Thursday, March 28, 2013

Supreme Court Finally Asks the Tough Questions on Same-Sex Marriage | First Things

Link: (via

Justice Alito also brought the questioning back to Kennedy's "going blind in uncharted waters" remark as he said to Solicitor General Donald Verrilli:

But what is your response to the argument which has already been mentioned about the need to be cautious in light of the newness of the concept of same-sex marriage? . . .

[Marriage is] thought to be a fundamental building block of society and its preservation essential for the preservation of society. Traditional marriage has been around for thousands of years. Same-sex marriage is very new. . . . You want us to step in and render a decision based on an assessment of the effects of this institution which is newer than cell phones or the Internet? I mean . . . we do not have the ability to see the future."

These questions were never really answered.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Nelson Lund: A Social Experiment Without Science Behind It -

Link: (via

There has been only one study using a large randomized sample, objective measures of well-being, and reports of grown children rather than their parents. This research, by Mark Regnerus, a sociologist at the University of Texas Austin, found that children raised in a household where a parent was involved in a same-sex romantic relationship were at a significant disadvantage with respect to a number of indicators of well being—such as depression, educational attainment and criminal behavior—compared with children of intact biological families.

One might expect this work at least to raise a caution flag, but it has been vociferously attacked on methodological grounds by the same organizations that tout the value of politically congenial research that suffers from more severe methodological shortcomings. This is what one expects from activists, not scientists.

Gay Marriage Debate Obscures Real Tragedy: Marriage Decline -

Link: (via

This country and healthy societies around the world and throughout history have given marriage between a man and a woman special legal protection because of the recognition that it is the one institution that ensures the society's stable future through the orderly procreation and upbringing of children.

In this context, we find the decline in marriage and the rise in illegitimacy, prime factors in crime, poverty and societal decay, being virtually ignored as the Supreme Court looks at the penumbras and emanations from the Constitution to decide whether Adam and Steve can legally tie the knot.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Ten Years Without Saddam

Ten Years Without Saddam
Published on American Spectator 
Ten years after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, the costs of the war are quite familiar. But in focusing on what was lost, we often lose sight of what was won.
To start with the obvious, Saddam Hussein is gone. That's no small thing. It's not just that Saddam was one of the most vicious mass murderers of his era — though it's important to remember that he was, and that the horror of the past decade in Iraq still hasn't matched his totalitarian regime's body count — it's that his unpredictability made him especially dangerous. That's the flipside to the intelligence failures in the run-up to the war: If it was so hard to tell that Saddam's weapons of mass destruction program was moribund, it would have been just as hard to predict his behavior had he been left in power for the past decade, enriched by the failure of the sanctions regime (remember the bad joke that was Oil-for-Food?) and rising oil prices driven by Chinese and Indian demand. Restarting his WMD program, funding international terrorism, further military adventurism — one could never tell with Saddam.
Some see Saddam Hussein's loss as Iran's gain. Yes, the current Iraqi government's policies tend to be more congenial to the Islamic Republic than Saddam's were, but the picture is more complicated than that. A murderous anti-American loose cannon like Saddam was never an ideal ingredient for a stable balance of power. And because the current government of Iraq isn't an international pariah, oil production is higher now than it has been since before the first Gulf War; with less Iraqi oil on the market, sanctions on Iran would be a much tougher sell in Europe.
Iraq is still a violent place; the Iraqi government is dysfunctional and has grown less genuinely democratic. Elections in Iraq did, as President Bush envisioned, change the politics of the region, but the illiberalism of the people who've thrived at the ballot box has created new challenges. But none of this should make anyone nostalgic for Saddam Hussein.
But the war wasn't just about Saddam Hussein. Iraq became the central front in the war against al Qaeda, and it was the ideal place to open that front. Iraq loomed large in Osama bin Laden's 1998 declaration of war. His first grievance was that "the United States is occupying the lands of Islam in the holiest of its territories, Arabia" — that is, he objected to the Saudis hosting U.S. troops, the linchpin of the policy of containment toward Saddam. Bin Laden's second grievance was that the U.S. had gone to war with Iraq and might do so again. It was natural that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's branch of al Qaeda would meet the U.S. on the battlefield in Iraq. As with the other factions that emerged after the invasion, American policymakers weren't really prepared for this, but, with the course correction that was the surge, eventually managed to deal with it.
Thousands of young men came to Iraq to join Zarqawi's jihad, and died there. If there were no occupation of Iraq, how many would nonetheless have had an enthusiasm for killing Americans? It's likely a nontrivial number who, absent the invasion of Iraq, would have made prime recruits for al Qaeda attacks elsewhere — perhaps on U.S. assets abroad (like the embassies in Kenya and Tanzania or the USS Cole), and perhaps on America itself.
There have been numerous foiled terror plots since 9/11, but the successful major attack that most of us were expecting never came; credit a mixture of good counterterrorism and good luck, but also credit the men and women who lost friends, limbs, and lives taking the fight against al Qaeda to Iraq for making the pool of terrorist recruits smaller and a successful attack less likely. In other words: Yes, the Iraq War made us safer.
The cost in blood, treasure, and U.S. credibility was greater than anyone anticipated. The mistakes along the way were nearly catastrophic. The Iraq War was, no doubt, a Pyrrhic victory. But it was a victory nonetheless.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Bookworm Room � At CPAC, Dr. Ben Carson comes out swinging against President Obama


