May 30, 2003
The Real Dole

When Bob Dole was running for President, he was an uptight speaker and fond of speaking in the third person (Bob Dole will lower your taxes. Bob Dole cares for the American people.). To put it mildly, Dole's style did not help his campaign. Since losing to President Clinton, Dole has been much more relaxed and seems to be a witty guy after all. I found the latest example of this in the New York Post (hat tip to Taegan Goddard).

THE searing wit of Bob Dole sent Bill Clinton running. When the duo learned that their "60 Minutes" debate series was in jeopardy of being canceled, Dole proposed they tackle the subject on-air. Clinton was at first intrigued by the idea, but backed out when he received Dole's first salvo in the proposed exchange. "Look, this is a crisis," Dole would have said, according to a script obtained by PAGE SIX. "I know, before when you had a crisis, you just bombed Saddam Hussein or let Newt Gingrich get near a reporter. But they're both retired. What are we going to do?" Dole continued: "How about this: Use the next 45 seconds to do something totally new. Admit you made even one mistake in office. If you have time left over, just plug Hillary's book."

If Dole had been this quick in his presidential debates with Clinton, we might be in the second term of President Dole. Now that would make for an interesting alternative history novel.

The End of Federal Income Taxes?

One of the things that has bothered me about President Bush's plan to eliminate the dividend tax is that people who own companies can easily use this change to pay absolutely nothing in federal income taxes. Many people have made this point, including Warren Buffet.

I am in full agreement that people should be able to keep more of their own money, but would rather see the entire federal income tax abolished and the government funded via consumption taxes. The more you consume, the more you pay. However, I am not optimistic about this happening any time soon.

George Will theorizes that this day may come sooner than I expect.

Others will continue the incremental but brisk march toward truly radical tax reform. It is a march away from taxing investment income--the new rates on capital gains and dividends are the lowest since the Depression--and perhaps away from taxing all sorts of income, and instead taxing consumption.

If this is indeed President Bush's long-term strategy, the next few years will be even more interesting than I expected. And if this is actually President Bush's plan, I wonder if he will announce it during his reelection campaign.

May 29, 2003
The Accordions of War, Part VI

(Hat Tip Jeffrey Collins)
As one might expect from a military superpower, the United States hosts the most intense war games on the planet. These war games provide valuable training for the US military as well as elite allied forces. This allied participation has many benefits, including enabling closer cooperation between these allies in times of war. The best air combat war game in the world is Red Flag.

...the goal is still to provide training that is as close to combat as participants can come "without facing bullets," as one Red Flag pilot put it.

About 24 percent of all Red Flag trainees are foreign, Droz said. Exchanging "ideas about how they fly and how we fly" is one of the most important objectives of Red Flag, Droz said. ...which has been called "the crown jewel of air combat command."

Cope Thunder is a similar program, but is done on a smaller scale. Keep this in mind as you read the comments of former deputy undersecretary of defense Jed Babbin.
The French air force has traditionally been on the limited invitation lists for Red Flag and its smaller cousin, Cope Thunder (which follows Red Flag by a few months and is held in Alaska). So when Rumsfeld told the Frenchies they were disinvited to both Red Flag and Cope Thunder, their air-force guys were shocked. Being excluded from the best war games sends two unmistakable messages. First, we don't need you. Second, we don't want you. Capiche?

Earlier this week, I mentioned Condoleezza Rice's view on those who actively tried to keep Saddam in power " Punish France, ignore Germany and forgive Russia." A small part of this new policy toward France is now evident.

For some reason, the French are very proud of their military. Rumsfield has, again, struck a major blow against Gaulic pride. Surprisingly, this has come as a shock to the French. I suspect this is just the tip of the iceberg. I do not think that the US is going to show their displeasure with France by actively going after this small country. But the days of treating France as a respected ally are over.

New Bloggers on Parade

The Truth Laid Bear is having a contest to call attention to some new blogs. Points are awarded by the number of sites linking to them. Here are a few that I thought worth the read.

E Pluribus Unum
Giant City
Non Literal
The Colorado Compound (but on Blogspot, so it will only work about 1/2 the time).
The Smallest Minority - cool title for a blog, but also on Blogspot.

May 28, 2003
Experiments In Speech And Diversity

(Hat Tip Reductio Ad Absurdum)
If any of you are in the publishing business, or know someone in the publishing business, go sign up Professor Adams. His column on freedom of speech on campus is insightful and funny. Warning! Those with no sense of humor should not read the whole thing.

It has recently come to my attention that a feminist student at UNCW has taken offense to a sticker on my office door which reads "So you're a feminist . . . Isn't that cute." I found this out after obtaining a copy of a letter her father wrote to you, the Board of Trustees. I could comment at some length on the obvious hypocrisy of this student's decision to ask her father to defend feminism for her, but I won't.

If Professor Adams ever publishes a book, I will buy a copy.

When Standards Aren't & Why Appeasement Is Always a Bad Idea

I have many international friends and sometimes we banter about the differences between our countries. One of the more predictable jokes is that someone will ask why the crazy English system of measurements (pounds, miles, gallons, etc.) is still used in the States. My standard comeback has been that anyone can use the base 10 metric system, but it takes an intelligent person to use the English system.

All kidding aside, it would be useful if everyone used the same set of standards. There is a manufacturing truism that better is not better, standard is better that reflects the high value placed on standards. So for years I thought it would be desirable if the US converted to the metric system. I do not expect this to occur in my lifetime, but I always thought it would be nice. Today, I am not so sure I would want the US to convert to metrics. Apparently the kilogram is not a constant standard -- the official measurement has been shedding mass for an unexplained reason.

No one knows why it is shedding weight, at least in comparison with other reference weights, but the change has spurred search for a more stable definition.

