Saturday, February 25, 2006

Not The Right Time, Not The Right Move

It looks like it may happen. South Dakota's governor says he favors abortion ban. For years the pro-life movement has been foaming at the mouth for an opportunity like this, with a willing state, and a seemingly friendly Supreme Court. Unfortunately for them, this is not the right time, or the right move.

A challenge to Roe v. Wade at the Supreme Court is still unlikely to survive. Even assuming Roberts and Allito join Thomas and Scalia in opposing Roe, that still leaves the conservative wing of the Court one vote shy of overturning the decision. And Anthony Kennedy, the only other nominally conservative member of the Court, was clear in his intentions to uphold Roe in 1992's Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision. The votes are just not there.

Of course, the most interesting fact the article points out: There's only one clinic that performs abortions in the entire state! And South Dakota is a pretty big state. Considering there are many like the lonely libertarian who believe that despite our pro-choice views, there is no right to abortion in the Constitution, lets examine what the practical effect of this law would be. Is shutting down one clinic really imposing much more of a burden on getting an abortion than that which already exists. You're already talking about driving hours and hours to get an abortion. Now maybe you add on a few more hours to get out of state, but for some people, going out of state may have been easier in the first place.

It seems as though both sides of the debate on this issue, pro-death, and anti-choice are more interested in the symbolism at issue than the actual practical effects of the law.

You Don't Know Jack

Just for fun: Basic Truths About 24's Jack Bauer

Bringing up 24 here reminds me of perhaps my favorite quote from the show, from Secretary of Defense James Heller in Season 4. In response to his son questioning the government's counter-terrorism efforts Heller explodes, "Spare me your sixth grade Michael Moore logic!" Actually, that seems like a great name for a blog, or maybe a book.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

How to Blog 101 (More pot shots at the New York Times)

The New York Times never fails to provide an astounding array of articles and commentary that reflect positions either outside mainstream America or contrary to common sense. Given this fact, blogging can be as simple as going to the New York Times web page, clicking on the editorials, and finding the most egregious editorial to write about.

Take this one today: Selling Junk Food To Toddlers According to the editorial, parents are the first line of defense, but the food and media industries need to do more. And of course, so does the government. Of course, it's unclear how restricting the abilities of food companies to advertise their product will lead to healthier children and will help fight obesity. After all, kids don't buy food, parents do. If the advertising of junk food to children is enough to virtually require parents to buy junk food for their kids, it's not clear why the same logic wouldn't apply to every other form of advertising directed at children. Why ban Oreo's but not G.I. Joe? In fact, if children's advertising somehow has this negative effect on what parents buy for their children, why not ban all childrens advertising all together?

Oh wait ... Then nobody would bother making any children's programming in the first place. This whole argument is just very typical of the Times. I mean come on- this is the job of parents, not the government.

Bias? (And some interesting thoughts on assumptions about income disparities)

According to the New York Times and The Associated Press: Average U.S. Family Income declines. The headline is somewhat revealing, seeing as what the story actually says:

The average income of American families, after adjusting for inflation, declined by 2.3 percent in 2004 compared to 2001 while their net worth rose but at a slower pace. The Federal Reserve reported Thursday that the drop in inflation-adjusted incomes left the average family income at $70,700 in 2004. The median, or point where half the families earned more and half less, did rise slightly in 2004 after adjusting for inflation to $43,200, up 1.6 percent from the 2001 level.

Yes, most people think of the mean when they use the word average. But one wonders if the mean were slightly higher while the median was slightly lower if the story would be reported the same.

The most interesting aspect of this story? For all the talk that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer, these numbers don't really show that to be true (and it doesn't take a statistician to figure this out). A 2.3% decline in the mean corresponding with a 1.6% increase in the median could very well mean that the numbers of those with relatively high incomes have declined, while those in the middle (and maybe at the bottom) have improved a slight bit. The median of course, is not effected by extreme outlying values- in this case, those with incredibly high incomes who might throw off the mean. The fact that the median has increased while the mean has declined seems to be a good indication that those at the top of the economic ladder have fallen off a bit, whereas those in the middle and on the bottom have stayed the same or gotten better. (I suppose it is possible that those on the very bottom have gotten poorer. However, it seems illogical to assume that the poor have seen their wages fall, while those in the lower and middle income brackets have seen their incomes rise.) I'm no statistician, but these assumptions seem logical. So much for the rich getting richer while the poor get poorer.

