The Therapy Sessions
Monday, November 28, 2005
Diversity of values
The New York Civil Liberties Union has filed a federal discrimination complaint against a Catholic school, charging that it unjustly fired an unmarried teacher for being pregnant.
I'm sorry. I'm going to side with the archdiocese on this one. The main reason that people send their children to Catholic schools is for the education in values - Catholic values.
You may see them as intolerant. Fine. Don't join the club.
Catholic schools have the right to teach their values. You don't have to agree with those values. But no one should question the right of Catholics to hold them, or to enforce them within their community.
If you are a liberal, Quaker schools take advantage of the same right.
A Quaker school, for example, might object to a teacher who publicly encourages children to join the military. Or it might object to a teacher who vigorously defends his Second Ammendment rights.
It's the spirit of the age to beat up on Catholics (I'm an ex-Catholic - current Anglican - myself) but the school could have been Muslim just as easily.
Suppose a Muslim School fired an unwed pregnant teacher? Anyone want to go to court?
A private school is a private organization - much like the Boy Scouts are.
If you object to the Boy Scouts' stand on gay scout leaders, you can refuse to let your kids join. You can even object to them using public school property to recruit.
But you can't force them to do something that is against their beliefs just because you want them to.
That's an authoritarian impulse that should be rejected by all libertarians - and most Americans (but the wing nuts on both sides can't help themselves).
It's part of the freedom of association that allows like-minded individuals to come together and teach their children.
It's called respecting diversity. In this case, a diversity of values.
Get used to it. Because it is only going to get worse.
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
More nonsense about spanking
I'm always amazed at how really bad science gets press (and funding):
Children who are spanked when they misbehave are more likely to be anxious and aggressive than children who are disciplined in nonphysical ways, research shows. This is true even if spanking is the "cultural norm...."
... researchers from questioned 336 mothers and their children in China, India, Italy, Kenya, the Philippines, and Thailand about cultural norms surrounding use of physical discipline and how it affected their children's behavior.
Jennifer Lansford, a research scientist from the Center for Child and Family Policy at Duke University spearheaded the survey. She told Reuters Health that "across the six countries studied, children who were physically disciplined more frequently were more aggressive and anxious than were children who were physically disciplined less frequently."
OK. Let's walk through this.
Social science long ago ventured away from empiricism. Now it wanders around in a jungle of confused and muddled science, tainted everywhere by advocacy: "scientists" are looking for data that supports their ideas, not the other way around.
Social scientists have been doing this for so long that they can't even be objective anymore. In fact, sometimes they can't even penetrate their own cloudy reasoning.
Lansford has written extensively about spanking in the context of physical abuse. This taints her survey (but it does not discredit it). If an avowed creationist conducted a study claiming to disprove natural selection, scepticism would be justified - for the same reason.
Lansford has an agenda, and she can't help but reveal it:
...Not surprisingly, in Thailand, a country where peace-promoting Buddhist teachings predominant, moms were least likely to spank their children or use other forms of physical discipline.
And they were less aggressive. Presumably, she hooked Thai children up to her Agress-o-meterTM and took a reading. She found that these children were not aggressive (maybe they registered only about 0.01 Gheghis Khan Units...)
What about the children of next door Cambodia? They have the same "peace-promoting Buddhist teachings," don't they? Thirty years ago, they had a holocaust in which they slaughtered three million of their fellow citizens in an insane orgy of violence. An episode like that might indicate a small problem with aggression, wouldn't it?
Lansford did not take her Agress-o-meterTM to Buddhist Cambodia. Maybe it was too dangerous there.
No, she went to Kenya - to find a violent society. (And it has great safaris, too -just the thing for the weary social scientist.)
Somehow, Lansford manages to control for all the different variables present in these completely dissimiliar cultures: different family structures, religions, food, education, opportunities, economies, threats, lifespans, health care, maternal roles, music, art, politics, ethnicities....
You could prove anything comparing two vastly different societies. And that is just what Lansford does! She finds kids who were spanked that she describes as "violent." The Agress-o-meterTM needle flew into the red (0.8 - 0.9 GKU's!).
But this is all meaningless. Hey, I can do it too: Hey, the Kenyan kids were spanked and they were malnourished, while the unspanked Thai kids were well fed!
