Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Holiday Truce: A message to my enemies--and some others

I am proposing a temporary truce to let everyone who posts on this blog know that I am working on a post that would highlight the blogs of anyone who regularly posts on this blog. I know Art has one, and Lee and some others.

Please post the address of your blog and a short description and I will try to post it Jan. 2.

Take the opportunity now as hostilities will recommence shortly thereafter.

The Democrats vs. the states

The chief cause of most of our national legal and political problems is the loss of power by states to the federal government, a shift that has taken place mostly as a result of Constitutionally illegitimate court decisions compounded by cowardly politicians who have let it happen. The recent dust-up over Illinois Gov. Blagojevich's appointment of Roland Burris to fill Barack Obama's U. S. Senate seat is only the latest example of politicians who simply ignore the existence of the Constitution.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has threatened to refuse to seat Burris. Now whatever your view of Blagojevich or Burris, there is one thing that we know without a doubt: the Constitution leaves it up to the states. Reid has no business telling Illinois what to do. Blagojevich is still governor (even though most of the rest of us wish he weren't), and has perfect right to make the appointment.

Whether Burris serves as Senator from Illinois is a matter for the people of Illinois to decide, not the U. S. Senate. Reid and the rest of the Senate need to keep their greedy hands off of Illinois's Senate seat.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Massive coal ash spill could affect water supplies of several states

According to Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, billions of gallons of highly toxic coal slurry broke through a dike at the TVA's Kingston County coal-fired plant in Harriman, TN. It has flowed into tributaries of the Tennessee River that supply water to Tennessee, Alabama, and Kentucky. The ash slide "covered as many as 400 acres as deep as 6 feet," said the Nashville Tennessean.

Unfortunately news about this latest environmental travesty is seeping out a lot slower than the coal ash in Tennessee.

Are we repeating the errors of the Depression?

Thomas Sowell on misconceptions about the Depression, and how not remembering them could make our own financial crisis worse:
Before the Great Depression, it was not considered to be the business of the federal government to try to get the economy out of a depression. But the Smoot-Hawley tariff — designed to save American jobs by restricting imports — was one of Hoover’s interventions, followed by even bigger interventions by FDR.

The rise in unemployment after the stock market crash of 1929 was a blip on the screen compared to the soaring unemployment rates reached later, after a series of government interventions.

For nearly three consecutive years, beginning in February 1932, the unemployment rate never fell below 20 percent for any month before January 1935, when it fell to 19.3 percent, according to the Vedder and Gallaway statistics.

In other words, the evidence suggests that it was not the “problem” of the financial crisis in 1929 that caused massive unemployment but politicians’ attempted “solutions.” Is that the history that we seem to be ready to repeat?
Read the rest here.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Liberal Trickle Down Economics

All these years, liberals have been telling us that "trickle down" economics doesn't work. The idea that benefiting those at the top of the economic food chain trickles down to those at the bottom was said to be ludicrous. Now liberals (and I now officially include George Bush in that category) are bailing out big corporations, on the theory that benefiting those at the top will trickle down to those at the bottom.

How times change.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Silencing Rick Warren for the strangest reasons

The gay left is out to silence Rick Warren, partly because Warren is propagating the myth that the gay left is out to, ... uh, silence people like Rick Warren.

Will melting Arctic ice raise sea levels? A simple experiment at home will give you the answer

Um, isn't ice less dense than water? And if so, why would it take up more space when it melts?

Santa asks for bailout

This is pitiful. Just pitiful.

Banning smoking: The permissivist people who run our educational institutions are still puritanical about some things

The University of Kentucky is set to ban smoking outdoors, another piece of evidence indicating that the anti-smoking movement is really not a matter of concern for health, but instead a moral crusade. "I think there clearly are indications that second hand smoke is an issue," says UK Hollow Man-in-Chief Lee Todd declares. "And I do think smoking is a health hazard."

I'd love to see the research evidence that shows second hand smoke outdoors is a health hazard. No, this has nothing to do with health. It has to do with the university telling students how they should lead their lives, a practice it scrupulously avoids on less politically correct issues.

In a world of coed dorms, condoms in the dormitory vending machines, and taxpayer subsidies of the live-in partners of university staff, you would think the days of moral crusades were over. But, in fact, they just take another form. It all goes back to my theory that once people give up religion they create their own secular forms of it.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Another Title IX outrage: U. of Delaware drops men's track

Another men's athletic program bites the dust, thanks to Title IX.

What if gay marriage opponents boycotted businesses with gay employees?

The defense by gay activists of their McCarthyite tactics continues with this post from Timothy Kincaid. Kincaid responds to Maggie Gallagher by saying that boycotting a business with the purpose of getting an employee fired is not only not new, but perfectly acceptable.

Not new? Neither is anti-gay violence, but don't expect Kincaid to be defending it any time soon.

And acceptable? I wonder what Kinkaid would say if opponents of same-sex marriage began boycotting businesses who have gay employees with the obvious intent of getting them fired?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Bankruptcy would help American auto makers, says Nobel Prize-winning economist

Nobel economist Gary Becker:
Bankruptcy would strengthen rather than weaken the competitive position of the American automakers, especially when combined with government debtor-in-possessor financing. The bankruptcy proceedings would likely break the union contracts and reduce their pay to levels comparable to those received by American employees of foreign car manufacturers. They would also break the contracts for health payments and pension obligations, which have been significant factors in causing their financial distress. Bankruptcy would also help the companies restructure their debt so that interest payments are much lower.
Read the rest here.

Media reports gay violence up ... maybe

The Associated Press reports that the New York Anti-Violence Project is reporting that there might be an increase in anti-gay violence. They don't have any numbers to back up the claim. "Officials are still crunching 2008 figures, which will be released next spring," the report says, but Sharon Stapel, the project's executive director cites two incidents.


Since when do news organizations write stories based on facts that might be? Can you imagine a conservative organization getting earned media for saying what it thinks might turn up in a report it is releasing next year?

Meanwhile, check out the same group's 2007 report on the real problem regarding violence against gays: "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Domestic Violence in the United States in 2007." In this case, we have actual numbers: 3,319 reported incidents.

That's 3,319 incidents vs. ... two. And which does the media report?

Maybe I can send out a press release saying there might be rise in the incidents of hate speech by gay rights groups directed at conservatives and promise a report next year.

Wonder how much coverage that would get.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Is the American flag offensive?

Cutia Bacon Brown argues in Friday's Louisville Courier-Journal that the Confederate Flag is a "symbol of racism," presumably because it has been used by racist groups as a symbol, and therefore it is offensive. Trouble is, the American flag is used all the time by white supremacist groups as a symbol. So why shouldn't the American flag be considered offensive on the same grounds?

Government to bail out Christmas

I've been offering a lot of predictions lately, but who could have predicted this.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Derbyshire gets out his crystal ball. Again

John Derbyshire, the National Review writer who reviewed Ben Stein's movie "Expelled" several months ago without actually watching it, now writes on John Milton's "Paradise Lost" after ... well, let's let Derbyshire explain:
In preparation for John Miltons birthday this week (today, Dec. 9), I have been reading Paradise Lost in the terrifically well-annotated Cambridge University Press paperback edition. Reading? Well, Ive been … looking into it.

A United Auto Workers contract weighs 22 lbs

Here is Justin Wills at on one of the reasons Detroit has problems:
"Ever wondered what a UAW contract looks like? Here is all 22 pounds of it (in this case, Ford’s 2,215 page 2007 master contract; Coke can is for scale and because I was thirsty).

"I’ll tell you this much, those 2,215 pages don’t include much regarding efficiency and competitiveness. What you’ll find are hundreds of rules, regulations, and letters of understanding that have hamstrung the auto companies for years."

For actual links to UAW contracts for each of the car companies, click here.

Credit crunch? What credit crunch?

One of the main reasons the public hears for the need to continue throwing taxpayer money at the economic crisis is that the credit markets are "dried up". In other words, there is not enough money available from lending institutions to lend.

There is some truth to this. I was talking with a banker the other day who pointed out that although his back had plenty of cash on hand because of its own conservative business practices, but that other banks in his region had over 100 percent of their money out in loans. They were therefore having to borrow money at the now very steep interbank rate.

