Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Ben Stein's Shameless Ignorance

I pointed out the folly that was Ben Stein's "Expelled" back in November, months before the movie came out. It has been in theaters for several weeks now, and the reviews are in. If anything, my critique of Stein was too kind. John Derbyshire takes down Stein with wit and justifiable righteousness:
Our scientific theories are the crowning adornments of our civilization, towering monuments of intellectual effort, built from untold millions of hours of observation, measurement, classification, discussion, and deliberation. This is quite apart from their wonderful utility — from the light, heat, and mobility they give us, the drugs and the gadgets and the media. (A “thank you” wouldn’t go amiss.) Simply as intellectual constructs, our well-established scientific theories are awe-inspiring.

And now here is Ben Stein, sneering and scoffing at Darwin, a man who spent decades observing and pondering the natural world — that world Stein glimpses through the window of his automobile now and then, when he’s not chattering into his cell phone. Stein claims to be doing it in the name of an alternative theory of the origin of species: Yet no such alternative theory has ever been presented, nor is one presented in the movie, nor even hinted at. There is only a gaggle of fools and fraudsters, gaping and pointing like Apaches on seeing their first locomotive: “Look! It moves! There must be a ghost inside making it move!”

The “intelligent design” hoax is not merely non-science, nor even merely anti-science; it is anti-civilization. It is an appeal to barbarism, to the sensibilities of those Apaches, made by people who lack the imaginative power to know the horrors of true barbarism. (A thing that cannot be said of Darwin. See Chapter X of Voyage of the Beagle.)

And yes: When our greatest achievements are blamed for our greatest moral failures, that is a blood libel against Western civilization itself. What next, Ben? Johann Sebastian Bach ran a slave-trading enterprise on the side? Kepler started the Thirty Years War? Tolstoy instigated the Kishinev Pogrom? Dante was a bag-man for the Golden Horde? Why not go smash a few windows in Chartres Cathedral, Ben? Break wind in a chamber-music concert? Splash some red paint around in the Uffizi? Which other of our civilizational achievements would you like to sneer at? What else from what Waugh called “the work of centuries” would you like to “abandon … for sentimental qualms”? You call yourself a conservative? Feugh!

For shame, Ben Stein, for shame. Stand up for your civilization, man! and all its glories. The barbarians are at the gate, as they always have been. Come man the defenses with us, leaving the liars and fools to their lies and folly.

Someone at sometime must have made the observation that when people go off their rocker, they usually don't go half way off, but all the way. This quote from an interview of Stein about the movie would lend support to that observation:
Stein: When we just saw that man, I think it was Mr. Myers [i.e. biologist P.Z. Myers], talking about how great scientists were, I was thinking to myself the last time any of my relatives saw scientists telling them what to do they were telling them to go to the showers to get gassed … that was horrifying beyond words, and that’s where science — in my opinion, this is just an opinion — that’s where science leads you.

Crouch: That’s right.

Stein: …Love of God and compassion and empathy leads you to a very glorious place, and science leads you to killing people.

Crouch: Good word, good word.

An often overlooked reality in the wake of 9/11 is that not all of the wobbly knees with respect to Western values belong to the Left. The Right still harbors a reactionary, obscurantist rump that despises many of the crowning achievements of the West. You saw it in the knee-jerk recriminations of Reverends Falwell and Robertson in the wake of 9/11, and you are seeing it now with the anti-science, anti-Darwin, anti-Western propaganda of Stein and the Discovery Institute crowd. A pox on their house!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Just in case you were wondering ...

Yes, dogs do watch TV.

(The Myth Busters Alaska episode is what got his attention.)

Great Moments in Social Engineering

My ability to predict future events might require some fine tuning, but I confidently predict that this will be a miserable failure:
World Bank backs anti-Aids experiment

By Andrew Jack in London

Published: April 25 2008 22:25 | Last updated: April 25 2008 22:25

Thousands of people in Africa will be paid to avoid unsafe sex, under a groundbreaking World Bank-backed experiment aimed at halting the spread of Aids.

The $1.8m trial – to be launched this year – will counsel 3,000 men and women aged 15-30 in southern rural Tanzania over three years, paying them on condition that periodic laboratory test results prove they have not contracted sexually transmitted infections.

The proposed payments of $45 equate to a quarter of annual income for some participants.

