Friday, December 13, 2002

Trent Lott's Gaffe

The only openly systematic discrimination based on race done these days is done with the support of liberals, i.e., affirmative action, which in practical terms means that a white applicant to a major university has less than one tenth the chance of gaining admission than a black applicant with the same qualifications. And the situation is similar in hiring for jobs with major companies.

So why did Lott's gaffe hit such a nerve? Not because Lott has proposed pro-segregation laws, and not because any such laws would be supported by anyone currently in congress. And not because such paleo-Southern sentiments would have any purchase on any conceivable policy.

(The only segregationists pushing their agenda these days are black segregationists.)

No, these charges of crypto-racism coming out against conservatives are the result of the fact that the conservatives are now in power and do not support affirmative action, and they won't confirm judicial appointments likely to support affirmative action. Affirmative action in college admissions is very likely to be struck down or severely modified by the Supreme Court of the land, and certainly one cannot expect any legislation that is going to shore up affirmative action coming from the new congress. And, for that matter, one hasn't heard much about repariations since the last election, either.

And in the minds of the left wingnuts, opposition to affirmative action and reparations can only be due to crypto-racism. It couldn't possibly be due to discomfort over the idea that we are systematically discriminating against white and asian young people, young people that haven't done anything wrong, on the basis of race. It couldn't possibly be that the idea of reparations is seriously flawed with all sorts of problems of fairness, penalizing people who are blameless of the sins that reparations are supposed to address. No, it can only be because we are trying to keep blacks down. And this is due to the fact that whites are still all damnable, evil racists in their hearts. And what Lott said proves this.

But there is nothing that they can do about it for a while other than throw these tantrums whenever they get the chance.

And there is the fact that this all happens just as is appears that Republicans are making some progress in reaching out to minorities. I'm sure that it causes the Democrats some anxiety to see minorities respond to these feelers from Republicans, so they were eager to take the opportunity to say, "See? They're just racists. Nothing that they say or do can change that. You can't ever trust them, don't even talk to them." when they got the chance.

Tuesday, December 03, 2002

Tort Reform in Mississippi

From an article in the Wall Street Journal...

The impasse in the legislature was broken when it came out on national television that plantiffs attorneys were bribing juries. In addition, several pro-trial lawyer judges, including a sitting Supreme Court justice, were defeated in the recent election.

It just goes to show that parasites who tax their host too much can find themselves put at a disadvantage.

...But last week the trial bar suffered a major defeat in Mississippi, and if reform can happen there it can happen anywhere.

The state legislature in Jackson voted to tighten rules on where cases can be tried, cap punitive damage awards, limit the state's joint-and-several liability rule so that companies with little blame can't be soaked as deep pockets, bar advertising by attorneys who aren't licensed to practice in Mississippi and slap a fine on the filing of frivolous lawsuits. That's not bad for government work, especially in a state renowned as the home of "jackpot justice."

...There are lessons here for national reform efforts. The prevailing view is that no reform can get past a 60-vote filibuster by Senate Democrats. But Mississippi proves that a long educational campaign, and a business and consumer movement that sticks together, can create the political climate for change. The battle won't be fast or easy, but the tort bar can be beaten.

Monday, December 02, 2002

Islam = Arab Imperialism

Religious scholars who have dissected or deconstructed Christian religious beliefs to the delight of critics of Christianity have begun to turn their attention on Islam.

Scholarship in this area is difficult because of a lack of cooperation from Muslim scholars who are either afraid of the violence of radical Muslims or are radical Muslims themselves. Muslims who opine, for example, that historical events might not have been exactly as written in the Koran are likely to get death threats or worse, and they are considered legitimate targets of officially sanctioned violence by Muslim clerics who incite others to violence against the apostate scholars.

Nevertheless, there is an increasing body of this sort of scholarship, and, as you might expect, a critical review of historical events shows that the Koran is not the most accurate description of events around 600 to 700 AD in the middle east after all. For one thing, it is likely that Mohammed did not even exist or that the reality of his ministry was quite different from that described. The Koran was probably written well after the events described transpired, not at the time as has always been claimed. The religious precepts of the Koran were probably formulated well after the expansion of the Arab Empire, and they were formulated to explain and justify this Imperialism, not the other way around.

It is not surprising, therefore, that right conduct according to the Koran very closely resembles pre-Islamic Arab tradition, including the tradition of conquest.

It is the most complete sort of conquest that makes the defeated believe that they have been spiritually saved by the culture and beliefs of the conquerors.

Arabs came in to a region by force or by threat of force and proceeded to completely replace the defeated culture. This is what happens to peoples taken over by Islam today. Islam replaces everything native. Islam supplants native customs, beliefs, dress, diet, language, naming conventions, everything. Islam moves the people to destroy all vestiges of their past religions and customs including shrines, images, scriptures, and memory. That transformation is so complete that Malaysian Muslims will tell you that their favorite fruit is the date rather than the native mango even though the date is not native to their country and has to be imported from the middle east.

Thus, to be Muslim is to be Arab: it is quite literally to dress like an Arab, to act like an Arab, to think like an Arab, to speak like an Arab, to write like an Arab, to have an Arabic name, to eat like an Arab. It is in essence to want to be an Arab.

Islam is Arab Imperialism from 600 AD to today, and it is very little more than that.

Wednesday, November 27, 2002

An Insult to Science

Global warming, that is. Which is to say that the projections concerning global warming are based in large part on assumptions about trends in industrial activity and other human activites that generate greenhouse gasses. These assumptions are based in economic predictions. It turns out these assumptions are seriously flawed in that they grossly over-estimate future green house gas production.

Anyone puzzled by the science behind Kyoto should take a look at the economics. In the words of one leading economic modeller, the central 100-year economic projections behind Kyoto and global warming policymaking is an "insult to science" and "an insult to serious analysis." And that's probably the good part of any criticism. It is also clear that the economic work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is driven by systemic ideological preferences for state intervention.

A vocal group of economists around the world -- including some of the leading figures in the field of global economic modelling -- believe the core economic analysis behind the United Nations climate change initiative is based on seriously flawed modelling principles. If their analysis is correct, the central scientific tenets of global warming, including 100-year carbon emissions forecasts and temperature increases, are likely grossly exaggerated.

Tuesday, November 26, 2002

Freedom, More or Less

An argument has broken out in the pages of conservative publications of whether or not Americans as a people are freer now than we were, say, 50 years ago. Many conservatives think we are less free, and they seem quite adamant about it, based mainly on the expansion of the government that intrudes on our lives.

I have long called the people who are critical of the idea that we are a nation of increasing freedom “victim conservatives” because they are so wedded to the idea that they are victims of an oppressive government.

What this usually misses is that conservatives are all for government where it is necessary, and it is often necessary to safeguard the rights and freedoms of the people.

For example, those who think that we were so much freer in the 1950’s should talk to Catholics, blacks, Latinos, gays, and lesbians from that era.

It reminds me of the point made by one historian (I forget who) who pointed out that when the founding fathers talked about “freedom” they were talking about markedly different things: In New England they were talking about freedom of (not freedom from) religion; in the South they were talking about freedom to run their plantations the way they liked, which included keeping slaves; in the West they were talking about freedom from taxes and laws; and in no case were they talking about freedom for everyone.

No doubt when Southern slave owners had to give up their slaves they bemoaned their loss of freedom even though there was an obvious increase in freedom for all the people. When New Englanders lost the ability to exclude people with other religious beliefs from their communities they bemoaned their loss of freedom to do as they pleased in one particular area even while their right to continue to believe as they wished was more solidly established in the law. And, when people in the West started having to pay revenue on whiskey they bemoaned their loss of freedom even as their taxes went to pay for roads and other things that expanded their horizon and increased their overall freedom. And I suspect that this is where the victim conservatives are coming from -- it is a kind of tunnel vision that misses the forest of overall freedom for the trees of particular types of freedom.

Friday, November 15, 2002

GOP vs Trial Lawyers

The Democratic Party these days is not much more than a collection of special interests -- unions, feminist organizations, the NAACP, gays and lesbians, and, most of all, trial lawyers.

Politics in this country is down to them against all the rest of us.

PEOPLE who say, "There's not a dime's worth of difference between the two political parties," or "It doesn't matter who wins," are in for a big surprise watching the 108th Congress tackle tort reform. Right out of the box, there's terrorism insurance. Presidential advisor Lawrence Lindsey says Congress' failure to provide coverage is delaying more than $10 billion in construction projects and holding us on the verge of a double-dip recession. New York City is being particularly hard hit because of the risks of covering high-rise and "trophy" buildings.

The problem is the usual one: Trial lawyers insist on punitive damages.

The Bush administration is willing to commit the federal Treasury to coverage because private firms can't be expected to pay the damages if al Qaeda sets off a nuke in Lower Manhattan. But the trial lawyers and their representatives in Congress (a k a "The Democrats") aren't satisfied. They want to be able to blame someone - insurance companies, the government, anyone with money - if terrorists strike. That will enable them to blow the combination at Fort Knox.

Thursday, November 14, 2002


"The 'real' terrorist threats are George W. Bush and his band of brown-shirted thugs."

