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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Friday, June 20, 2003
Exactly On Point

Political correctness is universally denied, misunderstood, or trivialized by those on the left who enforce its esoteric strictures. So it's great to see someone who can articulate exactly how such a slippery concept makes all of us less free.

I'm not writing this out of a concern about the gay marriage debate. Forget the context of the following link for a minute. Just check out this post by John Derbyshire in The Corner. He could just as well be talking about race, economics, history, or anything else when he says:

Another part of the strategy of extremists (of all kinds) is to make end runs around the First Amendment. Yes, you can say what you like: but if you cannot say it (a) in a school or university, (b) in a major broadsheet newspaper, (c) on any major network or cable TV channel, or even (d) in a respectable conservative magazine, what use is the First Amendment? And, as you surely know, there are a myriad things--ranging from the preposterous through the debatable to the indisputably true--that you cannot say in any of those places. You can, of course, go and stand out on Lexington Avenue and shout them at the passing motorists. Are you really willing to settle for that?

That's precisely the point. Being reduced to whispering one's opinions, or even cold hard facts, looking over your shoulder and making certain you are nowhere near a venue where they might have some kind of impact, is not the mark of a free society. It's the same "freedom" one enjoys to sleep on a park bench.

Reason # 12,654 I'm a Right-Leaning Libertarian

A six-year-old girl had her lemonade stand shut down by the cops for operating without a business license.

She probably had the gall to operate without providing her little brother with affordable health insurance, too.

[Link courtesy]

UPDATE: OK, make that reason # 12,655. Dave Sims has the goods on a New Zealand measure that will tax farmers for the, um, gasseous emissions of their livestock. To combat global warming, don't you know. Yeah, that's the ticket...

Thursday, June 19, 2003
This is Nucking Futs

An Indian boy has incubated a batch of flying beetle eggs--which are now emerging from his urine.

[Blame John Hawkins for this one.]

He's Baaaack...

Stephen Green is back, and he's on a roll. For those new to the blogosphere, his Vodkapundit has been a staple source of witty, smirking libertarian cynicism for some time. Now that his house-buying travails are over, the bar is open again. Go enjoy a shot of what he's offering.

Tuesday, June 17, 2003
Fisking Bill

Bill O'Reilly is his usual know-nothing self, so it surprises me that everyone is in a tizzy over his remarks about the internet. Anyway, Volokh has the best answer I've seen yet.

UPDATE: While you're there, follow his link or mine to his NRO piece on intellectual dishonesty re: the risks of gun ownership.


This article is kind of interesting. It notes a rise in the number of married stay-at-home moms in the last few years.

NOW, naturally, is responding by creating more initiatives to get these underachieving layabouts off their asses by shuttling those kids to day-care as much as possible. Typical.

What is missing from the list of possible causes, I notice, is welfare reform. Maybe that data isn't yet available. But after seven years and numerous other studies, I expect that the Census Bureau must have some way to calculate what effect, if any, the pressures of mandated self-sufficiency are having on the marriage rate of young mothers. It would be interesting to see whether the theory that welfare destroys two-parent homes by diminishing their economic incentives is supported by the demographic effects of welfare reform.

Monday, June 16, 2003
LGF's Outrage Of the Day

Woa. I link to this article in Yahoo! News [hat tip: LGF] with a very heavy heart. The Romanian government's Ministry of Public Information issued a statement recently asserting that "within the borders of Romania between 1940 and 1945 there was no Holocaust."

In case you weren't aware of it, yes there was. There really, really was.

We said "never again," but I simply don't think Europe has ever fully dealt with its own guilt and complicity in the Holocaust. For all its bizarre and illiberal pronouncements banning racism and xenophobia, Europe remains a smouldering pit of anti-Semitic feeling. It is remarkable that all those supposedly magnanimous and idealistic gestures of progressive enlightenment have been directed at their own Arab populations, while Jews are asked to submit to frequent harassment and beatings without comment. Anti-Israeli sentiment is extremely bitter in Europe, and some speculate that this is largely due to the fact that the Jewish state's very existence is an historical monument to the stain on the Western soul left by the Holocaust.