The programme, jointly funded by the World Bank, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Population Reference Bureau and the Spanish Impact Evaluation Fund, marks an important step in the fight to tackle Aids, which claims 2m lives a year.

In spite of billions of dollars spent annually on treatment and prevention worldwide, there were about 2.5m new HIV infections in 2007, predominantly in Africa.

Carol Medlin from the University of California, San Francisco, one of the researchers, said: “We hope this ‘reverse prostitution’ will make people think hard about the long-term consequences of their short-term behaviour.”

How do you encourage long term behavior by delivering short term rewards? You can't bribe someone into personal responsibility. As with most Third World aid initiatives, the infusion of unearned cash will skew the entire economic and social landscape, with many unintended and generally negative consequences. When outside cash flows into an area, graft and criminal rackets are bound to follow.

If you think you'd be helping the school wimp by giving him $100 in lunch money to replace the $1 that the local bully stole from him, you'll just be condemning him to a series of beatings 100 times what he's used to by a veritable swarm of bullies. Might as well dress him in a chum overcoat and throw him into a shark tank.
The designers of the Tanzanian programme believe that payments of $45 when combined with careful counselling could play an important role in reducing HIV infection, especially for vulnerable young women.

If they're vulnerable then their behavior isn't within their control, is it? So a young woman whose husband frequents prostitutes and demands sex from her without a condom is now going to refuse him because she's getting money from outsiders? Do you think he's going to let her keep that money?

Even if this does work as a short term experiment, how do you scale it up? Are we going to pay all Africans up to 1/4 of their annual income to wear condoms?

Who do I call to cancel my subscription to the World Bank?

Friday, April 25, 2008

Rehab would be a step up

English pop vixen/trainwreck/scarecrow Amy Winehouse continues to pile up those blues-generating dues with a trip to Scotland Yard to answer to assault accusations.

To the Daily Duck's scientifically minded readership I pose this question - how long can those soda-straw legs continue to hold up that condor's nest on her head without giving way?

Give me more of that Old Time Reason

Once again let us reflect on the synergy of Faith and Reason, this time in a Catholic vein:
Although the functions of the magisterium and of the theologians are distinct, each group requires and profits from the work of the other. Theologians depend on the magisterium because the creeds and dogmas of the Church are constitutive for their own enterprise. Theology is a reflection on the faith of the Church as set forth in the canonical Scriptures and in the official statements of the Church’s belief. If the magisterium were not trustworthy, the foundations of theology, including even the canon of Scripture, would crumble. The more abundantly theology draws on the teaching of the magisterium, the richer, generally speaking, will it be. To ignore or dismiss magisterial teaching is to neglect resources that are at hand. It is possible, of course, to disagree with the magisterium on some point or other or to wish to nuance its declarations, but the first instinct of the theologian should be to accept and build on what is officially taught in the Church. It is a great benefit for theology to have a magisterium that is committed and qualified to safeguard the apostolic faith.

So the role of theology is to affirm truths already decided upon, is that it? I'm starting to understand this affinity of Reason and Faith. It goes something like this:

Rule #1: Reason does not conflict with Faith.
Rule #2: When Reason does conflict with Faith, see rule #1.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Rumors of my Recovery have been Greatly Exaggerated

God might not be dead, but His vital statistics aren't trending in a good direction as of late:
Now, once again, nonbelievers have a fresh sense of mission. The fastest-growing faith in the country is no faith at all. The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life released the results of its “Religious Landscape” survey in February and found that 16 percent of Americans have no religious affiliation. The number is even greater among young people: 25 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds now identify with no religion, up from 11 percent in a similar survey in 1986. For most of its modern history, atheism has existed as a kind of civil-rights movement. Groups like American Atheists have functioned primarily as litigants in the fight for church-state separation, not as atheist social clubs. “Atheists are self-reliant, self-sufficient, independent people who don’t feel like they need an organization,” says Ellen Johnson, president of American Atheists for the past thirteen years. “They’re so independent that if they want to get involved, they usually don’t join an organization—they start their own.”