Sandra Bernhard

Comedian and Activist

"Anyone that would blow up the Pentagon would get my vote."

Richard Berthold

U-NM Professor

"[catching illegal immigrants] is a very, very low priority, and I think it should be a low priority."

Doris Meissner

Former Clinton INS Commissioner

"This New York thing is being blown out of proportion... Who gives a f***about New York when elephants are being killed?"

Lee Ryan

Boy Band, "Blue"

"Hunting is just a wonderful opportunity for someone who would want to do a terrorist act. They don't have to report their whereabouts and can be lurking anywhere. They can lurk in groups."

Anne Muller

Wildlife Watch

"[the American flag] is a symbol of terrorism and death and fear and destruction and oppression."

Jennie Traschen

MIT Professor

"The Pentagon as a legitimate target? I actually don't have an opinion on that."

David Westin

President of ABC News

"We know we can't make the world risk free, but we can reduce the risks we face, and we have to take the fight to the terrorists. If we have the will, we can find the means."

Bill Clinton (1997)

Former President

"The war against terrorism is terrorism. The whole thing is just bullsh*t."

Woody Harrelson

Actor and Activist

"The Bush foreign policy team seems to be suffering from untreated bipolar disorder."

Madeleine Albright

Former Secretary of State

"If I see someone that's got a diaper on his head, and a fan belt around that diaper... that guy should be pulled over and checked."

John Cooksey


"When I see the American flag flying, it's a joke."

Robert Altman

Movie Director

Tuesday, September 03, 2002

Data on Ice

A recent book review in American Scientist is interesting for what it reveals about the global climate change crowd. It covers the autobiographical account of Paul Mayweski, a scientist widely regarded for his work in climate change, concerning his work in analyzing core samples of ice from Greenland.

Mayewski begins his story with his training, which is when he became conscious of the political importance of his work(!) By his own account Mayewski sat in a weather station in Antartica as a graduate student and dreamed about how the work that he was doing would have tremendous social relevance. From the beginning his aim was not just to become a good scientist, recognised by peers within his own field. He was "driven by the hope" that he could make what he was doing "have a practical value for all humanity". That a student in an obscure science in the middle of Antartica was thinking in those terms speaks volumes about Mayewski. Indeed, his book is in large part a manifesto for making science socially important.

Consider the reality of the scientific work that Mayewski is now doing: He examines ice core samples from ice sheets over Greenland and other places. Since the ice was deposited over thousands of years the impurities within the ice can provide information about the atmosphere in the past. This data can be added to what else is known about past climate changes and could serve to help develop a comprehensive theory or model of climate change that would have real value as a means of predicting future climate.

While Mayweski has had great success in collecting data and detailing the history of past climates, the data has not been enough to allow for the discovery of the desired weather model. A more modest scientist would be content to conclude that the task of providing answers that drive national policies and the like is beyond his grasp, but this modest course is not for Mayweski.

Instead, he attempts to make his data relevant to his political needs. Mayweski strains to make the case for why his work in ancient climate change has lessons for society today. He speculates at length about how climate changes he charts in the ice core samples would have affected ancient civilizations. Then he tries to make the case that the same is in store for us. In doing this Mayewski stretches his science far too thin.

Mayweksi is really not able to say what caused the climate changes he observes in the ice nor is he able to say what, if anything, man has to do with the current climate, Nevertheless, he goes on to say that if climate change did occur in the modern age, well, it would be really bad, which adds an alarmist flavor to his writing. He spurs us on to do something but is unable to tell us what is likely to help with any certainty. The implication is that we should be following the agenda set by the global warming crowd, but he fails to provide us with the science that upholds that agenda.

The reviewer, Martin Seigert, another climate change person, tipped his hand in the first paragraph of his review.

The science of climate change is a funny business. Some people (Paul Mayewski, for example) prove it happens, show the impact it has had in the past, and use this information to judge the future. Nonetheless, others (President George W. Bush, for example) remain reluctant to acknowledge the seriousness of what global climate change has meant for society in the past and will mean in the future. There is clearly an information transfer problem.

The reviewer makes it political right off the bat by taking a gratuituous swipe at the President. Bush has never denied the climate change has occurred in the past, nor has he denied that it will occur in the future. What he has done is ask whether or not climate change over the past 100 years is really due to human activity. He has questioned the accuracy of predictions made about climate change in the immediate future, and he has asked if changes in human activity will really have any effect on future climate. Neither Mayweski nor anyone else has been able to answer these questions, but that does not stop him from using tales of climate change disaster to stir up the political pot.

The reviewer makes the unintentionally comical observation that Mayewski's book "does not appear to be pushing any preconceived agenda." This after having praised Mayewski's openly political and social aspirations. He fails to see that political passion kills the dispassionate stance that good scientists must take.

Monday, September 02, 2002

Expanding Diseases

From a story in the Globe and Mail:

A group of U.S. psychiatrists wants to create a new category of disorders that would let them diagnose couples who squabble constantly, parents and children who don't get along — even siblings who clash — as mentally ill.

Those who might be treated under the proposed "relational disorders" category could be otherwise perfectly healthy and stable: hold steady jobs, have lots of friends and be generally good citizens, pillars of the community and models of balance.

The shrinks changed the definition of mental illness so much that almost half of all people now have problems that fall into the category of mental illness. Having deliberaly expanded the definitions to include more people, the "doctors" go to Washington to lobby for more money because the problem of mental illness, they claim, is so much worse.

I'm pleased to note that few people are fooled by this ploy. Most of the time public officials are not fooled by it either, which is why support from the govenment and the insurance industry for treatment of mental illness is so "poor". The government and insurance companies have learned that psychiatrists and psychologists have a knack for drawing the maximum out of any form of insurance that covers mental illness.

Most diagnoses of mental illness are based on purely subjective findings, which means that the diagnoses can expand to eat up whatever money is available.

Only a small percentage of the people who are called mentally ill would benefit from any kind of therapy, drug or otherwise. And so any money spent on treatment for the rest of the people, who don't want treatment anyway, is wasted.

Friday, August 30, 2002

The Reparations Movement a symptom of the fact that the civil rights movement is intellectually bankrupt. They are old, they are out of date. They haven't got any ideas left, and yet they are desperate for attention.

The civil rights movement made progress mainly because a lot of whites agreed with them back in the 60's. On the reparations issue, there is no agreement, therefore it will not happen, nor will it even get close to happening.

Actually, whites are the least of the reparations advocates' troubles. The reparations people can actually sell that stuff to at least some whites. It's the other ethnic groups that are rabidly opposed to it. No evil genius of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy(TM) could possibly have come up with a better plan for wrecking the Democratic Party coalition.

If it is the aim of black civil rights leaders to be totally marginalized and politically irrelevant they could not have dreamed of a better idea.

Right Wing Envy

From an article in Slate:

The LA Weekly's astute John Powers, a self-described economic lefty, expresses his envy of right-wing journalism in his column this week. Powers celebrates the Weekly Standard, which "woos you by saying, 'We're having big fun over here on the right,' " over The Nation, which he mocks as "a profoundly dreary magazine" that is as "gray and unappetizing as homework."

...How the anything-goes drug-and-sex party that the cultural left threw in the '60s segued into an Amish wake featuring stern readings from the joyless work of Barbara Ehrenreich, the scoldings of Todd Gitlin, and the catechisms of Richard Goldstein is anybody's guess...

No mystery here. Back in the '60's the stern reactionaries were on the right. Now they're on the left.

Monday, July 29, 2002

Cowboy Bebop

Cowboy Bebop the movie is set to open in New York this year for a silver screen debut. This will be the biggest opening for a Japanese Anime movie I've heard of, and it is one more reason that Hollywood ought to be a bit concerned about losing their hegemony.

The Bebop series debut in Japan in 1998 and quickly became the #1 anime series on Japanese TV. It has become monsterously popular in the US since appearing here. Unauthorized versions of the movie with English subtitles have been making the rounds, and the anime faithful have dubbed it worthy of the Bebop name.

The movie is neither a prequil or a secquil to the series, but is a story that might have fit anywhere within the middle ten or so episodes, when the entire cast of characters was assembled aboard the spaceship Bebop. As such, it might have been just another especially long episode in the series, which included a number of episodes that built on the characterizations without touching on the plot themes undergirding the series. Thus, one problem with the movie is that it does not attempt the level of story development that the series does

However, the movie does much to satisfy in the Cowboy Bebop way, with plenty of action, snappy characterizations that build on the profiles established in the series, and a winning plot.

Wednesday, July 24, 2002

You Don't Say

Husbands forget spats, wives never do

Husbands never remember marital spats. Wives never forget.

A new study of that ancient matrimonial given suggests a reason: Women's brains are wired both to feel and to recall emotions more keenly than the brains of men.

A team of psychologists tested groups of women and men for their ability to recall or recognize highly evocative photographs three weeks after first seeing them and found that the women's recollections were more accurate by 10 percent to 15 percentage points...