And, of course, they deserve it.

But at the same time, Brian Love at Reuters remarks:

The credit crunch is not nearly as severe as the U.S. authorities
appear to believe and public data actually suggest world credit markets
are functioning remarkably well, a report released on Thursday says.

As a result, governments are pumping masses of public money into the
economy across the world because of the difficulties of a few big,
vocal banks and industries such as car manufacturing, which would be in
difficulty anyway, according to the report published by Celent, a
financial services consultancy.

HT: Jeffrey Tucker at Mises Economics Blog.

An apt metaphor for the auto bailout: "burning the furniture to stay warm"

From the Mises Economics Blog:
Think of General Motors as the metaphor of the Keynesian economy in one
company -- massive simultaneous spending on unsustainable capital
investment and unsustainable consumer consumption. Or as Bloomberg
reporters Doron Levin and John Helyar describe it, "burning the furniture in order to stay warm."

Jindal in 2016

D. R. Tucker at Human Events laments that Bobby Jindal has taken himself out of the running for the Republican nomination in 2012, remarking that it is "difficult to imagine Jindal losing."

Look, I think Jindal is the best thing going for the GOP. He's young, smart, attractive, and a person of color. But Tucker is just plain naive on several counts:

  1. To take yourself out of the running four years before an election means practically nothing. If circumstances change, Jindal could easily change his mind. In four years, people are going to have completely forgotten what Jindal said in 2008.
  2. For Jindal to take himself out of the running now is a politically smart thing to do. There is virtually no downside to it for him. If Obama is popular in four years, Jindal keeps his powder dry and goes for the open seat in 2016 (I can't believe I'm talking about what could happen in 2016!). If Obama is unpopular, Jindal is still there, all that much more attractive as a candidate because he is apparently unavailable. In politics, being unavailable makes you all that more attractive.
  3. My prediction (I feel the prophetic spirit coming upon me once again) is that Obama is very popular in 2012. One way or another, the Iraq situation is likely to be resolved, and the economy is bound to be better than it is now--and Obama will claim credit for it. That's the advantage of coming into office during an unpopular war and a bad economy: the baseline is so low, how can you fail?

NCAA telling colleges not to point to Title IX when it cuts more men's athletic programs

According to U. S. News and World Report, the NCAA is advising schools not cite Title IX as the reason it will have so shut down more men's athletic programs:
As a number of athletic departments prepare to cut some men's teams to trim budgets, NCAA president Myles Brand has put out a call for schools to leave Title IX out of it. He has pre-emptively asked schools with shrinking athletic programs to blame the economic downturn for their problems—and not the federal law that bans sex discrimination at schools and requires institutions to maintain a commitment to women's sports, USA Today reports.
Speaking of which, where are the Republican voices calling for the repeal of this ridiculous federal rule? Where's my telescope?

Friday, December 12, 2008

My prediction on the auto bailout

Okay, maybe I'm still feeling heady from my dead-on accurate January 3, 2008 prediction of an Obama victory, and maybe I shouldn't do anything to jeopardize my streak, but I'm going to put on my prophetic robes once again and offer up another sibylline utterance, this time on the auto bailout.

Ready? Here goes...

The Republicans, who seem to have stopped the auto industry bailout in its tracks, will disappoint those who are now cheering them on--and who are under the mistaken impression that it has something to do with economic principle--by folding after they have received some concession from the Democrats or the UAW.

The Republicans have lost their majority in both chambers, and the best thing a party on the outs can hope for is to look relevant.  If they just stop the bill, they are afraid they will simply look intransigent.  But if they just hold up the whole process temporarily, exact concessions from their political opponents, and then let it through, they can avoid appearing as if they are contributing to gridlock, and declare victory because they will appear powerful and relevant.

This is how the game is played, and, unfortunately, economic principle really doesn't figure into it at all.

This prophecy not only has divine inspiration behind it (as all true prophecies must), but, to be blunt, we've seen this happen many times before.

The Prophet hath spoken.

Why Congress wants the Big 3 to get rid of the corporate jets

The reason Congress wants the Big 3 auto execs to lose the corporate jets has nothing to do with saving the companies.  Wal-Mart has 25 corporate jets and is doing just fine thank you.  It won't do the auto companies any appreciable good to fly coach like everyone else.  In fact, it will just waste time.

Congress wants them to get rid of the jets so that members can tell their constituents what a talkin' to they gave those irresponsible auto executives when they cut them a multi-billion dollar check on the public dime.

Dropping the corporate jets does not benefit the companies, but it does cover Congress's own corporate backside.

Carl Olsen summarizes the Newsweek cover story on gay marriage

Here is Carl Olsen, one of my favorite human beings, telling you all you need to know about Newsweek's recent cover story arguing in favor of the next step in human moral deevolution (i.e., same-sex marriage):
Honestly, it reads like an essay tossed off by a partially-drunk, angry, sexually-confused sixteen-year-old who thinks Oprah is an intellectual giant and traditional Christianity is responsible for every ill in the world. Yet, the Newsweek blog claims that Miller "lays out the religious case for gay marriage"—in which case it appears there is no religious case for "gay marriage" other than "it's on its way, so you religious bigots need to accept it."

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Robert Gagnon's reponse to Newsweek cover article advocating same-sex marriage

Dr. Robert Gagnon, a theologian at the University of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, leaves Lisa Miller's so-called religious argument for same-sex message in a smoldering ruin in his response to her Newsweek cover article.

In one part of the article Miller makes that argument that the Bible only condemns homosexuality in a handful of passages. Well, I'm not quite sure why that isn't enough.  But Gagnon points out the numerous passages that Miller ignores, and then closes the deal by pointing out that there of plenty of things, include things even less savory than homosexuality that have even fewer explicit mention:
What of Miller’s argument based on frequency of explicit mention?
Bestiality is mentioned even less in the Bible than homosexual practice
and incest gets only comparable treatment, yet who would be so foolish
as to argue that Jews and Christians in antiquity would have regarded
sex with an animal or sex with one’s mother as inconsequential
offenses? Infrequency of mention is often an indicator that the matter
in question is foundational rather than insignificant. You don’t have
to talk a lot about something that most everyone agrees with and that
few persons, if any, violate.
You can read the rest here.

Republicans pass the first half of their first test, House members vote against bailout

Although the Detroit bailout passed the House, it was mostly along party lines and all but 32 Republicans voted against it.  Now let's see how the Senate does.

Manly gift ideas for Christmas

Make sure you don't miss the "Art of Manliness Manly Holiday Gift Guide" as you shop around for gift ideas this Christmas. What better gift is there for the manly man in your home than a pipe, a pair of slippers, and a newspaper subscription (so he can read the newspaper while he smokes his pipe as he wears his slippers. In his manly easy chair of course)?

Or there are some very manly shaving accoutrements, complete with badger hair shaving brush and real shaving cream, not the wimpy effeminate stuff they sell at the grocery store.

Or there is The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, by Edmund Morris, a veritable manual on manliness which tells a story of manliness that will curl the hair of those of your less manly friends who opposed Proposition 8 and support Title IX.

I carefully followed the directions of the Art of Manliness's "How to Carve a Turkey Like a Man" this last Thanksgiving and can testify that these people know what they are doing. Not only was I able to avoid dried out pieces of turkey, but was able to execute the procedure with suavité and panache, drawing admiring glances from all those present.

Sorry about the French there. That isn't very manly, I know. I'll try to stick with the more manly Anglo-Saxon from now on.

Linguistic Cleansing: British youth dictionary eliminates traditional words in the name of "multiculturalism"

No, this really is not a Monty Python skit.

Editors at the Oxford University Press cited "multiculturalism" as the reason for cleansing their Junior Dictionary of words having to do with religion, history, animals, and plants. Religious words taken out included 'altar', 'bishop', 'chapel', 'coronation', 'emperor', 'minister', 'monarch', 'monk', and 'nun'.

These traditional words have been replaced by words such as 'blog', 'chatroom', 'tolerant', 'EU', 'bungee jumping', 'committee', and, somewhat ironically, 'endangered'. The dictionary also removed numerous words related to nature.