I don't know. Maybe. The coming of the Cold War and the historical deep-freeze in which it placed much of Europe has probably been a contributing factor. Now that whole gruesome episode is a story whispered back in grainy black-and-white, a skeleton in Gandpa's closet that the younger generations are sure to resent having to atone for.

What I do know with cold certainty is that once Hitler made the unthinkable thinkable, it could be repeated. That was his real legacy, one that is often naively overlooked in our backwards-looking quest for (and squabbles over) context. And so it has been, in various places since, for various reasons. The West's response--to the Gulag, the Killing Fields--has been terrifying. That is, we have excused it, abstracted it, deconstructed it, justified it.

We have wedded grotesquely politicized notions of justice to murder, so that when confronted with the spectacle of children blown apart on their way to school on some or other Fox News roundtable, a pro-Palestinian college student from Berkeley could only think to sniff dismissively, "Well, you just have to distinguish the oppressor and the oppressed." (Transcript's gone from their site, sorry.) It's the only language she knows, the poisonous lexicon of inhuman Marxist rationalizations.

I can't decide which is worse: the Romanians' Memory Hole or the intelligencia's indecent verbal dodges. Whatever the case, I worry that by the end of the 21st century, "never again" might be replaced by "never was." So long as Holocaust deniers like Abu Mazen are held up as heroic moderates with which civilized people can be expected to deal, and the murder of half a million Jews can be officially denied by the perpetrators' descendants without rebuke by their peers in Pairs and Berlin, the prognosis for the soul of the West is frightfully bad.

UPDATE: Charles has stayed on top of this, and apparently after some hue and cry Romania has suddenly and inexplicably remembered their role in the Holocaust. "Oh, those Jews. Why didn't you say so?"

Play That Fiddle, James.

James Lileks is up to no good, as always. This time he's beating up on some kooky idiotarian professor at UMinn, who's waxing paranoid about the Wellstone crash. Yeah, he's one of those professors. You know. The American kind.

It's the intellectual equivalent of kicking a puppy, really. But I can tell you from extensive experience that it's a lot more fun to watch that process than to participate.

It can't be excerpted, so click the dang link.

Oh My.

Mike Hendrix has a picture of Laurie Dhue with an Uzi. If you needed another reason to read his blog, Cold Fury, you now have it, my friends.

Sunday, June 15, 2003
Just In Case You Remain Unconvinced

The Samizdata crew have a good post on the nice, long waits that British soldiers are having to endure for treatment of wounds they recieved on active duty, thanks to their nice, free health care ("the envy of the free world!").

[Even soldiers? Sheesh.]

It comes with a much-needed dose of Clue for all of you stuuuupid Americans who so love Tony "the Tiger" Blair, and a very helpful diagram at the end that should help clear up any remaining confusion.

Holy Shit.

I can't believe what I just read. Somebody wake me. This is too much. I'm not sure I can go on.

The Mises Blog points us to an article on teacher compensation that was published recently by the Hoover Institution. The gist of the article is pretty much what I expected. Teachers make an obscene amount of money compared to people who work much harder and complain a lot less.

A couple of things leapt out at me, screaming to be fisked. To wit:

"I guess, to me, what it comes back to is how much of a value we put on education," said Patrick Rumaker, an elementary school teacher in Washington Township who heads the district's union.

I'm more than a little sick of that garbage. It may work on your Sucker Moms at the local PTA pow-wow but it's not gonna fly on NTW. The implication is, clearly, that you "can't put a price" on education (which is to say that no amount of money would be sufficient), or that if you can, it's mighty steep. First of all, "putting a price" on teachers and "putting a price" on education aren't synonymous, since highly paid teachers who can't teach seem to be the rule rather than the exception. Consider that as teacher salaries rise, the worse our education system becomes, and that connection diminishes further. But in point of fact, you can put a price on anything you want, and indeed you must do exactly that where matters economic are concerned.