Friday, July 19, 2002

The Gay Culture

Camille Paglia is writing again. This time with a review in

Tuesday, July 16, 2002

A View from the Bridge

A post by XaosSurfer, a member of the Political Asylum board of

I have been reading some of the threads on Political Asylum recently. Being a Canadian it gives me a good view into the political views and the politcal process on America.

I think, that for all the shouting, you can miss the true wonder that is America. I look at America with awe everyday..

It is a country that allows, encourages and rewards the type of debate that happens of this board. Try to rouse a group of Canadians into a passionate debate about our Politics. Hah, everyone sucks there is no hope. Didya see what the Leafs did, eh? Lots of interest but no passion.

This is a country that has technology bubbles. Celebrate. Of the 14 technology bubbles I can find since the beginning of the Indrustrial Revolution, 12 happened in America. Bubbles are an awesome force of innovation and progress. They build railways and canals in just a few years. The wire the country for electric light in a decade. The only major public infrastructure that was not built by the awesome force of a bubble was the national highway system. The military took care of that one. Bubbles come and go about every 15 years but they leave behind a nationed transformed.

Name the other countries in the world where the people are so free to pursue their desitiny that Americans are lined up to get work visas to move? It all happens, right next door in America and the world knows it. The may envy or hate the system but no one ignores it.

Look at the 2000 elections. What a mess. We could recount it forever and come up with a different winner each time. In the face of a breakdown of this magnitude, a solution emerged. Half the country hated the solution. Half the country loved the solution. On Jan. 20th they all shook hands and then saluted the new president. Not a shot fired in anger. Not a thought that maybe the generals would take contol. Order out of the most extreme chaos. A nationed did itself proud but has yet to learn that lesson.

There are problems, no doubt. The people in the inner cities have been forgotten and they need to be invited back into the flow and even then, their children don't die in childbirth and the can count on living to a ripe old age.

On Sept. 11, firemen and policemen turned around and ran back into the WTC after the first tower fell. The nation paid tribute in a way that did every American proud.

The American people and their systems are the most innovative, productive people on the planet but they sometimes forget. This was a reminder.

Monday, July 15, 2002

Putting My Marker Down

The Dow dropped to below 8500 today before rebounding back to where it started the day. All in all, a movement of more than 4% on moderately heavy volume.

For what it's worth, I'm putting my marker down here. This is the bottom, in my humble opinion. It may churn for a while, but from this point there will be a steady climb that will pick up speed as the earnings reports come out mostly better this quarter.

All of this wailing and gnashing of teeth, of course, is due to the discovery of the horrible truth, unforeseen by so many, that businessmen act like, like, (gasp!) businessmen! Naturally, it will take investors some time to get over this.

The New York Times Lies About Global Warming Again

Not to long ago the New York Times put forth a breathless headline story claiming that the ice was melting at the north pole. Open patches of water had been found there, the Times panted, more proof that global warming is here.

It turned out that open patches of water are often found at the north pole normally, and the Times story was just another example of global warming hype.

Now the Times claims that temperatures in Alaska are more than 7 degrees Fahrenheit higher than normal due to accelerating warming. A long article in the Times and subsequent editorial page articles went into great length about the effects of the warmer weather on the US's northern most state. The Times subsequently corrected the figure down to a 5.4 degree increase.

But, once again, it turns out to be false. Even the corrected value was much too high. The real figure is down around 2 degrees, putting the "increase" well within the range of normal variation.

According to Andrew Sullivan:

I've had a chance to read closely the report cited by the Times as showing a 5.4 degree Fahrenheit increase in mean annual temperatures in Alaska over the past thirty years. No such figure is in that report. Anywhere....

To recap: the Times got it wrong on the front page; wrong on their editorial page; wrong in an op-ed column; and wrong in the Corrections column. Is it too much to ask that they eventually put it right? Or would that be too humiliating for what was once a paper of record?

Wednesday, July 10, 2002

JC Watts

JC Watts, the only black republican in the US House of Representatives, announced his retirement amid charges that his white peers in the House did not give him enough respect.

It's amusing to see liberals who acted as if Watts didn't exist suddenly discovering him to bemoan his retirement. He got almost no press at all for being elected the only Republican of his ethnic group, and certainly no one in the mainstream media wanted to help him get his viewpoint out. Now that he's quitting the liberal media wants to make political hay from it.

In a House with over 200 Republican members not everyone can be a star and not everyone is going to agree with you. Watts was the number 4 man on the Republican side, which is pretty good treatment whether he thought so or not.


A quote from President Bush published recently:

"And so, in my State of the — my State of the Union — or state — my speech to the nation, whatever you want to call it, speech to the nation — I asked Americans to give 4,000 years — 4,000 hours over the next — the rest of your life — of service to America. That's what I asked — 4,000 hours."

Leftists, especially Noam Chomsky, for example, often sound like this when they talk informally. So did Clinton on occasion. So would almost anyone. However, in the case of Chomsky and Clinton, the media always does their subject the courtesy of editing his responses so that they read in a coherent manner. They respect Chomsky and they buy into the idea that he's brilliant even on those days that he's sounding like an imbecile, and they want his comments to read like he's intelligent.

By contrast, the left has taken to quoting Bush verabim when he speaks off the cuff in an informal situation so that it makes him sound stupid. They simply don't extend the same courtesy to Bush that they do to people who's politics they like.

That's one of the reasons that these quotes from Bush, collecting Bushisms, and the like do not impress many people. They know what the game is. They don't regard the news media as being credible, and they don't regard the left as credible.

Tuesday, July 09, 2002

Postmodernism's High Priest

Jonah Goldberg writes in National Review Online:

...Stanley Fish has a long defense of postmodernism, which has been under assault since September 11. The doctrine that there are no moral absolutes, it seems, is fun to play with when arguing about the president's pants or the meaning of "is." But when thousands of Americans are murdered by zealots, the demand for postmodern analysis over the last few decades all of a sudden seems like the intellectual equivalent of the tulip-bulb craze of the 17th century: a huge market built up around an amusing but essentially valueless commodity. Fish, the George Soros of the PoMo market, has been working overtime to protect his investment.

I'll leave it to others — Peter Berkowitz, for example — to take Fish's efforts head-on (though you might take a gander at my "Facts and Firemen"). But what's set me off is Fish's claim that postmodernism is simply "a rarefied form of academic talk." Fish would have people believe that postmodernism is simply what postmodernists do in their hidden English-department laboratories.

Well, not only did the virus of postmodernism escape Fish's lab, but he and his henchmen ground it up into fine particles and sent aerosolized packets of it to every magazine, newspaper, publishing house, and movie studio in America. Fish's hypocrisy is stunning. The PoMo virus has infected millions, destabilizing traditional institutions across the social landscape. And yet when confronted, he says "I'm not responsible for what happens in the real world, I'm just a lab technician." Well, this high priest of the cult of the twelve monkeys is responsible.

When Fish is on the defensive he can make postmodernism sound humble and useful. Postmodernism, he says, merely holds that people from different or opposing belief systems cannot appeal to objective truth in order to persuade each other who is right and who is wrong. "Postmodernism maintains only that there can be no independent standard for determining which of many rival interpretations of an event is the true one," he writes. Assuming he's not being an intellectual Arafat, saying one thing in English to the American public and another thing in his "rarefied academic talk" to his minions, that actually sounds somewhat reasonable. It certainly isn't a radically destructive idea.

But whether that's the truth or just a propagandistic lie is entirely irrelevant. Fish damn well knows that millions of people think postmodernism means something very, very, very different — even if they don't know what postmodernism is. For lots of Americans, the idea that there are no objective standards of truth or morality is incredibly sophisticated and intelligent. The authors who write the clever novels, the film directors who get awards and rave reviews for blurring the lines between good and evil, the professors who claim George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden are morally indistinguishable: These are the "thoughtful people" in our culture. Meanwhile, the people who talk in terms of right and wrong are ridiculed by the sophisticates.

Call it feminism, critical race theory, critical legal studies, queer theory, whatever: It's all shrapnel from the same postmodern bomb, broadly speaking. These doctrines haven't all been terrible for America, but their misapplication and over-application have. Scientists take responsibility for the damage they do. English professors take speaking fees. Conservatism, which does not fetishize the masses, understands that even an intelligent idea can have horrific consequences if let loose upon a society. The uninformed, the lazy, the affected, the ambitious, and the dumb can adopt sharp-edged ideas and use them as blunt cudgels if we are not careful. The authors of postmodernism have not been careful.

I keep thinking of the exchange in the film A Fish Called Wanda. Otto, played by Kevin Kline, is an idiot and a bully who also fancies himself an intellectual (he thinks the central message of Buddhism was "every man for himself"). Wanda, played by Jamie Lee Curtis, says to him: "To call you stupid would be an insult to stupid people! I've known sheep who could outwit you. I've worn dresses with higher IQs, but you think you're an intellectual, don't you, ape?"

Otto objects, "Apes don't read philosophy."

To which Wanda replies, "Yes they do, Otto, they just don't understand it!"

There are legions of Ottos out there who believe postmodernism means there is no truth, no right, no wrong, no good, no bad. They believe it because they either misunderstood Fish and his disciples or because they understood them all too well.

