Monday, January 31, 2005

How to get rich in three steps

Step 1: Get opinion column linked by a blog with nearly 180,000 daily hits.

Step 2: ...

Step 3: Profit.

Related, a friend on the American Ethnic Studies email list showed me an email sent to everyone on that list that included my column and referred to me as an "ignoramus." Which really scares me--how did they know I was an ignoramus? Are they spying on me? I ripped out my fillings long ago, natch, but is it possible I had a device implanted in my when I had my appendix removed? I mean, I'm not a doctor, that's possible right? I'm just thinking out loud here; of which, meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Guest Commentary

Since I don't have time to post, I'll pull in a guest commentator. Someone with brains, you know, to really analyze the election, From the Democratic Underground, ShinerTX opines:

All the media keeps talking about is how happy the Iraqis are, how high turnout was, and how "freedom" has spread to Iraq. I had to turn off CNN because they kept focusing on the so-called "voters" and barely mentioned the resistance movements at all. Where are the freedom fighters today? Are their voices silenced because some American puppets cast a few ballots?

I can't believe the Iraqis are buying into this "democracy" bullshit. They have to know that the Americans don't want them to have power, because they know that Bush is in this for the oil, and now that he finally has it he's not going to let it go. This election is a charade. The fact is that the Iraqis have suffered during the past two years more than any people on earth at the hands of the American gestapo. Maybe they're afraid and felt they had to vote. That's the only way I can explain it to myself.

OR--I just thought of this--maybe they're smiling because they're using the Americans own game to defeat them. They're voting in candidates who they know will widen the resistance, take the fight to the streets, and finally drive the occupying forces out of their country. Perhaps they're smiling because--right under the American's noses--they're planting the seeds of a bigger and more effective resistance movement. Wouldn't that be fitting? Use *'s own tools against them?

We can only pray that this is the case. Becuase if it's not--and if the Iraq vote is seen as a success that spread "freedom"--the world is screwed. Bush's inaugural speech left little doubt that he has other countries on his list to spread "freedom" to. They will be his next targets, and the world will burn because of it.Let's hope the resistance got voted in, or if not, they only increase the fight and take down those who betrayed their country today by voting in this fraud election.

Iraq election

Now that Iraq is rapidly moving toward democracy, and Afghanistan is already there (although with the still difficult job of maintaining it ahead), is it fair to say that Bush is one of the best presidents for the world, that America has ever had? We are attacked on 9/11, and we could've either went through the Mid East and randomly knocked down buildings to appease our anger, or just continued police action instead of military. Instead, we depose two tyrannies and bring democracy.

Well, that's all I got for now--I'm busy. Shoo! Just go over to Instapundit, and keep scrolling. Rich, bloggy goodness will ensue.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Intelligent Design vs. Evolutionary Theory

As part of my Constitutional Law 2 class, topics are posted to a messageboard by the professor to which students can give their opinions. The professor posed the question of whether Intelligent Design (ID) can or should be taught alongside Evolutionary theory in public schools, or whether this would be an unconstitutional establishment of religion.

Below is the response I posted, with a few changes made for this version, to clean it up. I can't vouch for whether some of my points are valid in accordance with constitutional law, simply because I don't know all the relevant precedents yet. But, as food for thought, here is what I posted:
First, dispense with the notion that being a “theory” somehow tarnishes evolution. Gravity is also a “theory,” but we shouldn’t teach children that if they have enough faith they can defy it. And we shouldn’t have some cryptic warning read before the—cue ominous music—“theory” of gravity is taught.

Likewise dismiss the notion that ID is religious. It might be, and probably is, religiously motivated, but ID itself is secular—it merely explains the creation of the world as the work of a central intelligent designer. This intelligent designer is not “God” in any religious sense, as there are no traditions associated with it and it does not entail a heaven or hell, or any sort of afterlife.

But, as ID is not religious, it is also not science. Science, at least as we understand it today, concerns the natural, and the concept of a creator of nature is inherently supernatural. Therefore, I don’t think that ID should be taught in a biology class. Adam and I were talking about this, and we came to the agreement that ID could be taught in a philosophy class, or other such class about the speculation or limits of knowledge and science, and which didn’t rely on scientific testing. In fact, it might be appropriate to teach in a science class that science cannot explain the origins of man and the world, if the origin is supernatural, and so beyond the means of scientific testing.

Constitutionally, I think this should be left for each individual state, or indeed school, to decide. As ID is not inherently religious, some schools might decide that it should be taught as a logical, reasonable argument concerning whether the creation of the universe might be supernatural (and by “supernatural” I simply mean “not residing within the parameters of the natural world, or occurring before the creation of the natural world,” and so not capable of being measured by science, which must take all measurements from within, and pertaining to, the natural world). On the other hand, some schools might decide that ID is a bunch of pseudoscientific bunk.

The beauty of the school by school decision is that if a person does not like that ID is or is not being taught at their school, they can simply vote with their feet. If the graduates from one school go on to become millionaires, and the graduates from the other go on to wash the many cars of those millionaires, then the problem as to what should be taught will have been decided by the impartial operation of the market, rather than the partisan politicking of a polarized populace (palliteration!).

A last non sequitor: I would challenge the notion that merely teaching something in a public school implies government endorsement or establishment of the idea being taught. I was taught the Macarena in phys. ed. (seriously…THAT should be unconstitutional). Does this mean that the Macarena is now our national dance? Or is this a mistaken analogy? Schools, even secondary education I would assume, are places where sometimes heretical, even anti-establishment ideas are taught—ideas which by their very nature cannot carry the implication of government endorsement or establishment.
Related, after writing my post, I found this WSJ online article about the virtual blacklisting of a scientist that got an ID article to be published in a peer-reviewed journal. Read the whole thing, but the conclusion of the article makes some good points about the debate as a whole:
Intelligent Design, in any event, is hardly a made-to-order prop for any particular religion. When the British atheist philosopher Antony Flew made news this winter by declaring that he had become a deist--a believer in an unbiblical "god of the philosophers" who takes no notice of our lives--he pointed to the plausibility of ID theory.

Darwinism, by contrast, is an essential ingredient in secularism, that aggressive, quasi-religious faith without a deity. The Sternberg case seems, in many ways, an instance of one religion persecuting a rival, demanding loyalty from anyone who enters one of its churches--like the National Museum of Natural History.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Talking back to the fourum *updated*

From the Fourum:
Define irony: Grant Reichert, a white male, complaining about diversity.
That is possibly the most ironic thing I have ever read. Ever. I mean, this person writes this, thinking that they are exposing some flaw in my argument or such, when, by focusing on my race and sex over my individual identity, they are actually proving my argument more perfectly than I ever could. This person sees my not as individual, worthy of having my argument evaluated on its merits, but instead just as another white male whos opinion therefore counts for nothing in matters of "diversity."

Peter Wood summed this up in his book, "Diversity: The Invention of a Concept." He wrote:
To treat people as objects, as though they are the residuum of their race, class, gender, and other such superficialities, and not individuals who define themselve through their ideas and creative acts--that is injustice.
Injustice indeed. But, oh, the ironing is delicious, no?
update: numerous grammatical and spelling corrections made. And also, it has come to my attention that what the person was saying wasn't actually "ironic" at all. According to the logic behind the statement above, it would have been ironic if a minority had criticized diversity. Me, yunno, just another whitey mad that minorities are getting all uppity and whatnot.
Or is it ironic in that the person is saying that I am criticizing diversity, even though I have not encountered diversity, nor am I "diverse" myself. If so, they either did not read my article, or have no idea what the word diversity actually means. Neither would surprise me.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Highbrow Insult of the Day

Today's "Highbrow Insult of the Day" is "argumentum ad ignorantium."


You: Your mother!
Me: Argumentum ad ignorantium!
You: Touche!

Raise those brows, people.

update: I've decided to make this an annual feature. So now you have something to look forward to every Jan. 27. Mark your calendar.

Celebrate good times...C'mon!

What a time to be alive. From the Collegian: "Tomato Prices Decline"
Okay, settle people. Settle. Settle. Okay, here's some more:
High tomato prices are finally coming to an end.
I SAID SETTLE! Yeah, I know, I'm excited too, but those bullets are going to come back down to the ground some time. You do realize this don't you? And you, yeah, you with the pants, that thermonuclear device has a radius of like ten miles so, you know, point it away from your face.
Anyways, for you geeks out there, the paper delves into the technical economic aspects of this later in the paper:
"Seasonality is so much when you are dealing with produce," McKinzie said.
But lets not dampen our spirits with contemplation of such jargon filled minutae. Leave the economists their pedantic talk of "Seasonality" and "is" and "so" and etc. Now is a time for celebration. Party at my place. BYOT.
update: Please note: due to building code restrictions, I cannot admit anyone into my party that is now, or has ever been, a member of the communist party, or who smells of fish. Longbill Spearfish specifically--some freshwater fish strains will be allowed, at discretion of me.

Democracy depends on YOU! VOTE NOW!

I voted in this poll
I did not vote in this poll
I am Gary Busey
Do you like cats or dogs better? Or are you a rodent guy? None of the above?
If a poll was conducted in the woods, and no one's there to vote, its probably because the woods are an idiotic place to conduct a poll
I agree with the above comment. About the woods I mean. Not Gary Whosits, or whatever.
Phew, poll questions are hard to make
And I usually don't mind a challenge. Like this one time, someone said "I bet you can't do this" and I was like "I can SO do that" and he was like "D
o it" and so I did. True story. Should Rumsfeld Resign?

