None the Wiser

"Truth gains more even by the errors of one who, with due study and preparation, thinks for himself, than by the true opinions of those who only hold them because they do not suffer themselves to think." --J.S. Mill

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Saturday, May 03, 2003
Good Stuff

I always feel a little bad about linking to Lileks. It's hard to say why, but I think I feel presumptuous for assuming someone might actually be reading NTW without already having made their way to the Bleat that day. Some things must be shared to be appreciated, I suppose, and this excerpt from Friday's Bleat is one example:

This is one of the things in the world that makes my bile-ducts flame up: our side, we’re better people. We're the enlightened ones. You get this sanctimony on both sides, of course. I think that people who have different opinions on, say, the tax system, public schools, the regulatory apparatus, et cetera, want a better America as much as I do. Some of them are motivated by nasty preconceptions that taint and distort their view of the world, just as some who oppose racial preferences aren’t really interested in a truly color-blind society, but are tired of having to pretend they like people who don’t look like them. But I don’t start with the assumption that people who disagree with me are wannabe Lenins who want a command economy and a gulag for creationists.

He also has some choice words for Glenn Reynolds, as well as the obligatory heart-melting anecdote about little Gnat. Go check it out--assuming, of course, you haven't already.

All Terrorists Please Use Other Door -->

Fox news is reporting that Syria has "done some closures" of terror group offices in downtown Damascus.

Hizb'Allah, according to the latest passive voice dipolmo-speak, "was discussed."

Translation: In response to stern looks from Colin Powell, Assad promised to think about taking under advisement with his staff the possibility of mentioning the potential for negotiations with the political wing of Hizb'Allah, the terror group with the largest army and the most victims under its belt of any on earth, and who has killed more Americans--excepting 9/11--than any other. No such conversation will take place. Meanwhile, a couple of smaller outfits will be forced to close their front doors to all random visitors until such time as the American Secretary of State is no longer in the city, at which time killin' will resume as normal. (For illustrations, see Arafat, Yasser, 1972-2003.)

Translation: Powell's visit was a predictable waste of time, something Assad had to clear off his schedule because of the war in Iraq, but which will have no far-reaching implications whatsoever for the war on terror. (For further illustrations of diplomatic impotence in action, see Carter, Jimmy, life of.)

Interesting Thread

I've gotten embroiled in that all-out cage match that is the LGF comments section. Charles links to an interesting article by Steven Zak in Jewish World Review.

Zak's basic point is that the U.S. has been an ungrateful friend toward Israel, because we have not publicly and profusely credited them for the critical role they served in helping us defeat Iraq. He's right, of course, that Israeli assistance probably saved a lot of American lives, but my rejoinder is that American assistance last year alone probably saved the state of Israel itself. If we have to limit our thanks to the continued defense of their country from fanatical hordes of anti-Semitic maniacs, I say that's good enough, if it's necessary to keeping our other coalition partners throughout the war and beyond.

In the comments section, this is what I said, and of course I got pounced on for it:

I really wish we could proclaim Israel's invaluable assistance from the rooftops. The fact of the matter is that if we did, we couldn't get a single morsel of help from anybody else in the region. Israel will be shown our gratitude over and over, in all kinds of ways that, while not making any headlines, will more than make up for the American lives saved by their assistance. How many Israeli lives were saved last year by U.S. assistance?

Being Israel's only friend is a dangerous, costly, and thankless burden. It's only our humanity and decency that inspires us to shoulder it when, frankly, it would be more profitable to abandon them to their fate. We were definitely fortunate to have them as an ally when we did, but it is quite likey there would never have been a war in Iraq were it not for our long-standing relationship with Israel. The help we got from them wasn't some magnanimous instance of charity on their part--we have heavily invested in it over the years and, frankly, they owe us.

So if we have to keep their help on the down-low it's just a fact of life people are going to have to get realistic about--unless we want Israel to be the only friendly nation in the region. How many lives would it have cost us to give up the assistance we recieved Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, and Jordan? Do the math. Keeping a low profile on Israeli assistance isn't a moral outrage--it's responsible leadership. If we're gong to expect leftists to give up their utopian fantasies and deal in the real world, then we're going to have to do the same from time to time.

