Tuesday, March 31, 2009

 

Are There Any Law Professors Who Do Pro-Death Penalty Scholarship?

Orin Kerr asks:

Who are the legal scholars who write on the death penalty on a regular or semi-regular basis but who do not write from the perspective of opposition to the death penalty? Stuart Banner might be one: I've only skimmed his book on the death penalty, but it struck me as largely neutral in tone. Are there others? I realize that most legal scholars who write on the death penalty are against it; I'm just curious about who the outliers are....

Paul Cassell): In my pro-con book of the deasth penalty [mentioned above], I had a hard time tracking down pro-death penalty scholars from the legal academy. We ended up using Louis P. Pojman,a professor of philosophy at the U.S. Military Academy for one of the pieces. 3.30.2009 5:59pm

OrinKerr: Thanks, Paul. Yes, I'm reminded of the panel at the AALS mid-year meeting 2 years ago on how you could bring a diversity of different views of the death penalty to enrich the debate. The panel was made up only of death penalty critics, who had their own different takes on how to oppose the death penalty (using statistics, history, etc.).

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Criminalizing Fossil Collecting on Federal Lands---Carelessly

The American Spectator has a good article on the shockingly bad Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 just passed with little public attention under special parliamentary procedures in Congress that, for example, bypassed the Ag and Judiciary committees. Among other things, it seems it makes fossil collecting on federal lands a crime.

House leaders skipped entirely the jurisdiction of two relevant committees: Agriculture, which has jurisdiction over the U.S. Forest Service, which is actually a part of the Department of Agriculture; and Judiciary, which has jurisdiction over bills that create or make changes to the nation's federal crimes. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., was so upset he became one of four Democrats to vote against the bill of his own leadership. And serious reservations were also expressed by the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee -- that notorious Blue Dog (Not!) John Conyers, D-Mich. And none other than the American Civil Liberties Union signed a bipartisan letter protesting the criminal penalties in the bill's provisions regarding "paleontological resources preservation."

This section, in the name of protecting fossils on federal lands, makes it a crime to "excavate, remove, damage, or otherwise alter or deface or attempt to excavate, remove, damage, or otherwise alter or deface any paleontological resources located on Federal land" without special permission from the government. Penalties for violations include up to five years imprisonment, and "paleontological resources" are loosely defined as all "fossilized remains…that are of paleontological interest and that provide information about the history of life on earth."

"Paleontological resources" are defined so broadly and the offenses defined so loosely that many fossil lovers -- from scientists to amateur rock collectors -- became concerned that it would criminalize innocent error. After all, many common fossil rocks could be "of paleontological interest" and "provide information about the history of life on earth." Tracie Bennitt, president of the Association of Applied Paleontological Sciences, wrote that "we can visualize now a group of students unknowingly crossing over an invisible line and ending up handcuffed and prosecuted. An honest mistake is just that and should be treated accordingly."

As word spread of these provisions, this association was later joined in this objection by CEI, NCPPR, and two groups that don't normally sign on to letters with free-market organizations about lands bills -- the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the ACLU! "We are concerned that the bill creates many new federal crimes using language that is so broad that the provisions could cover innocent human error," the letter from the diverse coalitions stated. "Above all, we are concerned that a bill containing new federal crimes, fines and imprisonment, and forfeiture provisions may come to the House floor without first being marked up in the House Judiciary Committee."

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Monday, March 30, 2009

 

Hillary Clinton's Latest Gaffe, in Mexico

From The Right Coast:
It could have been worse
Tom Smith

For example:

"She doesn't look Mexican!"

"It's so refreshing to see Jesus portrayed as a woman."

"At Mount Holyoke we had a legend of a ghost professor who haunted the basement of the library every Halloween!"

"If I touch it, do I get a wish?"

"And why is she called Our Lady of Guacamole?"

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The Amazing Waste from Turning Off Computers Each Night

I saw an article that illustrates why it's good for me to teach students about economic cost as opposed to raw accounting cost:

I leave my laptop running overnight because I know it'll take five minutes or more to get things going in the morning -- not just booting up, but launching the various apps I start the day with, downloading my overnight email, filtering out the spam, and otherwise "getting settled."

But all the power wasted while computers are sitting idle overnight adds up, and one study has finally tried to measure it. The tally: An estimated $2.8 billion wasted on excess energy costs each year in the U.S. alone....

The full report is available for download here (scroll down to "PC Energy Report US 2009")....

If you run a company with 1,000 PCs left on overnight, you can save about $28,000 a year if they are turned off after hours. That's not chump change.

One advantage of the economic way of thinking is that it makes one think of a question here. Why are companies so stupid as to not mandate that their employees turn off computers, if companies could save so much money? The economist naturally wonders if there is something that high-paid corporate executives know that the journalist is missing.

Let's do the full calculation. 1000 PCs * 5 minutes of employee time * 200 days per year * $60/hour or $1/minute = $1 million/year saving from leaving the computer on all night. That compares with $28,000 in energy savings costs.

You can adjust my numbers if you think they're wrong. Suppose its only 1 minute of employee time that it takes them to boot up, 100 days per year that they work, and $6/hour that your company pays them. Then the benefit in labor costs from leaving on the computers is only $100,000 per year, a mere four times the extra cost in electricity.

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Saturday, March 28, 2009

 

Killing Viable Unborn Babies in Kansas

The Tiller case is an interesting one. He has gotten off, amazingly, with a jury acquittal, from his prosecution on charges of aborting viable babies without an independent second opinion that the mother's health requires it. I've collected links here. First see 2007-06-25 Expert McHugh Backs up Charges Against Tiller Info in Kline charges edited (for length) and emphasis added by Mary Kay Culp, Kansans for Life.



Kansas law KSA 65-6703 requires that if an abortionist suspects an
unborn child is around 22 weeks along,  he must determine if the baby
is viable, that is, capable of living outside the womb with or without
medical help (22-23 weeks is generally regarded as when a baby could
live outside the womb).

If the abortionist determines that the baby is “viable”, then the
abortion can only be performed if a second doctor who is NOT
financially or legally affiliated with the abortionist agrees with the
abortionist that it is necessary because the mother is going to die
(no such cases in Kansas since records started being kept in 1998), or
she will suffer a substantial and irreversible impairment of a major
“bodily” function. (Former Attorney General Carla Stovall issued an
opinion in 2000 that “major bodily function” includes risks to mental
health as long as such risk is “substantial and irreversible.” ) ...

Kline Charges Against George Tiller, December, 2006

Note: 15 abortions; 2 counts each

Count 1: Unlawful Late Term...14 year old pregnant child when the
fetus was viable…26 week…wrongfully relied on a diagnosis of Anxiety
Disorder NOS or Adjustment Disorder with mixed anxiety and depressed
mood.

Count 2: Failure to Report Justifications for Late Term Abortion…29
weeks of age, did report that the fetus was not viable...

Count 3: Unlawful Late Term Abortion 10 year old pregnant child when
the fetus was viable...28 weeks...wrongfully relied on a diagnosis of
Major Depressive Disorder, Single Episode...

Count 4:  Failure to Report Justifications for Late Term Abortion…28
weeks of age... did report that the fetus was not viable...

Count 5: Unlawful Late Term Abortion...15 year old pregnant child when
the fetus was viable... 28 weeks... wrongfully relied on a diagnosis
of Major Depressive Disorder, Single Episode...

Count 6:  Failure to Report Justifications for Late Term Abortion...28
weeks of age...did fail to report the basis for the determination...

Count 7: Unlawful Late Term Abortion...16-year old pregnant child when
the fetus was viable...29 weeks...wrongfully relied on a diagnosis of
Major Depressive Disorder, Single Episode...

Count 8:  Failure to Report Justifications for Late Term Abortion...29
weeks of age...did fail to report the basis for the determination...

Count 9: Unlawful Late Term Abortion...19 year old pregnant woman when
the fetus was viable...27 weeks, wrongfully relied on a diagnosis of
Major Depressive Disorder, Single Episode...

