Month: December 2007

The Best Advice Ever Given to Me

Let us not speculate.

Said by Anthony Y.C. Koo, professor of economics, when I asked him if he knew the whereabouts of my faculty adviser. Koo answered my question with the quoted statement, and a bit of research; that is, he checked my adviser’s calendar. Prof. Koo’s words, and example, have guided me these past fifty years.

My Year at the Movies (2007)

Actually, 2007 was (as usual) a year of sitting in the comfort of my home watching DVDs. I find movie theaters to be messy places filled with inconsiderate, blabbering idiots.

I watched (or started) 80 theatrical films in 2007. (I also saw 15 made-for-TV movies and mini-series.) I list below the 80 theatrical films, in the order in which I watched them. I indicate for each film the year of its release (according to IMDb) and my rating (on a 10-point scale). Most of my ratings are relatively high (6 points and up), which indicates selectivity in choosing films.

Not that I am always able to avoid stinkers, as you will see. Five rentals stand out as especially egregious choices: The Da Vinci Code, Black Snake Moan, Dreamgirls, Live Free or Die Hard, and Superbad. Five other almost-as-bad choices were Casino Royale, The Draughtsman’s Contract, Seraphim Falls, Spider-Man 3, and Ratatouille.

Happily, I saw 26 films to which I have given a rating of 8 or higher: Roberta, The Others, Dear Frankie, The Browning Version (1951), The Navigator, Stranger Than Fiction, Empire of the Sun, Volver, El Aura, The History Boys, Notes on a Scandal, The Queen, Children of Men, The Painted Veil, Venus, Breach, Sweet Land, Flags of Our Fathers, The Accidental Tourist, The Chorus, The Lives of Others, Away from Her, Snow Cake, Vitus, The Cameraman, and The Ladykillers (1955).

Here is a guide to my ratings:
1 – unwatchable
2 – watched all the way through, to my regret
3, 4, 5 – varying degrees of entertainment value, but altogether a waste of time
6 – generally engaging, but noticeably flawed in some way (e.g., a weak performance in a major role, trite story, a contrived ending, insufficient resolution of plot or sub-plot)
7 – well done in all respects, with only a few weak spots; enjoyable but not scintillating
8 – a thoroughly engaging movie; its weak spots (e.g., a corny plot), if any, are overwhelmed by scintillating performances (e.g., the spectacular dancing of Astaire and Rogers), sustained hilarity, a compelling plot, a witty script, etc.
9 – an “8” that is so good it bears re-watching (a rating I have given to only 61 of the more than 2,000 theatrical films I’ve seen)
10 – a movie that I didn’t want to end; a masterpiece of film-making (a rating I have given to only 5 of the theatrical films I’ve seen)

Here’s my movie list for 2007:

Walk the Line (2005) 7
Little Manhattan (2005) 7
Roberta (1935) 8
The Others (2001) 8
The Illusionist (2006) 7
Foreign Correspondent (1940) 6
Happy Accidents (2000) 7
The Captain’s Paradise (1953) 6
Conversations with Other Women (2005) 7
Counterfeit Traitor (1962) 7
Kinky Boots (2005) 7
Dear Frankie (2004) 8
Hollywoodland (2006) 7
The Heiress (1949) 7
The Browning Version (1951) 9
The Departed (2006) 7
The Navigator (1924) 8
Flushed Away (2006) 7
Keeping Mum (2005) 7
The Prestige (2006) 7
Stranger Than Fiction (2006) 8
The Da Vinci Code (2006) 2
Empire of the Sun (1987) 8
Casino Royale (2006) 4
Immortal Beloved (1994) 7
The Draughtsman’s Contract (1982) 4
The Silent Partner (1978) 7
Volver (2006) 8
El Aura (2005) 8
Three Kings (1999) 6
The Good Shepherd (2006) 7
The History Boys (2006) 8
Notes on a Scandal (2006) 8
Modern Times (1936) 7
Plein Soleil (Purple Noon) (1960) 7
The Queen (2006) 8
Children of Men (2006) 8
Dreamgirls (2006) 2
The Painted Veil (2006) 8
Deja Vu (2006) 7
Venus (2006) 8
Seraphim Falls (2006) 4
Letters from Iwo Jima (2006) 7
El Laberinto del Fauno (Pan’s Labyrinth) (2006) 7
Breach (2007) 8
Miss Potter (2006) 7
Becket (1964) 7
The Freshman (1925) 6
The Big Clock (1948) 7
Sweet Land (2005) 8
Black Snake Moan (2006) 1
La Tourneuse des Pages (The Page Turner) (2006) 7
Why Worry? (1923) 7
Hot Fuzz (2007) 6
The Woman in the Window (1944) 7
Cashback (2006) 7
Flags of Our Fathers (2006) 8
The Accidental Tourist (1988) 8
Fracture (2007) 7
Les Choristes (The Chorus) (2004) 8
The Lookout (2007) 7
Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives of Others) (2006) 8
The Ultimate Gift (2006) 7
Away from Her (2006) 8
The Wind That Shakes the Barley (2006) 7
Snow Cake (2006) 8
Zwartboek (Black Book) (2006) 7
Spider-Man 3 (2007) 5
Ten Canoes (2006) 7
The Tracker (2002) 6
Live Free or Die Hard (2007) 2
Waitress (2007) 7
Vitus (2006) 8
Superbad (2007) 1
Ratatouille (2007) 5
The Cameraman (1928) 8
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007) 6
Stardust (2007) 6
Amazing Grace (2006) 7
The Ladykillers (1955) 8

