Sunday, May 30, 2010

Memorial Day Family History

Someone once said that when an old person dies it's as if an entire library disappears. Many of us have relatives or acquaintances who may not have many years left, but who still have a library full of history stored in their minds. Many of them are vets who served in WWII, Korea, or Vietnam, and many of them are spouses of vets who remember what it was like at home during the war years.

If tomorrow you spend time with a veteran, or a spouse of a veteran, do yourself a big favor and ask him or her about their experiences. Some of them may not want to talk much about it, of course, but if you can persuade them to open up the history you will learn is precious.

When that person passes that history will pass with them, and that will be a shame. Far better that you seek to learn it, write it down, and pass it on to your children.


Saturday, May 29, 2010

Police Profiling

The New York Times is indignant that the NYPD is using profiling to fight crime in the city, or at least that's how they choose to interpret the data on police "stops." For example, blacks made up 55 percent of all stops by police in 2009, though they're only 23 percent of the city's population; whites accounted for 10 percent of all stops, though they're 35 percent of the city's population; Hispanics made up 32 percent of all stops, though 28 percent of the population, and Asians, 3 percent of all stops and 12 percent of the population.

Pretty damning statistics, these, at least in the minds of those predisposed to see nefarious prejudices at play whenever the cops are at work. Heather MacDonald at City Journal refuses to settle for the simplistic analysis of the Times, however, and digs a little deeper. Here's what she comes up with:

Here are the crime data that the Times doesn't want its readers to know: blacks committed 66 percent of all violent crimes in the first half of 2009 (though they were only 55 percent of all stops and only 23 percent of the city's population). Blacks committed 80 percent of all shootings in the first half of 2009. Together, blacks and Hispanics committed 98 percent of all shootings. Blacks committed nearly 70 percent of all robberies. Whites, by contrast, committed 5 percent of all violent crimes in the first half of 2009, though they are 35 percent of the city's population (and were 10 percent of all stops). They committed 1.8 percent of all shootings and less than 5 percent of all robberies.

The face of violent crime in New York, in other words, like in every other large American city, is almost exclusively black and brown. Any given violent crime is 13 times more likely to be committed by a black than by a white perpetrator-a fact that would have been useful to include in the Times's lead, which stated that "Blacks and Latinos were nine times as likely as whites to be stopped." These crime data are not some artifact that the police devise out of their skewed racial mindset. They are what the victims of those crimes-the vast majority of whom are minority themselves-report to the police.

You cannot properly analyze police behavior without analyzing crime. Crime is what drives NYPD tactics; it is the basis of everything the department does. And crime, as reported by victims and witnesses, sends police overwhelmingly to minority neighborhoods, because that's where the vast majority of crime occurs-by minority criminals against minority victims.

The Times's analysis, by contrast, which follows in lock step with the New York Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights, assumes that policing should mirror census data. The only numerical benchmark that the Times provides for the NYPD's stop data is the city's population ratios. According to this analysis, since whites are 35 percent of the city's population, they should be 35 percent of police stops, even though they commit only 5 percent of all violent crimes. But using census data as a benchmark for policing is as nonsensical as it would be to use census data for fire department activity. If a particular census tract has a disproportionate number of fires, and another census tract has none, no one expects the FDNY to send out fire trucks to non-existent fires in the fire-free census tract just for the sake of equal representation.

It requires very little thought to see the foolishness of trying to use police stops by themselves as evidence of racial bigotry, but it is precisely "very little thought" at which the left seems often to excel. Indeed, when it comes to matters of racial conflict, serious thinking is often the first casualty.

If the Times wishes to probe racial differences in a more fruitful fashion it might look at the disparity in the crime statistics and ask this question: What is wrong with minority communities that their members seem so incapable of living harmoniously with their fellows? An honest examination of that question might result in a story that would actually be both interesting and useful. I doubt, though, that we'll ever see it from the Times or any other mainstream media outlet. The findings might offend too many PC sensibilities and challenge too many liberal dogmas.


No Third Option

Edward Oakes over at First Things offers up some thoughts on the self-defeating nature of the New Atheists' project. Oakes takes Nietzsche as his foil and writes:

In his book On Truth and Lying in an Extra-Moral Sense, Nietzsche gives us this ultimate atheist scenario: "In some remote corner of the universe, poured out and glittering in innumerable solar systems, there once was a star on which clever animals invented knowledge. That was the highest and most mendacious minute of 'world history'-yet only a minute. After nature had drawn a few breaths the star grew cold, and the clever animals had to die." He continued:

"One might invent such a fable and still not have illustrated sufficiently how wretched, how shadowy and flighty, how aimless and arbitrary, the human intellect appears in nature. There have been eternities when it did not exist; and when it is done for again, nothing will have happened. For this intellect has no further mission that would lead beyond human life. . . ."

[S]cience teaches that all stars eventually die out, and with them the planets that orbit them, and once those planets are consumed by the suns that gave them birth, so too will vanish the pathetic creatures that emerged from their respective planetary slimes. Sure, soon after their emergence, they began to invent such high-blown Platonic words like knowledge and truth during their brief strut upon the otherwise empty stage of the cosmos. But so what?

I am not trying to argue here against such a scenario, it being an option impervious to argument anyway .... But it is a scenario that can hardly be regarded as consequence-free. The battle is still between nihilism and theism. There is no third option.

When the intellectual history of the last fifty years is written I think it'll be a source of wonder that so few people who embraced an atheist worldview saw the nihilist implications of their unbelief. Christians have for two thousand years based their belief in moral obligation, meaning in life, and objective truth in the transcendent personal God of the Bible. Many atheists reject God but hold on to the Christian view of morality, meaning and truth without realizing that if atheism is true they have no grounds for these things. They are piggy-backing on a Christian tradition that they despise. They're like a man riding a horse while denying that horses exist. Yet they dare not abandon their Christian steed for as soon as they dismount they find they have no place to stand.

It's more than a little ironic that atheists avoid nihilism only by living vicariously and parasitically off the Christian worldview.


Friday, May 28, 2010

Greatest Humanitarian President

Which American president has the best record of helping the world's poor and oppressed? The chief contender may surprise you. According to the data in this BBC article George W. Bush has a record that I can't imagine any other president exceeding.

Here are the facts the BBC article lists:

  • Bush pumped $18 billion into fighting HIV/Aids, much of it in Africa.
  • He backed canceling $34 billion worth of debt for 27 African states.
  • He launched initiative that has halved Malaria in 15 African countries.
  • He led condemnation of Sudan's record in Darfur as genocide.
  • He pressed for north-south peace deal in Sudan.
  • He "saved millions of lives", according to aid activist Bob Geldof.
  • He backed Ethiopia's invasion of Somalia to battle Islamists.

Add to these achievements the fact that Bush liberated 50 million people from tyranny in Afghanistan and Iraq, and you'd think he'd receive every humanitarian award there is, particularly the Nobel Peace Prize. Indeed, he may be the greatest humanitarian ever to lead a nation.

Unfortunately, the Nobel Peace Prize doesn't go to people who've advanced the cause of the poor and oppressed and "saved millions of lives." It goes rather to people who make videos on global warming and people of African ancestry who give nice speeches and get elected president.

Let no one say that the Nobel committee lacks a keen sensitivity to the winds of political fashion, even if they're completely oblivious to what constitutes great achievements on behalf of humanity.


Dirty Laundry

A pair of articles at NRO explain the miasma of legal scandal that is slowly enveloping the White House. The first is by Michelle Malkin and the second is by Robert Costa.

For those who may have been distracted from the news recently the Pennsylvania Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, Joe Sestak, let it slip some months ago that he was offered a position in the Obama administration in exchange for not challenging Arlen Specter in the primary. No doubt Sestak rues having ever admitted this because it turns out that such offers are felonious and he has placed both himself and the White House in a very difficult spot.

If Joe Sestak is telling the truth then a law has clearly been broken and someone in the White House, perhaps even the President, is in deep legal doo-doo. Even David Axelrod admitted as much last Sunday. And if Sestak is lying, which seems extremely unlikely, he's finished in his race for the Pennsylvania Senate seat.

The media has been loath to press the matter and Sestak has refused to say who offered him the job (though it can only have been a top official and it's very unlikely the offer was made without the President's connivance) nor what the job was (Sestak is a retired admiral and speculation is that the job was probably Secretary of the Navy). Sestak's stone-walling, however, can't last. As November approaches, the Pennsylvania media is going to be interested in nothing else but pressing Sestak on this. If he continues his non-cooperation the public is going to see him as just another dishonest pol and his chance of defeating Republican Pat Toomey will evaporate. Sestak didn't accept the job offer, but he hasn't been acting very honorably in this affair. A law has been broken, he alleges, but he refuses to help bring the law-breaker to justice.

On the other hand, if he identifies the administration official who offered him the job, everyone is going to realize that a high-level cabinet job could not have been offered without clearing it with the President himself. If Mr. Obama winds up being implicated in a crime, he could well be impeached if Republicans gain control of the congress. Even if it doesn't come to that, his poll numbers will likely slip right over the political event horizon and into the black hole of political irrelevance and impotence.

