Saturday, November 16, 2002

Bad fiction, bad economics
The New York Times reports on the fad for teaching economics with books that wrap up economic theory in the form of a novel. My advice: if you need economics served up light, there are plenty of decent books out there, all of them non-fiction. I read a couple of the Marshall Jevons books a few years back. They were remarkably unimpressive fiction, and unimpressive economic theory. In one, the villain was an academic who commited murder to cover up fraud (fraud, in academic life? I'm shocked). The economist detective knew it was fraud because it contradicted economic theory. Now, I believe that economic theory can explain pretty much everything. But that isn't knowing; it is a research agenda. The notion that you know the facts are fraudulent because they contradict theory is, well, the road to nowhere. I prefer my economics straight and done well.
Honest or cheat?
David Adesnik, the left wing of OxBlog, says that Nicholas Kristof at the New York Times was being honorable in admitting to past errors. My interpretation was less generous.
Joy at Cold Spring Shop
Hornby, the maker of model trains, was on the verge of collapse. The Telegraph reports on its recovery.
A long and bloody war
The Guardian dredges up "analyst Toby Dodge" from Warwick University to tell us:
You have always got to hope for minimum loss of life in any war, but Mr Rumsfeld's prognosis about the speed of an Iraqi army collapse is ideologically driven and strategically ill-informed.
It is a long discourse, that ends up saying: Okay, the Iraqis stunk in 1991, but this time, they will be fighting for Baghdad, and the Republican Guard, the very best troops, are stationed closest to Saddam, so it will be long and bloody street fighting. How many times will they drag this claim out?
The cruelties of age
Germaine Greer used to be a Frazier Crane: a shallow prig parading her learning, condescending to world, but an entertaining writer if you enjoyed listening to an overgrown adolescent who still felt important saying shocking things. Sadly, she has been reduced to borderline incoherence, I suppose from age. As she deteriorates, she reminds me more and more of those annoying prigs from college who would read the chapter on Freud in an into psychology book and pretend to have read all of Freud, in a desparate attempt to get laid. In today's Guardian, Greer goes off on a rambling binge about men and women. Apparently it is about mice:
The genus Antechinus comprises several Australian species of marsupial mouse, the males of which are remarkable for the extraordinary vigour and intensity of their mounting behaviour. Immediately after their orgy of violently athletic intercourse, the males die, leaving the females to raise their young alone. Yet these marsupial mice are among the most successful of Australian species at a time when other indigenous small mammal species are being wiped out at the rate of one a month. If survival is your game, you need many more females than males.
There are also many species (giant turtles come to mind), that lay thousands of eggs, and leave the young to manage on their own. She thinks all this is relevant to people because she has made a nice living being the shocking girl who talks about sex all the time. At her age, though, it just starts to get embarrassing. She still thinks it is shocking to say "phallocracy" when all you really want to do is pat her on the head and say, "It's okay dear, we won't rush to put you in a nursing home."

The argument is drivel. She thinks reproducing the species is about sex, but only, well, an idiot thinks that once a child is born, the species is on its way. She seems oblivious to the need to teach children how to mature into adults, to teach boys and girls how to behave as men and women. Clearly her parents failed to teach her, and she seems not to have learned anywhere else.

That children She lets her silliness run rampant:

The lion is a mere toyboy, who takes no part in cub-rearing or hunting. Once he has impregnated [the lionesses], they don't need him, so why do they keep him? Because need has nothing to do with it. He needs to believe that he is needed, and they let him believe it because they love him.
There are real problems with men and women, with dysfunctional families and out of control boys who think just like Greer, that sex is the only thing that matters, and that responsibilities can be chucked away. But to get serious thinking on that, you have to go to Theodore Dalrymple's Life at the Bottom or his regular work in City Journal, to Waite and Gallagher's The Case for Marriage, or to James Q. Wilson's The Moral Sense. The little girl who still just wants to shock has nothing useful to say.

The only really offensive part of her piece comes near the end. She writes:

Male-dominated societies are virtually all authoritarian and militaristic. The rise of feminism coincided with the deep revulsion to both militarism and authoritarianism that resulted from the world's brief and traumatic experience of totalitarianism. In the window of opportunity that opened during the postwar years stepped women, and other groups unrepresented in the male elite. Like grass they grew up around the scarred monuments of discredited phallocracy.
From a tiresome old leftie who has grovelled before every butcher, this is just plain rich. It isn't shocking, dear, it is just obnoxious. Freedom for women came in the west that she despises; women are crushed in the bin Ladenite world she so adores. No wonder she makes a living in a university.

UPDATE: InstaPundit wonders whether she should be an embarrassment to her university. She is at Warwick University, and they should be embarrassed, but I doubt they are. By the way, back in 1999, Time ran a fawning story on her, saying:

Although Greer has spent the bulk of her life in England, she embodies the qualities Australians like to imagine are part of their national character; she's bolshy, improper, high-spirited, frank, brave and a champion of the underdog--even when the underdog is an idea. . . . But she has never been accused of unoriginal thinking.
Phooey. Not even students take her seriously anymore. She wanted to be rector of St. Andrew's University in Scotland, but was beaten by Sir Clement Freud, according to The Liberty Log (run by the Liberty Club at St. Andrew's), by rougly a two to one margin.