Hall of Famers?

UPDATED (01/09/08)

According to Baseball-Reference.com, the following players are on the ballot for membership in the Hall of Fame:

Brady Anderson
Harold Baines
Rod Beck
Bert Blyleven
Dave Concepcion
Andre Dawson
Shawon Dunston
Chuck Finley
Travis Fryman
Rich (Goose) Gossage
Tommy John
David Justice
Chuck Knoblauch
Don Mattingly
Mark McGwire
Jack Morris
Dale Murphy
Robb Nen
Dave Parker
Tim Raines
Jim Rice
Jose Rijo
Lee Smith
Todd Stottlemyre
Alan Trammell

The question I ask and answer here is this: Which of the candidates should be in the Hall of Fame, based on his performance — regardless of the credentials of any players who are undeservedly in the Hall? Here are my criteria for Hall of Fame pitchers and batters (revised slightly since I first published them):

A pitcher must have at least 15 seasons of 30 or more games pitched, and must have recorded

  • at least 300 wins, or
  • at least 250 wins and an ERA+ of 120 or higher (go here and scroll down for the definition of ERA+), or
  • at least 200 wins and a W-L average of .600 or better and an ERA+ of 120 or higher, or
  • an ERA+ of 120 or higher while relieving in at least 750 games.

A batter must have recorded

  • an OPS+ of at least 150 (go here and scroll down for the definition of OPS+) in a career of least 15 seasons of 100 games or more, or
  • at least 2,800 lifetime hits and a lifetime batting average of at least .300, or
  • an OPS+ of at least 120 and at least 2,000 lifetime base hits and a lifetime batting average of at least .300.

I make an exception for a batter with at least 15 seasons of 100 game or more, if

  • he is among the top 20 in home runs per at-bat for a career of at least 5,000 at bats, or
  • he led his league in fielding percentage for his position in at least 10 seasons, or
  • he won at least 10 Gold Gloves.

Against my criteria, who among the current candidates belongs in the Hall of Fame? Answer:

Goose Gossage
Lee Smith

UPDATE (01/09/08): No player, regardless of his accomplishments, should be in the Hall of Fame if it is proved, to the satisfaction of the Commissioner of Baseball, that the player used performance-enhancing drugs for a cumulative period of more than half a baseball season, when such drugs were banned by baseball. Moreover, no coach, manager, or executive who placed bets on baseball games while active in baseball should be in the Hall of Fame if such betting activity is proved, to the satisfaction of the Commissioner of Baseball.

It should go without saying that the involvement of any player, manager, coach, or executive in the throwing of games or shaving of scores, when proved to the satisfaction of the Commissioner of Baseball, must lead to that person’s immediate banishment from the game. No such person should ever be eligible for the Hall of Fame.

How to Manage

1. Do not read books, listen to audio presentations, watch videos, or attend lectures or seminars on the subject of management. The perpetrators of such material are “consultants,” not managers with decades of hands-on experience.

2. Do not hire “consultants,” unless you want someone you can blame for sweeping changes in your organization or its personnel structure. Don’t do it even then, because you will have wasted money to no avail; you employees won’t be fooled by the blame game.

3. Accept the traditional perks of your office, otherwise your employees might doubt your standing (and thus theirs) in the organization. But don’t grab new perks for yourself. If you do, your employees (rightly) will think that your perks may (in lean times) cost some of them their jobs. Of course, if you don’t mind envious, suspicious, and low-motivated employees, go right ahead and treat yourself to more perks. Better yet, pay lavish sums to have a “consultant” justify your new perks.

4. Do not agonize over decisions. It is better to make a few mistakes — and correct them as necessary — than to reveal yourself as an indecisive worrier. Gather the relevant facts, but don’t chase down every loose end. Rely on the counsel of persons with relevant experience whose independence of judgment and discretion you trust.