The White House could essentially call Sestak delusional or mendacious, but either option will probably cost them a Democrat Senate vote in November. Both the administration and Sestak are in a no-win situation in this, and it'll be interesting to see how the Obama people deal with it. My prediction is that someone fairly high up will be required to fall on his sword and take full responsibility, swearing, implausibly, that no one above him knew anything about it. The hapless scapegoat may go to jail, but that'll be seen as the only way to preserve the Obama presidency from scandal and further erosion of public esteem.

Update: Just as I was about to post this I saw that the Obama administration has prevailed upon Bill Clinton to agree to say that he approached Sestak's brother and through him offered Joe Sestak a non-paying advisory position in the administration in exchange for not running against Specter. If this were true then no laws were broken, but is there anyone anywhere in the world so naive as to think this is true? How could Clinton offer a job in the Obama administration unless he was authorized to do so, and why would anyone think that Sestak would be persuaded to give up a Senate race to take a non-paying advisory job? This tactic is, in my opinion, tantamount to an admission by the Obama administration that they're guilty of something serious and they're desperate to find a way out.

For an excellent analysis of why the White House explanation doesn't add up read Dan Foster's piece at NRO.


Thursday, May 27, 2010

Why We're Going Under

An article in The New York Times gives us a glimpse of why our economy, like economies around the world, is in increasing peril:

According to pension data collected by The New York Times from the city and state, about 3,700 retired public workers in New York are now getting pensions of more than $100,000 a year, exempt from state and local taxes. The data belie official reports that the average state pension is a modest $18,000, or $38,000 for retired police officers and firefighters. (The average is low, in part, because it includes people who worked in government only part time, or just a few years, as well as surviving spouses getting partial benefits.)

Roughly one of every 250 retired public workers in New York is collecting a six-figure pension, and that group is expected to grow rapidly in coming years, based on the number of highly paid people in the pipeline.

Some will receive the big pensions for decades. Thirteen New York City police officers recently retired at age 40 with pensions above $100,000 a year; nine did so in their 30s. The plan's public information officer said that the very young retirees had qualified for special disability pensions, which are 50 percent larger than ordinary police pensions. He said several dozen of the highest-paid New York City police retirees had disabilities related to 9/11 and the rest of the disabilities resulted from injuries in the line of duty.

These entitlements are unsustainable. The beleaguered taxpayers of New York must pay people in their thirties and forties over $100,000 a year for the rest of their lives, and then when they're eligible for Social Security they'll get that, too.

New York is a synecdoche for the United States. Public pensions, welfare, health care and public spending of all kinds require an ever increasing tax burden on those who are still working, but this diminishing income pool can't bear this staggering load indefinitely. Almost half the people in the country are paying no income tax so half the population is essentially getting a free ride paid for by the other half. The socio-economic pyramid is beginning to look more like a flattened-out Hershey's kiss.

It might be possible to pay for our extravagance if the administration and Congress were enacting policies which stimulated business growth, but they're not. There's only one way out of the mess they've gotten us into and that's to decrease government spending and reduce the regulatory and tax burdens they've placed on businesses. Unfortunately, the current crowd in D.C. is ideologically averse to reducing taxes and cutting spending, and, in fact, they're eager to do just the opposite.

November can't come soon enough.


Very Superstitious<b>*</b>

A gentleman who occasionally writes letters to the local paper to criticize Christianity and extol atheism took the occasion in one recent epistle to trot out the tired old shibboleth that Christianity is a mere superstition. This is certainly an amusing claim coming from an atheist. The definition of a superstition is any belief unreasonably upheld by faith in magic, chance or dogma. Consider some of what an atheist must believe in order to believe atheism is true:

They have to believe firstly that something (the universe) can come from nothing. Then, in order to avoid the conclusion that the cosmos is purposefully designed for life, they have to believe, in the complete absence of evidence, the only other possibility: that there are a near infinite number of universes of which ours is just one.

Believing as they do in a naturalistic origin of life they have to also believe that the equivalent of a library full of information (the DNA molecule) was somehow assembled by random chance and then, despite the enormous improbability of it, DNA just by accident developed the highly complex process of self-replication. They have to believe, without any evidence, that human consciousness - the awareness of one's surroundings and the ability to reason, abstract, and experience sensations - somehow arose by chance from chemical reactions occurring in the brain.

They often also believe, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that atheism is superior to theism in terms of offering a reason to hope that justice will prevail, a meaning for human and individual existence, a ground for moral obligation, and a basis for thinking that human beings have dignity and should be accorded human rights. On atheism there's no absolutely no reason whatsoever to think that there's any real justice, any ultimate meaning to life, any ground for moral obligation or moral judgment, or any reason to think humans have dignity, worth or inherent rights. Yet many atheists believe in all of these things.

So who's being superstitious?

*Superstitious by Stevie Wonder


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Presidency of Firsts

Andrew McCarthy at National Review Online fears that the country is in the hands of people who care not either for the motherland or its traditions. He takes as symbolic the standing ovation given to Mexican president Felipe Calderon by congressional Democrats as Calderon criticized Arizona for its immigration law, a law, it needs be noted, that is positively innocuous compared to the laws of the country over which Mr. Calderon presides.

McCarthy was the district attorney who prosecuted the terrorists behind the first World Trade Tower bombings in the early 90s. He writes:

[A]s a New York lawyer who made no secret of having conservative views, I was a decided minority, even among my fellow prosecutors. But that only mattered in the occasional, friendly joust over a beer. Day to day, our politics had nothing to do with how we went about our jobs. At the office, I had friends across the ideological spectrum. Most of them were from the political left, but we liked and respected one another. The bond we shared, the sense that we were doing something good for the nation we all loved, was stronger than any ideological divisions.

Why does that matter now? Because, for the first time in our history, we have a president who would be much more comfortable sitting in a room with Bill Ayers than sitting in a room with me. We have a governing class that is too often comfortable with anti-American radicals, with rogue and dysfunctional governments that blame America for their problems, and with Muslim Brotherhood ideologues who abhor individual liberty, capitalism, freedom of conscience, and, in general, Western enlightenment. To this president and his government, I am the problem. Americans who champion life, liberty, and limited government are not just the loyal opposition; they are deemed potential terrorists, and are derided with considerably more intensity than the actual terrorists. Arizona - for criminalizing criminal activity, for defending its sovereignty and protecting its citizens' lives and property - is slandered as a human-rights violator.

Mr. McCarthy makes a telling point. For the first time in our history we have a president who never talks about America's greatness, who never talks about the blessing America has been to the world, who never praises its history or traditions. For the first time in our history we have a president who feels the need to apologize for America at every opportunity, who abases himself before third world tyrants, whose wife admits to having never been proud of her country. For the first time, at least in modern history, our president is more interested in pitting one group against another than in bringing people together, he's more interested in fueling class resentments than in working for unity.

I never thought that any of the men who served as president throughout my adult life, even those whose policies I thought were misguided, disdained the United States and what it stood for. I never thought any of them actually wanted to see the United States' power and influence diminished around the world. Nor did I ever think that any of them were deliberately trying to weaken the American economy in order to impose a socialist, corporatist, statism on the nation, but, rightly or wrongly, I'm afraid I have come to think that of this president.

I think McCarthy is correct. It says something about the president that from Bill Ayers to Jeremiah Wright, Mr. Obama appears to feel more comfortable in the company of people who despise this country than in the company of those who love it.

I urge you to read the rest of McCarthy's NRO column at the link.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Rand Paul vs His Critics

J.E. Dyer at Hot Air takes both left and right to task for their expressions of horror at Rand Paul's heresies. As Dyer observes, in this shameful episode Paul is the only one who seems willing to actually think. Everyone else is rending their garments as though it's perfectly obvious that he has uttered blasphemy, but this seems like a tactic designed to enable them to avoid having to address his main point.

Dyer explains:

There have been two incidents now, since the Kentucky primary, in which Rand Paul has failed to prostrate himself automatically before a political shibboleth. One concerned the Civil Rights Act, the intent of which Paul has expressed full support for. His quarrel is with the element of the Civil Rights Act that authorizes the federal government to regulate private businesses.

The other is Paul's criticism of Obama's "boot on the neck" comment about BP, and of the general societal attitude in the US that everything must be litigated and litigable fault assigned for any bad thing that happens.

As Dyer argues regarding the civil rights matter, just because the federal government is acting to bring about some good doesn't mean that it's right that the federal government is doing it. It may be good that students not adopt Marxist economic ideas, for instance, but it would not be appropriate for the federal government to ban the dissemination of those ideas.

Dyer closes with this:

Tacit, unexamined acceptance of federal authority to do these things is what Rand Paul is challenging. In 2010, he is the one asking people to think, rather than to merely repeat doctrinaire talking points taught to them since birth. His critics, on the other hand, sound like nothing so much as children reciting a catechism, and tsk-tsk-ing over those who don't recite it in exactly the same way. That includes many of his critics on the right - who have agreed to be governed by a list of pieties that makes effective dissent from the left's religious doctrine impossible.