Count 10: Failure to Report Justifications for Late Term Abortion...
27 weeks of age...did report that the fetus was not viable and
therefore did not report the actual determination of fetus
viability...

Count 11: Unlawful Late Term Abortion...22 year old pregnant woman
when the fetus was viable 31 weeks...wrongfully relied on a diagnosis
of Major Depressive Disorder, Single Episode...

Count 12:  Failure to Report Justifications for Late Term
Abortion...31 weeks of age...did fail to report the basis for the
determination...

Count 13:  Unlawful Late Term...15 year old pregnant child when the
fetus was viable...26 weeks...wrongfully relied on a diagnosis of
Major Depressive Disorder, Single Episode...

Count 14:  Failure to Report Justifications for Late Term Abortion...
26 weeks of age...did fail to report the basis for the
determination...

Count 15: Unlawful Late Term 15 year old pregnant child when the fetus
was viable...28 weeks...wrongfully relied on a diagnosis of Acute
Stress Disorder...

Count 16: Failure to Report Justifications for Late Term Abortion...
28 weeks of age...did fail to report the basis for the
determination...

Count 17:  Unlawful Late Term Abortion...15 year old pregnant child
when the fetus was viable...25 weeks...wrongfully relied on a
diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder, Single Episode...

Count 18:  Failure to Report Justifications for Late Term
Abortion...25 weeks of age...did fail to report the basis for the
determination…

Count 19:  Unlawful Late Term Abortion...15 year old pregnant child
when the fetus was viable...wrongfully relied on a diagnosis of Acute
Stress Disorder...

Count 20: Failure to Report Justifications for Late Term Abortion...26
weeks of age...did fail to report the basis for the determination...

Count 21: Unlawful Late Term Abortion...15 year old pregnant
child...when the fetus was viable... 25 weeks...wrongfully relied on a
diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder, Single Episode...

Count 22:  Failure to Report Justifications for Late Term
Abortion...25 weeks of age...did fail to report the basis for the
determination...

Count 23:  Unlawful Late Term Abortion...14 year old pregnant child
when the fetus was viable... 25 weeks...wrongfully relied on a
diagnosis of Acute Stress Disorder...

Count 24:  Failure to Report Justifications for Late Term
Abortion...25 weeks of age...did fail to report the basis for the
determination...

Count 25:  Unlawful Late Term Abortion...15 year old pregnant child
when the fetus was viable...25 weeks...wrongfully relied on a
diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder, Single Episode...

Count 26: Failure to Report Justifications for Late Term Abortion...25
weeks of age...did fail to report the basis for the determination...

Count 27:  Unlawful Late Term Abortion...18 year old pregnant woman
when the fetus was viable...25 weeks...defendant wrongfully relied on
a diagnosis of Anxiety Disorder NOS or Acute Stress Disorder...

Count 28: Failure to Report Justifications for Late Term Abortion...25
weeks of age...did fail to report the basis for the determination...

Count 29:  Unlawful Late Term Abortion...13 year old pregnant woman
when the fetus was viable...25 weeks...wrongfully relied on NO
established diagnosis…

Count 30:  Failure to Report Justifications for Late Term
Abortion...25 weeks of age...did report that the fetus was not viable
and therefore did not report the actual determination…

Witnesses:  Thomas Williams, Jared Reed, Dr. Ann Kristin Neuhaus,
Steve Cavanaugh, Clerk of the District Court—3rd Judicial District,
Dr. Paul McHugh (Psychiatrist-Johns Hopkins), Dr. Lome Phillips (Head
of statistics, state of KS), Lorna Jansen, Gina Bowes

Sealed documents attached in support include an affidavit of Dr. Paul
R. McHugh, M.D., Johns Hopkins Medical Center, transcript of sworn
statement by Dr. Ann Kristin Neuhaus, M.D., copies of 15 KDHE report
forms, and copies of 15 medical files with patient identification
REDACTED!

From Tiller the Killer’s Get-Out-of-Jail-Free Card:

Dr. Paul McHugh, a nationally known psychiatrist, received a warning on June 12 from Kansas Attorney General Paul Morrison who threatened to take legal action if McHugh didn’t stop making public statements regarding the medical records involved in the investigation of late- term abortionist George Tiller “the Killer.”...

On the evening of June 12, however, Attorney General Morrison did contact Dr. McHugh at a panel discussion with the intent of preventing him from speaking. A man claiming to be a criminal investigator for Morrison stood outside and asked every older man that approached if he were a doctor. Morrison’s cease-and-desist letter threatened the doctor with legal action and claimed that his office did contact the psychiatrist. “Again, we hereby demand that you cease and desist from all public comment about your work in this case,” said Morrison in the letter.

Morrison also argued that McHugh was violating the privacy of the patients involved, even though McHugh never mentioned the name of a single woman in the interview.

My Thoughts:

A major use of such prosecutions is to point out what goes on, whether it is deemed legal or illegal in the end. I think more use might be made of this case. What is most shocking is not the illegal activity--- that Tiller improperly used a non-independent doctor as his second opinion--- but the legal part--- that a viable baby can be killed if a casual non-expert opinion claims mild mental harm to the mother from the baby's survival.

I don't think the public realizes this goes on. It is, indeed, incredible. And this is one of those cases where the de facto law and the de jure law are different. The de jure law-- well, the written law, let us say, since judge-made law is probably different--- requires something like major medical harm. The de facto law requires the desire of at least two doctors in the United States that the abortion be performed. So pro-abortion people can pretend that nothing bad is happening.

What is effective in refuting them is not the vague claim that late- term abortions occur without medical justification. Rather, we need specific cases with objective documentation.

The webpage,

http://www.kfl.org/SiteResources/Data/Templates/templateb.asp?docid= 813&DocName= 2007-06-25%20Expert%20McHugh%20Backs%20up%20Charges%20Against%20Tiller

is a good start. It paraphrases the sealed medical records in the Tiller case briefly.

What would be much better would be to open up the sealed records themselves. Or, even to open up ONE sealed record to be an example.

Can any more details be publicized?

Can a successful motion be made to unseal the records? Such a motion would be vigorously opposed by Tiller. But unsealing those records would be more important to fighting abortion than even a successful conviction of Tiller, wouldn't it? The scandal is what is legal, not what is illegal.

I imagine that the case for unsealing the records would be stronger if Tiller had lost, or after he is disciplined by whatever boards are relevant. The argument would then be that these sealed records are records of illegal (if not quite criminal) activities of the doctor and patient jointly, and so the doctor and patient should forfeit their right to privacy.

Useful Links:
  1. KFL contacto info

  2. 18th Judicial Court, Sedgwick County, Kansas

  3. KFL Tiller case links

  4. Motion to Compel Discovery of Exculpatory Evidence

  5. AG Morrison's Charges Against Tiller

  6. March 27, 2009 Associated Press story: Jury finds Kan. doctor not guilty in abortion case

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Friday, March 27, 2009

 

Ethics vs. Religion in Government

Richard Painter at VC:

I do not address this as a matter of constitutional law, or theology, which I leave to others. I am saying that government entanglement with religion is difficult from a government ethics lawyer’s perspective. The more entanglement there is, the more difficulty there is. Combine religion with partisan political activity, as many government officials now do, and the ethics lawyer confronts a three way mix of Hatch Act regulations, the Establishment Clause and government ethics regulations. I pointed out in an earlier post that ethics problems often begin when someone thinks he or she can wear two hats instead of one. Try three.
My comment, after a number of others noting that religion in government is more persecuted than persecuting:
I, too, see some lawyerly blindness here. Most of us get a lot more nervous about lawyers hanging around the White House than clergymen. A clergyman might pray that I be damned (though I can't think of any real ones that would actually), but an ethics lawyer might take away my money, my job, or my liberty, using the power of the state.

Similarly, it's a lot more threatening when someone says, "We all believe in affirmative action, don't we--- since it's it's racist not to and you're all forbidden by law to discriminate" than when someone says, "We all believe in the supremacy of the Pope, don't we-- since if you don't, you're not a Roman Catholic." When people call their faith-held belief "ethics" they're a lot more dangerous than when they call them "religion".