Defending Scalia: A Reasonable Commerce Clause

Ever since his concurring opinion in Raich, the medical marijuana decision from last term, Justice Scalia has taken more than a few shots like this one from the Volokh Conspiracy's David Bernstein.

As someone who has delved into Raich in detail as part of my paper challenging the Safe Drinking Water Act under the Commerce Clause, I have no problem refuting Bernstein, and sticking up for Scalia. Bernstein's post was in response to Scalia's public criticisms of the Constitutional Scalia's public criticism of the living Constitution theory of Constitutional interpretation. Taking a jab at Scalia's Raich concurrence, Bernstein responded:

Unless you were an advocate of the "argument of flexibility" and the idea that the Constitution "has to change with society like a living organism," you would have to be an idiot to believe that the Necessary and Proper Clause somehow allows Congress to also regulate noncommercial intrastate activity [locally cultivating medicinal marijuana] with no substantial effect on interstate commerce, no?

No you wouldn't have to be an idiot to think that. When Raich was decided, I was firmly in the camp of those who believed it had been wrongly decided. However, in my analysis of Raich, I believe my initial impressions were mistaken, and have entrenched myself firmly in the Scalia view of Commerce Clause jurisprudence. Here's why Scalia is right, and David Bernstein is wrong (Non-legal readers beware):

Raich dealt with the Controlled Substance Act (CSA), a regulatory scheme which was clearly economic in nature. The question at issue dealt with how far such a regulatory program could be extended. Scalia was correct in utilizing the necessary and Proper Clause, which is the Constitutional articulation of Rehnquist's assertion in U.S. v. Lopez that the Commerce Clause could implicate purely intrastate activities, provided that such activities were essential parts of larger regulatory schemes of economic activity. The idea being that the obviously Constitutional aspect of the regulation would fail in the absence of the inclusion of the purely local activity. This falls right in line with John Marshall's articulation of the necessary and Proper Clause in McCulloch v. Maryland in 1816.

In Raich, the issue was whether or not the CSA could include locally grown, medicinal marijuana that did not travel in commerce. Applying the logic stated above, the answer is yes. If Congress is to effectively ban an item from commerce, it can not effectively do so without criminalizing all instances of that item's possession. Allowing the states to carve out exceptions to the general federal rule would wreak havoc on the federal goal of complete control over the market.

Raich is interesting not so much for what it says, but for what it doesn't say. It's crafted to fit within the Court's current Commerce Clause framework, and does not repudiate Lopez or Morrison (the Courts previous two big Commerce Clause cases, striking down federal laws dealing with guns in schools and violence against women). Raich stands for the assumption that Congress has unlimited authority to craft broad economic regulations, an assumption which hasn't changed since the 1940's. It does not close the door on Commerce Clause challenges to non-economic regulations (say perhaps environmental regulations).

My views on Raich represent a stubborn willingness to accept that broad Congressional power over economic regulation is unlikely to change anytime soon. With the exception of Clarence Thomas, no justice is willing to return to pre-New Deal Commerce Clause jurisprudence. The interesting issue that is not addressed in Raich (not even by Thomas) is whether or not Congress has the power to ban items in commerce in the first place. Seemingly, such bans go against the historical roots of the Commerce Clause, which was created to open, not close markets. But again, such positions are so far outside the mainstream, they remain at best, an academic footnote. There are Commerce Clause battles to be won, but mounting those challenges outside the economic realm seems to be the best formula for success.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

S.W.A.T. Live

Radley Balco pretty much has it all covered: Actual footage of a police raid on a popular bar. Yes, you can actually watch it. (And read about the details there too, I won't repeat the specifics here.) The most interesting part, as Balco points out:

One thing I find odd: Some of the officers are wearing polos and khaki shorts. Others are in uniform. And others are wearing cammo, black ski masks, body armor, and toting assault weapons. Some come in casually. Others come in pumping shotguns. If the goal of a SWAT team is to incapacitate everyone inside, it doesn't make much sense for the heavy-hitters to come in after the inspectors.

