Saturday, November 29, 2008

Enquiry Concerning Human Misunderstanding: John Derbyshire's new blog

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

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

Reality and reason, for example.

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

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


And then the wheels continue to fall off.

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

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

This is going to fun.

Friday, November 28, 2008

If Jack Sparrow were an economist

The economics of pirating, care of Scientific American.

Friedrich Hayek on inflation

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

Hat tip to Division of Labor

Queue up the audio here.

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

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

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

Henry Paulson's letters home from summer camp

From Iowahawk, on target as usual.

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

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Tyranny of Liberalism

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 24, 2008

Philosopher Thomas Nagel on Intelligent Design as science

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

From the "C'mon" department:

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You know times are hard when...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Gay hypocricy alert level is now ... orange

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

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

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

Why auto industry bailouts are a bad idea

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

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

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

Time Magazine on the new Gay Intolerance

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

Monday, November 17, 2008

Wonder of apologists for Prop. 8 protesters will defend this

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

More media voices calling for gays to practice what they preach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 15, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 14, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 13, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How 'bout it Josh?

The Tolerance Police in action

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

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

Gay McCarthyism claims a victim

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Is the alarmist rhetoric about unemployment overblown?

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

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

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

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

Kansas blogger defends gay hate speech

My comment that gay rights groups may be evolving into hate groups elicited the response of a blogger in Kansas whose specialty is, ironically, defending evolution.

Josh Rosenau, who teaches at the ever more ludicrous National Association for Science Education (NASE) and runs the blog "Thoughts from Kansas," apparently had some time on his hands after a hard day of stamping out creationism and responded to my earlier post in which I pointed out the increasing intolerance and hatefulness emanating from the general direction of the gay rights movement.

I pointed out the increasing facility such groups have displayed in the use of terms such as "bigot" and "gay-hater" to smear their opponents. Rosenau used basically the same argument as an anonymous commenter on the original post who said, "But you guys are bigots. It's not hateful if it's true."

To which I responded, "So then it's okay for people to call gays 'faggots' on the grounds that its true?"

On the one hand it is understandable that there would be heated rhetoric in a debate about closely held beliefs, but when the rhetoric descends to pretty hateful name-calling--particularly when committed by the side that is always giving preachy lectures to everyone else about the evils of being hateful--someone needs to be called on the carpet about it.

Rosenau justifies his use of hate speech this way:
Trying to take away people's marriages, simply because one is prejudiced against those people's sexualities, is bigotry. And that's hateful.
Take away people's marriages? Isn't the whole debate about whether they are marriages in the first place? Do they teach about avoiding the fallacy of begging the question over at NASE these days?

Apparently not.

And how is the moral position that marriage is between a man and a woman "hateful" anymore than believing that yellow and blue make green is hateful? Does Rosenau really believe that the belief that marriage, by definition, is a relationship between a man and a woman is inherently hateful? That believing it somehow elicits the emotion of hate in the person contemplating it?

Of course he doesn't. But I'm sure it makes him feel all righteous in his crusade of moral condemnation to say it. Congratulations to him.

I have been involved in innumerable public debates and discussions about this issue ever since I walked the language of Kentucky's Marriage Amendment into a state legislator's office four years ago and started the process that ended up in our constitutional language--language that did little more than codify what already had been assumed. And one thing you can always count on: however civil you are, the people with whom you debate on this issue, with a few notable exceptions, will be ill-tempered and vindictive in the extreme.

And then they'll accuse you of being hateful.

The bottom line is this: If the defenders of traditional marriage employed name-calling in any way, shape, or form, gay rights groups would be squealing to high heaven and the media would be on it in a second and calling on them to account about it. But when gay rights groups themselves engage in the very behavior they are always condemning, they become indignant when someone else point it out.

Gay rights groups are the ones who are constantly championing tolerance. But when they themselves start goose-stepping, we're supposed to sit calmly by and admire the parade.