I say American silence on this matter is a small price for Israel to have to pay for our patronage. If they had done differently, I would be simply astonished at how ungrateful and politically obtuse they were. Besides, the foreign press is calling more attention to our ties with Israel during this war than we can handle, thank you very much, and the Arab press is doing a damn fine job rubbing it in the faces of their readership without an assist from us.

So thanks, Israel, and yes, you'll get to keep your nuclear arsenal for another year.

Friday, May 02, 2003
McCain Feingold Update

Well, that abominable Campaign Finance reform bill has been line-item vetoed, so to speak, by a federal district court. It looks like the most brazenly unconstitutional portions were struck down, notably the restriction on political ads within 30 days of an election. Some of it survived judicial scrutiny, to which a relieved Feingold sighed,

"We thought the court might strike the whole thing down."

Of course, he sponsored it anyway.

In a Recent Taste Test, Three in Four Americans Agreed: Our Schools Really Suck.

Here's a really interesting article in The Wall Street Journal by Daniel Henninger. It covers a subject near and dear to The Sage's shriveled, blackened little heart: public education. An outfit called Public Agenda has just completed a survey of attitudes regarding public schools that is simply stunning--and in some places rather revealing.

It should be stated at the outset that perception and reality aren't the same, and by wording a question in a particular way you can yield a particular result. An example is affirmative action. Depending on who you ask, the public either supports or rejects it by large margins. That's because so much of the research is advocacy research designed to push a particular response. If you want to show support, just ask, "Do you support affirmative action programs that increase diversity in higher education?" If not, ask something like, "Should minority students be admitted to college under lower standards than non-minority or Asian students?" (Obviously, affirmative action is a bit like making sausage: Once you see how it's done, you might not want to partake of the finished product, no matter how good you think it smells.)

So anyhow, one ought to be cautious approaching these things. Besides which, just because we believe our schools to be dens of spiritual debauchery and intellectual entropy doesn't make it so--the fact that it is so can only be (and has often been) shown through other methods. But some "mere" perceptions are relevant to matters of public debate, such as the following, quoted from the article:

--"Of teachers, 43% say they spend more time keeping order than teaching."

--"Instead of more pay (12%), 86% of teachers said they'd rather have a school where student behavior and parental support were better."

--"Some 61% of African-American parents think inner-city kids should be expected to achieve the same standards as wealthier kids. Priorities: 82% of African-American parents think the biggest priority is raising academic standards; 8% want more focus on diversity and integration. Nearly all parents, 92%, think you should have to pass a standardized test to be promoted--and, if you fail, you should have to go to summer school or repeat the grade."

Wait, there's more:

--"Some 59% of college professors rate public schools as fair or poor. Professors who say a high-school diploma means students have learned the basics: 31%."

And the really big one, in my view:

--"Asked why talented teachers quit, school superintendents say: low pay and prestige--5%; politics and bureaucracy--81%. Sixty-seven percent of principals wish they were able to reward good teachers and remove bad ones [that is, they can't do either now]."

(All emphasis added.) Those numbers are pretty damned remarkable. So I'll remark a little bit on them, as well as on my own experience.

The biggest thing this survey seems to indicate is that the common-sense opinions of parents and even teachers run directly counter to the conventional wisdom of today's educrats. The standard line is that the problem is "insititutional" racism, or lack of funds, or low self-esteem, or too much teacher-centered structuralism--anything except low standards, intrusive bureaucracy, wishy-washy political sentimentality, lack of discipline, poor fundamentals, and the total absence of incentives for quality work from quality teachers. Education bureaucrats and teacher's unions have mastered the art of blaming the public, or society in general, for what are their own abject and manifest failures.

Lack of funds is not the issue, even according to teachers, in whose name that moldy canard is so often trotted out (interestingly, student performace on the whole has shown an inverse relationship to the amount of money we throw at the problem). The problems are deeply institutional and pedagogic. For those of us not living in a fantasy land where teachers' union propaganda has replaced the First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians on the scale of cosmic wisdom, this is old news. What is more interesting is the growing consensus among minority parents that the honey tongues of ed-school fruitloops, NEA administrators, and bought-and-paid-for politicians and local school boards can't paper over the patently obvious and morally obscene fraud that has been visited on their kids for better than thirty years.

