Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Reliable figures for the number of diagnosed sex addicts are difficult to come by, but the Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health, an education and sex-addiction treatment organization, estimates that between 3 and 5 percent of the U.S. population—or more than 9 million people—could meet the criteria for addiction. Some 1,500 sex therapists treating compulsive behavior are practicing today, up from fewer than 100 a decade ago, say several researchers and clinicians, while dozens of rehabilitation centers now advertise treatment programs, up from just five or six in the same period. The demographics are changing, too. “Where it used to be 40- to 50-year-old men seeking treatment, now there are more females, adolescents, and senior citizens,” says Tami VerHelst, vice president of the International Institute for Trauma and Addiction Professionals. “Grandfathers getting caught with porn on their computers by grandkids, and grandkids sexting at 12.”
I don't know whether to believe this "sex addiction" stuff or not. I tend not to, and think it mostly about promoting interests of the treatment industry. In my little social world, I hear a lot from doctors about their patients and have heard of many sorts of addictions, and alcohol and drug addiction, not to mention gambling, are common, but rarely if ever have I heard of anything that sounds like a real addiction to sex, as opposed to just generally scummy behavior. "3 to 5 percent of the U.S. population" sex addicts? -- Ridiculous, I would say.
It was just last year that CNN hired flame-throwing, crass-tweeting Redstate managing editor Erick Erickson as its right-wing political contributor. The hire gave liberals a near heart attack. But today, CNN seems to be making amends, hiring David Frum, the kind of conservative liberals like to like, as the network's new political contributor for the 2012 election season.
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Harvard scientists have built a new type of flexible robot that is limber enough to wiggle and worm through tight spaces.
It's the latest prototype in the growing field of soft-bodied robots. Researchers are increasingly drawing inspiration from nature to create machines that are more bendable and versatile than those made of metal.
The future is going to be creepy. Cool. But creepy.
I'm glad to see this. I remember a very unpleasant debate I had with someone on a listserve probably 15 years ago who turned out to be some sort of sociologist at the University of Cambridge. I forget his name but he turned out to be fanatically, and most acidicly devoted to the proposition that fathers contributed absolutely nothing to the upbringing of children, or boys, or anything, once you controlled for the financial contribution men could make, that couldn't be provided by another woman. That is, no need for male role models for boys. let alone girls. Jack with two mommies is absolutely just as well off as with a Mom and a Dad. My position was, everybody knows that's rubbish, and if social science says otherwise, it's probably wrong. (The tone of our exchange was such that only the most iron self-control, which I probably learned from my father, prevented me from asking Cambridge what his Pa had ever done to him to make him so rabidly anti-Father.) I talked to the people at our well regarded Children's Advocacy Center, who know a lot about delinquency, and they said, of course boys need good male role models, preferably fathers. But Cambridge evidently had discovered otherwise. It still irritates me to remember it. Anyway, maybe social science is catching up with reality. Next science will discover that biological mothers have a special, impossible to duplicate bond with their biological children. Just to be clear, I believe in the truth of propositions established by some sort of ideal science. I'm just skeptical of social science that happens to conform to current PC bromides, especially if it contradicts what you might call universally acknowledged common sense.
Yet another relic of the Old West passes into government hands. I suppose you could see this as some sort of victory for the masses over the wealthy few but it mostly just makes me sad. I doubt many people will make the trek over to the island and I suspect it will be managed mostly to benefit some notion of what's "natural" rather than as a park people can actually enjoy. I also don't see what's so bad about populating a remote island with a bunch of game animals that people can hunt. Without the transplanted elk and deer, what was on the island? Mostly rabbits and snakes, I suspect.
This has been going on for years. Government pressure of one kind or another breaking down private ownership with the land getting swallowed up either by big corporations or the federal or state government. My father liked to complain about how federal taxes forced the sale of one of the big original Idaho sheep operations that my mother's sisters had married into. Tax law was subsequently amended to make it somewhat easier to keep family ranching operations together but I suspect it's still none too easy.
A West with giant tracts owned and regulated by the Feds is to me a more boring place. For one thing, it makes it much less likely you or I will be able to buy a few acres one day -- it's far too expensive. And yet states with a lot of private ownership of wilderness such as Maine or Texas also have a lot of well preserved forest people can use and explore. Montana, with its many privately owned stretches of river, has plenty of trout, while Idaho, which is all public, is fished out and sterile. The economics of this is common knowledge.
I'm all for protecting certain spectacular tracts such as Yellowstone and Yosemite. Most libetarians who are against national parks entirely are the sort of people who couldn't start a fire outdoors without a gallon of gasoline and a box of matches. I think keeping a few national treasures in a special status is fine. But it never seems to stop there. You can imagine a world in which the Vail family would have kept their island and people could have spent a few hundred to hunt or camp out for a few days. Or if it remained an ultra-premium spot for those willing to drop thousands on a big game hunt -- what's wrong with that? Now there will be yet another attraction where Mom, Dad and the kids can walk two miles on a nature trail, look at a diorama of long gone Indians, get a lesson on the ecology of jackrabbits and wildfires and then be told to get back on the bus, or ferry, if there even is one. Sad.
Monday, November 28, 2011
John McGinnis and I recently finished a paper on originalism. The paper is entitled "The Abstract Meaning Fallacy," and it is forthcoming as part of a symposium in the Illinois Law Review.
Here is the abstract:
This Article, which was written for a symposium on Jack Balkin's book, Living Constitutionalism, criticizes the principal method that is used to argue that originalism allows modern interpreters significant discretion. The key move in this argument occurs when an interpreter claims that possibly abstract constitutional language has an abstract meaning. Clauses with abstract meanings allow interpreters to exercise significant discretion over their content. Consequently, interpreters can claim to find modern values in these clauses and still argue that that they are respecting the original meaning.
We examine this interpretive move and argue that two well-known theorists who employ it, Ronald Dworkin and Jack Balkin, commit a fallacy – what we term 'the abstract meaning fallacy.' This fallacy occurs when interpreters conclude that possibly abstract language has an abstract meaning without sufficiently considering the alternative possibilities. While possibly abstract language might turn out to have an abstract meaning, this result does not exhaust the interpretive possibilities. As we show with examples, the better interpretation of such language considered in context might turn out to have either a concrete meaning or a general meaning that is not abstract.
Ronald Dworkin is not himself an originalist, but he argues that an originalist methodology should lead to abstract interpretations. Unfortunately, Dworkin consistently assumes an abstract meaning without closely examining other possible historical meanings.
Jack Balkin makes a variety of more complex arguments, but also commits the abstract meaning fallacy. Balkin attempts to support his preference for abstract interpretations by claiming that many constitutional provisions take the form of open-ended principles that allow modern interpreters significant discretion. But Balkin presents little evidence that the Framers embraced such a distinctive method of writing and interpreting a constitution. Balkin also claims that abstract constitutional provisions are necessary to enable politics by allowing political processes to give content to the values that the abstract provisions leave open. But provisions as abstract as he prefers are not necessary to politics, because non-abstract provisions can also allow a significant political sphere. Further, Balkin attempts to support his approach with normative arguments. But Balkin’s normative vision does not comport with that of the actual Constitution and, in our view, is normatively unattractive. Thus, Balkin is no more successful than Dworkin in showing that originalism can be collapsed into living constitutionalism.