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Saturday, June 02, 2007

God and Quarks

If you ask the majority of physicists, they'll tell you that quarks exist. This is a not insignificant statement, since in reality, nobody has ever experimentally verified said existence of quarks outside of the consequent mathematics. Quantum chromodynamics seems to imply that there are theoretical states where one might be able to isolate a quark, but thus far, experiments in that vein haven't turned up basically anything. In a very salient sense, quarks are metaphysical constructs that are said to 'exist' only in that the math works out well if you posit that baryons are a sort of quark sandwich.

The problem with metaphysics is that it tends to be, definitionally, unprovable. Demonstrating the epistemic existence of an object removes it from the realm of the metaphysical and allows it to crash solidly down into the physical firmament.

So when political candidates or theologians speak of God 'existing' I am forced to wonder: in what sense can they possibly believe that has meaning? Supposing for a moment that God 'exists' in the same sense that Pluto exists, you would tend to believe that such a guiding belief would have a modicum of evidence. But that argument is neither here nor there. In a more real way, the non-dogmatic version of theology (that is, God separated from Religion) would have us believe that God is the monadic source of reality. That is, God is indistinguishable from Hegel's Absolute Spirit or Buddhism's Oneness of Being or any of the other thirty-one flavors of singular originations for the world we observe.

In this sense, the conflict between Religion and Irreligion isn't one of fact, or even of consequences. It's a conflict of aesthetics. The normative reason to believe in a given unprovable metaphysics is the degree to which it enlightens an individual about the nature of things as we observe them. In the case of quarks, even if people never manage to isolate a quark (and a more compelling narrative that drives the mathematics never arrives), it can be said that they 'exist' in a metaphysical sense that is just as important as in an epistemic sense. The failing of religious belief is hardly that it's wrong; as it makes no verifiable claims of any sort, it's silly to talk about it as incorrect. The failing of religion is that it's incongruous with what we perceive, and falls short of making the universe that we see and taste and touch more comprehensible. The naturalist world view is similarly unpredictive (note: Boyle's law is predictive, whether it came about because God liked it or gravitational constants at the time of the big bang precipitated it), yet it is more harmonious with how we generally think and as such, is superior.

This is the fundamental error so-called 'agnostics' tend to make. They would say that there's no proof of God, but there is also no disproof, so nothing meaningful can be said about His existence. Yet what would evidence of God even begin to look like? Assuming that God is a personification of the monadic source of reality, the evidence for God would look exactly like the evidence for any number of other originations. For any given observable fact, there are, literally, an infinite number of perfectly rational hypothesis that explain it. Moreover, you cannot test the source of a physical law by invoking that law. That level of induction is utterly vacuous. There's similarly no reason to believe you can find the source of physical law qua physical law inductively. The whole question of proof and disproof is meaningless.

"Atheism" is simply the rejection of the theistic metaphysics, which is to say, a position of aesthetic disagreement. Asking whether or not atheism is a 'rational' position is akin to asking if disliking Chopin is a 'rational' position. It's a matter of taste, not fact.

cranked out at 11:29 AM | |

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Boogey Man

One of the legacies of World War II was, at least on the surface, a renewed dialog among the international community about the role of human rights. What is often forgotten in the demonization of the Nazi party is that similar anti-Jewish sentiments existed in most of Western Europe and the United States at the time - and that, given differing economic circumstances, it is not out of the question that one of the more 'enlightened' of us could have easily fallen prey to the incendiary ramblings of hatred that fueled the furnaces of the holocaust.

Many acts of contrition were taken following the carnage of the war, but the one that I want to talk about is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. When discussing the adoption of this particular list, a big hurdle was point number sixteen. Namely,
Article 16.

(1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.

(2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.

(3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.

Many countries from the middle east - most vocally Saudi Arabia - took issue with the idea that the UN would attack such an established cultural practice like the consideration of women as property. And it was only with much hand-wringing that the West decided to leave the provision in. Keep in mind, this is in a time when the Allies thought of the Middle East in roughly the same terms as our modern governments consider West Africa or South America. That is to say, 'confused' and backwater.