Read the whole piece at the link.


The New Normal

Imagine a society which finds itself unable to make moral judgments. How long will that society be able to sustain its moral character? How long will it be before that society begins an ever quickening descent into the moral cesspool? How far have we already descended?

Once upon a time there was in America a fairly uniform moral understanding, but that consensus no longer exists. We have lost a common basis for saying that something is wrong, and consequently traditional morality and those who practice it are often objects of derision in our popular culture. Those who seek to hold fast to the convictions of our grandfathers are mocked and intimidated by silly admonitions against imposing one's values upon the rest of society.

Even so, Christian tradition rooted in divine revelation provides a unique platform for resisting, for example, the increasingly bizarre sexualization of our culture. But since Scripture as a source of moral authority no longer has purchase in much of society, Christians who advert to it are usually ignored, often sneered at, and sometimes cowed into silence.

When the societal demographic which actually possesses a ground upon which to base moral claims is silenced, however, moral norms are inevitably established by the lowest common social denominator, and the lowest common denominator in our society is pretty low.

Robin of Berkeley writes about this in a column about this slide into the sewer at The American Thinker. Her piece is worth the few minutes it takes to peruse. Here's a peek:

[O]nce something is repeated often enough, it becomes the New Normal.

Decades ago, the first rap song that celebrated beating "ho's" and shooting cops was shocking. But after the umpteenth song, the lyrics may no longer startle.

When Hustler started showing it all, the gasps were practically audible. Now you can look at perverted stuff online that makes Hustler pale in comparison.

Movies and TV shows used to merely hint at violence. Now films and video games offer a steady diet of graphic mayhem.

At one time, horrendous crimes, like murdering police or carjackings, were unheard of. Now they are commonplace: again, the New Normal.

The degradation of the culture through making the abnormal normal is no coincidence. Members of the Frankfurt School plotted the degeneration almost a hundred years ago. According to one group member, "We'll make the West so corrupt that it stinks."

Their scheming has paid off, creating a cesspool of decadence. The new Pledge of Allegiance is not to the flag, but to the self: If it feels good, do it.

The above link to the Frankfurt School is worth following. The essay by Timothy Matthews that it leads to is an eye-opener.


Monday, May 24, 2010

Omission and Commission

Jason is reading the late Richard J. Neuhaus' classic work The Naked Public Square, and came across a piece of text he thought worth sharing. I'm glad he did because the passage is typical of Neuhaus' keen insight. In it Neuhaus puts his finger on a fundamental difference between how conservatives and liberals see things when their opposite number is in power. He's talking specifically about liberal and conservative Christians, but I think his observation is valid for liberals and conservatives in general:

"A more believable reason why the left is not likely to raise an effective holy crusade for political change has to do with the intensity of actions and reactions. That is, under a conservative government left-of-center Christians do not feel themselves assaulted. From a liberal viewpoint, the faults of a conservative government are more passive than active, more sins of omission than sins of commission. The liberal complaint against conservative government is that it does not take care of the domestic poor, or advance foreign aid, or expand environmental protection, or press for the extension of minority rights, or a host of other things that liberals think it the business of government to do.

In conservative eyes, however, the sins of liberal government are sins of commission: government does many things they think it should not do and forbids them to do things they think they should be free to do. They are notably outraged by governments that, they believe, advance changes in sexual and family mores - areas that could hardly be more value-laden. While accepting the prohibition of mandatory race segregation, they resent deeply programs such as school busing and 'affirmative action' aimed at mandatory racial integration. They react vociferously to government actions that get in the way of praying in schools, owning handguns, hiring whom they want, and living where they please. In sum, in very everyday ways they feel assaulted by liberal government as liberals do not feel assaulted by conservative government."

This is, of course, very true. Conservative governments by their very nature are glacially slow to implement change and thus are not a threat to liberals, but liberal governments want to effect change in every aspect of our lives, from taxes to personal morality, and they want to do it yesterday. Conservatives thus feel very threatened by them indeed.

It might be noted that the Obama government is liberalism on steroids, and is consequently seen by conservatives as the greatest threat to the values they hold dear that has come along in at least the last 70 years. The fear that Obama is intent on turning their world upside-down and turning America into an impotent economic basket-case is why there is a tea-party movement today.


Creating Information

Ken MacLeod of The Guardian waxes ecstatic over the feat accomplished by a team of biologists headed up by Craig Venter who manufactured a synthetic strand of DNA and inserted it successfully into a living cell. This is a remarkable technological accomplishment, to be sure, but it's hardly the creation of life as some overly-enthusiastic observers have claimed and as MacLeod comes close to claiming.

An interesting aspect of MacLeod's column is that in it he offers the reader two mutually incompatible claims. He writes first that:

[T]here's something wonderfully confirmatory of mechanistic materialism in the building of a genome from chemically synthesised molecules, that genome running a cell, and that cell replicating to a point where no trace of the original cell's cytoplasm is left in its descendants(emphasis mine).

Mechanistic materialism is the view that everything about living things is reducible to purposeless physical forces and that there's no warrant for supposing that intelligent agents have played any role in the evolution of living things.

But a paragraph further on MacLeod says:

Synthetic life, then, creates no problems even for creationists (after all, it's intelligently designed!) let alone more sophisticated theists (emphasis mine).

Now, these two assertions can't both be true. If the cell's new genome was intelligently designed, which, of course, it was, then the achievement is not at all a confirmation of mechanistic materialism. It is a spectacular confirmation of man's skill and ingenuity, perhaps, but it is completely without value as a prop for materialism. Indeed, what Venter's work confirms is the claim of intelligent design advocates that whenever and wherever we find information (including the genetic code inscribed in DNA) we can be confident that it's the product, somehow, of an intelligent agent. Venter's achievement seems to be a confirming instance, not of mechanistic materialism, but of a fundamental prediction of intelligent design.


The Stoning of Soraya M.

Some Muslim emigrants, especially those gathered in European countries, are demanding that they be allowed to govern their communities under Islamic, or Sharia, law. Inexplicably, there are some Europeans, like Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams, who are apparently willing to acquiesce to their demand.

Such lunacy is in need of an antidote, and it's our good fortune that one has just become available. A film entitled The Stoning of Soraya M., based on a book that recounts the true story of an Iranian woman who was stoned to death by her family and village in 1986, has recently been released on DVD. According to the account given by the French-Iranian journalist who happened upon the village shortly after Soraya's murder, her husband had wanted a divorce so that he could marry a younger woman. Soraya, for economic reasons, refused, and the husband responded to her refusal by falsely accusing her of infidelity which, under Sharia law, is punishable by death by stoning.

The film, directed by an Iranian-American and featuring many Iranian actors (plus Jim Caveziel of Passion of the Christ fame) is a powerful indictment of the status of women under Sharia. It's also an indictment of the savagery of Islamic law and Islamic culture itself (In the movie, children, including Soraya's own sons, participate in her grisly execution).

The Stoning of Soraya M. is well-acted, but the climactic scene is not easy to watch. Even so, it's an extremely important film and deserves a wide audience. It's especially important that it be seen by anyone who has been indoctrinated in the multiculturalist flummery that all cultures are equally "valid." I can't imagine anyone, especially a woman, watching this film and saying that living under Sharia wouldn't be such a bad thing.


Saturday, May 22, 2010

Learn to Read

If administration diplomats are going to tell the Chinese, of all people, that Arizona's immigration law presents a human rights problem, and if congressional Democrats are going to give the president of Mexico a standing ovation when that hypocritical buffoon criticizes the Arizona law, a law nowhere near as draconian as Mexican immigration laws, then they really should have the decency to have read the legislation that they're criticizing.

It was inexcusable of the Democrats to pass a 2000 page health care reform bill that few of them had taken the trouble to examine. Now they're calling the people of Arizona a bunch of bigots and they haven't even looked to see what's in the law that's all of ten pages long.

Such fatuousness is almost beyond parody, but Arizona Governor Jan Brewer's new ad gives it a game try:


Roasting the New Atheists

An essay by David Hart in First Things has created a bit of a stir. Hart's eloquent skewering of the new atheists borders on the exquisite. Here are his opening paragraphs:

I think I am very close to concluding that this whole "New Atheism" movement is only a passing fad-not the cultural watershed its purveyors imagine it to be, but simply one of those occasional and inexplicable marketing vogues that inevitably go the way of pet rocks, disco, prime-time soaps, and The Bridges of Madison County. This is not because I necessarily think the current "marketplace of ideas" particularly good at sorting out wise arguments from foolish. But the latest trend in � la mode godlessness, it seems to me, has by now proved itself to be so intellectually and morally trivial that it has to be classified as just a form of light entertainment, and popular culture always tires of its diversions sooner or later and moves on to other, equally ephemeral toys.