Free polls from

What the...?

Sometimes, an article just comes out of nowhere. Via Drudge:

Scientists have begun blurring the line between human and animal by producing chimeras—a hybrid creature that's part human, part animal.
Does this not sound like a parody of the stem cell debate? Scientists are creating chimeras, aka, the mythical, Grecian monster? The next paragraph brings the story down to the ground:
Chinese scientists at the Shanghai Second Medical University in 2003 successfully fused human cells with rabbit eggs. The embryos were reportedly the first human-animal chimeras successfully created. They were allowed to develop for several days in a laboratory dish before the scientists destroyed the embryos to harvest their stem cells.
Okay, that sounds a little less fanciful. Like, now the unicorn is admitting he didn't get a 35 on his ACT. But then:
In Minnesota last year researchers at the Mayo Clinic created pigs with human blood flowing through their bodies.
Holy scientific monstrosities, Batman! Isn't that hilarious? It sounds like something a sci-fi B-movie would bring up, or an overimaginative gradeschooler. Sidenote: the cliche "bleeding like a stuck pig" has officially lost all meaning.
And at Stanford University in California an experiment might be done later this year to create mice with human brains.
Mice with human brains? I hear nothing about cloning, or scientific breakthroughs for a few months, and now they're making pigs with human blood, and possibly even Pinky and the Brain? Hilarious. Possibly unethical, possibly monstrous. But definitly hilarious.

But wait, wait--it just gets better:

For example, an experiment that would raise concerns, he said, is genetically engineering mice to produce human sperm and eggs, then doing in vitro fertilization to produce a child whose parents are a pair of mice.

"Most people would find that problematic," Magnus said, "but those uses are bizarre and not, to the best of my knowledge, anything that anybody is remotely contemplating. Most uses of chimeras are actually much more relevant to practical concerns."

I am going to start paying more attentiont to science. This stuff is gold. And I guess this is what happens when you take the logic that permits stem cell research and pursue it to its logical end. From a scientist opposed to a ban:
"Anybody who puts their own moral guidance in the way of this biomedical science, where they want to impose their will—not just be part of an argument—if that leads to a ban or moratorium. … they are stopping research that would save human lives," he said.
Yep, all moral judgments are just arbitrary. Everything is relative. Who are you to impose value judgments? If they want to make mice-people and see what hilarious antics they get themselves into when left alone in the lab at night, then so be it.


Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Road to serfdom, indeed

From the Collegian:
Food stamp use not about hunger

What a sublime headline. Sums up government programs perfectly. Thank you, Collegian, for that.

Food stamp use is on the rise in Kansas, but it may be for a different reason than many people think.

The increase in the number of people using food stamps has little to do with an increase in hunger, said Wanda Esping, program administrator for Economic and Employment Services at Social and Rehabilitation Services.

"We've done a lot to reach out to people who are entitled to benefits but aren't receiving them," Esping said.

Dear lord, I sure hope vomit doesn't stain carpet. The government is actively reaching out to enlist people in a program that admittedly don't need it? And we're paying for this?

SRS, the organization that distributes food stamps, has recently put applications for food stamps online. It has also partnered with community organizations to educate the public and to help people apply.

Mindy Lesline, executive director of the Flint Hills Breadbasket, said this improved accessibility is the reason for the increase. "In the past, food stamps were hard to get. There was lots of paperwork, and they weren't as accessible.

They've been proactive in making them easier to get," Lesline said.

God forbid, paperwork. Lets remove all stops so people can suck directly from the government teat. If people actually needed food stamps, I think they would or should be willing to do some paperwork.

"There are some folks who felt uncomfortable with the idea of receiving welfare, so coming in to apply was a deterrent," Esping said. "This allows them to be anonymous."


"Food stamps are no longer the oddly-colored check that everybody sees you using. There's less of a stigma involved," she said.

Why are they saying that like its a good thing? Somebody? First they reach out to enroll people in a government program that don't need it. And now they remove all stigma for being on it? What mentality does it take to perceive this as a good idea? Am I so boggled that all I can do is formulate rhetorical questions?

They seem to be actively courting moral hazard, that is, encouraging people to engage in behavior opposite the spirit of the food stamp program. They are encouraging government dependence, encouraging a client society where the cowed citizens look first to the government for help. The party that will come off the worst in this situation? The food stamp recipients. Conditioning people to feel an entitlement to handouts, and handouts that are administered quickly and painlessly at that, is a horrible lesson.

"A lot of people are working very hard just to make ends meet, and sometimes they just can't feed their family. We're there when they need us," she said.
What blithe stupidity. Or is that arrogance? Is she taunting me? She's taunting me, isn't she? Taunting me through the newspaper, the most peaceful of all media. How dare she.

They can't feed their family? Is she in denial? First she starts off saying that these people aren't enlisting because of hunger, and now she says she is nobly leading the crusade to lend that firm helping hand, to be "there when they need us"? Her rhetoric doesn't square with reality, and her reality scares me.

Witness the expansion of a government program: the administrator of the first food stamp program back in 1939, Milo Perkins gave this mission statement: "We got a picture of a gorge, with farm surpluses on one cliff and under-nourished city folks with outstretched hands on the other. We set out to find a practical way to build a bridge across that chasm."

Well now farm surplus abounds on both sides of the hill, and the city folk aren't stretching out their arms, for fear that someone might see them. And the bridge is no more than an apparatus for funnelling the wealth of productive citizens into the hands of people to lazy to fill out some foodstamp paperwork. God bless America.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Diversity defined

Finally, I find a working definition of "diversity," the newest craze to sweep academia. I had previously thought that there wasn't a definition for this word, that diversity was just a euphemism for "affirmative action" or "multiculturalism" which supporters kept purposefully vague to make it harder to argue with (who could be against something as great-sounding as diversity?)

But, one person was willing to go out on a limb and put a definition down. From the hit movie, Anchorman, Ron Burgundy is asked what "diversity" is, and replies:

Ron: I could be wrong but I believe diversity is an old, old wooden ship used in the Civil war.


This is funny on so many levels. First, is that it is obviously ridiculous, and continues the motif of Ron as someone so intolerant of those different from him that he can't even define diversity.

Then, there is the joke that, hey, who can define something like diversity as it is currently being applied? The word has been stretched beyond definition by diversophiles that apply it to nearly everything.

Lastly, it does seem that "Diversity" would make a good name for a ship. It has a platitudinous, pleasant sounding nature that enompasses so much it ends up meaning very little, like "Freedom" or "Justice." And, of course, it has a certain unassaible, inarguable nature: "Your against, "Freedom," "Justice," and "Diversity?" You monster!

Yeah, it is a good ship name. I would be down with naming a ship the U.S.S. Diversity. But applying "diversity" as the overriding, all-important principle of modern education? Um, no thanks.

Spinbob SquarePants

A couple of posts back, I wrote:
Dobson’s remarks are not elaborated at length so I don’t know if he is of the opinion that Spongebob is a symbol of homosexuality, or just that he shouldn’t have been in that video. The former is certainly hinted toward by the article, but this being the NY Times, such hinting could be the usual Christian-Right slander that is standard operating procedure down there at the Gray Lady.
Well, it turns out it was the former, as I suspected. Once again, the spin of the NY Times created just enough illusion and innuendo to blacken the image of someone they don't agree with, without outright resorting to lies. Via Instapundit (who fell for the NY Time's spin at first), there is this statement on Dobson's website:

Question: Why is Dr. Dobson objecting to the distribution of a video featuring such popular children's characters as SpongeBob SquarePants?

Answer: From the outset, let's be clear that this issue is not about objections to any specific cartoon characters. Instead, Dr. Dobson is concerned that these popular animated personalities are being exploited by an organization that's determined to promote the acceptance of homosexuality among our nation's youth.

The statement continues on to make it absolutely clear that Dobson disagrees only with the agenda of those exploiting the cartoon characters for their own ends. Whether or not you agree with Dobson here is beside the point; this is a legitimate position, nowhere near as ridiculous as that of protesting SpongeBob as a symbol of homosexuality.

Many people do not realize how slanted this paper can be sometimes. They figure you have to be some partisan wacko to go after as objective a paper as the NY Times. This is simply not the case; the NY Times has a liberal slant. The paper's ombudsman, Dan Okrent, even admitted as much (although he referred to it as an "urban" slant--whatever).

One of the great memes of liberals is that president Bush has acted as "divider" not a "uniter," despite his broad bipartisan support on No Child Left Behind, rallying most democrats to vote for the Iraq war, (who have since split when the going got tough, as liberals are want to do) etc. But the press itself has done more to divide the country than anything else.

Through its uncompromisingly unfair treatment of people such as Dobson as shown above, the New York Times and other news media have alienated the Right through its repulsively biased coverage, and polarized the Left by portraying the Right as composed of prudish bigots that are uncomfortable being around an artificial sponge in square pants.

As is usual, the deepest divisions in America are due to misunderstandings. Misunderstandings which the press should be trying to dispel, not feeding the fire of, or even creating.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Liberte, Egalite, Fatuity

Because, if I wrote a book about the French, that would be the title. So, like, I don't know... dibs?