Bingo, spanking causes malnutrition! I'm a social scientist!
Calling this stuff "science" is a major embarrassment - just as embarrasing to me as the whole "intelligent design" debate is.
I understand that social scientists crave the certainity of hard science, but everyone must admit that there is a real difference:
A typical hard science experiment: a scientist mixes together some reagents, adds a catalyst and new product is observed and identified. The reaction doesn't work without the catalyst, so the scientist tries to figure out how the catalyst causes the reaction to progress.
It's not easy, and there is uncertainity, but everyone can agree on the basics: the catalyst causes an interesting reaction to happen. The tests by which things are identified are beyond dispute: nuclear magnetic resonance, mass spectroscopy, purity standards as judged by HPLC.
In Lansford's study, she measures such things as aggression and anxiety by her judgment, with limited observation. (alas, there is no universally understood Agress-o-meterTM).
She knows it when she sees it! She just KNOWS. And you should trust her observations and conclusions.
Why? Because she is an expert.
Don't wonder if your definition of "anxiety" might be different than hers. You are wrong. You hear that, all you unwashed masses, lacking PhD's in Childhood Psychology?
She's an EXPERT.
Why does she KNOW? Because she is trying to prove something. Listen:
"Another question is whether physical discipline is appropriate in this day and age, regardless of how accepted it may be," (Lansford) added.
Lefties think science is magic: cures for horrible diseases will magically appear when you want them hard enough (or spend enough money on them), magically we will conjure up the equivalent of 8 million barrels of oil with cow flatulence and gerbils running on treadmills - and if we study peace enough, the idea of human aggression will disappear.
(By contrast, Bible-banging righties think magic is science - uh, intelligent design. But that's another story).
And yes - if you are sloppily enough... you can do a study that will prove spanking cause aggression across cultures.
Social scientists are - by nature - working in the fluid medium of the human interactions. People are not cogs; they are far too complex. When they know they are being studied, they act differently.
Human biologies are similar enough that we can conduct clinical trails for drug efficacy, but even then, small variations in physiology can reek havoc with the trials. When it comes to something like proving spanking causes human aggression...hold up: there are too many variables, and the metrics for judging them are far too blurred.
This is the kind of research that has been used by the no-spanking crowd in the US for years, and many parents - particularly affluent, intelligent parents - have been swayed by it.
The silly "studies" work like this - they lump together all kids who were spanked: kids from good homes are included, but they get lumped with kids from bad homes and abusive homes. Not every parent who spanks is abusive, but nearly every abusive parent uses physical punishment. This odd group is compared to homes that only use time outsTM - typically homes with caring, educated parents. You can control for income and education if you want, but the result has been predetermined by your inability to measure a loving - but disciplined - home.
The result is pre-ordained: low and behold, the false grouping of spanked kids does worse! Millions of parents have trusted the "experts." As a result, we have an epidemic of bratty, innattentive children.
Many of these children get diagnosed with fictional disorders and are drugged into socially acceptable behavior with potent stimulants.
ADHD diagnoses have exploded.
Not coicindently, the number of parents who think of a time outTM as a serious punishment - the idea of which induces laughter among habitually bad children - has grown.
There may be real disorder called ADHD, but the vast majority of diagnosed ADHD is bullshit. I'm of the mind that most ADHD is far too convenient for parents who don't want to be bothered with the messy work of disciplining their own kids. Once your child knows he can walk all over you and get nothing more than a silly pause, discipline is an uphill battle anyway. It is just easier to assume there is something wrong with your kids and drug 'em up.
After all, you were a good parent! You listened to the experts!
I think spanking can be appropriate in the context of a loving home. I have covered this before.
You show me a kid from a loving, discplined home whose parents teach him the meaning of the word "no" with an infrequent spanking, and I'll show you a good kid.
No, I'm not going to try to quantify a "loving home" or an "infrequent spanking," because I know that such things are futile. Like Lansford, I know them when I see them. But I am not trying to pass of my personal opinions as hard science.
Hey, spanking works for me. It's my secret - which I give out here, free of charge.
My kids can sit still and be polite, more or less - at least for the "under five" weight class. I have spanked them to get the point across, but I rarely have to do it anymore. An inflection in my voice can get the point across quite well.