The quartet of best-selling authors who have emerged to write the gospel of New Atheism—Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchens, and Dawkins (the Four Horsemen, as they are now known)—has succeeded in mainstreaming atheism in a nation that is still overwhelmingly religious and, in the process, catalyzed a reexamination of atheistic raison d’être. But for some atheist foot soldiers, this current groundswell is just a consciousness-raising stop on the evolutionary train, the atheist equivalent of the Stonewall riots. For these people, the Four Horsemen have only started the journey. Atheism’s great awakening is in need of a doctrine. “People perceive us as only rejecting things,” says Ken Bronstein, the president of a local group called New York City Atheists. “Everybody wants to know, ‘Okay, you’re an atheist, now what?’ ”

So some atheists are taking seriously the idea that atheism needs to stand for things, like evolution and ethics, not just against things, like God. The most successful movements in history, after all—Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, etc.—all have creeds, cathedrals, schools, hierarchies, rituals, money, clerics, and some version of a heavenly afterlife. Churches fill needs, goes the argument—they inculcate ethics, give meaning, build communities. “Science and reason are important,” says Greg Epstein, the humanist chaplain of Harvard University. “But science and reason won’t visit you in the hospital.”

The last sentence is just silly. You don't need a religion to tell you to visit people in the hospital, and atheists don't need an organization of their own to do so either. In my mid twenties, after I had left the Catholic Church I felt like I still needed to participate in, or find a replacement for the habits I had ingrained in me from a lifetime in the Church. I felt like I needed somewhere to go on Sunday mornings. But in time I got over it. Now sitting in a coffee shop reading the Sunday paper fills my need for ritual.

Likewise this felt need by some atheists to form the atheist equivalent of a church is just a cultural reflex, in my view. Non-religious people, whether atheists, agnostics or dunnoists, have had an identity forced on them by American society just for going against the cultural grain. But since it is a negative identity in the sense of being defined for what we are not, rather than a positive identity, it doesn't make for a natural, cohesive subculture. Just as a group of non-Japanese foreigners living in Japan would have the experience of being treated as a foreigner in common, it isn't enough to bind a Swede, an American and a Chinese into a natural affinity group. Without a sense of feeling beseiged, which will become harder to justify as the non-religious population grows, there won't be a felt need for a secular pro-military conservative to feel a special kinship with a secular anti-military socialist.

As the non-religious segment of the population grows, political parties will take notice and begin to compete for them. The collapse of the Reagan Coalition and the Democrat party's rise to dominance is signalling the decline of the strident anti-secularism of the Religious Right as a dominant political force. If Republicans wish to remain competitive in the future, they will have to find ways to appeal to secular voters.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Give me that Old Time Reason

There is no conflict, we are told, between Faith and Reason. God provides us the power to see His truths through the power of reason as well as through Revelation, we are led to believe. But much like a hastily given campaign promise, this conviction is constantly being hedged and qualified in countless ways, to the point where it is questionable whether those who profess it really believe what they are saying.

A case in point is this missive by John Piper (via EvangelicalOputpost) which casts grave doubts on the capacity of human reason:
As we think seriously about contextualizing the message of the Bible, let’s remember that we must also labor to bring about, in the minds of our listeners, conceptual categories that may be missing from their mental framework. If we only use the thought structures they already have, some crucial biblical truths will remain unintelligible, no matter how much contextualizing we do. This work of concept creation is harder than contextualization, but just as important.

We must pray and preach so that a new mental framework is created for seeing the world. Ultimately, this is not our doing. God must do it. The categories that make the biblical message look foolish are deeply rooted in sinful human nature. “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1Corinthians 2:14).

Part of what the Spirit does in overcoming human resistance is to humble us to the point where we can let go of ingrained patterns of thought. But the Spirit does this through preaching and teaching. “Since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom [that is, through its cherished ways of thinking], it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe” (1 Corinthians 1:21).

I don't think that it's new concepts that are called for in Piper's vision as much as new facts. The existing mental framework for seeing the world has been responsible for the exponential growth in human knowledge over the last 500 years or so. What exactly does he hope to gain by overthrowing it?
Here are a few examples of biblical truths that most fallen minds have no conceptual categories for conceiving. May the Lord raise up witnesses to his truth who don’t distort it by over-zealous contextualizing, but awaken a place for it in converted minds which have new Spirit-created categories.

1. All persons are accountable for their choices, and all their choices are infallibly and decisively ordained by God.

* [He] works all things according to the counsel of his will. (Ephesians 1:11)
* On the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak. (Matthew 12:36)

I agree that I have no way of conceptualizing that a thing and it's opposite are one and the same thing. Humans are accountable for acts that they are powerless to resist doing. Well, actually I am able to conceptualize it, but its along the lines of a Dilbert cartoon.