Thursday, January 20, 2005

"Multicultural Competency"

From the Collegian:

School board members voted Wednesday to send a proposal to increase the sales tax by .25 percent.

If the initiative is approved by the City Commission, it would raise the sales tax beginning Oct. 1 and ending Sept. 30, 2008.

If passed by the commission, the initiative would go on the April 5 ballot.

At a time when the Kansas Supreme Court ruled Kansas schools are drastically underfunded and set a deadline for legislators to fix the problem, USD 383 is facing almost $2 million in budget cuts. The funds from the tax increase could go to help facilitate several different aspects of running the district.

Board members expressed concern that the income, which Associate Superintendent Robert Seymour said works much like a grant, would create administrative nightmares for district employees who would be required to track how the money was spent.

God forbid, accountability. Then, toward the end:

Also at Wednesday's meeting, the USD 383 Diversity Commission gave boardmembers their report on a plan for improving diversity and what they called "multicultural competency" within the district.

The commission has been meeting for almost three years to come up with a plan for improving the situation in the district, members said. Superintendent Sharol Little said the commission was created three years ago following a parent raising concern after an African-American administrator as well as two African-American teachers retired. The timing also coincided with the departure of an African-American woman on the board of education.

Wait, are they accusing the African-American's of taking the "multicultural competency" with them when they departed? That seems pretty stereotypical and such, accusing blacks of theft just because of their race.

Or are they saying that the "multicultural competency" of a whole school district relied on four black people? Can four equally competent white people bring just as much "multicultural competency" or is this a trait characteristic only to blacks? What if there were just three blacks, would that still work? Two? Or would that just be "bicultural diversity?" I mean, just what in the name of Diversity is "multicultural competency," anyways? Shouldn't we define this concept before we, you know, worry about fixing its supposed absence?

I appreciate the new phrase "multicultural competency." Really, I do. Diversophiles are constantly trying to come up with innocuous euphisms--"diversity" itself, is largely a euphemism for "multiculturalism"--and other semantic obfuscations to color their small-minded, inherently racist, ultimately vacuous ideology a rosy hue. "Multicultural competency." I like the sound of that.

Also from the article:
The board passed a motion 6-0 to agree in principle to work with diversity added to future agenda.
First, I don't think the construction of this sentence is very coherent. "Agenda" is singular, and so there needs to be an "a" or "the" added before "future." Quibles aside, like, "hooray for diversity!" right? I don't know if/how much the school is spending on diversity related programs now, but when they are having to raise taxes for money don't you think they would hold off on this diversity pap? This is why I have no sympathy for K-State's constant whining about funds. We don't spend that much, comparatively, on diversity stuff, but every little bit counts. There are deans of diversity for every college, I think, and a bureaucracy of diversocrats trying to get more "diverse" items on the agenda (please note: "the" agenda).

Until such fat is trimmed from the budget, my ears are closed to K-State's money woes. Help with the telefund? I think I shan't.

Spongebob slandered

From the New York Times:

WASHINGTON, Jan. 19 - On the heels of electoral victories barring same-sex marriage, some influential conservative Christian groups are turning their attention to a new target: the cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants.

"Does anybody here know SpongeBob?" Dr. James C. Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family, asked the guests Tuesday night at a black-tie dinner for members of Congress and political allies to celebrate the election results. SpongeBob needed no introduction. In addition to his popularity among children, who watch his cartoon show, he has become a well-known camp figure among adult gay men, perhaps because he holds hands with his animated sidekick Patrick and likes to watch the imaginary television show "The Adventures of Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy."

Now, Dr. Dobson said, SpongeBob's creators had enlisted him in a "pro-homosexual video," in which he appeared alongside children's television colleagues like Barney and Jimmy Neutron, among many others. The makers of the video, he said, planned to mail it to thousands of elementary schools to promote a "tolerance pledge" that includes tolerance for differences of "sexual identity."

Dobson’s remarks are not elaborated at length so I don’t know if he is of the opinion that Spongebob is a symbol of homosexuality, or just that he shouldn’t have been in that video. The former is certainly hinted toward by the article, but this being the NY Times, such hinting could be the usual Christian-Right slander that is standard operating procedure down there at the Gray Lady.

If just the latter is true, that Dobson only objects to Spongebob being used in a film that promotes a lifestyle that he thinks shouldn’t be taught in public schools, then that's hunky-dory. Personally, I would object to the whole concept of a multicultural video. If you think you’re going to imbue into children an idea as basic as “tolerating others” through the use of a few cartoon characters and a catchy tune, then you are sadly mistaken. Such techniques are all the fad now with the diversophile agenda as strong as it is, but they are a misguided use of resources at a time when our schools are strapped for cash.

But, if Dobson meant the former, that Spongebob is a “gay” cartoon show, then he’s way off base. Spongebob SquarePants is a show about the innocence, wonder, magic, goofiness, playfulness and naïveté of childhood, all wrapped up in its square, yellow lead character. To interpret subliminal homosexual subtexts into this delightful cartoon is to appeal to the basest caricatures of gays.

But, even worse, this delusional, neurotic tilting at homosexual windmills is a self-fulfilling prophecy. A child watching SpongeBob’s cheery antics will make nothing of them—not even brief moments when *gasp* hands of like-gendered characters might touch. But, if it’s brought to the children’s attention that there’s something wrong with Spongebob—something wrong with his zest for life, his carefree innocence, his gratuitous male-on-male hand touchage—another part of a child’s life is needlessly sexualized. The dark clouds of the grown-up world intrude upon what should be a guilt-free, innocent children’s show. The world is complicated enough for children without barring them from watching a cartoon just because phantoms of gayness haunt the paranoid minds of some parents.

Obviously, there is material that children shouldn’t watch—even cartoons, such as the hilarious, but off-color, “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” or “Futurama.” But… Spongebob? C’mon, he definitely has the hots for Sandy Cheeks.

Related, from a review of the Spongebob SquarePants movie:

For kids, The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie presents a level of cartoon violence that, while now all-too routine, is still influential, and needs to be addressed if your family sees this flick. Will your child laugh as Plankton shrieks in pain when he’s repeatedly squashed? The answer is telling, and should guide what kind of conversation happens afterwards.
Father: Son, I heard you laughing when that little bug guy got squashed. Why is that?

Son: He’s not a bug, dad, he’s a plankton which are little green things in the sea and it was funny because stuff would fall on him like WHAM! and he never could get out of the way because the stuff would follow him around no matter where he went and still fall on him even under rocks and squish him again and again like fifty times and I want to marry a man.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Metaposting wiener dogs

Yes, I can now post pictures! Your every desire shall be fulfilled! Assuming your every desire involves Weiner Dogs in muscle shirts. Of which, of course it does. And check out those pecs. You just don't see those on a Pekingese. Posted by Hello

Culture is key; Racism, a cop-out

Jonah Goldberg at NRO:

The report, which emphasized the feelings of anonymous female professors, found that discrimination manifested itself in a "stealth-like" way at MIT — which is generally PC code for "I'm not going to provide any evidence." The supposedly convincing evidence was kept secret, while the official report explained: "Discrimination consists of a pattern of powerful but unrecognized assumptions. Once you 'get it,' it seems almost obvious."


I've noticed that as well. "Covert" or even "institutional" discrimination and racism are sometimes cited as reasons that blacks are underrepresented in colleges and in the workplace. As Jonah points out, the beauty of this view is that it can't be proven. Covert discrimination is just asserted; it's assumed that since no other form of discrimination can be discovered, that there must be some undiscoverable source. In this view, covert racism sits, almost magic-like, a leering specter of hate holding back minorities through its malevolent presence; undetectable, yet permeating all levels of society.

Creating "covert" racism as a politically correct reason for underrepresentation allows for the protection of delicate liberal sensibilities, but, alas, it hurts the minorities on whos behalf the phantom is created. As Shelby Steele points out in his magnificent "A Dream Deferred," white liberals use affirmative action as way to assuage their guilty consciences over America's troubled history of race relations. Instead of looking out for minorites, white liberals merely want to show that they are not guilty of the sin of America's past; they are willing to give of their academic positions and elite university spots in order that they might be expunged of the stain of racial injustice--a behavior that stems from the mindset that Steele calls"moral self-preoccupation."

The real question that we must ask ourselves once we get over our hysterical, affected guilt and pretentious moral vanity, is why are minorities underrepresented in Colleges? Racism? Genetic differences [gasp! I can't believe you wrote that! You racist monster! -ed]? Cultural differences?

First, is it racism? Although it cannot be denied that racism exists, it is ridiculous to assert that racism leads to systematic black underrepresentation, for a myriad of reasons. (The following info is taken from Dinesh D'Souzas excellent book, "What's So Great About America.")

For starters, Black immigrants--West Indians, Haitians, Nigerians--are all darker than African-Americans, yet they have nearly achieved income parity with whites. At Harvard, 2/3 of blacks are West Africans. Also, Japanese immigrants and Japanese Americans are OVER-represented (according to proportion of population). They consistently score higher on objective tests such as the SAT and ACT. Are American's racial prejudices limited solely to black people... and not the black immigrants mentioned above?