Take, for instance, the recently published 50 Voices of Disbelief: Why We Are Atheists. Simple probability, surely, would seem to dictate that a collection of essays by fifty fairly intelligent and zealous atheists would contain at least one logically compelling, deeply informed, morally profound, or conceptually arresting argument for not believing in God. Certainly that was my hope in picking it up. Instead, I came away from the whole drab assemblage of preachments and preenings feeling rather as if I had just left a large banquet at which I had been made to dine entirely on crushed ice and water vapor.

To be fair, the shallowness is not evenly distributed. Some of the writers exhibit a measure of wholesome tentativeness in making their cases, and as a rule the quality of the essays is inversely proportionate to the air of authority their authors affect. For this reason, the philosophers-who are no better than their fellow contributors at reasoning, but who have better training in giving even specious arguments some appearance of systematic form-tend to come off as the most insufferable contributors. Nicholas Everitt and Stephen Law recycle the old (and incorrigibly impressionistic) argument that claims of God's omnipotence seem incompatible with claims of his goodness. Michael Tooley does not like the picture of Jesus that emerges from the gospels, at least as he reads them. Christine Overall notes that her prayers as a child were never answered; ergo, there is no God. A.C. Grayling flings a few of his favorite papier-m�ch� caricatures around. Laura Purdy mistakes hysterical fear of the religious right for a rational argument. Graham Oppy simply provides a pr�cis of his personal creed, which I assume is supposed to be compelling because its paragraphs are numbered. J.J.C. Smart finds miracles scientifically implausible (gosh, who could have seen that coming?). And so on. Ad�le Mercier comes closest to making an interesting argument-that believers do not really believe what they think they believe-but it soon collapses under the weight of its own baseless presuppositions.

The scientists fare almost as poorly. Among these, Victor Stenger is the most recklessly self-confident, but his inability to differentiate the physical distinction between something and nothing (in the sense of "not anything as such") from the logical distinction between existence and nonexistence renders his argument empty. The contributors drawn from other fields offer nothing better. The Amazing Randi, being a magician, knows that there is quite a lot of credulity out there. The historian of science Michael Shermer notes that there are many, many different and even contradictory systems of belief. The journalist Emma Tom had a psychotic scripture teacher when she was a girl. Et, as they say, cetera. The whole project probably reaches its reductio ad absurdum when the science-fiction writer Sean Williams explains that he learned to reject supernaturalism in large part from having grown up watching Doctor Who.

You really must read it all. Hart is the author of Atheist Delusions which provides an equally enjoyable and satisfying roasting of the likes of Richard Dawkins and his acolytes.


You Said You'd Never Compromise*

In a world in which corporate moguls are eager to give consumers whatever they want regardless of what it is, Steve Jobs of Apple deserves a special commendation. Jobs has refused to allow his iPhone and iPad to support apps that offer pornography. A writer for took him to task for this stand and Jobs' reply was perfect. Here's part of the story by Peter Smith at Lifesite

Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computers, says his company will not be a party to the pornography industry and hopes that the iPad and iPhone revolution will help lead to a porn-free world.

Jobs reiterated his position in a heated e-mail exchange with Ryan Tate, a writer for, which follows news and gossip in Silicon Valley and elsewhere. Tate, who admitted that he was home alone and slightly inebriated at the time, took issue with a television ad calling the iPad a "revolution" and fired off an e-mail to Jobs.

"If Dylan [American songwriter Bob Dylan is one of Jobs' favorite musicians] was 20 today, how would he feel about your company? Would he think the iPad had the faintest thing to do with 'revolution?' Revolutions are about freedom," Tate wrote, not expecting a response from Jobs. However, Jobs did respond to Tate, triggering an e-mail duel. "Yep, freedom from programs that steal your private data. Freedom from programs that trash your battery. Freedom from porn. Yep, freedom," responded Jobs. "The times they are a changin', and some traditional PC folks feel like their world is slipping away. It is."

However, Tate accused Jobs of "imposing" his "morality" by having Apple forbid pornographic applications for iPad. "I don't want 'freedom from porn.' Porn is just fine! And I think my wife would agree," fired back Tate - who later said he regretted mentioning his wife.

Jobs shot back, "You might care more about porn when you have kids."

Among the dumb things Tate says in his email to Jobs the claim that Jobs is "imposing his morality" is perhaps the dumbest. There's more on this story at the link. Thanks to Jason for calling it to our attention.

* From Like a Rolling Stone - Bob Dylan (1965)


Friday, May 21, 2010

Future Shock

The future of American medical care has been looking bleak for some time and looks even bleaker since passage of Obamacare. One casualty of the woeful state of things is our medicare system which, according to this article, is virtually imploding in places like Texas:

Texas doctors are opting out of Medicare at alarming rates, frustrated by reimbursement cuts they say make participation in government-funded care of seniors unaffordable.

Two years after a survey found nearly half of Texas doctors weren't taking some new Medicare patients, new data shows 100 to 200 a year are now ending all involvement with the program. Before 2007, the number of doctors opting out averaged less than a handful a year.

"This new data shows the Medicare system is beginning to implode," said Dr. Susan Bailey, president of the Texas Medical Association. "If Congress doesn't fix Medicare soon, there'll be more and more doctors dropping out and Congress' promise to provide medical care to seniors will be broken."

More than 300 doctors have dropped the program in the last two years, including 50 in the first three months of 2010, according to data compiled by the Houston Chronicle. Texas Medical Association officials, who conducted the 2008 survey, said the numbers far exceeded their assumptions.

Then there's this dispiriting forecast:

The new healthcare law will pack 32 million newly insured people into emergency rooms already crammed beyond capacity, according to experts on healthcare facilities.

A chief aim of the new healthcare law was to take the pressure off emergency rooms by mandating that people have insurance coverage. The idea was that if people have insurance, they will go to a doctor rather than putting off care until they faced an emergency.

People who build hospitals, however, say newly insured people will still go to emergency rooms for primary care because they don't have a doctor.

"Everybody expected that one of the initial impacts of reform would be less pressure on emergency departments; it's going to be exactly the opposite over the next four to eight years," said Rich Dallam, a healthcare partner at the architectural firm NBBJ, which designs healthcare facilities.

No medicare for many of the nation's elderly. Already crowded emergency rooms soon to be jammed beyond their capacity. Mr. Obama is certainly living up to his promise of being a transformational president.


Dictators and Lefties

There is among leftists a curious fascination with dictators and dictatorships. During the 1930s, before the Nazi atrocities were known, American progressives were very much enamored of both Hitler and Mussolini. More recently we've seen Hollywood types like Danny Glover and Sean Penn express their admiration for tyrants Jean Bertrand Aristide and Hugo Chavez, and of course, Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, who murdered thousands of Cubans, were rock stars among the Left for much of the last half of the last century. Recently, Obama spokeswoman Anita Dunn told a college audience that her favorite philosopher was Mao Tse Tung, the Communist Chinese leader who killed millions of his fellow Chinese.

Now comes word that yet another Hollywood left-wing luminary has endorsed dictatorship. Woody Allen, according to Fox News, has expressed the opinion that President Obama should be allowed to be a dictator:

In an interview published by Spanish language newspaper La Vanguardia, Allen says "I am pleased with Obama. I think he's brilliant. The Republican Party should get out of his way and stop trying to hurt him." Allen said "it would be good...if he [Obama]could be a dictator for a few years because he could do a lot of good things quickly."

I suppose this is what passes for trenchant political thought at Hollywood cocktail parties, but to most people, I would bet, it sounds pretty dumb. Even so, given Obama's wish to have a citizen militia as well-trained as the military, the affection so many of his appointees have for Marx and Mao, and the various threats to free speech that have emanated from his FCC, dictatorial aspirations in this administration might not be as far-fetched as one might hope.

Totalitarian socialist dictatorships, whether fascist or communist, are the end point of leftist politics. There is something in the DNA of those on the left that draws them, as though in thrall to an irresistible gravity, toward less and less individual freedom and more and more government control. If such a tyranny should ever come to pass in this country celebrities like Allen, Glover, and Penn will probably be in the front of the crowd cheering its arrival.


Thursday, May 20, 2010

Where Kagan's Sympathies Lie

President Obama's pick for the Supreme Court has left for those who wish to assess her views little to go on. She did, however, write a senior thesis while at Princeton which Doug Ross has excerpted for us. In the paper she laments the demise of socialism and speaks yearningly of how it may be resuscitated.

Here are some of the highlights, or lowlights, that Ross ferreted out of her thesis:

I would like to thank my brother Marc, whose involvement in radical causes led me to explore the history of American radicalism in the hope of clarifying my own political ideas...

...Most historians have viewed World War I as an unqualified disaster for the American socialist movement...

[During the war] both local and national socialist leaders had taken their stand: they would condemn the war in the strongest terms... having formulated their policies, the socialists turned with rekindled enthusiasm to active propaganda work...

In our own times, a coherent socialist movement is nowhere to be found in the United States. Americans are more likely to speak of a golden past than of a golden future, of capitalism's glories than of socialism's greatness... Why, in a society by no means perfect, has a radical party never attained the status of a major political force?

