Monday, March 31, 2008

Race and the Social Contract

A very interesting contribution to the discussion on race spawned by Senator Obama's speech on race here by the NYT. The editorial makes the argument that diversity itself, erodes support for public goods, whether it be roads, schools, parks, whatever.

This is not a new argument. Some of Robert Putnam's recent work (I think this attribution is correct) has suggested that people's sense of community and commnity engagement declines as diversity increases.

As a sociologist I am both interested in such a phenomenon and "sympathetic" to such an argument.

However, I do not think it goes far enough. Diversity is one thing. Inequality is quite another. And what I do not see is whether it is the more privileged status groups who are bailing on public goods and community or if the effect is the same across all racial, ethnic, and class groups

The NYT editorial for instance cites evidence:

While this tension manifests mainly along racial lines, it has broader
ethnic, religious and even linguistic dimensions. A 2003 study by Julian Betts
of the University of California, San Diego, and Robert Fairlie of the University
of California, Santa Cruz, found that for every four immigrants who arrived in
public high schools, one native student switched to a private school.

Now, I'd want to know what is the breakdown of those native students who go private? Are those overwhelmingly white students? Are they equal, across the board, of all groups represented in the local community?

The suggestive evidence that it is not just diversity but old fashions racism is found here:

Mr. Glaeser’s and Mr. Alesina’s work suggests that white Europeans support
a big welfare state because they believe the money will probably go to other
white Europeans. In America, the Harvard economist Erzo F. P. Luttmer found that
support for social spending among respondents to General Social Survey polls
increased in tandem with the share of welfare recipients in the area who were in
their own racial group. A study of charity by Daniel Hungerman, a Notre Dame
economist, found that all-white congregations become less charitably active as
the share of black residents in the local community grows.

I applaud the writer, Mr. Porter, for his willingness to bring such patterns to light, but, are blacks less likely to support "welfare" because they sense that most of their money is going to white recipients, while that seems indeed to be the case for whites? How about other groups? And what role does the flavor of religion play? Are catholics the same as methodists, the same as southern baptists?

I'd love to see some data on how democrats and republicans play out on views of the social good.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Nipple rings are threats to national security

Not really, though I'm sure some would agree. People agree that men walked with dinosaurs, too, so why not this?

So, why have I stooped to such a tawdry subject, nipple rings? Full story here The skinny is a woman was flying, passed through the first level security screening but was one of the random ones pulled over for closer wanding. Wand beeps over her breasts, she told TSA she had rings and the TSA said she'd have to remove them, she didn't want to, so the TSA had a huddle, woman begins crying, one ring removed by pliers, and now lawyers are involved. The lawyers say she was humiliated. I'm sure she was.

But it is humiliating for everyone to get on an airplane these days. Not just nipple ringers.

As with most humiliations, with repeated humiliations, we get used to it. It becomes "normal." This is why I like the security as it is practiced in London....everyone gets humiliated, everyone gets patted down, wanded, sniffed, squeezed. At least we all are humiliated, not just the random person who wears nipple rings.

I have a solution. Everyone fly naked and no carryons.

Friday, March 28, 2008

John McCain's Foreign Policy Speech

WaPo has a decent article on John McCain's address to the World Affairs Council.

I'll say it right now (I already have said it, now I'll write it). Regardless of who wins the 2008 Presidential election, the new regime will be vastly better than the old regime. We should be rejoicing in the US, but partisan politics always messes up even the best of situations.

Even for dems, lefties, and all things in opposition to McCain, there is much good in the words (deeds, of course, are in the future). For instance:

"Today we are not alone," McCain said. "Our great power does not mean we
can do whatever we want whenever we want, nor should we assume we have all the
wisdom and knowledge necessary to succeed."

Now, what democrat can disagree with the words?

More McCain:

We need to listen -- we need to listen -- to the views and respect the
collective will of our democratic allies," McCain said. "When we believe
international action is necessary, whether military, economic or diplomatic, we
will try to persuade our friends that we are right. But we, in return, must be
willing to be persuaded by them."

Yeah, we can argue over whether we should just listen to democratic allies (who would that include? Iraq? Palestine? Venezuela? Russia?) Nevertheless, I'm confident it would include nations who Bush has alienated such as France, Canada, Spain, Austria, Norway, Sweden, Finland. So, this is not a principle to disagree with, it is an argument over who to invite to a party.

One last cherry picked quote here: "Relations with our southern neighbors must be governed by mutual respect, not by an imperial impulse or by anti-American demagoguery," he said. I agree. I cringe everytime I hear leaders I'd like to support because of what they are trying to do, go off on the Great Satan America. yeah, great for applause lines, but itis poor leadership.

Now, McCain still wants to stay in Iraq for ever if that is what it takes. A precipitous withdrawal would be a disaster. Colin Powell was correct, you break it, you bought it (speaking of invading Iraq and overthrowing Saddam). I agreed then and do now. But, an open ended committment to do whatever it takes doesn't tell us when we can leave? what, when Baghad is like Boston? What we need is a plan to leave. We also need honesty. McCain should say, I was for the invasion of Iraq because, but we were wrong, and now we have a moral duty to help the Iraqis. This is what makes America great. We admit mistakes and we fix them.

Or offer reparations and get out. (The other great American practice, sue us.)

A Trip to Iraq on Saddam's Dime

This is great. According to a WaPo article, the Justice Dept has discovered that Saddam Hussein funneled money to a Michiganer who in turn paid for three democratic congressman to travel to Iraq and there opposed the pending war in Iraq. The Michiganer is in trouble, but no action taken against the three congressman. Surprise, surpise, surprise.

Now, I opposed the war in Iraq from the very beginning. But this is really too much. Now, most folks will look at this way: "they were shills for our enemy." In my case, I see it as they were shills and it doesn't matter for who, enemy, friend, enemy who wants to be friend, it doesn't matter. If any of these dems were my representative, I'd not vote for them again.