According to the British Telegraph:
Lisa Saunders, a worried mother who has painstakingly compared entries from the junior dictionaries, aimed at children aged seven or over, dating from 1978, 1995, 2000, 2002, 2003 and 2007, said she was "horrified" by the vast number of words that have been removed, most since 2003.

"The Christian faith still has a strong following," she said. "To eradicate so many words associated with the Christianity will have a big effect on the numerous primary schools who use it."

Ms Saunders realised words were being removed when she was helping her son with his homework and discovered that "moss" and "fern", which were in editions up until 2003, were no longer listed.

"I decide to take a closer look and compare the new version to the other editions," said the mother of four from Co Down, Northern Ireland. "I was completely horrified by the vast number of words which have been removed. We know that language moves on and we can't be fuddy-duddy about it but you don't cull hundreds of important words in order to get in a different set of ICT words."

Anthony Seldon, the master of Wellington College, a leading private school in Berkshire, said: "I am stunned that words like "saint", "buttercup", "heather" and "sycamore" have all gone and I grieve it.
In Orwell's dystopian novel 1984, the editors of the "Newspeak Dictionary" sought to reduce the incidence of Thought Crimes by eliminating the words with which they could be committed. That accounts for the elimination of religious and historical words. But what are we to make of the elimination of nature words such as 'cheetah', 'colt', 'guinae pig', and 'hamster'? Or for that matter 'acorn', 'almond', 'blackberry', 'tulip', and 'violet'?

Is there something about nature itself that is objectionable to the politically correct?

And then there is this quote by the very scary Vineeta Gupta, head of children's dictionaries at Oxford University Press:
"When you look back at older versions of dictionaries, there were lots of examples of flowers for instance. That was because many children lived in semi-rural environments and saw the seasons. Nowadays, the environment has changed. We are also much more multicultural. People don't go to Church as often as before. Our understanding of religion is within multiculturalism, which is why some words such as "Pentecost" or "Whitsun" would have been in 20 years ago but not now."
Why is it that the rhetoric of tolerance and inclusion always seems to accompany the elimination of something?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Three reasons Detroit deserves to go out of business

I drive a 1991 Toyota Camry with 467,000 miles on the original engine and it that still runs fine. I drive it almost every day and it hasn't even been in the shop for anything except tires for about a year and a half. We also have a Toyota Previa with 426,000 miles that still drives beautifully (except it needs a new muffler system about now). My previous car was a small Toyota pickup truck that I bought new in 1985 and put 352,000 miles on before a belt came off and it blew a head gasket. Would of run another 1oo,ooo if that hadn't happened.

Try finding anything built in Detroit that can do that.

No Joke: The Council on Governmental Ethics Law to be held in Chicago

"The City of Chicago and its Chicago Board of Ethics, and the Cook County Board of Ethics, the Illinois State Board of Elections and the Illinois Executive Ethics Commission are proud to host the 30th Annual COGEL (Council on Governmental Ethics Laws) Conference, to be held at the Westin River North Hotel from December 7- 10, 2008."

HT: Bluegrass Bulletin

Mitch McConnell: "No, don't think so"

As hard a time as I gave McConnell in my earlier post, you gotta admire his chops.

Detroit bailout deal reached

Democrats in Washington have apparently finished with the political ritual wherein they bring in the leaders of a particular industry and publicly humiliate them in preparation for giving them billions of taxpayer dollars. There is now apparently a deal.

Principled free market Republicans, we now hand it over to you.

...Hello? ...Hello?

The American car of the future, care of the U. S. Congress

The Democrats in Congress are now talking about appointing a "Car Czar" just like successful car producing nations like Japan have.

Oh, wait. They don't have anything like that. They just build good cars. It's the Soviet Union that did things like that.


Create your own postmodern essay

Some of us have been subjected to the unpleasant necessity of having to read modern academic works of a, shall we say, less than ideal level of lucidity. In fact, this has become the hallmark of the intellectually cloistered postmodernist academic world: a lack of clarity.

Well, someone has come up with the ideal way you can producing a great postmodern essay of your own. It is called the "Postmodernism Generator," and is available at Communications from Elsewhere. Here is the methodology followed by the generator:
The Postmodernism Generator was written by Andrew C. Bulhak using the Dada Engine, a system for generating random text from recursive grammars, and modified very slightly by Josh Larios (this version, anyway. There are others out there).
I have just tried it, and produced the following specimen of modern postmodernist academic prose:
The main theme of Bailey’s[2] critique of textual capitalism is not, in fact, deconstruction, but subdeconstruction. Thus, if capitalist socialism holds, we have to choose between the neocultural paradigm of expression and Sartreist absurdity. Lacan uses the term ‘the neostructural paradigm of reality’ to denote the paradigm, and hence the stasis, of semiotic class.
I'm thinking of submitting it to an academic journal, just for fun, on the outside chance I might be able to have my own Alan Sokal moment.

Saying "No" to Detroit: Will Republicans pass their first test of the Obama Era?

Kentucky's Mitch McConnell was ostensibly critical of the auto bailout deal now brewing in Washington:
“I want to support a bill that revives this industry,” he said, “but I will not support a bill that provides the patient with taxpayer dollars, yet doesn’t (include) the commitment that the patient will change its ways so that future help isn’t needed.”
That statement is disturbing. While it signals possible Republican opposition to the auto industry bailout deal, it doesn't come right out and oppose a bailout.

The biggest problem with the modern Republican Party is that it spends all of its rhetorical time playing off of the existing mindset on issues rather than articulating the principles for its positions that would serve to create a coherent understanding of its political, social, and economic stance. Is McConnell's only objection to the deal really that it doesn't do enough to force the auto industry to do what the politicians want it to do?

Leave it to the Republicans to oppose the auto bailout deal because it doesn't impose enough government control of the private sector.

If the Republican Party can't oppose the auto industry bailout because it is against government bailouts on principle, then there really isn't any difference economically between the Republican Party and the Democrat Party other that the latter is enthusiastically insipid and the former is less enthusiastic about its insipidity.

A failure to oppose the bailout on principle will prove--as if it needs further proof--that the Republicans deserved to lose last month--and deserve to continue losing until they rediscover what they are about.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Bonnie Erbe needs a visit from the All Madden Team

Bonnie Erbe grumbles in her Newsweek blog today that she is glad the NFL is hurting financially because she doesn't like football. It's too macho. Anyone noticing a pattern at Newsweek?

In case anyone really doubted it, Newsweek magazine confirms that gay marriage advocates don't think much of marriage

The cover story of the latest issue of Newsweek magazine is a religious case for same-sex marriage. Lisa Miller's central questions seems to be that the Bible doesn't have a very high view of marriage (the Old Testament Patriarchs were lax in their observation of its restrictions, and Jesus and Paul just didn't like it very much), and therefore, there's no reason for us to have such high view of it.

Somehow, I doubt that Newsweek arguing for a low view of marriage is going to be very effective in combating the argument of religious conservatives that same-sex marriage will result in a lower view of marriage. It apparently didn't notice that it was actually proving its opponents right.

Of course, the whole assumption that the Bible has a low view of marriage will come as news to people who actually read the thing.

But the sorry state of Newsweek's actual arguments has been been well put by Christianity Today magazine:

This is astonishing, for it not only misrepresents religious conservatives, but also Jesus and Paul—all in one fell swoop.

"Have you not read," Jesus once said, "that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate" (Matt. 19, ESV).

"Husbands, love your wives," Paul wrote, "as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her … husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh' " (Eph. 5).

Where, oh where is this supposed New Testament indifference to marriage? Christ deserves our primary loyalty, yes, but the New Testament never suggests an indifference to other loyalties, to family, to neighbor, to the world.

In fact, marriage is the very analog for the relationship between Christ and the Church, which makes it that much more amazing that a writer for a major news magazine could say something so utterly ridiculous. Does Newsweek really think that if two men decided they wanted to get married in first century Jerusalem, no one would have batted an eyelash?