5. Do not befriend any of your employees. Boss-subordinate friendships cause suspicion and resentment among the excluded, and can lead to nothing but trouble when an employee-friend screws up or stops being a friend.

6. Be friendly toward all of your employees. If you have an effective employee whom you can’t stand, avoid him. If you can’t avoid him, find a (legal) way to fire him. But don’t put up with employees whose attitudes and behavior you dislike. Dislike breeds distrust. Distrust breeds bad decisions on your part.

7. Make it abundantly clear that you reward employees only for good performance. Make your standards of performance abundantly clear, through praise, perks, and pay. (See no. 11.)

8. Micro-manage, if that helps you sleep better at night. But accept the fact that your most effective employees will resent your micro-management, require extra compensation to put up with it, and curb their creativity and initiative in the face of it. In other words, try like the devil to avoid micro-managing, but do not go to the opposite extreme of complete hands-off management. Go to the middle ground: clearly stated expectations and prompt, regular feedback. If you are uncomfortable in the middle ground, you shouldn’t be a manager; find a job doing something instead of managing it. If you wait too long to drop out of the management game, you’ll be locked into it financially and to avoid the appearance of failure. The resulting stress will make you ill, and may kill you.

9. Do not undercut those you have placed in supervisory jobs by criticizing them openly or by implication (e.g., encouraging their subordinates to come through your “open door”). But do keep your ear to the ground; people love to gripe. If you hear of unacceptable behavior, dig into it (discreetly). If the story checks out, act on it, quickly. If a subordinate isn’t doing his job, or has done something egregious, talk to him about it and explain what you expect him to do (or not do). If that doesn’t fix the problem, find a job that he’s better suited for, or help him move on to greener pastures.

10. Be sure that your employees know the bounds of their authority and initiative. Lack of clarity in such matters leads to frustration and poor performance. Give your employees as much leeway as you can, but not so much that they are put in conflict with each other or “empowered” to sabotage your operations or relations with customers.

11. Most importantly, know what you want your organization to accomplish. Be sure that your employees know what it is. Be sure that every part of your organization is aimed toward the same objective. Tie praise, perks,and pay to it.

12. If you have a boss, you have an additional job, which is to be a boss-manager. Your challenge as a boss-manager is to get your boss to observe the eleven preceding rules. You must be subtle but firm in that effort. You cannot expect down-the-line success, but if you fail on too many points, you will be miserable in your job. When you are miserable in your job because of your boss, you have three options: find another job, retire, or put up with your boss if you cannot do either. Nobody promised you a rose garden.

13. There is a fourth option for dealing with a “bad” boss, if the boss is incompetent or has committed an improper act: try to have him fired. But, as the adage goes, “if you strike at the king, you must slay him, lest he rise and seek retribution.” If you are going to strike at your “king,” you must have your exit plan ready.

The American Way of Grieving

The LA Times reports that Carlos Sousa Sr., whose son was killed on Christmas by a tiger at the San Francisco Zoo,

said he planned legal action in response to his son’s death.

“Put yourself in my shoes,” he said. “Money isn’t going to replace my son. But I have to live with this for the rest of my life.”

If it’s true that money can’t replace his son (and it is true), it must also be true that money cannot assuage the pain and emotional distress caused by his son’s horrific death. Why, then, was Mr. Sousa so quick to hire a lawyer, one James Geagan, and to threaten legal action? Is the death of a loved one an opportunity for financial gain?

The American way of death may be the overblown funeral, but the American way of grieving has become the hasty resort to litigation.

The Future of Tradition

I have written many times about the dependence of liberty on traditional norms. (See, for example, “Social Norms and Liberty” and “‘Family Values,’ Liberty, and the State.”) Thanks to this article by Lee Harris, I have come across his long essay on “The Future of Tradition: Transmitting the visceral ethical code of civilization” (Policy Review, June & July 2005).

The essay is best read in its entirety, with all of its logical connections. However, I cannot resist quoting the passages that make Harris’s central point:

[I]t is a mistake to conflate the automatic with the irrational, since, as we have seen, an automatic and mindless response is precisely the mechanism by which the visceral code speaks to us. It triggers a rush of emotions because it is designed to do precisely this. Like certain automatic reflexes, such as jerking your hand off a burning stovetop, the sheer immediacy of our visceral response, far from being proof of its irrationality, demonstrates the critical importance, in times of peril and crisis, of not thinking before we act. If a man had to think before jumping out of the way of an onrushing car, or to meditate on his options before removing his hand from that hot stovetop, then reason, rather than being our help, would become our enemy. Some decisions are better left to reflexes — be these of our neurological system or of our visceral system….