How many similar trips are there? Are there trips to Israel, secretly paid for by the Israeili government, too? We've had spies working for Israel. How about Russia, China, Japan, or Germany?

When American lawmakers head off on a junket to foreign lands, if they are doing America's business, then American gov't should be footing the bill. At least that way, we can at least avoid an obvious conflict of interest. And if they are on the junket as private citizens, then they shouldn't be granting interviews or getting on the airwaves discussing foreign policy.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Obscuring social class by blaming colleges

Yesterday I blogged about a common tactic of some to blame colleges and universities for being anti-military and blaming college students for being ignorant of things military. I provided an example of such a statement. I alerted the author that I had commented on his blog here. You can read his comment on yesterday's blog.

In short, I stated that it is not the colleges, but rather the class background of the students (hence of the parents) that is creating the anti-military actions or the ignorance among the students.

Today, I asked my mostly freshman class, there were 100 in attendance today, the following: I asked them to raise their hand if any of the following were true: 1) they were either currently in the military, had been in the military, or were planning to join upon graduation; 2) whether they had any relatives who were currently serving in the military; or 3) any of their friends (not acquintances) were currenlty serving in the military.

88 of them raised their hands.

The fact is the military and this war falls disproportionately on the backs of the lower, working and middle classes. This is a fact that many on the right do not want to discuss much less even acknowledge. And too many on the left act as though those in the military have the options that the upper class do.

For what it matters, my father, his brother, and my cousin all served in the military. My uncle, and cousin were both lifers. My father in law served during Korea and my wife's cousin recently retired, a major, from the Air Force.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

One college is not all colleges

I sometimes wonder when I read blogger who talk about the conditions on college campuses. Usually these are the "elite" colleges, but, by no means, is that all college and univeristies. here is a good example:

One of the most striking things in my contacts with today’s college
students is their lack of awareness of their age-group peers in the military.
Today’s college students often know little more about the military than they
could obtain from movies like Top Gun and Full Metal Jacket, both now over a
generation obsolete even if they ever did reflect reality. And Hollywood today
prioritizes dogmatic anti-war messages over anything even vaguely reflecting the
actual lives of military people. full article here

Later on the author notes something about Berkeley. yeah, that is everyman's college to be sure.

The university that I teach it has plenty of students who have peers, relatives, and classmates who are serving. Many are ROTC, many are former military now taking advantage of those college credits. I have one student currently who is quite vocal about his past service to our country. Many times my class discussions are given tremendous perspective because of the students with military 'credentials'

But it is an article of faith among many that college campuses are anti military, anti capitalist, anti everything. So, junk like the above blog goes by without much, if any challenge.

What you will find, is that schools that cater to the upper middle and upper classes are not going to have much military connection. but the working classes and middle classes will. As will students in the south, the mid west, and in rural areas.

The universities do a good job of mirroring where they are and of course the social class makeup of their student bodies. Berkeley is not the only campus in America. Nor is Harvard. My university is more typical than any of those.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The melting Antartic

This photo is from National Geographic News This is a picture of a massive ice shelf in Antartica, about 5 times the size of Manhattan that broke away because so much of the sea ice has disappeared. The quick conclusion is about global warming, but we really don't know, this stuff may have happened in the past, and we didn't have such incredible satellite images.

These kind of events, however, are consistent with what we expect to see in the polar regions with warming.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Discussing Race

There is a remarkable discussion at this blog. It starts with an incediary comment by Pat Buchanan which I reproduce below:

First, America has been the best country on earth for black folks. It was here
that 600,000 black people, brought from Africa in slave ships, grew into a
community of 40 million, were introduced to Christian salvation, and reached the
greatest levels of freedom and prosperity blacks have ever known.
ought to go down on his knees and thank God he is an American.
Second, no
people anywhere has done more to lift up blacks than white Americans. Untold
trillions have been spent since the '60s on welfare, food stamps, rent
supplements, Section 8 housing, Pell grants, student loans, legal services,
Medicaid, Earned Income Tax Credits and poverty programs designed to bring the
African-American community into the mainstream.
...We hear the grievances.
Where is the gratitude?

A reader of this blog then added this comment on the developing discussion that was on how to even discuss race in America today:

I am a white guy. Raised in Virginia and South Carolina ... old enough to
remember "white only" water fountains and bathrooms and schools and churches. I
now live in California after a sojourn in Alaska. So let's talk about race, Pam.
I get you that the righties just don't get it and Sen Obama does. I think the
Clintons "get it" too. But that is not really the discussion that needs to take
place, is it.
It is one thing to describe the problem and another to
describe the proposed solutions to date (as Buchanan attempted - really tacky
that he termed "race" as a poverty issue in my book) But let's narrow the
discussion from "race" to white and blacks in the USA in 2008 and beyond. Let's
leave Asians and Latino's to another discussion.
How do we even talk about
black and white in the USA in 2008?
I was on a bus in San Francisco a couple
of years ago. The driver was a black man. He stopped the bus and three black
women got on aged approximately 19 to 21 or so. They had boxes of chicken
dinners in their hands. The first two women got on and immediately proceeded
down the aisle to the very rear of the bus, where they took a seat. They were
talking very loudly. Sitting in the front of the bus, I could hear every word
they said. They were really loud.
The third woman stopped at the pay kiosk
at the front of the bus. She proceeded to put change into the kiosk. She only
put a few nickles into the kiosk. The driver informed her she had not put enough
change into the kiosk for herself, much less the three of them. She said she did
not have any more money and asked him to let it slide. He refused. He said they
had money for chicken, they should have saved money for the bus. The woman
called, yelled, to the back of the bus to her friends for money for the fare.
They screamed back that they were broke and for her to just join them in the
back of the bus. They proceeded to yell back and forth for a good minute or two.
The driver was getting angry. He insisted that the three women get off the
bus. They refused unless they got their fifteen cents out of the kiosk. It is
impossible to retrieve money from the kiosk, as everyone in San Francisco knows.
They started yelling at the driver ... the one woman from the front of the bus
and the two women from the rear of the bus. It was getting nasty.
A black
man came forward. He was irritated. Asked the driver how much the women owed.
The driver answered and the man put that amount in the kiosk. the man and woman
proceeded down the aisle; the man to his seat, the woman to her friends in the
rear of the bus. The driver finally drove the bus. Howevr, the driver kept
looking in his mirror at the three women and yelled at them that there was no
eating allowed on the bus. They yelled back that they weren't eating on his damn
bus. Actually, they were.
The driver turned to the Asian woman seted next to
me in the front of the bus and informed her that in the City there were Black
people and there were niggers. Those three were nothing but niggers and gave all
black people a bad name. His comments shocked and offended me. The three women's
ploy for a free bus ride shocked and offended me. But I said nothing. I am not
sure I should have. Just not sure.
The fact that a racial discussion brings
this story to mind shocks me too. But it does.
I must balance it somewhat
with the incredible black man about 18 years old who organized the bus stop of
about a dozen folks of various races to allow a disabled white woman to board a
bus first even though she was the last to arrive at the bus stop ... a thing
just not done! He spoke up and moved us all until we all just stood aside,
allowing this woman free space and all the time in the world to board the bus.
He was quite the speaker and organizer. I tried to enroll him in labor organizer
school, he was so good.
I really don't know what I am talking about, do I?
LOL If you think someone ought to do something, that someone is probably you.