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What to Do About Abortion

Suppose you think abortion is wrong. Suppose, further, you think it is evil. What should you do?

Clearly, you should speak out against it, and act to stop it. If you think an abortion is as bad as killing adults, it is not unreasonable to expect you to blow up abortion clinics. After all, if abortion clinics were gas chambers for Jews, that would be your moral duty.

Most people actually wouldn't have the guts or be willing to take the trouble to blow up gas chamber clinics, I think. But also I think most people, even those strongly against abortion, don't think it is as bad as killing adults, whatever they may say. So let's suppose you just think abortion is evil.

If you think abortion is evil, you shouldn't keep quiet about it. You should want your church and your political organizations to say it is evil, and to condemn people who do it-- the mothers and the clinics both. Abortion is very common, so we can't say it is a minor evil, either. So it is just cowardly for a church to say it won't take a public position because that would offend people and keep them from coming to church.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

 

The US Federal Deficit

Heritage, via, Instapundit.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

 

Obama Appointee Richard Holbrooke as an AIG Director

Richard Painter writes at VC:

When I was at the White House, we looked carefully at corporate directorships. Membership on the board of a company with serious corporate governance problems was a strike against a potential nominee....

How then could a high ranking position it the State Department in 2009 go to Richard Holbrooke who was a director of AIG between 2001 and 2008, who was on AIG’s compensation committee, and who resigned from AIG in the summer of 2008 just as things were falling apart? Holbrooke is a talented if controversial diplomat with a track record in Kosovo, and he brings this experience to his present position as liaison between the United States and parties interested in the War in Afghanistan. Nonetheless, news reports suggest that the White House did not think about AIG when appointing Holbrooke, and did not consider whether a man who could not keep AIG’s risk prone management in check can effectively deal with a geographic region riddled with corruption, not to mention Al Queda and the Taliban.

And there is more. Holbrooke left the Clinton Administration for investment banking. The Department of Justice Public Integrity Division later charged that he violated post-employment conflict of interest rules by representing back to the State Department on behalf of an investment bank. The charges were settled with payment of a $5,000 fine. Details are in an August 14, 2000 memo titled 1999 Conflict of Interest Prosecution Survey sent by the Office of Government Ethics to designated agency ethics officials:

http://www.cs.indiana.edu/sudoc/image_32000000478091/32000000478091/DAEOGRAM/00/Do00029.pdf

In 2001 Holbrooke became a director of AIG. According to the Associated Press, SEC filings indicate that AIG paid Holbrooke hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and stock in 2006 and 2007 (2008 compensation figures are not yet available).

Also:

AIG and the until recently AIG-affiliated Starr Foundation contributed a lot of money over several years to the American Academy in Berlin, itself a good cause. Dig deeper, however, and one finds that the American Academy was founded by none other than Holbrooke who also served as its Chairman. Is it pure coincidence that Holbrooke was one of AIG ‘s outside directors who helped decided how much money AIG’s senior executives got paid? Conflicts of interest of this sort are not per se illegal (perhaps they should be) but they do not reflect well on corporations or the directors who run them.

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Monday, March 23, 2009

 

"The cruelest lies are often told in silence"

Robert Louis Stevenson wrote: "The cruelest lies are often told in silence," the Baylyblog tells me.

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

 

Hardware Design

Think about USB ports. My Dell, and most computers, have the USB port located in a really stupid place. It's in front now, but in a dark corner under a cover and at a weird angle. The USB interface itself is stupidly designed. It isn't clear which way is up and which is down. The shape should have been made asymmetric to make that obvious.

I think of these are really obvious mistakes, and I could have avoided them with ten minutes thought, max, if I were in charge. But Dell and the USB standards committee must not be composed entirely of morons. Engineers do need a certain minimal intelligence. They even need a very little bit of imagination. Apparently not much. But this shows why it is worth paying such enormous fees to CEO's. Ordinary people simply can't think. It's worth having one person with brains and authority both, who can look at something for five minutes and see something that the engineers couldn't find in a year of looking.

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Thoughts on Macro

Slowly, the recession and crisis are starting to become clearer. Here I'll jot down some thoughts. 1. Why have I thought that Keynesianism had any chance of being correct? I can't think of good theoretical foundations and there isn't good empirical evidence. Sticky wages and prices really isn't enough. There isn't a simple model of the kind that I always require in microeconomics, or a simple story. But since I haven't thought about it hard for 20 years, maybe I should now, since I have learned a lot about modelling and about the economy. 2. I'm coming to think there wouldn't have been much of a recession except for changed expectations around October 2008. Part of the financial sector was in desperate shape, but it looks to me as if all the investment banks and big banks were in desperate shape, plus some speculative banks and companies like GM and GE, but no small banks outside of Nevada and such places. I've come to doubt even TARP I. Was it just that Secy. Paulsen thought that if New York banks fell, so must the world? That's false. 3. Have we been hoodwinked by the Establishment? I suspect the rest of America has just directed billions of dollars to help New York. And not even all of New York. Not Wall Street-- just the banks.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

 

It's Hard to Estimate Russian GDP

Marginal Revolution gives some evidence on why I am skeptical that Russian GDP went down after reforms:


Andrew Gelman has a simple question, What is Russia's GDP per capita?  Fortunately this information is easy to find on the web.  As Gelman reports, the answer is:

   1. $7,600 (World Bank 2007)
   2. $9,100 (World Bank 2007)
   3. $14,700 (PPP adjusted, World Bank 2007)
   4. $4,500 (World Bank 2006)
   5. $7600 or $14,400 (gross national income: "Atlas method" or "purchasing power parity," World Bank 2007)
   6. $12,600 (IMF 2008), $9,100 (World Bank 2007), or $12,500 (CIA 2008)
   7. $2,637 in 2000 US dollars (World Bank 2007); that's $3,200 in 2007 dollars
   8. $2,621 (World Bank 2006) or $8,600 (IMF)

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

 

Moral Perfection

I was just thinking this morning about how Methodists and Roman Catholics both think that Christians can achieve moral perfection. They aren't Pelagians, because they think that God is a necessary part of this. But with a little nudge of God's grace to get you started, you can become morally perfect through one's own striving. The Roman Catholics even think you can become more than 100% perfect. They say you can accumulate so much merit that you can give away some of it for other people to use.

I think a good way to describe this perfectionist heresy is that it changes the old saying about genius a bit, to say:

"Moral Perfection is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration."

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Mad Max and the Rule of Law

Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome has a great phrase from Bartertown law, which perhaps I've even improved here:

"Bust a deal: spin the wheel".

The wheel is a wheel of fortune with various punishments for breach of contract, including death.

Somehow I thought of that when I hear many supposedly free market, rule-of-law Americans saying that the government should force AIG to breach its contracts with its employees and not pay them the bonus amounts specified in the contracts, changing the law if necessary so the employees cannot have recourse to the courts to get their contracts honored. Even primitive societies believe that people should keep their contracts or pay damages.

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Communion in Both Kinds

VC has a good post on laws against child drinking and communion, with comments on communion in both kinds. The Roman position seems to be that it is like priestly celibacy a policy strictly enforced by the Church but allowed or not depending on circumstances of the age. The Council of Constance decrees condemned this and other Wylclifite ideas as being against church commands, not as heresy in itself.