Of course, to you, Ms. Rumaker, it "always comes back" to the question of what price we "put" on education. Never mind the fact that prices, rightly understood, ought never be "put" on anything. In any event, for real people, the question is a little more sophisticated: What price do you "put" on your labor? What is the value that price represents in hours worked, and quality of end result? What is the relative tradeoff between the two, and is it a good deal for the rest of us?

Then the real kicker. The king of boneheaded remarks. This is sheer gold. Or lead. Whatever. Check it out:

Ed Richardson, a spokesman for the New Jersey Education Association, said it is difficult to compare teacher salaries to other professions because of the unique nature of the job.

"I don't know any other type of employment where you literally have to schedule your entire personal life around your work calendar," Richardson said.

Well, that's kind of funny, dipshit, because I'm having a hard time coming up with a single occupation that doesn't require a person to "literally" schedule their personal life around his work calendar. Oh, the humanity! Even the self-employed are more or less obligated to schedule their social and family life around those hours of the day and days of the week when they aren't required to work. Is the nature of the job really unique in this respect? Can he be serious?

And while we're on the subject, it would be nice if my "work calendar," that brutish intrusion into daily life that keeps food on my table, spanned nine months instead of twelve. Earth to asshole: All of us are constrained by work schedules. That is what it means to be a part of the workforce.

Although in your case I can understand the confusion, given that there doesn't seem to be much in the way of work going on in the public schools these days. Thanks largely to the union you represent.


UPDATE: Meghan Keane has more.


There seems to be a lot of confusion surrounding the question of "cultural messaging," if you will. I share in this confusion, being something of an agnostic about it. (What I mean by cultural messaging is violence in video games, Barbie as the Model Woman, and so on.) What I find of special interest is hypocrisy--of which everybody is guilty at least some of the time.

Asked whether violence on TV causes violent behavior, or whether the glorification of drugs and criminality in music encourages the same in its listeners, libertarians are often quick to dismiss this as so much paranoid moralizing. Sometimes, they might be right. But it's hard to take seriously the notion that the behavior of young people is in no way seriously influenced by the messages they recieve from celebrities whom they admire (whose dress, slang, and political posture they mimic with rote predictability), while at the same time acknowledging that Coke is #1 in soft drinks for practically no reason other than their insane marketing and advertising expendtiures.

Conservatives, the real self-appointed gatekeepers of culture, despise political correctness in all its forms, encouraging the thin of skin the grow up and deal with free speech. Unless, that is, the speech you're referring to involves drug use or gays. In that case, well, pack your bags ladies and gentlemen, because you're going on a nice, long guilt trip. "Will and Grace is going to make little Johnny queer, I just know it!! With all the queers, and the drinking, and the...well, all the queers! And the heorin scene from Pulp Fiction, I mean, what the hell was that!?"

Taking an example from the other side of the spectrum, it's always interesting to note the dilligence with which the left is willing to critique media of all kinds, combing it for any tiny trace of misogyny or ethnic stereotyping. They will be the first to tell you that these encoded messages have a powerful effect on the minds of people who live with them daily. That's why feminists are convinced that the existence of a silly show like Buffy the Vampire Slayer will actually make women stronger and more independent. Maybe they're right. Maybe little girls everywhere will take it right to heart and their endocrine systems will respond by making them more competitive and risk-amenable than they are naturally.

But if that's so, it's a little rich to dismiss the persistent, constant, indeed ceaseless man-bashing in the media--including Buffy--as harmless fun that has no effect whatsoever on the self-image of young boys. Or that relentless propagandizing from gay activists in the schools will make children more accepting of gays, but that bombarding 12-year-old girls with messages about their obligation to be sexually agressive won't have any effect at all. It's a "heads I win, tails you lose" approach that virtually defines feminism--but that's for another day.

I guess all I'm noticing is that everyone, on the right and left alike, enjoys milking the "nurture" side of the equation for all it's worth. For myself, I can't help but think that if there was some willingness on anyone's part at least to be consistent, then we might be on to something. I'm just sayin', is all.