Also, assuming racist reasons for low College enrollment is saying that college recruiters are racist. This is hard to believe, to say the least, coming, as they do, from the Ivory Tower of Liberalism and enlightenment. In fact, I would assert, there is probably an anti-racist bias among recruiters, aside from Affirmative Action.

So, could there be genetic reasons for blacks to seemingly underachieve? I highly doubt it. Biologists have long held, with much evidence, that race is not a very good genetic distinction between people. From my Antropology book, Humankind Emerging:

The arguments against the conintued application of the biological race concept among humans rest on accumulating evidence that such units are neither easily identified nor monolithic, and actually account for only a small part of our species' overall genetic diversity. [...]

In fact, even such multivariate approaches to subdividing humanity have failed to work because there is so little concordance of occurence (repeated and similar clustering) of humans' genetic and physical features. [...]

To make matters even more confusing, a second multivariate analysis--this time using fifty-seven meaurements taken on males' skulls--appears to split humans into three biologically linked groups: Europeans by themselves; Polynesians combined with Native Americans and East Asians, and Australio-Melanesians and Africans. [This "make[s] matters even more confusing" because it differs from the way the races are grouped if the grouping is based on blood type.] [...]

Ironically, while these studies have failed to identify human races, they have succeeded brilliantly in the other direction: that is, multivariate investigations, particularly of genes, have provided seemingly unequivocal proof that human races do not exist in any biologically meaningful sense. [emphasis added]

[More such evidence here]

Who said taking Physical Anthropology was a waste of time [you did. Repeatedly. Today. -ed Who's side are you on, anyways? - Grant]?

Race is simply not an intelligible, coherent biological concept. If anything, it is a social construct, as Jeff Goldstein at Protein Wisdom explains:
TODAY, HOWEVER, we recognize that there is no such thing as “black blood” or “white blood,” [biological differences among the races - ed] and so in order to account for our perceivable differences—in order, that is, to continue the project of racial identification—race theorists have sought to turn the essentialist project ["essentialist" meaning "biological," here- ed] of racial identification into the anti-essentialist [not biological - ed] project of racial construction. In short, the “racial” has become the “cultural,” and the “cultural” has become the supposedly anti-essentialist foundation for group identity.
Jeff Goldstein goes on to argue (and you should read the whole thing--'tis good), convincingly and rightly I think, that race as a cultural construct doesn't make sense either (and, on top of that, I think that considering race a cultural concept is inherently racist--but that's a topic for another day). Still, it is inarguable that there is a certain culture associated with blacks in America--not all of them, but enough to constitute a recognizable black subculture within American culture.

This is where the problem of black academic underachievement lies: within the culture of many African-Americans (as opposed to the immigrant blacks mentioned earlier). I must emphasize that to criticize "black culture" is not to criticize blacks, and is not racist (unless, of course, you consider "race" a cultural construct, I guess--in which case, let me show you to the door.) Despite the mantra of cultural relativism drilled into college students, cultures can (and should) be judged.

Now, here you might expect me to dig into Hip-hop or Nelly or somesuch; but I will go in a different direction. In fact, I will eschew pointing out a single cultural cause, I will only point out what is undeniably the result of factors of that culture--the black illegitimacy rate. This rate, one of the biggest scandals in America today, is at nearly 70 percent! Bascially, two parent structure has disintegrated (which, despite the beliefs of many Liberal feminists, is a bad thing).

This is unacceptable, and undeniably not the fault of racism. Obviously such a high rate has a deleterious impact on the rest of black society--not to mention society at large--by leading to an extremely high black crime rate. Also, according to a study entitled "Ethnic Differences in Adolescent Achievement," which appeared in American Psychology, (and which I found in D'Souza's book mentioned above):
In general Asian-American students devote relatively more time to their studies, are more likely to attribute their success to hard work, and are more likely to report that their parents have high standards for school performance...In contrast, African-American and Hispanic students are more cavalier about the consequences of poor school performance, devote less time to their studies, are less likely than others to attribute their success to hard work, and report that their parents have relatively lower standards.
Only once we accept the true cultural problems behind minority underreprentation and stop hiding behind the cop-out of invisible, "covert" racism, will we actual begin remedying the problems flowing from it. Or, you know, we could just keep on expiating our racial guilt via affirmative action, even when it has a proven negative net affect on those that it purports to benefit. Whichever.

"I caught you a delicious bass"

Napoleon Dynamite does the top ten list. Gosh!

Tuesday, January 18, 2005


From the WaPo:

With just two months to go before the much-heralded new SAT is given, a team of English professors and psychometricians is poring over sample essays to determine what kind of writing should be rewarded and what penalized.
Okay, how about writing that doesn’t just pull stuff out of its "hey-hey kids" should get a good grade? Like, what in the world is a psychometrician? That just screams pretentious post-modern junk science. With a neo-Marxist, deconstructionist slant, of course.

Much of the scoring proceeds swiftly. Many of the essays, written by students in 25 minutes as part of a trial run for the real test, fall into obvious categories: excellent, dreadful or -- most common of all -- mediocre. But there is some writing that defies easy pigeonholing -- such as the first-person story from a star high school actress.
“And then I thought to myself, “but vomiting is just like reverse eating, so what’s the big deal?” Three boxes of ho-ho’s and a pony keg of Yoohoo later, I stared at myself in the mirror. I was fat. Not Renee Zellwiger as Bridget Jones fat, but, like, people watching at Wal-Mart fat. And that's what freedom means to me.”

Scores for the essay are all over the map -- from 4 for competent to 6 for outstanding. To illustrate her theme, the drama student provides only one example -- her own acting experiences -- rather than the traditional three. She makes some grammatical errors but has an engaging voice and an argument that is sustained from beginning to end. After a lengthy discussion, the panel reaches agreement.
“She’s probably still hot even though she's packin' a few extra,” a reviewer said as everyone nodded, “I’d rate her a six.”


Critics of standardized tests have depicted the essays as lightning-fast, formulaic exercises that are unlikely to reveal much about a student's true writing abilities. "This test forces you to write very quickly with little time for reflection," says Adam Robinson, author of best-selling test preparation books. "There's no time for rewriting, which is the essence of good writing."

And the essence of good math is double-checking your work. Yet they time that too. Just sayin’ is all.

But enough small-fry excerpting. Let’s cut down to the money grafs here:

To guide scorers, the team has already approved a sample set of answers to a question about the benefits and drawbacks of secrecy. The "prompt," as an essay question is called in education parlance, consists of two quotations, one justifying secrecy as an indispensable part of human life, the other attacking it. Students are then asked to develop a point of view on secrecy, with examples to support their argument.

An essay that does little more than restate the question gets a 1. An essay that compares humans to squirrels -- if a squirrel told other squirrels about its food store, it would die, therefore secrecy is necessary for survival -- merits a 5. Brian A. Bremen, an English professor at the University of Texas at Austin, notes that the writer provides only one real example. Nevertheless, he says, the writer displays "a clear chain of thought" and should be rewarded, "despite his Republican tendencies."
And thus the real problem with essay testing is illuminated. Not just political bias, but all forms of bias, be they ideological, religious, or even methodological (preferring a certain style of writing) can be read, and will be read, into an essay. The strength of the SAT and ACT is its objectivity: a computer does the scoring and a right answer is a right answer is a right answer. Math doesn't depend on whether the person reading gets a certain pun or word play, or is amused by a certain writing technique.

Clear thinking, argument construction, and logic, the skills that an essay would purportedly measure, can be objectively measured through questions such as appear on the LSAT.

So why introduce subjective grading into a system that benefits from its objectivity? Well, not to sound conspiracy-minded, but I think at some levels it could be utilized by “progressive”-minded people such as Brian A. “Republican tendencies” Bremen to provide backdoor affirmative action. Some punk male Repug writing about squirrels could be knocked down a notch because he has only one “real” example (the other examples being merely Halliburton-style sleights of hand to fool the sheeple), while a star actress could be bumped up because she has “an engaging voice.”

I’m not saying that they were in these cases, I’m merely pointing out that subjectivity in grading allows for this sort of thing. And that “Republican tendencies” remark goes to show that even high school teachers, especially those in the field of English, can fall prey to the liberal groupthink of academia.

Objectivity—or color-blind, sex-blind grading—is the basis of any meritocracy. Of course there are very possibly some good arguments to be made in favor of essay testing on the SAT, but I think sacrificing the ideal of objectivity is not worth any of these. If it ain’t broke, then, you know, don’t purposefully try to break it just because you fancy yourself a social engineer.

And, I should add, the pressure to use the essay portion as backdoor affirmative action could increase if actual affirmative action is declared unconstitutional—something that might become more likely if studies like the one described in this Weekly Standard article are taken as seriously as they should be. Money grafs:

This week the Stanford Law Review will publish his article, "A Systematic Analysis of Affirmative Action in American Law Schools." By "affirmative action" in the law schools, Sander means the racially preferential variety used in admissions, and his focus is exclusively on preferences extended to blacks, the original beneficiary group, the other such groups having been added later (and for less compelling reasons).

The title of the 117-page study is as dull as Sander's conclusion is sharp. "What I find and describe," he writes, "is a system of racial preferences that, in one realm after another, produces more harms than benefits for its putative beneficiaries." Sander makes the further, riveting point that "the annual production of new black lawyers would probably increase if racial preference were abolished tomorrow."