2. It is not sin in God to will that there be sin

* “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it [the evil acts of Joseph’s brothers] for good. (Genesis 50:20)

He hates sin, but he creates it anyhow. It must be one of those things He loves to hate.

3. What God decrees will come to pass is not always the same as what he commands that we do, and may indeed be the opposite.

* For example, he may command, “Thou shalt not kill,” and decree that his Son be killed: “It was the will of the Lord to crush him” (Isaiah 53:10).

I'm conceptualizing that God is either schizoid or really, really indecisive.

4. God’s ultimate goal is the exaltation and display of his own glory, and this is at the heart of what it means for him to love us.

* And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.” (John 17:5)
* Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory.” (John 17:24)

More Dilbert.

5. Sin is not primarily what hurts man but what belittles God by expressing unbelief or indifference to his superior worth.

* My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water. (Jeremiah 2:13)

So God is really, really insecure. Is that it?

6. God is perfectly just and orders the complete destruction of the inhabitants of Canaan.

* Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just? (Genesis 18:25)
* But in the cities of these peoples that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance, you shall save alive nothing that breathes. (Deuteronomy 20:16)

I'm finding it hard to conceptualize the goodness of God in this exercise.

Piper doesn't really want us to re-conceptualize God, he wants us to totally do away with all concepts. Concepts encapsulate rules and relationships that are useful for ordering facts and ideas. The ideas that Piper is presenting aren't bound by any rules or relationships. All concepts, like goodness, free will, or responsibility just fall under the barrage of contradictory dogmas that is his faith. Piper doesn't want open minds, he wants blank slates.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

I am Calling Shenanigans

Exactly how much housework does a husband create? Well, the definitive results are in:
Having a husband creates an extra seven hours a week of housework for women, according to a University of Michigan study of a nationally representative sample of U.S. families.

For men, the picture is very different: A wife saves men from about an hour of housework a week.
Men bad, obviously.

Or, perhaps not.

There is one primary characteristic distinguishing the soft sciences (where "soft" is shorthand for "not anything at all like"): the ability to simply disregard anything with the temerity to not march in lock step with the soft scientist's "findings" (where the scare quotes denote soft science's inverting of conclusions and data).

Here is where I call shenanigans:
They supplemented the analysis with data from questionnaires asking both men and women to recall how much time they spent on basic housework in an average week, including time spent cooking, cleaning and doing other basic work around the house. Excluded from these "core" housework hours were tasks like gardening, home repairs, or washing the car.
Why are gardening, home repair, or washing the car not "core"?

I have two guesses. Either they are not core because unkempt lawns, repairs ignored, and decrepit cars have no impact on the household ...

.. or, because those tasks have always been done nearly exclusively by men and, despite men performing more of the "core" tasks, continue to be done exclusively by men.


To generalize from personal experience: Over the last couple days I have performed a major periodic maintenance on one of the cars. It involved swapping the winter tires for summer, changing brake, differential and transmission fluid, engine oil & filter, fuel filter, replacing the driver's seatbelt and the gas struts on the trunk lid.

That is about nine hours work -- often dirty and strenuous -- and would have cost about $500 had I paid for it to be done. For one of three cars.

Doesn't count.

A few weeks ago I spent probably twenty hours building a shoe cabinet for the mudroom.

Doesn't count.

Nor does running repairing the dishwasher, clearing the driveway and walkways after a snowstorm, ad nauseum.

The problem these "researchers" (where scare quotes stand in for those who "carefully jury rig studies and definitions so as to create "findings") have is a basic asymmetry. Virtually any task a woman can do, so can a man. All of the "core" tasks fall into this category. Increasingly, men have shared these household duties.

In contrast, those non-core tasks are, through both temperament and constitution, largely inaccessible to women. Imagine, if you will, suggesting to my wife that I'll do the bathrooms while she, say, changes the wheels on the cars.

No points for guessing how that will turn out.

The conclusion is that women are an aggrieved group. If reality's data gets in the way, so much the worse for reality; redefine the data out of existence.


Monday, April 07, 2008

Monday Mid-Morning Mentals



Saturday, April 05, 2008

Wusses without Borders

The UN continues to do what it does best: fail.