The intellectual dons of the education racket have been cooking up new fixes every few years to problems that civilization solved thousands of years ago. Learning, discipline, confidence, and good citizenship were not once the ever-elusive ships on the horizon they are now claimed to be. By obsessively fixating upon racial politics, therapeutic history, utopian social engineering, false notions of self-esteem, "child-centered" education schemes, and soothing lies about the soundness of their half-baked methods, America's public schools (fully in the grip of leftist ideologues) have condemned one generation after another of (primarily minority) children to illiteracy, social dysfunctionality, and the vague but destructive sickness of resentment that comes from the knowledge that they have been cheated of their one opportunity to get a good start in life. And all the while, they are told by the same people who have robbed them of that chance that the blame for their predicament lies with the country whose generosity and patience for idioticy made it all possible, thereby fostering envy and bitterness that is only sharpened by the shame and indignity of living under the omnipresent welfare state.

In order to make up for the inadequacies of a system for which they are fully and almost solely to blame, leftist intellectuals have cooked up remedies that not only don't work, but actually deepen the problem. Enter affirmative action, "thumbs on the scale," whatever you want to call it. The real outrage is that this injustice is excused by these same people by blaming not the self-evidently obtuse and flaky theories of the education bureaucracy, nor the soul-withering conditions of the nanny state ghettos that they have themselves masterminded since The Great Society was first put into play half a century ago, but rather the culture outside their nefarious control: mainstream America.

With total disregard for the desperate protestations of minority parents, these impenetrably arrogant fools have determined to shuffle the functionally illiterate victims of left-wing vanity and hubris into educational environments for which they are not prepared, and in so doing create an entire crop of insecure and angry youth whose only defense against their own evident inadequacy, and the demeaning insult of lowered academic standards, is to swallow whole the lie that it is their white, middle-class counterparts who have robbed them all along. (Of course, those same white students either wallow in the mire of guilt that has been carefully tended by the professoriate or they sail obliviously through school without ever realizing the gold mine of mind-broadening with which they have been blessed by their very "diverse" counterparts.) Then, of course, they segregate themselves into an indignant and hostile camp whose paranoia is continually stoked and refined by the very same head-in-the-clouds academics who squeezed them into their uncomfortable circumstances to begin with.

But I won't go on about racial preferences. Some other time, for sure.

My own experience in primary and secondary education was quite different. My mother determined from early on that I would never set foot in one of those cesspools of underachievement and shuttled me off to twelve years of Catholic school. It took me a goodly span of years to forgive her for that. It took just a little longer for me to thank her profusely, and since then I've never once looked back. I had to spend most of my afternoons while growing up riding the city bus from St Joseph's Catholic School on Devine St., in downtown Columbia, SC, all the way to the outlying suburbs of Irmo. It was, I thought at the time, a horrific ordeal. At times, this fifth-grade private school boy was forced to seek protection from the cold and the rain amidst the stink of piss and empty beer bottles that littered the edges of the big parking garage on Assembly St., waiting for the St. Andrews bus to come take me down the ten-mile stretch of interstate that led to the nearest bus stop to my home, some half a mile from my front door.

And it was uphill both ways.

Seriously, I felt sorry for myself at times like that, but now I realize how right Mom was when she told me to suck it up and that I'd thank her later. I get the benefit of comparing my daily experience to that of my neighbors in the Richland and Lexington County public school systems, and I have to say I'm relieved.

The tales of violence, drugs, and abuse that are the standard fare of the public school kids' gossip still makes me cringe. Of course, these things existed at Cardinal Newman High, and Saint Joseph for that matter. But, what predominated was control, discipline, and the seeming omniscience of the principal. The principal was a figure of grave respect, and while some teachers were lighter with the reins than others, they all exercised near-total control over the movements of the students. If we got out of line, we could be kicked out of school without so much as a hearing, much less the fear of a lawsuit. And as much as we despised it, there was a definite and clear understanding of what our limits were, who was in charge, and what we had to do to get by.