Imagine a stranger coming up to you and asking if he can drive your eight-year-old daughter around town in his new car. Presumably, no matter how nicely the stranger asked this question, you would say no. But suppose he started to ask why you won’t let him take your little girl for a ride. What if he said, “Listen, tell you what. I’ll give her my cell phone and you can call her anytime you want”? What kind of obligation are you under to give a reason to a complete stranger for why he shouldn’t be allowed to drive off with your daughter?

None. A question that is out of order does not require or deserve an answer. The moment you begin to answer the question as if it were in order, it is too late to point out your original objection to the question in the first place, which really was: Over my dead body.

Marriage was something that, until only quite recently, seemed to be securely in the hands of married people. It was what married people had engaged in, and certainly not a special privilege that had been extended to them to the exclusion of other human beings…. Was [marriage] defined as between a man and a woman? Well, yes, but only in the sense that a cheese omelet is defined as an egg and some cheese — without the least intention of insulting either orange juice or toast by their omission from this definition. Orange juice and toast are fine things in themselves — you just can’t make an omelet out of them.

Those who are married now, and those thinking about getting married or teaching their children that they should grow up and get married, may all be perfect idiots, mindlessly parroting a message wired into them before they were old enough to know better. But they are passing on, through the uniquely reliable visceral code, the great postulate of transgenerational duty: not to beseech people to make the world a better place, but to make children whose children will leave it a better world and not merely a world with better abstract ideals….

Marriage must not be mocked or ridiculed. But can marriage keep its solemnity now? Who will tell the rising generation that there are standards they must not fail to meet if they wish to live in a way that their grandfathers could respect?

This is how those fond of abstract reasoning can destroy the ethical foundations of a society without anyone’s noticing it. They throw up for debate that which no one before ever thought about debating. They take the collective visceral code that has bound parents to grandchildren from time immemorial, in every culture known to man, and make of it a topic for fashionable intellectual chatter.

Ask yourself what is so secure about the ethical baseline of our current level of civilization that it might not be opened up for question, or what deeply cherished way of doing things will suddenly be cast in the role of a “residual personal prejudice.”

We are witnessing the triumph of a Newspeak in which those who simply wish to preserve their own way of life, to pass their core values down to their grandchildren more or less intact, no longer even have a language in which they can address their grievances. In this essay I have tried to produce the roughest sketch of what such language might look like and how it could be used to defend those values that represent what Hegel called the substantive class of community — the class that represents the ethical baseline of the society and whose ethical solidity and unimaginativeness permit the high-spirited experimentation of the reflective class to go forward without the risk of complete societal collapse.

If the reflective class, represented by intellectuals in the media and the academic world, continues to undermine the ideological superstructure of the visceral code operative among the “culturally backward,” it may eventually succeed in subverting and even destroying the visceral code that has established the common high ethical baseline of the average American — and it will have done all of this out of the insane belief that abstract maxims concerning justice and tolerance can take the place of a visceral code that is the outcome of the accumulated cultural revolution of our long human past.

Thus, in the name of “enlightenment,” the “reflective class” subverts liberty.

Harris, by the way, has no immediate, personal interest in the preservation of marriage as a heterosexual institution. He flatly states in the essay that he is homosexual.

The F Scale, Revisited

A post by Bryan Caplan reminds me of the F scale, an instrument designed by Theodore Adorno, et al., authors of The Authoritarian Personality. Their stated objective was to determine the degree of authoritarianism in a person’s makeup. Their not-so-hidden agenda was to equate authoritarianism with conservatism.

In my earlier post on the subject, I quoted John Ray’s “Does Authoritarianism of Personality Go With Conservatism?” There, Ray explains that “Authoritarian personalities alone are equally likely to be found on either side of the Left-Right divide.” Ray also makes that point in “Libertarians and the Authoritarian Personality.” As I say in my earlier post,

the authors of The Authoritarian Personality define conservatism to be authoritarian. They then wrongly assert that “authoritarians” (conservatives) are psychologically “sick” and that they behave in an authoritarian manner. The fact, however, is that authoritarian behavior knows no ideological bounds. The histories of Germany, Japan, Italy, Russia, Britain (under Labour), and the U.S. (beginning especially with the New Deal) amply demonstrate that fact.

Leftism and Rightism are statisms with different agendas.

As for the real meaning of the F scale, Caplan point to another piece by John Ray, “The Old-Fashioned Personality,” which I had not read. Ray concludes that

a view of the ‘F’ scale as primarily a measure of old-fashioned orientation has considerable explanatory force. It may be, of course, that having an “old-fashioned orientation” is not the most ultimately accurate way of characterizing high F scale scorers. That they could also fairly reasonably be characterized by related descriptions such as “cultural traditionalists” or “cultural conservatives” is admitted. “Old fashioned” would, however seem to be a simpler characterization so is perhaps to be preferred under the principle of parsimony.