Today, there is very, very little doubt that this article would be stricken at the first claim of cultural imperialism. It's generally thought any more - especially in the wake of 9/11 and the disaster in Iraq - that Islamic countries are just different than us, and we need to respect their beliefs so we can all get along.

Here's my problem: I really don't respect those beliefs. I think the Islam practiced by the vast majority of the world is a disgusting, outdated, misogynistic and violent culture that uses religion as a method for defending their abuse of human rights by couching it in terms of their faith. There's a bizarre tendency for religious beliefs to be considered unassailable even in the face of an almost ludicrous amount of evidence that they're oppressive to the point of being unforgivable.

I'm not one who would say that the exact same ethics must apply to all people everywhere. The same limitations on free speech that might be cogent in Germany (holocaust denial laws) can very easily be frivolous in other societies. But when a country diverts from the basic tenet that everyone ought to be treated equally under the law, they should at least be forced to justify it in terms other than "God said so."

Having to respect someone's mistreatment of another person on the grounds that they really believe in the mistreatment is bizarre beyond comprehension and maybe we've gone a little TOO far in the direction of relativism.

cranked out at 9:23 AM | |

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

More Michigan

Stanley Fish, in a Times Select article entitled Revising Affirmative Action, With Help From Kant gives the following interpretation of Kant's political theory, as applied to affirmative action:

Kant says that correct political thinking must begin by affirming two propositions: 1) Â?the freedom of every member of society as a human being,Â? and 2) Â?the equality of each with all the others as a subject.Â? This emphasis on freedom and equality has led some of my students to conclude that Kant would have been in favor of affirmative action because, they reasoned, it was the denial of freedom and equality to African Americans that produced the injustices affirmative action is intended to redress.

That, I tell my students, is the wrong answer, because it confuses and conflates two aspirations Kant was concerned to keep separate: the achieving of results that many would think good, and acting in conformity with the moral law. In some philosophies Â? utilitarianism in some of its versions would be an example Â? morality and the bringing about of a desired social outcome (a more equal distribution of wealth, proportionate representation of minorities in positions of influence and power) would be one and the same. But Kant is, at least philosophically, indifferent to outcomes, in part because, as he puts it, Â?men have different views on the empirical end of happinessÂ? Â? that is, different views about what society should look like and therefore different views about the policies that should be pursued.

A state dedicated to morality rather than to happiness will not take sides and choose one end before the others; rather it will protect the right of every man to choose the end he prefers, provided that he in turn accords the same right to his fellows. Â?Each may seek his happiness in whatever way he sees fit, so long as he does not infringe upon the freedom of others to pursue a similar end which can be reconciled with the freedom of others.Â? It is the abstract right rather than Â?the object in relation to whichÂ? it might be exercised, and the condition of freedom rather than any action freely performed, that Kant values. His interest is not in the particular life plan an autonomous citizen might wish to pursue, but in the ability of that citizen to pursue it without having the plan preferred by others imposed on him or realized at his expense.

Stanley Fish is a distinguished professor of law, has published ten books and has taught at some of the elite educational institutions in the country. I am going to accept that he understands Kant better than I do. Personally, I seem to recall Kant advocating a number of political mechanisms that are in stark contrast to the above view - the death penalty, for example - and justifying them with reference to a distinction between individual action and state or collective action. But let's assume that the above is a correct and consistent interpretation of Kant. It seems the problem that Fish ought to be concerned with isn't the use of affirmative action in admissions, it seems like the problem Fish ought to find principally unacceptable is that the University of Michigan exists at all. The taking of funds by the state from individuals is a clear transgression upon individual's use of those same funds for the realization of inchoate aspirations.

This is largely, however, what I believe to be a misapplication of moral philosophy. The common filter through which to view racial conflict is one closely akin to torts; if a white person harms a black person, the black person is entitled to remuneration of some sort, therefore, if a group of white people (eg. much of the country in pre-1970 America) harms a group of black people, that group is entitled to a remedy in the form of affirmative action. This is typically the form the dialogue has taken since affirmative action began, and it's useful as a model. The decision in Brown vs. Board of Education painted integration with this brush, and it makes racial equality a matter of justice rather than more squishy concepts like 'social good' or 'altriusim'.