Stanley Fish knows all this. And, a few throwaway lines notwithstanding, he clearly thinks it's great. Indeed, if he didn't think so he would not devote his energies to defending postmodernism. Rather, he would, like Dr. Frankenstein, run through the village trying to make amends for the damage all of his Ottos have done.

Friday, July 05, 2002

The Wealth and Prosperity of the West

The prosperity of the Western world is in and of itself enough to earn the ire of leftists. Seeing the distribution of wealth in all cases as a zero sum game, leftists assume that the West gained its prosperity through the oppression and exploitation of others, especially the third world. This idea is justification for the left to hate the West and Western civilization and to look favorably on those who use violence and terrorism against it.

But in getting down to cases the left has a problem. None of the means of oppression and exploitation allegedly used by the West on their victims are unique to the West. Slavery, for example, is an institution practiced universally, by all peoples at all points in history prior to last century. What is unique to the West is the abolition of slavery. The first great leader to speak out against slavery anywhere was Saint Patrick, and it was the tradition of Christian love for one's fellow man that was used as the rationale for movements that oppose slavery, the practice of which ended only in the West. (Slavery never stopped in the rest of the world, where it entrains as many lives as it ever did. It continues to be of significance today in Arab, African, and Asian countries.)

Colonialism in not unique to the West, either. The Turks, Mongols, Persians, and Chinese also had their empires. The degree to which imperialism contributed to the wealth of the West is debatable, and it is certainly no great source of income for western nations today. The wealthiest of all the nations in the West, the U.S.A., has never had any colonial possesions to speak of.

The West has always derived its strength not from slavery or imperialism but from its superiority in science, technology, government and commerce. The technological of western civilization superiority goes all the way back to 2000 BCE, to the emergence of proto-Indoeuropean speakers from Asia Minor, which occured by virtue of their technical prowess with the mighty horse drawn chariot. With that technical superiority in war they subjugated the known world. The Indoeuropeans almost certainly later became the ancient Greeks and Romans, and their traditions probably prefigured those of both of those civilizations. Their technical ability was combined with an ability to communicate effectively about and conceptualize technical problems, geography, numbers, and other issues important for winning wars. This ability overlapped quickly into other spheres of human activity, especially commerce. It is the market along with private property that gave rise to democracy, a form of government that is pointless without the guarantee of private property and a free exchange of goods and ideas. And from that the West has always derived its wealth, which is the wealth of its successful citizens.

To the West, slavery and colonialism eventually became inefficient holdovers from less sophisticated forms of human society. With the development of Western civilization (and only because of that development) these violent institutions were thrown aside as counterproductive. Such a development would have been possible in no other cultural tradition known to man.

Wednesday, July 03, 2002

Racial Preferences in Medical School Admissions

Most people are aware that colleges and universities grant preferences to blacks and hispanics in the admissions process. These practices are currently being challenged in court, and disparate rulings at the appellate level virtually guarantee that the issue will be decided by the Supreme Court at some point. Plaintiffs have pointed out that affirmative action has gotten to the point that black applicants, for example, are often 10 to 20 times more likely than whites to gain admission to some major universities. Even in these cases the affirmative action programs still have their defenders.

What is not generally known is that medical schools use the same types of affirmative action programs with the same results. Medical school admissions committees often reach well down into the pool of black and Hispanic applicants to admit students whose qualifications are well below those of rejected whites. A recent study of medical school admissions by the Center for Equal Opportunity (CEO) bears this out. They found that the average GPA of admitted whites was 3.64. The corresponding median for blacks was 3.23, for Hispanics 3.30, and for Asians 3.63. On the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT), the median score for whites was 37, for blacks 31, for Hispanics about 34, and for Asians 38. In short, Asian and white students had the highest academic qualifications, followed by Hispanics and blacks, respectively.

As John Perrazo reports in Front Page Magazine:

The extent of these preferences is nothing short of shocking. In 1996, for instance, black applicants were 19 times likelier than similarly qualified whites to be admitted to Georgia Medical College. That same year blacks were 23 times likelier than academically equivalent whites to be admitted to SUNY Brooklyn, and a year later blacks were 30 times likelier than comparable whites to be admitted to the University of Washington... Notably, Asians were consistently less likely to be admitted than were whites of equivalent credentials.

The CEO researchers also calculated – in terms of absolute percentages – the likelihood of admission for black, white, Hispanic, and Asian applicants with the same test scores and grades. Again, the results were startling. For example, consider those students with MCAT scores of 30 and GPAs of 3.25. At the Medical College of Georgia in 1996, black applicants with such credentials had a 51 percent chance of admission. For Hispanics, whites, and Asians, the corresponding figures were 14 percent, 5 percent, and 2 percent. At Michigan State College of Human Medicine in 1999, black applicants with the aforementioned credentials had a 43 percent chance of admission. The corresponding numbers for other groups were: 26 percent for Hispanics, 5 percent for whites, and 3 percent for Asians. For similarly qualified applicants to SUNY Brooklyn in 1999, the likelihood of admission was 25 percent for blacks, 13 percent for Hispanics, 3 percent for whites, and 3 percent for Asians. At the University of Washington in 1997, the numbers were 61 percent for blacks, 20 percent for Hispanics, 5 percent for whites, and 4 percent for Asians.

One wonders whether similar preferences operate at other types of schools responsible for training people who's skill and knowledge is a matter of life and death to their fellow citizens. What about commercial pilot training, for example?

It is difficult to be certain about whether or not such differences in qualifications based on standardized tests and GPA's translate to differences in performance at the bedside for doctors. There is no good way to measure the performance of doctors with any accuracy beyond the standardized written tests done at various points in medical training. There results of these examinations are generally in agreement with the MCAT, but this may not be that relevant to practice.

In fact, there has been a movement in medical schools over the past decade to reduce the emphasis of standardized written exams in the student evaluation process in favor of more subjective evaluation methods. This approch, among other things, provides considerable wiggle room to the medical school faculty concerned about disparities in the performance of certain ethnic groups.

On large obstacle looms that prevents schools from discarding standardized examinations entirely, however, and that is the medical licensing examination. The US Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) is a standardized written examination that tests the student's mastery of medical knowledge, and, up to now, it remains the one reliable index of overall competence of graduating doctors that has not been fiddled too much by social engineers. It is this that renders the admissions qualifications less of a concern for those worried by the drop in standards. All students, including minorities, must pass the USMLE or else they cannot practice medicine.

Thus, one suspects that for most things the performance of minority students is good enough for the things that doctors do. However, it begs the question of whether or not it is reasonable to disregard qualifications and standards to this degree in pursuit of affirmative action goals.

Friday, June 28, 2002

Church and State

Two recent decisions by the courts have put the topic of religion in public life in front of the nation.

One was the decision by the US Supreme Court to allow for the public funding of vouchers for use in religious schools. This has been criticized by the left on the usual seperation of church and state grounds.

It has been so long since the intelligensia looked at this question with anything like common sense that it seems radical to return to the basics. The framers of the constitution, however, were not trying to ban all religious activity of any kind by the government when they wrote the first amendment. They were attempting to make sure that no one Christian denomination would be able to gain hegemony and vote itself the official state religion. There was never any question but that the US would remain a Christian nation with all that entailed.

The total banishment of religion from government activities is a much more recent development that stems from the leftist tendencies of jurists of the early '60's rather than anything that the framers of the constitution said. Thus, it is fitting that we are moving in a corrective direction, back toward a more commonsense approach to these issues.

The other issue is the action by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco that banned the use of the Pledge of Allegience in schools because it contains the words "under God." This ruling is interesting because it shows the logical result of extending the reasoning behind the ban on prayer in school, which is that no government entity can promote the utterance of any religious words whatsoever. This is consistent with the court's previous reasoning. The reaction of the Congress, the President, and the people is such that it reveals that this line of reasoning was wrong from the beginning, and we are finally going to be forced to deal with that error.

Wednesday, June 26, 2002

Prosperity of the '90's Turns into Scandal

This is paraphrased from an article by Jonah Golberg.

Now that we have a Republican president the news media is suspicious of big business again. This last happened back in the 80's when Reagan and G.H.W. Bush were in office. They know that republicans are out to cheat everyone, so the people were bound to get screwed in the market. The 80's was declared the decade of greed, and people went to jail over junk bonds and such stuff.

Then came the decade of even greater greed, the 90's, and the problems at Enron, Worldcom, Global Crossing et al., developed into multi-billion dollar problems of rampant mismanagment, cheating, and greed. However, nobody noticed because we had a Democratic president in office, and the news media knew that the little guy would get a fair shake in the market. This is because they knew that Clinton cared about them and would never allow anyone to cheat them. The greed of the 80's transformed into the prosperity of the '90's.

Now that we have a Republican president again, the media is back after businessmen, and low and behold, all these problems crop up, which the media tries very hard to blame on Bush even though they grew up during Clinton's terms and the Democrats were in the thick of them. The prosperity of the '90's has transformed into the scandal of the new millenium.

The truth of the matter is that in the 80's, the 90's, and now businesses continue to act like businesses have always acted.