...[America's] societal traits... a relatively fluid class structure, an economy which allowed at least some workers to enjoy [prosperity]... prevented the early twentieth century socialists from attracting an immediate mass following. Such conditions did not, however, completely checkmate American socialism...

...Through its own internal feuding, then, the Socialist Party exhausted itself forever and further reduced labor radicalism... to the position of marginality and insignificance from which it has never recovered. The story is a sad but also a chastening one for those who, more than half a century after socialism's decline, still wish to change America.

...if the history of Local New York shows anything, it is that American radicals cannot afford to become their own worst enemies. In unity lies their only hope.

Though she certainly seems to sympathetic in this paper to an economic system which has nowhere ever worked, we might charitably attribute her enthusiasm for socialism to youthful idealism and the ideological hothouse of ivy-league academia. That is, we might do this if there were evidence that Ms Kagan has since matured beyond her early infatuation with a system that is today threatening to collapse the entire world economy. Unfortunately, there's nothing in her record to permit us to conclude that she has ever gotten over her first love.

Until such evidence emerges I think we're justified in concluding that Ms. Kagan, like so many others of the President's appointees, really is a woman of the far left, a woman who sees it as the task of people like herself to promote the revolt against capitalism and to impose a system which guarantees that everyone, except the elites, will be uniformly penurious.

Unless she can show that she has indeed outgrown her youthful fling with socialism, or that the sentiments she put on paper as a college senior were not intended to sound as sympathetic as they do to the socialist movement, the prospect of her appointment to the Supreme Court should make us all nervous.


Uh Oh

The Los Angeles City Council has determined that the best way to express their outrage at the Arizona immigration law is to enact a boycott of Arizona. The august city fathers have, however, made themselves look ridiculous in the process. For one thing, the Arizona law differs scarcely at all from the immigration law of the state of California, as Washington Times reporter Kerry Pickett helpfully points out. Perhaps Los Angeles will next launch a boycott of Sacramento.

Their action also threatens, like a stick of dynamite in the hands of Wile E. Coyote, to blow up in their faces. It turns out that Arizona Corporation Commissioner Gary Pierce has offered to help Los Angeles cancel all their contracts with Arizona. The Corporation Commission oversees, inter alia, electrical production in the state of Arizona, and, as it happens, Los Angeles receives 25% of its electricity from Arizona. Mr. Pierce writes the following letter to L.A. mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Its a hoot:

Dear Mayor Villaraigosa,

I was dismayed to learn that the Los Angeles City Council voted to boycott Arizona and Arizona-based companies - a vote you strongly supported - to show opposition to SB 1070 (Support our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act).

ayor Villaraigosa,

You explained your support of the boycott as follows: "While we recognize that as neighbors, we share resources and ties with the State of Arizona that may be difficult to sever, our goal is not to hurt the local economy of Los Angeles, but to impact the economy of Arizona. Our intent is to use our dollars - or the withholding of our dollars - to send a message." (emphasis added)

I received your message; please receive mine. As a state-wide elected member of the Arizona Corporation Commission overseeing Arizona's electric and water utilities, I too am keenly aware of the "resources and ties" we share with the City of Los Angeles. In fact, approximately twenty-five percent of the electricity consumed in Los Angeles is generated by power plants in Arizona.

If an economic boycott is truly what you desire, I will be happy to encourage Arizona utilities to renegotiate your power agreements so Los Angeles no longer receives any power from Arizona-based generation. I am confident that Arizona's utilities would be happy to take those electrons off your hands. If, however, you find that the City Council lacks the strength of its convictions to turn off the lights in Los Angeles and boycott Arizona power, please reconsider the wisdom of attempting to harm Arizona's economy.

People of goodwill can disagree over the merits of SB 1070. A state-wide economic boycott of Arizona is not a message sent in goodwill.


Commissioner Gary Pierce

One wonders what else California gets from Arizona. Water, perhaps?


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Shrinking Pools

A recent essay by Michael Metzger succinctly explains why it is that so many modern marriages are in trouble:

In Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond cites the famous first sentence of Tolstoy's great novel Anna Karenina: "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." Diamond goes on to write, "By that sentence, Tolstoy meant that, in order to be happy, a marriage must succeed in many different respects: sexual attraction, agreement about money, child discipline, religion, in-laws, and other vital issues. Failure in any one of those essential respects can doom a marriage even if it has all the other ingredients needed for happiness."

In other words, lots of things all have to go right for a marriage to succeed and only one thing has to go wrong for it to fail. Add to Diamond's list the fact that in the modern workplace men and women are in close contact with each other to an extent that's probably unique in human history. It's a situation in which they see every day people of the opposite sex to whom their own spouses often measure up unfavorably. The constant proximity and interaction between the sexes in the workplace creates the potential for marital challenges that are perhaps unprecedented in Western culture.

At any rate, without wishing to sound like an e-harmony commercial the problem for many moderns is that as our culture becomes more and more diverse, as traditional values give way to a wider spectrum of moral assumptions, and as more people see religion as extraneous to human well-being, it gets harder and harder to find someone who matches well in all those "essential respects" Diamond lists.

It's another reason for being skeptical, perhaps, of the alleged merits of "diversity." The more varied we become as a society the more likely the pool of compatible potential mates will shrink to a puddle.

Thanks to Byron for the tip on the article.


Waiting for Godot

Stephen Meyer, philosopher of science, author of Signature in the Cell, and an intelligent design advocate gave a presentation at Biola college recently on evidence for intelligent design in the genetic code of living things. After Meyer's talk there was a panel discussion with two critics of Meyer's book.

The other panelists were Steve Matheson, a theistic evolutionist from Calvin College, and Arthur Hunt a Darwinist and biologist from the University of Kentucky.

Robert Crowther at Evolution News and Views provides a transcript of an interesting part of their exchange. I've edited it slightly to make it easier to read:

Matheson: I don't find the argument convincing, I really don't, but I think I know why. And the reason why is, I just figured out tonight, you said that we reason backwards from what we know works, which is that intelligence makes codes. I'll agree with that. Can I see the hands of people that don't agree? Of course not.

Okay, well we reason back and say, therefore, this is the one explanation we know that can do this. I buy that, I get it, it's obvious. But I see the world differently than you do. And so here's the thing. You said intelligence always creates information, and my view is a little different. Everywhere I look, and every time I look, if I wait long enough, there is a natural and even materialistic explanation to things.

Now, don't I have the right to say I'm going to go ahead and extrapolate that back, like Steve's book, not because I'm an obnoxious Calvinist-maybe that's true-but because that's just kinda my preference? And so what I want all of us to agree on is that it's fruitless, it's pointless to say, Steve, don't be stupid, design doesn't explain what you want it to. Well, of course it does-how could it not? But wouldn't it be reasonable for some of the Christians in this room to say, You know-

Meyer: You're comfortable waiting for another explanation.

Matheson: I am.

Meyer: Which, in a strict sense, concedes that the one I offer is currently best-[The audience erupts into applause. Unintelligible between Meyer and Matheson]-and we have a different philosophy of science, which is where the locus of our disagreement probably lies, and where we should continue to converse.

Matheson: I'll offer the acknowledgment: Design will always be an excellent and irrefutable explanation. How can it not be. I'm just saying it doesn't look designed to me. He's [Meyer] right, and there's some stuff that goes on in the cell, I don't know how you get design into there. But it's easy to simply say, and maybe you [referring to Arthur Hunt] do say this, let's wait, maybe there's a good reason why the cell, those proteins, billions [every] day, go straight into the wood-chipper. Maybe there's a good reason for that. You said that. There's nothing wrong with talking like that. There's also nothing wrong with saying, Wow, man, I don't know.

In other words, Matheson admits, though he doesn't want to, that intelligent design is the best explanation on offer for the origin of the information contained in living cells. Even so, like the travelers in the play Waiting for Godot, he's philosophically committed to withholding acceptance of ID in the hope that a plausible naturalistic explanation will some day come along.

This is an odd way to go about things. All theories in science and philosophy are held tentatively. One embraces the best explanation available until something better presents itself. If Matheson believes that ID makes more sense than Darwinian naturalism then the proper thing to do is to accept ID until such time as it is no longer the superior theory. Indeed, this is the rationale many Darwinists give for holding on to Darwinism - they argue that it's really the only plausible game in town.

To refuse to accept a theory that one believes is the best among those in play, however, just because one does not like the metaphysical implications of the theory - in this case that a transcendent intelligence is an active agent in the world - is to display an irrational prejudice for naturalism. A Calvinist like Matheson should be embarrassed to admit that that's his position, although in his defense perhaps he could argue that his peculiar refusal to accept the theory that he thinks is the best has been predestined by God and there's nothing he can do about it.


Dan Rather, Where Are You Now?

You'll remember that Dan Rather's career pretty much came to a sudden conclusion when he broadcast charges that President Bush had lied about his military service. Rather's allegations turned out to be based on a phony document and Rather's shoddy attempt at disgracing Bush wound up disgracing himself.