ANOTHER UPDATE: David Levy and Sandra Peart, in a fascinating history of the phrase "the dismal science", note that while Marx advocated the superiority of capitalism over feudalism, later Marxists reversed that. Clearly, they were on to adolescent romanticism of people like Greer ahead of me.

Friday, November 15, 2002

Reuters covers murder
The Reuters dispatch on the murder of at least 12 Israelis in Hebron today has come in, courtesy of the Washington Post. And how does Reuters expect the Israelis to respond?
Ultra-nationalists in the caretaker cabinet that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is leading in the run-up to the election count settlers as their core constituency and are likely to push for an iron-fist response to Friday's attack.
Reuters can't say terror without sticking it post-modern quotation marks, because, hey, one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter, and who is Reuters to be anything but objective. But they can distinguish between nationalists and ultra-nationalists, although they won't tell us the difference. And "an iron-fist response"? Surely one man's iron-fist is another man's "firm persuasion".

It gets better. In its determination to make sure that its "we don't make judgments" game nonetheless indicts the Israelis, we get told

In 1994, settler Baruch Goldstein shot dead dozens of Arab worshippers in a mosque on the site.
What is the point? There are Israelis who admire Goldstein, and sorry, but they get nothing from contempt from me. But the same BBC story from 1999 that reported this, noting that some settlers put up a memorial at Goldstein's grave, also notes that the grave was dismantled because it is illegal to put up memorials to anyone committing an act of terror. That might have been a more useful comparison to this part of the Reuters story:
The Islamic Jihad group said it carried out the assault as payback for Israel's killing of one of its military leaders a week ago. Islamic Jihad gunmen in Gaza handed out sweets to youngsters and fired in the air to celebrate the Hebron attack.
And by the way, since Islamic Jihad didn't even bother mentioning the Goldstein shooting, why did Reuters feel a need to add it? Is Reuters the new spokesman for Islamic Jihad?
UPDATE: The New York Times story, remarkably, manages to put in some context. It mentions Goldstein's murders, but it mentions it in the context of long-standing violence, beginning with the 1929 pogrom driving Jews out of Hebron, where they had lived for centuries.
Arithmetic problems
Over at SCSU Scholars site, King has fun taking down one his colleagues for not learning any arithmetic after the age of about eight. I do enjoy watching an inane academic being abused. Is this mean? Yep, but after years of academic life, I figure I'm entitled.
The European Court of Human Rights declares war on prisoners
The invaluable Theodore Dalrymple points out another disaster from the European Court of Human Rights. The Court ruled that time off for good behavior is a human right. Therefore, if a prisoner is to be punished for bad behavior by losing some of that time off, he is entitled to a lawyer and a hearing from someone outside the prison.
It takes very little knowledge of prison conditions to know that it will be a disaster for prisoners, except for the most violently psychopathic among them. The worst kind of prison, as every prisoner will tell you, is the one run by the prisoners rather than by the prison officers: but that is precisely the kind of prison that this ruling will promote. By reducing the authority of the warden, the court has increased the authority of the gang leaders. By turning disciplinary action into a complex, expensive, legal-bureaucratic process, it will discourage the staff of our prisons from taking action to punish infringements of the rules. There will be more bullying and intimidation of prisoners, and more violence among them—all brought about in the name of human rights.
There is more. One of troubles with quoting Dalrymple is that you have to stop somewhere. This is the man who described England's Equal Opportunities Commission thus:
The commission—one of England’s busy-bodying, quasi-governmental organizations—sniffs out racism, much as the Spanish Inquisition once sniffed out judaizing heresies among the conversos, and in the process it provides non-manual employment for the semi-educated.
Okay, I'll stop now.
The appeasers' new game
Nicholas Kristof gives us the new appeasers line: Pretend to be a sensible hawk. First, he praises the 1981 bombing of the Osirak reactor in Iraq, even praising Menachim Begin:
Thank God that Menachem Begin overrode his own intelligence agency, which worried that the attack would affect the peace process with Egypt, and ordered the reactor destroyed. Otherwise Iraq would have gained nuclear weapons in the 1980's, it might now have a province called Kuwait and a chunk of Iran, and the region might have suffered nuclear devastation.
So Kristof is a sensible hawk, who tells us that pre-emption should have been used in the Rwandas of the world.
But, but, but . . .
All this suggests that an invasion of Iraq may be acceptable in principle. But what does that tell us about whether we should invade Iraq now?
. . .
The lesson of Osirak is very limited — that in extreme cases it is justifiable for a country to make a pre-emptive pinpoint strike to prevent an unpredictable enemy from gaining weapons of mass destruction that would be used against it.
So now we have the appeaser line: pretend to be a hawk, but a sensible one; admit that past hawkishness was a good idea, but then try to minimize it.
A bit of good news
I noted yesterday that several members of the Irish parliament were off to Colombia as "international observers" in the trial of the (alleged, as they say) IRA goons there. The good news is that it has created a stink here, and three of them have pulled out (story requires registration). The IRA campaign has been reduced to one Sinn Fein MP and a pair of useful idiots.
Too much even for the Independent
Omigod. The Independent, in a column by Paul Vallely, makes fun of vegetarians:
Really I ought to be a vegetarian. I'm a cyclist. I've got a beard. I lean towards leftist communitarianism. I sometimes wear sandals, and have been known to do so wearing socks (which is probably a confession too far). But my problem is that I really like eating meat.
. . .
This is what constitutes the other unattractive element about vegetarianism. It carries the moral righteousness of religious zealotry. In part it is to do with preposterous statements. Brutal criminals, a leading US veggo-activist has explained, are "born to mothers with impacted intestines". See where the Big Mac leads us.
The sanctimoniousness of vegetarians is too much even for the Independent.
As it happens, I like to each vegetarian a lot. I adore tofu. My favorite restaurant in County Cork is the Cafe Paradiso, an enormously creative vegetarian restaurant. (I know, "good Irish cooking" sounds like an oxymoron, but there has been a huge boom in superb cooking in Ireland, mostly centered in Cork. The Fishy Fishy Cafe in Kinsale is so good that I have had several Frenchmen admit it was the finest fish restaurant they had ever eaten in.) Well prepared tofu tastes better than steaks and makes me feel better. But it doesn't make me a more virtuous person.

