Friday, May 11, 2007

Girl Friday - 051107

If this is the kind of stuff that Canada exports, we should definitely expand our trade relations.

Update: Because Invadesoda asked the question, here is the answer:

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Campus Ignorance

Any time you are looking for an example of flat out ignorance, it is usually a safe bet to go looking at an institution of "higher learning". The latest example to come to my attention is at Hamline University in St. Paul, MN.

Apparently the administration felt that their students were in need of counseling after the massacre at Virginia Tech and sent out a group email to the students letting them know of the services.

One student, Troy Scheffler, who has a CC permit apparently thought there was a better way to handle the situation than counseling.

Scheffler had a different opinion of how the university should react. Using the email handle "Tough Guy Scheffler," Troy fired off his response: Counseling wouldn't make students feel safer, he argued. They needed protection. And the best way to provide it would be for the university to lift its recently implemented prohibition against concealed weapons.

"Ironically, according to a few VA Tech forums, there are plenty of students complaining that this wouldn't have happened if the school wouldn't have banned their permits a few months ago," Scheffler wrote. "I just don't understand why leftists don't understand that criminals don't care about laws; that is why they're criminals. Maybe this school will reconsider its repression of law-abiding citizens' rights."

A few days later, he again shot off an email, but decided to vent about a few other things as well.

After stewing over the issue for two days, Scheffler sent a second email to University President Linda Hanson, reiterating his condemnation of the concealed carry ban and launching into a flood of complaints about campus diversity initiatives, which he considered reverse discrimination.

"In fact, three out of three students just in my class that are 'minorities' are planning on returning to Africa and all three are getting a free education on my dollar," Scheffler wrote with thinly veiled ire. "Please stop alienating the students who are working hard every day to pay their tuition. Maybe you can instruct your staff on sensitivity towards us 'privileged white folk.'"

Apparently, that got some attention. He was placed on suspension and required to both pass a mental evaluation (at his expense) and convince the Dean of Students he was fit to be at the school.

Now, not having available the full text of the emails, I can't speak to whether or not Scheffler presented his arguments in a coherent manner. The fact that he is a 31 year old grad student with aspirations of law school makes me think that he likely did, but who knows. Regardless of that, the administration showed that, like most advocates of gun control, they are completely ignorant about the kinds of people that get CC permits.

They automatically assume them to be some kind of nut on the verge of killing everyone in site for the slightest of provocations. Cloaking themselves firmly in the events at VT, they even posted an officer at the door of his class.

He has also suffered embarrassment. Scheffler obeyed the campus ban and didn't go to class, but his classmate, Kenny Bucholz, told him a police officer was stationed outside the classroom. "He had a gun and everything," Bucholz says. Dean Julian Schuster appeared at the beginning of class to explain the presence of the cop, citing discipline problems with a student. Although Schuster never mentioned Scheffler by name, it didn't take a scholar to see whose desk was empty.

So apparently, expressing views in favor of the 2nd Amendment an against Affirmative Action are "discipline problems" at Hamline and warrant swift action and questioning of one's mental stability.

Of course, Hamline is a private institution and I believe the relationship between the school and it's students should be at will, but this seems a ham-fisted way to treat a student. If I were Scheffler, I would be asking for a pro-rated refund for the rest of the semester.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Prostitution and the Right to Self

With the possible exception of our call for legalization of drugs, nothing seems to alienate conservatives more than the libertarian idea that prostitution should be legal. After all, what conceivable reason could it be illegal to pay for something that it is legal to give away, namely sexual services.

The recent "Washington Madame" has Cathy Young asking the question, "Why is it still illegal to pay for sex?"

Even those who feel a certain schadenfreude at Tobias's downfall should be asking the question: should there have been a criminal case in the first place?

Prostitution is currently legal in virtually all developed nations, though often surrounded by restrictions and regulations. It is illegal everywhere in the United States except Nevada and, by a legal quirk, in Rhode Island if all transactions are conducted in a private residence.

The answer, I believe, is pretty obvious. People still find it acceptable to legislate their religious values. There can simply be no other reason for it than the fact that a certain segment of our population finds sex outside of marriage to be morally unacceptable. They can't get away with outright outlawing it, but they can at least keep people from paying for it, at least to an extent.

You see, having money for sex is only illegal if the only two people that benefit from the transaction are the two directly involved. Man A cannot pay Woman A for sexual services. However, Man B can pay both Man A and Woman A to have sex so that Man A can later sell the pictures or movie of the sexual services to the public. I guess that is OK since it fits into the collective ideologies of both the left and right, in that greater society gains benefit from it as well. That seems a bit odd to me, but such is our current system.

I am interested in hearing any arguments against the legalization of prostitution that you guys may have. Post them in the comments and I will then try to give the reason why it is an invalid argument.