If you failed, you got held back, no exceptions. Everyone looked down on you when it happened, and shame is a powerful motivating factor among all children. In the realm of athletics, if you didn't make the grade, you were off the team. We didn't win many championships. However, only one person from my graduating class did not go on to a major university.

Extra-curricular activities were not viewed as an end unto themselves, either; they had a clear and distinct educational purpose--honor, teamwork, discipline--that managed to harness the energies of our primarily male athletes into something other than sex, guns, and drugs. The teenage reminiscences of my public school friends are brimming with tales of sex and violence, both on and off campus, that make it little wonder that none of them graduated with a solid sense of who Socrates was.

I went on to get into trouble all on my own, and my younger years were not perfectly pristine either. But the ever-present authority figures whose sole mission it was to educate me in mind, body and soul saw to it that my youth was not a long, sordid tale of regret and despoiled innocence, and that those of us who left the path of mental and spiritual achievement would always know the way home. It is for this reason alone that I was able to rekindle my own mental lights and leave behind the folly of my early twenties--while my so-called friends of the time, public school products all, are still stewing in the soulless muck that is meaningless sex, drugs and childish youth counter-culture hedonism. To look at their handwriting alone makes me a little sad, and I don't even want to know how many of them could find Iraq on a map.

Even the chaos of a very difficult home life could not overcome a steady, daily diet of discipline, learning, and contemplation of the transcendent. My family, headed by an off-and-on single mother, was not rich by any measure, and my siblings and I were forced as teenagers to forego a great many luxuries my public school peers enjoyed--cars, clothes, time spent with nearby classmates, trumpet lessons--but I nevertheless emerged emotionally intact, and with a modestly solid education. Had I been left to the tender mercies of the Lexington county school board...who knows? The evidence I saw around me in South Carolina was not encouraging, and remains to my knowledge dismal--in spite of, or perhaps because of, all those stadiums, bands, trips to New York, and other distractions from learning that saturate the Irmo-Lexington-Dutch Fork system.

Whatever the real solution is to that obviously worthless mode of baby-sitting that passes for education these days, the question posed in Henninger's piece today is worth pondering, in case you have any lingering doubts:

I have one small, recurring question: Tell me again why we're supposed to think charter schools and school choice are bad ideas.

Another Good Fo-Pol Link

Krauthammer is gettin' jiggy with it (okay so that's a strange, even cruel, image, but whatever). Some snippets:

The administration erred, however, by going initially for an occupation ``light.'' It did so understandably at first, victory having come so swiftly and crushingly that there were no existing institutions such as police or army to fill the vacuum, and simply not enough American soldiers for adequate seizure of full power.

But there also appeared to be a conscious decision to downplay the occupation, lest we stoke Iraqi nationalism and resistance. This was a mistake, rooted, as are most Middle East mistakes, in the inextinguishable myth of the ``Arab street.'' The critics always predict that the ``street'' will rise at any show of American power. It invariably rises at any show of American weakness or indecision; it becomes quiescent at the showing of American power....

...What the administration has done right, on the other hand, has been to exclude all the foreign latecomers and meddlers who want to get in on the reconstruction. The administration gave the perfect response to the United Nations claim that it alone can confer legitimacy on the running of Iraq: We ignored it.

It does not even merit a rejoinder. The idea that legitimacy flows from the blessings of France and Russia, Saddam's lawyers and suppliers, is on its face risible. Legitimacy does not come out of U.N. headquarters in New York; it will come out of the ground in Iraq, as more and more factions join in the construction of a provisional government.

It's a soothing article, on the whole. Read it all.