And there is always the line I quoted before:

"Vegetarian" An old Indian word for lousy hunter
Sleaze at the Independent
The Independent tries to enlist the Pope in its hatred for Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. In a news story titled "Pope uses historic address for veiled dig at Berlusconi", they write:
But when the Holy Father remarked, "to the eye of the wise, man counts for what he is, not for what he has; the human value of a person is ... related to what he is, not to what he has", it was hard to avoid the impression that he had in mind the relentlessly acquisitive man sitting immediately below the dais.
When has the Pope ever issued a "veiled" dig at anyone or anything? A sad attempt by the Independent to enlist one man they hate into a club against another one of the people they hate.
Labour takes a cue from Ronald Reagan
Acting on the old advice that you shouldn't quarrel with success, the Guardian reports that John Prescott is threatening to deal with the firemen's strike in Britain by doing a weak-knee version of Reagan and the air traffic controllers.
John Prescott yesterday threatened to send in troops to cross picket lines and seize red fire engines if an eight-day firefighters' strike goes ahead a week today as the government tried to bring the increasingly bitter pay dispute to a head.
Whatever objections one may have to the current Labour government in Britain, they are not stupid people. The last time Labour handed the government over to the unions, Britain had its famed winter of discontent, when the unions were even shutting off power to hospitals during surgery. It shut Labour out of power for nearly two decades. The unions provide money and votes to Labour, but not enough for Prescott to commit political suicide for them. Even the Independent, in a column by David Aaronovitch, tells the firemen to come back down to earth. Gerald Dorfman makes this point at greater length.

If you want to see why Prescott is smarter than the sillier version of academics, see this largely unreadable piece by Colin Hay, with lovely stuff like "a condensation of contradictions to produce a ruptural unity". In universities, people actually collect paychecks for the kind of stuff that the Onion only dreams of being able to produce.

The recession and the Microsoft case
Cold Spring Shop takes up my comparison of Brad DeLong and Craig Newmark. He says that my reference to evidence is "Data in search of a hypothesis". He is thinking of the connection between the Microsoft case and the recession that Newmark attributed to Steve Margolis (whose work with Stan Liebowitz, especially Winners, Losers & Microsoft: Competition and Antitrust in High Technology is excellent on the Microsoft case). I was thinking of his reference to the event study carried out by George Bittlingmayer and Tom Hazlett. They showed, as I recall the paper, that the only company which appears to have benefited from the case is Netscape, and that pretty much everyone else loses. Newmark could have done more with this. George Bittlingmayer has made a research agenda out of connecting anti-trust enforcement generally (not just the Microsoft case) with recessions. The best introduction to this is his paper in the Cato Journal, which reviews his more technical work (warning: it is a 1.3MB pdf file).
It is too bad DeLong settles for an activist of his political stripe to cite, rather than actual evidence on innovation, which he might have found at the AEI-Brookings Joint Center in work by Marco Iansiti and Josh Lerner. For a fellow who likes to attack journalists for not being up on the evidence, he should think about following his own advice.
Fat head watch
I can usually count on Michelle Cottle over at The New Republic to say something silly and fatuous. Once again, she delivers. I still fondly remember the Christian left back in the '80s, when I was younger and bothered to take them seriously. No nukes? That is what Jesus said, properly interpreted, of course. No nuclear power? Raise the minimum wage? Nationalize Boeing? All the same. Well, Cottle tells us that Jesus surely wouldn't want people to drive SUVs. She tells us:
But it may also prompt people (especially young people) who do ask themselves these sorts of Jesus-related questions to start thinking about environmentalism as something other than a nutty left-wing cause.
The sad part is, the environment shouldn't be a nutty left-wing cause, but Cottle's bit of fatuous bombast is going to help persuade people that it is.
UPDATE: At the Cato Institute, Jerry Taylor and Peter VanDoren are cruel enough to take environmentalists seriously.