As someone who tries to provide a forum as well as a way to discuss race in America in my classes, I found this to be very interesting. As well as reflective of the difficulties folks have, both white and black. (and others as well).

I've had some of my most racist statements made by black students....about blacks. Part of the problem is that folks confuse racism, prejudice, and then discriminatory behavior. Certain words are incendiary, like "nigger" but a discriminatory policy all dressed in neutral language hardly gets a pass.

I think that white liberals are more afraid of being called racist than trying to work through the difficulties. Therein lies the problem. the very idea that some individuals are not racist. We live in a racist society, where the dominant belief system contains considerable racism. Without the tools to tease that stuff out, without a more theoretical understanding, we are ridiculously left pointing fingers at each other.

Buchanan's comments sound like the old planatation owner. "I give you a place to sleep, I feed you, I clothe you, your ingratitude is stunning." Affirmative Action helps everyone (I'm sure if anyone read this that will be eye popping).

The entire conversation is grounded in racist thought; that the individuals of racial groups are good representations of the entire group and that the minority group, especially, is monolithic. White folks make such a big deal out of African American folk being "loud" for instance. You should try flying 8 hours with a bunch of Swedes. Trying to scam a bus ride. I used to tape a string to a quarter, it would fall through, then I'd pull it back out again. Didn't work all the time, but maybe a third of the time. Until well intentioned whites admit their negative feelings, confront them and then begin to intellectually struggle against them (not wrap up their feelings in poitical correctness, because inevitably you get twisted statements like Geraldine Ferraro's).

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Senator Obama's Speech on Race in America

The full text of Senator Obama's speech can be found here If you have not read it, I urge you to. I have not heard the speech. apparently too many folks trying to download it, I couldn't get any videos to load.

For the record, I have not decided who I might vote for in the Indiana Dem Primary. I've always like Senator Clinton, even before she was controversial, divisive, all the crud that the pundits and her opponents like to say about her.

Anyway, this speech is eloquent. I have no doubt he wrote it. I cannot imagine someone writing this for him. It is authentic, which is supposedly something everyone is looking for (until they find it in the wrong color).

As someone who has read more research on race than most, his speech is factually and sociologically accurate. Senator Obama displays not only an experiential understanding of race relations that is far beyond most, but also a theoretical understanding that is exceeding rare, in my experience, for sitting politicians. Politics and complex theory don't mix well in a sound byte driven media. I'm surprised the NYT would publish the entire text of his speech.

I'm impressed. Will it stanch the blood of this gash at his candidacy? Not on the far right, not among ideologues. Among regular people who don't understand race relations beyond the simplistic zero sum perspective that most view it through? Maybe half will get it.

I do expect that when he quietly suggested that social class is the real inequality in the US, that many, if they can pick up the subtlety, will berate him for that. But not Mike Huckabee....hmm.

Anyway, what does anyone else think about his speech, either its substance or the political gamesmanship of it all.

Monday, March 17, 2008

anti-gay, anti-catholic, anti-nonchristian are not anti-american

It is remarkable that in the brouhaha over the guilt by association hysteria regarding Presidential hopefuls McCain and Obama (Clinton is no doubt next, she won't want to be left out), that the right and left just talk right past one another. From the left, a good example is Marc Ambinder Hagee, Wright, Parsley, Fallwell, Obama and McCain who equates what Wright says with Hagee and Parsley. The problem is that while the left may see these as equal, the right doesn't. The right views Wright as "anti-american" while the others are anti-muslim or anti-catholic. That is not the same thing. Here is a good example of how the right views this stuff, from Atlas Shrugs Obama's Pastor is "A TOTAL HATER" The last line of this thing is that the Reverend Wright is anti-white and anti-american.

I conclude that from the right it is NOT anti-american to be anti-gay, anti-woman, anti-black, anti-muslim, anti-catholic, but it is anti-american to be anti-white. And from the left, it is anti-american to be bigoted. That might be a nice ideal, but I think it is quite American to be bigoted. I'm not defending it, I'm just saying, that bigtory is all over America. It is about as anti-american as loving one's car.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Sobering realism about terrorism

Here is a good read from the BBC on terrorism For those who follow such stuff (with something of an open mind about how to solve the problem) it won't be much of a revelation. I didn't see anything really new (author notes how US sees it as a military solution, while Europe looks at it as a crime problem), but what I took away from it is that there is no easy or clear solution.