....although Christ instituted this venerable sacrament after a meal and ministered it to his apostles under the forms of both bread and wine, nevertheless and notwithstanding this, the praiseworthy authority of the sacred canons and the approved custom of the church have and do retain that this sacrament ought not to be celebrated after a meal nor received by the faithful without fasting, except in cases of sickness or some other necessity as permitted by law or by the church. Moreover, just as this custom was sensibly introduced in order to avoid various dangers and scandals, so with similar or even greater reason was it possible to introduce and sensibly observe the custom that, although this sacrament was received by the faithful under both kinds in the early church, nevertheless later it was received under both kinds only by those confecting it, and by the laity only under the form of bread. For it should be very firmly believed, and in no way doubted, that the whole body and blood of Christ are truly contained under both the form of bread and the form of wine. Therefore, since this custom was introduced for good reasons by the church and holy fathers, and has been observed for a very long time, it should be held as a law which nobody may repudiate or alter at will without the church's permission. To say that the observance of this custom or law is sacrilegious or illicit must be regarded as erroneous. Those who stubbornly assert the opposite of the aforesaid are to be confined as heretics and severely punished by the local bishops or their officials or the inquisitors of heresy in the kingdoms or provinces in which anything is attempted or presumed against this decree, according to the canonical and legitimate sanctions that have been wisely established in favour of the catholic faith against heretics and their supporters.
See too the Catholic Encylopedia on Utraquism.

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Monday, March 16, 2009

 

The Ruins of Detroit

Via NR, Time has a good photo series on the Ruins of Detroit.

This is what liberalism can do to a city. This is entirely the fault of bad government.

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Sunday, March 15, 2009

 

Standing in the Gap

Here's a mixture of what I was taught in Sunday School last week and what I thought of myself.

Ezekiel 22: 23-31 is the key.I use the English Standard Version:

23 And the word of the Lord came to me: 24 “Son of man, say to her, You are a land that is not cleansed or rained upon in the day of indignation. 25 The conspiracy of her prophets in her midst is like a roaring lion tearing the prey; they have devoured human lives; they have taken treasure and precious things; they have made many widows in her midst. 26 Her priests have done violence to my law and have profaned my holy things. They have made no distinction between the holy and the common, neither have they taught the difference between the unclean and the clean, and they have disregarded my Sabbaths, so that I am profaned among them. 27 Her princes in her midst are like wolves tearing the prey, shedding blood, destroying lives to get dishonest gain. 28 And her prophets have smeared whitewash for them, seeing false visions and divining lies for them, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord God,’ when the Lord has not spoken. 29 The people of the land have practiced extortion and committed robbery. They have oppressed the poor and needy, and have extorted from the sojourner without justice.
These prophets include most Christian pastors in America and Europe today. They profane the holy and care about Man, not God. They blur the difference between Christian and non-Christian, between God and Man, between truth and falsehood, and between right and wrong. They flatter the leading citizens in their congregation and excuse their misdeeds. They criticize, if anyone, only people outside their congregations.

This is obviously true of liberal Christians, but is equally true of evangelicals. The evangelical pastor whose concern is simply to get people to go to church-- or even to "save souls"--- is blurring distinctions to do so, and flattering his congregation.

30 And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none. 31 Therefore I have poured out my indignation upon them. I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath. I have returned their way upon their heads, declares the Lord God.”

The "man in the breach" or "man in the gap" is what we should each strive to be. Without him, the land is destroyed. Sodom did not have twenty (was it?) righteous men, and so perished.

Ezekiel 13, entire chapter:

1 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 “Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel, who are prophesying, and say to those who prophesy from their own hearts: ‘Hear the word of the Lord!’ 3 Thus says the Lord God, Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing! 4 Your prophets have been like jackals among ruins, O Israel. 5 You have not gone up into the breaches, or built up a wall for the house of Israel, that it might stand in battle in the day of the Lord. 6 They have seen false visions and lying divinations. They say, ‘Declares the Lord,’ when the Lord has not sent them, and yet they expect him to fulfill their word. 7 Have you not seen a false vision and uttered a lying divination, whenever you have said, ‘Declares the Lord,’ although I have not spoken?”

Again, the prophets are pastors (and members) who go to their own hearts (which usually means their self-interest and their cultural biases) rather than the Bible or natural law for truth. They say that what God wants is what they want. This is blasphemy as well as bias. It is, of course foolish. Much better would it be if they took Nietzsche's course and admitted outright that they were beyond good and evil and wanted to create their own values. At least they would not be blasphemously ascribing their desires to God.

8 Therefore thus says the Lord God: “Because you have uttered falsehood and seen lying visions, therefore behold, I am against you, declares the Lord God. 9 My hand will be against the prophets who see false visions and who give lying divinations. They shall not be in the council of my people, nor be enrolled in the register of the house of Israel, nor shall they enter the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord God. 10 Precisely because they have misled my people, saying, ‘Peace,’ when there is no peace, and because, when the people build a wall, these prophets smear it with whitewash, F57 11 say to those who smear it with whitewash that it shall fall! There will be a deluge of rain, and you, O great hailstones, will fall, and a stormy wind break out. 12 And when the wall falls, will it not be said to you, ‘Where is the coating with which you smeared it?’ 13 Therefore thus says the Lord God: I will make a stormy wind break out in my wrath, and there shall be a deluge of rain in my anger, and great hailstones in wrath to make a full end. 14 And I will break down the wall that you have smeared with whitewash, and bring it down to the ground, so that its foundation will be laid bare. When it falls, you shall perish in the midst of it, and you shall know that I am the Lord. 15 Thus will I spend my wrath upon the wall and upon those who have smeared it with whitewash, and I will say to you, The wall is no more, nor those who smeared it, 16 the prophets of Israel who prophesied concerning Jerusalem and saw visions of peace for her, when there was no peace, declares the Lord God.

The culture builds a wall of prejudices to protect its self- interest. The prophets put on the final touches, the paint. The paint is a trivial part of the wall, really, and adds no strength, but it makes it look nice.

The prophets also twist words. Confucius made a big deal of "the rectification of names", and he was right. The pastors and other proclaimers of truth say that a situation is good when it is not. Calling a war peaceful, a society virtuous, or a people happy will not create peace, virtue, or happiness.

17 “And you, son of man, set your face against the daughters of your people, who prophesy out of their own minds. Prophesy against them 18 and say, Thus says the Lord God: Woe to the women who sew magic bands upon all wrists, and make veils for the heads of persons of every stature, in the hunt for souls! Will you hunt down souls belonging to my people and keep your own souls alive? 19 You have profaned me among my people for handfuls of barley and for pieces of bread, putting to death souls who should not die and keeping alive souls who should not live, by your lying to my people, who listen to lies.

20 “Therefore thus says the Lord God: Behold, I am against your magic bands with which you hunt the souls like birds, and I will tear them from your arms, and I will let the souls whom you hunt go free, the souls like birds. 21 Your veils also I will tear off and deliver my people out of your hand, and they shall be no more in your hand as prey, and you shall know that I am the Lord. 22 Because you have disheartened the righteous falsely, although I have not grieved him, and you have encouraged the wicked, that he should not turn from his evil way to save his life, 23 therefore you shall no more see false visions nor practice divination. I will deliver my people out of your hand. And you shall know that I am the Lord.”

There are people, including even women, who are out to destroy your soul. They want to consume your soul to magnify their own, in the same manner as the devils in C.S. Lewis's Screwtape Letters, or Mephistopheles in Faust, or, I think, as Neitzsche's liberated man with his Will to Power.

"Soul" here is from a Hebrew word that I think (I could be wrong) means "life" as well as "soul". Some souls *should* be killed. The false prophets keep some souls alive that they should kill, as well as killing souls they should keep alive. Note that this passage makes it clear that some people's souls are detestable. Not everybody should be encouraged. The evil should be disheartened by the prophets.

Keep in mind that "Baal" is the Canaanite word for "Lord". When false prophets were calling on "Baal", they were calling on "the Lord". It was just the wrong Lord.

People use God as a way to solve problems. This is like magic-- which is why magic is so criticized in the Bible. It is treating God as a Means, not an End.

Pagan gods are treated this way routinely. Nobody thinks of loving Zeus or the ancestor spirit as anything but weird. Rather, those gods are powerful spirits not all that different from humans or from gravity who must be treated carefully in order to manipulate their behavior.

Roman Catholic saints are the same kind of petty god. You pray to St. Mary, and she cures your flu. Many people wouldn't dare use the Almighty God for such a trivial purpose, so they pray to St. Mary instead.