Too bad Rather wasn't interested in checking on the military careers of Democrats else he might have unearthed a nugget in Connecticut's Attorney General's office.

It turns out that Richard Blumenthal, the current Attorney General of Connecticut and the heir apparent to retiring Senator Chris Dodd, has been caught by the New York Times in what can only be called a lie about his military service. The Times has discovered that Mr. Blumenthal, despite having sought repeated deferments from service during the Vietnam war, and never having served in that theater, has nevertheless both explicitly and implicitly claimed on a number of occasions that he did.

Here's the kernel of the Times' story:

"We have learned something important since the days that I served in Vietnam," Mr. Blumenthal said to the group gathered in Norwalk in March 2008. "And you exemplify it. Whatever we think about the war, whatever we call it - Afghanistan or Iraq - we owe our military men and women unconditional support."

There was one problem: Mr. Blumenthal, a Democrat now running for the United States Senate, never served in Vietnam. He obtained at least five military deferments from 1965 to 1970 and took repeated steps that enabled him to avoid going to war, according to records.

Mr. Blumenthal, alert to the fact that most voters are sick and tired of being lied to by politicians, is now repenting of having "misspoken." How one misspeaks about having been in a war zone when one, in fact, never was is something of a mystery. Mr. Blumenthal is now apologizing for what he euphemistically calls a few "misplaced words." Well, it's certainly true that he misplaced the words "I served in Vietnam."

This is a sad revelation, of course. Nobody wants to see a man destroy himself in public, but equally as sad is that Democrat poobahs are defending him:

DSCC Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said Tuesday Democrats "will continue to support" embattled candidate Richard Blumenthal in his bid to become the next senator from Connecticut...."I think he's corrected the record in the past and I think his actions as it relates to standing up for veterans over a long period of time speaks volumes about where his heart and his actions are."

Well, actually, according to the NYT he hasn't corrected the record in the past, and "where his heart is" does not give him license to lie about his record, but never mind. A Senate seat hangs in the balance, and that's more important than honor, integrity, truth and all that boy scout stuff. After all, it's not as if United States Senators are supposed to be role models or something.

Speaking of truth, I'm reminded of the words of post-modern philosopher Richard Rorty who once declared that truth is whatever your peer-group will let you get away with saying. By that rather flexible standard I suppose Blumenthal's claim to have served in Vietnam is true after all since his Democrat peers are certainly willing to let him get away with saying it.


Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Carrie Prejean, Sarah Palin, George Bush, and Tim Tebow all have some things in common. They're all outspoken about their Christian faith and the liberal media seems to punish them for it. We've talked here at Viewpoint on occasion about what might be called Christian Derangement Syndrome as it relates to Prejean, Palin, and Bush, but we've never really discussed CDS as it has been directed at Tebow.

Stuart Schwartz at American Thinker has done the legwork for us, however, and his column is worth a read, especially if you think journalists are open-minded and tolerant of beliefs they don't themselves share.

Tim Tebow, as most readers probably know, was an outstanding college quarterback at the University of Florida and was drafted in the first round of the NFL draft by the Denver Broncos. Here's Scwartz's lede:

What do women, Tim Tebow, and evangelical Christians have in common?

They are all largely despised by the sports journalism division of our media elite. The continuing controversy over the first round selection in the National Football League draft of quarterback Tim Tebow by the Denver Broncos is a reminder that sports journalists are simply smaller and often nastier versions of their elite brothers on the serious side of the business.

Get accused twice of rape (Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh), repeatedly abuse your wife (Michael Pittman, Tampa Bay), regularly strangle and drown hapless dogs (Michael Vick, Atlanta)? Ah, well, boys will be boys, it is society's fault -- and besides, women and dogs don't wear Super Bowl rings. But pray, work with the poor, and refuse to engage in casual sex -- there's something seriously wrong with you. Or, as one Sports Illustrated writer put it, you are a certified "wackdo."

And so the controversy has swirled around "wackdo" Timothy Richard "Tim" Tebow, the evangelical Christian whose Denver Bronco jersey has become the top NFL merchandise seller before he set foot on Invesco Field at Mile High Stadium. Fans love this clean-cut, home-schooled son of Christian missionaries as much as the sports journalism establishment despises him.

I wonder if the SI writer would refer to a Muslim athlete as a "wackdo." Probably not. Anyway, you should read the rest of Schwartz's column on the sorts of things that've been said about Tebow for no other reason than that he's not shy about talking about his faith.

One of the interesting ancillary points Schwartz makes concerns misogyny among sports journalists - he claims that it's almost exclusively a liberal phenomenon. This comes as no surprise, actually, since liberals so often display what can at best be described as maladroitness and at worst be described as bigotry when it comes to matters of both race and religion. They may as well complete the trifecta and be sexists, too.


The Lonely Black Female

Byron puts me on to an interesting article in The Economist about the plight of black women. The difficulty they face is that there is tremendous competition among black women for the shrinking pool of marriageable black men which leads to a number of very regrettable social consequences:

Imagine that the world consists of 20 men and 20 women, all of them heterosexual and in search of a mate. Since the numbers are even, everyone can find a partner. But what happens if you take away one man? You might not think this would make much difference. You would be wrong, argues Tim Harford, a British economist, in a book called "The Logic of Life". With 20 women pursuing 19 men, one woman faces the prospect of spinsterhood. So she ups her game. Perhaps she dresses more seductively. Perhaps she makes an extra effort to be obliging. Somehow or other, she "steals" a man from one of her fellow women. That newly single woman then ups her game, too, to steal a man from someone else. A chain reaction ensues. Before long, every woman has to try harder, and every man can relax a little.

Real life is more complicated, of course, but this simple model illustrates an important truth. In the marriage market, numbers matter. And among African-Americans, the disparity is much worse than in Mr Harford's imaginary example. Between the ages of 20 and 29, one black man in nine is behind bars. For black women of the same age, the figure is about one in 150. For obvious reasons, convicts are excluded from the dating pool. And many women also steer clear of ex-cons, which makes a big difference when one young black man in three can expect to be locked up at some point.

The article concludes that this disparity is largely responsible for the explosion of unwed motherhood in the black community and matriarchal families:

Black women tend to stay in school longer than black men. Looking only at the non-incarcerated population, black women are 40% more likely to go to college. They are also more likely than white women to seek work. One reason why so many black women strive so hard is because they do not expect to split the household bills with a male provider. And the educational disparity creates its own tensions. If you are a college-educated black woman with a good job and you wish to marry a black man who is your socioeconomic equal, the odds are not good.

"I thought I was a catch," sighs an attractive black female doctor at a hospital in Washington, DC. Black men with good jobs know they are "a hot commodity", she observes. When there are six women chasing one man, "It's like, what are you going to do extra, to get his attention?" Some women offer sex on the first date, she says, which makes life harder for those who prefer to combine romance with commitment.

The Economist opines that the solution is to stop incarcerating black men for non-violent crimes, but I don't see how that helps. It makes more men available, perhaps, but it does nothing to improve the quality of the marriage pool. Educated black women looking for a quality male are not going to be helped by increasing the number of unincarcerated criminals in the pool.

Perhaps it will soon get to the point where such women get tired of the social inhibitions in the black community against dating white men and start competing with white women for white males. If that happens there could be serious sociological consequences for African-American society as the most "desirable" black women move out of that community to marry white men. Those left, both male and female, will be poorer, less educated and more dysfunctional, but how else can this problem be solved?


Monday, May 17, 2010

Stoking the Flames of Division

You've heard, no doubt, that Los Angeles is boycotting Arizona over their new immigration law which, like our attorney general who seems never to pass up an opportunity to erode our confidence in his judgment and competence, the good people of L.A. probably haven't read.

I wonder if, when California comes hat in hand to the federal government to bail them out of the fiscal mess they've spent themselves into, they'll demand that no Arizona tax dollars sully the offering we make toward sustaining their welfare state. I wonder, too, if Los Angeles will boycott the nine or so other states considering measures similar to the Arizona law.

Perhaps Los Angeles should just secede from the union and become a part of Mexico. I, for one, would not object. Or, borrowing an idea advanced by Hot Air, perhaps L.A. might be persuaded to take in all of Arizona's illegals so Arizona doesn't have to send them back to Mexico and points south. The city fathers of L.A. are so irate that Arizona may be deporting people who shouldn't be in the U.S., maybe they should show how deeply compassionate they are by doing something substantive and volunteering to house, feed, clothe, and educate them themselves. Do you think they will?Neither do I.

At any rate, the president's role in this contretemps has been very disappointing. He should have and could have been a healer in the midst of conflict. He could have talked about how the federal government needs to be more responsive to the needs and frustrations of Arizonans and more responsible in enforcing the law. He could have talked about how immigrants need to obey our laws and enter the country properly. He could have talked about how Americans and legal immigrants could work together to find solutions to this difficult problem. He could have actually read the law before he piped up about it, and pointed out that the worst fears of the Hispanic community about the law are unwarranted. But no. Regrettably, like a good disciple of Saul Alinsky he chose instead to be incendiary and suggest that the people of Arizona were bigots, that the law was irresponsible, and that Hispanics would be oppressed and hassled by the police as a result of it.