It turns out that, when Dr. Ben Carson gently chided President Obama’s policies during the National Prayer Breakfast, he was holding back. When he gave a speech CPAC, where he could freely speak his mind, Dr. Carson was more direct: If a hypothetical “somebody” in the White House “wanted to destroy this nation,” he would “coincidentally” do exactly what Obama has already done.
In the lead-up to his stunning accusation against Obama, Dr. Carson repeated a point he made during the National Prayer breakfast, which is that the national debt, standing alone, is well on its way to destroy America:
We’re reacting to what we see as our fiscal woes without planning for the future, without really caring about what is happening to the next generation. You don’t have to be a brain surgeon or a rocket scientist to understand that if we continue to spend ourselves into oblivion, we are going to destroy our nation.
Rather than discuss what a good presidency would look like, Dr. Carson asked the audience to think about a bad, destructive presidency and how it would play out:
But let’s say somebody was there and they wanted to destroy this nation. What would you do? Let me tell you what I would do. First of all, I would create division among the people. I would have everybody pitted against each other because a wise man by the name of Jesus once said “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” And then I would encourage a culture of ridicule for basic morality and the principles that made and sustained the country. And then I would undermine the financial stability of the country, and drive us so far into debt that there was absolutely no chance that it could recover. And I would weaken the military and destroy the morale of the military. That’s what I would do and I guarantee you it would work. Now, the question is, it appears coincidentally that those are the very things that are happening right now. And the question is, How do we stop it. Can we stop it?

In that simple hypothetical, Dr. Carson managed to sum up every domestic policy that the Obama administration, working with a Democrat legislature, has enacted: a White House that colludes with the media to harass, demean, insult, and misrepresent every conservative person or conservative idea; a massive stimulus that benefited only preferred political players, followed by constantly rising government expenditures; and fundamental changes to the military by allowing homosexuals to serve openly and women to serve in combat units.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Tea, Tobacco, and Science - Brendan P. Foht - National Review Online


The paper is, at best, mediocre muckraking, and despite being published in a peer-reviewed journal, it does not rise even to the level of shoddy science. Its authors, three members of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California, San Francisco, arrived at the supposedly scientific conclusion that "the Tea Party has been influenced by decades of astroturfing by tobacco and other corporate interests." Unsurprisingly, commentators on the left were delighted to find an academic study — peer-reviewed, no less! — to give a gloss of science to their partisan opinions about those with whom they disagree. Also unsurprisingly, tea-party spokesmen voiced more skepticism about the paper's findings. Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity, one of the groups profiled in the paper, told Fox News, "If you're going to have a conspiracy theory, at least try to make it pass the laugh test."

Monday, March 11, 2013

Precautionary Principle in One Chart | Coyote Blog

Link: (via

The ultimate argument I get to my climate talk, when all other opposition fails, is that the precautionary principle should rule for CO2.  By their interpretation, this means that we should do everything possible to abate CO2 even if the risk of catastrophe is minor since the magnitude of the potential catastrophe is so great.
The problem is that this presupposes there are no harms, or opportunity costs, on the other end of the scale.  In fact, while CO2 may have only a small chance of catastrophe, Bill McKibben's desire to reduce fossil fuel use by 95% has a near certain probability of gutting the world economy and locking billions into poverty.  Here is one illustration I just crafted for my new presentation.  As usual, click to enlarge:

Friday, March 08, 2013

Department of spurious correlations?

