Friday, May 28

Here comes impeachment

Jonathan Bernstein warns.

I'll probably be voting GOP anyway, or at least abstaining.

Wednesday, May 26

Teach the controversy

Christian Groups: Biblical Armageddon Must Be Taught Alongside Global Warming

Cheat codes to life

An interesting reddit list

Confronting the injustice of hell

A Dish reader:
I'm a Christian . . . I think.

I say, "I think" because a recent trip to India left me stumbling on the foundation of faith laid since my youth. I was raised in the church, by a fundamentalist, Baptist preacher father and an "amen" mother. It's true that at several points during the course of my life I have left the practice of my faith, but even in those willful and deliberate seasons I still knew God was God and I could just as soon call him Jesus if I wanted to.

India, for better or worse, has caused me to question all of that.

The temptation, mind you, is not to now let go of Jesus and embrace any of their hundreds of gods - though they are older and arguably more tangible and personal than he is . . . and more clear in their own assertions of divinity. No. What India did is place me squarely at the foot of the cross of Christ to wonder if it was big enough to shadow this whole, big, diverse, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, etc., world.

Most people I spoke with in India shared the same gratitude and love for their beloved Ganesha that I did for Jesus. Does this, as the Bible has been traditionally interpreted to suggest, mean that all those beautiful, hardworking, sincere people are going to hell, forever?

For the first time in such a visceral way, the morality of eternal hell - a cornerstone in the Christian faith - struck me as severely lacking. I returned from India angry, incredulous, and disoriented in and about the faith that I had for years prior really made the compass of my life and work (yes, I work in a church). Hell, I didn't even know who to pray to or what to say if I did stumble my way into a quiet mind and heart.

My new-found discontent sent me into the arms of Karen Armstrong and others trying to find a scholarly approach to God, but what can a finite mind fully know of transcendent infinity? I went back to favorites like Lewis and still rebuffed against the exclusivity and "one way"-ness of my faith. In truth, atheism seems like the kinder position . . . except that would require that I deny the countless and real encounters throughout my life that I've had with God, His grace, His mercy, His provision, His joy, and His presence. But still I question, everything. All is not lost.

In my reading, I've stumbled on a book or two that have helped me shape my thoughts and put into words my present experience with Jesus and God. The most notable is If Grace is True by Philip Gulley and James Mulholland. I don't agree with every position they take, but it resonates somewhat within my spirit. And, it gives me hope that the God I love is not morally inferior to me, rejecting some of his children while embracing others . . . but that he will claim every child as His own in the end.

I have to believe that, otherwise, I simply can't stay if what Jesus did isn't enough for everyone.
I totally understand where this person is coming from. Teaching the doctrine of hell is morally reprehensible, and should not survive scrutiny--either philosophical or experiential (from, say, visiting India.)

Monday, May 24

Baby hippo

'Lost' possibly still airing in parallel dimension

NEW YORK—Desperate fans of the recently concluded television series Lost are speculating that the program is continuing on in a parallel dimension somewhere, and that alternate versions of showrunners Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse are currently writing new episodes of the series. "It's very possible that a sideways world running concurrent to our own exists, and that a facsimile of myself is happy, fulfilled, and already gearing up for the season seven premiere of Lost," said 36-year-old Kevin Molinaro, who, along with more than 20 million other hopeless fans, has recently booked multiple roundtrip tickets from Los Angeles to Australia in hopes of traveling through a vortex in the space-time continuum. "I just have to find a way to get there. We all do."

Sunday, May 23

Deranged gunman opens fire on shooting range

SAN ANTONIO—A man described by eyewitnesses as "unsettled" and "disturbed" walked into the local Guns Galore Shooting Range early Tuesday morning, paid for a half hour's worth of time, and then calmly opened fire on dozens of unsuspecting targets.

[..] After a brief exchange with the gun range manager, Woodrich purchased a box of ammunition, showed two pieces of ID, signed in, walked to stall No. 17, and at once began his crazed shooting spree.

"He just kept firing, over and over again—bam, bam, bam, bam, bam," said manager Clyde Jenkins, recalling the chilling scene. "From the moment he stepped into Guns Galore, it was clear that this man only had one thing on his mind."

Witnesses said Woodrich displayed no emotion whatsoever during the 29-minute barrage. Many watched in silence as the gunman unloaded 12 shots at extremely close range into the chest and head of a defenseless target, pausing only to reload. One witness said that the shooter actually exited the gun range with a "look of relief" on his face.