And the question the lonely libertarian would still like to have answered ... What good is this sort of thing doing anyone?

George W. Bush, Making Sense

Yet another reason to be happy with President Bush: Bush Would Veto Any Bill Halting Dubai Port Deal

For the Bush haters, it's easy to go after him on this Port-Gate thing. And it's equally easy for frightened xenophobes, and just plain opportunistic Republicans. When people ask for reasons why I would ever support Bush, it's circumstances like these that stand out in my mind- George W. Bush just standing up for a perfectly acceptable decision in the face of stupidity and irrationality. The George W. Bush stepping beyond the bounds of traditional conservatism and into the 21st century.

Seriously. Not allow a company to manage ports because of where in the world their headquarters are based? That just sounds so ... pre-global economy.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

More Scientific Scare Tactics

Today's New York Times contained this editorial, on the safety of aspartame, a follow up to last weeks news of an Italian study that purports to connect the artificial sweetener to cancer. The editorial tell us,

There is no reason for panic, but surely good reason for regulatory authorities to look again at this much-studied sweetener.

Uhhhhh huh. So after hundreds (thousands?) of studies that have shown aspartame is perfectly safe, we're supposed to spend more taxpayer money to conduct yet another study? That's just nonsensical, especially considering that this study involved giving rats the equivalent of 4-5 20 ounce bottles of diet soda per day to an 150 pound person. By the way, that's about 3 quarts of diet soda per day. If your drinking that much diet soda only containing aspartame on a daily basis, I would suggest a little more variety in your life.

But the point really is to just think about this logically. If hundreds of scientific studies told you that small amounts of a substance caused cancer, you probably wouldn't start using that substance if one new study suggested that those small amounts might not be harmful. It's just as illogical to do the reverse, and eliminate aspartame from your diet as the Times suggests you may wish to do. Actually, what the Times tells us is quite telling- they mention sucralose, as a sugar substitute food activists deem safer. Just who are food activists? From my best guess, probably people who are scared very easily, and don't like food all that much.

When Science Isn't Really Science

I'll put this bluntly: This global warming piece on 60 Minutes the other night really pissed me off.

This is how the story starts out:

The North Pole has been frozen for 100,000 years. But according to scientists, that won't be true by the end of this century. The top of the world is melting.

Maybe this would be more alarming if the Earth was not an estimated 4.5 billion years old. The piece doesn't get any better. The worst part of the tv version was the shot of a glacier melting away, crashing into the water on camera- As if that one instance would somehow be of any scientific relevance. This is all typical sort of scare tactic journalism, made more egregious by the fact that one view of an extremely complicated scientific issue is presented as fact.

The fact of the matter is that any scientist can tell you that climate change is an incredibly complex subject, one that we do not completely understand. We know that the climate of the earth is constantly in flux, and we know the Earth has undergone substantial climate changes numerous times before. (Just think of all the Ice Ages.) There are three questions that face us today- 1) Is global warming actually occurring? 2) Does humankind play a role in global warming, and if so, how significant a role? And 3) Assuming humankind does play a role in global warming, how concerned should we be with climate change? By the way, these are questions that science has no clear answers on at this point- and in regards to question 3, the answers go beyond science.

According to the piece, one thing is clear:

"The entire planet is out of balance," says Bob Corell, who is among the world's top authorities on climate change.

