Friday, September 15, 2006

Iranian Justice

What was the crime these two Iranian boys committed that warrants being hung until dead? They were discovered to be gay. Whatever one thinks about the morality of homosexuality, to execute young men for it is barbaric.

I don't know how many gays there are in the United States but every single one of them should realize that this will likely be their fate if the Islamists prevail in their global jihad and the liklihood of that will increase exponentially if Iran is allowed to build the capacity to manufacture nuclear weapons.

For another example of the Iranian interpretation of Islamic "justice" go here.

Does Poverty Make America Immoral?

David Batstone of Sojourners, in an article that is e-mailed by subscription and thus unlinkable, criticizes the Bush administration for aiding the wealthy while the poor languish:

The editors of The New York Times sounded that alarm this past week in an editorial: "Despite the Bush-era expansion, the number of Americans living in poverty in 2005 - 37 million - was the same as in 2004. This is the first time the number has not risen since 2000. But the share of the population now in poverty - 12.6 percent - is still higher than at the trough of the last recession, when it was 11.7 percent. And among the poor, 43 percent were living below half the poverty line in 2005 - $7,800 for a family of three. That is the highest percentage of people in 'deep poverty' since the government started keeping track of those numbers in 1975."

Standing alone, these backward slides are disturbing. Put into the context of our current political realities they are downright immoral.

I'm not sure what he means by "current political realities", but before I can agree with him that the numbers he cites reflect some moral flaw in our society I have to ask a couple of questions.

For example, in order for these statistics to reflect a moral fault in our body politic the people who are mired in poverty must be able to work and willing to work, but prevented from working against their will by some sort of institutional or social hindrance. Mr. Batstone evidently believes that there is such an impediment standing in the way of people who would otherwise make their way out of poverty, but he doesn't tell us what it might be.

What might the hindrance be? One possibility is that there just aren't any jobs, but this seems unlikely given that the economy is at almost full employment and that illegal immigrants are streaming across our borders, presumably because they know there's work to be found here.

Another reason why the people in Mr. Batstone's statistics might be victims of an immoral society is that they are largely minorities and perhaps they are being discriminated against on the basis of their race. However, if Mr. Batstone has evidence that racial prejudice lies behind the poverty numbers, he should adduce it, but he doesn't.

A third possibility is that these individuals are trapped in poverty because the government cut back on welfare in the 1990s, and these individuals, who would work if they could, for sundry reasons not their fault cannot work. Thus they're living in poverty without sufficient government assistance. If this is what justifies Mr. Batstone's charge of immorality then he needs to show us the data that support the allegation, but again, he doesn't. He simply points out that there are more poor now than previously, declares that to be an immoral state of affairs, and lets it go. This is just too facile.

What he doesn't seem to consider is that perhaps a lot of the people in poverty today are poor because of choices they themselves have made. Many people are not just unemployed but unemployable, and many of the latter are unemployable as a consequence of their own choices in life. Some people, for example, have chosen not to take advantage of a free public education and are thus unsuited for good jobs. A high school dropout will earn annually only 65% of what a high school graduate will earn. Other people have chosen to have children out of wedlock and are unable, as a consequence, to work enough to get ahead. Some people have chosen to abuse drugs and alcohol and/or to indulge in other dysgenic activities which make them a liability in the workplace. Some people have chosen not to develop good work habits and thus have trouble keeping a job, much less build a career.

How many of the individuals in Mr. Batstone's 12.6% fall into one of these categories? What responsibility, if any, does government have to these people? Again, we're left in the dark. Mr. Batstone gives us no reason to accept his claim that somehow the poverty situation in the U.S. is "immoral". If he can provide us with some reason to think that these people are poor because of the deliberate actions of others who know that their acts will prevent people who want to earn their way out of poverty from doing so, then he'll have a case worth heeding.

Until then there's little reason to consider his vague and unsubstantiated allegation of immorality as anything other than rhetoric.

Falling Gas Prices

I note that gasoline in my part of the country is now under $2.40 a gallon. As the price of a gallon has dropped almost 60 cents everyone is breathing a sigh of relief except opponents of the president and those who have to run against incumbents in congress.

For these people, particularly Democrats, falling gas prices are terrible news. Never mind that cheaper gas means a heavy burden is lifted from the backs of the poor, the fact is that the Democrats don't want the price of gas to come down for two reasons:

First, many of them believe that keeping the price high cuts consumption which in turn has several salutary effects. The less gasoline that's burned the less greenhouse emissions we dump into the air, the more we conserve a precious resource, and the less wealth that flows to the Middle East and thence into the pockets of terrorists.

Second, cheaper gas redounds to Mr. Bush's political benefit, and that is a painful blow to Democrats. Already his approval numbers appear to be responding to the drop in the cost of a tank of petrol.

Rasmussen has the President's approval rating, as it stood prior to his Monday night speech and the 9/11 observances, up to 47% which is not only a good trend for the President but also good for Republicans running for congress this year.

Astonishingly, from a liberal point of view, falling gas prices are good for both Republicans and the poor. Now that seems an unlikely juxtaposition, one that would doubtless cause many Democrats some cognitive dissonance. It'd be fun to listen to Democrats explain to advocates for the poor why higher fuel prices are more important than the economic well-being of those who can't afford to buy heating oil and gasoline.

Proof: Men Are Smarter!

John Rushton is either very brave or very foolish. He has published a study which finds that men, on average, are smarter than women. This is one of those things that men have tacitly believed for, well, forever, but gallantry forbade them from voicing. Gallantry and an instinct for self-preservation.

Now Mr. Rushton, following the lead of academic kamikazis like Charles Murray and Lawrence Summers, rushes in where angels fear to tread.

Prof. Rushton also claims that just as women prefer men as mates who are taller than they, they also prefer men who are smarter than they. If so, many of them are no doubt disappointed.

In any event, the news report on this study is interesting. You can read it here. Feel free to pass it along to the special woman in your life.