The analogy is fatally inexact, however. In the case of single individuals (or even an insular and easily identifiable group), guilt can be precicely pinpointed and blame assigned. Affirmative action isn't that.

As I mentioned in my previous post, Affirmative Action is a good program because racial inequality is a huge problem in America. Apart from our historical difficulties with discrimination, the racial tension that is created by having a de facto underclass has real consequences. The riots in France, while unlikely in America, are a pretty cogent example of what happens to societies that have these sorts of fissures. Crime, political disenfranchisement (even self-perpetuating), and if nothing else, economic inefficiency are outgrowths of stratification, and they're a very real problem. As long as race inbalance exists, it's in the public interest to use public institutions (like universities) to attempt to rectify it.

Kant has nothing to do with this process. It's not a moral question, it's a practical one.

cranked out at 2:15 PM | |

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Michigan Bans Affirmative Action

In the recent November elections, beyond all the liberal grandstanding over the return of the Democrats to power, the state of Michigan banned affirmative action in all of its publcially-funded institutions.

This can, I suppose, be viewed as progress. It's certainly been recieved that way in conservative press - the triumph of civil rights over the soft bigotry of low expectations! The elimination of reverse racism! But let's be real. This has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with ephemeral rights analysis and a strong belief in the constitutional principle of race neutrality and everything to do with the subconscious bigorty and elitism of rich white suburbanites.

People have attempted, in advocacy of this amendment, to suggest that elite state institutions have an obligation to select only the best students, and those most qualified and able to master the difficult coursework that will be thrown at them. In the words of Thomas Lifson just prior to the vote,
Why on earth should admission to the most demanding and rigorous campuses be presumed to be a matter of distributional equity? It is a matter of who can understand, master, and use the education, not a matter of handing out benefits to aggreived constituencies.

Membership on the Berkeley football team is not regarded as a matter of distributional equity. Where is the state's large Asian American population when it comes to the Cal Bears, who are Rose Bowl hopefuls this year? Cal and UCLA are playing Saturday and it will be broadcast on ABC for the nation to see. Please keep a count of all the Asian American players you see on the field. It won't be too demanding. Asian Americans constitute almost half the students at the two highly competitive campuses — because of their hard work and intelligence, not because they were handed a boon by an all—caring goverment.

Disposing for a moment of the fact that the average person gains no particular long-term social or economic advantage as a result of playing football at the collegiate level, while a four-year degree is essentially a prerequisite for admission into the upper-strata of the country, both socially and politically; what makes people think that college admissions can actually evaluate students in such a fair way? Do people believe there's a magical algorithm for discerning which students will succeed and which will fail? The simple fact is, the exemplary students will make it in regardless of what programs are in place, and the dullards won't stand a chance, with or without racial consideration. The problem is, 80% of admissions candidates fall somewhere inbetween.

How do you even begin to compare? Michigan is one of the most racially segregated states in the country, with the African-American population residing mostly within the city-limits of Detroit. The average student who lives in Grosse Point has access to advanced placement classes, extracurriculars, the internet to research and two parents to help get them around - and is white. The average student who lives in Detroit has one parent, is likely on federal assistance of some sort, has far-below average healthcare, and is almost without question black. Is the former student 'more qualified' because she has a more impressive resume? Switch their positions, find out if the she still has time for the soccer team.

So why not income-based affirmative action? Because that method is, at best, imprecice and misguided, and more importantly, fails to take into account the pressing problem that racial segregation, whether it is economically coerced or legally mandated, is a social ill that plagues any society that wants to call itself free and liberal. All manner of idiotic explanation has been given as to why admissions boosts for traditionally subjegated minorities are bad. It has been said that it creates an atmosphere where the minority groups feel as if they are being condescended to, and where the accomplishments of members of those minority groups are tainted. As if they'd be better off working as a mechanic, without higher education of any sort.

Frankly, this isn't a problem of fairness in admissions. There is not now, nor has there ever been, fairness in admissions. It would just be a refreshing change if the unfairness were skewed towards a socially admirable goal rather than continuing to entrench a de facto aristocracy of a racially homogenous upper class.