The Rosenau proffers this bit of logic:
The question, less stupid than the one Cothran originally posed, is whether you should be enacting discriminatory social policies on the basis of those personal beliefs. The answer is still: No.

That leads to things like the eugenic anti-miscegenation laws struck down in 1967's Loving v. Virginia (several years after our biracial President-elect's parents were able to marry in Hawaii), and before that in a California Supreme Court ruling from the 1940s which was the basis for the decision which (all-too-briefly) allowed full marriage equality in California. Cothran's argument would apply equally well (modulo small changes in wording) to those earlier laws, which suggests that it is not the way we should be making policy.

What social policy is he referring to being "enacted"? Same-sex couples were never able to marry precisely because marriage was always understood to be--by definition--between a man and a woman. Nothing needed to be done to keep it that way--until gays convinced judges and a few local politicians to change the clear meaning of words.

You can bring about all kinds of social change by just going into the law and redefining words, but by what manner of disingenuousness do you then go and accuse people who don't like it when you do that that they're the ones "enacting" something?

When the public has to act in self-defense when gays start changing the meanings of words, it isn't because they're the ones who want to change anything.

Gays are always arguing that they don't want special treatment, they just want to be treated like everyone else--except they don't want to be criticized (that's "bigotry"), they don't want to be disagreed with (that's "intolerance"), and they want the right to change the law without going through the normal channels of the democratic process--oh, and the right to overturn decisions made through that same process.

And now they want the right to change the definition of words without anyone else complaining. Special rights? What special rights?

And then there's Rosenau's argument that observing the meaning of the word "marriage" is the same as miscagenation. Right. Interracial marriage never violated the definition of the word "marriage." The argument in miscagenation was that people of different races shouldn't be married because of whatever racist belief that is based on. The argument in same-sex marriage is that people of the same sex literally can't be married because that not even what marriage is.

The dictionary never defined marriage as being the union of two people of the same race. But, before the exponents of postmodernist sex started changing the meanings of words, it always defined marriage as between a man and a woman.

But such is the state of "thought" in Kansas.

They Have a List: What McCarthy would do if he were gay

That sound you hear may be goosestepping from the Tolerance Police. Now someone has posted a "blacklist" of individuals and businesses that contributed to the effort to pass Proposition 8. If a conservative did this, they would be skewered.

That silence you hear is the media completely ignoring this.

Will Obama's soak the rich economic plan work?

With Obama's plan to effectively raise marginal tax rates from roughly 38 percent to around 50, it is instructive to note the relationship between marginal tax rates and economic productivity, which can be seen in the graph to the left.

"Hauser's Law" is the observation by economist Kurt Hauser that revenue as a percentage of GDP remains at about 19.5% of GDP no matter what the marginal tax rate is. It is apparently the result of the fact that increases in marginal rates, which characterize soak the rich schemes like Barack Obama's, simply cause people to shift or hide their income to avoid higher taxes:

As David Ransom put it in an article written earlier this year for the Wall Street Journal:
What makes Hauser's Law work? For supply-siders there is no mystery. As Mr. Hauser said: "Raising taxes encourages taxpayers to shift, hide and underreport income. . . . Higher taxes reduce the incentives to work, produce, invest and save, thereby dampening overall economic activity and job creation."

Putting it a different way, capital migrates away from regimes in which it is treated harshly, and toward regimes in which it is free to be invested profitably and safely. In this regard, the capital controlled by our richest citizens is especially tax-intolerant.
In other words, if the farmer takes more of the golden eggs produced by the goose who lays them, then it will simply lay less of them--or find ways to hide them from the farmer.

Hat tip to Sophistpundit on the graph.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Courier-Journal asks questions about Obama's election

I was quoted in the Louisville Courier-Journal's article "True melting pot of voters pushed Obama over top," which appeared on Sunday.