I don't really know what that means. But I do know it sounds more like hippie-talk than it does science. And going back to the 60 Minutes report that was the subject of my wrath, there were plenty of similar pseudo-scientific pronouncements:

60 Minutes brought [Paul] Mayewski [a university of Maine scientist,] back to Greenland, where he says his research has proven that the ice and the atmosphere have man's fingerprints all over them. Mayewski says we haven't seen a temperature rise to this level going back at least 2,000 years, and arguably several thousand years. As for carbon dioxide (CO2) levels, Mayewski says, "we haven't seen CO2 levels like this in hundreds of thousands of years, if not millions of years."

Well that just proves it, doesn't it! Those higher CO2 levels and higher temperatures from hundreds of thousands of years ago ... those were probably our fault to!

Even if we stopped using every car, truck, and power plant- stopping all greenhouse gas emissions— Mayewski says the planet would continue to warm anyway. "Would continue to warm for another, about another degree," he says. That's enough to melt the Arctic

So even if we just bent over and died, the Arctic would still melt? Now explain to me why was the media was so riled up when we didn't sign Kyoto?

Obviously, I am not a scientist, nor am I an expert on climate and environment. However, like any other lay person, it is very easy to become familiar with the scientific method. And comparing a picture of the polar ice cap in 1979 to a picture of the polar ice cap in 2006 to prove global warming, as the 60 Minutes piece did, is not by any means science.

I believeve it was the Cigarettete Smoking Man on the X-Files who claimed that science is the new religion of the masses. He may have been right. The vast majority of the American public seems ready to jump on the global warming bandwagon, declaring their science to be unassailable, despite the fact that they don't understand it in the first place. What's amazing is how many articles and news pieces on global warming contain absolutelyey zero evidence that human caused global warming is occurringng. Look hard- there's no real evidence in this piece. Maybe "the real science" is too complicated for laypeople to understand, but if that was the case, then we really should have no concern about the issue. After all, how would we chose between competing scientific ideas we couldn't hope to understand?

It's not that we shouldn't be concerned with out environment, but that concern should be rational. That concern should reflect that every action we take has consequences on the environment, and we have to balance the costs of those consequences with the benefits of our actions. 10,000 years ago, humankind did not impact the environment to the extent it does today, but no one thinks we should be living like we did back then. Of course, most people don't think in these terms. Most people would rather just beleive in the "science" of global warming. If only they would realize, global warming today is just as dogmatic as any religion ever was.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Happy Valentines Day To All Those In Alternative Relationships (And To All Of Us So-Called Normal Folks Too)

Appropriate for Valentines Day, this from today's Hartford Courant: Gay Couples Seek Marriage Licenses

The lonely libertarian is all for equal rights and equal treatment under the law. In fact, the lonely libertarian believes you should be able to marry anyone you want to marry- A Man, A Woman, 2 Men, 3 Women, ect. But then there's this quote from Frank O'Gorman, director of the Hartford-based group People of Faith:

Civil unions still demean gay couples by saying our love is not equal or on par with the love of straight couples, and we find that demeans our relationships and ourselves as human beings.

The point is that Civil Unions are not enough, that gay marriage should be legal. And the lonely libertarian agrees with that as well. However, I am a bit troubled by the way the argument is framed. The issue is framed not as one of individual choices and individual rights, but in strictly moral terms. That gay couples should be on par with straight couples is a statement of comparative morality.

The problem with this is it seems to be a request (or a demand) to "let us under your umbrella!" rather then a demand that people should have equal rights regardless of the type of loving relationship they chose to enter. It makes me realize why libertarians make the argument that government should not be in the business of marriages in the first place. Why get mixed up in all these moral debates?

The point is, that gay or straight, put aside the moralizing and wish a Happy Valentines Day to everyone in a loving relationship- regardless of just who happens to constitute that relationship. After all, as the Beatles told us, all you need is love.


Radley Balco, with more on SWAT team overkill, here,here, and here.

The story remains the same: SWAT team utilized to arrest gamblers, minor drug dealers, and medical marijuana users. Forget about how this is an inefficient use of government resources. And forget about the civil liberty issues raised by the War on Drugs generally. Regardless of your views on drugs, just think of the facts presented in all these SWAT team stories told by Radley Balco.

