted, had been a big issue in New Guinea since Europeans and Americans arrived in great numbers during World War II. You may recall the story of the "cargo cults" that became a legend among anthropologists. Local tribesmen, seeing large airplanes landing with lots of "cargo," decided these were gods descending from the sky. Noting that these gods preferred to land on long airstrips, the tribesmen began clearing large swathes of jungle, hoping the gods would descend upon them with cargo as well. This went on right into the 1960s, when Diamond had his conversation.
Being a guilt-ridden academic far from home, Diamond could not respond as anyone else might: "It is probably our long tradition of scientific inquiry, beginning with the Greeks, that has led to our relative mastery of nature. Or maybe it was our centuries-long battle against magical thinking and superstition. Or perhaps it was the work of the great economists who struggled against popular and government opposition to free trade and commerce, arguing that exchange with other nations was the best route to prosperity -- a perception that has not entirely triumphed even today." Had Diamond been familiar with the work of Ludwig Von Mises (fat chance!), he might have refereed Yali to Human Action, the 400-page classic that brilliantly recounts the accomplishments of human ingenuity in shaping the modern world. None of this was on Diamond's radar, however, and so he set about putting together his own crack-brained theory about how vertical and horizontal axes account for the whole thing. In doing so, he was at least able to relieve every college professor in America of the embarrassment of having to defend their own culture.
Diamond's experience with Yali, it should be noted, was not at all uncommon. Practically every anthropologist who ever lived with a native tribe has been impressed at one point or another with their intelligence on specific subjects. Napoleon Chagnon, the one I happen to be reading now, is a University of Michigan anthropologist who spent twenty years living among the Yanomamo, a collection of tribes that straddle the border of Venezuela and Brazil. When he met them in the 1960s, the Yanomamo were spending all their time making war on their neighbors. Chagnon called them "the fierce people," thereby earning the opprobrium of every anthropologist in America, all of whom like to believe that that primitive peoples live in perfect peace and harmony with nature until they are corrupted by Western influences. Even among these "fierce people," however, Chagnon was constantly impressed at how intelligent his subjects could be in remembering long genealogies or intricate details from events that occurred twenty or fifty years ago.
Before the invention of writing, whole national sagas such as The Iliad and The Song of Roland were committed to memory. There are still people all over the Muslim world who have memorized the entire Koran. Human intelligence is not in short supply. It is the tasks to which this intelligence is put to that vary from one society to another. What else can we call these applications but "culture"? In fact, that would be a good definition of culture: "The tasks to which human intelligence are put in any given society."
All this had no place in Diamond's world, however. Here is his interpretation of world history as summarized in the Kirkus Review:
The long and short of it, says Diamond, is biogeography. It just so happened that 13,000 years ago, with the ending of the last Ice Age, there was an area of the world better endowed with the flora and fauna that would lead to the take-off toward civilization: that valley of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers we now call the Fertile Crescent. There were found the wild stocks that became domesticated crops of wheat and barley.… Once agriculture is born and animals domesticated, a kind of positive feedback drives the growth toward civilization. People settle down; food surpluses can be stored so population grows. And with it comes a division of labor, the rise of an elite class, the codification of rules, and language. It happened, too, in China, and later in Mesoamerica. But the New World was not nearly as abundant in the good stuff. And like Africa, it is oriented North and South, resulting in different climates, which make the diffusion of agriculture and animals problematic.… [A] fair answer to Yali's question this surely is, and gratifyingly, it makes clear that race has nothing to do with who does or does not develop cargo.Now do you notice anything peculiar about this argument? How about that sentence, "But the New World was not nearly as abundant in the good stuff. And like Africa, it is oriented North and South, resulting in different climates, which make the diffusion of agriculture and animals problematic."
This "New World" being discussed here includes the United States of America, a continent-wide territory on a horizontal axis 3,000 miles wide that is now occupied by 330 million people living at the highest standard of living the world has ever known. When it was discovered by Europeans 500 years ago, it was occupied by somewhere between four and 12 million descendants of Asian immigrants scratching out a living by hunting-and-gathering or early agriculture. Does that suggest that something more than "biogeography" might be involved in the fate of nations?
The problem these academics create for themselves is that they do not seem to be able to distinguish between "race" and "culture." The two have nothing to do with each other. A culture can be adapted by any race of people and because different populations have evolved different cultures does not mean they are biologically or racially determined.
I am currently writing a book tentatively titled "Terrorism and Polygamy," which argues that monogamy -- a human construct entirely dependent on cultural norms -- has been the key factor in the peaceful progress of societies that have adopted it while polygamy -- a much more "natural" and biological determined arrangement -- has nevertheless created unstable societies characterized by great inequities and constant conflict among men. (I'm having trouble finding a publisher because, as you might expect, most houses are wary about printing anything negative about Muslims.) Chagnon's Yanomamo were fierce polygamists and frankly told him the reason they made endless war on their neighbors was that "We like women." Polygamy allows for the unlimited accumulation of women and invites constant raids of neighboring tribes.
Now consider Diamond's thesis that it was the "free passage of technology from East to West" that accounts for the progress of Europe and China. If that's all it takes, then why haven't Islamic countries -- which sit right in the middle of all this -- progressed at nearly the same rate? Could it be that Islam's sanction of polygamy has created unstable societies? And by the way, it isn't only plants, animals, and ideas that can travel East-to-West. The Mongol Hordes used this horizontal axis to conquer the largest empire in history, invading Europe in the 13th century with a cavalry line that stretched one hundred miles wide. The Mongols too were also fierce polygamists and genetic studies show that 12 percent of the current population of Tibet are direct descendants of Genghis Kahn. So is it possible that cultural norms, and not just access to neighboring societies, might be a better determinant?
There are enough ludicrous aspects to Diamond's thesis to occupy an entire Ph.D. thesis. Another of his arguments is that scientific discovery, is simply a matter of probability. The chances of discovering Newton's Laws may be only 1 in 100 million, but once you're reached enough population density, as Europe did after the Renaissance, then someone is bound to discover them. But if that is true, then how come Medieval China and India, which were much more densely populated, never produced similar ideas?
The answer, once again, is "culture." From the Renaissance onward, Europe developed a culture in which independent scientific thought was able to challenge religious and political elites, while at the same time a culture of unregulated enterprise enabled ambitious entrepreneurs to put new discoveries into practice. India and China, on the other hand, were dominated by oppressive bureaucracies that suppressed innovation and hoarded new discoveries to themselves. As Eric Hoffer pointed out long ago, by the 13th century, both India and Europe had the water wheel. In India, it was used to drive prayer wheels so Brahmins could be relieved of the task of praying every day. In Europe, it was employed to power grinding mills and eventually factories.
What's important to note, then, is that Obama tells small business owners, "You didn't build that," it is not coming out of his own head. The President is faithfully reiterating the prevailing opinion in today's academia, which is that success in building anything from new businesses to civilizations has nothing to do with individual achievement but is just a matter of circumstance and outside forces. Isaac Newton really didn't formulate those Laws of Motion, it was only the result of population density. Galileo didn't really discover the moons of Jupiter -- it was just a matter of knowledge passing from East to West.
Hopefully, the Era of Romney will be more than a period of economic revival. It will be an era when Americans are once again not embarrassed to take pride in their civilization.
From: National Review Online