This is a report on a conference in Stockholm, of terrorism experts.

I'm not trying to equate any religions here, but as I have said many, many times, if states had wanted (and they did) to stamp out Christianity, what would have been successful straegies? The Islamic fueled terrorism is a violent global social movement and ultimately it is going to be won, not with guns and security states, but at the ideological level.

The BBC author concludes with a quote from a n American military expert who helped produce the US Counter-Insurgency Manaual. In response to a question that the journlist didn't really expect an answer to, how long would this conflict last, the answer was:

"Thirty years if we get it right," he said. "A hundred years if we get it wrong."

Friday, March 14, 2008

Public Opinion on the Iraq war, what is it good for?

On the one hand: BLOGGED BY Jon Ponder ON 3/13/2008 7:20AM
Poll: Success for Bush - Iraq Is Out of Sight, Out of Mind
The Iraq Occupation Received Just 1% of News Coverage in the Third Week of February
Guest blogged by Jon Ponder,
Pensito Review.
The stated objective of the Bush administration's "surge" of troops into Iraq was to suppress the violence. Its unstated purpose was to get the occupation off the radar of the news networks in order to tamp down the war as a campaign issue against Republicans in this cycle. If it bleeds, it leads. Conversely, no blood, no coverage.
In that sense, the surge can be counted as one of Bush's rare successes. According to a
new poll from Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, coverage of the Iraq occupation by television news was reduced to barely a blip last month:
[ Pew] found that the number of news stories devoted to the war has sharply declined this year, along with professed public interest. "Coverage of the war has been virtually absent," said Pew survey research director Scott Keeter, totaling about 1 percent of the news hole between Feb. 17 and 23.

With no coverage, the public perception of the situation in Iraq has improved:
Twenty-eight percent of the public is aware that nearly 4,000 U.S. personnel have died in Iraq over the past five years, while nearly half thinks the death tally is 3,000 or fewer and 23 percent think it is higher, according to an opinion survey released yesterday.
The survey ... found that public awareness of developments in the Iraq war has dropped precipitously since last summer, as the news media have paid less attention to the conflict. In earlier surveys, about half of those asked about the death tally responded correctly.
What was the news people cared about? Figures from Pew are hardly surprising: "During the last week in January, 36 percent of those surveyed said they were most closely following campaign news, while 14 percent expressed the most interest in the stock market and 12 percent in the death of actor Heath Ledger. In contrast, 6 percent said they were most closely following coverage of Iraq."

And on the other hand: Citing the same poll

Pew: Majority of Americans see a successful conclusion in Iraq
posted at 9:31 pm on March 12, 2008 by Ed Morrissey Send to a Friend printer-friendly
Public confidence in the Iraq war has risen to
its highest level in almost two years. Fifty-three percent now believe that the US will ultimately achieve its goals in Iraq, fifteen points higher than just six months ago, according to Pew Research:
American public support for the military effort in Iraq has reached a high point unseen since the summer of 2006, a development that promises to reshape the political landscape.
According to late February polling conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, 53 percent of Americans — a slim majority — now believe “the U.S. will ultimately succeed in achieving its goals” in Iraq. That figure is up from 42 percent in September 2007.
The percentage of those who believe the war in Iraq is going “very well” or “fairly well” is also up, from 30 percent in February 2007 to 48 percent today.
The situation in Iraq remains fluid, of course. A surge in violence or in troop deaths could lead to rapid fluctuations in public opinion. But as the war nears its fifth year, the steady upturn in the public mood stands to alter the dynamics of races up and down the ballot.
Congressional Democrats seem to have already figured this out. They recently approved the entire appropriation request for operations in Iraq without making hardly a peep about it. It’s no coincidence that it’s the first time in two years they haven’t tried to hold it hostage for a retreat.
The big question will be how this affects the presidential race. Both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have campaigned on their commitment to withdrawal, especially Obama, who has tried to position himself to Hillary’s left. That made sense in the beginning of the primary campaign, when the surge had yet to begin and the violence appeared to overwhelm the American mission in Iraq. Now, however, it looks more like a senseless surrender with success in reach.
It’s not just Republicans, either. Half of all independents now believe that the US needs to remain in place until the gains in Iraq have been secured. The one presidential candidate arguing that policy also happens to be the Senator who spent the last three years arguing for a better counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq. John McCain already had significant appeal for centrists and independents, and this makes his case even stronger.

I think Morrissey can only sustain his conclusion as long as Americans are ignorant or wrong on the facts of what is going on in Iraq. And so what else is new?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Since when are extremists equal to "the left"

Yesterday Michelle Malkin wrote a piece of propaganda that would be worthy of a totalitarian state. Her headline The Left's Escalating War on Military Recruiters says it all. In fairness, if Malkin were writing about the escalating violence at abortion clinics, would she write a op ed titled "The Right's Escalating War on Abortion Providers"?

She lists 19 events. All property crime, one bomb. Most of it is dumb college students throwing red paint on army recruiters and recruiting stations. I am not in favor of such things. These groups are misguided. They should direct their free speech at the policy makers, not 20 year sargeants who do most of the recruiting.

