Monday, April 30, 2007

Your space is my space
Tom Smith

A college student posts a pretty innocuous picture of herself in MySpace, wearing a pirate hat and referring to her as a "drunken pirate", and her University yanks her degree and she is fired from her job as a student teacher.  I thought it might be a college from some non-imbibing sect, as I hear exist.  But no, it seems to be a state school.  And while you're at it, check out the other outrages at the FIRE site.  My speech feels chilled, by gum.  Just in case you are wondering, demon alcohol has never passed my lips, and I certainly would not allow a photo to be taken of me wearing pirate hat.

April 30, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

On not going to Harvard
Tom Smith

A Harvard alum reflects.

April 30, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Firefox vs Internet Explorer
Mike Rappaport

About a year ago, I switched  to the Firefox browser, which I really like.  Some of its advantages have now finally been copied by the new IE, but the latter's layout seems awful to me, and so I still much prefer Firefox. 

But there are a couple of drawbacks to Firefox.  The biggest one involved opening another window or tab with the same web page.  So if one were viewing the Right Coast, under IE, you could simply open a new window and it would open with the Right Coast.  Under Firefox, if you told it to open a new window or tab, you would either get your home page or a blank screen.  Definitely inconvenient.

But Firefox has all kinds of ad ons, called extensions.  They are not always easy to find.  I looked for one for quite a while to fix this problem, but only discovered it recently.  It works great, though.  So if you use Firefox, use this add on to make it even better.

April 30, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, April 29, 2007

A New Doctrine
Mike Rappaport

What should the students at Virginia Tech have done and why didn't they do it?  This column starts to explain what happened and I think it gets it entirely right.  The students didn't do anything because we have been taught not to do anything in those situations.  The hard question is what we should do.  Any suggestions?  But, please, only after reading the linked to column.

Hat tip: Glenn Reynolds

April 29, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (13) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, April 28, 2007

New Horizons in Economics
Mike Rappaport

Somehow Freakonomics Professor Steven Levitt missed this interesting area to study.  I particularly liked Robin Hanson's explanation.

April 28, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, April 27, 2007

Mexico: Not Your Average Catholic Country
Gail Heriot

Some people see this week's legalization of abortion in Mexico City as a signal that the Roman Catholic Church is losing its grip on Latin America generally.  Maybe.  I afraid I'm in no position to judge.  But Mexico has never been your average Catholic country.  Its history is full of profound ambivalence toward the Church.  Of course, there are many serious Catholics in Mexico.  But anti-Catholic sentiment is also great there-- certainly greater than anything that folks north of the border can fathom.  At times, the conflict has led to bloodshed.

Following the Mexican Revolution, the 1917 Mexican Constitution made it unconstitutional for Roman Catholic priests to wear a collar in public, to vote or to comment on political matters in the press.  Monastic orders were outlawed, public worship outside church buildings was outlawed, and religious organizations' right to own property was limited.  Between 1926 and 1929, an open rebellion known as the Cristero War broke out against the vehemently anti-Catholic government.    In the end, about 90,000 people were killed. That kind of anti-clericalism doesn't go away overnight.  It goes underground (or not-so-underground) and comes back again and again.

Weirdly enough, the Cristero War was in the news too this past week.  Evidently, the Miss Universe Pageant is scheduled to take place in Mexico next month.  To stir up a little publicity a photograph of Miss Mexico's dress was made public.  The floor-length dress was adorned with crosses and a bullet-studded belt.  The billowing skirt featured sketches of Catholic rebels facing the firing squad and hanging from trees.  It was ... uh.... a Cristero War fashion statement.  When the Mexican public saw it, there was an uproar.  The skirt has been nixed.  As far as I know, the rest of the design has been retained.    

Mexico can be a strange place sometimes.

(Thank you to Skeptical for pointing out an unintentionally comical typo.)

April 27, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)

Civilization, Barbarism, and the Classroom
Maimon Schwarzaschild

Steven Balch writes about barbarism and civilization - and how civilization sometimes disarms itself intellectually, morally, and therefore militarily:

Barbarian problems arise when peoples backward in wealth, culture, and technology, pose violent threats of a serious, even existential, character to societies far more advanced. The West hasn’t faced this kind of menace since the Middles Ages. Now, once more, it does.

Barbarism is a relative term. The Mongols who subdued the Sung Chinese were neither wholly unlettered nor uncouth. Kublai Khan’s mother was, in fact, a practicing Christian. Nor were the barbarians who swarmed over the Rhine in 406. Mongols and Germans were barbarians only by virtue of the gulf that separated their level of cultural attainment from those they defeated.