Friday, May 21

A valid point against Rand Paul

Another Dish reader:
Here's the problem with Rand Paul's statements over the Civil Rights Act.  If he were truly a pure libertarian, they'd be defensible theoretical views, as you point out.  But, as Time magazine notes:
Paul has lately said he would not leave abortion to the states, he doesn't believe in legalizing drugs like marijuana and cocaine, he'd support federal drug laws, he'd vote to support Kentucky's coal interests and he'd be tough on national security.
Paul is willing to bend the issue of pure personal freedom for drug laws, abortion, and even coal subsidies ... but he thinks telling a restaurant it cannot discriminate is a bridge too far? I still don't think he's racist, but what he chooses to be ideologically pure about certainly raises my eyebrow.
This is true. But I submit that this is what a pragmatic politician needs to do to be elected in Kentucky.

If he were able to hold more pure views, unbeholden to his constituency, I'm sure he would jump at the chance.

Opposition to this part of the 1964 Civil Rights Act is a good lesson in the real meaning of freedom. In the same fashion that free speech means defending people who choose to say vile things, free association means defending people who choose to discriminate. Both are First Amendment 101, and hopefully a useful illustration of Rand's ideology that will be less politically perilous (in Kentucky) than it would be to instead stake out an unpopular position against all federal drug laws, abortion laws, or coal subsidies.

More on MassCare

It's really not looking good.

Thursday, May 20

National Head Injury Month

CHICAGO—In celebration of concussions, cerebral contusions, and other forms of blunt head trauma, bicyclists across the country removed their protective helmets Monday for National Head Injury Month.

Teacher's unions still huge obstacle for education reform

Megan and the NYT explain.


The Dish yet again:
Wiegel stands up against the "racist" critique. Robert A. George counters smartly:
Why aren't they -- as libertarians -- outraged that Jim Crow laws themselves infringed on private property and free exchange of goods? Jim Crow said whites and blacks couldn't eat together or live in the same hotels. If you were a white restaurant owner and wanted to serve blacks, you could be shut down. Once again, Jim Crow prevented whites and blacks from engaging in a basic economic relationship. That is the power of the state at its worst.
Smartly? Perhaps the reason is because libertarians actually are, and were, always outraged and against Jim Crow laws?

Le sigh.

Ezra Klein's Questions for Rand Paul

Via the Dish again, Ezra asks:
[..] These are the sort of questions that Paul needs to be asked now, because the issue is not "area politician believes kooky but harmless thing." It's "area politician espouses extremist philosophy on issue he will be voting on constantly."
I'll take these one by one:
Can the federal government set the private sector's minimum wage?
Depending on your interpretation of the commerce clause, it may be able to. But it certainly should never do so.
Can it tell private businesses not to hire illegal immigrants?
Probably. But due to immigration laws that have been far too restrictive for far too long, we should offer most illegals amnesty at this point. However Rand Paul does not support an amnesty (yet?), so I'm speaking for myself here.
Can it tell oil companies what safety systems to build into an offshore drilling platform?
Assuming the offshore platform is within the country's territorial waters, yes.
Can it tell toy companies to test for lead?
I don't think it should, and I especially don't think it should be able to require them to do so expensively as per the awful bill Mattel has lobbied for that is going to put an extraordinary number of small toy companies out of business.
Can it tell liquor stores not to sell to minors?
I don't think the federal government has any jurisdiction here; this is a state and local matter.

As for what state governments should do, they should require parental authorization below a certain age.

Just as an example, I think it's patently absurd when young women can get abortions without parental notification at an age when they don't yet have the right to buy alcohol. I mean seriously people, if they have the right to their own body to the extent that they can abort a fetus, how the hell can someone the same age not have the right to their own body when it comes to deciding what they want to drink or shoot up with?

We live in a mad world.

Opinion and openness in broadcast

Pulling from the Dish again...
TNC admires Maddow's interviewing chops:
That interview would have gone a lot better for Rand Paul if Maddow had have just thrown her notes in the air and accused him of being a bigot, and a covert member of the Klan. That's what they want. And I don't simply mean conservatives--I mean people you disagree with. I know I've won a debate when my adversary says, "What the fuck type of name is Ta-Nuh-hah-see, anyway?" It translates to "I've got nothing." Much scarier is the opponent who takes your argument, with whatever nuances it may or may not possess, and politely disagrees with the argument as it is.