Here is a list of extremist violence (some rightly would call the politics of these folks as "right wing") directed at abortion clinics and providers: (All from Wikipedia, but I confirmed these in other sources as well, I just like the format of the Wiki site)

In the U.S., violence directed toward abortion providers has killed 7 people, including 3 doctors, 2 clinic employees, a security guard, and a clinic escort.[5]
March 10, 1993: Dr. David Gunn of Pensacola, Florida was fatally shot during a protest. He had been the subject of wanted-style posters distributed by Operation Rescue in the summer of the year before. Michael F. Griffin was found guilty of Dr. Gunn's murder and was sentenced to life in prison.
June 29, 1994: Dr. John Britton and James Barrett, a clinic escort, were both shot outside of another facility in Pensacola. Rev. Paul Jennings Hill was charged with the killings, received a death sentence, and was executed September 3, 2003.
December 30, 1994: Two receptionists, Shannon Lowney and Lee Ann Nichols, were killed in a clinic attack in Brookline, Massachusetts. John Salvi, who prior to his arrest was distributing pamphlets from Human Life International,[6] was arrested and confessed to the killings. He committed suicide in prison and guards found his body under his bed with a plastic garbage bag tied around his head. Salvi had also confessed to a non-lethal attack in Norfolk, Virginia days before the Brookline killings.
January 29, 1998: Robert Sanderson, an off-duty police officer who worked as a security guard at an abortion clinic in Birmingham, Alabama died when his workplace was bombed. Eric Robert Rudolph, who was also responsible for the 1996 Centennial Olympic Park bombing, was charged with the crime and received two life sentences as a result.
October 23, 1998: Dr. Barnett Slepian was shot dead at his home in Amherst, New York. His was the last in a series of similar shootings against providers in Canada and northern New York state which were all likely committed by James Kopp. Kopp was convicted of Dr. Slepian's murder after finally being apprehended in France in 2001.

Attempted murder, assault, and threats
According to statistics gathered by the National Abortion Federation (NAF), an organization of abortion providers, since 1977 in the United States and Canada, there have been 17 attempted murders, 383 death threats, 153 incidents of assault or battery, and 3 kidnappings committed against abortion providers.[8] The attempted murders were:[9][10][5]
August 19, 1993: Dr. George Tiller was shot outside of an abortion facility in Wichita, Kansas. Shelley Shannon was charged with the crime and received an 11-year prison sentence.
June 29, 1994: June Barret was shot in the same attack which claimed the lives of James Barrett, her husband, and Dr. John Britton.
December 30, 1994: Five individuals were wounded in the same-day shootings which killed Shannon Lowney and Lee Ann Nichols.
December 18, 1996: Dr. Calvin Jackson of New Orleans, Louisiana was stabbed 15 times, losing 4 pints of blood. Donald Cooper was charged with second-degree attempted murder and sentenced to 20 years.[11]
October 28, 1997: A physician whose name has not been revealed was shot in his home in Rochester, New York.
January 29, 1998: Emily Lyons, a nurse, was severely injured in the bombing which also killed Robert Sanderson.
September 11, 2006 David McMenemy attempted a suicide bombing of a women's clinic in Davenport, Iowa after scouting targets throughout the Midwest. It was later revealed that the targeted clinic did not perform or make referrals for abortions.

Anthrax threats
The first letters claiming to contain anthrax were mailed to U.S. clinics in October 1998, a few days after the Slepian shooting, and since then, there have been a total of 655 such bioterror threats made against abortion providers. None of the "anthrax" in these cases was real.[12][9]
November 2001: After the genuine 2001 anthrax attacks, Clayton Waagner mailed hoax letters containing a white powder to 554 clinics. Waagner was convicted of 51 charges relating to the anthrax scare on December 3, 2003.

Arson, bombing, and property crime
According to NAF, since 1977 in the United States and Canada, property crimes committed against abortion providers have included 41 bombings, 173 arsons, 91 attempted bombings or arsons, 619 bomb threats, 1630 incidents of trespassing, 1264 incidents of vandalism, and 100 attacks with butyric acid ("stink bombs").[8] The first clinic arson occurred in Oregon in March 1976 and the first bombing occurred in February 1978 in Ohio.[13] More recent incidents have included:[5]
October 1999: Martin Uphoff set fire to a Planned Parenthood clinic in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, causing US$100 worth of damage. He was later sentenced to 60 months in prison.
May 28, 2000: An arson at a clinic in Concord, New Hampshire on resulted in damage estimated at US$20,000.
October 1, 2000: A Catholic priest drove his car into the Northern Illinois Health Clinic after learning that the FDA had approved the drug RU-486. He pulled out an ax before being shot at by a security guard.
June 11, 2001: A bombing at a clinic in Tacoma, Washington on destroyed a wall, resulting in US$6000 in damages
July 4, 2005: A clinic Palm Beach, Florida was the target of an arson.
December 12, 2005: Patricia Hughes and Jeremy Dunahoe threw a Molotov cocktail at a clinic in Shreveport, Louisiana. The device missed the building and no damage was caused. In August 2006, Hughes was sentenced to six years in prison, and Dunahoe to one year.
April 25, 2007: A package left at a women's health clinic in Austin, Texas contained an explosive device capable of inflicting serious injury or death. A bomb squad detonated the device.[14]
May 9, 2007: An unidentified person deliberately set fire to a Planned Parenthood clinic in Virginia Beach, Virginia.[15]
December 6, 2007: Two unidentified persons set fire to a Planned Parenthood clinic in Albuquerque, New Mexico.[16]

What Malkin is doing is trying to link a few extremists with an entire political perspective. Using that ridiculous logic, the above is far more discrediting of the rightist political perspective than college pranksters.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Free market ideologues

Below is an article published this week in my local paper. I have reproduced it here in its entirety.

NCAA rules are asking to be broken By Arthur Foulkes The [Terre Haute] Tribune-Star (originally published 3/10/08)

March Madness is fast approaching and much of the nation’s attention will soon be turning to Selection Sunday, brackets and “the road to the Final Four.”

All this can be a lot of fun and very entertaining. But in recent years, college sports have seen a number of messy scandals.

To find a recent example, we don’t have to look further than Bloomington and the troubles surrounding Indiana University’s ousted basketball coach, Kelvin Sampson.

But IU is not alone. Several colleges and universities have recently found themselves in trouble.

For example, the NCAA has leveled sanctions against the University of Michigan and against Notre Dame after school boosters were uncovered giving valuable gifts to student athletes.

The University of Kansas has been penalized for “improper benefits” to student athletes and their families. Ohio State’s football coach was fired for giving money to a player. The University of Minnesota was caught helping basketball players cheat on term papers, and the University of Wisconsin was penalized after members of the football team got unauthorized discounts on shoes.