Looks like some neat links buried in here...

via Marginal Revolution by Tyler Cowen on 3/6/13

Here is the abstract of a forthcoming AER piece, written by M. Keith Chen:
Languages differ widely in the ways they encode time. I test the hypothesis that languages that grammatically associate the future and the present, foster future-oriented behavior. This prediction arises naturally when well-documented effects of language structure are merged with models of intertemporal choice. Empirically, I find that speakers of such languages: save more, retire with more wealth, smoke less, practice safer sex, and are less obese. This holds both across countries and within countries when comparing demographically similar native households. The evidence does not support the most obvious forms of common causation. I discuss implications for theories of intertemporal choice.
Here is from a recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, by Geoffrey Pullum:
Chen's data on languages comes from the World Atlas of Language Structures (WALS), and his evidence on prudence from the World Values Survey (WVS). Both are fully Web-accessible. Sean Roberts, who studies language evolution at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen, decided to investigate the other linguistic factors treated in WALS to see how they related to prudence. He compared the goodness of fit for linear regressions on each of a long list of properties of languages (the independent variables), using as the dependent variable the answers that speakers gave to the WVS question "Did you save money last year?"
The results (see this blog post for an informal account) were jaw-dropping. He found that dozens of linguistic variables were better predictors of prudence than future marking: whether the language has uvular consonants; verbal agreement of particular types; relative clauses following nouns; double-accusative constructions; preposed interrogative phrases; and so on—a motley collection of factors that no one could plausibly connect to 401(k) contributions or junk-food consumption.
There is a bit more here.
For the pointer I thank Mike T.  And I would gladly run a response from Chen, if he has interest in drafting one.
Addendum: Here is an important update from the critic, after improving the specification of his alternative fits:
The results showed that there was only one other linguistic variable that improved the fit of the model more than future tense.  That is, future tense was a better predictor than 99% of the linguistic variables.  For comparison, Dediu & Ladd's test of the link between linguistic tone and Microcephalin/ASPM found that the hypothesised link was stronger than 98.5% of many thousands of links between genetic and linguistic factors.

Give yourself a laugh today, pick holes in Ehrlich's wild predictions • Brendan O’Neill

Link: (via

ONE of my favourite pastimes is picking holes in the population panic-mongering of people such as Paul Ehrlich.
It's so easy: dig up any prediction made by these sourpussed baby-fearers 20-odd years ago, contrast it to how things actually turned out, and hey presto, you have hard evidence that Malthusian miserabilists always overstate how bad things are going to get.
He predicted that "by the year 2000 the UK will be simply a small group of impoverished islands, inhabited by some 70 million hungry people". Nope. I can report that Britain is doing so well that we're more freaked out by an alleged obesity epidemic than by hunger.
Ehrlich said India would not survive the 1970s. As a result of too many brown babies being born, we'd see the "dissolution of India as a viable nation".
Wrong again. India's population has more than doubled since 1970, from 550 million to 1.2 billion, yet there are fewer hungry people, more in the middle class, bigger cities, and life expectancy has risen from 49 years in 1970 to 65.1 years today. If India is anything to go by, more people means more stuff, more development, more life - not more disaster.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

America's Early Industrialists Earned Their Wealth

America's Early Industrialists Earned Their Wealth

via Daily Policy Digest on 3/7/13

One of the most prevalent myths about economic freedom is that it inevitably leads to monopolies. Ask people why they believe that, and the odds are high that they will point to the "trusts" of the late 19th century that gained large market shares in their particular industries. However, America's early industrialists, like shipping and railroad tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt and oil magnate John D. Rockefeller, got their money the old-fashioned way: they earned it, says David Henderson a research fellow with the Hoover Institution.
  • Referred to as robber barons, Vanderbilt and Rockefeller are lambasted by many as the pinnacles of greed and cutthroat businessmen.
  • But both Vanderbilt and Rockefeller achieved success the old fashioned way: they earned their money in a system that didn't grant them privileges.
  • In fact, each actually helped to destroy a previous monopoly and helped consumers in the process.
Vanderbilt, who became the manager for a ferry entrepreneur, undercut an existing ferry monopoly granted by the state of New York. By lowering prices, Vanderbilt broke the law and helped passengers save money in the process. The resulting case Supreme Court case, Gibbons v. Ogden, ruled that a state cannot grant a monopoly on interstate commerce.
Similarly, Rockefeller's company, Standard Oil, benefited consumers while acquiring as much as 90 percent of the market. Because Rockefeller built the first pipelines, he was able to reduce the cost of shipping his kerosene by rail by threatening to transport his products solely by pipeline. This reduced the average cost of rail transportation for any company that shipped goods. He also drastically improved the quality of kerosene, which made his product the safest and most desired.
The only way Standard Oil could attain such a large market share was by lowering prices. When it acquired such a large share, theory says the monopoly should have hiked up prices, but Standard Oil lowered them. Between 1880 and 1890, the output of petroleum products rose 393 percent while the price fell 61 percent. During the same time, gross domestic product rose 24 percent, and the price of steel fell 53 percent, refined sugar 22 percent, lead 12 percent and zinc by 20 percent. The only price that fell less than 7 percent in the allegedly monopolized industries was that of coal, which stayed constant.
Source: David Henderson, "The Robber Barons: Neither Robbers nor Barons," Library of Economics and Liberty, March 4, 2013.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