Thursday, November 14, 2002

Tossing aside profits
In Front Page Magazine, Harold Johnson poses a difficult problem for economists. He offers a lot of evidence that newspapers are opposing English immersion teaching, such as that required by Prop. 227 in California. These are future readers. What accounts for their apparent attempts to reduce their market size?
Clinton appointee versus evidence
Brad DeLong comments on the Microsoft case by quoting the ramblings of a political activist. Craig Newmark comments by talking about actual evidence. Big, big advantage: Newmark.
Louts
Kieran Healy has very kindly given me a link. Accordingly, I repay the gesture by dissenting from one of his posts. Eugene Volokh took aim at Peter Kirstein, a history professor at St. Xavier's U on Chicago's south side (down the road from where I grew up; a lot of kids I went to school with went there) for being exceedingly rude to an Air Force Academy cadet. Healy says:
Well, civil authority over the military cuts both ways. If armchair generals can send young people to war, despite having actively dodged military service themselves, then armchair peaceniks (even loutish ones, as in this case) can criticize those who "guard them while they sleep," too. The soldiers' duty is to guard everyone regardless of their political views --- just as it is their duty to go to war if the chickenhawks order them to.
Volokh's criticism is that Kirstein behaved like a lout, not that he criticized the military. Healy agrees that Kirstein behaved like a lout. So what is the disagreement?
In passing, am I the only person greatly upset over Kirstein's apology? It stinks of something the university twisted his arm to extract from him for the sake of getting rid of a controversy.
Rebuttal time
No Watermelons Allowed takes objection to my post on the murder of Emmett Louis Till. The confusing part is here:
And where is Mr. Sjostrom writing from? Ireland. Gosh, do you suppose they have any hate groups over there?
We all need all of the hate groups purged. And we'll do a better job of it if we attend to our local problems first.
Curiously, he has critical commentary on Maryland, Florida, and Louisiana. Does he live in all three places? I note also that I live in Ireland, a different country from Northern Ireland, the land of shootings and nail studded baseball bats. (A handy map showing the border between the two is here.) Granted, the IRA creeps in Northern Ireland have their supporters in Ireland (here a depressing story in the Telegraph about five Irish politicians off to Colombia to help ensure a fair trial for three IRA goons). Then again, can you say "Peter King, apologist for the IRA"?
So, I will quite happily go on writing about any place I want to, thank you very much.
More on why the left loses
When Tony Blair won in 1997, he did it by largely abandoning the old Labour Party, and encroaching heavily on the turf of the Tories. He did it because he knew that so long as Labour stayed with the left, it would keep on losing. In the Guardian, Judith Williamson offers more evidence of this. She is upset because the Blair government has proposed new measures to crack down on anti-social behavior, including vandalism and the fighting that routinely goes on in town centers on Friday and Saturday nights. This focuses on effects, not causes.
For "tough on the causes of anti-social behaviour" has nowhere been heard: there has been little attempt to ask why these disparate things happen (and hence how they might be prevented).
. . .
If anyone in government really thought about violence, they would make hitting children illegal tomorrow. Imagine a Queen's speech which put anti-violence at its heart: which said, "we, as a society, will make physical violence, from the smack to the pub brawl, absolutely unacceptable; we will nurture our children and teach them to nurture others - and we will make sure parents or carers have the time to provide that nurture". But instead, even single parents are shoved into jobs, children receive little attention - and now, as part of the new crackdown, parents are to be penalised for their children's vandalism or truancy.
James Q. Wilson once suggested that the nature-nuture debate was heated because it was interpreted as a debate between behavior being changeable (nuture) and unchangeable (nature). Wilson argues this interpretation is wrong: genetic defects can often be surgically repaired, whereas it may extremely difficult to change cold and indifferent parenting. Williamson gives us the old line, look at causes, not effects (at least she doesn't say "root causes"), without any clue what actually can be addressed. If we don't know how to repair the causes, we still suffer from the symptoms, and the left will lose so long as it pretends the symptoms of bad behavior are some silly middle class obsession.
Volokh makes a joke
The Volokh Conspiracy has been asking which European countries have governed parts of the western hemisphere, and has come up with quite a list Because the western hemisphere begins in Greenwich, however, Ireland is entirely in the western hemisphere, so Ireland is added to the list.
14. Ireland -- Ireland governs, well, Ireland, which is entirely in the Western Hemisphere.

Ireland governs Ireland? Ho, ho, ho. Clearly, the Volokh Conspiracy has not spent much time there.