His words provided all the encouragement that the left and Hispanics needed to take to the streets and start demanding that Arizona be punished for not allowing itself to be overrun by hordes of poor people and criminals. Now, as a result of the president's demogoguery, we have states pitted against each other, people on all sides are extremely angry with each other, and inter-ethnic hatreds are swelling. Well played, Mr. President.

Anyway, here's Allahpundit at Hot Air suggesting that this episode is actually, if you can imagine it, being manipulated by our leadership for political gain:

[T]he left isn't interested in the facts about this. That was my point yesterday about Holder admitting that he hasn't read the statute. If he reads it then he's accountable for smearing it; better to stay ignorant and smear away for as long as possible and then, when called on it, grudgingly chalk it up to being misinformed. Besides, ever since the law was amended to ban racial profiling, the critique has shifted to how it'll be applied in practice by cops, not how it looks on the page. Even if it's found constitutional - and it very well may be - it'll take months of proper enforcement by Arizona police before that point can be factually challenged. For another thing, there's too much political skin in this game for the hysterics to relax. A Univision poll shows that 67 percent of Latinos oppose the law even though national majorities are strongly in favor. Democrats aren't going to pass amnesty this year so screaming "Nazi!" is their best chance to lock in Hispanic voters for the midterms and beyond. Look at it this way: When you've got the Simon Wiesenthal Center issuing statements deploring the sort of rhetoric being tossed at Arizona, you're way too far into Godwinland ever to make it back out. As a wise man once said, you can't reason a man out of that which he wasn't reasoned into...

At some point people have just got to say that they no longer care what the liberal elites say or think of them. They're going to do the right thing, they're going to enforce the law, they're going to protect themselves and their state from financial ruin, and if Los Angeles and the President don't like it they can go pound sand. We need more people in positions of leadership like, well, like New Jersey's Governor Chris Christie, for example:

Gov Christie calls S-L columnist thin-skinned for inquiring about his 'confrontational tone'

Maybe New Jersey will pass a law like Arizona's. I hope so. I'd love to hear Christie's reaction to a threat from Los Angeles to boycott New Jersey.


None Dare Call Them Radical

One of the reasons so few conservatives have confidence in Attorney General Eric Holder's judgment is that, though he had no trouble calling white America a nation of cowards and the Bush administration a bunch of war criminals, he just can't bring himself to say that Muslim terrorists are radical Islamic extremists, or even acknowledge that the phrase is meaningful:

It really shouldn't be hard to attribute acts of terror by people like the Times Square bomber, the Christmas bomber, or the Fort Hood shooter to Islamic extremism, a term which seems to some Americans to be a redundancy.

Islamists, i.e. the millions of Muslims who embrace or support militant jihad, see themselves as engaged in a holy war against religious infidelity. The Koran encourages them to kill those who refuse to accept the teachings of the Prophet, especially the Jews and whoever supports the Jews. Those who in the 1990s attacked the World Trade Towers, the U.S.S. Cole, and the Khobar Towers, those who hijacked the planes on 9/11, and all those who have come after, share one thing in common - they believe they're doing the will of Allah. They are radical Islamists. Holder's reluctance to admit this is deeply troubling, especially since he leaves us with only a narrow range of possible explanations for his demurral:

He's either very naive, very uninformed, very dumb, or, most troubling of all, very reluctant to impugn people with whom he feels a measure of sympathy. Whichever of these is the case, it's not good.


Saturday, May 15, 2010

Myth of the Moderate Muslim

David Horowitz is a Jew and former communist who today speaks and writes about the threat of Islamic extremism, not just abroad but on American campuses. A few days ago he was confronted by an American Muslim student whose answer to a question he poses is both chilling and clarifying. It certainly shows that some people who look moderate and sound moderate are in their hearts just as murderous as any terrorist who blows up school busses in Israel:

There is a myth that has gained currency in this country, especially among liberals, that holds that the overwhelming number of Muslims are peace-loving folk who condemn terrorism, Hezbollah, and Hamas. I say it is a myth because although I believe that such Muslims probably exist, and certainly hope that they do, it's very difficult to actually find one of them. It's especially hard to find them on our university campuses.

Check out Horowitz's website FrontPage Mag where he documents many of his encounters with Muslim students, and you'll understand what I mean.


Looting the World

Bill adds a very important observation to our post titled Death Spiral:

On your Death Spiral post, I just wanted to mention that while all of what you wrote is probably true, you may have missed a not so insignificant fact. The bail out of Greece is not actually a bail out of "Greece" rather it's a bailout of the banks, primarily in Germany and France, that have leant Greece money by buying Greek bonds.

It's no different than what happened in this country. For example AIG had insured investments that Goldman Sachs had made and when those investments went bust, AIG couldn't pay so the taxpayer footed the bill. Tens of billions of dollars of the bailout to AIG went directly to GS. GS didn't lose a penny. The interesting thing about this is that when the bonds from a company go bad (AIG), the bond holders (GS) ALWAYS take a haircut by negotiating for some percentage of pennies on the dollar. Not so in this case, and the banks were made completely whole as the US Treasury and the Fed didn't even attempt to negotiate a settlement.

The same thing is happening with Greece. The moral hazard has gone over the top. The banks know that they can make whatever investments they choose and all losses will be paid for by the public. The big banks have firmly fixed the IV into the arm of the public and will slowly suck out every drop of blood. Unfortunately, nobody seems interested in doing anything about this.

Sadly, these bailouts don't fix anything, rather they simply kick the debt can down the road for a couple of years and the same thing or worse will happen again. If Greece was ready to default today, what are they going to do that will enable them to pay off their present debt (that they can't pay today) along with an additional hundreds of billions that will come due in two years? Giving them the loans just enables them to continue to be grasshoppers.

All that had to be done was for Greece to default and leave the ECU and the Euro until they got their fiscal house in order at which time they could rejoin the union. Greece would have been better off, the ECU and the Euro would have been better off, but the banks would have lost some money. Guess we can't have that now, can we?

The ECU really screwed up because they have sent the message to the world that they aren't really serious about a solid Euro currency. It's just another fiat currency with no discipline...just like the dollar. The Euro price is dropping like a rock as people are bailing out, and that's primarily why the price of gold is going up.

Further, look what's happening every Friday afternoon on the FDIC website where they announce the closing of banks for the week. It doesn't take much to figure out that the assets of the closed banks are being assumed by other banks with the FDIC assuming the garbage assets that aren't wanted.

So what we're getting is more and more banks growing bigger and bigger as the smaller ones go under. The big fish are eating the little fish. At some point all of them will be too big to fail.

The banks are looting the world...

Meanwhile the president, all his tough talk notwithstanding, does nothing to stanch the looting, which isn't surprising given the number of former Goldman Sachs bigwigs with which he has stocked his administration.


Friday, May 14, 2010


It's human nature, I suppose, to whine and complain about how tough things are, how boring life is, how there's nothing to do, how awful George Bush was, and so on. Next time you're tempted to complain about your life perhaps you'll recall a story told me by one of my students, an immigrant from one of the most hellish places on earth - Sudan. He recounted an event that happened to him when he was a boy (he's thirty-something now). His name is Jacob, and here's what he said:

When the Muslims attacked our people and drove us out of our villages, we walked hundreds of miles as a group to safety. One time we were being chased by the militia so we were running to cross the river to get away. Most of us had not learned to swim and the river was full of crocodiles so the crossing was full of danger but we had to cross because the militia was coming upon us with guns and swords. Then, on the other side came Arab soldiers to shoot us when we got across. It was a terrible time. Some strong men carried a rope across the river for people to hang onto as they crossed. Some of us were killed by crocodiles. Many older men, women and children drowned. Many others were shot in the water from both sides of the river. I was a boy at the time and fortunately I knew how to swim. I do not know how, but I got across the river even though my two friends were killed. I was able to climb to safety on the other side along with the others who got across safely. I believe it was God's power that saved me on that day!

Kind of makes many of our concerns and troubles seem petty, doesn't it.


Mirror Images

Why do some atheists think it's a bad idea to draw too close a relationship between naturalism and Darwinism? One possible reason is they fear that eventually some astute judge will realize that Darwinism is essentially of the same philosophical genre as intelligent design and will conclude that if ID is religious then so, too, must Darwinism be. This judicial epiphany will ultimately eventuate in the loss of Darwinism's position of privilege in publicly funded schools.

Casey Luskin makes this point in an interesting essay at Evolution News and Views.

The fact that Darwinism and ID are philosophical mirror images should be obvious to all but the most otiose of observers, but for some reason, it's not. Darwinism claims that physical processes and forces are capable of explaining all of the biological facts of nature. ID is simply the denial of this claim. Why, then, should the latter be ruled "religious" while the former is not? How can one claim be deemed to be science, while it's negation is deemed to be religious?