Who is Richard Sander anyway? Perhaps not the man you would imagine from the analysis above. A lifelong Democrat, a liberal on most issues, he has a long record of involvement in civil rights issues, including housing segregation. His son is biracial. "So the question," he notes in the article, "of how nonwhites are treated and how they fare in higher education gives rise in me to all the doubts and worries of a parent." Because he favors race-conscious strategies in principle, his article is a classic instance of following an argument wherever it leads. At blog where he summarized his findings--he wrote that he was "surprised and dismayed" by his "generally negative conclusions," which "put me at odds with many close friends."

Yeah, no matter the facts, you can be sure that the white-robed zealots from the Ivory Tower of Academia will ride out in favor of their favorite Utopian engineering project, affirmative action.

update: "hey hey kids" is a very arcane Simpsons reference. On Krusty the Clown's television show in one episode, the camera pan's back to him after an "Itchy and Scratchy" sketch gets done playing.

Krusty: (unaware that the sketch is over and that the camera is back on him) "I could pull a better cartoon out of my--(realizes the camera is on him) Hey hey kids!"

Thus "hey hey kids" is a euphemism for "ass" especially when "pull[ing]" items forth is mentioned in relation.

update 2: And, come on, "Essay-T"? Has there ever been a more brilliant blog-title? I don't mean to bludgeon you ever the head with my punniness... but man. Essay-T. A wordplay like that only comes along once in a great while. Savor it. Relish it.

Monday, January 17, 2005

A true liberal

Thomas Friedman in the New York Times concludes his opinion column with this paragraph:
Before the war, I said of Iraq, "We break it, we own it." Today, my motto is, "If they own it, they'll fix it." America's standing in the Muslim world will improve, not when we get a better message, but when they have more control. People with the responsibility and opportunity to run their own lives focus on their own lives - not on us. More of that would be a very good thing.

This last observation is poignant, and answers one of the main criticisms of the internationalist left. They say that the world hates us because of what we do and how we present ourselves, and that if only we would constrain our “hubristic” and “imperialistic” behaviors, and conform to relevant international laws and norms, then this hate would dissipate.

Friedman here is saying that, yes, they do hate us, but simply “get[ting] a better message” out is not going to change that. No P.R. campaign will make the world love us. I agree with Friedman; saying that a new message would make anti-American feelings evaporate assumes that these feelings are rational, and so can be answered and spoken to rationally. This is simply not the case. Anti-Americanism in the Muslim world is not rational.

Because these views are not rational, and so cannot be answered directly, their source must be cut off. Where do people acquire this irrational hatred of America? From the various totalitarian states that use America as an escape valve to release the pent up anger and agitation of a people living under a repressive police state. This is a tactic common to all totalitarian regimes—the promoting of an external threat to rally the people to their government. Friedrich Hayek (one of the intellectual heros of modern conservatism) wrote on this in his masterful Road to Serfdom:

It seems to be almost a law of human nature that it is easier for people to agree on a negative program—on hatred of an enemy, on the envy of those better off—than on any positive task. The contrast between the “we” and the “they,” the common fight against those outside the group, seems to be an essential ingredient in any creed which will solidly knit together a group for common action. It is consequently always employed by those who seek, not merely support of a policy, but the unreserved allegiance of huge masses. From their point of view it has the great advantage of leaving them greater freedom of action than almost any positive program. The enemy, whether he be internal, like the “Jew” or the “kulak,” or external, seems to be an indispensable requisite in the armory of a totalitarian leader.
Deposing a totalitarian government not only stops it from disseminating anti-American propaganda and indoctrinating its citizens in various other ways, but the resulting freedom of the populace also alleviates anti-Americanism simply by giving the people something more important to think about. Friedman writes earlier in his column:

So I don't want young Muslims to like us. I want them to like and respect themselves, their own countries and their own governments. I want them to have the same luxury to ignore America as young Taiwanese have - because they are too busy focusing on improving their own lives and governance, running for office, studying anything they want or finding good jobs in their own countries.
If they have the freedom to choose between dwelling on anti-American hatred and getting a job and advancing their lives, the result will likely be good for America and good for the citizens themselves.

As I have wrote on before, the war on terror is essentially an anti-totalitarian one, and thus an inherently liberal endeavor. This is the only viable, long-term solution to such an intractable and amorphous problem as terrorism. While in the short term we will face international criticism, scorn and contempt, this should only reaffirm our stance. We are radically restructuring the world, so powers such as France, Germany, Russia and China, which benefit from the status quo, will naturally be angered.

There are always conservative forces that act against the forward thrust of progress, fearful as they are of change and losing what they now possess. It is then that the true liberal emerges, and forges onward against the sway of reactionary opinion. It’s comforting that some self-proclaimed “liberals,” like Friedman here for example, can see this.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Differences in wages in a free market

A common complaint from opponents of a free market system--as well as from others that just like to whine--is that professional athletes receive exorbitant salaries, whereas teachers and scientists, who presumably provide something more valuable to society, receive considerably less.

To me, this observation seems born of greed and arrogance. Greed, because the person making the observation cannot stand that athletes receives a higher salary, and arrogance, because making this observation demeans the economic decisions of those that don't think athletes are paid too much, and so are willing to buy tickets to games, watch them on television, and buy the various sports paraphernalia.

But still, this person could reply back that, no, it's not greed because I don't want to receive more money--it's just that doctors, teachers and scientists are more valuable to society than basketball players, and yet they are paid much less. Therefore, as the market system does not adequately award behavior that is beneficial to society, it is inherently flawed.

In this, again, is the arrogance and condescension toward the desires of other people, who have voted with their money to create the high salaries of other people. But it does raise the valid point, "is capitalism inherently flawed if it provides a higher salary to those that are less important to society as a whole?"

Don Boudreaux, Chairman of the Department of Economics at George Mason University, and contributor to the blog Cafe Hayek, provides an answer. He first acknowledges that the social benefit provided by some lesser paid occupations is greater than the social benefit provided by some higher paid ones:

Let’s all agree (because it’s likely true) that if all collegiate education were wiped out today, in a single stroke, the loss to society would be far larger than the loss would be if, instead, all professional baseball were wiped out in a single stroke.
Boudreaux then notes that the occupation of teaching, as well as the school he teaches at, would survive, and still flourish, even, if he where fired, whereas if a high power sports superstar were fired, it would have a noticeable impact on the team's performance and fan-drawing power. He then writes:

The total value that Americans place on professional sports is impossible to determine by looking at the salaries of professional athletes. These salaries reveal only the value to each team of each athlete. Likewise, it's a gross mistake to conclude that, because professional athletes are paid more than even Nobel Prize winning scientists, society values sports more than it values research and education.

Here Boudreaux is saying that while an individual basketball player might be more important to the occupation of basketball than an individual teacher is to the occupation of teaching, this says nothing about the worth of the actual occupations to society. It only means that fewer people possess the talents necessary to become a star basketball player than possess the talents neccessary to become a star teacher (about which Boudreaux writes, "Isn't this fact worthy of long and loud applause?!").

Boudreaux then concludes with an observation that capitalist detractors always seem to miss when pointing out the foibles of the free market system:

Finally, isn’t it wonderful that we are so very wealthy – that the masses of Americans earn such high incomes and have so much leisure – that as consumers we support very lucrative enterprises that entertain us so thoroughly?

We're drowning in affluence here, folks. We have sweaters for dogs, American Eagle mints, and more cellphones than there are men women and children. Again, greed is the only reason that detractors of capitalism continue to harp on it. Why should others get paid more than I? Never mind that all boats rise with the tide in capitalism, it isn't fair that some boats rise higher!

This reminds me of the famous quip: Capitalism is the inequal distribution of wealth; Socialism is the equal distribution of poverty.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

You can't spell funny without 'y'

Which is also a letter in M. Night Shyamalon's name. Isn't that freaky in the"I saw that coming after the first 30 minutes of the movie" sort of way?

Anyways, for everyone that thinks M. Night Shyamalon is a no-talent hack. And read the comments; I find "spacemonkeys" comment hilarious. Disclaimer: I also laugh at deoderant commercials.

For everyone else... I don't know. Could you just look at the wall for a few seconds? That would be great. And maybe it will turn out that the walls, like, I don't know, are not really walls, but more like "dividers" or maybe even some of those Nipponese Rice paper deals. Or so you think. Now wouldn't that be freaky?

And another PW link, that I also--to use the relevant lingo--"lol"ed at.

Protein Wisdom, the one stop shop for meta-postmodern social and political satire.

Inner Dialogue, Externalized: Take 1

Me: I’ll bet you I can jump across that slick of ice.

Myself: That huge one right there, with the blood-stain? Yeah, you’re on, retard! And the loser has to give the winner a backrub!

Me: Uh… No. That’s kind of weird. How about the loser just has to buy the winner a meal?

Myself: Yeah, great idea! A candle-lit meal with violin’s and French waiters and six kinds of forks. You’re on! Go ahead Jacko, make my day!

Me: Wait, no. Why do you have to be this way?

Myself: What? Okay, geez. Sorry... I’ll throw in the back-rub for free, just jump already.

Me: That's it. I’m just going to go home.

Myself: Alright, I’ll walk you! We’d better hold hands, because it’s very slick and you have soft, supple hands.

Me: Soft, supp—? I’m going a different way than you.