You have peoples homes being stormed in the middle of the night. You have confusion as to who these SWAT team members actually are. You have raids on the wrong address. You have cops getting killed. You have innocent security guards killed. And there always seems to be dogs getting shot as well. And for what?

Going back to the Cory Maye story, you have an individual (Cory Maye) who was not named in the original warrant who shot a police officer in what he claimed was self-defense. The middle of the night SWAT team raid was supposedly because of drugs. No drug charges were ever filed against Maye, a man with no criminal record. The only charges filed were for the murder of a police officer in what logically seems to have been self defense.

Once again, all the wasted resources the loss of life. Regardless of your views on drugs, government or politics, ask yourself the question, "Is it worth it?"

Saturday, February 11, 2006

The Lion, The Pics, and The Warlords

From the "Well, duhhh" department of today's Hartford Courant: Subtext Provided In Violence Over Cartoons: Islamic Expert Says Satire Fed In To Fears

There are plenty of people eager to use any opportunity at their disposal to continue this propaganda that somehow Islam is under threat from the West," said Reza Aslan, author of the book "No god but God: The Origins, Evolution and Future of Islam.

The really interesting part of the story is the Islamic expert named Aslan. I especially enjoyed the blurb at the bottom of the page:

Aslan is scheduled to speak on the future of U.S.-Iran relations today at 5:30 p.m. at the Mark Twain House and Museum, 351 Farmington Ave., Hartford.

The questions now on my mind- 1) Is Aslan a Muslim? And 2) I shudder to think how the Muslim world will view future Narnia movies, should they be made, in which the righteous armies of Narnia square off against the evil armies of Calormene. I also believe the last book in the Narina story, The Last Battle, contains specific images of the Calormene God Tash.

My, my. What Would Aslan do?

Friday, February 10, 2006

When Worlds Collide: Free Speech vs. Civil Rights

Via the Volokh Conspiracy, a story in Chicago about so-called discriminatory advertising.

Basically, a fair housing group has sued the website Craiglist for posting advertisements that violate discrimination laws. Now keep in mind these advertisements are along the lines of personal ads- people posting roommate requests that specify race, religion, and gender.

Volokh has the legal analysis, here and here.

It's just sort of interesting to see that clearly "civil rights" protection can go too far. After all, who is possibly being harmed when individuals make their roommate selection preferences public? As was noted by David Bernstein, the ones who end up getting hurt the most, if such advertisements were to be banned, are minorities looking to live with other minorities. It's also interesting to note that the protection of "free speech" can never go too far. Sure, we may equivocate on what we consider to be speech, but once something is found to be speech, it's hard to find a rationale for making such speech illegal. Discrimination on the other hand, is clearly a far more thorny subject.

You Know You Live In A Blue State When ...

On the lighter side of the local news, today's Hartford Courant contained the headline: School Tries To Bring Grinding To A Halt. I suppose we could also file this under the "Adults just don't get it man" category.

The real problem, as the article points out, is the fact that you have high school teenagers dancing in ways that adults find inappropriate. Of course, leave it to Mr. Blue State High School Administrator Guy (Principal Thomas Moore) to put everything into perspective:

"Students have to understand that this is inherently disrespectful to females."

Obviously here in Blue State America we don't want to moralize to high school teenagers about sex and sexuality. But we are very concerned about the treatment of women- so we'll just frame the problem in that light. Of course, this raises the oh-so troubling question of why simulated sex on the dance floor is inherently disrespectful to females, but not to males.

I guess you know you live in a blue state when bumping and grinding is to be banned at high school dances because it is disrespectful to women.

A Little Too Close To Home

It's always a bit disturbing to hear a story about your former middle school: 100 Swastikas Drawn On Walls at Sedgwick Middle School.

It really doesn't matter whether you want to label this as a "hate crime" or not. The more pressing question is why, and what does it mean?