"It's certainly not helpful to have a standard that keeps changing," says Peter Becker, a scientist at the Federal Standards Laboratory here, an institution of 1,500 scientists dedicated entirely to improving the ability to measure things precisely.

Unfortunately, the US system now has the same flaw. In order to appease our international friends, the US government changed the official definition of the pound to 0.45359237 kilograms in 1959. Based upon this change, our system of measurements is also flawed and will remain flawed until the official standard for the kilogram is redefined.

The morale of this story: Appeasement is always a bad idea. Even trivial matters that seem to have no long-term reprecussions (the 1959 change to the definition of the pound only changed the official weight of the pound by approximately one part in 10 million) may impact you in ways you would never guess.

Reference Update

Each month I try to add one new subject to my references section (link at top). Today I added a section on Robotics.

May 27, 2003
The German People Deserve Better, Part VIII

It has been a while since I last discussed German politics. Since then, Schroeder has had a bit of good news. His party actually won a regional election. However, even that victory was tarnished for Schoeder.

That success is put down to the personal popularity of the SPD's leader in Bremen and the fear of breaking up the left-right coalition running the state, rather than anything Schroeder has done. Indeed, Social Democrats in Bremen deliberately kept the chancellor out of their campaign.

Why is Schroeder being shunned by his own party? It might be because he has led his Social Democratic Party to its lowest ratings since it was formed; recent polls suggest the Social Democrats would only get 25% of the vote if general elections were held today. While true, this just begs the question. Why is his party in such dire condition? Is it because Schroeder and his Social Democrats played the anti-American card to get elected? After all, President Bush and his administration are still holding Schroeder responsible for his actions.
Schroeder had been pushing hard for a separate meeting with Bush but this was rejected by US Secretary of State Colin Powell whose visit to Berlin last week underlined the chilly relations.

On this issue, the US administration is united. Condoleezza Rice has been advising US officials to Punish France, ignore Germany and forgive Russia. More specifically:
"We're now doing everything we can to improve relations to Germany at all levels," the unnamed German visitor quoted Rice as saying. "But we're going to work around the chancellor. It's better to leave him out."

And to enunciate the messages of Powell and Rice, President Bush went out of his way to spend time with a potential 2006 challenger to Schroeder.
When word got back to Berlin last Friday that George W. Bush had found about 15 minutes to personally welcome visiting Hesse Premier Roland Koch to the White House, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder was reported to be livid.

So it is clear to the most obtuse follower of politics that the U.S. administration is clearly not going to give Schroeder another chance. But is this enough of a reason for 75% of the German electorate to disapprove of the Social Democrats? Based upon this article, the answer is no:
A new public opinion survey shows that Germans now overwhelmingly see France as their country's most important and reliable ally, with the United States having declined significantly in importance. The survey, prepared by the Allensbach Institute of Public Opinion Research for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, found that 49 percent of Germans said France was their country's most important partner, compared to 17 percent for the United States.

Schroeder's alienation of the United States may have reduced his popularity among the minority of Germans who strongly treasure a relationship with the States, but this would not account for his low popularity. After all, Schroeder and his party were elected on an anti-American platform. So what else explains the low popularity of the Social Democrats?

Michael Mertes, a former policy advisor to Helmut Kohl, believes Germany is less relevant in both European and world politics than it was before the Iraq war. Repairing the damage will not be easy. The Social Democrats perceived mismanagement of the Iraqi War is probably partially responsible for their current low appeal. However, this alone would not completely explain Schroeder's falling ratings.

Most of the fall can probably be explained by former President Clinton's campaign motto, It's the economy, stupid. Unemployment for the working-age population is approaching 11%, the highest since 1990.

Economic growth is well below the EU average, Berlin has given up hopes of balancing the budget by 2006 and the public deficit has earned it a reprimand from Brussels.

I expect Germany's economic woes to continue for quite some time. On top of the economic problems just discussed, the euro is also hitting record highs against the dollar. While I doubt the Bush administration would deliberately pursue a weaker dollar just to punish certain European countries, I also doubt the White House will try to prop up the dollar. A weaker dollar greatly increases the competitiveness of US exports. Since many Asian countries (including China) link their currencies to the dollar, this means European goods are becoming more expensive around the world, not just in the States.

A strong euro is not all bad, the US has enjoyed many benefits from a strong currency for years. However, it is harmful for European exports. High-tech exports from the US will become more and more price competitive and low-tech exports from Asian competition will become even more attractive. Europe, which competes in both markets, will see a noticeable decline in trade.

What does all of this mean? Schroeder will not win another election. The German people deserve better than Schroeder, and they know it. When Schroeder is no longer in power, the American people will be there extending a welcoming hand to Germany so long as another anti-American leader is not elected. The choice is up to the Germans.

Go Wish Susanna Well

Susanna, of Cut on the Bias, is having a tough week. Go to her comments section and wish her well.

Babelfish Alert - Use at Your Own Risk

Drew (California) sends this warning. He ran a French recipe for potatoes and herring roe through Babelfish, the online translation software.

Babelfish translated "passer cette creme a travers un chinois, rectifier l'assaisonnement" ("pass the cream through cheesecloth and correct the seasoning") as "pass the cream through a chinese man to adjust the seasoning"

Be sure not to eat anything in a home where they rely on Babelfish.

Nothing like the cutting edge of technology...

Morality - Action vs. Thought

Paul responded to my post on morality. I am glad he did, because it made it clear that a significant portion of our disagreement came from a misunderstanding of what morality means. Since many of Paul's points are based upon his misunderstanding, there is no reason for discussing his points here. However, I thought it useful to publish part of his email as a way to clarify the meaning of morality. Paul stated:

All of the arguments you make have noting to do with morality. Morality isn't the action, its the THOUGHT. I fully stand by my statement.