I find Ray’s term, “old fashioned,” vague and even tautological in this context. An old-fashioned person prefers traditional things, which is but another way of saying that an old-fashioned person is a conservative one.

“Older” is more fitting than “old fashioned.” That is, one’s outlook tends to become more conservative with age, as one learns (usually from experience) that tradition merits respect, not scorn. Tradition is the glue that makes possible civil society and, hence, liberty. The peaceful pursuit of happiness — liberty, in a word — is impossible absent the mutual respect and restraint that arise from the observance of socially evolved behavioral norms. (For much more on this point, see this post and the posts listed at the end of it.)

Just for fun, I took this version of the F scale, presented by one Chuck Anesi, who (appropriately) scoffs at its creators. Here is my score, followed by Anesi’s tongue-in-cheek interpretation of the scale:

Your F Score is: 4.033333333333333
You are disciplined but tolerant; a true American.

If your score is… You are…
Less than 2 A whining rotter.
2 to 3 A liberal airhead.
3 to 4.5 Within normal limits; an appropriate score for an American. (The overall average score for groups tested in the original study is listed in the 1950 publication as 3.84, with men averaging somewhat higher and women somewhat lower.)
4.5 to 5.5 You may want to practice doing things with your left hand.
5.5 or higher Have trouble keeping the lint off your black shirts?

Torture, Revisited

UPDATED (12/29/07)

Jonathan Adler, writing at The Volokh Conspiracy, says:

Waterboarding was a horrific thing to do to someone, even someone as evil as Abu Zubaydah. Such conduct should be forbidden and never sanctioned as official policy…. At the same time, there may be extreme (and extremely rare) circumstances in which life does imitate an episode of “24,” and horrific measures may be necessary. This does not mean such measures should be legal. Rather… the specific context should be considered when authorities decide whether and how to prosecute those involved for breaking the law.

To which I say:

1. Adler, like most opponents of torture, frames the issue wrongly. If Abu Zubaydah is evil, he is evil because of what he does or enables others to do. The purpose of torture, when used against an Abu Zubaydah, is to prevent evil, not to commit it. By Adler’s standard, it would be wrong to defend oneself against an armed aggressor because the possible result — the aggressor’s death — would be “horrific.” As if one’s own death would not be “horrific.”

2. The “authorities” should prosecute those who commit an illegal act. To do otherwise — to wink at illegality — is to undermine the rule of law.

3. Uncertainty about prosecutorial responses to acts of “aggressive interrogation” will, in some cases, cause interrogators to restrain themselves when they should not.

4. It is better to define torture by statute and, as Alan Dershowitz advises, allow its authorized use.

UPDATE: Mark Bowden, in this article, makes the same wrong-headed case as Adler does with respect to the legality of torture. Bowden, at least, acknowledges its effectiveness in certain circumstances:

Opponents of torture argue that it never works, that it always produces false information. If that were so, then this would be a simple issue, and the whole logic of incentive/disincentive is false, which defies common sense. In one of the cases I have cited previously, a German police captain was able to crack the defiance of a kidnapper who had buried a child alive simply by threatening torture (the police chief was fired, a price any moral individual would gladly pay). The chief acted on the only moral justification for starting down this road, which is to prevent something worse from happening. If published reports can be believed, this is precisely what happened with Zubaydah.

People can be coerced into revealing important, truthful information. The German kidnapper did, Zubaydah did, and prisoners have throughout recorded time. What works varies for every individual, but in most cases, what works is fear, fear of imprisonment, fear of discomfort, fear of pain, fear of bad things happening to you, fear of bad things happening to those close to you. Some years ago in Israel, in the course of investigating this subject exhaustively, I interviewed Michael Koubi, a master interrogator who has questioned literally thousands of prisoners in a long career with Shin Bet. He said that the prisoner who resisted noncoercive methods was rare, but in those hard cases, fear usually produced results. Fear works better than pain.

In order to induce fear, torture must be known to be an option. There must be a real threat of pain or psychological terror (as in the case of waterboarding) if fear is to play its role in extracting crucial information.

Related posts:
Torture and Morality” (04 Dec 2005)
A Rant about Torture” (16 Feb 2006)
Taking on Torture” (15 Aug 2006)

Where Left is Right, and Right is Outta Here

Where’s that? At the Austin American-Statesman, which today

welcome[s] the comic strip “Prickly City” by Scott Stantis to our lineup. During a trial run last year, “Prickly City” was a hit with many of our readers, and we’ve had our eye on it ever since. Like “Mallard Fillmore,” which it replaces, “Prickly City” is a conservative social and political strip, but with a little more levity.