Myself: Really? What a coincidence! I was going that way too! We have a lot in common, you and I. How about I take you out to eat sometime?

Me: I hate you. I really, really hate you.

Myself: *Sigh*… You poor, self-loathing bastard. C’mere big guy.

Update: Inner Dialogue Externalized: Take 1, Epilogue

Me: You were just kidding around, right? Back there at the ice. About the stuff.

Myself: Oh. Yeah. Sure thing. Heh, heh. Just kidding.





Me: So--

Myself: I--

Me: Oh, what? You where saying?

Myself: No, you first. Go ahead.

Me: So do you really think I could've made it across that ice? Because I could have.

Myself: Just let it go man. Let it go.

Best. Amendment. Ever.

Gah, I'm trying to think of a Constitutional Amendment that should be added to our Bill of Rights for my Con. Law 2 class, but all I've got so far is
Ye olde Ashlee Simpson shall be barred from all future sporting events, except for maybe Soccer. But like, ye, is soccer even considered a sport? I know that for'ners like to watch it, but for'ners also like to watch foreign language films, and those are some boring-ass films. Many also have scabies, or so a webpage told me.

It still missing some "ye's" but I think I have a working version here. And maybe I should capitalize "webpage," make it sound more authoritative? Man, whodathought ConLaw 2 would be so hard?



A blinking advertisement on another page is offering me $100 if I can correctly answer this question: Did Michael Jackson have plastic surgery?

Now, before you answer "no," I should tell you that the before and after mug shots of a normal looking African American boy cpntrasted with a freakish skull-faced she-man are rather convincing.

I'll just hedge my bets and click the space in between the two answers. I'm going to spend it on gummy worms. The money, I mean. Do you know what $100 worth of gummy worms looks like? Picture $10 worth of gummy worms. Now take that times 10. Glorious, no?

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Peeping Toms rejoice/peep

The last refuge of man has been violated.

Right to Privacy in Restroom not Absolute

ST. LOUIS Jan 12, 2005 — A man found partly disrobed with a woman, cocaine and marijuana in the one-person restroom of an Iowa convenience store in an area known for prostitution had no absolute right to privacy, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday.

An 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel unanimously rejected
Lonnie Maurice Hill's claim that police who found him with the woman and drugs breached his Fourth Amendment right to privacy, making the drugs illegally seized and unusable as evidence.

Other courts have held that the right of privacy in bathrooms varies case to case, with some judges holding that a stall in a public restroom is not a private place when used for something other than its intended purpose.
The intended purpose being to act as a reservoir for every disease known to mankind, to help build up the immune resistances of humanity lest we fall prey to dangerous microscopic creatures. Also a nesting location for nomadic Hobo Sapiens.
"The Fourth Amendment protects people and not places," Judge Donald Lay wrote for the three-judge 8th Circuit panel. In Hill's case, "it was not a single person using the single toilet restroom but two persons of opposite gender and, under the circumstances, we hold that they had a diminished expectation of privacy which had expired by the time the officers arrived."
Actually, judging by their actions, I think they had an increased expectation of privacy. As a final insult, the man's restroom is now going to be three feet from his bed. But I'm sure his cellmate will respect his zone of privacy and all.

As a precedent, this decision is all well and good, because in these post-9/11 days we cannot allow the enemies of civilization free reign in our public restrooms across the nation. Some civil liberties by nature must be curbed when our nation faces a nearly existential threat—the possibility of a suicidal terror cell acquiring nuclear weapons.

Morality as defined by an evolutionary biologist

I found an interesting tidbit in my Principles of Anthropology book which I thought I would relay. My textbook, "Humankind Emerging" by Bernard G. Campbell and James D. Loy excerpts a portion of Edwin O. Wilson’s book "Human Nature":
Genes hold culture on a leash. The leash is very long, but inevitable values will be constrained in accordance with their effect on the human gene pool….Human behavior—like the deepest capacities for emotional response which drive and guide it—is the circuitous technique by which human genetic material has been and will be kept intact. Morality has no other demonstrable ultimate function.
Thus, according to Wilson, the function of morality is “the circuitous technique by which human genetic material has been and will be kept intact.” By this I think he means that the function of morality is to condone, or cause, behaviors which will lead to the perpetuation of our species.

According to the textbook, Wilson believed that since humans “are a product of natural selection, it is not likely that we should have developed behavior that operates against natural selection. If biological fitness demands altruism, then it will appear in human societies, but if altruism operated to lower individuals’ inclusive fitness, then it surely would never have become established as a common behavior.”

But, some behavior can become established as common even if it lowers biological fitness. The textbook notes this, and then reconciles it with Wilson’s theory:
Much human behavior appears nonadaptive or maladaptive: we can choose not to bear children; we can commit suicide. As Wilson says, the genetic leash is long. Reason has given us freedom from the lower brain centers, the limbic system, which makes animals do what they have to do. We can determine our actions without reference to our limbic needs, and we can if we want to go against our nature—as individuals. But for the species, such behavior would spell suicide. In this sense we are still held by our genes on that unbreakable leash.
I disagree. Our society has reached a level where the rules of evolutionary biology do not apply as much as they used to. The weak, elderly, and slow are no longer culled from the pack by predators, leading to a broadening of the characteristics of "biological fitness." People that once would’ve died off long ago due to genetic-caused diseases, defects, or handicaps can now live to reproduce through the powers of medicine, and in the process thumb their noses at Darwin. Behaviors such as not having children can become common and yet not lead to the death of our species because of our advanced medicines, low infant mortality rate, long life-spans, and general security from threats.

In fact, people that succeed most in our society, if success is defined by wealth, tend to have LESS children then those at the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum, in direct contradiction to the rules of evolutionary biology. Of course, according to the rules of evolutionary biology, success would be defined by which type of individual is propagating itself the best—even if, paradoxically, those individuals may be less healthy (as the poorer segments often are, due to worse medical care and poor diet) and less intelligent (which, as a general rule, the poor often are as well, simply because if they were smarter they would make more money in a capitalist society). Maybe, in this way, the meek truly shall inherit the Earth.

Uh oh, this is the second time in as many days that I’ve written something seemingly sympathetic to the practice of eugenics. So let me clarify. I think that the rabbit-like proliferation of those that would have normally been culled from the pack through evolution is a good thing. When the rules of evolution and natural selection don’t apply as much, it leaves open the chance for the deepening of humanity through the spread of characteristics such as altruism, which before would’ve been weeded from the pack.

Derbyshire vs. Singer

John Derbyshire, the in-house pessimist and misanthrope at National Review weighs in on the tsunami disaster in Southeast Asia:


I have not, in fact, sent anything to the tsunami victims. I don't say this with any satisfaction, though I'm not particularly ashamed of it, either. Some numbers of my tax dollars are there in Uncle Sam's package. That'll have to do. It's not that I'm uncharitable. I don't think I come up to the old Wesleyan standard of "Make all you can, save all you can, give all you can," no more in the first two clauses than the last, but I write a check now and again. This past few weeks I've sent 50 bucks to the Marine Corps League and $200 to a building appeal by my church. I've diverted one small income stream to a medical charity in memory of a friend who died last month. It's not much, but from a modest lower-middle-class income, it's not nothing. So why haven't I given to the tsunami funds? Because I haven't been sufficiently moved to. Why not?

The short answer is that the south Asians are too distant and too foreign. The way human beings are made, we give up most of our interpersonal emotions to our families and friends. What little is left we spread among people, or causes, with whom we feel some natural sympathy. Most of those are going to be close at hand: our church, our political party, our school funds and youth groups, our associations of common interest. Obviously Thai storekeepers and Sri Lankan peasants don't fall into any of those groups.That's not a full account of our human sympathies, of course. A person whose tender emotions are strictly limited to family and associates is either a member of the Mafia, or a citizen of one of those unhappy societies Francis Fukuyama describes as having a "limited radius of trust," like the clan-dominated, cousin-marrying regions of the Middle East. The sympathies of a well-adjusted person can easily be aroused by the plight of strangers.

Furthermore I have no connection with them, no handle on which to hang my sympathy. "Racism"? Certainly not. My wife and her family belong to a race different from mine, and live in Manchuria. If the tsunami had come ashore there I should be fully engaged. These folk in south Asia, though: They are people-in-the-abstract, not people-I-have-anything-to-do-with.Most of us believe — I myself certainly believe — that something is owed to our common humanity, and that there is something unkind and inhuman about a stony indifference to the sufferings of strangers in distant places. I am not that cold; it's just that the warmth of my feelings for these poor people doesn't rise to the level of reaching for my checkbook. I'll gladly join in a prayer for them; I don't mind my government spending some of our public monies to relieve their distress; I absolutely would not do or say anything to hinder or discourage anyone from trying to help them.

Their media-mediated sufferings can move us to some degree (though obviously not much of a degree in my case); but if you tell me that the sight of an orphaned child in Sri Lanka moves you just as much as that of one in your own town, let alone your own family, I shall tell you that you are either lying, or (much more likely) are in the grip of a sentimental delusion.Derbyshire’s justification against not giving is that he didn’t feel like it. People in the abstract simply did not arouse his sympathies, nor do they, in his opinion, arouse the sympathies of anyone. Or at least not to the degree where you would pass on local charities that do arouse sympathies in order to donate to these people-in-the-abstract.
This is a classic objection to the arguments of Peter Singer put forward in his famous philosophical essay Famine, Affluence, and Morality.