Works Religion is the same way. Fast, and God will do things for you. Abstain from wine, and God must keep his end of the deal by making you rich.

Isaiah 58:

1 “Cry aloud; do not hold back; lift up your voice like a trumpet; declare to my people their transgression, to the house of Jacob their sins.
We should condemn sins.
2 Yet they seek me daily and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that did righteousness and did not forsake the judgment of their God; they ask of me righteous judgments; they delight to draw near to God. 3 ‘Why have we fasted, and you see it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?’ Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure, and oppress all your workers.
Sinful people often are religious, and act as if they are righteous. This is works-religion. Christians live a righteous life, and expect God to pay them for it. But their aim is to satisfy their earthly desires, and while they may go to church weekly, tithe, and not swear, they still take advantage of their employees.

4 Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with a wicked fist. Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high. 5 Is such the fast that I choose, a day for a person to humble himself? Is it to bow down his head like a reed, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the Lord?

6 “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?

Lots of people do good deeds so they can get away with doing more bad deeds too.
7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
We ought to look out for those in need. I don't do that enough.
8 Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. 9 Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, 10 if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. 11 And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. 12 And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in. 13 “If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly; 14 then you shall take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
A good approach to reading the Bible: Ask of every passage: How would I interpret this if my goal was to undermine it and defeat it and reduce it to a "tame" meaning of complete blandness or something that agrees with what I want to think anyway? Also ask how someone who wanted to defend your culture would interpret it so as to defeat it. The Christian life is a battle. Battles have real weapons and casualties. The warrior hurts other people, and kills them. THey wound him, and maybe even kill him, and kill his friends. Some people are wounded and need medics. Some people are traitors. Ruses are used, and ambushes, and cutting off of supplies.

I hear that boxers tend to think, unconsciously, "If I don't hit the other guy hard, he won't hit me hard either". Coaches know this, and train it out of their boxers. Don't think that if you hit a trained enemy softly, he will hit you back softly. He won't.

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Saturday, March 14, 2009

 

Non-Wrinkle Shirts

From The Right Coast. (I typed in "The Right Cost" at first, by mistake, but a good mistake.)

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Teaching Business Ethics: A Practical Approach

In the shower this morning I thought of a way to teach business ethics to our undergrads (and MBA students too maybe). I actually like the idea of teaching it as all or part of a course. But what is far more important is to stop any student from getting into the habit of cheating, and to teach them all that any cheater gets into big big trouble.

We have an honor code already, which is a good start. But what we really ought to do is to list any cheating incidents on the student's official transcript, a moral grade to go with the intellectual grade. Or, if you like, an "asterisk" of the same kind that casts doubt on a baseball player's batting average if he is found to have used steroids. If I were hiring a student, such information would be as important to me as his grades. It might even be more important, since I could give the student an interview or a test to see how smart he is, but I won't know before hiring him how honest he is.

Such a plan has about a .002 chance of being adopted by the university as a whole. Administrators don't, I think, care that much about cheating, but they do care a lot about having more record-keeping work to do and about exposure to litigation.

At IU, however, the business-school has higher standards than the rest of the university, and maybe we could do it. We have that Honor Code, after all. I don't think we can require students to sign onto it,but they all do. We could do something like this:

Any student may voluntarily agree on becoming a Business major that any disciplinary actions against him will be publicly available (or, perhaps, available to anyone to whom he releases his transcript, or to any registered recruiter). If he does not agree, a note to that effect will be put in his records. Recruiters will be notified of the possibility of getting the disciplinary records, and of the optional nature of the release.

I have not had any trouble with cheating in any of my classes of business majors at Indiana (I did have some trouble at UCLA with MBA students). I had a lot of cheating in a large business prerequisite course I taught, though, including from students who clearly were or were likely to become majors. I think a new release policy would have a substantial effect on instilling ethical behavior in our students, and that might be as important as any of the coursework we teach-- not just morally, but as a contribution to the economy.

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Firing U.S. Attorneys

One aspect of the Clinton scandals was that Clinton fired all the US Attorneys immediately upon coming to office, rather than waiting until he had nominated new people to replace the Bush appointees. This was widely thought to have been to aimed at replacing the Arkansas district attorney who was a threat to him personally, but who couldn't have been fired as a single case without looking even worse. I just learned something new: the Clinton transition team lied to the Bush Administration about their intentions. Probably that was so the district attorneys couldn't speed up investigations or take papers away with them. See The Washington Post:

Advisers to Obama say they have learned from past mistakes, including Clinton's decision to require all U.S. attorneys to submit their resignations.

Critics said that move threw law enforcement efforts into disarray. And Richard Cullen, who was a U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia under President George H.W. Bush, said that crossed signals during the Clinton transition left some prosecutors on the street unexpectedly.

"We just got a call one day: Resign right away," said Cullen, now chairman of the law firm McGuire Woods. "That was at odds with what the Clinton transition people told the Bush transition people. Some people didn't have jobs to go back to, and had families to feed."

Of course, one of the oddities of liberals is how outraged they were when Bush fired a handful of U.S. attorneys later on without giving any reason.

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Friday, March 13, 2009

 

Movies fro Foreign Leaders

Rob Long has never, as far as I recall, written anything less than first-class:

To those of us who live and work in Hollywood, movies are always the perfect gift. So we're puzzled to read about the controversy that erupted when President Barack Obama gave British Prime Minister Gordon Brown a collection of classic movie DVDs.

It seemed like a chintzy gift to some sniffing British journalists. Impersonal, slapdash, borderline insulting -- the sign, some suggested, of a president in over his head.

But, look, we've all been there. We've all been faced with finding a last-minute gift. We've all sprinted through the aisles of Walgreens, scanning the shelves for something -- anything -- that might possibly, if wrapped stylishly, qualify as a present. President Obama has the added burden of being almost completely broke, so it's only natural that his eye drifts to the discount bin at the video store.

Twenty-five classic movies? Some that he included, like "The Wizard of Oz" and "City Lights," are so old and so well-known that they're practically free. Perfect! Wrap them up in last year's Hanukkah paper -- he's British; he won't notice -- and presto: diplomatic crisis averted.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

 

Miss Gay Indiana University

 

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Think Tank Purposes, Left and Right: "more of an echo chamber of Heritage"

Jonah Goldberg :

[T]his is what you get when you copy the form of, say, the Heritage Foundation, without actually understanding the function. Places like the Center for American Progress ( allegedly "the liberal Heritage Foundation)" were explicitly created to mimic what self-styled progressives believe to be the vast rightwing conspiracy (It was the same agenda that brought us Air America). In one sense, they were great at mimicking all this stuff, but like the aliens in Galaxy Quest they lacked a certain level of understanding of how this stuff works internally to these organizations. For instance, they don't seem to understand that the purpose of institutions like the Heritage Foundation is to make the White House and Congress more of an echo chamber of Heritage, not the other way around.

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The Mainstream Media Skip Another Major Story

The Washington Times reports that Mr. Freeman has withdrawn from consideration for the big Obama intelligence job. Yet another stupid Obama mistake--- not to see that the anti-Israel, Saudi-payrolled Freeman would be completely objectionable to most of his party. What's most interesting, though, is Mark Steyn's blog observation, Don't read all about it!, at NR, which I quote in full:

I'm glad to see the back of the Saudi shill Chas Freeman, but I wonder what Mr. and Mrs. America will make of it tomorrow morning, reading for the very first time how the "Outspoken Former Ambassador" (as the AP's headline has it) was scuttled by a controversy their newspaper saw fit not to utter a word about.

As far as I can tell, the only papers in America to so much as mention the Freeman story were the Wall Street Journal, Investors' Business Daily, the Washington Times, the New York Post, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Augusta Chronicle, and the Press Enterprise of Riverside, California.

But if you rely for your news on the New York Times, the Boston Globe, the Detroit News, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Miami Herald, or the Minneapolis Star-Tribune — just to name a random selection of American dailies currently sliding off the cliff — the end of the story will be the first time you've heard of it.