I grant that Mallard Fillmore is an un-funny, heavy-handed strip. But it was conservative, that is, against political correctness and Leftism. But I do not grant that Prickly City is a conservative strip (though it is somewhat funnier than Mallard).

Today’s Prickly City exemplifies paranoic Bush Derangement Syndrome, as do several of the recent strips that are currently available on the Prickly City site. Their common theme: Big Brothers Bush and Cheney are spying on all of us, everywhere. Then there’s a strip that buys into “global warming,” and a rather lame series about The Huffington Post, which attacks Arianna Huffington (the person) but not the political lunacy that prevails at HuffPo‘s blog.

This is the Statesman‘s idea of conservative? It just goes to show you how far to the Left the Statesman is these days. But the Statesman‘s editors probably consider themselves “moderate,” just like this guy.

The Greatest Mystery

It is fitting, at Christmas, to contemplate the greatest mystery of all: the mystery of existence.

Monotheists say that God exists and existence is God:

I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, saith the Lord God, who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty. (The Apocalypse of Saint John, 1:8)

Atheists say that things simply exist, that’s all. But atheism is a faith, not a scientific proposition. As a noted scientist and anti-religionist, Richard Dawkins, puts it:

I believe, but I cannot prove, that all life, all intelligence, all creativity and all “design” anywhere in the universe, is the direct or indirect product of Darwinian natural selection (emphasis added). It follows that design comes late in the universe, after a period of Darwinian evolution. Design cannot precede evolution and therefore cannot underlie the universe.

Even that seemingly forthright statement is evasive. It glosses over the atheistic assumption — faith — that the universe and its ingredients — the stuff of life — simply came to be. Atheism is a faith because the question of God’s existence is beyond the grasp of science, untestable by scientific methods.

The mystery of existence always will be the greatest mystery. But our mode of grappling with the mystery reveals much about ourselves: religious belief is affirmative, atheism is cynical, and agnosticism is cautious.

(For a list of related posts at Liberty Corner, go here.)

The "Southern Strategy": A Postscript

I conclude “The ‘Southern Strategy’” by saying that

it is plain that the South’s attachment to the GOP since 1964, whatever its racial content, is much weaker than was the South’s attachment to the Democrat Party until 1948, when there was no question that that attachment had a strong (perhaps dominant) racial component.

[Paul] Krugman’s condemnation [in The Conscience of a Liberal] of racial politics in a major political party [the GOP] comes 60 years too late, and it’s aimed at the wrong party.

Case closed.

Bruce Bartlett decisively slams the door on Krugman’s case in “Whitewash: The racist history the Democratic Party wants you to forget“; for example:

[I]f a single mention of states’ rights 27 years ago [by Ronald Reagan] is sufficient to damn the Republican Party for racism ever afterwards, what about the 200-year record of prominent Democrats who didn’t bother with code words? They were openly and explicitly for slavery before the Civil War, supported lynching and “Jim Crow” laws after the war, and regularly defended segregation and white supremacy throughout most of the 20th century.

Bartlett then gives many examples of racist statements by prominent Democrats, beginning with Thomas Jefferson (1787) and ending with Joseph Biden (2007), with several stops in between at the Democrats’ platform and the pronouncements of prominent Democrats, including FDR, Hugo Black, Robert Byrd, Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter, and Chris Dodd.

As I say in my earlier post,

Krugman’s real complaint… is that Republicans have been winning elections far too often to suit him. His case of Republican Derangement Syndrome is so severe that he can only pin the GOP’s success on racism. I will refrain from references to Freud and Pinocchio and note only that Krugman’s anti-GOP bias seems to have grown as his grasp of economics has shrunk.

Amen.

My "Favorite" Candidates

I went here, answered eleven questions, and found the three presidential candidates whose positions on various issues come closest to mine:

Fred Thompson (3 of 3 on Iraq, 1 of 2 on immigration, 1 of 2 on health care, 2 of 4 on other topics; overall, 7 of 11)

Rudy Giuliani (3 of 3 on Iraq, 0 of 2 on immigration, 1 of 2 on health care, 2 of 4 on other topics; overall, 6 of 11)

Ron Paul (0 of 3 on Iraq, 1 of 2 on immigration, 2 of 2 on health care, 2 of 4 on other topics; overall, 5 of 11)

Not a close match in the bunch. I like Thompson and Giuliani on Iraq (stay the course); Paul is right about health care (it’s a matter for markets, not government); and the rest is a mixed bag. The best combination of the three candidates’ positions matches mine on only 8 of 11 issues. It’s not a field of dreams.

Moreover, none of the three seems destined to head the GOP ticket at the rate things are going. Which means that the likely nominee (e.g., Romney or Huckabee) will hold positions even further from mine.