"Morality: A system of ideas of right and wrong conduct" The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language.

I say again - you CANNOT legislate morality (ideas). Actions, sure you can gain as much control over a person as they are willing to give you. What they believe in the privacy of their own minds is inviolate.

This misunderstanding of morality may explain why some people say you cannot legislate morality. If by this statement, one means that human governments may not enforce laws about human thoughts, then I would agree. And thus one of the main points of disagreement between Paul and myself would vanish. However, this is not what morality means. Contrary to Paul's position, morality specifically includes the action. As the definition he provided states, morality is about right and wrong conduct. And laws certainly legislate right and wrong conduct with prescribed penalties for wrong behavior. Thus, governments have legislated morality as long as we have had governments and they will continue to do so in the future. The only question is whose morality will be legislated?

May 26, 2003
Change is Here

As promised I have changed some of my links to provide a variety of perspectives.

May 24, 2003
Change is Coming

Early next week, perhaps Monday, I will be revamping my links. So if you have a favorite that you link to from my site, make sure you bookmark it or otherwise save the URL. If your site is one of the ones removed, it is nothing personal. I try to limit the number of links in order to make the links meaningful and I like to continually try some new (at least new to me) sites.

You Can Run, But You Can't Hide

If civil libertarians were bothered by cameras in public spaces using face recognition technology, wait until they understand what is coming. Some researchers have been working on a method to recognize people by their unique gaits. That is right, some scientists believe each person has a unique walk, as well as unique fingerprints and have built prototypes to test their theory. It looks quite promising.

The Liberated Iraqi Poets' Society

I was surprised and pleased to find this article in the New York Times. I know I am making a vast generalization, but I believe most poets consider themselves as enlightened artists who try to make a difference in society with their work. Many artists believe that they cannot be truly creative unless they have undergone problems (just as some singers claim you cannot sing the blues when you are very happy). If this is true, some great poetry should be written in a free Iraq.

At the Writers' Union, a shabby building that once was the domain of the government's literary minions, a new leadership has declared itself in charge. A maxim of Mr. Hussein's still adorns the entranceway, proclaiming, "The nation without great poets will not have great politicians." But outside, a handwritten sign had been taped to the wall. "All of you who used your pens to glorify the dictatorship must lay down your pens and make way for those who were smothered by the regime," the notice said.

It looks like they are off to a good start.

FYI - Blogging at Solport

My blogging has been very light recently, but I am now over the hump on my real world time constraints and should be blogging more again. Thank you to those who wrote and asked if everything was OK.

French, Germans, and Russians Capitulate

Steven Den Beste is at his best when he discusses international politics from his engineering perspective. I had planned on writing a summary of what this week's vote at the UN meant, but Den Beste has already done a great job. Go read it yourself if you have time (Den Beste is many things, but concise is not one of them). The two cent version is below:

So... what the US got today was full authority to carry out reconstruction in Iraq, and to work on creating a new government there without being hassled by UN meddling or idiotic lawsuits, and France and Germany and Russia got to pretend that the UN still mattered and to avoid finding out just how badly they could be hurt financially if the US really got pissed off. The UN acted "unanimously" because it gave us what we wanted, and as a result the UN gets to pretend that it's part of the process.

Legislating Morality and Follow-Up

Last week I wrote a post that incorporated several of my core beliefs. From my readings on history, my business experience, and my own moral beliefs, I discussed how human life is valuable, how abortion is wrong, and how countries that value human life will see economic rewards for doing the right thing. I received several responses on this. Of this, Paul (Florida) was the most well-reasoned, even if he disagreed with me.

Ya had me until the last paragraph. China sponsors MANDATARY abortion and is still expected to triple our population by 2050. (See this link).

Thank you for the reference. I am aware of China's policy and do not believe I stated anything that was refuted by this article. The population of China is growing and that is one of the many reasons why their economy is growing. If the Chinese were not pursing an infanticide policy, I believe their economy would be grow even faster.

I strongly disagree with the China's forced abortion policy and find it barbaric. If I were selfish, I should probably support it as it is the only reason the North American growth rate is expected to be higher than China's growth rate (in both percentage terms and absolute terms). However, I still think it wrong. I suspect that 1) China's actual growth rate will be higher than expected as rural Chinese will manage to save many of their children despite the efforts of the Chinese government and 2) This policy will stop well before 2050 when the Chinese start worrying what to do with a youth population that is 70% male - a byproduct of only allowing one child is that many Chinese abort unborn females. Imagine hundreds of millions of frustrated males with no realistic chance of finding a domestic wife - it leads to some frightening scenarios.

While my wife and myself would never consider abortion to be an option, I cannot condone granting the government the "right" to deny ANY medical procedure to ANY person. Forget about keeping Uncle Sam out of the bedroom, let's start by keeping him out of our bodies.

You want to start by keeping Uncle Sam out of our bodies? Does this ideal of yours just apply to abortion? Or does it apply to prostitution? All drugs? Bestiality? Pornography? Suicide? Incest? Adultery? I am not being sarcastic, I am very curious where you draw the line. Two of these (drugs and suicide) also could easily fall under medical procedures, but the greater issue seems to be where you draw the line between personal freedoms and the right of the government to make certain behaviors illegal - to legisilate morality as you later put it.

For my part, I stand with the unborn. I do not think there is a "right" to kill them. I think future generations will look back on abortion with the same disgust that we feel when we look back at slavery. To paraphrase your opening sentence, "While my wife and I would never consider slavery an option, I cannot condone granting the government the 'right' to deny ANY property rights to ANY citizens." Obviously, this is a repugnant statement, just as abortion is a repugnant act. Either abortion is the vivisection of an unborn baby and should be outlawed, or it is fine and should be supported. But leaving the morality of it up to individuals is as foolish as leaving the morality of slavery or murder up to individuals.