The U.S. newspaper has deluded itself that it's been killed by technology. But there are two elements to a newspaper: news and paper. The paper is certainly a problem, but so is the news — or lack of it. If you're interested in news, the somnolent U.S. monodaily is the last place to look for it.

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A Drug-Prescribing Doctor

Here's an interesting comment thread about Dr Ratts of Bloomington, whom many people say gave out painkillers freely and supplied many of the local addicts. Eventually his license to prescribe such medications was revoked. I don't know if anything more happened to him.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

 

Informing Menendez about the Cuba Policy

Not the first example of amazing Obama Administration political stupidity, but a particularly clear one:

Menendez knew that his hard-line approach to Cuba was a minority view within his party, and that it was at odds with Obama's approach. But he did not expect to discover a significant policy change embedded in the text on an appropriations bill. His policy aides came across the language when the legislation was posted on a congressional Web site.

"The process by which these changes have been forced upon this body is so deeply offensive to me, and so deeply undemocratic, that it puts the omnibus appropriations package in jeopardy, in spite of all the other tremendously important funding that this bill would provide," the enraged son of Cuban immigrants said last week on the Senate floor. Menendez even slapped a hold on a pair of Obama nominees to draw attention to the issue.

It isn't playing by the rules to try to hide Cuba policy in a money bill from members of your own party, and isn't smart to do it when you're sure to be caught. Not only is it rude, but it implies that Obama doesn't care about his own senators' careers: he wanted Menendez to vote for the bill and only then find out his political survival was at risk.

What Obama should have done was realize that Menendez would dislike the new policy and tell him in advance that it was coming, and perhaps make a deal with him. The stupidity and rudeness is in not informing him at all.

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The Morning After Pill versus RU-486 Abortion

Baylyblog has a 2008 post on the issue of whether the morning-after pill is okay even if RU-486 is not. The difference is that the morning-after pill (like birth control pills, but with higher probability, since birth control pills mainly prevent fertilization) prevents implantation, whereas RU-486 causes the fetus to detach from the uterus. The post quotes Jerry Frederick, a Bloomington pharmacist, who will sell the morning-after pill but not RU-486.

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Café Les Entretiens

Ariel Rubinstein's Montreal coffeehouse pick is proud of that.

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Monday, March 9, 2009

 

Obama Would Have Approved of the Florida Abortion Baby Killing

A lot of people aren't sure about whether a typical abortion at, say 6 weeks, is murder. But who, except Barack Obama and NOW, would disagree about the case described in "Lawsuit: Florida Clinic Botched Abortion, Threw Out Live Baby":

Eighteen and pregnant, Sycloria Williams went to an abortion clinic outside Miami and paid $1,200 for Dr. Pierre Jean-Jacque Renelique to terminate her 23-week pregnancy....

Only Renelique didn't arrive in time. According to Williams and the Florida Department of Health, she went into labor and delivered a live baby girl.

What Williams and the Health Department say happened next has shocked people on both sides of the abortion debate: One of the clinic's owners, who has no medical license, cut the infant's umbilical cord. Williams says the woman placed the baby in a plastic biohazard bag and threw it out....

Police recovered the decomposing remains in a cardboard box a week later after getting anonymous tips.

Here's more detail:

The complaint says one of the clinic owners, Belkis Gonzalez came in and cut the umbilical cord with scissors, then placed the baby in a plastic bag, and the bag in a trash can.

Williams' lawsuit offers a cruder account: She says Gonzalez knocked the baby off the recliner chair where she had given birth, onto the floor. The baby's umbilical cord was not clamped, allowing her to bleed out. Gonzalez scooped the baby, placenta and afterbirth into a red plastic biohazard bag and threw it out....

At 23 weeks, an otherwise healthy fetus would have a slim but legitimate chance of survival. Quadruplets born at 23 weeks last year at The Nebraska Medical Center survived.

An autopsy determined Williams' baby — she named her Shanice — had filled her lungs with air, meaning she had been born alive, according to the Department of Health. The cause of death was listed as extreme prematurity.

Reader, whatever you think about abortion in general, wouldn't you be shocked if a state made Gonzalez's actions legal? Should he be able to say, "Sure I dumped a live baby in the trash can, let it die, and let it rot. That's legal. It's none of your business, or of the woman who had the abortion. She should know that that's what happens after an abortion. Didn't she notice there was no coffin or burial plot charge in the bill?" [He did *not* say that-- but should he be able to?]

What would you think about someone who agrees with that? Well, Barack Obama does. He voted several times against proposals to make baby killing illegal in Illinois, including against the one that eventually passed and which was almost identical to the federal law passed 98-0 in the U.S. Senate.

There is an mp3 and text of Obama's speech opposing the bill. The bill, 92_SB1663, said:


 (b)  Subsequent to the  abortion,  if  a  child  is  born
19    alive,  the  physician  required  by Section 6(2)(a) to be in
20    attendance shall exercise the  same  degree  of  professional
21    skill,  care and diligence to preserve the life and health of
22    the child as would  be  required  of  a  physician  providing
23    immediate medical care to a child born alive in the course of
24    a  pregnancy termination which was not an abortion.  Any such
25    physician  who  intentionally,   knowingly,   or   recklessly
26    violates Section 6(2)(b) commits a Class 3 felony.

Here is a defense of Obama. It is confusing enough that I deduce it is trying to confuse the issue. The argument seems to be that Obama was really against infanticide but in some unspecified way the bills would have restricted abortions more generally. Obama seems to have changed his story a number of times. One of them was the peculiar claim that the bill would have overriden Roe v. Wade, which is stupid since a state statute can't override a Supreme Court decision based on the U.S. Constitution. FactCheck.org says

Obama opposed the 2001 and 2002 "born alive" bills as backdoor attacks on a woman's legal right to abortion, but he says he would have been "fully in support" of a similar federal bill that President Bush had signed in 2002, because it contained protections for Roe v. Wade.

We find that, as the NRLC said in a recent statement, Obama voted in committee against the 2003 state bill that was nearly identical to the federal act he says he would have supported. ...

... It is worth noting that Illinois law already provided that physicians must protect the life of a fetus when there is "a reasonable likelihood of sustained survival of the fetus outside the womb, with or without artificial support."

This last paragraph is important to the Gonzalez case. Would it have made Gonzalez's action illegal? Or would it be interpreted to let Gonzalez, and nobody else, decide whether the baby had a "reasonable likelihood of sustained survival" without any second- guessing by the courts no matter how bad his decision was? The courts usually let doctors get away with a lot-- get away with murder, I was going to write.

In any case, it is clear that Obama thinks that if a doctor were sure that a baby would only live for two days after being born, the doctor should be able to throw the baby into a garbage can to die.

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Saturday_Night_Live's Geithner Video

The Saturday Night Live Geithner save-the-economy-plan video is very good.

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Sunday, March 8, 2009

 

More on Phthalates

Below is the law on enforcement of the phthalate regulation on selling products with phthalates in them (certification is another aspect). Phthalates are a chemical that softens plastics. There seems to be no evidence whatsoever that it causes damage in anyone but pregnant women (and that evidence is all from rats, I think), judging from what *proponents* of the regulation say. Opponents might even doubt that.
  1. Guidance on the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) for Small Businesses, Resellers, Crafters and Charities.
  2. National Resources Defense Council v. US Consumer Product Safety Commmission, 08 Civ. 10507, SD NY, Gardephe. J.
  3. "The Case Against Phthalates in Children's Toys", Huffington Post, (March 24, 2008).
  4. Human Breast Milk Contamination with Phthalates and Alterations of Endogenous Reproductive Hormones in Infants Three Months of Age , Katharina M. Main et al. , Environmental Health Perspectives Volume 114, Number 2, February 2006.
  5. WRITTEN TESTIMONY OF LEON EARL GRAY JR, PhD* SENIOR REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGIST AND TOXICOLOGIST U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY BEFORE THE COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND COMMERCE SUBCOMMITTEE ON COMMERCE, TRADE, AND CONSUMER PROTECTION UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES (June 10, 2008).
  6. Time’s Toy Reporting Scares Parents Trevor Butterworth, December 13, 2006.
  7. Section 108: Products Containing Certain Phthalates, CPSC FAQ.
  8. Whole Soy Story: The Dark Side of America's Favorite Health Food
  9. A National Review article that says pre-1985 children's books are illegal because of lead in the ink.
  10. National Bankruptcy Day , happytobeathome.net, Jan 2nd, 2009.