Wednesday, November 13, 2002

Visas for Life
While catching up with my reading, I ran across a column from last month by Jeff Jacoby about the exhibit "Visas for Life", currently in Boston, which is about diplomats in World War II who risked their lives and careers to save Jews and other refugees. It includes not only the renowned Raoul Wallenberg, but lesser known figures as well. It is on the web here.
Sense from Robert Fisk
Yes, I wrote that. Really. No one hacked into my site. His latest on Iraq brims with appropriate contempt for much of the US press. Not the usual "tool of the oil industry" stuff, but specifics. Here is the opening:
How seriously they took the Baghdad theatricals. "A resounding 'no' from the Iraqi parliament,'' was the headline on NBC's local affiliate here in North Carolina. "Assembly in Baghdad shows its outrage,'' was the headline in USA Today. As if the Iraqi parliament was really a parliament, as if Saddam Hussein's recent 100 per cent vote was not a fiction.
"US officials'' – those all-purpose sources for lazy journalists – were quickly on hand to suggest that this was "posturing''. I really needed a "US official" to tell me that.
This could lead off an article in National Review, and he is certainly right in his contempt for the way much of the US press treated the Iraq election as serious. He devotes almost the entire column to Saddam and his antics.
Saddam is going to run this one up to the wire on Friday at which point his "wisdom" and "vision" will prevail and the UN inspectors will be welcome and the American media will say – just a guess – "Back from the brink''. Oh, yes Saddam understands how to play the clown. And with each circus act, he makes the Americans look just that little bit more silly. A dangerous trick to play right now.
Not a single complaint about the Israelis; not a single denounciation of George Bush. This piece could have been in the New Republic. There is one little shot at the CIA.
The real Iraqi fear is that the CIA will use the UN inspectors – just as they did before – and that the inspectors, far from searching for weapons of mass destruction, will be fingering sites for bombardment if/when America decides to invade.
And dare I say it, although Fisk clearly does not approve of this, whereas I do, Fisk's claim is at least plausible. I will admit, Fisk baffles me sometimes.

Over at the Guardian, on the other hand, the best Simon Tisdall can do is stomp his foot and declare that a war on Iraq would be "undemocratic".

Human rights: from tragedy to farce
I noted the other day about a decision in Britain declaring that prisoners have a human right to hard core porn. Now there is a suit in Britain insisting that access to television is a human right. This is a not freedom of the press type complaint. This is a claim against the television license fee as the form of taxation used to subsidize the BBC. So it is not a right to television. The claim is that there is a human right to be taxed only in certain ways, or more specifically, a human right not to have to pay user fees.
And the sun came out from behind the clouds
Okay, so it is the last editorial. But still, Mr. Castro's Cuba is thoroughly devastating in its attack on Castro.
At a time when suicide bombings and mass hostage takings have become common tools of political insurrection, the opponents of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro remain stubbornly civilized. . . . Yet Mr. Castro's response to such dissent remains as harsh as if he were confronted by the terrorists of al Qaeda; in fact, he treats his political prisoners far worse than the United States treats the al Qaeda suspects it is holding at the Guantanamo Bay naval base on the edge of the island.
The Post is catching on to the monster of the Caribbean, who leftists still fawn over. But the editorial goes further; it offers some respect for the opposition:
Mr. Bruzon was merely planning a peaceful public ceremony when he was arrested Feb. 23; since then he has been held without trial. In late August, in protest of the conditions under which he and some 230 other Cuban political prisoners are being held, he began a hunger strike. Now, according to his family, he is near death at a military hospital. His family says his body is covered with bruises and he is coughing blood; his voice is barely audible. His condition is a testament to the nature of Mr. Castro's regime. By the same token, the peaceful tactics he and other opponents have so courageously adhered to predict the quality of government that could one day succeed the dictatorship.
This is at least the start of the left making amends for their years of fawning over the old butcher and slandering his opponents. Bravo to the Post.
The New York Times tries to be funny
The Times reports that the Senate Judiciary Committee has decided to allow the nominations of Michael McConnell and Dennis Shedd to go forward to the full Senate. Gee, since the chairman decides on things like staff allocations, it seems obvious from paragraph one that the Democrats are suddenly trying to make nice, now that they are on the losing side. But the Times waits until paragraph eight:
Republicans said today that they recognized the agreement to vote less as a gesture of good will than as an appeal to Senator Hatch to be kind as he allocates committee and staff resources.
Relationshipism
In the New Republic, Lee Siegel has some fascinating things to say about "Sex and the City". Specifically, he wants to know how these four women actually survive the routine humiliation and degradation they willingly put themselves through. To get the gist of it,
A "relationship" is not to be confused with a union. It is an ongoing argument between two stubbornly sovereign selves about the possibility of a union.
. . .
In this sense, the Relationship--in which everything is not allowed, because there is the boundary of the other person; and in which possibilities are finite, because there is the problem of two distinct lives, each with its own limitations and vulnerabilities--is a laboratory for a lot of present-day quandaries that no social or cultural authority can explain, or even clarify.
And people ask me why I am less libertarian than I used to be.