Of course, it could be a lot worse: Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Dennis Kucinich, or Barack Obama, for example.

The Republican field (as usual) is simply the lesser of two evils, which is why I vote GOP — when I bother to vote. (No, I don’t waste my vote on the Libertarian Party.)

At this point, I’m thinking of staying home on election day 2008. The GOP candidate is almost certain to win Texas without my help.

(Thanks to Bookworm for the tip.)

"Global Warming," Close to Home

Arnold Kling writes:

My view of climate change is that we have about three data points–an increase in temperatures from 1900-1940, and slight decrease from 1940-1970, and a recent increase. There are a lot of variables that could affect climate, and I wonder how we can be confident about our understanding of the process, given that we have only those three data points to work with.

The weather station nearest my home has been recording temperatures since 1854. The average annual data reported for that station are consistent with Kling’s statement: a warming trend from 1854 through 1933, a cooling trend from 1934 through 1979, and a warming trend from 1980 through 2007. Like Kling, I wonder how that pattern supports the theory that “global warming” is caused mainly by the rise in atmospheric CO2, a rise that could not have been reversed for 30-40 years if caused by human activity.

There are, in any event, many more relevant observations than those gleaned by weather stations. And those observations (from geological deposits and ice cores) cover much longer spans than 150 years. (See this post, for example.) What it all adds up to is this:

  • The current warm period is neither exceptionally warm nor caused by human activity.
  • We are in a phase of a climatic cycle that is determined mainly by solar activity and the position of our solar system within the Milky Way.
  • That phase probably will end relatively soon (a matter of years or decades, not centuries or millenia).
  • All we see when we look at (flawed and inconsistently recorded) temperature data from the past 100-150 years is the tail end of the phase through which we are passing.

By the way, the highest average monthly temperatures recorded by my local weather station are as follows (in degrees Fahrenheit):

January, 59.6 (1923)
February, 62.3 (1999)
March, 68.4 (1907)
April, 75.9 (1967)
May, 80.6 (1996)
June, 86.4 (1998)
July, 89.1 (1860)
August, 88.3 (1999)
September, 84.2 (1911)
October, 77.0 (1931)
November, 68.2 (1927)
December, 65.5 (1889)

Note the lack of record highs after 1999.

Also, half of the eighteen warmest years on record (years with an average temperature more than one standard deviation above the mean for 1854-2007) occurred before 1980.

Related reading, from around the web:
The Courage to Do Nothing” (14 Dec 2007)
Has Global Warming Stopped?” (19 Dec 2007)
U.S. Senate Report: Over 400 Prominent Scientists Disputed Man-Made Global-Warming Claims in 2007” (20 Dec 2007)
Good News! Earth Not Flat” (21 Dec 2007)

Posts at Liberty Corner:
“‘Warmism’: The Myth of Anthropogenic Global Warming” (23 Aug 2007)
Re: Climate ‘Science’” (19 Sep 2007)
More Evidence against Anthropogenic Global Warming” (25 Sep 2007)
Yet More Evidence against Anthropogenic Global Warming” (04 Oct 2007)

Plus, many more in this category.

Christmas in Iran: Foreign Affairs According to Planet Rockwell

Guest post:

Maybe this time it’s a case of too much eggnog at LewRockwell.com. But I could pull up dozens of articles which illustrate the jejune quality of much of that site’s political analysis over the years. I can remember one item from awhile back which held up the Balkans as a good example of political decentralization and self-determination. The Balkans!? Well, never mind.

Instead, how about this slush piece on Iran (no pun intended): “A Christian Christmas in Snowy Iran” by William Wedin (December 20, 2007). Synopsis: the author sets out to prove that there is social normalcy and religious tolerance in Iran after “surfing the web for photos of Iran.” An amazing depth of research from a college professor. Has he been to Iran? Does he take into account reports from just about everyone on the planet, including Amnesty International (not exactly “neo-con central”) about the totalitarian abuses in Iran? Dr. Wedin also runs a site called Photo Activists for Peace. He wants to bring 1960s “flower power” pacifism back to the U.S. Didn’t we already have enough of that? Apparently he didn’t learn the lesson that the rest of us did, that the peace movements since World War II were largely tools for totalitarian apologists, bankrolled by rogue nations, and championed by ideological nitwits.

“Photos are egalitarian….” Wedin proclaims. “They are the most libertarian mode of communication that we have in common.” The photos of a winter resort town in Iran are indeed charming to look at, but this a rather hasty assertion. Recent history demonstrates that there is probably no more potentially manipulative form of communication that the photograph. While browsing in libraries over the years I’ve found similar depictions of normalcy in the photojournalism of Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany: people shopping, playing games, joking, eating, flirting, etc. In the case of the Third Reich one can even find pictures of Christians attending Church (just like the ones Dr. Wedin shows in his essay). The sensible deduction is not that Iran is an absolute social wasteland in which every single inhabitant is killed or locked-up. Not even Stalin managed that much. But a government doesn’t have to be 100% bad to be a threat to its inhabitants or its neighbors.