Why Does the Left Support the Palestinians?

Why does the left support the Palestinians?

When you think about it, it doesn't make sense.

As Dennis Prager writes: The left speaks about its passion for democracy ("power to the people"). Yet it is Israel that is a fully functioning democracy, as opposed to all of its Arab and Muslim enemies. Yasser Arafat is precisely the self-aggrandizing, corrupt dictator-type that the left claims to hold in contempt.

The left claims to have particular concern for women's rights. Yet it is Israel that has as highly developed a feminist movement as that of any Western country. It is Israel that conscripted women into its armed forces before almost any Western country. At the same time, the state of women's rights among Israel's Muslim enemies is perhaps the lowest in the world.

The left's greatest current preoccupation is with gay rights. Yet it is Israel that has annual gay pride days, while Egypt and other Arab and Muslim countries arrest homosexuals.

It is Israel that has an independent and highly liberal judiciary. It is Israel that has a leftist press. It is Israel that has been governed more by leftist, even socialist, parties than by rightist ones. Israel's enemies have none of this.

So what's up with this?

The answer is simple: The left consists of elite, educated people out of power who want to be in power. Leftist politics is a rationale for their taking of power. The left really doesn't care about the people, about democracy, women's rights, tolerence of gays, independent judiciaries, or anything else they claim to hold dear. Those issues get thrown aside whenever it suits their purpose. The left only cares about power and the overthrow of anything in their way, specifically the Western democracies and capitalism, which Israel represents in the middle east.

Tuesday, June 25, 2002

Where Are All the Men?

A Washington Post article today:

At colleges and universities across the United States, the proportion of bachelor's degrees awarded to women reached a post-war high this year at an estimated 57 percent. The gender gap is even greater among Hispanics -- only 40 percent of that ethnic group's college graduates are male -- and African Americans, who are now seeing two women earn bachelor's degrees for every man.

So, according to the Washington Post, who are the victims here?

Answer: the women, because they are going to have a hard time finding educated husbands. (This aspect of the situation was mentioned three or four times in this article!)

Who are the villians? Answer: the men, because they are lazy and don't want to achieve.

Academics claim to want to study the issue, but they are never going to come up with the real answer. No one wants to consider some of the most important possible causes of the imbalance. Some of the more problematic possiblities include:

  • That the American K through 12 public school environment, highly feminized and implacably hostile to the ways of boys, who are drugged and shunted to special ed and alternative programs in very high numbers, is so toxic to boys that all many of them want to do when they get out of high school is get away from the academics.
  • That college is increasingly a poor value for those who simply want to get prepared to make a living, college is to some extent becoming a warehouse for young people who haven't decided what they want to do with their lives.
  • That affirmative action and other programs inappropriatly favor women, who have not been in the minority in colleges for 30 years.
  • That changes in society have left young men with no direction or purpose in life.

The trend, which began in the mid-1980s, has sparked concern among everyone from business leaders to demographers, who applaud the growing academic success of women but maintain that the lopsided graduation rate may foretell significant problems.

"This is new. We have thrown the gender switch," said Christina Hoff Sommers, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and author of "The War Against Boys." "What does it mean in the long run that we have females who are significantly more literate, significantly more educated than their male counterparts? It is likely to create a lot of social problems. This does not bode well for anyone."

Monday, June 24, 2002

More On the Skeptical Environmentalist

Here is an extensive review of Lomborg's claims at Andrew Sullivan's book page.

Reasons Dumb People Think that Global Warming is Real


Reason #1: Two or more guys in white coats say it is.

Reason #2: It's really hot sometimes.

Reason #3: Dairy Queen "Blizzard" seems to melt a lot faster than "back in the day."

Reason #4: All the movies say so.

Reason #5: Sometimes, when it's really hot, you feel like maybe you can't take it, man.

Reason #6: The New York Times says it's getting
hotter, and they only have, like, 1,500 corrections a week.

Reason #7: These same eggheads were wrong about global
cooling back in the 1970's, so we must be right this time!

Reason #8: Tim Robbins did a special on Lifetime.

Reason #9: People are bad, you know?

Reason #10: Big corporations make it hot so they can sell more air conditioners.

Reason #11: Man, like, it hardly snowed at all last winter.

Reason #12: Dude, like, open the window! Everybody's wearing sandals.

Reason #13: Republicans are in power!

Saturday, June 22, 2002

The Aluminum Foil Hat Left

Michael Moore and Noam Chomsky have been joined by members of their favorite nationality, the French, in being deeply suspicious of the events of September 11th. The French have gone one better, in fact, insisting that all of the events of that day were a right wing conspiracy.

It is a measure, I suppose, of just how badly the reality of the terror attacks hurt the leftist agenda that some on the left have taken on such an extreme posture of denial. One strains to remember any event that so completely shut the American left up in the weeks following September 11th, for example. And even now those members of the left who speak up against the Bush administration do so from well out on the margin, and they know it. Most of the major statements against US policy vis-a-vis the War on Terror have been made from the safety of Great Britain.

But none sink so deeply into denial and fantasy than the French, which suggests that none on the left are so ambivalent about their own agenda. Indeed, the French leftist program is on the way to becoming the most recent example of the failure of leftist ideology, having rendered the French economy stagnant and unable to compete in Europe much less the rest of the world with impossibly high taxes and restrictions on worker productivity. The right has been gaining politically in France and is currently sizing up opportunities for reforming the French economy by rolling back such leftist initiatives as the 35 hour work week. Perhaps it's a good time for those members of the doctrinaire left who can't face reality to go somewhere and play Dungeons and Dragons for the rest of the year.

Or they could just spend the summer reading and debating books that advocate crazy conspiracy theories. Either way, they take themselves out of the flow of real world affairs. The best thing for them and France, really.

Thursday, June 20, 2002

Managed Care is Dead

Hang the black crepe, warm up the hearse. Managed care, HMO style health insurance, is dead.

It has been killed by progressive litigation and laws that destroy the ability of insurance companies to limit their liability.

The latest ruling from the Supreme Court places no practical limit on the treatments for which patients can demand reimbursement. Regardless of the agreement with the HMO, a patient can go to an outside board of experts for an opinion and then get treated by an outside physician, then demand that the HMO pay up.

This makes HMO care no different from traditional health insurance, and the costs of insurance through HMO's are skyrocketing as a result, over 50% in one year for much of Texas, for example.

This will markedly increase the numbers of people who will have to go without insurance, and it brings closer the day when the whole health care financial system breaks down.

Wednesday, June 19, 2002

Watergate Retrospective

Another set of Watergate retrospectives appeared in several different publications this week, such as Time Magazine and the Washington Post.

They've been doing retrospectives on Watergate every week since it all started. Lefties in the establishment media keep wheeling it out and waving it around like a talisman. They are especially fond of remembering it when Democrat fortunes are down, like nowdays.

They do the same with JFK. They don't like to remember what JFK actually said or remember his platform because that contradicts their current one, (especially the one about not asking what your country can do for you) but they do like to remember the glory days of the Democrat party.

Not Team Players

Almost all of the pundits in the land believe the country owes Coleen Rowley, FBI whistleblower, a debt of gratitude for bringing the country's attention to the inadequacies of the FBI's organization. In fact, what she did was dash off a totally ordinary and unoriginal screed of a memo, full of cheap shots at her superiors, that could have applied to any large governmental organization. She compounded the treachery of this memo with subreption, putting the blame for her problems on the FBI's hierarchy when the problem really was in the limitations forced on the FBI by politics and the law, particularly with respect to racial profiling, and in her own inablity to make a case for the warrent she wanted.

What got her ticked off was that she was fully in favor of tossing aside the civil rights of a subject of her investigation by getting a search warrent to examine his records simply because he was a Muslim. Her superiors were uncomfortable with that approach, and this is what "impeded her investigation."

The news media made her out to be some kind of heroine for facing up to her superiors. The irony of it is that if she had been successful, and the actions of her subject had been interdicted, then it would have been the news media trashing the FBI for racial bias as they did with the Wen Ho Lee investigation.

Rowley's revelations are of no real value beyond the leverage they give politicians and pundits who want to scapegoat the FBI. What she has done will only give the people in the FBI responsible for protecting the rest of us headaches. It will not increase our security or improve the function of the FBI. The hoopla over her revelations will die down and she will get what she deserves; she will sink in the obscurity and pointlessness of a career emptied of any real responsiblity.

Some women pundits have actually written that this sort of back stabbing is due to women's superior moral and ethical constitution. Anita Hill, of all people, was one of these. She wrote an article in the New York Times praising Rowley and other women who have shaken up organizations by turning on them. As more women get on the inside and high up in such organizations there will be more "revelations" in the future, Hill wrote. We'd hope they won't be revelations of the sort that Hill made in her fight with Clarence Thomas, fabricated and designed to damage and punish.

Tuesday, June 18, 2002

Not a Hate Crime?

The story appeared in the New York Times.

Were the colors reversed and the attacker white, 1) this story would be getting national coverage 2) it would be referred to as a hate crime in newspaper reports 3) hate crime charges would be filed and 4) nobody would be going out of their way to make excuses for the attacker like the New York Times has done.