The kids screaming and throwing food in your restaurant are the offspring of a hapless Lansford disciple.
And those poor children are going get a "time out" really soon.
They don't look all that scared, do they?
Friday, November 18, 2005
It's so disheartening.
At the same time that Congress is wetting its pants in fear over Iraq, there are several promising things going on there.
And few are paying attention to them.
First, the turnout for next month's election look likes its going to huge, this time with Sunnis participating in high numbers.
Oh, how boring. Iraqis risking bombs to vote. Yawn. Change the channel.
If it's boring it shouldn't be. This will create the first democratically-elected constitutional Arab republic - one with political participation from all the country's ethnicities. It makes it less likely that there will be anything like a civil war - our enemy's main goal.
We are working with the most liberal people in the Arab World in Iraq. And messily, they are building a democracy that will begin addressing their problems instead of blaming them on Jews and Americans.
Would somebody please explain to me how abandoning these people to the tender mercies of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his Al Qaeda thugs would make America safer?
If this young government falls to the next round of Arab tyrants, who can honestly believe that we will be protected across the sea?
I don't see any way around this: if we abandon Iraq now, we will only be fighting more - and more dangerous - wars in Arab lands in the future. And they will probably involve nuclear weapons.
The second reason for optimism: Zarqawi is practically admitting the confusion and desperation his organization is in.
The Amman hotel bombing that his group was boasting about just last week has put him on the defensive.
Now he says that Al Qaeda did not intend to bomb a wedding party, and that it has no intention of killing fellow Muslims.
Zarqawi has known for quite some time that attacking Americans is hard. Sure, a bombing here or there takes a toll. But al Qaeda can't hold territory, and they aren't safe anywhere in the country.
And for every American killed, al Qaeda is losing dozens.
As attrition took its toll, Zarqawi's strategy changed. Because the Americans were staying in Iraq, Zarqawi couldn't win unless he was able to do one thing: create a real civil war between the Sunnis and the Shiites.
He needed to inflame the Shiites by bombing soft targets: Shiite mosques, meeting areas and markets. and he needed the Shiites to strike back against the Sunnis with such ferocity that there could be no hope that they could work together.
And it is not working.
Instead, this made him about as popular as Saddam with the vast majortiy of Iraqis. This strategy has started an important debate in the Arab world about such terrorism.
The bombing in Jordan was a public relations nightmare for Al Qaeda. Jordanians once dreamed of being part of a Caliphate administered by Osama bin Laden. Now they are marching in the streets of Amman calling for Al Qaeda to be destroyed.
Sheltered Muslims - Jordanians, Egyptians and Saudis - are realizing if they want war, they can have it. But it will be on their lands - not ours - and they will be its victims. Many - particularly in Jordan - were comfortabe giving money to Al Qaeda so that it could kill Americans.
But with Al Qaeda targetting their cities, they aren't so sure.
Zarqawi is losing the war because he is losing his most fervent supporters.
Our goal is not to make Arabs love Americans, though that would be nice.
Our goal is to make Arabs hate Al Qaeda so much that they eradicate it in their own lands. Al Qaeda is its own worst enemy in that respect.
This is how you fight a War on Terror.
Somebody tell Congress that we are winning it before they go and surrender already.
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
The right to watch TV
Congress makes a law that broadcasters must start broadcasting in digital and stop broadcasting in analog. Millions of consumers see nothing wrong with their old analog sets - which in 2006 will become useless. Congress faces choices:
1. Re-evaluate the deadline, allowing stations to continue to broadcast in analog if a large portion of their audience watches TV that way.
2. Let people take care of things themselves - which would mean Congress would have to recognize that there is no right to watch TV.
3. Or spend money.
Hmmm. Tough one. I'm going to go with number three.
You mean I'm right?
The Senate's budget bill, which passed last week, contains a $3 billion subsidy for owners of televisions that are not ready to handle the eventual transition to digital television.
Both bills set a date when broadcasters must return their current licenses and instead broadcast a digital signal on a different part of the electronic spectrum.
The subsidy would go to pay for converter boxes, which would take the digital signal from the broadcasters and convert it so that it can be displayed by analog TVs.
These people are out of control.
Via Q and O.