Tuesday, November 12, 2002

Beware, soccer moms
A coroner in England rules that a soccer player's death was the result of dementia brought on by heading the ball. So maybe all the annoying soccer moms who think soccer is the safe sport for their little darlings will have to think again. The downside is that they may try harder to get their sons to play with dolls.
The New York Times makes the case for markets
In the New York Times, Nicholas Kristof makes the case for paying for body parts. Kristof lists the mortality from kidney failure, and asks whether it is worth paying people to supply kidneys after death. He even confronts the awful trade-offs that people face, not a regular feature of the Times editorial page.
One of the biggest problems with the existing system is that the shortage means that many live people end up donating spare kidneys to needy relatives. At least two live donors died in the last three years because of the surgery, and a third was left in "a vegetative state."
Imagine that you face family pressure to hand over a kidney to a childless cousin, while you yourself have four children who need you . . .
Kristof cites a new AEI book by David Kaserman of Auburn University (The U.S. Organ Procurement System: A Prescription for Reform), an antitrust expert whose interest in the subject may have been driven by his own kidney transplants.
Yippee
The New York Times editorial page announces that Paul Krugman is on vacation.
Anti-Semitism in effect
Eugene Volokh raises an interesting and important (but wrong) point. He says that the notion of "anti-Semitism in effect", one that Lawrence Summers used, is nonsense. Anti-Semitism, anti-Catholicism, racism, these are all about attitudes and intent, not about actions. I think gist of his argument is summed up in these two extracts, but his comments deserve to be read in full.
But this notion of "anti-Semitic in effect" (which I've heard from many others) doesn't make much sense to me. To me, racism, sexism, and anti-Semitism require intention, either to harm a group or at least to treat it differently. If you oppose Israel because it's inhabited by Jews, that's anti-Semitic.
. . .
If someone thinks "I want to raise the penalties for murder because most murderers are black and I want more blacks to be locked up for longer times," that's a racist argument; but if someone thinks "I want to raise the penalties for murder because murder is wrong, and should be punished more severely," that's not a racist argument. It's the motivations that make an attitude racist or nonracist, not the effects (though it's the effects that make the proposed law wise or unwise, not the motivations).
I am not fully persuaded here. I think there several ways in which "anti-Semitism in effect" has a clear and useful meaning. Let me offer four examples. First, suppose someone joins and contributes to the Klan because he hates blacks, not Jews. Because hatred of blacks and Jews is bundled together in the Klan, this person's behavior is anti-Semitic in effect, even though he is indifferent to Jews. In much the same way, if I drive down a residential street at 60 mph, even if I do not intend to kill anyone, my indifference to human life (because I am likely to kill someone) deserves condemnation.
Second, suppose I sit at the lunch table at work and listen to someone tell crude anti-Semitic jokes. I laugh, not because I hate Jews, but because I want to suck up someone politically influential in the university. By encouraging him my conduct would be anti-Semitic in effect.
Third, an argument I hear frequently is that Israelis are not entitled to respond to terrorism because innocents might be killed. If I respond that the terrorists do not care about innocents, so how exactly are the Israelis supposed to defend themselves, the response is roughly: do you want the Israelis judged by that standard? To the extent there is racism here, it is toward the Arabs, suggesting that they are not capable of any sort of moral behavior, so there is no point to even setting standards for them (like accusing a dog of murder for killing a squirrel). The racism is anti-Arab, but by attempting to deny (as if the Israelis are stupid enough to care what second-rate European intellectuals think) the Israelis the right of self-defense, it is anti-Israeli in effect.
Fourth, consider the European Commission's refusal to get involved in figuring out how their aid to the Palestinian Authority is actually being used. The money is clearly being used to kill Israelis, by people who hate them for being Jews. Is the European Commission anti-Semitic? My guess is not: the kinds of politicians who make it to those jobs are usually the sort of like only themselves and hate only the people who get in the way of their ambition (yes, I am being very cynical here, but that is not to the point). There may be good realpolitik reasons for ignoring PA corruption. If, however, they refuse to investigate because they don't want to draw opposition to their careers from anti-Semites, then their behavior is surely anti-Semitic in effect even if not in direct intent. (Come to think of it, this is example 2 taken out of the university.)
All of this is about intent, not actions, which Volokh says are what matters:"it's the effects that make the proposed law wise or unwise, not the motivations". In a sense this is true, but it leaves out the problem of how decisions get made in the face of uncertainty. Let me give an example. We hear arguments all the time that are difficult to evaluate, both analytically and empirically. They also take scarce time. That means that decisions have to be made without listening to all the arguments. If the Guardian has a rant against the US or Israel, I ignore it even though it may have a good point because I think it unlikely to have a good point. I think it unlikely (a statement about results) because of my belief about their intentions. Because the Guardian is viscerally anti-American and anti-Israel (an intention), I think it unlikely (although not impossible) I will read anything useful there. On the other hand, if Margaret Thatcher or Vaclav Havel were to criticize the US, I would make a point of listening, precisely because of my beliefs about their intentions (as well as thinking them intellectually serious people). So in that sense, intentions matter greatly. They are a useful way of assessing whether an argument is likely to be serious, and therefore a way to decide what to take the time to evaluate.
But at the Guardian, on the other hand
George Monbiot at the Guardian, always good for an odd thing to say, has some trouble understanding investments. His column is primarily dedicated to a theoretically interesting (but I suspect empirically uninteresting) proposition: By forcing Gore to move to the left, Nader's campaign brought out left wing voters who otherwise would have stayed at home and thereby increased Gore's vote total. This is all because, Monbiot assures us, Americans are mostly left-wing. He is puzzled then why America moves to the right. The usual explanation, he tells us, doesn't work:
While political choice in many other nations is restricted by the threat of capital flight, the US (because the dollar is both the global reserve currency and the haven of last resort for speculative capital) has little to fear from the markets.
Clearly, he has no memory of the '70s, when American firms were writing contracts in Japanese yen. I think Monbiot's point is that so long as the US doesn't follow silly left economic policy, it won't be forced to retreat from silly left economic policy.
UPDATE: In the Washington Post, Richard Cohen takes on the "Democrats should have moved left" argument.
A good day for the Independent
In an editorial, the Independent coughs up and admits that maybe sometimes communism can be bad for you.
. The peoples of Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan and Somalia have been the victims of devastating natural disasters. They have also been badly served by their leaders. In Ethiopia, the cruel communist dictatorship of Mengistu Haile Mariam followed the despotic regime of Haile Selassie. Mr Zenawi, Mengistu's successor, is not as brutal, but he has made mistakes.
Granted, it says the communists were just part of a chain of thuggery. What is striking, however, is the forthright admission that Mengistu's regime was communist, not "allegedly communist" or "thought by the US State Department to be communist" or "Stalinist". Just plain communist.