Armed with three pistols, a 31-inch sword and kerosene, a gunman unleashed a furious swirl of violence on an East Village street early yesterday, shooting three people and holding patrons of a crowded wine bar hostage before being shot and wounded by police officers who stormed in, the authorities said.

The gunman was identified as Steven Johnson, 34, a black man who has AIDS and who, the police said, told investigators he was bent on killing as many white people as he could.

The NYT followed up today with a story that details several excuses for Johnson's behavior, including the fact that his wife died, he was on drugs, he had AIDS himself, and he was depressed.

Law enforcement officials said drugs appeared to play a part in the explosion of violence. "He is a lifetime drug abuser and criminal for 20 years," one official said, adding that Mr. Johnson's arrest record dates back to 1982.

Mr. Johnson was once a sought-after barber in Williamsburg. But Luis Marrero, a barbershop owner, said that in recent years he refused to hire Mr. Johnson because he appeared to have been using crack.

In addition to dealing with the death of his girlfriend, the mother of his 10-year-old son, in March, Mr. Johnson has AIDS and may have learned this only recently, the authorities said. But no one could account for the rampage the police said he took part in, or for the comments witnesses reported him making, that he wanted to kill as many white people as he could. Half a dozen people who have known him over the past 20 years said that as far as they knew, Mr. Johnson, who is black, had not expressed anger toward whites.

Monday, June 17, 2002

USA Beats Mexico 2 to 0 in World Cup Soccer

Why is the USA obsessed with American football while the rest of the world loves soccer? The short answer is that American football started in America, and that's where it has grown up. That it has grown up here is the only reason its many disadvantages are tolerated.

American football is an expensive game costing hundreds of dollars per player in equipment. Therefore it will never be taken up by scholastic leagues outside the USA. Players will never be inculcated in American football from their young years outside the USA. Only in the USA is it seen as manditory that football be played at the high school and undergraduate levels. Only in the USA will the expense of suiting up players for football be paid out of school budgets, and only in the USA will the risk to players be tolerated.

Soccer only requires a ball and an open field with minimal improvements. No other special equipment is needed even for tournament play. The contrast is obvious.

The same appeal will eventually take hold in the USA. American football is becoming too expensive for most smaller schools to support, and at the college level it can be maintained only at the expense of other men's sports due to Title IX constraints. Soccer is spreading gradually in the USA and will supplant American football for many venues eventually.

Saturday, June 15, 2002

Modern Sex: Liberation and its Discontents

a book by Myron Magnet

The 1960s sexual revolution made a big promise: if we just let go of our
inhibitions, we'll be happy and fulfilled. Yet sexual liberation has made
us no happier and, if anything, less fulfilled. Why?

...Sex today is increasingly mechanical and without commitment -- a
department of plumbing, hygiene, or athletics rather than a private
sphere for the creation of human meaning. The result: legions of unhappy
adults and confused teenagers deprived of their innocence, on their way
not to maturity but to disillusionment. As the reports in Modern Sex tell
us, the beginning of wisdom lies often in realizing that what we are
doing is not working, so that instead of doing more of the same we should
be doing less. These beautifully written essays on subjects ranging from
the TV show Sex and the City to teen sex to the eclipse of the manly
ideal to the benefits of marriage add up to the deepest, most informative
appraisal we have of how and why the sexual revolution has failed and how
we might begin to reconstruct the relations between the sexes in ways
that reconcile freedom with humanity.

Thursday, June 13, 2002

The Skeptical Environmentalist

Bjorn Lomborg's book, the Skeptical Environmentalist, has provoked a cry of outrage from the environmental establishment. E.O. Wilson referred to Lomborg as a "parasite" and his thesis as a "scam." The editor of the Scientific American cried hysterically that science has to "defend itself" against Lomborg.

One would think that the logical response to such a book, which challenges most of the pronouncements made by the environmental community, would be to produce a well reasoned and detailed critique that shows what Lomborg said in the book and exactly why he was wrong. However, one can read reviews of the book written by its most well known and well respected environmentalist opponents including reviews written for Scientific American and Grist Magazine all day, and I must say that it will all be a disappointment. Not a single one adequately addresses Lomborg's book. Many of these reviews are nothing but ad hominem attacks, full of sneering and distain, and the rest pick a few statements out of the book to criticize apparently hoping that will discredit the rest of the book. It is exactly the sort of response that you would expect from a bunch of charlatans who had been found out. Perhaps the environmental movement is a fraud, as Lomborg suggests.

Meanwhile, Lomborg has done his critics the courtesy of responding in a serious fashion to their critiques. There are also the comments he left on his website.

I would challenge the green nabobs to go through Lomborg's assertions seriatum and say whether they are correct or not, and if they are incorrect exactly why they are incorrect. If Lomborg is really mistaken, as they all insist, then this will be a simple matter. If not, then they ought to own up to the fact. I would say to them, put up or shut up.

Is the Catholic Church Dying?

Andrew Sullivan writes about the difficulties of the American Catholic Church. He believes that the Church should travel further down the road of appeasement of secular interests, especially with regard to sex, in order to save itself. Others would argue that appeasement is the beginning of the problem.

One poster on put it very well:

An article like this really makes me despair. Sullivan is one of the most level-headed, intelligent writers around, but he's hopeless when it comes to sex and religion. He's chippy, resentful and self-pitying, and if he's the best the homosexual community has to offer, then they're hopeless as priest material, and I don't believe in the existence of these wonderful, wonderful, gay priests he's always singing about. He really thinks that straights have it easy in the Church - he really thinks that! He thinks that homosexuals have to follow unfair rules that nobody else has to; that everyone else can have four bare legs in a bed anytime they want, but homosexuals alone have to hear the nasty word "No." He thinks that every rule about sex the Church has is unfair and mean. Except for the one about raping children - somehow he can agree with that one, though he doesn't explain why. He's just hopeless.

Wednesday, June 12, 2002

Doctors Dump Medicare

In a recent story in National Review Online, Robert Moffett details the flight of doctors from the Medicare program. Excessive, hopelessly complex regulations, excessive punative enforcement of complex billing codes, inadequate and delayed payments are the main reasons. Reimbursements have declined by 15% even as regulations have become more complicated and doctor's other expenses have rocketed higher. Doctors can no longer afford a loss leader.

Monday, June 10, 2002


The word "homophobic" originally referred not to hatred or fear of homosexuals per se but to fear of unconscious homosexual desires in oneself. This fear, that springs from horror at and denial of the attraction that men with unconscious homosexual tendencies have for other men, often produces an over compensation in the form of exaggerated or even violent rejection of other homosexuals.

Rejection of homosexuality in oneself stems from the deepest of natural human imperatives, which is the need to procreate. Every single one of a living person's direct ancestors was successful at producing successful children. The weight of millions of years of evolution tells us that we are failures if we don't have a successful heterosexual union. This biological imperative controls our thoughts, actions, and emotions in ways that we can only dimly know. The rejection of homosexuality in oneself, which threatens to interfere with personal heterosexual productivity and success, is deep seated in human nature.

In other words, in homophobia one is not dealing with simple prejudice. One is dealing with the deepest and most intractable mysteries of human nature. One is dealing with deep seated psychological drives that stem from immutable biological imperatives. A campaign to gain general acceptance for homosexuality in society is likely to be about as successful as holding the tides back from the beach with a bailing bucket.

Everyone has the right to try to overcome human nature and live their life as the see fit as long as they don't hurt others, but the more gay activists shove their agenda in people's faces the more severe and violent will be the backlash. There is no way to reason with people about this. There is no way to get them to accept it. Through social pressure you might be able to get them to shut up for a time, but rejection of homosexuality will always resurface with more force at some point.

Gay activists need to ask themselves why they have the need to shove their agenda in the face of people who will never accept it.

Sunday, June 09, 2002

Why It Is Impossible to Predict Whether or Not Global Warming Will Occur

The idea behind the theory of global warming is simple. It is that the earth receives a certain amount of energy from the sun. When a beam of sunlight hits the earth, several things can happen. It can be absorbed by clouds, the air, or the ground and sea, or it can be reflected by any of those three and return to space. If it is absorbed, then the energy is converted to heat. In order for the earth's surface to stay constant (on the average) the same amount of energy absorbed and converted to heat must be radiated back into space. The amount of absorbed heat energy radiated into space depends on the average temperature of the surface of the earth. The higher the temperature, the more energy radiated. If anything causes the fraction of energy absorbed from the sun to increase, then the earth's temperature must increase until absorbed energy re-radiated into space equals energy gained from the sun.

Global warming advocates believe that an increase in gasses in the atmosphere that can absorb light or infrared radiation and convert them to heat will increase the total amount of energy absorbed by the earth. Less energy will be reflected and more will be absorbed, and this will result in an increase in the earth's surface temperature.