Here are the ENFORCEMENT sections:

SEC. 19. [15 U.S.C. § 2068]
(a) It shall be unlawful for any person to— (1) sell, offer for sale, manufacture for sale, distribute in commerce, or import into the United States any consumer product, or other product or substance that is regulated under this Act or any other Act enforced by the Commission, that is not in conformity with an applicable consumer product safety rule under this Act, or any similar rule, regulation, standard, or ban under any other Act enforced by the Commission;

Meaning: You can't sell a toy with phthalates in it.

SEC. 20. [15 U.S.C.§ 2069] {penalties increased; see 69 FR 68884}
(a) (1) Any person who knowingly violates section 19 [15 U.S.C. § 2068] of this Act shall be subject to a civil penalty not to exceed $100,000, for each such violation....

(2) The second sentence of paragraph (1) of this subsection shall not apply to violations of paragraph (1) or (2) of section 19(a)—
(A) if the person who violated such paragraphs is not the manufacturer or private labeler or a distributor of the products involved, and
(B) if such person did not have either (i) actual knowledge that his distribution or sale of the product violated such paragraphs or (ii) notice from the Commission that such distribution or sale would be a violation of such paragraphs

Meaning: If you "knowingly" sell a toy with phthalates in it, you can be fined up to $100,000. Paragraph (2) says, by implication, that you can be fined even if you are a retailer who did not "have actual knowledge" that you were violating the law. It's unclear to me whether you're in trouble if you sell a toy with phthalates in it when you didn't know it had phthalates in it. I think you *are* in trouble, from what I could tell from the FAQs. Someone who knows criminal law would know, from the language here.

SEC. 21. [15 U.S.C. § 2070]
(a) Violation of section 19 of this Act is punishable by— (1) imprisonment for not more than 5 years for a knowing and willful violation of that section;

Meaning: If you know a toy has phthalates and you sell it anyway, you might go to jail for 5 years, if the U.S. Attorney doesn't like you. This applies even if you only sell one item, and you're a charity shop.

SEC. 24. [15 U.S.C. § 2073]
(a) IN GENERAL.--Any interested person (including any individual or nonprofit, business, or other entity) may bring an action in any United States district court for the district in which the defendant is found or transacts business to enforce a consumer product safety rule or an order under section 15 [15 U.S.C. § 2064], and to obtain appropriate injunctive relief. Not less than thirty days prior to the commencement of such action, such interested person shall give notice by registered mail to the Commission, to the Attorney General, and to the person against whom such action is directed. Such notice shall state the nature of the alleged violation of any such standard or order, the relief to be requested, and the court in which the action will be brought. No separate suit shall be brought under this section if at the time the suit is brought the same alleged violation is the subject of a pending civil or criminal action by the United States under this Act. In any action under this section the court may in the interest of justice award the costs of suit, including reasonable attorneys’ fees (determined in accordance with section 11(f)) [15 U.S.C. §2060(f)] and reasonable expert witnesses’ fees.

Meaning: Even if the U.S. Attorney doesn't go after you because it would be ridiculous to-- in fact, ONLY if the case is too stupid for them to prosecute--- a predatory law firm could do it for profit, because they get "attorneys' fees", which courts are very generous about, judges being members of the lawyer class and more sympathetic to them than to ordinary people, or, certainly, to companies.

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Saturday, March 7, 2009

 

Missile Submarines

Pater Hitches wrote a very good blog post on his experience going on a missile submarine. I've reprinted it here, since it didn't print properly in its original format.

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Friday, March 6, 2009

 

Another Bungled Obama Nominee

LIke everyone in America, I can't keep up with all the failed nominees of teh Obama Administration. Well, maybe stock analysts are keeping up. Anyway, here's another:

Annette Nazareth, a former senior staffer and commissioner with the Securities and Exchange Commission, made "a personal decision" to withdraw from the process, according to a person familiar with her decision.

An American Spectator article is alarming about the Treasury Department:
"We have no one here. There is no leadership," says another senior career Treasury official. "I've never seen anything like it. We have a secretary who seems to have no understanding of what his job entails, and no one in the White House seems to either know it or want to acknowledge it. We have people making decisions who shouldn't be making decisions, and in positions where we should have people making decisions about our domestic economy, our banking system and our Wall Street recovery plan, we have no one. People should be alarmed by this, but no one seems to care."

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Thursday, March 5, 2009

 

Rush Limbaugh, Disliked Because He Is Not Partisan Enough

Jay Nordlinger in NR is good on Rush Limbaugh. One reason Limbaugh irritates people, I think, is precisely that he uses remorseless logic to rub it in when liberals go wrong. The other reason is that he uses humor. In both, he doesn't pull his punches when he decides to go after something, and he has far more substance than more timid pundits. Ann Coulter is much the same in her style, except that she is more pointed and sarcastic. Both are also really unconcerned about winning elections. It is actually the more partisan Republicans who can't stand them, because the partisans want to sound moderate so as to get swing voters. Also, the partisans think you should never criticize other Republicans.

One thing Rush has always been happy to do is engage with ideas.

Are his critics willing to engage with him? Or just sneer and resent?

Rush has had a considerable influence on people, for the good, I believe. In my time at National Review, I’ve interviewed a lot of young people, for jobs — internships and junior editorships. And I often ask how they became a conservative (presuming they are). And a good many people have said — sometimes sheepishly — “I listened to Rush Limbaugh.” And a good many of those have said, “I listened to Rush behind my parents’ back.”

Are these dumb kids who hate books and long to join up with the Klan? Not on your life — they are among the fanciest: Ivy Leaguers, brainiacs, world-beaters.

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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

 

The Iceland Bubble

Michael Lewis has a great Vanity Fair article on the Icelandic Banking Bubble. It is good analysis and good sociology and fun to read. I was looking for something in particular, and I think I found it:

You didn’t need to be Icelandic to join the cult of the Icelandic banker. German banks put $21 billion into Icelandic banks. The Netherlands gave them $305 million, and Sweden kicked in $400 million. U.K. investors, lured by the eye-popping 14 percent annual returns, forked over $30 billion—$28 billion from companies and individuals and the rest from pension funds, hospitals, universities, and other public institutions. Oxford University alone lost $50 million.

I suspect this bubble was not a disaster for Iceland at all, any more than the investment banking bubble was a disaster for Wall Street. It looks as if Iceland sucked in, or perhaps I should say suckered in, billions of foreign dollars, spent a lot of it on cars and houses, and gambled away the rest. The result: a lot of rich Icelanders, a few bankrupt banks, and a lot of foreigners who are poorer but probably not wiser.

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Do You Need a College Degree

Someone at the NR blog notes that the military hires people without college degrees and gives them harder, more technical jobs than the private sector gives to college graduates.

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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

 

Personal Attacks on ID Proponent

Bradley Monton recounts an amazing unfair attack on him by another philosophy professor, Robert Pennock, for supporting intelligent design. Monton has lots of links and sounds as if he's not lying. This is additional evidence of the emotional and anti-intellectual response of many scholars to the idea of intelligent design.

See also this discussion of an ad hominem counter-lecture to a lecture on ID he gave.

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Monday, March 2, 2009

 

The "Alsace-Lorraine" technique for Neutrino Detection

Here's something cute from the Wikipedia article, "Neutrino detector " (my boldface).