I try to do this in writing, with some success. Much more difficult, for me, is to do it in person. I'm always impressed by broadcast journalists who can, without getting angry, grab the point of contention and drive at it in a manner that is as civil as it is relentless. This is the art of killing softy, of quietly twisting the knife.
It's also, in my view, the answer to the cable news dilemma. Instead of going to FNC propaganda route, or the CNN fake "neutrality" route, you have a host who has a point of view but is open to other points of view, and can keep his or her cool under fire. Yesterday was a good day for cable news in that respect. Maddow offered a glimpse of a more useful future.
You know, Jon Stewart's been offering that glimpse for awhile now.

Here's the actual interview below...

Rand's position on the Civil Rights Act was not expressed eloquently here. It's pretty easy to tell that he's not a career politician--and I acknowledge that his position would be politically unpopular anyway. But it is the correct and principled one, and corresponds to my own.

Wednesday, May 19

Good, Universal, Cheap: Choose two.

If Massachusetts is any guide, the future does not look bright.

Quote of the day

"[Conservatives like] Charles Krauthammer are just as willing to take over people's lives and rule it for them regarding their use of drugs as the likes of Keynesian economist Paul Krugman do when it comes to people's economic activities. Which confirms just how widespread the impulse is to rule other people, both from the Right and the Left. Neither shows much confidence in human beings – what is odd is that they do show confidence in the most dangerous human beings, governments, who hold guns in their hands." —Tibor Machan

Because it's easy to paint drug addicts and corporations as more dangerous.

Sunday, May 16

The hackensack socko kicky-sack sack-kicker...


Something good about Kagan?

A free speech absolutist?

It's not at all clear what her current position is. I'm afraid this is being highlighted to please civil libertarians otherwise offended by her nomination. And given that she's such a blank slate... *shrug* I don't think there's enough to form an opinion here.

Especially given some worrisome things she's written:
n our own times, a coherent socialist movement is nowhere to be found in the United States. Americans are more likely to speak of a golden past than of a golden future, of capitalism's glories rather than of socialism's greatness. Conformity overrides dissent; the desire to conserve has overwhelmed the urge to alter. Such a state of affairs cries out for explanation. Why, in a society by no means perfect, has a radical party never attained the status of a major political force? Why, in particular did the socialist movement never become an alternative to the nation's established parties?

In answering this question, historians have often called attention to various charcteristics of American society... an ethnically-divided working class, a relatively fluid class structure, an economy which allowed at least some workers to enjoy what Sombart termed "reefs of roast beef and apple pie"--prevented the early twentieth century socialists from attracting an immediate mass following. Such conditions did not, however, completely checkmate American socialism.... Yet in the years after World War I, this expanding and confident movement almost entirely collapsed....

From the New York socialist movement's birth, sectarianism and dissension ate away at its core. Substantial numbers of SP members expressed deep and abiding dissatisfaction with the brand of reform socialism advocated by the party's leadership. To these left-wingers, constructive socialism seemed to stress insignificant reforms at the expense of ultimate goals. How, these revolutionaries angrily demanded, could the SP hope to attract workers if it did not distinguish itself from the many progressive parties, if it did not proffer an enduring and radiant ideal? How, the constructivists angrily replied, could the SP hope to attract workers if it did not promise them immediate benefits, if it did not concern itself with their present burdens?...

Through its own internal feuding, then, the SP exhausted itself forever.... The story is a sad but also a chastening one for those who, more than half a century after socialism's decline, still wish to change America. Radicals have often succumbed to the devastating bane of sectarianism; it is easier, after all, to fight one's fellows than it is to battle an entrenched and powerful foe. Yet if the history of Local New York shows anything, it is that American radicals cannot afford to become their own worst enemies. In unity lies their only hope.
That may just be impartial legal scholarship... one certainly hopes. But it's damn suspicious.

Addendum: She also advised the Clinton white house to continue the crack cocaine sentencing disparity. So sounding tough on crime trumps justice, in Kagan's view.

Friday, May 14

Sentences to ponder

Via Tyler, discount babies edition:
The paper finds the cost of adopting a black baby needs to be $38,000 lower than the cost of a white baby, in order to make parents indifferent to race. Boys will need to cost $16,000 less than girls.
Presumably that holds at the margin only, not for all parents.  Here is more, from Allison Schrager.  It seems that most couples prefer to adopt non-black girls.