Most of the information published by global warming advocates lists the gasses responsible for energy absorption by the atmosphere, but they always leave water vapor off of the list. This is confusing because water vapor contributes a huge amount to the overall absorption of energy by the atmosphere from the sun. Moreover, the water vapor content of the air varies tremendously depending on the temperature, the proximity of bodies of water, the turbulence and mixing of the air, the altitude, and a number of other factors. If graphs listing the greenhouse gas effect of the various greenhouse gasses included the contribution of water vapor, and information concerning the variability of water vapor content was included in these graphs, then it would be immediately intuitively obvious to anyone that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses are a drop in the bucket compared to water vapor. It would be obvious that efforts to predict global temperatures by looking only at carbon dioxide concentrations while ignoring water vapor are ridiculous.

Even more problematic is the contribution of clouds. Clouds receive a large percentage of the radiation from the sun. Some of it is sent back to space, some of it is absorbed, some of it is sent to the ground. Moreover, some of the energy radiated from the ground to the air is caught by clouds and then sent back to the earth, a tremendously important effect that can determine whether the temperature on a single night is ten degrees higher or lower in any give location on the earth, an effect that is two orders of magnitude larger than anything that carbon dioxide could produce. Any model that attempts to predict global temperatures into the future will have to be able to first predict how prevalent clouds will be, what altitude they will form, what conditions will accompany their formation, how much air mixing there will be, what kind of clouds they will be, how much precipitation will be associated with them. There is no model proposed that even comes close to doing any of this.

Predictions about global warming might be possible if one could assume that water vapor and clouds remained more or less constant, on the average, while, say, carbon dioxide increased. But nothing could be further from the truth. Any of the proposed effects of global warming will affect water vapor and clouds tremendously and in ways that cannot be predicted.

Therefore, predictions of future climate change are not yet possible.

Coloring the News

In a recent book by the above title, Matthew McGowan, describes the reasons why and the ways in which the mainstream news media slants the news to the left. The book is remarkable for the fact that it is written by one who considers himself to be a liberal.

A generation of leftists has been forced to retreat to the safety of academe by the failure of their ideas in the real world. From there, they have mounted a reactionary response to the dynamism of global capitalism, free markets, and democracy. They use their control of the curriculum and of dialogue on college campuses to promulgate their message and effect their programs. No where has this been more influential than in the liberal arts.

The result is that when journalism students talk about "changing the world" they are not talking about getting the necessary facts and information to an interested, curious and concerned electorate so that the problems facing society can be effectively engaged through the democratic process. They are talking about how they, the well educated elite, are going to manipulate the (in their view) brutish, ignorant, racist and sexist American masses into doing what they think should be done.

But the American people have become wise to and have gotten enough of this approach, and increasingly they have turned to alternatives to the mainstream news media. Most notably this has included the internet and, on TV, cable news channels such as Fox News. Subsequently, mainstream TV, newspapers, and magazines have steadily lost their audience, but they would apparently rather go out of business than change their ways. So addictive is the self righteousness of identifying oneself as the elite that it cannot be easily put aside.

The result is that their competition has captured a beach head in the media market, and mainstream news outlets have forever lost their hegemony they once had over news coverage. From here on out the interested audience can quickly flip from the mainstream account of the news to an alternative account. Facts left out or tilted by the mainstream in the service of one leftist agenda or another are quickly uncovered by the alternative news services.

Thus, conservative opinions and viewpoints have gained an increasing audience and increasing respectibility.

It is one more way in which the left has been wrong. Wrong about the people, wrong about human nature, wrong about the import of their own actions.

Friday, June 07, 2002

Global Warming: CO2 Atmospheric Concentrations

As one person told me, "A 31% increase in CO2 concentration is a real measurable result. So you can "pooh, pooh" the science behind global warming, but the calculations are real."

The measurements of CO2 are real. If by calculations you mean the computer modeling done to predict future climate, that could not be more unreal.

It is rather striking that there has been a 31% increase in CO2, which is real and can be measured, yet there has been no measurable increase in global temperatures outside of the normal slight increase in temperature that has been going on for hundreds of years.

Kind of makes you think that the idea that increasing CO2 will increase the earth's temperature has already been proven false.

How can this be true? Well, CO2 is not that big in terms of contributing to the overall greenhouse effect. A 31% increase in heat trapping due to CO2 may be a drop in the bucket compared to natural fluctuations in other gasses. The most important gas in terms of heat energy trapping is water vapor, and we don't have a model that even begins to be consistent in estimating atmosphereic fluctuations in that. Then there is the effect of clouds, which form due to conditions that can only be described as largely chaotic and therefore unpredictable to a large degree. Most of the modelers already acknowledge that it is the effect of clouds and water on heat trapping that spoil their efforts to predict temperatures.

Add to that the effects of stuff we can't even begin to guess about, like oceanic circulation and sinking of dissolved CO2 in the water, and we really don't know which way global temperatures will go.

Kuhn, Marx, Gouldner, and MacIntyre

The Conflict Between Secular and Religious Morality,

Between Science and Religion

What is even more striking about Gouldner is the way in which his work shows that Thomas Kuhn's ideas have taken over philosophical thinking.

You remember Thomas Kuhn, of course, as the fellow most responsible for the current tendency to use the word "paradigm" to describe everything from a point of view to contemporary styles in women's clothing. Kuhn originally used the word variously to describe a scientific world view or a set of scientific methods. Kuhn showed that scientists have a tendency to adhere to their favorite theories and methods even in the face of "anomalous" facts that tend to dispute those theories. The burden of anomalies, as he puts it, may become too great, and the scientific paradigm has to be dumped in favor of another, better, paradigm. Kuhn called this process of changing paradigms a "scientific revolution." What other philosophers have done is apply Kuhn's concepts to other disciplines.

With Kuhn, Gouldner can think of Marxist theory as another paradigm and looks for exceptions or anomalies to that paradigm. According to Gouldner, considering the "anomalous" facts might have led to alternative possible theories or paradigms for Marx. Gouldner explores some of these alternatives, including a variation he called "Nightmare Marxism," literally the Marxism of Marx's darkest dreams.

Even from the beginning, it seems, there were plenty of facts relevent to Marx's ideas that Marx himself could not explain and chose to ignore. We know that he chose to ignore those problematic facts because of what appears concerning them in his notes and his letters to Engels. For example, Marx chose to ignore the fact that in Asian economies of Marx's time the State was a class interest, which is to say that the mandarins and bureaucrats of the state ran the economy for their own benefit to the detrimit of other classes. This was a serious problem for Marx because his theory was that the state was a superstructure that operates for the ruling classes, and once the ruling classes are deposed, according to Marx, the state would wither away. However, this clearly was not happening in Asia, and, sure enough, did not happen in the Soviet Union. Rather, the state in the Soviet Union became a class interest, and when the old Russian ruling clase was removed the state remained and consolidated it's position for 70 years until the whole economy collapsed under the weight of it. Members of the apparat drove around in limosines, shopped as special stores, and attended special clinics while the ordinary soviet man stood in lines for bread and vodka. And so it has happened in all of the leftist utopias.

One can therefore very handily dissect Marx and just about every other over-serious intellectual tradition with Kuhn's method.

Another fellow by the name of Alasdair MacIntyre, for example, has done the very same in his criticism of liberal modernity, i.e., secular humanism. MacIntyer started his intellectual life as a Marxist and then became a Catholic, these two phases of his life being linked by this critical project.

MacIntyre uses the term "traditions" to describe global Kuhnian paradigms of thought or world views such as modernity and then looks for the anomolies that subvert those traditions. The most important in the case of modernity is that modernity itself is based on traditional beliefs that can't be arrived at through reason alone. When one realizes that modernity is based by necessity on irrational traditions, then modernity itself is seen as irrational at its root. And, in fact, all traditions have to some extent an unavoidable irrational basis.

This is not just a technical problem for liberal modernity. It goes to the very heart of why the coherency of liberal modernity is breaking down over the issue of human values and morality. It was irrational to suppose that a truely rational system of thought could be created out of thin air, unsupported and unaffected by non-rational traditions. It is, in other words, the irrational basis of liberal modernity that leads to its later problems.

The most obvious problem is that secular humanism has not been able to come up with a replacement for religious morality. For example, modern thinkers can't even come up with a good reason for condemning the Nazis because it has not been possible to develop a system of values using the methods of logic and reason that says way the Nazis should not have done what they did. This is a very serious problem for modernity because it is where modernity makes a hugh break with an important aspect of the human condition. In a sense, the modernist goal of developing a system of thought based only on rationality was flawed from the start by it's pretended reliance on pure reason.

We are getting a little too close to cultural relativism. And, in fact, some leftists revel in the incoherence of modern philosophical thought, thinking the freedom of chaos grand. However, we've always known that there are some intellectual traditions that are closer to the truth than others, and this hasn't changed. It is simply that liberal modernism can no longer support the idea that it is somehow unique in that it is the only truly rational discipline that can always trump other traditions. While some leftists might try to use Kuhn to free themselves from all restraints, most people see distasteful nihilism in that leftist project. While the issue of taste would be irrelevant to modern rationality it is quite relevant if we are talking about the modern tradition of rationality. And so MacIntyre lets concerns about values back into the philosophical discussion. MacIntyre uses Kuhn's ideas to show that there is still plenty of room at the table for Judeo-Christian traditions of morality, and modernity is far from ever being able to condemn religious traditions to philosophical irrelevance.