Toward a New World Diplomacy

VDH has knocked another one out of the park in a piece entitled Geriatric Teenagers. It's hard to find a suitable extraction, it's such a good piece from start to finish, but here's one good snapshot:

Our ambassadorships to European countries (especially Turkey and Greece) and the Middle East should be carefully examined to ensure that we have resolute, principled men and women there to present our new views forcefully, rather than apologizing for the United States or triangulating within the Bush administration. Now is not the hour for oil men, think-tankers who have taken or will take Saudi money, State Department apparatchiks, or Atlantic Alliance yes-men whose careers are predicated either on pleasing their bosses, making money, or hopping in and out of academia. For these radically new times, we need folk of a different nature, who are convinced the events of the last two years were not an aberration.

Check it out.

Thursday, May 01, 2003
Scott Ott's latest from Scrappleface is as good as ever:

Kerry Declares End of War from Foxhole

(2003-05-01) -- U.S. Sen. John Kerry, D-MA, will announce the end of major combat operations in Iraq from a foxhole he'll dig himself on the mall in Washington D.C. later this afternoon.

The Kerry speech will come several hours before President George Bush is scheduled to make a similar declaration from the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln.

Sen. Kerry will start digging his foxhole near the Vietnam Veterans memorial around 3 p.m. Eastern time. Although the Senator and his aides rarely mention it, he is a Vietnam veteran.

Go read the rest, and lots of other good satire from the current heavyweight title-holder of the genre.

This Burns Me Up

If there is one thing that pisses me off, it's when governments try to solve their budget problems by raising taxes. You can imagine why. Unless you're an idiot.

This doesn't impact me a bit, thankfully. Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich has determined that the overspending of his Democratic predecessor can only be solved by raising property taxes. Property taxes are by far the most noxious variety, in my view, since the implication is that owning property is a privilege granted as largesse from the state. At any rate, the point is that state governments across the country are insisting that they have "no choice" but to make the taxpayers bear the burden of their own criminal negligence.

They do, of course, have lots of choices. I say, close every single non-essential service until you've got your budget in order. No shelters, no soup kitchens, no special committees, no public works, no after-school programs, no "outreach," no research grants, no state zoo, no museum exhibits, no nothing. I have the feeling they might find the fat and trim it in the face of the outrage that would follow as people accustomed to living off of the wealth of others suddenly came face-to-face with the reality of their own pathetic dependence.

Tuesday, April 29, 2003
I'm Not Worthy!!

It appears there's been some kind of major mistake over at David Sims' Clubbeaux. David is hosting Carnival of the Vanities this week, and he has selected an absolutely fantastic set of links for your reading pleasure, amusement, and enlightenment. But somebody must have screwed up, because he has included your humble host as well. Many thanks to David.

Now, if you want to check out some serious quality blogging, you MUST check out this week's Carnival. All things serious, clever, and informative can be found there, as always.

If you aren't reading Clubbeaux regularly, you should hang your head in shame and sheepishly go petition him for forgiveness--and read his blog while you're at it.

And, Right on Schedule...

I tell you, you can't slip anything by these Palestinian "militants." They're as on top of their game as ever. No word on the death toll yet.

I want to know just how it is anyone can fail to see a pattern here. I was driving home this afternoon, and some dopey reporter was excitedly describing the way in which the "election" of Abu Hazen to the post of prime minister for the Palestinians would open the way to Bush's long-heralded roadmap to peace. I thought to myself, "Self, just you wait. Somebody's gonna get blown up in the next day or two." I didn't make that spot-on prediction because I'm so damn good. I made it because I've got a few working synapses.

Here are a few questions that I think are worth pondering for those of you who think peace is possible in the absence of victory in that little corner of the globe: What agreement can you think of that will leave Israel intact, and will inspire the Arab world to shrug their shoulders and say, "Well, I guess that settles that"? What piece of paper is going to convince Hamas to just close up shop? And if you say, "Well, of course this is a process so the efforts will be ongoing," then I ask, What incentive will there be for any Palestinian state, once established, to get rid of the terrorists in their midst? In their schools? In their government? In their mosques? In their media? Furthermore, how long will it be before that state, freshly armed with everything the Arab world can throw in its direction, will begin a war of attrition with Israel twice as nasty as anything you've seen in Kashmir?

For that matter, who's going to get the credit for that Palestinian state to begin with? Hamas? The PIJ? al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigade? Will any of them even want credit for an arrangement that will inevitably fail to satisfy their demands?