[Barbarism's] one chance rests on the intellectual flaws of the civilized - particularly their failure to appreciate their own worth.

Here then is the teachable moment...  In order to suppress the new barbarism we should now be refocusing our classrooms on the serious and sympathetic study of civilization's nature, achievements, and progress- that is, on its moral reasons for being.

Not likely, to put it mildly, in today's academic climate; as Balch - president of National Association of Scholars, which bucks the academic trends - knows all too well.

Our civilization's peculiar misfortune is to be under a double assault, physically by the undercivilized from without, and psychologically by those surfeited with it from within.  And these last own the classroom.

Using fear to conquer has a long history.  What's unprecedented is the current effort to employ shame to the same effect.  At the heart of this project lies the construction of a "master narrative" belittling civilization's heritage and elevating its shortcomings, real or imagined, into transcening evils.  This then sets the stage for the narrative's masters to proclaim themselves a new redemptive elite, charged with emancipating the benighted from their engrained racism, sexism, classism, chavinism, homophobia, speciesism, ecocide, etc.

It is hard to identify many other historical instances in which an intellectual class has aspired to boost itself to dominance, with fair prospects of success, almost entirely through the leveraging of shame...

What then is the answer?  Clearly it must involve challenging the privileged position that shame's discourse now enjoys.  Its premises are simpleminded, its arguments misleading, and its conclusions destructive.

Shame's purveyors have an inside lock on campus life.  But... something ourside is beating against the gates.

Balch writes thoughtfully, and very realistically.  Read the whole thing.

April 27, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Religion of the Justices
Mike Rappaport

I suppose it was inevitable that liberal opponents of the Supreme Court's decision would attempt to focus on the fact that the five Justices in the majority were Catholics.  This column in the New York Times is an example, as was the post by Geoff Stone at the American Constitution Society Blog.   A more sensible piece was written by Jan Crawford Greenburg.

This focus on the Justices' religion strikes me as a dangerous path to take.  It creates religious dissension,  and as a liberal strategy is as likely as unlikely to have the effects that the liberals desire.  But a decision against abortion seems to cause people to lose perspective, and they will want to lash out. 

As an originalist, I would also ask the liberals what they expect from their nonoriginalist philosophy?  If judges are allowed to depart from the original meaning, then they will consider their policy views and people's religious views affect their policy views.  This is not to say that that occurred in this case, only that a nonoriginalist judicial practice makes it more likely.

April 26, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Obama on Comparable Worth
Mike Rappaport

One of the stupidest public policy proposals is that of comparable worth -- establishing a system to pay workers what some bureaucrats believe are their comparable worth.  It is price fixing based on a politically motivated baseline.   Apart from ignoring the market, it was often unfair.  In the 1980s, people would suggest that secretaries should be paid the same as construction workers, ignoring among other things that secretaries got to sit inside in nice offices, while construction workers had to do heavy labor at greater risk.

Apparently, Barack Obama has endorsed this proposal.  This may not hurt him with the left, but it should suggests that he would pursue very bad policy ideas.  One doesn't endorse this type of proposal if one has sound ideas about other matters. 

Hat tip: Glenn.

April 25, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Where is the outrage?
Mike Rappaport

It is not just in Europe:

A community debate over religious freedom surfaced in Western Pennsylvania last week when Dutch feminist author Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali refugee who has lived under the threat of death for denouncing her Muslim upbringing, made an appearance at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown.

Imam Fouad ElBayly, president of the Johnstown Islamic Center, was among those who objected to Hirsi Ali's appearance.

"She has been identified as one who has defamed the faith. If you come into the faith, you must abide by the laws, and when you decide to defame it deliberately, the sentence is death," said ElBayly, who came to the U.S. from Egypt in 1976.

Although ElBayly believes a death sentence is warranted for Hirsi Ali, he stressed that America is not the jurisdiction where such a crime should be punished. Instead, Hirsi Ali should be judged in a Muslim country after being given a trial, he added.

"If it is found that a person is mentally unstable, or a child or disabled, there should be no punishment," he said. "It's a very merciful religion if you try to understand it."

When a religious leader in the United States makes a statement like this, there should be strong reactions and protests.   The religious leader and his congregation should be made to understand that people in the United States believe that killing people for their beliefs or comments about a religion is an outrageous violation of rights and that it undermines the freedom and harmony that the United States system promotes.   It is amazing that the nation goes crazy when Don Imus insults people but seems to say nothing when religious leaders advocate the killing of people because they are perceived to have insulted Islam.

(Hat tip: Glenn Reynolds)

April 24, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)