So You Say You Want A Revolution

So You Say You Want A Revolution

via According To Hoyt by accordingtohoyt on 2/20/13

This is not a post devoted to examining whether a revolution is a good idea, or even if it is a better idea than not having one (which it sometimes is, even when it's not a good idea.)
Instead it is devoted to examining the illusions about revolution that reign in our society in large part because the Marxists believe them.  And part of the reason they believe them is that it is part of their ur-myth, the idea that at the end of history you find communism, kind of like at the end of the rainbow you find a pot of gold, or more like at the end of times you find the worldwide caliphate.
Anyone doubting that Marxism is a religion need only take a close look at its myths about history and its eschatology.  I grant you some of these are extra-Marx and grown by some of the stranger branches of Marxism (Feminism As She Is Practiced, for instance) but they still tend to feed back and influence the whole.  Part of this, of course, is due to the fact that Marxism in its stranger branches dominates entertainment and that stories you read/watch as fiction if even mildly convincing ones over time get lodged in a place of your brain that says "I lived through this, so it has to be true.)  The other part is that Marxism as practiced in this 21st century of our Lord is a "No Crazy Shall Go Unheard" (as long as they are against Western Civilization) type of ideology. And the reason for that is to be found in their myths.
This mythology pervades everything, and many people who think they're staunch anti-communists have swallowed all or parts of it, hook, line, sinker and sometimes line and rod too.  (Look at the precious poppet who came over to quote Marxists at us, while under the impression he was anti-Soviet.  If he ever grows a brain, that will be one he'll look back at ruefully.)
It is very important for us to realize where the myth comes in, what it is, and where it's influencing our own thought, so that we can fix it.  Or more likely, the way things are going, so we don't make stupid assumptions about the crash and know what to do when it comes.
Right now the myths of Marxism/Feminism/Anti-Capitalism, most of them unexamined and not explicitly believed in the awake mind, except in college students/professors, go something like this:
In the beginning there was communism.  Society was without form or shape (unless you believe it was a matriarchy, which worshipped the great goddess) except that everyone was equal (which clearly is a violation of all we know in nature and about our closest cousins.  Which is why this is religion) and there was no king, no nobleman, no hierarchy.
What property there was got shared by all alike, so everyone got what they needed.  There was no famine and no need.  (This also does violate everything we know from pre-historic burials.  Again, what is your point?  It's religion.)
This dovetails very well with the expectations in our mind, because it's an echo of the Garden of Eden which, in some form, has been a myth in most religions and most civilizations.  Perhaps the need to believe in this "we were once perfect then fell" is inherent in the construction of the human brain.
Perhaps it is a racial memory of acquiring sentience with all its complications or perhaps, more simply, it is "logical" because it reproduces our personal experience.  We were once infants, who got our needs met without work or strife, and then life got complex.
For whatever reason this is one of those myths which while – at least in the Marxist version – patently false, yet occupies a niche called "sounds reasonable" in our brain.
So, in the beginning there was the perfect state, but some people weren't happy with paradise.  Now, Marxism differs from other religions in that it changes the time when the fall took place from as far back as pre-history to as recently as the Industrial Revolution.  (This amuses me greatly since in any Marxist society, it's the past that keeps changing.  That was, btw, how I got my first doubts about Marxism – no, I wasn't born knowing – by realizing that even in the same book, their views of events kept changing.)
The feminists have perhaps the most coherent description of the fall – poisonous, in that it makes them hate half the human race – but coherent.  Men weren't happy with paradise – their fable goes – because they weren't on top.  So they displaced the paradise women had wrought with their highly hierarchical and violent society, and that's why there won't be paradise again till we can have a world that's all women.  (In the back of my mind, I always see the women who feel a need to believe this as the very well dressed, shrinking violets of my elementary school years, who shrank in a corner, looking in horror at the little boys chasing each other and fighting.  They never grew up, not fully, and men are violent and mean and have COOOTIES.  – My reaction to the boys' violent games usually meant I came home with torn dresses and my hair in a mess and mom had a hissy fit, until she gave up and started cutting down my brother's clothes for me, including the leather knee and elbow patches.)
Then comes the description of the fall that goes that before settling and agriculture we were all healthy wealthy and wise – pardon me, I mean, of course we were all happy communitarians – but then we became sedentary and—
Do I need to tell you it's poppycock?  I probably do, since right now even serious anthropological journals buy into this.  However, for the record, if that's true it's the first time a model that made humans more unhealthy and short lived supplanted a better model.  It is, that is, highly unlikely.  And besides, I'm sort of used to this myth because it's a projection backwards of the Marxist's favorite poppycock.
This is where in the middle ages, in an agriculture society, in the communitarian VILLAGE – this is believed by EVERYONE who hasn't lived in a village – everyone was happy and shared and stuff.  Then came the …. Cue scary music – machines and capitalism, and the disposed farmers (who, in EVERY COUNTRY, not just England, where this did happen to an extent – but only an extent.  I wonder if unbiased research would see this as a reaction to flight to the city, rather than the cause of it – were dispossessed by their evil landlords ENCLOSING the common) who had to go to the city and work in inhumane conditions, upteen hours a day, till they all died, which is why the industrial revolution spread across the world, and…