Darfur violence may be worse, despite U.N. efforts

By Louis Charbonneau Fri Apr 4, 4:29 PM ET

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The violence against civilians in Sudan's Darfur region may be worsening, despite seven U.N. Security Council resolutions and four years of efforts to end it, the United Nations chief said on Friday.

"Four years ago this week, the Security Council first took up the issue of Darfur," Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement. "The situation remains grim today, as then, if not worse."

"Violence targeting civilians, including women and girls, continues at alarming levels with no accountability or end in sight" and Kartoum and the rebels have yet to "lay down their arms and commit to a peaceful settlement," he said.

"A peacekeeping operation can only be effective when there is a peace to keep."

Speaking of accountability, where is the accountability for the UN? When the UN was formed, its purpose was for the civilized nations of the world that respected human rights and dignity to unite against those rogue regimes that didn't. It was based on the idea that there should be a higher international law that individual states would be made subject to, and that military action would be authorized and blessed by the international community of states to ensure that the goals of such actions were not for the benefit of a single state or people to the detriment of another, but served all the world's peoples.

Well now we have the textbook situation for which the UN was originally formed. A powerless ethnic group is being systematically slaughtered by another, and a corrupt and ineffectual regime is allowing it to happen. The world's civilized states are lined up under the UN umbrella to put a stop to the slaughter, and yet four years on the situation continues to worsen.

The "peacekeeping" mantra is a massive copout by an organization that wants authority without responsibility. If there were a peace to keep, then the UN would not be needed. There would not be a problem. It's up to the UN to make that peace. And you don't make peace by sending troops in blue helmets to stand idly by while women and children are raped and slaughtered. You make peace by identifying the parties that are most responsible for breaking the peace, then moving in and kicking their asses until they are destroyed or are forced to surrender. It's that simple

The UN signatories gave up their right to conduct unilateral warfare so that a united body of states would make warfare on their behalf. If the UN wants the authority to decide when war is necessary to meet the goals of the international community, then it has to be responsible for making war when war is called for.

Ban's comments came after the U.S. presidential envoy for Darfur, Richard Williamson, sent him a letter urging him to speed up deployment of peacekeepers to Darfur and ensure that at least 3,600 new soldiers and police are there by June.

Only some 9,000 of the planned 26,000 U.N.-African Union peacekeepers have been deployed to Darfur.

Western governments have blamed Khartoum for the slow progress, saying it has delayed approval of the composition of the force and set up unnecessary obstacles.
Ban's spokeswoman Marie Okabe said Khartoum had officially approved the deployment of the Thai and Nepalese troops, though Sudan's U.N. envoy indicated Khartoum could be hesitating.

"We will exhaust all possibilities for troops from Africa," Sudan's U.N. Ambassador Abdalmahmoud Abdalhaleem told Reuters. "After that we will consider others, with the consultation and approval of the government."

Why is the UN deferring to the government in Khartoum? The Sudanese government is either responsible for instigating and perpetuating the conflict, or is so totally corrupt and ineffectual that it shouldn't even be considered the legitimate government of the country. The UN has the authority and the justification to overrule Khartoum. That's the reason for having a UN, to have a higher authority to appeal to. By making the UN forces deployment subject to the government that is complicit with the situation in the first place, the UN has abdicated the very authority that it has been entrusted to yield.

Question for the Daily Duck helpdesk

Does anyone know of a good, freeware web server for a Windows PC? It has to be able to run embedded PHP scripts.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Europe - the next bubble

Whatever is keeping the Euro in the stratosphere compared to the dollar, it isn't the productivity of the European worker:
EU forces bus company to dump passengers every half hour

Passengers are having to change bus partway through their journeys to comply with an EU directive.

The legislation stops drivers clocking up more than 31 miles behind the wheel without a rest.

If a journey is any longer, the driver must pull over and wait for a replacement.

To comply with the directive, some operators are dividing routes into two or even three sections.

Drivers are allowed to undertake journeys of more than 31 miles - provided they get two straight days off.

Thirty one friggin miles!!! Are they serious? On my last job I commuted 33 miles each way to work. I must ask my European friends to chime in here. Is a thirty mile drive really considered a long haul? That's considered a bunny hop in America.

Last May during my cross country car trip I made it from Minneapolis to Cleveland in one day, a distance of 770 miles, interrupted only by gas and food stops and an unplanned mechanical breakdown in Wisconsin. But my longest endurance effort was a trip from Minneapolis to Phoenix, a 1725 mile drive that I completed in 32 hours, stopping at a hotel in Tucumcari, New Mexico for five hours.