If the courts ever realize how simple this matter is they're going to find themselves in the awkward position of having to rule that either ID is science, even if it's false (Richard Dawkins' position), or that Darwinism is essentially religious, even if it's true. It'll be interesting to watch judges and lawyers trying to massage that porcupine.


Econ 101

Here's a fast-paced primer on why our economic predicament is so dire. It's good, but I advise that you use the pause button to allow you to digest the information:

Whether it's Greece or California, it seems clear that excessive spending and borrowing leads only to disaster. I can't think of any example from history when it hasn't. So why has the Obama administration, and to a lesser extent the Bush administration, nevertheless spent us to the brink of catastrophic collapse? Are these people economic or historical illiterates? Are they stupid? Are they deliberately trying to destroy our economy? Are there any other possible explanations?


Thursday, May 13, 2010

Flight of the Intellectuals

In the wake of the 9/11 attacks historian Paul Berman, a man of the Left, wrote a book titled Terror and Liberalism in which he punctured the pretensions of his fellow liberal intellectuals for their fascination with terrorism and their reluctance to think ill of the people who perpetrate it.

Now Berman has come out with a follow-up book titled The Flight of the Intellectuals which, I understand, picks up where his first book leaves off.

I haven't read the second book yet but I have read Terror and Liberalism and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to understand the strange relationship between liberalism and radical Islamism and the motives behind this infatuation.

I also urge readers to read through an interview Berman does with journalist Michael Totten on the themes of his two books. It's an extraordinary piece. Berman has his predilections and prejudices but he is one of the most fair-minded people I've ever encountered. He didn't like George Bush much at all, and that certainly comes through in the interview, but he doesn't hesitate to give Bush credit for his clear-sightedness in the war against Islamic terrorism.

Here's an excerpt taken from a portion of the interview in which Berman and Totten are talking about the mindset of a certain group of liberal intellectuals who are willing to celebrate tyrants if the tyrants are anti-American. Berman observes that:

[T]here's another idea that appeals to many people, which is based not on our own feeling of superiority, but on our own inferiority. We look at ourselves in the Western countries and we say that, if we are rich, relatively speaking, as a society, it is because we have plundered our wealth from other people. Our wealth is a sign of our guilt. If we are powerful, compared with the rest of the world, it is because we treat people in other parts of the world in oppressive and morally objectionable ways. Our privileged position in the world is actually a sign of how racist we are and how imperialistic and exploitative we are. All the wonderful successes of our society are actually the signs of how morally inferior we are, and we have much to regret and feel guilty about. So when we look at the world, we should look at it in a spirit of humility and remorse, and we should recognize that other people have been unfairly treated.

We should recognize the superiority of those other people over ourselves. Money-wise, we may be richer. But, morally, the other people are richer. And so, we should despise ourselves, and we should love the other people -- the people who possess qualities so superior to our own as barely to be human. And then, filled with those very peculiar ideas, we set about looking for messianic figures who might express the superior culture of the other people, and might lead the human race to a higher stage of development. And if someone objects to this analysis, we say, oh, we inferior Westerners are incapable of understanding the mysterious thought-patterns of those other people, so who are you to judge?

The interview is a little long, but it'll be the most intellectually profitable 15 minutes you'll spend today.


Death Spiral

Newsweek's Robert Samuelson discusses the causes of the crisis in Greece, and what he describes sounds eerily like the situation the United States will find itself in about four years. The problem is fewer workers supporting more and more non-workers and a profligate spending binge leading to ever increasing budget deficits.

Here's an excerpt from Samuelson's column:

Budget deficits and debt are the real problems; and these stem from all the welfare benefits (unemployment insurance, old-age assistance, health insurance) provided by modern governments.

Countries everywhere already have high budget deficits, aggravated by the recession. Greece is exceptional only by degree. In 2009, its budget deficit was 13.6 percent of its gross domestic product (a measure of its economy); its debt, the accumulation of past deficits, was 115 percent of GDP. Spain's deficit was 11.2 percent of GDP, its debt 56.2 percent; Portugal's figures were 9.4 percent and 76.8 percent. Comparable figures for the United States -- calculated slightly differently -- were 9.9 percent and 53 percent.

There are no hard rules as to what's excessive, but financial markets -- the banks and investors that buy government bonds -- are obviously worried. Aging populations make the outlook worse. In Greece, the 65-and-over population is projected to go from 18 percent of the total in 2005 to 25 percent in 2030. For Spain, the increase is from 17 percent to 25 percent.

The welfare state's death spiral is this: Almost anything governments might do with their budgets threatens to make matters worse by slowing the economy or triggering a recession. By allowing deficits to balloon, they risk a financial crisis as investors one day -- no one knows when -- doubt governments' ability to service their debts and, as with Greece, refuse to lend except at exorbitant rates. Cutting welfare benefits or raising taxes all would, at least temporarily, weaken the economy. Perversely, that would make paying the remaining benefits harder.

But we shouldn't worry. Eat, drink, and be merry. Revel in hope and change. Enjoy American Idol. No great superpower lasts forever. After a while, all governments spend themselves into oblivion. Those among our elites who so admire Europe and European ways can take comfort in the fact that we're on course to follow them right down the drain.


Elena Miers Kagan

When George Bush nominated Harriet Miers to the Supreme court the firestorm of protest was so hot that she withdrew her name from consideration. Ms. Miers, it was argued from both the right and the left, had almost no relevant experience to qualify her for the court. Surely, many observers opined, there must be others more qualified than Ms Miers who was awarded the nomination, it was widely suspected, simply because she was a friend of George Bush's.

Well, now Barack Obama has nominated a woman, a friend of his, with no judicial experience and little courtroom experience to be the next Supreme Court Justice. Elena Kagan has no written body of work upon which anyone can base an assessment of her qualifications. She is Barack Obama's Harriet Miers - and also his dopplegänger - with one exception. No one among congressional Democrats thinks her selection is anything less than "superb" as Senator Leahy inexplicably declared.

When Bush nominated Miers, Republicans let him know how disappointed they were that he didn't select the best candidate in the field. He eventually came to his senses and gave us the brilliant Samuel Alito instead. When Obama nominated Kagan, on the other hand, Democrats all lined up to praise the nominee, but none of them can say exactly what it is they're praising her for. It's certainly not her qualifications to sit on the highest court in the land. I guess they feel that in the age of Obama qualifications for high office are just so 20th century.


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Backwards Reasoning

One of the arguments against the idea of an intelligent designer, going back at least to David Hume, is that if such a designer exists it must be incompetent given all the "bad" designs found in nature. One of the prized exhibits in this argument has for years been the "backwards" design of the retina, but, unfortunately for many authors who've hitched their Darwinian wagon to it, this old horse appears headed for the glue factory.

An article in New Scientist explains why:

It looks wrong, but the strange, "backwards" structure of the vertebrate retina actually improves vision. Certain cells act as optical fibres, and rather than being just a workaround to make up for the eye's peculiarities, they help filter and focus light, making images clearer and keeping colours sharp.

Although rods and cones are responsible for capturing light, they are in a curious position. Hidden at the base of the retina, they are covered by several layers of cells as well as the bed of nerves that carries visual information to the brain. One result is a blind spot in our visual field, leading the vertebrate retina to be listed among evolution's biggest "mistakes".

Light clearly gets through, however, and in 2007 researchers analysing the retinas of guinea pigs reported that the glial cells which nourish and physically support the bed of neurons also act as optical fibres for the rods and cones. These M�ller cells are funnel-shaped, with wide tops that cover the surface of the retina and a long slender body that guides light to the receptors below.

Now Amichai Labin and Erez Ribak of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa have used data from human eye cells to model the workings of the retina. Their findings suggest that sending light via the M�ller cells offers several advantages.

The rest of the article gives a very interesting explanation of the two advantages these researchers have discovered. Besides these there are other excellent reasons for wiring the retina the way it is that have been understood for some time and which are discussed in this article.

One might think that theists would be heartened by such findings since they seem to support the idea that a designer played some role in the creation. Not so Ken Miller, however. Miller is a theistic evolutionist whose career is heavily invested in persuading people that there's absolutely no evidence for intelligent design in biology, particularly in the human eye, and he's adamant that we not draw any inferences from the research cited by New Scientist that would support ID:

However, Kenneth Miller, a biologist at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island cautions that this doesn't mean that the backwards retina itself helps us to see. Rather, it emphasises the extent to which evolution has coped with the flawed layout. "The shape, orientation and structure of the M�ller cells help the retina to overcome one of the principal shortcomings of its inside-out wiring," says Miller.

Well, this is certainly an odd take on the research. One might think that the backwards wiring of the retina is only backwards if it impedes vision, but this system actually aids vision. Nevertheless, Miller assumes it's still backwards, apparently because it's not how he would have designed it, and then marvels at how evolution has compensated for the engineering error.

I think probably the retina is less backwards than is Miller's reasoning. If Professor Miller wants my advice it would be to stop digging, throw down his shovel, and pretend that he never heard of the retina.