Most of the hype is on Dr. Wedin’s side. There may be some lowbrows who think we should “murder” Iran (as Rockwell puts it on his homepage). I don’t think annihilation is the aim of the U.S. government now, anymore than it was when we were fighting Hitler in the 1940s. There were some nut-jobs advocating the extermination of the German people back then, but no one listened to them. In conclusion, while the Rockwell crowd likes to boast of its economic rationalism—and no doubt has some very sensible things on that score—the commentary on most every other subject is so consistently distraught one feels that the Rockwellians should stick to their core subject.

P.S. For a very different commentary that shows how Christians can work with non-fanatical Muslims (thanks to a little armed American intervention) see Chris Blosser’s recent post on Christmas in Iraq.

Related comments, see: “Mike Huckabee and the View from Planet Rockwell.”

Anthropogenic Global Warming Is Dead, Just Not Buried Yet

From around the web:

The Courage to Do Nothing” (14 Dec 2007)
Has Global Warming Stopped?” (19 Dec 2007)
U.S. Senate Report: Over 400 Prominent Scientists Disputed Man-Made Global-Warming Claims in 2007” (20 Dec 2007)
Good News! Earth Not Flat” (21 Dec 2007)

Related posts at Liberty Corner:

“‘Warmism’: The Myth of Anthropogenic Global Warming” (23 Aug 2007)
Re: Climate ‘Science’” (19 Sep 2007)
More Evidence against Anthropogenic Global Warming” (25 Sep 2007)
Yet More Evidence against Anthropogenic Global Warming” (04 Oct 2007)

Plus, many more in this category.

Culture Watch: Adolescent Marxism

Guest post:

UK environmentalist Paul Dickinson says in an interview:

School didn’t agree with me at all so I left at 17. Having done one year of politics A-level [high school graduation exam course] I decided I was a Marxist.

Ideologically precocious fellow. It’s not clear if Dickinson ever graduated from his teenage Communist views. Perhaps another interview?

Ron Paul, Continued

Guest post:

I’ve heard that Ron Paul has publicly distanced himself from his extremist followers, although I’ve yet to see a report about it. Certainly I hope the rumor is true. However, even the ultra-libertarians at Liberal Values make the sensible observation that

After pulling in another six million dollars you would think that Ron Paul could afford to do the right thing and return that $500 contribution from [neo-Nazi] Stormfront founder Don Black. At very least you would think that… he would at least realize that returning such a contribution is what any other candidate would do and what he must also do if he wants to be credible. Failure to do so also fuels the suspicions of racism and anti-Semitism on Paul’s part which has been noted in some of his writings.

In my last post on the topic, I discussed critical coverage from the “neo-cons” at National Review. In all fairness to Paul, I agree with many of his positions, especially on economics, morals and the family. But that leaves some major gaps. The one point that will lose him the broad base of Republic/conservative support is his position on the war. Personally, I don’t mind a little elbow room on policy. Foreign affairs are a prudential matter, unlike abortion, which deals with moral absolutes. I can agree with paleo-cons that Wilsonian interventionism is both unnecessary and risky. But I disagree with their dogmatic isolationism; the idea that there’s a one-size-fits-all pattern to political exigencies.

The libertarian Volokh Conspiracy makes this point with reference to Paul’s views on federal policy and racism. While traditional conservatives would agree that left-wing statist policies have exacerbated the problem, it simply not true that state government is inherently better than the federal level (perhaps that is why the Founders wanted a balance between the two). Volokh points out that “It was, after all, state governments that took the lead in defending slavery, segregation, and other forms of discrimination against blacks and (in the Western states) Asian-Americans.”

Some others have pitched in with their constructive criticism, showing that a cautious view of Paul is hardly the product of neo-con persecution. The most impressive of these is Dave Nalle’s Blogcritics Magazine commentary of December 14. In it, Nalle comes across as very sympathetic. Yet he cautions against the the direction that Paul’s “largely uncontrolled campaign is taking and the people who are infiltrating it and shaping it….” He condemns the more fanatical supporters: “Self-righteous ideologues make terrible politicians, they don’t win elections and they’re dragging Ron Paul down with them.” Yet it is Paul’s campaign, after all, and if he can’t control that then one wonders how well he would control the presidency. However, the latter scenario seems highly unlikely, despite the recent record-breaking intake of campaign money.

Earlier post on Ron Paul.