The article is quite frankly an intellectual embarrassment and will probably redound to the discredit of case for same-sex marriage generally. But what has been just as interesting is the response to it. Christianity Today magazine, which has gotten more and more "moderate" as the years have gone by, has thrown down the gauntlet on this issue with its recent editorial and related articles.

This seems to be a sign that the mainline evangelical community is not going to lay down and play dead on this issue. For those of us who have counseled resolve in the face of what we have suspected may be ultimate defeat on this issue, this could be a sign that the tide may be turning.

Why is one of the best movies of the last decade tanking at the box office?

Okay, I don't get it. I have just seen the movie Australia for the second time in a week, and seeing it the second time, I am confirmed once again in my judgment that this is one of the great movies of the last ten years. And then I go and check the ticket sales for the movie and discover that it has tanked at the box office.

This is very, very unfortunate.

I thought, well, maybe my aesthetic antennae are just all messed up. But I have recommended this movie to friends who, on my recommendation (complete with the high expectations I set for it), went and saw it too. They too say it is a fabulous movie. One of them told me it was the "Gone With the Wind" of the decade. I concur. So that's not it.

So I am slowly settling on two things: First, that the movie was not well promoted. Second, that it was not well received by the critics.

For an analysis of this second point--about the critics--you can wait for my review of this movie which will be out in a couple of days.

If you haven't gone and seen it, you will really miss out on what I think is a classic--literally.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Gay protesters claim another victim in California

The manager of a popular gay hangout in Los Angeles has been run off after it was discovered that she contributed to Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in the Golden State. When the champions of tolerance and diversity found out that Marjorie Christoffersen, manager of El Coyote, donated $100 to the Proposition 8 campaign, they went ballistic, boycotting the restaurant and conducting protests. But today the restaurant announced she was leaving the restaurant, which is run by her family.

Christofferson apparently had no problem being tolerant and diverse herself, and spent her time going from table to table happily serving customers, whatever their lifestyle. But when her donation was discovered--a donation she refused to apologize for, the Gay Tolerance Police kicked into high gear, denying everything they say they stand for.

I know what you're thinking. How can people who spend so much time preaching against hate act this way towards those with whom they disagree? Please try to suppress this politically incorrect thought, and repeat to yourself as often as necessary that it is the people who politely disagree with gays who are hateful, not gays themselves, who are giving more evidence by the day that they don't mean what they say.

Have we lost the ability to speak of the common good?

Anthony Esolen, one of our ten modern wise men, expounds on the etiolated condition of our modern political discourse:
It seems as if we have flattened our discussion of liberty to two dimensions, namely, what I feel like doing, because I am what is called an "individual," and what large government machines want me to do, in order to secure some ideal like equality or the End of Poverty or Peace in our Time. Gone is all notion of the community, and of those small groups -- families, fraternities, school boards, volunteer firemen, whatever -- that are essential to a fully human life, and that themselves are the means for the exercise of, and enhancement of, liberty. We don't have a notion of what I've called in these pages an Individualism of Responsibility, an individualism built upon my competence to perform the duties expected of me by my neighborhood and my community. That is, we don't have an individualism founded upon the shared expectation of virtue. If Richard Weaver was right about this, it's because we have inherited the spiritual and epistemological inversion of subjecting the intellect to the will. For it is impossible to talk about virtue without searching, with the intellect, for the Good that does not change from age to age, although our circumstances from age to age may require us, in prudence, to seek that Good under different forms and in different ways.
Click here for more.

Trusting our safety to the government bureaucrats rather than God

Tom Eblen at the Lexington Herald-Leader thinks God "doesn't need government's help". Trouble is the story that includes that phrase as part of its title has to do, not with whether God needs government's help, but with whether government needs God's help. And if Eblen doesn't think government needs divine assistance, I suggest he attend a few sessions of the state's legislature.

But let's cut Eblen a break here: he's just doing his job, which, for a journalist these days, seems be to look grim when when religion is mentioned in the same context as government:
I'm furious that tens of thousands of dollars of public money is likely
to be spent litigating this obviously unconstitutional attempt to
require government to do the work of churches, synagogues and mosques.
Now first of all, it will be news to a lot of people that churches, synagogues, and mosques are the only places in which God can be acknowledged. In fact, millions of people--and lots of institutions, many of which are outside places of worship, do it every day.

Secondly, why is it that the people who think it is really silly to acknowledge reliance on God in the state's Homeland Security documents that very few people will see, but don't seem to be bothered by the fact that we acknowledge it on the nation's coined money that we all carry around in our pockets? Or does Eblen, a professed Christian, go along with the athiests on this one too?

The comparison of these two issues is not immaterial when it comes to the constitutionality of the law, since the "In God we trust" motto has already been litigated. In Aronow v. United States the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 1970 that it was constitutional. He might also check O'Hair v. Blumenthal, as well as the more recent Studler v. Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles, in which an Indiana Appeals Court last month upheld the constitutionality of Indiana's "In God we trust" licence plates.

Not that courts can't get it wrong, but anyone who says the court did reach the wrong verdict will have to explain what a state law generically acknowledging God has to do with Congress establishing a religion, a provision that Eblen references, but without noticing that it has nothing to do with a) Congress, or b) establishing a religion. If some enterprising person does want to take this up, he might also provide some explanation of the explictly religious provisions in many state laws to which no one gave a second thought at the time the Bill of Rights was passed.

And, finally, Eblen's argument that the law is bad because of the money it will cost to defend it is what I call a "decoy argument". It has all the appearance of being real, but is really designed to divert your attention . If Eblen doesn't like the fact that money will have to be spent to defend the law, then why isn't he mad at the atheist group that brought the suit rather than at State Rep. Riner, who sponsored the original legislation?

The only reason is that he agrees with the former and not with the latter.

How much will it cost to defend this law? Nothing. Zero. Nada. There is no evidence that the Attorney General's office will spend any more money now that they have to defend this law than they would have if the law had never been passed. They're not going to hire any more lawyers to do it, and it is extremely unlikely they're going to work extra hours.

This is government, remember?

The only cost involved in defending the law is what the economists call "opportunity cost." Opportunity cost is the cost of what you can't otherwise do. In this case, that could be a good thing. I'd much rather the AG defend the proposition that our ultimate safety is in God than interfering in the free market by going after small business owners who run gas stations in places like Louisville for high gas prices over which they have little control, which is what they had planned on doing before the market adjusted itself thank you very much.

In fact, now that gas is back down under $2.00, all those lawyers in the AG's office must be looking for something to do. This new case will give it to them. The last thing we want is a bunch of lawyers with too much time on their hands.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Science and classical education

E. Christian Kopff, speaking to the H. L. Mencken Club on how classical education helped even the great scientific thinkers:

The greatest figures in the Scientific Revolution, for example, were classically educated: Copernicus, Tycho Brahe, Johannes Kepler, Galileo Galilei, Isaac Newton and most of the other figures found in Charles Murray’s eight lists of scientific achievement in Human Accomplishment. They had studied ancient texts and could read and write Latin. The Scientific Revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries was very self-consciously a return to the ideals and even the texts of ancient science. Copernicus was well aware that he was reviving the heliocentric hypothesis of Aristarchus of Samos from the Third century, BC. The atomic theory used by Newton in his optics was based on Gassendi’s brilliant philological recovery of ancient Epicureanism. Galileo quotes Plato’s Meno and Timaeus over and over again. The education of scientists remained classical through the time of Linnaeus in the 18th century and Charles Darwin in the 19th.

Sceptics object that they had no choice. The case for vocational or technical training was made in the late 18th century by men like Benjamin Franklin and Benjamin Rush.

History does not usually allow us to study events with a true control group. There is an exception to this situation in 19th century Germany, where there were two distinct educational paths. One led from the old Classical school, now with more Greek added, and culminated in the classical or humanist “Gymnasium,” from which students then went on to the university. The other path was devoted to math, science, technology and a modern language (usually French) and led to the technical high school or “Realschule,” from which the student went on to a professional school or a job in industry. This critical mass of technically trained graduates working in factories protected by the tariff spurred German industrial growth in the generation that preceded World War I.