As to doctors making "huge profits" from abortions, the data that I can find lists that costs for first trimester, surgical outpatient procedures run $350 - $500 with many insurances paying for all or part of the procedure. Mifepristone (RU-486) abortions are even less expensive.

I think that you are letting your personal opinions run rampart, here ("All forecasters have their own biases which impact their forecasts").

Touche. I am certainly subject to my own biases and that is why I try to make my own opinions clear so readers can make their own determinations. However, I stand by my statement. Let me approach this from several angles.

First, let me ensure we are having the same discussion. Quite simply, Profit is calculated by Revenue minus Costs. One can have huge profit margins on low priced items, so long as the cost of the item is less than the selling price. You bring up two examples. "Standard" abortions, where the doctor physically destroys the unborn and "DIY" (Do It Yourself) abortions where the doctor prescribes a drug. For both cases, the doctor needs to cover the cost of his time, that of his assistants, and rent. He also must pay for equipment (e.g., surgery tools) and consumables (e.g. cleaning agents, IVs, etc.).

In a standard abortion, most of the work is done by a low cost assistant. I would say nurse, but most states do not require that the assistant be a nurse (some states have no medical training requirements at all for these assistants). The abortionists comes in, dismembers the baby, stitches up the woman, and lets his assistants clean up while he moves on to the next woman.

The DIY abortions have a very low cost for the doctor. There are no real consumables and in fifteen minutes -- a conservative estimate, pregnant women usually get far less face time with the abortionist in these situations -- he charges them a fee and writes a prescription. The prescription obviously does not cost him a thing, so he is just charging for his time. This is why abortion shops are sometimes called mills, they are set up to crank women in and out as quickly as possible to maximize billing hours.

Some other reasons why abortion clinics are very profitable. Abortion clinics have less regulation than even animal clinics. While regulations save lives, complying with them also costs money. Since abortion clinics are less regulated, they have less expenses (thus more profitable) to stay in compliance (and are presumably less safe than more regulated clinics).

Standard abortions also may be more profitable than most medical procedures since both the client and the abortionists have reason to keep the transaction a secret. No one knows how many abortions are never recorded because the woman is ashamed and the abortionist just wants cash. Assuming the doctor has a personal income tax of just 28% (I will not even mention the income tax of most states since you live in one of the few states without a state income tax), hiding revenue from Uncle Same is big increase to the abortionist's bottom line. And the unregulated and shameful nature of abortions makes it very easy to hide this revenue.

So yes, many abortionists make huge profits off of abortion. Fortunately, some pro-life groups are taking lessons from the pro-choice movement. For years, the pro-choicers have been filing frivolous lawsuits against pro-life protestors, driving some into bankruptcy with huge legal bills. It did not matter that the pro-life protestors won most of the lawsuits, they still racked up legal costs. Well, some pro-lifers have adopted this strategy and are suing abortionists. Even if they lose, they drive up the abortionist's cost of doing business and are reducing the profit. I have mixed feelings about this tactic myself. I am thrilled it is being very effective and think it is one of the more devastating tactics used by pro-lifers. But even when used for good, I dislike living under a legal system where such a tool can be used.

If I were a poor, young girl with no professional skills, living in horrible conditions and I wound up pregnant, I would be extremely hard pressed to choose between sentencing my child to a hopeless, squalid childhood and a painless termination before they were even conscious. Especially realizing that I would have no way of providing adequate pre-natal care. I won't even bring in the whole illegitimacy question and the social stigma of an out of wedlock pregnancy.

I disagree with most of your assumptions here. First of all, your hypothetical choices for your poor pregnant girl are artificial and incorrect. You assume that a "painless termination" is an option. During conception, the beginnings of the brain, spinal cord, and nervous system are laid on day 20. Brain waves can be detected on day 43 (and it is reasonable to believe that brain waves may be detected earlier once we have better equipment). Dr. Liley (a doctor at the National Women's Hospital in Auckland, New Zealand) demonstrated that an eleven-week old fetus can experience pain and responds to touch, light, heat, and noise. She was even able to condition it to react to a bell, just like Pavlov's dogs. So aborted babies, at least those after the 11th week, feel intense agony as they are vivisected in grotesque and painful deaths. To present both sides, let me say that the results of this study are clear, but some groups dispute the meaning of the findings. Some pro-choice members do not believe the ability to feel pain is a meaningful criteria. Other findings can be found here.

Note that the US is one of the more barbaric countries in this regard along with China. At least some countries require abortionists to provide the fetus with painkillers before killing the unborn child. Legislators in California and Texas have tried to get similar laws passed here, but I do not believe any have yet passed.

Getting back to your artificial situation, assuming the unborn baby is over eleven weeks old, there is no choice between a painless termination and a hopeless squalid childhood. Even with the limited options you considered, the choice is between dying a horrible death by vivisection or growing up under "bad" conditions (for the US, being poor in the US still means having access to wealth unimagined by much of the world). Some of the few social programs that I am glad to support with my tax dollars are programs designed to help the poor - especially pregnant women and young children. One good example is WIC, it provides healthcare and food to pregnant women and children under five. So your hypothetical woman would have access to adequate pre-natal (and post-natal) health care should she decide to allow the child to live.

Other options, such as adoption, are also available and used by many women who do not wish to kill their offspring, but do not feel they are in a position to properly raise a child. Yes, there is a social stigma to being pregnant out of marriage, but I do not believe that is a justification for killing the child. I do think that scarlet letter laws, like the one in your state, are a bad idea and cause some women to elect for an abortion instead of complying with such an onerous law.

