Peder D4

Discussion of politics and other odious things

Saturday, June 30, 2007


I haven't posted much on immigration, mostly because my own views don't match either of the two major viewpoints. I recognize the danger of large unassimilated populations within the US but I think the Hispanic communities are (mostly) assimilating more than they're given credit for. That's true in Minnesota at least. The story may be radically different in southern California, Texas and Florida.
The other side of the coin is that border security is an important thing. Every nation has the right to protect it's own borders and the right to decide who and who can't come in. That's probably the biggest piece of sovereignty along with deciding it's own laws. If those laws limit the amount of immigration, than so be it.
On the labor front I think the positive impact of 12 million illegals is overstated. On the other hand, we've enjoyed low unemployment for a number of years so they aren't flooding the labor market. And if they disappeared tomorrow, it'd cause a big hole in the economy. This probably argues for an increase in the legal amount allowed.
What brought this to mind was a piece by Peggy Noonan on how we become American. She comes from an east coast, melting pot frame of reference that I think is a useful guide to how should continue.
This is the way it goes in America. You start as the Outsider and wind up the Insider, or at least being viewed as such by the newest Outsiders. We are a nation of still-startling social fluidity. Anyone can become "American," but they have to want to first.
There's obviously a huge number of people who want to become 'American' in the best sense of the word. That's a good thing and we should be working on ways to encourage them.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Even as a cat guy

I don't see how this story doesn't hurt Romney quite badly.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Make that 'Sir' Rushdie

I'm not a huge fan of Queen Elizabeth's track record of knighting folks. My notion is that Sir Whatsisname should do something more important than right pop songs. Quaint notions of bravery and whatnot. But this time she's making a good choice by awarding a knighthood to Salman Rushdie.
You may remember him as the author of 'The Satanic Verses', a book that caused a fatwa to be issued, calling for his death. Well, some people still remember.
Pakistan has condemned Britain's award of a knighthood to author Salman Rushdie as an affront to Muslim sentiments, and a Cabinet minister said the honor provided a justification for suicide attacks.

"This is an occasion for the (world's) 1.5 billion Muslims to look at the seriousness of this decision," Mohammed Ijaz ul-Haq, religious affairs minister, said in parliament.

"The West is accusing Muslims of extremism and terrorism. If someone exploded a bomb on his body, he would be right to do so unless the British government apologizes and withdraws the 'sir' title," ul-Haq said.

Read that last sentence again. Who could possibly accuse someone of extremism for advocating suicide bombings in response to a knighthood? Seriously, there really is a problem with people that react this way.
Looking around at Reason (everyone's favorite libertarian mag), I ran across this interview with the author from 2005. In it, he talks about that fatwa, his political evolution and how to honestly deal with this virulent strain of Islam.

Reason: You wrote an essay criticizing President Bush and other Western leaders for claiming after 9/11 that "this is not about Islam." In what way is this about Islam?

Rushdie: Well, you know, that was said for good reasons. It was said to minimize the backlash against Muslims. But just in terms of actual fact, it is absurd. It is not about football.

The fact that it is about a particular idea of Islam that many Muslims would reject does not mean it is not about Islam. The Christian Coalition is still about Christianity, even if it's an idea of Christianity that many Christians might not go along with.

Reason: What they mean is that it is not about Islam properly understood. That it is about certain extreme followers of Islam who might not be interpreting the religion correctly.

Rushdie: Yes, but Wahhabi Islam is becoming very powerful these days. To say that it is not about Islam is to not take the world as it really is.

Interesting stuff from one of our most important contemporary authors.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Gay Marriage in Mass.