The decades on either side of WWI witnessed brilliant work in Physics: the concept of quanta, the theories of special and general relativity and the development of quantum mechanics. One might expect that the most important work in these fields would be done by graduates of the technical school system. Nearly the opposite is true. Max Planck, Werner Heisenberg, Erwin Schrödinger, Niels Bohr were classically educated. Einstein attended a Swiss technical high school, but he had spent his first six years at a classical school, where his sister remembered his best subjects as Mathematics and Latin: “Latin’s clear, strictly logical structure fit his mindset.” Heisenberg wrote, “I believe that in the work of Max Planck, for instance, we can clearly see that his thought was influenced and made fruitful by his classical schooling.” Heisenberg insisted that his own insights into nature came from his classical education. Its combination of math and physics with language instruction led him to read Plato’s Timaeus in Greek. He was impressed by Plato’s rational appeals to understand nature mathematically rather than as a purely physical reality: “I was gaining the growing conviction that one could hardly make progress in modern atomic physics without a knowledge of Greek natural philosophy.”

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

How to apply for a federal bailout

From the Club for Growth via Carpe Diem.

Atheists sue Kentucky over religious language in Homeland Security procedures

A provision that requires Kentucky's Homeland Security Department to mention that God is the ultimate guarantor of our safety is now being taken to court by a group of seemingly sensitive atheists. The provision was placed into state law by State. Rep. Tom Riner two years ago and is just now being noticed, mostly by people who get very emotional whenever the name of the Deity is mentioned, and who are put out of sorts when it involves government officials who, more than most others it seems, need to be aware that someone is looking over their shoulder.

Here is the language from the statute:
Publicize the findings of the General Assembly stressing the dependence on Almighty God as being vital to the security of the Commonwealth by including the provisions of KRS 39A.285(3) in its agency training and educational materials. The executive director shall also be responsible for prominently displaying a permanent plaque at the entrance to the state's Emergency Operations Center stating the text of KRS 39A.285(3)
The Lexington Herald-Leader reports that the group American Atheists is suing to remove references to God and to recover monetary damages because the law has caused them to suffer sleep disorders and "mental pain and anguish," proving once again that atheists are just not as sturdy as they used to be.

In the old days, atheists like H. L. Mencken tried to cause mental pain and anguish among their religious enemies (some of it, such as that directed against the flighty religious liberals of the day, well deserved). Mencken once remarked that a puritan is a person who lays awake nights worrying that someone, somewhere might be having fun.

Today, however, the testosterone level of the average atheist seems to be rather lower. It is now the athiests who are losing sleep--worrying that someone, somewhere, might be having religious thoughts.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Scientists discover new element, and it's a big one

And it was right under their nose all this time:
Lawrence Livermore Laboratories has discovered the heaviest element yet known to science.

The new element, Governmentium (Gv), has one neutron, 25 assistant neutrons, 88 deputy neutrons, and 198 assistant deputy neutrons, giving it an atomic mass of 312.

These 312 particles are held together by forces called morons, which are surrounded by vast quantities of lepton-like particles called peons.z
Read the rest here.

Monday, December 01, 2008

A nominalist approach to blogging

From Postmodern Papist:
A friend of mine is thinking of starting a blog called Nominalism in which the tags mean nothing.
I love it.

The new way of getting rich

Mark Perry on one of the results of the politicians taking the reins of the economy:
In the old days if you wanted to get rich, you did it the Warren Buffett way: You learned to read balance sheets. Today you learn to read political tea leaves. You don't anticipate Intel's third-quarter earnings; instead, you guess what side of the bed Henry Paulson will wake up on tomorrow.
Go here for more.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Enquiry Concerning Human Misunderstanding: John Derbyshire's new blog

Is that a smirk I see on David Hume's face? Yes it is. He has just read John Derbyshire's new blog, Secular Right, and he is trying not to laugh.

Derbyshire, the National Review writer who earlier this year reviewed Ben Stein's Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed without actually seeing it, has a new blog: "Secular Right: Reality & Reason". Derbyshire and his colleagues will presumably be blogging there about other things of which they have no direct experience.

Reality and reason, for example.

The Derbyshire Method of addressing issues apparently is already in evidence at Secular Right, where in its very first post, on its "What is the Secular Right" page, this comment appears:
We believe that conservative principles and policies need not be grounded in a specific set of supernatural claims. Rather, conservatism serves the ends of “Human Flourishing,” what the Greeks termed Eudaimonia. Secular conservatism takes the empirical world for what it is, and accepts that the making of it the best that it can be is only possible through our faculties of reason.
But in the very first comment on the post, "Dan" remarks:

I am somewhat amused. Hume’s whole moral-political thought as premised on precisely the rejection of the ancient way of thinking. On Hume’s view, there is exactly no such thing as genuine human flourishing.


And then the wheels continue to fall off.

One of the contributors to Secular Right is Razib Khan, a science writer whose pseudonym for purposes of the blog is "David Hume." Khan has several posts about the dangers of scepticism about science--this from someone using the name of a man who spent a whole book arguing against the rationality of inductive reasoning.

Obviously Khan hasn't actually read Hume. Are we surprised? This is John Derbyshire's blog, remember.

This is going to fun.

Friday, November 28, 2008

If Jack Sparrow were an economist

The economics of pirating, care of Scientific American.

Friedrich Hayek on inflation

Friedrich Hayek, the great Austrian economist, on Meet the Press in 1975. The circumstances at the time was primarily inflation and rising unemployment. Not exactly the situation we're in now, but the attempt to gin up the economy with infusing massive amounts government money could bring back the inflation beast. Hayek's most important point is that inflation draws labor into jobs that can only be sustained by further inflation.

Hat tip to Division of Labor

Queue up the audio here.

P. J. O'Roarke angling for a newspaper bailout

Hello? Bailout people? Mr. Secretary of the Treasury Paulson? Aren't you forgetting somebody? Like me? I'm a print journalist. Talk about financial meltdown! Print journalists may soon have to send their kids to public schools, feed dry food to their cats, and give up their leases on Prius automobiles and get the Hummers that are being offered at such deep discounts these days.

The print journalism industry is taking a beating, circling the drain, running on fumes. Especially running on fumes. You could smell Frank Rich all the way to Nome when Sarah Palin was nominated. Not that print journalism actually emits much in the way of greenhouse gases. We have an itty-bitty carbon footprint. We're earth-friendly. The current press run of an average big city daily newspaper can be made from one tree. Compare that to the global warming hot air produced by talk radio, cable TV, and Andrew Sullivan. [more]

Henry Paulson's letters home from summer camp

From Iowahawk, on target as usual.

How bad is the economy (compared to the 1980s, when it was really bad)?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Tyranny of Liberalism

I am in the middle of James Kalb's extraordinarily insightful new book, The Tyranny of Liberalism. I will be reviewing it later, but for the time being here is a speech Kalb recently made to the H. L. Mencken club that covers the same ground as the book.

Canada's Queen's University to correct thought crimes with a smile

The Tolerance Police change their tactics. Now they're going to indoctrinate us nicely.

Victor David Hanson on using Latin as a weapon against the illiberal white separatists who run our schools

Four years of high-school Latin would dramatically arrest the decline
in American education. In particular, such instruction would do more
for minority youths than all the ‘role model’ diversity sermons on
Harriet Tubman, Malcolm X, Montezuma, and Caesar Chavez put together.
Nothing so enriches the vocabulary, so instructs about English grammar
and syntax, so creates a discipline of the mind, an elegance of
expression, and serves as a gateway to the thinking and values of
Western civilization as mastery of a page of Virgil or Livy (except
perhaps Sophocles’s Antigone in Greek or Thucydides’ dialogue at
Melos). After some 20 years of teaching mostly minority youth Greek,
Latin, and ancient history and literature in translation (1984-2004), I
came to the unfortunate conclusion that ethnic studies, women
studies—indeed, anything “studies”— were perhaps the fruits of some
evil plot dreamed up by illiberal white separatists to ensure that poor
minority students in the public schools and universities were offered
only a third-rate education.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Philosopher Thomas Nagel on Intelligent Design as science

This article by philosopher Thomas Nagel is one of the better treatments I have seen of the Intelligent Design issue.