Give me a break. Every step towards the next "peace agreement" will be punctuated by suicide bombers, with growing ferocity as this supposed Palestinian state draws ever-nearer. We're seeing it now. Anyone who thinks there is a Palestinian leader on planet earth capable of negotiating in good faith is blinded by false hope.

Israel is being faced to let a less lethal foe off the hook now, for the sake of having to do battle with a more lethal one later. That's been the Arab strategy from the very beginning--capitalize on Israel's basic willingness to live in peace and its dependence on the good will of its fellow democracies as a rapier to flay it alive, bit by bit, bomber by bomber, bus by bus.

Frankly, I wish we would let the Israelis go. Let them do what they have to do. If that means we have to cut off the aid, then fine--it isn't as though there's a shortage of Jewish talent and resources in this world. They have enough nuclear weaponry to turn Mecca, Medina, and every Arab capital into a smoking crater, and I don't care how horrible people think it is to contemplate. Enough is enough, and it's time we let them start fighting for their lives instead of just living to fight. If the Arab world wants to pick another fight with the Israelis, I say let them do it.

It is we and the rest of the Western world who are ensuring that this will never be a fair fight, that the Arabs will never fear that they might actually lose. Think about it--every single Palestinian is considered a foot-soldier by the Arab despotisms that patronize them. They are nothing less than a human battering ram, and the more of them die, the better. That's because the worse their plight becomes--and this is the ingenius part--the more the West subsidizes them through international welfare agencies in the UN and EU. And they never have to admit they even have an army. Meanwhile, these ghoulish Palestinian kindergartens go on serving as basic training centers for the next legion of shaheed.

To be honest, I'm ashamed to say I belong to the same species as the monsters running that ghastly circus on the West Bank.

But I'm also in a cranky mood. In case that hasn't quite gotten across here.

{Link via The Corner.}

My Deep Thoughts on On Weapons of Mass Screw You, Pal

Let's get something straight right now. Whether any chem-bio labs brimming with poison turn up in Iraq, and whether or not the U.S. locates a warehouse full of missiles tipped with VX warheads and clearly labeled "Washington or Bust," or whether we turn up a lot of suspicious but nonconclusive material and mobile weapons labs is really not very important. Circumstances did not dictate that we would ever be able to just walk away from Hussein, and that's the end of it.

The real irritant for me is the way in which after five or six weeks the U.S. is already hearing a domestic and foreign chorus lambasting the president and demanding to know where all those weapons are, by golly. Where's the justification? Where are those bloody weapons already?

Here's what is so dishonest about this: These are the same people who insisted that years and years of inspections weren't enough, that five months into their "work" that the Blix team had not had enough time, that more time was needed, that we hadn't given inspections enough time to work, and so on.

Of course, one could always resond that inspections and occupation are totally different, and they would be right on this point. But the whole point of inspections is supposed to be voluntary cooperation and hand-holding by the local government. Inspections, rightly understood, ought to be extremely fast. An occupying power does not have the benefit of a cooperative government at all, so I'm wondering why it is that anyone thinks that we can uncover, in spite of the best obfuscations of the regime, in a matter of weeks--days, really--what inspectors ostensibly needed years to accomplish.

So my answer to these nimrods is simply that they need to give our Army investigators more "time to finish their work." Check back with us in twelve years.

UPDATE: It occurs to me suddenly that if we had turned up exactly what we were looking for on the first day, the left would still have its knickers in a bunch. Why, that would merely prove that we deliberately sandbagged the inspectors by not giving them that juicy intelligence we so obviously had at our disposal. See? It's a no-win. At least they're predictable.

Monday, April 28, 2003
Young Getting Sloppy

As a one-time admirer of Cathy Young, whose columns in The Boston Globe and Reason Magazine I've admired for some time, it pains me to read her latest, "Gay Rights Go to Court," in the latest print version of the latter (soon to be up on Reason Online, no doubt.