Monday, November 11, 2002

Growing old
The invaluable Miss Manners offers some sage advice on aging: stop pretending it is not there. I am not the most formal of people, but I am greatly annoyed by people who introduce me to ten year old children by my first name, as if we are dear close friends. I was recently told by a marketing employee for a pop music radio station that the station's target demographics were 15 to 35 year olds. I took it (correctly, as it turned out) that she meant arrested adolescents in their twenties and into their thirties who pretended that they had not gotten older. I am 46, well into middle age. I can call myself young at heart till I am blue in the face, and it doesn't change the fact that I am getting closer to being dead. Miss Manners says all this better than I do. Go read her.
The Guardian goes breathtakingly loony
In the Guardian, environment editor John Vidal goes wildly utopian.
Last week in Florence, a similar kind of open-ended brief, to imagine and construct a European social edifice worthy of being one day called a 21st-century paradise, was entrusted to the institutions, politicians and people of Europe. It came from 40,000 intellectuals, students, ecological and social activists, people representing the poorest and most marginalised, radical economists, concerned individuals, humanitarians, artists, culturalists, churches, scientists and land workers from a bewildering array of non-government groups and grassroots social movements.
. . .
Top of the list, they sought a demilitarised Europe at peace with itself and the world, an ethical continent that takes a high moral stance against US imperialism. High on the list too was a radical rethink, or complete rejection, of the predatory capitalism the continent now knows. They imagined a Europe that rejected crude market ideology, made institutions fully accountable, put people before profit, and where big business was not allowed to dominate the political or consumer agendas.
Did I click on the wrong page? Was this really the Onion? Mad Magazine's parody of the Florence protests? Maybe Jonah Goldberg hacked the Guardian's page to make fun of them.

He ignores the by now famous picture (apparently first picked up by The Weekly James) of the protester calling Jews a cancer on humanity, but let's skip that for now. I did not really think there was anyone left over the age of 18 who really thought crowds of thousands will bring on utopia. I should listen more carefully to these people. As far as I can tell, if only we get rid of the Jews, these poor souls will no longer have a problem getting a date for Friday night. That is flippant, but my point is an old one: these creatures think that politics will make their personal failures go away.

The British left admits deception
The Guardian has lost faith in the UN; it can no longer control America. Because, you see, the UN was founded on humanitarian principles, but is now based on power and money. In all the drivel that makes up Gary Younge's little tirade, we get one honest admission:
Having argued that bombing Iraq without UN authorisation would be illegal, we must now explain why bombing with UN blessing would still be immoral. For, while it was right to insist that the US act within the auspices of the UN, it was wrong to raise false hopes that the UN would be either capable or necessarily willing to prevent a military attack.
So the Guardian fesses up; all the talk about the importance of UN authorization was just a front, another ruse to protect Saddam.
The sun rises in the west
Robert Fisk gets through an entire column about the Middle East, specifically about the Arab League, without once so much as mentioning Israel. Instead, his scathing comments about Arab governments, usually simply cover for attacks on Israel, go to the front of the class.
[T]he Arab League's belief that the resolution really restrains the United States from invading shows just how far from reality the League is.
Until Syria's vote for the resolution on Friday, every Arab was supposed to believe that the UN vote would provide a trigger for a US invasion. The moment Syria voted for the resolution, every Arab was supposed to believe it deprived the US of the trigger.
It will provide some relief to regular Fisk watchers to know that he does at least denounce the CIA.
See no evil, hear no evil, . . .
The Jerusalem Post reports:
In response to a question by Charles Tanner, Conservative foreign affairs spokesman in the European Parliament, about charges that European aid to the Palestinians currently running at 10 million euros a month is being diverted to fund terrorist activity, Patten said he wants the issue investigated "like a hole in the head."
Europe is so good at turning a blind eye to thuggery and terror while indulging in moral preening.
Man's best friend (how to feel good today)
The Daily Telegraph (registration required, but really worth it) has a story about Allen Parton and his dog, Endal. Endal saved Parton's life and his marriage after Parton lost his memory after a serious head injury.
Mr Parton, who uses a wheelchair, credits Endal with his successful recovery and said he was a "lost man" until he met the dog in 1998.