From the "C'mon" department:

Even though I disagree with him on a lot of issues, Ed Brayton at Dispatches from the Culture Wars is normally fairly sensible--a sensibility tempered by the penchant to point to all the silly things on the right that even most people on the right would repudiate and a tendency to ignore the stronger arguments against his socially leftish positions.

But normally he doesn't descend into blatant cant as he does in a recent post about Proposition 8 advocates, who, he says, are shocked that people want to boycott them for their positions.

Both Brayton and the article he links to in his recent post play a little game in which they pretend that it's boycotts, not blacklisting and intolerance that disturb many Prop. 8 advocates.

If you can't actually respond to arguments from people who disagree with you, then just pretend they said something else and respond to that. It's clearly the preferred tactic of Prop. 8 opponents.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

"Your Honor, I plead liberalism": David Hawpe on political ideology as an extenuating circumstance

David Hawpe doesn't mess around. When he is defending corruption among his ideological allies, he rolls out the big guns.

In today's column, he defends State Rep. Tom Burch, who is facing possible ethics charges for using his influence to benefit a constituent in a child custody case, and appeals to the medieval poet Dante in doing it. Burch, says Hawpe, can be forgiven his actions since he was well-intended:
I invoke here the words of the one truly great president of the 20th Century, Franklin D. Roosevelt, who insisted, in his 1936 presidential nomination acceptance speech, "Governments can err, presidents do make mistakes, but the immortal Dante tells us that Divine justice weighs the sins of the cold-blooded and the sins of the warm-hearted on different scales."
To Hawpe, liberals are by definition well-intended, unlike those distasteful conservatives, who are motivated only by greed and selfishness. But even greed and selfishness can be excused as long as it is a liberal who engages in it.

Not only does Hawpe defend Burch, he defends Don Blandford, the former speaker of the Kentucky House who was sent to jail for over five years for accepting bribes:
Now let me say right up front that Blandford, BOPTROT notwithstanding, is one of my legislative heroes.
Why? Because Blandford pushed through the Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990 (KERA). He did it by physically stopping the House clock on the last day of the legislative session to avoid that inconvenient little constitutional requirement that legislation can't be passed after midnight of the last day. But hey, he meant well.

It seems somehow fitting that, in arguing that liberals should be excused for their bad actions simply because they are liberals, Hawpe should invoke the author of a book called The Divine Comedy.

We doubt a judge would be as impressed as Hawpe if Burch appealed to his political ideology as an extenuating circumstance. And we doubt Blandford, who has served his sentence, is slapping his forehead wishing he had pled liberalism.

You wonder if it is arguments like this that caused Dante, in the part of his book about Hell, to place journalists where he did.

Public school teachers vote with their feet by putting their own kids in private schools

Discussing the likelihood that the Obamas will put their kids in private schools (and asking whether they will make this option easier for other Americans by supporting school choice), University of Michigan economist Mark Perry points out, at his excellent blog Carpe Diem, the extent to which teachers are voting with their feet by putting their own kids in private schools:

This is not a new discovery. Data has shown this for years. The chart shows that a much greater percentage of school teachers put their children in private schools than do the general public. In other words, the people who know most about public schools seem to be the least likely to put their own children there.

You know times are hard when...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Gay hypocricy alert level is now ... orange

Let's see now, what do you think people would say if several gays walked into a religious neighborhood and the people in that neighborhood got out into the street shouting profanities at them, and saying, "And we don't ever want them coming back. Do you understand all that homosexuals?! Do you understand?! I'm talking to you people! Yeah you! Piece of s**t! Stay out of our neighborhood if you don't like us."

How long would it be before major newspapers would condemn these religious people for their intolerance? In seconds, I mean?

Ask this as you look at the response of these gays to a few Christians who unwisely made their way into a gay section of town, apparently with evangelical intentions. I mean, like, what were they expecting? Tolerance?

Why auto industry bailouts are a bad idea

Mark Perry, an economist at the University of Michigan, on the advisability of bailing out inefficient auto manufacturers:

#1: Who gets bailed out will be an arbitrary process determined by who has the most political influence. And with the Democrats in power, that is unions.

#2: The bailouts will reward inefficiency (see graph at the left).

Time Magazine on the new Gay Intolerance

The story of gays practicing the intolerance they preach against is getting legs. Here is a story in Time Magazine.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Wonder of apologists for Prop. 8 protesters will defend this

They've defended name-calling and blacklisting, I wonder if the defenders of Proposition 8 protests are going to defend what is arguably terrorism.

More media voices calling for gays to practice what they preach

More and more mainstream media voices are chiming in on the gay community's lack of civility. Here's the Sacramento Bee editorial.

Is same-sex marriage valid just because a politician says so?

That's what some people apparently think. Josh Rosenau of the National Center for Science education seems to find this argument convincing--or at least expects the rest of us to. He says:
Dude, they got a marriage license from the State of California. They were legally married.
Yeah right. And I got a secret agent license when I was eight years old. The whole issue is whether awarding the licenses was valid. To argue that they are valid because they got them is hardly a valuable contribution to the debate. It's called assuming what you are trying to prove.

But Rosenau does not stop there. Here is Rosenau attempting a logical argument, an activity he is beginning to convince me that he and his allies really ought not to try at home:
Proposition 8 states in the official voter guide that it "eliminates the right of same sex couples to marry." You can't eliminate something that doesn't exist, therefore there was a right for same sex couples to marry. If they could not marry as a matter of definition, that last sentence would have been gibberish, but it isn't. This is not, therefore, an argument over definitions, but over who shall have what rights.
Just for fun, let's try to put this in some kind of logical order and see if there is any sense to it at all:
No thing that that does not exist can be eliminated
Proposition 8 says it "eliminates the right of same sex couples to marry"
Therefore, a right for same sex couples to marry is a thing that exists
That seems to be the first part of it anyway. Any of my logic students could tell you that there are quite a number of problems here. First, it contains way too many terms (The "Fallacy of Four Terms"--what's worse, there are actually six in this argument); second, there is an affirmative proposition following a negative premise; and then there is the problem consequent on these others that results in the minor term (the subject of the conclusion) asserting more in the conclusion than is asserted in the premises.

As to the rest of the statement, I quite frankly can't even follow it. Having taught logic for over 15 years, I'm not even sure I have seen anything quite like it. It is quite a tangle. I think what he is doing is appealing to an argument I made in an earlier post in which I was pointing out the difference between bans on interracial marriage and laws that make it clear that the concept of marriage as it has always been understood excludes same-sex "marriage" by definition. I tried to clarify the point of my argument in another recent post, but he clearly did not understand what I said, so I'm just going to have to let this part go.

I think what is going on here is that there are several arguments all tied up in a very confusing knot. And quite honestly, it's going to be a real chore to salvage the thing, other than to glean from it and other comments in his post that Rosenau wants to establish two things: The first is that same-sex marriage is a right; the second is that Proposition 8 is invalid because it purports to eliminate it.

As to the latter, I think he means to say this:
No act that eliminates an existing right is valid
Proposition 8 is an act that eliminates an existing right
Therefore, Proposition 8 is not valid
This is what in traditional logic is called a "CELARENT", a valid syllogism in the first of the four logical figures. I think this is one of the things he wants to say. But in order for an argument to be fully sound, it needs not only to be valid, but both its premises have to be true. I agree with the major (or first) premise. The problem is with the second: "Proposition 8 is an act that eliminates an existing right." That, of course, is what the whole debate is about, the advocates of Prop. 8 saying there is no existing right, and the opponents saying there is.

But what about the first, that same-sex marriage is a right? The above argument I gather from his remarks that Rosenau things same-sex marriage is a right because certain politicians, in this case Attorney General Jerry Brown, or government entities, in this case the state supreme court, say it is. He seems to be assuming a positive view of rights--in other words that they are created simply by governmental decisions. But if a right comes about because of a governmental decision, then can't it also be eliminated in the same way?

If a right is completely dependent upon governmental approval, then isn't it eliminated by governmental disapproval? And if this is the case, then what is his problem with Proposition 8? It is a ballot initiative with just as much governmental authority as the other entities that same-sex marriage advocates have appealed to. If want to live by the positive law, then you're going to have to die by it.