Abortionists care so much about their profits that they knowingly protect law-breaking customers (the adult that actually coughs up the cash) who impregnate young girls, even though protecting these criminals violates child abuse reporting laws that exist in all 50 states. Abortionists are already murdering babies and hiding money from the government, what do they care about another law if they don't get caught? If you are interested in this sort of information, you can get a free report here.

I emailed Paul with my questions for him (as asked above) and have incorporated his response and my comments below.

I was not aware that incest, suicide, adultery and pornography were illegal. Immoral, perhaps, but you can't legislate morality (thank God). I would be for legalizing prostitution (as it is in several states).

As to drugs, the government has not shown that it has been capable of controlling drugs with current legislation, maybe they should try legalization and regulation.

Let me state that I use no drugs (except caffeine). I never have used anything illegal and haven't even used alcohol in 10 years.

For the record, I fully stipulate that your beliefs are based upon what you think is right and you are not arguing based upon personal proclivities. That said, I still disagree with you. Let me point out the facts.

Incest is illegal in most states. A few have removed it from their books to protect children since despicable lawyers figured out they could protect criminals who committed sexual assaults on their wards by using old incest laws with lighter penalties. ...during the last thirty years, nearly all state legislatures have recognized the particular evil of adults who rape and molest children. In response, they have passed laws which result in extremely strict penalties and lengthy prison time for these crimes. In doing so, however, most legislatures did not recognize that the incest statute (which they left on the books, undisturbed) would affect how perpetrators related to the child victim could be charged differently for the same crime and thus receive much lighter penalties.

Suicide is illegal in all 50 states. If you want to get technical, attempting suicide is illegal. If one succeeds in committing suicide, one is obviously out of the reach of earthly punishments (although many states and life insurance companies have ways to penalize your heirs). To my knowledge, the only US exception is in Oregon. Oregon now allows for physician-aided-suicide if the person seeking death meets a few conditions, sometimes with horrible results. And here is a compelling reason for these laws against suicide. Until 1971, US citizens had a higher suicide rate than Canadians. Then something happened. The rates fluctuated for a few years and ever since 1977, Canadian suicide rates have been higher than US suicide rates. What caused the difference? In 1972, Canadians removed their law against suicide. Draw your own conclusions.

Adultery is illegal in most states (and the District of Columbia). Interestingly enough, the reason some states (such as Connecticut) have repealed their adultery laws is to protect the victims. In other words, precisely because adultery is a crime, the adulterous spouse can avoid admitting his or her transgression, even in civil proceedings. Since adultery still affects alimony and property settlements in some states, including Maryland, the perverse effect of the law is to "protect guilty spouses in divorce proceedings," points out Karen Czapanskiy, a law professor at the University of Maryland. Just like the states that have eliminated incest laws, the reason some states have eliminated adultery laws is to protect the victims and ensure the guilty receive a harsher punishment. It is not to make libertarians happy by adopting a moral-free view of human behavior.

Pornography is illegal in the hands of a minor and child pornography is illegal for everyone. In addition, there are legal restrictions on how pornography may be sold, shown, and even aired.

You state that you can't legislate morality. This made me laugh for several reasons. Given that this discussion started about abortion, I was reminded of Chris Grawburg's column that you might be a liberal if... One of his examples was you might be a liberal if you cry, "You can't legislate morality," but defend the Roe v. Wade decision in order to legalize your moral position on abortion. For my readers, this was especially humorous because I know Paul and would not consider him a liberal. A libertarian perhaps, but not your stereotypical liberal.

I also laughed sadly because I have heard this "truism" a lot even though it is patently untrue. A moments deliberation would show it to be false, but very intelligent people blindly use the phrase without thinking about it. As I have shown above, incest is illegal. That is legislating morality. Suicide is illegal and that is legislating morality (and Canada's experience shows the foolishness of not legislating morality for at least suicide). Adultery is illegal and that is legislating morality. Stealing is illegal and that is legislating morality. Lying under oath is illegal and that is legislating morality. A large portion of our laws legislate morality and I am glad of it. I would hate to live in under anarchy where the powerful could kill, steal, rape, and otherwise victimize the weak. Let's hear it for legislating morality!

I support the laws against prostitution - some parts of Nevada allow this to be legal (and receives visits from the State Department), but am glad it is illegal in most of the United States. The drug issue is more complicated and I believe it has to be discussed on a drug-by-drug basis. Since this is already a long post, I will not do that here.

Let me respond, further with this question: Should homosexuality be illegal?

Thank you for asking a dull, safe question with no wrong answers. LOL. The act of homosexuality is illegal in most states. This does not mean we have bedroom police, but it does have several social benefits. It helps increase the resources available for families (I am assuming that the protection of families is a key goal of society. I do not believe this is still true of all Americans, but believe it is still the majority opinion. At any rate, it is one of my opinions). It does this by not requiring employers to give benefits to homosexual partners (nor heterosexual partners for that matter). Benefits are restricted to the family (offspring, wards, and legal spouse). But this is a minor issue compared to some of the other reasons homosexuality should remain illegal.

Dean Esmay (read his remarks in the comments) has a post that discusses some of the social problems with homosexuality -- that homosexuals are responsible for spreading far more than their percentage share of diseases, including lethal ones. I am not that familiar with this research, but if this is true, that is a powerful reason to ban an unsafe practice.