What this is about isn't rights, and it's not about fairness. It's about the fact that the children of white suburbanites are being denied admission and that pisses the yuppies off. People will construct elaborate excuses as to why they believe what they do, but it always seems to be the thing that will benefit the person, doesn't it? People are anti-immigration because "they're taking our jobs," displaying a sense of nationalism and a need for the government to intervene on behalf of social goods. But they're anti-affirmative action because, in a collegiate setting, it's all about merit. The rich tend to be Republican because it means they pay fewer taxes, while the poor tend to be Democratic because it means there's higher redistribution.

Nobody would ever come out and say it, but the fact is, we're comfortable as a country believing generally in racial equality - but don't care if it ever actually happens, unless you happen to be a member of those minorities. But almost by definition, minorities rarely get their way unless they can convince enough people that they have a chance to become a part of that select few. It's pathetic that the Michigan voters decided to eliminate one of the only avenues to social mobility available to thousands of college-aged African-Americans in their state because they couldn't reconcile their feelings of racial identity with their liberal beliefs.

cranked out at 9:24 AM | |

Tuesday, January 09, 2007


Local Schools to Study Whether Math - Topics = Better Instruction via Phil

A couple thoughts on this:

1) It is absolutely infuriating when supposedly well-educated and informed journalists say things like this:
"Some scholars say the American approach to math instruction has allowed students to fall behind those in Singapore, Japan and a dozen other nations. "

This is a tired loquation, familiar to anyone who has ever read an article detailing literally any facet America's public education. It is a way for an author to add interest by inserting a "sky is falling" mentality into an otherwise innocuous article, which seems to be just about the only thing they teach in journalism schools any more. What they do not note, is that the comparison between the American education system and those of virtually any other country in the world are utterly inexact. Take, for example, the Office for Economic Cooperation and Development study. This study is typical of this category of investigations, and belies one of the basic issues with testing across cultures: namely, it can't really be done.

At the risk of sounding racist, the educational systems of many countries (especially Korea, Japan and China) tend to be much more tightly focused on operational math; that is, addition, subtraction, graph interpretation, and so on. Largely this tends to be a function of working within the confines of a country with a hypercompetitive higher-educational admission process. In the US, the difference between an A and a B can be the difference between MIT and Carnagie-Mellon; in many Asian countries, it can be the difference between getting into Nanjing University and not going to college. The difference is a mathematical culture that is fairly well built with an eye for admissions testing, which tends to fit the same mold as evaluatory testing.

Moreover, tests that want any modicum of comperability cannot test subject matter. Someone in 11th grade who has taken AP Calculus but not Geometry is going to come across on many exams as being worse at math than someone who has the reverse. The solution testmakers have found is to create a test that is solely "reasoning." This has two fairly immediate consequences: first, countries that do not have a democratically integrated education system have a massive advantage. Finland, who consistently ranks first in mathematics, doesn't have the "everyone goes to college" mentality of the US. Instead, they track into higher-education and vocational schooling. In China, those who are not going to go on to University commonly drop out to work. I am not saying those systems are worse than the US system - indeed, I think we would all be significantly better off just accepting that not everyone needs a four-year degree - but they do make a huge difference in testing.

Finally, studies consistently show a robust correlation between poverty and poor performance. This should be a suprise to absolutely nobody, and seems to be consistent without reference to school funding or overall institutional quality. (One of the findings of the above referenced study was that intra-school variation in the US is bigger than almost any other country). Yet the US has a Child poverty rate almost 7% higher than Canada, and 20% higher than Sweden. And considering the difference in quality and quantity of social programs (see: socialized healthcare) poverty in the US, in addition to being more prevailant, is also much more debilitating.

The basic result of these studies, in other words, seem to be: countries that have fewer poor kids taking the test tend to rank ahead of countries with more poor kids taking the test. You can eliminate poor kids from taking the test by tracking (removing the poor or underperforming ones early) or by tackling poverty head on, and making sure children are able to get an education because they are not systematically deprived of basic human rights. The US doesn't seem particularly interested in either of these, since preventing children from developing crippling illness by giving them health insurance is not democratic, and kicking them out of school is too obvious. But it does mean that focusing on curriculum and textbooks may never get to the real root of the problem.