Anyone who tries to argue that rights are generated by the government is just undermining his own position.

Rights aren't generated by governments, and the opponents of Proposition 8 haven't made any case that the right of same-sex marriage comes from anywhere else.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

If you've been to a same-sex marriage, does that mean it was really a marriage?

In continuing series of responses to Josh Rosenau of the NCSE over same-sex marriage, we come now the argument he's really proud of (and what may be Josh's most exotic logical effort so far): that since he has been to weddings of people of the same sex, that therefore the definition of marriage includes the unions of same sex people:
I'm disappointed that you totally ignored my compelling counterargument to your claim that "Same-sex couples were never able to marry precisely because marriage was always understood to be--by definition--between a man and a woman." Compelling in the sense that I offered examples of SAME SEX COUPLES GETTING MARRIED. You say it's impossible, I'm saying I attended their weddings. One of us is very, very wrong.

Now first, Rosenau seems to assume that if someone engages in the simple expedient of calling something marriage, it therefore is marriage. One more example of same-sex marriage opponents thinking that the normal rules don't apply to them.

Secondly, the advocates of same-sex marriage have denied that allowing same-sex marriage necessarily implies that other relationships could count as marriage--like polygamy, or humans "marrying" individuals of different species (notice how I crafted that sentence to avoid as much ickyness as possible). Given this, it is ironic that one of its advocates would make an argument that in fact, throws in the towel on that argument.

If Rosenau's logic is correct, then the fact that someone has attended a "wedding" between, say, a man and his dog, then that must have been included in the definition of marriage.

In other words, it's not that Rosenau didn't go to something, but that what he went to was not a marriage.

Is the debate over same-sex marriage the same as the debate over interracial marriage?

Are the issues of same-sex marriage and interracial marriage the same kind of issue? Well, we could be smart alecky and point out that one has issue and the other doesn't, but we won't settle for that. Josh Rosenau of the National Center for Science Education is so insistent that they are that he deserves an answer.

Here he is explaining why he thinks the two issues are the same:
But what did Proposition 8 do again? That's right, according to the official language of the initiative it "ELIMINATES RIGHT OF SAME–SEX COUPLES TO MARRY." But if marriage didn't include same-sex unions, that sentence would be gibberish as would the actual text of the amendment: "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." Since both are grammatically and syntactically coherent, marriage must definitionally include same-sex unions. The statement of Prop. 8 clearly implies that marriages other than those between a man and a woman exist, but are not valid or recognized in California. Just as Virginia did not recognize marriages between opposite races before 1967, and California did not until 1948.
Well, first of all, the language put on the ballot was written by pro-same-sex marriage Attorney General Jerry Brown. That's right: the guy the late Mike Royco dubbed "Gov. Moonbeam." I can't believe I left California in 1986 and the guy still somehow gets elected to public office. Brown changed the wording from the original ballot language to make it harder to vote for. One survey found Brown's language cost it three percentage points in support, and he was sued by proposition proponents over his little shenanigan. A "right"? Who wants to vote against a "right"? In fact, given Brown's language, it is amazing it passed at all.

A lot of people don't understand how amendment ratification works. A bill is drafted with the actual constitutional language and state legislators approve or disapprove it. In Kentucky, you also have to include in the bill the language that is to appear on the ballot. Often the fight is over how the ballot language is phrased, since the ballot language can hold the fate of the amendment all by itself regardless of what the amendment actually says. How it is in California, I don't know, but apparently the process is more lax if it allows someone to change it on the way to the ballot the way Brown did.

The language of the ballot language of Proposition 8 doesn't bear on the meaning of marriage at all. The only thing it indicates is the political cleverness of Jerry Brown. So let's look at Rosenau's argument about the actual language of the amendent: "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."

He argues that that language no more betrays a sense that the definition of the word 'marriage' is in question than the language of the Virginia law against interracial marriage betrayed it, as I said it did.

My argument was, that if the definition of the term 'marriage' excluded two people of different races from cohabiting using the label 'married', then it would be redundant to say that they shouldn't be married, since they couldn't be married. But that the law was not redundant, therefore the definition of the term 'marriage' was not already understood as excluding two people of different races from cohabiting using the label 'married'.

In other words, laws against interracial marriage were clearly not about the definition of marriage but it's application (and I don't know of any serious person who would say they were).

My reasoning here is a clear and valid example of what in logic is called a modus tollens:
If P, then Q
not Q
Therefore, not P
I realize the problem the NCSE has had in recent years in the area of logical reasoning, but unless Rosenau has a problem with basic rules of logic, then he's got to question one of my premises, something he hasn't done yet.

In the case of the California language, here's the situation (an entirely different one): If the definition of the term 'marriage' excluded two people of the same sex from cohabiting using the label 'married', then it would be redundant to say that they shouldn't be married, since they couldn't be married. The definition of the term 'marriage' excludes two people of the same sex from cohabiting using the label 'married', since they can't be married, therefore the California law is redundant.

For the logically challenged at the NCSE, that's a modus ponens:
If P, then Q
Therefore, Q
I'm not denying that the California law is redundant, even though it is phrased in a similar way to Virginia's. The Virginia law was clearly not redundant, but meant to prohibit something that was already going on (and in fact had commonly gone on throughout history) which met with some new level of societal disapproval in Virginia. The California law had to be passed in order to restate what had always been understood to be the case (that marriage means a relationship between a man and a woman), but that special interests groups were wanting to change--by redefining words instead of passing new laws.

In other words, the language is indeed the same, but in the Virginia case it is clearly not redundant, but in the case of the California language it just as clearly is. Somehow Rosenau sees that as a contradiction when it clearly is not. One is forced to be redundant when language is being attacked by people for their political purposes.

That the amendment stated it in a way that seemed to suggest that marriage didn't have a clear definition already was due to the choice of words by lawmakers, who were having to restate what marriage is.

Now of course in this case, Rosenau and the advocates of same-sex marriage are going to disagree with my minor premise--that the definition of the term 'marriage' excludes two people of the same sex from cohabiting using the label 'married', since they can't be married. And that's fine, but a) they're wrong; and b) Whether or not that premise is true has nothing to do with interracial marriage.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Moral confusion, brought to you by the opponents of Proposition 8

Josh Rosenau, our friend at the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), is now seeking help in defining important words in the debate over Proposition 8 in California. There must be something in the water over there at NCSE. These are the same people who can't make a distinction between creationism and Intelligent Design.

But at least we are now seeking clarification of terms. We should probably be thankful for small things.

Rosenau has been defending the folks over at Intolerance Central (that's the Proposition 8 opposition) by trying to claim that gay blacklisting of people who financially supported Prop. 8 is perfectly acceptable since it is the same as a boycott, but that pro-Proposition 8 boycotting of businesses who opposed Prop. 8 is totally unacceptable because it is the same as blackmail.

I know. I thought the same thing. This is what moral confusion looks like.

In a comment on one of my preceding posts, Rosenau asks:
Could you, for the sake of those of us whose dictionaries have the word "miscegenation" but are oddly lacking "miscagenation," distinguish what makes a blacklist different from a list of companies to boycott? And while you're at it, throw in a definition of blackmail.
  • A boycott is an economic action directed at a business entity whereby notice is given to the entity that it risks loss of business as a result of certain activities the prospective boycotter finds distasteful. It threatens loss of business and seeks nothing more than the proper behavior of the corporate entity. A boycott is considered perfectly legal and ethical.
  • A blacklist is a list of individuals that one or more people are threatening with loss of employment or other economic harm. It seeks the harm of specific, named individuals for the purpose of revenge on the part of the blacklister. Blacklisting is legal in terms of criminal law (although the economic harm is actionable in civil court), but is considered unethical.
  • Blackmail is the extortion of money from an individual through the revelation of some damaging information unknown to others for the economic benefit of the blackmailer. Blackmail is considered both illegal and unethical.
A boycott is not blacklisting, blacklisting is not blackmail, blackmail is not a boycott. These are terms on which there is wide agreement as to their meanings and distinctions and which no one even questions except when they are trying to defend actions that are indefensible.