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
Alda for president?
What in the world? Alan Alda for President?:
I turned on the TV last night, hoping to see the opening of the Redskins-Eagles game, and I stumble on what appears to be Alan Alda, talking about drug company profits. But it can't be Alan Alda. I think of Alan Alda as someone who is hostile to drug company profits. But he's explaining how profits are OK and how drug companies save lives and how drugs save us from what used to require an operation. He doesn't say enough about the incentive effects of high prices, but it's pretty good.
It's some kind of debate I'm watching. Alda's opponent who is evidently a Democrat, touts his economic plan that will create a million jobs. The moderator asks Alda how many jobs his plan will create. Zero, Alda says. In fact, he adds, I'll cut jobs. I'll cut jobs in the federal government. Besides, he adds, Presidents don't create jobs, entrepreneurs do. My job as President is to get out of the way and let the market work.
At this point I know I'm watching a TV show. No real candidate for President would have the guts to answer the question this way. (I know, I need to get out more. Or less actually. I guess most people knew what this debate was really about. I just don't watch enough television.) Then they start talking about drilling in ANWR. The Democratic candidate is against it--bad for the environment and besides, there's only a year's supply of oil, there. Alda says, a year's worth of oil is a lot of oil. And maybe there's more there than we think. Then he asks the audience--have any of you ever been to ANWR? Clap if you've been there. Silence. Alda says--so why shouldn't we drill in a place that only a few rich people will ever visit? (He should have mentioned the benefits to poor people of lower energy prices, but hey, it wasn't perfect.) He asks if anyone in the audience has been to the Grand Canyon and there's tumultuous applause. I wouldn't support drilling there, Alda says, but why not ANWR? Why protect caribou having to look at oil wells?
In the closing statement, Alda gives an eloquent defense of freedom, the power of individuals to solve problems via markets, and the importance of limited government as envisioned by the Founders as a way to keep confidence in government doing what it should.
There were a few missteps here and there, but overall, it was the best defense of limited government I've heard from a candidate since Reagan. It figures, as a friend pointed out, Alda and Reagan are both actors.
Of course, the whole thing was a live version of the West Wing. But what I found interesting was how little they chose to caricature the Republican's views, at least in the part I saw. He wasn't a "compassionate conservative." And he wasn't a heartless monster. He was about as Jeffersonian as you could imagine. Whoever gets the Republican nomination the next time around ought to hire whoever wrote Alda's lines. It would be even nicer to have a candidate to choose from who actually believed those lines as well.
Monday, November 14, 2005
I do not consider myself a conservative.
When I listen to liberals talk, I feel that they are talking a different language.
(Lately, unfortuantely, Republicans don't sound much better.)
There are two essential truths that I think everyone - liberal and conservative - needs to acknowledge:
1. High taxes hurt growth, and low growth rates hurt the poor the most.
This, for anyone who follows the news, is common sense.
Companies and individuals prefer not to do business in places where they will be taxed excessively. Cities like Philadelphia kill off their own entrepreneurs and send to them to the suburbs (which are booming) with their silly taxes.
And countries like Ireland prosper when they lower their (in this case corporate) taxes to suck in business from the US and Britain.
When the US suffers a recession, the first people who lose their jobs are the line and retail workers - low wage workers with few benefits.
These are the very working poor that liberals claim they want to help.
It seems obvious to me: Taxes restrict growth and damage the plight of the poor.
The higher taxes are, the worse that damage is.
But lefties continuously look for opportunities to raise taxes and create stealth taxes (minimum wage hikes, benefits regulation, living wages... )
It is their modus operandi. And it is counterproductive.
2. The costs of governmental giveaways can only accelerate.
If I walked down a city street and gave $100 to every person who looked like they needed some extra money, I might spend $1000 on Monday.
But word would get out: People would tell their friends that there was some dang fool handing out Franklins to every person who looked down on his luck.
By Tuesday, I'd be lucky if my little humanitarian gesture cost me less than $2000.
And if the word spread that I had returned on Tuesday, On Wednesday, I'd be besieged.
And so it is government programs.
They always start small- but they grow quickly.
Welfare, Social Security, and Medicare were never supposed to be the huge money sinks they are today. FDR would be horrified by what his program has become, because it has become exactly what he did not want it to be.