The NCAA also recently has sanctioned California State University at Fresno, the University of Central Oklahoma, Montana State and Oklahoma.

Even smaller schools, such as Pennsylvania’s Slippery Rock University, have felt the NCAA’s wrath in recent years. The NCAA penalized Slippery Rock for improper financial aid to student athletes.

All this might lead us to think college athletic programs simply attract an unusually high number of unethical people. But, another thing to consider might be the NCAA’s rules, themselves. Maybe there is something about them that invites violations.

Apart from offering them scholarships and other minor benefits, the NCAA prohibits schools from paying their athletes. Athletes are also prohibited from receiving money or gifts from school boosters.

But success in college sports, such as the upcoming March Madness basketball tournament, can mean big money. As Business Week noted in 2005, top performing teams in the NCAA basketball tournament can generate millions of dollars for their schools in television contracts, sports memorabilia and ticket sales.

Athletic success can also help a school attract new students and increase alumni donations.

In short, very talented athletes can bring a lot of revenue to their schools; however, NCAA rules prohibit these athletes from receiving more than a tiny fraction of that revenue.

This is where the economic problem can be found.

Ordinarily, in a competitive labor environment, people can expect to be paid about what they contribute to an employer’s or a firm’s revenue. If workers are paid much less than this amount, another employer has an incentive to bid them away by offering more.

In college sports, however, universities reap the revenue generated by star basketball players, football players and others. The athletes receive very little. In short, the NCAA rules attempt to stand in the way of normal economic behavior.

George Mason University economist Russell Roberts, using an analogy provided by Adam Smith, compares NCAA rules to someone who believes he can arrange human beings like pieces on a chess board. That person forgets that those chess pieces have their own wills and their own goals.

“The rules imposed by the NCAA are not natural. They are designed to inhibit the movement of the chess players,” Roberts writes.

“The real scandal is the exploitation of players who would normally receive some of the largesse that … fan interest generates. The NCAA keeps that largesse largely in the hands of its member institutions rather than in the hands of the players,” he writes.

Certainly most college athletes contribute nothing or very little to university revenues. But the fact that some athletes receive much less than they would if schools were forced to openly bid for their services means we will continue to see NCAA scandals for a long time to come.

Arthur Foulkes writes a weekly column on business and economics. The Tribune-Star reporter is a Terre Haute native and long-time resident. He can be reached at (812) 231-4232 or

The conclusion of Foulkes' column is that college athletes are exploited, a notion I do not wish to disagree with. However, I will argue with the analysis he produced because it is not economic analysis, instead it is economic ideology.

One cannot compare university athletic programs to firms, any more than one can compare professional sports teams to firms. Firms who outcompete their competitors grow market share and gain market position and the losers, in the extreme, go out of business. A local store that outcompetes a local competitor is better off when the competition is weakened or gone. (We might not be, but that firm is) However, if the Yankees don't have competitors, then they have nothing, which is the same for the NCAA member universities. We the fans also lose.

The product these universities produce (along with professional sports team) is entertainment. The ultimate in pershiables. If the consumer doesn't believe the sport is competitive, no one watches. If no one watches, the money is shut off. If the free market were let to run, the rich schools eventually would have all the good players and the outcomes would become predictable. The same goes in every professional sports area: NFL salary caps, NBA salary caps, the "rules" of NASCAR (which are all geared to make the sport cheaper to maintain the competition), same with IRL, and baseball is coming along the same way. Universities are no different. Each conference engages in revenue sharing, even if only one or two of the teams really generate any interest. But to be a champion, one needs (credible) competitors.

Eliminate the competition is the watchword of the "normal" abstract firm in economic ideology. But not all actors act in this way. Sports is a good example.

Which athletes are exploited? The female softball players? how about the hockey team? Track and field athletes? Arguably, the only ones who are exploited are from the so-called revenue sports, football and men's basketball.

There is no question, that even for the few "soon to be" professional athletes, they are exploited, in the narrow accounting of what do you get for what we earn....the accounting in the short term. But how much is the value of the education and social capital gained from playing DI sports? An economic analysis would have to consider the future value of the education in terms of the "exploitation." I say this and I'm more sympathetic to arguments about exploitation and inequality than any free market ideologue.

For the record, I think college sports is corrupt as can be. has been for a long time, even before the big money flowed in. I'm all for the universities getting out of the entertainment sports business, pay the players as a minor league system for the NFL and NBA, it could be structured similar to the minors in baseball, with a limit of 4 years eligibility.

Leave ideology for religion.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Globalization affects sin

From CNN: Vatican lists new sinful behaviors

An excerpt:

When asked to list the new areas of sinful behavior, Girotti denounced "certain violations of the fundamental rights of human nature through experiments, genetic manipulations."
He also mentioned drugs, which weaken the mind and obscure intelligence; pollution; as well as the widening social and economic differences between the rich and the poor that "cause an unbearable social injustice."
Girotti said the
Catholic Church continued to be concerned by other sinful acts, including abortion and pedophilia.

If I were Jon Stewart, I'd make a joke about the continued concern about pedophilia, but I'm not.


Traditionally the Catholic church has had a list of seven deadly sins, that of lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride established by Pope Gregory the Great in the 6th century.


Now the Vatican says it is time to modernize the list to fit a global world.
On hearing the Girotti's suggestion, some priests thought it was a good idea.
Father Antonio Pelayo, a Spanish priest and Vatican expert noted that it is time for both sinners and confessors to get over their obsession with sex and think about other ways humans hurt each other in the world in which they live.
"There are many other sins that are perhaps much more grave that don't have anything to do with sex - that have to do with life, that have to do with the environment, that have to do with justice," he told AP Television.

So, does this mean that the seven deadly sins are the now the 7+? deadly sins, or are there still seven, but some, like gluttony and greed are replaced with genetic manipulation and an outsized carbon footprint?