I got nothing.  I particularly got nothing because for the love of babies, the industrial revolution is still spreading.  I saw part of it in my own childhood, and let me tell you, the only people who think life in the villages was better than in the cities, and that peasants were happier working the fields are people who have never done any agricultural work or lived in a traditional village.
Yes, the conditions in the early factories were horrible.  They were just good enough – and the pay was just good enough – to attract peasants from the fields.  And that's where it is – they offered what they needed to, to be better than an existence as a peasant – and yes, peasant children worked too, sometimes from toddlerhood.
The reason Marxism embedded this idea of the industrial revolution as being forced on an otherwise ideal system is that he was an ideological descendant of the romantics, that sickly eighteenth century poetic/artistic sect who believed that the past was always better than the future.  You know, they liked tombs and ancient graveyards, adored cottages, and had a highly poetic idea of the Middle Ages.  The best thing they did was collect folk tales.  The worst was, like most intellectuals, drinking their own ink.
Anyway, we can't even blame him too much, unlike his followers he hadn't seen the same industrial revolution sweep other countries like India and China.
So… That is the general myth of Marxism's paradise and fall.  Their myth of redemption centers on the concept of revolution, as crucial to them as the Flight From Egypt is to Judaism, or the Resurrection to Christianity.
The redemption myth of communism goes something like this: one day the oppressed peasants are oppressed beyond endurance, and they rise, and kill all their masters, and then – then, you get back the paradise before the (depending on the branch of the church) men took over/greedy agriculturalists settled/evil capitalists forced workers to move to the city en mass and work in their revolting machines.
Come the revolution – and make no mistake, even in Portugal, when Marxists said "Come the Revolution" they weren't talking about that thing that happened once a month, but this Ur-revolution that brought back paradise – we shall all share and share alike, and the girls will sing songs as they weave wreaths for mayday… or something.
(It's hard to evade the suspicions that at the back of all this were Odds gone seriously wrong and dreaming a society where they would be, if not on top, at least accepted.  Since most of us have absolutely no taste for business [some of us had to learn] or unremitting labor, this sort of "like the lilly of the valley" existence sounds appealing.  Few realize it's also impossible and if it were – Thank G-d I grew up in a village and KNOW – it would be a dreadful existence.)
Because of this, in movie and novel and even in supposedly serious historical work, Marxist myths about revolutions have permeated society and made us believe a bunch of things that just ain't so.
1-      When society collapses, revolution happens and communism results.  This has never happened.  Not once.  Even in Russia, what happened was the take over of power by people who had placed themselves to take it.  Russia was in chaos and had a weak leader (which I think is what gave them this bright idea) but the takeover happened because the communists were placed to take it.  They were in no way the peasants or the wretched of the Earth, but educated men with the backing of foreign powers.
2-      Revolution happens when conditions become unbearable.  (Or as someone said in comments, when people miss three meals in a row.)  Poppycock.  If this were true, North Korea would have revolted long ago, Zimbabwe would have been up in arms, and …  It's not true.  As far as we can tell, revolution happens when the middle class gets tired.  Which means there must be a middle class of course.  In France, in England (several times) in the US, in…  Every time someone rises it's the middle class, who are missing no meals, but who are seeing their lifestyle slip and their kids' futures diminished.  You do get something – sometimes – when the main populace has missed one meal or so every other day, but what you get is the sporadic, leaderless spasms of Greece right now.
3-       When revolution happens communism results.  This is also not true in almost any case – not even Russia, since the "no true Scotsman" fallacy informs us that wasn't real communism.  What tends to result is strong man "he rode in on a white horse" government.  In an instance – here (and perhaps in the revolt of the Barons against John Lackland, but I don't know enough of that time) – it results in a relatively more representative system that sort of works (this excludes France which while relatively – I think – better than the Ancien Regime, has never QUITE worked.)  (Yeah, I know, it's an awful way to bet.)  What NEVER happens is a return to the communitarian paradise they were sure was once there.  (Probably because as Phil Dick said of sanity [paraphrasing, since I remember only the Portuguese] "It is thinner than the edge on a knife, sharper than a guard dog's tooth, more elusive than a ghost.  Perhaps it doesn't exist.  Perhaps it is a ghost."  In this case, for sure it is a ghost, a mirage, something that only devout people could believe, in defiance of all evidence.)
It's important to know that these myths about revolutions are wrong, because right now the Marxists are trying to collapse worldwide society in the firm belief that revolution will happen and their paradise will result.
And the rest of us need to stay awake and aware, so we can counter what inevitably results from collapse.
We might not be able to stop the collapse.  It might (MIGHT) even be in our best interests to speed it up.  BUT we must stand ready to take the reigns when it all crashes, and we MUST not let them pick the man 0n the white horse, and shove his "enlightened" rule down our throats.  You know what always results from it (Napoleon, Hitler, Stalin, Mao) and we can't allow it to happen.
Liberty to the extent it has existed (rarely) in history has always rested on the shoulders of a very slim minority.  We're not any worse placed than our ancestors.  And we must at least try to avert the tide of death and poverty heading for us.
Do it for the children.
UPDATE: I have blogged Human Wave over at Mad Genius Club.