I have seen several polls from pro-family organizations that point out that homosexuals only represent about 2% of the population (true), yet homosexuals are responsible for about 34% of all sexual assaults in America (unconfirmed by me). I have not seen similar results from any more scientific studies, but I have not found a single scientific study that makes such an analysis. This research may be too politically unpopular to even fund. Most academics I know would be either afraid to touch such a topic or would only be interested if they could prove homosexuals committed less sexual assaults than heterosexuals. Assuming there is some basis in fact for this claim -- that homosexuals commit approximately one-third of all sexual assaults -- yes, I think homosexual acts should be illegal. Here is why. In your state of Florida, the laws against homosexuality are the legal justification for preventing homosexuals from adopting children. Knowingly placing children in the hands of a group that is statistically one of the highest known groups for committing sexual assaults would be cruel and inhumane. This is why I agree with the Boy Scouts -- I would not want my children under the guardianship of a homosexual scoutmaster and I certainly would not trust him to take my boys camping.

OK, now that you have maneuvered me into being even more politically incorrect than normal, I will prepare for the flaming. But if anyone wants a reasoned response, make your flames reasonable. I would also like to thank Paul for his email. Discussing disagreement without resorting to name-calling is a good use of the internet. And many people are wrestling with these same issues. Even William Saletan at liberal Slate is frustrated because he cannot find a reason to disagree with Senator Rick Santorum.

Also, if anyone could send me a reference to any serious study that looked at what percentage of sexual assaults are committed by homosexuals, I would appreciate it.

May 17, 2003
Matrix II and Child Abuse

Yesterday I went to see Matrix II. I gave a quick review of it earlier. This post is not about the movie, but about what I observed before and after it. As is my habit, I took a book with me and read in my seat until they dimmed the lights. Then I put my book away.

By the light generated by the previews, I could vaguely see people entering the theater. My attention was drawn by a small figure; perhaps because the boy was about the same size as my five-year-old son. I hoped I was wrong, as I could not imagine anyone allowing a boy this young to see such a movie. Someday I will write a post on some of the research that reveals how media influences people (a good book for the layman is The Media Equation by Reeves & Nass), but many studies have repeatedly shown that the minds of children under the age of seven treat video images as being real (and children under seven seems to be a minumum). Even if the children say they know it is make believe, psychologists have reasons to believe that most children still internalize movies as if they were real. (In fact, some psychologists think adults internalize movies as if they were real. This has some scary consequences if true, but this is yet another post).

I bring this up because when the movie was over and I was exiting the theater, I saw that the boy indeed was quite young and he looked exhausted. I am not certain he was even five. As I looked closer, I felt like I had been gut-punched. I am not what one would call a very sensitive person. I can be literal to a fault and I am sometimes cynical about human nature. My past experiences (such as answering 911 calls and dispatching police officers) have exposed me to some poor examples of humanity. Yet I was astounded by what I saw.

Not only did this family bring a young boy to this R-rated movie, they brought a toddler. I would estimate the toddler was between 14 and 18 months of age. By the time I got near the family, the movie had been over for about two minutes. The family was still there because the parents were comforting the toddler who -- quite understandably -- looked scared out of his or her wits. I walked on by without saying anything, something I will regret for the rest of my life. At the time I did not know what to say, and after thinking about it for a day, I still do not know exactly what I should have said. But exposing young children to this movie was child abuse!

In hindsight, at a bare minimum, I should have followed them to their vehicle and reported them to Child and Family Services. At best, I should have come up with a way to politely let them know what they were doing was harmful to their children. Not only will the children have nightmares for weeks or longer; but who knows what this has done to their mental development? I discussed this with Lady Quixote when I got home, and she wondered if it was occurrences like these that increased the chances of children growing up to kill other children. (For an interesting perspective on the media’s role, see what this journalism professor has to say. Of course, like the overwhelming majority of journalists I have known, he could not resist blaming guns, but I agree with the rest of it).

I am leery of allowing the government to have more say in our lives, but sometimes people seem to be so stupid they need to be protected from themselves. And yes, I know that makes me seem like a liberal on this issue, but so be it. This is why I consider myself an Independent. For myself I am doing two things. First of all, if I am ever in a similar situation I will take some action. Hopefully I will think of a polite way to approach the issue by then, but I will not observe child abuse and do nothing.

Secondly, I am writing my representatives and asking them to pass a law setting a minimum age for those viewing R-rated movies in theaters. I will work on such a letter and post it at Solport when I am done. If you agree with me, I hope that you will do likewise.

Matrix II - A Quick Review (no spoilers if you have seen the trailor)

I took a break yesterday and went to see Mattrix II. Well worth it! Very thin plot, but who cares? The special effects are incredible. Agent Smith is back as a super virus and can duplicate himself. Watching countless Agent Smiths fight Neo was mind boggling and worth the price of admission for that scene alone.

Roger Zelazny once wrote an awesome fight scene about a battle between two time travelers. I believe this was in Creatures of Light and Darkness. Zelazny called this a fugue as the time travelers could summon future versions of themselves to fight against one another in battle of tens, then hundreds, then thousands. I always thought this was a cool concept despite the chronological paradoxes. Seeing several Agent Smiths start fighting Neo, then summing scores more as needed, was awesome and made me wonder if the writers had read Zelazny.

I am only commenting on this one scene as the trailers already gave it away and I do not want to be a spoiler. But there are special effects scenes galore, many of which make the first movie look primitive. If you liked the first movie, you will love the second one.

Warnings: The movie is rated R for violence. It has more adrenaline moments than any other movie that I’ve seen in quite some time. So I wouldn't suggest taking youngsters to it – it is rated R for a reason. Also, if you are the impatient sort, you may want to wait six months to see it. This is really half of a movie. It just stops half-way through and the story continues in Matrix III, out in November.

May 15, 2003
Go Out Tonight and FYI

If you have clear weather tonight, stay up and watch the lunar eclipse. As always, NASA has some interesting and useful information on the subject.

Thanks for the comments on my last post. I'll revisit it next week, along with some of the emails, when I have more personal time. Real life is going to keep me quite busy for a few days.