Thursday, June 06, 2002

Pro-Market Socialism

Alvin Gouldner is a not-very-well-known Marxist scholar who applied the Marxist dialectic to Marxism itself.

The Marxist dialectic is the method Marx proposed to dissect competing ideologies and uncover the hidden self-interests of their proponents. This is the way that Marxists approach their criticisms of capitalism, always looking, for example, for the ways in which the proponents of capitalism benefit from it to the deteriment of other citizens. Gouldner essentially applied the same sort of criticism to Marxism and its supporters.

One of the conclusions possible from Gouldner's exercise is that Marx was wrong in thinking that the propertied classes would be trashed by history for becoming an impediment to productivity. The alternative conclusion possible from Marx's own scientific method is that private property is necessary for human progress. There is plenty in Marx's own writings to support this conclusion, and it is only with a mighty effort and some questionable logic that Marx reaches the "correct" conclusion on that subject.

Although you will hardly ever catch a member of the doctrinaire left writing about it, it has been no secret that centralized economies have not done well in the last 100 years, and this has led a few socialists to consider pro-market forms of socialism. Gouldner offers that there is actually a rationale within Marxism that justifies this approach.

Of course, the idea of pro-market socialism is anathema to most of the left. After all, the whole point of Marxist socialism is that Marx's father and all those other bourgeoisie capitalists are scientifically condemned by history to inevitably get what's coming to them. Admitting that private property is good or necessary is too much of a capitulation for any good leftist to suffer.

However, it may be time for the left to think in terms of reform of rather than overthrow of market economies as their goal. They may possibly be beginning to arrive at this conclusion as a matter of necessity since even catastrophies like the Enron debacle have not stirred many people to seriously question market economies.

Harvard and the ROTC

Harvard's president recently spoke at an ROTC function on campus, the first time this has happened since the Vietnam War.

In his speech, President Summers emphasized the importance of service to the nation:

You know, we venerate at this university--as we should--openness, debate, the free expression of ideas, as central to what we are all about and what we should be. But we must also respect and admire moral clarity when it is required as in the preservation of our national security and the defense of our country. All of us admire those many graduates of this university who have served in our country's armed forces. They deserve our respect and our admiration, never more than at this present moment in our country's history.

Perhaps the pendulum has begun to swing back at last in the Ivy League.

Sociobiology and the Left

A history of the left's argument with sociobiology appears here.

The opposition to sociobiology peaked in the '70's but has tailed off considerably since then. The essence of the left's difficulty with sociobiology can be summed up in one paragraph from a denouncement of EO Wilson's work that was published in the New York Times review of books:

Sociobiological ideas, they wrote,

"tend to provide a genetic justification of the status quo and of existing privileges for certain groups according to class, race, or sex. Historically, powerful countries or ruling groups within them have drawn support for the maintenance or extension of their power from these products of the scientific community. . . Such theories provided an important basis for the enactment of sterilization laws and restrictive immigration laws by the United States between 1910 and 1930 and also for the eugenics policies which led to the establishment of gas chambers in Nazi Germany."

The left was able to keep sociobiology out of some campuses for a while, but it soon became difficult to oppose ideas that seemed to arise out of common sense and for which there was so much data. In addition, sociobiologists were careful not to over-generalize their ideas into political theories that formented too much opposition.

Racial Gaps in Test Scores

The Seattle Times reports that Seattle school districts have adopted special programs to close the gap in achievement between certain racial minorities and other racial groups like whites. Proposals include, "the district should continue recruiting an ethnically diverse work force," " Students suffering from racial disparities should receive academic and social support districtwide," and "Stereotyping and other biases" should be eliminated in identifying students for special education and highly capable programs." Since the program openly calls for special support for students of certain races it is hard to see how "stereotyping and other biases" can be avoided in identifying students for special education and advanced placement. Of course, what this means in practice is that no benefits from the program should accrue to whites no matter what the need in terms of academic underperformance.

Japanese Anime

Japanese anime has become increasingly popular in the US, and conventions for fans are even more numerous than Star Trek conventions.

I was recently able to attend such a convention in Dallas. It might be more politic at my age for me to say that I was dragged there by my kids, but the truth is that I went willingly since I've been a fan of anime for some time.

I find anime to be refreshingly free of the political correctness, cant, and propaganda that plagues American cartoons and animation. Anime films can be surprisingly violent and may show explicit sexual material or other material deemed inapproprate in America even where the plot is clearly aimed at children. For example, anime often depicts characters who smoke or drink while American films have banned these subjects even in films for mature audiences. Some anime films take on religious themes that American film makers wouldn't dare touch, dealing for example with Christian beliefs in a way that is sometimes respectful and sometimes not.

Alien Nine is a good example of the contradictions of the genre. On its surface it is an adventure film about Japanese schoolgirls. At a deeper level it is a story that addresses some of the more difficult themes of a child's coming of age.

Unfortunately, the story is not complete. It might be in line with Japanese story telling for it to trail off, as it does, without a definite conclusion, but the series as it is now leaves the western audience wanting more. The DVD is not available for sale in the US, and the copy I viewed was subtitled in English by otaku (amateur anime enthusiasts.) Nevertheless, it is worth the effort to find a copy. It may become commercially available in the US later this year, although there is no point in looking for it on Amercian TV.

At the outset of the story Yuri is distressed at being forced into the role of being one of the three Alien Countermeasures Officers for her elementary school. At this point in the future alien animals from space drop from the sky at random, and Alien Countermeasures Officers, students from the school such as Yuri, are assigned to capture or otherwise neutralize aliens that intrude on the school.

Having a small girl assigned to what proves to be a terrifyingly dangerous job is obviously nonsense, and I believe that this role is symbolic for something else, i.e., contingency, the whole of the limitations forced on Yuri, and on all of us, by our biological natures.

In a couple of ways the story reveals its Japanese nature at this point. First, although Yuri is obviously distressed, even in tears, about the difficulty of her duties, there is no question of her quitting them. Her parents do not jump in to relieve her from the school's decision to assign her this task, and Yuri never seems to think to take the matter to her parents. Second, her friend's reaction to Yuri's distress is telling in the same way. They know that Yuri will serve as asked, and they gamely do what they can to help her get along. Nevertheless, Yuri's instinct is to reject this fate and to fear it, a reaction that is understandable but that she must learn to overcome.

As an Alien Countermeasures Officer Yuri must bond with the bourgo, an alien creature that acts as her ally. The bourgo looks like a flat frog with large eyes and wings. Yuri must wear the creature on her head, which the alien covers like a helmet, and the bourgo from this vantage protects her from the other aliens. The bourgo can speak but reacts automatically to her emotions, reflexively killing any alien that frightens her too much.

It is an interesting bit of symbolism. Since the bourgo is carried by Yuri like a hat, the creature becomes a part of Yuri. We find in the course of the story that the bourgo is the most fearsome and powerful alien of all, capable of killing any other alien with its dozens of prehensile steel tenticles that spring out at any sign of danger from another space alien. Thus, with the bourgo Yuri becomes transformed into a powerful being, from a little girl who sobs uncontrollably in fear at any sign of danger to a person who's emotions can kill.

In her introduction to the bourgo Yuri finds it to be harmless in appearance, but it opens its mouth to reveal its cavernous fleshy interior and its long, prehensile tounge. The bourgo sneezes, blowing mucous all over her, and she is agast -- a reasonable reaction to such a horror. Yuri is repulsed by the slime and flesh of nature alien to her, but it is a nature to which she she is bound and which she has no choice but to embrace.

The important adults in the story, Yuri's teacher and the school principal, prove to be enigmatic and powerful creatures with bourgo-like features who appear to control the odd events to which Yuri and her friends are exposed. One wonders if it is Yuri's fate to take the bourgo's powers into herself in the way these mature adults appear to have done. What in fact is the nature of these strange adult creatures? What did they go through to become what they are?

As the story develops further Yuri gradually learns to adjust to her role in life. Naturally, her biggest threat comes from boys with mindless, lolling grins who have hostile aliens on their heads. In the case of boys, the aliens control them and the aliens are inexplicably drawn to attack Yuri, or perhaps to attack the bourgo that she carries. This elemental portrait of boys caught in the throes of puberty's hormonal urges is rather striking for its lack of sympathy, but it might be accurate from the perspecitive of Japanese girls caught up in their own confusing biological tides. It is the boy's penultimate massed attack that provokes Yuri's most extreme fear and extreme response that with her bourgo makes for a very violent and difficult scene. Yuri is unhurt in the attack, but her development is interrupted for a time when her bourgo is killed.

Later, Yuri dreams that her classmates have all become transformed into bourgos themselves.

"We are all aliens. Our bodies change as we grow older, and we become aliens," her classmates sing in her dream.

The scene changes and Yuri is naked up to her waist in a pool of water made a brilliant red by the reflected light of the setting sun. She awakens from the dream sobbing, her three friends looking on in concerned confusion. She is the oldest of the four girls and the first to face this aspect of her natural, biological self.