Were Obama's economic policies realistic? Greg Mankiw's economic advice for Obama

A sampling of Harvard economist Greg Mankiw's advice for Obama:

[D]uring the campaign, you promised that you would cut taxes for 95 percent of Americans, that you would vastly expand health insurance coverage, and that you would never cut Social Security benefits or raise the retirement age. You will almost surely have to renege on some of these promises. As your economic team will often remind you, even if the laws of arithmetic are ignored during campaigns, they provide a real constraint when making actual policy.

The rest is well-worth a read. It is here.

The divisions of philosophy

David Chalmers at Fragments of Consciousness is attempting a taxonomy of philosophy (what us Thomists would call a "division" or "system of classification of philosophy). You can find the monstrosity he is currently working on here.

I don't call this a monstrosity in the pejorative sense of that word, I mean it in its literal sense: something frightening in size or complexity. Compare the unwieldy thing he is trying to get a grip on, which, I kid you not, has got to be about 50 pages long, to the more ordered and manageable Thomist classification:

Now of course the Thomistic classification assumes things he doesn't assume, since he is clearly not a Thomist. His classification also gets very detailed, including actual schools of thought and their exponents. It also includes things that don't properly belong to philosophy, such as scientific sub-disciplines. I mean are things like "homology," "robotics," and "computers,"--much less things like "trade union rights" and "life"--actually a part of the classification of philosophy?

Chalmers taxonomy is a draft, and he has invited comment, so I guess this is my comment: In order for any taxonomy to be useful, it has to be manageable and incorporate principles of division that make sense. It also has to limit itself to philosophy, and not attempt to encompass all of thought. After all, philosophy has to have some limitations to be a distinct discipline, doesn't it?

The above division is the one used in my book Material Logic: A Traditional Approach to Thinking Skills.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Are gay rights groups turning into hate groups?

For all their rhetoric about tolerance and diversity, when it comes right down to it the Tolerance Police really don't give a rip about anything other then imposing their own political agenda. And if you don't go along with it, they'll call you names, question your integrity, and now this.

Most gay rights groups have not explicitly called for violence, but they positively glory in hurling hateful epithets like "bigot" at their opponents and accusing them of all sorts of malicious motives simply because they don't want to be forced to repudiate their beliefs about sexuality. Hate speech, in fact, is becoming their specialty.

At some point, someone is going to start labeling them as hate groups. Heck, why not now?

Did McCain's defeat mean anything?

George Will, getting it exactly right:
Although John McCain’s loss was not as numerically stunning as the 1964 defeat of Barry Goldwater, who won 16 fewer states and 122 fewer electoral votes than McCain seems to have won as of this writing, Tuesday’s trouncing was more dispiriting for conservatives. Goldwater’s loss was constructive; it invigorated his party by reorienting it ideologically. McCain’s loss was sterile, containing no seeds of intellectual rebirth.
Thanks to Commentary magazine.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

What do GRE scores tell us about the competence of people in different professions?

If you want to get an idea of the intellectual rigor of the different professions, the chart below may be a good place to start. This comes from Mark Perry, an economics professor at the University of Michigan. It represents Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores broken down by the field of intended field of graduate study. It is based on 2002 data, so is a little dated.

Several things have been pointed out elsewhere: namely, that quantitative fields may be overstated (meaning that fields like philosophy may be understated), and fields in which students tend to take tests other than the GRE may be understated (The better business students, for example, ten to take the GMAT in order).

Also, since this data is based on the intended area of graduate study, it doesn't necessarily comport with the field of undergraduate study, but it should be pretty close.

In any case, not the bottom two categories: education and public administration. That explains a few things. It also may add credence to my observation that an education major may be the closest thing in the academic world (other than maybe public administration) to a lobotomy--or the best evidence that one has already been performed.