May 14, 2003
Long-Term Forecasting, Economics, and Human Nature

The first thing to realize about forecasting is that forecasts are guesses. Some guesses are better than others, but without supernatural powers, the best forecasters extrapolate current trends into the future and make predictions based upon these trends. All forecasters have their own biases which impact their forecasts. This is not always bad, but it is something to keep in mind. So I was fascinated to read this prediction. As you read it, see if you can figure out which country’s forecasters created it.

Europe is predicted to become a second-ranking economic force over the next 50 years, its share of world output almost halving from its current 22-percent share to 12 percent.

Over the same period, the United States is expected almost to retain its 25-percent share, which will by 2050 be matched or even outpaced by China as the world's dominant economy.

One might expect this to come from the Heritage Foundation or some other conservative American think tank. Or perhaps from a Chinese think tank dreaming of a day when China is the undisputed economic power in the world. Believe it or not, this forecast is by the French Institute for International Relations (IRFI). I found the story in a UPI briefing and then did some basic research on the French think tank. 50% of their funding comes from the French government and they are held in high regard.

I agree with their forecast regarding Europe and the United States because I agree with their reasoning. Wealth comes from human beings. In the information age, most wealth is created by skilled and educated labor, thus most wealth is created by free human beings. I know I am painting with a broad brush here, and there are still some exceptions to this, but it is a good rule of thumb for the creation of wealth. You can still obtain wealth with commodities (such as oil) with any labor source, but to create wealth by creating things (new products, movies, songs, new services), the most success (and wealth) invariably goes to countries with educated citizens who enjoy personal freedom (the States, parts of Europe, Singapore, etc.). I agree with the French think tank because their forecast is based upon their analysis of the future population of the world.

Even if it does absorb 30 million new immigrants by 2050, the European population is still expected to decline in the years 2000-2050, from 493 million to 434 million. In the same period the population of China is expected to grow from 1.34 billion to 1.5 billion with North America -- the United States, Mexico and Canada -- rising from 413 million to 584 million.

So in 2050, Europe is expected to have 88% of the population it has today (a decrease of 59 million). China is expected to have 112% of its current population (an increase of 160 million) and North American is expected to grow by 141% (an increase of 171 million).
This is yet another reason I despise abortion. Not only is it a cruel, barbaric practice, but each abortion literally makes the world a poorer place. Those at planned parenthood should be forced to read the results of the French Think Tank. It will not matter to those making large profits from abortions, but it might make a difference to the misguided idealists who think they are doing good by killing babies.

Arming the British

Yet another reason why the British Police (Bobbies) should carry firearms.

The police officer told me it had kept some of their officers at bay and indeed they had to jump on to the bonnet of a car to escape it.

Update: For a more serious look at why the British need to be armed, read Dave Kopel.

May 13, 2003
Korean Games and Interesting Times

While the media's attention has primary been focused on Iraq, some fascinating events have been occurring in both North and South Korea. While the story just broke this week, it appears that North Korean soldiers fired Chinese-made anti-personnel lasers at US helicopter pilots. This occurred in March. The pilots were patrolling the Demilitarized Zone and were not injured.

This increased North Korean aggression may be one of the reasons why the South Koreans are increasingly worried that the US may pull out of the DMZ, and perhaps South Korea itself. In a lesson in being careful for what you wish for, South Korean leaders seem almost panicked that the US is considering leaving the defense of South Korea in the hands of the South Koreans. It is hard to imagine that just months ago, there were South Korean protestors demanding that the US leave.

President Bush's war on terror is still in its early days. The days ahead will be full of surprises. But when all is said and done, I suspect the US will have a much smaller presence in South Korea, Germany, and Saudi Arabia and will establish closer ties with countries that desire our presence such as Poland and Qatar. These closer ties will include the creation or strengthening of military bases. These longer-term policies depend upon a lot and may be partially contingent upon Bush winning reelection in 2004. I suspect we will see many leaders that have opposed US interests (such as Chirac and Schroeder) come out in support of whoever wins the Democratic primary. As the Chinese curse and American blessing would have it, we do indeed live in interesting times.

Pet Safety Hazard (Hat tip Paul)

This 302k mpeg video is offered as a warning to cat owners.  Do not try this at home.  Presumably an overconfident cat was slightly bruised in the making of this video.

May 12, 2003
Only in America

On July 4, 2005, NASA will celebrate American Independence by smashing an expensive, tax-payer funded, 820 pound (370 kg) piece of high-tech hardware into Comet Tempel 1. These fireworks should be visible from Earth, maybe even with the naked eye. And that is not all. You too can be part of this explosive moment. If you sign up with NASA, they will put your name on board the equipment so you can be part of the deep impact. If you read the fine print, your name will be in teeny, tiny letters on a CD-ROM, but NASA also gives you a cool certificate.

After writing this educational piece of prose, I feel close to Dave Barry. Maybe his blog is infecting other bloggers. That could make for a scary movie script.

A Nasty Business (hat tip to Drew)

Spying is a nasty business. In cliche laden movies, spies are always told to "trust no one" and are then betrayed by their closest associates. It is looking more and more likely that the British Intelligence Service has had input and knowledge about the Irish Republican Army's security for over twenty years.

"Stakeknife" was the codename for the IRA's head assassin, the one they sent after disloyal IRA members. According to SkyNews, he was the "deputy head of the Provisionals' internal security unit." Just like the fictitious British Agent 007, Stakeknife had a license to kill. Unlike make believe spies, Stakeknife is alleged to have participated in the killing of innocents to maintain his cover.