Monday, March 04, 2013

The Same-Sex Marriage Ruling's "Factual" Findings

via The Weekly Standard Blog by John McCormack on 8/6/10

When Judge Vaughn Walker struck down California's constitutional amendment banning gay marriage on the grounds that it violated the 14th Amendment's equal protection clause, some argued that what really mattered in the decision were Walkers findings of fact--which supposedly prove there is no rational basis for keeping marriage a union between a man and a woman.

At Ricochet, John Yoo explains the trouble with Walker's "factual" findings:

Judge Walker sees it as the job of the courts to test whether laws passed by a majority of the people, or a legislature, advance the public good as defined by expert testimony by social scientists. I'm more than happy if the government required that its own laws produce more benefits than costs. But do we want this job done by a single judge, or a small group of judges, relying on social science (in this case, the work of sociologists, psychologists, and political scientists produced to the court by the litigating parties) of a recent phenomenon?

Here's how it worked in the gay marriage case. Walker asked whether the goal of Prop 8 -- higher levels of marriage & less divorce, encouragement of procreation, social stability -- were achieved by a ban on gay marriage. He said no. He cited a few studies, as if they proved facts about the real world, by the plaintiffs' experts. Because of this, the law failed the rational basis test -- there was no possible logical link between the goals of Prop 8 and the means. [...]

social science -- as anyone who reads these studies -- is far from a perfect science. There are so many variables and alternative explanations involved in understanding human interaction. I am dubious whether sociologists and psychologists can tell us the real causes and effects of gay marriage -- it has only been legal in the United States for a few years, and only in a few states. That is why my preferred solution of relying on federalism makes sense -- if states can choose different policies, we can learn from the information generated and understand the costs and benefits.