2)This quote is also important:
"One group, led by mathematicians, has argued that children must learn a sequence of basic skills, including times tables and some memorization, if they are to have a fighting chance at college-level math study.

The other camp, led by math educators, has urged children to understand the theory behind math problems and to find solutions in their own way."

It's really unsuprising that the group that wants to teach basic skills is mathematicians, and the one that wants kids to understand "theory" and find solutions in their own way is educators.

Here's the thing: a first grader will never, ever, ever, unless they are an absolute prodigy, be able to understand the "theory" behind addition and subtraction. The actual theory behind addition tends to involve either a set-theoretical approach, invoking the cardinality of sets, or a number-theoretical approach, which tends to necessitate the introdution of the Dedekind-Peano axioms.

In fact, this is true for most math up until roughly the sophomore year of college. In order to understand the "theory" behind geometry, you need calculus. In order to understand the "theory" behind calculus, you need real analysis. These are not elementary school topics.

So what are educators really advocating? What they're going for is "New New Math" - like the disaster that is PSSM. It's a system of approaching mathematics as a social science, removing "right" and "wrong" answers in favor of elevating the explanation over the result. The problem is, this method is utterly bad. It is, for the less mathematical among you, like teaching upper-level linguistics to a kindergartener to help them understand sentences. The abstraction of these principles does not help anyone comprehend methodology, whereas familiarity with the methodology is instrumental in comprehending the abstractions.

The point I'm trying to make is: there are a lot of problems with education. But if the country is looking for real reforms, start by paying teachers more, and eliminating teachers unions. It's the sort of answer that is unappealing to people, precicely because it is obvious and tends to hurt the bottom line. But as someone with a ludicrous amount of math education, I face the choice in the coming year of working for $96,000 a year at Booz Allen, or $27,500 a year in DC public schools, where I will be able to teach Algebra I to 9th graders while someone with a degree in Communications struggles through higher-level classes because he has seniority. Guess which one I'm leaning towards.

The other point: stop letting people who don't know math or science create the curriculum for math and science. The things they teach in science classrooms these days are so utterly detached from anything meaningful, it's embarassing. And you don't need a study talking about Japan to prove it. There is far too much public interference in education, and that evolution/creationism is the hot topic is proof of that.

cranked out at 9:01 AM | |

Monday, October 09, 2006


This is the 496th post on a blog that I started in March of 2003, and it's the last one on Blogger. In order to start fresh, I'm now going to be updating a new page over at:


cranked out at 10:46 AM | |

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Quote News Unquote

Since I suppose I started my return from blogsolescence (get it? I took a normal word - obsolescence - and gave it 'blog' as a prefix! I'm tech savvy, kids. I'm fuckin' edgy.) by talking about why I don't vote, it's almost serendipitous that I recieved, by e-mail, a sterling example of why I don't read the news, either.

Michael Kinsey wrote a lovely little ditty that he titled "War and EmbryosBush's faulty logic about stem-cell research" but which could have just as easily have been called "The War in Iraq is Bad, and Here Are Six Logical Fallacies as to Why."

I suggest you read the whole article, since the rest of this won't make sense if you don't, but I'm curious how a person can thing something like this is even a vaguely appealing argument. Essentially, it's just two separate "I Hate Republicans" articles run through a food processor, with a link more tortured than a prisoner at Gitmo.

So let's look at the arguments, such as they are:

Bush is right, of course, that the inevitable loss of innocent life in wartime cannot be a reason not to go to war, or a reason not to fight that war in a way intended to win. Eggs, omelettes, and all that. "Collateral damage" should be a consideration weighed in the balance, of course. But there is no formula to determine when you have the balance right. It does seem to me that both of our wars in Iraq were started and conducted with insufficient consideration for the cost in innocent blood. Callousness, naiveté, isolation of the decision makers from democratic accountability, and isolation of the citizenry from the consequences, or even the awareness, of what is being done in their name—all have played a role. I don't see anything coming out of this war that is worth 50,000 innocent lives, although a case can be made, I guess.