Bureaucratizing Charity: Obama's plan to make all Americans community organizers

According to his website, President-in-Waiting Barack Obama has a plan to conscript American youth into voluntary service:
The Obama Administration will call on Americans to serve in order to meet the nation’s challenges. President-Elect Obama will expand national service programs like AmeriCorps and Peace Corps and will create a new Classroom Corps to help teachers in underserved schools, as well as a new Health Corps, Clean Energy Corps, and Veterans Corps. Obama will call on citizens of all ages to serve America, by developing a plan to require 50 hours of community service in middle school and high school and 100 hours of community service in college every year. Obama will encourage retiring Americans to serve by improving programs available for individuals over age 55, while at the same time promoting youth programs such as Youth Build and Head Start.
So, how exactly is this different, in principle, from the draft?

I'm not sure conservatives even understand what is wrong with this. So let me give it a try.

A conservative approach to help people in society would involve offering incentives for people to help others, and encouraging charitable institutions outside of government to do the work that is natural to them.

The liberal approach is to mandate that people help each other. It's chief impulse is to systemize and standardize as much of society as possible. In this respect it is socialism on a much grander scale. Socialism is at least content with organizing and controlling the economy. But plans like this one betray an even larger liberal vision beyond socialism. Programs like mandatory community service are a sign that the government is not content with trying to control the economy, but, having grown fat (and powerful) by gorging itself on the economy, it has now set its hungry sights on the rest of society.

But you can't force people to love their neighbor: all you can do is to keep government from weakening those voluntary associations in society, like churches, who can best persuade them to do so. And, unfortunately, programs that try to mandate charity only serve to undermine the natural charitable acts of private individuals operating through private institutions.

It has been pointed out by people such as Thomas Sowell and James Kalb that the modus operandi of the secular liberal elite is to discourage the natural workings of society in favor of large scale rational planning. Here is James Kalb, in his excellent new book, The Tyranny of Liberalism, explaining the underpinnings Obama's community organization plan:
Because liberalism is a principle of government, its triumph arrives with the triumph of the men and institutions favored by the arrangement of power it proposes. It is thus the ideology of the ruling class. The victory of liberalism is the victory of managers, experts, educators, media organizations, and rationally organized bureaucratic and commercial interests. Such people and institutions benefit from large-scale rationalized organization of social life, which demands comprehensive systems of planning, training, indoctrination, and control, and of gathering, analyzing, and disseminating the information large formal institutions need to operate.... [T]he reduction of politics to administration and technique puts power in the hands of those who find it most persuasive and do most to promote it. Liberalism advances their interests and they determine its content.
These kinds of policies are no different, in principle, than the welfare programs of the Great Society and forced busing: they are social engineering programs.

UPDATE: The website has since changed the language from what was quoted above. Wonder why.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Get over it (the election that is)

I have now seen countless posts coming across my feed reader from various conservatives on the web who are expressing wailing and gnashing of teeth over the Obama victory. This is part of what is wrong with modern conservatism: it has invested itself almost exclusively in politics and forgotten about the culture.

We will know that conservatism has righted itself when its adherents don't go into a funk when they lose one election.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

In which the Cothranator reminds you of his original election prediction

Although an Obama win is not what I wanted, it is what I predicted. I do not at all hate saying "I told you so," so now I'm going to point out that I did. I told you so.

Here is my post following the very first primary. The date was January 2,008, the day after the Iowa caucuses. The post was titled, "The political ramifications of Iowa." Here are the relevant sections:
1. His success in Iowa propels Obama into the Democratic nomination. For one thing, a third place finish in Iowa takes away Hillary's air of inevitability, and once Obama gets the upper hand, it's over. For one thing, Edwards will have to drop out of the race fairly quickly (because of money), and the majority of his support will go to Obama. Iowa gives Obama, who already has a large base of support (and lots of money), momentum and excitement, and takes it away from Hillary. Also, Obama got the "change" vote--and will continue to get it. Not only that, but Obama has an attractive personality and low negatives--the opposite of Hillary. Oh, and his victory speech was awesome--and Hillary's concession speech was not.
That is, of course, exactly what happened. Then there was this:
4. If Obama wins the Democratic nomination, he wins the general election. Obama has a Kennedyesque air to him: he's young, articulate, and sophisticated. Oh, and America is ready for a Black president.
Got that right too. In fact, I think everything in that post proved out, although my predictions about the Republicans were less specific. I love it when that happens.