Wednesday, May 12

Jupiter's liberals worried about their ammonia footprint

GREAT RED SPOT, JUPITER—Alarmed by the growing quantities of harmful nitrides in their planet's atmosphere, Jupiter's liberals are encouraging their fellow sentient ammonia-helium tornado beings to take measures to reduce their ammonia footprint. "There are little things all of us can do to minimize our negative impact on our climate," thought-pulsed a spokesman for the progressive advocacy group Jupiter Action Coalition. "Buy your gleemie at a local farmers market, unplug your zorksnax when you're not using them, and remember the three Rs of environmental conservation: ryzzengak, rokklegorkensplark, and recycle." Jovian conservatives, however, are reportedly decrying the ammonia reduction efforts as a waste of time, pointing to the fact that this past winter was a typical minus 135 degrees Celsius and that Jupiter's so-called "climate change" is just a myth.

Individualism and Collectivism

So I started this thread over at Library Grape that's running at 60+ comments, half of which are my own replies. Bon appetit!

Tuesday, May 11

Photo of the day

Homeowners in China protest the demolition of their homes.

The future is shale

You may have heard the beat before, but this WSJ piece is an interesting update on current developments.

Follow the money: human mobility networks

Monday, May 10

Now we're stuck with Elena Kagan

And I'd thought Sonia Sotomayor was too prosecutor-friendly for her refusal to hear evidence.

Kagan's nomination and certain confirmation are a disaster for liberty, for reasons Daniel Larison and Radley Balko explain.

Obama's overall record on civil liberties has been surprisingly terrible for a constitutional law professor. I don't have time right now to elucidate on all his slights, but I'm done making excuses. I expected this to be one of his stronger areas, and instead he's turned out to be worse than I would have expected from, say, Hillary Clinton.

I believe this is the turning point.  As Radley put it in 2008:
Here’s why I preferred Obama to McCain: The GOP gave up all pretense of any limited government principles. They’re no longer trustworthy on the issues where they’re supposed to agree with me. Obama, on the other hand, made some promises about government transparency, hinted at a less bellicose foreign policy, and I like what he said about Guantanamo, torture, and executive power. In other words, he was better on the issues where Democrats are supposed to agree with me. It’s really that simple.
Yet we no longer agree where we were supposed to agree.

I'm throwing in my towel and will not support Obama in 2012.

(A Republican candidate will have an even steeper hill to climb to earn my support, but as of now: a plague o' both their houses.)

Aren't we are all individualists now?

Conor Friedersdorf on why a more libertarian GOP is desirable.

Saturday, May 8

Quote of the day

"The architects of the euro assumed that it would foster political unity, in much the same way as some couples think that having a baby will help to save their marriage". —Felix Salmon, Reuters

Thursday, May 6

PA tax amnesty ad

Apparently it's real.

Thought of the day

"Facebook is the people you went to school with. Twitter is the people you wished you went to school with."

Ben Casnocha

Wednesday, May 5

Lockean thought and Page 3

Sometimes you just gotta love the Brits [NSFW]

Flooding in Tennessee

Nature is angry.

Slogans for things not usually advertised

NYT vocabulists channel their inner Don Drapper...
Gravity: It's not just a good idea - it's the law.

Yesterday: Like today. With fewer surprises.

Geography: It’s everywhere.

Rolling Stone: Guaranteed moss-free!

Free verse: No rhyme for some reason.

Midwives: We deliver.

: For every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction.

: Between love and madness lies concession.

Parenting: It’s really fun at the very beginning.

Only Nick Clegg can save Labour

Strange times indeed

The three classes of American business


Esther Duflo at TED

The MIT Economist who won the John Bates Clark Medal:
The award is considered one of the most prestigious honors within economics [..] Many consider the Clark Medal to be a preview of future Nobel prizes, as 12 of the 31 prior Clark Medalists have gone on to receive the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science (including Paul Krugman and Milton Friedman).
Here is a video of her talk on using randomized trials to evaluate which development policies work.

Sunday, May 2

Historic ‘Blockbuster’ store offers glimpse of how movies were rented in the past

Mario Kart Socialism

The American Scene has the skinny.

Photo of the day

Satellite image of the BP oil spill.

Via Econbrowser, Where would we be without offshore oil?

Important sentences

"..a VAT is neither blessed nor evil. It is a tool. We can use it to advance a larger government, a more efficient tax system or some combination of the two."

—Greg Mankiw in the Times.

"...America's not very good at dealing with slow-moving crises, even with slow-moving solutions. We're much better at waiting until a crisis happens, acting quickly, and then putting together commissions to find out why nobody saw it coming."

—Derek Thompson, Atlantic Business.

A blatant handout to powerful Democratic interest groups.

So, Megan McArdle is totally right about the auto bailout and stuff...

I would paint a moral equivalence to Bush Republicans' Medicare Part D and the Florida vote--except that handout is perpetual and significantly bigger because it had broader public support, including from social welfare Democrats.

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