First off, "isolation of the decision makers from democratic accountability"? There was an election in 2004, was there not? Because it seems as if the 'decision makers' - namely Bush (who gets to take credit and blame for his cabinet's actions) and many of the senators and congressmen who voted to authorize war - had to run in said election. And it seems as if, wonder of wonders, they were reelected. So to say that they are democratically unaccountable is both false and a little silly.

As for citizen's unawareness of what is going on: all I got to say is, if they're unaware, it's not because it's not being reported. Sure, we don't know about all incidences of ungentlemenlike behavior in Iraq and Afghanistan, but certainly there has been enough exposed brutality that if people cared, they have ample sources from which to draw their ire.

Apart from those qualms, the argument is just fallaciously assuming both antecedent and consequence. "The war in Iraq is unjust, therefore, the deaths it involves are equally unjust." It's not drawing some deep moral equivilence between stem cell research and war, it's just equivocating, saying "There's death in one instance, and death in another instance." The article attempts to paint Bush's position as "All death is bad, ever, under any circumstances." That would be nuts. The man loves the death penalty. Loves it. I hardly think that he has ever taken the position that embryonic stem cells must be protected because Bush just... loves life.

In all discussions weighing the cost of something-or-other in terms of human life, a philosopher pops up at this point and says that the crucial difference is a matter of intentions. Terrorists purposely target innocent civilians. We try hard not to kill innocent civilians, even if we know it can't be avoided. They're worse, even if our score is sadly higher.

But are stem cells any different? Stem-cell researchers don't want to kill embryos. They know that the deaths of embryos are a consequence of what they do, and they think that curing terrible diseases is worth it—just as President Bush thinks that bringing democracy to Iraq is worth it. In the case of stem cells, there is the added element that the embryos in question will be killed (or pointlessly frozen indefinitely) anyway if they are not used for research. And—oh, yes—there is still the question of whether a clump of a half-dozen cells you can't see without a microscope is actually a human being in the same sense as a 6-year-old girl blown up as she skips off to kindergarten in Baghdad.

Again - I hate to get off topic - but if a 6-year-old girl is allowed to go to kindergarten, and the kidergarten exists as something other than a state-run Islamic propaganda machine, then Iraq is already doing better than a majority of its neighbors.

Moreover, though, the moral argument the author comes close to making explicit is sort of horrific. Namely, if someone is going to die anyway, or absent your actions would likely have died, then anything you do to them is automatically value-added. This is one of the justifications for torture: that enemy combatants captured during duty could, under normal wartime circumstances, have been killed - therefore, short of death, actions you take that let the captors acquire knowledge are justified.

It's another example of the author pandering to a liberal audience - and using a strawman to characterize the conservative position on stem cell research. Oh, I'm sure some people have an unnuanced view of a fetus, and believe that a zygote is a living, breathing person. But far, far more people don't have this view. The vast majority of educated conservatives don't believe that a 3-month-old fetus has a constitutional right to bear arms, or from quartering troops during peacetime, or any of the other rights a real, living breathing person would have. They just find the idea of using pre-human embryos to try and grow body parts... well.. ghoulish. It's distasteful. And to say that the emotional response to embryonic stem cell research is less valid than the emotional response to torture or the captivity of enemy combatants in secret prisons is intellectually dishonest. Both have arguments for them, but as the article illustrates beautifully, it's not a matter of the arguments convincing anyone (here, he doesn't even try to) - it's a matter of choosing the argument to fit what you find emotioanlly compelling.

So let's ask - is it inherantly contradictory to hold both the position that civilian deaths in the course of a just war are unfortunate necessitis, and simultaniously that it's unwise for the US to use stem cells for medical research? The only link between the two that the author offers, between vitriolic spasms against Bush, is that both supposedly involve death. But it's silly to say that these positions - which are, for the most part, utterly devoid of common ground - are morally equivilent in any way.