If you create a program, you need to make it a very unattractive option for most people to take. That is the true idea behind "safety nets"
But that is not how politicans work: you buy votes by giving nice benefits to the largest numbers of people.
And that is why we face government financial diaster within the next few decades.
Democrats would do themselves a huge favor if they remebered these two points, because they are really beyond dispute.
My joke. Mine.
Wife stole my joke.....so now I don't even have to type it out:
The President is at breakfast, munchin' on the Cocoa Puffs, while his advisors bring him up to date in the night's events.
"Sir," says the first, "There were three Brazilian soldiers killed in Iraq."
The chimp puts down his spoon and slowly lowers his head into his hands.
The second advisor asks, worriedly, "Sir?"
Mr. Bush looks up at him and asks, "How much is a brazilian?"
The perils of closing terrorist prisons
People who complain about U.S. prisons overseas, in Guantanamo and in Abu Gharib do have a point.
I, too, am concerned.
Certainly, there are some people who are only guilty of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The imprisonment of those people is wrong, and it hurts the image of the US.
But how do we know which ones they are?
There many monsters in these prisons as well:
One of the suspected suicide bombers in last week's deadly attacks on three luxury hotels in Jordan's capital apparently was detained and released last year by U.S. forces in Iraq who determined that he was not a threat to security, a U.S. military spokesman said yesterday.
The US freed this man. Dozens of innocent people are dead as a result.
In some cases, the US ends up having to kill or capture these people all over again:
A former inmate at the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, who returned to Afghanistan to rejoin the Taliban as a key commander, was killed along with two fellow fighters in a raid by Afghan security forces, two senior officials said Sunday.
People - like Jimmy Carter - who call for these US prisons to be closed outright are just being irresponsible.
What we would do with these people, some of whom are undoubtedly mass murderers?
Let them free?
What politician would dare let loose the next Islamist Jeffery Dahmer?
Saturday, November 12, 2005
Future smiting noted
God is thinking about smiting Dover, PA.
Apparently, the parents of Dover have a problem with teaching fairy tales in science class.
Who would've thunk?
God is gonna show them! Pat Robertson says lightning bolts are on the way...
Well, sort of.
Luckily, God told Pat Robertson that he hasn't yet made up his mind.
Why would an omniscient and omnipotent being hestitate? I don't know. Ask Pat.
But I'll bet Dover gets hit by a really bad snowstorm really soon.
It happens every year. But that won't stop Robertson from saying "I told you so."
On a more serious note: God told me that he has no real problem with Dover.
His real issue issue is with people like Pat Robertson.
Keep your eyes peeled for any stray lightning bolts, Pat.
Thursday, November 03, 2005
Only the beginning
Some of my worst nightmares about McCain-Feingold are coming true:
To squeeze more money from voters, Washington's legislature passed a 9.5-cent-per-gallon gas tax increase. To their annoyance, Washington law permits another lawmaking process: Citizens can petition to put an initiative on the ballot, which the public can then vote to pass. Some citizens, thinking they were already paying plenty, organized a movement to repeal the tax increase. Two local radio hosts, Kirby Wilbur and John Carlson, spent lots of time on the air explaining why they think the gas tax is a bad idea.
In response to this challenge to their authority, a group of politicians turned to campaign-finance laws to silence Wilbur and Carlson. The theory is this: Radio airtime is valuable. So if a radio host expresses strong political views, that's a contribution, just as if a caterer were providing free food to the campaign's volunteers. Washington law limits contributions in the final three weeks of a political campaign to $5,000, so Wilbur and Carlson must shut up. Or at least the anti-tax group must count the minutes they talked about it on the air, assign some price to that and report that under campaign finance limits. Or something -- Mike Vaska, the lawyer acting as prosecutor, has suggested that if Wilbur and Carlson distanced themselves enough from the other people on their side, they'd be allowed to speak freely on the radio. Ironically, Vaska just happens to be a member of a big private law firm that stands to make big money off a higher gas tax -- maybe millions in legal fees -- $25,000 per bond backed by the tax. For some reason, Washington legislators seem to think that's OK. No one's telling him to shut up.
The political class protects its own.
This is why we need Alito and Roberts on the court.