In this argument, Singer “begin[s] with the assumption that suffering and death from lack of food, shelter, and medical care are bad.” He then states the principle that "if it is in our power to prevent something bad from happening, without thereby sacrificing anything of comparable moral importance, we ought, morally, to do it.”

Although this principle looks benign enough, it has radical implications. Singer writes, “If it were acted upon […] our lives, our society, and our world would be fundamentally changed. For the principle takes, firstly, no account of proximity or distance. It makes no moral difference whether the person I can help is a neighbor’s child ten yards from me or a Bengali whose name I shall never know, ten thousand miles away.”

To elucidate with an example, say you walk by a small wading pool, only two feet deep. In this wading pool, a child is drowning, and will drown unless you come to the rescue. Most people would agree that since saving the child would entail such a small cost (getting your pants wet; wasting a few minutes of your time) compared to such a large benefit (saving the child) that to not save the child would be an immoral, possibly monstrous, act.

Singer says that this scenario of the child in the wading pool is no different from the people in Third World countries that die from hunger everyday, and that could be saved through a modest donation. To not donate all of your income, beyond the small amount needed for the basic food and simple clothes needed to keep you alive, makes you a murderer in nearly the same sense as the person that leaves the child to drown.

This is where Derbyshire’s and Singer’s views on charity come into conflict. Derbyshire is saying that human nature inclines us to give charitably to causes that are close to us and that affect people we know and care about. Singer, on the other hand, says that not only should we give to people further away first if they are in more dire need (which, for the most part, they are), but this giving is not charity as we understand it, but rather a moral obligation—that is, to not donate would be to do something immoral.

Now, I am sympathetic to both Derbyshire’s and Singer’s arguments; Singer’s for its relentless logic and Derbyshire’s for its inherent libertarianism and alignment with basic human nature.

I must say the upper-hand of the argument definitely goes to Singer (but, in fairness to Derbyshire, the point of his article is more along the lines of “why” he doesn’t give, not whether he has the inherent moral responsibility to give. For the sake of this post, I assumed that he was making a moral claim as well as offering a practical justification of why he doesn’t give.)

Just because, in Derbyshire’s view, human nature inclines us to give to the causes closest to home rather than to possibly more desperate causes consisting of people-in-the-abstract that are further away, doesn’t mean that it is moral to do so. It could possibly be that the inclinations of human nature are not inherently moral. This is a prospect that I think most people can agree upon, given the hedonism, selfishness, and greed that are as natural a part of us as is our altruism (okay, maybe Ayn Rand followers or extreme libertarians might not agree, but really who cares about them?).

The inclination of Derbyshire’s to give to those that he loves, even if just to make their lives better in a small way, such as by providing for their education, is in a way a kind of selfishness, if it means that people who are more needy will be passed over.

Update: I should say that I still disagree with Singer's argument. I don't think it pegs us with a moral responisibility to give money in the form of aid to other countries. Aid money simply doesn't provide long term positive benefits in most cases, and has actually caused negative effects in some scenarios (the example being Sub-Saharan Africa which recieves huge amounts of aid money, but has experienced negative growth). I think Singer's argument should commit nations to something more along the lines of free trade (which will help countries more than aid money does, as this column argues), as well as Bush's policies of democratization and liberalization throughout the world.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Story of the Century!



This will shape the world's perception of America for generations, and deservedly. From the Telegraph:

American troops in Iraq sexually abused girls as young as 13, giving out scraps of food or money in return for favours, the United States admitted yesterday.


Soldiers continued abusing children even after the onset of an internal Army inquiry.

Obvious the moral authority of the US Army is shattered. They are no better than the regime which the supposedly "liberated" the people from. Story. Of. The. Century.

Oh wait. It seems I got some minor details wrong. Heres the real story, via the Telegraph:

[UN] Peacekeeping troops guarding refugee camps in the Democratic Republic of Congo sexually abused girls as young as 13, giving out scraps of food or money in return for favours, the United Nations admitted yesterday.


Soldiers continued abusing children even after the onset of an internal UN inquiry.

Oh, you mean the UN did this? Never mind. Move along. I'm sure there's some Abu Ghraib lingering in the air somewhere that's still newsworthy. Cheerleaders? Mmm, that's the stuff.

Post inspired by Instapundit.

*Insert Gratuitous Herbert Hoover Reference Here*

A budget surplus in December?
WASHINGTON, Jan 7 (Reuters) - The U.S. government ran a $1 billion budget surplus in December, helped by a rise in corporate tax payments, the Congressional Budget Office said in its latest budget report released on Friday.

This is queer (and not in the Abe Lincoln sort of way). I thought we were in an economic death spiral, what with the new tax cuts making it impossible to pay for all of the spending that Bush was doing and such?

Oh well, the Democrats roll with the punch. New talking point (seriously):
Democrats contend Bush also exaggerated the nation's economic problems to justify tax cuts, terrorist threats to convince the public of the need for restrictions on civil liberties, and John F. Kerry's record to win a second term.

Bush "exaggerated the nation's economic problems"? This statement boggles the mind when you look at the rhetoric the Dems were/are using. Watch for this "the economy is great!" meme to continue spreading, now that it is of use to the Dems to point it out in the context that Social Security doesn't need to be reformed. No shame. None whatsoever.

Update: Nada. Zilch. Shame=Zero. Like a dog licking itself in front of a bunch of nuns. Just, nil.

Update II: In the second assertion, with Dems saying that Bush is exaggerating the terrorist threat, we see the embodiment of why the Dems lost the last election and will continue to lose (especially if the vote on this turns into a resounding: YEEEAAARRRGGHH!). Would you trust your security in the hands of someone that thinks a foe that has killed 3,000 American's on our soil in and which would happily detonate a nuclear device in downtown Manhattan if allowed, is being "exaggerated"?

And, lastly, I don't think Bush "exaggerated" Kerry's record. Bush's talking point on this was more along the lines of: "What record?"

Abu Ghraib has team spirit

News from a trial not involving Scott Peterson:

FORT HOOD, Texas (Reuters) - A lawyer for Charles Graner, accused ringleader in the Iraq prisoner abuse scandal, on Monday compared piling naked prisoners into pyramids to cheerleader shows and said leashing inmates was also acceptable prisoner control.

"Don't cheerleaders all over America form pyramids six to eight times a year. Is that torture?" Guy Womack, Graner's attorney, said in opening arguments to the 10 member U.S. military jury at the reservist sergeant's court-martial.

I see they’re trying the ‘Cheerleader’ defense. This is a common courtroom tactic. When using this stratagem, the defense attorney attempts to justify his clients behavior by comparing it to the actions of cheerleaders, because, cheerleaders, as an innocent symbol of all things Americana, are obviously infallible. This stratagem was most famously employed during Michael Jackson’s first bout with the courts in the ‘90’s, when it was stated that “cheerleaders like to entertain little boys, too.”

On a related, nonsarcastic note, Charles Graner might want to consider changing his lawyer to, I don’t know, how about that guy that stands on the street corner prophesying the “the ind of the wrld”? Because, if he doesn’t, Graner could be going to a place where being stacked naked would indeed be on par with a cheerleading routine compared to other happenings.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Extra Extra!

Breaking news, and CBS has the scoop! Great job guys!

The best part of all of this is being able to write the following sentence:

CBS News reports that “CBS News failed to follow basic journalistic principles in the preparation and reporting of the piece.”

Reached for comment, the Space-Time Continuum had this to say, “Dude, I am so frickin’ gonna implode over this.”

When I read the initial reports about the report that was released, it sounded like a decent and fair deconstruction of what went down during Rathergate. But then I read this news story of excerpts, and found this:

The panel has not been able to conclude with absolute certainty whether the (late Lt. Col. Jerry) Killian documents are authentic or forgeries. However, the panel has identified a number of issues that raise serious questions about the authenticity of the documents and their content.
Not been able to conclude whether the documents are authentic or forgeries? There is no doubt whatsoever, barring an act of God or super intelligent, far leftist alien, that these things are faker than Cher's face. LGF, (which appears to be down right now) super-imposed a copy of the memo over a document typed in Word, on the default settings. IT MATCHED PERFECTLY. It is simply implausible to conclude that a typewritten document would match up perfectly with a document typed in Word on the default settings, because of the use of proportional font, the presence of word wrap (not having to manually move to the next line as you would with a typewriter), as well as the fact that all the spaces and tabs match PERFECTLY. Not to mention the little superscript “th” that launched a thousand blogs.

The memo was an out and out, easily identifiable fraud, and any internal probe that fails to recognize this isn’t worth its weight in Dan Rather-style homespun aphorisms.

Here’s an analysis of the report by Powerline, the blog that lead the charge in Rathergate.

update: paragraph deleted because it was retarded. It kept on drooling on all the other paragraphs and smearing the walls with its... waste. I'm not saying that eugenics should be practiced to cull the weak/retarded from the rest of the herd, I'm just saying I deleted a paragraph. Because it was retarded.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Random fisking

You just knew that leftists everywhere were scratching their heads trying to blame the tsunami on the war in Iraq, somehow, someway. George Monbiot, in the Guardian does his best:

Over the past few months, reviewing the complete lack of public interest in what is happening in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the failure, in the west, to mobilise effective protests against the continuing atrocities in Iraq, I had begun to wonder whether we had lost our ability to stand in other people's shoes. I have now stopped wondering. The response to the tsunami shows that, however we might seek to suppress it, we cannot destroy our capacity for empathy.