Now I've gone and done it. Just look at what the Tolerance Police are calling me now

In my last response to Josh Rosenau, defender of gay hate speech and enemy of evil creationists extraordinaire, I suggested he obtain a thesaurus as well as a dictionary to assist, not only in making some improvements to his knowledge about what certain English terms (such as 'marriage', 'boycott', and 'blackmail') mean, but to give him some variety in his own practice of hate speech.

I suggested that he might find some synonyms that would allow him to vary his epithets a bit from the hackneyed 'bigot'. I mean, c'mon, there have to be other pejoratives available out there to cast aspersions and make personal attacks on people with whom you disagree. This one is getting just plain tiresome.

But I'm having serious second thoughts about the thesaurus idea. Now that I've seen his new post, I realize I probably shouldn't have mentioned it in the first place since it appears that he has gotten one for himself and is using it with a frightening degree of recklessness. I may in fact have created a monster.

You see, I have now brought upon me some very heavy duty adjectival derision.

That's right. I am no longer just a bigot. I am (and this is not for the faint of heart) a "gigantic bigot." [emphasis mine]

Ouch. He must have had to flip a few pages to find that one. What are you going to do next, Josh? Blacklist me?

And this serious escalation in rhetoric is not the only thing Rosenau has to say. He claims he is not a teacher as I had charged in the previous post. And you know what? I'm tempted to believe him. Don't ask me why.

It is a serious charge to be called a teacher when in fact you are not, and I'm willing to retract it. It was insensitive, I confess. But it is not nearly so serious as my other mistake which, as Rosenau points out, was to call his organization the "NASE" rather than the "NCSE". How about we just compromise and call it "NICE", just like in C. S. Lewis's That Hideous Strength. After all, there are some definite similarities.

And then there is my shameful misspelling of 'miscegenation', which I spelled with an 'a' rather than an 'e'. But lo and behold, he actually appends an argument to this point (not a very good one, but an argument nonetheless).

He responds to my point that, unlike the current debate, the debate over interracial marriage had nothing to do with definition of marriage, but rather its application. His attempted refutation consists, strangely, in a quote that proves my point. It is the old Virginia law barring interracial marriage:
It shall hereafter be unlawful for any white person in this State to marry any save a white person, or a person with no other admixture of blood than white and American Indian. For the purpose of this act, the term "white person" shall apply only to the person who has no trace whatsoever of any blood other than Caucasian...
If the term 'marry' was defined as between persons of similar race only, then the whole section of the law would be completely redundant. But, since it was not, they had to come out and specify that marriage was not applicable to any but whites. The whole reason they had to specify such a thing in trying to bar what we all realize shouldn't have been barred was precisely because marriage did not exclude it by definition.

Oops. Another one of those obvious distinctions that have caused Rosenau such trouble in dealing with this issue.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

NCSE blogger badly in need of a dictionary on gay intolerance issue

The National Center for Science Education's Josh Rosenau, who offers another defense of intolerant actions by gays against proponents of Proposition 8 at his blog "Thoughts from Kansas," appears to be in very serious need of dictionary.

Confused as to the definition of marriage, he also appears to be having some trouble with other English terms with fairly commonly accepted meanings. When I offer a few observations about the increasing intolerance of gays for people who disagree with them (a condition commonly referred to as 'bigotry'), he calls it a "hissyfit," and then starts hurling epithets again: "bigot," to be specific (a thesaurus might also be helpful for these people, since a few synonyms would relieve the monotony of them having to use this one term over and over and over again).

Now a hissyfit sounds like a lot of fun. I just wish I had really had it and had it knowingly so I could have enjoyed the experience a little more. But the charge of bigotry is the really amusing one. Here they are engaging in the most extreme intolerance directed at other people merely because they disagree with them and their opponents are the bigots?

I'm including a mirror when I send that dictionary.

But it doesn't stop there. Rosanau apparently is unable to make a distinction between blackmail and a boycott. He posts a letter from Proposition 8 proponents on his site which does no more than treaten a boycott of an organization for their position on the issue of same sex marriage, a commonly accepted way for groups on all sides of issues to do business (or not do it, as the case may be) when it comes to controversial issues.

Of course lurking behind all of this diversionary rhetoric is the issue of blacklisting, an activity that gays have condemned for years, but have all of a sudden started engaging in themselves. This is what my original post was about. Is he now in favor of it? He doesn't seem to want to come right out and say.

C'mon Josh, you can do it! I'll make it easy. Here's all he has to say: "I, Josh Rosenau, am in favor of blacklisting." See? It's easy.

How 'bout it Josh?

The Tolerance Police in action

Check out this video of Prop. 8 opponents exercising their tolerance and respect for diversity with a supporter of the measure.

Remember who are the bigots now (These things are so hard to keep straight anymore).

Gay McCarthyism claims a victim

Remember that gay blacklist we pointed out the other day? Well, take a look at it again. Scroll down about five pages and look in the right hand column and you'll see the following name:
Scott Eckern/Artistic Director, California Musical Theatre/Citrus Heights, CA/ $1,000
Eckern, as this indicates, donated $1,000 to support the passage of California's Proposition 8, which wrote the definition of marriage into the state's constitution. But what are blacklists for, anyway? Here is the Sacramento Bee on what then happened to Eckern:

The California Musical Theatre found itself caught in a dramatic conflict between free speech and civil rights, a situation that ultimately led to today's resignation of artistic director Scott Eckern.

Eckern quit this morning. He became the target of strong criticism after it was learned he donated $1,000 to the Proposition 8 campaign to ban gay marriage.

Eckern's removal was apparently the result of the blacklist now being used by opponents of Proposition 8:
When Tony Award-winner Marc Shaiman, the composer of "Hairspray," read of Eckern's donation last week, he urged artists and theater workers across the country to boycott the theater.

...The idea of a blacklist and boycott have grown from Shaiman's postings and e-mails. The composer, who is openly gay, said he read about Eckern's contribution to the campaign on the Web site, and he felt he had to do something.
Eckern is not without supporters, and they too are now recognizing the new level of intolerance being embraced by gay rights groups in the wake of their surprising defeat in California:
On Tuesday, Kellie Randle and a group of like-minded friends launched to advocate for Eckern.

"It's everyone's First Amendment right to contribute to the causes they believe in and voice their political choice," Randle said. To show the abuse against Eckern, Randle's site links to the Clyde Fitch Report, one of numerous blogs now weighing in on the debate.

"I'm so enraged at the hypocrisy of the No on 8 community. I could care less how he voted on any issue. It's about what he does in his job. This is persecution," Randle said.

Other community members, including Kitty Wilson of Curtis Park, echoed this sentiment.

"Before any gay person talks about blacklisting anyone in theater, I'll remind them what McCarthy's blacklist did to the entire entertainment industry," Wilson said.

The good news is it looks like there are still a few people willing to stand up for what is right.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Is the alarmist rhetoric about unemployment overblown?

Economist Mark Perry at Carpe Diem on whether the economic alarmism over unemployment rates are justified:

We still hear daily commentary about "the worst economy since the Great Depression." The chart above shows the monthly unemployment rate in the U.S. back to January of 1930 and eight different peaks in the jobless rate. Before we make alarming and fantastic comparisons of today's economic conditions to the 1930s, we should probably start by comparing today's economy to more recent economic contractions, and more recent peaks in the jobless rate.

The current October jobless rate of 6.5% will likely rise further, but according to the most recent October WSJ survey of 56 forecasters, the consensus forecast for the unemployment rate in December 2009 is 6.8%. So let's assume that the forecasters are too optimistic and the jobless rate goes to 7% by the end of next year, how bad would that be?
It still would not be as serious as the 7.8% peak in the jobless rate in 1992, the 10.8% peak in 1982-83, or the 9% peak in 1975.

So before we make exaggerated comparisons to the 1930s when the unemployment rate peaked at 25.6%, maybe we should more realistically be making comparisons to the more recent double-digit jobless rates of the 1980s and the 7.8% rate in 1992. And we're not even close to those rates yet.