Update: An anonymous commenter points to this site:
It seems to cover most of the arguments both for and against, though I haven't had a chance to thoroughly review it yet.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

The Fallacy of Collectivism

Over at, there is always much of importance to read. One such must read is this article by Mises himself. Money paragraph:

The supporters of a heteronomous morality and of the collectivistic doctrine cannot hope to demonstrate by ratiocination the correctness of their specific variety of ethical principles and the superiority and exclusive legitimacy of their particular social ideal. They are forced to ask people to accept credulously their ideological system and to surrender to the authority they consider the right one; they are intent upon silencing dissenters or upon beating them into submission.

Politicize and Emotionalize: Al Gore Style Enviromentalism

It seems that the almost automatic response to anyone who questions Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) is a loud and sustained charge of "Big Oil" payola towards those questioning the current "consensus". A big reason for this has been the lopsided alarmist trill coming from most of the world's media outlets. It is very rare to come across a piece covering AGW that isn't about the impending global catastrophe that awaits our planet. It is even rarer when a balanced piece manages to make its way out of Europe, whose media (if its possible) are even more over the top on this subject than the US media.

One such piece has managed to find its way onto the pages of Der Spiegel. While I did, at times, get the sense that the author is an advocate of the AGW theory, he was at least honest enough to bring up some very important points concerning the current movement. While describing the process for the creation of the summary of the IPCC report, he points out a major flaw in the way it is handled (though he never called it a flaw):

The document, known as the SPM, or Summary for Policymakers, contains the essence of the actual climate report, which is a scientific compendium divided into three volumes, each containing at least 1,000 pages. Negotiations were underway in Brussels over the summary of the second volume and, as always, it was a laborious process. The two groups debating the issue had little in common except a mutual interest in reaching a consensus.

On the one side were the authors of the report, all scientists, who have done little else in the last three years than work on this report. For many of them, it was already asking too much to compress the contents of more than 1,000 pages into a 23-page summary.

On the other side were the politicians, members of delegations from almost every country on earth. Sitting in alphabetical order in the chamber, their main concern was to adjust the report to suit their individual economic, environmental and foreign policies.

This is a major problem with the way the IPCC is run and its reports are produced. Science is supposed to be about knowledge, not political policy. Most people in the world, including the most of the politicians involved, do not posses the technical knowledge necessary to understand the either the theories and implications of those theories put forth in 1000+ page scientific studies. Therefore, people will naturally look to the SPM for guidance, but the SPM is not a scientific document, it is a political one. Its authors have political agendas and have no compunction at all about using it to accomplish those agendas.

Another flaw of the IPCC brought to attention by the article, though again perhaps not intentionally, is the funding of the IPCC:

It operates on a minimal annual budget of only €5 million ($6.8 million). To be able to fulfill its mandate, the IPCC is dependent on assistance from UN members. They finance the conferences and provide the scientists who, as authors, are responsible for the contents of individual chapters.


And the politicians were intent on preventing the scientists from gaining sole responsibility for the content of the reports.

As I mentioned above, if you are even remotely resistant to the idea of AGW, then you are immediately considered to be in the pocket of "Big Oil", but what is virtually never questioned is the funding and the motives of the scientists of the IPCC. Their money is dependent on governments and the politicians and bureaucrats that run those governments. Such funding is just as likely, if not more, to influence the views of those receiving it, as is any funding from energy companies.

One case where the authors views come through is in his description of Prof. Richard Lindzen's arguments against the current status quo of environmental belief:

Lindzen's arguments sound convincing, but they are still nothing but claims, popular theories as opposed to a transparent global process, a global plebiscite among climate researchers.

So here we get to it, the oft heard argument of a "consensus". But science is not about consensus. The mere fact that most people, even scientists, believe something has absolutely no bearing as to whether or not that something is actually true. History is rife with examples where the scientific consensus of the day was flat out wrong. Science is about falsifiable results capable of being consistently reproduced. The models currently being used just don't rise to that level. If fact, scientists don't aren't even sure yet at to what all variables belong in the models in the first place. It might be OK to use these models as a basis for further study of some particular theory, but it is entirely unacceptable to treat them, as they currently are, as some sort of proof of AGW is really beyond the pale, and not very scientific.

Naturally the only place such politicization can lead is to the over emotionalizing of the topic:

When it comes to his one remaining argument, however, Lindzen is dead-on. The tone of the debate, he says, is hysterical.

There is hardly a newspaper article and hardly a TV or radio program that doesn't conjure up images of "climate catastrophe," prophesy floods of gigantic proportions, droughts and hunger. Indeed, the media have developed something akin to a complete apocalyptic program.

It's the fault of the media, of course, but not exclusively. It's also the fault of a new hero, an environmental activist who likes to introduce himself by saying: "Hello, I was once the next President of the United States of America."