Endal performs a lifesaving role, and is trained to cover his master with a blanket when he suffers from the occasional blackout.

"I had become bitter and twisted after what had happened to me in the Gulf and my wife and I were close to splitting up. But Endal gave me new confidence and gradually he brought me back to my family."

Are you feeling down? This is the story to read to bring you back.
Taps
A moving piece on the history of playing taps in the military by Lucian K. Truscott IV, in the New York Times.
Never forget
In the New York Times, Brent Staples writes about a documentary by Keith Beauchamp on the savage murder of 14 year old Emmett Louis Till in 1955. No one was ever convicted. Now that there have been, finally, convictions in the 1963 Ku Klux Klan bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, Staples is hopeful that maybe justice can be achieved.
Germany benefitted hugely from purging Nazis; Russia is suffering because the communists haven't been purged. The south needs the Klan purged.
Masculinity revival
John Kass asks, in the Chicago Tribune, what happened to all the boys-shouldn't-be-masculine stuff. It is amazing what happens when the price of saying very stupid things goes way up.
Say nothing, do nothing
Israpundit reprints a letter from a Jewish father in Israel to his children after a visit to Dachau.
Why, I asked when I was young, why was I the only child in my class without grandparents? Why does my father spend hours at night staring at the pictures of his majestic father and beautiful mother that hung on our living room wall? Why is he sometimes so sad? But nothing prepared me for the feeling of walking on the earth where so many of my brothers and sisters were systematically treated in inhumane fashion, were tortured, beaten and starved to death.
He asks about the silence: why did Europe sit and do nothing?
First, when I saw old Germans walking on the avenues, crossing the street, eating a piece of cake at a cafe, living their lives as if nothing had happened in the 1930’s and 40’s. What did they do during the war? What did he see? What did she hear? Did he object? Did she scream out? I doubt it. Very few did.
And so Europe is now desperate to blame the Jews. If the Jews are to blame, then surely Europe's silence was acceptable. Read the whole thing.

Sunday, November 10, 2002

Human rights in Britain
The Telegraph reports that the Human Rights Act, which incorporates the European Convention on Human Rights into British law, means that a serial killer of six young men is entitled to get hard core porn in his prison cell. Problems of prison discipline and safety? Not an issue when human rights are at stake. Of course, this is Britain, where self-defense is not a human right. Safety of the public and all that. (And no, I'm not picking solely on Britain here. For example, my little land of Ireland isn't much better. The judges are as bad, but the police aren't as politically correct yet. I won't even talk about France.)
Another Fisk slapdown
Armed and Dangerous does a nice job of rather brutally fisking Little Bobby Fisk, on a column that deserved and got a couple of other fiskings, from me and Moira Breen.

This is not so much a criticism as an observation. When Armed and Dangerous talks about Fisk's grasp on reality, I think that means he thinks Fisk really believes what he says. After listening to him, I suspect Fisk is more the hustler making a good living out of his niche of writing columns and giving speeches for the hate-America crowd. If Fisk believes in anything, it is Little Bobby Fisk.

Suddenly, everyone has a classical education
Little Bobby Fisk started off his hate-the-West screed yesterday by getting all classical:
When Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon river, he wrote, in his Gallic Wars: "Alea iacta est [The die is cast]."
On he goes with his usual gripe. The idiot left seems to have actually given up on the old you-will-be-slaughtered line. It was a flop in '91 and in Afghanistan. So they have a new tack: Iraq will fall, but oh dear, oh dear, clearly the Bush administration has not thought through all the terrible consequences that will surely follow, blah, blah, usual gratuitous swipe at Israel, blah, blah. So today, Paul Kennedy does the same thing:
So there is a strong chance that President Bush will do what his father decided not to do: that is, he will cross his Rubicon and enter Baghdad.
What is it with the Independent? Do they have some house style sheet with "metaphor of the day" on it? (Kennedy, by the way, is the anti-American blowhard at Yale who used to mooch off the taxpayers in his British home, but headed west for the bigger bucks.) Kennedy spews out the usual stuff: turnout was low, so Bush doesn't really have the support of Americans, Bush only won because the Democrats were so weak and inept, on and on. But here is the amusing part. All the lefties squawked about Bush being unilateral. So he goes to the U.N. So Kennedy's line is to blame Bush for going to the U.N. Seriously.
In gratitude for their endorsement of the Security Council resolution, Russia and China can do what they like with their own regional problems.
As long as the U.N. was a barrier, it was the font of moral legitimacy. Now it is just a bunch of corrupt goons.
By the way, there may be an explanation for the Independent's behavior. Janet Street-Porter's (I don't know if it is a name or her job) column is an admission of ecstacy use.