Chlorine detectors consist of a tank filled with a chlorine containing fluid such as tetrachloroethylene. A neutrino converts a chlorine atom into one of argon via the charged current interaction. The fluid is periodically purged with helium gas which would remove the argon. The helium is then cooled to separate out the argon. A chlorine detector in the former Homestake Mine near Lead, South Dakota, containing 520 short tons (470 metric tons) of fluid, made the first measurement of the deficit of electron neutrinos from the sun (see solar neutrino problem). A similar detector design uses a gallium → germanium transformation which is sensitive to lower energy neutrinos. This latter method is nicknamed the "Alsace-Lorraine" technique because of the reaction sequence (gallium-germanium-gallium) involved. These chemical detection methods are useful only for counting neutrinos; no neutrino direction or energy information is available.

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Homosexual Orientation versus Homosexual Behavior

Here's a comment I posted at Prosblogion:

The distinction between "sexual orientation" and "sexual behavior" is absolutely crucial, and I was thinking on blogging on this myself, so I read this with interest. I see that the lawyer quoted above didn't understand the distinction. I too would like to know if city regulations do.

Someone commented:

"If I owned a business, I'd discriminate in my hiring practices, quite reasonably I think, against non-sober alcoholics. The view of those who are supporting the original petition appears to be (and someone please correct me if I'm wrong about this) that I would thereby discriminate against an alcoholic who has been sober for ten years. Isn't this just absurd?"

That's right. I'm sure Christian colleges are happy to hire people with homosexual orientation who are strongly opposed to homosexual behavior. The former alcoholic is the best crusader against drink, and it is common to encounter reformed homosexual pastors who specialize in work with homosexuals. If anybody finds a case where a strong advocate of anti-sodomy laws is denied a job because he used to practice sodomy, please let us know.

In fact, orthodox Christian belief is that everyone has a "sin orientation"; it is just that some of us control our outward behavior better than others do. This is really the same as the idea that we are all potential criminals--- murderers and thieves, for example--- but some of us, including most people with college degrees, are better at restraining themselves in light of their material incentives and the chance of getting caught.

There is something I don't think any other commentor has mentioned: the "legislative history" of anti-discrimination rules. If a judge were to rule on whether the rule were literally against homosexual orientation or were against orientation and behavior, he would first look at the text. The text is clear--- it's just orientation--- but commonly even a fair-minded judge wouldn't stop there. He would go on to look at intent and at whether the words had a broader meaning in the particular context. A big part of that is to look at legislative history. If *everyone* in the debate over enactment-- both proponents and opponents--- talked as if the words included behavior, then it would be reasonable to read the words that way. If everyone just talked about orientation, or, even better, proponents explicitly said that the rule was written purposely to allow discrimination based on sexual behavior, then the words ought to be read literally. (If the legislative history is mixed, then it isn't much use.)

I could be wrong, but I bet most anti-discrimination rules were enacted by means of arguments based on orientation, not behavior. If so, it's not fair to switch the meaning afterwards to include behavior. An argument such as "we shouldn't allow discrimination on the grounds of characteristics a person can't alter" argues for a rule against orientation, but implicitly concedes that discrimination on behavior is okay.

To be sure, forbidding sodomy hurts people who are tempted by sodomy more than those who are not, and in that sense discriminates on the basis of orientation. But that is a false sense. It is equivalent to saying that forbidding sexual harassment, or even rape, discriminates against men, and so a university should not punish it if they have a policy against sex discrimination.

In the courts, the "disparate impact" argument is treated in complicated ways, and in ways that are different depending on the type of discrimination. Race effects are scrutinized much more closely than gender effects, for example.

I'll repeat what earlier comments said: If anyone knows what courts have said on whether the term "sexual orientation" includes "sexual behavior" please let us know.

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Scientists and Philosophy of Religion

Professor Smith's God and Darwin at The Right Coast, is good, tho not entirely right. I'm just working on a paper I'll send him: "The Concealment Argument: Why Christians Should Be Agnostics." Logic and Biblical evidence suggest that God wishes that some but not all humans become convinced of His existence and desires. If so, this suggests that attempts to either prove or disprove such things as God's existence, past miracles, or present supernatural intervention are doomed to failure, because God could and would take care to evade any such efforts.

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Blacks and the Right to Vote

Via Prof. Rapaport at Right Coast, I find that Missouri Senator Henderson said during the 14th Amendment debates:

It is only where political power is in the hands of a favored few that oppression can be practiced. It is only where oppression exists that the agents of a superior power are needed for protection. Give the negro the ballot and he will take care of himself because his interest requires it. Give him a bureau agent and he will sometimes be plundered, because his interest and the interest of the agent may differ.

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Sunday, March 1, 2009

 

Pro-Monopoly Economists

As Prof. Mankiw notes, it's strange to see well-known economists supporting the bill in Congress to eliminate the secret ballot in union elections, allowing instead for the union organizers to pressure workers to sign cards publicly that the organizers then collect and turn in. I wonder if those economists would also oppose the secret ballot in Congressional elections?

As Prof. Mankiw notes, unions are cartels of labors, so a second question is why economists like those cartels. Unions get a special exemption from anti-trust laws, but they are just monopoly sellers of labor. They aren't even cartels that redistribute income from rich to poor--- they do the opposite. Unionized workers are, I think, on average richer than the average person, so when they get higher wages by restricting the amount of labor hired those workers who lose their jobs in the industry end up with lower wages, and also end up paying the higher prices for things such as cars that the unions produce.

Anyway, here are the economists who signed the open letter that I've heard of in a scholarly context:

Katharine Abraham, University of Maryland
Philippe Aghion, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Kenneth Arrow, Stanford University
Jagdish Bhagwati, Columbia University
Rebecca Blank, Brookings Institution
Joseph Blasi, Rutgers University
Alan S. Blinder, Princeton University
William A. Darity, Duke University
Brad DeLong, University of California/Berkeley
John DiNardo, University of Michigan
Henry Farber, Princeton University
Robert H. Frank, Cornell University
Richard Freeman, Harvard University
James K. Galbraith, University of Texas
Robert J. Gordon, Northwestern University
Lawrence Katz, Harvard University
Dani Rodrik, Harvard University
Jeffrey D. Sachs, Columbia University
Robert M. Solow, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Joseph E. Stiglitz, Columbia University
Peter Temin, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Lester C. Thurow, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
David Weil, Boston University
 

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An Oral Argument before Judge Posner

C-Span has oral arguments very clearly taped. Here is Judge Posner and the lawyers at the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals oral argument in the very silly 2006 slave reparations case of Farmer-Paellmann v. Brown and Williamson.

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Where to Eat in Bloomington

I like English pubs. Here is an HT article on Bloomington saloons that welcome children. I don't know if they allow dogs or not.

Rago said Nick’s was cognizant of retaining its reputation as a bar,
which is why it confines its under-21 business to daytime and early
evening hours. ...
The Crazy Horse, 214 W. Kirkwood Ave.: Under 21 patrons welcome but
cannot remain after 9 p.m.
Grazie Italian Eatery, 106 W. Sixth St.: Seating in the restaurant
proper is open, and minors can be in the bar lounge, if not the bar
itself, if accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.
The Irish Lion, 212 W. Kirkwood Ave.: Families can congregate
upstairs. Downstairs, under-21 patrons have to be at least 18, in the
company of parents and must sit either in the loft or well areas of
the room. The Irish Lion also has a “babes in arms” policy. Infants
can be downstairs, provided they’re being held.
Malibu Grill, 106 N. Walnut St.: Families can sit in the restaurant
and, in the separate bar area, patrons at least 18 years old can enter
with a parent or legal guardian, but can’t sit at the bar.
Scotty’s Brewhouse, 302 N. Walnut St.: Families can sit throughout the
main restaurant area, but not in the bar area proper, which is blocked
off by a half-wall.
Trojan Horse, 100 E. Kirkwood Ave.: Under-21 patrons can sit
downstairs and also in four booths upstairs.
The Uptown Cafe, 102 E. Kirkwood Ave.: Families can sit throughout the
restaurant, and 16- to-20-year-olds can also enter the bar area
accompanied by parent or legal guardian, but cannot sit at the bar
itself.
Yogi’s Grill & Bar, 519 E. 10th St.: Yogi’s advertises all-ages
service until 10 p.m.

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