These are the fruits of central planning.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

First, kill all the drivers

If anyone is still in doubt whether environmentalism has morphed into a dangerous cult that wishes to crush all human freedoms under its totalitarian will, you have only to read this article:

If you want to be an ecologist, you have to stop being half-witted.” writes Hervé Kempf, author of the acclaimed Comment les riches détruisent la planète (How the Rich Destroy the Planet, Seuil, 2007). “We cannot understand the simultaneity of the ecological and social crises if we do not analyze them as two facets of the same disaster.”

A journalist who specializes in the environment for France’s respected newspaper Le Monde, Kempf has taken his work to the four corners of the planet and frequented – as is the privilege of an environmental chronicler – the cream of the scientific community. Yet, from these contacts and the issues patiently compiled for the newspaper where he works, he retains two observations:

First, he explains that the planet’s ecological situation is worsening at a rate that neutralizes all the efforts of millions of citizens and ecological militants, to the point that the planet is in danger of crossing a threshold of irreversibility “within the next 10 years,” he believes, on the basis of the speed at which negative outcomes are piling up.

The second observation of this attempt to provide a veritably comprehensive explanation of the environmental crisis is that “the social system that presently governs human society – capitalism – blindly, doggedly rejects the changes necessary if we want to preserve the dignity and promise of human existence.”

In the same way that the different aspects of the global environmental crisis react with more and more synergy – warming accelerates the rate of species extinction, as use of fossil fuel gives rise to pollution and consumption to the exhaustion of resources – the planetary ecological and social crises are two mutually bound-up facets of the same problem.

“This disaster derives from a system piloted by a dominant social stratum that today has no drive but greed, no ideal but conservatism, no dream but technology. This predatory oligarchy is the principal agent of the global crisis,” writes Kempf. “The present form of capitalism,” he adds in an interview, “has lost its former historic ends, that is to say the creation of wealth and innovation, because it has become a financial capitalism, disparaged even by capitalist economists. This capitalism, which destroys jobs by rationalizations, new technologies and globalizations, overall and everywhere increases the disparities between rich and poor within each country and between different countries.”

This oligarchy he targets is not satisfied with blindly consuming and wasting the planet’s material resources with its big cars, its airplane trips, its unbridled consumption of living products, its uselessly vast houses, its unrestrained energy wastage. It has also, adds Kempf, spawned a model of hyper-consumption that the lower and especially the middle classes now attempt to imitate, just as developing countries try to imitate western countries – even though, whether instinctively or rationally, everyone clearly knows that “this ideology of waste” and its drain on planetary resources will inevitably come to an abrupt end.

This course places before the human species the unprecedented fact that it has reached or soon will reach the planet’s limits, which could, through feedback effects, threaten the species’ own existence. But this course is all the more difficult to arrest, Hervé Kempf deems, because it depends on a semi-authoritarian regime ever more institutionalized at the planetary level. It even depends, he says, on crises like that of September 11 in order to appreciably reduce those human rights that had been acquired through elevated struggle and to neutralize, even cause to disappear, those democratic mechanisms that allow free public debate on the choice of plans, the social choices that the workings of the economy repeatedly raise.

Kempf rejects all accusations of attempting to take the planetary ecological debate from green to red.

“I am no Marxist,” he says, “and have never been, because that ideology does not respect human rights. But the Marxists do not have a monopoly over the social debate and we cannot, all the same, close our eyes to the documented, measured phenomena right in front of us. I note the existence of two crises, one ecological, the other social. And I observe that they act in synergy. I observe that a minority of people benefit from them. And I draw conclusions from these observations.”

But he also observes that a large part of the European left has not seen the depth of the links between the two problems, just as many ecologists – who restrict themselves to an environmental approach – miss half the problem, if not its first cause.

“We must,” he writes, “get past this hiatus. Understand that the ecological crisis and social crisis are two facets of the same disaster. And that this disaster is set in motion by a system of power that has no other end than the maintenance of the ruling classes’ privileges.”