I'm not "against" the Catholic Church coming out and labeling some of these practices as sin or sinful, it is just that are the poor sinful becuase they live in a capitalist society that generates the incredibly inequality that is part of the new sin and they support capitalism? I mean, I just don't quite understand how one confesses to these? Forgive me father for I have sinned, six times last week I contributed to environmental degradataion, social injustice, supported the death penalty, and boinked my brother's wife?

How many hail mary's get do you get for boinking one's sister-in-law compared to contributing to global injustice?

Again, I'm all for painting these social ills in a bad light and it don't get much worse than sin, but I'm a little confused on the accounting.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Why can't conservative women be feminists, too?

On March 2, Charlotte Allen published an essay titled We Scream, We Swoon. How Dumb Can We Get? If Allen weren't who she was, it would probably be a funny essay. But, Allen is trying to make a point here, that women are just silly while men are not, despite her frequent parentheticals noting that men, are silly, too.

This article created a firestorm of response, so much so, that for several hours Mrs Allen (I'm sure she doesn't mind me referring to her as Mrs. Allen) took questions live from net chatters. most of the questions were statements about what people thought wrong with Allen, with the essay, her logic, a whole lot.

She mostly uses media images of women or reports of anecdotes of women to make her points, hardly a compelling evidentiary case, but it makes "cultural sense" sort of like, "we'll look out at the horizon, (looking over water) its obvious the world is flat."

among her evidence is that women get is more accidents than men, proven twice, which is proof of their inferior abstract thinking, (spatial visioning). Some smart guy wrote in on the response/comment page noted that if you control for age, that the auto accident relationsship goes away and that it is a function of age and there are more older women drivers. Makes sense to me. More goes into driving than spatial vision stuff, like focus, experience, etc.

But what got me the most, (and yes, I read virtually all of the comments and the Q&A) was that Mrs Allen said two things: first, that women were not a minority group because they constitute the majority of the population (well then a guess that "white minority government" in South Africa was just that, a minority, the same with the Sunni minority government in Iraq all those years). Minority has little to do with population, it has all to do with power. And that women had (and are and do) devalue the "natural" roles of women, housewife and mother. It was women who barred women from education? It was women who denied themselves the right to vote?

I think it is about choice. And conservatives who value money in all things, it seems to me, wouldn't support altering something like social security so that stay at home moms could qualify during that period of staying home and raising kids which are so important to our future. Just one way to demonstrate the value placed on that all important position. I guess the sacrifice that it entails is supposed to be private, not shared.

I also cannot understand how conservatives who so value the individual could write such a fallacious article based on supposed group differences.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Is it us, is it them, or a bit of both?

An interesting bit of news from the Int'l Herald Tribune:

In his recently published book, "Marching Toward Hell: America and Islam after Iraq," Scheuer argues that the United States faces more trouble because its leaders refuse to recognize what drives terrorism.

President George W. Bush argues that terrorists "hate our freedoms, our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote." But polls show that the bedrock of support for militancy among the world's 1.3 billion Muslims is the detestation of U.S. foreign policies.

Scheuer faults U.S. leaders for failing to acknowledge the grievances that bin Laden laid out in precise detail, which were adopted by the followers he inspired. They were: the U.S. presence in the Arabian Peninsula; unqualified support for Israel; U.S. support for states oppressing Muslims, especially China, India and Russia; U.S. exploitation of Muslim oil; U.S. support and financing of authoritarian Arab regimes.

Tony Blair, at his speech at DePauw University on 3/3 echoed George W Bush's arguement that it is a clash of values and not policies.

I suspect it is a bit of both. Even Mr. Blair said, that fixing the Israeli-Palestinian problem was necessary to defeating terrorism, which is now his main focus, as special envoy to the Middle East.

The article noted this bit of irony:

Polls show that radicals - potential suicide bombers and hostage takers - and moderate Muslims are in favor of moving toward more democracy, a process stifled in many places by authoritarian rulers who enjoy the backing of the United States.

It cemented its reputation as the superpower of hypocrites after one of the very few democratic elections in Middle Eastern history, the 2006 vote in which Palestinians opted for the Islamist party Hamas over Fatah, the corrupt ruling bureaucracy built up by Yasser Arafat. The closely monitored election was deemed free and fair.

The United States responded by boycotting Hamas and backing Fatah

Just because there is an election doesn't mean we (the US) have to like who is elected. Just ask Hugo Chavez, or Allende, to name just two off the top of my head.

Why won't the DNC pay for a do-over in Michigan and Florida

Professor Bob Guell, Economics asked that I post this for discussion:

The noted Israeli diplomat Abba Eban once said of the Palestians, "they never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity." The same, I think, should be said of the Democratic Party. Take the question of the "do-over" for Michigan and Florida. Both states are happy to hold primaries in May or June but refuse to pick up the tab. The DNC refuses to pick up the tab. How big is the tab? about $25,000,000 per state. This from a party whose leading candidates are capable of raising more than $80,000,000 a month even when they are limited to $2,000 per person.

This Presidential election is there's for the taking yet they are going to run the risk of a redux of Chicago 68 rather than coming up with $50,000,000 to run an election that will decide who wins. MORONIC. The only way they lose to McCain (who I support btw) is by eating each other alive.....and that is exactly what they seem bent on doing.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

We Must Stand Up for our Values

I attended Tony Blair's lecture at DePauw University Monday night. Among the many things he spoke of, he reiterated several times that "we," meaning the US, Canada, and Europe, must stand up for our values in the face of the spreading middle eastern terrorist threat. He talked about how if our resolve to defend our values appears even for a moment to be weak, that is a huge win for the terrorists.

Now that sounds like military/war like talk, but it wasn't. He spoke mostly about what he called "soft" power, or diplomacy and the job of selling not just our stuff and material life, but our culture and values to the rest of the world.