My problem with her piece is simply that it's shoddy. I don't get the sense that she could go the distance against Stanley Kurtz, whose arguments concerning gay marriage she caricatures by quoting rather selectively from his recent articles on the subject. More problematic for her case is the fact that she conflates resistance to gay marriage with "anti-gay attitudes," which are not necessarily synonymous--though of course they often are. She basically ignores the real meat of Kurtz's position by breezily and rather foolishly ignoring the role marriage plays in every society in ensuring prosperous and stable home environments for children--which is the whole source of this suddenly confounding concept known in some radical conservative circles as a "family."

Young states that "Many people feel that male/female complimentarity gives a special value to heterosexual unions." Not so fast, she advises. "They have every right to this view, just as Christians have a right to believe that people who accept Jesus as their savior have a special relationship with God. What they shouldn't have is the right to impose their belief on others." Long on rhetoric, short on logic, Cathy.

First, and not to nitpick, but people either have the right to impose their views or they don't--whether they should or not is immaterial. Anyway, she thinks they don't. Fine. I'm in agreement.

What is absurd about her thesis is that the "special value" of heterosexual "unions" which is brought about by "male-female complimentarity" isn't a feeling that some people have, and it's certainly nothing like a belief in Christ's divinity. That special value is a verifiable fact, arising from other verifiable facts, such as the birds and the bees. It is sheer, unmitigated nonsense to assert that the singular ability of heterosexual couples to produce children--currently the only method on the child-production market--is of no "special value," or that what value people perceive in it is akin to a totally non-empirical religious conviction.

Young can accuse traditionalists of being out of step with the times all she wants, but she writes like someone who has never managed to plow all the way through Where Did I Come From?.

She furthermore blithely dismisses any possibility that familial anarchy might result from state-sanctioned gay marriage by...well, by just blithely dismissing it and tossing out the irrelevant fact that people used to practice polygamy a lot. She doesn't even take up the recent Canadian family court case which appears to be heading straight in that direction (legitimizing polygamy), for exactly the reasons predicted by Kurtz and others--because hell, they've already opened that door by admitting various "alternative" flavors of marriage under the legal tent.

That's the reason for my opposition to gay marriage--because it will result, inevitably and irreversably, in the dilution of the marriage contract into a meaningless, malleable contract between two people, who for all intents and purposes could be two male heterosexual college roommates looking to score a break on their taxes. The purpose of marriage isn't tax breaks, or the sanctioning of your deep, unending love for your partner by society, or any of that garbage. It is to produce stable homes for children, period, end of story. It obligates people to remain loyal to one another and to their family--as in their children. Cathy blows this off as so much reactionary superstition.

One thing the Enlightenment didn't change is human nature, the facts of life, and the necessary building blocks of a healthy society. What she advocates, paradoxically, will only involve the state in the affairs of more and more people's lives, in typically arbitrary and hamfisted ways. Ultimately, as more and more children become tangled in the midst of fungible, fickle, and complex adult "arrangements" and "agreements," more of them will land in poverty--already a consequence of over-liberalized no-fault divorce statutes--as well as in family court. And the state has shown itself to be a terribly blunt and ineffective arbiter of disputes involving parental rights, children's needs, and all the other issues brought to the fore by our irrational abandonment of basic principles of sexual economy. Young, frankly, courts disaster.

What bothers me, more than anything, is that Young's position is defensible--but not in the ways she attempts. Like so much that has come out of Reason's pages lately, it just strikes me as amateurish and sloppy.

If this rant seems inconsistent with my view on sodomy laws, well, it's not. Sex and marriage are in fact very distinct--the one is intrinsically anarchistic, requiring absolutely no state assistance to help it along, while the other is an explicitly legalistic, and therefore state-sanctioned, agreement between parties. Allowing sodomy legally while refusing to sanction homosexual marriage legally is no different from allowing orgies while refusing to sanction polygamy--and in fact, I'm quite consistent in each instance, and for the same reasons.

Final Exams

Light blogging today, more tomorrow. Big history final this week. (Lousy history...)

In the meantime, I'll be pondering why it is that bumper stickers that read "God Bless the World" piss me off so much. More on that later.

(Lousy world...)