As one might expect, the unveiling of this news has crushed the spirits of those in the Irish Republican Army. Who knows how many of the "disloyal" IRA terrorists that Stakeknife killed were really loyal? And how many other moles did Stakeknife leave in place? Would you care to risk your life by working for an organization that allowed its mortal enemy access and partial control of your internal security? Per cryptome:

The IRA fear the outing of Stakeknife could deal an almost-fatal blow to the organisation. A senior Republican source said last night: 'This is the most dreadful news I've ever heard. I don't know how we can recover from this. How can we have any confidence left in ourselves when a man like Scappaticci turned out to be Stakeknife?'

The news has caused such an uproar in the IRA that Sinn Fein, the political arm of the IRA terrorists, "has accused the British intelligence service of leaking the identity of 'Stakeknife', the double agent at the heart of an IRA death squad, to the press." Who knows? In the world of espionage, it may even be true. In "retirement" Stakeknife has struck one last blow at the heart of the terrorist organization.

May 09, 2003
Public's Right-to-Know vs. Privacy

Last week, the Sun Sentinel had an interesting article on Mark Foley, a congressman from Florida who is running in the Republican primary to compete for Senator Graham's position.

Foley, R-West Palm Beach, is the perfect Republican primary candidate except for one aspect of his voting record: gay rights. He has a terrific record on gay rights, better than many Democrats.

Foley is clearly uncomfortable talking about gay rights in this campaign. His speech slowed and his face darkened when asked a question about it during a half-hour interview this week.

It is easy to see why Foley would be uncomfortable discussing this issue. Many Republicans are Christians who believe that homosexual acts are sins. They would not be comfortable voting for a candidate that supports special rights for homosexuals.

However, Taegan Goddard led me to an article that better explains why Foley was uncomfortable discussing this issue. Apparently Foley supports special rights for homosexuals because he is a homosexual. According to the New Times, this is an open secret in the media even if the public is largely unaware of it. In my opinion, the main issue is not whether or not the Republicans are ready for a gay senator. The issue is whether or not the Republican voters have a right to know the sexual orientation of their candidates. The Foley campaign is clearly trying to hide this.

While Foley refused to be interviewed for this column, his chief of staff, Kirk Fordham, spent roughly 30 minutes off the record trying to persuade me not to write it. Fordham, who has been working for Foley since 1994, wouldn't confirm or deny that his boss is gay.

This is a tough issue. Where do you draw the line between personal privacy and public information? However, if Foley actually is a homosexual, as appears to be the case, this fact better explains his voting record than any of Foley’s public reasons. And if his personal orientation is impacting public policy, the public has a right to know. That is where I draw the line between a politician's right to privacy and the public's right to know. If it impacts public policy, it is a public issue.

Good Luck to the Japanese

A Japanese space probe took off last Friday and should rendezvous with an asteroid in 2005. If all goes well, it will drop off a few asteroid samples on Earth in 2007. I am glad that other countries are making steps toward space.

Chutzpah at Augusta

I only gave the recent protests at Augusta a little attention last month. Yes, I know that some papers tried to make a big deal about this. Liberal papers followed the NOW line that this was discrimination. Conservatives talked about freedom of association. But it was just about a game and I didn't really care enough to pay close attention.

From what I’ve heard, despite the editors of the New York Times supporting the protest, only about 40 people actually showed up to protest the all male club. However, that is not the part that got my attention.  Proving that some liberals do have a sense of humor, my leftist friend Paul (UK) emailed me this picture. Take a good luck at the orange sign held up by the man in back.

If you can't make it out, it says "Iron My Shirt!"  I wonder what these women thought about him? Since digital images can be easily manipulated, I wondered if this was a hoax. However, a little research found an article that referenced the sign.  I am not sure I'd call the man brave or foolhardy.  But he definitely has chutzpah.

May 08, 2003
Employment Update

I have updated the employment charts at Solport. The information from this month is the first data that has been available after the liberation of Baghdad. There are mixed trends. The Manufacturing Index continues to decline. However, the Non-Manufacturing Index has increased for two months in a row. I expect this trend to continue with good news for those seeking non-manufacturing jobs. However, I am not optimistic about manufacturing jobs.

As always, these trends represent the United States as a whole. Specific industries (and regions) within the States will vary.

Thoughts on Homeschooling

Anne Wilson has shared some of her experience in homeschooling and it is worth the read. Since she uses blogspot, her archives don't work at all. Look for the May 7th, 2003 post at 9:27.

Update: Anne wrote me back and said that the blogspot archives are erratic, but seem to be working now. I tested it today (5/9) and it works. So here is the direct link; hopefully it will work when you try it.

Education and Self-Esteem - Feedback

I received quite a bit of feedback on my post on this subject. It is nice to know that my readers appreciate these summaries. Chris posted some comments on the subject at his blog.

I will post more such summaries in the future when I come across interesting articles.

The Accelerator and the Brake

Some time ago, I heard a family psychologist compare the typical husband and wife to an accelerator and brake. A good team needs both. This analogy may be inappropriate for some people, but it is fairly accurate for my family.

As an example, my family was staying at a hotel in Missouri this weekend when all the tornados were hitting Missouri and Kansas. I went to bed. Lady Quixote stayed up with the desk clerk watching the weather channel. She came to our room about 2:00 AM saying the Civil Defense had called the hotel and warned them that a tornado was 20 miles away and heading in our direction and that they should make plans to wake all their guests if it got closer. I was a bit grumpy and told my wife to only wake me if she could see the tornado and then I went back to sleep. Fortunately, the tornado veered off and did not get any closer to the hotel. However, in hindsight, I am glad Lady Quixote stayed up to ensure that all was well. If the tornado had come visiting, I am sure she would have gotten me up in time to move all our kids to the hotel basement.

In general, I ensure my children can explore the world and learn from it while my wife ensure they survive the process. Accelerators and brakes - two different approaches, but both are valuable and complimentary.