I am now accepting offers for political consulting. But my fees just went up.

Why yesterday's election was not a repudiation of cultural conservatism

The victory of Barack Obama in yesterday's election is already being called by some (notably those in whose interest it is for people to think such a thing) a "repudiation" of conservatism. Here are several reasons why that isn't so:

#1: McCain was far from a classical conservative.

#2: McCain did not make the election a referendum on conservatism, in fact, other than supporting the troops, he ran away from traditionally conservative issues.

#3: Although a very high Democratic turnout resulted in narrow losses on ballot initiatives that restricted abortion, same-sex marriage bans passed in states Obama won--Florida and California.

#4: In California, although 95 percent of black voters went for Obama, they supported Proposition 8, the ban on same-sex marriage 70 to 30, indicating that even social conservative voters were willing to go for the "One."

Why the "One" is now the "Chosen One": Five reasons Obama won

Barack Obama won for several reasons:

#1: When people are likable it's hard to believe they're radical.

#2: When you have a likable candidate and a less likable candidate, and there is apparently little that sets them apart on the important issues that are being discussed in the race, the likable candidate wins.

#3: When values issues are ignored by the "conservative" candidate, they can't help him--or hurt his opponent.

#4: When the so-called "conservative" candidate is running in the shadow of a so-called "conservative" incumbent, and the so-called "conservative" incumbent doesn't actually govern as a conservative--and the so-called "conservative" candidate has a flawed record on conservatism himself, then people can be excused for rejecting so-called "conservatism".

#5: The candidate with the consistent message (e.g. "hope") beats the candidate whose message is still a mystery to voters on election day.

#6: When the more liberal candidate runs on tax cuts he looks like the less liberal candidate.

Note: More reasons to be added to this post as I think of them.

Proposition 8 wins in California

To see Proposition 8 results, click on "Available Races" then "Proposition 8". If you want to see the cultural divide between San Francisco and the rest of the state, click on the "Margin of Victory" tab at the top.

Sources for filters: Census Bureau (2000); 2007 American Community Survey estimates. Income figures adjusted to 2007 dollars. Education and military data for ages 18 and older. Foreclosures data provided by MDA DataQuick (Jan-Sept. 2008).

Foreclosure data unavailable for the following counties: Alpine, Amador, Butte, Calaveras, Del Norte, Glenn, Humboldt, Imperial, Inyo, Lake, Lassen, Mariposa, Mendocino, Modoc, Mono, Nevada, Plumas, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou, Tehama, Trinity, Tuolumne.

Monday, November 03, 2008

What is Intelligent Design?

The opponents of Intelligent Design are constantly trying to muddy the distinction between creationism and Intelligent Design. They do this in several ways. The first is to employ a deliberately sloppy and indefinite definition of Intelligent Design; the second is to simply misrepresent it.

To the left is an attempt through logical division to show the several distinctions visually. Note that this is only one limited way to define something--through showing it's parts--and does not take the place of a real definition.

By "weak case" Intelligent Design, I mean anyone who holds that the universe is the product (by whatever mechanism) of Intelligence. By "strong case" Intelligent Design I mean the belief that the design can be scientifically verified. This analysis misses a lot of subtleties in the differences, but I think it captures the main categories.

What the Intelligent Design movement per se calls "Intelligent Design" is simply Strong Case Intelligent Design, which would include both Intelligent Design evolutionists and creationists of both the young and old earth stripes, although many young earth creationists would disavow connections with other Strong Case Intelligent Design advocates because of the latter's heavy reliance on a literal interpretation of Genesis.

What many ID opponents try to obfuscate is the very real differences between Intelligent Design evolutionists and creationists. It serves their rhetorical and political purposes, but does very little to further understanding about the issue.