When thinking about this vandalism in light of the Danish newspaper cartoons of Muhammad, it makes one realize how utterly worthless hate crime laws are. Why do we treat these two types of incidents differently? After all, in both of these cases there are going to be offended parties, offended Jews in my hometown of West Hartford, and offended Muslims throughout the Islamic world. The real issue of course is the intent of the offending parties. But is the difference between offensive Islamic cartoons and anti-Jewish graffiti really just a subjective view of intent? How are we to really know that the Danish cartoon wasn't motivated by the same sort of hatred that motivated the anti-Jewish graffiti?

The real issue is the fact that you have an exercise of free speech on one hand, versus an act of vandalism on the other. And from a legal point of view, that's all that should matter. But that doesn't mean that as a society we shouldn't wonder why there is such hatred in what is literally our backyard. I think it was Kanye West who said, "Racism still alive- they just be concealing it." It makes the lonely libertarian wonder whether all the public calls for tolerance and understanding just feed the fuel of underground hate.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

On A Completely Different Note

For any regular readers I'm curious to know what people think are the funniest television shows ever. Now this isn't confined to traditional half-hour sitcoms, although I can't think of any hour long shows I would nominate for funniest ever. (And for now, let's exclude sketch comedy, which is fundamentally different from traditional tv- We'll also exclude the O'Reilly Factor, no matter how much fun it is to laugh at Bill O'Reilly.)

Besides the obvious nominees of Seinfeld and the Simpsons from this generation, or there any others that should be considered on that level? Popping in to my head is South Park, Curb Your Enthusiam, and Arrested Development. I'm purposely leaving out shows such as Friends- Yes it was a great sitcom, but it was never anything more than that. I can think of numerous funny older shows, but none of them seem to pass the level of a Friends (perhaps because of the simplicity, at first, of the medium of television.)

The other question I would ask is what sort of funny show makes for a better funny show? Family Guy is funny, but it's approach makes me think of 50 different Farside cartoons thrown in to a half-hour show. (In other words, there are more memorable jokes from Family Guy than there are memorable episodes themselves.) Every show on my list (perhaps excluding the Simpsons, which at least for it's first decade or so was delightfully satiric) takes more of the building approach- That is, what's funny is even funnier because of the way the jokes and the situations build upon each other.

One final question would be, is the traditional sitcom dead? I would answer with a whole-hearted yes.

A Shout Out To The "Things Are Getting Worse" Crowd

Thomas Sowell, on Myths of Rich and Poor:

Despite the statistics that show real wages going downhill over time, somehow Americans are consuming more than ever and have a larger net worth than ever.

As of 1970, for example, only about a third of American homes had both central heating and air conditioning, while more than four-fifths had both in the 1990s. Moreover, the homes themselves were more than one-third larger.

Just over one-fourth of American households had a dishwasher in 1970 but more than half did by the 1990s. Only 34 percent of households had color television in 1970 but 98 percent did in the 1990s.

If we are really that much worse off economically than we were 10-20-30-40 (ect.) years ago, then why do we keep getting- scuse my language- more and more shit. In my humble opinion, the real issues of wealth and poverty are sociological, not economic in nature.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Good News On The Science Front

World Trade Agency Rules For U.S. In Biotech Dispute

The good news is, now the United States can sell genitically modified crops in Europe. The bad news is, Europeans still might be too stupid to buy them. The Times article has a really good quote from an activist in the war against GMO's (genitically modified organisms), one of those quotes that just defies all reason and logic:

"The World Trade Organization, with its secretive decision-making processes, is unfit to decide what we should eat or what farmers should grow," Alexandra Wandel, trade coordinator for Friends of the Earth Europe, said in a statement.

Huh? Regardless of one's views on the WTO, how does opening up a previously closed market involve forcing farmers to grow or consumers to eat certain crops? Deciding what we should grow and what we should eat is exactly what groups like Friends of the Earth of Europe want. These so-called environmental groups are the ones who want to impose legal restrictions on GMO's- all the WTO has done is opened up trade so consumers are free to purchase which ever sort of crops they prefer.