Meant to comment on this story from MA.
Massachusetts lawmakers blocked a proposed constitutional amendment that would have let voters decide whether to outlaw gay marriage in the only state that allows it. The narrow vote was a blow to efforts to reverse the historic court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage in the state. The ban needed 50 votes to secure a place on the 2008 ballot. It got 45, with 151 lawmakers opposed.
I'm in favor of legalizing gay marriage so I don't have a problem with the outcome here. The question comes down to process and whether or not this is a legitimate extension of the governing desires of the people. Former MA Gov. Mitt Romney didn't think it was:
"they could either take the decision away from the people or they could give the decision to the people, and the state legislature of Massachusetts decided to not allow the people to vote on the definition of marriage."
He (obviously) has a better feel for what the people of MA want than I do. The most recent poll I could find seemed to find general agreement with the legislature. Absent some kind of evidence that the legislature is honestly ignoring the clear will of the people, I must disagree with Romney. Elected officials must vote for what they think is best. Since this has been a high profile issue, we have to assume that voters were informed as to where there votes would lead.
Opponents of gay marriage have (rightly) suggested that imposing it through the courts bypasses the clear will of the majority. They prefer to have the legislature make these types of decisions. Now they have.
There's a side issue here that's worth exploring. The whole idea of a referendum is to give the voting public a chance to make a direct vote on an issue. It's a way of bypassing officals that don't agree with voters. I'm not a fan of routing that process back through a state congress to get their ok on it. Kind of defeats the purpose, no?
Someday we'll have a situation where a clear majority approves gay marriage for a state. A situation that isn't muddled with court decisions or claims of illegitimacy. On that day, a clear milestone will have been passed. This one isn't so clear.


Thursday, June 14, 2007

An Inconvenient Truth - 2006

(In the intrest of fair disclousure, let me say that I didn't vote for Gore in 2000 and don't forsee doing so in the future. I'll gladly stipulate that warming occured over the 20th century in an amount consistent with the latest IPCC report, about one degree farenheit. The degree to which mankind is responsible is still unknown, perhaps unknowable. I'd support a complete switch over to green energy if it was practical. My personal opinion is that a switch to nuclear would be best for the country.)
I viewed watching this movie as more of a duty than a pleasure. It's been wildly popular and has sunk into the popular culture. It's been widely lauded and even received an Oscar. Various assertions are taken as talking points in enviromental discussions. I expected that I'd disagree with parts of it but be swayed by others. Frankly, I was shocked at how misleading and dishonest it was. (Even the FP Gal, much more to the left than I am, felt that way.)
First the compliments. Al Gore certainly knows how to give a good demonstration. He's at his best when he embraces his wonky reputation and plays off of it. His slides are simple and easy to understand. The only real negative from a movie standpoint were the many cuts to Gore in other parts of his life. These came off as a campaign commercial. You can use elements of any pol's childhood to illustrate whatever you want if you have a forgiving director and good writing.
The biggest problem was the science. Gore is consistently misleading as he moves from issue to issue. Problems of hidden context, poor analogy and obvious half truths were everywhere. Some examples?
  • There is a section where he talks about 0 peer reviewed studies that disagree with global warming. Here's a selection of 13 that disagree with elements of his presentation. There is reason to doubt.
  • He includes a quote from some internal memo from a skeptic, “Doubt is our product, since it is the best means of creating a controversy in the public’s mind.” I'm guessing that you can find some damning quote from any group of people if you look hard enough. Here's one from Stephen Schneider, a climate scientist talking to the Discover magazine. "On the one hand, as scientists we are ethically bound to the scientific method, in effect promising to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but — which means that we must include all the doubts, the caveats, the ifs, ands and buts. On the other hand, we are not just scientists but human beings as well. And like most people, we'd like to see the world a better place, which in this context translates into our working to reduce the risk of potentially disastrous climate change. To do that, we need to get some broad-based support, to capture the public's imagination. That, of course, entails getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have. … Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest." Somehow that didn't make the film.
  • He shows the effect of a sudden catastrophic addition of freshwater to the North Atlantic and how that shut down the gulf stream. He infers that a slow melt off of Greenland could do the same thing. Scientists don't agree.
  • He suggests that Hurricane Katrina was a city killer because of warming in the Caribbean. There's an open question as to what effect climate change will have on hurricanes but the idea that a few degrees less temp were at fault is ridiculous. There was political failure at the local and national levels. There was catastrophic failure from an engineering standpoint that caused the levees to fail. Katrina was a Cat 3 storm when it hit New Orleans, big and (obviously) dangerous but not unprecedented by any means.
And so on and so forth. Early in the movie, Gore admonishes us,
“What gets us into trouble is not what you don’t know, but what you think you know that just ain’t so.”
This is a call to keep an open and skeptical mind. It's too bad he doesn't follow his own advice and it's bad science that tries to keep others from doing so.

(Crossposted at Futurepoltergeist)