At The Public Discourse Matthew Franck takes on Judge Walker's reasoning:

Perhaps the most surprising thing in the judge's opinion is his declaration that "gender no longer forms an essential part of marriage." This line, quoted everywhere within hours with evident astonishment, appears to be the sheerest ipse dixit—a judicial "because I said so"—and the phrase "no longer" conveys that palpable sense that one is being mugged by a progressive. But Judge Walker's remark here is actually the conclusion of a fairly complex argument. The problem is that the argument is not only complex but wholly fallacious. [...]

When "the genders" are no longer "seen as having distinct roles," it is revealed that at marriage's "core" there is ample space for same-sex couples too. Since "gender no longer forms an essential part of marriage," indeed since it never really did, "plaintiffs' relationships are consistent with the core of the history, tradition and practice of marriage in the United States." There, you see? There is something eminently conservative about the admission of same-sex couples to the marital bond. What could we have been thinking, denying them this right for all these centu56ries?

Judge Walker seems to have committed the fallacy of composition—taking something true of a part and concluding that it is also true of the whole of which it is a part. If it is true that "gender" no longer matters as it once did in the relation of husband and wife, he reasons, therefore it no longer matters whether the relation is one of husband and wife; it may as well be a relation of husband and husband or of wife and wife, since we now know that marriage is not, at its "core," a "gendered institution." But restated in this way, it is quite plain that the judge's conclusion doesn't follow from his premises. To say that the status of men and women in marriage is one of equal partners is not to say that men and women are the same, such that it does not matter what sex their partners are. The equalization of status is not the obliteration of difference, as much as Judge Walker would like to pretend it is.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Black immigration

It seems Africans don't realize what a racist, oppressive country we run here...

Since 1990, according to immigration figures, more have arrived voluntarily than the total who disembarked in chains before the United States outlawed international slave trafficking in 1807. More have been coming here annually - about 50,000 legal immigrants - than in any of the peak years of the middle passage across the Atlantic, and more have migrated here from Africa since 1990 than in nearly the entire preceding two centuries.

In Africa, the flow is contributing to a brain drain. But at the same time, African-born residents of the United States are sharing their relative prosperity here by sending more than $1 billion annually back to their families and friends.
The influx has other potential implications, from recalibrating the largely monolithic way white America views blacks to raising concerns that American-born blacks will again be left behind.
"Historically, every immigrant group has jumped over American-born blacks," said Eric Foner, the Columbia University historian. "The final irony would be if African immigrants did, too."

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Education link
In a world without public or State-run education, we could cease speaking of an "educational system." Schools would survive or fail based on the needs of individuals in particular communities, and each individual would be free to pursue his or her own natural calling or vocation. As a result of an absence of one set of educational standards, schools would embrace approaches to education that were the most successful, rather than those dictated from afar. This would ultimately lead to a more pragmatic and less political educational environment.

Fwd: Security Weekly: Watching for Watchers

Watching for Watchers

By Scott Stewart | June 17, 2010
In last week's Security Weekly we discussed how situational awareness is a mindset that can — and should — be practiced by everyone. We also described the different levels of situational awareness and discussed which level is appropriate for different sorts of situations. And we noted how all criminals and terrorists follow a process when planning their acts and that this process is visible at certain times to people who are watching for such behavior.
When one considers these facts, it inevitably leads to the question: "What in the world am I looking for?" The brief answer is: "warning signs of criminal or terrorist behavior." Since this brief answer is very vague, it becomes necessary to describe the behavior in more detail. Read more »

Friday, March 01, 2013

Should a Gay Judge Have Appointed Himself to Hear the Case Against Propositi...

via Big Lizards by Dafydd on 8/6/10

Patterico asks a cogent question in a recent post: "Should the Prop. 8 Decision Have Been Made by a Gay Judge?" Or should Judge Vaughn Walker have recused himself from hearing Perry v. Schwarzenegger, the lawsuit filed to overturn California's Proposition 8, an initiative constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage (SSM)?

Patterico concludes thus:

Still, if you see laws against gay marriage as discriminatory in the same sense that Jim Crow laws were, it's tough to accept the premise that a gay judge could not ethically decide this case.... Would a black judge be required to recuse himself from hearing a challenge to Jim Crow laws? Somehow, the intuitive answer to that question is no, of course not. Why is this different?