Although he does not address the impact of unchecked demography on the decline of the planet’s “biological services” in his essay, Kempf immediately acknowledges that this factor certainly has an impact that is greater overall than any hyper-consumption by this oligarchy, composed of several hundred thousand millionaires and billionaires who control the bulk of income and financial capital. However, he explains, it’s this oligarchy that creates an unsustainable model for the planet, the indirect impact of which on other social groups exceeds its direct consumption. “And,” he says dryly, “not all humans have the same impact on the planet at birth: a Westerner carries more weight in the planet’s fate than a baby from Niger or from India.”

Kempf advocates to put an end to this ostentatious consumption. He proposes a radical control of wealth through “a ceiling on maximum salaries and on the accumulation of wealth,” a sort of matching piece for the minimum wage, but on the upper side.

“Everyone,” he comments, “knows that China will never be able to reach a level of consumption per inhabitant comparable to that of the Americans, with two cars per family, three televisions, four computers and cell phones, a house three times too big for its inhabitants, which generates energy consumption that would be sufficient to the needs of 10, even 20 people on other continents.” He proposes that a reduction of consumption be imposed on this oligarchy that has globalized poverty, so that it no longer feeds this unsustainable dream, which numbs the critical faculties of the entire planet to the point that it closes its eyes to the wall into which it is careening full speed ahead.

And the reporter, known for his rigor and level-headedness, nevertheless concludes: “It is still necessary for ecological concerns to be based on a radical political analysis of present relationships of domination. We will not be able to reduce global material consumption if the powerful are not brought down and if inequality is not combated. To the ecological principle so useful at the dawning of awareness – Think globally, act locally – we must add the principle that the present situation imposes: “Consume less, share better.”

Could someone please fill me in on this social "crisis" that is supposedly underway? I mean in the sense of a crisis that is somehow worse than the state of crisis that has pervaded all of human history. The last I checked, all of the social indicators were trending upward, worldwide.

And how is it that one can spout Marxist shibboleths so faithfully and yet deny that one is a Marxist?

Harry Eagar discusses this trend on Restating the Obvious:
Everett Dowling is bringing in the developers of a $98K electric car to speak at his green forum. I haven't a clue what problem this is supposed to address, but I can't see that it does any harm, either.

That's not the case with some of the other greeniacs who stalk this island. Take David Suzuki, the keynoter of Dowling's greenfest last year. He thinks people who haven't drunk the global warming Kool-Aid should be locked up.

Suzuki is a Canadian.

If you don't read the foreign press you can have no idea how crazy/scary the international global warming panicmongers have gotten. For example, Australian papers like The Age are reporting that two Monash University professors, Damon Honnery and Patrick Moriarty, are publishing a paper about how to meet carbon emission targets. Under the new government of greeniac Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, the recommended reduction is 90%.

Professor Honnery says, "The car is doomed." Professor Moriarty (heh) agrees.

He adds there must be big reductions in air travel, too. "An overseas trip might become a once-in-a-lifetime experience rather than an annual event," he said.

I don't get it. We can keep going as we are and at least hope that we can engineer ourselves out of an ecological jam, or we can surrender now and condemn ourselves to unrelenting, grinding poverty in order to "save the planet". At least the first option offers hope. Why are so many people enamored of the "fail safe" option (destroy ourselves to save outselves)?

This should be a no brainer

Md. Boy, 12, Kills Man Attacking Mother

The 12-year-old boy had finished his homework and was playing a video game when he heard his mother cry out. Rushing to her aid, he found her on the kitchen floor, straddled by a fellow resident of their Prince George's County boarding house, the man's hands wrapped tightly around her neck, the boy said yesterday.

"I kept saying, 'Stop! Stop! Stop!' " the boy said, describing the events of Monday night. "But he just ignored me. He didn't stop. He just kept hurting her."

The boy said he grabbed a knife and swung, slashing 64-year-old Salomon Noubissie across the neck and opening an artery. Noubissie was fatally wounded.

The mother, Cheryl Stamp, said she did not immediately understand what had happened. "What did you do?" she said she asked her son.

"He didn't say anything," she said. "But I knew when I looked in his eyes. I said, 'Oh, Lord.' "

Law enforcement officials were reviewing evidence yesterday and had not decided whether to file charges. Their preliminary account of the incident broadly matches that of the boy and his mother.

File charges? They should give him a medal!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Blogs in the Spotlight: Restating the Obvious

Daily Duck friend and longtime commenter Harry Eager has taken the plunge with his own blog, Restating the Obvious. Lets all congratulate Harry, then go to his blog and raise a ruckus!