It's possible to accept the grim realities of war and also wish to preserve humanity away from the battlefield. And the humanity I'm talking about isn't that of a fetus/child, but that of the people doing the experimentation. It's possible that stem-cell research will cure Parkinsons, despite no scientific suggestion or advance towards doing so, even in the many countries that allow this sort of testing, but it's also possible that it will just lead to a lot of cultured cells and a lot of distasteful embryo harvesting and a little less respect for the sanctity of human life as something beyond a means to improving our personal comfort.

cranked out at 11:53 AM | |

Friday, September 29, 2006


I don't vote, and one of the big reasons is the abortion debate. Not specifically because I am pro-life or pro-choice or pro-stem-cell-smoothies or anything, but just because I think it's emblematic of how removed from reality politics is.

Personally, I think it's reasonable to say that a person over the age of 18 should be able to legally acquire a safe abortion, and that the government can reasonably restrict someone under 18 from having one. From all accounts, an abortion is a procedure that can trigger depression, hormonal swings, and other serious psychological effects. Someone who is legally an adult should be able to make those decisions, someone who is not legally an adult can reasonably be said to not have the faculties to make an informed choice.

And do you really want parents able to pressure their children into sometimes dangerous medical procedures, if those procedures are unnecessary? On the one hand, the child might not have the greatest life. On the other hand, the new mother might be pressured into an abortion to preserve the parents' social standing.

Not that this is certainly the position I think the US should take: frankly, I know very little about this issue (which, unlike most people, means that I feel uncomfortable taking a definite stance) but from what I do know, this would be a reasonable law.

Yet moderation is totally lacking from the dialogue. The only two really viable positions in the US right now are: a) Abortion is murder, God will smite you. and b) Abortion is a right granted by any precepts of a liberal society, and without access to abortion, we may as well enslave blacks. The "Partial Birth Abortion" ban is just a thinly veiled attempt to illegalize abortion. Yet that's what we get.

A group of five people just talking and trying, absent campaigns and emotional vitriol, could probably fix the country faster than the entire political system we have in place. We don't need a Secretary of Homeland Security, we need a Secretary of Common Sense. Should we torture people? SoCS says no, since torture is ineffective and will result in US troops being tortured. Should we invade Iraq? SoCS says no, since you can't create democracy overnight, but we should probably stop with all the embargos that keep bad people in power, too.

cranked out at 9:02 AM | |

Monday, September 11, 2006

Duke Sucks

A quote from a recent article:

"There are a lot of successful people in this country who didn't go to college," Krzyzewski said. "They should be given the right to do that. We have one of the richest men in the world (Bill Gates) who didn't finish college, giving away hundreds of millions of dollars. To me, I'd rather have it the way it was (with no age limit)."

I hate to be cynical, but Duke bases their success on the strategy of finding players who are very good, but not quite first-round NBA quality talent. There have been a few Duke players who have gone high (This last draft, two went in the first round - but both have very, very little upside), but until Elton Brand, the book on Duke over the past few years was that their players were not NBA stars (Don't even bring that Grant Hill shit in here). It's a good strategy to shoot for 3- or 4- year players, since they can develop and gain chemistry. But it does mean Duke is less likely to target big-time prospects.

It's possible Coach K is more anti-age limit because he knows that other teams are more likely to gain a competitive edge if they can get the Melos of the world to come to their school for a year before the jump to the NBA, which is not a route Duke tends to take. Is my two cents.

cranked out at 9:29 AM | |

Duke Sucks

A quote from a recent article:

"There are a lot of successful people in this country who didn't go to college," Krzyzewski said. "They should be given the right to do that. We have one of the richest men in the world (Bill Gates) who didn't finish college, giving away hundreds of millions of dollars. To me, I'd rather have it the way it was (with no age limit)."

I hate to be cynical, but Duke bases their success on the strategy of finding players who are very good, but not quite first-round NBA quality talent. There have been a few Duke players who have gone high (This last draft, two went in the first round - but both have very, very little upside), but until Elton Brand, the book on Duke over the past few years was that their players were not NBA stars (Don't even bring that Grant Hill shit in here). It's a good strategy to shoot for 3- or 4- year players, since they can develop and gain chemistry. But it does mean Duke is less likely to target big-time prospects.

It's possible Coach K is more anti-age limit because he knows that other teams are more likely to gain a competitive edge if they can get the Melos of the world to come to their school for a year before the jump to the NBA, which is not a route Duke tends to take. Is my two cents.

cranked out at 9:29 AM | |

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