He, however, was not specific about what he meant. What would be standing up for our values in the face of the terrorist threat?

The audience was not allowed to ask questions, the questions were submitted before his talk.

I would have asked him to give me an example of what he was talking about. Today, Reuters reports:

The FBI acknowledged Wednesday it improperly accessed Americans' telephone records, credit reports and Internet traffic in 2006, the fourth straight year of privacy abuses resulting from investigations aimed at tracking terrorists and spies.

Apparently the banks, telecoms, and other business gave more information than the FBI asked for, but the FBI didn't turn away from examining it.

Is that an example of living up and standing up to our values? Violating our own laws?

How about folks like me who think the real cowards are those who skulk behind claims of national security to violate the Constitution, am I standing up for our values in the face of terrorism?

Mr. Blair didn't anticipate that question and so didn't answer it. He did say that we could not respond from a position of fear, which I agree with. But, what does it mean to stand up for our values in the face of those who hate our values? Punch them in the nose? Or maintain our values even in the face of extreme adversity?

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Future of Medicare

I, for one, like Medicare. I saw the service my aging and ailing mother received when she had her Medicare delivered through a private insurance company...several of them, because they kept dropping her until she eventually had no choice. She, a good conservative Republican, hates Medicare.

In Indiana, since leaving Florida, she has been on Medicare. From my perspective, the one who pays her bills and takes care of her. medicare is far, far, superior. The coverage is better and the paperwork is reduced.

Having said that, an article in yesterdays NYT on Medicare

suggests the Medicare is in serious trouble and none of the current presidential candidates are really addressing it, and the Dems, who do, their plans won't help. This analysis, unlike most which posit that it is demographics that is driving the problem, suggests otherwise. An excerpt:

Peter R. Orszag, director of the Congressional Budget Office, said, “The bulk of the projected increase in spending on Medicare and Medicaid is due not to demographic changes, such as increases in the number of beneficiaries, but to increases in costs per beneficiary.”

And what is driving those costs?

“Most of the long-term rise in health care spending is associated with the use of new medical technologies,” the budget office said in a recent report. It suggested that more selective use could save substantial amounts — a prospect that alarms manufacturers of some medical devices.

The article continues on about the problems. There were two items that were not mentioned. One, that the system is unsustainable because medical providers can't make any money and two, what if everyone was covered by Medicare, with younger, healthier folks helping to pay for the older folks. Private insurance has a huge disincentive to hold onto older, sicker, patients, while Medicare, well, the economics are different.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Societal adaptation key element with climate change

originally published March 2, 2008 in the Terre Haute Tribune Star

The conference I attended the first week of February in London was titled: “Living with Climate Change: Are There Limits to Adaptation?” This international conference drew together the leading scholars in the world who study social adaptation to climate change. This is a new area of research, the first scholarly article published on the topic was in 1990.

It matters little whether climate is changing due to human activity or not. Recent polls indicate a sizable majority of Americans, better than 70 percent, believe human activities are at least partly contributing to the phenomenon. The climate is warming.

Adaptation is nothing new: humans have been adapting for thousands of years. However, the pace of this current change is going to force a more conscious adaptation on humanity’s part. The last such rapid change was about 5,000 years ago. It is not likely that humanity was aware of the change as we are today.

Most people think climate change is linear and as the climate warms we will adapt in an incremental manner. No one at this conference saw it that way. Instead, the scholars believe it will be abrupt, with many thresholds of mostly irreversible changes. Adaptation will not be like going down a gentle slide. It will be more like falling down stairs.

Our culture, institutions, religion, and technology will both constrain and help us adapt. Adaptation is going to be, in the end, a local phenomenon. A 1.5 degree Celsius increase in worldwide temperature will flood Miami. Will they adapt by building seawalls, much like London is already beginning to do? Will Miamians migrate inland and north, leaving behind their once-valuable properties? Will the rest of us bail them out for their property losses?

What strategies will Midwestern farmers favor who depend on rainfall for crops? Rainfall here is expected to increase, making mechanized planting and harvesting difficult in muddied, wet fields. The dry period farmers depend on to dry crops and fields for harvesting is likely to disappear.

One scholar demonstrated potential value-based conflict inherent in responses to future adaptation policies. She asked who are risk-takers, meaning the type to ski down a hill without a helmet, to not save money for a rainy day, to invest money in risky ventures as much for the thrill as for the payoff? And, what was our view on equity? Did we think that government should help those who need it most or whether government should help the most people? The way people answer these questions form four possible combinations and these form the axis of future political conflict as democracies face adaptation policies.

Many attendees were climate scientists who are working with social scientists on these questions. I was struck by their certainty about two things. First, that the atmosphere is warming and, second, that humans are contributing to that warming. They were the killjoys who noted several times the irony in 250 scholars of climate change and adaptation leaving such a large carbon footprint. Not to be outdone, I noted the use of bottled water from Scotland, instead of tap water, and the many imported foods. Almost by design, the mayor of London started London’s new Low Emission Zone in London that week. London is the most air-polluted city in Europe. The new program, as you can imagine, was met with mixed reviews.

I met one person who welcomes a warmer London climate. He is a 65-plus-year-old Londoner who was swimming in Hyde Park’s Long Water (a man-made pond built for Queen Caroline in 1730). He told me he swims every day, regardless of the weather. He invited me to see Peter in the bathhouse, that he had an extra suit if I would like to join him for a swim. “No thanks, I have to get to my conference that begins in a few minutes.” He told me that he doesn’t like to swim when there is ice on the Long Water. “No kidding,” I thought to myself. Trying to be polite, I said to him, “Yes, I can imagine icy cold water is hard to swim in.” He told me not because of the cold, but that “ice is sharp and can cut your skin, very bad.” He was thankful for last year’s record warm winter and the mild weather London was experiencing that week. It was about 45 degrees as we spoke.

Here is one chap who is already adapting to climate change.
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