I Always Knew Global Warming Invoked Some Sort Of Religious Fervor

Evangelical Leaders Join Global Warming Initiative.

And the New York Times just laps it all up. But at least, as the article points out, some religious groups are concerned with keeping the science separate from the religion:

E. Calvin Beisner, associate professor of historical theology at Knox Theological Seminary in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., helped organize the opposition into a group called the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance. He said Tuesday that "the science is not settled" on whether global warming was actually a problem or even that human beings were causing it. And he said that the solutions advocated by global warming opponents would only cause the cost of energy to rise, with the burden falling most heavily on the poor.

It wouldn't be so disturbing if the Times just supported the theories of global warming. What's frightening is the way that news on global warming is reported with such religious dogmatism.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Adults Just Don't Get It Man

Seriously. They really don't get it. And those in the media who think that they really do get it- they get it least of all. This was via this evenings local Fox newscast, although I don't know how long this link will last:

The Fox 61 News at 10 reports on a local educators meeting on the "controversial" website,

When that link fails, you could also check out this local article:
Outreach Promotes Children's Internet Safety.

It's difficult to pay attention to a news piece which begins by calling MySpace a controversial website. It's sort of like calling cars, or the telephone controversial, because they were integral factors in some tragedy. Remember back in the 40's and 50's, when some parents thought it was improper (unsafe?) for their daughters to spend so much time talking on the phone? Well all the controversy now over teenagers and the internet is much of the same- people's fears being taken out on technology.

Teaching internet safety is, of course, a laudable goal. After all, the point is, parents should parent their kids, and exercise some degree of supervision over their lives. However, one gets the feeling that some of these "teachers," particularly these community policing types have no idea what they are talking about. As one of these types mentioned on the newscast, "teenagers should not have computers in their bedrooms." From 50 years ago a similar voice is echoing the same concerns about the telephone.

And of course, some concern is justified. But blaming the internet, blaming MySpace, and even all these educational options just serve to ignore the fundamental problem. Why is a 14 year old girl going to meet a strange older man in the first place? Discuss and debate how widespread these sorts of problems actually are- personally, the lonely libertarian thinks they are way overblown. The fact of the matter is, if you do believe that such a problem is widespread, then you have no choice to look at all the issues social conservatives love- immorality in the media, the decline of the family, ect.

Regardless, the media hasn't a clue. If the mainstream media can't even cover their own children correctly, one shudders to think the job they do at covering other parts of the country and other cultures around the world.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

"Science vs. Politics" Is Not Always What It Seems

A couple of pieces from Andrew Revkin in the "Science" section of this weeks New York Times:

Climate Expert Says NASA Tried to Silence Him.

NASA Chief Backs Agency Openness

(Thanks to Prof. Leonard Long, and his excellent e-mail discussion list for the heads up.)

As a general matter, we obviously don't want the government silencing our scientists. But the issue is not quite that simple, and the lonely libertarian is not sure whether or not Mr. Revkin actually cares. (The lonely libertarian also wonders if a similar column would have been written if a NASA scientist was proclaiming global warming to be a fraud, in opposition to the stance of another administration.)

While we don't want to silence scientists, everyone must recognize the need for an administration to be able to control the spin of information. It does not bode well for enforcement of the law if executive branch agencies can take positions at polar opposites from that of the president.

What these pieces really reveal are the inherent problems of big government. Global warming is an inherently political issue, and having government "scientists" weigh in on either side of the debate seems to be a formula for discontent and trouble. The Times would like to paint this as a typical anti-Bush story: "Bush administration hides the truth of global warming!"

But through both of these pieces I see no discussion of what factual information was actually being suppressed- only specific views and positions on global warming. And unless NASA has some grant of authority to specifically study global warming, it is difficult to imagine why the administration would not have an interest in dictating some sense of direction in an executive agency. Of course, when you frame the issue that way, it all becomes very political. (Either on the level of a global warming debate, or a debate on the nature of the powers and independence of administrative agencies.) Either way, it is not the debate of politics versus science that Mr. Revkin attempts to present.