This one is actually fairly easy to answer: By the time Jim Crow laws were being overturned in courts, America had already enacted numerous federal laws and constitutional amendments, an infrastructure of paradigmatic change, going all the way back to our Organic Documents, that collectively formed the basis for a national consensus that "all men are created equal."

Obviously not everybody agreed, or we wouldn't have needed to overturn such laws in court -- nor would we have needed to enact the 1964 Civil Rights Act. But a consensus does not require unanimity; and clearly, Americans were willing to accept in the abstract what they could not always practice in their own lives: That there is no significant difference in personhood between black and white.

Today, we absolutely accept the fact that gay men and lesbians are just as much "persons" as heterosexual men and women, and they have the same rights. Even those of us who oppose SSM accept that point without hesitation; you have to go to a repulsive, lunatic, little vants like the Irreverend Phred Phelps and his henchmen to find anyone disputing the basic humanity of gays.

But that's not the question, is it? We all agree that gays have the same rights as heterosexuals; the question is, what exactly are those rights anent marriage?

I believe that gays and straights both have the same marital rights -- to religiously marry anybody or any group of people they and their religion allow... but to legally marry only those people who meet certain qualifications, one of which is to be of the opposite gender. I have no objection to a gay man marrying a woman, gay or straight; just as I have no objection to a lesbian marrying a man, no matter his sexual preference.

It wouldn't even bother me if a gay man married a lesbian, then they had children... or even adopted. So long as the family has a male father and a female mother, I will grant it's as socially valid and as good for raising children as a marriage of two heterosexuals.

But I do not support a putative "right" to legally marry anybody one "loves", without exception or qualification. Marriage comes with a host of restrictions that bind everyone:

  • You cannot marry a person without his or her consent.
  • You cannot marry your sibling, your parent, or your close cousin.
  • You cannot marry a child.
  • You cannot marry multiple people at once (group marriage).
  • You cannot marry someone who currently is already married (bigamy).
  • And... you cannot marry a person of the same gender as you.

That last restriction applies equally to heterosexuals; consider two old biddies, best girlfriends, both widowed, and both completely straight, but who want to marry for the financial benefits. Sorry, ladies, you cannot. We forbid you to abuse the legal status of being married.

By contrast, I absolutely support the Supreme Court decision in Lawrence v. Texas, striking down laws against "sodomy," however defined. Why the difference? Because the right to associate (and yes, including sexually) is an issue of individual liberty. It also falls within the veil of privacy that, yes, I do believe restrains federal, state, and local government from intruding too deeply into the lives of free citizens. Simply put, a government that can control who you are allowed to sleep with or who you can live with is totalitarian.

But marriage is not a private affair; it's a public, communal celebration and societal endorsement of a relationship; it says, "This is a special relationship that we, in this state, believe is better than other types of relationships. Thus, to encourage this type of relationship, we will reward it above and beyond other relationships." Given that description, state citizens have the right to decide what particular types of relationships we will so celebrate and endorse.

We can decide how close a relationship must be in order to put that person off limits. We can decide how old a person must be to get married. If we so choose, we can decide to allow polyamorous marriage. And if we so choose, we can decide to allow SSM; but by the same token, if we choose -- which we have done -- we can likewise decide to disallow it. And until and unless we have the same legal infrastructure anent marital rights for gays as we had the 1940s-1960s anent civil rights for blacks, no damned court has the power to overturn the people's law and make its own law.

If it did have that power, then America would no longer be a constitutional republic... we would instead be a kritarchy, ruled by unelected, rob├Ęd lords with lifetime tenure.

So yes, it may well make a difference if the judge who decided the case is a gay activist. But that would be true whether or not he himself was homosexual; there are doubtless more heterosexual gay activists than homosexual gay activists. The only point in bringing up Judge Walker's sexual preference is that it's another brick in the wall, another piece of evidence that he might well be a gay activist... taken together with other pieces of evidence, including the thirty-eight years he has lived and practiced in ultra-liberal, ultra-gay-activist San Fransisco; his judicial record in toto (not just a couple of cherry-picked cases where he actually deigned to follow the law, instead of trying to rewrite it); and the fact that, as Chief Judge, he probably decided to appoint himself to hear this case.

And of course the vapid and tendentious opinion he wrote, which also smells strongly of judicial activism.

For that purpose, exploring whether Judge Walker is a gay activist, it's not unreasonable to bring up his own sexual preference; by itself, it's not dispositive -- but it's not irrelevant, either.