But one obvious question recurs. Why must the relief of suffering, in this unprecedentedly prosperous world, rely on the whims of citizens and the appeals of pop stars and comedians? Why, when extreme poverty could be made history with a minor redeployment of public finances, must the poor world still wait for homeless people in the rich world to empty their pockets?

Okay, first of all let me say that I’m sympathetic to the complaint about the lack of protests over the atrocities committed in Iraq. The terrorists in Iraq have routinely killed citizens, tried to derail democracy and economic reconstruction, and, if they had their way, would ultimately institute shariah law in Iraq – an all encompassing Islamic law that would lead to widespread and brutal human rights abuses. How many times have peace protestors in Western nations marched against these atrocities, many times worse than those of America? [Um, I don’t think those were the atrocities Monbiot was worrying about –ed. Well duh… I was being ironic; don’t be so obtuse. –Grant. First of all, I don’t entirely know what obtuse means, and second of all, I’m you, so BACK OFF. –ed. Touché – Grant.]

And then we have the “obvious question.” Monbiot uses a peculiar dialect, in which more than faint yearning for totalirianism can be detected. First of all, the “whims of citizens” that Monbiot so derisively refers to is none other than freedom. Yes, Monbiot, if we could just get rid of freedom, that “whim” of the people, then just think of all the good that could be done!

Oh, and “the appeals of pop stars and comedians” that is scornfully referred to? That could also be looked at that as, oh, I don’t know, an act of good will on their part. And, hey, it could be worse. They could be appealing to the state to use its coercive powers to steal from the citizens.*

Second, I would not be so naïve as to think that any amount of donated money alone, much less just “a minor redeployment” would magically make extreme poverty “history.” As Don D’Cruz pointed out in his column “Free trade more precious than foreign aid,” (read the whole thing) money donated is not necessarily a panacea:

For example, according to World Bank figures, despite spending $US100 billion in aid in sub-Saharan Africa between 1970 and 1999, about 17 countries experienced a decline in real per capita gross national product.
Paradoxically, aid can have a negative effect by propping up the failing political structures which are the actual causes of poverty in third world countries. India is an amazing success story of a developing nation escaping from extreme poverty, not because aid was heaped on it, but because, as a former British colony, it benefited from the imposition of a stable, Western governmental structure. And, of course, aid can also be squandered by the very organizations sent to disperse it, such as is happening in Afghanistan through wasteful NGOs, which have been derisively nicknamed the “Toyota Taliban.”

But enough digression. Monbiot answers his “obvious question:”

The obvious answer is that governments have other priorities. And the one that leaps to mind is war. If the money they have promised to the victims of the tsunami still falls far short of the amounts required, it is partly because the contingency fund upon which they draw in times of crisis has been spent on blowing people to bits in Iraq.
Yes, that’s correct, governments do have other priorities. In fact, according to libertarians, the main priority, and one of the few legitimate functions of government, is national defense (which sometimes entails national offense). And should aid even be a priority of government? Follow the magical asterisk to find out*.

Either way, the money has been spent “blowing people to bits,” that violently oppose freedom and democracy in Iraq, but also has been spent reconstructing that nation. Monbiot anticipates this response, and writes:

The figures for war and aid are worth comparing because, when all the other excuses for the invasion of Iraq were stripped away, both governments explained that it was being waged for the good of the Iraqis. Let us, for a moment, take this claim at face value. Let us suppose that the invasion and occupation of Iraq had nothing to do with power, domestic politics or oil, but were, in fact, components of a monumental aid programme. And let us, with reckless generosity, assume that more people in Iraq have gained as a result of this aid programme than lost.

To justify the war, even under these wildly unsafe assumptions, George Bush and Tony Blair would have to show that the money they spent was a cost-efficient means of relieving human suffering. As it was sufficient to have made a measurable improvement in the lives of all the 2.8 billion people living in absolute poverty, and as there are only 25 million people in Iraq, this is simply not possible. Even if you ignore every other issue - such as the trifling matter of mass killing - the opportunity costs of the Iraq war categorise it as a humanitarian disaster. Indeed, such calculations suggest that, on cost grounds alone, a humanitarian war is a contradiction in terms.

Monbiot reveals a little too much with the musing that “humanitarian war is a contradiction in terms.” This belies the accuracy of Monbiot’s moral calculations, as it would suggest that a war of intervention to stop the Rwandan massacre, the war to stop the spread of Nazism and depose the genocidal Hitler, and the war to end slavery and reunite the USA, would not be considered “humanitarian wars."

The first mistake that Monbiot makes is to equate a dollar spent on aid with a dollar spent on war. These are no more the same than are a dollar spent purchasing a fish for a hungry man and a dollar spent teaching him to fish. They are different things, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t in their own way both humanitarian. It just happens that some ways of spending money are more efficacious in the long run on alleviating human suffering than are others.

As I noted earlier, aid money has had a detrimental effect in sub-Saharan Africa. Money spent on wars of liberation, on the other hand, remove the incompetent and corrupt political leaders and systems which lead to problems of human suffering. If money had been spent in a war to depose Mobutu Sese Seko in Zaire before he ran the country into the ground, it would have been better than the aid money which actually went to Zaire at the time, and which Mobutu spent as his own personal bank account.

Here, Monbiot would point out that, even if aid money isn’t very efficacious, surely it is better than the exorbitant amount that is being spent to liberate millions in Iraq when nearly three billion suffer from extreme poverty. Of course, Monbiot is assuming that some money needs to be spent in some capacity if these people are to be pulled out of poverty—a premise which I don’t accept (refer back to this column cited above). Also, an infusion of democracy into the Middle East via Iraq is increasing the movement toward democracy in Iran and elsewhere, and will change the political culture of the region for the better, a development of great humanitarian value.

My old philosophy professor tried this same argument on me once: surely way too much money is spent in Iraq that could be spent elsewhere if you are just trying to help the most people out. What Monbiot and my philosophy professor forget, or immediately discard as implausible, is that the stated reason for the war in Iraq is humanitarian.

That is, liberating Iraq is part of our “War on Terror,” which is humanitarian. I have wrote earlier about the connection between totalitarianism and terror, (a link which is backed up by research) and it is apparent, at least to neo-cons, that the dynamics of the Middle East need to be changed if we ever hope to defeat something as vague as “terror.” Liberating Iraq is seen as a way to combat the root causes of terror by spreading freedom throughout the Middle East. And anything that decreases the chance of a terrorist attack in America or elsewhere is a humanitarian success of immense proportions. This is because, as Nelson Ascher put it:
The US can survive a nuke in Manhattan. Brazil can survive a nuke in Sao Paulo. But Brazil cannot survive a nuke in Manhattan. What most of the world’s anti-Americans fail to understand is that whatever harms deeply the US harms us even more. Were Africa to suddenly disappear, it wouldn’t make much of a change in the life of New Yorkers. Were NY to disappear, Africa would go along.
But even when America does take assets away from the combat in Iraq to help in SE Asia, Monbiot is still not pleased:
The US marines who have now been dispatched to Sri Lanka to help the rescue operation were, just a few weeks ago, murdering the civilians (for this, remember, is an illegal war), smashing the homes and evicting the entire population of the Iraqi city of Falluja.
Okay, first of all I fail to see how this is an illegal war. I guess you could use the “because France said so” or whatnot, but I still don’t see how this would make killing the violent anti-democratic elements of the resistance into “murdering the civilians.” If these civilians are attacking other civilians (and they are—the governor of Baghdad was just assassinated, not to mention the countless bombs and videotaped assassinations) then they are terrorists, by definition, end of story. Maybe we should defer to the judgment of the Iraqis here: LGF reports the results of a poll of nearly 5000 Iraqis from Baghdad in which 87.7% of respondents said they supported military action against terrorists.

Finally, Monbiot ends his column:
While they spend the money we gave them to relieve suffering on slaughtering the poor, the world must rely for disaster relief on the homeless man emptying his pockets. If our leaders were as generous in helping people as they are in killing them, no one would ever go hungry.
How does it make a leader more “generous” if he spends more of other people’s money, which was extracted, ultimately, under threat of jail? Would it make the leader of the nation more generous if he emptied the pockets of the homeless man for him and spent that?

Either way, that is the last time I fisk a Monbiot column. I just waded in, and the BS kept getting deeper and deeper. Took me about four and a half hours before I was able to pull myself out at the other end, in desperate need of a scrub-down with some hardy steel wool and hydrochloric acid. Moonbat fece, it sticks to you, like superglue.

*That said, I still support the judicious use of tax dollars in response to the tsunami. First, this is potentially a national security concern, as destabilized states could prove to be breeding grounds for Islamic terror. Radical Islamic elements, especially in Indonesia could offer succor in the form of religion if lack of aid leads to widespread desperation and suffering. Second, as we do live in a society where taxes are collected, I would rather those taxes be guided toward helping out in the aftermath of the worst natural disaster in modern history, than go towards some subsidy or trivial expenditure. In fact, if the aid for this disaster could starve the funding for some other government functions then all the better.