That's correct. Al Gore has seen his popularity skyrocket to rock star levels the world over by preaching global disaster. He has been so successful at this, in fact, that even twits like John Kerry are getting in on the act. Such emotionalism is even coming from those entrusted to make rational decisions about the available science:

But it is odd to hear IPCC Chairman Pachauri, when asked what he thinks about Gore's film, responding: "I liked it. It does emotionalize the debate, but it seems that it has to do that." And when Pachauri comments on the publication of the first SPM by saying, "I hope that this will shock the governments so much that they take action," this doesn't exactly allay doubts as to his objectivity. When Renate Christ, the secretary of the IPCC, is asked about her opinion of reporting on climate change, she refers to articles that mention "climate catastrophe" and calls them "rather refreshing."

Stefan Rahmstorf, a professor of the physics of oceans at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, one of the world's bona fide experts on the subject and the lead author of the current report, praised Gore's film unconditionally, even for its inclusion of the sequence depicting New York sinking into the ocean. And Rahmstorf's boss, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, who serves as the institute's director and as an advisor to the German government, sounded a lot like Al Gore recently when he said in an interview: "We could see a one-meter rise in sea levels by 2100. The expected, climate-related shift in the ocean current could cause the water to rise by an additional meter in the Helgoland Bight." It sounds as if it could happen tomorrow. But it can't, and Schnellnhuber's colleague Rahmstorf, who has an inclination toward extreme scenarios, estimates that there is only a 10-percent probability that it will even happen at all.

Is activism trumping science?

No matter where one encounters officials from the IPCC -- at the organization's headquarters in Geneva, in Brussels during the negotiations over the SPM or in Potsdam, where the German authors, together with the Federal Ministry of the Environment, are staging a workshop on the world climate report -- everyone seems to be talking more like environmental activists than scientists these days.

In the face of this, I find it hard to understand how you cannot be skeptical about what is coming out of the IPCC these days.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Finding the Lost Individual

I remember back when I was in high school. I was pretty involved in debate, not the Lincoln-Douglas type, but rather the Student Congress type. In preparation, I started to read the Constitution so that laws I wrote, and arguments I made, would be constitutional.

During one of the events, I recall chatting with one of the students from another school about one of the bills that was on the agenda for the day. I don't recall the specifics, but it had something to do with gun control. As the other student was discussing it, he mentioned that the 2nd Amendment only applied to militias. Having just read the entire text of the Constitution a few days prior, this struck me as a strange argument.

Perhaps I was just naive, but that just didn't make any sense to me. As I would later learn, a good portion of the people that I discussed this with, well the ones that actually knew enough to intelligently discuss it, took basically the same view, that the 2nd Amendment is a collective right.

The reason that stuck me ass odd then and still strikes me as odd today is simple, I've read the Constitution myself. First, let's take a look at the language of the 2nd Amendment:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
While "Militia" is certainly mentioned, to me, that has always just been filler. The important phrase is "the people". That phrase appears in the Constitution a total of 10 times, so I figure it is important to see how it used the other 9 times.

The first occurrence is in the Preamble:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
It is very clear that "the People" as used here means all the individuals that make up the citizenry of the United States.

It next occurs in Article I Section 2:

The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States, and the Electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature.
This time the phrase means all the individuals that comprise the citizenry of the individual states.

The third time the phrase shows up is Article VII:

that it should afterwards be submitted to a Convention of Delegates, chosen in each State by the People thereof, under the Recommendation of its Legislature,

Here again the phrase refers to the individual citizens of the sundry states.

The fourth occurrence is in the 1st Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
There's certainly no question that "the people" means individuals here. I think I'm starting to notice a pattern.

Of course next comes the 2nd Amendment and after that the 4th Amendment:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Yet again the phrase delineates an individual right. I guess I could go on, but I think you get the point. In every other instance, the phrase "the people" refers to individuals and their individual rights. Why would it mean something different in the 2nd Amendment? The answer, of course, is that it doesn't. The right to bear arms is an individual right and it seems to me the only way to view it otherwise is to be willfully blinded by your own anti-gun beliefs.

Fortunately, there are still some liberal scholars of good faith that put their scholarship ahead of their own bias. One such scholar is Harvard law professor Laurence H. Tribe. He was recently quoted in a NY Times article concerning the effect of liberal scholars in changing the view of the 2nd Amendment as an individual right rather than a collective right:

“My conclusion came as something of a surprise to me, and an unwelcome surprise,” Professor Tribe said. “I have always supported as a matter of policy very comprehensive gun control.”
I would expect that a lot of gun control types would be surprised with the answer they came up with if they were to actually think about the meaning of the 2nd Amendment rather than just knee-jerk dismissing the obvious conclusion.

My hope is that Parker vs DC (PDF) makes its way to the Supreme Court, where I believe its holding of 2nd Amendment as an individual right will be upheld. As we constantly see government power expand and individual rights restricted, it make for a nice change of pace.